Sunday 31 July 2011

One Lapwing?

I just saw a flock of 15 Lapwing flying around the lake. A post breeding flock of Lapwing has been a feature at Beddington for a long time. In 1955 there were 600 birds reported in July/August, through the late 70s and 80s there were 300-400, through the 90s 150-300, the noughties 100 to 150 and this year 15-40 so far in the post breeding flock. How long before there is only one Lapwing left and then none? Hopefully it won't get that bad.

Like many local patch watchers, over 25 years I have watched my patch decline at an accelerating rate. Well over 50% of species at Beddington are in decline- associated with habitat changes on site and also regional changes such as climate, 'development' and agricultural changes.

Indeed some species are on the increase: Raptors, gulls, crows- all species associated with waste and carrion and also Ring-necked Parakeets- an invasive species which is doing extremely well. Then there is Little Egret- a species associated with a warming climate.

So as the larks, the Cuckoos, the Turtle Doves, the finches, the waders, the wagtails, the chats, the thrushes, the buntings and the sparrows decline into a tail spin- the aliens and scavengers explode in numbers. Things are getting pretty dark out there.

I think one main hope that most environmentalists have is that the decline will eventually bottom out and lead to recovery. Our societal system is universally recognised as unsustainable which means that a fundamental transition will certainly occur at some point. That transition could be slow and gradual or sudden and catastrophic- nature tends to be both.

In the meantime, concerned individuals can prepare by arranging themselves into independent self sustaining groups and to save as much as possible so that no matter what happens they are fit for any changes that will inevitably come and be in a position to spearhead the recovery. This process is already occurring everywhere and will presumably evolve further.

Saturday 30 July 2011

More Pan Species Listing

God knows whats flying over

Lunar Underwing (correction to Turnip Moth)

Gatekeeper on Watercress

Starlings- a bumper year with 2000+ birds present today

Met up with Steve and Frank today for a pan species tick feast. Things got off to a cracking start with Greater and Common Duckweed followed up swiftly with Marsh Ragwort. Best sounding bit of botany for the day was Trifid Bur-marigold.

On the bird front: 3 Greenshank, 4 Common Sandpiper, 8 Green Sandpiper, 1 Garganey (although I missed it), 1 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 15+ Willow/chiff, 6+ Reed Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 10 Whitethroat, 4+ Blackcap, 50+ Swift, 10+ Goldfinch, 8 Linnet, 2000+ Starling, 1 Hobby, 2 Kestrel, 2-3 Sparrowhawk and 1 Peregrine.

Had a couple of Lunar Underwings recently and finally identified (rather Frank and Steve did) a moth called Sitochroa verticalis which is pretty common on the farm. Butterflies today included Purple Hairstreak (4), Gatekeeper (20+), Large Skipper (2), Common Blue (4+), Comma (4), Peacock (10+), Essex Skipper (6+), Holly Blue (1), Speckled Wood (4), Small White (10+), Large White (10+) and Meadow Brown (15+).

On the Dragonfly front we had Ruddy Darter (new one for me) and Black-tailed Skimmer.

Also on the botany front today Guernsey and Canadian Fleabanes, Russian Comfrey, Blue Water-speedwell, Brooklime, Water Dock, Hoary and Marsh Willowherb.

Thursday 28 July 2011

New Tree Sparrow Feeder

One of the objectives of the London Tree Sparrow Partnership is to put up feeding stations in the surrounding countryside so today I put up a new feeding station of red millet on my brothers small holding 2-3 miles away.
Also found this Six-spot Burnet while I was there.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Beddington Tree Sparrows on Radio 4 today

The London Tree Sparrow Partnership was featured on Radio 4 'Saving Species' today.
Also here's some nice photos from Roger.


I was in the budget supermarket Lidl today and came across a digital microscope for £30. I thought I'd buy it for my nephew but couldn't resist giving it a spin when I got home. I was pretty impressed with the results on this moth- might keep it as the latest addition to the obs.

Monday 25 July 2011

Flying Ants

Seems like there was an ant flight this evening which was attracting all the local swifts and starlings into the air. I reckon there was at least 1000 Swift which is the most I've seen in years and Starlings must have been near 1000 too.
Come across 2 Painted Ladies on the mound- weird looking face (click for a better view).

Sunday 24 July 2011

Wildlife Gardening

Wildlife Herbaceous Border at LWT Wildlife Gardening Centre

Beddington Park Herbaceous Border

Went to the London Wildlife Trust Wildlife Gardening Centre today for a bit of inspiration for the obs wildlife garden. Plenty of insects on Verbenas, Tansy, Corncockles, Knapweed, Golden Rods, Agrimony, Scabious, Orpines, Sedums, Lemon Balms and Mints so I'll be bringing in some of them. However might mix it up a bit with some more striking herbaceous plants like in Beddington Park to get the best of both worlds.

Today's featured pan species Beddington lifer is Soapwort. Also today Sloe Shieldbug and on the moth front Purple and Gold pyralid sp, Uncertain and recently also had Shuttle-shaped Dart.

Saturday 23 July 2011


Three Garganey arrived today on the Southern Lake. Garganey is an almost annual scarce migrant to Beddington with 1 to 2 records a year in recent times. Sometimes birds stage for several days in the autumn. 1998 was the best year on record for this species with three spring and three autumn records including a juvenile that stayed from July 12th to September 11th (61 days).
Not sure about the age and sex of today's birds although the more striking head pattern of the bottom pic bird is suggestive of an eclipse male- and I think I glimpsed a grey-blue forewing panel too. The flank pattern is also quite striking.
Also saw the juvenile Redstart again on Irrigation Bridge.

Digi-scoped Sparrows

Juvenile House Sparrow

Juvenile Tree Sparrows

Adult Tree Sparrow

Adult House Sparrow
I've got the money for a new camera now thanks to the insurance company but can't decide whether to replace my old one or upgrade so I am still making do with the old gear. I did some digi-scoping today (first time in a long time). Something special about digi-scoping and the effect is creates.

Friday 22 July 2011


Another Beddington lifer this evening in the form of a Common Lizard under the Survey Mats. Pretty good on the bird front too with a juvenile Redstart along the Horse Field path, 1 Garden Warbler along the permitted path, 5 Common Sandpiper, 15 Green Sandpiper, 1 Hobby, 20+ Whitethroat and 15+ Willow/Chiff.
Swift numbers seem to be on the drop- there were about 150 yesterday evening (down from a max of 300-400) and only 50+ this evening.
Darryl says its a female Common Lizard and looks gravid. I googled gravid to find out what it means and found out it does not mean gravy coloured (as I first thought).

Thursday 21 July 2011

Blooming Beddington

Purple Loose-strife and Reed Mace

Sunflower and Scentless Mayweed

Ragwort and mixed plants

July 2011

April 2011

Still amazed by the wild flower display this year especially considering that in early April (only 3-4 months ago) a lot of the area was bare earth (pic 5). Be good to keep this kind of diversity as a permanent feature of the nature reserve but that will involve regenerating the land to encourage this abundance of seed rich pioneering species- either through ploughing or grazing.

Common Tern, Common Sandpiper, Hobby and Peregrine this evening.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

The Quest Continues

Silver Y

Hebrew Character?

Heart and Dart (left) and Dun-bar (right)

Poplar Grey

The quest to get to know all the natural history at Beddington continues and I've had a few new ticks recently including (in addition to Black Kite) Wild Carrot and Roesel's Bush Cricket. I'm making some progress with the moths too and here are my latest attempts at identifying them (please correct me if the above are wrong). Here's my moth list so far after a few weeks at it:

Poplar Grey, Webb's Wainscot, Hebrew Character, Buff Arches, Least Carpet, Small Scallop, Riband Wave, Yellow Shell, Common Pug, Brimstone Moth, Swallow-tailed Moth, Common Footman, Cinnabar, Bright-line Brown-eye, Heart and Dart, Flame Shoulder, Clay, Smoky Wainscot, Common Wainscot, Knot Grass, Copper Underwing, Straw Underwing, Dun-bar, Common Rustic, Silver Y, Mother Shipton, The Miller, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Common Rustic and Dark Arches.

Small Magpie, Mother of Pearl, Brown China-mark, Adela reaumurella, White Plume, Bee Moth, Small Purple and Gold, Grass-veneer sp.

