Thursday 28 February 2019

You Beauty!

Finally found a heat wave rarity, literally at the hour before midnight with this Pine Beauty in the moth trap, a first for Beddington Farmlands. As hoped for as the heat wave came to an end and cloud cover kept last night a bit milder there was an influx of moth activity, with a presumed dispersive amongst them. 

Pine Beauty 
 Early Grey, Twin-spot Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drabs 
A nice selection of classic early spring moths including Common Quakers and March moth. 21 species of moth so far this year and we are still in February! 

Wednesday 27 February 2019

The Surrey Black-throated Diver

I really don't do a lot of twitching but I really should as it such an enjoyable thing to do. I've been meaning to go and pay homage to the juvenile Black-throated Diver at Holmethorpe for a while. Yesterday I got an email from Gordon Hay (Holmethorpe Stalwart) encouraging me to go soon because it can't hang around much longer- so this evening I did. A Surrey tick for me putting me on 242 for Surrey and in 8th position in the top 10 Surrey Listers HERE.  It was a particularly amazing evening to watch it on mirror like waters as the sun was setting on this incredible February Heat Wave. 

 Juvenile Black-throated Diver (above) 
Male Shoveler - the light was amazing this evening 
 Holmethorpe (above and below)- the first time I've really had a good look round. A really nice little area. 

 Redwings trying to keep cool today in Beddington Park 
 A couple more moths for the year last night with Small Quaker (above ) and Diurnea fagella (below). Also 10 Common Quakers last night, Early Grey, March Moth and Agonopterix alstromeriania. 

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Last Days Spring Continues

This eerie period of warm weather continues- officially the hottest winter in British history. It started off as a Fool's Spring, turned into a double bluff Fool's Spring and has now turned into the End of Times. 

This day last year the Beast of the East #1 had just started with the polar air mass being displaced across Europe and this year we have a the displacement of a Saharan air mass. I guess this is what is meant by climate chaos. Around the country council's are calling Climate Emergencies.  

The influx of southern bird and invertebrate migrants continue across the country with moths like Levant Blackneck, Red Sword Grass, Small Mottled Willow, Dark Sword Grass, Diamond-backed Moth, Scarce Bordered Straw, Purple Marbled and Rush Veneer being recorded mainly across the South Coast, Vagrant Emperor Dragonflies recorded at various sites, a Large Tortoiseshell at Portland and a steady trickle of early spring bird migrants. Locally there has been a emergence of butterflies, with Steve Gale recording over 30 Brimstones on the North Downs today. In Beddington Park the first waterfowl chicks have hatched!  

Despite my best efforts (with running two moth traps at the Obs window) I have been unable to catch a migrant moth yet and also despite another search of the Farmlands today with Frankie, still haven't found an early Spring bird migrant (having missed the Black Redstart on the weekend). 

However we did have 6 Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Red Admiral and yesterday there were 3 Brimstone. I also had an unidentified dragonfly sp- probably a darter sp. The moth trap was just Common Quakers. The clear cold nights are probably not allowing migrants to get beyond the coasts so fingers crossed there might be more chance when the forecasted return to milder and cloudier conditions arrive tomorrow night. 

 Small Tortoiseshell feeding on Colt's Foot 
 Egyptian Goose young in Beddington Park 
 Common Quakers 
 Wigeon- just to remind us that it still actually winter, 3 Wigeon are still around 
Even had Jacob helping out to find an early migrant 
Weather conditions today with a Southerly airflow originating from North Africa. 

Sunday 24 February 2019

Weekend Roundup

We covered the whole farm this weekend (North side yesterday and South Side today) Ebird list HERE. A total of 73 species , highlights included a Black Redstart today (good to get in on the uber early migrant action- although I didn't see it myself), 10 Water Pipit and 2 Tawny Owl calling outside the Obs yesterday night. 

A couple more new moths for the year.  Unfortunately no migrants despite good numbers (and some megas) turning up on the South Coast. 

Water Pipits above and Meadow Pipits below . I was wondering if our wintering Water Pipits might have started moulting into summer plumage, spurred on by the atypical warm conditions. The bottom bird here looked a bit more blue-headed than the others and some of the tertials are also missing but most birds still looked in full winter plumage. The pre-breeding moult of Water Pipit involves all head and body feathers, a few median and greater coverts , all tertials and occasionally the outer tail feather and odd secondary. The complete moult (all tail and flight feathers) is post breeding (HWPB 2018)

 Partly leucistic Canada Goose 
 Early Grey 
 Mistletoe- Frankie pointed this out to me in the new year but I forgot to document it. This is a first for the farmlands. 
View over 100 acre on this barmy spring like day- 18 C 

Saturday 23 February 2019

Double Fool's Spring?

What with nationwide records of 25 Swallow, Sand Martins, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Little Ringed Plover (at the London wetland centre) over the last week and with the barmy February weather continuing this might not actually be a false start to Spring after all and if conditions remain mild, this could be it.  

