20 October 2018

Tony's Tyto Alba

It was a cold, still morning with low mist over the Flats and it felt rare, a Woodlark fly-over sort of day. Some Woodpigeon moving through, a few Redwing, a Fieldfare chuckled. A phone call from Jono "Barn Owl towards the SSSI being chased by crows!!" My reply was four letters begining with an f (no, it wasn't fine). Tony had spied it up near Long Wood flying over quite low being chased by crows.

I "calmly" scanned the skies from the southern brooms, no crows. I scanned some more, nothing in the sky but crows in a tree by Centre Road....excited crows in a tree! Obviously worth investigating and as I got quite close out flew THE OWL. Tony and Jono were close behind, but THE OWL had disappeared, apparently just over the road. James appeared but Nick was still at home. No sign of THE OWL though, as we searched the area.

Half-an-hour later Nick had made it onto the patch and was walking up through the brooms when he turned and shouted "Bob"

An absolutely magical few moments, patch birding at its finest, all I had to do was be there and push a button. The first patch Barn Owl for 25 years!

Congratulations to Tony, another great find.

28 August 2018


Every Christmas all the little children ask Santa that next year, if they are good, a Red-backed Shrike will present itself for our adoration.  This year good boy was Marco, shame he wasn't there to see it!

Nearly fucked it up though, didn't I?

A small bird behind one of the hawthorn in the pub scrub caught my attention.  Whitethroat natch! But even to my miopic-jump-to-any-conclusion like mind it were a wrong-un!  Something about the eye.  Too far for the bins I circled closer.  Still looked strange and kinda shrike like.  Preposterous.
I rounded my last bit of cover, camera ready.  Of course the bird flew before the clunky focusing could get a fix. An hour full of expletives later wandering around the pub scrub it pops up on a dead tree in Alex scrub.  Well I never...

... and if a Whitethroat had popped up in that time, well I never would have!

25 August 2018

Yellow-legged Gulls come like buses

We had to wait until the 32nd week of the year to get our first Yellow-legged Gull on the Patch. This 4cy bird stayed for about a week on Alex and the adjacent pitches.

Today, just a few days after that bird was last seen, I found another, this time a juvenile and also on the pitches next to Alex.

16 July 2018

The Patch Fire...

Just been out for a quick look around the still smouldering patch. Many firemen are still there and miles of hose pipes have been linked together and are snaking all over. The firemen have done a great job throughout the night and are patrolling because the grassy areas can burn below ground and suddnely flare up. Bad but not as bad as it could have been thanks to prompt action. 
All the grassland and small bushes on the SSSI are gone, but larger bushes and trees remain intact. Motorcycle Wood didn't go up and the fire only spread halfway across the fairground. All this will regenerate. So look away now, first up the northern part of the SSSI from Lakehouse Road

 Mid-SSSI from Lakehouse Road

 Mid-SSSI from Centre Road
 South SSSI from Lakehouse

 Fairground from Lakehouse

The area we were most worried about was the Skylark and Meadow Pipit breeding area and the news here is encouraging. A large area south of Long Wood went up but was contained, most of the enclosure is still standing, but our visimig point is ash. Fortunately south of there wasn't affected and the extensive grasslands were preserved.

 East Long Wood
North East Long Wood
The brickpit has minor damage and quite how the fire spread is unclear.
Apparently there was a large log aflame this morning in Centre Copse! 
A big thanks to the firemen and the police, we are still here, and I had the first Yellow Wagtail of autumn fly over the Fairground. All is not lost.

8 July 2018

Juvenile gulls back on the Patch

I have prattled on in a little more detail in my own personal blog, but wanted to share some pics of some of the gulls out on the Flats that are back from breeding grounds.

I always love looking at juvenile Black-headed Gulls when they are fresh on the Patch:

I almost managed to miss this juvenile Mediterranean Gull in with about a hundred Black-headed Gull:

There is also something smart about juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls - perhaps it is the fine pale band around the tertials: