Wednesday 29 April 2009

Beddington Birdwatch Patchwatch- This Saturday

This Saturday we are doing the Birdwatch Magazine Patchwatch, an event to raise money for Europe's most endangered species- the Azores Bullfinch. Last year we saw over 70 species in a dawn to dusk birding blitz so hopefully this year will can beat that total and raise more money too.
Other patches across the London and Surrey area will also be taking part and hopefully if we see the odd good bird heading to eachothers directions we will let eachother know.

Sunday 26 April 2009

260409 Beddington

Another fairly quiet day. I managed to miss the bird of the day again, this time a Little Gull.

The Buzzard movement has calmed down (a couple today but none over the previous few days)- the wind strengthened and turned to a prevailing direction and then it all stopped. Seems the best weather conditions are a light head wind as part of a high pressure system.

Saturday 25 April 2009


About 10 or 15 Swifts in today (first ones for the farm were yesterday). Darryl in Gwent also says he had his first arrival today so presumably a wide spread arrival.

About 40+ House Martins, 10 Sand Martin, 5 Swallow, 1 LRP, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Peregrine and the other gents had Wheatear.

I missed Little Tern yesterday on the farm in a south east wind. Interestingly coincides with 50+ from Dungeness
and a smaller passage from Portland
and even some moving past Spurn

Wednesday 22 April 2009

The Straits of Beddington

Something rather strange is happening with Common Buzzards and the farm. I saw 15 today with 6 in the air at one time. In the last three days alone there have been probably 40+ birds. To put this in perspective in 2006 there were only 36 records all year, in 1996 only two records all year and between 1990 and the beginning of time there were only five records. April is prime time for Buzzards at Beddington with 23% of records from this month (another 23% in September meaning that half the sightings are in April and September) suggesting a passage of birds this time of year. Interestingly the first ever record was on April 13th 1946.
There have also been five Red Kites over the last three days.
This kind of raptor migration is rather interesting as it is not really being seen anywhere else in our immediate region. We have been discussing what is going on and have come up with the following reasons to explain it:
1) A passage of long range migrants moving north- following the Wandle valley and drawn towards Beddington by the circling large gulls over the tip (however not all birds are going north)
2) Local birds from the surrounding hinterland on exploration movements for breeding areas- moving around in somewhat large circular movements creating repeat counts
3) Local birds checking out the rubbish tip- attracted by the carrion but being driven off by crows and gulls- perhaps they neuro-automatically keep coming back being attracted in by the circling large gulls in the thermals and/or the scent of decaying organic matter.
4) Because of the recession there are daily groups of birders (everyday is a Sunday nowadays) watching the skies increasing the incidence of sightings further. Also we are a further 50 meters higher with a panoramic view- thanks to the completed landfill mounds- (maybe these mounds generate thermals?).
5) The large gulls and crow population on the farm act as an 'alarm' system by mobbing the raptors- elsewhere this factor is absent reducing the likelihood of detecting a high passing raptor
6) Graham from Holmethorpe informs us that Buzzards visible over the North Downs tend to gain a great height before heading north and tend to be invisible when they cross the valley at Holemthorpe- thus supporting the idea that Buzzards are migrating at height across a broad front but are only visible at Beddington becuase something attracts them lower.
Link to Graham's blog on searching for high raptors:

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Freak of Nature

A couple of mysteries today. 1) What is going on with all these Buzzards over the farm (at least 19 yesterday and 9 today and also 4 Red Kites- a species only recorded 20 times before 2006 and now 17 records in late two years) and 2) What the hell is that thing (above).
The answer to both questions is I don't know. But dealing with the gull first. To my eye the concolourous dark underparts and head, large build and all dark bill give some sort of impression (with some imagination) of a Glaucous-winged Gull (GWG). However amongst many things, this species is generally more structurally robust with a thick bulbous-tipped bill and by a miracle this species has already turned up at Beddington before, so the probability of another turning up would render the theories of probability obsolete. Plumage wise the amount of dark in the primaries is more extensive in GWG and the plain dark grey mantle feathers are simply off the radar for anything that I am aware of in the way a good species.
As this bird shows little in the way of coherent features with any particular species and appears outside the range of variation within, we are probably talking about a hybrid. There are some features on this bird which are more associated with taxa from the nearctic- the dark concolourous underparts, all dark rectrices and heavily barred uppertail coverts. It is possible that we could be dealing with a nearctic hybrid but it is also perhaps possible that some of these features are basal to other gulls and this bird represents some kind of 'throw back'- ancient features being expressed. The most likely hybrid would be a Herring Gull x Glaucous Gull (structurally it is fairly okay for Herring Gull as a parent) but other theoretical possibilities include American Herring Gull x Glaucous Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull x Glaucous Gull or in fact a large number of possibilities of F2, F3.....etc etc hybrids between any of these taxa- don't even get me on the possibility of some other Pacific taxa parent species and come to think of it: is it possible to get a hybrid x hybrid:- something like (Western GullxGlaucous-winged Gull hybrid) x (Glaucous GullxHerring Gull). The mind boggles- if it is not a classic- it is in the wilderness of the 'unknown'.
Links to discussions on this bird:
Also possibly/probably the same bird seen at various locations previously (could be more than one about- check out Michael McKee's shots- is that the same bird? Got to consider ware and moult but is it? :

