Thursley Common 28 May 20

During half term was luckily that could go to Thursley Common to meet Colin the Cuckoo. Was great to see different birds that I do not normally see such as Wood Lark, Restart, Tree Pipit and Dartford Warbler. Whilst walking along one of the paths a family of Dartford Warblers flew around us. There we also Whitethroats signing high on trees. My dad was also amazed that I managed to find a Keeled Skimmer Dragonfly hidden in the bushes.

Whilst waiting for Colin we had good views of a Hobby hunting and flyovers of a Kite and Buzzard.

We waited around until the evening as we knew that Woodcock and Nightjar could be at the site. Even tough we was being bitten by midges we waited as the sun set and then heard a Woodcock in the distance. As we walked we was lucky to have one fly over our heads. Then we heard the churring of a Nightjar in the distance in the direction of our car. We tried to record the sound and then had two fly low in-between myself and my dad, which was a fantastic end to the day.

I was sad to hear that there had been a fire on the nature reserve over the weekend after we visited. Hopefully it will not take long for nature to bounce back.

Lock Down Wildlife

Since lock down I have been enjoying nature and birding from the garden.  I joined the BTO Garden Bird Watch, which due to lockdown is now free membership.  I have been recording the birds, mammals, insects in our garden and using a camera trap to record the activity throughout the night.  Was interesting to see a Magpie pick-up some bread, take it to the bird bath to make it wet and then eat some before flying off I presume to its nest with the rest.   Over the past 8 weeks I have recorded 18 different species of bird with my Greenfinch being my favourite actually in our garden.

This sunburst shows the reporting rate of the communities of common birds recorded in my garden

We have been building a nature friendly garden with different plants that flower throughout the year, plus have bug hotels, area of long grass, leaf and wood piles, compost heap, pond, bird bath and feeders.  In our bird feeders we leave out sun flower hearts, meal worms, fat balls and occasionally food scraps.  The Carrion Crow likes the chicken leg bones and I caught it on video flying off with them.  Many of the species of bird that I have seen in the garden have used the bird bath including a Jay and a Chiffchaff.

I now have Nocmig (nocturnal migration) equipment to record bird song as they fly over the house.  I leave the microphone out, then analyse the data looking though the sonogram and listening for bird calls.  It is easier to look for birds viewing the sonogram as I can flick through looking at the patterns. 

Grey Plover Sonogram

I have had some surprises of birds fly over garden that I did not expect such as Greenshank, different Plovers, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Scoter, Coot and Moorhen.  These birds normally are found on large bodies of water such as a Chafford Gorges or the Thames. 

Birds migrate in April as we change seasons and May onwards is the breading season.  I found that birds have different migration calls than they do during the day, such as a female Cuckoo.  There is a group of about 30 of us that share information and knowledge which has helped me learn about the different calls.   

I have a moth trap that has a special bulb that attracts moths towards the trap at night.  The above is a Compact 20w Skinner Trap that I have which runs off of a battery so I can take it to different places unlike mains powered traps. 

I have been catching moths in the trap and with sweep net then putting them in pots so that I can identify them.  Last year I caught my first Elephant Hawk moth which was very exciting.  Recently in the garden I have had Treble bar, Brimstone, Angel Shades, plus many more.  Also I have a bat detector and had a Common Pipistrelle fly over the garden whilst I was moth trapping.

The 3rd May was international dawn chorus day and my dad & I started at 4am on our bikes going to Grays and Warren Gorges.  This time of year birds are calling for mates, plus announcing their presence guarding their territory, if you get up early it is the best time to hear many bird songs.  We managed to see and hear over 50 species of bird, the most surprising was Shelduck that dropped into the water.  We had Song Thrush, Robin and Blackbirds as they were the first to wake up, then the Warblers such as Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Blackcap joined in.  It was nice to be out with no-one else around listening to the bird songs. 

Sunrise Dawn Chorus Chafford Warren Gorge

I have been going out on my bike whilst also bird watching to Rainham Marshes, Chafford Gorge and Davey Down.  I’ve been using MiMove App to record the trips that I have been making.  The highlights have been a singing Firecrest and Garden Warbler at Davey Down.  Also have had Sparrow Hawk, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Tawny Owl.  At Rainham I located a Great Tit nest in a hole in a pole at a bike restriction gate, which was unexpected.

On Saturday 16th May I took part with a group of likeminded friends from Orkney, London, Oxford, Norfolk, Wales, Devon and Cornwall on a 24 hour garden bird watch.  It was interesting to see the different types of birds that were seen throughout the country.  One had 300 puffins flying off shore, whilst another had a badger visit his garden, plus Bee Eater, Short Eared Owl, Great and Artic Skua’s were also seen.  My best was a Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo, Peregrine Falcon, Greenfinch & Goldfinch either heard or seen from the garden. 

