I must admit to submitting to another day of muppetry today and instead of hitting Farmoor or some other water body for a displaced Kitty or Little Gull I took the family to Millet's Farm for soft play, a visit to the Lamas and hog roast. I did check the ponds there for a storm blown waif but overall my crimes against the cause were justifiably rewarded with seeing sweet FA during the return of the Beast. (I have actually got a secret mission to find a rarity at one of these family day out places).
I did venture around Worminghall for an hour or two yesterday and had Golden Plovers flying over the Old Vic and winter thrushes in the horse paddock. Also had Golden Plovers over the M40 on the way back from the gig.
Fieldfare in the paddock
Common Buzzard over Worminghall
Redwings in the paddock
Robin in the paddock
Rook at Millet's farm, also a few winter thrushes there and 3 Gadwall on the duck pond
Been mainly in doors this weekend, in the warm, but missing the action with the Beast 2. There was Stone Curlew and Little Gulls at Beddington yesterday. Had a worthy excuse though as performed with the boys at Sophie's 40th birthday party. We did a stripped down guitars and piano only set- mainly because I couldn't get the drums and the PA out of the loft and also because Matt came over to practise drums and bass and we went down the curry house instead. Hoping one of these decades we actually get our act together.
Interesting correspondence today with the Chair of the Beddington Farmlands Conservation Science Group (CSG), Dave Warburton. In light of the 5000 strong petition calling on Sutton Council to enforce planning conditions on Viridor and develop the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve I formally wrote to him and the CSG to ask for an official statement from the CSG to respond to the petition (as local councillors were responding in an inaccurate manner). I also suggested that unless the CSG takes a strong lead with enforcement and supports the local petition and local community than the CSG is nothing more than a front for the Viridor agenda. I've been a member of the CSG for nearly 10 years. Dave's response was to inform me that my position on the CSG is now untenable.
Had a good gulling session with Dave today- juvenile/first-winter Glaucous Gull, second-winter Iceland Gull, first-winter Caspian Gull, a third-winter and first-winter Yellow-legged Gull, a few 'argentatus' and a noticeable influx of Lesser-black backed Gulls. More from Dave HERE.
The other guys had the first Wheatear and Sand Martin for the year, 70+ Snipe and 6 Jack Snipe off the islands which are currently being worked on and a Woodcock.
First-winter Caspian Gull
Second-winter Iceland Gull
Juvenile/first-winter Glaucous Gull
Juvenile 'Northern' Herring Gull
The PochardxFerruginous Duck hybrid also back on the lake
Had 55 Redwing calls between 1030 and 1230 last night from the obs nocturnal migration recorder.
Certainly a few birds moving around at the moment with several interesting migrants across London including a Spoonbill along the Thames and then at Brent and Dunlin and Redshank at the farmlands today.
The very mild conditions last night were also good for moths with Oak Beauty, March Moth, a few micros and the first Common Quakers for the year.
NocMiggers are reporting winter thrushes flying over at night from places like Portland but I've not had any from the Beddington obs. The first Sand Martins were reported in North London today too. Our only signs of very early spring migration this morning was 2+6+2 Cormorant moving south, a male Pintail was on the lake and a few Redwings by the hide. 3 Ruff in the south east corner were remaining from last week's cold blast.
The juvenile Iceland Gull was in its usual spot on the North Lake and there was also a first-winter Caspian.
The recent hard weather movement was the latest in a historical series of such events at Beddington Farmlands and regionally. Here's a selection (not exhaustive) of some of those events.
1932: 1215 Lapwings were recorded at Beddington on January 17th but there are no further details.
1947: 2500 Fieldfare and 2000 Redwing were recorded on February 6th and 8th respectively.
1955: 3000 Lapwing followed heavy snow at Beddington on January 15th. 600+ Snipe followed snow on January 6th.
1956: One of the earliest well recorded events at Beddington was in 1956. 2000 Lapwing moving over on February 1st heralded the beginning of a major shorebird arrival which involved 23 Knot, 5 Sanderling, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, 54 Curlews, 57 Ringed Plover, 22 Dunlins, Redshank and Ruff. On 2nd February the first and only Purple Sandpiper for Beddington was in the company of Dunlin and Knot. During the cold spell there were 500+ Snipe and 57 Jack Snipes on February 26th.
