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