Monday, 31 December 2012

125 All Out

31st December - well 2012 draws to a close and my visit on the 23rd proved to be my last of the year.  My personal patch year list closes on 125 - I failed to include House Sparrow, which I didn't see around the lake itself but saw them apparently nesting on several of the houses in Church Lane in the Spring/Summer, so have added this on.

The overall site list was probably about 10 species higher than this, so something to aim for next year.  I have decided to take part in the Patchwork Challenge next year - see here which adds a bit more fun to it.  I'm using 125 species as a benchmark, as this was my first year list on this patch.

As always, I am grateful to the other local LMGP patchers who find birds and get the news out.

There are many highlights from the year and I have put a photo record of some of them below:

The white-winged gulls at the beginning of the year

An early Sandwich Tern

A Rock Pipit followed by another Sandwich Tern and the start of many Arctic Terns in April/May

Spring wader passage was a bit slow, but quite a few Whimbrel and a single Sanderling were noteworthy

Summer brought the usual build up of Yellow-legged Gulls, but at least 2 Caspians joined them, along with 2 mid-summer Med Gulls

Late summer brought a couple of Red-crested Pochards and a juvenile Black-necked Grebe

One of the main highlights of the year was the incredible flock of 19 Little Terns that arrived in mid August

August also brought a Turnstone, but further waders were few and far between until a Knot arrived for about 20 minutes during a foggy November day

A confiding male 1st winter Caspian Gull was one of at least 3 that appeared in November/December

1 or maybe 2 Goosanders put in a brief appearance and finally a flyover Waxwing in December

Roll on 2013!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Two Casps

23rd December - an afternonn visit for the gull roost found the regular male 1st winter Caspian Gull already present.  Another 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared at the end of the spit as well - a different bird to any I've seen here this autumn.  This is the first time I've seen 2 birds together and is the 5th bird (I think) at this site since June.

Scaup Photos

Managed a couple of record shots of the 1st winter female Scaup on the roach pit on the 21st.  The light was reasonable but a bit hazy.

I think the left hand bird in the bottom photo is the one claimed as a possible second Scaup or hybrid.  To me it looks like a juv Tufted Duck.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Off Patch Scaup

19th December - I made a pre-work visit to another of the pits in the Marlow GP complex, known locally as the Roach Pit and probably only 400-500 metres from LMGP as the crow flies.  A juvenile Scaup had been photographed here last week with what looked like a pink rubber band around its neck.  I had made a visit the day after this discovery, but during the cold snap, the pit had iced over and nothing was found.  Anyway, this morning, a juvenile female type bird was back, loosely in the company of 4 adult male Tufted Ducks and a probable 1st winter male.  It didn't have any pink neck band though.  It was diving frequently, with the obvious leaping out of the water style, and showed obvious white ovals on the lores, a large greyish bill with restricted black on the nail, a dull eye and slightly larger more bulbous body to the accompanying Tufties.  Hopefully if it hangs around in better light, I will be able to get some photos.

Curiously, later in the morning, 2 juvenile Scaup were reported from here, keeping very close company, although one may have been a hybrid, but no Tufted Duck, so exactly how many Scaup are in this area is now a bit clouded - I haven't noted any of these birds on LMGP yet, but a return visit is obviously called for!

Waxwing Bonus!

18th December - I haven't made many visits recently for various reasons.  The only different bird of note was a female Goosander on the 11th, which was too distant to see if it was the same as the previous bird or different, though a suspect a different bird.  This bird didn't hang around for long though!

I popped down this morning for a quick check.  Nothing out of the ordinary, though it was nice to see the spit reappearing after the rain.  The CR Lapwing was present again, but disappointingly I have had no response from anyone on the likely origins of this bird.  The markings suggest a German scheme.

I also made a quick visit before school pick-up where I joined Dick S.  Little change from the morning and the LWHG pre-roost didn't really materialise today.  Snipe are still around in good numbers - a count of 27 birds is probably lower than the actual number present.  Best bird of the day by far was found as we were leaving - a short trilling by a Starling-sized bird flying overhead from east to west alerted us to a lone Waxwing.  I got it in my bins before it disappeared over the STW and noted a pale tipped tail and stubby looking head.  It trilled again, presumably looking for other birds.  Maybe this will be the fore runner of some more birds in the locality.  Anyway, a fantastic patch tick!

