Sunday, 8 March 2015
I was very privileged to spend a morning watching a carcass being devoured by a mass of around 130 vultures and a supporting cast of Ravens, Red and Black Kites, Azure-winged Magpies, Spotless Starlings and bizarrely, a Blue Tit and a couple of Crested Larks!
All this action began at dawn outside a photographic hide that I was sharing with the legends that are Killian Mullarney (Collins Bird Guide) and Rene Pop (The Sound Approach). We were participants in the FIO Extremadura Birdwatching Fair and were afforded the opportunity of watching the vultures do their thing.
Black Vulture head on
Motley crew of Griffon Vultures
How do you like me now?
A Black Vulture spreads
Black and Griffon Vultures
Gathering at first light
Saturday, 21 February 2015
The deceased BlackbirdFor the past few evenings I have been noticing a male Blackbird hopping around in my concrete backyard. I would be working on my sofa that faces the garden and then I would notice the familiar black shape of this common urban thrush just outside my french windows. Nothing unusual you might think. But there was something weird about the whole scenario. I was seeing this bird hopping around very late into the evening just as dusk was really taking hold.
Any self respecting Blackbird would have been safely tucked up in a lofty, leafy roosting site and certainly not still out in the open in a confined space. What is more, there was something odd about its behaviour. It seemed a tad lacklustre and at the back of my mind I thought that it might not be well.
This morning, I returned to my sofa to see its slumped shape face down on the concrete. I actually felt upset. I went out to examine the corpse to find a bloody streak of missing feathers from the base of its neck to its crown. I could only surmise that it had just been attack by something like a Sparrowhawk and it's blind panic, flew straight into a wall.
That's life and that's death.
Such a beautiful bird.
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
Sunday, 15 February 2015
Thursday, 12 February 2015
Interpretation Board (Paul Thomas)It’s been a long time since a monthly report was written about the birds of this internationally known and now threatened patch of green nestled in urban west London. But the hope is that over the next 12 months you will see a story unfolding. This story will feature the day-to-day (or at least, visit-by-visit) avian goings-on at The Scrubs. There will be mentions of interesting behavioural notes, estimates of flock sizes, territories held and of course, inexplicable disappearances and appearances.
We began January 2015 as we left it in December 2014. With fewer regular observers than what we have had in many years and consequently, fewer species being seen. We ended last year on around 82 species, our lowest year list in over 10 years. Of course, it’s not just about the number of species we end up seeing, but with less active observers means that there is more chance of missing scarce regulars like the legendary passage Ring Ouzel. It remains to be seen how 2015 will pan out.
If you choose to visit the hallowed turf this year, please don’t forget to let us know what birds you encountered. It’s always good to hear about other people’s birds – just don’t make them too rare!
Overhead view of The Scrubs
Our trusty groundsmen have been an invaluable source of information for the past 20 years or more. They are the guys that are on The Scrubs everyday doing their work. But whilst they work they look up.
They are normally first on the scene when our early Wheatears show up and are the ones to tell us about all the Buzzards and Peregrines we have missed. Last year, we recorded around four Red Kite sightings. But according to these guys, there were a spate of Red Kite sightings throughout the summer indicating that they are far more regular over The Scrubs than what we realise.
Let the journey commence.
Contributors: Rob Ayers, Andy Cameron, Charlie Farrell, Nick Gibson, David Jeffreys, David Lindo, Des McKenzie, Roy Nuttall, Bob Still, Paul Thomas et al.
A singleton headed over on the 17th.
Our only report was of five grazing on the grass within Lynford Christie Stadium on the 1st.
A single bird headed through on the 2nd and became our earliest E-goose to be seen during a calendar year. We normally expect to see these exotics flying over during the late summer.
A singleton was occasionally seen hunting over the grassland during the month often accompanied by attendant angry crows.
One was watched repeatedly stooping at the assembled crows on the pitches by the groundsmen in early January.
A single female was observed on the 20th.
We experienced good numbers of this common gull during the month. At their peak there were at least 200 birds mostly on the sports pitches.
A Black-headed & Common Gull duo
Our first record for two years appeared on the 18th. It was a winter adult found in the afternoon with some Black-headed Gull. It did the classic Med Gull thing of being slightly aloof. When the flock it was associating with was flushed by dog walkers it flew south of the prison whilst the other gulls simply circled around and landed a few metres from where they were originally flushed.
It was reported again on the 26th feeding on the sports pitches.
The peak count for this regular winter visitor was c22 on the 2nd.
Low numbers were noticed during the month. No doubt there were more birds floating overhead that were plainly missed. The best count was around 20 on the 27th.
We rarely record large numbers of this rather attractive larid. No count exceeded six birds.
A rack of gulls
No amazing counts were made during the month with around 40 birds being the norm.
At least 1,000 were seen most mornings after leaving their roost in Scrubs Lane Wood. Nearly 3,000 were watched coming into roost on the 18th.
A bird was calling regularly from the western end of the site throughout the month.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
A pair was at large in the western end of The Scrubs throughout January.
Our wintering population varied from day-to-day peaking at around 16 roving birds on the 2nd.
Occasional birds were seen and heard flying over during the month.
A couple singers were heard on the 17th.
Spring came early when a couple of threesomes were seen displaying to each other on the 18th. The best count was around eight on the 27th.
A Robin holding territory
The peak count of 14 was had on the 17th.
A male has been wintering on the grassland for a least the past month. It was not always easy to catch sight of however, despite being not particularly shy.
Our wintering male Stonechat
Up to four birds were seen during the month with at least two singers in full voice.
Braybrook Street was the main epicenter of our Redwing sightings this month. At least six were located on the 17th.
This, the largest thrush in the UK, is a real scarcity at The Scrubs. We normally expect to see the occasional family party during the late summer. Two were seen on the 2nd.
It has to be a harsh winter before we start to see this regal thrush in any numbers. On the 17th at least six were with Redwings and an additional individual was seen later.
At least 10 were seen per visit throughout the month. The maximum number was 15 on the 17th.
Small numbers were seen during the month. The peak count was 10 on the 18th.
A good count of 13 was made on the 17th and 16 the following day.
Small numbers were seen during the month, never more that four birds.
At least 10 were seen throughout January.
One was noticed on the 20th.
Around 100 birds was the average figure found throughout the month.
No huge numbers this month with the peak count being around 25 birds found mostly on Braybrook Street.
Away from their Braybrook Street stronghold sparrows are still very much a rarity on our patch. At least 10 birds were found around the community centre and Braybrook Wood on the 16th and the 18th.
At least two pairs have set up territories in Central Copse and around the cottage in the western end. Four birds were in Central Copse on the 27th.
A small number were present during the month with eight being the most on the 17th.
Small numbers were seen during the month mostly situated along Lester’s Embankment.
A female wintered during the month. A male was found on the 17th.
2015 Year List
2. Canada Goose
3. Egyptian Goose
7. Black-headed Gull
8. Mediterranean Gull
9. Common Gull
10. Herring Gull
11. Lesser Black-back
12. Wood Pigeon
13. Rose-ringed Parakeet
14. Green Woodpecker
15. Great Spotted Woodpecker
16. Meadow Pipit
17. Pied Wagtail
22. Song Thrush
24. Mistle Thrush
27. Great Tit
28. Blue Tit
29. Long-tailed Tit
32. Carrion Crow
34. House Sparrow
38. Reed Bunting
38 species thus far
(31 species in January 2014 & 50 in January 2013)