Tuesday, 15 March 2011

12th February-15th March 2011

Finally, an update and it's a long one. News first:


The birding walk on Feb 19th went okay. I was joined by Tony and John H, and despite it raining from the start, things started off well with the Water Rail in the usual place at Engine Pool. Two of us saw a Kingfisher at Terry's Pool, and there was a large flock of Fieldfares and Redwings in a field beside Big Clowes Wood. However, we got a good drenching and failed to see the Pintail or a Marsh Tit during the rest of the walk around the lakes and through Clowes Wood and New Fallings Coppice. For those that couldn't make this walk, I will be happy to do another or maybe a migation watch one day this spring, if people are interested?


Construction of the tern raft started on Feb 12th, with Ron, Bob, Barrie and myself making good progress, then Ron and I did further work on Mar 4th. Much work was done on the 13th, when about 13 people (mainly Clowes Wood volunteers) helped put the raft together at the playing field and then Terry's Pool dam before floating it. Next day, Paul and another guy from British Waterways used a boat to move the raft and anchor it into place (BW article). Unfortunately only a few people got to watch this work on the 14th, but I filmed most of it - links to videos:
Part 1
Part 2
These videos will take a few minutes at least to load (took at least 9 hours to upload the two you know!!!). The raft looked fine today, and I'm really pleased with the result, and how what started as just an idea has come to fruition and is now floating on Terry's Pool ready for the terns, due early next month - exciting! On behalf of the terns, many thanks to Ron, Izumi, Bob, Cheryl, Andrew, Barrie, John H, John, Paul, Robin, Simon and about four others whose names I'm afraid I forget or don't know, all of whom helped at some stage.


Don't want to dwell on this too much, but I was rather annoyed a few weeks back to see that someone had defaced a sign about the SSSI status of Clowes Wood and New Fallings Coppice with the words "stop cutting tree,s" in what looks like permanent marker, like they know how to best manage a woodland for nature. Warden Ron Hill and the other hard-working volunteers have been trying to make an area of hazel coppice to attract certain types of wildlife. See this article Managing Woodlands for Biodiversity (7 pages) to see how cutting a few trees down can benefit wildlife by letting more light reach the ground.
However, tree-cutting is obviously bad if done excessively, and the Earlswood area has lost three significant woods in the last 100 years, including Forshawpark Wood and Small Lane Coppice. Astonishingly, the third seems to have been cleared secretly in the last decade, and I'll be posting evidence of this in another post soon.


Other news is that I've set up an Earlswood wildlife slideshow/gallery for photos taken by anyone who sends them to me, visible in the righthand column of this page - will try to add more pics soon. Also, I have on loan the diaries of a birder who visited Earlswood in the late 1940s and 1950s, plus at long last a copy of "A survey of the birds of Earlswood" (1955), all of which make fascinating reading and will be most useful for my books. Turtle Doves, Tree Pipits, Willow Tits and Hawfinches all breeding, plus Nightingales and a Woodlark singing, all back then but how times change!!! Many thanks to John Sears for posting these to me.


On to sightings. Apart from long-stayers, it's been a fairly quiet period until the last few days, when migrants have started to arrive. Highlights:
Greylag Goose: one over Engine Pool on Mar 11th and 2 at Terry's Pool on 12th.
Mandarin Duck: a confiding male at lakes from Mar 4th to today, favouring Windmill Pool but has been seen at other two pools.
Pintail: long-staying female showing on and off, usually at Terry's Pool; last seen on 14th.
Shoveler: a pair at Terry's Pool today.
Teal: pair at Terry's Pool on Mar 3rd, male at Windmill Pool on 4th-5th, and a pair over Terry's Pool on 6th. Two on Mar 11th (Yvonne Heward)
Wigeon: male at Terry's Pool on Feb 14th.
Pochard: female at Windmill Pool on Mar 5th (Tony Philp), and subsequently seen at Terry's Pool up to today.
Goldeneye: 4 (inc. a young male) at Terry's Pool on Feb 27th - good number for Earlswood.
Little Grebe: one at Windmill Pool on Mar 13th.
Water Rail: long-staying rather confiding bird seen most days. Still present today (John Hunt). Many people including fishermen and walkers have seen it now.
Golden Plover: 80+ quite high over Windmill Pool on Mar 11th.
Lapwing: Singles over lakes on Feb 22nd and Mar 11th. At Hungry Horse field, one on Mar 4th and 9 on 6th.
Common Snipe: a couple flushed on two occasions.
Little Owl: one in area since Feb 14th (Tony Philp). Seen/heard for myself on Feb 18th.
Stock Dove: Peak of 11 in Hungry Horse field on Feb 22nd.
Kingfisher: up to 2 seen at once.
Grey Wagtail: finally, one over Windmill Pool today just before I left.
Redwing: 64+ in field along Wood Lane on Feb 15th.
Fieldfare: 60+ around Terry's Pool on Mar 2nd.
Chiffchaff: an early bird at Spring Brook Scrubland on Mar 13th, then singles noted at Windmill Pool and along Springbrook Road today.
Marsh Tit: At least two found in Clowes Wood on Feb 14th with two also seen on Mar 11th (John Oates). I've only managed to see one in there so far this year.
Greenfinch: 20+ at Spring Brook Scrubland on Feb 22nd (Tony Philp) - good count for recent years.
Linnet: 4 at Railway Scrubland today.
Lesser Redpoll: peak of c. 12 at Spring Brook Scrubland on Mar 13th.
Reed Bunting: a pair are present at Spring Brook Scrubland.
Also, on 14th, 106 adult Common Frogs spawning and a Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen at Terry's Pool, with 7+ more Common Frogs at Windmill Pool (peak number evidently occurred earlier there with much frogspawn present).

Patch year ticks were Marsh Tit, Common Snipe, Little Owl, Lapwing, Goldeneye, Mandarin Duck, Golden Plover, Little Grebe, Chiffchaff, Linnet and Grey Wagtail, bringing my personal Earlswood 2011 list up to 76. Many thanks to Tony Philp, John Oates, Phil Block, Yvonne Heward, Mike Holt and Des Ridge for their recent sightings.


Well done if you've made it to the end of this essay! Here's some of Tony Philp's recent photos taken at the lakes, some of which may be useful for identification purposes.

Female Pintail (front) with female Mallard and Mute Swan (© Tony Philp)

Local celebrity, the Engine Pool Water Rail (© Tony Philp)

Ground-creeping Treecreeper (© Tony Philp)

Black-headed Gull - first-winter bird (© Tony Philp)
For ageing gulls, look at head, wings and tail

Black-headed Gull - adult winter (© Tony Philp)

Black-headed Gull - adult nearing completion of moult into summer plumage (© Tony Philp)

Long-tailed Tit (© Tony Philp)

Common Frog hoping to "make babies" (© Tony Philp)

M.P. Griffiths

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