Monday, 18 September 2017

Chats, Chiffs and Sallows

Roger found a mystery crake this morning at the farmlands (probably a Spotted) so I popped over the farmlands for a  quick look. I had a crake like bird moving around the reeds where Roger had the bird this morning but just shape and movement. 

Nearby there were three Stonechats and two Whinchats, seven Snipe were flying around and there were at least ten Chiffchaff by the gate including a tristis-like bird. 

An Orange Sallow in the moth trap last night was the first I've had in a few years. 

With Sallow moths appearing and Stonechats coming in- it's feeling like mid-autumn. 

 Juvenile Stonechat 
 Male Stonechat 
 Tristis-like Chiffchaff 
Orange Sallow 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Birding Forecast week beginning 17th September- Looking East and West

Pretty much nailed last week's forecast (on the main feature being seabirds on British west coast) although might have been too soft on the extent of the potential for seabirds in the east especially considering that while looking for a yank wader I found  Red-necked and Grey Phalarope and inland Arctic Skua in London: Last week's prophecy here

An interesting week coming up. There's high pressure over much of central Europe and light winds over the North Sea. Looking west, hurricane Jose is moving north carving up the main migration routes on the eastern US seaboard and a large temperate depression forms over the North Atlantic that slams into the north west of Britain and Ireland. 

The high pressure over Europe and light winds over North sea means there is little obstacle to eastern vagrants heading this way- they often don't need a tail wind to get here (although that east winds help a lot) , many are programmed to come this way, what they don't need are obstacles and blocking systems- strong westerlies or fronts. 

So basically there could be interest from both sides although neither are classic conditions. It looks like the North Atlantic depression forms mid-Atlantic and is proceeded by a blocking high that is producing easterlies which could discourage birds moving away from Jose and into the Atlantic. However its a complex situation and looks pretty interesting and more so it's September and there are vagrants trying to get to all kinds of random pre-programmed destinations and many will fight agaisnt any conditions to get to somewhere completely random which in some cases is more dangerous than the journey to get there. Additionally there are the weakened birds that are true storm blown vagrants too and this week there is scope for these different types of vagrancy. 

High pressure over Europe and light winds over North Sea- the road is more of less clear for vagrants heading east over Central Asia and Europe. 
 Magic Seaweed Map, Tuesday 19th September. Hurricanes still causing havoc in south east US. That high centred off Newfoundland is producing easterlies as it connects with Jose, presumably pushing any storm blown birds back towards the US. 
 Magic Seaweed forecast, Thursday 21st September . By late week there is a complete conduit on westerlies from the southern flank of Jose along the base of the North Atlantic depression and straight to SW England and Ireland.
Magic Seaweed forecast, Friday 21st September. By Friday the main system has moved north- presumably more interesting seabirding as that storms hits the North West.

The jet stream is well south- could be providing passages for high flying migrants to the European coast.

Local/ Beddington/London:
Raptors: Calm days with sun could produce some raptor passage. 
Passerine/landbird migrants: Not expecting too much in the way of drift migrants without cloud and east winds but could be a passage of hirundines and mipits and other migrants leaving Britain. Early part of the week has light north easterlies and cloud so that could be interesting. 
Waders: It's peak time for waders. Wouldn't expect a fall but could be the odd interesting bird. Habitat at Staines is perfect for a yank wader and a regular turn over of waders that would normally move overhead unseen. 
Waterfowl: Waterfowl numbers could continue to increase.
Gulls: Not expecting too much here- the odd Caspian gull last week at the Beddington.
Seabirds: There's a lot been displaced from last week's storms so still might be the odd one moving around.

Britain and Ireland
Migrant falls: Wouldn't except much apart from a steady trickle after the first part of the week where there are light north east winds and cloud belts moving across the North Sea. 
Eastern vagrants: More interest in this department with hopefully birds on the out islands. 
American vagrants:  It's mid-September there's hurricanes carving up the eastern US coastline and by late week there's a complete westerly conveyor belt of air moving across the Atlantic. Its looking better for a yank in Britain than the Azores maybe? 
Seabirds: By the end of the week action could resume in the North West. 
Raptors : Light winds and high pressure is pretty good to keep these chaps on the go. 

