28 October 2015

Staines Moor: 28 October

A long but rather unproductive day at the patch in terms of fresh migrants and overhead passage. 3 Water Pipit along the Colne is an increase, a site-wide count of 27 Goldcrest is a new patch record (but again no Firecrest or Yellow-browed Warbler amongst them) and 2 Short-eared Owl (first reported on 25 October) were hunting on and off throughout the day on the east side, and seen to catch a small mammal on two occasions. A slight increase in Blackbirds was noticeable with 11 noted, along with 5 Song Thrush but just a single Fieldfare (where are all the thrushes?) and Dunnocks seemed more noticeable than usual as well with 8 (1H) noted with no effort and Robins were everywhere. A flock of 18 Skylark on the east side was notable as was just 8 Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Wagtail and 3 Pied Wagtail along the Colne, 8 (5m, 3f) Stonechat, and 2 Reed Bunting.

Vis mig amounted to nothing more than c.65 Eurasian Wigeon E, 3 Fieldfare SW, 2 Skylark (1 NW, 1 SE), 1 Linnet E and 1 Greenfinch E.

Regulars noted include 2 Little Egret, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2+ Kestrel, 45+ Black-headed Gull 'flycatching' over the grassland for much of the day, 4 more Greenfinch and 1H Cetti's Warbler (in reeds by the northern footbridge).

An hour spotlighting after dark on the west side produced just 1(H) Common Snipe and a Grey Heron flushed accidentally from roost along the River Wraysbury. It won't be long before the first Woodcock arrive for the winter I'm sure.

One of three Water Pipits along the Colne today. Darn camera wouldn't focus - how much is that 7D Mark II?

24 October 2015

A trickle of migrants overhead: 24 October

A few very quiet hours at Staines Moor today with a just a little vis mig overhead. 2 Golden Plover over W and 1f Brambling WSW then dropping down into the willows along the Colne (by the northern footbridge) were the highlights. Also noted overhead were 1 Water Pipit N, 8 Fieldfare WSW (the first of the winter, dropping down briefly in the hawthorns in the NW corner), 1 redpoll sp. W, 14 Chaffinch SW, 1 Linnet S, 1 Greenfinch N, 1 Goldfinch W, 1 Pied Wagtail W, 3 Mistle Thrush S and 1 Song Thrush S.

Rubbish pic of one of two Golden Plover over west today

Female Brambling heading WSW before dropping down into willows by the Colne where it stayed for about 15 minutes

On the ground, 1(H) Redwing, 10 Stonechat (7m, 3f), 4 Goldcrest, 2f/imm. Reed Bunting, 32 Meadow Pipit (east side), 1m Kingfisher (Colne), 1+ Little Egret (Colne), 1+m Pied Wagtail, c100 Goldfinch (mainly around the thistles at the south end), another 5 Greenfinch, 2 Kestrel and 2-3 Egyptian Goose (2W, 1E). A Red Fox (on the northern footbridge) and lots of huge Parasol Mushrooms Macrolepiota procera (on the west side) today.

Stanwell Moor added a Common Buzzard.

A good show of Parasol Mushrooms Macrolepiota procera on Staines Moor this year - many are huge!

Potted a Feathered Thorn on the kitchen window last night - photographed this morning.

Feathered Thorn Colotois pennaria, Worcester Park, 24 October

19 October 2015

Great Grey Shrike at the patch: 19 October

A quick visit to Staines Moor this afternoon soon located the Great Grey Shrike (found by Rob Innes yesterday) perched on the hawthorns on the west side, and occasionally wandering to the hawthorns in the NW corner. This is third Great Grey Shrike for Staines Moor - the first being one on 9 April 2000 and the second briefly on 13 October 2009.

1-2 Water Pipit in flight along the Colne are my first returning birds, as was a Jack Snipe flushed from the Colne by the southern footbridge. Also noted were 1 ad. Peregrine on the pylons, 9 Stonechat (6m, 3f), 1 Cetti's Warbler showing well in the reeds by the north entrance, 3+ Grey Wagtail (2+ 1st-W, 1 ad. m), 1m Kingfisher, 1 Goldcrest in a Long-tailed Tit flock, 2 Little Egret (Colne), 7 Greenfinch, 4 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 2 f/imm. Kestrel and just 6+ Meadow Pipit.

Overhead 1 Red Kite W, 18 Linnet (including 8 dropping down into the scrub on the west side at dusk), 3 Pied Wagtail SE-E and 6 Skylark N.

Stanwell Moor added 7 Eurasian Wigeon over E.

