Saturday, 14 November 2015

Leith Hill Tower Watch

What to do on a day in lieu? Why, go and watch some wildlife of course! 

Visible migration of Wood Pigeon, travelling South-West of Leith Hill Tower

Not everything is worth leaving the house at 5.30am for, but this was an opportunity not to be missed. Sam Bayley is the lead ranger for the National Trust at Leith Hill, Surrey. He is also a licensed bird ringer and records migrating birds passing by Leith Hill Tower throughout the spring and autumn.

Matt, Sam and Robin are keen birders and record all species passing by on visible migration

Not all the birds are even visible, but their calls carry far up here...

Matt focusing his scope north towards Box Hill

The tower is 19.5 metres (64 ft) high, and probably the best view you will ever get of 13 different counties! Look north and you can see London skyscrapers, look south and you can see the South Downs and even just about make out boats on the English Channel.

Sam points eastward towards the airport

We could also see Gatwick from here, so I'm keeping an eye on things... Hey wait a sec, is that a Short-eared Owl you've seen there, Sam?!

It was a thrilling viewpoint to see birds from, with things winging incredibly close to the tower at eye level, below us, and just overhead. The numbers of birds were quite remarkable, although we didn't come anywhere near Sam's previous record of around 11,310 Wood Pigeon on one morning!

An unexpected flurry of light snow reminding us of how high up we are

Here's the final list (in rough order of occurrence):

1. Woodcock
2. Tawny Owl
3. Redpoll
4. Redwing
5. Blackbird
6. Dunnock
7. Wren
8. Song Thrush
9. Siskin
10. Chaffinch
11. Carrion Crow
12. Pheasant
13. Starling
14. Stock Dove
15. Herring Gull
16. Wood Pigeon
17. Goldfinch
18. Mistle Thrush
19. Sparrow Hawk
20. Linnet
21. Fieldfare
22. Robin
23. Nuthatch
24. Goldcrest
25. Green Woodpecker
26. Lesser Black-backed Gull
27. Blue Tit
28. Feral Pigeon
29. Crossbill
30. Long-tailed Tit
31. Meadow Pipit
32. Jackdaw
33. Bullfinch
34. Hawfinch