6 January 2016

Patch highlights of 2015

2015 will be remembered as a vintage year for ornithology at Staines Moor. A lacklustre spring migration and quiet summer was followed by the best autumn passage Staines Moor has seen for many years, that produced a BBRC-CAT A rarity, a first for west London, several excellent patch records and good numbers of common migrants. Over the year six species occurred that are potential additions to the Staines Moor bird list.

All reports below refer to Staines Moor unless otherwise stated, and include unauthenticated records pending acceptance by the London Bird Club rarities recorder.

Barred Warbler, Staines Moor, 2 September 2015. With this personal find I thought inland patch birding couldn't get any better...
then 16 days later, it did!

The year kicked off with some excellent night-birding on Staines Moor. A count of 5-6 Eurasian Woodcock on 23rd January proved a short-lived site record with 7 seen on the evening of 25th January. 3 Jack Snipe and 23 Common Snipe were also logged on 25th January, and further spot-lighting sessions produced 1-2 Tawny Owl (unfortunately heard only) on 14th February (the forth record for Staines Moor), up to 2 Little Owls hunting around the anthills at the north end on several nights, and 3 Roe Deer on 20th March.

January and February also produced some excellent close encounters with Jack Snipe during daylight hours. Several were seen at a range of just metre or so, and 7 on 14th February is just one shy of the equally the highest ever count on Staines Moor.

Jack Snipe, Staines Moor, 14 February 2015 - 1 of 7 seen that day

The Dartford Warbler present since last November showed on and off throughout January and was last seen on the 27th. Sightings from other observers in January include 55 Eurasian Wigeon on the Colne on 4th21 (unusual on the Colne nowadays), 4 Goosander on 11th21, a peak count of 8 Water Pipits on 19th5 and a Short-eared Owl present on several dates in January was last seen on the 31st22.

The start of spring passage was heralded by Staines Moor's second Knot (and first since 1951) over on 14th March7, followed on 20th March by a third for Staines Moor - a summer plumage Scandinavian Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus littoralis. Other spring passage highlights include a Ring Ouzel on 15th April3, 18 and a Grasshopper Warbler on 25th April2.

Spring weather arrived late this year, seemingly delaying the arrival of Sand Martin and Northern Wheatear, though the adverse conditions didn't seem to affect the arrival dates of most common summer migrants, many of which arrived several days earlier than last year. However, numbers of common migrants appeared much lower than usual, especially in early spring.

First arrival dates of common summer migrants at Staines Moor or Stanwell Moor for 2015:

Species Arrival date Location Observer
Northern Wheatear 19 Mar Staines Moor Tony Cummings
Common Whitethroat 4 Apr Staines Moor Mark Elsoffer
Willow Warbler 4 Apr Staines Moor Mark Elsoffer
House Martin 6 Apr Staines Moor Samuel Perfect
Barn Swallow 11 Apr Staines Moor Richard Woolley
Yellow Wagtail 17 Apr Staines Moor Stephen Minhinnick
Eurasian Hobby 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Tern 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sand Martin 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sedge Warbler 21 Apr Stanwell Moor Jim Sweetland
Garden Warbler 21 Apr Staines Moor Euan Tapper
Common Cuckoo 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Swift 24 Apr Stanwell Moor Lee Dingain
Whinchat 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Reed Warbler 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Lesser Whitethroat 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain

A Coal Tit heard along the old railway on 4th April6, 18, finally allowed Staines Moor's bogey bird to be added to the site bird list. 5 Bullfinch at Stanwell Moor on 16th March21 and 9 Little Egret at Staines Moor on 10th April# are both notable high patch counts, and 2 Water Pipits on 20th April9 were the last of the winter.

The first Redshank returned to Staines Moor on 10th March16, but they just about held on as a breeding species with a single territorial pair present on Staines Moor June. Similarly, only a single Northern Lapwing was present during the summer this year, reflecting the current unfavourable conditions here for nesting waders. On a positive note, a singing Grasshopper Warbler took up territory in the same area as last year's birds.

A very showy Great White Egret on 16th August was the forth record for Staines Moor but the second in the last three years, reflecting increasing records nationally. In contrast, an adult Yellow-legged Gull over west on 29th August# is, perhaps surprisingly, only the second site record.

Staines Moor's forth Great White Egret was present on 16th August pretending to be a Cattle Egret

Things then went completely bonkers, with a string of fantastic inland records and one of the best purple patches that Staines Moor has seen in years.

On 2nd September a 1st-winter Barred Warbler began a 16 day residence in the hawthorns in the north-west corner. Just the tenth record within the London Recording Area and the first for west London*, this bird proved extremely popular with many people coming to see it. Fortunately it responded by showing uncharacteristically well on occasions - gorging itself on blackberries, sunbathing and even flying about out in the open.

