No Holds Barred on the Local Patches

It’s been quite a task trying to find time to blog our recent trip to Scotland. Work and life has offered little time to sit down, edit photographs and type up the usual waffle that accompanies them. This entry breaks our usual chronological style however, as we have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to see something a little more exciting than usual on our doorstep.

We begin with the August Bank Holiday weekend. We decided to take a look at the long overlooked Lake Farm in Hayes. We had recently been contacted by our local MP’s office with regards to what he had heard was a decline in Skylark numbers at Lake Farm. If you are a regular reader, you will know that there was a long but unsuccessful campaign to try and prevent development of the Lake Farm green belt site. Both during and since the construction was completed, myself and other local birders have noticed a general decline in both numbers and species at Lake Farm.

The Saturday morning of 29th August was a little overcast but warm enough with some breaking sun. The first thing that struck us was the general silence hanging over the park. There were two fair sized flocks of Feral Pigeon and a few corvids but certainly not much birdsong and very little movement between the brambles and copses in the “wild” areas of the park. The first real activity occurred when the Feral Pigeons took to the air in a noisy flutter as a Sparrowhawk zipped across the open parkland. Life at last! We were half way round on our circuit when we finally spotted some movement ahead of us. A Green Woodpecker was foraging in the grass for insects.

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We were able to get fairly close for a few shots before the Sparrowhawk made another pass over the park. As you can see from these pics, the Green Woodpecker was well aware of the presence of the raptor, constantly looking up in between stabs in the grass.

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We followed the Green Woody around for a while, watching it meet up with another woodpecker before they made off and we lost them. By now we had completed nearly three quarters of a circuit and seen very little. Blackcaps and Linnets put in fleeting appearances and a Great Spotted Woodpecker chic-chic-chic-ed into the woodland area adjacent to the canal. Mrs Sausage then spotted some movement in a nearby bramble. After some careful stalking a larger than Robin sized brown blur broke cover and made for deeper greenery. Redstart? It was the same place and time I had seen them last year so it could well have been. To cut a long walk short, we did find some very shy and mobile Redstarts by the BMX tracks. They did not stay in the open for long at all and the number of dog walkers and joggers made it very hard for any patient waiting to bear fruit. I returned again on the Sunday morning and had the same results again, around three or four birds that were determined to remain shy. Sadly, in a total of around five hours at Lake Farm over two days there was no sign of previously “nailed-on” species such as Reed Bunting, Stonechat and House Sparrows. They were either very well hidden or just not there. I had one Skylark calling when I was there and saw one Kestrel on both days. Lake Farm is not what it used to be but I will pay a few more visits there for autumn passage to see what comes through.

On arriving home late Wednesday evening, the Staines Moor twitter site and Surrey Birders Facebook page were both alive with sightings of an exciting kind. Staines Moor patch stalwart Lee Dingain had found a Barred Warbler on the moor!

We made for Staines Mooor straight from work on Thursday evening. Despite threatening skies and no sightings for several hours we waited in hope and met the very friendly and equally frustrated Shaun Ferguson from the Surrey Birders Facebook group. Then the heavens opened and the universe told us to go home. Saturday morning brought great news though, Shaun had been at the moor from almost first light and eventually tracked the warbler down to a favourite bramble bush. We arrived mid-morning to find a steady stream of twitchers and birders making their way back from the moor with positive reports. The bramble bush was particularly easy to find thanks to the crowd scene gathered around it, long lenses, scopes and patient observers all pointing in the same direction. Shaun informed us we had just missed the best views of the day but the bird was still present.

We didn’t have to wait too long for a fairly clear but fleeting sighting of the warbler ourseves. Movement in the brambles soon brought into view a pale grey-brown bird, mid-size and somewhat innocuous. I had to admit, it could easily have been mistaken at first glance for a Whitethroat or Garden Warbler. I managed to reel off a few record shots while it was partially in view though.

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Fortunately, Shaun Ferguson has very kindly allowed me to use some of his excellent “out in the open” shots of the warbler, taken just before we arrived. These really allow for a clear identification and are a great reward for his extensive footwork in trying to track it down on Saturday morning. Big thanks to Shaun who I am sure we will bump into again at Staines Moor.

1621809_10153038973730969_143704781860188723_n image courtesy of Shaun Ferguson

11181626_10153038974170969_1264838612576621245_n image courtesy of Shaun Ferguson

11960093_10153038974590969_3888291225959055656_n image courtesy of Shaun Ferguson

The trend while we were there was for short 20-30 second appearances, hide for 30-40 minutes and repeat. A frustrating wait for many but worth it for a bird many of us may never see with any regularity. Although not classified as a “rare” bird, the Barred Warbler is certainly scarce. Their skulking behaviour and predilection for brambles makes it a hard bird to spot.

11987184_10153038974060969_7778645828788578870_n image courtesy of Shaun Ferguson

Seeing as we had achieved our mission and rather than wait long periods of time for a quick look at the bird, we made a quick tour of Staines Moor together. Catching the eye first was the number of fairly large and bright fungi littered across the moor. Most frequently found were these common Parasols.

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Some were looking worse for wear though, either eager birders or the equine or bovine residents of the moor had trampled some asunder.

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Mrs Sausage also find this little one, nestled among the grass. Identification is pending on this, please feel free to comment if you know what it is.

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Birdlife on the moor, other than the guest star Barred Warbler, was fairly interesting. At least one Kestrel was seen hunting almost the whole time we were there, covering the whole of the open moor.

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The occasional Whitethroat could be seen moving from bramble to bramble, a fight of Siskins went over heading south and some large flocks of Goldfinch were noisily rolling over the open Moor. We saw two Little Egret at the far end and a few small flocks of the ever present Starlings were present around the horses and cows. Some, like this juvenile clearly couldn’t be bothered to fly across the moor and took the more sedate tour.

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Stanwell Moor also has a consistent Little Owl sighting too as we have mentioned in previous posts. Shaun Ferguson saw three in the horse paddock on Saturday. Although we had just the one on our way out it presented a few chances for the camera.

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The Little Owl really is an emotive bird, full of personality and attitude and nothing sums that up better than this picture taken by Shaun who really had the most outstanding of days on the Moor on Saturday.

10622703_10153039145280969_7946101778865158572_nimage courtesy of Shaun Ferguson

With Cranford Park not showing any sign of its regular brood this year it’s been good to get regular sightings at Stanwell Moor.

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Finally, in the second in our short running series of “lift lepidoptery”, we had two more interesting moth species when we arrived home. First in the lift lobby was this Plume Moth.

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Waiting for us on the outside of the window by our front door was this male Vapourer.

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It has certainly been a week of contrasts. From Lake Farm and its faint echoes of past excitement to the thrill of a genuine “not to be missed” bird at Staines Moor. Now back to that North Berwick entry….

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