Sunday 17 July 2011

London Tree Sparrow Partnership Tour


We dodged the rain today to see the London Tree Sparrow Partnership in action. Tour members had a look at one of the feeding stations where red and white millet attracts good numbers of Tree and House Sparrows giving a chance to see the two species side by side. We then joined one of the ringing teams and had a ringing demonstration where young birds were being fitted with colour (red) rings.

Tree Sparrows are in decline because of intensive agriculture practises and the use of chemicals that reduce seed and insect life for birds. Across the UK these agricultural methods have led to a decline of up to 80% in farmland birds. Our Beddington Tree Sparrows disperse from Beddington for the winter looking for food in the surrounding countryside (like they have done for centuries) but the food is no longer there so the birds perish and few return to breed.

So the plan is to:
a) Provide more winter feeding at Beddington Farmlands to try and encourage the birds to remain on site
b) Ask members of the public who live in the surrounding area to put up millet feeders for the Tree Sparrows (in their gardens and land)
c) Set up feeding stations in farmland in the surrounding countryside
d) Colour ring the birds at Beddington to track their movements to (hopefully) the new feeding stations.

So in short the public are being invited to take part in the project by
1) Looking out for Tree Sparrows with red rings on their legs and reporting it to
2) Setting up their own feeding stations of millet to attract Tree Sparrows

Here's a few pictures from today:

Richard Black (RSPB) with a Tree Sparrow pullus. Tree Sparrows take 14 days on average to fledge. As can be seen on this semi naked young bird the feathers are not evenly distributed over a bird but are arranged in tracts (pterylae) and seperated by bare skin (apteria).

Tree Sparrow pullus sporting its silver ring on the left leg- the right leg was fitted with a red ring (but is out of sight). Looking somewhat like a little dinosaur and without intervention.... heading the same way as them too.

Tree Sparrow eggs

Ringing demonstration with Tree Sparrow expert Derek Coleman (left)

Roger's Tree Sparrow video (some id tips and great photography)

Other London Tree Sparrow Partnership Links:

Saturday 16 July 2011


Here are some more photos of yesterdays star bird taken by the well deserved finder Johnny Allan (

The bird looks like an adult. A 2nd calender year bird should show various juvenile plumage features such as white streaking to the underparts and pale edges to the greater coverts but this bird looked pretty uniform - like an adult (however the underwing is in a lot of shade in the photos). The bird is obviously in moult- some of the inner primaries and inner secondaries are missing. According to Forsman the moult in adults starts from April to May and is suspended during migration- although moult in a vagrant context is always a complex consideration.

Black Kite is a very familar bird to many travellers and occurs across a wide area from western Europe to the far east, Africa to India to Australia. Black Kite occurs in 7 different races or subspecies and presumably the Beddington bird is of the nominate race migrans.
Here's a couple of my old holiday snaps- good to see a bird over the local patch that is so evocative of exotic distant places.

Black Kite over the Taj Mahal, India, 2008

Black Kites over the Sea of Galilee, Jordan/Israel, 2009

Friday 15 July 2011

BLACK KITE in the bloody garden!

Just got a call from Johnny to check out a Kite flying over the lake. I couldn't see it at first as I scanned high overhead but then noticed something big and black right outside the window. Needless to say I almost fell out of the window but managed to come round and got a few record shots with an old camera cursing that my 7D and big lens was at the bottom of the Atlantic instead of where it should have been!
A first for Beddington and now following on from Common Crane last year the 2nd first for Beddington from the obs.

Johnny's Glory Story here:

Tuesday 12 July 2011

The Beddington Obs

A few snaps of the 'Beddington Obs' (the right top flat in the bottom pic). Now complete with wildlife garden, bird feeders, moth trap room, office, library, observation window, 42 inch blu ray for watching BBC Wildlife and also window farming (toms, peppers, herbs and melons).

Sunday 10 July 2011


We are sorting out a tour to come and see the London Tree Sparrow Partnership in action. There will be a ringing demonstration, an opportunity to see the Tree Sparrows up close on the feeding stations and a chance to learn more about this special population and the conservation measures in place to protect them. If you are interested in coming along please email me on More here: