Sunday 29 April 2018

Farmoor and Otmoor

Finally managed to get out in the field today for some proper birding. The north east winds and frontal conditions this weekend have generated falls and flights of waders across a lot of inland sites with good numbers of Barwits and also surprisingly Blackwits. In a typical spring Blackwits would have moved through earlier but presumably the cold conditions have held them back.

Visited Farmoor in the morning (2 Bonxies there yesterday!), met up with the gang for lunch and went to some kind of psychic weird fortune telling thing in Thame and then back in the game in the evening with a visit to Otmoor. 

Farmoor was totally buzzing with hirundines, must have been 2000-3000, mainly Swallows and then Sand Martins and House Martins with about 40+ Swift too. A few Yellow Wagtails about, 2+ 'White Wag-types', 3 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover, 10+ Common Sandpiper , 1 Oystercatcher, 12+ Common Tern and 1 Arctic Tern. Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were calling from the river side.

Otmoor was rather bleak with few birds in song. Luckily the Grasshopper Warbler was reeling in the car park field and had my first Cuckoo singing for the year too. Out on Big Otmoor there were 17 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Dunlin, 2 Little Ringed Plover and there was also Curlew singing from Greenaways and at least 6 Oystercatchers around. 

 The three Dunlin at Farmoor- such a variable species
 Bird 1- the largest of the trio and also the most retarded with winter feathers still in the mantle. It's possibly a first-summer bird, the primaries look more brown than the birds below and the median coverts are very worn. 
 Bird 2- a full summer plumaged bird. Perhaps an adult female with the restricted black in the belly (not got access to my literature here so will check when get home) 
 Bird 3-The brightest of the trio and a full belly patch. It's even got some streaks on the flanks which if I remember correctly is a typical feature of the yank race (presumably a variable feature across the extremely variable races- presumably these birds are of the schinzii race, moving up from West Africa- maybe even some of the birds we saw in Western Sahara a few weeks ago). 
 Ringed Plover- Tundra or Taiga? 

 Hirundines at Farmoor today 
 'White Wagtail- type' - a bit dark on the upperparts, perhaps an intergrade? 
 The best view I got of the Otmoor Barwits 
One of at least 6 displaying across Big Otmoor and Ashgrave

Saturday 28 April 2018

The Old Vicarage- Wildflower Meadow

Didn't mean to be working this weekend, as it's one of the best local birding weekends of the year but the late spring has delayed a lot of work plans so spent today catching up and made a start on the plans for the wildflower meadow at the Old Vicarage. The ground was still too wet and soil too cloddy so need to let it dry out before can create a seed bed and sow the meadow. However myself, Iaon, Miki and Izzy did as much as we could today. 

 We got a lot of wild nettle areas (see here) on site so decided to attempt to turn some over to meadow. The area is rich is nutrients so need to rotovate and remove all aggressive weed roots. Will need to use some of the more hardy mixes for this kind of area- will be lucky if we can get a decent flower meadow in such conditions. 
 First step was to strim and remove all arisings 
 Then all large stumps removed with a stump grinder 
 Then rotovated and remove as many roots and organic material as possible.
 We then got it to this stage and treated with a herbicide to kill off all the existing weeds. Will still need to rotovate again to bring up as much as the sub soil as possible and then prepare the seed bed. 
 A Romanian style BBQ for lunch 
Izzy and another spring at the old vic 

More on the ongoing work at the Old Vic HERE

Friday 27 April 2018

Bits and bobs

Been a varied week with no time to actually get out in the field doing some focused birding but been keeping an eye out from the obs and while about. There's been a mini-influx of Black Kite in the region with one reported over the farmlands too. Had a male Barn Owl calling outside the window (see recording and sonogram below)  and also a few migrants going over. 

Kojak , Roger, Frankie, Swifty and the other guys have been busy at the farmlands logging the spring migration and we've also been cracking on with the 2018 Breeding Bird Surveys. 

So with Spring finally kicking in, things have picked up on the wildlife gardening front at work and we've been doing a few jobs in addition to the usual tree work. We've been noticing how this late Spring has condensed a lot of flowering plants into synchronised flowering- combinations that you might not see in a more typical Spring such as Cowslips and Primroses flowering together and flowering Cherries in bloom with most of the trees in leaf- including Ash even starting to come and now too.

Been all go on the political campaign front- we've delivered over 5000 flyers with more to come and did a stall outside the train station on Tuesday evening meeting the public and handing out flyers. 

Despite the warmer days the evenings have still been pretty cool with relatively low moth numbers in the trap. The highlight was a Least Black Arches in the hallway. 

Attended the Wandle Forum AGM on Wednesday night- good to see the farmlands featuring as a strong theme in the presentations. 

 Re-planted up the raised beds at the entrance to Beddington Farmlands 
 Lavenders and Sage- good for pollinators and drought resistance and pretty cheap too- so hopefully nobody will steal them like often happens with communal planting round here 
 Cowslips and Bluebells flowering together
 Magnolia and flowering Cherry 
 Cherry in flower set against a summer like vista with trees in leaf 
 Brindled Pug ?- been a lot of Pugs in the trap in this week
 Double-striped Pug 
An incredibly early Endotricha flammealis
The highlight of the week has been working on a campaign song video with the kids

Male and female Barn Owls have a different call this time of year, this calling male has a less coarse and more trilling call. Click HERE to hear both male and female calling at same time.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Earth Day Local Protest

What better way to spend Earth Day than highlighting the importance of our local green spaces and calling on our local authority and businesses in our area to work together to develop a flagship green community in the Wandle Valley Ward.

