Sunday, 30 January 2011

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

This years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has been a very different affair to the excitement and drama of last year's count when I unexpectedly added a local urban fox (Vulpes vulpes) to my garden mammal list.

It seems a bit colder this year with a frost on the ground and I had to break the ice on the water dish on the bird table when I topped up the bird-seed at 08:00. A crisp clear blue January sky, without a cloud in sight.

As with last year I started the watch at 08:15. The garden was devoid of birds and even with the bedroom window wide open, I could not hear any target species in the local vicinity.

I started scanning the roof tops for the "additional sightings" list instantly adding 4 wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) and a couple of black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus), a herring gull (Larus argentatus) flew past.

A little way in to the survey a blackbird (Turdus merula) caught my attention flying between gardens several house down. A small movement of carrion crow (Corvus corone corone) 2,1,1, and a single magpie (Pica pica) were added to the "additional sightings" list.

A pied wagtail (Motacilla alba) flew over unseen its "chiswick chiswick" call unmistakeable.

Herring gull and black-headed gull continued to fly over as well as well as a couple of feral pigeon (Columba livia). The wood pigeon constantly on the move between roof-tops and TV arials. But nothing landing in the garden to add to garden birdwatch list. I was getting bored.

At 08:40 a peripheral movement caught my eye and turning I noted a ♀ blackbird entering my neighbours garden - which in keeping with last years count, I eagerly added to the garden bird watch list. The ♀ stayed in the garden feeding mainly on the ground. Shortly afterwards a ♂ blackbird flew low over both gardens but failed to land.

At 09:02 five wood pigeons landed on the shed roof in my other next door neighbour's garden, as they were feeding on the seed and meal worms I had laced the roof with at 08:00 - I felt more than justified adding them to my garden bird list.

A minute later and the wood pigeons and blackbird flushed when a local moggy (Felis domesticus) appeared on a nearby garden wall.

My garden bird watch was over 13 minutes early the cat continuing on into my neighbours garden and up onto the shed roof where it stayed in situ until 09:20.

For a retrospective look at last years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch list goto:

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Brownsea Island WeBS Count

A small group of us went to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, Dorset to do a WeBS count as part of our 3rd year taxa survey portfolio.

The lagoon was much quieter today than I have experienced before in the winter, probably to do with the amount of ice laying across the exposed mudflat reducing the interest for waders.

shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) x 43
gadwell (Anas strepera) x 28
Northern shovelor (Anas clypeata) x 34
wigeon (Anas penelope) x 15
teal (Anas crecca) x 169
cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) x 3
grey heron (Ardea cinerea) x 17
little egret (Egretta garzetta) x 1
Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) x 2
avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) x 16
common redshank (Tringa totanus) x 7 (probably 9)
spotted redshank (Tringa erythropus) x 1
greenshank (Tringa stagnatilis) x 7
black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) x 9
GBB gull (Larus marinus) x 6
common gull (Larus canus) x 1
herring gull (Larus argentatus) sev
black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) x 16
moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) x 6

The only other bird of note a very pale phase buzzard (Buteo buteo) which spooked the mixed duck raft early afternoon.

We also enjoyed some cracking views of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) along the boardwalk tree-line.

For information regarding Brownsea Island go to:

Thanks to Chris Tate - Brownsea Island Warden, for allowing us to participate and providing additional recording materials and Karl Clennell for organising the trip.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Heathland management, Hawley Common, Nr Fleet, Hampshire

Hawley Common Nr Fleet, Hampshire is a derelict heathland owned by the MOD and recently under management by the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust [HWT] as part of the North East Hampshire Grazing for Wildlife Project. The management plan is to return the heathland to a wet heathland community in good condition. Conservation grazing and scrub management is an integral part of the management plan.

The site is currently dominated by purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea), leggy gorse (Ulex europaeus) and scrubby birch (Betula pendula) intrusion.

I spent a very wind-blown day with the Hampshire Conservation Volunteers helping to clear the  birch and gorse and in the process trampling bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), whilst avoiding damaging the slower growths of dwarf gorse (Ulex minor) on the south and south-eastern walls of a rectangular bund which was probably thrown up originally as an encampment for military vehicles.

The bund is being cleared to provide suitable habitat for basking reptiles. The leggy gorse across the site cut back to promote regeneration and a favourable opportunity for heathland birds, in particular the dartford warbler (Sylvia undata).

