Sunday, 30 August 2015

Farm Fever!

Saturday 29th August 2015

The Farm is a tough place to have as your patch. The website looks impressive with its list of sightings but considerable time and effort has to be invested to achieve a high percentage of the rarer sightings.

The last week has seen signs of the Farm of old with a steady flow of good migrants. The lagoons look particularly good for waders and this area is holding the birds, which is another positive sign.
The news of a Pectoral Sandpiper had me spending some pre-football time staked out at the lagoons. The Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Greenshank 3 and the regular Green and Common Sandpipers were also present.

Elsewhere on the Farm sightings were rolling in Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Red Kites and Buzzards galore. A surprise entry over the SE corner was a flying Fortress “SallyB” which did not have feathers but flew all the same!

Sunday 30th August 2015

The ringers Mike and Frank were first on site this morning and had had a few Sedge Warbler in the nets early on. The first port of call for me was the lagoons with Pinpoint and Nick. Yellow Wags were noted flying South as we made our way across Mount Beddington. There were a couple of new additions to the lagoons a Dunlin and a Black tailed Godwit. 

As we were marvelling at the lagoons and the visiting contents Pete spied a marsh tern wheeling high. A bird I could not lock onto. That is why he is called Pinpoint! The identity of this bird was not nailed as the bird disappeared back into the clouds having also been picked up by Tank lakeside. Was this another Farm tick that had completely slipped the net?!

Our vigil was re-located to “Kojak’s corner”. The Black-tailed Godwit paid a short visit to the lake as well as a Whinchat which was very confiding. Curlewman was among a good spread of birders to frequent the corner. 

Common Sandpipers and Snipe. That was to be the last action of the day as I turned the lights out as I left mid afternoon.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Everything terned out alright in the end!

These are nervous times if you are still amongst the ranks of the employed. The development of phone Apps, Twitter and bird services every buzz of your phone gives you that oh no what am I missing now moment before you peek at the content!

The Farm has been on somewhat of a roll in the last few days which I must say is overdue. But why can’t everything schedule itself for the weekend? 

Roy Dennis and I had taken an evening walk over to the lagoons to check on the Greenshank, Ruff and Wood Sand. The latter could not be found although it had been seen earlier on in the day. Roy had commitments so we parted company. I ventured down to the lagoons whilst Roy turned for home and flushed a Quail just off the rough vehicular path.

I was initially oblivious to this as I admired the Ruff on the lagoon. I looked up and saw Roy dancing and waving his arms around in an attempt to get my attention. I then realised my phones were going off in my waterproofs and then all became apparent that a Local Mega had been seen.

I ran up the muddy hill which must have been a sight to see in heavy mud laden wellies. Fortunately I had set up a group text and somewhere in that journey I sent the news out. At the top Roy was beside himself exclaiming “It’s a lifer for me!” 

Group members began to arrive and a plan was devised to cover the area of the mound. This was going to be like searching for a needle in a haystack. I remember the Canons Farm bird a few years ago which was only seen by lying down on a path and waiting for the bird to cross the path!  To cut this story short the bird was not re-found. Roy was happy but in the dog house having abandoned his commitments!

This morning started in the same vein as the last with Spotted Redshank seen over the South Lake. The days sightings seemed to dry up at the Farm but I noticed on RBA that the Earlswood Lakes a Black Tern was still present.

I had not seen a Black Tern in Surrey VC this year and set a plan to go and see it after work. I had hoped of seeing this species at the Farm over that last few days but it was not to be despite an invasion of birds around the coast and at inland reservoirs.

I arrived at the lakes amidst a monsoon like downpour and noticed a lone birder stood out in it scoping the tern. I soon realised that it was Devilbirder who announced its presence totally un-phased by the weather. I took the more pragmatic approach and waited for the rain to subside before having views before the tern mysteriously disappeared!

A short walk to the top lake had me relocate the tern sat on a small raised platform. A place which was to provide excellent photo opportunities! Satisfied with my quarry I returned to the car and headed home before the rush hour got into full swing.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Wood you believe it!

The forecast looked reasonably good today with a large front coming in from the SW with heavy rain showers. I arrived at the Farm at 6am and set my stall up on my regular spot “Kojak’s Corner”. Three Yellow Wagtails were soon spied making tracks South in somewhat of a hurry!

