Sunday, 26 January 2014

RSPB Garden Birdwatch 2014!

The RSPB Garden Birdwatch is an annual event where the RSPB encourage us all to spend an hour of our time watching the wildlife in our gardens, parks and nature reserves.
(My Garden)
I had left my count until today having had other commitments yesterday. I was slightly concerned having looked at the weather forecast which was predicting rain with strong winds.
I have nine feeders in my garden which hold, niger seed, sunflower hearts (husk and husk free), peanut, a high energy and a mixed ground seed.  The feeders have a good cover base with a small apple tree butterfly bush and shrubs which overhang the small pond.
I filled up the feeders and threw out chopped up rotten apples prior to the count. I then placed myself discreetly in my kitchen looking out of my double doors. These doors are double glazed which is not ideal for photography but the birds don’t seem to be put off by my presence.

(House Sparrow)
The count started off slowly but once the squadron of House Sparrow had landed other species soon followed on. I did not record anything unusual this year but enjoy the hours birding. 
My sighting which only include visitors to the garden:- 
House Sparrow 13 (24 highest count), Starling 4, Collared Dove 3, Wood Pigeon 3, Great Tit 2, Blackbird 2m, Dunnock 2, Feral Pigeon 2, Robin 2, Goldfinch, Blue Tit
(Wood Pigeon)
A late arrival that did not make the list....
(Rose-ringed Parakeet)
I must say I am disappointed with this years online submission process which is normally quick and easy to complete!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A day at Holmethorpe Sand Pits

A turn around in the weather with no rain forecast until the afternoon presented the ideal opportunity to pay a visit to Holmethorpe Sand Pits. This site is maintained by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and  incorporates views of the Surrey hills a series of gravel pits, farmland a refuse tip and areas of woodland.  I have always enjoyed walking this site as there is a diverse range of habitats a good few hours are required to walk the site. Every time I visit there are improvements to the habitats and network of paths for the local residents to enjoy.
I spoke to Phantom and Ian Kehl at Water Colours establishing that there were three Smew on Mercers Lake today. I set off for Mercers keeping a count of every species I saw along the way. I scanned the far bank for the Smew but could not locate them. I walked the far side of the lake noting a Kingfisher whizz by along the edges of the lake below the path. A little owl was heard calling from the other side of the hedgerow but I could not find it. Two Smew were spied amongst Tufted Duck but I could not see the third bird.
I walked onto one of the fishing pontoons to scan the nearside of the lake. This was a tricky manoeuvre on the slippery planks some of which had been dislodged . This side of the lake has a well established tree line with plenty of area where birds can tuck themselves away from view. There it was sat out of the water on a fallen branch.
(Mercers Lake)
Next stop was Mercers Farm which is an area of fields with a modern residential area with a small paddock. A few regular species were logged here including Yellowhammer. I walked on to the next group of gravel pits Mercers West Middle Pit and Spynes Mere. The weather was beginning to close in and the rain started as I reached the furthest point from the car. Wigeon were noted on Mercers West with a couple of Snipe along the shore line.
(Water Colour and Moors)
I made my way back to Water Colours and instead of going home thought I would check out the Moors before dusk. What a good decision this was as something spooked the snipe and approximately 15 jack Snipe. I double checked as I had not seen this many Jack Snipe before! All returned to land some 40 – 50 metres from where they had risen. This species was new for me at Holmethorpe and was a fitting end to a good day in the field.
(Moors and Landfill Site)
Once back at the car I watched the c750 Corvids come into roost and an invasion of Canada Geese before heading for home. Fifty two species were recorded during my visit a reasonable total with a few expected species missing from the list.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Ibis Gives Surrey Year a Glossy Coat!

I am the first person to complain about how bad the weather has been. However without this kind of disruption above our heads today’s offering would probably not have stopped off in the flooded fields surrounding the River Wey in Frensham Surrey.

