Thursday, 4 December 2014

Lanzarote - En busca de nuevas aves!!

I have been researching various reports from birders that have visited Lanzarote and compiled a list of regular species sightings on a map. I hired a car for the day and set about the task of traversing the Island in search of a few lifers.
(Kentish Plover)
First stop was at Salinas de Janubio which is a salt works which borders a lagoon. The works are still operational and are home to various waders including the Kentish Plover which is a lifer for me. On arrival at the works the salt pans closest to the entrance were mainly dry with a few Black winged Stilt and a couple of Redshank present.
(Black winged Stilt)
I approached a worker on the site and asked if I could enter the site to photograph the birds. My Spanish must be improving because access was granted and I wandered down to the pans closest to the lagoon. This area was where the majority of the waders were with circa 35 Kentish Plover along with Ringed Plover, Dunlin lining small dividing walls along the pan. A couple of Greenshank was seen on the lagoon edge. I scanned the lagoon and saw a group of Black Necked Grebe and a couple of Yellow legged Gull was also noted.
(Ringed Plover)
With part one of my island tour complete I moved on Playa Quemada in search of Trumpeter Finch. I have seen this species in the UK so this was a brief search of this area before moving on to the next site.

(Pallid Swift)
My next stop was Teguise Golf Club where I obtained permission from the course owners to walk the paths. As I walked out of the Club house I noted a few Pallid swift swooping over a small pool and by a small miracle managed to get some shots of one bird.
(Barbary Partridge)
I walked to the rough ground at the back of the golf course in search of my target species Barbary Partridge. Along the way I noted a pair of Sardinian Warbler who would just not stay still long enough to take any pictures. Whilst checking the fence line I flushed two Barbary Partridge and then had a pair walk across the path in front of me as I returned to the Club house.
I then travelled up to Haria where a track near a hairpin bend had been identified as a good area for Canary and Spectacled warbler. I had not walked more than 30m along the track when I heard a singing Canary which obligingly sat on top of a bush. This was followed shortly afterwards by a Spectacled Warbler.
(Spectacled Warbler)
I took the narrow winding road to Tabayesco  but was unable to find African Blue Tit but there were not that many places to stop en route.

During my tour of the island I had always kept an eye on the skies in the hope of seeing a Barbary Falcon.  The far North area of the island at Mirador del Rio was to be my next stop. This is a tourist area which has a small entry fee which gives excellent views of La Graciosa. Unfortunately my last target bird did not make an appearance here or during my drive back to Club La Santa.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Birding on a Bike!! - Lanzarote

The weather has been changeable on Lanzarote and very windy. The island does not have a natural supply of water so when there is rain it is like gold falling from the sky and every opportunity to collect it is taken by the local people.

This is my fourth visit to Club La Santa (CLS) with Lou and Layla and the object of the visit is to indulge in the array of sports and fitness training that this offered by this sports facility. There is also the opportunity to take a bike ride and do some birding on the Teguise Plains near Soo (10mins ride from CLS).

This afternoon was cloudy therefore it was bike ride time. Lou and Layla on their hired go faster racing bikes and myself on a mountain bike (good for traversing the plains). The road to Soo is a slog uphill but the wind was behind us which helped. Las chicas! left me in Soo and I went off road in search of some Lanzarote specials.

I had another note to self moment within a couple of minutes down the track as I flushed a Hoopoe who displayed its crest before flying off.... Camera and bins were in my ruc-sack on my back!! Dooh!
(Berthelot's Pipit)
Berthelot’s Pipits were everywhere on the sandy and rock covered plains. They will even do a lap of the running track with you at CLS if you ask nicely! The picture was taken by our apartment. A Kestrel was seen flying towards a volcano and a noisy group of Linnet and Spanish Sparrow were seen near a farm building.
(Southern Grey Shrike)
I could hear a shrike calling and started to check the pylons but found the bird a Southern Grey Shrike (closely related to but smaller and darker than the Great Grey Shrike) sitting on a low bush.
(Houbara Bustard)
I cycled down the sandy path away from the building and crossed the road into the plains. I saw a pair of Houbara Bustard in a mixed area of small bushes and sandy scrub. This incidentally was where I saw them a couple of visits back.