Monday 20 April 2009

Beddington 200409

A light north-easterly and sunshine meant an ideal day for raptor watching. The gents logged 23 Common Buzzards before I arrived but I was compensated with a Red Kite at 1800 hours heading northwest. A few Swallows moving through (Dodge logged 40+ through the day) and two Wheatears on new digs.
A couple of Gadwall prospecting on Hundred Acre. For some reason lots of Greenfinch are holding territories.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Beddington 190409

A bit of sun today and a steady NE wind. Not much in the way of visible migration. A few small groups of Cormorants and large gulls moving over- perhaps displaced by sunday watersports or closed landfills. About 30+ House Martins and 10 Swallow. 4-6 Sand Martins are hanging around the outflow.
Most interesting today was the rather sudden influx of Whitethroat (12+ on my walk- perhaps 20-30 on the whole farm) and Blackcap (I had 14+ singing males- perhaps double that on the whole farm). Also 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1-2 Chiffchaff and 3 Reed Warblers singing. 2 male Chaffinches holding ground on Hundred Acre and about 10+ singing male Greenfinches across north end of farm. Obviously a bit of a push to occupy breeding territories over the last few days. A pair of Gadwall hanging around, Tufted Duck mating, Coots fighting, Long-tailed Tits nesting building, Mallard chicks out, the usual Mallard gang rapes and lots of song.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Beddington 180409

Missed a good day yesterday- a good movement of terns, waders and other migrants. Interestingly a light northwesterly again with low cloud following a day of a southerly airflow- this pattern has emerged a couple of times recently.
Today, a cold northeast wind with thin broken high cloud and much of the movement has stopped. The 1st summer Iceland Gull is still present.

Redpolls- Preliminary observations and brief notes on the specimen collection at Tring

Icelandic populations appear to represent some highly variable mixed group which 'connect' the other populations and taxa.

Common or Mealy (flammea) overlaps in appearance with Arctic (exilipes), Icelandic (islandica) and Lesser (cabaret).

Cabaret overlaps with Greenland (rostrata) and flammea.

Islandica overlaps with rostrata, flammea, exilipes and Horneman's (hornemanni).

In a vagrant context the two birds (above), one from the Greenland population and one from the Lesser Redpoll population would be inseparable.
Again, these two birds together (above) in the UK would probably be passed off as two Arctic Redpoll- the bird on the right is Icelandic (islandica).

Two specimens (above) that show the overlap between Mealy and Arctic (exilipes)- assuming correct identification by the collectors.

Overlapping features between Mealy and Lesser are well known (above)

A not so typical collection of Redpolls. The Mealy is smaller and darker than the Lesser and would probably be identified as such, the Arctic (exilipes), Greenland and Icelandic could maybe all be passed off as a flock of Mealys and the Horneman's is on the small size and might even fall within the range of a large exilipes.

How the field guides would like things to be (above) and indeed sometimes they are. There are fairly diagnostic types within the variation of the Redpoll complex, for example:
a) A small brown Lesser Redpoll is pretty safe
b) A large dark Greenland Redpoll is pretty safe
c) A large chamois faced Horneman's is a safe bet.
d) A small, striking pale Arctic (exilipes) is another safe one.
Mealy and Icelandic- well there appears to be complete overlap. In the context of vagrants there will naturally be a lot of uncertainty unless we are dealing with various peaks in the variation landscape- various ends of various spectres.
The icelandic population perhaps throws a spanner in the works for some of the species concepts which are currently accepted for the Redpolls. The status of exilipes, hornemanni, rostrata and flammea in Iceland is presumably a fundamental consideration when trying to work out what the Icelandic populations represent in order to establish identification criteria for islandica. If these Icelandic populations are migratory and occur in Britain- applying identification criteria to vagrants in certain settings is very problematic indeed. All images copyright of the Natural History Museum, London.

