18 September 2015

Dream patch bird becomes a reality: 18 September

The birding on Staines Moor today was just bonkers! Good numbers of grounded migrants, a strong passage overhead, two previously found scarce migrants to look for, and a once in a lifetime BBRC-CAT A find and patch first.

At 15:08 I was searching the hawthorns and brambles near The Butts for the Wryneck when I noticed a large dark shape moving slowly west high over the center of the moor - "what the f*** is that?". Before I'd even raised my bins I knew from the size and shape that it was a stork and I had a strong suspicion which species - BLACK STORK!! The camera was already on my 'bird in flight' custom setting so I hurriedly took a few photos before running full speed southwards across the anthills, proper loon-style, with tripod, scope, camera, binoculars and rucksack flailing around while yelling Black Stork at the top of my voice to alert the two birders around the scrub nearby on the west side. The stork veered south-westwards away from me but I managed to get one birder onto it before it disappeared from sight.

This individual appears to be a juvenile - when I zoom in on the images the legs and bill appear to lack any bright red, and the neck (especially the base) seems to be brown rather than black. However, this could be an effect of distance and harsh sunlight? If accepted this will be the seventh record for London, following a juvenile at Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve on 4 August 20101, and the third for Surrey.

Black Stork over Staines Moor, 18 September 2015

Black Stork over Staines Moor heading off WSW over the pylons

This zoomed-in pixelated image shows the dark brownish bill, dark legs and brownish neck which ages this bird as a juvenile.

Grounded migrants noted today included the Wryneck (which I managed to see well near dusk in the NW corner), 3(2m, 1f) Stonechat, (NW corner), 7 Whinchat (NW corner), 1 1st-W Northern Wheatear (W side), 14 Yellow Wagtail around the livestock, 1 Lesser Whitethroat (NW corner), 3 Common Whitethroat (NW corner), 1m Blackcap (old railway), 4(1H) Common Chiffchaff, c47 Meadow Pipit, 9+ Skylark, and an influx of Robin, and I didn't even manage to look at the east side.

Stonechat passage peaks later than Whinchat. Three were present today including this female

A strong passage of hirundines, mostly in the morning, probably numbered in the thousands for Barn Swallow and House Martin, but I counted a minimum of 329 Barn Swallow (SWS), 125 House Martin SW and 31 Sand Martin SW, along with 12(1H) Siskin S, 1 Yellow Wagtail S (dropping down to the livestock), 2 1st-W Hobby, 2 Red Kite SW and 1 Common Buzzard W.

Also noted: 1 imm. Green Woodpecker (evidence of successful nesting), 1m Kingfisher near dusk (Colne), 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (River Wraysbury), another Common Buzzard (probably one of the resident individuals), 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Little Egret (Colne), Grey Heron, 1+ Kestrel, and Goldfinch flock in the SW corner numbered at least 258. Invertebrates included 1 Comma, and 3 Small Heath. Lots of interesting fungi noted, but more about these another time.

1 Self, A. (2014) The Birds of London. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.


  1. Aren't purple patches great! Fantastic Stuff Lee - some superb birds on your patch of late.

  2. Great stuff Dinger. Awaiting the next text soon!

  3. Hi Lee, Do you think the bird passed over Heathrow at all, being just the other side of the reservoirs?
    Cheers, Adam

    1. Hi Adam, Judging from its trajectory I suspect it probably passed just south of Heathrow. Lee