Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Winter Dunlin

31st January - a cold snap has begun, with overnight temperatures at least -5 C and it was only just above freezing this morning.  Unfortunately, it is also overcast, grey and gloomy, so viewing conditions are poor and photo conditions appalling (as you will see later!)

Pick of the birds this morning was a winter plumaged Dunlin foraging on the back of the spit.  It was too far off for a record shot, but came much closer this afternoon, but with worsening light, so the best of an awful bunch of record shots are here:

In focus, but bad angle

Better angle - blurred!
A lot of the Teal seemed to be on show this morning, so I attempted a count and reached 189 birds, but I'm sure there are more.  Also 4 Shelduck today.

As I walked back to the car, I found a Coal Tit in the conifers near the cottages, which looked like it had a bird feeder seed in its beak - the first cottage has a handy set of bird feeders in the garden.  Quite a scarce bird around the pits, so nice to see.  I decided to walk the northern footpath today and came across a noisy flock of Siskins feeding in the alders - about 30 birds.  I stopped on the wooden footbridge over the cut and after a few minutes caught a glimpse of a movement in the water.  Through a thick tangle of branches I watched a lovely Water Rail wandering around probing for food - it's always nice to get a prolonged view of these secretive birds.

I paid a quick second visit to the pit this afternoon.  The Dunlin was still present though much closer.  At 2:55pm an adult Mediterranean Gull flew past my position on the west viewpoint and I watched it glide in and land just off the end of the spit.  This enabled me to get another rubbish record shot - it was quite mobile in the water for about 5 minutes and then flew much further out to the east and landed in the middle of the lake.  I presume that this is the same adult bird that has been reported fairly regularly, though it appears to be more advanced in getting its black hood than the bird I saw on the 18th January, but that was 2 weeks ago!

Roll on sunnier days when I can focus!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

No White-wingers

29th January - visited the roost between 4:30pm and dark - no sign of any white-wingers tonight.  A 1w Glaucous Gull and 2w Iceland Gull were at Hedgerley landfill this afternoon, so there is a chance that one or both of these birds may drop in in the future.  A nice 1w Yellow-legged Gull was picked out before the light got too bad.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Iceland Comes Home to Roost

28th January - For one reason or another, I have not managed to be on site for the gull roost all month, so today when I was free at 4pm, I headed down to the pit.  I was hoping that the 2w Iceland Gull that is frequenting nearby Hedgerley landfill might come in to roost, so was very pleased when at 4:30pm a 2w Iceland Gull did indeed arrive and is presumably this bird - gulls from Hedgerley tend to roost either at the much larger Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire or here.  It actually landed in my scope view so that I could see its out-stretched white primaries.  On arrival, it stayed at the back of the spit but in the water, moving up and down the bank for about 20 minutes before walking up the bank and losing itself behind the throng of other roosting gulls.  I suspect that it probably roosts here quite regularly.

An adult Mediterranean Gull was seen earlier and also yesterday, though I could not find it and is possibly the same bird that I saw last week.

An interesting sighting from yesterday - as I was returning to my car a Kestrel dropped from its perch into an ivy clad shrub about 8 feet up.  It emerged carrying a long-tailed chestnut-coloured rodent that was presumably a Wood Mouse and carried it off to a nearby branch.  I also saw a Sparrowhawk indulging in some display flight in the sunny weather.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Gold and Red on the Spit

25th January - as I arrived in the car park Ring-necked Parakeets could be heard making a racket in the adjacent trees and I counted 5 birds flying off.

A small flock of 35 Golden Plover was on the spit amongst the Lapwing, with one bird beginning to acquire its black breast and belly.  They were later joined by a further 14 birds and 3 more flew straight through.

The wintering Chiffchaff was once again present and now just a single Shelduck.  A fox also made an appearance, presumably one of the pair from the other day - it looks to be the vixen.  She ambled about pushing the gulls into the water, but neither she nor they looked too bothered.


Nothing much else of note, although a pair of Bullfinches and Great-spotted Woodpecker were new for the year.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Goosander Brightens up a Dull Day

24th January - a wet, dull and misty day.  Having spent the morning visiting Linford NR in North Bucks hoping to see the long staying Great White Egret and failing, though with the consolation of a Willow Tit visiting feeders with 2 Marsh Tits, I had only 10 minutes to make a quick stop at the pit.

I arrived at 14:45 hoping optimistically to find one of the scarce gulls reported yesterday at nearby Hedgerley landfill - this did not materialise, but as I scanned the spit, a lovely female Goosander swam through my scope view.  I watched as she swam in the large bay of the southern spit and then stood out of the water for a quick preen before returning to the water.  Unfortunately I did not have time to enjoy this patch tick for long and had to depart for the school pick-up.  A quick text ensured that the Goosander was also seen by someone else who watched it depart the pit at about 15:35 - a fortuitous find!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Colour-Ringed Gull

20th January - usual stuff this afternoon.  At one point a 1cy Herring Gull appeared at the back of the spit bearing a white darvic ring on its right leg.  Unfortunately, before I could read it, it walked out of view and shortly afterwards flew off!

