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.



Monday, 29 April 2013

72 HOURS LATER

Listing. What a poisoned chalice that is. One minute it's all going swimmingly and then after a simple and successful twitch for a Whimbrel it all goes pear-shaped. Or so you think.

Apart from the Whimbrel, which left me feeling all smug and content for a short while, it had been a little bit quiet this past week but as soon as I was out of action due to work on Thursday and Friday it all started to happen. In a 48-hour period all manner of birds were falling out of the sky everywhere you looked.

It is the nature of birding and listing in particular that on days you are unable to head off to see all and sundry, all and sundry appear. And it's painful when you are completely neutered and all you can do is press your nose up against the window and hope the following morning all these amazing discoveries will still be there for you to see. Most of the time that night the skies are as clear as glass and they all bugger off.

It has been an unusual spring to say the least. The cold easterlies in March set back many migrants. There have been, for example, less Ring Ouzels seen in Surrey this spring – I think I was lucky to get good views of the Clandon Park male last month – yet at least Wood Warblers have appeared in the past couple of weeks. And this is a bird that is in decline to the point of being non-existent in the county.

Passerines have been slow to make an impression and even the ever-reliable Wheatears have been at least a couple of weeks late. This migration delay has no doubt had an influence on the massive fall of birds seen on certain days recently. Unfortunately, for the most part these falls have occured when I have been 23 floors up at 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf.

Thursday was a nightmare. Dodge texted and then rang to say a Wood Warbler was singing its head off and showing really well at Beddington and then word came in on Twitter regarding a couple of Little Tern and 11 Black Tern feeding very close to the causeway at Staines Reservoir. Add to the list loads of Whinchat, more than 40 Wheatear and more than a dozen Yellow Wagtail on Staines Moor and you get some idea of what was happening.

Overnight rain had acted as the catalyst for this massive fall and a similar pattern occurred on Friday, when I was also otherwise engaged. This time it was a confiding Grasshopper Warbler (down to just a couple of metres) at Staines Moor and a stunning male Black Redstart on my local patch, showing down to 20 feet in the horse paddocks on Mercers Farm. Give me strength...

I had to wait until Saturday to try and catch up with some of the action. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the Beddington Wood Warbler had gone, so my first target yesterday morning was five minutes down the road and the horse paddocks at Mercers Farm.

The Holmethorpe patch is an area I should spend more time working rather than chasing around ticking off birds for the sake of a list. But then I always say that and end up reverting to type. I'm more the nomadic patch gatecrasher – one could even suggest I'm a birding parasite, one who feeds off the efforts of others, rather than bothering to put the effort in and work a patch.

Much of the reason for this is I'm still quite green. I've only got about five years of proper birding experience behind me and so there are many hundreds of birds I would like to see before I get too old to put the miles in. So for the moment, and while the urge is still there, I'll twitch. Having said that I'm not interested in 500-mile round trips to see a bird like the Rock Thrush that turned up during the week. David Campbell dropped everything and went for it, successfully, but I can accept missing out now and again. I give myself an 150-mile radius at the very most, and even then that's stretching it and my wife's patience, more to the point...

Annie is the voice of reason, and every birder needs one of those.

Back to Saturday morning and it was with some relief that within a few minutes I had good views of the male Black Redstart, a real stunner, at Mercers Farm. He was quite active, perching on a fencepost before dropping to the ground to feed. So active in fact, I couldn't get even a half-decent digiscope photo. By the time I had him in view he'd moved further down the paddocks and before long had gone out of view.

Pretty appalling record shot of a Black Redstart, but honestly it was the best I could do!
Having missed the female Black Redstart a few weeks ago around the same area it was a very good start to the morning.

Next stop Staines Moor, which after a bit of a walk proved to be quite successful. I met up with Bob Whatley on the Moor, and he steered me towards five Whinchat, loosely following a small flock of 12 Wheatear, while another birder we bumped into on the boardwalk while listening to the Grasshopper Warbler reeling (no chance of actually seeing it) mentioned a pair of Hobby showing well, perched in a tree along the eastern edge of the Moor.

One had flown off by the time we got there but the other was sitting quietly and gave great views.

Great views of a Hobby
Five Whinchat were on Staines Moor
A bit later I found the female Redstart that had been present for a couple of days on Stanwell Moor – she was also showing well.

A Female Redstart also showed well on Stanwell Moor
On the walk back to the car a Garden Warbler sang in the trees along with numerous Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. So ended a good morning.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

WHIMBREL AT CANONS FARM MAKES FOR GOOD START TO A DAY

David Campbell reported a Whimbrel at Canons Farm late yesterday evening, a rare bird for the site, and he texted me early this morning to say it was still in Skylark Field.

Remarkably, Canons Farm has had more waders on its non-wetland pasture than Holmethorpe Sand Pits has with its lakes and sandbars in recent weeks. Many are flyovers, but occasionally a wader will drop down for a feed, such as this Whimbrel.

There has been a number of reports of Whimbrel in the past couple of days as they head their way north to their breeding sites. Fortunately for me this one was happy to stay in a field rich with food at least for today.

With the sun out I had good views as the Whimbrel tugged very large worms out of the ground. The beauty of Canons Farm, for me at least, is it only takes 15-20 minutes to get to, so if I've got loads of work on I can make a quick visit before heading back to a day with my head stuck in a computer.





Whimbrel in Skylark Field, Canons Farm, this morning

Sunday, 21 April 2013

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

How birding changes day by day. One day it's all Common Redstarts and other interesting migrants around every corner (Monday), then it's Arctic Terns (32 at Staines Reservoir on Tuesday) followed by Grasshopper Warblers popping up everywhere yesterday.

I got involved in the Redstart sightings, seeing a stonking male on Monday evening at Bookham Common. Just pure luck, but that is half the battle won. The battle is lost when you are neutered by your location ie. an office.  I was working at Racehorse Owners Association office in High Holborn on Wednesday when I received a text and a couple of emails telling me of a striking Arctic Tern on my local patch, showing really well on one of the Water Colour lagoons – just a five-minute drive from my house – before moving to Mercer's Lake.

This is fairly typical. Whenever I'm away, whether at a weekend or working in London during the occasional weekday an unusual bird invariably turns up. An Arctic Tern at Homethorpe is unusual to say the least – I've never seen one during the past four or five years – and the fact it was easy to view made it even more painful.

To make matters worse, it was still showing as the time approached 6pm. David Campbell let me know it seemed settled. I left the Holborn office just after 6.15pm and dash across London and was on my home on the 7.02pm train from Victoria, and still just had enough time to get to the patch before dark.

But it had gone. There wasn't even a gull on the lake or anywhere else locally. A massive disappointment.

To make up for it I went to Staines Reservoir the following afternoon where I saw three Arctic Tern (fortunately Ken Purdey was present, otherwise I would have had trouble identifying them) along with two Common Tern.

An Arctic Tern at Staines Reservoir on Thursday
Wednesday was a miserable day due to the gale force wind. I didn't mind it at the reservoir, but it did me no favours at Staines Moor a little while later. Having said that there was plenty of song and activity on the walk down the path alongside the King George VI Reservoir, with plenty of Common Whitethroat, a couple of Sedge Warbler and then amazingly my first Blackcap of the year.

I was hoping for a Whinchat on the Moor itself, but found little apart from five Little Egret together on the River Colne (the most I have seen together here) and four handsome Wheatear.

A Wheatear on a Staines Moor anthill on Wednesday
A striking Wheatear in the sunlight

On the way home I dropped in at Bookham hoping to find a Nightingale, but instead found the Common Redstart again, sitting up beautifully on a branch in the late-afternoon sun, but frustratingly not long enough to get a decent digiscope photo.

amazing, but no matter who you are, finding other birds when looking for something else is all par for the course.

The formula for a successful birding trip is entirely dependent on being in the right place at the right time. Take Gordon Hay for example. He spent hours trudging around the Holmethorpe patch on Friday and saw very little, while fellow Holmethorpe birder, Graham James, was at home and happened to look out of the window about half an hour later – and at the same time an Osprey drifted overhead.

The weekend was another case in point. Grasshopper Warblers were found at Beddington and at Staines Moor. Adrian Luscombe had a brilliant day yesterday, seeing a Gropper really well, a Whinchat, Common Redstart, loads of Yellow Wagtail, three Cuckoo and a Hobby. Not a bad haul at all.

It was one of those days when the weather was spot on for a few decent migrants to fall in the right areas. The only thing that didn't fall in the right place was me. I was out all day with Annie.

This morning I got up early and went to the Moor at first light. It was a beautiful morning. Crisp, a light frost was still on the ground, but the sky was blue and the sun was heating up the ground. Smashing. But none of that is relevent to a good day in the field.

