Sunday, 31 March 2013

Roving Records - North West Zone: 28/03/13

On Thursday I had a cold and muddy trek about the North West Zone while replacing our reptile mats. My mood and expectations reflected the weather, but the resulting number of species was surprisingly high!
My meandering route

Firstly while standing at the airside fence by the River Mole, I got a birding first for me at Gatwick… A male Wheatear which was poking about in the mud at the edge of the airfield (the airfield operatives have little to fear from tiny birds like this). A Meadow Pipit was also sitting on the fence calling loudly and a couple of Skylarks were singing hard.
   Walking through the Solar Panel field I flushed a couple of noisy Snipe. Pied Wagtails were performing aerial acrobatics and I found this Common Toad at the base of the hedgerow under a reptile mat.

Disgruntled toad (they all look disgruntled)

I then checked the Mink raft and found some vague tracks and some droppings...
Mink spraint with bone fragments
Mink spraint with undigested fur

A flock of about 14 Fieldfare took off from the River Mole and a couple of Reed Bunting were calling to each other. I wandered up the ridge and took in the panoramic of the river and runway. From the hedgerow bordering Brockley Wood, loud chattering and the beginnings of a descending song marked the presence of over 40 Redwing, so our winter thrushes are still hanging about!


The 2nd worst picture of a Reed Bunting ever taken

Walking north of the hedgerow I entered the scrub and marshland to the west of Brockley Wood. Plenty of activity in here, 3 more Snipe and a Mallard Duck made a lot of noise as they took off. Blue Tits and Great Tits were zipping about, about five Meadow Pipits foraging and a few Goldfinches flying over. Wandering back to the Mole I disturbed a Grey Heron as I walked around the north of Brockley Wood, then witnessed an aerial battle between two Common Buzzards and four Carrion Crow.
   In the ruts of a vehicle track was a load of frogspawn. This happened last year too and the constant wet meant that some tadpoles actually made it to adulthood.



I then came across what looked like the possible remnants of a rabbit in the form of masses fur in the grass. I wandered back to the Mole and disturbed a juvenile Grey Heron. A Little Egret then flew over, a first for me on this section of the Mole although they have been seen before at Povey Cross.


Rabbit detonation test site

I walked back to Man’s Brook and heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling. I dipped into Brockley Wood, heard a Green Woodpecker, two Jays, a Wren and Longtailed Tits all sounding off. The large Redwing flock had all resettled north of Man’s Brook. Wandering to the southern part of the woodland I came upon what looks like a Wood pigeon-plucking post. Sparrow Hawk perhaps or Buzzard, anyone?
Wood Pigeon detonation test site

Back along the netted section of the River Mole parallel to the runway, a cheeky Grey Heron was casually winging its way past me under the netting back toward the opening... slow they might be but perhaps not as dumb as they seem!
   And so I am cheered and reminded that the cold will not win out, soon there will be even more to see. In Brockley Wood, the Hawthorn is poised and ready for that warm weather to hit...

Here is the resulting species list: NWZ March 13