Friday, 7 December 2012

A New Casp

Fellow regular gull watcher Dick S photographed a 1st winter Caspian Gull on November 23rd, which is obviously a different bird to the regular one.  It has very faded coverts and shows quite a few second generation lesser and median coverts - another one to look out for!

The following shots are courtesy of Dick:

More Casp Shots

7th December - the lake was awash with LWHG when I turned up just before midday and this included the regular 1st winter Caspian Gull.  It eventually came in quite close, so I could take some better shots of it, though the bright sunshine created some shadow.

Otherwise, not much of note - the drake Shelduck remains and a Chiffchaff was seen on the western bank.  The now exposed muddy flood meadows have attracted many hundreds of foraging BHG and at least 30 Pied Wagtails were finding this to their liking as well.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Another Casp or Maybe the Same?

5th December - I made an afternoon visit just before school pick-up.  The water level was still high, but the sun was shining, although it felt freezing in a northerly breeze.

The imm female Goosander was still present on arrival showing nicely in the NW arm.  However, shortly later, she flew to the small remaining spit amongst the gulls, then swam out to the middle of the pit before taking to the air and flying off strongly SE.  The male Shelduck was still present and the other waterfowl were similar to yesterday.  Snipe are still present in good numbers, often feeding on the remaining islets and flying around in small groups.  A Chiffchaff was seen a couple of times on the western side, found through frequent calling.

LWHG started arriving in good numbers from 2pm and there were probably 2-300 to look through, mostly Herring with a few LBBG and GBBG.  At about 2:40pm I picked up a striking 1st winter Caspian Gull.  This bird was unringed and I thought initially was a different bird to that seen in November, but now I'm not so sure.  It showed well in the afternoon sunlight, but was always fairly distant for photos.  A couple of records are below, which show most of its features well enough, although it was preening at this stage, so the pose is never quite natural and the colours are affected by the strong sunlight.

Edit: having compared these record shots below with those taken before (see here), I think it is probably the same bird as before, even though it didn't give that impression this afternoon.  Both birds show a dark brown feather towards the end of the inner greater coverts on the right side, which stands out as a dark mark against the other washed out inner greater coverts.  I don't think this is a usual feature.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Goosey Goosey Gander

4th December - the lake is still high, though the flood meadows are now mostly meadow.

A morning visit found many hundreds of BHG milling about and still plenty of dabblers, though the drake Pintail of the previous 3 days had moved on.  A Peregrine flew through and put everything up before departing to the west and I then noticed a female type Goosander in the NW arm, which on closer inspection appeared to be a bird of the year, with a pale line along the lores.  It seemed to favour this area, though did move around the lake at times and even hauled itself out on a bit of spit a couple of times.  My second of the year following a bird back in January.

Eyeing up something
The drake Shelduck remained, as did large numbers of Snipe and the regular Green Sand.

On the gull front, I dug out a 1st winter Med Gull from the throng of BHG before they were all put up and it duly disappeared.

Floods Swell Duck Counts

2nd December - well the rain made its way into the Thames, which duly broke over the riverside flood meadows.  I hadn't seen this before, so took some snaps:

Looking east.  This is usually a meadow grazed by cattle.

East. The Thames is back middle to right

Looking west. Some meadow still visible

Riverside benches
Spade Oak meadow held several species of duck and also a Dabchick that was diving near the dividing hedge.  Don't suppose that is recorded here very often!

The Thames had also seeped into the lake, which had risen by 2 to 3 feet, covering much of the spit and flooding the SW corner.

Still some spit showing
These conditions were obviously to the liking of the dabblers, which swelled their numbers considerably over several days.  I did a count on Friday 30th and found 118 Teal, 102 Wigeon and 53 Gadwall.  Shoveler numbers had also increased, though these were harder to count.  A drake Shelduck had also appeared.

Weekend counts were quite a bit higher again, but the diving duck are still relatively sparse.  A drake Pintail was a nice addition over the weekend, which I popped down to see on Sunday afternoon, following 2 drakes and a female that I had missed on the 28th.  Snipe seem to be loving it here at the moment - having counted 22 on Friday, they rose to the 30s on Saturday and the Sunday afternoon peak count was 48.  Great to see these birds in numbers and a bit strange to see frequent sorties of birds flying around in flocks of 20+.  The Green Sand is also enjoying the conditions and is present more often than not.

