Thursday, 27 April 2017

Canons Farm/Banstead Woods and Beddington Farmlands, 27th April 2017

Still feeling like winter but everything generally carrying on as though it were a normal spring day, a stroll around Banstead Woods in the morning was rewarded with a couple of brief glimpses of my and the patch's first Hobby of the year, as well as an overflying Red Kite (2cy) and a singing Willow Warbler (scarce this year!). Moving on to the farm, there was little on offer today but a Little Owl called, four Mallards flew over and three Swallows flew through.

2cy Red Kite
After lunch, I headed to Beddington, where it was cool and showery. There was nothing new, but the Sedge Warbler was still singing away on one of the main islands and a Common Sandpiper was seen, along with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers. As I left the gate, the number of Swallows hawking over the lakes had built to around 30 and an Egyptian Goose flew over. The highlight of the visit, though, was watching a Jackdaw try really hard to chase down a Swallow for the best part of 10 seconds!

♀ Little Ringed Plover

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Canons Farm, 26th April 2017

I had some work to finish off this morning so only headed to the patch just before lunchtime, expecting to just do a quick round in the cold winds before heading to the shelter of the hide at Beddington. During migration periods, it is customary to check Slangs, a sunken gravel bridleway bordered by one of the farm's only healthy hedgerows, and as I started through the gate there my ear caught a Lesser Whitethroat singing further down. It turned out to be a bit of a skulker, of course, but did come out in the open for a couple of minutes at one point. This species can be quite scarce in some years so I was pretty chuffed. Just as I was heading back to the car, Paul M appeared on the lane so we headed back down to take another look at the whitethroat and while waiting for it to show, a Yellow Wagtail called overhead but things got even better when a cronking sound and calls from mobbing corvids had us running to the nearest clear spot to see a Raven being escorted off site by local Carrion Crows. Three good patch year ticks in one place! A Red Kite, or perhaps two, flew over, as did two Canada Geese and six Swallows.

♂ Lesser Whitethroat

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Canons Farm and Beddington Farmlands, 25th April 2017

It was a brutally cold morning and I decided against getting up pre-dawn for more territory mapping, instead snatching an extra hour in bed before heading to Canons, figuring most migrants would have been blocked by this unseasonable air system. It wasn't so bad, actually, with five Wheatears in Broadfield and a late Meadow Pipit, which was presumably yesterday's bird. Two Canada Geese flew over again. After popping home, I headed to Beddington, where the main lake ringing team was packing up and two stunning adult Mediterranean Gulls yelped overhead on my arrival. A group of four and a singleton followed, before two vocal birds appeared again low over the lake and I presumed this to be the same pair from earlier on. After local birders lamenting the dearth of Med Gull records/passage in recent years, the last few days have seen an unprecedented passage involving 42 birds since Saturday. 2cys of Caspian and Iceland Gull dropped in, too, but the latter evaded photography as overhead Med Gull calls distracted me and it had vanished when I looked back down the scope. Sedge, Reed and Cetti's Warblers were singing, three or so Black-headed Gulls were still around and a Sand Martin, a couple of House Martins and a few Swallows were seen. A Yellow Wagtail dropped in and wildfowl included a pair of Shelduck. Five Buzzards sailing into the wind and an appearance from a Peregrine ensured that the gulls and corvids were constantly on edge.

Part of an incredible local passage of Mediterranean Gulls at Beddington in recent days
2cy Caspian Gull at Beddington - can't quite decide whether this is the same bird as yesterday or not...
male Wheatear at Canons Farm

Monday, 24 April 2017

Canons Farm/Banstead Woods and Beddington Farmlands, 24th April 2017

A long day in the field started with more mapping of breeding bird territories in Banstead Woods, with the rest of the morning spent at the farm. This was rewarded with two valuable patch year ticks as two Sand Martins pushed through and a couple of Greylags flew over. A Wheatear, a Meadow Pipit and a couple of Canada Geese were also noteworthy.

