Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Great day on the patch today

Have to laugh really...

In my past few trips to Staines moor, my local patch (and I always said I wouldn't "do" a patch but I've been blindsided and am now fully into the moor!)  I've had very little to show for my hours of meandering around in the cold.
Time was at a premium today and I had only a few hrs to spare but, it only takes seconds to see a decent bird so, with that in mind I headed straight for the moor.

Parked up on Hithermoor Rd and spotted the usual couple of Collared Doves before taking the path adjacent to King George VI reservoir, towards Stanwell and Staines moors. The usual flock of House Sparrows were absent today and just the single Goldcrest was busy zipping around the branches picking off insects, it was looking quiet.

Through the gate to Stanwell moor but it had nothing to offer, other than the thick mud under foot! Just as I was about to step off the boardwalk onto Staines moor, I heard the squealing of a Water Rail from the reeds to my right, and it was close! It was deep in the undergrwoth but after moving into a better position I got broken views of it picking its way through the undergrowth.
I couldn't give you the precise history on Water Rails at Staines moor but I can tell you that it's the first I've seen or heard there. Funny thing is I swore blind that I heard one calling in the distance, at the same location a couple weeks back but heard no more and let it go - guess I did hear it afterall!

A good start, I was already happy with that after so many blank visit previously, so when I walked on a little further and saw 2 pristine looking Stonechats (m+f) perched on the bullrushes, it felt like my lucky day. Before I could get my camera to grab a shot I heard what I thought was the call of a Water Pipit to my right! I scanned the opposite bank, et voilĂ ! There it was, really going to town on the greenery, pulling and tearing it to pieces as it made its way along the bank, quite funny to watch actually - reminded me of when puppies destroy their toys!
This time I managed a few shots, although nothing that'll win any NatGeo awards.

Water Pipit:

It even flew to the fence for a better view. Sadly, that doesn't make my point-n-shoot any better of a camera:

The Stonechats had since moved on but crossing over the first bridge disturbed the Grey Wagtail I often see (presuming it's the same individual?) and some dog walkers in the distance had flushed a Little Egret, which flew by quite close after eventually settling down again:

A single Jay was being rather vocal and 5 Meadow Pipits were doing the rounds, half a dozen Green Woodpeckers were also busy rummaging on the deck. The Fieldfares are still in very good numbers on the moor, with c100 present today. They were quite unsettled today, more so than usual and seemed to move along the M25 onto Stanwell moor and back again. Last time I pulled out a single Redwing amongst the flock but I didn't have to time to check for any more today.


I gave the Iris channels a good going over, they usually hold a Common Snipe or two and local Staines moor birder Lee Dingain (Whose blog can be found HERE) had a great find in the shape of a Jack Snipe last week, so I was a little hopeful for that too but actually saw neither.

Not bird related I know, but I noticed this dug into the bank, is it a home for something??..

Time to make a move and a single Song Thrush made itself known as I walked along the boardwalk back onto Stanwell moor. It was again quiet and I was probably concentrating more on not landed on my ar$e through the mud than anything else...UNTIL I stopped at the paddock gate by the barbed wire, to clean the 10kg of mud from my wellies.
With boots feeling lighter I scanned the reeds - something I always do in hope of a Bittern, a bird I've never seen there before but feel that there should be one in there somewhere!
As I lifted my bins I saw a bird take flight from a fence post and watched it fly away, curving over the reeds, low into the trees behind - a Merlin! A bloody MERLIN!
It was definitely an adult male, the bluey - gun 'metally' grey was very obvious.

A little pic to explain further:

Not only is this a great spot for myself but a nice record for 'the moors', as a female Merlin was first spotted some weeks back on the causeway of Staines Reservoir by dedicated res watcher Dominic Pia (@ReservoirDom on Twitter). Not long after that, a Merlin was accidently trapped ON Stanwell moor as part of some seperate research and again, reported as a female.

