Saturday, 27 July 2013

Dip, dippety, dip, dip, dip

That's the sound of Crossbill at Lynford Arboretum laughing at us, that is!

A great plan by Mr Bradders to bash Frampton and Lynford for both Baird's Sandpiper and Two-barred Crossbill respectively; a plan I could relish, both being lifers.  Relish turned into a gloopy dip, the one always left over in the fridge until it can walk.

Nice to have a day out of London and we saw some good birds; among them a family of Spot Fly at Lynford, a couple of Red Kites (Norfolk tick) and a good number of wader, ending with a lost Whimbrel as the sea mist trundled inland to the field where we were dipping, again, before heading home.

The Baird's had done a runner overnight, so we dipped by proxy.  Lynford was chupping away nicely with a good number of Common Crossbill, but not the one we wanted.  We dipped at Kelling Heath, not only for 2-bar, but Dartford Warbler too. Then to Cley where we dipped Curlew and Pectoral Sandpiper, and dipped the sea which was covered in a warm grey fug. Finally we dipped Monty's in a secret location known only to a few, amongst whom the Harrier in question was not to be counted.

Mr Lethbridge wisely stayed at home in bed.  Sage fellow.

good with dips

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Pointless London Listing update

Half a year done, and how's it looking for this misguided attempt of no consequence?

Steve Connor: 194 (having just scored White-headed Duck at Staines) July 2003

Some of the quality he managed that I haven't: Black-throated Diver, Shag, Bewick Swan, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Ring-billed Gull, Red-necked Grebe, White-fronted Goose, Iceland Gull, Dartford Warbler, Tundra Bean Goose, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-rumped Swallow, Quail, Temminck's Stint, Woodchat Shrike, Blyth's Reed Warbler, White-headed Duck, Long-tailed Skua, White Stork, Manx Shearwater, Red-necked Phalarope, Ortolan bunting, Eider, Arctic Skua, Yellow-browed Warbler, Storm Petrel

Jono Lethbridge: 187 (a little matter of a White-tailed Plover at Rainham on the 10th July)

Some of the quality he managed: Serin, Great Skua, Glaucous Gull, Black-throated Diver, Bean Goose, White-fronted Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Dusky Warbler, Red-necked Grebe, Bewick's Swan, Velvet Scoter, Hoopoe, Little Stint, Quail, Cattle Egret, White-winged Black Tern, White-tailed Plover, Arctic Skua, Ortolan Bunting, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Lapland Bunting, Penduline Tit, Eider, Common Crane, Snow Bunting, Grey Phalarope, Shag, 

Me: 176 (Pectoral Sandpiper, Rainham, 13th July)

So a bit of work to do to catchy-catchy. Not sure what Dom's score was at this stage when he went head-to-head with Mr L, I think they were neck and neck until the last couple of months.

I've still got 8 of my "bankers", though I think the Owl maybe a bit tricky.  Notice the confidence, not even the slightest bit of doubt over a Wryneck!!

Mandarin Duck Sand Martin
Garganey Swallow
Red-crested Pochard House Martin
Ruddy Duck Tree Pipit
Great Northern Diver Yellow Wagtail
Red Kite Nightingale
Hobby Redstart
Little Ringed Plover Whinchat
Bar-tailed Godwit Wheatear
Whimbrel Ring Ouzel
Spotted Redshank Grasshopper Warbler
Greenshank Sedge Warbler
Wood Sandpiper Reed Warbler
Little Gull Garden Warbler
Caspian Gull Lesser Whitethroat
Black Tern Whitethroat
Common Tern Willow Warbler
Turtle Dove Spotted Flycatcher
Cuckoo Pied Flycatcher
Long-eared Owl Marsh Tit
Nightjar Raven
Swift Tree Sparrow
Wryneck Common Crossbill
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Hawfinch

That nice Mr Bonser has offered to show me a Caspian Gull when the winter comes and he's up at the tip. He also said Cross Ness was good for passage Sandwich Tern, and, as if to emphasise the point, got one that very evening. Probably flew down the river by Rainham while I was sheltering under a bush out of the sun.

Messed up on the Fudge Duck, got deflected from the path that would have got me Stone Curlew on the patch, too slow to react to Sanderling (but could get them back), dipped Red-rumped Swallow, never got close to going for the Hoopoe(s), got  possible (if not incredibly stringy) Honey Buzzard (not counted), not a sniff of an Osprey,  and absolutely no chance with the Whiskered Terns that flew through Staines Reservoir, but on the plus side have beaten my previous best for a London year - so not an abject failure. However I still see myself grounding in the 90's, but it's been enjoyable even though I haven't made it to too many new sites; Beddington was interesting, Cross Ness a revelation and the North Surrey downs - breathtaking (not only because of the steep hills).

Only nine (quality) birds added to my London Life list, and quite frankly I am going to have to get a hat full more if I am to breach the big 200.  Not being really bothered about my UK year list means that I've missed about ten lifers through being "couldn't be arsed", still had some great trips and although Shetland may not be on the cards this Autumn, I am sure to go on a few more.

So Rainham and the Pec.  Good looking bird, too far away in the haze for any record shots that even I, with my exactingly low standards, can proffer you so have some other stuff that was close enough to mitigate mirages.

Ruddy Darter

Magpie Moth

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Twites return to Surrey for a new mission

If I had said to Mr Fisher, let's go to Surrey and look at Galloway Cattle, I would have pretty much been talking to myself shortly afterwards. So I sugared it up a bit: Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler... Nightjar in the London recording area, how ridiculous.