I scanned the plains but could not see any Cream-coloured Courser on this occasion. The dark cloud was moving in and the rain was beginning to fall so I donned my fluorescent yellow jacket (Not bird friendly attire!!) and turned tail to head for CLS. The torrential rain stopped within a few minutes and I continued slowly back to base. A pair of Raven was the next species added to my very short list.
(Cattle Egret)
Whilst having a look at the Linnet, two Cattle Egret made an appearance flying onto a rocky area near some buildings. They looked out of place in this almost barren landscape!
I returned to the area I had seen the Hoopoe and jammed into two Stone-curlew, which is another resident species in this area. One bird played hide and seek freezing behind a wall whilst keeping its large eye on me until I had passed by.
(Bet he can't see me!!)
Dusk was on its way and I had to get the bike back by 1745hrs so I made my way back down the hill with a gale blowing straight into my face. That advantage was lost but it made The Green Team bike staff chuckle as I arrived back completely wrecked (having trained earlier in the day!)

Not a bad couple of hours birding and there are salt pans at Janubio which is a short car journey away (Hire cars are reasonably priced at e30 for a day). Viernes hay una tormenta grande!!” which may be a good time to visit as it will be indoor playtime for some part of the day at least!!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Day two for Grey Phalarope at Beddington Farm!

I went to the Farm at reasonable O’clock this morning and walked into an empty hide. Dodge, Frank and Mike were already on the mound ringing. Glen had wandered over to the enclosed lagoons in search of the Grey Phalarope.

The North Lake was littered with waterfowl but out of the corner of my eye I spied a small white bird on the water near the island to the right of the hide. A quick look through my binoculars gave conformation that the Grey Phalarope had moved from the lagoons and was moving slowly along the margins by this island. I put the news out and then took to my camera and then set up the heavy artillery (Digi-scope) which doesn’t get much use these days!

Throughout the morning there were several visitors to the Farm, all had fantastic views of this London / Surrey rarity. The two Bearded Reedling (3rd week at the Farm) were also very obliging showing well to the small group of birders. A Cetti’s Warbler and a Garganey were also present the latter was on the South Lake.

As the day progressed the Phalarope decided to take a small flight back to the lagoons but returned shortly afterwards and was last seen back on the North Lake in front of the hide! Will this bird stay another day? Gull pressure could be a deciding factor once the refuse tip starts up again tomorrow!

Not a bad days birding at all!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Spinning Around MEGA at Beddington Farm!!

Stormy weather overnight with a front coming in from the SW provided the Farm with another MEGA. Nick “Pyro “Gardner was doing his 100mph rounds when he spied a Grey Phalarope in flight over the Enclosed lagoons.

He phoned Dodge who was in the hide trying to coax out a Cetti’s Warbler that was giving out the odd brief contact call. Dodge’s whispers soon ceased when the news was relayed about the second record for Beddington Farm. The first record was in October 1987 where an adult winter stayed for three days arriving on the 19th and remaining until the 22nd.

The usual chaos of getting the news out ensued and then the heavens decided to open up which took another casualty in the form of a brolly which turned inside out on the first gust of wind. I made it over the mud bound mound and joined Frank Prater who incidentally used to be in the same class as me in infants and junior schools (over 100yrs ago now!!). I took a quick look through his telescope shook hands and then contemplated a soaking in order to get some pictures of the MEGA. Pinpoint and Swift arrived soon after.

I made the decision to make my way down to the lagoons and bumped into Pyro and Derek along the way. After brief congratulations I decided to dig in by some machinery on the edge of the lagoons. The heavens made me very welcome as I huddled under the now wrecked brolly and I sat out the short down pour.

The Phalarope seemed content on the sludge lagoons which had plenty of small pools on it for the bird to practice its spinning top feeding action. I moved further back to a set of concrete steps and set myself up waterproofs and all and waited for the right moment to capture some shots of the bird.

The bird would take irregular short flights over the lagoons and luckily enough for me in landed about 20m away on a dry piece of sludge. The camera work went into overdrive for a few minutes with plenty of setting changes in an attempt to get the best results in far from ideal conditions.

By now I was slightly soaked having crawled commando style in some “Gunk!!” and decided to quit while I was ahead and return to the hide. This bird is my third Beddington tick of the year, incidentally my second tick the Bearded Reedling are still present on site!! The Phalarope was still present this afternoon so fingers crossed it will stay into tomorrow Woo hoo!!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ping Ping double tick Ping!!!

There was some heavy rain overnight with winds building up through the morning. I was undecided where to go but made the lucky decision to travel light and have a wander around the Farm. I met up with Nick “Pyro” Gardner and we both wandered down to the hide. Dodge was the only one there and his opening gambit was I’ve just heard a Bearded tit go over and it could be on the South lake.

Pyro and I walked along the side of the South lake listening out for the familiar ping call of this species. About twenty minutes later Dodge had heard the bird again on the island in front of the Sand Martin bank on the North Lake. A short dash back to the hide ensued!!
(Bearded Reedling)
There was a small tour visiting the Farm and everyone gathered on top of the Sand Martin bank. A bird was heard calling and was briefly seen by some. Last year I spent time at London Wetland Centre listening to pinging all afternoon but did not see the birds.
(Bearded Reedling)
Bearded Tit (Reedling) is a Surrey VC tick as well as a Beddington tick so my own rules state that I have to see the birds to be able to count them for either list. Was lightning going to strike again because it seemed like forever before I had my first glimpse of a male bird.
(Bearded Reedling)

Just as I was rattling off some shots Dodge called a Short-eared Owl which from the corner of my eye I could see it being mobbed by crows. Another Short-eared Owl later and it was apparent there was a pair of Bearded tit maybe even a third.
(Male left and Female right )
The pair began showing well at the front of the island and the conclusion was that there were only two birds present a male and female. I took some more shots and then had a small celebration. Another Surrey VC gap had been filled having missed a few in Surrey and this was the second VC tick, in a week woo hoo!!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bucket loads of Bonxie!!!

The weather has been ideal over the last couple of days with Skuas being pushed into the Thames Estuary. Today the weather looked perfect again for good movements of birds. Dodge took up post at the Farm while I sat nervously at work.

A Merlin was the hi-light of his efforts at the Farm but little did I know that the best was yet to come and long after the “Chigley hooter had sounded!” (Who remembers that?).

A rapid fire of text messages from Ninja and then Dodge had me spring into action and off in pursuit of a Surrey VC tick and there were seven of them...Amazing, unbelievable and the traffic wasn’t too bad either!
(Great Skua)
On arrival at QEII Reservoir I donned layers of waterproofs met up with Ninja and then had those stairs to negotiate...which blast me out when I’m fully fit!! After some heavy breathing and a Wheatear which seemed to be mocking my efforts just keeping four steps ahead of me looking round and chuckeling!! a recovery walk along the side of the reservoir was the order of the moment! I then pitched the scope and put it on a group of large birds in the middle of the reservoir! Great Skuas...Jackpot!!Woo hoo!
(Great Skua)
The seven Great Skuas were nicely grouped together in the middle of the reservoir. There was the odd bout of wing flexing and then a chase after a group of Gulls that certainly weren’t expecting a welcoming party. The Skuas split up and six disappeared into the cloud with a single bird flying towards Knight and Bessborough reservoirs.
(Great Skua)
Within five minutes all seven birds had returned to QEII and were almost in the same position as before. I went with Ninja to check out Island Barn and low and behold he found two more Great Skuas sat on the water. No wonder the gulls were going nuts!!

This was just amazing nine Bonxies in the space of an hour and all were on the deck!! I was in Surrey VC tick heaven which now stands at a respectable 224! Just to add more flavour to the afternoon a Kittiwake made a brief appearance calling as it flew over the reservoir.

A few handshakes and thanks later and I made my way home half expecting to be stuck in the rush hour jam but that didn't materialize either...sometimes the dice do roll in your favour. All that is required now is for one bird to make it to the Farm!!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Sparrowhawk silences garden!!

My garden on a normal day is a hive of activity with House Sparrow chirping away as they visit the feeders. Collared Dove, Wood and Feral Pigeon are just as regular on the ground feeder.
There are hazards for these birds the main threat being local cats which I have cause to chase out the garden on a regular basis. There is a less frequent threat in the form of a Sparrowhawk which is normally only seen as it flies away as I go bowling into the kitchen.

About a week ago there was an almighty commotion from the bushes in the garden. I stepped out into the garden and saw a female type Sparrowhawk fly out of the bush and through the gap between the shed and the back fence. Will I ever get photos of this species in the garden I thought to myself!

Today was like any other day the feeders were topped up before I left for work. I returned home and all seemed as usual with birds making busy feeding in the garden. I was in the front room pottering about when I realized that all had become very quiet in the garden!!

