Sunday 15 July 2018

Wraysbury GP - 11th July 2018

CL & DKL returned to Wraysbury hoping to capture Whitethroats towards the RAS project and were accompanied by MEH. Much of the vegetation is now dry, with larger shrubs, including Elders with berries beginning to shrivel. It is unclear whether the site has been sprayed with weed killer again or if this is entirely down to the lack of rain. Certainly, the blackberries although numerous, remain small, green and hard. The Whitethroat numbers were down compared to our last few visits, prompting us to wonder whether the locally breeding birds were somewhere else on site or if they had moved on. Garden Warbler and Blackcap are already building in number. Other captures included Bullfinch, Cetti's Warbler and Kingfisher.

Garden Warbler

3M Kingfisher

Total: 53 (5)
Kingfisher - 1
Dunnock - 1
Blackbird - 6 (1)
Songthrush - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 4 (1)
Garden Warbler - 12 (1)
Blackcap - 17 (2)
Chiffchaff - 2
Blue Tit - 7
Bullfinch - 1

Butterflies seen on site Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Holly Blue and Brown Argus.

Holly Blue

Brown Argus

Saturday 14 July 2018

Stanwell Moor GP - 6th, 7th, 8th & 9th July 2018

6th July

We returned at 8pm, just to try the roost again as the wind was low and the planes should not have been overflying the lake. However, as it states on the website, there are times when runway use is not as planned and we had flights departing quite frequently.

We attracted a small contingent of hirundines inspite of the noise and four Reed Warblers provided us with something to do as we waited. We could see birds flying along the trees that line the lake edge and there were a few criss-crossing the lake. As always we were concerned about the party of Swallows overhead diverting to a quieter spot for an overnight stay at the last minute.

Birds had begun to make lazy circuits above the site so we moved closer in order to know as soon as any dived into the reeds close to our nets. We work with nothing more that headlamps so are sure to make best use of all natural light. It is rare for us to get catches in excess of 20 here, and although there is always the option to roost a big catch overnight and return to release them early next morning we prefer not to do this when possible as it never gets really dark here as another feature of the site is light pollution from the airport and surrounding roads.

We noticed a small group come in, from low over the lake, near the lake edge but didn't extract straight away as another six birds continued to circle quite low. However these soon roosted at a different spot and our catch turned out to be mainly Sand Martin. Obviously most of the Swallows had prefered the prospect of a quieter night.

Total: 14 (1)

Sand Martin - 7
Swallow - 2
Reed Warbler - 4
Blackcap - 1
Blue Tit - 0 (1)

7th July

We were back on site for 6am on a day that promised to see temperatures set to soar into the 30s. Our plan was to be packed up and away well before midday. In addition to the three nets in the reedbed we tried a new 3 panel net near the lake. Our usual 18m on the ramptrack had an additional 9m tagged on the end, right up to the edge of the newly excavated pit where we have seen so many birds cross behind the net. There was one more in weedy patch close to the Colne.

There was a marked contrast in the amount of bird activity along the soil heap banks to what we have seen in recent weeks and the track net had been catching well while we erected the last 12m. It hasn't happened for a while but we were quite busy with birds and breakfast had to wait until we'd made three rounds. There nineteen species! All the Songthrushes and Blackbirds came from the new 9m net. There was a good showing from the Reed Warblers, not all from the reedbed rides - some were caught in Chris' 3 panel 12m.

The Chiffchaff was interesting in that it had a bill deformation and two House Martins, both from my 9m 'extension' were a real bonus. We were off site by 11:15am.

3J Swallow

4M House Martin

Juvenile House Martin

4M Reed Bunting

Adult Chiffchaff with elongated bill

Total: 69 (7)

Swallow - 1
House Martin - 2
Dunnock - 3
Robin - 1
Blackbird - 4
Songthrush - 3 (1)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 14 (5)
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 5
Garden Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 18
Chiffchaff - 2
Blue Tit - 4
Great Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 1
Goldfinch - 3
Linnet - 1
Reed Bunting - 0 (1)

8th July

We put in a couple of hours at the end of the day, hoping to get some hirundines at roost. There were four new Reed Warblers and one retrap just before 21:00 and it was a little after that that a few Swallows dropped in. Ten Swallows were captured and ringed.

Total: 14 (1)

Swallow - 10
Reed Warbler - 4 (1)

9th July

The morning session was very much less busy than that conducted just two days before, but 46 birds was a reasonable tally with a few Blackcap, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat as well as the expected Reed Warblers from by the lake.

