26 March 2016

Staines Moor: 26 March

Cool, drizzly conditions with a freshening southerly wind and heavy showers made birding the patch today very hard work. However, persistence paid off with my first two summer migrants of the year - a male Northern Wheatear that dropped down on to the west side during a downpour and a Sand Martin through south.

Also seen were 2 Water Pipits along the Colne in different stages of moult - 1 in almost full summer plumage and another about half way through its moult, 2 Shelduck (east pool), 3+ Redshank (Colne), 1m Grey Wagtail, 2 (1m, 1f) Stonechat, 6 Fieldfare, 1-2 Little Egret, 1 Cetti's Warbler (Colne north of boardwalk), 10 (9m, 1f) Reed Bunting, 3 Linnet, 2 Coot (1 Colne, 1 Moor Lane lake carrying nest material), 10+ (8+m, 2f) Pied Wagtail (feeding and flycatching along the Colne), 2 Kestrel (including the male), 4 ad Mute Swan (Colne), 9 Mallard ((5m, 3f Colne, 1m Moor Lane lake), 4 (3m, 1f) Tufted Duck (Moor Lane lake) and many Meadow Pipit and Skylark.

Noted overhead: 1 Peregrine S, 1 pale phase Common Buzzard S, 3 Red Kite, and 4 Greylag Goose E (and later back W).

Stanwell Moor added 1H Chiffchaff and 8 Redwing,

Male Northern Wheatear - the first for Staines Moor of the spring (7 days later than last year)

Water Pipit partially moulted into summer plumage along the Colne today

Weather: Overcast (8 oktas), very light drizzle for most of the day with heavy showers, moderate SW wind, cool.

22 March 2016

Staines Moor: 22 March

A rather mundane winter/spring transition day at Staines Moor today. 6 (5m, 1f) Reed Bunting (a few singing), 1 Chiffchaff (singing N end), many singing and displaying Meadow Pipit and Skylark and 4 displaying Northern Lapwing created a spring-like feel. However, 3-4 Water Pipit (Colne - 3 in summer plumage), 2 (1m, 1f) Stonechat (south end), 10 Tufted Duck (8m, 2f Moor Lane lake), and a complete lack of any summer migrants reminded me that winter isn't quite over yet.

A little passage was noted overhead with 8-17 Common Buzzard (some moving north and west but at least 2 were local birds), 8 Red Kite, 1 Peregrine (very high S), 1m Chaffinch NE and an alba wagtail N.

Also noted were 3 Little Egret, 1 Water Rail (in Reedmace at southern end of the Colne. No sign of last week's bird under the willows), 2 Goldcrest, 4 Kestrel (including an adult male), 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (at least 1 a female), 1 Pied Wagtail, 4 Linnet, 6 Mallard (3m, 1f Colne, 1m, 1f Wraysbury) and a Cetti's Warbler H (Colne by boardwalk).

2m Brimstone were my first of the year and a couple of Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis were in flower today.

17 March 2016

Staines Moor: 17 March

A late morning to dusk session at the moor today. With moderate north-easterlies migration was non-existent, although some of today's raptors could have been on the move. Highlights: 6-8 Water Pipit along the Colne (including 3 in almost full summer plumage, and 6 together in the large dying willow along the Colne at dusk), 1 Jack Snipe, and excellent views down to two metres of a showy Water Rail (Colne).

Also noted were: 2 Redshank (Colne), 2-4 Northern Lapwing (2 Colne, 2 over), 3+ (up to 10) Red Kite, 3+ (up to 10) Common Buzzard, 2+ Little Egret (Colne), 3m Reed Bunting (flycatching along Colne), 1 Kingfisher (flew east towards Bonehead Ditch from the Colne), 7 (4m, 3f) Linnet, 7 Fieldfare (over east to Bonehead Woodland), 2 Redwing (Moor Lane), 3 Pied Wagtail (ad m, 1st-W m, f, all flycatching along the Colne), 2 Mistle Thrush (west side), c15 Meadow Pipit (singing and displaying), c20 Skylark (many singing), 4 (3m, 1f) Mallard (Colne), 1+ Kestrel, 1+ Grey Heron, 9 (6m, 3f) Tufted Duck (Moor Land Lake), 1 Coot (Moor Lane Lake) and 2+ ad Mute Swan.

Today's showy Water Rail along the Colne - present since 12th March

Water Rail, River Colne, Staines Moor, 17 March 2016

Water Rail, River Colne, Staines Moor, 17 March 2016

Also managed to find the Scarlet Elfcup Sarcoscypha austriaca fungi along the old railway today (many thanks to Mark Elsoffer and Stephen Minhinnick for directions).

Stanwell Moor added another 3 Red Kite and a Common Buzzard.

15 March 2016

Iceland: 6th - 12th March

Just back from a six day trip to south-west Iceland to see the Aurora Borealis with Rachel and my parents. This was my second trip to Iceland (Rachel and I travelled around the whole island in 1999) but as this was a family sightseeing trip I didn't have many birding opportunities this time around, especially being winter.

The weather was very unsettled with heavy snow, rain, sleet, hail, strong winds, clear sky and sun all making appearances. However a partially clear sky with some hazy cloud and high aurora activity (Kp6) on the 6th produced a fantastic display directly overhead for a couple of hours at our remote hotel (Hotel Selid) near Keldur. I had seen the aurora once before, from a plane in 2003, but I had no idea what camera settings to use to photograph it. I thought I hadn't done too bad for a first attempt (below) until I saw these amazing pics taken the same night an hour's drive east along the coast where the sky was completely clear (grrr). We also saw the aurora twice more at Hotel Selid on 8th and 10th, but it was much fainter (Kp2) on both of these occasions.

Aurora Borealis over Hotel Selid near Keldur, 6 March 2016 - a superb light show for my mum's birthday

Aurora Borealis over Hotel Selid near Keldur, 6 March 2016

Being late winter, birds were thin on the ground. The exception being thousands of Northern Fulmar already back on the cliffs along the south coast and Common Raven that were frequently seen, even in towns. Iceland Gull, a winter visitor to Iceland, was also fairly common along parts of the coast. I was hoping to study some of the wintering redpolls and Snow Buntings that originate from Greenland but I didn't get a chance. 4 Redwing in Reykjavik old town were notable - early returning migrants or overwinterers?

Northern Fulmar, Skogafoss waterfall, 8 March 2016 - thousands are already back on their icy breeding cliffs all along the south coast

A lone Pink-footed Goose amongst the wildfowl at Lake Tjornin in Reykjavik, 11 March 2016 - why migrate to Norfolk when you can
get fed all winter at home?

Whooper Swan, Lake Tjornin, 11 March 2016 - you can't get much closer to wild Whoopers than you can here

1st-winter male Northern Pintail, Reykjavik City Hall pond, 11 March 2016. Never seen one like this before - presumably in arrested
moult?

2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, Reykjavik Harbour, 11 March 2016

Presumed Herring Gull x Glaucous Gull hybrid, Dyrholaey, 8 March 2016

Checklist of birds noted


Whopper Swan: 2 on water at Holtsos on 8th, 1 on pool from car beside route 1 near junction of route 219 on 8th, 12 at Dyrholaos Estuary on 8th, 14 over Hella on 9th, 3 near Holt on 10th, and c40 at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Pink-footed Goose: 1 at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Greylag Goose: Several at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Gadwall: 2m at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Mallard: 114 at Dyrholaos Estuary on 8th, c15 around the Secret Lagoon at Fludir on 9th, 9 on the pond at Reykjavik City Hall on 11th, and several at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Northern Pintail: 1 1st-winter male on the pond at Reykjavik City Hall on 11th.
Tufted Duck: 5 at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Eider: 40 (18m, 22f) at Reykjavik Harbour (mainly in the old harbour) on 11th.
Red-breasted Merganser: 1m at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Hybrid Pintail/Eurasian Wigeon: 1 on the pond at Reykjavik City Hall with 14 Mallard on 11th.
Ptarmigan: 2 in flight seen from the car on route 1 a few kilometres west of Hellisheidi Power Plant on 6th.
Northern Fulmar: Extremely common around cliffs all along the south coast, seen 7th - 10th.
White-tailed Eagle: 1 ad over Hotel selid near Keldur on 7th.
Black Guillemot: 1 ad in almost full summer plumage in Reykjavik Old Harbour on 11th.
Kittiwake: 1-2 ad feeding offshore at Dyrholaey on 8th.
Black-headed Gull: 1 1st-W at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Herring Gull: 2 ad and 1 3rd-W at Dyrholaey on 8th
Iceland Gull: Many of all ages feeding offshore at Dyrholaey on 8th.
Glaucous Gull: Many of all ages feeding offshore at Dyrholaey on 8th, several in Reykjavik Harbour on 11th.
Great Black-backed Gull: 1-2 ad at Dyrholaey on 8th.
Feral Pigeon: 1 at Kirkjubaejarklaustur on 7th, 2 at Lake Tjornin on 11th.
Merlin: 1 over Kerid crater briefly giving alarm call and stooping on 9th.
Common Raven: Very common, even in urban areas. 24 in the air together just north of Selfoss on route 35 (near route 1 junction) was the largest flock noted.
Common Starling: A small flock beside route 1 8km west of Selfoss on 11th, several in Reykjavik town centre on 11th.
Redwing: 4, including 1 singing, at Solvallagata in Reykjavik old town on 11th.
Redpoll sp. 1 heard over Fridheimar Farm at Reykholt on 9th.
Snow Bunting: c30 at Kirkjubaejarklaustur on 7th, 1 heard over Dyrholaos Estuary on 8th, a small flock beside route 1 8km west of Selfoss on 11th, and 2 flew off from the hire car car park at Keflavik International Airport on 11th.

Did the usual tourist stuff in this part of Iceland - Skaftafell waterfall, Skaftafellsjokull glacier, Dyrhólaey peninsula, Reynisfjara black beaches, Kerid crater, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir, Rekjavik.

Our base for the trip - Hotel Selid near Keldur, 6 March 2016

The view from our room at Hotel Selid, 10 March 2016

Dyrholaey, 8 March 2016 - hundreds of wing-wingers seen feeding offshore here

Kerid crater, 9 March 2016

Gullfoss, 9 March 2016

Cliffs near Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, 10 March 2016 - Northern Fulmars everywhere

After spending so much time in the tropics over the last few years I've forgotten how much I like the Arctic and Iceland in particular. I hope I don't leave it another 16 years until the next visit.

Many thanks Dave Appleton and Peter Alfrey for their views on the Pintail and some of the gulls.

2 March 2016

Fungi of Staines Moor - Part 1

Over the last year I've been photographing as many species of fungi as I can find on Staines Moor, in order to get familiar with the more common species, and I'm amazed by the diversity. Identification is generally very difficult and it's been a steep learning curve, but so far I've manage to positively identify the following species.

Woodland species


Three sides of Staines Moor are bordered by water courses - the River Wraysbury on the west, Bonehead Ditch on the east and part of the north, and Yeoveney Ditch in the north-west. The dominant tree species around the boundary is the water-loving Crack Willow Salix fragilis, on which most of the woodland fungi were found.

Fairy Inkcap Coprinus disseminatus, 18 September 2015. A species found fruiting on wood in 'swarms', this group was feeding on a
Crack Willow Salix fragilis along the River Wraysbury.

Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare, 18 September 2015 - a very common poisonous species in Britain. This group was feeding on
Crack Willow Salix fragilis along the River Wraysbury

Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare, 18 September 2015

Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceus, 18 September 2015, on Crack Willow Salix fragilis. The caps lose the small white granules
and open out from egg-shaped to bell-shaped as they age (see below).

Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceus, 18 September 2015, on Crack Willow Salix fragilis. Some older specimens showing
the difference in appearance compared with above.

Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe, on Crack Willow Salix fragilis beside the River Wraysbury (all pics taken on 23 December
2015 except bottom right on 29 December 2015)

Willow Bracket Phellinus igniarius, Bonehead woodland, 7 March 2015

Turkeytail Trametes versicolor, 18 September 2015, on Crack Willow
Salix fragilis beside the River Wraysbury

Jelly Ear Auricularia auricula-judae, old railway, 23 December 2015

Yellow Brain Fungus Tremella mesenterica, old railway, 23 December 2015

Lemon Disco/Yellow Fairy Cups Bisporella citrina on dead wood, old railway, 23 December 2015

Beech Barkspot Diatrype disciformis, along Bonehead Woodland, 29 December 2015

Grassland species


The ancient alluvial meadows at Staines Moor consist of semi-improved neutral grassland and swampy grassland. The site has never been farmed, meaning no fertilisers or pesticides have been applied to the land here and grazing has taken place here since 1065. Many species of fungi feed on the nutrients from cow and horse dung.

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera, (all pics taken 24 October 2015 except top right on 23 September 2015)

Silky Pinkgill Entoloma sericeum, 4 December 2015

Field Blewit Lepista saeva, 11 November 2015

Petticoat Mottlegill Panaeolus papilionaceus var papilionaceus, 1 November
2015

Petticoat Mottlegill Panaeolus papilionaceus var papilionaceus, 1 November 2015

Egghead Mottlegill Panaeolus papilionaceus, 1 November 2015

Egghead Mottlegill Panaeolus semiovatus, 4 December 2015

Dung Roundhead Protostropharia semiglobata (left 9 September 2015, right top and bottom 11 November 2015)

Yellow Fieldcap Bolbitius titubans, 1 November 2015. The fruit body of this species only lasts a few hours.

Orange Mosscap Rickenella fibula, 1 November 2015

Snowy Inkcap Coprinopsis nivea, 1 November 2015

Meadow Puffball Vascellum pratense, 20 November 2015

Got more species photographed that I've yet to identify that I will post when I've made further progress.