Monday, 7 September 2015

Staines Moor Barred Warbler

Regular readers will have noticed that there's not been much activity on this blog for a while now. In fact since the largely birdless family holiday in August I've not been out on any trips at all - this hasn't been for lack of keeness, there just hasn't been much for me to go for. With the insect season now over it's all down to birds and it's been fairly quiet on that front apart from a wave of drift migrants that hit the east coast a while back. I could only look on with envy as a few weeks ago all down the right hand side of the country a wave of Wrynecks, Icterine and Barred Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes were washed up on the coast. Gradually one of two of these birds have been filtering down through the country and indeed Oxon has been blessed with a total of three different Wrynecks already this autumn which is a great tally. 

One other such inland bird which has caught my eye over the last week or so was a Barred Warbler which turned up at Staines Moor, not more than an hour's drive away. Now, I don't "need" Barred Warbler - I've seen one in Norfolk (albeit just in flight a few times) and I even found one for myself down at Pendeen though that was only on show for a few seconds. So whilst this would be nothing more than a year tick, the prospect of getting what were by all accounts prolonged views of what is normally a skulking a secretive species was rather tempting. So when Monday dawned bright and sunny and with a US bank holiday meaning that the financial markets would almost certainly be lifeless, it seemed like a no-brainer to go and pay it a visit. After completing some tasks for my VLW, at around 10 a.m. I was speeding down the M40 towards Heathrow Terminal 4 and Staines Moor, an area I know well as my mother-in-law lives nearby in Stanwell. Of course I also know the Moor itself from the Brown Shrike that turned up there a few years ago. At the time I remembered it as a rather nice site with lots of good habitat and so it proved when I completed the fifteen minute walk from the car to the Moor.

Staines Moor is a great bit of habitat
There was a small group of birders staking out a large Hawthorn to the north so I crossed over the River Colne and wandered over to join them. Even as I approached I could see the Barred Warbler, standing out like a saw thumb in the top left-hand side of the tree and indeed it was on show more or less constantly the whole time I was there. The nice thing about larger Warblers is that they move relatively slowly compared to their smaller cousins and as this one seemed happy to stay out in the open it was relatively easy to track. I busied myself with taking some digiscoped photos as it worked its way through the Brambles and Hawthorn. They certainly won't win any photographic prizes though at least you can see what it is.

As well as the star attraction there were several Whinchat in the surrounding area which were nice to catch up with - I've yet to see this lovely chat on my local patch this year. A couple of Hobbies were hunting overhead and a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were also on show. To add to the day list I'd also heard Ring-necked Parakeets calling as I'd pulled in to Staines Moor, another year tick.

There were never huge numbers of birders there, perhaps a dozen at most at any given time so it was nice and peaceful. Just as I was starting to think about leaving someone arrived to join the twitch line looking rather anxious. I told him where the bird had been though it had just ducked out of sight at that moment. He worriedly told me that he'd come down a couple of days ago but that it hadn't been seen again all that afternoon so this was his second attempt. "It should show again pretty quickly", I told him and of course after that there was no sign of it for a good twenty minutes. I started to worry for my new companion as this was rather out of character for the bird which hitherto had been constantly on show. In the end to help him out I decided to walk around the back of the Hawthorn clump to see if it had moved around there. Around the other side there it was, right out in the open and preening itself on a bare branch, showing the best since I'd arrived. Of course I'd left my camera back around the other side. I called over the other birders who came around to see it and I went back for the camera though it had ducked in again by the time I'd returned. At least the new birder had managed to see it though. It showed on and off for a while before it flew to a more distant bush and then back again and finally ducked back into the centre of the clump. 

I'd seen enough now and time was marching on so I decided to head back to the car. On the way back I met another birder watching a pair of young Little Owls sitting in one of the fields. I took a quick photo though in the heat haze it was rather blurry.

Blurry Little Owls
Then it was back to the Gnome Mobile and off home in time for a late lunch. It had been good to get out again on what had proved to be a very enjoyable bijou twitchette.

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