Sunday 28 April 2013

Spring Breeding Bird Survey - April 2013

With Tom Forward of Gatwick Greenspace Partnership.

Day 1 - Land East of the Railway Line: 23/04/13

Spring seems to be in intense fluctuation and on some days everything decides to turn up at once...
We began our survey on Tuesday morning and the woodlands were dripping with bird song; it was easy to feel overwhelmed! Transect 1 begins at Lower Picketts Wood, travels south through the ancient woodland strip bordering the New Lagoon site, then dives into Horleyland Wood. Our usual woodland suspects were all present including Jay, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Wren, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker.

This Chiffchaff in Horleyland Wood entertained us by wrestling with some nesting material right at our feet, almost oblivious to our presence. (I look forward to investing in a decent-proper camera one day!)

In Goat Meadow, there are sadly no goats.

Transect 2 begins at Goat Meadow and we get our first definite record of a pair of Bullfinch. Tom is pretty good at imitating bird calls; I decide to attempt it but forget that I am still eating a biscuit, which my lungs then reject; the Bullfinches don't hang about to listen to my hacking cough. Close by a Mistle Thrush was doing a good impression of a depressed Blackbird, then moving on through Upper Picketts Wood we passed many a territorial dispute between Great Tit, Blue Tit and Coal Tit.

Coal Tit and Goldcrest are regulars in the canopy of these massive pines in Upper Picketts

The final leg of Transect 2 is currently disrupted by the flood alleviation project, so we skipped a section and approached Gatwick Stream from the western side, through the archaeological dig site. At the very edge of the fields by the railway line we stumbled across a birding first for me: two female Redstart! This is a migrant species which will be just passing through on their way to a more ideal breeding site. 

A group of Common Buzzard - I have taken worse pictures than this!

At the very end of our final transect was a nice treat with Buzzards wheeling overhead and a Common Whitethroat starting up his song:
*Link to LERL Final species list*

Later on that same day I popped over to our other site in the North West Zone along the River Mole. I was replacing some reptile refugia, listening the first Reed Warbler in song and Common Toads 'getting busy' in the river.
Common Toadspawn in the River Mole - these are laid in strings rather than clusters like frogspawn

I disturbed a couple of rather striking birds which then sat boldly nearby in the young willow scrub, south-east of Brockley Wood. This was a species I didn't recognise so I tried my best to describe them on the phone to Tom while taking photos, holding my camera up to my binoculars... 

I emailed these across to him and he sent me a slightly disgruntled reply confirming them as a pair of Winchats, yet another migrant species previously unrecorded here, and this quite possibly tops the pair of Redstart he had spotted earlier! Score to me.

Day 2 - North West Zone: 25/04/13

On the Thursday we had another early start and Tom turned up in his car while still eating his breakfast of 8 rounds of toast... I was trying hard to hide my smug face, we both knew those Winchats had probably moved on!

A cold and misty start

We began Transect 1 at the point where the River Mole exits out from under the airfield, north of the runway. Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Common Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and a female Kestrel along the airside fence made for a good start. Rounding the first corner where the River Mole begins to meander we caught a glimpse of two Barn Swallow zipping along over the water, seemingly on their way to somewhere else.

Green Woodpecker droppings, full of the chitinous remains of tiny ants

The sun burning off the clouds along the floodplain grassland

Moving north into Transect 2 there was a sudden, manic piping-whistle and Tom spoted a Kingfisher passing along the woodland strip. I missed it because instead I am staring at a bright orange leaf through my binoculars! I was however pleased to hear it so clearly, a similar sounding call to the link below.

Further downstream of the River Mole and North of Brockley Wood the Reed Warblers have begun setting up territories in the sparse patches of last year's reeds. Along the scrubby edge of the grassland were several pairs of Common Whitethroat, a female Lesser Whitethroat and also a little male missing a tail, adding to its severe levels of cuteness.

A Yellow Scooter, probably stolen and abandoned in the River Mole by the human subspecies 'Chav'

Tom Forward (not the chav in question)

Where's Waldo the Kingfisher...

'Just as they were packing up, on the final day of the final hour...'
We were literally finishing up the last transect when I finally caught a break on the Kingfishers! A sudden manic piping noise and then some aerial altercations right in front of us - bright blue and orange shapes shooting upstream like a group of battling F1 Benettons...

Another terrible picture through the binoculars does this amazing creature no justice.

We saw 3 Kingfishers on the wing, possibly in a territorial dispute. We got 38 species of bird in one day along the NWZ which is our highest count yet... all in all, a top few days for us!! 

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