Sunday, 26 November 2017

26th November, 2017 Staines Reservoir Early morning frost becoming fine and sunny

With a putative American Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris being reported from Staines Reservoir on the bank of the north basin, John King and myself decided to visit this morning with the sun in the right position. Back in the 1950's my brother Barry and myself spent many hours cycling to Staines visiting the various reservoirs and gravel pits including the famous Perry Oaks Sewage Farm which has now been swallowed up by Heathrow Airport terminal 5, and therefore this visit brought back many happy memories including the site where I saw my first Whinchat in around 1954.

American Horned Lark is the nominate specie with a number of subspecies which includes our Shore Lark E.a.flava as one of these subspecies, but looking at the pictures posted on the web-sites, it  appears noticeably different to the Shore Lark. To date, there has only been the odd records of Horned Lark in the UK including one on South Uist in October 2014.

John and myself arrived on the Staines Reservoir causeway and virtually the first birder we saw was Sussex birder Jake Everitt who was watching the Horned Lark and he was able to quickly get us on to it. We spent the next 90 minutes watching it in excellent light at various distances from down to around 100 metres, and although to far for me to photograph it, telescope views were good for most of the time. There has only been two previous records of Horned Lark in the UK, the first being on Tresco in October, 2001 although there has been some criticism of this record, and the second on South Uist in October, 2014.

I show below two pictures taken by myself of a Shore Lark taken at Beachy Head during late October 2013, and also pictures of the Horned Lark taken yesterday at Staines Reservoir, and two taken on South Uist, October, 2014, which looks similar to the bird present on Staines Reservoir. The Beachy Shore Lark a paler looking individual especially on the underparts.

Shore Lark taken at Beachy Head in October, 2013. 
A paler crown, a yellow supercilium only just extending over
the bill. Virtually no streaking under the black collar band and
far less blotching on the sides of the breast and flanks.

taken by LGRE

Taken by John Rowland,
Clearly shows the white supercilium extending over the bill
and the heavy streaking on the breast.

Putative Horned Lark on Staines Reservoir.
Compared to the Shore Lark, this bird had a dark crown, whitish
supercilium extending above the bill, extensive dark streaking
under the black collar band and extensive rustic blotching on the
sides of the upper breast and flanks.

taken by John Kemp
Horned Lark taken on South Uist, October 2014.
Showing similarities with the Staines Reservoir bird.

We also saw on the journeys a Ring-necked Parakeet and 1 Red Kite both in Surrey.