Great Grey Shrike, Staines Moor, 19 October - just a record shot as I felt too ill to try for better photos

1st winter male Stonechat, Staines Moor, 19 October. 9 present today - males have outnumbered females this autumn two to one.

13 October 2015

Goldcrest influx: 13 October

Another very quiet day at Staines Moor. No hoped-for Yellow-browed Warbler or Firecrest, but a noticeable increase in Goldcrests (no doubt birds arriving on the east coast filtering through) with at least 19 counted, by far the highest day count for the patch, including 5 together in a mixed Long-tailed/Great/Blue Tit flock along Bonehead Woodland.

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Other migrants on the ground included 7 Stonechat (4m, 3f), 4 (2H) Chiffchaff, 4 Skylark, 16+ Meadow Pipit and 1-2 Grey Wagtail (that might be wintering birds rather than on passage).

Passage overhead was almost non-existent but for 1m Siskin (over NE then circling and dropping into the willows at the north end of the Colne after I mimicked its call!), 4 Chaffinch N, 2 Greenfinch (W and NE), 4 Linnet NE. At dusk, a few Linnet flocks totalling 33 birds moving over NE were noted dropping down to roost in the scrub on the west side.

Also noted: 1+ Little Egret, 2 Reed Bunting (1m, 1f), another 2 Greenfinch, 1-2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 Red Kite, 2 Common Buzzard (locals), 3 Kestrel, 1m Pied Wagtail, 1H Cetti's Warbler (reeds in Colne by northern footbridge), 1f Common Pheasant, a Stoat running across the Moor Lane footpath (patch tick) and a female Migrant Hawker.

Stanwell Moor added 8 (5m, 3f) Eurasian Wigeon over E.

9 October 2015

Staines Moor: 9 October

A quiet day at Staines Moor with few migrants. 8 Stonechat (5m, 3f), 1 Common Snipe (off N), 2 Goldcrest, 3 Common Chiffchaff, 5 Pied Wagtail, a few Skylark and c30 Meadow Pipit were the only migrants noted on the ground, and overhead 1 ad. Hobby (hunting the Goldfinch flock on the east side before heading off north), 2 redpoll sp. NW, 1 Linnet ENE, 3 Chaffinch E, 5 Goldfinch (S-SE), 1 Pied Wagtail N and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker SW.

Others logged include a female Bullfinch along the old railway, 1-2 Little Grebe on the Colne (the first returning wintering birds), 3 Red Kite (with another south the other side of the M25), c200 Goldfinch feeding on thistles on the east side, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Little Egret, 2-4 Common Buzzard (probably the local birds), 1H Cetti's Warbler (in the reeds along the Colne by the northern footbridge) and 4 Mistle Thrush (SW corner). 1 Speckled Wood, 1 Comma and a Red Fox were also noted.

Contender for bird of the day falls to, wait for it, a 1st winter Tufted Duck feeding on the Colne just south of the southern footbridge late afternoon. Tufted Duck are very scarce on the Colne and I've never seen one on the Colne that hasn't flown off as soon as anyone approached it.

21 Eurasian Wigeon E over Stanwell Moor dropped down onto King George VI Reservoir are the the first returning birds I've noted this autumn.

Tufted Duck, River Colne, Staines Moor, 9 October

6 October 2015

Autumn migration in north-east Poland: 26 September - 3 October

A mix of departing summer migrants and incoming winter visitors were on the move in Poland last week, with migration evident at both Białowieża Forest and Biebrza Marshes including visible passage overhead and plenty of common migrants on the ground. Overhead passage consisted mainly of noisy flocks of Common Cranes, small groups or singles of Eurasian Jays (with many present in Białowieża Forest), Yellowhammers, Siskins, Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows, White Wagtails and a few raptors, mostly heading in a south-east to south-west direction. On the ground, Common Chiffchaffs were seemingly everywhere, and Yellowhammers, Greenfinches, White Wagtails and Black Redstarts were not uncommon. A few notebook entries below.

An hour's skywatching from the hotel balcony at Hotel Białowieża on 27 September produced 24 Eurasian Jay mainly SE (plus 2 local birds), 3 Common Chiffchaff feeding then off SE, 9 Raven E, 3 Chaffinch SE, 1 Siskin and 1 Song Thrush SW. Also on the 27th, 176+ Common Crane were counted over Białowieża town throughout the day.

