Wednesday 31 March 2021

'Siberian Chiffchaff' Singing

 Zach found this singing Siberian Chiff at the farmlands today. It was quite a brown/drab looking bird with some Common Chiffchaff like phrases so perhaps a bit of mix singing and maybe something from the transition zone. More sounds on Ebird  HERE.

'Siberian' Chiffchaff (above) and singing below and duetting with a Common Chiffchaff

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Otmoor- Glossy Ibis again

 The Glossy Ibis showed better today. The first sweet singing Willow Warblers too. Ebird list HERE.

Glossy Ibis 
Young White-fronts- still hanging in there 
Brown Hare- mad March hares running around all over the countryside here 

 The songs of Treecreeper and Willow Warbler . Both have a descending phrase. 

Monday 29 March 2021

Farmoor etc

Decided to do Farmoor this afternoon as not been there for a while and new freedoms started today. Pretty quiet, highlights included the long staying White-fronted Goose, a passage of 125+ Sand Martin heading west, a single Swallow, plenty of Chiffchaffs, a couple of Blackcaps and 11 Goldeneye. Ebird list HERE

Also did a session by the Ickford Bridges yesterday evening in honour of the longer days, no summer migrants but still quite a few Fieldfares hanging around there. Ebird list HERE. Looks like Ebird hotspots have been set up for various local sites that currently I group under Worminghall area so will start using these but will add any new species to my lockdown area too. 

The moth trap was quiet, just an Oak Beauty and Common and Small Quakers. 

Female Goldeneye 
Incoming Sand Martins (above) and out going Fieldfares (below) 

Sunday 28 March 2021

Yellow Horned, Early Grey, Golden Plovers and White arses

An overdue moth lifer today from the Old Vicarage- a Yellow Horned. Also the first Early Grey of the year and a nice selection of Common, Twin-spotted and Small Quaker with Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character too. With Yellow Horned the Old Vic pan-species list is now on 794 (357 moths) 

After processing the moth trap I headed to Oakley Airfield to look for Wheatears following a significant fall across the region yesterday (up to 30 at one site in Bucks).  There were five Wheatears on the airfield and a few other local specialities too including Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge and Yellowhammers. 

I had the noc-mig gear on last night but after a check through the first few hours nothing much apart from a Moorhen. It was bit too windy- the neighbours wind charms being well recorded.

Yellow Horned (above and below). Named after the yellow antennae (not visible here) 

Early Grey- a new for year 
Golden Plovers (above and below) looking smart in summer plumage- some birds were singing too. About 90 still hanging in up there. 

Male Wheatear (4 male and 1 female today). Always a special day- the first Wheatears of the Spring. 

Saturday 27 March 2021

A few more migrants

More in coming yesterday at the farmlands, a couple of Blackwits, 35 Sand Martin and a couple of Swallow and today the first Wheatears are in and also a male Firecrest. 

Black-tailed Godwits 
Long-tailed Tit- the winter flocks have mainly broken up now and most sightings are of pairs lately

Wednesday 24 March 2021

A few migrants

It's been a good couple of days at Beddington Farmlands with 2 White Storks and a Crane yesterday and a handful of migrants including Ruff, Dunlin, Sand Martins, White Wagtails and Little Ringed Plovers (see my twitter feed below for more from Zach) 

I popped over this afternoon and picked up a few scraps.

Dunlin, moulting into a summer plumage 
'White Wagtail', looks quite dark on the upperparts and not sure if the black bib is separated from the upperparts but the flanks are white and the rump appeared greyish (below). 

Green Sandpipers- still a couple around. Also had one of the LRP , Snipe and a single Lapwing. 

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Old Vic Noc Mig

 A few sounds from the Old Vic a couple of nights ago HERE. 14 species recorded included Wigeon, Teal, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Tawny Owl. 

An interesting (for me as still trying to learn these ) comparison of single nocturnal flight calls of Blackbird, Redwing and Song Thrush. Excellent article on Blackbird, Song Thrush and Redwings NFCs HERE  . 

Had my first summer migrant, a Sand Martin at Otmoor on 22nd March and a check round the airfield and River Thame on 23rd produced little apart from a flock of 96 Stock Dove, a Corn Bunting and plenty of Skylarks in song. Looks like most of the wildfowl have cleared out from the River between the bridges. Ebird lists HERE and HERE

A decent flock of Wigeon going over 

I've gone for Blackbird on this Thrush call . Not certain on this. 

Redwing call 

Song Thrush call 

Sunday 21 March 2021

Odds and sods from the stomps

What with the persistent northerly putting the knackers on a big push of migrants it's a bit limboland at the moment. Things are picking up on the moth front, winding down on the winter birds, spring migrants are spluttering into action and nobody knows what lockdown even means anymore (the best one is birders popping into see the Mockingbird while they were 'working in the area') . Restrictions lift soon so hopefully just in time for Spring birding travel to actually be legal. 

Back in the week day London stomping ground I had the Iceland Gull again on Friday evening and Zach, Anand and I 'did' the Beddington Park Little Owls that night. The singing male by the stock pond is still very vocal. 

Meanwhile at the weekend country retreat I had the noc mig and moth trap on last night and did Otmoor today HERE while we've started work in the Old Vic garden too. 

Still no proper summer migrant for me. 

