Friday, 6 October 2017

Ooh, erm, not sure which way to look!!

Took a trip down to Ockham Common this morning. Wanted to try out a new filter on the camera. If you're wondering about the blog title, type ' Ockham Common ' into google!! Wish i had. Anyway some pics of the trees.





This one seems to show the 'Ockham Ghost' walking towards me!!



Monday, 25 September 2017

Ooh birds

as the death star nears completion and the farmlands under the watchful eye of a conservationist are destroyed beyond repair imagine my surprise when i saw some birds!!!





Thursday, 5 January 2017

iforgot

 So sitting in the garden the other day with the daughter, she's 9 going on 21 and to be honest its all quite scary. But I was quite happy watching the feeders as the birds came and went - I had 30 Greenfinch at one point!! I'm not sure I have ever seen that many before, along with a cloud of Goldfinch a few Chaffinch and the odd Coal Tit it was all quite an enjoyable time. But then as a complete break from the accepted protocol a voice piped up ' theres some birds up there ', i'm not sure what was more shocking, the fact that Mol had looked up from her iPad or that she had noticed that there is another world out there. Im guessing that the iPad had either lost wifi or the battery had died therefore creating an almost meltdown in her world, which however temporary, had forced her into mine. ( I do her a bit of a disservice as she twitched the Red-backed Shrike in Coulsdon a few years back with me and I hasten to add the only binoculars we had were her Barbie specials, oh and she managed the Hoopoe on Farthing Downs which is more than some of the birders I know!! And not long ago stood with me outside the Virgin building while the Alpine Swift put on a no show ). The birds she had noticed were a flock of 7 Redwing, they have been present for most of the Winter now and are slowing getting through the Symphoricarpos berries in the garden. But its what she said next that most struck a chord ' Daddy, there aren't many birds are there ' and with this she disappeared into the house looking for either wifi or a power socket.

Mol and the Barbie binoculars


               
' Aren't many birds ' she had said, and this got me thinking back to the 70's when I was a mere whipper snapper and doing a garden bird watch. Yes, amazingly it's not a modern phenomenon and I had my pad, pencil and some vintage binoculars that had only recently given up the ghost. But on one Garden Watch in the 70's I do remember not getting a visit from a Greenfinch and yet here I was in 2017 with 30 in front of me. Were there more birds then? I couldn't honestly remember and as you know i don't keep records so couldn't check anywhere. So if all else fails resort to an age old tradition - ask an old person. So I did. I spoke to Mols nan who lives up in New Addington and after listening to her bleat on about her ailments and how young people are so rude these days a moment of clarity struck and she explained that she remembers huge flocks of ' Sparras ' everywhere and some mornings the garden would be full of bird song; a natural symphony that just seemed to set the day up. But now all she hears is the odd Starling if she is lucky.
     A quick search on utube reveals several videos of Sparrows in London and local farmlands. ' they are a plague ' cites one London Park warden as the video shows dining tables covered in House Sparrows and of course there is the ubiquitous videos of pigeons being fed in Trafalgar Square by crapped on tourists. 
     But what happens when Mol has children of her own? Will they say the same to her and if they do how will she reply? Am I witnessing the birth of generational amnesia? When the older generation decide to move on to the Strictly come dancing ballroom in the sky and its left to us to explain what it used to be like what will we say? Im guessing the easiest option will be to send them to Eastern Europe on a short break, cleverly disguised under the title of a tech detox weekend, somewhere that has remained poor so the local farmers couldn't afford pesticides and insecticides and the soils remained healthy and lush. Somewhere where the big chemical giants don't subsidise their poisonous cocktails to sterilise the land leaving the farmers to become more reliant on chemicals to keep the whole show turning over while the majority share holders rub their hands together and pat each other on the back. But then again that would leave them having to listen to the god awful song of the Corn Bunting banging on and grinding in their ears, a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone. So maybe when I'm asked what it was like I will reply " It's always been like this - ooh look Pigeon with a limp "

