Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Beddington Farm - Time to Gull!

The weather has been a lot colder over the last couple of nights reaching between -3 and -6 last night. The lakes were almost completely frozen this morning giving the growing attendance at The Farm a good opportunity to sift through the 10K+ gulls that are visiting daily. There is still hope that the juvenile and adult Iceland Gulls will be found having been seen at the Walton roost.

The lakes are covered in a blanket of gulls even before the sun rises which limits the possibility of waterfowl remaining on the lakes when the first observers arrive at stupid o clock. The winter residents seek cover along the edges of the reed beds and between islands.

The freeze provides a good opportunity to look at rings on some of the gulls and the collator of this information Frank Prater wasted no time in compiling a list. He recorded thirty rings by the end of the session including a 1st winter Caspian Gull which was ringed in Poland.

I do not consider myself an expert on gulls but Beddington Farm is littered with gulls at this time of year presenting a good opportunity to improve your knowledge on this very tricky and challenging subject. It helps to discuss the features of some of the odd looking gulls we get on site. Pete Alfrey was also on hand to assist with this process.

The first gull of interest to the group was a gull that had a Polish ring and this bird showed the standard characteristics of a 1st winter Caspian Gull.

This gull shows the four colours of a 1st winter bird. Firstly a long dark bill with white small head dark beady eye with a brownish shawl around the neck. 

The mantle and scapulars are grey leading into brownish mottling through the coverts with dark tertials with a white outer edge to the tips. This is more visible through P9 and 10 of the primary feathers. 

The legs are long and light pink giving the bird a ski slope back.

Another gull of interest was a Herring Gull that showed colour rings on both legs.

We also had an exotic flypast early morning which mysteriously appeared late morning in the scrub on the sand martin bank behind us.The bird was freed from the scrub but I am not sure how long it will last especially with the Peregrines patrolling the site!

We are still not sure now it managed to get there undetected! or did it walk through the scrub!

An interesting morning which ended with a fly over Red Kite! Incidently no white wingers were found!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Beddington Farm - Needle in a Haystack!!

The NE winds continue bringing an Iceland Gull to Beddington Farm late yesterday. These conditions are favourable for the Farm and had already shown their worth. The only snag is that the gulls these days are scattered all over the site. Numbers are around the 10k mark which means sifting through them would not be an easy task!

I arrived at the usual time of just before light o’clock and began scoping the North lake for a white winger. Instead I came across a female type Goosander swimming at the back of the remaining scrub on the far right hand side of a sunken island. The bird did not hang around for too long as it obviously saw the steady stream of gulls arriving and swiftly moved on! That was a pleasant surprise and only my third record at the Farm.

I continue to search for an Iceland Gull and was joined by the heavy artillery Pete “Pinpoint” Alfrey just after nine therefore two sets of eyes would surely succeed if there was one on site! Some four hours later and visits to the tip and anywhere else we could see gulls and not even a Caspo or YLG to show for our efforts! Stonechat and a group of Cormorants passing over and a Buzzard were slim reward but interesting all the same!

More NE tomorrow what will they bring!!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Essex - Their Tern to pay it a visit!

The last week has been quiet for most part. I have spent a few mornings at the Farm, taken a walk around Holmethorpe with very little on the rarity front to show for my efforts. I had been toying with the idea of renewing my RareBirdAlert (RBA) subscription and finally succumbed to that temptation! This I knew would be a bad move, not because RBA don’t provide a first rate service but it meant I would start looking beyond the boundaries of Surrey Vice County (SVC).

I think it took precisely two days of membership and a Forster’s Tern was found and photographed at Mistley Essex. This journey is a couple of hours drive for me so I began watching RBA website for developments. I do not consider myself much of a twitcher these days but this bird did catch my attention!

I was on the road at around mid-day having convinced myself the bird was there to stay for the day! The journey was straight forward with only a few moments pondering if the bird would still be there when I arrived! I found the group of birders that were staked out along the quay but had missed the bird by some 20mins. At least it was still here and the tide was on its way in which would mean a movement of birds from the sinking banks of exposed sand/mud.

I stood fast and scanned the area noting the antics of the island hopping Black-tailed Godwits. Turnstone had to be wary as a misplaced leg might force it to regurgitate what it had recently consumed! Redshank were also scattered in amongst this small mass. Goldeneye and Shelduck and a sizeable group of Mute Swan accompanied a scattering of gulls. A Kingfisher was also busy navigating the channel closest to the quay wall.

The Forster’s Tern appeared but took me a while to get onto the bird. Then came the tricky bit getting a picture in poor light which was fading fast! The tern did fly around for a short while giving me good views of it and of course some sort of a picture!

 The journey home was as easy with the Chelsea game on Five Live! Happy days! 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Beddington Farm - Harrier Flyby as we all Remember!

It was business as usual at stupid o clock this morning. The rain had cleared up and a cloudy day with sunny spells was the forecast for the morning ahead. The wind which was more of a light breeze was an interesting N to NW when I arrived at the Farm!

I spent the first few hours counting birds firstly on the North then the South lake. There was a small movement of Wood Pigeon SW. Amongst the usual suspects were four Pheasant (3F 1M) near the hide, five Egyptian Geese and a Kingfisher which passed low between the lakes.