Western Palearctic
Eastern Vagrants:  Should expect a steady trickle across the British out islands and Northern Europe. 
American Vagrants:  Ireland and North West Britain looking best. Could get yank waders along the European coastline with such as southerly jet stream. 
Migration: The high pressure conditions will undoubtedly be utilised by migrants to make good progress southwards. In the high pressure conditions could be good for nocturnal migration and arrivals at regular stop over sites. The early part of the week looks best for any drift and falls. 

Rarity Finding Strategy:
Local: Check for waders and pray for an American wader. Keep an eye on Staines and the Thames Estuary. Keep eyes up for a raptor. Early week could be interesting for drift migrants. 
UK: The Hebrides and Ireland are looking promising for yanks. The Northern isles and north east coast are looking pretty promising for eastern vagrants. East coast early week for drift migrants. 
WP: Can't go wrong by being based on Outer Hebs looking for a yank, Northern Isles and Spurn etc looking for a eastern vagrant. Nocturnal migration could be interesting along European continental coastline and chance of american waders across a wide area. Not looking great for the Azores. 

Day out with boys and a new toy

Finally upgraded my camera to a Canon 7D mark 2 (thanks to Lee Dingain) and went out yesterday with the boys to try it out. First went to Oare Marshes and then Beddington in the afternoon. 

 Jacob and Sid outside the farmlands 
 Osprey distantly over Sheppey from Oare. 
 Juvenile/first winter Common Gull (top right) and juvenile/first winter Mediterranean following
 Redshank in flight- this is what I was hoping would be more achievable with the mark 2- more rapid focusing and faster shutter speeds. 
 Sea Aster flowering in Oare Creek  
 Male Stonechat at Beddington- the first of the autumn 
 Blackcap male taken from about 30 meters away- mark 2 looks sharper
Red Underwing- the highlight of the Beddington trap in last week or so. Species diversity is reducing with the trap dominated by Square-spot Rustic, Pale Mottled Willow, Willow Beauty, Garden Carpet, Lesser Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

A rather interesting evening at Staines

After a busy day at work managed to get over to Staines with the plan of finding some seabirds in light of the regional influx.

Found a Grey Phalarope on the North Basin and a juvenile Arctic Skua did a spectacular fly-by along the Causeway and headed off west . The Red-necked Phalarope (now closer and easy to id) was on the South Basin.

Also 14 Ruff, 1 Knot, 5 Curlew Sandpiper, 50+ Ringed Plover, 40+ Dunlin, 2 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpiper were being hunted by the juvenile Merlin, a Peregrine and a Hobby. 

So basically, bloody brilliant and a good gathering of London/Surrey birders there too enjoying a great evening.  Love it when a plan comes together. 

 Juvenile Arctic Skua
 First-winter Grey Phalarope 
 Juvenile Red-necked Phalarope
 Juvenile Merlin 

Didn't do too bad with the birding forecast this week? : HERE

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Juvenile 'Caspian Gull'

This bird was present on the North Lake this afternoon. Structurally the bird looks good for a Caspian Gull and the lack of strong contrast (typical of a first-cycle bird a little later in the cycle) is to be expected in a juvenile Caspian. There's a couple of anomalous features - the bird is in full juvenile plumage which is unusual for this time of year. Caspian Gulls breed earlier than e.g. Herring Gull so by now there should be some mantle and scapular moult. Also the upperpart colour looks rather dark, not the 'wet mud' colour that is more typical of a juvenile Caspian Gull. Finally the greater coverts have quite a lot of pale in them- typically there should be dark bases with white tips producing a white 'bar'. In flight the underwing was pale and when the bird stood out of the water the legs were long and pink-grey. So overall a lot of pro-Caspian features, which could well fall within the variation of juvenile Caspian Gull but also some non-classic features.

Like the overwhelming majority of humanity I really should just shut up and refer readers to a piece of work that has been thoroughly and expertly executed for the basis of an independent personal informed assessment so here it is: GULL RESEARCH ORGANISATION- FIRST YEAR CASPIAN GULL IN SEPTEMBER

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Otmoor, Staines and Beddington

Been trying to get as much time in as possible at Staines considering the habitat there. The South Basin has not been drained since the 1990s so it could be another 20+ years before we see the inland estuary again. What with yank waders coming in and seabirds turning up inland (Manx Shearwaters in Surbiton, Surrey, Chew, Somerset and Bicester, Oxfordshire , a big influx of Leach's Petrel on the west coast and a scattering of inland Grey Phalaropes) the potential is very high for more interesting birds. 

