Wednesday 30 January 2019

Quiet Times

Did a morning on the farmlands today. Despite the cold snap at the moment nothing was moving really. Waxwings have got as far south as Balham in our area so we are keeping an eye out for them. 

17 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark and 2-3 Stonechat on the Southern Mound with good numbers of Starlings and Corvids feeding on the recently mowed meadow was encouraging to see that this habitat is supporting wintering bird populations.  At least four Cetti's Watrblers and 5 Water Rail calling around the edge of the lakes. 39 Pochard on the lakes was a relatively good count. Otherwise pretty quiet- the gull numbers seems to be getting even lower and a Viridor contractor mentioned that tipping had completely finished now so we should expect to see even less gulls- it was good that we got our last Glaucous and Iceland Gulls in this winter. Only one Caspian Gull sighting so far this year- could well be a mega locally in the near future. 

There was a lot of Viridor activity on site today with a group of top cats walking around and certainly more activity on the Wet Grassland area. Not holding our breath but there might actually be some progress being made with the restoration. 

 Starling- don't always get them this tame- maybe struggling a bit in the cold snap 
 39 Pochard today- a pretty good count 
 Teal were out on the ice- presumably some of the beds on 100 acre have frozen over 
One of several Stonechats (6-8 across the site) 

Saturday 26 January 2019

Update on the Battle of Beddington Farmlands

Spent the morning at the farmlands with Dodge, Tank, Pyro and Swifty. Looks like Viridor are doing a little bit on their restoration hack job (which I suppose is good news of sorts) and there are excavation works on the wet grassland area. In theory this area should be a incredible part of the restoration mosaic but we are talking about Viridor here who have so far engineered a local ecological apocalypse, have ostracised and oppressed the local community and are 7 years behind the restoration scheme, we are loosing approx 20 acres a year of a 400 acre site and 200 acres of those have an uncertain future with no management plan in place and all set to the back drop of a 300,000 tonne incinerator three times the size of Buckingham Palace looming over it all. 

It will literally be a miracle if a decent nature reserve ever appears out of this chaos. Its the world in microcosm and what ever happens here will be whatever contribution we make to the future of the whole planet- and it is not looking good! 

Anyway, walking around the apocalyptic landscape today was a testament to the resilience of nature to the corporate onslaught . Over 150 Teal on 100 acre beds being hunted by a Peregrine, 8 Water Pipit across the site, 11 Pheasant also on 100 acre (a very good local count), still a couple of Green Sandpipers hanging in there, one or two Tree Sparrows clinging on to existence and up to 22 Lapwing across the lakes and 100 acre.   Some of these numbers are a tiny fraction of what the site used to (and should be) holding.  

 Teal on 100 acre 
 Lapwings on 100 acre 
 One of 11 Pheasants (2 males, 9 females) 
 The excavation work on the 'Wet Grassland' area - something is happening here but knowing Viridor it will be a complete balls up or just a bit of activity to look like something is happening to appease the council enforcement team. They have sacked local ecological contractors and are not even talking to the local independent naturalist authorities for input anymore which says a lot about their attitude to all this. If ever there was a case study of  the perils of Privatisation and handing over environmental/ecological responsibility to Corporate power - Beddington Farmlands is it. 
 The 'wet grassland' so far? Will see what happens here. 
 Some more Viridor farting about on 100 acre - some island building for the Lapwings (above) and island vegetation clearance (below) . The 200 acres of sludge beds over 100 acre and southeast corner have no long term management in place and have been decommissioned by Thames Water.  If these areas dry out and are not managed properly for the important wetland bird populations that depend on them will be the next casualties- our Lapwings and wintering Water Pipit and Teal.  Viridor will no doubt use this farting about as part of their evidence base of activity carried out to prevent the ensuing further ecological meltdown and no action will be taken. Just another technique used in the process of managed slow decline and destruction. 

