Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Exploration time!

My attentions of late have turned to completing survey schedules but I have been visiting the Farm and doing some exploring in areas I don't usually traverse. There has not been much to report on the rarity front but I guess that anything that turns up now is going to be a mega! Therefore it would be futile to desert the place just yet!
During my rounds I have taken the opportunity to expand my patch photo list. A singing Skylark gave away its position on the mound one morning and the photo opportunity was duly taken!
A late snipe popped up on the South Lake the other day. The design of this lake was completed and looks far more appealing to the eye than the North Lake.
I spent yesterday morning checking the nest boxes on the Farm with Derek Coleman and we happened upon these Great Tit that are not far short of fledging!
There is a good spread of wild flowers in the fields and on the slopes of the mound. The ploughed area also looks very inviting to tired birds. A Whimbrel spent a couple of days feeding in this area. With the additional fauna and considerable rises in the daily temperature s it was not long before the butterflies put in an appearance.
A walk through the Bedzed field and area adjacent to the old site of the railway bridge produces Small Tortouiseshell Common Blue and Peacock butterflies. I have signed up to the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and will be collecting data on my BBS square at Oaks Park.
A Bee took the opportunity to photo bomb a picture this time. I am beginning to get quite a collection of these pictures. At the time of taking the shot I am oblivious to the goings on in the background!

At the end of this week I will be at New Barn Farm West Sussex for the BTO Nest Recording Scheme. I am looking forward to this course which will be another piece of my ornithological jigsaw puzzle!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Beddington Farm - "Calling Beddington Bird Rescue - Come in Please!!"

Today started the same as any other! David Cambell and I arrived at the same time had a quick scan of the lakes and then set up our stall in the hide for a potentially rain filled day! Frank had gone for a walk and found a drake Garganey on the South Lake which caused a mini twitch for the new members Magnus and Christian.
In the mean time a Herring Gull was spotted in some distress on the main island. The bird had been hooked by a fishing lure and the fishing wire had become entangled around one of the bushes on the island leaving the bird pinned head and neck down to the ground!
Following a distress call from other gulls the group members leapt into action phone calls were made and with the addition of Tomas the boat was fully inflated and a shovel was used as an oar to steer the rescue mission over to the island.
The crew of two set off Tomas at the shovel and David Campbell as C licence bird handler. Fortunately the seas were calm with a slight W wind to assist with a perfect landing!
The gull was promptly freed from its torment and placed to recover whist the remainder of the line was cleared preventing any further probability of casualties. Around five minutes later the gull was washing up and flapping its wings waving farewell to its liberators!
Word had got out amongst the local Hirundines and they lined the route welcoming the crew back to shore! The landing however was not as smooth was it DB?!
On examination of the lure a further sad note to the story was revealed. Another bird (likely to be a gull) had swallowed the lure and line and had perished leaving a tangled mess around some of its remains! The Herring gull had obviously seen the same attraction in the imitation fish and hooked itself in the bill and become entangled!!

There is no permitted public access at Beddington Farm but there are certainly no Pike let alone numbers of fish for it to feed on! If this tackle had made it onto the landfill then I can only appeal to anglers to dismantle hooks and line before throwing items in the bin!! Grrr!
The drake Garganey remained on the south lake until at least lunch time and was also twitched by non key holding birders.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Having a funny Tern!

This morning I took another tour of the Farm starting at the area N of the North Lake. I then took a quick look at Jim’s bed on 100 Acre, before moving on to Bikers Field and then Bedzed field. There were no great surprises but it was a joy to watch a large family of Blue Tit the young all lined up waiting for their parents to feed them. They all looked so peaceful as mum and dad raced around collecting food for their siblings. A smaller family were seen along the edge of the Bedzed field but there were only a couple of mouths to feed.
Having completed my tour of these areas I headed back to the North Lake where Frank was scanning the lake. Swifty joined us a short time later. There is a pair of Sand Martin that have been prospecting the artificial bank therefore viewing operations have moved to a small sheltered area between the hide and the bank. Frank had gone for a walk over the mound when I spotted a tern flying low over the Lake. I put the camera to work straight away as the bird completed a quick circuit of the island and sailed away N.  
A few moments later what I thought was the same bird appeared over the lake. A few more pictures later and this bird left in the same direction! I was confident the birds were Common Tern but wanted to make certain so we all trooped into the hide where the light was better for looking at pictures in a viewfinder. This confirmed that there were two terns that had made a brief visit to the lake. The second bird had more black on the leading edge of the primaries and darker outer edge to the secondaries.

Heavy rain is due this evening from the SW and this is scheduled to continue throughout the rest of tomorrow. Will the day be a complete washout or will there be a surprise visitor or two!!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Spot Fly gets photo bombed!

The weather forecast is rarely right so I don’t know why I expected today to be any different. When I looked last night rain was forecast for later in the day which would give me enough time to cover 100 Acre and a bit beyond. At stupid o’clock off I set and made good time to start the day. The rain was obviously in a rush to reach the Farm too no sooner had I began my walk the heavens opened and continued sporadically throughout the morning.

