Friday, December 23, 2011

Water Pipit

Water Pipit
Six months ago this bird was feeding above tree line on an alpine meadow in southeastern Europe. Today it gingerly makes its way around a reservoir just outside Heathrow Airport. A great bird anywhere and especially today as this was my lifer WATER PIPIT!! Got cracking views through my scope and 'another' grainy record shot:)  Other species of note at Staines were Mistle Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Goldeneye, Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Egyptian Goose and Green Sandpiper.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Red Kite

Yesterday, 3rd December 2011, Lori and I headed out on a road trip to try get one of Lori's most wanted birds since moving to the UK. We made two stops en-route as we didn't want to pass on the opportunity of seeing a couple of good birds. First we checked Wraysbury pits for Smew. No luck unfortunately but we did see Goosander (new UK bird for Lori) and many Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall etc. At Staines Reservoir we found the reported Great Northern Diver as soon as we arrived and soon got another nice bird for us both: Common Scoter. Other birds of note included Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye, and on the fence line Lori's first good look at a Fieldfare.

Back on the road we headed up the M25 then took the M40 towards Oxford and Birmingham; heading for kite country! As we approached Beaconsfield Lori spotted the first kite, flying over the treeline from the motorway. We stopped at the rest stop for some breakfast and on returning to the car we got our first good look at a Red Kite! Four individuals were gracefully flying above us right in the car park! Next we continued up the motorway (northwest), heading for the town of Watlington. Along this stretch of road we counted 45 individual Red Kite. At junction 6 we took the B4009 into the town. Its amazing that just minutes away from the major motorway, we were in rural England. 

Both Lori and I were absolutely blown away with the amount of kites we were seeing here! Within minutes we had seen over 50 kites, bringing our total for the day to over 100! We found a good to place to stop in the village and just watched in awe as these graceful but huge birds skimmed over the rooftops. It doesn't seem that long ago that these birds were restricted in their range to a few areas in Wales. Since then there have been release programmes in England and Scotland, which has proved to be very successful. Close to Watlington is another small village called Pyrton where we also found kites skimming over the fields and village church.

It was a fantastic day with beautiful countryside and wonderful birds: Click below to see some of the video we took during our visit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wraysbury and Staines


Today I spent a few hours poking around Wraysbury pits and Staines Reservoir. My target bird was Smew; but alas, I didn't get any today. Its been about 15 years since last seeing this species, so I suppose I can wait a little longer..There were good numbers of ducks in both areas including Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye. I did get Goosander on the Wrasbury side as well as Kingfisher. As I was leaving Staines Reservoir I got 2 Fieldfare on the perimeter fence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great Grey Shrike on Thursley Common

Today I booted it down the A3 to Thursley Common National Nature Reserve For the last few months this massive expanse of heathland has been turning up some good birds! My target today was to connect with a species I had yet to see in Britain. Not one but two Great Grey Shrike have been reported from this location and I finally got my chance to take a look.

To cut a long story short I did find one of these winter specialties on the aptly named 'Shrike hill'. I had been searching for about an hour when I noticed about 10 Meadow Pipit mobbing the bird. The shrike perched on a lone tree on top of the hill for a few minutes until dropping down the other side. I quickly made my way around and watched it for about 15 minutes until it disappeared. It never did come to close to where I was standing but was happy to get a few record shots.

Great Grey Shrike

I then made my way back around the hill to the dragonfly ponds where I got good views of Stonechat and Lesser Redpoll. Other species included Wren, Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Magpie, Jay and Carrion Crow.

Lesser Redpoll

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Papercourt Owls

Both the weather and birds this weekend have been a little strange to say the least. Saturday was blue skies all day long, but Sunday was the foggiest day I have seen in a long time. From the moment I set out to when I got home, the visibility was atrocious. On Saturday morning Lori and I took a walk around Papercourt Lake and a stroll up the river. Papercourt held most of the usual suspects including Tufted Duck, Egyptian Goose (5), Pochard (Lori's lifer), Mallard, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe. Two species of gull were present: Black-headed Gull and 5 Common Gull. In between the stock pond and the main lake we found 3 Bullfinch; a new bird for my local patch. 