Gawd awful racket bird



Tuesday, 3 January 2017

All in retrospect




I first got a key to Beddington Farmlands in 2007 the same year that the Glaucous Winged Gull was found. I have to admit that at the time i had no idea what a Glaucous Winged Gull was but its amazing how quick you learn from the birders around you. The best year was definitely 2010 when I ended the year with a list of 154 birds!! I don't keep records of when I have seen birds so if you asked I would be hard pushed to give you exact dates of when I had seen stuff, but my back up plan is Frankie as he always seemed to know when stuff had turned up. An amazing encyclopaedic knowledge for dates!!
I set myself the target of 200 birds when I first got my key and in late 2016 I reached that target. There can be nothing better than self finding your own birds. Just that joy as the bird fills your binoculars or camera lens. And i'm sure there can't be an even better way to reach 200 birds then a self found first for the farm. The bird in question was a Yellow-browed Warbler, there had been an influx of these little birds down the entire East coast so it wasn't a complete shock that one had finally made its way to the Farmlands. I first heard it on the Friday when it called a couple of times further up the North lake. I put the news out but no-one managed to track the bird down and then after the weekend when I returned to the farm it started calling and then popped up in the same tree that the Black Redstart had been in.
Don't think though that it has been an easy target to achieve, my almost constant companions during these years have been Frankie and Swifty, the three of us have put so much time in during those years and lets face it for the most part with little to show for our collective efforts. Hours upon hours waiting and watching with the odd highlight which would last for a couple of minutes in total, but when the birding gods were smiling it would be amazing.

Here are two days that really stick out for me:

 The first was 2nd May 2010 during our annual Bank Holiday birdwatch. The weather had been forecast as a North East wind overnight and a wet front coming in from the North around 10 am. I met up with Frankie and Grant in the hide at a ridiculous time and it wasn't long before we were rewarded with an arrival of Bar-Tailed Godwits that came in from the East and not far behind them was a mob of Ringed Plover and Dunlin.

Ringed Plover and Dunlin

There were various other waders and terns flying through when I then picked up a single bird coming in from the East i started taking pics and various calls of ' golden no grey, no golden no grey plover ' were heard. Luckily the bird landed at Barnes and was identified as a Pacific Golden Plover!!! The last one recorded in Surrey was shot on Wimbledon Common some time in the late 19th Century.

Pacific Golden Plover

It was an amazing morning. As soon as the rain started though no more birds of note came through. If memory serves me right it was all over within 3 hours, but 3 hours that won't be forgotten.

The second day that really sticks out is the 1st December 2010, there had been some heavy snow over the previous week and it was starting to push birds from their wintering grounds. I was in the hide with Johnny ( remember him ) and Frankie. Frank decided to go for a pee and in true friendship I thought it would be fun to throw a snowball at him, I bent down picked up some snow, made it into a ball and was just about to throw it when I saw a line of geese going East, i shouted ' GEESE' and I still don't know how but Frankie stopped mid stream and the three of us stood and stared as 10 Bean Geese flew over. After watching them disappear I walked back to the hide looked up and there were 2 Goosander going over and then a Grey Plover going North. Again even though it lasted about 5 minutes it will never be forgotten.


Goosander

Bean Geese
What was also amazing that day was that several Pink Footed Geese were seen at Holmethorpe. Shame they didn't come over as well.

Memorable birds usually just fly through. As opposed to memorable days when there seems to be something going on all the time. 

On the 5th December while standing on the Taliban ( the failed Sand Martin breeding bank ) the gulls had gone up and this usually means a raptor somewhere. I scanned the gulls and saw nowt, then Frankie said ' Lads, i've got a faking Crane!! ' and there in the middle of the gulls was this beauty. 