I walked into the kitchen approaching the windowed doors and there was not a bird to be seen. This was odd but then I caught the movement of a head within the confines of the pond. Three thoughts rapidly went through my mind Raptor, then Sparrowhawk and why didn’t I pick up my camera!!

I made a careful withdrawal from the window and legged it into the front room set the camera regained my composure and snuck up to the doors. Bounding around like a Bull in a china shop had cost me pictures of a Waxwing a couple of winters back!

I rolled off a few shots and the bird moved up onto the edge of the birdbath. Fantastic I couldn’t believe my luck! The male then hopped into the bath and started drinking and washing up! A good few more shots later and I left the bird to finish its bath.

What a wonderful experience and I didn’t even have to leave the house!!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

(Os) for more good birds!!

The run of North Easterly winds have continued into the weekend. Cloud cover has varied but once again has left the Farm with favourable conditions for rarities. Sunday is also a good day to watch the ringers in action and get some more photos for my Beddington Gallery.

I arrived at around 7am Dodge and Mike had already taken birds out of nets. There wasn't as much cloud cover as I had expected but the wind was fairly strong which was a promising sign!
(Cetti's Warbler)
The first rarity of the day came from the nets. A Cetti’s Warbler had presented me with a rare photo opportunity whilst the bird was processed and then released.
Pinpoint and Nick arrived on site shortly after. Pinpoint stating “This is dangerous weather!” which normally means the chance of a Skua but there had not been any reported around the Thames basin in recent days.
Dark cloud was moving in from the NE and the second Osprey of the year appeared from the west side of the North Lake. This had Pinpoint briefly struggling for words before he shouted up (Pinpoint and I were the only ones in the hide!!) the last bird had also appeared on the previous Sunday. The bird departed south after some quick snapping from cameras!
This was turning into a good mornings birding with Buzzard, hirundines and Snipe moving through the Farm. The nets produced more regular species to the Farm and of course more photo opportunities during the processing stage.
(Sedge Warbler)
The weather continues into next week but low cloud and some rain wouldn't go a miss!!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Tern up and you will see good birds!!

After another mammoth sleep I awoke and checked on the weather and bird news RBA and #RBN. There had been Sandwich Tern  and Turnstone reported in the London area and after a peek out of the curtains to see low cloud I hot footed it to the Farm.

I was surprised I was the only one on site and walked to the top of the mound to “Kojak’s corner” and set up and waited. I didn’t have long to wait as I could hear Sandwich Tern calling. The cloud was low and initially I could not locate the birds. Then two birds appeared out of the clouds and began circling lower around the North Lake.

Gull numbers aren't as high on a Saturday therefore there was a chance these birds may even land on the furthest island. A few shots later and the birds landed with a handful of Black headed Gulls (BHG) on the far end of the North Lake. Fantastic!!
(Sandwich Tern)
I knew some of the regulars needed this species for their Farm lists so I pinged out a group text then put the news on twitter! Everything was looking good with the birds settling down on the island until a BHG got the hump with one of the terns and started pecking at it with its bill.
(Sandwich Tern)
The birds took flight but stayed low and were clearly looking to come down again. The handful of gulls was now becoming agitated at their presence and took to flight. The lead tern obviously thought “I’ve had enough of this!!” and off they both flew circling before leaving high SE.

Pinpoint had also secured some shots from the Observatory window. What a garden list he has!! Once again news services had provoked me into action resulting in seeing good birds. The best by far were the three Gannet a few years back.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Flying Visit to bag Beddington MEGA!!

Birding at Beddington Farm can be a bit of a roller coaster ride sometimes especially if you are at work and you know there is rough weather coming in and there are people at the Farm covering the pre storm period!!
(Glossy Ibis)
I received news of a Black tailed Godwit on the North lake this morning which was a small indication of what was to come. The story is as follows....With Dodge and company in the hide, Swift who never goes out in the rain pitches up raises his bins and in the calmest of voices said “ I’ve got a Glossy Ibis here!!”.... Kaboom phones start ringing messages are sent and for me the waiting game begins....

(Glossy Ibis)
Cutting a story short the bird was still there and looked in no hurry to go anywhere.The Ibis had found itself a rich food source and wasn't going to budge for anything... The odd disdainful look at the flighty gulls as they went skyward was the best reaction the Ibis gave to potential danger! It did however take part in a flying ant feast with the crows and gulls but had no intention of leaving... 