 Viridor's future photo angle for their PR machine - a pond and a load of tree whips to promote industry and nature in order to win the next contract from a load of council sycophants/corporate lackeys. A simple illusion like this will be used to disregard the ecological apocalypse they have created on site and the social oppression they have conducted on the local community. 
View over Beddington Farmlands from the railway bridge. There is potential here to create a genuine corporate-council-local community initiative that delivers a net gain for people and planet but the very potential of this is the very ideological capital that is used for the corporations to write themselves a social licence to destroy the planet. Sycophantic councillors/council officer play into this narrative for career gain and naive conservationists/locals are often all to ready to provide the necessary green wash for the corporate agenda. Chuck into the mix a corrupt career ecologist and you have all you need to destroy unopposed. Unless the unholy alliance of corporate power-council lackeys-vulnerable uninformed locals can be challenged there is literally no hope for nature on this planet and considering human life is sustained by the natural system- our extinction is certain unless this vehicle of decline is successfully challenged. There are few better places on the planet for this battle to become symbolic than Beddington Farmlands. We have a meeting with Extinction Rebellion on Tuesday next week to discuss escalating the Battle of Beddington. 

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Little Egret Murder Mystery Update

Previous on this : HERE
Birdguides article HERE
Inside Croydon article HERE
Sutton Guardian HERE

Update: Following the report of two Little Egrets found dead along Wandle Bank in the last week or so other reports have come in regarding further dead birds in the Beddington Park area including Grey Heron, Coot and even a Green Woodpecker. Recently a Canada Goose was taken into care from Beddington Park and a large ball bearing was removed from the bird. The examination of one of the dead Little Egrets also confirmed by a vet that the likely cause of death was injuries caused by blunt force trauma.

There have been reports from the cluster area of men/boys with catapults and one witness described a man wading in the river to retrieve and hide one of the Little Egrets.

This cluster of incidences has been reported to the Police and RSPB Investigation. The public are requested to look out for the culprits of these illegal killings and report any suspicious activity to the police.

Further comments here 

Monday 21 January 2019

Poole Harbour Day

Had a great day out today meeting up with Jaffa (HERE) to catch up and talk a bit of business. Jaffa and I are old uni mates. He is currently living in Devon so Poole Harbour ( HERE)  was half way meet up point. We did Lytchett Fields. Studland Point and Arne Nature Reserve. Highlights included 25 Black-necked Grebe, Med Gulls, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Great Northern Diver off Studland Point, Marsh Harrier at Lytchett Fields and 15+ Goldeneye and 17 Red-breasted Merganser in Poole Harbour from Arne. Also great to see flocks of Brent Geese and other waterfowl (including up to 15 Pintail) and also 300+ Avocet all set in stunning landscape dotted with Sika Deer. 

 View over Poole Harbour
 Brents etc with Sika Deers in the background 
 Marsh Harrier 
A flock of Black-necked Grebes off Studland Point . At least 25 were in the Bay. 

Sunday 20 January 2019

Egret Murder Mystery

Local residents Karen and Jenny have contacted me about the death of two Little Egrets on the same stretch of the River Wandle at Beddington.  Both specimens were recovered from the river and collected, There was also a Grey Heron reported dead along a stretch of the River nearby and there has also been a Little Egret at Beddington Farmlands (adjacent to the stretch of river) which has a broken leg. 

This cluster of dead or injured herons coincides with reports of boys with catapults along nearby stretches of the River Wandle and there is also a witness statement reporting a man walking in the river to retrieve one of the egrets and hiding it (from where it was recovered by the witness). 

It's all rather suspicious and extremely concerning. 

Yesterday I collected one of the specimens to examine it. There were three injuries on the bird- a cracking adult with plumes on the head, back and breast. Apart from the injuries the bird was in pristine condition. 

The injuries were a small puncture wound to the neck, a broken right tarsus (tarsometatarsus bone) and a large wound on the breast which has removed breast muscle tissue and broken the sternum. 

I'm no expert in this specific field but to me the injuries look consistent with a catapult wound. A predator kill would surely show more signs of a struggle, the bird would not otherwise be pristine apart from the wounds and of course a predator would usually (not always) eat parts of the bird too. 

I am waiting to confirm likely cause of death by RSPB Investigations (if they reply) and the incidences will be reported to the police and the local media. Raising public awareness could lead to more vigilance and the culprits being documented and reported to and arrested by the police. 