I heard the calls of several Green Sandpipers on the North Lake and soon had a group of six birds flying low over the lake. After settling for a while the same group took to the skies and headed off South. I thought that would be the last I would see of them.

About ten minutes later a group of Green Sandpipers appeared low over the lake completing a circuit. But this time there were seven birds one with a pale under-wing and projecting legs a Wood Sandpiper. I rattled off a few shots which gave enough to confirm the bird id but the group landed on the far island and settled long enough for good views in the telescope. The Green Sandpipers flew off towards 100 Acre soon after.

I decided to check 100 Acre in the hope that the Wood Sandpiper had re located there giving me some better photo opportunities. A Greenshank had been seen by Glen and Tank the previous day and maybe there would be other waders on Jim’s and the Mitigation scrape.

As I was walking along the East side of the lake I noticed the Wood Sandpiper was still present on the lake. My digi-scoping equipment was put to reasonable use before I made my way to 100 Acre in search of the Greenshank.

The mitigation scrape held the majority of the Green Sandpipers they flew to Jim’s bed joining the Greenshank that was feeding at the NE end. This area was also covered with Moorhens so I scanned the edges of the reeds just in case a Spotted Crake had decided to join them. A couple of Common Sandpipers were feeding along the edges of the scrape.

The Greenshank re-located itself to the mitigation scrape where I went into stealth mode to get a few pictures of it. Not very good ones at that! I returned to “Kojaks Corner” and dug myself in for preparation for the heavy showers that battered my brolly!

Sunday, 2 August 2015


Saturday 1st August

It had been a while since Surrey Ed and I had joined forces and spent a day chasing rarities. Our home county of Surrey had been fairly quiet of late therefore it was time to spread our wings and venture into the neighbouring county of Kent.

Oare Marshes was an obvious choice with recent sightings of Bonaparte’s Gull, Temminck’s Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank! High tide at Sheerness was not until around 1300hrs which gave us plenty of time to land and explore the area. The BBC weather website has a link to high tide times and is a must when visiting a coastal site and arrival approximately 1-2hrs before high tide is recommended.

The first notable bird of the day was not on our wish list but a welcome site all the same. A Little Stint was viewable on the East flood close to the road. The bird was busy feeding along a small mud spit where a Golden Plover seemed to be standing guard. Unfortunately the sun severely hampered the chance of a good shot of the bird.

A walk along the road towards the Swale produced female and juvenile Bearded Reedling. A host of Reed and Sedge Warblers and a Spotted Redshank tucked away in the NE corner of the flood. Common and Green Sandpiper added to the growing wader list.

Having completed two thirds of the circuit and with the sun behind us the task now was to work our way through the Black-tailed Godwit masses in search of Curlew Sandpiper and anything else that may have dropped in overnight. The result of a very patient search revealed two Curlew Sandpipers one in moult from breeding plumage and the second in fresh juvenile plumage. Dunlin and Ruff in various stages of moult and were also noted.

A visit to the East hide produced a Med Gull thanks to a gentleman sat next to me. This incidentally was a new bird for my Oare list. Wildlife Recorder does all the technical work for me! A second adult Med Gull with less black on the head did make an appearance as we arrived back at my car.

It was time to hit the road and have a look around the Isle of Sheppey. Capel Fleet was to be our first stop with Marsh Harrier flying close to the raptor watch-point. A couple of Buzzard and Kestrel were added to the raptor list.

The next stop in our North Kent tour was to be at the sea watch-point at Shellness where terns would be our target birds. Our guide for the walk to the point was two Yellow Wagtails! But there was better to come with Eagle eyed Ed picking up a Black Tern fishing out on the Swale. A bird was also observed amongst the Sandwich and Common Terns near the point. No Little Terns were seen within the roped off area where a mass of Oystercatcher were poised to chase the tide out and begin feeding on the mud.

The surprise bird of the day was a lone Dark-bellied Brent Goose (which was clearly lame) which had decided to spend its summer at the holiday resort of Shellness!

A brief return to Oare Marsh and then we headed back to Surrey to look over some farmland before dark. Then at dark the entertainment continued having driven through and disturbed Tawny Owls who were road side in a dark lane.

This had been a fantastic days birding which had notched up a massive 17hrs door to door! Roll on the next adventure!!