Sunday, 5 October 2014

Hawfinch!?!

This morning was an amazingly sunny affair, despite the weathermen's warning that summer had come to a close with winter not too far from us. Okay, it was a bit bit chilly at first but by lunchtime I could almost taken my jacket off as the sun's strong rays hit me.

One of the first birds I noticed when I arrived at The Scrubs this morning were two Hawfinches that flew overhead 'ticking' as the went. I caught them in my bins as they headed northeast over the grassland. Their chunky, pot-bellied forms caught my eye as did the distinctive white wingbar that showed from under their wings. They were my first for my patch, first for London and perhaps my third or forth ever in the UK. I was well happy!
 Female Reed Bunting 
I've started teaching a course on Urban Birding at the City Lit College in Covent Garden. My class consists of five women and a guy and today I took them to The Scrubs to teach them about sussing common birds.

Of course, they arrived after my Hawfinches but were present to see at least four Stonechats, at least 12 Jackdaws and best of all 1 Red Kite and at least five Common Buzzards migrating over. They were absolutely delighted!

I love patch birding. I love my patch!
 Starling
A fat Wood Pigeon with a far slimmer Starling

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A quiet day at The Scrubs

Meadow Pipit
A quiet day was had at The Scrubs today. The recent fine weather has caused most of our potential migrants to keep on going south across our airspace.

Saw three Stonechats, heard a Blackcap and bumped into around six Chiffchaffs.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.
Grey Heron flyby

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Good Chats down at The Scrubs

This morning's autumnal check resulted in a lingering Whinchat and four lovely Stonechats.
 Whinchat
 Male Stonechat
Couple of females/1st winter birds
Stonechats, although biannual, are rarely seen in groups of more than three at The Scrubs these days. Prior to the severe winter of 2009/10 we used to get up to 10 birds in the grassland that would stick around for a few days before disappearing. Thereafter, three to four would winter until March when a fresh influx would swell their numbers.

I would love to know where these birds emanated from and where they where heading. Regardless, I hope that these birds are the advance guard for a new wintering population.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Autumn heats up a little at The Scrubs

Last Sunday morning I led a London Natural History Society walk around the patch.

We did well. 

A Red Kite decided to float low overhead - our 4th or 5th (can't remember right now). Just before then and before I met the group a flock of six Rook headed in from the west to land on the mown grass in front of the prison. 

They were the first of this normally rural corvid to be seen at The Scrubs this year and certainly our biggest ever flock. The previous largest count was a pair that flew over during the spring a few years ago.
 Red Kite
 Kestrel being mobbed by a Carrion Crow
 Meadow Pipit
 Another of the many Meadow Pipits
 A Reed Warbler - another 1st for the year
Two days later on another stupendous morning (weather-wise) I locked onto a female Stonechat originally found by Paul Thomas, a fellow Scrubber. It was great to capture it sitting next to a Whinchat, its close relative.
 A Stonechat and Whinchat pair
Sunrise at The Scrubs

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Mid September ornithological rays of hope at The Scrubs

I've been visiting The Scrubs almost on a daily basis recently. September is the month when it comes to autumn migration and the for the possibilities for unusual or rare birds. We've already had a Wryneck a couple of weeks ago...who knows what could show up next.
 Whinchat
 Whinchat
 Lesser Whitethroat
Blackbird

Monday, 15 September 2014

1st winter Northern Wheatear at The Scrubs

Now, you might be saying, Wheatear at The Scrubs? What's so unusual about that?

Well, you would be right. As much as we enjoy having these migrants when they arrive, they are hardly unusual. I found this bird a couple days ago. I took a couple of record shots of this bird as it sallied from the tops of Blackthorns to catch and gobble up unseen and unfortunate insects.

When I saw it from behind I noticed how black its tail was. The average Northern Wheatear shows the classic inverted black 'T' with white tailsides and rump. This bird confused me but reading up on the literature it became apparent that 1st winter birds illustrated in my books seemed to have a similiar tail pattern. Perhaps the white tailsides of this particular bird have been unusually covered by the main black feathers. Perhaps I have always overlooked the tail patterns of young Northern Wheatears.

What do you think?









Saturday, 13 September 2014

The wonder of Falsterbo

I recently spent a very enjoyable long weekend at the Falsterbo Bird Festival, Sweden. I had originally tried to be incognito but I was spotted and asked to do a couple of last minute talks that were thankfully well recieved.

Falsterbo is of course very famous as a migration watchpoint. Indeed, although the SE winds were not deemed as productive by the resident birders, for me the migration that I saw was still pretty amazing. There were stacks of Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtails of a couple races and plenty of White Wagtails. Hunting them were legions of migrant Sparrowhawks who swooped and speedily patrolled the stands of vegetation. Some 17,000 passed through and although I didn't see anything like that number I still managed to see at least a couple hundred whizzing through, sometimes at almost ground level.
 White Wagtails along the harbour
 White Wagtail
Dark phase Honey Buzzard escorted by a Sparrowhawk
 Milling Starlings
 Another of the many passing Honey Buzzards

A migrating Sparrowhawk