Wednesday 28 February 2018

The Beast from the East takes a bite

I have spent nearly 12 hours today staring out the obs window. One of the few times I went away from the window was the precise moment Frankie had 2 female Goosander (a local rarity).

So three days into this storm and the effects are beginning to show. There were movements of Lapwing and Golden Plover across London and Surrey. Steve Gale continues with his run of record breaking counts and had the highest numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover for the region (over Canon's Farm) with 617 and 170 respectively. More here: Steve Gale blog

Final scores on the doors for Beddington (between Frankie, Kojak and myself) were:
2 Goosander, 193 Fieldfare, 17 Redwing, 16 Meadow Pipit, 195 Lapwing, 25 Golden Plover, 1 Jack Snipe, 1 first-winter Iceland Gull, 1 first-winter Glaucous Gull, 2 Peregrine and 1 Chiffchaff.

There wasn't a lot of movement before around 0800. Fieldfares dominated the morning but after 1300 the Lapwings started to move. The movement was in a westerly direction with a few of the Meadow Pipits heading north-west. 

Certainly been an interesting day across London with escape movement birds being seen across the region including central London. SEE HERE. Woodcock, Merlin and Avocet have been recorded in the region today. 

 Lapwing fighting against the snow
 Golden Plovers heading west
 Fieldfare in the obs garden 
 Fieldfares going over 
Presumably this cold weather makes birds more vulnerable in several ways. I've been enjoying the song of this Song Thrush (a ringed bird- presumably one of our local birds) before this weather started. Seems an age away from when we were expecting Spring HERE- although it was just over a week ago! (although a Wheatear was claimed today in Lancashire!)

Tuesday 27 February 2018

The Beast from the East 3

So I must have spent a good four or five hours on watch from the obs window today and overall the conclusion is that most birds have decided to sit it out. I did have 2 Golden Plover, about 30 Lapwing, 15 Fieldfare and 1 Skylark moving west but certainly not a major escape movement.

Wanstead had nearly 300 Lapwing moving west and there were small groups of Lapwings over other parts of London with a few Golden Plovers.

The weather is set to last all week so it will be most surprising if over the next day or two things don't start moving more.

 Golden Plover including a partially summer plumaged bird. 
 Fieldfare moving west. Fieldfares have been very thin on the ground this year locally (only one or two sightings). There have been up to 200 Redwing in south east corner and I did start seeing a few more along the footpath indicating return passage (before the weather turned). 
 A very distant flock of Lapwing moving in the blizzard 
 Collared Dove and Blackbird in the snow. The Blackbird was feeding on the Rowan and the Pyracantha that I planted - so good to see the planting for winter food working 

Monday 26 February 2018

The Beast From the East 2

All I had this morning was 1 Golden Plover and 25+ Lapwing flying over as this weather system starts to intensify bringing some snow and biting cold winds.

Hard weather movements (MORE HERE) require prolonged freezing conditions with frozen ground and water preventing birds from feeding,  If these conditions prevail birds undertake escapes movements, heading west or south to reach warmer conditions. Late February is late in the winter to be experiencing such conditions so it will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few days. It very much depends whether the birds decide to sit it out or escape. Many wintering birds would have already started to move back north so this one will certainly be an interesting one to watch.

The synoptic conditions are very interesting too. Basically it is colder here than in the North Pole. A cell of warm air has pushed the Polar Air Mass south so this is the North Pole atmosphere which explains the particularly biting and fresh wind. Perhaps worrying the North Pole is 20 C warmer than average at the moment and 2018 is a record breaking winter temperature year suggesting that Polar warming is accelerating. 

Will certainly be interesting what happens on the bird front over next few days. Flysafe are predicting increased migrant activity over the North Sea. 

 A warm air cell over the North Pole has pushed the Polar Air Mass over Europe
 Daily Arctic temperatures in 2018 compared to the average 
 Radar predictions from FlySafe over the North Sea predict an increase in migrant activity over next few days- presumably hard weather movements 
The scene from the Obs window 

Saturday 24 February 2018

The Beast from the East

No I'm not talking about my ex-partner, I'm talking about this:

Weather forecast for next week- seabirds maybe? Hard weather movements off the continent- will see?

 The juvenile/first winter Glaucous again today. 
 Another beast, but most likely not a beast from the east but something from Greenland. Juvenile Iceland today too which also would have come from Greenland so very possible explanation for such a pale and large Glauc. 
 Hybrid Ferruginous DuckxPochard in Pochard flock. Better view of this bird HERE
 Just a female Pochard 
and some Tufted Ducks 

Thursday 22 February 2018

Odd bods

 This gull stood out. Clearly darker upperparts than nearby argenteus and with extensive pale tongues, white tongue tips but with no black on p5. Maybe a summer plumaged argentatus or even a hybrid CaspianxHerring? 
 This adult 'Med Gull' didn't seem quite right either 
and one of the two leucistic Herring Gulls which are currently around. This bird has a contrasting grey mantle with light brown ghost markings in the primaries. 

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Incinerator builders, Lagan, go bust!