During that December spell on the 20th again while standing in the hide I could hear the unmistakable jingle of Waxwings. They flew over the hide and settled in a tree just long enough to get some pics

Waxwings


December 2010 ( click the link for the video )



There have been other birds that have been amazing, Honey Buzzard flying past so low I could count individual feathers, Short-eared Owl taking of a couple of feet in front of me as I was walking around the mound, 2 Bearded Tits causing me panic when they peeped once but then nothing for another hour or so and in 2016 I had an adult Sabines Gull which is mind blowing in itself


Bearded Tit

Sabines Gull

But was is amazing is that the birds are still coming through even in 2017. Devil Birder has proved that if you watch a piece of farmland for long enough then you will get good birds as he has so often at Cannons Farm just down the road. In Randoms Ramblings,  Neils Blog he has an award ceremony each year - he mentioned that Beddington always gets the highest year list total - I feel though that that title will probably move to Tice's Meadow in the near future, unfortunately our current landlords at Beddington don't look too favourably towards wildlife, in fact I would go as far as to say that as a company they have a hatred of wildlife. They have systematically ripped up all that was good at Beddington often citing ' operational needs ' as their modus operandi. Cutting down an Elder copse, a tree that is famous for its shallow roots so as not to disturb archaeology of an already excavated villa, even though the copse had over wintering Long-eared Owls and Woodcocks present. They have single handedly destroyed the largest population of Tree Sparrows in the South of England a bird that is a Red data species by removing almost all the habitat the birds depend on. The restoration of the farmlands is now so far behind schedule its beyond a joke and just shows their disregard for wildlife. They often allow the rubbish from the tip during East winds to blow down the slopes into the water courses and pollute the lakes and only make a half hearted attempt to clear the rubbish after complaints. They have sluice gates that are installed under water!!! Because they couldn't get the very basics correct and their levels right so the water level can't be controlled which means that every Spring we watch ducks nests get swept away by rising water levels. The restored North lake with its wader scrape that has no where for waders to land as its full of willows and purple loosestrife. The man behind the North lake restoration on the last day of works said that it was a disaster and he was contracted by them!! Even the ecologists on site make one raise an eyebrow - I'm reminded of one person asking if we had seen any House Martins breeding in the Sand Martin Bank in February!! WTF. I think its quite obvious that as soon as they can they will be selling off 100 acre and the South East corner for development, why let all this green crap get in the way of money. I could go on about them but they are all just nasty horrible people with money as their mistress and I think you get the point.

Tree Sparrows - we used to have lots of these


Unfortunately this is a common problem for wildlife now. Big companies are given free reign to exploit an area with little in the way of mitigation for the local area or wildlife. We will see this kind of destruction Country wide as fracking and population densities take their toll on our green spaces.

Im just glad that i managed to reach my target of 200 birds as it will just get harder and harder to see so many birds at the farm. 



