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