A distant view of a Cuckoo at Staines Moor
In fact the morning was quiet. No Grasshopper Warblers, no Whinchat, no Common Redstart and no Yellow Wagtail. Plenty of common migrants – Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, but nothing really to get the pulses racing. Best birds of the day were two Lesser Whitethroat, a Cuckoo and three Wheatear, one of which showed really well on a branch.

Another Wheatear today
Not to worry. On the way home I went back to Bookham Common. This time I didn't see the Redstart, but another Cuckoo that flew overhead, and after a long search I heard my first Nightingale song of the spring. It didn't sing frequently but enough to find its location. There will be more in the coming weeks.

video

It is going to be difficult to fit anything in this week, but if a Gropper turns up nearby, I'll no doubt find an excuse to go for it.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

BUMPER REDSTART DAY

It had to happen at some point and it did yesterday with a frenzy of migrating bird activity across London and the south-east, with new birds being seen throughout the day.

The signs were good early on with a stack of Wheatears dropping in all over the place, notably at Wanstead Flats, where at least 27 were seen during the morning, along with a Ring Ouzel, three Whinchat and five Common Redstarts. Over at Staines Moor, a Grasshopper Warbler was seen on the walk down to the Moor near the burnt-out car next to the reedbed, loads of common migrants such as Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and the odd Sedge Warbler were seen and heard, a Whinchat on the Moor itself along with ten Yellow Wagtail and 16 Wheatear.

At Canons Farm, David Campbell had two Tree Pipit, another three Common Redstart, four Wheatear and was able to enjoy the return of the Barn Owl, seen hunting at first light.

It was clear by the afternoon that sightings of Common Redstart were exceptional in number – by that stage the count was 43 in the London recording area.

I couldn't get out until the late afternoon, when Annie and I went for a walk around Bookham Common. No Nightingale as yet, and we hadn't seen much at all until we were returning back to the car.

First of all we saw a Common Whitethroat perch in the hawthorn bushes, but best of all was an unexpected vibrant male Common Redstart – the 44th London Redstart sighting of the day – that flew up close by, hovered for a moment before flying back to a branch.


I didn't have my scope with me but the Common Redstart still stood out well
Great stuff. Annie had never seen one before, and she had good views through my bins as this stunning bird continued to feed around the area. It was nice to see her actually enjoy some birding – unusual to say the least – having earlier watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the woods. I didn't have my scope to get any close up digiscope images but the Redstart was a brilliant find nonetheless.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

MIGRATION, THE LOCAL PATCH AND HUNGER FOR A SANDWICH TERN

So the spring migration has really got under way at last. Two out the three latest walks have included a couple of enjoyable visits to the local patch at Holmethorpe where I saw plenty of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, a Common Sandpiper asleep on the small island at Spyne Mere, 15 or so Sand Martin, a few Swallow and a House Martin. Strangley, still no Blackcap.

The one species I was really pleased to catch up with, however, was a flock of 12 Lesser Redpolls. For some reason I had yet to see even one this year. They are smashing little birds, especially as they can develop a nice red breast at this time of year. Some were feeding on the ground before joining the rest of the flock in a small tree, and then they were off, the distinctive buzzing call disappearing as they went.

A couple of well-camouflaged Lesser Redpoll at Holmethorpe
The Surrey list is coming along – now on 130 – with only a handful of birds not on it as yet. One I doubt I will connect with is a Sandwich Tern. They've been flying through during the past week – seven were seen at Staines Reservoir on Friday to go with a couple at Tice's Meadow and one over Beddington – but with these Terns it's a case of being in the right location at the right time, otherwise you will probably miss your chance as they never hang around long before moving on.

I went to Staines on Saturday morning, where I met up with Bob Warden. It was a good morning with plenty of decent birds around – the Long-tailed Duck and Black-necked Grebe were still on the south basin, along with a Slavonian Grebe. On the west bank of the north basin were two Black-tailed Godwits that flew off at about 9.45am.

Two Black-tailed Godwits at Staines Reservoir
A Common Tern feeding on the north basin

A drake Garganey at the London Wetland Centre
I also heard a Curlew go over but couldn't see it, and my first Common Tern arrived soon after, feeding on both basins.

Predictably no Sandwich Tern, so at about midday Bob and I decided to travel to Barnes to the London Wetland Centre where a drake Garganey eventually showed well, as well as a White Wagtail and a couple of Redshank.

