Sunday, 1 March 2015

Late winter bird surveys 2015

February 12th - North West Zone


Despite dreary conditions it was a cheerful group of us who met in the morning, just north of the airfield. Traipsing through the wet and boggy grasslands, right away we picked up the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and the raucous cries of a Ring-necked Parakeet, a recently naturalised species which is well established in Reigate and spreading southward. 

Ex-arable grasslands west of Brockley Wood; thanks to their inaccessibility and 
the airport's boundary, they have been largely left undisturbed.


The hearty tune of a secretive Song Thrush could be heard emanating from the hedgerows, with their distinctive repetitive style which you can clearly see in this sonogram...

In fact, they were in all the bloody hedgerows! It was like Song Thrush City, with exceptionally high numbers possibly due to migrants passing through on their way to their summer homes.
   Wandering through the Solar Panel field, we flushed four Common Snipe with their characteristic erratic flight pattern. They even left us a calling card...

Common Snipe smatterings

Where the Mole begins to meander, we stood high on the track and observed two large shapes winging their way towards us... a wandering pair of Greylag Geese are an usual sighting on our surveys. Looking in the deeper wheel ruts of the rough track, tell-tale movements gave away the presence of Common Frogs gathering to spawn. Every year they take a gamble laying eggs here, but sometimes the froglets do make it! 


Wishing for a Water Rail in the reedbeds - no such luck

There is a great mix of habitats in one small area, so we can pick up woodland, scrubland and wetland species. Long-tailed Tits, Moorhen, Jackdaws and a Green Woodpecker were all in close proximity, along with the same group of Common Snipe we had just seen earlier. A pair of Bullfinch were piping loudly from the scrub...

If you look really, really closely, it's definitely a Bullfinch

Still getting to grips with this camera.

The River Mole is at a relatively low level for this time of year

Towards the end of our transect we saw a Little Egret and Grey Heron taking flight. I've seen this duo hanging around quite the past few weeks, one might be following the other around in order to find the best fishing spots. They always keep a respectful distance from each other though.

Little Egret in the foreground, Grey Heron at the back

Either a Great Tit spontaneously combusted, or a Sparrowhawk just had breakfasted

At the end of the transect near Povey Cross, we picked out a few more Ring-necked Parakeets perched up close to a group of Magpies. I had another go with the camera....


Getting better!

NWZ total: 29 species

1
Blackbird
Turdus merula
2
Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus
3
Bullfinch
Pyrrhula pyrrhula
4
Carrion Crow
Corvus corone
5
Chaffinch
Fringilla coelebs
6
Collared Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
7
Dunnock
Prunella modularis
8
Goldcrest
Regulus regulus
9
Goldfinch
Carduelis carduelis
10
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopus major
11
Great Tit
Parus major
12
Green Woodpecker
Picus viridis
13
Greenfinch
Carduelis chloris
14
Grey Heron
Ardea cinerea
15
Jackdaw
Corvus monedula
16
Jay
Garrulus glandarius
17
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
18
Magpie
Pica pica
19
Mallard
Anas platyrhynchos
20
Moorhen
Gallinula chloropus
21
Nuthatch
Sitta europaea
22
Redwing
Turdus iliacus
23
Reed Bunting
Emberiza schoeniclus
24
Ring-necked Parakeet
Psittacula krameri
25
Robin
Erithacus rubecula
26
Snipe (Common)
Gallinago gallinago
27
Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
28
Wood Pigeon
Columba palumbus
29
Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes
Greylag Goose Anser anser (fly-over)

February 13th - Land East of the Railway Line



A brand new dull wet day, we reversed the usual direction of our transects and began instead on the Gatwick Stream floodplain. This area has been re-profiled on a large scale as part of a flood alleviation scheme, so now consists of extensive wet grassland habitat,


The first species to greet us were Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Green Woodpecker. A lonely Meadow Pipit flew overhead followed closely by a Pied Wagtail.


A series of large Oak trees can be found on islands of raised land, ringed off with post and rail fencing. They make a perfect perch point for this flock of around 20 Linnets...


As lovely as the Linnets were, it was something else which got us excited this morning...


Tom F. had spotted a pair of Little Owl perched up in the Oaks! Quick... Photo photo photo!

Bah. 

Yet again I was no where near quick enough with the camera settings, so this distant shot was all I got before they nipped off. Little Owl is a new species for our surveys at Gatwick and I am yet to see one close up. This pair were being very covert and quiet, but as it is ridiculously cute here's a recording of their calls from the Xeno-canto website...


The tracks of different birds and mammals stood out clearly in the bare mud, telling us which who had recently passed by:

More than one Red Fox

Roe Deer

We left the floodplain and entered the woodlands, where we picked up a roving flock of Blue Tit, Great Tit and a pair of Goldcrests. Further into the woods and the outskirts of Goat Meadow, we caught the song of a lonely Coal Tit and we glimpsed a sneaky Tree Creeper.



Craning our necks to look high up in the canopy, the swaying Scots Pines made us feel rather sea sick...


Which was about when my camera battery finally gave up after having taken many bad owl photos.
   Our transect then ended at the western edge of Horleyland Wood, finally bringing us Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, and the incessant calls of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

LERL total: 27 species

1
Blackbird
Turdus merula
2
Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus
3
Carrion Crow
Corvus corone
4
Chaffinch
Fringilla coelebs
5
Coal Tit
Periparus ater
6
Common buzzard
Buteo buteo
7
Goldcrest
Regulus regulus
8
Goldfinch
Carduelis carduelis
9
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopus major
10
Great Tit
Parus major
11
Green Woodpecker
Picus viridis
12
Jackdaw
Corvus monedula
13
Jay
Garrulus glandarius
14
Linnet
Carduelis cannabina
15
**Little Owl
Athene noctua
16
Magpie
Pica pica
17
Mallard
Anas platyrhynchos
18
Meadow Pipit
Anthus pratensis
19
Pied Wagtail
Motacilla alba
20
Redwing
Turdus iliacus
21
Robin
Erithacus rubecula
22
Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
23
Starling
Sturnus vulgaris
24
Stock Dove
Columba oenas
25
Treecreeper
Certhia familiaris
26
Wood Pigeon
Columba palumbus
27
Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes
**New species to this survey

Many thanks to Tom F., Bethan, Sian and Donald for your help on these surveys!