Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bizarre habitat management at Barnes

As part of the WWT's continuing commitment to making Barnes as bird unfriendly as possible they've decided to cut down a couple of trees near the WWT hide that were favourites of finches in winter (especially Siskin).

Birdwise 1 Shelduck, 56 Wigeon, 180+ Teal, 3 Pintail, an increase in Shoveler numbers to over 100, singing Cetti's and calling Chiffie.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

American Robin, here? Really?

Another twitch makes this my twitchiest year since the late 80s. I'm not sure why, or whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Or just a thing. My relaxed approach to twitching saw me roll into the Exminster Marshes RSPB car park a little after 8.30 to find all of the car parking spaces full except the disabled bays. After a split second crisis of conscience, I drove around to check out other places to park and eventually ended up going back to park in a space outside the pub - less than 10 minutes walk away from the car park.

At this point they'd been no reports of the Robin showing so I assumed this was probably going to end badly, but (along with a local guy I'd met on the way) we bumped into someone coming back who'd already had good views. Walking down the track we were confronted with the second worst twitch scene - a whole bunch of people walking back indicating that great views had been had by all but that the bird had now buggered off.

What seemed to have happened for most people (from what could be heard from snatches of conversation) was that it had been in one of the roadside hedges and everyone had piled in so that most people had seen half an eye here, a couple of GC there but it had been like pin the tertials on the turdidae.

After checking out some of the further away hedges (which contained c20-30 Redwing but not much else) the bird was relocated back towards the hotel. At this point the group of birders split into two with one group walking up the bank and the other staying on the road to view the hedges and small fields to the west of the track. Since the Robin at this point was some way back into the fields it was a pretty 50/50 decision. Most people were on the road but I decided to head up onto the bank partly because it was a bit further back from the hedge but mainly because it looked likely to give a better view across the field system. At this point the guys on the road weren't crowding the bird in any way. The Robin showed really well in the Hawthorns and other bushes in the hedges with occasional flights out to a puddle under the hedge to drink and a small tree in the middle of the field.

Below: not the best photo but shows the pale edges to greater coverts, tertials, secondaries and primaries and (just) the white tail tips. Median coverts were also pale edged but aren't really visible here.

Later on a few people who'd entered the fields started to wander around and stand under whichever tree the Robin was in.

After watching the Robin over the course of about four hours of it mainly showing, I wandered around the rest of the site and picked up a few things. Good numbers of waders on the river along with a few Red breasted Mergansers. Viewing the flooded fields produced a lot of Blackwits, Wigeon and Teal with a few other waders. Suddenly a small goose flew over that didn't feel like a Brent. Bins up - Red breasted Goose - obviously free-flying and I couldn't see any rings. I managed to grab the camera and get a few shots, although I had to manual focus as I'd left the 1.4 converter on from the photos I'd taken of the Robin.

Being a bit cautious asked the next guy I bumped into whether there had been any reports of RB Geese locally and whether these were plastic or not. Apparently there'd been a red-ringed bird hanging around the area for a month or so. Although I couldn't see any rings on the bird it was in flight which always makes it hard so I assume this was the same bird as the presumed escaped already seen.

OK, it's an escape, but great looking bird though.

After Exminster I headed south to Dawlish to hunt for a Velvet Scoter that had been mentioned by one of the locals at the Robin twitch. Found a decent sized scoter flock. This had a few GC Grebes mixed in that occasionally wing flapped white and raised hopes, but despite this no sign of any Velvets.

Last stop of the day was at the Otter estuary where, just north of the cricket pitch was a flooded field with a whole bunch of duck (Mallard, Teal, Wigeon) and a Glossy Ibis. By this time it was late afternoon and the bird was fairly distant so the photos are pretty poor.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

All quiet on Wandsworth Common

Quick trip out with the boys. Not much around: around 20 Mallard and only 4 Tufties.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Wandsworth, dimly

A late trip out with the boys in fading light didn't produce that much. Highlights were 4-5 Grey Wags around the delta, 2 GC Grebes on the Thames and another 2 on the delta. Only low numbers of Tufties (3) but good numbers of Mallard (c70 up to Wandsworth Park), 3 Mute Swans and 2 Herons. Few gulls around as it's not far off of high tide.

Low light levels made getting any photos a bit tricky: this one at ISO6400 and 1/200.