Good that it was the hottest day of the year for steep hills and long hikes. Lucky then that much of it was in the cool shade of the forest and we were in no particular hurry. To make things interesting we had a little wager on the number of birds we would see.  Stu always the pragmatist went for a low 38, while the naive optimist in me confidently pitched for 65.  What was I thinking?

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)  - still
a fairly common orchid of chalk and limestone grassland

For all the bio-diversity you are meant to get in woodland, you don't get many birds, even the one's you should get. A fly-over Crossbill was good, Marsh Tit called along the way and Bullfinches were fairly well represented. The sky remained stubbornly empty of birds and clouds with just the regular noise of a plane going into Gatwick or Biggin to spoil the tranquillity.

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuschii) - perhaps
one of our most common orchids
Of course it was beyond our scope to have got a map of any description and we had to rely on Stu's smashed up phone as mine wasn't picking up any signal.  We got lost.  No matter time was on our side and we dawdled, Stu calling the plants and insects we came across - a product of his younger years working for the RSPB.  Wild Thyme and Marjoram and many other plants I'd not noticed or seen before - an education.

A lot of plants often associated with heathy areas like this
Slender St-John's Wort (Hypericum pulchrum) grow
alongside chalk species due to a thin layer of sand over
the chalk at this location
We had lunch under a large oak on a scrubby bit of clearance land, which to my mind didn't look heathy very much, but the closest our witless rambling had brought us to. Life was good and London seemed a million miles away (but still well within the recording area).

Black Mullein (Verbascum nigrum)
Lunch done, we had to ask some passing dog walkers where the heather was.  The answer to the east and two ways to get there; a steep way and a not so so steep way.  The steeper way was via steps up a flower meadow, which is of course the way my companion wished to follow.  Every step we sweated more, I was beginning to think that the 3 litres of water I was carrying wasn't going to be enough, so we took it easy.

At the top of the steps no sign of heather clad heath, but rolling woodland and scrubby pasture. We were soon back to meandering, which finally brought us to a dirt track, habitation, the car park and finally "the heath". Harking back to last year's jaunt to the New Forest, Mr F suggested that we needed refreshment to help bide the time till darkness fell. I took this as him volunteering to go to the local offy and get some booze, while I did a bit of reconnoitring.

Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium)

Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium)

Hiding from the Sun
We arranged to meet up by the doggy waste bin in an hour, and when that time duly arrived I went and sat on the verge waiting for his return. While I waited another birder turned up.  I thought to tap him for some local gen. This was only his second visit to the site, and was sceptical that Woodlark, Nightjar or Dartford Warbler would be found as the signs that advertised their presence didn't specifically say they were here, more that the ground was prepared for them just in case they were. Not really the news I wanted to hear, though I had picked up the call of a Woodlark on my solo circling. Stu, turning up, had some more news I didn't want to hear: the shop was shut, but there was a pub. He pointed out that evening was yet young and that refreshments were probably in order.  I agreed.

We did add House Martin, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Hobby, fish and chips and a couple of pints to the day list. It didn't make us any less sluggish, and certainly more windy!

Bell Heather (Erica cinerea)
Back at the heath the day was drowsily coming to an end, no sign of the singing Garden Warblers I had earlier, or the lark, but as we checked out our routes home, I picked up some shapes through the foliage. Oh yes, the target of my visit.  Galloways!

The fantastic beasts must have been sheltering from the heat of the day deep in the wood, and now as it got cooler for their Scottish temperament they could come out and feed on the grass along the rides, like big fat tapir.

While we watched the sun go down, a lone Swallow (the day's only one), a Starling and Kestrel, gave me hope that I might win the wager (no prizes), and with the birds we didn't see I might have pulled it off.  No Swift, Sprawk, gulls, Lesser Whitehroat, ducks - OK 65 was rash.

Time came for us to hoof it back to the station, a mere 5 miles away, I was confident I knew where I was going, but it was now dark and trees and paths we had noted just recently now unfamiliar.  This could be harder than I thought. Finally we found what we thought must be our route and off we yomped. An hot and sweaty hour later I had brought us back to the station, which impressed Mr Fisher (set against his previous experience of my navigational expertise).  Picked up a family of owls by the road on the way back too which  would have been a great end to the day if the FUCKING TRAIN HADN'T BEEN DELAYED!

Oh yeagh! We got Nightjar: a churring male and it's mate flying just feet away from our heads, fan-bloody-tastic, hence the mystery of the location!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Dining at the Cross Ness buffet

It's never going to get into the Michelin guide, but the origins of the soup de jour wasn't going to put off these discerning diners and quite a spectacle it served up too. Star attraction was one 2nd summer Bonaparte's Gull, which could well be one of the birds from last year returning for another helping of what south London was offering up.  Even Rich Bonser had not seen a adult BG in this country, and quite frankly phwoarr!  Better looking than the Sab's Gull of the KGV a couple of years' ago even if it wasn't dancing at the end of your feet.

Since some of the best photographers in London were there and blog overload has already begun, I will proffer my humble record shots in the sure and certain knowledge that you will see better.  Still a London tick since I gave the birds last year one shot and got very bored quickly looking at Black-headed Gull from the wrong side of the river. All together a much more satisfying spectacle this and Cross Ness didn't smell as bad as it can, and best of all Jono was on hand to give me a lift back to civilisation, so I didn't have to walk the mean streets, where horses graze the verges.