Friday, 22 September 2023

Bulgaria Day Six

Today was a work day but still managed to add a few species to the trip list here including Pallid Swift over Kavarna, Barred Warbler alongside the road and a Calandra Lark over the village.

Highlight of the day was getting the plot pond dug out with the help of a local excavator and contractor. We also managed to do the hay cut on the meadow and need to do a few hours work tomorrow to strim the vineyard. 

Still a few Red-breasted Flycatchers around but certainly not as many as when we first arrived
Roe Deers at dusk
A couple of distinctive moths (above and below) that will have to wait until I get back to identify (although Obsidentify suggests Epilecta linogrisea  for the one above and the bottom one looks like a Ruddy Carpet). Also had 8 Convolvulus Hawkmoth feeding on the nicotiana along the road to Tango this evening

The moth trap before the hay cut
After the hay cut 
The pond ! Can't wait to get this finished. We've had delays from the local water company in getting water to the site so will need to finish this off next year

Thursday, 21 September 2023

Bulgaria Days Four and Five

Yesterday we started the day off at Cape Kaliakra Ebird list here, did a bit around Kamen Bryag and then headed off to Shaba Tusla Ebird list here . Highlights included a juvenile Red-footed Falcon.

Today we mainly spent around Kamen Bryag in the morning which was great with a River Warbler in the Oak Wood (a lifer!), a couple of first-winter Ring Ouzels and some nice vis-mig including a flock of 52 Spoonbills, Levant Sparrowhawks, Ospreys, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard. Ebird list here.

In the afternoon today we tried the migration watch point at Balchik but it was evidently better around Kamen Bryag. We picked up Dylan in town ahead of a couple of days doing conservation work on the plot.  

Live Ebird Trip Report HERE

River Warbler- a bit of a bogey bird but I don't get many world ticks in the WP nowadays. 
First-winter Ring Ouzels- patch tick 
Juvenile Red-footed Falcon 
Juv Little Stint 
Syrian Woodpecker 
Red Squirrels 

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Bulgaria Day Three

Got up early again and did the moths and then in the morning I headed over to Shabla Tusla (Ebird list here) while Arjun did his surveys around the village. Arjun is doing his Cambridge Geography BSc dissertation on small wilding projects and using our project here as a case study. 

In the afternoon we were due to pick up Roger Browne but his flight was delayed so we did a bit more around Kamen Bryag before I set off to Kavarna to meet Roger while Arjun did his afternoon surveys. It was Roger's first visit to Bulgaria/ Eastern Europe so it took us three hours to do the usual 15 mins back stopping all the way to look at all the roadside birds. 

Juvenile Bee-eater and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the plot
First-winter male Redstart
White Wagtails on the road- had over 500 along the street from Sveti Nikola to Kamen Bryag
A few of the more distinctive moths that I still need to identify (above and below) 

Scenes in the moth trap- pretty epic! 
Convolvulus Hawkmoths 

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Bulgaria Day Two

I got up at 5am to do the moth trap on the plot and then Arjun and I started the birding day off at Cape Kaliakra Ebird list here, the highlights including Honey and Steppe Buzzard going over and plenty of common migrants. There were 60+ Yelkouan Shearwaters close off shore mainly looking like in heavy moult. 

In the afternoon Arjun started his survey work and we did some birding round Kamen Bryag, highlights included Osprey, Lesser Spotted Eagle, still plenty of Red-breasted Flycatchers, a Black Redstart and an Isabelline Wheatear in with Northern Wheatears on the Steppe. 

As it was my birthday we went to the Mopko for dinner and wine in the evening. 