After lunch, I joined Kevin G and Roger B by the main lake at Beddington. It was rather chilly but the threat of rain and the potential avian delights it might bring kept us optimistic. Among a steady trickle of Swallows were a few Sand Martins and my first three House Martins of the year, though these were trumped by two Swifts. A couple of Peregrines cruised overhead, as did a Buzzard. My first Sedge Warbler of the spring was singng, as were my first local Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Warblers of the year. Three Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper busied around the islands and among the surprisingly strong number of gulls present were 2cy individuals of both Glaucous and Caspian Gull.

2cy Glaucous Gull (right), quite a small bird
2cy Caspian Gull

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Canons Farm, 23rd April 2017

Thanks to calls from Paul G and Andy D just after I'd finished work, I was shortly down to the farm this afternoon and onto the Black Redstart at Reads Bottom, which Robert R had also stumbled upon. Despite a number of records during my first couple of years of watching the site, they have been very thin on the ground in latter years so I made the most of my time watching this bird. Paul M and Ian J also turned up for a look. Two Wheatears also flopped across Broadfield and a few Swallows were skimming around.

Black Redstart

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Middleton Lakes RSPB, 20th April 2017

Forced to the Midlands on business for a couple of days, I managed to snatch a quick evening stroll around the RSPB's incredible Middleton Lakes reserve. Like an inland Minsmere, the range of habitats and the scents and sounds of spring were truly uplifting. After emerging from woodland littered with bluebells and awash with the scent of garlic, where Bullfinches and a Treecreeper called, it was out onto the reedbeds and lakes. Here, the soundscape of chuntering Reed Warblers, screeching Common Terns, a rattling Lesser Whitethroat and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler were just the therapy I've been needing lately, while three upending Garganey and an argumentative trio of Little Ringed Plovers just topped it off. I also delighted in my first Mallard and Coot broods of the year. I wished I hadn't arrived with both an empty stomach and water bottle, eventually driving me to reluctantly bail out.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Canons Farm, 18th April 2017

A nice spring day but there was little on offer for Ed Stubbs on his visit to the patch. However, it was very interesting strolling around and chatting Surrey patching with a fellow dry site birder. A male Stonechat knocking around Horse Pasture was rather unexpected and there are no later spring records going back to at least 2010. Otherwise, a couple of Little Owls were on view and a Grey Heron flew over, as did a Mallard when I returned later in the day. Five Swallows and two Whitethroats were also of note.

♂ Stonechat

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Moseley Heath, 18th April 2017

I didn't really have time to do any birding today but couldn't run the risk of missing the reported Iberian Chiffchaff at Moseley Heath so spent a couple of hours there early this afternoon. The bird sang quite frequently when the sun came out but was surprisingly elusive and difficult to get a good view of. I hold my hands up to only having heard/seen one Iberian Chiffchaff before, in Kent several years ago, and have better things to do than spend my evenings pouring over tapes of variations of song, which probably wouldn't make me any likelier to make a bold statement, but I was taken aback by how far removed the bird's song was from what I understand the species to sound like. Generally a slow wavering trill and a few chiff/chaff elements, at the end of some refrains it sounded rather like a Willow Warbler (although it definitely is not a Willow Warbler). I will very happily bow to the judgement of anyone who has more experience of Ibe Chiff or gone more in depth than I have. It's certainly an interesting-looking bird anyway. Also noted were three Little Egrets, a Cetti's Warbler, a Kingfisher, a Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, etc. A Swallow flew over the A3 at Tolworth.

chiffchaff sp.

Canons Farm, 17th April 2017

An post-work stroll, accompanied by Phil W then Ian M, was a little on the chilly side but did produce three Wheatears, including a good 'Greenland' candidate, the two Red-legged Partridges, the first patch Whitethroat of the year and a Willow Warbler. I also noted a Grey Heron, five Mallards and four Swallows.

♂ 'Greenland'-type Wheatear

Canons Farm and The Oaks, 16th April 2017

A quick walk around the farm in the late afternoon produced little other than a high-flying Cormorant and one of the local Little Owls. Meeting up with Josh B for an evening tour of The Oaks Golf Centre was rewarded nicely by a male Redstart by one of the fairways.

♂ Redstart at The Oaks Golf Centre