A ploughed field on the north side of Białowieża town by the police station attracted a number of passage migrants. On the 28 September, 7 1st-W/f Black Redstart, 30+ Yellowhammer, 7+ White Wagtail, 10 Chaffinch (4 over SE) and 1 Common Chiffchaff were present, as well as 18 Common Crane over SE and 12 White Stork SE. Just c6 Yellowhammer being hunted by 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (pic below) were present on 29th. On the 30th, 1 Great Grey Shrike, 1f Brambling, 1 Linnet, 1 1st-W/f Black Redstart, c13 Yellowhammer, 3 Chaffinch and 2 White Wagtail were noted, along with a Kestrel and a 1st-W m Eurasian Sparrowhawk over S.

Common Cranes, Kosy Most Bridge, Białowieża Forest, 28 September. V formations of Common Cranes were
frequently seen (and heard) throughout the day moving south-west over Białowieża Forest.

1st-W male Eurasian Sparrowhawk hunting Yellowhammers in a ploughed field at Białowieża town, 29 September

Around Biebrza Marshes notable migrants included: 21 Barn Swallow S over Fort 1 "Zarzeczny", just south of Osowiec (hirundines were very scarce throughout the trip) on 1 October, and 52+ Common Crane in fields east of Karwowo on 1st, and a similar number of Common Crane, 2 Fieldfare S, a small flock of Tree Sparrow, 7 White Wagtail (dropped down to the ground), 1 Siskin, 3 Reed Bunting, 1m Yellowhammer, 1 Greenfinch, 3 Chaffinch, and 2 Goldfinch at Bialy Grad (near the village of Mścichy) all on 1st.

Part of a 28 strong flock of Common Cranes east of the village of Radziłów, Biebrza Marshes, 1 October

Common Cranes, Bialy Grad, Biebrza Marshes, 1 October. Several large flocks were feeding in the fields around Biebrza Marshes,
as well as roosting out on the marshes.

On 2nd, fields east of Plochowo held 30+ Mistle Thrush, 6+ White Wagtail and 2 Chaffinch, with 7 Barn Swallow and 9 Chaffinch SE overhead. At Wólka Piaseczna 5+ Black Redstart (2 ad m, 1 1st-W m, 1 f and 1 1st-W f), 2 Yellowhammer, 5 Northern Lapwing, 1f Hen Harrier WSW, a 1st-W Nothern Goshawk WSW and 4 Jay over were noted, as well as 1 Honey Buzzard flushed from woodland at Brzeziny Kapickie and another 8 Mistle Thrush there.

Also on 2nd, a Peregrine went over SW at Grzedy and an hour late afternoon skywatching at the bridge over the River Jegrznia near Kuligi produced 2 Fieldfare S, 28 Siskin S (including several dropping down into the reeds by the river then heading off W), 2 Greenfinch S, 1 Mistle Thrush SE, 5 Chaffinch SW-WSW, several Yellowhammer SW, 3 Eurasian Jay SW, and 2 Common Chiffchaff in the reeds. At dusk 9 Tundra (rossicus) Bean Geese in a flock of 24 European (albifrons) White-fronted Geese (all adults except for a pair with 3 juveniles) in a stubble field east of Jezioro Tajno lake near Tajenko were also seen.

1st-W Black Redstart, Wólka Piaseczna, Biebrza Marshes, 2 October. Small numbers were present in the fields around Białowieża
Forest and Biebrza Marshes, mainly 1st-W/female types.

The cemetery and the surrounding fields at Osowiec was also attracting migrant passerines. An hour or so on the 3rd produced 2m Brambling in with c100 Yellowhammer, 102+ Greenfinch, 14 Linnet, 1 Goldfinch, 293 European Starling, 1 White Wagtail, 8 Tree Sparrow (2 S), 4 Skylark off W, 1 Fieldfare S, 8 Barn Swallow S, 1 Eurasian Jay S, 2 Chaffinch S and 1 Blackbird SW.

Small numbers of Yellowhammer were moving over and large numbers as well as feeding in the fields. This was one of a flock of
approximately 100 feeding around the cemetery on the edge of the village of Osowiec, Biebrza, on 3 October.

1st-W male Greenfinch, Osowiec cemetery, Biebrza Marshes, 3 October. One of a flock of at least 102 present here.

One of two male Brambling in with the Greenfinch flock at Osowiec cemetery, Biebrza Marshes, 3 October

5 October 2015

Poland highlights: 26 September - 3 October

Rachel and I have spent the last week in north-east Poland, visiting the ancient Białowieża Forest for a few days before heading further north to the Biebrza Marshes - one of the largest lowland wetlands remaining in Europe. Most the birds that these two localities are best known for are summer visitors and had already departed south for the winter, but this wasn't a birding trip and we spent most days hiking and exploring the ecosystems. We saw some interesting visible bird migration, and we were visiting at the prime time for fungi and found lots of beautiful and bizarre looking species. Separate blog posts on both to follow, but in the meantime here's a few of the trip highlights.