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike 
Red-breasted Flycatcher. We spoke to some other birders and estimated 150 in selected areas at Durankulak, Shabla Tusla, Kamen Bryag and the Cape so if we were to extrapolate across all the suitable areas in the region there could be over 1000 birds along this stretch of coastline quite easily. Certainly the most prominent migrant at the moment. 
Spotted Flycatcher- good numbers of these too but only had one Pied Flycatcher so far
Willow Warbler, plenty of Phylloscs about with Chiff slightly out numbering Willow 
The moth trap has been heaving but will take me some time to sort out the identifications. Seems to be plenty of migrants with plenty of classics that I'm familiar with back home including Convolvulus Hawkmoths, Diamond-backs, Rush Veneers, Rusty-dot Pearls, Delicates, Scarce-bordered Straws, Olive Pearl, Small Mottled Willows etc. The large distinctive noctuid above is one I remember from a trip out in here in 2019- if not mistaken it is Dumeril's Rustic  Luperina dumerilii which has actually been recorded in the UK as a vagrant 
The Geometrician

Sunday, 17 September 2023

Bulgaria Day One


Arjun and I arrived at Kamen Bryag with just enough day light remaining to have a quick look around the village. Ebird list HERE. Highlight was an evident fall of Red-breasted Flycatchers with at least 30 on our short evening walk. Also a Corncrake which is a Bulgaria tick for me. 

Saturday, 16 September 2023

The week that was at the Old Vic

It's been pretty steady here over the last week. Lots of Chiffchaffs in the garden this morning, Ebird list HERE and a few Mips going over. Grey Wagtails are daily again and it looks like the local hirundines may have moved out. Tawny Owl and Barn Owl from the noc-mig recently and a female Tawny Owl was calling at dusk and I actually saw it (only about the third time I've actually seen the resident Tawny Owls). The garden year bird list is stuck on 63 (all time 96). 

Once again it was the moths that stole the show with a stunning Convolvulus Hawkmoth this morning, another Delicate, Clifden Nonpariels and some lovely Sallows. The garden year moth list is now on 449 (all time still 633).

The biggest news this week from here was the buyer has pulled out of the sale so it looks like we might be heading into the Winter Economic storm aboard the Old Vic. House prices are falling at their fastest rate since 2009 according to the Halifax, interest rates currently at 20 year highs (on unprecedented loan sizes) could well go up again next week, Environmental authoritarianism is due to be rolled out even more (through the new Energy Bill and mandatory EPC ratings etc), there is still talk of a looming recession and from the result of the surveys etc of the Old Vic it looks like there's quite a bit of modernisation which is necessary. So instead of one set of problems i.e. sitting out the storm in rental and hoping the banks don't all crash again we've got a different set of problems- paying the taxes and costs of keep living here. Certainly not many better places to be trapped than here so not too disappointed and if the Global Unsustainable Economy does decide to implode this winter (like it did in 2008) or another set of Pandemic/Lockdowns/Carbon Totalitarianism restrictions are rolled out- we've got our self sufficiency and off grid capabilities up and running already.  It's actually probably safer here all tied up in land and bricks rather than on the rental road with piles of cash that could get restricted. So all good really. 

Convolvulus Hawkmoth- only the second record for the garden 
Nice to get a brace of these- Clifden Nonpariels 
Sallow- NFY
Pink-barred Sallow- NFY
Centre-barred Sallow- been up to 15 or so a night of these 
Frosted Orange is another gorgeous autumn moth- up to 4 of these a night. Also Deep Brown Dart has now appeared on the scene, Black Rustics are increasing as are Lunar Underwings and Brown Spot Pinions. No Bearded Chestnuts yet. Large Yellow Underwing is still the most numerous species alongside Setaceous Hebrew Character, Willow Beauty, Square-spot Rustic and smaller numbers of Vine's Rustic, Common Wainscot and Pale Mottled Willow. 
Delicate- the third one this year. Despite two excellent migrants last night (Convolvulus Hawkmoth and this Delicate) there was no supporting cast - no Silver-Y, Rusty-dot Pearl, Diamond-back moths, Rush Veneer etc. To be honest I wasn't expecting much last night as it got pretty cool and regionally the moth migration has dropped off. 
I went for Grey Pine Carpet on this but not sure (could be a Spruce Carpet) 
Rhomboid Tortrix- get one or two a year around now of these. Also had another Carnation Tortrix this week. 
Speckled Bush Cricket- a few of these around. Also had a cricket chirping from the compost pile recently- sounded more like a house cricket. 