I'm certainly no professional and am more than happy to be informed/corrected, but my question is:

  • could it be possible for female and juvenile to be confused? 
  • Do the fem/juv plummages diifer enough to tell them apart with ease?

The reason I ask is to maybe find out if the bird I saw is that of a Juvenile which has matured? Or even better, just simply a male to pair with the female which has also been in the area this winter?

What an enjoyable 3-4hrs I had today, on MY PATCH!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Day saved by Eton Wick

I had big hopes for a good morning on Staines Moor today. Ever the optimist, I was already looking forward to what today could bring as early as last night. 

Staines moor and myself seem to have a love/hate relationship going on - I've had some real cracking days up there, thoroughly enjoyable times watching this years Grasshopper Warbler for example:

Or watching a Barn Owl flying silently over neighbouring Stanwell Moor at first light:

On the flip side, I've never known such a place that you can revisit the very next day and see, quite literally; a few Blue Tits, Great Tits, maybe a magpie or two and at very best, a distant Kestrel over the A30. It can be the full english breakfast of birding one day and a bowl of muesli without the milk the next!

I always park at Hithermoor rd and take the path along the King George VI reservoir, through the gate to Stanwell moor, over the boardwalk to Staines Moor. The sound of a Cetti's warbler bellowing out it's call within minutes of me leaving the car, was a pleasant suprise - it's the first I've heard of one in that area. A few of the usual suspects were flitting about, Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Goldfinches etc but the highlight was actually this rather smart looking Fox:

Quite a nice one, I think you'll agree? It's usually the manky, mange ridden urban foxes that I see wandering around this area, so this was nice to see.

Stanwell moor was exceptionally quiet today with no more than a few Blue tits and the odd Crow hopping around the tree tops. With this lead-up it was with no suprise that as I stepped onto Staines moor, it wasn't long before I knew today 'muesli-without-milk' on the menu! 
I'd like to stress that I am not the kind of person who goes out everytime expecting to find a mega or add 10 lifers to my list on every trip. It doesn't disappoint me that that doesn't happen, what disappoints me is when I go to a great place, a lovely habitat and see...NOTHING. I'm quite happy watching 'common' birds, I enjoy birds! But to not see a sausage is rather frustrating at times.

Anyhow, I couldn't even HEAR much, let alone see anything. A few Fieldfare, couple of Magpies and a Meadow Pipit were the best I could come up with. While I still had time to play with, I made up my mind to get back in the car and head for what was my Plan B: Eton Wick - more specifically, the small area of flooded field to the side of Dorney Common, by Jubille River...

I hadn't made it far onto the common before noticing the neon blue flash of a Kingfisher nipping up stream to a nice vantage point over the water. What a show it put on for me, diving like a mini, blue Gannet into the water, completely submerged for a second before reappearing and settling near by to eat its catch. Absolutely beautiful to watch, I was chuffed already!

I walked on a few more yards before stumbling across this Grey Wagtail:

I also snapped this one as it took flight, I quite like it, nice to see the feathers and rump from a different point of view:

Canada geese are not something I'd normally look twice at, HOWEVER, when they are flying low over head in group 150-200 strong, it's quite a sight. During the next few hours, these geese flew in and out in all different directions...

I'd read a few reports of late, about the numbers of Golden Plover on the floods and so was chuffed to find that most were still about. 35 was the approximate count while I was there, someone had counted 37 earlier - either way, lovely to see:

This site was very good for Chiffchaffs last year, (including a single tristis) so it was quite reassuring to see so many busy, feeding on the masses of gnats and flies that swarm over the water. Surely they will overwinter if still here now?..I don't know but hope so. I counted 5 individuals but there could quite easily be more, they were very lively and hard to keep tabs on at the same time. The odd one or two did look duller and/or greyer than the others but I'm not about to jump to any conclusions. I managed to photograph a few individuals:

A nice little bonus was the Mediterranean Gull which was still on site, although tucked up asleep for pretty much the whole time I was there! Common Snipe seem to pop up from nowhere when scanning the scrape but I'm still yet to see a Jack Snipe here..

All in all I had a bloody enjoyable time out in the chilly northerly wind, watching our wonderful birds. In my element!

The full list for the few hours I was there is:
  • 40+ Pied Wagtail
  • Grey Wagtail
  • 2 Song Thrush
  • Green Woodpecker
  • Kingfisher
  • 3 Cetti's Warbler (1 seen, 2 heard only)
  • c10 Reed Bunting
  • 5(MIN) Chiffchaff
  • Dunnock
  • Mediterranean Gull
  • 9 Common Snipe
  • c35 Golden Plover
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Greylag goose
  • 3 Greenfinch
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Red Kite
  • 2 Water Rail (heard only, 2 seperate calls)
  • and good numbers of; Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing, Black-headed Gulls, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldfinch and Canada Geese.

Friday, 15 November 2013

My Moths of 2013

The year may not be over just yet but the chances of a freak mild night, on a day when I'm off work and free to sit out all night, are now very slim. With that in mind, I'd like to share with you, what I managed to catch or see during my first year of moth-ing.

As far as my listing goes, I didn't take note of counts or the dates species were seen etc, for the reasons that I mentioned in my first post (here) it just isn't practical to do so until I actually have my own garden. When that day comes, I shall make my lists a lot more comprehensive but until then, I've simply listed the species we saw.

Another point I'd like to add quickly is about the 'aggs': Some on the list have an asterix (*) beside them, this indicates that they are an 'agg' species (Daggers, Rustics, etc). So although the species list stands at 135 species, that is give or take a few when the aggs are considered. It is all for my own enjoyment more than anything so I'm not going to cry over losing a few moths from the count but, if anyone notices others which should be "agg'd" then please do let me know, I'm always grateful for advice from those who know more than me.

So, during 2013, this is what I saw:

