27 January 2015

Half Snipes at Staines Moor: 27 January

A very long but worthwhile day at the patch today. The undoubted highlight was an extremely close encounter with a Jack Snipe on Staines Moor - watched for about half an hour at a range of approximately two metres. Frozen to the spot, the bird did its best pretending to be a part of the vegetation by crouching low to the ground, allowing a rare opportunity to study the plumage pattern and colours. The green and purple on the scapulars and mantle contrasting with the bright yellow stripes are really beautiful at such close range. Another 2 Jack Snipe were also seen around the Moor (sorry but the precise locations will remain undisclosed).

Staines Moor is a traditional wintering site for Jack Snipe. The first record was of 2 on 26 September 1937, and the highest site count is 8 on 20 March 2003. The earliest returning date is 1 in July 2002 and the latest departing record is 1 on 11 April 1951.

One of three Jack Snipe today - this bird was just two metres from me!

Spot the Jack Snipe (click to enlarge)!

Feather detail on Jack Snipe - stunning!

Other notables seen today were the Dartford Warbler glimpsed associating with a pair of Stonechat west of the Colne, 5+ Water Pipit (mainly along the Colne), 10 Little Grebe along the Colne (another new site record), a single Eurasian Woodcock in the NE corner an hour before dawn, 1 Water Rail swimming in the Colne (at the reeds by the northern footbridge), 9 (5m, 4f) Stonechat, 1 Peregrine and 4 Tufted Duck that flew off from the Colne at dawn.

Eurasian Woodcock shortly before dawn this morning

Still nine Stonechat on Staines Moor

More common species noted through the day include 1+ Common Buzzard, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Snipe, 2 Little Egret, 1+ Grey Wagtail (Colne), 3 Kestrel, 7 Fieldfare, 3 Mistle Thrush, 5 Song Thrush, 1 Reed Bunting, 4+ Skylark, 24+ Meadow Pipit, 2+ Grey Heron, 8 Common Moorhen, 1m Common Pheasant (swamp), Overhead, 2 Egyptian Goose SE and 25 Woodpigeon NW were logged.

Stanwell Moor added a pair of Northern Shoveler and 1m Gadwall.

25 January 2015

Nocturnal waders at Staines Moor: 25 January

Another few hours night-birding at Staines Moor this evening revealed 7 Eurasian Woodcock (another site record - beating the record set just two nights ago), 3 Jack Snipe (1 West Pool, 1 Colne and 1 east side), 23(18H) Common Snipe and a Little Owl (NW corner). The birds didn't allow close approach this evening but I did manage a record shot of a Woodcock.

Spent much of the day at the London Wetland Centre for my third Wader Quest Trustees' meeting. Friends Rick and Elis Simpson have an excellent vision to raise funds and support small conservation groups and individuals that are working in the field to conserve and conduct research on the worlds waders. We've got an excellent team with a wide range of expertise and experience and today's meeting was the best yet. Please support us by donating £5 - 100% of all donations goes directly towards our various wader conservation projects.

Eurasian Woodcock on the West Pool this evening - one of seven birds seen and a new site record!

Weather: Weather: Mainly cloudy (7 oktas), moon phase: first quarter, light south-westerly wind, mild.

23 January 2015

Night-birding at Staines Moor: 23 January

A couple of hours birding in a brisk south-easterly wind around the north end of Staines Moor with Steve Minhinnick produced 5-6 Eurasian Woodcock (a new site record), 2 Jack Snipe (1 NW corner, 1 East Pool), 5 Common Snipe, a Little Owl (NE corner), a Skylark, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Common Teal and brief Little Grebe on the Colne. Great views this evening but nothing cooperated for photos.