Bug hunting has also been another activity that I have been doing in the garden and at the back of my house.  I’ve been using a camera with a macro lens, plus a handheld microscope to get detailed look at what I have found.  I have used my friends, books and the internet to identify different species, including bees, beetles, weevils, butterflies, spiders and other insects.  I have found rare species including glow worm larvae and a Xerolyosa Nemoralis (Spider on found in south east England).  One of my favourite finds was a Green Hairstreak Butterfly.

I have found over 250 different species during lockdown but my actual list is over 350 for the garden and out the back of our house.  Throughout the whole of lockdown from the garden I have managed 80 species of birds, if I include bike rides I’ve seen 110 different species of birds.  The best birds that I have had are Long Eared Owl, Grasshopper Warbler, Nightingale, Little Gull and Spotted Flycatcher.

My dad set-up a fish tank for some Tadpoles so that can watch them grow and have recently started to develop legs and arms. 

We also have some Painted Lady Butterflies Caterpillars that started off very small and have grown over couple weeks and now have turned to chrysalis.  So far two of the five have emerged, I am waiting and am hoping that I witness the others emerging after their transformation. 

Nature has really helped us get through the lockdown period in our house as it is great for your mental and physical wellbeing and helps you relax. 

Black Throated Thrush 15/12/19

Was fortunate enough to be offered to go to Whipesnade Zoo to find the Black-throated thrush.  We managed to get two amaizing views of it, one in a field infront of the car park area at the Asian Elephant enclosure and then at the berry tree next to the pig fields and Hullabazoo area.  There were also Red Kites flying over and several other Thrushes around the area.

 

Norfolk 29/12/19

Had a great day today in Norfolk which started with the Eastern (Alaskan) Yellow Wagtail.  Also had over 70 Fieldfare, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite and Yellow Hammer at Sedgeford.  Then we found an estimated 7000 geese in a field, which was nearby.  Between the thousands of Pink Footed Geese we found a Grey-bellied Brant, Russian White Fronted, Tundra Bean and a Branacle Goose.  Then on the way home we saw 24 Common Cranes with Whooper Swans at Ten Mile Bank.

Rainham 20/12/19

Had a good walk round Rainham Marshes today, with the best views of a Barn Owl which was flying around the Butts Hide.  Due to the amount of rain that we have been having the Barn Owl was taking advantage of any dry spells to go and hunt.  We also saw a large flock of 36 Snipe flying around the centre.  When the Peregrine flew through Starlings and Lapwings all took to the air.  Fieldfares were flying along the sea wall in front of us and Greylag Geese flew in the distance.  Marsh Harriers glided over the reed beds and a Kestrel hovered whilst hunting.  Rocky the Robin popped up on a branch to say hello. Today was a day with lots of birds flying around the reserve.

 

Rainham 01/11/19

Had a really good day at Rainham Marshes today, started off bit wet and windy but brightened up as the day went on.  Robins sang and Redwings flew over as we started off and we heard Cetti Warblers calling from the bushes.  Whilst we were at the center a Dartford Warbler called nearby but unfortunately could not be seen.

Marsh Harriers flew about looking for food, a Buzzard sat on a post and a Peregrine Falcon flew through the reserve.

We walked down to the Serin Mound and were surprised when a Short Eared Owl circled around us and then landed in the inner Avery Bay.

Short Eared OwlShort Eared Owl.

We reported our sightings at the centre and was shown a Caspian Gull on the edge of the Thames.  When we joined a few others on a walk, we went back down towards Averly Bay and there, was a quick glimpse of the white wings of a Snow Bunting flying down river along the sea wall.

We also saw Water, Rock and Meadow Pipits flying along the rivers edge.

Water PipitWater Pipit.

In the bay there were Avocet, Dunlin, Shelduck, Redshank all feeding with a varitey of gulls.

Low TideLow Tide at Averly Bay.

As we entered the main reserve a Wood Pigeon was sitting on the hand rail looking a bit wet and wind swept.

Wood PigeonWood Pigeon.

In the wood land feeders Great and Blue tits kept dropping in and flying off with seads.

Great TitGreat Tit.

From the Ken Barrett hide a Teal and Shovler were feeding.

TealTeal.

A Kestrel hovered above scanning for food.

KestrelKestrel.

The Barn Owl was sitting outside of its box on full view.  Upon arriving back at the centre a Little Egret was feeding and a Sparrow Hawk flew over, which ended a really great day.

Here is our full list of birds from today, 72 in total.
Robin, Cetti Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Red Wing, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Wood Pigeon, Collard & Stock Dove, Feral Pigeon, Cormorant, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, Magpie, Skylark, Ring Necked Parakeet, 20 Avocet, Redshank, Teal, Wigeon, Goldfinch, Lapwing, Canada & Greylag Geese, Pied Wagtail, Meadow, Rock & 3 Water Pipit, Lesser Black Back, Great Black Back, Herring, Yellow Legged, Common, Black Headed & Caspian Gull, Pheasant, Black Tailed Godwit, 70 Dunlin, 4 Curlew, 4 Fieldfare, Little & Great Crested Grebe, Chaffinch, Grey Heron, 3 Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Sparrow Hawk, 6 Pintail, Linnet, Short Eared & Barn Owl, 2 Stonechat, Dartford Warbler, Snow Bunting, Snipe, Great Spotted & Green Wood Pecker, Moorhen, Coot, Pochard, Reed Bunting, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Little Egret.
Also had Red Admiral, a Seal and Migrant  Hawker which was a bit surprising.

Boat Trip River Crouch

Went on a boat trip along the river Crouch (24/11/18) along near Wallasea Island last year.  Had as we left the Marina some Little Grebes, we did think that they may have been Black Necked but where too small.

Black Necked Grebe

Cormorant sitting on post.

Cormorant

Had a flock of Avocet flying in front of us.

Avocet

There was also several seals swimming around the boat and managed to get a few photos.

Seal Bank

Seal

Seals

It was a cold day out on the river, although it was good to see the seals so close to the boat.

Rainham London Young Birders Meet 12/08/2019

Today I was lucky enough to go on the fourth annual London Young Birders meet-up at RSPB Rainham Marshes organised by Samuel Levy and Arjun Dutta.

Once I had arrived I decided to set off early down the sea wall to see if anything unusual was around before everyone arrived.  There were a few Little Egrets that flew down the Thames but didn’t manage to find anything out of the ordinary..

Averly BayAverly Bay

When I got back from my brief walk everyone was around the bottom of the stairs with Howard Vaughan of the RSPB.  Howard advised that there was a Cattle Egret that had been seen around the reserve that we may see.  Once we had all said our hellos we went down the sea wall.  Calum and Fraser had kindly brought their scopes so that we could see across the river, which resulted in a Whimbrel, Black Tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher and some Common Terns going down river.  As we carried on down towards the bay we found a Kestrel and Sparrow Hawk flying around.  Within the bay, feeding on the mud flat we found a Ruff, Curlew, Shelduck, Gadwall, Common Sandpiper and more Black Tailed Godwits.

CurlewCurlew

We ventured to the Serin mound and saw Skylarks singing and a Yellow Wagtail flew over.  In the bushes we found Chiffchaff, Willow & Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and a Robin hopping around.

Whilst we were looking at the Warblers, Calum found an odd Egret that turned out to be a Cattle Egret, this was an adult and different to the one that Howard had mentioned earlier.  In the stream a few Bearded Tits flew around and ‘pinged’ in the reeds.  As we walked back along the sea wall there was a seal which popped its head up in the Thames.

Distant Cattle EgretDistant Cattle Egret

Next we went into the reserve and walked to the dragonfly pools onto the butts hide.  There were Pochard, Mallard, Little Grebe and Coots swimming around. There was also a Common Sandpiper and Black Tailed Godwits feeding.

Common SandpiperCommon Sandpiper

Then Kabir and I noticed two Sandpipers fly around the corner of the hide, we thought they were Green Sandpiper, we found them later on confirming our initial identification.

Little EgretLittle Egret

A Marsh Harrier flew above the reeds hunting as we walked towards to the boardwalk.  Looking out at the boardwalk platform Sholvers, Gadwall, a surprise Wigeon, plus Canada & Greylag Geese were swimming in the pool. We then scanned for Waders and someone spotted a Wood Sandpiper briefly in their scope.  A Grey Heron stood at the side,  a Cormorant was sunning itself with its wings open and in the reeds a Marsh Frog was sitting peacefully.

Marsh FrogMarsh Frog

We then walked to the Ken Barrett hide and had great views of a Snipe, a Moorhen was walking around with a Common Sandpiper and two Ruff.

Common SnipeCommon Snipe
RuffRuff

Whilst we were in the hide it started to rain heavily, as it died down a few of us started to walk on.  We used our scopes and found the Barn Owl sitting within its box.  The others were lucky to find a female Bullfinch, which I managed to see flying disappearing into a bush and also saw a Whitethroat pop up.

We continued into the woodland where we saw Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits.  We carried on walking towards the centre, we took a break and compared notes on what we had seen during the morning.  By now we had spent about 6 hours walking around the reserve and had found over 70 different species of birds.

We were just leaving the centre when Howard called out “Barn Owl flying” – it flew in front of the centre and carried on towards to the bay.

Barn OwlBarn Owl

The last bird of the day was a Hobby flying over the reserve.  It was a great end to the day after finding a variety of birds and meeting up with fellow young naturalists & friends.