25 February 2016

Staines Moor: 25 February

Spent a few hours at the patch from mid afternoon, followed by some spotlighting after dark. Managed a reasonable haul despite things being very quiet.

Highlights were 1 Jack Snipe down to about 3 metres on the Colne, 3+ Water Pipit (1 on the bank of Colne, 1 seen poorly overhead and at least another heard), 2 Shelduck in from the west and landing on the east pool, 1 Water Rail (at south end of the Colne by the Reedmace), 1 Common Snipe (west side), 1+ Little Egret, 2 Stonechat (1m, 1f), 1 Coot (Colne), 2 Little Grebe (Colne), 13+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark, 9 Mallard (6m, 3f), and 3m Tufted Duck (Moor Lane lake).

After dark, 1 Eurasian Woodcock (west pool), 3(2H) Common Snipe, 1 Red-legged Partridge, and 2 probable Jack Snipe were noted.

Jack Snipe along the Colne today thinking it's invisible

23 February 2016

Spelthorne Borough Council and Thames Water meeting: 11 February

Fellow naturalist Nick Orson and I met with Steve Price from Spelthorne Borough Council and Ian Crump from Thames Water at Stanwell Moor today to discuss the restoration of the field on Stanwell Moor, dubbed by local birders as the 'car field' after the burnt out car dumped in it.

This field (and the field to the west) is owned by Thames Water and forms part of the 'Staines Moor' unit of Staines Moor SSSI (unit 012). This unit was most recently assessed by Natural England on 21 June 2010 as in a Favourable condition. However, from reading the assessment comment I suspect that this field was actually ignored and not assessed at all at the time. If it was then I cannot see how the field could possibly be assessed as Favourable.

A decade ago this field comprised short grazed grass with two shallow muddy pools that were excellent for breeding Northern Lapwing (Red list), Redshank (Amber list) and Shelduck (Amber list), which with no public access were relatively undisturbed by people and dogs. Little Ringed Plover breeding nearby also used the pools for foraging, along with migrant waders and wildfowl.

Now much of the grassland here has been invaded by Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Blackthorn Prunus spinosa, the pools are choked with willows and Common Reed Phragmites communis and the non-native Himalayan Balsam Impatiens glandulifera has spread rapidly along both sides of the Colne Valley Way footpath that runs along the western edge of the field. Furthermore, the field is heavily overgrazed from fly-grazing (we counted 12 horses in this small field today).

The southern pool in the 'car field' at Stanwell Moor. This pool has been invaded by Common Reed over the last decade or so.

The large pool in the 'car field' at Stanwell Moor. Formally an important habitat for waders and wildfowl, this pool is now choked with willows.

The 'car field' is so overgrazed that the horses have taken to eating bark, here from a Crack Willow

Despite the current state of the field, today's meeting was very positive, with both Ian and Steve optimistic that the habitat can be greatly improved. Ideas were put forward for restoring the pools and grassland and perhaps even creating some new habitat for Water Voles and retaining some areas of reeds for wintering Bittern. The idea is for Thames Water, Spelthorne Borough Council and volunteers to work together to help keep the cost to a minimum, and implement managed grazing. Lets hope Thames Water are open to the project.

After the meeting Nick and I walked the length of Bonehead Ditch looking for historical wetland features that could potentially also be restored. Thanks to Nick's excellent historical detective work using old Ordnance Survey maps, we managed to locate an old pond buried amongst the trees along Bonehead Ditch.

Dubbed Slips Pond by Nick, this historical wetland feature appears on OS maps dating back to 1865. Now almost completely
hidden amongst Crack Willows and covered by many fallen trees, this pond is an excellent candidate for restoration.

Nick has also identified a former meander of the Bonehead Ditch that was cut off when the ditch was straightened at its southern end during the construction of King George VI Reservoir between 1937 and 1939. Rejoining this remnant meander would not only restore part of the original course of the river but would also help with re-wetting the moor, as water would be able to flood out into the swamp easily from this point. The next stage is to write a proposal for restoring these features to present to Thames Water.

The south end of Bonehead Ditch looking north. This stretch was straightened during the construction of King George VI
Reservoir (current channel on right) but you can still see the part of the original course ('oxbow' on left)

Birds noted on Staines Moor today include 3-5 Water Pipit (Colne), 1 Jack Snipe, 1m Treecreeper (singing by Slips Pond), 1-2 Little Egret (Colne), 1 Kingfisher (Bonehead Ditch), 2 displaying Stock Dove (Slips Pond), 1 Goldcrest (Slips Pond), 5 (3m, 2f) Stonechat, 5+ Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Coot (Colne), 1 Red Kite S, several Redwing (old railway) and 1-2 Kestrel.

On Stanwell Moor 1m Siskin (feeding on alders), 1 Common Chaffchaff, c30 Fieldfare, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Buzzard and a Red Fox were logged.

19 February 2016

Staines Moor: 19 February

A few hours at the moor today started well with a Staines Moor tick in the form of a male House Sparrow briefly just inside the Staines Moor boundary along Moor Lane by the lake. Other than that things were very quiet on Staines Moor with 1 Jack Snipe, 2+ Water Pipit (Colne), 12 Stonechat (7m, 5f), 2 Common Buzzard, 1-2 Red Kite (with another over Wraysbury Reservoir), 2 Kestrel, 1m Reed Bunting (singing in NW corner), 7+ Skylark (some singing), c5 Meadow Pipit, 1 Coot (Colne), 1 Little Grebe (Colne), 2 Goldcrest (old railway) and quite a few Song Thrush (including several singing).

Weather: Sunny (1 okta in morning) becoming cloudy early afternoon (7 oktas), light but cold SW wind.

14 February 2016

London Wetland Centre: 14 February

Visited the London Wetland Centre this afternoon with Pete, Jaffa, Helen and Rachel. Birding was leisurely at best but in just a few hours we still managed 1 Bittern (Reservoir Lagoon), 2m Pintail (Grazing Marsh and Reservoir Lagoon), 6 (4m, 2f) Mandarin over, 41 Eurasian Wigeon (inc. 39 on Grazing Marsh), 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk over, 1 Common Snipe over, 1 Pied Wagtail, c70 Northern Lapwing (Main Lake), lots of Northern Shoveler (mainly Reservoir Lagoon) and lots Tufted Duck (including some males displaying).

7 February 2016

Staines Moor: 7 February

Spent late morning to dusk on the patch trying out my new kit - Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm Mark II lens, Lowepro Flipside 400 bag and Manfrotto 190 GO! Carbon Fibre tripod - all of which are superb. The camera/lens combo has lightening-fast auto-focus, and I can at last use my extender. Doesn't mean the photos will get any better though!

Fairly quiet today in blustery conditions - highlights: 3 Water Pipit (Colne), 1 Little Egret (Colne), 4 Little Grebe (Colne), 1 Common Snipe (west pool), 8 (3m, 5f) Stonechat, 1 Coot (Colne), 15 Fieldfare (old railway), 4 Goldcrest (old railway), 7 Skylark, 4+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 3 Chaffinch, 1+ Kestrel, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Red Kite E and 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk NE.

1 of 3 Water Pipit along the Colne today