Monday, 31 May 2010

AZORES SPRING PELAGIC 2010



Overall a rather pleasant disaster with no sought after rare gadfly petrels. The crew for this trip dropped out so it was just me and Rolando (the skipper) and the weather was just about as bad as it gets here in the spring so we only managed a few hours at sea before fear or sea sickness took me down. The blue planet this was not: http://peteralfrey.blogspot.com/2010/05/graciosa-pelagic-may-2010.html

The Azores are a superb pelagic destination and more trips will certainly reveal more surprises. In the last four years my highlights have included dark-morph Trindade Petrel, 2 Fea's Petrels and some of the largest groups of Wilson's Petrel in the WP. In addition there is the fantastic suite of local breeding seabirds; the endemic Monteiro's Petrel, Grant's Petrel, Barolo's Shearwater, Bulwers Petrels, Roseate Terns, Cory's Shearwaters and Azorean Gull. Regular seabird migrants include Long-tailed, Arctic, Pomarine and Great Skuas, Sooty, Great and Manx Shearwater with rarer Grey Phalarope, White-faced Storm Petrel and Sabine's Gull. Vagrants in the past few years include 6 Trindade Petrels http://www.birdingazores.com/photoref.php?s_id=191&b_id=10366&stat=1 (a recent one) , 2 Black-capped Petrel, Bermuda Petrel, Black-browed Albatross, Masked and Brown Booby, White-tailed and Red-billed Tropicbird.
Here are some posts from our last autumn pelagic:

Monteiro's Petrel


A recently described Azores endemic with a world population of 200 pairs. The majority breed on the off islands of Graciosa. During this visit they were relatively easy to find just a few miles off shore and were attracted to 'petrel liquer'. The deep forked tail and long wings give this bird a distinctive jizz and in high winds there is something almost 'bulweria' about it.



Monteiro's Petrel represents an example of sympatric speciation. It is isolated from it's closest relative, the Grant's Petrel, by time, not space. In the winter Grant's Petrels breed on the Azores and these are replaced in the spring and summer by breeding Monteiro's Petrels. They use the same burrows to breed in and during August, the first Grant's Petrels often occupy nests which still have Monteiro's growing up in.

Barolo's (Marconesian) Shearwater


Formely known as Little Shearwater. 3-4 birds off Graciosa. Images one to four are the same bird which is in active moult. Barolo's Shearwater breed in the Azores from January to June so this moulting bird could be post breeding.













Within the Western Palearctic there are also 'Little Shearwaters' breeding on the Cape Verde Islands. Known also as Boyd's Shearwater, the Cape Verde birds are sometimes treated as a species in their own right or a race of Audubon's Shearwater. It's a complex complex.

Marine Life


Also 4 Sperm Whales (1,2), Bottlenose dolphins, Sowerby's Beaked Whales (which I overlooked-see comments below) (3), Cory's Shearwaters (4), Roseate Terns, Common Terns and 3-4 Wilson's Petrel (5)













Further reading on Azores seabirds include Petrels Night and Day, A Sound Approach Guide and various ground breaking papers by Mark Bolton, Joel Bried, Luis Monteiro, Robert Furness et al details of which can be found within the Birding Azores reference list here: http://www.birdingazores.com/?page=orbi&id=1

Friday, 28 May 2010

THE AZORES- Mini Spring Trip 2010

In transit to Graciosa at the moment via the Cabo da Praia quarry on Terceira island. The 'resident' Semipalmated Plover (pic 1) and presumably last autumn's White-winged Tern (pic 2) were still present. The White-winged Tern dissappered for a while but returned for some reason.
The Azores do have a tendancy to hold vagrants. Becuase the birds are inevitably so far out of range a few individuals 'decide' they were lucky enough to get here in the first instance so 'decide' reluctantly or not at all to risk another journey. The White-winged Tern might have had a go but found it too difficult so reverse migrated back to somewhere it knew there was good feeding. I guess this is how these islands are colonized by birds in the first place. If these birds find a mate- it could be happy days with a new colonizing population starting up. Then over time (a lot of time) they begin to evolve in a new direction. That makes these birds inadvertent pioneers.




Also Roseate Tern in the harbour, 1st summer Great Black-backed Gull, good numbers of Kentish Plover in the quarry, two Sanderling, 1 Grey Plover and 6 Turnstone.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Great news

A couple of fascinating birding discoveries/developments recently:
Shirihai's ultimate WP pelagics off Madeira and some photographs of a mystery pterodroma:
http://www.madeirabirds.com/ultimate_western_palearctic_pelagic_expedition_madeira_2010

The discovery of Honey Buzzards over central London from Tower 42
http://t42bsg.blogspot.com/2010/05/if-youve-already-read-entry-below-about.html

and now remote tracking is possible on small birds like Swifts!
http://vimeo.com/11980693
Check out Yoav's blog (on my blog list below) for more.

I am off to the Azores on Friday looking for seabirds- hoping for some pterodroma action.

Monday, 24 May 2010

URBAN BIRDING SHOTS


Here are some urban birding shots by Russell from the Oystercatcher bird race.
Birding in Covent Garden (pic 1 and 2) and at Beddington (pic 3)
More of Russell's photos here: http://www.russellfspencer.co.uk/


Sunday, 23 May 2010

Hot spring day


It was literally hot today- about 28 degrees.
I was surprised to see 7 Common Sandpipers this evening on the southern lake which is a good count for the spring.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Ruff- Beddington Farmlands


This female Ruff (pic 1) was present on 100 acre this morning. Not much else in the way of migrants. Mainly breeding birds about including 8-10 pairs of Lapwings (pic 2), 15+ pairs of Reed Warbler, 4-5 pairs of Lesser Whitethroat and 30+ pairs of Whitethroat. In the week I met up with Birdwatch editor Dominic for a farm visit- we had Buzzard, 1 Redshank, 2 Little Ringed Plover and a huge swarm of bees the size of a room which luckily didn't attack. I've been attacked by bees in Ecaudor and a very strange primal reflex kicks in with me which involves involuntary running, emitting a warning cry, hand waving and diving into water which would have meant deserting Dominic. just like I deserted the others in Ecuador (God bless em :-)) ).

Monday, 17 May 2010

Common Buzzards- Beddington Farmlands


I'm seeing Common Buzzards most days from the obs now. I can hear when they are around because the crows go nuts when they arrive.
First record was on April 13th 1946 and there were only five records before 1990. In 1998 there were 3 records, 7 records in 2002, 10 in 2004, 36 in 2006 and now there are well over 100 records a year.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Oystercatcher Bird Race Day



I am not happy:-)). I was in the Oystercatcher Bird Race today and we came second. Beddington and David Lindo off the telly (pic 1) teamed up to form TUBBS (The Urban Beddington Birders) and we blinking lost to a North London Team (well it was the London Wildlife Trust so will let them off :-) ).
It was an event launched by Natural England (pic 4) and involved the BBC (video below) to promote London wildlife by travelling on public transport with an Oystercard.

Well i had no idea what an Oystercard was ( I drive everywhere) and becuase I didn't 'swipe in and out' I ended spending twenty quid (I could have got a travel card for £6.30) and then on the way home got in trouble for going into zone 5. So much for that- back in the car next time :-)) Highlight of the day was Tawny Owls in Hyde Park (pic 1), we recorded 86 species (the 'winners' got 90) and covered Beddington Park, Beddington Farmlands, Mitcham Common Gun Site, The London Wetland Centre, Hyde Park and even birded in Covent Garden.



Johnny Allan's (the skipper) here: http://surreybirding.blogspot.com/

Her Majesty Arrives

The 'Queen' arrived to hand out the honours to the winners.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNV_RI2wMyk

Here is our latest song. It's called Daddy Long Legs and is about cruelty to nature and the reasons behind it.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

AZOREAN GULL

This looks like a good first cycle Azorean Gull which was found in Iceland a few days ago.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/omarrun/4579098561/in/set-72157623747992632/
Note the overall dark impression, with ghost hood, almost plain dark coverts, dark shin pads, loose textured coverts, plain dark tertails, dark blotched underparts and in flight with very contrasting white tail coverts against a broad dark tail band with thick widely spaced bars on the undertail coverts. This particular individual is rather retarded but this could be explained by it's vagrant context.
Here's a few more first cycles from the Azores here:
http://peteralfrey.blogspot.com/2010/03/first-cycle-azorean-gull.html
Compare this Iceland vagrant to other Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls which overall show more resemblance to michahellis.
Canary Islands
http://www.martinreid.com/Gull%20website/atlap19.html
Madeira
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jjbirder/3545040569/
Mini-Conclusion
First-cycle Azorean Gull has a rather distinct plumage which carries a diagnostic suite of features and is quite dissimilar to other Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Small and beautiful- Dunlins on the Thames

Spent today on the Thames Estuary and South Essex marshes with Simon. Not really a lot about but a few migrants including single Cuckoo, Little Tern, Hobby and Sandwich Tern with 300+ Swallow, 10 Whimbrel, 2 Barwit, 2 Sanderling, 1 Grey Plover, 11 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 25+ Ringed Plover and 40+ Dunlin. The Dunlins were pretty fearless and gave us an opportunity for a close inspection reminding us than in nature there is nothing but individuals- with each bird in a unique plumage and state of moult.





