Saturday 31 March 2018

Western Sahara Wildlife

One of our main focuses over the last week was to look for Western Saharan mammals and other desert wildlife. We did two dusk to mid-night night-drives, some moth trapping and on the last day sea watching for cetaceans. 

A great haul of desert and regional mammal specialities including Sand Cat, African Wildcat, Fennec Fox, Ruppell's Fox, Desert Hedgehog, African Savannah Hare, Pygmy Gerbil, Lesser Egyptian Jerboa and we also found the Atlantic Hump-backed Dolphins in Dakhla Bay. Also had a Bat sp. and other members of the group had Lesser Egyptian Gerbil. 

On the herping front we had Sand Viper, Elegant and Dune Geko, Brongersma's Toad, Dumeril's Fringe-toed and Golden Fringed-fingered Lizards, Spiny-tailed Lizard and a probable Three-toed Skink. 

Not a lot in the moth and butterfly department- an Acacia Blue buttefly and Morrocan Orange-tip butterfly, a few un-identified micro-moths and a few Crimson Speckled Moths. 

 Sand Viper- several juveniles on the road on our first night drive
 Fennec Fox - note the diagnostic black tipped tail (the somewhat similar large eared, sandy coloured Ruppell's Fox have a white tipped tail) 
 African Wildcat- the long legged, leaner structure is distinctive from Eurasian Wildcat but the banding on the tail and legs is reminiscent. For Wildcat id see HERE
 Atlantic Hump-backed Dolphin- up to three animals in Dakhla Bay. Note the small fin on the hump back and the strongly arched diving posture (exposing the fluke on completion). There are also Bottle-nosed Dolphins in the region that invite confusion. 
Male Dumeril's Fringe-toed Lizard
 Female Dumeril's Fringe-toed Lizard- cheers Pierre for id! 
 Spiny-tailed Lizard- up to 40cm in length with a conspicuous wide spiny tail, Id from PAC- Uromastyx dispar flavifasciata- a species distinct from the common one in Northern Morocco 
 Dune Geko Stenodactylus petrii (cheers Pierre!) 
Elegant Gecko  Stenodactylus sthenodactylus- cheers Pierre for id. This gecko prefers more rocky terrain than the Dune Gecko above.
 Acacia Blue sp. 
 Pyralid/crambid sp? Matin Honey from NHM is looking into the id of this- it is one of the eremic erebid noctuids. 
 Crimson Speckled 
Praying Mantis sp Message from Bill Urwin (cheers Bill!) : According to Judith Marshall (NHM) via Paul Brock, your mantis is a male Blepharopsis mendica. According to Wikipedia devil's flower mantisEgyptian flower mantisthistle mantis, and Arab mantis are among its common names.

Friday 30 March 2018

Western Sahara Landscapes

Back from a fantastic trip to the Western Sahara- totally epic! WP specialities, oasis migrants, desert mammals and stunning landscapes. I'll post pics over the next few days of Landscapes, Desert Wildlife, Migrants and Western Sahara specialities. So here's a few landscape shots. 

 Stoney desert with tussocks and scattered low shrubs- habitat of African Desert Warbler, desert larks and desert mammals 
 Rocky outcrops at Laglatt and Derramen- habitat of Pharoh Eagle Owl, Golden Eagles with migrants in the scattered scrub and raptors overhead using the outcrops to navigate and pick up thermals 
 Dunes and rocky outcrop at Laglatt- the scattered Acacia concentrate migrants
 More tpyical desert habitat on the Aousserd Road 
 Rocky gorge at Laglatt- habitat for Blue Rock Thrush and Desert Larks
Oued Jenna with Acacia scrub in a narrow wet belt forming one of the most bird concentrated areas in the region- habitat for Golden Nightjar, Cricket Warblers, Sudan Golden Sparrows, Desert Sparrow and migrants
Looking from Laglatt over to Oued Jenna

 Desert Birding 
Our night drive set up 

Birds and desert animals photos to follow over next few days. 

Saturday 24 March 2018

Western Sahara Day 1- stuck in Casablanca

It's late, been travelling for 39 hours to get not very far at all and to cut a long story short got stuck in Casablanca so we visited a nearby lagoon. Had Ferruginous Ducks, Marbled Teals, Crested Coots and a good suite of wetland birds. Finally arrived in Western Sahara and we head off to the desert tomorrow. 

 Marbled Teal 
 Crested Coot 
 Stone Curlew 
 Striped-necked Terrapin (think) 

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Campaign Update

Been sorting out our first flyers and working on the campaign plan. 