Staines Moor's second Wryneck (and first since 1976) was found in the same hawthorns on 12th September11. Last seen on 19th September, the Wryneck proved equally popular despite remaining hidden for long periods.

As if a Barred Warbler and Wryneck together wasn't enough, incredibly, London's seventh* Black Stork flew south-west across Staines Moor on 18th September. At this point it felt as if the patch had been picked up and moved to eastern Europe!

London's seventh Black Stork - a juvenile over Staines Moor on 18th September

Further additions to the Staines Moor list came in the form of a Eurasian Nightjar seen over the southern edge of the moor from a moving car on the A30 on 11th September1, a long overdue male Yellowhammer perched behind The Butts on 25th September17, and a Raven mobbed by Carrion Crows before flying west on 29th September#.

September also produced good numbers of common migrants. Spotted Flycatchers were seen on three dates and Common Redstarts on eight, with a minimum of 4 of the later recorded (an excellent site tally) including a peak of 3 on 13th September6, 18. Whinchat passage peaked with 7 on 18th September, and the livestock on Staines Moor attracted some large Yellow Wagtail flocks including 45 on 7th September4, 13 and 31 on 18th September10. An early passage Short-eared Owl went through on 9th September15, 18.

On Stanwell Moor 3 Little Owl showed very well to many observers throughout the month.

3 Little Owls showed very well from the Colne Valley Way on Stanwell Moor during September (Photo by Kevin Campbell)

October continued where September left off, with Staines Moor's forth Hen Harrier (and first male) stopping for a few hours on the 6th to hunt Goldfinches before heading off north-west15.

A Coal Tit at The Butts on 8th October19 was not only the first sight record for Staines Moor but the beginning of a run of sightings. 1 visited the feeders along the old railway set up by Stephen Minhinnick on 11th October18, a probable Continental race (Periparus ater ater) individual was along Bonehead woodland on 25th October14, and at least 3 of the British subspecies (P. a. britannicus) were seen along the old railway on a few dates in November and December.

Easterly winds from the second week of October brought spectacular falls of Goldcrests to the east coast, along with an influx of Great Great Shrikes and Short-eared Owls, and it didn't take long for birds to filter inland. A site count of 19 Goldcrest on 13th October set a new patch record, which was then smashed by 34 on 1st November.

Goldcrest, 20 November - part of an unprecedented influx at Staines Moor in the autumn

On 18th October Staines Moor's third Great Grey Shrike was discovered and was still present on 19th catching insects from the hawthorns14.

Staines Moor's third Great Great Shrike was present from 18-19 October (Photos by Andrew Moon)

The first returning Water Pipit and Jack Snipe and last departing Northern Wheatear15 were also noted on 19th October, 2 Golden Plover and a Brambling flew over on 24th and a Firecrest put in an appearance in a tit flock on 25th12.

More Short-eared Owls reached Staines Moor on 25th with 2 in from the north14. Up to 3 were seen almost daily by many observers from then until 5th November hunting over the east side, and fellow patch birder Keith Kerr even managed to find a pellet and work out what they were eating - see Keith's blog. Single Short-eared Owls were also seen on 11th and 20th November.

Up to 3 Short-eared Owls showed well along the east side from late October to early November (Photo by Kevin Campbell)

November and December were exceptionally mild, with December being the warmest on record in Britain. Winter thrushes were notable for their relative absence, and spotlighting sessions revealed a maximum count of just 2 Eurasian Woodcock, suggesting conditions on the continent were too mild to push them across the North Sea in large numbers. Another Firecrest on seen on 1st November, and on Stanwell Moor a female Marsh Harrier was seen feeding on a Common Moorhen on 6th.

Another Marsh Harrier was seen over Staines Moor on 2nd December and other notables in December were 1 Jack Snipe on 6th20, a Golden Plover on the ground on the 23rd, and 6 Goosander over on the 29th14. Reasonable numbers of Water Pipits were present along the Colne with 7 on the 6th December20 being the highest count. 3 Bullfinches seen along the old railway on 24th is a notable count and wintering Stonechats peaked at 12+ on 28th December8.

Really looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings.


Many thanks to the following observers for reporting their records: 1Kit Britten, 2Peter Carlill, 3Graeme Charles, 4Andy Culshaw, Tony Cummings, 5John Edwards, 6Mark Elsoffer, 7Deacon Frost, 8Thomas Gibson, 9Sue Giddens, 10Dick Haydon, 11Harringay Birder, 12Ben Hollands, 13David Howdon, 14Rob Innes, 15Keith Kerr, 16Chris Lamsdell, 17Robert Martin, 18Stephen Minhinnick, 19Andrew Moon, #Dave Morris,

20Samuel and Ephraim Perfect, 21Dominic Pia, 22Ian Strickland, Jim Sweetland, Euan Tapper and Richard Woolley.

Also, a special thanks to Kevin Campbell and Andrew Moon for their excellent photos.


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

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