 Yesterday I spent the morning at Otmoor with Jacob. Just a few Whinchats, a couple of Stonechats and a male Wigeon. In the evening I met up with Rob Innes at Staines and we had a Pectoral Sandpiper, 7 Curlew Sandpiper and just as it was getting dark found a phalarope sp. 

Went back today, the phalarope had come closer but was still difficult to see clinching features. However analysis of some photos taken by Paul Watts looks like it's a Red-necked Phalarope which is surprising considering there's been an influx of Grey Phalaropes regionally including a Grey Phalarope in Surrey yesterday. 

Also today at Staines had 4 Knot, 4 Curlew Sandpiper, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Ruff, 50+ Ringed Plover, 35+ Ringed Plover, 1 Greenshank, 1 Swift, 300+ Sand Martin, 400+ House Martin, 15+ Swallow, 10 Meadow Pipit and 1 Yellow Wagtail.

At Beddington this morning there were 2 Ruff and 8 Green Sandpiper on 100 acre and a male Wigeon on the North Lake. 

Phalarope sp . The best picture I could manage. 
Photo by Paul Watts from Twitter. Looks like it's showing prominent mantle stripes with no sign of any moult in the upperparts. Grey Phalaropes show much less prominent mantle stripes and no scapular stripes. They also moult the mantle and scapulars early and are often extensively grey on the upperparts (often well ahead of Red-necked Phalaropes). Grey Phalaropes also show an apricot -buff wash on the neck/breast. In Red-necked Phalarope this is often more greyish.

 Waders at Staines- Knots, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Dunlin  (click on pics to zoom) 
 Ruff at Beddington 
 From the moth trap recently at Beddington- a Dewick's Plusia last night (with Burnished Brass) 
 Rosy Rustic (first for year) with a few typical species for this time of year- Small Blood Vein, Vine's Rustic and White Point. (Beddington) 
 Cypress Pug at Beddington
 Ivy Bee- the ivy flowers on Mile Road Bridge, Beddington are covered in insects at the moment 
 Red Admiral on Ivy flower
Acleris hastiana? Found in Gillian's Garden, Beddington at lunchtime. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Birding Forecast week beginning 10th September

Magic Seaweed forecast for Wednesday 13th September. The whole week is dominated by Atlantic systems and a westerly airflow across Britain and Ireland with the Azores High getting squeezed but overall holding its ground. Hurricane Irma has moved eastwards while Hurricane Jose (bottom left) persists north of the Caribbean. A mid-latitude depression forms in the wake of Irma but is deflected north of the Azores. The westerfly airflow off the Eastern Seaboard in conjunction with Irma will inevitably push birds out into the Atlantic but the predominate feature in the mid-Atlantic is a 'wall' of Southerlies effectively blocking a conduit for vagrants across the Atlantic. American migrants pushed out into the Atlantic could well make their way to European vagrant traps using ships or pushing against cross and light head winds. 
The Westerly airflow penetrates well into the European continent
The Jet stream moves north as the week progresses but is generally creating a conduit across the Atlantic for shorebirds and waterbirds. Shorebirds and waterbirds move at higher altitudes then passerines and make use of jet streams. 

Local/ Beddington/London:
Raptors: Don't expect much. If there are breaks in the strong winds there might be local movements.
Passerine/landbird migrants: Don't expect much. Maybe a few Meadow Pipits and Hirundines.
Waders: A few could push through in this and could get grounded in some of the predicted rain . Good time of year for Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. Fingers crossed for an American wader!- the jet streams and Atlantic systems are good for this. 
Waterfowl: Waterfowl numbers could continue to increase.
Gulls: Not expecting too much here. 
Seabirds: Always a chance of a Kittiwake or a storm blown vagrant in conditions like this but wrong side of country really. Been a few shags about recently so keep an eye out. 

Britain and Ireland
Migrant falls: Wouldn't except much. Maybe birds coming in from Iceland with the favourable tail winds. 
Eastern vagrants: Very unlikely to see much action on this front.
American vagrants: With such a wild situation in the Atlantic always a chance this time of year for a yank passerine. Not an ideal weather situation but its the right time of year and its messy and westerly. Much better looking for american shorebirds/ waterbirds with a well positioned jet stream. 
Seabirds: Almost certainly some interesting sea watching off the West coasts of Britain and Ireland. Could produce more inland Shags (been a bit of a recent influx) or other inland seabirds. 
Raptors : Unlikely to be moving in these sorts of conditions. 