Monday 19 March 2018

The Beast 2- Just when the Sand Martins thought it was safe

I must admit to submitting to another day of muppetry today and instead of hitting Farmoor or some other water body for a displaced Kitty or Little Gull I took the family to Millet's Farm for soft play, a visit to the Lamas and hog roast. I did check the ponds there for a storm blown waif but overall my crimes against the cause were justifiably rewarded with seeing sweet FA during the return of the Beast. (I have actually got a secret mission to find a rarity at one of these family day out places).

 I did venture around Worminghall for an hour or two yesterday and had Golden Plovers flying over the Old Vic and winter thrushes in the horse paddock. Also had Golden Plovers over the M40 on the way back from the gig. 

 Fieldfare in the paddock 
 Common Buzzard over Worminghall
 Redwings in the paddock 
 Robin in the paddock 
 Rook at Millet's farm, also a few winter thrushes there and 3 Gadwall on the duck pond 
The Old Vic in the snow

Sunday 18 March 2018

Thee Bryans at Sophie's 40th

Been mainly in doors this weekend, in the warm, but missing the action with the Beast 2. There was Stone Curlew and Little Gulls at Beddington yesterday. Had a worthy excuse though as performed with the boys at Sophie's 40th birthday party. We did a stripped down guitars and piano only set- mainly because I couldn't get the drums and the PA out of the loft and also because Matt came over to practise drums and bass and we went down the curry house instead. Hoping one of these decades we actually get our act together. 

A few bits from Sophie's 40th 

One of our own classics 

Thursday 15 March 2018

An execution

Interesting correspondence today with the Chair of the Beddington Farmlands Conservation Science Group (CSG), Dave Warburton. In light of the 5000 strong petition calling on Sutton Council to enforce planning conditions on Viridor and develop the Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve I formally wrote to him and the CSG to ask for an official statement from the CSG to respond to the petition (as local councillors were responding in an inaccurate manner). I also suggested that unless the CSG takes a strong lead with enforcement and supports the local petition and local community than the CSG is nothing more than a front for the Viridor agenda. I've been a member of the CSG for nearly 10 years. Dave's response was to inform me that my position on the CSG is now untenable. 

Wednesday 14 March 2018

One place remaining on the Azores Pelagic 2018

There's one place left this year- please email me ( if interested. 24th August to 1st September 2018.

If interested in something less hardcore or you've got a family, partner and need to covertly twitch Monteiro's than here's another option AZORES NATURAL HISTORY TRIP.

Here's our Birding Frontiers article on the Pelagic project: MONTEIRO'S PETREL AND PELAGIC BIRDING OFF THE AZORES

 Monteiro's Storm-Petrel (Rafa Armada) 
 Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel- recently recorded every year 
 Breaching Sowerby's Beaked Whales (Richard Bonser) 
 Blue Shark and Pilot Fish 

Monday 12 March 2018

Session with Dave

Had a good gulling session with Dave today- juvenile/first-winter Glaucous Gull, second-winter Iceland Gull, first-winter Caspian Gull, a third-winter and first-winter Yellow-legged Gull, a few 'argentatus' and a noticeable influx of Lesser-black backed Gulls.  More from Dave HERE.

The other guys had the first Wheatear and Sand Martin for the year, 70+ Snipe and 6 Jack Snipe off the islands which are currently being worked on and a Woodcock. 

 First-winter Caspian Gull 
 Second-winter Iceland Gull 
 Juvenile/first-winter Glaucous Gull 
 Juvenile 'Northern' Herring Gull 
The PochardxFerruginous Duck hybrid also back on the lake 

Sunday 11 March 2018

Redwings on the move

Had 55 Redwing calls between 1030 and 1230 last night from the obs nocturnal migration recorder.

Certainly a few birds moving around at the moment with several interesting migrants across London including a Spoonbill along the Thames and then at Brent and Dunlin and Redshank at the farmlands today.

The very mild conditions last night were also good for moths with Oak Beauty, March Moth, a few micros and the first Common Quakers for the year.

Common Quakers and Oak Beauty 

Saturday 10 March 2018

Slight Vis Mig

NocMiggers are reporting winter thrushes flying over at night from places like Portland but I've not had any from the Beddington obs. The first Sand Martins were reported in North London today too. Our only signs of very early spring migration this morning was 2+6+2 Cormorant moving south, a male Pintail was on the lake and a few Redwings by the hide. 3 Ruff in  the south east corner were remaining from last week's cold blast. 

The juvenile Iceland Gull was in its usual spot on the North Lake and there was also a first-winter Caspian.   

Been a couple of Dotted Borders in the moth trap. 

 The regular juvenile/first-winter Iceland Gull 
 First-winter Caspian Gull 
Cormorants moving South