Monday, 19 December 2016

Early winter bird surveys 2016 (Part 2)

North West Zone grasslands

The survey start-off was signaled by a group of 9 Pied Wagtail, which must have just emerged from their communal roost. Plenty of Reed Bunting and Wren were calling around the River Mole reed beds, and the occasional Song Thrush giving a high-pitched 'tseep'.

Snipe explosion / spontaneous combustion

After yesterday's survey Snipe joys, this ominous pile of Common Snipe feathers is a bit of a sorrowful sight. Still, there is a good population around at the moment and the Sparrowhawk (presumably the culprit) has got to feed too.

We stopped in our tracks as we got closer to the reed beds, scratching our heads over this one call...
For a moment there we couldn't put our finger on it. However, later on and further downstream, we heard the more familiar, squealing cry...
Water Rail is the weirdest thing you will hear along the River Mole (except maybe for Tom Forward's imitation of a Water Rail).

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus). RSPB

A pair of Common Buzzard called to each other, one gliding towards the woodland with a Carrion Crow in wing-flapping pursuit. On the far side of the river, along the woodland strip, we scanned the gorse and bramble scrub for any movement...
   Luke then spotted a new species for the Gatwick surveys!

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) male. RSPB

Stonechats are a stunning little bird, slightly smaller than a Robin. Its name comes from the call which sounds a bit like two pebbles being bashed together. The pair we saw are probably temporary winter visitors to our sites.


A scatological interlude to look at some mystery poop...



Too small for Fox, but containing lots of fur... A Stoat or a Mink perhaps?

The tell-tale cigarette ash poo of Green Woodpecker

Mistle Thrush made their machine-gun calls as they shot past overhead. Fieldfare were the loudest though; I love how they sound on the verge of hysteria.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) RSPB

In the north of Brockley Wood, Chaffinches were calling loudly; it makes a nice change as we are usually a bit light on finches here. A flock of Redwing were busy in the understory and a Coal Tit called from the canopy.



As we rounded the bend on the river, two Roe Deer stood motionless only meters away. Just a little further along, the gang caught a view of a top predator - Sparrowhawk! Unfortunately, I was too busy predating on rich tea biscuits and missed it.


Towards the end of the transect we were closer to the tree line; Ring-necked Parakeets started up their cry, disturbing another Common Buzzard. A lonely Little Egret took off downstream in lumbering flight. Although we didn't find Katherine a promised birthday Kingfisher, we did get a lovely Grey Wagtail zip along the river and land up next to us. 
   We start with wagtail, we finish with wagtail.

Winter shrubs: Bramble, Field Rose, Gorse and Spindle

Our species list from the day; 37 is a new record I think! Our total species recorded on our timed transects at Gatwick since 2012 stands at 79.

1
Blackbird
Turdus merula
2
Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus
3
Bullfinch
Pyrrhula pyrrhula
4
Buzzard
Buteo buteo
5
Carrion Crow
Corvus corone
6
Chaffinch
Fringilla coelebs
7
Coal Tit
Periparus ater
8
Dunnock
Prunella modularis
9
Fieldfare
Turdus pilaris
10
Goldcrest
Regulus regulus
11
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos major
12
Great Tit
Parus major
13
Green Woodpecker
Picus viridis
14
Grey Wagtail
Motacilla cinerea
15
Jackdaw
Corvus monedula
16
Jay
Garrulus glandarius
17
Kestrel
Falco tinnunculus
18
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
19
Long-tailed Tit
Aegithalos caudatus
20
Magpie
Pica pica
21
Meadow Pipit
Anthus pratensis
22
Mistle Thrush
Turdus viscivorus
23
Pied Wagtail
Motacilla alba subsp. yarrellii
24
Redwing
Turdus iliacus
25
Reed Bunting
Emberiza schoeniclus
26
Ring-necked Parakeet
Psittacula krameri
27
Robin
Erithacus rubecula
28
Rock Dove
Columba livia
29
Roe Deer
Capreolus capreolus
30
Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
31
Sparrowhawk
Accipiter nisus
32
Stock Dove
Columba oenas
33
Stonechat
Saxicola rubicola
34
Treecreeper
Certhia familiaris
35
Water Rail
Rallus aquaticus
36
Woodpigeon
Columba palumbus
37
Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes

Common Snipe (feathers)