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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mealies

Common (Mealy) Redpoll (bottom right) with Lesser Redpolls for comparison

I tried yesterday for the Common (Mealy) Redpolls that had been seen with huge numbers of Lesser Redpolls local to me at Headley Heath. Phil Wallace picked me up after college at 3.00pm, when on site there was little time left before sunset so we had to act fast. I picked out one bird which I was sure was a Mealy, but it disappeared too quickly. Then all the Redpolls disappeared . . . drat.

Luckily today it was my only free study afternoon of the week which conveniently coincided with dad's only free afternoon of the week. What luck, eh? Shortly after 2.00pm I was on site with Johnny Allan and Kevin Guest enjoying the spectacle of roughly four hundred Redpolls feeding and buzzing in the trees, occasionally flying over us all at once. One or two Common (Mealy) Redpolls were picked out promptly and photographed; the other two had located double figures of his species amongst the Lessers. If this isn't a record for London/Surrey it must certainly be up there. After enjoying the birds for a while they were startled and disappeared, John and Kevin left for home and I did soon afterwards, content but with the thought of the many pages of geography coursework that had to be done by tomorrow very much in my head (I've just finished it after five hours almost non-stop typing).

Much credit to Steve Gale for locating the flock!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Another good weekend

Rustic Bunting

On Friday I was still at college when I received a text from Johnny Allan notifying me of a flock of five Waxwings near Canons Farm, along a residential road off Tattenham Way. Waxwing is a bird I haven't had any luck with locally in the past and one that I wanted to set the record straight with so I was totally gutted that they chose to turn up on the one day in every six months when I had the bloody dentist! I was thankful that they at least didn't turn up within the CFBW boundaries (well, then I would have skipped the dentist altogether and paid the fee later).


Waxwings

I caught the 6.43am S1 to Banstead yesterday and walked to the site. I got there before sunrise and had to wait quite a while before the day had seemed to truly get going. A couple of Redpolls and a Siskin or two called overhead but my quarry was not showing and I was convinced they'd departed, especially considering there weren't many berries on site compared other local places and they had been flighty the day before. Then, a flock of eleven beautiful trilling Waxwings flew into a rowan with a mistletoe hanging from it and preened at the top of the tree before beginning feeding! Wonderful! Soon, Mark, Phil and a few other local birders arrived and we noticed that one of the birds had a smartie-like tick on its neck. I hope it doesn't cause it too much trouble . . . it seemed healthy otherwise.

Today I was patching at Canons with Roy Weller, briefly joined by Andy Harding, with nothing unusual to show for it but one or two Bramblings and five Common Buzzards feeding in the fields were nice to see. A Rustic Bunting broke in Kent . . . damn. With coursework to do and four or five hours of light left I felt it best to forget it. Half an hour later Phil rang asking if I would like to join him in twitching the Bunting, I ummed and arred before concluding 'oh go on then'. He picked me up from Canons Lane and after a smooth journey we turned up at this very easy twitch that was not far at all from where we parked the car with the Rustic Bunting showing very well. Here we came across a few familar faces including Nick and Russel Gardner, Josh Jenkins Shaw and Kev Jarvis. It was a fascinating and beautiful bird to watch and was a complete lifer. I was expecting a bird like a Reed Bunting in structure and behaviour but it reminded me much more of a Lapland Bunting when it was feeding on the ground, doing an occasional low rush through the short grass.

Jomped up prat

A bit of a different post today. This is a rant. Before I start, may I point out how I very much appreciate that the vast majority of dog walkers I have come across while doing my patch birding at Canons Farm are some of the loveliest people I have ever met and I have got to know some of them reasonably well and talk to them often . . . however this post is a bit of a complaint about the rudeness of the minority that spoil it and make my blood boil.

Many visits to the patch have been spoiled by 'Grade 1 Rudeness Walkers', these are people who blank you when you greet them with a cheery 'morning!' and more importantly have no control over their dogs which jump up at you and your tripod, sometimes causing it to lose fix on a bird (if all the birds haven't been scared away already). These people know they have caused disturbance and make no hint of an apology. Often you hear these people make some sort of remark before or after they pass you or halt their conversations and give you funny looks while they pass you. They also leave turds everywhere. I can tolerate these, there's maybe one of these a day, they aren't pleasant but they're tolerable.

