Monday, 27 May 2013

A Few Stragglers!

I took a trip to Oare Marshes today. I had arranged to get there an hour before high tide (2pm) but that idea was scuppered by a huge tailback on the M2 which disappeared after an hour in a jam with no clue as to what had caused it in the first place!

I arrived at high tide and expected the flooded marshes to be littered with waders but I guess most were on their breeding grounds. Forgot I was back in the Northern Hemisphere and it was Spring!

On the East flood was a flock of around 100 Black-tailed Godwits tucked away out of the wind. There was an Avocet and an Oystercatcher on the same flood. There were a handful of Common Tern feeding over The Swale and the floods. On the duck front a couple of Shoveler were also still present!
(Common Tern)
As the tide went out I sat on the bank out of the wind Yerba tea at the ready and scoped the area. A male Marsh Harrier was seen hunting along the Harty Ferry area of Sheppey. As more of the mudflats were exposed a small flock of Avocet flew into the shallow water on the Sheppey side of The Swale.  I heard a Cetti’s Warbler calling from the flood side of the marsh.
A single Turnstone was sat on the edge of a rowing boat obviously waiting for the tide to pass the boat. Energy saving at its best!

A very pleasant afternoons birding was had with a smooth run home. Rain is forecast for tomorrow this will limit my options but will it bring a late MEGA into the area!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Shrike saves the day!

An European Roller has been at Broxhead Common Hampshire for a couple of days. I didn’t really expect it to still be there today but it had been seen and news had been posted. So off I trotted to the site which took about 40mins. I saw Garry Messenbird who stated the bird had last been seen flying off over the tree line about an hour earlier. This was not good news! But in my mind I was thinking its my own fault for not getting here earlier!

After a 30min wait news filtered through that a Roller had been seen briefly at Thursley Common before flying off NE. The finder was Andy Pickett a former Beddington Farm keyholder. There was no point staying at Broxhead so I said my goodbye’s and headed to Thursley. Again I did not expect to connect with the bird but at this time of year there are a few birds on the common that are regulars and nice to see.
On walking along the main boardwalk at Thursley a pair of Stonechat moved in to check me out. This was followed by a Kestrel and then a pair of Curlew that appeared to have been disturbed by the presence of the Kestrel!
I continued on down the boardwalk and noted three Hobby overhead before bumping into Andy Picket and his other half. A conversation later and a walk towards Shrike Hill and we parted company. I went looking for Common Redstart and Andy wanted to see the Curlew.
(Tree Pipit)
A Tree Pipit was the next bird to appear perching nicely in a tree enabling me to get some good pictures of it. I always think this bird is the smarter dinner suit version of the Meadow Pipit! I fired off some shots and then moved on to view a pair of Redstarts close-by. I took some shots but the best shots were obtained whilst walking back to the car via the small lake. A Male bird was hawking insects along the waters edge and seemed oblivious to my presence.
(Common Redstart)
News had broken of a Red backed Shrike at Pewley Down, Guildford and as this was on my way home I decided to drop in and see the bird. I was surprised how easy it was to find ok the small group of birders including Andy Pickett helped but this female was showing on the hedge-line down to a few metres! This is the third Surrey Red backed Shrike I have seen but this bird was the most obliging of the three.

(Red backed Shrike)
A day of mixed fortunes but the Shrike made up for the disappointment of missing the Roller. Note to self get up early and don’t wait for news!!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Red-rumped Swallow at Beddington Farm!

I work near Earls Court these days so when news of a Red-rumped Swallow (RRS) at Beddington Farm broke I had to sit tight and hope that the bird remained. Today there was a good chance this would happen with rain across most of the capital.

It is surprising how slow trains travel when you need to get somewhere in a hurry. I was getting regular updates and was on course to seeing my first UK RRS. Yes my first one... having dipped two in Surrey (one a couple of weeks ago at the farm) and in various other counties over the years!

The weather was still poor when I arrived but could see a small group of birders on the mound overlooking the South lake. I spoke to Dodge and Devilbirder and the bird came into view at the spit in the middle of the lake. Woo hoo!! UK, Surrey and my 176 patch tick!!
(Red-rumped Swallow)
Now to take a picture of the bird! This could be tricky in the wind and rain! The swallows moved to the North lake with the RRS following. Dodge and I positioned ourselves on the edge of the lake. The bird was frequenting the same area between the islands. I fired off a heap of shots and managed to get record shots of the bird.
(Red-rumped Swallow)
By now I was freezing cold! I have not got to grips with the change in temperature since I returned from living in Paraguay. But I was happy a bug bird finally in the bag! 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Gathering in the Garden!

Today was going to be a fairly productive day but not on the birding front! Well not exactly true! Once I had caught up with the chores I decided to spend the afternoon learning some Spanish and where better to do that but in the garden with one eye on the sky and feeders!

The afternoon was cloudy which would keep anything flying around low enough even for me to see! I have struggled with the change of temperature since I have returned to “blighty” so wrapped up hat jumpers and all and positioned myself in a quiet corner of the garden as not to disturb the feeders or scare the neighbours!!

With camera and binoculars at my side and the rest of me tucked into the Practice Makes Perfect Spanish books the afternoon got underway! Visitors to the feeder where a bit shy at first but soon got used to the weirdo sat on the patio wrapped up in winter green!
(Eurasian Robin)
A Robin and House Sparrows were the first arrivals tucking into the mixed seed feeders. It was then it dawned on me that my neighbour had nesting Sparrows above their guttering in the roof space. Fantastic!
(House Sparrow)
The improvement of house building and maintenance has been sited, as one of the reasons that our House Sparrows have been on the decline with the lack of nesting areas particularly in roofs. I have had a significant rise in House Sparrow numbers in my garden over the last couple of years. My feeders being the main reason but it took over a year before I had a couple of regular birds. Then boom a cold spell bought in a large flock of 40+ birds and I can only assume some decided to remain setting up shop in the local area.
(Blue Tit)
Next on the notable list were two Single Eurasian Swallows that whizzed low across the garden. Swifts appeared at regular intervals during the afternoon and were also new for the years garden list.

