Saturday, 18 February 2017

Leith Hill, 18th February 2017

The Leith Hill massive, namely Matt P, Robin S, David S, Wes A and Stu C, assembled on the lofty tower roof for 2017's inaugural '[in]visible migration' session. It was a classic blinder of a Leith Hill Towerwatch, with a stubborn, soupy mist enveloping our view and simply refusing to clear by mid-morning, at which point we'd seen enough mist and cleared off ourselves instead. Single Crossbill and redpoll calls punctuating the murk were the sole rewards for our vigil, although there was plenty time for a good bit of birding banter/gossip. I took myself off for a walk on the heathland nearby, Duke's Warren, which was a bit more ornithologically infused thanks to a singing Woodlark, a Woodcock, two more Crossbills and 115 cacophonous Siskins.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 17th February 2017

A ringing session by myself on Hundred Acre was a real disappointment for the first couple of hours or so, by which point I’d only caught singles of Wren and Dunnock, but all the wading around in sewage was suddenly made worthwhile when a Water Pipit appeared in one of the nets! Bingo! I had been hoping to catch one of these but wasn’t expecting it in the middle of a rather sunny morning. Hopefully I will catch/re-catch further Water Pipits in the future, perhaps leading to some interesting data. Also about was a Green Sandpiper, a Cetti’s Warbler, four Shelducks and a couple of Reed Buntings, including a singing male.

Water Pipit

Green Sandpiper

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Canons Farm, Banstead Woods and Banstead Downs, 16th February 2017

Magnus A and Christian C joined me for a grand tour of the patch, on a changeable but mostly spring-like day, partly thanks to the first singing Yellowhammer of the year that I have heard - my day's highlight. We also located one of the Little Owls and had three Lesser Redpolls of note but once again a blank was drawn on what I am counting as my second concerted Lesser Spotted Woodpecker search of the year, though it is early days and I will continue looking. A look around Banstead Downs in the afternoon produced another two Stonechats, which by the sound of it may have been wintering in an area of young scrub, and a fly-over redpoll but a search of the traditional Firecrest site along the western flank of the golf course produced no hoped-for jewels.

Stonechat pair at Banstead Downs - rather unusual for the site but they may have been wintering in recent months

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

13-14th February 2017

A quick evening walk at Canons Farm on 13th in a bracing easterly was rewarded only by a day-hooting Tawny Owl and a single call from a Little Owl. Today, a morning walk around Banstead Woods produced busy feeding flocks of 12 Siskins and 50 Lesser Redpolls. I also paid a short visit to Juniper Bottom, on the off-chance of finding Hawfinches, noting two Marsh Tits and another day-hooting Tawny Owl (this seems to be an especially regular spot for hearing Tawnies in the daytime).

Lesser Redpolls

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Combe Wood and Acres Down, 12th February 2017

A convivial day out with David D-L, Lee B and Adrian W saw us first visit Combe Wood, on the edge of Berkshire, where we located at least four Willow Tits. This is the furthest south that I have seen this species and the first time I've had them alongside Marsh Tits. As the 'ray-gun' and 'sneezy' calls bounced against each other through the dank woods, I daydreamed that I had stumbled upon a wormhole to a Britain whose avifauna hadn't yet been ravaged by habitat and climate change. Nice flight views of a Tawny Owl was another highlight.

Acres Down was up next but the weather hadn't improved nearly as much as we had hoped. Still, we managed to track down a fabulous flock of 29 Hawfinches, an adult ♂ Goshawk (the others also saw a female when I strayed away for a while) and four Crossbills of note.

adult ♂ Goshawk

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 9th and 10th February 2017

A trip to Beddington on Thursday produced a Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid on the main lake, along with three Shelducks and the Black Swan; I also had two Cetti's Warblers. On both days, a Water Pipit was still buzzing around Hundred Acre...

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Canons Farm, 8th February 2017

The highlight of my morning trudge around the farm was a flock of 17 Lesser Redpolls feeding away in Ruffett Wood. Try as I might, I couldn't pick out a Mealy. Other notables included singles of Cormorant and Grey Heron overhead, a count of six Treecreepers and three of the Little Owls calling. Redwings were numerous, at around 400, and 25 Meadow Pipits came up from the long sward.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Canons Farm, 7th February 2017

After work I took to the farm for an evening's owling, the highlight being a roosting Barn Owl. Five Little Owls were audible, including two singing; one in particular has been enthusiastically belting it out for a while now, while others are more reluctant to even call. 39 Skylarks and 29 Meadow Pipits were also notable.

Barn Owl (taken through a small gap in the barn door, by a public footpath)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Motspur Park, Canons Farm/Banstead Woods and Belmont, 6th February 2017

A report of a Cattle Egret in the horse paddocks at Motspur Park late yesterday afternoon led to me joining Kevin G and Shaun F there at the crack of dawn this morning. Alas, there was no Cattle Egret to be seen and we later learned that it had been a mis-identified Little Egret after all. The couple of hours that I spent on site weren't without interest, though, with an adult ♂ Peregrine on the pylons being the highlight.

adult ♂ Peregrine
 Later, Geoff B and I ambled around Canons Farm, seeing/hearing three Little Owls and seeing that around 40 Skylarks were still around. We popped into Banstead Woods for a short while but all was quiet there. Arriving back at home, a Stock Dove was perched in the big tree in the garden, a real mega here, and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker afforded excellent views as it drummed.

Stock Dove

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Canons Farm and Buckland Sand Pits, 5th February 2017

A rushed walk around the farm first thing produced two high-flying Cormorants and a heard-only Canada Goose. I then stopped for a cup of tea at Ian Magness’s house in Kingswood before we headed to Buckland Sand Pits, where Ian is a key-holder, for a special opportunity for a walk around this private site. There was nothing astounding, and numbers of birds were generally quite low, but a flock of 10 Siskins feeding in the alders was fantastic to see, as were 34 Wigeon, a good total locally.

Wigeon at Buckland

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Canons Farm, 4th February 2017

A peaceful and mild evening stroll provided my first patch Peregrine of the year, my 60th species there this year. Little Owls were quite vocal, with at least five calling, and a Tawny Owl was hooting.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Canons Farm, 2nd February 2017

A gusty morning on the patch, ended by the addition of heavy rain, was rewarded with no fewer than three patch year ticks. These were Canada Goose, thanks to two over-flying birds, a Red Kite drifting west and four Mallards.

Red Kite

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 1st February 2017

A dreary morning in the hide at Beddington was enlivened by the company of Magnus A and Christian C. The mound and Hundred Acre were given cursory looks, too. Highlights included single first-winters of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls on the landfill site. There was some wildfowl value, the best being a female Pintail, along with two of both Wigeon and Shelduck. Four Water Pipits were knocking around, two Water Rails and two Cetti’s Warblers were vocal and a Green Sandpiper and a Chiffchaff were also nice to see. The Black Swan seemed quite at home.

We couldn’t figure out why literally no large gulls and very few Black-headeds and Commons pitched down on the lakes. Normally, hundreds are brushing up in the water at any one time while the landfill is operating and there are even usually quite a few loafing around the lakes on a Sunday morning when there is no tipping. We did, however, notice at least six dead gulls... Other waterbirds were simply going about their usual business. Odd!

♂ Shelduck and ♀ Pintail
first-winter Yellow-legged Gull with Herring Gulls
adult ♂ Pochard