I decided to head to the valley where the Dartford Warbler had been seen during the week. This was to prove to be a major decision as the bird that was being mobbed by Corvids would not have been seen had I remained on Kojak’s corner (the mound opposite the main gates) or been in the hide!!

I was stood at the top of the mound which overlooks the lagoon and I noticed a pack of corvids going crazy in the sky to my left which could only mean there was a raptor in amongst them somewhere. A quick scan with the binos and yes it was a harrier with a white collar and band at the top of the tail. Crikey a Hen Harrier must get some pictures of this!! I reeled off a few shots and then began checking the pictures once the raptor had disappeared over Beddington Park!!

I had not been in that area for more than twenty minutes and I would have certainly missed the bird had I been anywhere else on the Farm! Whew that was a stroke of luck but maybe I had made my own luck on this occasion! Incidentally I did not see or hear the Dartford Warbler!

This species was not a new bird for my Beddington Farm list but only my second Farm record the last being a male on 21st April 2008. Back at Kojak's corner a Kestrel decided to offer its congratulations nearly crashing into me before it took up its hunting position above me. Woo hoo!!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Beddington Farm - Time to duck!

Heavy rain was forecast for today and although it was not raining when I left home it did not take long before the forecasters got it right.

The tin hut at Beddington Farm is what it would say on the tin and is situated in the SW corner of the N Lake. It allows keyholders sanctuary from the elements providing there is not a N or NE gale blowing or worse rain with that!

I was the only one on site at stupid o clock this morning I guess that should have told me something! Nick “Pyro” Gardner doubled the numbers for a couple of hours later in the morning! The gulls were numerous as was to be expected but the landfill closes at around mid-day so the feeding frenzy would be short today! A Yellow-legged Gull was incidentally was to be the most interesting gull of the mornings watch!

I have been spoilt over the last few months with good light even on cloudy days at Laguna Blanca and it was time to put the new lens to the test on a typical English winter’s day! The ducks were to be the days focus and any that ventured near to the hide were fair game in my book!

There seemed to be a fair bit of movement on their part too with small groups busily circling the lake looking to find a landing space between the gulls resting on the water.  A Dunlin had an aggressive reaction from the gulls as it whizzed around the lake at low level before giving up any hope of making a landing departing over the landfill E.

Tufted, Pochard, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Wigeon were all present in small numbers on the lake. None seemed too bothered about the conditions above but it was good weather for ducks!! A Water Rail had more to say on the subject as it squealed in front of the hide. A Cetti’s Warbler piped up as if to tell the bird to quieten down as it was trying to rest!

I will be stood in a different kind of hut this afternoon as the U’s take on Barrow in the National Conference!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Surrey VC - A Walk in the Park!

I have been home for just over a week now and I have not been out on the birding trail that often. Beddington Farm is very quiet apart from the growing monster of an incinerator in the NE corner of the site. The gulls are as numerous as ever but I guess these days are now numbered at the Farm. A Caspian Gull and a Yellow Legged Gull were found by Devilbirder during the course of the mornings birding. The Dartford Warbler is still present on site along with a few Wigeon. The lake is rising at a rate of knots after the rain so there is always hope of a sawbill or a rarer duck visiting the lake and staying!

Today I took a walk through Perretts Field and saw a lone Common Gull stood on the freshly cut grass. It looked as lost as I felt as it looked around the empty field!

I caught a few shots of a Herring Gull as it passed overhead but gulls are common place in the area as they commute to and from Beddington Farm where the dining is substantially more lucrative!

There were a few Magpies Robin, Corvids, and House Sparrow but not much else. Sears Park was just as quiet but the walk was pleasant on a slightly fresh sunny day!

Surrey Vice County has had a trickle of interesting birds in the last few days Cranes over Wisley, Whooper Swans at Tice’s (SVC tick for me!) and White- fronted Geese at Send. I have just got to keep my eyes on the weather and put myself in the right place. More rain tomorrow but will it turn up another rarity in the county !

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Laguna Blanca - Saludo a los aves de Laguna Blanca!!

I had finished my survey in the Cerrado which produced Egrets, Brazilian Teal which had a White Cheeked Pintail in tow on its flooded Campo Limpio. I heard a Surucua Trogon calling near the museum and made my way in an attempt to finally get a decent shot of it!

The bird was proving elusive hidden in the top third of the tree but it was still calling so it would be only a matter of time before it was caught on camera. The bird a male took small flights from tree to tree and then came to rest near the Volunteer house where it remained long enough to secure the moment!

This species is resident on the reserve but is very difficult to find. They have just started calling and therefore have been easier to locate. The bird looked down at me as if in tribute as I would be leaving the reserve to head home.

This has been a fantastic seven months which has flown by as I have gone in search of my feathered friends. Thanks to Para La Tierra and Paul Smith for their guidance. I recorded 198 species on the reserve with a couple of species that I missed. Nine new species were recorded on the reserve. I recorded 50 new birds for my Paraguay list (including San Rafael and the Chaco) and saw 76 life birds whilst in South America (week at Los Volcanes Bolivia and Buenos Aires). I hope Laguna Blanca survives the storm so that I can return to marvel in its glory once again! 

Saludo a los aves de Laguna Blanca!!