Sunday, 21 May 2017

Jacob and the Beaver Hunt

Took Jacob on his first camper-vanning (mobile obsing) adventure this weekend, to Devon to see Jaffa and Helen and have a look for The River Otter Beavers. Mission successful (although his mum got a bit stressed while I was trying to moth catch and sound record at night while trying to assist in meeting the demands of a six week old too and also she kicked off when we took the buggy off road through a swampy path- Jacob seemed to love it and slept better in the camper than he does at home). 

We arrived Friday evening and I did a bit round the Ladram Bay camp site that we stayed in, Just a few House Martins overhead, Gannet and Fulmar at sea, Whimbrel and Oystercatcher calling at night and also a Bunting- presumably either Yellowhammer or Cirl Bunting calling at night (see sound files below).

Saturday morning I walked along the South West Coast path from Ladram Bay to Otterton Sewage Works- Cirl Buntings, Stonechats, Sand Martin, Swallows, Whitethroats and Brown Hares. In the afternoon we checked out Jaffa and Helen's wildlife garden, walked along the River Otter to Budleigh Salterton and in the evening we had a look on the river up from Otterton to find the Beavers. 

A few plants I didn't recognise along the coast and also plenty of garden plants around Budleigh which would be very unusual in these parts back home. Will have a look through the pics to see if I can identify any of them later (i.e stick them on I-spot). 

Here's a few weekend picture highlights: 

Female Beaver (known as Patricia) presumably pregnant with swollen teats. Amazing paddle tail, 
The size of a dog! 
Juvenile Dipper 
Rock Pipit (with prominent supercilium, if I saw that at Beddington in autumn I'd string it as a littoralis. This bird was singing and holding territory so presumably nominate petrosus). 
Roe Deer in wetland meadow 
Male Stonechat on Angelica hedges - a stunning bit of farmland between Ladram Bay and Budleigh- with singing Skylarks, Cirl Buntings, Stonechats and migrants. 
Ladram Bay cross bedding- if I remember right from my days studying environmental geology in these parts these are Triassic sandstones laid down in sand dunes at a time when south west England was a desert. The red colour is oxidized iron formed in the arid conditions. Fulmars nesting top left. 
Our Pitch Up at Ladram Bay- complete with moth trap (caught nothing as temperature down to 6 degrees at night). 
Jacob's nest in the front of the camper 
Jaffa and Helen 
Jaffa and Helen's wildlife pond- stunning Foxgloves 
Brilliant and original feature in the front garden with the front wall turned into a west country flowering 'lane bank'. Plenty of Short-tailed Field Voles using the bank. 
View over Ladram Bay 

Oystercatcher calling at night over the camper van and also a Bunting call- Yellowhammer? 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Plovers and Pugs

It's been a busy couple of days at work, got a birding bike ride in yesterday morning and also been keeping an eye out of the obs window. Had an Oystercatcher flying over the obs garden last week, the Iceland Gull sitting on the incinerator buildings and had six Ringed Plover fly north yesterday during a down pour. Also Common Sandpiper, Barn Owl and Little Ringed Plover calling at night and the moths are picking up a bit now in the evening. Had my first Common Blue of the year yesterday too. 

 Ringed Plover- traditionally Ringed Plovers continue moving through into mid-late May locally. The highest spring count was 34 on 18th May 1999
 Green Pug
Currant Pug. Also in the trap Silver-Y, Diamond-back Moth, Garden Pebble, Pale Mottled Willows, Marbled Minor, Clouded Silver and a couple of micros

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Deer Identification

I've been seeing a lot more Deers recently (in Oxfordshire) so needed to do a bit of deer identification learning (thanks to facebook friends for the help) . Apparently there are six species of Deer in the UK  SEE HERE. Without knowing turns out I've seen and photographed them all while on the birding road. Here they are with a few id notes below: 

 Male Red Deer (London, Richmond Park): Majestic looking, large, red/brown hue to coat with large branching antlers in the stags
 Female Red Deer (London, Richmond Park)- large, red/brown coats, restricted dark on nose, long faced

 Male Fallow Deer (London, Richmond Park). Variable but often chestnut and spotted. Distinctive bum pattern of white framed in black borders
 A dark morph 
 There's those distinctive bums (Oxfordshire). 

Female Roe Deer (Oxfordshire). Black nose band and all white bum. Males have simple, minimal branching antlers

 Female Chinese Water Deer (Oxfordshire). A female. A small plain faced deer. Males have fangs.

 Female Reeve's Muntjac (Oxfordshire). A small deer- dark markings on the head are the best way to distinguish from Chinese Water Deer.

 Male Sika Deer (Dorset). Males in winter in plain reddish brown but in summer have distinctive spots. 
 On the bum front, a bit like fallow but looks like a stronger upper black border. 

I remember seeing Reindeer in Scotland (presumably introduced) so not sure why they are not included? 

Monday, 15 May 2017

What to do if you find a baby bird out of the nest

A few bits from the weekend

Saturday morning at Beddington Farmlands 

 Second calender year Red Kite- the white streaks on the underparts are retained juvenile feathers indicating the age. The primary moult has started and most second calender year birds start the moult earlier than adults. Adults will also moult through the summer months- so most Red Kites this time of year are moulting their inner primaries- generally the more advanced birds are second calender year birds. 
 The extensive pale area in the upper wing, the pale tips to the greater coverts and the sub-terminal tail band are additional juvenile plumage features. Overall this bird is mostly in juvenile attire having had a rather limited moult so far.

Sunday Butterfly Transect at Otmoor

 Small Copper . Holly, Jacob and I did our butterfly transect on Saturday morning- it was rather windy so not too many species. Highlight was 2 Small Coppers. Plenty of birds on the transect including Hobby and Cuckoo. 

