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.

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