Friday, 3 April 2020

Tough going at the Beddington Obs

It's been a fantastic couple of nights for noc-miggers across the country (see Birdguides article HERE ). Local birders including Arjun (Wallington) and Steve Gale (Banstead) have had Common Scoters, Brent Geese, Redshank and other garden megas. I've had the Beddington Farmlands recorder on and been scouring through the recordings but unfortunately cant find much at all. Best was a flock of migrating Wigeon (distantly) and a Little Ringed Plover. The lake background noise is always a challenge but I spent a lot of time real time listening and unfortunately nothing to sing or dance about. 

Also had the moth trap going and like wise- very quiet.

Another case of where hard work doesn't pay off! Hopefully better luck tonight. The weather is set to warm this weekend so maybe better on the moth front too- I'll be transferring to the Old Vic tomorrow so see if I have more luck at the weekend Obs! 

Brindled Pug- first for year
Agonopterix yeatina? 
Looks like a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull but very distant 

 Only nocturnal migrant I had was this flock of Wigeon 
 Little Ringed Plover has been calling from the lake at night recently
 This was a call that was new for me- Little Grebe flight call! Listen to end for best clarity.

Had a few of these calling at night
This weather map for the weekend looks a bit worryingly interesting! Migrants, overshoots and moths on the cards!! 

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Portuguese Rarities Committee Report

We've finally published the next report from the Portuguese Rarities Committee which mainly covers records from 2013 and 2014. Links to all our reports HERE. Direct link to Volume 11 HERE

This is the Birdlife Partner, official report that our local Azores report feeds into. For the Azores Reports see HERE.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

On the Tools

Even though we are not getting any government bail outs (due to being a limited company with sub-contractors who are also limited) the one good thing about working while most other people are in lockdown is that the roads are very quiet and there's no traffic. I went out on the tools today to get some more photos for our websites and social media. Today was a typical day of what we do. This is how we make the money that we spend on birding and eco-social projects. As far as I'm concerned this is how all businesses should be run- effectively mini governments, that make money and re-distribute it and that cap director wages, share the business out amongst the employees and spend profits on maintaining and enhancing ecological and human communities. Sounds like bullshit but we've been doing if for 20 years with the results to prove it, while our local councils have introduced procurement processes to stop businesses like ours growing and handing over all the parks and green spaces to a French multi-national (with mansion and yacht buying CEOs) who are doing such a shit job that Merton Council are subbing it back out locally to us. We (everyone and everything) are almost certainly heading towards economic meltdown as a result of this virus- will see if companies like ours can rise in the chaos- as our model does create economic, social and environmental capital and if Capitalism does go into meltdown, and this could be the big one, the biggest depression the world has ever seen, we have got a tiny part of the solution (if we can survive). Is everyone sick of these yacht and mansion buying business owners yet? If not hopefully soon.... its not possible for value creators to compete and grow when value extractors are allowed to grow bigger. 

 The mobile obs doubled up as the tea van today 
 Van 2- each one of these units (van,chipper, tools and gear)  costs about £40,000 .  In total we've got about quarter of a million pound costs to cover each year. We have to make nearly £5000 a week before we make a penny profit. That is going to be extremely difficult if the road ahead falls away!  
Van 3 

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Project Partial Lockdown

Unfortunately Rishi's bail out package for the self employed didn't include limited company owners who pay dividends or self employed people who have absorbed their profits or only been self employed recently so on those bomb shells we (our team) have to choose between plague and poverty so are being forced to carry on working (while taking as many precautions we can). So it was my usual Wednesday to Friday in the crack of South London and Saturday to Tuesday in the sanctuary of the Old Vicarage. 
The Old Vicarage
With a cold brisk northerly blowing its been pretty raw going working on the garden but we've put in another two raised beds and preparing more seed trays and ordered more seeds.