Sunday afternoon at the Old Vicarage

Did a bit more recording at the Old Vicarage- these longhorn moths were the highlights.

Yellow-barred Long-horn Nemophora degeerella
Meadow Long-horn Adela rufimitrella

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Beddington Incinerator still causing chaos

The fight goes on, last night at the Sutton Council Planning Committee:

I even ended up getting involved recently and got into trouble. I was showing some local people round and talking about the restoration problems and a petition was started using video from the walk and talk : HERE
My main points I was trying to make was the need to complete the restoration and also the benefit of having independent air quality monitoring (to rest the fears of local people and also to ensure the highest standards are upheld by the incinerator operators). However the petition is strongly anti-incineration and bringing the visitors on and resulting in anti-incineration campaign was agaisnt the terms of the bird group access conditions. The long and short of it, is that I can no longer risk taking visitors on site and won't be able to lead tours any more. I'm on my final warning- one more incident and I will loose my access privilege.

Top Ten Springs

It's nostalgia time!- (i.e. it's been a week of catching up with soul destroying paperwork).


10. First Springs

My first full spring was 1987- I found a Firecrest (a local mega at the time) which was my first major find at Beddington. Everything was new and exciting- falls of Wheatears (30+ in 1987), my first-first spring migrants, Black Redstarts were regular then too. In 1988 Garry and I had a Red Kite flying over the hundred acre field with a Ring Ouzel, Yellow Wagtails and 15 Wheatears running around below it- a UK rarity at the time and our first mention in Birding World.

9. Late 90's University Team Rarity Hunting

In the late 1990's (1995-1999)  Jaffa, Sam Woods, Dingers, myself, the unfortunate ladies and occasionally AJ, Crispin and Mush were hell bent on finding rarities, first in Devon and Cornwall (based from Plymouth and Exeter Universities) and later when we were all evicted back to London, mainly in Kent. Always tougher finding a vagrant is Spring rather than Autumn but we managed a Citrine Wagtail in Spring 1996 in Devon and Red-footed Falcon, Kentish Plover and a few scarcities (Temminck's etc) in Kent. Also twitched a few birds including Slender-billed Gull in Kent. Good times cutting our rarity finding teeth.

8. Lesvos 2001

Cinereous Bunting 
Red-throated Pipit

This was my first spring birding trip to the Eastern Flyway. Just me and Dingers (Just the Two of Us was our anthem). Absolutely loved it. First time for Eastern specialities such as Glossy Ibis, Long-legged Buzzard, Eleonora's Falcon, Little Crake, hundreds of Temminck's, White-winged Blacks, Rufous Bush Robin, Isabelline Wheatear etc etc, 

7. Israel 2016

Glossy Ibis
Long-legged Buzzard
Masked Shrike
Eilat Mountains

Last year's Champions of the Flyway trip was fantastic- MORE HERE

6. Bulgaria 2011

White-winged Black Tern
Paddyfield Warbler 
Black and Common Terns
Turtle Doves 
White Pelicans

Spring on the Eastern Flyway is simply epic. The 2011 trip to Bulgaria with Darryl, Greg and Dimiter was pure joy- epic mgiration and a few WP ticks to boot. A few more pics HERE

5. Point Pelee, Ontario 2004

The Pom Boys (Jaffa, Dingers, Darryl and myself) hit Pelee in 2004 and found some Pomarine Skuas which is pretty rare there but we didn't give a monkeys- the first time doing American passerines migration in Spring- doesn't really get much more impressive. 2004 still back in the days of notebooks.  

4. Morocco 2013

Seebhom's Wheatear- we found this bird as a migrant away from the main summering area
Thick-billed Lark 
Western Bonelli's Warbler
Subalpine Warbler 

Simply brilliant trip- headed south into Morocco for specialities and to meet the wave of migrants on their way north. One of Jaffa's trips with Wise Birding- Sue, Neil, Andrew, Darryl, Dingers and myself- brilliant crew and birds. MORE HERE

3. Georgia 2003

Guldenstadts's Redstart 
Great Rosefinch 
Caucasian Snowcock 

Darryl, Chris Bowden, Graham Tucker and Myself did this recee for Sunbird- mega local birds and mega migration too. Wrote this trip up for Birding World. 

2. Arctic Skuas 2000, shorebird flights and migrant falls at Beddington

Six Arctic Skuas over the North Lake in May 2000- one of the best things I've ever witnessed locally 
Early May 1990 shorebird flight- my baptism into east winds, terns and waders. 2 Little Tern (first for the farmlands), six Black Tern, 30+ Commic Terns, 1 Temminck's Stint, Turnstone and other shorebirds went through within a few hours in the morning. 
Barwits over the North Lake - a classic Spring flight species 
Wheatears at Little Woodcote 
Ring Ouzels at Little Woodcote

Spring flights and falls at Beddington and locally are some of my favourite and most exciting birding events in the Spring. Late April/ early May is the time for a shorebird flight usually associated with east sector winds. 

1. The ultimate shorebird flight over Beddington 2010

Pacific Golden Plover (photos by Roger Browne)
Common Crane 

Over a couple of days in early May bank holiday weekend in 2010 we had Pacific Golden Plover (First for the farmlands and first in London since the C17th and a BB Rarity- which at Beddinton is like a first for the world!),  Common Crane (first for the farmlands) Knot, Bariwt, Whimbrel, Arctic Tern, Kittiwake and a whole load of other commoner waders and migrants. The ultimate in local birding- cannot beat the excitement of mega action on the local patch.