As I was checking the beds to the E of the Incinerator I spied a Spotted Flycatcher which was sheltering out of the wind and rain. A couple of Greenfinch had other ideas about this and began harassing the bird. When they realized the paparazzi were present one paused and photo bombed a couple of my shots!

Not a bad find considering this is an area of the Farm which is rarely traversed. The height of the nettles and scrub had probably seen most people off. I was however pretty soaked by the end of my short journey around these beds.
Elsewhere there were a good number of Swift amongst the hirundines this morning. The Caspian Gull was on the North lake mid morning. Nice one DB!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Beddington Farm - WeBS Out on a Whim!

Today was WeBS day at Beddington Farm. An early start did not put me at any great advantage as it was chucking it down with rain. I took refuge in the hide with David “Devilbirder” Campbell until the worst of the weather had past. David and I then headed in opposite directions. I prefer to start the counts at 100 Acre and move south covering the lakes mound and finishing in the SE corner.

It was not too long before the group whatsapp was whistling in my pocket and David had seen a Whimbrel that was clearly looking for some sanctuary around the edges of the South Lake. The bird set down and being at the furthest point away from the lakes I continued counting.

By the time I had reached the North Lake the thought of seeing this bird had disappeared from my mind. I moved on to the South Lake when I saw David at the gates with Christian. This was a new Farm species for Christian so I joined them briefly whilst completing the counts on the South Lake.
The bird had re-located itself on the mound close to the freshly ploughed area by a group of saplings that were still in their protective casings. This provided ideal cover to get closer and get some shots having made a real dogs dinner of taking pictures during a brief  period of flight!

That was a pleasant surprise and thanks to some eagle eyed spotting by David, Christian added another to his total!

WeBS day has a habit of turning up a surprise Woo Hoo!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Beddington Farm - April turned out Alright in the End!

Having spent the majority of March birding in Spain I embarked on my own patch watch challenge. My personal objective was to see Bar-tailed Godwit as well as record the passage of migrants through Beddington Farm. The month ahead was particularly gruelling at times but it had its moments which provided the fuel to continue on with the campaign!
I will begin on a sad and rather worrying note.The Farms flagship species Tree Sparrow was still present but having spent time with Derek Coleman checking the nest boxes there only appears to be two breeding pairs with the possibility of a third that may still be prospecting. A few years ago the BFBG recorded just short of 1000 birds including pulii! Efforts are being undertaken to assist in this species recovery but is it too late! Time will tell!
(photo by Roger Browne)
The first week of April provided the perfect start when Dodge picked up a Goshawk flying N over the lake. He was also sharp on the lens providing pictures of this amazing raptor. I certainly did not have this species on my list of possible! Red Kites were on the increase with up to three a day during some periods. The Sutton Peregrines were also regular visitors causing flight chaos amongst the residents!
Great Crested Grebe which is not a common feature at the Farm spent time on the lakes. This species has now been added to my photo gallery. Little Egret and Cormorant were regularly present. The lakes limited stock of fish and eels had to remain forever on guard with a dark torpedo shape whizzing around seizing every opportunity for a meal. One Tench was clearly caught napping as a Cormorant scooped it up in its bill despatching it unceremoniously down its throat!
A record passage of Mediterranean Gull over a few days. The highest tally of twenty one flying N. This species is usually a regular feature during the Winter months but had rarely been seen until this point.
A Male Ring Ouzel thought it had escaped my glances as I checked the sludge beds on 100 Acre with Frank. But the "Blackbird with a white bib!" was not quick enough on this occasion. The bird was re-located hiding in the lower part of a line of trees waiting patiently for the intruders to move on!
Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were seen throughout the month. One large Iceland Gull causing a few id issues amongst observers. This bird is still present favouring 100 Acre.
A good passage of Reed Warbler were processed in the nets along with some very lively Ring-necked Parakeets who left their mark on both Devilbirder and myself. Another lively character was processed today more scars but the bird was fine!

The weather was playing its part with a generally cold rain free month which appeared to hold many birds on the continent until there was a change in conditions. This provided a surge of birds and the best days birding at the Farm for a few years.
This saw my target bird fall and it stuck around long enough to get a few digi-scope shots as it fed on the North Lake.
The appearance of a Temminck’s Stint threw a good morning into chaos as attempts were made to get keyholders to the Farm to see it. This species has not been seen since 2004 and represents the eleventh record. Was it the same bird I had seen the previous day (pic above)!
The birds continued to fall throughout the day with a very obliging Nightingale singing near the gates. A Turtle Dove which flew low S over the lake.  Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Greenshank added to the shorebird list. The first Hobby and Whinchat of the year were recorded. Wheatear were also present on the mound
The evening continued with the arrival of Arctic Tern who had a brief look at the lake before flying off E. A thirteen hour day which in the past would have kept keyholders here from dawn to dusk but saw periods when I was the only observer present!
This was a great ending to April with the Observatory (Pete Alfrey’s flat window) providing an early surprise at the beginning of May. A Black Redstart that was feeding in an adjacent garden to his.