The Sunday gull roost was fairly uneventful, though the very white headed 1st winter gull appeared again, but distantly.  It still looks to be YLG on structure, but has a lot of Caspian features.  I even called it Caspian when it first arrived.  I'm hoping it appears in the afternoon pre-roost so it can be grilled a bit better.

I took a record shot of one of the 1st winter GBBG as there were a few about last Friday.

One other bird of note from Friday was a male Blackcap around the western bench briefly.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Wet Wet Wet

It has been a pretty wet week - certainly when I had the time to visit the site!  Consequently, not much to report.

Snipe numbers continue to build and it's nice to see them all huddled together on the spit - 18 birds noted on the 21st was a jump of 5 birds and today there were 19.

There haven't been many gulls to look through on my visits and I haven't seen the big male 1st winter Caspian Gull again, though it has been reported a few times.  Highlights were a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on the 21st in the pre-roost and a strikingly white-headed 1st winter bird at the roost on the 25th - this bird had several pro-Caspian features in isolation, but altogether fitted YLG much better.  The roost on the 25th also had 31 Great Black-backed Gulls - the first sizeable count of the winter - mostly adults, but at least a few 1st and 2nd winters noted.

The wintering Green Sand was seen again today and I was able to count some of the wildfowl: 74 Wigeon, 47 Teal, 32 Shoveler, 27 Gadwall, 20 Pochard, 31 GC Grebes and 1 Dabchick.  This gives a guide to the sorts of numbers of birds around at the moment.

The most notable find in the colour-ringing world was a Lapwing.  This bird was first seen on the 18th and I've seen it 3 times since, including today.  It is part of the large flock that spends its time on the spit (600 - 1,000 birds but varies each day) and it seems to like being on the near side of the spit, which is why it is visible!  The bird has a yellow ring above both knees, green over orange rings on the left leg and metal over red rings on the right leg.  Investigations seem to point to this being a bird rung in Germany, but as yet I have had no reply to my e-mail.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Knot too Misty

16th November - It was a grey, overcast and misty day pretty much all day.  I paid a quick morning visit and again in the early afternoon before school pick-up hoping that the misty conditions might have brought something in.  The highlight of the morning visit was a single Golden Plover that came in calling and landed on the spit for about 20 minutes before flying off SW.  The small huddle of Snipe on the near spit had risen to 11 birds.  Otherwise, I contented myself by looking through the gulls and picking out some colour rings.  Of these, 2 were regular birds, BHG black R34A from Pas-de-Calais, France and LBBG red KB3T ringed at Rainham Marshes.  The 3rd was a new bird, an adult LBBG with dark blue darvic and orange code AMW.  I knew that this combination made it a bird ringed in Gloucester and duly sent the details off.  A speedy response gave me the following details:

It was ringed as an adult bird on 5th Feb 2007 at Stoke Orchard landfill site, Gloucestershire.  It had been noted at Beddington SF, London on 20th Nov 2009, back at Gloucester Landfill on 8th April 2011 and now my record.

My early afternoon visit was in the company of Dave C.  There did not appear to be much change from the morning, however, just before 1pm, a Dunlin flew in from the south calling and landed on the near spit.  Knowing that a Knot had been seen in the morning in Bedfordshire, I remarked to Dave, "Why couldn't that have been a Knot!".  Amazingly, a couple of minutes later, a mid sized wader was picked up flying towards us over the spit.  My initial thought was that it was the Golden Plover returning, however, this was quickly dispelled when the bird banked to the left and revealed itself to be, you've guessed it, a Knot!  I was well chuffed, because this was a patch tick.  The bird landed quite close to the Snipe on the near spit and appeared to go to roost, however, after a few minutes it started to feed. We were joined by Jackie N and watched the bird feeding - I attempted some record shots, but in the gloom, they were worse than normal.  I have posted one here just for record purposes, but it is truly appalling!  I'm not sure what happened next, whether we were chatting too much, but on looking back for the bird, it was nowhere to be seen and in fact was never seen again, so had presumably flown off as silently as it had arrived.  Several other birders arrived, but unfortunately dipped.

Just about.........

Another great angle!

Alan S and Kevin H who stayed until after 3pm (I had to leave for the school run) were rewarded with the arrival of the 1st winter male Caspian Gull again at 3:15pm.

