Monday, 6 December 2010

Brass monkeys

Redwing in freezing conditions at Bookham Common today.
It's late, so a brief update after a cold trip out to the western sector of the London Area. With two Red-necked Grebes present in recent days I had high hopes of finally catching up with this rare winter visitor, and it duly came today on the west London reservoirs (where perhaps just one bird has been seen at both Queen Mother and Wraysbury Reservoirs). It was a little too foggy for photography, but the bird showed reasonably through the scope; the bill base was quite strongly yellow, and it had a slight dark line below the rear crown, as if possibly retained from juvenile plumage (but I don't get enough practice ageing Red-necked Grebes - does anyone?). Also noted were a Green Sandpiper, presumably frozen out from a favoured stream or pond nearby, a female Common Goldeneye and at least 20 Great Crested Grebes.

It's a short trip on along the M25 to Bookham Common, a National Trust site famously home to a long-running London Natural History Society flora and fauna survey. I negotiated some icy lanes and by-ways before finally hitting the right location, thanks to directions from Johnny Allan, and met up again with Neil Randon (aka Factor), who alarmingly seems to be acquiring the new nickname of Dipper (I first met him at Chertsey in the summer, when we both missed a Hoopoe - so he has form).

Poor views in fog and at range of at least two Hawfinches at Bookham.
Along with another birder we staked out the blackthorn bushes where several Hawfinches have been seen lately, but after 30 minutes with only a solitary Bullfinch, a fly-over Common Snipe and numerous Redwings for company, I set off on a circuit of the area. Returning back towards the original location, I noted two more Bullfinches and a Roe Deer before hearing several distinctive squeaky tic calls, and saw a bulky finch disappear through the back of a blackthorn - gotcha! I ran round to the other side of the bush to see at least two Hawfinches bounding away up into nearby tree-tops, and shouted across to the others, who had now been joined by Mike Spicer. Unfortunately, only one of them got onto the birds before they flew. And it wasn't Factor.

London yearlist update:
208. Red-necked Grebe.
209. Hawfinch.


  1. Great news, Neil - very pleased for you. Looks like the new nickname was inappropriate after all!



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