Incinerator construction in 2017

Monday 19 February 2018

The Battle Drums start beating

Currently squaring up for the May local councillor elections where I'll be standing for the Green Party. As Beddington Farmlands has the potential to become a premier urban nature reserve and a major resource and local area attraction for local people I'll be focusing on enforcement of planning conditions and accountability of our local rogue Lords of the Manor Viridor/Pennon and the delivery of our nature reserve. Will also be campaigning for controls on air pollution from the incinerator, rent caps and the living wage. 

The Green Party do actually offer working people and demographically diverse and independent vibrant communities the best framework to thrive in. Our ward is a victim of fat cat corporate abuse administered by a crony led, rotten and corrupted Lib Dems one party mini-state. What we need is a peasants (designer peasants) revolt to break the dictatorship. It's going to be a lot of fun! 

Saturday 17 February 2018

Spring is Coming

What a lovely couple of days, with a break in the wintery conditions and the first pulse of spring action. Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral were on the wing this morning and yesterday night there was the first influx of moths at the obs moth trap. Buzzards were circling today and the gulls were also showing signs of migratory restlessness. The Cherry Plums are in bud and at the farm entrance crocus are out ,Speedwells are flowering by the hide and Lesser Celandine is out along the main road. 

 Juvenile male Peregrine doing a close fly by this morning 
 Female Kestrel 
 The juvenile/first winter Iceland Gull is still around
 as is the leucistic Herring Gull 
 Moths at the trap over last couple of days include Oak Beauty,  March Moth, Satellites, Small Brindled Beauty, Mompha jurasicella, Agonopterix heracliana, Agonopterix alstromeriana and Totricodes alternella
 March Moth 
 Totricodes alternella 

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Juniper Top and Bramblehall Wood- The Epicentre of the UK Hawfinch invasion

A truely epic morning. At least 260 Hawfinches- the sight and sounds were incredible. Steve Gale found the birds several weeks ago but the numbers keep going up and there are also many birds in the surrounding valleys. Steve estimates up to 400 birds in the Mickleham-Juniper-Bramblehall complex. See Steve's account from today HERE.  Another account today from Kojak HERE

 Nearly 100 in this flock alone and there were birds all over the valley behind us 

 View from Juniper top. The woodland is mainly Beech, Yew and Ash with areas of Larch. The birds are mainly feeding on Yew and Larch. 
 Spurge Laurel- a lifer! Flowering already- an early source of nectar. 
The Parking Space is Whitehill Car Park and the Black Line A-B is the area where most of the birds were- either side of the line on both sides of the valley 

Bird Coin

Everyone is talking about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and was just thinking how block chain and cryptocurrencies might change birding and popular natural history. The Block Chain itself is a way of maintaining records/ledger in a community rather than entrusting it with a centralised bank/authority so has the potential of by-passing traditional authority structures and creating trust worthy pop up community structures. So potentially the block chain can have other uses rather than just banking. Could we see national lists being maintained on block chains, taxonomies on block chains- could it lead to popular movements or further collaborative scientific efforts. Cryptocurrencies provide a medium for micro-currencies- could we see the micro-monetisation of birding. There are already websites out there that pay a nano-fee (with cryptocurrency) to individuals who populate a user generated information platform- could we see bird information services go that way. 

For background on Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and Block Chains there is a good documentary on Netflix (Banking on Bitcoin) and also a recent Panaroma available on I-player - Who wants to be a Bitcoin Millionaire? There's also endless material on the internet but most of it is hyping material. 

Obviously all of this is probably 95% hype (a sad confirmation of the desperation of humanity) at the moment but after the bubble bursts Block Chain technology and Cryptocurrency is here to stay and will change everything including Natural History. Could we see Bird Coin appear?

Sunday 11 February 2018

Ferruginous Duck and hybrids

Did a family day at the London Wetland Centre today and thought I'd have a look at the Ferruginous Ducks considering the recent hybrid at the farmlands HERE

Adult female Ferruginous Duck showing the black tipped bill with blue sub-terminal band that cuts down the side of the bill almost at a right angle 
Adult female Ferruginous Duck showing very dark upperparts (with no scalloping), dark border to the undertail coverts (the femoral area/coverts), lack of contrast between breast and flanks and overall much more rich reddish colour tones than the presumed Ferruginous x Pochard at the farmlands below
 The Beddington Bird. Compared to the adult female Ferruginous above this bird has a head profile more similar to Pochard, the blue bill band is obliquely angled, the dark on the bill tip is more extensive, the bird is overall more brownish, has grey scalloping on the upperparts, has contrast between flanks and breast and also lacks the dark border on the femoral coverts. It would have been useful to have found a first-winter Ferruginous Duck at the Wetland Centre to compare as this would have been even closer to the Beddington bird- presumably browner, with less well defined bill pattern but overall would resemble an adult female. More photos of the Beddington bird HERE
 Adult female and male Ferruginous Duck. 
 Also a few other interesting things in the LWC collection- displaying Hooded Mergansers
 Comparison of sleeping adult male Lesser Scaup (above) and Greater Scaup (below) 

 Continuing this year's Manky Mallards theme HERE, these Indian Runners were entertaining
 What is this? (it's Butterbur- cheers Steve!) 
Had to show Jacob the famous Asian Short-clawed Otters- a good excuse to drag the family out while doing a bit of covert id research 

Hybrid duck links: