Thursday, 20 July 2017

Beddington Farm - A First in the nets!

Banding days at the Farm have been busy of late with numerous juvenile birds dispersing. Cetti’s Warbler is one species that has flourished with the change in lakeside habitat. To think that over five years ago this species was considered a MEGA at the Farm. Today we had four birds in the nets which indicate a healthy population.
The lack of eye stripe one of the features of a juvenile bird.

The first record was on 100 Acre on April 5th 2002. My first sighting of this species was on October 10th 2009. This at the time was the 2nd record found by John Allan by the hide on the North Lake.

Today the weather suggested the day would be more productive than it turned out but there was a steady flow of birds with the best saved until last.
Just as Frank, Mike and I were beginning to close up for the day a juvenile Magpie landed in a net on the South Lake. Magpies are common birds in England so what was the big deal. This bird was a first in the nets for Beddington Farm. The bird was processed by Frank and released.

What a great end to the morning!

REF: The Birds of Beddington Farmlands by Alfrey,Milne, Coleman and the BFBG. Beddintgon Farmlands Bird and Wildlife Report 2012.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Hertfordshire - The Doves having a Laugh!

I was up at stupid o clock this morning to take a relatively short journey to Hertfordshire for the Laughing Dove which has been present at Sandon for around a week.
This species is a breeding resident in Africa and was a regular feature during my birding adventures in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana and Namibia). I also recorded birds in Tanzania whilst following the Wildebeest and zebra migration through the Serengeti.
They also breed in the Middle East and around India. Laughing Dove has been introduced to Perth and established itself in Western Australia, and originally introduced to the Middle East (inc: Turkey, Israel).
This Dove is small and is a striking mix of pink through the head with cinnamon through the mantle and breast with grey blue forewings. The breast has a diagnostic black speckled necklace which with its plain cinnamon back distinguishes it from Turtle dove.
They are not considered a migratory species but in the words of some information sites can turn up anywhere. They have adapted to gardens and city centres and can be quite tame. It is highly likely it has escaped from a collection but birding does turn up anomalies every once in a while.
I enjoyed my time viewing the bird. I was the only one there for a good hour as I wandered around this peaceful English Village. I hope the residents (who were very birder friendly) are successful in thwarting the proposed wedding venue to be situated in the village!

At least I nailed some pictures which is more than can be said for the Marsh Sandpiper earlier in the week!
Ref: IBC Bird Collection, Wikipedia, Sasol Birds of Southern Africa, Helm Birds of East Africa.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Beddington Farm - Shorebirds on the Move!

This morning I headed over to the Farm to see if the rain had dropped any new shorebirds in. I bumped into Pete Alfrey as I was parking up and a plan to meet up on 100 Acre was hatched. The water levels had risen quite considerably making 100 Acre the most likely area for new arrivals.

I met Pete at the gates and the search began. This was going to be a careful investigation with all likely beds to be covered. The species that became the bookies favourite was Black-tailed Godwit with Pete particularly on the look-out for young Yellow-legged Gull that move at this time of the year.
It did not take long to find a juvenile Yellow-legged on Jim’s bed. I must confess I would probably of overlooked this bird but eagle eyed Pinpoint was on it straight away. There were a few shorebirds on the small pit which included an adult and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover which were surprisingly quite approachable as they scurried about on the mud.
Green Sandpiper was also present with a final tally of eight birds in this area. This species numbers tend to build up at this time of the year as birds stay to moult before moving on. Numbers in the past have reached the late forties and of course with that there is a chance of a Wood Sandpiper as well.
With 100 Acre completely covered we moved on to the Lakes where a Common Sandpiper was busily feeding away on one of the few places that still had some exposed mud.
The bookies favourite did not come in on this occasion but I wonder if that was down to the rise in water levels. A bit of gull training which was an un-expected bonus for the morning. See for more gen on gull identification. Cheers Pete!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Beddington Farm - Regular as a Red Kite!

Red Kite is a regular occurrence at The Farm these days. To think that only ten years ago this was a difficult species to see with only a handful of sightings a year. These sightings would also be high fly-overs with little opportunity to get good views of the birds moult pattern.