A productive day then, but a frenzy of new arrivals is likely this next week. More than 15 Willow Warbler were seen at Holmethorpe this morning together with the first Common Whitethroat of the year (a week later than usual). Three Redstart arrived at Thursley Common, two male Ring Ouzel were seen Stanwell Moor, a Cuckoo dropped in at Canons Farm and a couple of singing Nightingale were heard at Capel.

I have a feeling the next few weeks are going to be spectacular. On the wish list? Sandwich Tern obviously, but a Black Redstart, a local Common Restart, Pied Flycatcher or an Osprey flying over when I happen to be looking skywards would be up there. I just hope I'm in the right place at the right time – at least on some occasions...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

SPRING MIGRATION KICKS OFF AT TICE'S MEADOW

They're on their way! It's taken longer than usual but the spring migration has started in earnest.

It has been a strange spring to say the least with the easterly winds cutting through Britain like a steely knife for what has seemed like an eternity, but all bad weather patterns have to come to an end at some point and now the winds have changed and migrating birds are making landfall en masse.

While there have been some noticeable arrivals on the coast, it has been inland where the lack of birds has been most apparent, and certain well-known birding areas have been unusually quiet. Canons Farm, normally the first patch to report Ring Ouzels, Wheatears, Black Redstarts et al, has only had two Wheatears up to now.

Holmethorpe, my local patch, can be a bit quiet at times but the odd unusual visitor has dropped in recently – a Little Gull and a Black Redstart seen by a recent visitor being highlights. The noticeable absence, however, of Blackcaps, singing Chiffchaff and a patch regular, Sand Martin, has been a talking point.

A reasonable amount of migrants have passed through Beddington this past week, including an Osprey a couple of days ago, but it is Tice's Meadow at Bagshot Lea that has proved the most productive patch in Surrey right now.

An Osprey cruised over the site on Monday, first seen by Sean Foote, and then yesterday Sean  reported four Slavonian Grebes dropping in along with a Black-necked Grebe in the morning. I missed out on the Slav Grebe at Staines so I had to go over to see them late in the afternoon.

I joined patch commander Rich Horton, Sean, Dave Baker and Matt Phelps on the mound at Tice's and in the space of an hour I saw a remarkable haul of birds. Three of the Slavonian Grebes – one showing well in summer plumage – the Black-necked Grebe and a pair of Pintail were a good start.

Three sleeping Slavonian Grebe
A pair of Pintail
Skimming over the water frantically feeding were at least 30 Sand Martin and five Swallow. A House Martin had also been seen, but I couldn't find it, plus a few Willow Warbler had earlier been singing in the trees.

Maybe the highlight, however, was the first Yellow Wagtail of the spring on the edge of the lake with a couple of Pied Wagtail. This haul of year ticks brought my Surrey total up to 123.

A record shot of the Yellow Wagtail at Tice's Meadow
An amazing year so far then at Tice's Meadow and it's likely to continue to compete with Beddington as Surrey's best wetland region in the county. Watch this space.

On Monday I was in Cliftonville, near Margate, to take my mum to a hospital appointment, and afterwards Annie and I went for a walk along the beach. It's a remarkable area in as much Margate, just a mile down the road, is all penny arcades and candyfloss, while Kingsgate Bay – half a mile in the other direction– at Broadstairs is quiet and has a beauty of its own, with spectacular sea cliffs and plenty of sand when the tides out.

The sea cliffs at Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs
There were plenty of Fulmars perched on the cliffs
The area is also excellent for birds at this time of year, although there wasn't time to venture further towards North Foreland, where a couple of Black Redstarts and a Long-eared Owl had been reported the day before. On our walk we saw plenty of Fulmars perched on the cliffs, as well as a couple of Brent Geese and a Rock Pipit.

A confiding Rock Pipit
A pair of Brent Geese at Kingsgate Bay
The following month is going to be busy on the migration front and I wouldn't be surprised if a memorable rare bird lands in Surrey to hit the headlines.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

AT LEAST THE CHIFFCHAFFS ARE NOW SINGING...

The spring migration is still reluctant to really get started – I imagine it will be like Heathrow airport on a bank holiday when it does – but at least yesterday morning I heard a Chiffchaff sing for the first time this year. And about time. In fact I heard four of them by the end of my visit to Staines Moor.