Saturday, 8 May 2010

Mid-Spring at Beddington Farmlands


The good spring migration continues. Today in lighter north-east winds and overcast we had 12 Greenshank (pic 1), 7 Ringed Plover, 1 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 LRP, 1 Arctic Tern east, 1 Hobby, 10 Swallow, 5 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Wheatear and 1 Whinchat (pic 2) .
Mallards and Canada Geese (pic 3)
young have been out for a week or two now.



Here is my favourite birding blog post for the week: http://dominicmitchell.blogspot.com/2010/05/mistaken-identity.html

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Political Interlude

Well it is voting day after all:-)
Britain is buggered, paying the price of decades of unsustainable, short sighted and nasty policies (especially to the environment). The next few months are going to be awful as we experience the low point of the current economic and social crisis and the best way out is for individuals to rise up and contribute to democracy, their own society and environment in a positive way.

DOWN IN THE WOODS

Have a look at what Johnny found in the woods while doing his Surrey Year List.
http://surreybirding.blogspot.com/2010/05/wood-with-no-warbler.html

T42 and Beddington Farmlands in the Local News

Click on to read.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER- BEDDINGTON FARMLANDS


Well we seem to have come to a conclusion that the mystery plover is London's second ever Pacific Golden Plover and the first one since 1870!
That's another first for Beddington. A blinding Bank Holiday Weekend.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Kittiwake- Beddington Farmlands

The purple patch continues. With strong north winds we were hoping for a displaced seabird and this adult Kittiwake appeared in the afternoon. Also a Black-tailed Godwit this morning and one Arctic Tern.
Two Yellow Wagtails, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 LRP were feeding on the lake edge. Shelduck numbers are now up to 14.
3 male and 1 female Gadwall were displaying and flying round and looks like they are thinking about breeding.
We have been keeping a bank holiday list and added three gulls today- Great Black-backed, Yellow-legged and the Kittiwake.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Pacific or American?



Photos by Roger Browne (1-2 taken at Beddington), Andrew Moon (3-4 at Barnes) and I lifted the last one off the Barnes website (sorry don't know who took it but link here: http://www.wwt.org.uk/visit-us/london/wildlife-sightings/bird-sightings-for-2nd-may-2010




Hopefully will get to the bottom of this i.d but at the moment conflicting stories and information.

More of Rogers photos here: http://dodge007.blogspot.com/


PURPLE LOCAL PATCH- BEDDINGTON FARMLANDS


This morning was chicken oriental. We had this full summer Golden Plover sp. (pic 1) flying around with a grey underwing and very extensive dark underparts which looked like an American Golden Plover. We texted out to other London birders that a Golden Plover sp. was on the loose. About an hour later Franko found it at the London Wetland Center where it was confirmed as an American Golden Plover. I think there may be some debate/ questions about ruling out Pacific but either way it's a mega- hope to see the photos soon from the Wetland Center. Now here: http://www.wwt.org.uk/visit-us/london/wildlife-sightings/bird-sightings-for-2nd-may-2010
When it rains it pours!! in more ways than one. The frontal conditions and northeast winds today enduced a major shorebird arrival- we had 9 Knot, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit (bottom pic), 4 Whimbrel, 20 Ringed Plover, 13 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Arctic Tern and 1 Common Tern.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

BIG DAY! BEDDINGTON FARMLANDS


What a rather interesting day that was. It started at 0430 (that's am) with Roger, Paul and I leading 45 people on a dawn chorus walk. There was a Nightingale singing on Hangman's Bridge yesterday but unfortunately it cleared off in the night. However plenty of other songsters including 4 Lesser Whitethroats along the track. Then after breakfast it was back to our stations for the Beddington Big Day- a dusk till dawn vigil aimed at seeing as many species as possible within a day.

Despite the southwest winds there were a few migrants including female Whinchat, 1-2 Wheatear, 3 Yellow Wagtail over, 1 Common Buzzard and an influx of hirundines including 100+ Swift. At around 1500 I went back to the obs for a coffee. I thought I would keep an eye on the sky for any fly over migrants so went to the window for an obs watch. I looked to the north and saw a giant bird approaching and immediately ran for my camera. From the splayed out fingers and flat wings I knew it was either a stork or crane so took a couple of shots, binned it- saw it was a bloody Common Crane and quickly phone Johnny who was with the others on the dawn to dusk vigil at the hide. From the obs window I then started hearing Johnny shouting followed by a silence and then a huge roaring cheer- so I assumed they were on to it. I quickly went back to hide and was met with this reception:





The Beddington Obs (my flat)- got it's first mega, Common Crane; a first for Beddington.