This species is primarily a scavenger feeding on carrion but will also take live prey and even fish. The landfill still contains food waste despite local councils implementing a collection service. I have noticed in the last few years that Kites are looking to feed on the landfill swooping very low over the site in search of a meal.
Very few birds are successful due to the eagle eyed Corvids that perch and patrol the site. This morning as Mike, Frank and I were ringing one bird attempted to land on the landfill then turned its attentions to us circling over the hide as we were processing our highest tally of birds in the nets  so far this year (61 new and 5+ re-traps).

This species has in the past has been heavily persecuted which led to a committee being set up in 1903 to protect nest sites. In the 1980’s the Kite was one of three species that was globally threatened residing in the UK.

Introduction programmes saw the first successful breeding records in Buckinghamshire and North Scotland in 1992. 1994 saw the first wild chicks being reared. This species is now established in the East Midlands, Central Scotland, Leeds, Derwent Valley, Dumfries and Scotland. Populations in the South are thriving with feeding programmes in place.

Many birds are wing tagged and any sightings should be reported to the BTO.  

Ref: RSPB, Raptors of Europe and Middle East by Forsman.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Beddington Farm - In the Mix!

I have been keeping an eye on the Farm of late but have not been staking the place out as I would during migration. In the last day there has been steady rain which can always drop something in on the lakes. This morning I took a walk around the lakes and 100 Acre with a couple of House Martin and c50 Swift.
The Little Ringed Plover were on the South Lake along with a Redshank which had sought temporary sanctuary in between the mizzle. The largest of the Canada Goose flocks still has three Greylag in tow.
I had been ringing / banding with David Campbell on 100 Acre last Sunday producing out best return of birds thus far with 22 new birds being processed. Many of these birds were juveniles including Starling, Great Tit, Robin and Blackbird.
Last week I checked the nest-boxes with Derek Coleman and processed five, FL Tree Sparrow provided the second successful brood of this species this season.

During quieter periods I have been checking the sacrificial crops and lake edges for butterflies. I recorded a personal new Beddington record in Marbled White which have proved difficult to photograph but I am persisting and hope to complete the challenge before they move on.
On the mound Skippers, Meadow Brown and Green Veined White are present. The odd Brimstone is seen passing over the hill.
Small and Large White are seen along the path but are generally tricky to photograph.
Peacock and Red Admiral are far more obliging the latter claiming a nest box as a resting point.
Southern Damselfly (?) are also present on the mound stretching themselves out as they bask in the sun.
Small Tortoiseshell has been numerous on 100 Acre with c50 counted whilst checking the beds.

I don’t profess to be an expert of Butterflies and the like but they are a good distraction until migration starts to gain pace again!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

West Sussex - Pagham Harbour - Better to Go Late Than Never!

An Elegant Tern has been present for over a week at Church Norton, Pagham Harbour, West Sussex and I had not gone to see which I cannot explain. The traffic put me off after seeing the Red Footed Falcon at Frensham.

I obviously had an improved mindset this morning because I was up and out early.. ish and making my way down to Pagham. The bird had been seen therefore there was a good chance I would add this species to my life list.
The journey was kind to me and I arrived just in time to secure a spot in the Church Norton car-park. A short walk later and I joined the line of twitchers who had their scopes trained on the bird. This was probably one of the easier twitches I had gone on. The only difficulty I had was securing photos of the bird!
There has been talk of a possible hybrid. This species has hybridized with Sandwich Tern in France in the past. There is also a population of Lesser Crested tern in the Southern Mediterranean. There are plenty of good pictures on the Bird alert websites to scrutinize.  I understand a DNA sample has been taken so the identity of the species should be conclusive!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Frensham - Scramble Scramble!! Falcon on the Ridge!!

There was no time to breathe this morning as my slumber was broken by my phone going crazeee next to me! A Red Footed Falcon had been found at Frensham by Sean Peters. Surrey Ed had obviously realized Koje was still in cuckoo land and was trying his upmost to raise the dead!!

Breakfast consisted of a swig of Piriton and the Kojemobile was off and running albeit on a minimal fuel. The journey down was straight forward enough with my trustee SATNAV. Lings ridge is about a ten minute walk from the Frensham Great Pond Carpark but you have to traverse the sand before you negotiate the hill.
Having arrived at the top I saw Dave Carlsson and Stevie Mc without his side kick on this occasion! I had just missed the bird which had been showing well but I was confident it would still be in the area.  I set down on the ridge and began scanning the area. There were a few scattered trees on the heathland. The bird had been favouring the larger dead trees.

It was just a game of patience from then onwards and this paid off as the bird flew over the ridge to the other side perching up on top of a small tree. I spoke to Sean who pointed out this was the first twitchable Surrey Vice County (SVC) bird! This brings my SVC list to a respectable 229 (considering I have lived abroad for parts). Woo Hoo!!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Beddington Farm - Storm brings in a Little Gull!

As the birding calendar enters into the doldrums a good storm is required to stir things up a bit. A stupid o clock start had me walking in on the tail end of the storm. This made the task of surveying a little bit tricky with many birds staying low in cover to avoid the howling wind.
I met up with Derek Coleman and we walked a familiar route around the environs on the North Lake. As we entered the middle gate Derek saw a small gull near the water outlet. “Oh what’s that?” he exclaimed. The gull was a juvenile type Little Gull which had likely been driven down by the storm. Glen in the mean time had also picked up the gull from near the hide.
The bird was reasonably close so the camera was put into action as the bird took a short flight to another spot on the lake. The bird was still present when I left the site at around 0900hrs.
The Farm has a pair of very territorial Mute Swan on each of the North and South lakes and both pairs have been successful with one cygnet being reared on the North Lake and four on the South.
The cygnets are naturally heavily guarded but I managed some shots from a good distance away.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Exploration time!

My attentions of late have turned to completing survey schedules but I have been visiting the Farm and doing some exploring in areas I don't usually traverse. There has not been much to report on the rarity front but I guess that anything that turns up now is going to be a mega! Therefore it would be futile to desert the place just yet!
During my rounds I have taken the opportunity to expand my patch photo list. A singing Skylark gave away its position on the mound one morning and the photo opportunity was duly taken!
A late snipe popped up on the South Lake the other day. The design of this lake was completed and looks far more appealing to the eye than the North Lake.
I spent yesterday morning checking the nest boxes on the Farm with Derek Coleman and we happened upon these Great Tit that are not far short of fledging!
There is a good spread of wild flowers in the fields and on the slopes of the mound. The ploughed area also looks very inviting to tired birds. A Whimbrel spent a couple of days feeding in this area. With the additional fauna and considerable rises in the daily temperature s it was not long before the butterflies put in an appearance.
A walk through the Bedzed field and area adjacent to the old site of the railway bridge produces Small Tortouiseshell Common Blue and Peacock butterflies. I have signed up to the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and will be collecting data on my BBS square at Oaks Park.
A Bee took the opportunity to photo bomb a picture this time. I am beginning to get quite a collection of these pictures. At the time of taking the shot I am oblivious to the goings on in the background!

At the end of this week I will be at New Barn Farm West Sussex for the BTO Nest Recording Scheme. I am looking forward to this course which will be another piece of my ornithological jigsaw puzzle!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Beddington Farm - "Calling Beddington Bird Rescue - Come in Please!!"

Today started the same as any other! David Cambell and I arrived at the same time had a quick scan of the lakes and then set up our stall in the hide for a potentially rain filled day! Frank had gone for a walk and found a drake Garganey on the South Lake which caused a mini twitch for the new members Magnus and Christian.
In the mean time a Herring Gull was spotted in some distress on the main island. The bird had been hooked by a fishing lure and the fishing wire had become entangled around one of the bushes on the island leaving the bird pinned head and neck down to the ground!
Following a distress call from other gulls the group members leapt into action phone calls were made and with the addition of Tomas the boat was fully inflated and a shovel was used as an oar to steer the rescue mission over to the island.
The crew of two set off Tomas at the shovel and David Campbell as C licence bird handler. Fortunately the seas were calm with a slight W wind to assist with a perfect landing!
The gull was promptly freed from its torment and placed to recover whist the remainder of the line was cleared preventing any further probability of casualties. Around five minutes later the gull was washing up and flapping its wings waving farewell to its liberators!
Word had got out amongst the local Hirundines and they lined the route welcoming the crew back to shore! The landing however was not as smooth was it DB?!
On examination of the lure a further sad note to the story was revealed. Another bird (likely to be a gull) had swallowed the lure and line and had perished leaving a tangled mess around some of its remains! The Herring gull had obviously seen the same attraction in the imitation fish and hooked itself in the bill and become entangled!!

