Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Moth and Blackwit Heatwave

Black-tailed Godwits. On their way from Iceland to the South Coast and brought down over the farm by thunder storms today. I saw them from the window while trying to work.

Common Wainscot ?

Flame Shoulder (?)

Small Magpie
I have inadvertently invented a very effective moth trap- fall asleep with the lights on and window open on the hottest day since 2008 in the Beddington obs. The whole flat turned into a huge moth trap last night. Here's a few photos- I don't know what species they are but trying to work it out. Would welcome any help.

I wish

One of my favourite songs that we have done.
More at www.theebryans.com

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Non-Stop Botany

Common Toadflax (Growing in the Bedzed eco village field)

Adult Lapwing - approx ten breeding pairs this year

Essex Skipper (A bit of an emergence of these- today about 50+ in the grassy areas)

Meadowsweet (Found growing along the stream) in the vicinty of False and Common Watercress.

Self Heal (Found growing along the edge of the Southern lake)

Large Skipper

Black-tailed Skimmer (about 10-15 of these today)

Birders looking very much like Botanists

Steve Gale took us all on a botany tour of the farm today which was great for my mission to getting to know the pan-species situation at Beddington. Highlights were Marsh Dock , Dittander, Narrow-leaved Water Plantain , Fool's Watercress, Horseradish and Water Figwort.
Some more here on Steve's blog:
Dodge stayed by the lake and got this superb shot of a Swift (about 200+ flying outside the window over the lake at the moment)

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Beddington Tree Sparrows feeding on White Millet (Sponsored by CJ WildBird Foods)

Tree Sparrows fitted with red rings (look out for these birds in the vicinity of Beddington)

Beddington is famous for its population of Tree Sparrows- one of the last strongholds for this species in the UK. The Beddington Tree Sparrows benefit from the natural seed rich vegetation on site (and also supplementary feed) and on good years we can get nearly 1000 young raised. However surprisingly the population is under threat but.... how can that be with such a huge breeding success?

The reason for this is that Tree Sparrows naturally disperse from their breeding areas to form flocks in the countryside for the winter. However, our countryside has witnessed a decline of up to 80% in farmland birds due to intensive agriculture and the associated use of chemicals killing the majority of the insect life and seed rich vegetation- which the birds feed on. Basically the birds are starving to death in winter in the British (or even wider) Countryside (along with a lot of our other nation's most familiar birds). What was once a natural haven for wildlife is now in many ways a sinister huge green graveyard.

The London Tree Sparrow Partnership (led by the RSPB) has been set up to try and set up some new feeders for our Tree Sparrows in the surrounding countryside- in the hope that a few birds might find these feeders when they disperse. Birds are also being fitted with red rings so that if they are seen outside Beddington they can be recognised as Beddington birds- this will also provide information on the dispersal pattern of these birds.

Our main aim is to try and keep the birds on site during the winter so we have set up many more feeders and are providing supplementary winter feeds. However old habits die hard and the natural instinct within these birds is for them to disperse- an instinct which worked well for 100s of years but now that habit is killing them. However some birds do stay on site for the winter and it is our aim to build up this winter population - which is the best hope these birds have.

More on the project here:

High Summer

Common Toad (Up to 18 are under the monitoring mats)

Wildflowers (the whole farm is covered in a good array of Wildflowers)

The Sand Martin bank (7-8 breeding pairs this year)

Starlings (Numbers have fallen this summer from 1000+ to about 500- following the annual juvenile Starling feast enjoyed by the corvids)

Ringlet (First one of the year)

Lots of insects, plants and young birds about including Lapwing chicks and a good year for Tree Sparrow. Post breeding birds are also arriving- there are 12-14 Green Sandpiper, 40+ Lapwing, 3-5 Teal but the returning Black-headed Gulls are still few in number.
A flock of 10 Shelduck going overhead were presumably heading to a moulting staging post (Shelducks meet up in huge flocks in the late summer to moult- Bridgewater Bay in Somerset being one of the most famous congregation areas).
The tit flocks are building up with the first Willow Warblers amongst them.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Across the Universe

Across the Universe by the Beatles recorded for the World Wildlife Fund in 1968.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Exploring Beddington Farmlands

Smooth Newt

Thistle sp.

Purple Loosestrife

Fox cub

Marbled White

Buff Arches

Small Skipper
I am currently undertaking the mission of trying to get to know as many species of life form on my patch in an attempt to understand how the birds that I have been studying for the last 20 years fit into the ecosystem. Natural History is an immense subject and there is a danger of becoming a jack of all trades and master of none but I do believe that it could be possible to have a master knowledge of all the natural history in just one patch. This is particularly relevant at Beddington Farmlands as the farm is being developed into a nature reserve which will require habitat management for all species.
I am discovering there is a whole new world of what appears to be infinite interest. There is nothing quite like walking round a familar place and seeing things totally differently. Here's a few pics from the last few hours on the farm and also from the 'obs' (the Newt was from nearby).