Total: 39 (7)
Swallow - 1
Dunnock - 1
Robin - 1
Songthrush - 2
Reed Warbler - 11 (5)
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 8 (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 7
Chiffchaff - 3 (1)
Goldfinch - 1
Linnet - 1

Additional observations included a Red Kite and three Hobby overhead.

South London Parks - 5th July 2018

Mitcham Common
Every now and again we join PB and help with monitoring of the birds in the London parks. Today was one such day and we started with a Canada Goose round-up at Mitcham Common. This is possible as the birds are flightless while the flight feathers are renewed. However, it still entailed the use of a dinghy, construction of barriers and a holding area and enough people to direct the flock into the corral. Fortunately there was a wonderfully shady spot, just by the lake, where the birds could be kept and processed.

The first attempt failed as the dinghy was too slow without an outboard motor, the use of which had hoped to be avoided due to the shallow depth of some parts of the lake. The second try was much better and with the exception of just three geese, the flock was successfully corralled and processed. We were also able to relieve one bird of a fishing hook and line that had become entangled around its leg and foot. The toatl of 42 was made up of 35 adults and 7 well grown gooslings.

Total: 10 (42)

Canada Goose - 17 (35)  

After that we went on to tour other parks hoping to hand net odd geese, swans and ducks. There were also opportunities to talk to members of the public and inform them of the work being carried out. Data was recorded either through hand netting or rings being read.

One of the many lakes in the open spaces 
found throughout London.

Tooting Bec

Total: 1

Canada Goose - 1

Wandsworth Common

Total: 5 (4)

Mute Swan - 0 (1)
Egyptian Goose - 1
Mallard - 1
Moorhen - 2
Coot - 1
Woodpiegeon - 0 (3)

Greylag gosling at Wimbledon Park Lake prior to processing

Where ever possible rings are read in the field and several Woodpigeon, 
Mute Swan, Canada and Egyptian Geese were recorded.

Wimbledon Park Lake

Total: 4 (4)

Mute Swan - 0 (2)
Egyptian Goose - 1 (2)
Greylag Goose - 1 
Mallard - 1
Coot - 1

Sunday 8 July 2018

Wraysbury GP & Broadwater - 4th July2018

The morning was spent trying for Whitethroat again. Of the 16 captured birds there were six Whitethroats, five new and a retrap adult ringed earlier this year. The morning gave us nothing particularly exceptional and we were packed up by 11am.

Total:  13 (3)

Songthrush - 1
Dunnock - 3
Robin - 0 (1)
Whitethroat - 5 (1)
Blackcap - 3
Chiffchaf - 1 (1)

We then met briefly with Paul Roper to look at some local sites with the prospect of siting duck traps at local, suitable locations. The short term project aims to study winter movements of  Shoveler and Gadwall duck by the use of satellite tracking. A couple of potential sites were identified.

Lastly we recced Broadwater, ensuring that in situ ties remained in place. It was necessary to trim some Buddliea growth where plants were now leaning into one ride and another ride was brought back into use where one plant had to be removed after coming down in strong winds. That site is now all set to go when the Phylloscopus warblers start to move through in August and September. 

Stanwell Moor GP - 2nd July 2018

We tried an evening session by the lake. The planes were taking off from the North runway so disturbance over the rides would be at its lowest. The wind was stronger than we would have liked and we hoped that it would reduce once the sun dropped below the horizon, but that was not to be the case. There also appeared to be litle moving about in the heat.

The nets were all wind affected to varying degrees, all except one that was perfectly sheltered and caught nothing all evening except a single Wren.

We got a steady trickle of Reed Warblers from the reed-bed with no more than a handful of birds from the track net that was too obvious to provide any real prospect of catching much.
There were a few hirundines overhead and although we saw like evidence of pre-roosting flight behaviour, we managed a meagre three Swallows and one Sand Martin at the end of the day. The fact that one of the juvenile  Swallows carried ring ADA7882 added extra value and we look forward to finding out when and where this bird was ringed. We're guessing it was probably ringed as a pullus.

Totals:  13 (5)

Sand Martin - 1
Swallow - 2 (1)
Wren - 0 (1)
Whitethroat - 1 (1)
Reed Warbler - 7 (2)
Chiffchaff - 1
Greenfinch - 1

Sunday 1 July 2018

Black Park - 1st July 2018

A brief visit, again produced the usual Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral. A good area for Purple Hairstreak was found with at least six seen, one down briefly, but too briefly to photograph.

Large Skipper 



Silver-washed Fritillary 

Large White

Wraysbury GP - 30th June 2018

We went along to an area that is particularly good in autumn due to bramble bushes that line the net rides, and happily have been spared from a dousing of weedkiller intended to reduce a great deal of vetch that grows across the site. We haven't done much here ourselves, but our 'C' permit holders have visited a couple of times now and inspite of early starts failed to catch much.

