Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stains Moor

Today I checked the Staines Reservoir for some reported birds including Black Turn and Ruff. My target birds were not relocated but I did get another year bird: Wheatear. This was across the road; perched on a fence post. After an hour I headed to Staines Moor, a site I have never been to before. Good directional signs were non existent and I ended up asking the locals. It takes about 25 minutes from parking to actually getting onto the moor. This route is basically two public footpaths. It is definitely worth it and is a fantastic site with good visibility in all directions.The River Colne meanders through; making it very attractive and good for wildlife. 
One of the features here that really stands out is the amount of yellow meadow ant hills; a favored perching spot for Wheatear I here. Birds seen included Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Linnet, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Robin, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Hobby, Green Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, and Yellow Wagtail: year tick! Rain stopped play unfortunately; but I shall return:)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Staines Reservoir and very 'Little Gull'

Staines Reservoirs are located near Heathrow Airport. My route was fairly simple from Woking: M25-A30-A3044, about 30 minutes. The access from this side of the reservoirs is fairly limited but I managed to squeeze in. Many good birds are reported from this place, so I was eager to check it out as I have never birded it before.

Basically there is only one footpath that splits the north and south reservoirs. That is it. The birding was great, well, especially great as I got a lifer! I was greeted by a swarm of Pied Wagtails feeding along the path. These were, in turn, feeding on the swarm of flies that had obviously just hatched.

Pied Wagtail

Both reservoirs had plenty of birds to scan through; the bulk being Tufted Duck, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler and Mallard.

Tufted Duck

Great Crested Grebe
Luckily, I bumped into a local birder and we got chatting. Ian Brice has been birding for over thirty years and knows the area really well. He gave me some good tips for other sites nearby, which will be a great help in the coming weeks. He also pointed out that there was a Little Gull around. My ears perked up! We spent a few minutes scanning until Ian located it mixed in with some Black-headed Gull, in the south reservoir. Its small size was very noticeable amongst the other gulls and being a juvenile, looked very dull. It sat higher in the water and its tail was more angled, much smaller head.

Common Tern

If that wasn't enough, I also managed to get two more year birds; a Black-necked Grebe and Common Sandpiper. My two hours here were well worth it, lots of ducks, grebes and gulls to look at. Common Terns nesting on the platform in the north reservoir and a very good chance of a really cool vagrant or two. I am coming back.

Rutland Bird Fair 2011

Well, I guess the title spells it out! On Saturday morning I headed north to to the Rutland Bird Fair. I departed Woking at about 06:15 am and arrived at the fair at about 08:45 am; 134 miles. En-route I picked up two year birds: Hobby, seen over the M25 motorway and Rook just outside the Bird Fair. There was a good turn out of people, not sure how many but 'shed loads' would be appropriate.

Paul and Rose fitting my Scopac
Though it would have been nice to have spent much more money, and I was tempted, I restrained my urges and bought two t-shirts, a Scopac tripod carrier and a book. The book is Tales of a Low-Rent Birder by Pete Dunne. A great book and what made it better was Pete Dunne was there and I got to meet him! I have already read some of his books but not this one, which is now signed!

Posing with my new gear

The Scopac was my big purchase which I got for £59. This is the original producer of these scope carriers and I was immediately impressed with the quality. Paul Lee and Rose Votier, owners and designers were extremely helpful and very passionate about this product. I guess the proof is in the pudding and thus far I have no complaints. I carry a Vortex Skyline 80 on a heavier Manfrotto tripod. Most of my time at the fair was spent moving from one hide to the next and they are spread out over a large area. I probably spent five hours birding and walking and the Scopac was really comfortable and allowed me, for the first time in many years, hands free birding. The workmanship is impeccable on this product and the weight is distributed across your shoulders evenly, making it a joy not a chore to carry.


It has yet to be used and abused to any extent but I am confident it will hold up over the years. Attention to detail is excellent with an inner pocket for a note book, field guide etc and an outer pocket which can accommodate camera, food, drink or small rain jacket. D-rings are positioned on both straps to allow items to be clipped on and a adjustable chest strap for comfort. All in all a great bit of gear!

The view from Robin hide, Rutland

The birding around the reserve was great and though there were many people attending the fair, most hides had plenty of room for viewing. I added 27 new year birds to my list including two lifers! These were Yellow-legged Gull and Little Stint; both seem from the Robin hide pictured above.


Common Snipe
Other very welcomed birds included Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Whinchat, Egyptian Goose, Willow Tit, Osprey and many more.

Egyptian Goose

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chobham Common

Chobham Common

Just a twenty minute drive from our home in Woking, lies a most unique and wonderful area of ancient heathland. Chobham Common is the largest area of heathland in South East England and regarded as one of the finest examples of lowland heath in the world. It is a National Nature Reserve, jointly managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and has been designated a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest'; SSSI. Its list of rare plants, lichens, ferns, insects, dragonflies, butterflies, mammals and reptiles is extremely impressive, and with a bird list of over 100 species, it's a place I have wanted to return to.

Roe Deer

I have only been here on a couple of occasions but that was over 15 years ago, though I still remember the excitement of seeing Dartford Warbler, Nightjar and Woodcock. Today, however, none of the for mentioned specialties were seen. Morning birding with a slight drizzle in August is definitely not the best scenario to see these heathland birds, but I didn't go unrewarded.

Stonechat (female)

I first entered the gate down Red Lion Road where I followed the trails up to the powerlines. Here I added two species to my very modest year list: Coal Tit and Goldcrest. After poking around for an hour or so I headed to the main entrance (Roundabout Car Park), where I spent another hour looking and listening for Dartford Warbler. With poor weather conditions, I really new I was out of luck, but was happy to be out and learning some of the trails. Every now and then I would bump into little flocks of Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldcrest and Willow Warbler, which kept me busy.

Stonechat (juvenile)

Green Woodpeckers, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Carrion Crow were all present as were several groups of Ring-necked Parakeet, that noisily flew over the heath. So, bird of the day was a Stonechat. En-route back to the car from the Red Lion Road entrance I noticed a bird. It flew from the heather up to a tree and started twitching its tail. I was really thrilled to see this plump little heathland bird. No, I didn't get a stonking male in breeding plumage in perfect light. My first look for many years was a rather damp and sad looking juvenile, but I was very happy to see it none the less. After a few minutes I noticed two more, one being another juv and the other a female.

Chobham Common trail

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The other side of the road

Our garden feeders

This morning I picked up some bird food for a feeding station in our garden. This was the finishing touch to a two day project as a surprise for my wifes birthday. Though I realize it will probably be a little quiet for a while, as there is plenty of natural food around. However, it did make me feel good knowing it was there and there were two customers almost immediately; a pair of Collared Dove and a Robin.

Collared Dove

After a little more weeding and pruning in the afternoon I headed out for my first solo drive in England in six years! Driving on the 'other side of the road' was what went through my mind. Living in Canada I have been very spoiled, with the lack of traffic and wider roads. So, I took a drive out to Ripley and stopped in at Papercout Lake, a lake I have not been to in over thirty years. Here I found over 70 Coots, 16 Black-headed Gull, 1 Cormorant and a Great Crested Grebe.

Black-headed Gull

Following the little country lanes I headed to Ockham where I checked Bolder Mere Lake (16 acres). Access to this lake is a little frustrating with no real access with a decent view, that said, I did manage to poke my head through a few bushes to see another huge group of Coots, Moorhen, Mallard, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Tufted Duck and a single Common Tern.

Ockham Common

I then went over to Ockham Common where I poked around for a few minutes before heading back. It was very dull which I expected as one; it is late afternoon in August and two; I didn't have much time. Long-tailed Tit was added to my very small year list and I got a nice view of a Sparrowhawk, hunting through the woods.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A walk along the Broadmeads

On Saturday 13th 2011 I finally got up before 10:00am after a struggle with jet-lag. Actually, the alarm was set for 06:15am and by 07:00am I was enjoying a quiet walk through the English countryside. I decided to walk from the Broadmeads, near Old Woking, along the footpaths and through farmland en-route to Send. At first it seemed a little dull but soon I was enjoying most of the common species found in this area including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Wren, Jay, Magpie and Jackdaw to name a few. Here I added three species for the year (not hard as I have only been back from Canada a week): Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and one of my favorite birds: Little Owl!
Just to prove I am in England
After I crossed the weir I added two Ring-necked Parakeet to my year list that flew over my head making a heck of a racket. Green Woodpeckers were abundant in the area, yaffling their way through the Oak trees along with cooing Stock Doves, another year bird!

Triggs Lock
Just before I reached the bridge to cross over Triggs Lock, which was built in 1653 I believe, I found a flock of 50 Goldfinch feeding on thistles; very cool. The walk back along the river produced Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Canada Goose (tick), Mute Swan, Reed Bunting, Mandarin Duck (stringy tick), Wood Pigeon, Wren and a few others. All in all a very pleasant walk.

The River Wey

Wood Pigeon


Friday, August 12, 2011

Beer and birds

nice combo
After a week of paperwork Lori, Nolan and I were ready to stretch our legs and hopefully see some birds. We took a leisurely stroll along the River Wey from the New Inn pub in Send, up past Triggs Lock.
Lori and Nolan - River Wey Send
It was a really nice walk on which Lori got 14 LIFERS including Reed Bunting, Whitethroat, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Moorhen, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Jackdaw etc....
We finished back at the New Inn with a pint and a bag of crisps.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Goodbye Vancouver Island...

It was great to squeeze in one more birding morning with my good pal Jon Carter before heading back to blighty. Jon and Jenny came up from Victoria on business and combined this with a visit. While Jon and I sneaked off to Holden Creek, Lori and Jenny took a nice walk along Jack Point. Holden was very unbirdy for shorebirds, with Least Sandpiper and Killdeer being the only representatives. We did get a single Peregrine Falcon, two Osprey and a Red-tailed Hawk AND lots of mosquito bites. 

Packing up our scopes we headed out to Jack Point to meet up with the girls. We then headed to the Crow and Gate pub in Cedar for a nice meal. Thanks for a great day Jon and Jenny and look forward to meeting up with you SOON....Blighty here we come! I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in British Columbia and will leave with many wonderful post will be from Woking, Surrrey, ENGLAND.