17 January 2015

Staines Moor: 17 January

An afternoon/evening session at the patch produced 2-3 Water Pipit along the Colne, 6 Stonechat (4m, 2f), 1 Little Egret, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard, 2+ Kestrel, 8 Little Grebe (a new site record), 16 Skylark, 6 Moorhen, 3 Mute Swan, and overhead 2 Gadwall E. 46+ Carrion Crow roosting along the Bonehead woodland is a high count and c20 Meadow Pipit and 9 Linnet came into roost at the Swamp at dusk.

A few hours night-birding after dark revealed 2 Little Owl hunting around the anthills at the north end, 2-4 Eurasian Woodcock also around the anthills, 4 Common Snipe (2H), and a Red Fox.

2 January 2015

Patch highlights of 2014

Staines Moor's third Eurasian Spoonbill passed low overhead on 30 March

Early 2014 will be remembered for the extensive flooding across many parts of Britain, including at Staines and Stanwell Moors. A deep polar vortex over North America throughout the winter of 2013/14 pushed the Gulf Stream much further south than usual, sending one low pressure system after another across the Atlantic to produce the wettest January in southern England since records began in 1910.

Weeks of heavy rainfall saturated the ground and the extremely high water table kept the pools on Staines Moor topped up. The River Wraysbury, which flows along the west boundary of Staines Moor, burst its banks in January causing the most widespread flooding on Staines Moor since January 2003, and remained in flood right through to March.

Access to Staines Moor in particular became very difficult, with the Moor Lane entrances either impassable or requiring waders, and the Colne Valley Way through Stanwell Moor also flooded and was often impassable. But this did not stop a few determined observers from continuing to watch the site.

Several fish were seen swimming around on the flooded footpaths at night in February, including this Northern Pike Esox lucius

The Pantanal-like conditions on Staines Moor attracted unusually high counts of Little Egret, including a new personal highest count of 5 in January and a new site record of 10 on 3 February9, up to 7 Water Pipits around the floods and along the Colne (a personal highest count of 5), and the highest number of wintering Lapwings for several years. Large counts of Black-headed Gulls included 150+ on the floods on 19 February5, and 40 Pied Wagtails on the same date5 (my personal highest count was 20) was impressive. 40 Common Snipe on 24 February3 is a good count for modern times.

Also on Staines Moor, a Short-eared Owl made irregular appearances from late January through to March, a Merlin was seen on 3, 7 and 23 February by various observers, up to seven Goosander were frequently noted - on the Colne and overhead and a Water Rail took up residence under the willows mid way along the Colne. In January at least 2 Eurasian Woodcock regularly showed well at night around the anthills.

Eurasian Woodcock frequently showed well at night on Staines Moor at both ends of the year

On Stanwell Moor, a Bittern was seen sporadically throughout January and February (with another or the same reported at Shortwood Pond on nearby Shortwood Common (part of the wider Staines Moor SSSI) on 31 January), another Merlin was reported and a couple of Cetti's Warblers took up residence.

The receding flood waters brought in a Dark-bellied Brent Goose to Staines Moor that was seen almost daily feeding from 17 March to 1 April, and also visited both King George VI Reservoir and Staines Reservoirs.

Brent Goose, Staines Moor, 17 March - 1 April (Photos by Neil Randon (left) and David Carlsson (right))

Mid March saw the first spring migrants passing through (list of first arrival dates below). Locally scarce migrants include an Oystercatcher at Stanwell Moor on 25 March6, a Curlew over Staines Moor on the same date11, Staines Moor's third Eurasian Spoonbill over on 30 March, a Ring Ouzel from 18-19 April1 and a Marsh Harrier over on 20 April4.

