Sunday, 29 March 2009

Surrey 26th-27th March

Ring-necked Duck

Frithend Sand Pits- a strange place for any bird let alone a rare one!

A couple of days back at the old family ranch (well, bungalow) near Farnham. Managed a few hours in the field whilst I was there. Thursday afternoon at Frensham Little Pond yielded a House Martin amongst half a dozen Sand Martins brought in by a heavy squall, as well as Siskin, Redpoll and a couple of singing Woodlarks thereabouts. I nipped over to Frithend sand pits (or Grunton, as it's also known) at about 5pm to twitch the Ring-necked Duck that's been around all winter there. Very handsome it was too. What a mad place for a rare aythya to turn up! There are only about 15 Tufties there as it is. This part of Surrey seems to get almost as many Ring-necks as County Clare. Not that I'm suspiscious or anything.....!
A quick return to the Little Pond at dusk revealed no Bitterns. They were last seen on the 21st apparently. There have been up to 4 (!) here this month. I did however catch 26 Sand Martins passing through, a roost of about 60 Pied Wags (being bombed by a cracking male Sparrowhawk at one point) and a nice Kingfisher.
On Friday afternoon I had a quick squizz at Tice's Meadow (of Crag Martin fame). Nice habo going on. A flash on the meadow held 2 LRP's whilst the wash-out ponds had a Snipe, 2 Teal and 2 Shoveler. Skylarks were singing and a few Stock Doves were feeding in the grass.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009



1 Jack Snipe
26+ Snipe
24 Teal
10 Shoveler
9 Pochard
1 singing male Reed Bunting

Monday, 16 March 2009



Jack Snipe 1
Snipe 25+
Teal 26
Shoveler 7
Cetti's Warbler

Noctule Bat 2

An interesting couple of hours at Waterworks at lunchtime today in lovely warm, sunny conditions. On approaching the reserve from Hackney marshes I noticed something unusual flying over the pools. "That looks a bit like a Woodcock" I thought as I saw this thing; lifting the bins I realised immediately I was looking at a large bat! It was hawking for insects over the pools at heights varying between 40ft and 150ft, showing hirundine-like agility and even a few moves reminiscent of a Black Tern. After a minute or two it was joined by a second individual. They continued to feed in the area for the next 45 minutes. They were about the same wingspan as a Sanderling, with a rufous tinge to the fur and prominent ears clearly visible in flight. Having subsequently consulted a few good folk of the londonbirders yahoo group and some literature Iam pretty confident they were Noctule Bats, a species known to occur in the lower Lea valley in good numbers and known for their early Spring daylight forays. Something I've never seen before, and what a treat!!
On Bed 17 about 25 Snipe were visible and, after much searching, a Jack Snipe materialised out of the 'magic eye'-like pattern in front of me. Fantastic.
I wish I had discovered this bird myself but I have to 'fess up and say I was tipped off about it's presence by someone else!


Black Brant 1
Spotted Redshank 2
Wheatear 4
Raven 2
Slavonian Grebe 7
Long-tailed Duck 1
Med Gull (60+)
Common Scoter 1

Spent a great couple of days at my old teenage stomping ground of Pagham Harbour (West Sussex) on Friday and Saturday.

I started at Sidlesham Friday lunchtime. There wasn't much doing on the Ferry Pool but a pair of Ravens flew over the car park as I was about to leave. One of them, presumably the male, did a few display rolls as they went over. Not bad for West Sussex!
After that it was round to Church Norton for high tide. The sea off here has a wintering flock of Slav Grebes and today did not disappoint. There were at least 7 present and, better still, a female Long-tailed Duck, a good bird for the South coast. There was also a female Common Scoter, 4 Eider and a few Mergs here and a Spotted Redshank on the flash between the car park and the beach.
I should mention at this point the constant background at Pagham Harbour of waders, Brent Geese, wildfowl and beautiful scenery. Church Norton particularly is one of those magical places, with a migrant trap churchyard, a wader scrape, an estuary full of birds behind (with an enviable reputation for sandplovers and almost annual Kentish Plovers) and a productive patch of sea just offshore.(Let's not forget Trumpeter Finch and Collared Flycatcher as well!)

Spent the night in the campervan with just the sound of the Curlews and a glass of rum for company. Perfect.

Next morning I was up at first light and off up the shingle spit at Norton to find a Wheatear. 20 minutes later I was watching a splendid male flitting about in the sea kale. I love it when a plan comes together. A cursory scan through the Brents on the off chance of connecting with this winter's Black Brant came good almost immediately.
Over the course of the day I realised there were only about 200 Brents left in the harbour and ended up seeing the Black Brant 4 times in various places!

After this I nipped down to Selsey Bill. Not much doing on the sea but I did enjoy watching a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits coming in off the sea for half an hour or so.

After that I paid a visit to Selsey West fields. This is about become an RSPB reserve I beleive. It's a great area of flooded meadows, accessed through the hellhole that is West Sands holiday park. How such hideousness can be permitted in such a beautiful place is beyond me. Go there, have a look, tell me I'm wrong!
Anyway the West fields were chock full with displaying Lapwings, plus lots of other good stuff including Snipe, Wigeon, Teal, Skylark etc. The hedges round there look a dead cert for Ring Ouzel in the coming weeks too. I'll be back!

I finished up my day with a walk from Halsey's Farm to the North Wall. 3 male Wheatears were resting up in a grass field at Halsey's Farm. From the North Wall there were 40+ Pintail, another Spotted Redshank, 130 Curlew including one leucistic bird the colour of milky tea all over, and over 350 Grey Plover. One more thing I should mention here is the number of Med Gulls. I saw over 60 together in one gull flock which was 80% Meds! Appararently over 260 have been counted at the harbour mouth at low tide recently. It seems they're doing very well round here, with over 100 pairs at a nearby colony last year.
Headed home for Hackney at about 5pm feeling very satisfied. I'll be going back as often as possible this Spring I think!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Waterworks NR


26 Snipe (Bed 17)
11 Shoveler
12 Teal
1 Cetti's Warbler
1 Reed Bunting

Thursday, 5 March 2009

LOCAL PATCH 02/03/09

Started off at Middlesex Filter beds getting cracking, "too close to focus", views of the Firecrest that's been seen in there, on and off, over this winter. There was also a Chiffchaff in full song there.
At Waterworks NR, there were at least 20 Snipe on Bed 17 plus a good count of 48 Teal, and also Shoveler, Gadwall and Pochard. The Cetti's Warbler continues to sing around the reserve.
On Walthamstow Marshes a Little Owl was in the usual tree and there were 2 Stock doves in the horse field. Unfortunately I wasn't as lucky as some London birders recently and failed to turn up a Wheatear!

SHEPPEY 28/02/09

Another trip out to Kent this weekend, this time in the company of both Laurence and Mark. For a full account of the day check out Marks excellent blog
There,that gets me out of writing this post! Only joking, suffice to say an excellent day was had with great views of Rough-legged Buzzard, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Peregrine not to mention lots of Marsh Harriers, a Common Buzzard or two and a Barn Owl.
At Shellness NNR, amongst the splendid and sometimes very close waders, was the same summer-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit Laurence and I last saw on the 30th January. I managed to get a few photos, the best one being shown above.