Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Gatwick Trail Camera: Scavenger Cam Jan 2017

I staked a pheasant carcass to the ground in a quiet part of Goat Meadow, then set up a trail camera to see who would come a'scavenging...

Day 1: European Robin


Day 2. Yep, it's definitely dead guys.


Evening 2. Eyes in the dark... a female Roe Deer


Evening 4: Red Fox


Day 5: Roe Deer (female)


Day 5: Carrion Crow


Evening 5: Red Fox








Cast (in order of appearance):
Robin
Human
Roe Deer 1
Red Fox 1
Roe Deer 2
Carrion Crow
Red Fox 2 (or maybe 1?)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Biodiversity Gatwick 2016: Highlights and lowlights

1. Highlight: All our biodiversity interpretation boards were installed, including images of notable species to be found around Gatwick.

Tom S., Robert and Harry of the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership



Lowlight: Forgetting to include any representatives of an entire taxonomic kingdom...


2. Highlight: Yet another year with our superb ecology volunteers carrying out record numbers of surveys; we seriously cannot thank you enough!



Lowlight: The state of my car by the end of summer.






3. Highlight: Of all the new species this year to Gatwick, I think the Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) was my favourite, singing in the scrub west of Brockley Wood. 



Lowlight: My least favourite new species for Gatwick was Ash Dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus), now prevalent around the South East UK.

Shriveled and blackened leaves in summer

Diamond-shaped lesions around buds

4. Highlight: iRecord became available as a phone app, meaning I can now record wildlife anywhere in the UK, 24 hours a day!


Lowlight: The Wood Mouse population reached apocalyptic levels, meaning this was what I was mostly recording...

Our most recorded mammal in a single day

You again?

5. Highlight: After the fish removal from Pond 3, this year Great Crested Newts are back laying eggs!


Lowlight: Conducting amphibian surveys + leaking wellies = athletes foot



6. Highlight: Gatwick's Biodiversity Action Plans scooped another award this year and also got a mention in the International Airport Review.






Lowlight: All of our restored meadow grasslands, rich in wildflower and grass species, in which we take so much pride, are slowly trying to kill me.



7. Highlight: Discovering our first Slow Worm in Ashley's Field, a new reptile record for the Gatwick sites!

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Lowlight: Discovering our first Slow Worm poo.



8. Highlight: We hosted even more wildlife events for biological recorders, Gatwick staff and the general public.



Lowlight: Probably the wettest, most unpredictable set of wildlife events we've ever had

Tom S. models the latest in binbag fashion-wear



9. Highlight: I am finally making good progress with the malaise trap invertebrate sorting, with excellent volunteer help and the Sussex Wildlife Trust lending us their classroom!

Entomological enthusiasts Ryan Mitchell and Natalie Kay

Lowlight: Cranefly legs have become a living nightmare.




10. Highlight: The work of our excellent conservation volunteer groups, led by Tom Simpson, has resulted in great feedback from the general public about our sites.



Lowlight: Some not-so-lovely feedback from the public.


2017, here we come!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Early winter bird surveys 2016 (Part 2)

North West Zone grasslands

The survey start-off was signaled by a group of 9 Pied Wagtail, which must have just emerged from their communal roost. Plenty of Reed Bunting and Wren were calling around the River Mole reed beds, and the occasional Song Thrush giving a high-pitched 'tseep'.

Snipe explosion / spontaneous combustion

After yesterday's survey Snipe joys, this ominous pile of Common Snipe feathers is a bit of a sorrowful sight. Still, there is a good population around at the moment and the Sparrowhawk (presumably the culprit) has got to feed too.

We stopped in our tracks as we got closer to the reed beds, scratching our heads over this one call...
For a moment there we couldn't put our finger on it. However, later on and further downstream, we heard the more familiar, squealing cry...
Water Rail is the weirdest thing you will hear along the River Mole (except maybe for Tom Forward's imitation of a Water Rail).