There is no permitted public access at Beddington Farm but there are certainly no Pike let alone numbers of fish for it to feed on! If this tackle had made it onto the landfill then I can only appeal to anglers to dismantle hooks and line before throwing items in the bin!! Grrr!
The drake Garganey remained on the south lake until at least lunch time and was also twitched by non key holding birders.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Having a funny Tern!

This morning I took another tour of the Farm starting at the area N of the North Lake. I then took a quick look at Jim’s bed on 100 Acre, before moving on to Bikers Field and then Bedzed field. There were no great surprises but it was a joy to watch a large family of Blue Tit the young all lined up waiting for their parents to feed them. They all looked so peaceful as mum and dad raced around collecting food for their siblings. A smaller family were seen along the edge of the Bedzed field but there were only a couple of mouths to feed.
Having completed my tour of these areas I headed back to the North Lake where Frank was scanning the lake. Swifty joined us a short time later. There is a pair of Sand Martin that have been prospecting the artificial bank therefore viewing operations have moved to a small sheltered area between the hide and the bank. Frank had gone for a walk over the mound when I spotted a tern flying low over the Lake. I put the camera to work straight away as the bird completed a quick circuit of the island and sailed away N.  
A few moments later what I thought was the same bird appeared over the lake. A few more pictures later and this bird left in the same direction! I was confident the birds were Common Tern but wanted to make certain so we all trooped into the hide where the light was better for looking at pictures in a viewfinder. This confirmed that there were two terns that had made a brief visit to the lake. The second bird had more black on the leading edge of the primaries and darker outer edge to the secondaries.

Heavy rain is due this evening from the SW and this is scheduled to continue throughout the rest of tomorrow. Will the day be a complete washout or will there be a surprise visitor or two!!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Beddington Farm - Spot Fly gets photo bombed!

The weather forecast is rarely right so I don’t know why I expected today to be any different. When I looked last night rain was forecast for later in the day which would give me enough time to cover 100 Acre and a bit beyond. At stupid o’clock off I set and made good time to start the day. The rain was obviously in a rush to reach the Farm too no sooner had I began my walk the heavens opened and continued sporadically throughout the morning.

As I was checking the beds to the E of the Incinerator I spied a Spotted Flycatcher which was sheltering out of the wind and rain. A couple of Greenfinch had other ideas about this and began harassing the bird. When they realized the paparazzi were present one paused and photo bombed a couple of my shots!

Not a bad find considering this is an area of the Farm which is rarely traversed. The height of the nettles and scrub had probably seen most people off. I was however pretty soaked by the end of my short journey around these beds.
Elsewhere there were a good number of Swift amongst the hirundines this morning. The Caspian Gull was on the North lake mid morning. Nice one DB!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Beddington Farm - WeBS Out on a Whim!

Today was WeBS day at Beddington Farm. An early start did not put me at any great advantage as it was chucking it down with rain. I took refuge in the hide with David “Devilbirder” Campbell until the worst of the weather had past. David and I then headed in opposite directions. I prefer to start the counts at 100 Acre and move south covering the lakes mound and finishing in the SE corner.

It was not too long before the group whatsapp was whistling in my pocket and David had seen a Whimbrel that was clearly looking for some sanctuary around the edges of the South Lake. The bird set down and being at the furthest point away from the lakes I continued counting.