 The only 'migrant' in the garden has been this Chiffchaff
 Raised beds as far as the eye can see- got ten now and need another two or three
 The broccoli we planted last weekend is coming along well 
 I've got my eye on this bit of garden that the Ponies were moved to during the wet conditions and have inadvertently ploughed it up- thinking of doing a bit of farming if Bryan and James don't object 

Back in the Crack 
So I had to spend Wednesday to Friday doing my utmost best to not catch or transmit the virus. Luckily on Wednesday I had a quote in the hidden gem of Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon so basically was doing my daily walk while getting paid for it- some champions trees in there. Thursday was private quotes- I get the customers to open the gate and either keep their f##king distance or speak to me through the window on the phone of what they want done. Whenever I get back to the van I sanitise with alcohol (my hands look like I've grey scale from Game of Thrones now). I'm also living off food in the doomsday cupboard (been over doing the Oxtail soup) so have not been to any shops. Friday was in doors doing all the end of week admin and accounts etc so luckily I'm basically able to self isolate and continue working. Not looking forward to go back this week as the epidemic peaks. 
 View over Beddington Farmlands and the incinerator- not a single plane or vapour trail in the sky. The whole world has got better air quality apart from South London! 
 With all the cafes shut, my Thursday morning crew meeting and briefing involved just me in the campervan 
Cannizaro Park . The tree list of this park is pretty impressive SEE HERE. Luckily our Merton Council contracts have been handy through this period- we've got a lot of school work to do which we can do while schools are shut and can keep away from everyone 

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Project Lockdown

We've decided to use the lockdown period to get some work done on the Old Vic garden (previous posts on the Old Vic HERE ).  Unfortunately the government have been vague about who can and can't go to work but been very clear that the self-employed won't be receiving adequate help so basically we have to keep working at Little Oak so its only partial lockdown for us. 

However still getting plenty done in the garden. Did an hour or so garden birding this morning, highlight was a Curlew flying over, a small movement of Chaffinch (about 15), a couple of Mipits, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing eachother round the Poplars and 1 Redwing. 

The moth trap was pretty quiet as temperatures continue to drop to below zero at night. 

 A good time to get some gardening and garden birding done 
 Holly knocking up a raised bed out of timber that Bryan had lying around 
 The finished result- we made or prepared six raised beds in total and plan to get another six built 
 Colonel Jacob inspecting the work 
 Renovated this box hedge today too as a border between the vegetable area and rest of the garden 
 Got the seeds sown for Broccoli and Tomatoes 
 Red Kite over the garden- a second calender year bird (white spots on underparts) 
Last night's moths (top left to bottom left: Hebrew Character, Early Grey, Clouded Drab and Common Quaker) . 

Monday, 23 March 2020

The Mediterranean Falls!

Finally saw a Med Gull at Otmoor yesterday (Oxfordshire tick too), Ebird list HERE . Most interesting was a huge flock of Fieldfare and Redwing (mainly Fieldfare I think)- presumably migrating birds that have hit a bit of a wall in the moderate headwind? Also had a Category E tick- a Hawaiian Goose (can't be many of them on the loose?) - the volunteer warden Pete told me last week one or two were knocking about so glad to finally see one.

Had the moth trap and sound recording equipment on at the Old Vic. Just Early Grey and Hebrew Character in the trap (its dropped below zero at night) and no migrants on the night recordings- although did get some nice recordings of Tawny Owl (and some rather unpleasant recordings too involving our Ponies in the garden) and also picked up a new bird - a calling Red-legged Partridge for the Old Vic list.

Adult Mediterranean Gull 
Fieldfares (above and huge flock below) 

This is all that seems to be left of the 8000+ Golden Plovers 
Red Kites chasing each other in territorial and display flights is the backdrop round these parts at the moment 
Hawaiian Goose- a Cat E lifer! 

 Two Male and one female Tawny Owl
 Horse following through and Tawny Owl 

Red-legged Partridge (distantly over Pheasant) 

Saturday, 21 March 2020

It's Knot Looking Good

Yesterday while the world continued to melt like cheese Glenn had a cracking little morning at the farmlands, he found this Knot (presumably a first-winter as no sign of any summer plumage coming through and contrast between mantle and flight feathers) and also Curlew, Ring Ouzel and Redshank. 