After a stroll around the local patch at Holmethorpe the previous afternoon, where the Little Gull was still feeding happily on Mercer's Lake, I opted on a trip to Staines Moor just on the off-chance a Ring Ouzel dropped in overnight.

Adult Little Gull feeding on Mercers Lake
 I didn't really expect to see one but as the weather was, for the first time in some weeks, full of blue skies and sunshine the walk would be enjoyable nonetheless. Predictably, the Moor was Ouzel-less.

The Moor was also shrub and treeless in parts. Since my last visit a month back the chainsaw has been in action, and the Moor looks decidedly bare, which does make me wonder whether there is sufficient close-by cover for a Ring Ouzel if one did decide to visit.

As mornings go without many migrants on offer – just the four Chiffchaff – it was an enjoyable couple of hours.

During that time, walking along the River Colne and back I saw six Water Pipit, all in various stages of summer plumage. This is one of the best times of year to see this nervy pipit – they are easier to identify in summer plumage than during the winter months for one thing and they are more approachable (as mentioned on Peter Alfrey's blog http://peteralfreybirdingnotebook.blogspot.co.uk/) – and the River Colne is probably the best place to see them in the county. I was happy to properly catch up with this bird, as my previous sighting this year was only fleeting.

Summer plumage Water Pipit on the River Colne at Staines Moor
A Red Kite was a permanent fixture, circling over the area, as well as one Little Egret flying up and down the river.

A Red Kite circles overhead
No Wheatears on offer, but a Little Ringed Plover flew over on my way back to the car. While I was strolling around the Moor I missed out on a female Black Redstart on my local patch – I only found out about it that evening after Croydon birder Derek Lea e-mailed to tell me about it – and I haven't had the chance to go back for a look since.

With luck all those migrant birds on the continent waiting to head north have their bags packed and are ready to set off now the wind has finally changed direction. The week ahead should be interesting.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

STONE THE CROWS! IT'S A SURREY STONE-CURLEW!

It was another grim day yesterday as the wind continued to blow and the temperature inevitably dropped as the afternoon progressed into early evening. There was little incentive to go anywhere, so I did the honourable thing and dedicated the day to working on the wildlife book I'm designing at the moment.

Nothing much was happening around the county anyway, apart from the female Long-tailed Duck at Staines Reservoir and the Little Gull at Holmethorpe. Annie went off to her dance class and I went to pick her up at 7pm.

It was then I received a text from one of Surrey's wunderkind birders, Alex Bowe, who moniters his local patch at Wisley Airfield, Lake Boldermere and Ockham Common. He calls it WALBOC.

He'd been texting regular this week. He's had six Golden Plovers and a couple of Egyptian Geese during the day, but what came next was a bolt out of the blue. "MEGA WALBOC: STONE-CURLEW Yellow Marshes at 18.15. From pool in Yellow Marshes bird was at western end of marsh. Then flew and landed in field south of yellow marshes on right side of uphill grassy footpath leading out of marsh towards Hautboy where settled. Bird still present at 18.45 possibly set to remain overnight. Bird was photographed on deck and in flight."

Bloody nora. A Stone-curlew! I am, least anyone has forgotten, a relative birding novice and a Stone-curlew is a lifer for me, let alone for Surrey.

What to do. I had to wait for Annie and then take her back home. Another text arrived from Alex. The bird was still in the field.

It was getting late and the light wasn't good as it was so I had to make a snap decision - it takes 25 minutes without any holds ups to get to Wisley. If I was going to go I had to leave pretty soon. I rang David Campbell, more to see if he thought it was possible to make it in time apart from anything else. He reckoned I should go for it.

So I did.

After a mad dash down the motorway and 25 minutes I was driving along Ockham Lane, but I had absolutely no idea whereabouts the grassy footpath near Yellow Marshes was. After a number of calls to David and then to Alex I found the right place.

It was getting pretty dark by now and when I eventually met up with Alex and looked across the field, we could hardly make out blades of grass, let alone a Stone-curlew.

So we walked along the edge of the fence to the rough spot where the bird was last seen. Again, it was so dark we could see little.

Bugger. I wish I'd left half-an-hour earlier. It didn't look promising.

But then there was movement in the fading light. The Stone-curlew had taken to the air – probably spooked by our proximity. The bird flew along the field and banked, heading north along the treeline and then we lost sight of it. I thought it dropped down nearby, but by now it was too dark to go on a search.

