Wednesday 30 November 2016

Gull season

Started off the day looking for Barn Owl pellets with Tomos. The nest site (we had a breeding pair this year!) was very clean but we did find what must be a roost site with plenty of pellets. Marcus also says he found some in the Storm Tanks. With three young and the adults presumably there are at least five birds in the area (assuming no mortality yet). Hoping to go owling on Sunday night and will dissect some of the pellets asap.

Went under the tunnel and counted the hibernating Herald moths before heading over to join the gang on the viewing mound looking at the gulls. 

 Polish ringed Caspian Gull or Caspian Gull hybrid. Pic by Kojak Kojak's blog
 'Second winter Caspian-type' 
 Caspian looking Yellow-legged Gull. The anaemic looking leg colour and rangy structure suggests something not straight forward  
 Wing-tip pattern reveals extensive dark in wing tip closer to Yellow-legged Gull. (same bird as above) 
 First-winter Common Gull (canus). Following on from Peter Adraiens and Chris Gibbins recent paper on Common Gull complex identification in Dutch Birding, hoping to find a 'Russian Common Gull' (heinei)  at the farmlands. The most distinctive feature to look out for on one is a completely white head with a dark streaked boa- a bit like a mini- Caspian Gull head (unlike the streaked nape and crown of this bird) 
 Heavily marked juvenile/first-winter Common Gull (canus) 
 Second winter Common Gull. Using the key on pg 25 of DB 38:1; p9 outer web with all black base, p4 with one black spot on one web only= canus. 
 Adult Common Gull. Using key on pg 18 of DB 38:1. p9 without obvious white tongue-tip, p5 with broken black band, p7 with white tongue tip, p8 with grey at base of outer web, p9 with large mirror (larger than black tip) = canus 
 Gulls over Croydon 
Adult male Wigeon (right) with extensive white in coverts and two first-winter males with reduced white 
Red Kite over the viewing platform today (with an unusual extensively white head) 
Heralds in the tunnel. Tomos and I counted 23. 

Monday 28 November 2016

Weekend up town

Spent yesterday at the Natural History Museum at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 exhibition with the usual crew (Lee, Rach, Sue, Andrew and Martin). We then went to Harrod's to see Andrew's daughter Rosie, who was hosting a 'meet-the-artist' there before walking back past Kensington Gardens to Wagamama's for Chicken Katsu. A great little day in town. 
 Natural History Museum (in summer) 
 Dippy in the Foyer (apparently soon to be replaced with a new main feature) 
 The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 

 Quite a few architectural similarities between Harrods and the NHM. Quite different things going on inside. 
Rosie and Proud Couture at Harrods 

Saturday 26 November 2016

Playing Around

A pretty quiet day so practised with my new camera phone adaptor at trying to get some video, messed about with the trail camera on the feeders and tried to get some photos of the incinerator and birds. 

Caught this Jay and the trail camera 

The perils of wildlife filming in South London 

Friday 25 November 2016

Kes etc

 Kestrel (juvenile male?) performing in today's brisk northeast wind
 Getting that alula working
 11 Cormorants today including this six migrating south at height
 Not the best pic of yesterday's juvenile Iceland Gull 
 Lesser-black backed Gulls moving earlier on in the week. We used to get several thousand Lesser-blacks wintering but now they seem to move overhead and onwards. Ringing recoveries indicate they move to the Iberian Peninsula. 
Probably 10-15,000 Herring Gulls today. Once the incinerator is working and the tip is closed these numbers of gulls will be history
Teal and Gulls. A Goosander this morning on the North Lake didn't hang around long once the gulls arrived. Will be interesting to see what effect there is on the other waterbirds when the gulls have gone. We have until the end of 2017 before tipping stops at the farmlands. 
 One to id? Any help greatly appreciated. Diurnea lipsiella ? 
 Phil Chastenauf today- even in mid winter- still a shirt and tie! Legend! 
 Did a bit of work in the week on keeping Mile Road bridge cut back and also maintaining the planting around the entrance

Wednesday 23 November 2016


Spent the last couple of days at Holly's. Had to do a few chores like getting the baby room ready but managed to spend most of the time continuing with the Old Vicarage bioblitz. So far... still free!

Did moth trapping on two nights and did a vegetation survey of the driveway and car park. Also a bit of general birding on the grounds- a few Fieldfares going over, Redwings on the Guelder Rose, Goldcrest and Coal Tit in the trees.

Did a bit of night driving on the country lanes with Holly and found a few Muntjac deer and a single Roe Deer. Plenty of Redwings going over at night.

 Dark Chestnut 
 Feathered Thorn 
 Caddisfly sp 
 Velvet Mite

 Autumn Leaves at the Old Vicarage
 The Old Vicarage Recording Areas
 Holly driving the mobile obs 
In the mobile obs- was testing out the off grid electrical capability yesterday. Basically by using the engine as a generator I've got unlimited off grid power for all the equipment I need to Bioblitz. Straight into I-record. Planning on doing some exploration trips next year when the weather improves. Might have to get a dongle so that I have internet everywhere too. Can use the mobile phone to create a hot spot but not great. 

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Beddington Farmlands Campaign Update

Still no sign of the wet grassland habitat development starting which is very concerning as there is a race against the clock to replace the wetland habitat for our breeding Lapwings before 100 acre and southeast corner are decommissioned. 

Went to the launch of the Wandle Valley Regional Park Strategy 2016-2020 at the GLA Onion on Friday and there was lots of discussion about the new community fund (the s106 money from the incinerator) and the potential to realise several objectives including biodiversity green space improvements adjacent to the farmlands, strengthening green corridors and links between the wider park and the farmlands  and also developing visitor facilities and increased public engagement. 

