Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Hard Weather Movements at Beddington and beyond

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


Steve Gale said...

Great post Peter, fascinating stuff there!

Belinda said...

You have WAY too much time on your hands!! :)

Peter Alfrey said...

Steve- Always wanted to be alive in the 60s for the Beatles- now for the Big Freeze too! What a decade!

First world syndrome Belinda!

Arjun Dutta said...

Brilliant post - competing for a spot in the best historical birding posts there.
Never would've known all that has happened before.