Saturday, 16 November 2019

Staines

Popped into Staines Reservoirs on the way to Oxford this morning. Pretty quiet (low numbers of wildfowl too) but the six Black-necked Grebes near the causeway were worth the effort. Ebird list HERE . I couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck despite intensively looking which was still present apparently.



Black-necked Grebes 

Thursday, 14 November 2019

UGANDA TRIP REPORT

Here's our trip report from our WISE BIRDING July Uganda trip.





Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Beddington Farmlands- Gull Comeback

Another interesting day at the farmlands. Ebird list HERE. Viridor are tipping again on the landfill which is attracting several thousand gulls including a superb adult Caspian Gull. We thought we may have seen the last of this local speciality after the landfill was officially closed last winter so a very welcome (if brief) return. Apparently they need to tip some rubbish as the Incinerator is not fully commissioned yet.  Also a first-winter Mediterranean Gull.  Other highlights included at least 7 Water Pipits, 7 Green Sandpiper and 5 Stonechat and Frankie and Tank had Siskin and Bullfinch. Good numbers of finches about- the very good conditions of 100 acre and south-east corner are attracting both wetland and seed eating species.

 Adult Caspian Gull (above and below). Extensive white in the primary tips indicates an individual from the west of it's range. 

 First-winter Mediterranean Gull 
 Meadow Pipit and Stonechat 
 Green Sandpiper 
 A sight we thought we'd seen the last of- good to see the gulls back for probably one last time 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Otmoor Otter

A good day at Otmoor. Ebird list HERE. The hands down highlight was an Otter from the first screen, the first time I've seen one here. Jacob and I returned in the evening for the starling roost and we also had Barn Owl and Bittern. Also good to see winter numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover building up and Wigeon numbers also building up. There's been Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier in the week- a pretty impressive inland wetland! For some cracking photos from today on the OOS blog see HERE.
Otmoor birding blog 



 Otter at Otmoor 
 Bittern on Greenaways- I couldn't work out whether it was standing in an awkward position or right behind a Short-eared Owl? 
 Part of the 30,000 Starling flock 
Evening at Otmoor 

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Beddington Farmlands- winter counts

A very pleasant walk round the farmlands this morning. Ebird list HERE. Following lots of rain the habitat is looking incredible and I counted a site population of over 2700 birds today without even looking at south east corner, the works areas and Horse and Biker's field. Surely at least 3000 birds on site without any visible migration at all today and not including the 1000 Ring-necked Parkeets that fly over to roost and the 5000 Jackdaws that will appear at dusk! . 60 species in total.

 Female Stonechat- one of 6 today
 Reed Buntings in the corn and sunflower sacrificial crops 
 One of at least 20 Robins across the site this morning 
 Green Woodpecker 
 Teals on 100 acre- approx 200 on site today, mostly on 100 acre 

 Common Darters- literally last knockings 
 Red Fox- saw about five this morning 
 View over northern lake. With the wet grassland and the whole of 100 acre wet at the moment this has to be the most extensive wetland cover in decades at the farmlands 
 100 acre (above and below). Looking in top condition at the moment with large numbers of Teal, Snipe and finches. 

Lapwing habitat improvements on 100 acre- the islands are designed to provide predator proof nesting sites 

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Day in Kent- Shellness

Tank, Kojak and I did Shellness and the Swale National Nature Reserve today. Ebird list HERE. With a north easterly blowing across the North Sea we decided to make the most of the last days of autumn. Highlights included 1 Woodcock over, 70+ Common Scoter in the Swale, 15+ Gannet, 8 Kittiwake, male and female Hen Harrier and 6 Short-eared Owls. 

 Female Hen Harrier 
 Flyover Woodcock 
 Common Scoters 
 Gannets in the Swale 
 Brents and Oystercatchers (above) and Brents and Curlew (below) 

Monday, 4 November 2019

Yellow-browed Warblers- The Pioneers

Interesting note in the current issue of British Birds about the first confirmed case of a Yellow-browed Warbler returning to winter in Europe over consecutive winters. I was fortunate enough to review the note by former fellow Inglorious Bustard Simon Tonkin. Following our debut appearance as the Inglorious Bustards at the Champions of the Flyway HERE Simon and Niki went on to set up a successful bird travel company with the same name HERE and Holly does the art work for them. The company is based in Southern Spain and it was here that Simon made the over wintering discovery. 

