WELCOME

Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.



Sunday, 20 June 2010

THE RACE IS ON

After a week off I paid my first visit to Beddington Sewage Works. The timing of the visit was not exactly for the right reasons. Having not been out looking for new Surrey 'ticks' for more than a couple of weeks I thought it was time to raise the bar a bit. I say this because I'm signed up to another website called Surrey Birders, where you can log all the birds you have seen throughout the year. There are four stats tables on the site, one is more of a competition to see who can spot more bird species on a particular patch - I chose my local area (Spynes Mere and Holmethorpe Sand Pits).



The competition, for what it is worth, has pretty much already been won by a chap called R.T. Horton at Tices Meadow, which gets its fair share of interesting birds. I'm about 30 species behind so it's not going to be me who tops the list this year. To be honest, it would take a great deal of dedication to get even close.

So, with that in mind I've opted to try to top another list, the number of different species seen in Surrey. Well, the same man is top of that list too, and no matter how hard I try he always pulls a few birds out of the hat to keep ahead. Before this weekend, he was on 140 species while I was on 139.

I had a quick look at the list yesterday and saw that he had visited Beddington and was now up to 142 species. At this time of year it's incredibly hard to find new birds, but Beddington does have one in particular up its sleeve, which is nigh on impossible to find anywhere else in Surrey.

That, therefore, was the reason that led me to follow in Mr Horton's footsteps and go to Beddington. Ridiculous really, but then I always had the site in mind anyway, but because you need a permit to see the place properly I didn't think it would be that great from the wrong side of the perimeter fencing.

I was wrong though. You can actually see quite a large area of the two 'scrapes' and there is plenty of interesting habitat around the perimeter footpath.

The visit started off OK with an astonishing number of Grey Herons on view - Beddington must be the Heron capital of Surrey as I counted at least 25 of them. I also spotted a Green Sandpiper, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and Lesser Whitethroat but I was dismayed when I went to see the area which has been set up specifically for the bird I was looking for. Feeders have been erected to bring the birds in, but when I arrived, the feeder was empty and there was not a bird in sight.

I was about to leave when I thought I'd just take one last look, and low and behold, a male Tree Sparrow (140), followed presumably by its mate, flew onto a bush close by. They didn't stay long but at least I got to see one. I will make another visit one morning to get a proper viewing as the feeders lure in at least ten to a dozen normally.

So that was Beddington, a place I shall be visiting on more than one occasion come the autumn.



I wasn't done yet, however. I went home via Sutton in the hope I would see another new sighting. I parked in The Quadrant near the station, and looked up to the top of a tall building opposite. Perched on two corners, looking out over their territory, were a couple of Peregrine Falcon (141). These birds have made Sutton their home for some time and it was a pleasure to come and see them. I shall come back in the future in the hope of watching them in flight.

It's coming up to halfway through the year and I'm just one behind the leader on 141 birds. Before the start of the year anything over 100 and I would have been happy. From now on it is going to be a hard slog to find new sightings but I'm up for the challenge.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

MARVELLOUS MARMORA'S

We were in Wales on Saturday, which gave me the rare opportunity to go and see a rare bird.

I had a choice. It was either an Iberian Chiffchaff that was closer by but hard to find or a mega that Birdguides had named as its Bird of the Week, which was north of Pontypool at a place called the Blorenge. Obviously I chose the latter.



Once I found the site on a gloriously sunny afternoon the bird was easy to find. Within five minutes I had seen my first MARMORA'S WARBLER. This bird has only ever been recorded in Britain four times before, and what made it even better was that it was far from shy to show itself.



From a small car park about half a mile down the hill from a pair of radio masts, the bird liked to do a circuit where it flew from a holly bush about 150 metres away to a gorse bush by the side of the road. It also liked to sing often too, so it gave great views close up.

I stayed for about an hour to enjoy this little show-off with about ten other enthusiasts before making my way back. While I was there I also had great views of a couple of Whinchat, as well as numerous Tree Pipit. Well worth the visit.