I had the sound recorder on most of the night but failed to pick up anything apart from one Redwing call and a couple of Greylags amongst the constant noise of the usual Canada Geese and waterfowl on the lake with the background noise currently being made even worse by a flock of gulls which are now roosting on the wet grassland area. With that noise going on all night, its very difficult to pick up any migrants going over on the sonograms. 

 Green Sandpiper - all photos taken from the Wet Grassland public hide 

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

I'm All Twite Jack

As I've been preparing for the down fall of Capitalism for the last five years, I didn't need to spend the day panic buying (as I've been panicing for half a decade and had two months supplies in my 'doomsday cupboard' already) so I joined up with Kojak and went birding at Beddington Farmlands. A pretty epic day really Ebird list HERE. Highlight was of course a beautiful couple of Twite, one appreciably paler and less well marked than the other. The close views and ability to appreciate the subtle differences on these two individuals and the subtle hues, tones and markings that define this species was quite frankly, beautiful. This is only the third record for Beddington, following the rather famous ringed bird in 2017 see here. Ed Stubbs informs me that this is the first multiple birds in Surrey since 1986 and the 23rd county record since 1900. 

Also had my first summer migrants of the year, a male Wheatear and 2 Sand Martins. Also 5 Water Pipit, 6 Green Sandpiper, a flock of 12 migrating Common Gull, a light passage of 25+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Peregrine, 4 Common Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk and a very interesting hybrid aythya duck- a Redheadish look alike- presumably a hybrid Tufted x Pochard but one where Pochard is coming through more than Tufted Duck which is unusual.

Partner in crime Kojak's account here. We are doing alright this year locally, on the last three days out together we've found Raven, 2 Siberian Chiffchaff and now 2 Twite. 

In the moth trap last night- Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, Hebrew Character, Early Grey, Beautiful Plume, Agonopterix alstromeriana (5) and butterflies on the wing today included Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. 

 Northern Wheatear
 Sand Martin
 Water Pipit - about 7 birds about. 
 Lapwing- great to see the birds taking up territories in south east corner (not so great to think that this habitat will be gone over the next few years and we could loose our Lapwing population) 
 Migrating Black-headed Gulls (above) and Common Gulls (below) 

Aythya hybrid, presumed Pochard x Tufted Duck 

Monday, 16 March 2020

Otmoor Hike

Walked the whole of the Otmoor reserve perimeter today, through the MOD footpath, along the Oddington track and then back to the car park through Big Otmoor and Greenaways. 74 species including Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Golden Plovers and Bittern (booming). EBird list HERE . Also thought I heard a LRP out on Big Otmoor but just a faint single call.

The WeBS counts from a week or so ago recorded a lot higher numbers SEE HERE due in part to a degree of clear out (particularly Wigeon and Golden Plover) since that count but also due to full coverage of the entire site (the WeBS recorded 6895 water birds alone, I only roughly estimated 1500 birds of all species from the limited view of the perimeter). There are so many places a rarity could be hiding. There's been a big fall of Wheatears and a few other migrants this morning across the South Coast and inland too and a Willow Warbler seen by someone else at Otmoor- presumably there's more to be found today. Might go back later. 

Also 4 Roe Deer, Muntjac, Brown Hares and last week had a Stoat. The herd of Fallow Deer were out in the field again near Holly's. Seem to be an early Spring phenomenon. 

 Second calender year Hen Harrier 
 Curlew- amazing sound of birds singing and displaying this morning . Also Redshanks and Lapwings displaying in the sunny conditions. Still a flock of Snipe out on Greenaways so they obviously haven't taken up territories yet.
Male Marsh Harrier mobbed by Lapwing 
 Red Kite- not sure what the prey item is- frog leg?
 Male Reed Bunting- plenty of singing resident birds this morning as territories are starting to be set up
Barnacle x Greylag Hybrid (more on these birds here
The Pill- twenty years ago this was the only bit of water on Otmoor- amazing what decent management can do (see below for Otmoor today) 

 Brown Hare- about 10 or so mainly on Big Otmoor 
The herd of Fallow deer are out in the fields near Holly's again- I counted approx 110. A couple of years ago this herd numbered 74 see here