News of a Glossy Ibis broke a couple of days ago with confirmation of the bird thanks to the finder and Dave Harris circulating the news. The weather has been grim with heavy winds and rain and there was every chance this bird would stick around for the weekend!
(Glossy Ibis)
I set out fairly early this morning with confirmation that the Ibis was still present from Dave en route. I checked the fields by the road and then parked up opposite St Mary the Virgin Church. I walked down the lane a joined another birder who was viewing the Ibis from the metal gate.
(Glossy Ibis)

The next step was to take some pictures of this rare visitor to the County of Surrey. I rattled off a few shots using the hedge as a screen and then made my way back to the car. As I was walking back the bird flew across the track and onto the flooded area downstream. I was not quick enough on the camera settings to capture the bird out of silhoutte (No presets!).The Ibis remained in this area for a good 30 minutes. A few birders were now turning up and all had good views of the Ibis.
(Glossy Ibis)
The bird although content with its surrounding was clearly using the whole area to feed and I’m sure there were plenty of morsels for it to gorge itself on. The Ibis moved once again downstream and this time out of sight and was not seen for a good while afterwards.  
I set off for Frensham Great Pond having been told by Sean Peters that there was Goosander on the outlet pond! I saw five birds four females and a male. The weather was closing in again so I had a walk around this area then returned to the car to make my way home.

On the way home I was driving along the A287 when I saw a couple of birders by the bridge over the River Wey opposite the entrance to Frensham garden Centre. There had been no news of the Ibis for a good few hours and the Ibis was the first thought in my mind and low and behold there it was out on the flooded fields. A couple of quick phone calls later (I knew a couple of Surrey listers had missed the bird earlier on in the day) and another look at the bird and off I trotted home.

Not a bad start to the year a Surrey VC mega added to the list. My list stands at 221 species. Thanks again to Dave Harris for keeping me updated on the birds movements.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

And the winner is...?!!

Another year begins and for most it means the start of another year list. Birders year list for varying reasons myself it gave me the extra motivation to go birding at stupid o clock when any sensible person would stay in bed! I have not completed a Surrey VC Year list for a couple of years and NO this is not the year I am going to do another one. I will be away in Paraguay during the Spring migration therefore a year list is not a practical option!

New Years day is normally a day I don’t see much of having over indulged the previous evening. This year was slightly different I was up and about at a reasonably hour and engaged in my annual first day feeder watch. This is the starting place for the race to be first species of the year in my notebook. My feathered friends are obviously oblivious to this otherwise my garden would be full of candidates!
(House Sparrow)
House Sparrows have been on the increase where I live numbers have reached 30 birds in recent times. Not surprisingly this species was first in the book followed closely behind by a missile of a Blue Tit (perhaps word of the race had got out!!).

To say the weather was awful would have been an understatement and there was no surprise when Sutton Utd’s fixture at Hayes & Yeading (who play at Woking FC) was called off. What to do now?! The wind and rain was relentless even the garden birds had gone into hiding!
(North Lake)
Time to test out the waterproofs and go to Beddington Farm! They were thoroughly tested from the walk from the car to the tin hut hide! I had not seen the water level this high for some considerable time. All the islands on the North Lake had a good covering of water at least this would kill of the vegetation and leave the islands in good condition to attract waders during the Spring migration!
I stayed for a couple of hours having been trapped in the hide by biblical style wind and rain! The conditions did not compete with the Laguna Blanca storm I got caught in last year but conditions were pretty bad!! Even the Water Rail squealed in protest at the driving rain. The ducks were even having trouble against the waves! A few gulls and corvids were the only species crazy enough to attempt any kind of high level flight!

(Tufted Duck)
Having escaped in the smallest of windows where the wind dropped just leaving the rain to deal with I made my way home! Interestingly enough I appear to have moved (according to the tracker!) I wondered why I had trouble with the key?!
Hopefully the weather will improve and all is left to do is wish you all a Happy Birding Year!!