Mid afternoon I noticed a group of three birds circling high above the house and soon realised that they were not all gulls. A Grey Heron was the third party having fired off a few shots to confirm my suspicions!
(Grey Heron)
The cloud cleared up as evening drew in the Rose ringed Parakeet patrol began with groups of birds flying over presumably towards the roost at the edge of Mitcham Golf Course!
(Common Wood Pigeon)
I logged eighteen different species of bird during the afternoon which is testimony that wildlife is still all around us even in busy towns. Admittedly I have assisted this process by putting up feeders and adapting the corner of my garden to accommodate my feathered friends!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Scramble to Beddington Farm!

This morning had me leap into semi panic mode as Dodge text me with news of a Red rumped Swallow on  100 Acre. I have successfully missed this bird in Surrey and on other numerous occasions outside the county. This species is not a lifer but a UK, Surrey and Beddington tick so into overdrive I went!

The bird had been found by Derek Coleman whilst he was taking a tour around the Farm. Derek has found a few good birds over the years and is always so calm and matter of fact about his finds! On arriving there were a small group of the Beddington faithful searching for the bird which had not been re located.

A walk around the Farm ensued checking every hirundine that passed by! A few year ticks were picked up along the way Swift, House Martin, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, and Lesser Whitethroat.
(Eurasian Swallow)
The weather was due to close in and rain was forecast later in the afternoon so an executive decision was made to return and continue the hunt when the weather would force the hirundines low over the lakes.
I dropped Dodge off and returned to the Farm at around 5pm. There had not been any further sign of the bird but at least now there was cloud and some rain!
(Tufted Duck)
The bird was not re located after a good search through the hirundines on the lake. There were a few ducks on the lake only joking! I wonder if it will re-appear tomorrow! 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Thank You Para La Tierra!

MAY 1st

Wednesday evening the gang took a trip out into nightjar land and after a long search a White winged Nightjar was found in all its glory. What an amazing bird this is and it is sad that it is on the critically endangered list. Laguna Blanca is one of three sites that still have a population of this species. I have seen evidence of how farmland is swallowing up the forest and surrounding land and hope that nightjar land will not suffer the same end!
(White winged Nightjar)
I only have a couple of days left at Laguna Blanca before returning to Asuncion for two days before flying home. The internet can be patchy so I am taking this opportunity to say I have had a fantastic experience at Laguna Blanca and would like to thank the Para La Tierra staff Karina, Joe, Helen, Becca and JP for making this trip a memorable one. I would also like to thank Paul Smith from Fauna Paraguay who has been a great help in identifying and giving advice on locating some of the more tricky species.
(Heraclides Thoax)
Thanks also to Fatima, Jorge and Pequenita (Naomi aged 5) who have both helped me improve my Spanish. I never thought I would be on the receiving end of a stern look from a five year old when I use the wrong verb tense but hilarious all the same! I can also hoola hoop! Thank you to Griselda (Pequenitas mum) for cooking fantastic meals and washing my field clothes many of which won’t make it home!
(Pyblia Hyberia)
I will miss the banter and the monkeying around in the forest with Becca. Also the early morning rowing out onto the lake with Sean and dealing with the snappy Piranha! I hope the bird survey work with “My birding friend” continues to bring in new data. I will keep in touch with the many friends I have made here and wish them every success with their studies.
(Rio Tropical Racer)
As Sjouke would say  “And he’s gone!”........

But I am certain the wind will bring me back to Laguna Blanca again!!

Presentation Day!

APRIL 30th
Monday morning I set out on an Atlantic Forest walk which produced many regular species. I headed off to the corn field to see the Yellowish Pipit when a bird which was smaller than a Gallinule walked across the road approximately thirty metres in front of me. I chose the binocular option above the camera and saw a Slaty backed Wood Rail which disappeared as quickly as it homed into view. This species is a lot smaller than the Giant Wood Rail. I used playback but the bird was not seen again. This species was a life bird and is also shown as near threatened on the Paraguay list.

Tuesday was presentation day where Interns and volunteers that are due to leaving Laguna Blanca talk about the projects they have been engaged in. Sean and I had had a game of spoof to decide who was going first. I guess the right amount of coins so I stepped into poll position and delivered my talk with the aid of slides.
(Presentation lecture)
To date I have recorded 161 species at Laguna Blanca of which 28 were life birds for me. My trip total stands at 209 species of which 46 are life birds. I have created over 1500 data entries in relation to daily species counts. Since the beginning of my project eight new species for Laguna Blanca have been recorded. One species the Grey Capped Tyrannulet was found on the 19th March and had only recently been identified as new to science and was considered endemic to Brazil. I found this species on the Arroyito trail at the back of the house and photographed it. I was then able to send it to Paul Smith (Fauna Paraguay) for identification.
(Grey Capped Tyrannulet)
On March 26th a Grey headed Gull was seen by Sjouke who was in the Cerrado and then Sean who was on the lagoon checking his gil nets. Sadly I missed this bird and no photographs were taken of this rare visitor to Laguna Blanca

On April 11th a third record for Paraguay was recorded in the form of a Black Faced Tanager was also found by Sjouke by the lagoon just behind where we sit to use the internet.
(Black Faced Tanager)