1958: 2000 Lapwings in this cold spell with the highlight being 2 Taiga Bean Goose on January 4th to 6th.
1962/63: 3000 Lapwing and 5000 Snipe! were recorded at Beddington at the beginning of what is historically known as the Big Freeze - the coldest winter in over 200 years. It started snowing on Boxing Day in 1962 and snow covered the region until early March 1963. The most significant record from Beddington was a Pink-footed Goose on January 6th. There were also 5000 Redwing on January 8th , 3000 Skylarks in late January and a Red-breasted Merganser on January 12th. A Slavonian Grebe was nearby on the River Wandle at Carshalton in late January to early February.
Lapwings started moving over London on 24th December and on 28th December 1962 there were 3 Purple Sandpipers at Staines. Incredibly a Great Snipe was at Denham on 23rd to 24th December and was seen into February 1963. There were also up to five Spotted Crakes in the Denham area during the winter.
Most of the London reservoirs froze during this period but QE 2, one basin at Walton and Stoke Newington Reservoirs maintained some open water. The Thames also remained unfrozen and proved attractive to waterfowl taking refuge. The duck population of London increased from 9000 before the freeze to 18,441 in mid-January. 850! Goosander roosted at QE2 on January 27th. There was a flock of 100+ Scaup at Stone on February 3rd and Eiders appeared at Sevenoaks and Hillfield Park Res. There were also several records of Whooper and Bewick's Swans across London with records of flocks of White-fronted Geese recorded going over several areas and 7 Bean Geese at QE2 from January 21st to 26th. Up to 23 Smew were at Kingston on January 26th.
Just at the end of the cold spell on March 2nd a Snowy Owl was discovered at Sewardstonebury- the first for the London Area.
1969: 1000 Redwing at Beddington on January 9th and 2000 Fieldfare on January 19th.
1970: 10,500 Lapwing were recorded flying over Kingston on March 4th 1970 during a blizzard with 5800 over Worcester Park in 100 minutes.At the end of the year 17,000 flew over the whole of London in the last week of December. Unfortunately there was no records from Beddington during this period.
1972: 14,000 Lapwing moved over Wraysbury on January 30th 1972. Birding effort at Beddington Farmlands in the 1970s was low due to poor habitat as a result of modernisation so unfortunately there were no records from this period either.
1984: A small movement of 40 Golden Plover at Beddington during a cold spell was the first time Golden Plover had featured in these events. (Surprisingly despite national declines Golden Plover is a species that increased in Surrey in recent decades with up to 3500 gathering around Milford and Tice's Meadow in the early 2000s. Mirroring this wintering population increase was an increase in migration counts).
1987: A well recorded event at Beddington by Garry Messenbird, myself and a few others. We had 2300 Lapwing on January 10th and also 65 Golden Plover. Earlier that morning Garry had recorded 236 Golden Plovers flying over his house at Tooting- this was the highest count of this species in the C20th for Surrey- indicating the upward trend that this species was showing in our region. Other displaced birds in 1987 on or a few days after January 10th included Curlew, Red Knot, Brent Goose, Grey Plover and a flock of Yellowhammers. Up to 10 Jack Snipe concentrated in the Lower Field Stream.
1991: A movement on February 6th at Beddington included 1250 Lapwings and 101 Golden Plovers. The following day a female Smew was present on a tiny area of unfrozen water on newly excavated North Lake. On December 15th the same year 79 Golden Plover flew through.
1993: A surprisingly early event at Beddington on November 21st with 750 Lapwing, 123 Golden Plover and 11 Grey Plover.
1994: 159 Golden Plover moved through Beddington on November 19th.
1996: 4000 Redwing and 600 Fieldfare flew over Beddington on January 27th.
1997-2008 There were no hard weather movements in this period recorded at Beddington. It was thought at the time that due to climate warming such events were a thing of the past.
