Saturday, 24 January 2015

Tank Tours Turn up Trumps!!

This morning it was time to join Tank tours to see if lightning would strike again during a walk around the farm. The target species was Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and myself, Glen and the tour guide set off in search of this tricky species.

Conditions were good a slight breeze, the sun was coming up and skies were clear. On arrival at the area the Lesser Pecker had been seen there were allot of passerines moving around in the trees. The early signs were promising but the Lesser Pecker was nowhere to be seen.
(Lesser Spotted Woodpecker)
This was always going to be a game of patience but the trio were kept busy looking through Blue, Great and Long tailed Tit, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker also made an appearance before the prize entered from stage left.

The tour was held up by a small group of Crests as they flitted restlessly through the trees but there was no confirmed fire in the hole on this occasion!

Happy with their lot we made our way back to the hide via an assault course of mud, which was apparently all part of the tour experience! We met up with Pinpoint and the Tice’s gang who had been looking at the Tree Sparrows on the far side of the farm.

(Yellow legged Gull)
Pinpoint who is a true gull “guru” of epic proportions found a 2w Yellow legged Gull on the lake before people parted company. Nick had seen the Garganey but the Tice’s gang had already left before he had returned with news of this long staying bird.

Garden Tick!

During the run up to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch I have been paying particular attention to the garden around dusk. I have nine feeders including ground feeders which I stock with husk free sunflower hearts, mixed and high protein seed, fat balls, a pear bin, chopped apples and a bird bath to wash the gourmet meal down.
(Stock Dove)
I have numerous feral type pigeons that visit the garden but on Monday evening I spied a Stock type Dove on the ground feeder. I fired off some pictures of the bird and carried on with the events that a working week has in store for me. I had every intention of checking the photos but did not get around to it until today.

My garden list stood at 43 species with no new ticks for two years. The last tick was a Waxwing on 3rd February 2013. Garden tick number 44 Stock Dock which is probably not the most glamorous of birds but just shows that one eye should always be kept on the garden!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Firecrest saves the day!!

I had a late start today and decided to spend time away from the minefield of birding politics. The day was pretty non productive having spent time looking for the Smew with Blinkman.

On the way home I decided to visit a couple of sites where Firecrest have been seen in the past.
The first stop was Banstead Downs Golf Course where Firecrest have been very reliable over the last few years. Devilbirder put the pathway between houses and the golf course on the map for this species.

The skies had cleared and there was a slight breeze and the sun had even made an appearance so conditions were good. But would this species be as obliging.
I walked a fair way down the path when I heard a Firecrest call and then a second bird appeared and chased the first bird off. The victorious bird perched up looking around for the other which was now on the other side of the path.

Fortunately I had set the camera up further along the path and quickly fired some shots off before the two birds continued their game of chase through the ivy. Both birds disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived and I left them to their game of cat and mouse.
(Seears Park bird last year)
The second site was Seears Park Cheam, where I had found Firecrest last year. The noise from the A217 was deafening and after a search of the conifers I was unable to locate this species. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Shrikes!! Its over there!

I spent most of the weekend birding in Surrey VC. Saturday morning I joined Tank Tours at Beddington Farm with the tour guide delivering on all target species! Tank might have mentioned this once or twice since!! Two Jack Snipe were seen on top of one of the mounds and a Water Pipit was seen near the storm tanks. A Woodcock was also seen in the SE corner but only made the briefest of appearances and I missed it!

Sunday was bright and sunny and the wind did not seem as strong as predicted. This was a good opportunity to visit Thursley Common and seek out the Great Grey Shrike. I started out at the aptly named Shrike Hill but could not find the bird. There were a good few birders scattered about this area so I decided to walk over the hill and head towards the main sand track. I had spoken to a birder several times along the way and called him back to a point where I had heard and seen two Dartford Warbler. One of the birds showed a couple of times before we moved on.
(Great Grey Shrike)
As we reached the end of the fenced field I spied a silhouette of a shrike like bird on top of a dead tree. I had travelled light today with binoculars and camera so I pointed out the bird and id was confirmed through a scope. I moved further up the track using groups of trees to cover my approach. The bird was still some distance away but I managed to take a few shots of it.

I was glad to see the Shrike but was more excited about seeing the Dartford Warbler, a species I have not seen for many a year at Thursley Common. On my return to the car park I spoke to a couple of regular visitors to the common and this species has made a return which is fantastic news!
I drove through Guildford with a visit to Holmethorpe in mind but realized I would be passing very close to East Horsley where the Red breasted Merganser had been seen at Pennymead lake. News from Rarebirdalert was not positive but the bird had been absent Saturday morning and had flown in during the afternoon. Maybe the same would happen today?! I stopped at the small lake and the only prize was fourteen Goosander but I must say that was quite a sight on such a small lake.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Year So Far!

Another year has began and with a weekend break thrown in it was an ideal opportunity to spend some time trawling some of the Surrey VC sites in search of the rarer birds. The Red necked Grebe was the first rarity on my list having linked up with Dave Harris at QEII on New Years Day. The wind was blowing a gale up on the reservoir which had pushed the bird into the NE corner. Three Goldeneye were also added to the list.

The start to the year could not go without visits to my patch Beddington Farmlands which incidentally does not look like much of a farm these days. The most interesting sighting was a juv/1st winter Garganey which casually popped out from behind some reeds on the North end of the North lake. This bird has been seen irregularly on site for a few months now but it surprised the finder Bulldog all the same. This was an unexpected month tick for listers at the Farm!
An evening was spent at Papercourt Water Meadows after an interesting wade through patches of thick mud took me to the spot where I have seen Owls in the past. A few Stonechat were monitoring my arrival! There were birders scattered all over the large area waiting to connect with a Short eared Owl that had been present for a few days. I happened to bump into SurreyEd (who I havn’t seen for a few years) and Matt along the way. The bird did not disappoint the gathering masses but was distant flying between the lock keepers house and Woking Palace. A Barn Owl was more confiding flying and hunting from a fence-post approx fifty metres away. Up to three Little Owl were heard after dark.
(Northern Pintail)
Visits to Cutmill Pond and London Wetland Centre (LWC) both produced Goosander at the latter a flyby towards the river as I exited the Dulverton Hide. If only I had known that was going to happen I could have had a lie in and gone straight to the LWC!! A Bittern, three Pintail and two Stonechat, were also seen during my visit to the LWC.

Holmethorpe was to be the last stop in this mini birding bonanza! Unfortunately I could not see through the fog to locate the Smew. A slow walk along the banks of Mercers lake was not fruitful either.

Not a bad start to the year 77 species recorded in Surrey Vice County (which does not include Spelthorne and Staines Res). There are still a few regular species to include on the list as well as the Great Grey Shrike (Thursley Common), Smew (Holmethorpe), and Bearded Reedling (Beddington).

Roll on next weekend and dare I say it some cold weather to get a few more winter visitors moving around the country!!