Monday 13 April 2009

Beddington 130409

Another good day of visible migration. A small rise in temperature and a change back to a southerly wind and another burst occurs.

This time migrants included 1 Cuckoo, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Golden Plover (first record in two years), 2 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Hobby, 45+ Meadow Pipit, 15 Linnet, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Little Egret, 10 Sand Martin, 2 House Martin, 5 Swallow, 1 Common Buzzard and I missed another Buzzard and also a Red Kite. Also 3 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Shelduck, 40+ Teal, 4 Shoveler, 6 Little Grebe, 40+ Mallard, 30+ Tufted Duck and 2 Green Sandpiper.

Good to see Dave Lambert over the farm yesterday, who visited to sound record the Tree Sparrows (above). Cheers to Dave for advice on the Beddington Nature Reserve Campaign. Visitors are always welcome so just let us know if anyone wants to visit.

Grey Plover: Over at 1210- Perhaps the same bird that Graham saw over Holmethorpe earlier in the day.

A fly-through Cuckoo 0810.

Knot from a few days ago. A good easter's local birding.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Beddington 120409

Today I saw the White Wagtail and new in was the first Greenshank for the year. A few hirundines around including 20+ Swallow and 10 each of Sand and House Martin. 2-3 Wheaters on the mounds. 2 Redshank about.

Despite low cloud and fairly calm conditions it is interesting the visible migration had abated today. Maybe as the cold front passed, migrants were pushed towards the east, trying to keep within the warmer airflow. Also as the centre of the depression (featured on 100409 chart below) changed position a weak northwesterly was generated over our area perhaps another factor putting the brakes on (see chart above 110409) and dumping a fair amount of stuff in the process.
I recall seeing this pattern before. A good warm southerly airflow suddenly interrupted by a wind direction change to the northwest- dumps birds on the first day of the northwest airflow. As this wind direction is one that is not generally associated with good visible migration at Beddington, it is interesting that a day like yesterday was hosted by a northwesterly. On the second day of the northerly airflow (today)- ziltch!

Saturday 11 April 2009

Beddington 110409

Another good day of visible migration. Highlight was a Knot, the first record for April and only the 3rd spring record which came down on Hundred Acre. Other migrants included 5 Dunlin, 26 Meadow Pipit, 2 Siskin, 4 Wheatear, 5 Yellow Wagtail, 25+ House Martin, 30+ Swallow, 10 Sand Martin and the other birders saw White Wagtail, Ruff and 2 Ringed Plover. Looks like there has been an influx of Snipe with 30+ on site. Also 7 Green Sandpiper, 2 Redshank, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 3 Shelduck. Still a few ducks about including 30+ Teal and 10 Gadwall.

Friday 10 April 2009

Interesting article on migration in London

There is an article on Birdguides called Canary Wharf migration watch point.

I have a lot of questions about this.

Beddington 100409

A bit of a visible migration spurt today. A nice conveyor belt of southerly airflow with an associated cold front and low cloud.

Visible migration between 1000 and 1230 included 30+ Sand Martin, 10 House Martin, 20+ Swallow, 4 Redpoll, 2 Siskin, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Chaffinch and a few Starlings darting around.

There were 2 Redshank on the lake and a 1st summer Iceland Gull on the tip.

The other birders saw a couple of Whitethroats (first for the year) and a Buzzard.

Iceland Gull on tip with large gulls (click on bottom photo)

Thursday 9 April 2009

Beddington politics

There are now three bird groups over the farm comprised of 20 or so people in total. There is the Beddington Farm Bird Group, the Alternative Beddington Farm Bird Group and new today is the Independent Beddington Birders There is also the radical protest fringe- the Beddington Birders Front (me) but that has recently been dissolved due to irreconcilable differences.

Looking forward to patchwatch this year (a Birdwatch Magazine national event pioneered last year with Beddington included)
We will need three entries for the same site this year...who will win? Should be good fun.

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Sunday 5th April Beddington

One Little Ringed Plover, 8 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Buzzard, 3 Sand Martin and 5 Chiffchaff.


Thee Bryans

Okay a bit off topic but nonetheless this is an experimental environmental/conservation music project that I am part of so here is a shameless plug and link:

Some of the music can be found in the left hand column under music player; if you have a facebook than join as a fan if you like it... planning some events in the future so will keep you posted.

Thursday 2 April 2009


Graellsii- on the Thames
One of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse

I went to the G20 protests today as the Beddington Birders Front- yes I was alone. I actually lost a tooth in the riot. I was eating some gum while I was running from a horsed policeman and my root canal came out- that cost me £500 at the dentists-the thieving bastards!