Pochard (male left, female right and Great Crested Grebe in the background)

Our walk along the river off Tannery Lane was fairly quiet, though we did find a group of Fieldfare and Redwing feeding on holly berries. Though both species were very vocal, they decided to play hide and seek with me and for the most part skulked in the back of the trees, only showing themselves for a split second. However, I did manage one photo of a Redwing. After returning home and dealing with some chores, I headed back out as I had just heard of 2 Short-eared Owls showing on Papercourt Meadows! I arrived on site at about 14:20 where I bumped into some local birders. I introduced myself and got chatting to Andy Wilson. Andy explained to me that the birds had been seen for the last few days (I hadn't been checking the Surrey Bird Forum; tut tut) and had been showing any time after 14:30. Perfect! Only a ten minute wait...


An hour later we were still stood around waiting with no sign of any owls. By this time many more people had arrived; there were small groups split over the whole area, probably close to 30 individuals. We passed the time by chatting about the local area, which was great, as I learned about some good places to check. Four more birders joined us, including 'Eddy' (Simon Edwards) while we continued our vigil. While waiting we noted a few birds including 3 Stonechat, Kingfisher, Kestrel and Meadow Pipit. The chatting came to an end when the resident Barn Owl made an appearance; quartering the meadows to our right. Though very visible with our bins, the light and distance were too great for photos. One of the lads suggested that this was just the warm up; the main event was still to come! At approximately 16:00 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS appeared! 

Short-eared Owls

The 1 1/2 hour wait was immediately forgotten as we watched these buoyant and graceful hunters work their way across the meadows. Thanks to both Andy and Eddie for your company and the other lads who joined us.

the locals

So, to summarise; I added three new species to my local patch: Bullfinch, Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl. With the foggy start (and finish) to Sunday, I was being a little optimistic wishing to add anything else to my patch list...luckily my optimism paid off. In the morning a visit to Carters Lane paid off with two new species added: a female Shoveler at the sewage ponds and a much needed Coal Tit along by the golf course. I did a quick check back at Papercourt Meadows at 14:00. At 14:20 I got two very brief views of one Short-eared Owl and a calling Little Owl.

Looks more like a site for Nazgul not Coal Tit
*note: on the 21st November 2011 Lori and I went back to see the owls as Lori had not seen Short-eared Owl in the UK. We had a great afternoon and got FOUR species of owl. 2 Short-eared Owl, 2 Barn Owl, 1 Tawny Owl and 1 Little Owl! Amazing!! Lori bagged 3 new species for Britain: SHORT-EARED OWL, BARN OWL and STONECHAT!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pullborough Brooks - November 2011

Well, the weekend really flew by! Saturday was spent at Pullburough Brooks RSPB Reserve and Petworth House. Sunday was a trip up to London. So, here I am Monday night; finally having five minutes to sit down and catch up with my notes. An early-ish start to Saturday got us down to Pullborough for just after 09:00am; though we did have a broken sleep (Tawny Owl calling at 04:00am outside our bedroom window), we were all in good spirits and happy to be out on a road trip. The weather stayed nice the whole day, which made it all the more pleasurable for us all. Plenty of wildfowl seen from Netley's hide including Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Shoveler and Shelduck. Other species of interest were Ruff (4), Golden Plover (12), Snipe (3), Black-tailed Godwit (5) and 100's of Lapwing. 

Lapwing spooked by Peregrine Falcon

While I was scanning through the waders and waterfowl, Lori and Nolan went into the hide where they discovered two Water Voles feeding below the hide windows! These scarce and endangered aquatic specialists were a most welcome surprise.

Water Vole (Lori Mooney)

We continued along the trails for a while then split up as Lori and Nolan wanted to look for mushrooms. I made a few stops along the way and found a Bar-headed Goose in amongst the Canada Geese. Though a nice bird, it has obviously escaped from a private collection and not strayed off course from the Himalayas:)

Photo by Nolan

En-route back to the main entrance I finally got to see the Peregrine Falcon that had been reported. It was circling high over the wetlands, sending Lapwings into a panic before leisurely gliding away. Other raptors showing with the warmer afternoon temperatures were Buzzard (3), Kestrel (1) and Sparrowhawk (2). total species seen at Pullburough today-38

Pied Wagtail

I met up with Lori and Nolan at the restaurant and soon after headed up to Petworth House where we met our good friends Abbi, Jason and their daughter Poppy. We spent a couple of hours walking through the beautiful grounds of this large estate and extra special to spend time with Poppy (9), who has a real passion for birds. Though the birds were a little thin on the ground, we did spot a Buzzard and Poppy got a lifer: Egyptian Goose! It is so great to see someone so young with a real interest in birds and natural history. Watch this space...this little girl is going to be a great birder!