Friday, 15 September 2023

Non-stop Birding Autumn Quick Guide

I always flick back through this blog to check out my previous autumn strategies to inspire/warn me when making the current year plans. Thought I would do myself a favour and do a quick guide to save me time next year! So a very brief summary of what I got up to on all the autumns covered in this blog (for before this blog see HERE

2008 Weekend birding with Simon in Essex, highlights included Sabine's Gull and some good wader passage including a Dotterel in Gunner's Park. Stringed a Broad-billed Sand but corrected it in time before Lee Evans arrived. Regular birding at Beddington Farmlands, highlights included Knot and the farm's first Great Egret (a big deal at the time). Also dipped a Wryneck that the ringers caught. 

Visited the Azores from 17th October to 1st November re-found the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on Corvo, had our first Black-throated Green Warbler and Darryl found a White-eyed Vireo 

2009 Moved into the Beddington Obs in September this year, had a few bits including Little Stint and Wood Sand and started the campaign with the help of David Lindo. Still doing weekends with Simon in Essex, highlights included Gannets in the Thames.

Spent a lot of time in the Azores this autumn, firstly doing pelagic exploration with Simon from 22nd September where we found some of the largest concentrations of Wilson's Petrel in the WP also recorded several Fea's-type Petrels. Then back on the Azores from 7th to 20th  October, highlights that autumn included American Redstart, Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Nighthawk, Darryl found a Canada Warbler and I found a few bits including American Herring Gull, Baltimore Oriole and Red-breasted Grosbeak. 

2010 This was a great Azores autumn; Lincoln's Sparrow, Northern Flicker, American Black Tern, Rough-legged Hawk, Cedar Waxwing and lots of other good bits.

Back at Beddington we had 3 Gannet go over, there was a Pec (and a couple of Lap Bunts that I didn't see) and we did a load of campaigning including the first Hackbridge carnival, was working for Viridor doing reed planting etc and wrote an article for Birdwatch. Was still doing weekends with Simon and had stuff like Pec and Red-necked Phal etc in the Thames. 

2011 Another epic Azores autumn with White-tailed Tropicbird, Summer Tanager, Northern Harrier, Tennessee Warbler, Purple Martin, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and I found a Sedge Warbler (lol) which was a first for the Azores. Also first started taking an interest in the moths on Corvo this year.

Back at Beddington I started getting into moths based from the obs and discovered Dewick's Plusia which was a big deal at the time.  Had a few bits including Pec, Curlew Sand, Arctic Tern and some good shorebird flight days. Also started getting into self sufficiency and growing food and campaigning ramped up with our first Environmental Fair. I guess this is where I really started being more bio-diverse. 

2012  Local birding doesn't get much better than a Long-tailed Skua from the kitchen window- a first for Beddington! Also some great October flight days at Beddington with a flock of over 190 Brents going over, Little Gulls, Knot and Ring Ouzel etc. Doing loads of mothing (Jersey Tigers started being a thing around now)  and local biodiversity improvements in Hackbridge and at the farmlands and doing walks etc. The application for incinerator went in this autumn. 

Another mental time on Corvo with Golden-winged Warbler, American Robin, Tennessee Warbler, Magnolia Warbler,  Dicksissel, flocks of American waders literally in the streets, Darryl found a Wood Thrush, we found a flock of 10 American Golden Plovers on Sao Miguel and there was loads more stuff.  The Azores Pelagic in late August was also epic this year - we discovered a regular spot for Swinhoe's Storm-petrel and also found a Zino's Petrel. 

2013 Only did a short Corvo trip this year and didn't see much (missed the Yellow-throated Warbler!). Spent more time doing Pelagics on the Azores in September with highlights including Brown Booby, Fea's-type Petrels and Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel. Had an ill-fated trip to Santa Maria to dip Whale Shark. 

Back at Beddington had a Redstart in the garden and the Farmlands campaign had ramped right up. Found the farm's first Chalkhill Blue. 

2014 Highlights at the farmlands included Grey Phalarope, a couple of Ospreys, Spot Red, Sandwich Terns but some peak birding time was dominated by the Judicial Review at the High Court. 

Another short visit to Corvo was my 10th anniversary there but it was pretty quiet but did pick up the Willet on Sao Miguel. Again we were focusing on pelagics in September and also setting up the Natural history trip. Bonser found South Polar Skua on the Azores Pelagic this year. 

2015 After a couple of relatively quiet Azores trips in 2014 and 2013,  2015 came back with a bang- found an Eastern Wood Pewee (a 2nd for WP) and saw Blue-winged Warbler and Veery and loads of supporting cast in an epic fall of american birds mainly around Corvo village. 

This was the first autumn I did a trip to Bulgaria- I got the train there and travelled across Europe and did some epic vis-mig birding on the Black Sea coast with Dylan, Dimiter and Marina. 

Found a Serin at Beddington- a first for site. Twitched a Barred Warbler that Lee found on Staines Moor.

One of the best autumn's ever- this Black Sea in September and Azores in October is a good formula. 

2016 The Battle of Beddington was clearly being lost (also missed an adult Sabine's Gull while in a campaign meeting) by this point and it was also dead on Corvo (this was the year of the Siberian Accentor invasion so everything was coming from the East, not the West). The Azores Pelagic went out but this was the first year I didn't join- it was pretty successful with Swinhoe's again. Did get Upland Sand on the Azores and Long-eared Owl for my Azores list so even the worst year on the Azores was still rewarding. Found a Wilson's Phalarope on a seawatch with Darryl. 

I bought the Campervan this year and also started dating Holly. 

Probably my worst autumn ever but a good year overall as Jacob was on the way. 

2017 Jacob was born this year and was splitting my time between the Beddington Obs and the Old Vic. We did a trip in the Campervan to France with Jacob. 

Had a good bit of London birding and found Arctic Skua, Red-necked and Grey Phalarope and Pec at Staines (which was drained). Towards the end of the autumn the Hawfinch invasion had started and picked them up at Beddington and the Old Vic. Dave Campbell found a Twite in November at the farmlands. 

Yet another quiet trip to the Azores for me (I picked the worst week of the autumn) but luckily I picked up the Redhead on Terceira on the way out to Corvo. Had a few good migrant moths at Beddington on the back of hurricane Ophelia which brought some good yanks onto Corvo. 

2018 Another classic autumn; Found a Richard's Pipit at Beddington and Corvo was mega with Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Vireo, Wood Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Bay-breasted Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and loads more too including the first Yellow-browed Warblers on Corvo. 

Saw a Beluga in the Thames in September and also had a few bits at Farmoor Res and resurrected more birding days in Kent. A flock of 19 Spoonbill at Beddington was great as was a couple of nice Black Terns and Spot Red. Did the People's March for Wildlife this year  as things at Beddington had radicalised. 

2019 Hermit Thrush on Corvo was the bird of the year for me but overall it was another relatively quiet trip although a Connecticut Warbler had been caught and ringed on Flores this autumn too and Prothonatary, Cape May and Chestnut-sided Warbler had been recorded earlier in the season. The natural history and pelagic trips went out on the Azores but I was away on a road trip in Eastern Europe. 

So another year of the winning formula of the Black Sea in September and Azores in October. Found Terek Sand in Bulgaria and had a load of good migrants. Also started focusing on the moths more and mothed our way across Europe with plenty of nice finds. 

Back at Beddington, things had gone completely radical and we had joined the Extinction Rebellion movement and was blocking bridges in London and threatening to take action in Sutton. 

2020 This was the Great Re-Set year so no foreign travel during autumn so the perfect opportunity to revisit my roots and do an autumn in the UK. Found Pallas's and Dusky Warbler and also Eastern Stonechat, an Arctic Skua at Beddington and a Dotterel in Bucks. Also travelled round with the moth trap and caught a few nice migrants but nothing rare- so the first year I started to rarity hunt birds and moths. Was also keeping an eye out for rare dragonflies too. Also did a few trips into Kent with Kojak and saw some nice bits like Purple Heron and Pied Fly. 

Meanwhile had started self sufficiency big time at the Old Vic and had taken mothing to a new level of effort. 

A few people made it out to Corvo but it was overall pretty quiet. 