We had to give it up for the night. Alex thought the bird looked quite tired, so there was a chance it might still be around at first light. These birds move at night so if it was feeling up to it, it would be gone by morning.

Alex searched the area this morning, but he found no sign of the Stone-curlew. But no matter. A fantastic patch bird for him – his best-ever – and I managed to catch a glimpse of a remarkable Surrey sighting. It was only a glimpse but for now that will do.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

HOLMETHORPE DELIVERS WITH A LITTLE GULL

It is the topic of the moment. The unseasonal cold weather and how it has thrown everything out of kilter. Chatting with David Campbell the other day we listed the birds we should have seen by now locally but hadn't. Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sand Martin were the obvious ones. The first two have been really noticeable by their absence. At least today the first Chiffchaff of the spring made itself known at Canons Farm – it's a start.

These cold easterly winds have have had a strange effect on the spring migration and undoubtedly kept many migrating birds from venturing over to Britain. It makes me wonder whether, once the winds change direction and sweep up from the south and west rather than barreling over from the east, we will suddenly get a massive influx of birds.

Let's hope so. In the meantime unusual sightings are occuring around the county. I recently pointed out how Surrey isn't the best county in the country for rare bird sightings but it has surpassed itself in recent weeks.

First there was the remarkable 100-plus Hawfinch flock at Mickleham, a couple of early Ring Ouzel sightings and then on Thursday evening I received an e-mail from Michael Bassett, who had been walking around the Holmethorpe Sand Pits patch and believed he had seen an adult Little Gull in winter plumage on Mercers Lake.

I forwarded the message on to Gordon Hay and Ian Kehl, and the following morning they were able to confirm that indeed there was a Little Gull on the patch. It had been on Mercers West but had relocated again on Mercers Lake.

Brilliant. I wasn't around to see it on either Good Friday or Saturday – I was away with Annie for her birthday – but I took a quick look on Sunday lunchtime. Thankfully the Little Gull was still bobbing around on Mercers Lake – a patch first for me.

The adult Little Gull in winter plumage on Mercers Lake
Holmethorpe has been relatively quiet in recent months but this Easter it has bounced back with a vengeance.

Between them, Gordon, Ian and Steve Gale have seen a Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Redshank, nine Jack Snipe and a Little Ringed Plover, which I also saw on Water Colour lagoon 2.

Steve also discovered a dead Kittiwake by the Water Colour lagoons. This is an unusual bird to appear on the patch. Whether it died due to being blown off course, a lack of food because of the harsh weather or a disease of some sort, it's impossible to know, but it's strange that this is the second dead Kittiwake to be seen in Surrey in the past week – the first being at Tice's Meadow.

Holmethorpe has continued to tempt some decent birds today, with six Black-tailed Godwits on Spynes Mere (they flew off north east after 9.20am so I didn't get a chance to see them) and the Little Gull has stayed for a sixth day.

The Surrey highlight this week, however, was a Pallid Harrier near Papercourt Meadows by Newark Lane. It was discovered on Sunday afternoon and it was hoped it might roost there and make an appearance the following morning.

I'm not sure why, but I didn't think it would show up so I didn't join the large group of birders looking for it at first light. It failed to appear.

Instead I went to Staines Reservoir to see the Long-tailed Duck – presumably the same bird that has been a long stayer on the Queen Mother Reservoir – and the Slavonian Grebe, which had arrived on Good Friday.

It was bitterly cold up on the causeway. Boy, this place can be really inhospitable when the weather is testing. My eyes were streaming from the brisk wind and my face stung. After being given the heads up on the duck's whereabouts by Kevin Duncan, who was on his way home, I found the Long-tailed Duck on the south basin at the eastern end quite close by the causeway. It was with a Black-necked Grebe (in summer plumage) and a couple of Goldeneye and a few Tufted Ducks. It was difficult to get a digiscope photo as it was constantly diving, but I managed to grab a few.

Long-tailed Duck showing its lack of a long tail
The noticeably smaller Long-tailed Duck with two Tufties
Black-necked Grebe in summer plumage
I couldn't find the Slav Grebe anywhere but I did find a Redshank and a Dunlin on the east banking. The grebe predictably was seen half an hour after I left, so I made a second visit this evening where I  dipped again but at least located the Long-tailed Duck with around 20 Goldeneye for company.

The Long-tailed Duck with Goldeneye