Jason, Poppy, Abbi, Rich and Nolan

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Common Gull

After a wonderfull morning shopping at Morrison's ( insert sarcastic face), I headed out to my local patch for an hour. At Papercourt Lake there was a nice surprise for me: Common Gull! This individual was mixed in with some Black-headed Gulls, though they didn't seem to be too friendly; the BLHGU occasionally flying up and stooping at this bird. After a few minutes the COMGU flew around the lake and settled away from the bullying. New patch bird for me!

I then took a drive down Tannery Lane to the river. Here there were a few more thrushes around with a group of 5 Mistle Thrush on the powerlines and Fieldfares and Redwings flying over. I did manage one stringy shot of a Fieldfare but hope to get better looks this winter. Other species of interest were; Little Owl, Kestrel, Siskin, Stonechat and Great Spotted Woodpecker.


White Cliffs of Dover

I'm not going to waffle on too much in this post as the photos say it all. Lori, Nolan and I decided on a road trip and though Stonehenge was a great contender, we all opted for the White Cliffs of Dover. Though I have seen them from the ferry on a few occasions, I had never walked over them. Vera Lynn.

We arrived in Dover at about 8:30am; two hour drive from Woking. After locating the visitor centre and the start of our trail, we back tracked to Dover town for a nice a English breakfast before starting our hike. The weather forecast was good but the morning was a little foggy, so we killed some time checking out the fields along the way. Here we found a few good birds including big flocks of Goldfinch, Siskin and Linnet, Red-legged Partridge, Golden Plover, Skylark, Kestrel and a Goshawk! 

Herring Gull

Once the weather improved we started our walk, making our way down the trails to the South Foreland Lighthouse. En-route we noticed a few good birds including Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wheatear, Yellowhammer, Pied Wagtail and Common Tern.

Dover Castle

South Foreland Lighthouse


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Doing the rounds


Today I checked my local patch starting at Tannery lane in Send. Here I added my first of three year birds today: Lesser Redpoll. A flock of 14 individuals flew over the river making a quick stop on some alders before flying off. The two Stonechats were still in the same area, where I had found them a few weeks ago. A single Skylark, Kestrel and Mistle Thrush made this a worthwhile stop. At Papercourt Lake there was nice flock of Siskin teasing me from the tree tops, a Great Black-backed Gull and 7 flyover Fieldfares brought my patch list up to 72 species.

Little Grebe

No new duck species at the lake, which is what I am really checking for though there were a few more Pochard which is encouraging. My final stop was at Pyrford Weir where I followed the river down to Walsham Weir.

Newark Lock

Newark Priory from river

Walsham Weir

Newark Priory from road

I had a wonderful time at Walsham Weir as I watched a pair of Grey Wagtail chasing each other around the weir pool for half hour. On my way out I had Little Owl calling at Newark Lock. Great morning!
Grey Wagtail

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chats in my patch!

Egyptian Goose

In between chores and buying a car this weekend, I did manage to bird my local area on both mornings. On Saturday I headed down to Papercourt Lake in Send. There was plenty to keep busy with lots of birds in the hedgerows and a good assortment of ducks and grebes on the water to go through. The small pond next to Papercourt (not sure of the name) had a pair of Mandarin Duck, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, and two Gray Wagtails. On the main lake there were more Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gulls and Egyptian Goose. The hedges and fields around the lake were filled with tit flocks including Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit. Other species included Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch. Treecreeper and Siskin were also present, both new species for my local patch.

Great Tit

There was a definite push of thrushes, with many Blackbird and Song Thrush feeding up on berries. On Saturday night Lori and I headed over to Ockham for a beer at the Black Swan pub and en-route had a Little Owl fly across the road in front of us and while at the pub we heard another calling from an old oak. A good night. 


On Sunday morning I did another loop around Papercourt Lake then made a stop on Tannery Lane next to the crack pulverising mill. I crossed the canal and river and made my way along the toe path. It was here that I added another species to my local patch list: Stonechat! Two to be exact! Though they are regular at local heathland, I was very happy to find these on migration in my area. Total species for the weekend was 47.