2009: The return of the hard weather movement at Beddington after 12 years (a nano inter-glacial!) with December records of: 18th December: 2 Dunlin, 20th: 80 Meadow Pipit, 40 Skylark, 15 Reed Bunting, 181 Lapwing W
21st: 55 Lapwing W, 22nd: 24 Golden Plover W, 32 Lapwing W, 27th : 130+ Lapwing S and W, 1 Golden Plover S, 150 Redwing S, 50+ Fieldfare S and W, 30th: 27 Little Gull, 24 Golden Plover
2010: There were hard weather movements at either end of the year in 2010 across the region. January 2010 was generally cold throughout especially early month and the highlights at Beddington in this period included a Lapland Bunting from 13th to 17th, 3 Greater Scaup on 28th, up to five Yellowhammers, 40 Skylark and 300 Linnet on the mound, a Short-eared Owl, up to 3 Woodcocks, 12 Jack Snipe, Brambling, 1000+ Fieldfare on 7th, an influx of 750+ Common Gull and 96 Golden Plover on 6th.
At the other end of the year in December there was an incredible cold weather birding period that started with 14 Bean Geese going over on 1st with 2 Goosander and 3 Grey Plover the same day. On 2nd there were 5 Redshank, 1 Grey Plover and 3 Ruff on the lake with 500+ Woodpigeon moving over. On the 3rd a first-winter male Snow Bunting was on the mound and there were up to 15 Yellowhammer during the month and 350 Skylark were recorded on 19th. Incredibly a juvenile Common Crane arrived on the lake on 5th and was present until 8th, Furthermore there was a regional invasion of Waxwings occurring and we had 37 on 20th and 50 on 23rd December. There was a Hen Harrier on 30th, a Marsh Harrier on 31st, 2 Firecrest around and on the last day of the month 2 + 6 White-fronted Geese flew over. The next day on 1st January 2011 another 25 White-fronts were recorded.
Across London through the same period there was an influx of Whooper Swan, 49 Bewick's Swans, three flocks of Pink-footed Goose (and a big flock at Rainham at the beginning of the year), it was also a big year for White-fronted Goose, there was an influx of Eider and there was also Velvet Scoter.
2012: A cold spell in February produced (at Beddington) 2 Grey Plover, 9 Pintail, Ruff , 3 Curlew (that were present for several weeks), 3 Goosander, 48 Golden Plover, Dunlins and Woodcocks. Coincidentally it was also a record year for Iceland Gulls (an influx that had started in 2011) with an estimated 13 different individuals recorded in the 2011/2012 winter including 2 Kumlien's Gulls. 2013: A week of cold weather in January produced 70 Golden Plover, 300 Lapwing, 500 Fieldfare, Grey Plovers and up to 100 Skylarks at Beddington.
2018: The Beast from the East February 28th to March 2nd. Beddington totals:
Lapwing (195+350+110),Golden Plover (25+ 13+3), Fieldfare (195+150+50),Redwing (19+30+20), Meadow Pipit (16+70),Woodcock 2,Dunlin 3,Grey Plover 2, Ruff 2, Avocet 1, Bar-tailed Godwit 19, Black-tailed Godwit 1, Red Knot 1,Kittiwake 1,Great Crested Grebe 1, Pintail 15,Goosander 2
The Birds of Beddington Farmlands by Peter Alfrey, Brian Milne et al
Birds of Surrey by Jeff Wheatley
The Birds of London by Andrew Self
London Bird Reports 1944-2015
London Bird Report 1963, The Year, The Severe Winter pp 3-6
I'd agreed to a day in the matrix today with the family (health service appointments and shopping) so got up early to go birding to offset the dehumanising I was to face :-). Went to Otmoor but the journey there from Worminghall past Bernwood Forest and the fields before Stanton St. John was almost as interesting.
There seemed to be signs of hard weather bird re-orientation with flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover going over Otmoor. There was also a Dunlin in with the plovers. Must have been at least 1000 Wigeon- probably a lot more. Apparently there were 4000 Golden Plover at Otmoor before the hard weather- I only had 200 or so. Will be interesting to see how many come back or whether they will decide to now head straight to the breeding grounds.