It was Jacob's first protest so we made him a special T-shirt for the occasion.

 Happy faces from the Sutton and Croydon Greens 
 Unhappy faces in response to the way the local authority and businesses are buggering up our local nature 
 Wandle Valley Ward Green Councillor Candidates (Helen, myself and Gina) with Green MEP Jean Lambert. 
 Protesting on Goat Bridge about the loss of the Riverine mature tree habitat that was felled by Redrow 
 Myself, Holly and Jacob with his new T-shirt
 A close up of Jacob's new T-shirt - a little reminder to the locally ruling Libs Dems and big businesses like Viridor about how all their  arrogance, projected insecurities and greed is nothing more than a very sad attack on little ones like Jacob- our next generation

Saturday 21 April 2018

Last few days

Been a busy few days working on the local election campaign, work and getting in a bit of birding, night recording and moth trapping in between. Met up with Sue and Roger Payne today at Rainham and had a look round there. Highlights were lots of summer migrants including Hobby. 

Its been very quiet with the night recording- Little Ringed Plover being the highlight.

A pretty good night in the moth trap on Thursday evening, the highlight being a Powdered Quaker and a Herald caught last night.

Lesser Whitethroat now singing outside the obs window. 

 Sedge Warbler at Rainham today- at least 5 on our walk, also Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. At least five Marsh Harrier, 2 Hobby and 3 Common Buzzard. Also one female Wheatear. 
 Marsh Frog at Rainham today 
 Powdered Quaker- also this week Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, Small Quaker, Hebrew Character, Brindled Pug, Double-striped Pug and an influx of Platyedra subcinerea, 
 Also this Herald 
 Brindled Pug
Our three election flyers that we have been distributing this week. Also on the local election front been distributing myth busting flyers, running social media campaigns, recorded a campaign song! and tomorrow we have a visit from Jean Lambert, MEP who is here to highlight the destruction of the local wildlife that is going on. INSIDE CROYDON ARTICLE HERE

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Spring finally

Actually has felt like spring for the last couple of days in London. Had 6 Wheatears on the mounds today, a few Swallows and Sand Martins yesterday, Little Ringed Plover calling at night and a few more insects around now too. Had Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Holly Blue and Small White today but the evenings have been cool so still no big moth nights- a couple of Clouded Drabs, Common Quaker, Double-striped Pug- the usual for this time of year. 

Things are picking up at work now too. We had a very busy winter at Little Oak with a major (major for us) Merton council contract and now things are beginning to pick up on the private front too. Quoted for a private wildflower meadow last week and also been working on the Hackbridge wildlife spots over the last couple of days too- the entrance to Beddington Farmlands, Gillian's Garden and Silverdale. Ian from downstairs (former Beddington Park gardener) is helping out now too and if I get elected will have another £10K to chuck at this stuff.

Been all go on the election campaign - attended Hustings yesterday evening as an audience member but unfortunately the Beddington farmlands questions didn't come up. Peter Friel represented the Greens and did a very good job on fielding questions right across a broad range of subjects. 

 Male Wheatear (Five males and one female today) 
 Small Tortoiseshell on Dandelion 
 Clouded Drab (above and below)- extremely variable moth 

 A blanket of Groundsel has carpeted the new meadow on the Southern Mound- not sure if that's the plan? 
 Gillians Garden 2018- need to start an irecord site for here now- had a couple of new species today Groundsel, Beautiful Plume and Germander Speedwell 
Peter Friel representing the Greens at last night's local election Hustings 

Sunday 15 April 2018

Hoopoe with Bufflehead on the side

What a day. Was looking around Little Woodcote for migrants (a fall of Robins, 3 Swallow and a single Whitethroat) with Sid when news came in of a female Bufflehead on the Beddington North Lake. Kojak had found it while doing the WeBS. We presumed it was the escaped silver ringed female that has been doing the rounds- actually been following me round all my main patches- Otmoor, Staines and now Beddington. The gang confirmed it had a silver ring on the right leg. So Sid and I went to twitch the Bufflehead and while watching that I noticed a couple of crows mobbing something over the mound- a Hoopoe! Eventually the bird settled on the main island and a local twitch followed. 

This is the 4th official Hoopoe for the farmlands following singles on August 24th 1956, May 11th to 13th 1959 and April 21st 1968. There is also an unconfirmed report in 1972. Therefore this is the first record since 1968 - the first in 50 years!! A major local blocker. 

As it was a planned nature day with the boys today we spent the rest of the day processing the moth trap, listening to last night's nocturnal sounds and then went for a walk along the Wandle, where we met one of the local fisherman with a beautiful 4lb Brown Trout. 

A few goodies in the moth trap too. 

 Hoopoe in flight 
 Hoopoe on the deck 
 Hoopoe erect 
 First found being mobbed by crows 
 Female Bufflehead- a first for the farmlands (presumably Cat E) totally eclipsed by the Hoopoe 
Female Bufflehead- presumably the escaped female doing the rounds across the South of England. Silver ring on the right leg. 
 Early Thorn 
 Common Plume 
 Pale Mottled Willow
 Twin-spot Quaker 
 Agonopterix arenella (a local scarcity) 
 The Beddington boys
 Me and the boys in the lab 
 Sid's siblings in on the migrant hunt this morning