Saturday, 3 February 2018

Horned Lark, Staines Reservoir

I've been wanting to see this bird ever since its initial discovery back in November last year, and I thought I'd missed my opportunity when it quickly disappeared, so I was more than pleased to hear it had re-appeared again at the back end of January in the same location on Staines Reservoir - I wonder where that had been for a couple of months?

I've not been back to this neck of the woods since the last American vagrant to grace these West London collection of reservoirs - this being the Buff-bellied Pipit back in the winter of 2012. I remember it being a dreadful day then, with persistent heavy rain. Today wasn't a lot better, maybe the rain wasn't quite as heavy but it was a dark, overcast day with drizzle and the gloves were a must. 

Arriving just after 8am (thankfully there were no problems on the M25) and I didn't have to wait long before someone located the bird feeding on the banks of the causeway which split the reservoir in two and despite the weather, I managed to get a few decent images of the bird primarily aided by the fact it was only a matter of metres from where I was standing. I could easily pick out several key features like the dark upper parts and crown, the flared bright white eye stripe and those distinctive rich-rufous flanks - a very smart bird and well worth circumnavigating the M25 for.

Staines, London

Staines, London

Staines London

Staines, London

I don't know a great deal about Horned Larks other than they are found on almost every continent and there are lots of subspecies, and when I say lots, I mean at least forty-two (so I've read) but it appears this bird is considered to be one of two subspecies either alpestris or hoyti both are migratory and North American - It'll be interesting to know what the eventual outcome is, but either way it's a great bird for London.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

What makes you Tick?

As birding weekends go on a cold, wet and miserable January - I'd give this one a respectable 8 out of 10.

First up on Saturday morning was a visit to Walthamstow Wetlands (as it's now known) to look for the Little Bunting which had been found on Friday. An excellent record for London and kudos to guys who dug that one out, but 2 hours standing still on the bank of a reservoir looking at a hedge in the rain isn't really my idea of fun, but thankfully patience did eventually pay off and the bird showed to the small waiting crowd before quickly disappearing again - it's always good to get a London tick, especially on the north side of the Thames. Returning home to dry off and warm-up and the wintering male Blackcap appears in the garden, and curiously this gave me more satisfaction than the Little Bunting - despite seeing hundreds of birds around the UK and abroad, I still get immense pleasure from feeding and seeing garden birds - especially when something a little bit out of the ordinary turns up.

Male, Wintering, Winter

Sunday and I find myself with a couple of hours spare (due to the cancellation of my sons football match, waterlogged pitch apparently) and I head to the patch in search of a few easy missing year ticks - I still haven't seen a Mistle Thrush or a Kestrel. I hadn't been here long before news of a Hawfinch in the Old Sewage Works (thanks Tim) finds me heading quickly in that direction, but not before I year tick the obliging female Bullfinch which is currently residing in the brambles alongside Heronry Lake. No sign of the Hawfinch and the rain is starting to fall as sleet, so I call it a day, satisfied with my lot this weekend, knowing I could have easily have stayed indoors under a duvet and hidden from the elements but that's not what makes me tick.