Saturday, 23 May 2015

Spot the Flycatcher!

A Bank holiday weekend is always presents a good excuse to spend some extra time birding. The only problem I find with this time of year is the ridiculous o clock start time if you want to catch the dawn chorus!

Thundry Meadow was my choice of venue. This site consists of marshland, wet woodland with areas of mature oak and alder trees. The River Wey runs along the southern edge of the site. The variety of plants attracts a multitude of insects, dragonflies and damselflies. This provides a rich feeding ground for birds.

I arrived just before 7am and was greeted by a multitude of bird song which included a Cuckoo. I donned my wellies and long sleeve shirt for the walk through the woodland area which can be alive with biting insects. Birding in this area is a game of patience with many birds moving around in the canopy. But by the time I had exited this area I had logged over twenty species.
(Spotted Flycatcher)
The next phase of the walk was through the meadows and the River Wey. I spied a Spotted Flycatcher hawking insects from a tree lining the river. The bird was high up and was difficult to see whilst perched but it returned to the same spot which allowed time to creep up and get a couple of pictures of the bird.
(Northern Lapwing)
Mandarin Duck are a regular sight on the river and being the shy duck they are a female was briefly seen scurrying away upstream with its chicks. A solitary Lapwing which seemed lost appeared and disappeared almost as quickly. Small mixed groups of hirundines would appear from the low clouds hawking insects but up until this point raptors were in short supply.
As the cloud lifted and the sun popped its head out intermittently the Buzzard started to appear followed by Red Kite, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. A pale phase buzzard caused a momentary surge of my heart rate but that was to be the last action of the morning. Forty five species recorded with some expected species absent!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Global Big Day!

I took part in the Global Big Day hosted by eBird and Cornell Lab. The idea was for birders across the world to log as many species as they could by visiting any place that had birds. The aim was for between 3000 – 4000 species to be recorded. Full site counts are then logged on eBird and a world day list is created.

Beddington Farm was the first site I covered with some help from the regulars. 61 species were recorded with Tree Sparrow, Wheatear, Whinchat and Peregrine the hi-lites.

Thundry Meadow was my second choice of venue where woodland birds would feature in the species list. Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Pheasant, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and a Red Kite featured. Pied and Grey Wagtail was noted along the River Wey.

Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Garden Warbler and Nightingale did not make an appearance on this visit which was disappointing. The wind was howling and being mid afternoon probably didn’t help.

My last stop was at Tices Meadow where waders and terns would be added to the day list. Nightingale did not let me down at this site. Greenshank, LRP and Common Tern were also noted.

Thirteen hours of birding flew by and I made my way home to sort out and complete the admin for submission to eBird. A great idea and a good days birding! Roll on the next Big Day!!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Match of the Day - Ed 5 Kojak 4!

Today was spent with Ed chasing Surrey Vice County birds. We meet up once a month for a full days birding and draw up a rough plan dependant on what birds we have not seen in the county for the year. Tices Meadow, Thundry Meadow and Thursley Common were the sites to be covered.

Tices Meadow Badshot Lea was our first port of call with Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper present with Common Tern and Nightingale amongst regular species. After the first site Ed had a slender lead at 3 – 2 for new species for the Surrey yearlist.

The next stop was Thundry Meadow which is a site that I have not visited before. This site was a delightful mix of wet and dry woodland with the River Wey dissecting areas of open fields. Most of the water that feeds this area is supplied by natural springs. This relatively small area is part of Charles Hill Site of Special Interest.
(Garden Warbler)
We recorded forty four species in two hours which included Spotted Flycatcher, Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Marsh Tit, Cuckoo, Red Kite and Mandarin. 
The sun made a prolonged appearance which transformed the area with bird song which made locating each species much easier. We left this rather reluctantly but there were more species to catch up with at Thursley Common.The Spot Fly was a new species for both of us  4 – 3 going into the half time break!
Thursley Common carried on where Thundry had left off. Birds were busy singing their hearts out! Anyone would think there had been a period of bad weather!! Hobby was the first raptor to put in an appearance followed by a harassed and rather dishevelled Red Kite. Redstart, Woodlark, Dartford Warbler and several Cuckoo were present. A Tree pipit was noted which pulled me level on new species at 4 – 4!
(Spotted Flycatcher)
A return to Tices Meadow was our last stop of the day where we brought our day tally of species up to eighty five and Ed stole the victory with an injury time Sedge Warbler. Final score 5 – 4! We also missed Black Tern who were late visitors at the site!