Friday, 11 June 2010

NO HOPE OF A HOOPOE

Well, I went up to Chertsey yesterday morning to search for the Hoopoe, but as is the way with these things, and adding to my run of missed sightings, there was no Hoopoe to see.

I met Dominic Mitchell, a thoroughly nice chap, managing editor of Birdwatch magazine, and we walked round the site for sometime along with another bloke (I have forgotten his name - he's a tennis coach at the David Lloyd centre).

It was a surprise that it wasn't still about as the weather wasn't great - it was grey, damp and windy - and it would have been predicted to stay for a bit longer to feed before setting off again on its travels.

Top birder Johnny Allan and a few others apparently searched the site for about seven hours (that's dedication and determination for you) and he also drew a blank.

Oh well, we wait in hope that another scarcity decides to drop in to Surrey in the next few days but the likelyhood is we will have to wait for migrants on their return journey in the autumn.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

BOGGED DOWN BY MARSH TIT

It's been a long slog to find it but in the end I did. My first Marsh Tit (139) of the year, found at Ranmore Common. The Common was supposedly a dead-cert if you want to find this neat little bird, but on two previous visits I couldn't find one. The same thing happened at Bagmoor Common - although I think I might have caught a glimpse of one but at the time I couldn't be sure. This time round I saw one in an oak tree and heard another - and now I realise it is a song I have heard before.



So, at last, one monkey can be removed from my back. What made it slightly bitter-sweet though was that I have just taken up a seven-day trial with Rare Bird Alert - a brilliant website that gives you up-to-the-minute reports on all rare bird sightings around Britain - and I found out later that a Hoopoe had been sighted at Chertsey and if I had known I could have gone over there to take a look.

Similarly, I heard about the two Red-Backed Shrike sightings too late, visiting both sights (Banstead and Richmond Park) to find that the bird had long gone.

I shall try Chertsey in the morning. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

COMMON THEME

After the drama of Wednesday night I travelled to Bagmoor, Thursley and Hankley Commons on a very warm and sunny morning on Friday. I thought I'd take a look at Bagmoor Common in the hope of finding Marsh and Willow Tit, and maybe even Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - but still no joy.

However, I did see another Cuckoo fly by, plus a Tree Pipit and a Buzzard close up. I then went on to Thursley Common to see if I could find a Dartford Warbler, but I didn't find anything. The last shot was at Hankley Common. I parked in the same place as before, and went on a long walk but still no sign of a Dartford Warbler. Plenty of Woodlark, Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipit, as well as Whitethroat. I then decided to try a different part of the Common, which meant a short drive heading toward Frensham Ponds.



Another walk on to the Common started off with a Buzzard circling overhead, when I then heard the distinctive, scratchy call of a Dartford Warbler. I got a good view of the male bird before he disappeared into the deep heather. It was good to find one - my fourth of the year.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

IN THE NIGHT GARDEN

I took myself off to Chobham Common for a spot of night birding on Wednesday evening, and a fantastic evening it turned out to be - one of the most memorable yet. The Common is a strange place at night - not a sound but for one particular bird, one I had yet to see. After getting up close as the light faded, I got my first glimpse of an enigmatic Nightjar (136).



The Nightjar's call is unmistakable - a constant churring sound that can go on for minutes at a time. The other sound you might hear is a sudden flapping sound as it takes off from a branch of a tree - I found out later that night from watching Springwatch that the bird occasionally claps its wings when attracting a mate - but once it is in flight it is silent as it glides, swoops and circles in the half light.

video

The scene is quite eerie, but utterly captivating. I had one take off nearby and circle round me, swooping really close before settling again on a branch. I could have stayed for hours watching and listening to this spectacle but after an hour I made my way back to the car. On the way, there was a blur and a rushing sound as a Woodcock (137) flew swiftly across my path. In a flash it was gone.

A short while later as I was driving home I had to stop suddenly. There was a bird in the road right in front of me and it wasn't in a hurry to move. A Tawny Owl (138) turned to face the headlights as it feasted on some road-kill before reluctantly flying into the bushes by the side of the road. An excellent, if lucky, spot to complete a brilliant evening.