The Friends of Beddington Park and witnesses have already alerted the police who so far have said they can't do anything without more information. 

 Little Egret- found dead on Friday
 Injury one- small puncture wound to the neck 
 Main injury- a relatively large cavity in the breast and broken sternum
 Broken tarsus 
Little Egret at Beddington Farmlands last Tuesday. This bird also has a broken leg and was flying from the direction of Wandle Bank (the site of the two dead egrets). It's possible the above pictures are all of the same bird. I found similar stains (not exact) on the primary tips of the right wing on both birds - shown clearly in this image. If this is the same bird it would imply that the injuries were sustained over at least two difference incidences with the broken leg predating the presumably fatal wounds. This could imply that the bird has suffered a sustained period of targeting. 

More on this as it comes in. I intend to do a full dissection of the specimen on Tuesday in order to preserve the skin and examine diet and look for any other injuries and clues. 

Saturday 19 January 2019

The Precipice

The polarisation of politics is a defining character of our times. Right and left wing extremism is a tool being used by Fundamental Capitalists to destroy nature, nations, community, family, individual belief systems and the environment in order to weaken and break people into the new global corporate world order. . As traditional political systems buckle under the power of the corpocracy, right and left wing polarisation is the only way that politicians can maintain some relevance and serve some purpose to the seat of modern power- corporate leaders. The corporate leaders lobby politicians and also make their lives easier by single large points of taxation and can execute large infrastructure projects in more efficient less democratic and less sensitive ways than the state ever can. All they ask of politicians is to generate an environment of political chaos for them to be able to build a global corporate aristocracy and slave armies from.

With right wing provocateurs herding people into reactionary xenophobes and left wing provocateurs herding people into a tribe of harmless gender free vegans, the only thing that matters to the corporate leaders is the destabilisation of the political middle ground which leaves a lot of people who don't fit into either extremist group finding it hard to find their feet. That serves the corpocracy well- lost and confused people like to sedate the anxiety of being detached by either joining an extremist political group and driving further chaos or developing a shopping addiction or by climbing a corporate ladder/ running on one of the corporate tread mills/hamster wheels.

Happy days all round for the corporate leaders.

Despite the blindingly obvious chaos and incompetence of our political system there is still no serious challenge on the real seat of modern power ( corporate power) from the general population or a call for a political system that pulls the global aristocracy into an accountable system where the democratic system is modernised. Until that happens, the rich will just keep getting richer, the poor poorer, nature will continue to be obliterated, corporate power will grow, the slave armies will swell, species extinctions will escalate, climate chaos will intensify and we will edge closer and closer to our next evolutionary precipice that will forge a more sustainable system.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Glaucous again

Drove to North Kent today with the plan to work my way back checking various spots but when I arrived at South Swale LNR I realised I'd forgotten my bins! (First time ever). So drove back and did Beddington instead. The 2nd-winter Glauc was still present. 

 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull 
 Presumed hybrid Pochard x Tufted Duck. The bill pattern is pretty striking and from my experience of other Pochard x Tufted Ducks it's quite unusual (almost Ring-necked Duck like)
 Had this set of moths in last night's relative mild conditions. Satellite, Early Moth, Small Brindled Beauty and Chestnut (cheers Steve for id- thought it might be a Dark Chestnut but the rounded wing-tip is diagnostic of Chestnut) - also below 

Another one of the Small Brindled Beauty 

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Glaucous Gull

Managed to catch up with the second-winter Glaucous Gull at Beddington today. Tank found it a few days ago. Looks like Viridor have re-opened one of the landfill cells which is starting to attract gulls again, we estimated approx 1000 Herring Gulls (up from 1-200 in December) and interestingly we are getting more Black-headed Gulls on the lakes now that the large gull numbers have reduced. Gulls are also still being attracted around the incinerator as rubbish comes in so hopefully we still get a concentration of gulls once the landfill stops altogether. At it's peak the landfill was attracting over 20,000 gulls  so it will be interesting to see how the scarce gulls fair with a smaller concentration on site- could make it easier to find them. We thought the white-wingers might be a thing of the past but we had an Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull in the last week already so who knows?