First arrival dates of common summer migrants at Staines Moor or Stanwell Moor for 2014:

Species Arrival date Location Observer
Northern Wheatear 18 Mar Staines Moor Roger Dewey
Little Ringed Plover 30 Mar Stanwell Moor Chris Lamsdell
Sand Martin 30 Mar Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sedge Warbler 5 Apr Stanwell Moor Lee Dingain
House Martin 8 Apr Stanwell Moor Thomas Gibson
Barn Swallow 9 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Tern 17 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Willow Warbler 17 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Whitethroat 17 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Lesser Whitethroat 17 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Cuckoo 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Whinchat 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Redstart 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Reed Warbler 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Swift 1 May Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Garden Warbler 1 May Staines Moor Lee Dingain

At least one pair of Cuckoo were noted in late May, and a survey of breeding birds on Staines Moor revealed 4 singing male Lesser Whitethroat, 12 Meadow Pipit territories, and 8-9 Reed Bunting territories (with some seen carrying nest material and food). 4 Northern Lapwings took up territory with at least 2 pairs breeding successfully, with a chick seen from two different broods (and two broods caught and ringed). Two pairs of Redshank also managed to breed, with two broods also caught and ringed. Taller vegetation resulting from much reduced grazing attracted 2 singing male Grasshopper Warblers, however, breeding was not confirmed.

One of two territorial male Grasshopper Warblers present on Staines Moor during April and May

Bucking the trend - Cuckoo continue to breed annually on Staines and Stanwell Moors, no doubt thanks to the healthy numbers of
Meadow Pipit and Reed Warbler present. At least one, possibly two, singing males were present in the spring, including this male
seen chasing a female in early May.

Autumn passage saw some good visible migration overhead at Staines Moor, including the first Black Tern for Staines Moor, a moulting adult, on 3 October, Staines Moor's third 1 Little Gull over on 15 October, the second Marsh Harrier of the year on 27 September followed by a third on 15 November8, and 6 Brent Geese on 30 October. High counts of common species on the move include 2,449 Woodpigeon on 22 October (a new site record), and 1,578 Starling and 135 Chaffinch on 26 October.

An influx of Ring Ouzel into south-east England in mid October saw several hundred at coastal sites, and at least 2 making it to Staines Moor on 15 October, and another briefly on 24 October. This autumn also saw an excellent chat passage with good numbers of Whinchat peaking at 11 on 6 September4, as well as many Stonechats, with at least 18 on 27 September - yet another new site record.

Autumn sightings on or over Stanwell Moor including a Firecrest on 30 September2, and 218 Eurasian Wigeon over on 12 October.

Migrant Short-eared Owls on Staines Moor include an early bird on 15 September7, 2-3 on 15 October, and a single on 30 October. A Barn Owl was at the north end of Staines Moor early morning on 19 October10, and Staines Moor's third Tawny Owl, a male, was heard calling from Bonehead Ditch on 29 November4.

One of at least four migrant Short-eared Owls on Staines Moor this autumn

Two Short-eared Owls wintered on Staines Moor - seen intermittently from 30 November until the end of the year, and at least 14 Stonechat decided to stay on for the winter, attracting Staines Moor's sixth (and longest-staying) Dartford Warbler that took to following them around from 15 November to 13 December.

The first returning wintering Water Pipits were 2-3 along the Colne on 15 October. Numbers of this scarce continental winter visitor peaked at 6 (though possibly as many as 11) on 28 November. November saw large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing stripping berries off the hawthorns in the north-west corner - I'm so glad I managed to persuade Spelthorne Borough Council to leave some of these hawthorns and not fell them all.

Staines Moor's sixth, and longest-staying, Dartford Warbler was present from 15 November to 13 December

Non-avian highlights include 4 Chub in flood water under the bridge along the old railway on 16 February, a Northern Pike in flood water on 22 February, 2 Roe Deer reported on a few occasions by other observers in February (a site first to my knowledge), a Reeve's Muntjac on 17 April, and a Clouded Yellow on 27 September.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the following observers for reporting their records: 1Kevin Duncan, 2Graeme Charles, 3Thomas Gibson, 4Rob Innes, 5Keith Kerr, 6Chris Lamsdell, 7Franko J Maroevic, 8Stephen Minhinnick, 9Roger Morton, 10Dominic Pia, and 11Richard Woolley. Also thanks to David Carlsson and Neil Randon for their photos.