It was windier than we would have liked and that would definitely have had an affect on numbers caught. However two rides in particular, with doubles in each were especially quiet, no birds even seen or heard in the direct vicinity. It looks as though there may be a reason for the lack of birds just here, as it appears that an American Mink is in residence beneath a clump of vegetation beside the ride. The Mink showed no fear of our presence and crossed back and forth to its den no less than 8 times, twice carrying in small rabbits.

American Mink

These animals are known as ferocious hunters, but this animal also appeared fearless of humans as it crossed the track no more than a few feet from us.

It looks as though we will most likely avoid netting immediately around the den as migratory birds will no doubt use the blackberries and the chances of birds being taken from the nets is extremely high.

Total: 11

Wren - 1
Dunnock - 2
Robin - 2
Whitethroat - 2
Blackcap - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Great Tit - 1

Alice Holt Forest - 29th June 2018

We made the most of the good weather and drove to a spot just south of Wrecclesham hoping to photograph Purple Emperor butterflies in Alice Holt forest. We saw one on the enterance track that flew up before we had chance to get a good look.

Purple Emperor 

Other species were found amongst some long grass, although Marbled Whites were flighty and would not alight on anything for long enough to be photographed.

Small Skipper

Golden ringed Dragonfly

A couple of Purple Hairsteak, as we walked back, were a real bonus.

Purple Hairstreak

Luckily, two Purple Emperors were on the track near the exit as we left, and one in particular was very obliging.

Stanwell Moor GP - 28th June 2018

A surprising session at Stanwell Moor with 14 species. Warbler numbers have picked up a bit and even the finches made a bit of an effort with Greenfinch and Linnet putting in an appearance. The most unexpected species though was Meadow Pipit. Four birds, all juveniles, were our first of the season in a net where we would never usually expect to catch them. Our only explanation is that the young birds were uncharacteristically moving through heavily vegetated areas while evading a Hobby that was storming about the site generally upsetting the smaller birds.

Meadow Pipit juvenile

Sedge warbler aged 3

Totals: 26 (2)

Meadow Pipit - 4
Blackbird - 1
Robin - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 3 (1)
Sedge Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 3
Blackcap - 4
Chiffchaff - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 1
Greenfinch - 2
Linnet - 2
Reed Bunting - 1

Devon - 25th & 26th June 2018

Monday 25th

A quick two day visit down to the West Country for butterflies in the main, but also any dragonflies or damselflies. Our first point of call was Hembury Woods, a place we'd never been before. There was a bit of a false start when the directions were misinterpreted and we headed off on a path that took us to a stream rather than the river. Eventually we reached the clearing at the top next to Hembury ancient hill fort, where we saw a couple of High Brown Fritillary butterflies, albeit they remained in flight and impossible to photograph. In addition Dark Green and Silver-washed Fritillaries were seen, with other species present including Marbled White and Small Skipper.

Beautiful Demoiselle female

Small Skipper

Silver-washed Fritillary 

Marbled White

The second location that we wanted to try was Aish Tor. Here we took a footpath that started off by the river Dart. However it didn't take us up on to the slopes so we returned to the car and further explored the road beyond the carpark. There were more parking areas and we managed to find a relatively confined area where the butterflies were nectaring on low lying brambles between the ferns. There were quite a few High Brown, mixed in with Dark Green Fritillaries. We also had a single Green Hairstreak, and a few other common species.

High Brown Fritillaries

Dark Green Fritillary

Tuesday 26th

We decided that, considering the reports that Aish Tor was the best site,we'd return there rather than try our other options. But first a visit on to the disused railway line at Lydford for Heath Fritillary. We were fortunate to track down a few feeding along the steep sides of the embankment. 

Heath Fritillaries


We then drove south towards Tavistock, and found this isolated church on top of a Tor with no evidence of any immediately nearby residencies, other than the grave yard.

Brentor Church

We stopped off breifly at Meerivale checking for Dippers on the river.

Banded Demoiselle male

Another stop, and a walk along the north end of the Dart Valley NR.

River Dart


Grass Snake

Dark Green Fritillary

Aish Tor, was slightly less busy than the previous day, but we got here an hour or so later, but again quite a few High Brown and Dark Green Fritillaries were seen. Although this was a butterflies trip, we can never ignore the birds. At Aish Tor we saw Raven, Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Redpoll and Swallows.

Dark Green Fritillary

High Brown Fritillary

Willow Warbler

Lesser Redpoll