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus). RSPB

A pair of Common Buzzard called to each other, one gliding towards the woodland with a Carrion Crow in wing-flapping pursuit. On the far side of the river, along the woodland strip, we scanned the gorse and bramble scrub for any movement...
   Luke then spotted a new species for the Gatwick surveys!

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) male. RSPB

Stonechats are a stunning little bird, slightly smaller than a Robin. Its name comes from the call which sounds a bit like two pebbles being bashed together. The pair we saw are probably temporary winter visitors to our sites.


A scatological interlude to look at some mystery poop...



Too small for Fox, but containing lots of fur... A Stoat or a Mink perhaps?

The tell-tale cigarette ash poo of Green Woodpecker

Mistle Thrush made their machine-gun calls as they shot past overhead. Fieldfare were the loudest though; I love how they sound on the verge of hysteria.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) RSPB

In the north of Brockley Wood, Chaffinches were calling loudly; it makes a nice change as we are usually a bit light on finches here. A flock of Redwing were busy in the understory and a Coal Tit called from the canopy.



As we rounded the bend on the river, two Roe Deer stood motionless only meters away. Just a little further along, the gang caught a view of a top predator - Sparrowhawk! Unfortunately, I was too busy predating on rich tea biscuits and missed it.


Towards the end of the transect we were closer to the tree line; Ring-necked Parakeets started up their cry, disturbing another Common Buzzard. A lonely Little Egret took off downstream in lumbering flight. Although we didn't find Katherine a promised birthday Kingfisher, we did get a lovely Grey Wagtail zip along the river and land up next to us. 
   We start with wagtail, we finish with wagtail.

Winter shrubs: Bramble, Field Rose, Gorse and Spindle

Our species list from the day; 37 is a new record I think! Our total species recorded on our timed transects at Gatwick since 2012 stands at 79.

1
Blackbird
Turdus merula
2
Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus
3
Bullfinch
Pyrrhula pyrrhula
4
Buzzard
Buteo buteo
5
Carrion Crow
Corvus corone
6
Chaffinch
Fringilla coelebs
7
Coal Tit
Periparus ater
8
Dunnock
Prunella modularis
9
Fieldfare
Turdus pilaris
10
Goldcrest
Regulus regulus
11
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos major
12
Great Tit
Parus major
13
Green Woodpecker
Picus viridis
14
Grey Wagtail
Motacilla cinerea
15
Jackdaw
Corvus monedula
16
Jay
Garrulus glandarius
17
Kestrel
Falco tinnunculus
18
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
19
Long-tailed Tit
Aegithalos caudatus
20
Magpie
Pica pica
21
Meadow Pipit
Anthus pratensis
22
Mistle Thrush
Turdus viscivorus
23
Pied Wagtail
Motacilla alba subsp. yarrellii
24
Redwing
Turdus iliacus
25
Reed Bunting
Emberiza schoeniclus
26
Ring-necked Parakeet
Psittacula krameri
27
Robin
Erithacus rubecula
28
Rock Dove
Columba livia
29
Roe Deer
Capreolus capreolus
30
Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
31
Sparrowhawk
Accipiter nisus
32
Stock Dove
Columba oenas
33
Stonechat
Saxicola rubicola
34
Treecreeper
Certhia familiaris
35
Water Rail
Rallus aquaticus
36
Woodpigeon
Columba palumbus
37
Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes

Common Snipe (feathers)

Friday, 9 December 2016

Early winter bird surveys 2016 (Part 1)

Land East of the Railway Line: December 8th



Dawn breaks over the Gatwick Stream, and Tom Forward is about to have a date with destiny...


Actually, the date is with a Snipe, but this is not just any old Common Snipe (although we did see 7 of those); it's a little bit scarcer than that. He wanders along the wet flushes, keeping out a sharp eye...


A sudden burst of wings from the ground and it's off like a shot - a Jack Snipe! Another new record for our bird list at Gatwick.

Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) RSPB

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) RSPB

Much quieter than Common Snipe, the Jacks have a shorter bill and are a shorter, dumpier bird in general. The Common types will shoot off up into the air before you can get close, but Jacks can hold on until you almost step on them, then dropping onto the ground again after a short, low flight.
  A small flock of Meadow Pipits bounced past us through the air, and a Grey Wagtail descended rapidly down into the river channel.

 
Our next new discovery for this site is a Barn Owl roost in our 'Little Owl-Oak'. Not sure if the little-er owls would think much of their new neighbour....

White wash (owl wee) on the tree above what might be the Little Owl nesting hole

Barn Owl pellet

Poking our heads over the bank of the Gatwick Stream by the sluice gates, and were surprised to see a dark, sleek mammal gamboling in the water. American Mink are insatiably curious and this one actually came towards us, then hid in a small clump of rushes to check us out.

Not much of a photo of course.
How to tell apart Otter and Mink - a handy Wildlife Trust fact sheet.

Dashing back over grasslands to the next transect, and we were stopped in our tracks by a pair of Kingfishers zooming low over the grass. Although strongly associated with water courses, they are known to sometimes cut corners and even head into woodland habitat to do so. Hey, I would too!


Into the woods and a flock of Redwing were busy foraging in the understory. Winter thrushes vary what height they forage at depending on available food source. Towards the end of winter they feed more on the ground.

More white-wash beneath a mature oak - favored perching point for a Common Buzzard?


A Song Thrush sang from a distant hedgerow. A Wren and Robin were also in song; only a few birds do this through winter.
   At Dunnock corner, there were constant loud calls which signified the usual debauchery. They always seem to get louder in winter, kind of like my own family. I guess domestic drama helps to keep small birds warm. I still get Dunnock and Kingfisher calls mixed up, which after 4 years of these surveys Tom F. must be getting fed up with.


Through the woodland strip and out into Lower Picketts Wood, mixed flocks were abound of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits and Goldcrests. We checked a little closer through the binoculars but sadly couldn't turn any of them into a Firecrest. At the end of the transect, our trusty Treecreeper finally called.


The final species count for the morning was 33 (not 34, as I only recorded Common Buzzard when I returned to site at the end of the day):

1
Blackbird
Turdus merula
2
Black-headed Gull
Chroicocephalus ridibundus
3
Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus
4
Bullfinch
Pyrrhula pyrrhula
5
Buzzard
Buteo buteo
6
Canada Goose
Branta canadensis
7
Carrion Crow
Corvus corone
8
Coal Tit
Periparus ater
9
Dunnock
Prunella modularis
10
Goldcrest
Regulus regulus
11
Goldfinch
Carduelis carduelis
12
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos major
13
Great Tit
Parus major
14
Grey Heron
Ardea cinerea
15
Grey Wagtail
Motacilla cinerea
16
Jack Snipe
Lymnocryptes minimus
17
Jackdaw
Corvus monedula
18
Jay
Garrulus glandarius
19
Kingfisher
Alcedo atthis
20
Linnet
Linaria cannabina
21
Long-tailed Tit
Aegithalos caudatus
35
Magpie
Pica pica
22
Mallard
Anas platyrhynchos
23
Meadow Pipit
Anthus pratensis
24
Mistle Thrush
Turdus viscivorus
25
Pied Wagtail
Motacilla alba subsp. yarrellii
26
Redwing
Turdus iliacus
27
Robin
Erithacus rubecula
28
Siskin
Spinus spinus
29
Snipe
Gallinago gallinago
30
Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
31
Starling
Sturnus vulgaris
32
Treecreeper
Certhia familiaris
33
Woodpigeon
Columba palumbus
34
Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes

American Mink
Neovison vison
Eastern Grey Squirrel
Sciurus carolinensis

Barn Owl (roost)
        Tyto alba