Another great days birding without travelling miles visiting a range of habitats! A plan has already been drawn up for the next trip woo hoo!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Gripes a Gropper!!

I have recently been putting in a split shift at the Farm (social commitments allowing!). The first visit weather based and generally early am and then a return during the evening in an attempt to catch something dropping in late on!

This morning I walked the Farm having seen Dunlin on the North lake and then on the lagoons. I have been walking the works area in the hope that I bump into a Black Redstart (they breed in Croydon). The walk back from 100 Acre produced a Wheatear and an LRP on the North Lake.
I returned to the Farm this evening to witness all hell breaking loose with a resident Swan going ballistic at a family party of Canada Geese on the lake. I considered taking action as one of the adult Canada’s took a bashing from the stir crazy Swan as it attempted to protect its young!! The Canada escaped a pasting and the goslings seemed to come out unscathed.
(Fight Night!!)
I moved into the hide after making sure there were no casualties of this one sided conflict. A Hobby then appeared swooping and snatching a Swallow from just above the water line! Was it going to be a full moon tonight!

The lake calmed itself down and I settled into checking the surviving Swallows that were hawking insects just above the water. No Red Rumps on this occasion but it was worth a try. As boredom was taking hold and I was questioning my own sanity I started tucking into my Smarties (The guys in Paraguay will get this but they are called Rocklets out there!). I heard a reeling just down the hide in the scrub! Surely not! With a few birds having been noted in the county I had been looking for this species daily on 100 Acre! There was a pause of a couple of minutes and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled again slightly further down the scrub.

A group text and a phone call to Frank later and I moved further down the path lakeside and waited! Light was beginning to fade in the scrub so I decided to cover the footpath but did not hear the bird call again! All hell broke out again with Blackbirds, Wrens and Robins causing the commotion this time! What was going on at the Farm tonight!

I returned to the hide and waited until around 2115hrs when rain stopped play! This was my third Gropper at the Farm but the first one I had found.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

High Expectations!

It was not only the birders that were up at stupid o clock this morning! A small matter of a boxing match was on the cards and well placed in the middle of a Bank holiday weekend.

I was a late arrival at The Farm at 6am the conditions looked ideal but were to prove to be tough going until Pinpoint pitched up and declared a Whimbrel on final approach to the North Lake! How does he do it apart from having sharp eyes of course!

The bird arrived just as the first wave of rain hit the Farm. Once this burst had past it was cleared for take-off and off it went!

A Hobby graced the hide with a couple of fly overs before zooming off site! The other hi-lites of the morning were LRP and Dunlin who flew south and were not stopping for anything! The male Wheatear was still on site and a group of Swift were seen hawking over 100 Acre during early afternoon.

The squabbling Lesser Whitethroat was in the same place at NW corner of the lake and this time I managed to get some shots of one of them. When you piece the sightings together it was not a bad collection of birds but the conditions had indicated there should have been more!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Back to reality and the Farm!

A trip to Beddington Farm was the order of the day. The wind had moved to NE through the night but there was no rain to go with it. Rain always brings the possibility of bringing down waders or even something rarer! The cloud was high at stupid o clock so there was little point staying in the hide so off I went on a tour of the Farm (which was to last 5hrs+).

The North Lake was pretty quiet with a few gulls and Shelduck on it. The South Lake had slightly better fair with Little Ringed Plover.

The mound had a single male Wheatear. Note the lack of picture I certainly do not want to be considered for next seasons Wheatear challenge!! A Redshank was heard but was not located.

I checked the lagoons and then wandered into the SE corner to check the works area flushed a male Pheasant (who are more regular these days!) and took an unscheduled slide in the sludge. This area is caked in the stuff the top bakes in the sun and just when you think you are on firm ground splat! I also stalked a Garden Warbler and failed!

A walk through to 100 Acre produced little. A Whinchat provided a break in the norm near the reed beds. During the walk there was Whitethroat everywhere.

The above bird is currently wanted:- If you see it do not approach it particularly if you are a fish! I think I have a couple of survivors by oddly enough what is left is hiding in the weed!! I will have to hold a roll call another day!!