Most of the regulars made it and feasted their eyes on this MEGA for the Farm. Garry Messenbird made the trip from Sussex. Cementing his lead at the top of the Beddington bird species seen list!!

A second record for the Farm in as many weeks...The first bird did not stick around long enough! All I can say is from this flying visit is thanks to the bird for sticking around, thanks to British Rail and the news system worked Woo hoo!!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Bandit at 10 o'clock!!

The weather forecast was looking good with rain between 0600 and 0900hrs. The wind was changeable from an E round to a SW wind and there was plenty of cloud. Getting up at stupid o’clock is common place for me these days so it was off to the Farm to see if the poor weather would catch some migrants out. Today was an unusual day as I appeared to be the only one on the Farm until Nick joined me for a while some hours later.

I like to stand on the side of mount Beddington this is about 60ft higher than the hide and there is an excellent view of both the North and South lakes. There was just a breeze when I arrived but there was rain in the air. Things were looking good!!

The other advantage of being closer to the heavens is the birds commute between the lakes at eye level. Some don’t see you until it’s nearly too late and have to take evasive action. The first offering of the day was a Great crested Grebe which surprisingly enough is uncommon at the Farm. Two Common Sandpipers were following each other around the edges of the North lake.Eight Cormorants were scattered between the lakes and a couple of Swallow passed by which my enthusiasm kept going for the chance of something better!
(Marsh Harrier)
Patch birding can be a waiting game but when the gulls went up and the corvids made for the east side of the lake something had to be up!! Sure enough a Marsh Harrier had decided to take a look at the North lake not realising it would scramble a squadron of crows and soon became surrounded by these noisy aggressive birds.!
(Scramble Scramble!)
Having supposedly seen the intruder off the corvids gave up the chase allowing the bird to have a look at the South lake where it disappeared out of view. Nick went to see if the bird had landed by the lake but came back later with no further sighting of the bird.
(Marsh Harrier)
Some half an hour later the Marsh Harrier re-appeared over the South end of the South lake and appeared to be hunting the coot chicks who along with the parents were swimming for their lives! This caused chaos, with all the birds on the lake going into a blind panic calling and scurrying across the water some making for the skies above. The Harrier then gained height and sailed off SW.

A while later Nick departed and I was back on sentry duty again. The next patch of rain was not due until 2 o’clock so I decided to have some time out on the hill. I was about to doze off when I heard Common Tern calling! There were three in total as they literally flew over my head which caused a bit of panic in my corner but the id of the birds was confirmed and they flew off SW.
A picture of the Sparrowhawk that nearly knocked me out this morning...I'm not sure who was more surprised...!!

The afternoon rain did not materialize so I headed for home and a recovery sleep! Not a bad morning at all..!! 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Moth mayhem!!

I am a complete rookie when it comes to moths and don’t have the light on every night. The conditions have been good over the last few nights and after a conversation with Pete Alfrey yesterday I decided I wanted to add Jersey Tiger to my every growing list of moths.
(Jersey Tiger)
Conditions were good again muggy with some cloud and only a slight breeze in the garden. I turned the light on at 2230hrs and waited hoping Jersey Tiger   would visit my garden and make my list. I check the light every 30mins to an hour.
(Jersey Tiger)
By 2300hrs Pete’s “There are loads of them about at the moment” statement was correct. I had thirteen Jersey Tiger (Euplagia quadripunctaria lutescens) scattered on the bed-sheet in the box and on the grass. I had to tread very carefully!!
(Mother of Pearl)
There were three Brimstone Moths, Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya raralis) and an array of small moths.
(Gypsy Moth)
I regularly look at Surrey moths and have identified the Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) from a post by Angela Evans thanks!

I took a selection of the smaller moths and they spent the night in the fridge chillin’ out! I turned the light off at 0100hrs. I haven’t found a way of running a cable out to the garden without leaving a door or window ajar therefore when I crash so does the light!
(Hoary Footman)
(Silvery Y)

I have identified a couple of the moths this morning shown above and hopefully I am right?!

I have three that I am not sure of the identity of and they are shown below;-

(Dark Arches)
I have changed my mind a couple of times with this moth but Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) .
(Turnip Moth?)
(Scarce Footman)

A good night for the light, and a few new moths to add to my list. Most importantly for me Jersey Tiger only had one male which obviously didn’t want to stick around for the paparazzi! Thanks Pete for the help!