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Flower Power

January 2010

June 2011

Amazing what happens if you just let nature and time do their job. The Southern lake is looking pretty amazing- covered in mallows , mustards and mayweed in a pretty incredible display of yellows, purples and whites. I literally can't imagine how this display could have been designed any better. In fact the only bit of managed restoration has been the reed planting which in short looks crap and has been a near disaster and cost a lot of money too.
Seems like there is a human disposition to do things the most difficult and painful way that we can find- oh yes... that's how to make lots of money :-))

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Back at the Patch for a tick a day

White-letter Hairstreak (i think)

Mallow has turned the farm purple at the moment

We had a birds and butterfly walk on Sunday but it rained and all we saw was a Cinnabar moth. This evening was a different story and the farm was alive with insects and all kinds of plants have come up since I was last here so I had a good pan-species session the highlight being a White-letter Hairstreak (I think).
On the bird front- 1 Green Sandpiper (back already), 1 Hobby, the summer mixed bird waves are forming with good numbers of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit along Cuckoo Lane, 2 Shelduck, a pair of Shoveler on 100 acre, 40+ Grey Heron, the post breeding Lapwing flock has just started and is so far at 15, there seem to be plenty of Tufted Ducks and about 50+ Swift and the 7 pairs of Sand Martins are breeding in the Sand Martin bank.
Btw- no bird photos because I still have not replaced my camera!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Here's a few extra (excellent) photos from Gareth Knass. More on Gareth's flickr site here:

Monteiro's Petrel (Gareth Knass)

Roseate Terns (Gareth Knass)- four different birds feeding together

Common Dolphins (Gareth Knass)

Risso's Dolphin (Gareth Knass)

From left to right, Per, Tommy, Bonser, me, Bosse, Lee, Tony, Gareth, Rafa, Martin, Eric and Michael.

See below posts for more details

Monday, 6 June 2011

Large Skuas off Graciosa

Bird One

Bird One May 31st 2011: P10,P9 old, P8 growing, P7-1 new. (photos Richard Bonser). Presuming this bird is a 2nd calender year than the moult and plumage seems to be okay for a 1st summer Great Skua.

Bird Two

Bird Two May 31st 2011: No moult or advanced moult? (P10 displaced or P10 old?) (photos Richard Bonser). Well with this one- if this is a fresh bird than that could be interesting (could suggest a Southern Skua) but if that is a old primary and the bird is in moult than again a Great Skua seems to be a good fit.

Bird Three: Photo (Tony Blunden)

Bird Three June 2nd 2011: p10-p8 old, p7 growing, p1-6 replaced. Outer secondaries growing. This bird is rather interesting as it shows a lot of adult type patterning on the upperparts and upperwing coverts. An adult in moult this time of year would suggest a Southern Skua and with this kind of mottling more likely a Brown. However what about a non-breeding adult or perhaps an advanced 2nd calender year or a 3rd calender year Great Skua?

Bird Three?

Bird Three again? Seen on May 31st c20 miles from original location. p10-p8 old, p7 growing, p1-6 replaced. Outer secondaries growing. (Photos Richard Bonser) This looks like the same bird.

In short, I don't really know what these are but if they are all moulting 2nd/3rd calender year birds than Great Skua would be a good fit. However if bird 2 is not moulting or if bird 3 is an adult than they could be Southern Skuas (Browns would be a closer plumage fit) .

'FUNFACTS' about large Skuas:

Juv Southern Skuas- July to January
Juv Great Skuas- March to August

Adult Southern Skuas- April to September
Adult Great Skuas- August to April

Juv Southern Skuas- Uniform (more so in South Polar). Often white tarsi. Pale feathering at base of bill.
Juv Great Skuas- Dark hood, rufous tones in body

Adult Southern Skuas- South Polars occur in pale, intermediate and dark phases but overall cold toned with pale at base of bill. Browns are less mottled than Greats and generally darker brown. Both have a more uniform upperwing.

Adult Great Skuas- Heavily mottled, dark capped, two toned upper wing (contrast between coverts and primaries), yellow brown tones.

South Polars are generally smaller with less heavy bills than other two
Browns have a short primary projection?

Here's Richard's take on it:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Graciosa Pelagic 2011

Monteiro's Petrel (Richard Bonser)

Wilson's Petrel (Richard Bonser)

Cory's Shearwater (Richard Bonser)

Risso's Dolphin (Ricard Bonser)

Super-pod of Common Dolphin (Richard Bonser)

Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Richard Bonser)

Roseate Tern and Graciosa

Rough-legged Buzzard (Richard Bonser)

Before the highlights here come the lowlights:
1) My new 7D, 300m lens and 1.4 converter went over board and into the drink never to be seen again (15 minutes into the pelagic)
2) We didn't find any rare pterodroma petrels
3) Richard's bins went into the 4 day old chum bucket
4) I can still smell sardines

Now for the highlights 30th May to 3rd June offshore Graciosa:

1 Sooty/Bridled Tern- found by Tommy from Praia village on Praia islet amongst the tern colony- too distant to be certain but we suspect Sooty Tern. Hopefully researchers will confirm id when they arrive on Monday.
4 large skua sp.- still reading up on these so more on this later.
12-15 Wilson's Petrel- in the Fortune Sea between Graciosa and Terceira
1 Grey Phalarope- off the Terceira to Graciosa Ferry
3-4 Bulwers Petrel- off the Terceira to Graciosa Ferry
5+ Sooty Shearwater
2-3 Barolo Shearwater
50+ Monteiro's Petrel
1 2nd cy Gannet
3-4 Manx Shearwater

Roseate and Common Terns, Cory's Shearwater and Azorean Gull were the back drop.

6 Cuvier's Beaked Whales
200+ Common Dolphin
50+ Bottlenose Dolphin
12+ Risso's Dolphin
1 Loggerhead Turtle
1 Sunfish
3 Blue Shark
2 Flying Fish

Also we had a Rough-legged Buzzard on the island.