The Danish BHG white 507 was also present again briefly in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

No Casp but Med

14th November - a lovely sunny afternoon that appeared to have pushed back the arrival time of the LWHG.  They only started arriving at c2:30pm and few were present when I had to leave for school pick-up.  Quite a few viewers were still there, so I hope that the Casp made an appearance for them.  My compensation was in the form of a 1st winter Med Gull that appeared briefly on the lake, made a move to the spit and then seemed to disappear after the gulls were spooked.  They seemed to be spooked quite a bit this afternoon.

A few CR gulls made reappearances:

Herring Gull white A4HH
BHG white 507

Otherwise, the regular Green Sand, 8 Snipe and 48 Wigeon were all that I noted.

Caspo Becoming Regular

13th November - the big male 1st winter Caspian Gull looks to be a regular visitor at the moment.  First seen last Friday, it was reported on both Saturday and Sunday and it came in again today.  The big gulls start arriving between 1:30pm and 2pm and today it came it about 1:50pm.  Luckily, most gulls were settling on the near spit, so it gave much better views than last Friday, although the gloomy light didn't help photos.  It had also picked up some yellow staining on the back of the right ear covert.

Shame I chopped his tail off!

Blurred! But shows his long legs
A female Goldeneye was also present, roosting in the NE corner.  These seem to be quite scarce here, so 3 birds this autumn is nice.  Other ducks that I bothered to count were 43 Wigeon, 18 Gadwall and 16 Shoveler.  Quite a few Teal, but these were too spread out to count easily.  The Green Sand was present again for quite a time, mainly on the back of the spit and the huddle of Snipe had risen to 8 birds.

Just before midday, a large flock of Golden Plover came in from the east.  They circled around quite high for several minutes presumably thinking about landing, but never came very low and then flew off west.  They then returned, circled around again before departing W/NW.  I find it quite hard to accurately estimate these large flocks, so took a photo and counted them on the computer - not the most interesting job!  I had thought about 600 - 700 birds, so a counted total of 741 means I wasn't too far out, though I usually under estimate.  These large flocks of Goldies when they occur seem to be about now up to the end of the year.

741 birds in here
Just after the Goldies had gone, my attention was drawn to a strange song coming from just behind me.  I didn't recognise the phrasing apart from the more obvious occasional 'chiff' and 'chaff'.  From this the bird was obviously a Chiffchaff, but was it nominate? - I haven't heard one with all the additonal phrases around the occasional 'chiff' and 'chaff' before.  It was around for about 15 minutes uttering short song phrases on and off, though I didn't hear it call at all.  It was very difficult to get a look at, feeding high in the trees and losing itself amongst the foliage.  The best I got on it from below was pale looking undersides, dark legs and quite a prominent supercilium and dark eyestripe, which also seems a bit odd for nominate Chiffchaff.  Unfortunately, it then disappeared - I'm hoping it sticks so that I can satisfy my curiosity.

Aa adult Herring Gull with a white darvic and black code A4HH appeared.  This bird has been seen before at LMGP, but not since spring 2010.  It was handled by the RSPCA as an orphan from Worthing ,West Sussex and was in the centre there for 32 days, released on 15/08/2006. It has been seen at Springfield Farm landfill on 19/07/2008 and 04/02/2011 and at LMGP on 03/10/2010.  I await further details of any subsequent sightings.

Last but not least - I met 2 older gentlemen who I don't know, but who appear to watch LMGP occasionally, often mid-week.  In chatting, they mentioned to me that about this time last year they had seen 3 'yellow-billed' swans on the lake that they had identified as 2 adult and a juvenile Whooper Swan.  Being only casual birdwatchers, they had never reported their sighting.  Amazing! wild swans are rare at LMGP and you think a site is well-watched, but obviously things get through, seen or otherwise!

Friday, 9 November 2012

More Gulls

9th November - I spent a bit of time looking through the gulls today.  Pick of the bunch was a nice 1st winter Caspian Gull - it looked pretty big and was probably a male.  Unfortunately, it spent all of its time at the back of the spit, so my photos are very much record only.  I left it at 3pm whilst it was battling with some carrion near the island.

I picked out 3 colour-ringed birds:

BHG - white 507 - the regular Danish rung bird
BHG - black R34A - the 4th sighting of a French rung bird
LBBG - red KB3T - another regular LMGP bird returning after last being seen in March

After I left, Jackie N and Malcolm P found a nice adult winter Med Gull.