The Beddington Farmlands adult Iceland Gull
White-fronted Geese at Otmoor- not actually that many left in the country now 
Lapwing at Otmoor- most of the winter flocks have dispersed with more territories taken up. Lots of signing Redshanks and Curlews again today too. 
Oak Beautys from Beddington Farmlands 
Common Quakers 
Twin-spot Quaker (Old Vic) 
Clouded Drab (Old Vic) 
Small Quaker (Old Vic) 
Hebrew Character (Old Vic) 
We've put the early potatoes in the new bit of garden (extension of the mini-farm) 
Work continues on the Coach House conversion and Bryan's got his new shed too. I've got the beds ready for the mini-farm this year which hopefully will be double the size now. Bryan is also trying to purchase some new land and hoping we might even be able to get some land for a small nature area. Fingers crossed. 
Vicki and James have been doing some work in the house too and exposed this interesting wall showing the old C16th exterior wall which has been built on and and old presumably early C20th fire place that has been bricked up. It was all hidden in plaster. Holly and I were thinking of moving house recently (to get some garden for wildlife gardening)  but we need to let the London flat out first so in the meantime have moved things around in Holly's part of the Old Vic. If we can get some of the land next to the old vic we could even stay here and do some wildlife gardening/ mini- nature reserve creation on the new land- will see what happens there. I'm quite looking forward to letting out the London flat as it means I'll be living in my camper some of the time and intend to use that time to do some more moth trapping and noc-migging in various locations (mainly on the North Downs)  while based in South London for work. Be sad to let the Beddington obs go but after 11 years (and diminishing returns now on the moths from the window and absolutely zero community spirit left) , feels like a good time for a change and explore some more areas- and the main reason is to eventually raise the capital to buy land for a private nature reserve in this country.   

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Beddington Farmlands - Adult Iceland Gull

Found this rather cute adult 'summer' Iceland Gull on Wet Grassland this afternoon.

Also the usual first-winter Caspian Gull was around  

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Oakley Airfield wildlife in danger?

Very sad to be told today that there will be greatly restricted public access to Oakley Airfield with immediate effect. Security guards with dogs are enforcing the new rules as work begins to develop the site into an autonomous vehicle testing site. 

I've had a good read through the Ecological Assessments (including Preliminary Assessments, Environmental Impact Assessment and Biodiversity Impact Assessment for Net Gain) which can be found HERE  .

Looks like winter bird survey results are still to be submitted to council and also conditions of the planning application are that a Construction Ecological Management Plan (CEMP) and a Landscape and Ecological Management Plan (LEMP) are produced before development begins. 

The ecological consultant recommendations include the aim to achieve 10% net biodiversity gain and a series of habitats to be created in order to mitigate the impacts of the development. 

Personally I think this is quite ambitious and there are some very significant factors that need to be taken into account (some which are not included the EIA) . I have pooled my records for Oakley Airfield into a wider Worminghall area Ebird Hotspot HERE. Blog posts and additional local biodiversity surveys adjacent to the airfield can be found HERE. Significant observations include the following:

a) Breeding/summering records of populations of Yellow Wagtails (up to 11, with singing males HERE) and Wheatear (up to 11 but mostly migrating through HERE ) (the Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears were not mentioned by the site ecologists), in addition to Corn Buntings, Grey Partridge, Yellowhammers, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings  and up to 30 Skylarks (mostly singing males HERE ).

b) Wintering population of up to 700 Golden Plover HERE  and 130 Skylarks HERE with wintering Merlin and Peregrines. Also large numbers of winter thrushes. 

c) Up to 15 Brown Hare 

d) Rarities and scarce migrants (more of a birding interest) - in the last year I have found Dotterel, Firecrest, Greenland Wheatear and Black Redstart 

Trying to achieve net biodiversity gain and  maintain a population of 700 wintering Golden Plover, 30 pairs of Skylarks, breeding Yellow Wagtails, Corn Buntings, Grey Partridges and all the other birds up there is probably going to be impossible when you consider the scale of the development and the likely impact on the current open extensive habitat which makes the site so special for wildlife- but I guess time will tell. 

Never comfortable to read through Ecological Assessments though and see some major aspects missing which are so easy to find by just doing some simple searches on line. Just hope the winter bird surveys are better than the breeding bird surveys. Fingers crossed!  

Security forces were patrolling the site and informing the public that the site is being 'locked down' with major access restrictions on a permanent basis 

Corn Buntings back - the first time I have seen them this year, singing and holding territories . Ebird list from today HERE
The future of Oakley Airfield (above) and the recent past (below) 

Breeding Yellow Wagtails 
Approx 30 singing Skylarks last year 
Wheatears were present last year well into mid May showing signs of territorial behaviour. 
'Greenland' Wheatear- this race of Wheatear was present with the nominate race (the migration period of the two races do not usually coincide and when they do it can indicate that nominate birds are showing summering interest)  
Up to 700 Golden Plover wintered on the airfield this winter 
Flocks of Grey Partridge are present 
This Black Redstart was a nice winter surprise 
This singing male Firecrest was present in the conifer plantations last Spring 
The rarest bird I've found is this Dotterel 
The most Brown Hares I've seen are 15. Also had Chinese Water Deer and Muntjac. 
Oakley Airfield - certainly the best agro-ecosystem in this area with farmland birds which have declined drastically nationally are present in significant numbers. Concerning to strongly suspect that one of the last remaining bird rich agricultural environments is likely to suffer significant net biodiversity loss despite the current planning framework reforms and policies which set out to prevent this kind of loss. Ecological consultants doing a few simple searches on Ebird and the internet could help to ensure that all available data is being used in creating accurate baselines.