Full ebird list from today HERE. Other highlights included 6 Water Pipits, 3 Stonechats and the hybrid Tufted Duck x Pochard, 

 Second-winter Glaucous Gull 
 Tufted Duck x Pochard 
 Female Stonechat
 Gull sp- an interesting bird that stood out today. Maybe some 'Caspian' influence. The head was more streaked than appears in this photo. 
Satellite (named after the small moons underneath the large white spot)- the first moth of the year in the Beddington trap 

Sunday 13 January 2019

Standlake Pits- Goosander Twitch

Took Jacob out today to Standlake Pits to see Goosander. A successful mission with 20+ on Pit 27. We also had the Great White Egret on Pit 60 and it was great to see the flocks of Red-crested Pochards on Pit 28- a local phenomenon.

 Goosanders on Pit 27
Red-crested Pochards- 150+ on Pit 28

Friday 11 January 2019

Fuerteventura Endemics

Here's a few notes on some of the endemic forms (subspecies and species) that I encountered on Fuerteventura. Would welcome any comments on taxonomic updates etc.  

 'Canary Island Houbara Bustard' C.u. fuertaventurae. Present on the eastern Canary Islands and differs from nominate (which occurs across North Africa) in more heavily vermiculated upperparts
 Canary Island Stonechat - Endemic species confined to Fuerteventura 
  'Canary Island Egyptian Vulture' N.p.majorensis According to Clarke 2006 this subspecies differs from nominate in the rufous on the head, tail, coverts and breast which appears to be shown well in this individual
 'Canary Island Common Buzzard' B.b. insularum. To my eye a very distinctive Buzzard with light brown colouration and less contrast than nominate. Forsman (2016) doesn't make much fuss of either Egyptian Vulture or Common Buzzard on the Canary Islands. 
 'Canary Islands Great Grey Shrike', L.e. koenigi. According to Shirihai and Svensson (2018) this insular race is rather small and dark with a contrasting white throat. This form differs from Iberian Grey Shrike in less distinct (often lacking) supercilium and grey (not pink) underparts. Similar to Desert Grey Shrike (L.e. algeriensis/elegans) but smaller with shorter wings and tail. 
'North African Raven' C.c.tingitanus. According to Shirihai and Svensson (2018) this is the smallest race of Raven within the WP, with the tail shorter than the primaries, with a deep well arched culmen. The strong nasal bristles help to separate from Brown-necked Raven in North Africa. 

Other Canary Island endemic forms that I saw but didn't photograph include Canary Island Kestrel F.t. canariensis , Eastern Canaries African Blue Tit C.u. degener and Canary Island Linnet C.c. herterti and other Macaronesian endemic forms seen include Plain Swift, Berthelot's Pipit, and Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull. I didn't see Canary Island Robin, Goldcrest, Chaffinch or Chiffchaff on Fuerteventura so presumably they don't occur there? 

Tony Clarke, Birds of the Atlantic Islands, 2006, HELM
Hadoram Shirihai & Lars Svensson, Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds, Vol 2, 2018, HELM
Dick Forsman, Flight Identification of Raptors of Europe, North Africa and Middle East, 2016. BLOOMSBURY

Fuerteventura Sounds

A few typical sounds from Fuerteventura 

 Comparison of songs of Sardinian (above) and Spectacled Warbler (below) 

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Fuerteventura Day 7- ALLEN'S GALLINULE!!

Today was a planned family day on the beach at Costa Calma but two days ago an Allen's Gallinule was found at the local park there. It's quite a large park and the precise location of the bird was uncertain so I thought the chances of seeing it were small. Lars Mortensen had checked the area this morning and yesterday where a Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler had been found this winter but there was no sign of the gallinule. Despite these poor signs and after our day at the beach I managed to convince Holly to do a 'walk round the park' and much to my genuine disbelief we found the bird within 10 minutes walking through the wooded area not too far from the footpath. Also had the RB Flicker and the Yellow-browed plus a few other migrants (Ebird list HERE )

In short- RESULT!

 Juvenile/first-winter Allen's Gallinule . Pic on Birdguides HERE
 Red-breasted Flycatcher 
Costa Calma Beach