But that's not the important bit . . .

Until today I have only had Grade 1 Walkers on my scale but an encounter this morning sparked the creation of Grade 2. I was scanning the horizon for raptors and any other big birds when I became aware of a lady with two noisy alsatians passing me, I greeted her with the casual 'morning' I give everybody but she ignored me. I walked a bit further on and I looked back to see her entering the grassy field used recently by singles of Barn Owl, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl and recognised her for doing this before. For fear of her regularly doing this and putting off birds like this in the long run I approached the edge of the field 'excuse me, just so that you're aware this is a private field, and also it has been in use as a roost site recently by some quite sensitive birds' I politely and softly pointed out. She turned her head and headed purposefully further into the field. Feeling I'd done what I could I walked on.

Later I passed her again, she stopped when she got to me and it started: 'I saved three baybays' lives last night y'know 'n' I don't need some jomped up prat tellin' me where I can 'n' cannot walk my dogs'. Although shocked I controlled my anger and politely remarked that I wasn't telling her where she can and cannot walk her dogs but that I was merely gently pointing out that she should be aware that by entering that field she was trespassing and potentially causing disturbance to wildlife. Before I could finish she walked on while saying 'Get your priorities right! You get your priorities right!' and I simply replied with 'bloody idiot'. So, her desire to walk her huge noisy dogs wherever she pleases is more important than the farmer's ownership of the land and the welfare of wildlife? I think I know who needs to get their priorities right.

In her defence, I will not lie and say I abide by the countryside code all the time and have never wandered into a field. I also wouldn't be too pleased if someone came up to me pointing out my wrongdoings but I would never be so rude and disrespectful to another user of the countryside, potentially ruining their day, who has made a perfectly polite and justified comment.

Perhaps I was having another naive and immature moment, and I really do need to get my priorities right? I don't know . . .

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Quality weekend


A concise post this evening as I've got lots of college work to catch up with after being out all weekend. Yesterday I made my way up to the PIED-BILLED GREBE which showed well as soon as I got to the right spot. It was an interesting bird with its thick bill and chunky structure. Today I found myself watching the AMERICAN ROBIN to my great relief after a long time of what seemed like hopeless waiting, thanks Rob for your company today!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Owl fest

I returned to Canons Farm this afternoon in the hope of getting either a Short-eared Owl or a Merlin, most likely the former. After a quick check of the field by Lambert's Shaw where I found a single Common Buzzard I made my way over to the Harrier Field and was joined by Paul Goodman who wanted Barn Owl for his patch list. The light fell and the action began, a Little Owl called, this stirred another . . . and another. Just after 5.00pm Paul picked up the Barn Owl which showed extremely well on its third consecutive evening. After enjoying stunning views of this bird I picked up another Owl at 5.05pm, it was a wonderful Short-eared Owl and we both enjoyed views as it flew past us, absolutely bloody fantastic! I checked it for Long-eared but it wasn't, this final realistically possible Owl species will be the hardest to find by far; there's plenty of places they could hide. Since I started patching at Canons, Short-eared Owl has been on my list of strong possibilites and most desired finds so it was great to get one there, my fourth Owl species at the site.

This was a significant bird being the 100th species recorded at Canons Farm & Banstead Woods this year and the 110th ever. It is also my 202nd London bird, 160th local area bird and brings me to 95 for CFBW (the ten countdown going much quicker than I expected). For Paul, Barn Owl brought him into the CFBW80 Club and Shortie got him to 81. Good times.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Ghostly figures

Hen Harrier

As I arrived at Canons Farm about an hour defore dusk I was questioning the point in having made the effort to visit, that was until a stunning male Hen Harrier flew in front of me! I had it in the bins for about a minute; it was just sublime. With not much light left I immediately rang the two people who would be most interested, Surrey year lister Johnny Allan and co-patcher Steve Gale. Steve couldn't make it but Johnny came over as soon as he could. As he arrived I had just lost it when it flew into the next field, but soon Johnny picked the bird up again and we had good views of it drifting across the field before it dropped into the grass not to be seen again, unfortunately for Mike Spicer who arrived five or ten minutes too late. Hopefully he and a few others will get it first thing tomorrow.

the field it roosted in - the pale dot in front of the barn is actually it!