Four new birds for my Beddington Farm list which stands at 185 species. One addition to my Surrey Vice County list which now stands at 229 but I will be losing one when the Redpolls are lumped!
The marathon continues into May with a mix of bird banding which has me up at in-describable o clock and stake outs on the corner! We are entering the period of the MEGA but will the Farm produce another surprise?!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Wood you believe it!

I spent the morning bird banding/ringing on 100 Acre with David Campbell and Josh Burch. A chilly start to the day reduced the number of birds in the nets but as the day progressed there was more activity amongst our feathered friends. Seventeen birds were processed with another good return of new Reed Warbler in the area.

There were the usual Saturday suspect’s on site with Peter Alfrey on a mission to find a Wood Sandpiper following reports of an influx into the country. In tradition with his persistence and preferred mode of transport (mountain bike) allowing him to cover a good proportion of the Farm he produce the goods finding a single bird on the mitigation scrape on 100 Acre. The bird was feeding under bushes on the far bank which allowed good views of the bird without any risk of flushing it.
An interesting white winged gull also spent time on its own on Jim’s bed on 100 Acre. This was a large Iceland gull which was aged as a second year bird. Was this the bird that had caused an identification issue earlier on in April?!

There was a good movement of Hirundines today with 100 Swift and 145 Swallow passing through. Thirteen Common Sandpipers were also recorded along with a Greenshank, Redshank and Caspian Gull. A female Ring Ouzel in the SE corner made up the total for the day.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Beddington Farm - A rare appearance from a Black Redstart!

Today was perfect Farm weather Low cloud overcast, NE wind with showers but would it facilitate a movement of birds?! The early signs were good with a couple of Common Tern arriving from the E joining the mass of airborne gulls that had been spooked by a streamer bird (gull that has picked up some kind of tape or bag which trails from a leg or wing in flight) which as a rule causes chaos amongst the rest of the gulls!
The star bird of the day did not make an appearance until the end of the day and well after I had left the Farm. I had just gone home from catching up on chores when Dodge rang informing me that Pete Alfrey had a Black Redstart in his back garden. Pete’s flat is situated within Beddington Farmlands recording area on the W side of the railway. My shopping was abandoned on the kitchen floor and the Kojemobile set on out a short but tricky journey just on the edge of rush hour!

The bird was feeding in an adjacent garden popping up on the fence line intermittently. Frank scored his 201st Farm tick and my total took another step towards the 200 mark. That bird was easy enough although I am surprised the site does not hold more of this species.
The Farm had produced again with Dunlin arriving earlier and migrating to 100Acre where they joined Greenshank and Little Ringed Plover. The Redshank preferred to battle it out on the North Lake with the gulls where a first year Caspian Gull was noted. The Glaucous Gull was observed perched on a post first thing in the works area. A Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail were also noted on the mound.

I have submitted the Temminck’s Stint and Goshawk (additional observer) rarity submissions to Surrey and await their judgement. I have seen four new species for my Farm list during my Spring-watch which tomorrow enters into its thirty forth day. The longest day so far has been thirteen hours!
I can feel another trip coming on!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Spring Arrives in Style Part 2

As the search for the Temminck’s dwindled Whinchat and Wheatear where located on the N side of the mound. I caught up with the former as I made my way back to the hide. Tank and Swifty decided to go and check the South Lake when they heard a Nightingale singing by the gates. This is another rare visitor to the Farm and off we went to see the latest addition to the growing day list.
The bird was happily singing away but very difficult to see. I returned to the hide to allow the rush of onlookers to dissipate. The bird could be heard from the Sand Martin bank. This was a Farm tick for Swifty and some of the newer keyholders. More importantly it was new for Frank who had heard birds in the past but had not seen one. The BFBG rule is that the first bird has to be seen to be added to your site total. Patience turned out to be a virtue with the bird showing well (for a Nightingale anyway!) allowing Frank to notch up his 200th Farm species.

In between times a Black tailed Godwit flew through S and put the brakes on taking a small circuit above the lake before deciding to continue its journey. Time was now moving into early afternoon and the few hardcore birders were left. A Turtle Dove was observed flying SE low over the North Lake. This species is another rare visitor to the patch.

By 1600hrs a small group of Med Gull flying E and Hobby had added themselves to the tally. The numbers of eyes were now dwindling with Redshank being the last wader before I was left to hold the fort for the remainder of the day. There was no chance I would be leaving any time soon!
My staying power paid off with a group of Arctic Tern appearing out of the edge of the front which was now lining the path on the W side of the Farm. A Greenshank was next out of the cloud moving around the lake looking for somewhere to settle down before it flew out SE over the mound.
The last appearance of the day was at around 1920hrs where the forth Hobby of the day decided to eye me up stood on the bank. It appeared confused almost hovering like a Kestrel at times. The remaining hour was quiet.

This bank holiday weekend has a habit of producing rarities and is definitely one not to miss in your diary if you don’t want to be looking at the alerts on your phone all day!

What an incredible day!