This post storm re-orientation is interesting and being noticed especially across the south coast where there are up channel movements on seawatches going on. Quite a few Little Gulls around. Even saw something on the NocMig site that Lapwings are flying back over the European coast. Meanwhile the annual early Spring Common Crane movement over the Netherlands is going ahead unaffected with 14,000 moving north yesterday.
Back to Otmoor- a fly-by Bittern was superb and there were at least three Marsh Harriers around.
On the journey back had a superb Barn Owl from the road side, presumably putting in the extra hours following a hard time in the cold weather. Also plenty of deer with 74 Fallow Deer on one side of the road there and what might have been another group of nearly 70 further away on the otherwise on the way back- a different group or did they cross the road? Also 2 Muntjacs. Presumably the deer were also putting in the overtime to recover energy after the cold spell.
Took Jacob out this morning and decided to have a look at Standlake Gravel Pits for a hard weather diver, grebe, Smew, Merganser or Goosander. It was my first time to the area and luckily bumped into Mike Cunningham. As we were chatting five geese came in relatively high from the east. I fired off a few shots and back of the camera analysis looked like they were Pink-foots from the under-exposed images. Got back to the lap top and immediately could see the contrasting silvery upperwings that ruled out Bean Goose- so Pink-foots it was! I've been looking for Pink-foots all week at Beddington so getting them over Oxfordshire was great. Always wanted to see hard weather Pink-foots.
A few other bits on the pits I looked at (the area is a bit of maze). Had about 15 Red-crested Pochard which have a feral population in the area, 2 Oystercatcher and 4 Goldeneye.
Hoping to get some more time to check out the rest of the area soon.
Pink-footed Geese over Standlake Gravel Pits
Two male and one female Goldeneye (above) and male from below (below)
The storm is well over now with a thaw setting in and most of the snow melting at Beddington. Holly, Jacob and I were finally able to travel again so we headed up to the Old Vicarage where the thaw has been slower and there was still plenty of snow around.
A quick walk round the garden and round Worminghall produced plenty of winter thrushes.
Fieldfare (above) and Redwings (below)- 32 Redwings feeding in the Sheep Field with 5 Fieldfare, 3 Song Thrush and 4 Blackbird.
This Pheasant joined the Redwings
Deeper snow in Oxfordshire than what we experienced at Beddington. Had a Muntjac from the car and also had a couple of Mallard flying over the garden (uncommon here) and 15+ Goldfinch and 6 Chaffinch.
No I'm not talking about my ageing mother, I'm talking about this:
100+ Lapwing (feeding around the bulldozer), 3 Golden Plover, 1 Dunlin, 4 Jack Snipe, 1 Ruff, 7 Shelduck, 3 Water Rail, 50+ Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 1 Redpoll, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Dartford Warbler
The sting was definitely taken out of the wind today but conditions were still harsh. Excavation works on the valley mound was nothing short of divine intervention creating a life line for 100+ Lapwings, Thrushes, Pied Wagtails and Mipits that were feeding on the sheltered slope of newly exposed fresh soil.
There was very little moving- a few Lapwing and a couple of Golden Plover.
Highlight of the day was the discovery that there are two Dartford Warblers around one hiding in one of the copses on the mound and the other by the Southern Lake.
The temperature is set to go above zero tonight and to rise to 4-5 C tomorrow as Storm Emma moves in from the west so it looks like the Beast is going to be slaughtered by Emma.
Good job too as some of the birds were just about hanging in there. The Obs Garden had 7 Fieldfares and 1 Meadow Pipit today.
Lapwing siting it out on the permitted footpath
Lapwing feeding frenzy around the bulldozer (above and below)
Bad hair day
One of the Dartford Warblers
Fieldfare in the Obs garden
House Sparrows at the Obs feeding station
The Ruff on the permitted footpath
One of the Golden Plovers from yesterday on the Permitted Footpath- (un-cropped shot)
Views over the North Lake over to London (above and below)