Johnny and Mike then shouted, momentarily thinking they had the bird again but we soon realised it was a Barn Owl, disappointing for Mike but unbelievable for me! Two patch/London/Surrey/local area ticks in less than an hour - it more than makes up for missing the American Bittern!

The Harrier was an excellent way to get to 200 for London and the Barn Owl brought me to 201 for London, obviously, and 94 for Canons. A perfect evening.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

1 out of 2 yank herons

To the south west today with Rob 'Dizzy' and a couple of Sussex birders Micheal and Dan. I was confident that the American Bittern would still be around and was more than very keen to see this bird as I'm fond of herons and already dipped the bird when it was at Trewey Common. It got to past 9.00am and no news had come out, I started having doubts. As we were nearing the site negative news came through on the pager, I was completely and utterly gutted and my mood instantly sank.

Green Heron

We thought that if people had been looking for about three hours already and the bird had been showing well throughout the week the bird had gone. We decided the best game plan would be to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan and get something out of the day. After a bit of orientational confusion we eventually found each other again and the GREEN HERON which showed very well, better views were had than when I visited the Hythe bird a couple of years ago.

We called in at Exminster on the way back, because Micheal and Dan needed American Golden Plover. This was my third visit to the site in as many weeks and to our surprise the bird was not present, it transpired that it had moved on the Dawlish Warren (probably because of fireworks the previous night) so we headed home; the Green Heron was nice but I'm still quite disappointed about the Bittern . . . I suppose it's one to get another time . . .

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Back home!

Corn Bunting

I was so relieved to return from IoW last night after two weeks away from my own home and more importantly my patch so it was with great enthusiasm that I headed out to Canons this morning. I felt on the ball and was confident that I would find something good; Steve Gale has previously proven that early November is prime birding time at the patch.


Arriving at the barns behind the farmhouse I saw a chat pop up onto the fence opposite the barns 'interesting' I thought 'too late for Wheatear or Whinchat'. I got onto it with the scope and laughed out loud when I saw it was another Black Redstart! The third record of the year! While trying to get better views of the bird I could hear an occasional loud metallic 'tick' somewhere, I didn't pay it much attention and first but looked up to see an interestingly shaped bird sitting on the top of an isolated tree.

Black Redstart

I got to scope onto it and to my shock it was the 4th Surrey Corn Bunting of the century! I immediately phoned Johnny Allan and Steve Gale and the former soon arrived, but not soon enough - it was last seen ten minutes before he parked up! Paul Goodman, Paul Manville, Geoff Barter, John Hughes, Alan Wingrave and Graham Osborne all also made an appearance but unfortunately none connected with the bird. Paul Goodman found a second Black Redstart with the original bird, amazing! Corn Bunting was a Canons Farm, Surrey and local area tick for me.

Isle of Wight

inspiring field work

From Monday 1st November 2010-Friday 5th November 2010 I was reluctantly dragged on a compulsory trip to the Isle of Wight which was apparently essential for my A-level Geography course. This mainly involved pointless measurements of the width of rivers and the gradient of beaches as well as putting up with the idiocy and stench of my fellow students constantly for five days. Needless to say I did not enjoy it, as can be told by the expession on my face seen on photos I'm tagged in on facebook, for those who have me as a friend.

view from my bed

2nd winter Mediterranean Gull just outside the centre


In terms of birding I went of a lovely walk along the River Medina each morning before breakfast I also had a nice view of the river from the window in my room and from the breakfast table. This early morning walk was the only time I got to myself and I recorded 47 species in total on the walk over the five days including Mediterranean Gull, Water Rail, Kingfisher, Redshank, Curlew, Common Buzzard, Siskin and Little Egret.

lovely habitat just a couple of minute's walk away from the centre I stayed at

One of the staff at the centre I stayed at was a very keen IoW birder and it was interesting talking to him about the birds of the island. He told me about how there was a Bluethroat a few years ago along the walk that I did. That's about the only semi-interesting stuff about the trip, I'm glad I don't have any other compulsory geography trips!