Białowieża Forest: 26 - 30 September

The undoubted highlight of the whole trip was a close encounter with a bull European Bison just before dusk on 29 September, watched feeding in the forest just 15 metres away along the Worobiowa Glade trail before crossing the trail in front of us, at which point it became aware of our presence and paused for several minutes trying to check us out before running off into the forest (and disappearing surprisingly quickly for such a large animal).

Bull European Bison Bison bonasus, Worobiowa Glade trail, Białowieża Forest, 29 September. European Bison became extinct in
Poland in 1919 and extinct in the wild in 1927, mainly due to hunting. Just 54 remained in captivity, but a successful breeding programme
allowed them to be reintroduced at Białowieża in 1952. With around 2,300 now in the wild in nine countries (and approximately 800 in
Białowieża Forest), European Bison is now categorised at Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Bull European Bison Bison bonasus, Worobiowa Glade trail, Białowieża Forest, 29 September

Other mammals seen include 1 Red Fox at Kosy Most Bridge on 28 September, 1 Red Squirrel along the Worobiowa Glade trail on 29 September, and 3 (1 stag, 2 female) Red Deer and 1-2 Roe Deer on the Bondówka trail near Teremiski on 29 September. Driving the nearby roads after dark looking for mammals produced 2 (1 ad with a juv) Wild Boar along the Białowieża to Narewka road near Kosy Most road junction on 28 September, 2f Red Deer near Pogorzelce on 28 September and another 2f Red Deer along the 689 near Batory Mount on 28 September.

Avian highlights were thin on the ground due to the time of year. 1 Middle Spotted Woodpecker at the car park on the Białowieża to Narewka road just south of the junction with the Narewkowska Road on 28 September, 4 Hawfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Kosy Most Bridge on 28 September, and an immature White-tailed Eagle over the end of the Browska Droga trail on 30 September near the Belarus border were the most notable.

Good to see some 'northern' races of common species including 1 chunky male (northern) Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula (with quite a different 'trumpet-like' call compared to the European P. p. europoea) with a large flock of Long-tailed Tits of the nominate Aegithalos caudatus caudatus at Kosy Most Bridge on 28 September.

Long-tailed Tit, Kosy Most Bridge, 28 September

Biebrza Marshes: 30 September - 3 October

Mammal sightings include 2 European Badger and 2 Red Fox beside the Czar's Road (Carska Droga) between Osowiec Twierdza and Dobarz at night on 30 September, 2 very distant Elk (Moose) from the observation tower at Bialy Grad near the village of Mścichy on 1 October, 1 Red Fox at Grzedy on 2 October, 1f Red Deer and a superb stag Roe Deer just north of Grzedy on 2 October, 1 European Badger that ran out into the road in front of the car along the Carska Droga north of Goniadz on 2 October, 1 Red Squirrel and 1 Red Fox along the Czar's Road (Carska Droga) between Osowiec Twierdza and Grobla Honczarowska on 3 October, and 1 Wild Boar and 1 Red Squirrel along the trail at Grobla Honczarowska on 3 October.

Biebrza provided the only two lifers for me on this trip - a White-backed Woodpecker at Brzeziny Kapickie on the trail to Kapice on 2 October, and 1 Grey-headed Woodpecker along the trail at Grobla Honczarowska on 3 October - neither cooperating for the camera. Other notables include 1-2 ad. White-tailed Eagle over Brzeziny Kapickie on 2 October, 2 Hawfinch at Brzeziny Kapickie on 2 October, and a Black Woodpecker over the road east of Osowiec on 2nd October.

Record of White-backed Woodpecker, Brzeziny Kapickie, 2 October,

Grass Snakes were common. Many were seen along the Czar's Road (Carska Droga) between Osowiec Twierdza and Laskowiec 2 and 3 October, some of which had been killed by traffic. Managed to save one adult that almost got squashed by a car. Also found a nice juvenile on the track just north of Wólka Piaseczna on 2 October.

Juvenile Grass Snake Natrix natrix, Wólka Piaseczna, 2 October. This individual was being very aggressive - mock striking and
flattening its neck to display the yellow patches.

Grass Snake Natrix natrix, Czar's Road, 2 October

Grass Snake Natrix natrix, Czar's Road, 2 October, playing dead after I saved it from death

Also, plenty of Clouded Yellow Colias croceus butterflies around in the Brzeziny Kapickie and Osowiec area.