Beddington Farmlands Bird Group
Highlights from 1986-1996
This review was taken from the 1996 Bird report
Overgrazing by horses was at its height in 1987, resulting in many of the hedgerow trees being stripped of their bark. Further damage was caused by the " Great Storm " in October, with a number of trees being blown down. Blown in by the storm were Sabine's Gull and Grey Phalarope. A calling Quail in the summer was followed by a sighting of three birds in the autumn. Did they breed?
Pectoral Sandpiper and Dartford Warbler were "firsts" for the Farm, with Red Kite also being recorded. There was an outstanding spring passage of Ring Ouzels. Large scale removal of top-soil continued to scar parts of the southern half of the farm. Fears were expressed by birders about the deleterious effects the imminent construction of the flood relief lake was likely to have on birds at the site. Little did we know what was in store!!
In the autumn, gravel extraction began on the site of the future flood relief lake. An unusual range of rarities were recorded this year, including Gannet, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Pectoral Sandpipers in the spring and autumn, Tawny Pipit and Nightingale. March saw the last wintering flock of Corn Buntings to be recorded at the Farm.
Three gravel islands were created prior to the lake becoming completely flooded on 18th August. the lake's first major rarity, a drake Ferruginous Duck, was recorded in December. Redshank recolonized the Farm in 1990 and breeding was attempted. 1990 was also the year that saw the return of Water Pipit as a regular wintering species after the doldrums of the lated Eighties.
In May, a wooden raft was anchored in the southern half of the lake. It has since attracted four species of tern, but Coots have so far been the only species to use it as a breeding platfor. The lake started to come into its own this year, attracting a Little Egret, a Red-throated Diver, two Ring-billed Gulls and several Smew. Passage counts of Brent Geese and Whimbrel were particularly noteworthy. One pair of Redshank successfully raised young.
1992 was quite a momentous year, with the formation of the Beddington Farm Bird Group and the announcement of plans for large-scale, long-term gravel extraction and infilling. A fence was erected around the Farm perimeter excluding some areas of woodland and part of the old hedgerow system. Entry to the Farm became limited to key-holders. In March, Thames Water gave permission for 100 Tree Sparrow nest boxes to be placed around the Farm, and these proved an immediate success. The rarest birds recorded in 1992 were two Tawny Pipits in September. Redshank bred successfully for the second year running.
1993 was dominated by the wintering duo of Rustic and Little Buntings, and a juvenile Citrine Wagtail in August. In the face of criticism from some sections of the birding community, twitches were successfully organized and wardened by BFBG members. Other important sightings included Black-necked Grebe, Velvet Scoter and Eider. A pair of Garganey attempted to breed on Hundred Acre. The first Beddington Breeding Bird Survey recorded 47 species holding territory. A hide provided by Thames Water was erected overlooking the lake.
The last remaming field was converted to sludge beds in the early part of 1994. Conseravtion and management work continued to be carried out around the Farm, with tree planting, clearance of vegetation and landscaping of the islands. A bird table and feeding station were situated close to the hide. Golden Oriole and Marsh Warbler were the star birds of 1994, along with wintering Long-eared Owls and Peregrine. The Tree Sparrow Nest Box Scheme had its best ever year, with 53 pairs using the nest boxes and raising 428 young from 89 broods. In March, LB of Sutton refused Thames Water planning permission to extract gravel with subsequent restoration by landfill and habitat creation. An appeal was lodged by Thames Water and the matter went to a Public Inquiry.
In May, the Public Inquiry decided in favour of Thame Water's proposals for the site. The Conservation Science Group ( whose brief is to oversee the nature conservation interests of the development ) met for the first time in December. Over 150 species were recorded for the fifth year running, with 45 species holding territory ( including a pair of Marsh Warblers ). Other highlights included Red-necked Grebe, Red-throated Pipit, Common Rosefinch and Ortolan Bunting. Unfortunately, the hide was subject to repeated and serious vandalism in the course of the year.
A record-breaking 166 species were recorded in 1996, with wildfowl particularly outstanding. The autumn passage of Little Stints was on of the year's highlights, whilst long staying Grasshopper Warbler, Spotted Crake and Red-throated Pipit were much appreciated. Nationwide influxes of Waxwings in the first winter period and Snow Buntings in the autumn were reflected at the Farm with one record of the former and three of the latter. Over one hundred pairs of Whitethroats were recorded holding territory this year.