2021   Isaac was born at the end of this year so once again I didn't leave the country. Did another autumn of bird and moth rarity hunting and visited Portland for the first time mothing. Didn't find much but twitched the Long-toed Stint and White-tailed Plover and saw some great moths. Found Vagrant Piercers in Bucks and Oxon which were local megas. A Purple Sandpiper at Farmoor was an total inland mega. Also saw Pec in Oxon this year. I'd moved out of the Beddington Obs by this year so was spending more time in Oxon and getting more deep into moths too. 

The Azores was pretty quiet but a Prothonotary Warbler late in the season and a Warbling Vireo early on was all it took to make it another great year there. 

2022 Yet another year autumn birding mainly in the UK, this time because I was out in West Papua to early October.  Didn't find much (a few skuas and a Sooty Shearwater in the Thames was the best I could muster and also twitched a juv Red-foot in Kent)  but in November I went out to Bulgaria and found Desert Wheatear (3rd for Bulgaria) and back in the UK I had a Vagrant China-mark at the Old Vic (a first for Bucks) and earlier on in the autumn I had Bordered Straw, Loxostege Sticticalis and Convolvulus Hawkmoth which were local rarities too. Also saw loads of rare moths at Portland including Egyptian Bollworm and jammed in on the Crimson Speckled invasion. 

2023 So inspired by some winning formulas in the past this autumn I'm heading out to Bulgaria tomorrow with Arjun to target vis-mig, rare birds and moths and if all falls into place in October I'll keep an eye on the weather and head out to the Azores in mid-October and in between do a bit of rarity hunting in the UK and maybe a bit of twitching too. Would be nice one year to take two months off work and plan the ultimate autumn! 

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

ULEZ and the Dark Green Transition

Two weeks ago, the Ultra-low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was extended to the outer London boroughs, which now includes our service area at work. This extension is enforced through over 3000 cameras and carries heavy penalties. However, it has proven unpopular among certain sectors of the community, leading to protests, acts of vandalism targeting the cameras, and resistance from specific political camps, along with legal challenges.

From our perspective at Little Oak, this ULEZ extension will result in an additional annual cost of £7200 unless we upgrade all our vehicles to compliant ones, which would entail an approximate expense of £100,000. This cost will either need to be passed on to our customers or absorbed by our company, depending on market conditions. Given the current challenges of high inflation, high interest rates, and a faltering economy, the ULEZ will undoubtedly place an extra financial burden on small businesses like ours. This also holds true for affected individuals and families who are already grappling with the escalating cost of living.

However, it's important to acknowledge that air pollution is a serious issue in London that demands attention. If we are to meet Net Zero targets, there will inevitably be associated costs. According to the Mayor of London, only about 10% of vehicles in London are non-compliant, so the environmental benefits of this extension may be somewhat limited. Nevertheless, it does represent a step forward in addressing environmental concerns.

Taking a broader perspective, there are several aspects of this situation that seem incongruous:

1.     Prioritizing Polluters: In our service area, the most significant contributor to air pollution is the Beddington Farmlands incinerator, responsible for emitting 300,000 tonnes of CO2 annually along with other pollutants. Surprisingly, incinerators like this one are not taxed for their carbon emissions or regulated through mandatory carbon credit markets. This unmitigated pollution remains the largest single source of CO2 emissions in our London Borough.

2.     Loss of Green Spaces: The continual destruction of green spaces, such as Beddington Farmlands, the de-designation of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and green belt areas, the removal of trees and carbon-absorbing plants, and the reduction of garden biodiversity, including the proliferation of non-permeable surfaces, collectively contribute to a loss of carbon sequestration in South London.

3.     Vehicle Replacement: The wholesale replacement of working vehicles with new ones for carbon accounting gains is a subject of debate. Manufacturing, engineering, and transporting brand new vehicles across the global market incur a substantial carbon footprint. It may make more sense to replace older fossil fuel vehicles only after maximizing their use, as they too contribute to a carbon footprint legacy. With only 10% of vehicles in London being non-compliant, this transition was already underway as older vehicles were being replaced with Euro 6-grade compliant vehicles.

