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!!