This is an eagerly anticipated result and could well indicate migratory evolution in action. I studied vagrancy intensively about 20 years ago and my studies eventually led to my discovery of Corvo which I predicted by using vagrancy theory. I tried to distil vagrancy theory in two articles I did for Birdwatch aimed at birders. The articles can be found here: 


I always thought that the gravity of these articles was never quite appreciated as if the theories are correct it goes a long way to explain the mystery of migration and how migration evolves.I deliberately wrote the articles and published in a popular media platform as opposed to trying to get published as a more scientific paper (such as BB or Dutch Birding) because I wanted to see what would happen if a potential scientific break through was published in a popular science magazine rather than a higher science publication. My experiment was to see what happens if a break through moves up through a scientific democracy rather than trickling down from a scientific traditional hierarchy.  Birders have been messing with this order for years so I wanted to kick it around a bit too. 

Anyway Simon's discovery could well provide evidence to the theory that vagrants are pioneers and that Yellow-browed Warblers are currently forging a new migration arm and wintering area- a meta-population. What is very interesting about the development of this new arm and meta-population is the scale of the sacrifice involved. Since 1968 there have been over 30,000 Yellow-browed Warblers recorded in the UK and in 2017 alone there were over 2000 birds. They are so regular in the UK now that they have been de-classified to a common migrant (from a scarce migrant). Despite these enormous numbers, the evidence of the establishment of a meta wintering population is comparatively very small so presumably the overwhelming majority of 'pioneers' drown in the Atlantic or succumb by some other means. It would appear that evolution really is extremely indifferent to the immense scale of individual loss and suffering and death  (which doesn't bear well if my theories on human evolution are also correct and the Sixth Extinction and the current human population explosion is a bottle neck through which only few of us will pass- although I can't make my mind up whether it will be the super wealthy biotechnologically enhanced superhumans or a more 'pseudo-Christian' morally upright elite that are being selected!!!!  ) . Any way I digress, back to Sprites. 

Here's the full note: 



Sunday, 3 November 2019

Rarity finding

As I haven't actually found a rare bird in ages I was updating my finds list yesterday in order to remember what finding a rare bird is actually like. My definition of a rare bird is any description species (full description or notes) at any scale (county or national or biozone) and even on a uber local level, anything which is statistically rare (like a Woodlark at Beddington- common in Surrey, mega at the farmlands). Personally finding a Puffin at Beddington would be just as rewarding as finding a first for the WP on Corvo and I would value finding a Yellow-browed in Holly's garden as much as e.g. finding a  Brown Shrike at Shellness.

Rarity is a completely relative term. Just pop over to Bulgaria  and you will see nearly every eastern European rarity within a morning and an hour at Point Pelee in Spring and you'll get more yank wood warblers than Corvo in a decade. Paddyfield Pipit is an absolute dirt bird in India and I barely looked at one after the first hour when we visited Sri Lanka.

That's why you don't have to live on Scilly or Fair Isle or Spurn to find rarities. A Pechora on Fair Isle isn't worth anywhere near as much as a Pechora in any other vice counties and a Long-tailed Skua at Beddington is worth more than any national level Pechora.  The skill involved in rarity finding can be honed anywhere, it is a completely relative game and there are rare birds to find everywhere.

Confucius famously said  'A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace'. Personally I would say it should be more like 'A common man marvels at foxes and other common shit, a wise man finds the marvel (the rare) hidden within the commonplace' or even 'A common man watches the internet for a rare to be found by a wiseman and then drives miles to gormlessly gawk at it'

Here's a rough go at my finds list: FINDS LIST

It's still rough and ready and been talking with Jaffa aka Cream Tea Birder about the best way to organise it- nations, county or mega, vagrant, scarce migrant etc??

Here's some rules about self finds from Punkbirder SELF FIND RULES.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Beddington Blues

I can't actually remember the last time I saw a good bird at Beddington? It's certainly been a quiet year with few stand out highlights. Some of that has been down to access restrictions but the wind has also been predominately from the west (our worst conditions) for most of the spring and autumn. 

A storm passed through today and with the influx of Long-tailed Ducks across the country and a Red-throated Diver in Regents Park I dared to hope that something might get blown in to the farmlands. All I could muster up was a new Wigeon and a Green Sandpiper. I had a Brambling from the window yesterday.

Its pretty quiet on the moth front now (as expected for November) - had a Feathered Thorn today that was a first for year. 

Unless we get a good winter bird now, this will be one of the few years since 1986 that I haven't got a Beddington lifer. 

 Male Wigeon. Adult males and first calender males could both be moulting into an adult winter type plumage this time of year. Many of the adult male ducks at the farmlands have already completed this moult so this is possibly either a retarded adult or a juvenile/first-winter male. 
 Its unfortunate we haven't had much in the way of good birding weather conditions as the habitat is looking its best in a long while over the farmlands- here's the new wet grassland area 
 Feathered Thorn
 November moth agg
Red-green Carpet