4.     Financial Impact: Channeling significant funds into City Hall and bearing the associated costs of monitoring and enforcing the ULEZ does not directly alleviate air pollution. Essentially, those who pay daily fees are essentially paying for the privilege to pollute, with the funds potentially disappearing into bureaucratic channels rather than being invested in actual environmental improvements.

5.     Environmental Tax and Financial Pressures: This environmental tax adds to the financial pressures faced by Londoners. It reduces their ability to afford environmentally friendly products or invest in natural capital, such as tree planting and biodiversity improvements, as well as supporting charities and participating in natural capital markets. The funds diverted to manufacturers and City Hall represent missed opportunities for investments in eco-social projects and land for nature preservation.

Given these considerations, we believe that our London Borough (Sutton) could benefit from
the following actions:

1.     Prioritize Major Polluters: Address the biggest polluters first, such as KKR Inc. & Co./Viridor/Valencia, a billion-dollar global asset management company responsible for significant ecological and environmental damage at Beddington Farmlands. The incinerator, a major CO2 and air pollutant source, remains unregulated and untaxed, despite its significant impact. KKR should fulfill its obligations to create wetlands and plant trees to mitigate its environmental impact.

2.     Protect Green Spaces: Halt the destruction of green spaces by preventing the de-designation of protected lands that are being sold to industrial interests. Local examples include the de-designation and sale of Beddington Lane frontage to Beddington Farmlands for warehouse use.

3.     Promote Biodiversity: Introduce regulations to safeguard garden trees and biodiversity, limiting non-permeable surfaces and astro-turf in private gardens. Encourage private tree planting and biodiversity net gain.

4.     Plant More Trees: Invest in tree planting initiatives throughout the borough, including parks and streets, and incentivize private tree planting and carbon sequestration.

5.     Support Sustainable Markets: Develop sustainable markets and shift more responsibility for the green transition to manufacturers and businesses, those better equipped to afford it. Continue the development of carbon and natural capital markets to reflect environmental costs in product prices, discouraging unsustainable goods while incentivizing sustainable ones. Londoners need the financial means to support these sustainable markets, making taxes a less effective means of achieving environmental goals.

6.     Assist Small Businesses: Provide additional support to small companies and individuals struggling to adapt to the ULEZ.

In conclusion, the current approach of taxing regular people to achieve environmental objectives can perpetuate inequality and allow major polluters to continue their practices unchecked. We don't need a Dark Green Transition that is oppressive and counterproductive, we need a just and fair Green Transition that holds the most powerful entities accountable. The primary responsibility for the Green Transition should rest with Big Business and those with the means to enact meaningful change. Placing the burden on the most vulnerable in society is oppressive and counterproductive. In our borough, KKR & Co. Inc., as a major polluter and source of environmental destruction, should be a top priority. We need a Green Transition that is both effective and equitable, ensuring that the biggest polluters are held accountable.

Monday, 11 September 2023

Mid-autumn at the Old Vic

Lunar Underwing, Brown-spot Pinion and Black Rustic in the trap this morning heralds a change in the guard to mid autumn moths. The temperatures are still holding up and there were a few migrants again over the last couple of nights including Vestal, Dark Sword Grass, Rush Veneer, Silver-Y and Rusty-dot Pearls.  

A few migrants on the bird front too with a flock of 110 House Martins and 2 Meadow Pipits going over this morning and also 4 Chiffchaffs in the garden. Ebird list from this morning HERE. I would normally have switched back to mainly birds by this time in the autumn and started getting out into the field more but I'm saving my energy for two weeks on the Black Sea in Bulgaria starting from this weekend. Looking forward to that. 

Juv Chiffchaffs (above and below) 

Adult Chiffchaff
Coal Tit
Presumably it's the same Common Buzzard that spends every autumn roosting in the garden Spruce tree
Black Rustic -NFY
Brown Spot Pinion -NFY
Dark Sword Grass (above) and Vestal (below)- always great to get migrants here which have had a good showing through this heatwave

Not a Common Plume confirmed by the first set of tibia spurs not being un-equal length. Maybe a Brown Plume, Stenoptilia pterodactyla?
Ashy Button, Acleris sparsana- NFY
Clifden Nonpariel- a garden NFY