dodgy birds 2017

  1. Arctic Tern
  2. Avocet
  3. Bar-tailed Godwit
  4. Barn Owl
  5. Barnacle Goose
  6. Bearded Tit
  7. Bewicks Swan
  8. Bittern
  9. Black Redstart
  10. Black Tern
  11. Black-headed Gull
  12. Black-necked Grebe
  13. Black-tailed Godwit
  14. Blackbird
  15. Blackcap
  16. Blue Tit
  17. Brambling
  18. Brent Goose
  19. Bullfinch
  20. Buzzard
  21. Canada Goose
  22. Carrion Crow
  23. Caspian Gull
  24. Cetti's Warbler
  25. Chaffinch
  26. Chiffchaff
  27. Coal Tit
  28. Collared Dove
  29. Common Crane
  30. Common Crossbill
  31. Common Gull
  32. Common Sandpiper
  33. Common Tern
  34. Coot
  35. Cormorant
  36. Corn Bunting
  37. Cuckoo
  38. Curlew
  39. Curlew Sandpiper
  40. Dartford Warbler
  41. Dunlin
  42. Dunnock
  43. Egyptian Goose
  44. Fieldfare
  45. Firecrest
  46. Gadwall
  47. Gannet
  48. Garden Warbler
  49. Garganey
  50. Glaucous Gull
  51. Glossy Ibis
  52. Goldcrest
  53. Golden Plover
  54. Goldeneye
  55. Goldfinch
  56. Goosander
  57. Goshawk
  58. Grasshopper Warbler
  59. Great Black-backed Gull
  60. Great Crested Grebe
  61. Great White Egret
  62. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  63. Great Tit
  64. Green Sandpiper
  65. Green Woodpecker
  66. Greenfinch
  67. Greenshank
  68. Grey Heron
  69. Grey Partridge
  70. Grey Phalarope
  71. Grey Plover
  72. Grey Wagtail
  73. Greylag Goose
  74. Hawfinch
  75. Hen Harrier
  76. Herring Gull
  77. Hobby
  78. Honey Buzzard
  79. House Martin
  80. House Sparrow
  81. Iceland Gull
  82. Jack Snipe
  83. Jackdaw
  84. Jay
  85. Kestrel
  86. Kingfisher
  87. Kittiwake
  88. Knot
  89. Lapland Bunting
  90. Lapwing
  91. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  92. Lesser Redpoll
  93. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  94. Lesser Whitethroat
  95. Linnet
  96. Little Egret
  97. Little Grebe
  98. Little Gull
  99. Little Owl
  100. Little Ringed-plover
  101. Little Stint
  102. Little Tern
  103. Long-eared Owl
  104. Long-tailed Tit
  105. Magpie
  106. Mallard
  107. Mandarin Duck
  108. Marsh Harrier
  109. Marsh Tit
  110. Meadow Pipit
  111. Mealy Redpoll
  112. Mediterranean Gull
  113. Merlin
  114. Mistle Thrush
  115. Moorhen
  116. Mute Swan
  117. Nightingale
  118. Nuthatch
  119. Osprey
  120. Oystercatcher
  121. Pacific Golden Plover
  122. Pectoral Sandpiper
  123. Peregrine Falcon
  124. Pheasant 
  125. Pied Wagtail
  126. Pintail
  127. Pochard
  128. Raven
  129. Red Kite
  130. Red-breasted Merganser
  131. Red-crested Pochard
  132. Red-rumped Swallow
  133. Redshank
  134. Redstart
  135. Redwing
  136. Reed Bunting
  137. Reed Warbler
  138. Ring Ouzel
  139. Ring-necked Parakeet
  140. Ringed Plover
  141. Robin
  142. Rock Dove
  143. Rock Pipit
  144. Rook
  145. Ruddy Duck
  146. Ruff
  147. Sabine's Gull
  148. Sand Martin
  149. Sanderling
  150. Sandwich Tern
  151. Sedge Warbler
  152. Serin
  153. Shelduck
  154. Short-eared Owl
  155. Shoveler
  156. Siskin
  157. Skylark
  158. Snipe
  159. Snow Bunting
  160. Song Thrush
  161. Sparrowhawk
  162. Spoonbill
  163. Spotted Crake
  164. Spotted Flycatcher
  165. Spotted Redshank
  166. Starling
  167. Stock Dove
  168. Stonechat
  169. Swallow
  170. Swift
  171. Tawny Owl
  172. Teal
  173. Tree Pipit
  174. Tree Sparrow
  175. Treecreeper
  176. Tufted Duck
  177. Tundra Bean Goose
  178. Turnstone
  179. Turtle Dove
  180. Water Pipit
  181. Water Rail
  182. Waxwing
  183. Wheatear
  184. Whimbrel
  185. Whinchat
  186. White Stork
  187. White-fronted Goose
  188. Whitethroat
  189. Wigeon
  190. Willow Warbler
  191. Wood Sandpiper
  192. Wood Warbler
  193. Woodcock
  194. Woodlark
  195. Woodpigeon
  196. Wren
  197. Yellow Wagtail
  198. Yellow-browed Warbler
  199. Yellow-legged Gull
  200. Yellowhammer