0230 Monopis crocicapitella
0282 Caloptilia elongella
0284 Caloptilia rufipennella
0366a Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella
0379 Red-belted Clearwing Synanthedon myopaeformis
0385 Anthophila fabriciana
0449 Ash Bud Moth Prays fraxinella
0458 Ypsolopha alpella
0462 Ypsolopha sequella
0464 Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella
0648 White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella
0656 Tachystola acroxantha
0658 Carcina quercana
0706 Agonopterix nervosa
0873 Blastobasis adustella
0969 Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix Pandemis corylana
0977 Large Fruit-tree Tortrix Archips podana
0994 Clepsis consimilana
0998 Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana
1010 Red-barred Tortrix Ditula angustiorana
1261 Codling Moth Cydia pomonella
1288 Twenty-plume Moth Alucita hexadactyla
1303 Agriphila selasella
1305 Agriphila tristella
1309 Agriphila geniculea
1313 Catoptria pinella
1316 Catoptria falsella
1331 Water Veneer Acentria ephemerella
1342 Eudonia angustea
1361 Pyrausta aurata
1375 European Corn-borer Ostrinia nubilalis
1376 Small Magpie Eurrhypara hortulata
1378 Phlyctaenia coronata
1405 Mother of Pearl Pleuroptya ruralis
1408 Palpita vitrealis
1413 Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
1415 Orthopygia glaucinalis
1417 Meal Moth Pyralis farinalis
1424 Endotricha flammealis
1425 Wax Moth Galleria mellonella
1454 Dioryctria abietella
1497 Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
1524 Emmelina monodactyla
1646 Oak Hook-tip Watsonalla binaria
1647 Barred Hook-tip Watsonalla cultraria
1653 Buff Arches Habrosyne pyritoides
1654 Figure of Eighty Tethea ocularis
1669 Common Emerald Hemithea aestivaria
1690 Small Blood-vein Scopula imitaria
1699 Least Carpet Idaea rusticata
1707 Small Dusty Wave Idaea seriata
1713 Riband Wave Idaea aversata
1716 The Vestal Rhodometra sacraria
1721 Balsam Carpet Xanthorhoe biriviata
1724 Red Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe spadicearia
1728 Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata
1742 Yellow Shell Camptogramma bilineata
1752 Purple Bar Cosmorhoe ocellata
1764 Common Marbled Carpet Chloroclysta truncata
1768 Grey Pine Carpet Thera obeliscata
1825 Lime-speck Pug Eupithecia centaureata
1830 Wormwood Pug Eupithecia absinthiata
1838 Tawny Speckled Pug Eupithecia icterata
1855 Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata
1862 Double-striped Pug Gymnoscelis rufifasciata
1883 Yellow-barred Brindle Acasis viretata
1887 Clouded Border Lomaspilis marginata
1906 Brimstone Moth Opisthograptis luteolata
1921 Scalloped Oak Crocallis elinguaria
1922 Swallow-tailed Moth Ourapteryx sambucaria
1931 Peppered Moth Biston betularia
1937 Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria
1961 Light Emerald Campaea margaritata
1984 Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum
1991 Elephant Hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor
1994 Buff-tip Phalera bucephala
2000 Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius
2011 Pale Prominent Pterostoma palpina
2022 Oak Processionary Thaumetopoea processionea
2026 The Vapourer Orgyia antiqua
2034 Gypsy Moth Lymantria dispar
2039 Red-necked Footman Atolmis rubricollis
2045 Hoary Footman Eilema caniola
2050 Common Footman Eilema lurideola
2057 Garden Tiger Arctia caja
2060 White Ermine Spilosoma lubricipeda
2061 Buff Ermine Spilosoma luteum
2064 Ruby Tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa
2064 Ruby Tiger Phragmatobia fuliginosa
2088 Heart & Club Agrotis clavis
2089 Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis
2092 Shuttle-shaped Dart Agrotis puta
2102 Flame Shoulder Ochropleura plecta
2107 Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba
2109 Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes
2110 Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua fimbriata
2111 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua janthe
2126 Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum
2134 Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa
2155 Dot Moth Melanchra persicariae
2160 Bright-line Brown-eye Lacanobia oleracea
2165 Small Ranunculus Hecatera dysodea
2173 The Lychnis Hadena bicruris
2193 The Clay Mythimna ferrago
2223 Toadflax Brocade Calophasia lunula (caterpillar only)
2242 Sword-grass Xylena exsoleta
2252 Large Ranunculus Polymixis flavicincta
2255 Feathered Ranunculus Polymixis lichenea
2269 Centre-barred Sallow Atethmia centrago
2270 Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa
2271 Orange Sallow Xanthia citrago
2272 Barred Sallow Xanthia aurago
2283 Dark Dagger Acronicta tridens*
2284 Grey Dagger Acronicta psi*
2291 The Coronet Craniophora ligustri
2292 Tree-lichen Beauty Cryphia algae
2293 Marbled Beauty Cryphia domestica
2297 Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea
2300 Old Lady Mormo maura
2303 Straw Underwing Thalpophila matura
2306 Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa
2318 The Dun-bar Cosmia trapezina
2321 Dark Arches Apamea monoglypha
2341 Cloaked Minor Mesoligia furuncula
2343 Common Rustic Mesapamea secalis*
2384 Vine's Rustic Hoplodrina ambigua
2389 Pale Mottled Willow Paradrina clavipalpis
2421 Scarce Silver-lines Bena bicolorana
2441 Silver Y Autographa gamma
2449 Dark Spectacle Abrostola triplasia
2450 The Spectacle Abrostola tripartita
2452 Red Underwing Catocala nupta
2469 The Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix
2473 Beautiful Hook-tip Laspeyria flexula
2474 Straw Dot Rivula sericealis
2477 The Snout Hypena proboscidalis

...and now for some pics of some from that list;

Agonopterix nervosa:

Anania coronata:

Apple Leaf Skeletonizer - Choreutis pariana:

Ash Bud Moth - Prays fraxinella:

Balsam Carpet - Xanthorhoe biriviata:

Barred Hook-tip - Watsonalla cultraria:

Barred Sallow - Xanthia aurago:

Beautiful Hook-tip - Laspeyria flexula:

Buff-tip - Phalera bucephala:

Carcina quercana:

Copper Underwing - Amphipyra pyramidea:

Coronet - Craniophora ligustri:

Cypress Pug - Eupithecia phoeniceata:

Endotricha flammealis:

Feathered Ranunculus - Polymixis lichenea:

Gold Triangle - Hypsopygia costalis:

Gypsy Moth - Lymantria dispar:

Iron Prominent - Notodonta dromedarius:

Least Carpet - Idaea rusticata:

Orthopygia glaucinalis:

Palpita vitrealis:

Red-belted Clearwing - Synanthedon myopaeformis:

Scarce Silver-lines - Bena bicolorana:

Twenty-plume Moth - Alucita hexadactyla:

The O.glaucinalis is one of my personal faves from the year, what's yours??

I hope you've enjoyed looking and reading through this as much as I've enjoyed finding and studying these beautiful creatures this year, it's been very enjoyable!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Like a pig in poop.

More of birdy post than a mothy one this time and on arguably one of the best birding coasts the UK has to offer: Norfolk. More specifically, Titchwell RSPB.

I'll set the scene:

This weekend was that of the anniversary of my mother in law, a great woman and dearly missed. For Sunday, a trip to the small village of Coton, just outside Cambridge was the order of the day, to pay our respects and visit other relatives at the same time.

Coton is as good as half way between our flat in London and the Norfolk coast - cue the spontaneous idea from my good wife: "why don't we do the grave in Coton, then drop you off at Titchwell, while me and Archie (our son) go to Hunstanton and pick you up about 6pm?"


Good morning Titchwell:

Good deeds done, we pulled into Titchwell car park at around 1130hrs and I was out of the car like 007 before Mrs K had even finished parking - well, it looked like 007 to me anyway!

I've wanted to see one of these Yellow-browed warblers since the influx a few weeks ago and knowing that Titchwell has had steady reports of one that very morning, I knew I was giving myself the best chance to catch up with one.
The latest sighting was along the Meadow trail, however, very elusive. Not deterred, I headed straight down the trail, ears and eyes open but no luck and no sightings since the initial one made by warden Paul Eele (@paulEele on twitter), who I'd also like to thank for his help.

With so much to see on the marshes and a number of Cetti's warblers belting out their call along the path, I walked on through the trail and up the west bank path. The sun was blazing and every step was disturbing all sorts of dragonflies, mainly Common Darters and even still a few Ruddy Darters. I wasn't closely studying all of them but zipping over the reeds were also Migrant, Common and I think; Southern Hawkers. A lot of them mating and crashing into reeds whilst coupled together. Commas and Red Admirals were out on the wing, it was easy to mistake the date for the 6th of August and not October. Unbelievable!

Yellow-browed aside, I was hoping to see the Curlew Sandpipers too and within a few minutes of looking out over the freshwater marsh, there they were!
(Now I'm not ashamed to admit that of all the bird types, Waders, closely followed by sea birds, are what I struggle with a bit. OK with the more obvious ones but not so much the nitty-gritty waders that look very alike).
With that in mind it was great that literally side by side, all in one view, were a Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Dunlin for comparison. Apologies, but no photos of these, just too far for the ol' point-n-shoot I'm afraid..