Today at the farmlands's we had our first Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshell and some signs of migration were provided in the form of 3 Siskin going South/Southeast, 2 high Cormorants, a few overhead Lesser Black-backed Gulls and more incoming birds (potential breeders) included 2 Greylags and an extra 2 Shelduck. The Great Crested Grebe was still with us and wintering duck numbers are still good with 100+ Teal, 3 Wigeon and good numbers of Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck. 20 Lapwing and 2 Green Sandpiper also. 

Other signs of Spring included more birds in territorial song and nest material gathering. The Colt's Foot is out, Willow catkins are bursting and the Cherry Plums are in blossom. Elsewhere there were solitary bees and hairy-footed Bees on a Mahonia in Hackbridge and the Lesser Celendine is flowering on the verges and things are also firing up in the moth trap.  

 Long-tailed Tit gathering nesting material 
 Chiffchaff on Mile Road Bridge (also a singing male Blackcap there last weekend) 
 Spring Usher 
 Twin-spotted Quaker 
 Tortricodes alternella- a local scarcity 
 Mompha subbistrigella 
Left to right : Common Quaker, Satellite and March moth 

Portuguese Rarities Committee Report 2018

The latest SPEA/Birdlife International, PRC report can be downloaded HERE

This is our 13th report which mainly focuses on 2012 records.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Fool's Spring day in Kent

A great day out at Shellness and Swale NNR today in bright sunshine and mild conditions. Unfortunately no early migrants but great to see masses of wintering birds in comfortable summer like conditions-  Ebird list HERE. Highlights included 10 Short-eared Owls, 1 Pale-bellied Brent Goose and 1 Pink-footed Goose with 350+ Russian White-fronted Geese and over 2000 Dark-bellied Brents.

 Dark-bellied Brents (above) 
 A single Pale-bellied Brent (above and below) 

 Short-eared Owls 
 Knot and Dunlins 
 Russian White-fronted Goose with Greylags 
 Pink-footed Goose 

Monday 18 February 2019

Back in Blighty

Been writing up my Ghana trip since I got back last week as life went on back here. Luckily it's been a quiet week so not too much to report on. The main developments have been plenty of restoration action occurring at the farmlands including some good lake edge profiling carried out on the Southern Lake and a decent bit of meadow management work on the Southern Mound. Work seems to have stopped on the wet grassland (because it is too wet apparently) but planning permission has also gone in for hides and the cycle path. So it could be forgiven for actually thinking that there is some real progress being made by Viridor (just waiting for the negative bomb shell to hit!) . 

On the birding front at the farmlands the best of the dead spell was a Greylag and a Great Crested Grebe last week (NFYs) and a couple of moths included a Buttoned Snout (a local scarcity).

Have been at the Oxford base this weekend and visited Otmoor a couple of times. Ebird list HERE. Nothing particularly rare but a pretty incredible spectacle of migratory restless flocks of Golden Plovers , good numbers of waterfowl and some first signs of Spring including singing Skylarks , a displaying Curlew and a couple of Redshanks in the starting blocks. Unfortunately despite a scattering of summer migrants (and moth migrants) across the country in the recent southerly airflow and annual 'Fools Spring' - I couldn't find any migrants in our searches. 

Back in Olde Engerland 
 Great Spotted Woodpecker at Otmoor 
 Restless flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing circling over Otmoor- presumably preparing to migrate back 
 Still good numbers of Wigeon- also 4 Pintail on Big Otmoor 
 Part of the Greylag x Barnacle Goose family (also 4 pure Barnacle Geese) 
 Greylag x Canada Goose (second from left). There's always an odd mix of Cat C Geese on Otmoor, in fact there is some serious Cat C Waterfowl phenomenon in Oxfordshire overall with 60 Snow Geese on the loose, Barnacle Geese, fields full of Canada Geese,  feral White-fronts and Pink-feet at Port Meadow, stacks of Red-crested Pochards at Standlake Pits and loads of hybrid Geese and genetically mutated 'farmyard-type' Greyalgs chucked into the mix also with a dollop of hybrid Aythya ducks and a leucisitc Pochard. Also least we forget that Greylag Goose originally occurred over Southern England before it was hunted out so the re-introduced birds now are arguably Cat A birds that have been returned to their natural range. All adds up to create a rather bizarre wildfowl landscape with flocks of overhead V-formations and geese feeding in stubble echoing wild and romantic scenes from the past but instead of the players being wild pedigree Arctic wanderers - they are plastic and mongrel counterfeits of the Anthropocene. 

Meanwhile Back in the Crack 
 Lake edge profiling has involved removal of brambles, grubbing out of willot and gentle grading of the edge- it is already attracting grazing waterfowl including the odd Wigeon. 
 Oak Beauty and Buttoned Snout from the Beddington trap (nothing at all in the Oxford trap)