Without the habitats it's all a bit pointless so hopefully work will start soon. 

It also seems pretty final that Irrigation Bridge is going to be demolished and we're going to loose one of our most important access points to the reserve.

So a bit of a mixed bag and basically all the power is with Viridor (for anyone who hasn't worked it out yet we now live in a corporate dictatorship where local council, community groups, NGOs, regulatory bodies and the courts are almost completely powerless). The only hope is to encourage the company to meet their social and environmental commitments either through providing support, additional funding, volunteering or providing expert services or by discouraging their injustices through direct action E.G. HERE , activism or dragging them into regulatory and legal processes to slow them down a little bit. A good campaign to encourage corporate environmental responsibility will utilise all methods and measures available. 

A couple new access improvements at the reserve in recent weeks 
The Incinerator (the Death Star) and in the foreground a new area of sacrificial crop being planted

I'm contemplating standing for a local politician- basically to use the platform to highlight the importance of Beddington Farmlands and engagement with nature for the local population. Here's my first campaigning poster! 

Sunday 20 November 2016

Top Ten Birding Finds

It's raining and it's November so it's reminiscent time (any excuse to avoid dealing with my work back- log basically). Full finds list HERE

10 Short-eared Owl, Beddington Farmlands 1985 

Finding one of these in 1985 when I was 13 was basically a life changing event. I didn't know what it was (parents couldn't afford a field guide) and when I found out (by dustman Garry Messenbird) that it was a day flying owl - it basically blew my peasant child mind. From that day on I had to see and know everything about birds. 

9 Little Egret, Beddington Farmlands 1991- A County First

Not the actual bird- 1991, a decade before affordable cameras. Wasn't keeping a notebook at the time as was 19 years old and had developed an unhealthy interest in female humans 

The harbinger of local colonisation. I found this on a day off from working in Burger King. Garry Messenbird had popped into the local cafe for a fry up and by the time he'd wiped the egg from his face it was all too late. It took Garry a few years to get the bird back- now its a regular bird. 

8 Pectoral Sandpiper, Beddington Farmlands 1988, a first for Beddington 

Found this bird with birding guru Simon Aspinall (as in the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre in Cley HERE). Regular birding and instruction with Simon in the late 1980's set my course for the future. This was my first Beddington first. Also over the years found several others including Fulmar, Pacific Golden Plover, Long-tailed Skua, Great Skua, Little Tern, Dartford Warbler and Serin. 

7. Eastern Black Redstart, Georgia, former USSR

Dutch Birding write up on this. Found with Darryl. As far as we know- a first for Georgia?? 

6. Zino's Petrel- not on Madeira. 

To be honest Bob Flood identified this from photos (pic above is extract from North Atlantic Seabirds) but we did find and photograph it on the Azores Pelagics (AZORES PELAGICS), One of very few records of this species away from Madeira and one of the rarest seabirds in the world.
Supporting cast on these trips are Swinhoe's Petrels-  we seem to have discovered the most regular spot for them in the WP. MORE HERE. Also found Brown Booby and Fea's-type Petrels on these trips and other project members have found South Polar Skua. 

5. Azores WP megas

Eastern Wood Pewee 2015- 2nd for WP
Hudsonian Godwit 2007- found with Simon Buckell. (photo from Marcel Haas' book) 
 White-crowned Sparrow 2005
Mourning Dove 2005

I'm just going to lump all these at No 5. Mega WP finds (often with Darryl) include Eastern Wood Pewee, Hudsonian Godwit (with Simon Buckell), Summer Tanager, Trindade Petrel, Hooded Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Mourning Dove. Mega here loosely means species recorded less than 10 times in the WP at the time. COPY OF SCIENTIFIC PAPER HERE

4. Short-billed Gull- First for the WP

Early 2000s were an exciting time for gull watching in the WP.  Along with Mushaq Ahmed, Sam Woods, Kate Armstrong, Claire Jones, Chris Townend and Simon Buckell we did a series of gull watching expeditions to Ireland and the Azores. It culminated in Kate and I finding a first for the WP, a Short-billed Gull, the american race (or species to some authorities) of Common Gull. We also found a stack load of American Herring Gulls on the Azores, a handful of Bonaparte's Gulls, Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern and Kumlien's Gulls in Ireland. 

 Short-billed Gull write up in Dutch Birding COPY OF SCIENTIFIC PAPER HERE
 American Herring Gulls in the Azores 2004
 American Herring Gulls etc in Azores 2003 (Birding World) 
 Kumlien's Gull in Ireland 2004 (notebook extract) 
A very interesting discovery in 2002 was this Yellow-legged Gull at Killybegs, Ireland. Not a lot was known of Azores Gull at the time (it was thought that winter birds are always heavily streaked on the head). However on reflection this bird looks like a classic 3rd-winter Azores Gull. 

3. Pacific Golden Plover, Beddington Farmlands, 2010 - first one in London since 1870 

A fly-over BB rarity on the patch! and a great group identification exercise (see the article in Birdwatch).

2. It's a tie breaker with both (three even) at no 1: 

1. Great Skua 1998 and Long-tailed Skua 2010 at Beddington Farmlands

Seabirds on the patch (inland in London) are mind blowing and not much beats in land Skuas!

1. White-eyed Vireo, Corvo 2005, first for the WP 

Extract from Dutch Birding on write up for Corvo including pic of the 2nd one found by Darryl. My photo of the first one still goes down as one of the worst photographs ever published in birding literature. Can you re-find it (below)