Information on the HWT grazing project can be found at:

Information on the Hampshire Conservation Volunteers can be found at:

Friday, 14 January 2011

white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla L.) Hordle Lane, Hordle, Hampshire

Today I caught up with the juv. white-tailed eagle [WTE] which has been widely reported in the Downton / Hordle area since the 1st January 2011. Although some local birders variously indicated that it was located in the area on Boxing Day 2010 having been put up by the local shoot.

The eagle was first seen in Hampshire on 12th December 2010 heading west over Hayling Island, Portsmouth then Titchfield Haven having left the River Arun Valley in West Sussex.

Driving down in torrential rain this morning I was far from optimistic of my chances of seeing the bird. Less than an hour into the twitch it was raining stair-rods, I and everyone else headed for the comfort of our rapidly steamed up cars to sit it out.

When the weather broke at 13:00 the rain finally clearing, the local buzzard (Buteo buteo) population (5 birds) were on the wing, causing at least one erroneous "buzz-eagle" claim before the WTE was seen launching out of a tree to the north west of the staked out field - the bird must have been roosting unseen in the very poor light and without doubt on the "wrong" side of the tree.

The WTE was watched for nearly three minutes as it flew south along the tree line before turning west and disappearing below the sky-line. Thrilling.

It was next seen at 16:35 further along Hordle Lane and where it was watched for around 20 mins roosting before it flew east. The report on Going Birding Hampshire drolly commenting: "sadly some way from [the] assembled birders." Unfortunately I was one of the "assembled birders".

On returning home still exhilarated by the brief WTE action; I was both delighted and a little bemused to hear that 7 waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) had been recorded this afternoon at Palmerston Road in Southsea on my "work patch". I have been eagerly anticipating their arrival in Palmerston Road since before Christmas and checking the site on a regular and almost daily basis.

Going Birding Hampshire can be found at:

Saturday, 8 January 2011

"If you go down to the woods today .." a voluntary diversion

The days volunteering activity with Hampshire Conservation Volunteers  at Burridge Pond Nr Swanwick, Hampshire, managing the scrub layer on the bund behind the pond; turned out to be only a morning's activity due to the good turn out of volunteers and the small size of the site.

The afternoon's newly found freedom provided an opportunity for a sociable walk and bird-watch along the banks of the Hamble and the Cur via Curbridge Nature Reserve, with the added attraction of a well-earned mid-walk pint at the Horse and Jockey, Curbridge.

En route we were unexpectedly entertained by the garish assortment of plastic motifs and votives attached to one of the path side trees. Although not completely sure if the self titled "Fairy House" was the product of some quasi pagan whimsy, or simply child's play?

A sense of play was certainly present in a nearby dead-hollow tree with a tiny dumper truck placed ironically at its centre. And in fairness if you are going to willfully litter in a semi-natural and ancient woodland a GSH is probably the only way to get a conservationist any where near on side?

To add to our bemusement the Horse and Jockey was closed on a Saturday lunch-time?

A second well-timed diversion to Hook with Warsash, enabled us to bird the high tide roost at the Bunny Meadows and follow it up by a quick pint at the Rising Sun whilst we collated the final and most important bird list of the day the "pub window list".

The "pub window list": turnstone (Arenaria interpres), pied wagtail (motacilla alba), rock pipit (Anthus petrosus), bh gull (Larus ridibundus), redshank (Tringa totanus).

Please N.B. this blog item does not represent the views of Hampshire Conservation Volunteers, if you would like to find out more about the great work they do please go to:

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Years Day bird-list (beyond a London garden)

New Years Day birding was mainly concentrated on the back garden and adjacent railway embankment of a relative's home in Kentish Town, London.

The embankment is tree-lined and also adjacent to Kentish Town City Farm who use the embankment as additional grazing for the small flock of sheep that are kept on site.

Birds recorded: chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), great tit (Parus major), long tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), blackbird (Turdus merula), robin (Erithacus rubecula), dunnock (Prunella modularis), wood pigeon (Columba palumbus), carrion crow (Corvus corone), magpie (Pica pica), herring gull (Larus argentatus), black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus). Which I didn't think was a bad little haul for a west London location?

The briefest of walks to Hampstead Heath added a "drumming" great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and starling (Sturnus vulgaris) to the day's modest tally.