Western Palearctic
Eastern Vagrants: Not a lot 
American Vagrants: Could be interesting. Definitely keep an eye on the Azores. 
Migration: The regional westerly airflow probably going to slow things down in the North West of the region. The Mediterranean basin is relatively calm so good conditions for progress Southwards. Not much in the way of fall conditions though by looks of it. 

Rarity Finding Strategy:
Local: Check for waders and pray for an American wader. Keep an eye on Staines and the Thames Estuary. 
UK: Check for american waders particularly in North and West. Sea watching in west has got to be a really good bet. Also chance of passage from Iceland- Pink-foots, Lap bunts across the region (mainly north). 
WP: Corvo would certainly be worth a shot with such wild weather in the Atlantic and Irma affecting some of the main migration routes coinciding with a mid-latitude depression (albiet not a perfect storm). 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Staines Reservoir - inland estuary

11 species of wader at Staines this morning, Ebird list here. Met another birder called David Campbell (there's two of them out there!) and good to catch up with Franco.

Here's a few pics:

 90+ Ringed Plover and over 50 Dunlin today. Gives some kind of indication of the number of waders that fly over London and only come down if conditions are right. 
 Dunlin and Ringed Plover 
 Dunlin, Ringed Plover and a juvenile Little Stint 
 Black-necked Grebe (or Eared Grebe according to Ebird), Coot and Tufted Duck 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Mark Avery visit

It was a real pleasure to meet up with Mark Avery (former director of conservation at RSPB and now leading national conservation activist) yesterday and show him round Beddington Farmlands and Hackbridge. We popped into the eco village Bedzed, checked out the area for the potential future eco-park/visitor's centre, had a look round 100 acre, visited the proposed wet grassland site and then back to the cafe. As my keyholder agreement only allows us to visit the restricted area for birdwatching we weren't allowed to notice the 300,000 tonne incinerator which is three times the size of Buckingham Palace and has 95 meter high chimneys that dominates the entire site and can be seen for miles all around- so we didn't see that at all - so hopefully I won't receive another written warning from Viridor about taking visitors on site and them happening to notice and then raise some questions of why the death star is being built in the middle of the nature reserve. 

When I showed Mark the plans of the ecological restoration and the legally binding plans for a major urban nature reserve that would positively transform the area and how the restoration should have been phased with the landfill development, we both failed to notice that the development is at stage 6 while the restoration is lagging years behind at stage 2. Other things we that we failed to notice included how that delay in restoration has enabled the building of the incinerator and other expansion of waste management facilities on proposed restored areas, how the decay of the site enables further malignant development, that Viridor/Pennon bosses earn £2 million bonuses for hitting growth targets (that would be threatened if they spent money on legally binding ecological restoration agreements) that Sutton Council are powerless to enforce planning conditions on Viridor as local authorities are broke and can't afford legal bills, that Viridor get away with it by handing out sweeteners  to local charities and public figures to silence them and how they threaten and try and intimidate any local genuine support for the reserve development. We didn't notice any of that all- until we left the restricted area. 

A few birds too including 2 Ruff, 1 Greenshank, 8 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, Lapwing, 1 Wheatear, 12 Meadow Pipit going over and 1 Buzzard. 

A great afternoon and discussed some ideas (when not in the restricted area) about how to raise the profile and impact of the Beddington Farmlands Campaign to a national level case study of corporate ecological irresponsibility. 

Mark outside the local cafe
 Just a picture overlooking the Site of Importance for Nature Conservation 
Just a picture of 100 acre, showing the wetland habitat that is formed from sewage treatment. Unfortunately the last remaining sewage farm areas are being decommissioned- this area is used by passage waders and breeding Lapwing. The loss of these areas will be the final nail in the coffin for the farmlands.  Please note the rainbow in the background and the clouds and sky and nothing else. 
One of the Ruff on 100 acre
Had this September Thorn in the trap last night 
My work colleague Sharon found this Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar in her garden. I took it back to the bugry and put it in a tank in preparation for getting some food plants for it. However it burrowed into the soil in the tank so presumably wants to pupate.