Staines Serengeti

It seems as if the weather gods are intent on making birding this year somewhat more sporadic than before. Recent weeks have seen me stare longingly out of the windows at work as blue skies and bright conditions have been the Monday to Friday theme, only to give way to grey, damp and downright wet conditions come the weekend. Such are the pitfalls of weekend birding.

All is not lost though and we have tried to make the most of good conditions when we could. Our tales continue here with a visit to Stanwell and Staines Moor on the 19th April. Blue skies and a fresh, almost bracing breeze greeted us as we made our way towards Stanwell Moor. Mrs Sausage spied her first proper Goldcrest in an evergreen along the pathway, yet again this tiny bird refused to make itself available for a decent picture. Thankfully visiting Blackcaps are more intent on establishing territory and finding mates than avoiding my nosey lens.

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Among the melodious Blackcaps and shy Cettis warblers, the somewhat mundane two note “song” of the Chiffchaffs dominated as we made our way along the side of the reservoir.

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A noisy but unseen Sedge Warbler could be heard where Stanwell and Staines Moor meet, along with at least two more Cettis Warblers. Staines Moor itself was not quite as exciting as my last visit. There was little sign of any passage birds. The numerous Mippits were still in good number as were the Skylarks. For quite some time I think there were possibly more cows and horses on the moor than birds! Our patience was rewarded after some time though as we followed a hovering Kestrel downward and into some longer grass. It didn’t reappear from the green cover though, leading us to believe it had possibly made a kill. As we carefully made our way toward the spot we could see the small raptor grounded and clearly picking away at something.

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The Kestrel was extremely wary of any activity so we kept a respectful distance but close enough to capture a fresh kill being consumed.

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It’s hard to tell from the photo what the unfortunate prey was but it seems to be a rodent of some kind. It was certainly a fantastic opportunity to watch a Kestrel successfully make a kill and consume it in front of us.

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The Kestrel appeared to be the catalyst for more sightings as Mrs Sausage spotted first one then two Yellow Wagtails by the River Colne.

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We met some birders on Stanwell Moor who mentioned there were around 5 Yellow Wagtail around and I was fully expected them to be around the grazing cows but here they were along with a Pied cousin taking in the green banks of the Colne instead.

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The Colne was suddenly the spot for some summer visitors. Along with the Yellow Wags a number of Swallows were snaffling up insects from the surface of the water. Among the migrants a party of around 20 resident Linnets were also making use of the river as a group bathing session took place.

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What was a largely quiet morning had finally become something resembling a small green Surrey savannah, complete with the arrival of large mammals at the “watering hole” as the roaming horses of the moor stopped for a hoof clean and refreshment.

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They appeared to be led by a quite magnificent stallion and we assumed the remaining members were part of the equine hareem as they followed his movement across the moor in a most orderly fashion. I mean, is that a twinkle in his eye or not there?

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A marauding Sparrowhawk in Stanwell Village completed our sightings as we returned to the car.

Despite it being a clear day a biting wind across the open space of the moor certainly made it feel colder than it probably was and from a pure birding point of view the species count was fairly low with only a few summer arrivals being seen. This was fairly well compensated for though with the Kestrel action and our Yellow Wagtail ticks. Next up, a return to Otmoor on Bank Holiday Monday.

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