April Dawns At Staines Moor

April saw Team Sausage rising exceptionally early on two consecutive Sunday mornings. With Mrs Sausage off to Aberdeen on both occasions, I made the most of already being awake and on the road and arrived at Staines Moor at first light, or in the case of my first visit on April 10, a little before.

The wait for sunrise was completely worth the while as I enjoyed the wonderful experience of a dawn chorus. Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Great Tits, Wrens, Robins and Goldfinches were filling the half-light with their morning salutations. Most melodious was a very active and visible Song Thrush, sitting atop an exposed branch just off Hithermoor Road.

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The season for new arrivals was just getting into full swing and as I made my way alongside the reservoir, the chorus was being added to by new arrivals; the lovely multi-notes of Blackcaps were the first I noticed:

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Followed by the unrelenting two-note call of the Chiffchaff, I found this one bathing in the orangey hue of the rising sun.

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Staines Moor was bathed in a frosty, ethereal mist as I made my way over the stile. Compared to the lively birdsong of Stanwell Moor, Staines Moor was largely silent as the early morning sun slowly broke up the evidence of the night-time chill.

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As I made my way around the moor slowly started to come to life. Three Mute Swans elegantly and silently flew over the evaporating mist.

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A pair of very wary Redshank were intent on keeping me at maximum zoom length along the River Colne.

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There were plenty of Skylark “helicoptering” after rising up from the long grass, and some stayed in the open once they had returned to the ground.

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A busy population of Linnets could be found in and around The Butts.

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As the morning came to full light, parties of Goldfinches could be seen noisily moving from one food source to another, a single Greenfinch was heard, its wheezing call travelling across the open spaces. The seemingly ever-present Kestrel put in a hovering appearance and this male Reed Bunting paused momentarily while chasing its partner into the greenery by the Colne.

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My next visit a week later saw very much the same but in noticeably greater numbers. Most obliging bird of the morning goes to this Meadow Pipit which found a wonderfully exposed perch in the sunlight.

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Whilst the moor’s Cetti’s Warblers remained characteristically elusive, I was delighted to get my first Sedge Warbler of the year in the greenery just by the Colne as you enter Staines Moor from Stanwell Moor.

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His noisy, scratchy song belied his previously well hidden position but some patient waiting had its reward as it moved into clear view, although only briefly.

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With calling Green Woodpeckers, skittish Little Egrets and fly past Cormorants, it was fantastic to experience the moor “waking up” on a couple of spring mornings. Of the arriving spring migrants, Chiffchaff seemed to be the most numerous but closely rivalled by a strong Blackcap contingent.

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The resident birds were well-represented on both Stanwell and Staines Moors. Song Thrush melodies are always a joy to hear and their habit of perching on the most exposed upper branches makes them a handy bird to photograph.

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Somewhat more mobile and certainly more prone to skulking were the Wrens. I was lucky enough to find one being very bold on Stanwell Moor and reeling off song at the top of a hawthorn.

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A lovely and rewarding couple of mornings, the dawn chorus on the first Sunday is an experience that will be remembered with great fondness. With no traffic or aircraft noise to break the birdsong it was hard to remember that this vibrant patch of wildlife is nestled next to the M25 and Heathrow. Well worth the 4am drive to Gatwick!

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