I made myself comfortable in the south hide and picked out:
  • Curlew
  • Lapwing
  • Teal
  • Ruff
  • Avocet
  • Little Stint
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Wigeon
  • Brent Geese
  • Shoveler
  • Pintail
  • Dunlin
  • Linnet
  • Ringed Plover
  • Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Shelduck
  • and a single Golden Plover, squatting low in the grass.
A lot of them were in eclipse plumage, just to challenge my ID skills further then in true falcon fashion, we saw the entire marsh take to the skies before moments later a Peregrine swooped and darted into the flock, only to emerge with empty talons and bolt off out towards the beach. An hour or so later, what I presume would be the same Peregrine tried again but this time, coming in low over the water at speed and flying off with an unlucky Dunlin. A fantastic sight to see these birds of prey doing what they do, gotta love Peregrines!

A look over the volunteer marsh from the North Hide, provided more Bar and Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plovers, Little Egret, a couple of Spotted Redshank and a few Grey Plovers. This one still holding on to the summer look:

Another awe-inspiring wildlife sight has got to be Pink Footed geese flying in formation. In the time I was there, I noted 4 formations heading East high over, each were on average, 80-100 strong. Beautiful to watch:

After a succesful few hrs watching the marshes I decided to head back for another stab at the Yellow-browed. Again, my efforts were fruitless however I saw a Mammal first for me in the form of a Chinese Water Deer! History has it that they escaped from Whipsnade Zoo in the early 20th century and became established in the wetlands of Norfolk/Cambs. I believe they were also kept on estates, like the Mandarin ducks for example, as 'ornaments'. What amazed me though was how easy it was to lose in the grass once its head was down, this one passed the camouflage test with an A+

The day couldn't have been any better but I wanted to top it off with a Jack Snipe shaped cherry on top, so off to Patsy's Reedbed I wandered. Again, my luck was in as within minutes the call of "JACK-JACK-JACK" came from behind the hide.
Not only did it show well but it 'bobbed' away directly behind a Common Snipe for another comparison! Apologies for pic but to give the idea:

The field behind had a few Red-legged Partridge feeding and that was the end of my birding day, a few new ones for me and a great day had. Got picked up around 1730hrs, back to Hunstanton before driving home for fish and chips whilst watching this:

If you've read this far - Thank you! I know it was a long one, sorry!

Monday, 30 September 2013

A Thorn in my side...

...and I mean that literally but will explain later.

So. First blog, first post and as I've been doing more mothing than birding lately, you can guess where this is going.

For those who don't know, I live 5 floors up in a flat, which is great for a bit sky-watching and picking out birds of prey (of which I've seen Buzzard, Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk from my living room window this year) however, no garden = no moth light. So, whenever I want to run the ol' mercury vapour light, I have to hijack my parents' garden in Isleworth. It means getting in the car for 20mins instead of just walking out of a back door but until we get that little cottage in the country, that's how it is.

2013 is the first year I've really made a go of the moths (and Butterflies) and have started a garden list which already I can't wait to compare with next year. That list so far, stands at 128 species of moth which I know isn't half as much as most people doing the same but, on running the light on average of about once a fortnight throughout year, I didn't think that was too bad of a number for first attempt. Not to mention the ones in the earlier days that I quite simply didn't have the balls to attempt to ID!

On to last night, I sat around the MV light from 2000hrs-midnight and had a nice variety considering the, at times, strong breeze.

I had:

- Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum
- Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
- Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata
- Snout Hypena proboscidalis
- White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella
- Pale Mottled Willow Paradrina clavipalpis
- Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria
- Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes
- Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba
- Orthopygia glaucinalis

- Meal Moth Pyralis farinalis:

This smart litte micro was another first, Ypsolopha sequella:

...as was this little cracker, a Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla:

Now, as for the Thorn in my side...

All year, I've been willing ANY species of the Thorn moths to the light. I'm not fussy which one, they're just a type of moth that I've always wanted to see but to this day I've not had a so much as a sniff at one. Not a sausage...until quite possibly last night! I was just starting to pack up for the night when a good size moth, of an obvious pale/canary yellow hue flew straight into my chest and under my arm. I span around quicker than John Travolta on the dancefloor, to see the big yellow blur whizz off over the 7ft hedge. Never to be seen again..