By the time I had reached the North Lake the thought of seeing this bird had disappeared from my mind. I moved on to the South Lake when I saw David at the gates with Christian. This was a new Farm species for Christian so I joined them briefly whilst completing the counts on the South Lake.
The bird had re-located itself on the mound close to the freshly ploughed area by a group of saplings that were still in their protective casings. This provided ideal cover to get closer and get some shots having made a real dogs dinner of taking pictures during a brief  period of flight!

That was a pleasant surprise and thanks to some eagle eyed spotting by David, Christian added another to his total!

WeBS day has a habit of turning up a surprise Woo Hoo!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Beddington Farm - April turned out Alright in the End!

Having spent the majority of March birding in Spain I embarked on my own patch watch challenge. My personal objective was to see Bar-tailed Godwit as well as record the passage of migrants through Beddington Farm. The month ahead was particularly gruelling at times but it had its moments which provided the fuel to continue on with the campaign!
I will begin on a sad and rather worrying note.The Farms flagship species Tree Sparrow was still present but having spent time with Derek Coleman checking the nest boxes there only appears to be two breeding pairs with the possibility of a third that may still be prospecting. A few years ago the BFBG recorded just short of 1000 birds including pulii! Efforts are being undertaken to assist in this species recovery but is it too late! Time will tell!
(photo by Roger Browne)
The first week of April provided the perfect start when Dodge picked up a Goshawk flying N over the lake. He was also sharp on the lens providing pictures of this amazing raptor. I certainly did not have this species on my list of possible! Red Kites were on the increase with up to three a day during some periods. The Sutton Peregrines were also regular visitors causing flight chaos amongst the residents!
Great Crested Grebe which is not a common feature at the Farm spent time on the lakes. This species has now been added to my photo gallery. Little Egret and Cormorant were regularly present. The lakes limited stock of fish and eels had to remain forever on guard with a dark torpedo shape whizzing around seizing every opportunity for a meal. One Tench was clearly caught napping as a Cormorant scooped it up in its bill despatching it unceremoniously down its throat!
A record passage of Mediterranean Gull over a few days. The highest tally of twenty one flying N. This species is usually a regular feature during the Winter months but had rarely been seen until this point.
A Male Ring Ouzel thought it had escaped my glances as I checked the sludge beds on 100 Acre with Frank. But the "Blackbird with a white bib!" was not quick enough on this occasion. The bird was re-located hiding in the lower part of a line of trees waiting patiently for the intruders to move on!
Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were seen throughout the month. One large Iceland Gull causing a few id issues amongst observers. This bird is still present favouring 100 Acre.
A good passage of Reed Warbler were processed in the nets along with some very lively Ring-necked Parakeets who left their mark on both Devilbirder and myself. Another lively character was processed today more scars but the bird was fine!

The weather was playing its part with a generally cold rain free month which appeared to hold many birds on the continent until there was a change in conditions. This provided a surge of birds and the best days birding at the Farm for a few years.
This saw my target bird fall and it stuck around long enough to get a few digi-scope shots as it fed on the North Lake.
The appearance of a Temminck’s Stint threw a good morning into chaos as attempts were made to get keyholders to the Farm to see it. This species has not been seen since 2004 and represents the eleventh record. Was it the same bird I had seen the previous day (pic above)!
The birds continued to fall throughout the day with a very obliging Nightingale singing near the gates. A Turtle Dove which flew low S over the lake.  Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Greenshank added to the shorebird list. The first Hobby and Whinchat of the year were recorded. Wheatear were also present on the mound
The evening continued with the arrival of Arctic Tern who had a brief look at the lake before flying off E. A thirteen hour day which in the past would have kept keyholders here from dawn to dusk but saw periods when I was the only observer present!
This was a great ending to April with the Observatory (Pete Alfrey’s flat window) providing an early surprise at the beginning of May. A Black Redstart that was feeding in an adjacent garden to his.

Four new birds for my Beddington Farm list which stands at 185 species. One addition to my Surrey Vice County list which now stands at 229 but I will be losing one when the Redpolls are lumped!
The marathon continues into May with a mix of bird banding which has me up at in-describable o clock and stake outs on the corner! We are entering the period of the MEGA but will the Farm produce another surprise?!