Towards the end of the visit, some gun shots nearby flushed everything.  This gave me the opportunity to count the Wigeon flock as they formed a group in the middle of the lake - my highest count of the season to date at 126 birds.  3 Shelduck remained - the pair plus a male.  The wintering Chiffchaff was also quite vocal for a while next to where I was standing.  I managed a record shot, which unfortunately due to the mass of twigs around it, auto-focussed on the twigs and not the bird, but at least you can tell it is a nominate bird and not abietinus or tristis.

Spot the bird!

Can you see it now?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

First White Winger of the Year

18th January - following yesterday's sun and brightness, today was dull and gloomy with some mist patches over the water.  However, on arrival, I found an adult Mediterranean Gull near the tip of the nearest spit having a wash - about as close as you can get at this site.  I hurried over to the small viewpoint to try and take some record shots only to find that it had moved and was now standing on the spit.  I placed the camera to the telescope just as they all spooked and the Med typically departed, so no shots this time.

In fact, spooking the birds was the order of the day, as firstly 2 amorous foxes decided to run all over the spit and secondly a Royal Navy helicopter flew over once, departed, then returned and circled right over my position - not sure if they were looking at me!  This put up all the birds again, so I left, but saw a Green Sand on the spit edge as I was leaving.

Forgot to mention that whilst there, 2 Mute Swans came over hoping for a handout, so with not much else to look at, I recorded their ring codes - I'd be very surprised if they're not local Thames birds though.

Wintering Chiffy

17th January - nothing much of note today, but it was a lovely cold, frosty morning with some ice patches around the edge of the spit.  The cold weather had forced 5 Common Snipe into the open that could be seen attempting to probe the ground on the spit.  Shelduck numbers have been fluctuating of late, with as many as 6 seen over the weekend.  Today they were back down to 3, with a pair and another male on site.

The pair

Male of the pair
As I was watching the Shelduck, I could hear a Chiffchaff calling very close to me and sure enough one was foraging low down in the adjacent trees and scrub.  A single bird has been reported sporadically from here, so I am assuming that this is a lone wintering bird.

A Water rail was also heard squealing from somewhere near the base of the spit.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Green Sands Make an Appearance

13th January - another afternoon visit.  The gull flock comprised almost totally Black-headed and Common Gulls with only a handful of LWHG.  The 2 Green Sandpipers that are wintering nearby, presumably near the STW, made a brief appearance.  They flew in calling at about 2:30pm - I managed a poor record shot of 1 bird before they departed back towards the STW.

1 of 2 birds
There are now 4 Shelducks present, the initial pair plus a male and a female that don't seem to be associating with each other.  I counted 23 Shoveler and 13 Gadwall - I'll attempt Teal next, but these are difficult to count accurately.  A Little Egret appeared from nowhere at the base of the spit - my first here this year and just 3 Golden Plover were on the spit with Lapwings.

Argentatus Predominate

11th January - another quick afternoon visit.  The only point of note today was the predominance of large argentatus gulls with only a few argenteus birds amongst the Herring Gulls.  Some of the adults are already beginning to lose some of their winter head streaking, whilst there were a couple of juveniles still in fairly dark juvenile plumage with only a few replaced scaps - another poor record shot of one of these (bad light and too distant at this time of year for my meagre digiscoping skills!)

How Many Lapwings?

10th January - there was a small flock of 15 Siskins flying around the car park as I arrived.  The pit was pretty much as usual, but with fewer LWHG.  I counted 21 GBB Gulls today, 17 adults, a 2nd winter and 3 1st winters.  A small flock of 11 Golden Plover was with the large Lapwing flock on the spit.  These Lapwings are forever flushing, usually for little reason, and put up a lot of other birds at the same time.  I rarely attempt to count them, but on one occasion today, after flushing, they formed 2 distinct fairly tight flocks, so I took 2 photos and counted them back on my PC - I reached 1,552 birds, which is quite a number.
Flock 1 - 688 birds

Flock 2 - 864 birds
On the wildfowl front, the Shelducks had increased to 3 birds with the addition of another male and I counted 67 Pochard.

Great Black-backs Increasing

6th January - the main interest was still the pre-roosting gulls on the spit, although a pair of Shelduck were recent arrivals.  There was a noticeable increase in the number of Great Black-backed Gulls, with 32 birds seen, 26 adults, a 2nd winter and 5 1st winters.  I also started to count the wildfowl, but only selectively when they were more obvious - 91 Wigeon and 7 Gadwall.  The large flocks of Golden Plover from a month ago have dwindled to occasional small flocks; today there was a typically flighty flock of 24 birds.

Also seen were 50 Fieldfares flying from the north to roost in the railway hedge - 2 flocks of 32 and 18 birds and 3 Mistle Thrushes flying over.

Patch Tick - Caspian Gull

4th January - my first visit to the pit this year on a very gloomy afternoon with intermittent drizzle.  As usual there were 100s of Black-headed Gulls on the spit when I arrived and an increasing number of Common Gulls, estimated at 300 birds.  Very few LWHG, with 7 GBB Gulls, 5 adults a 2nd winter and 1st winter, about 20 LBBs and a handful of Herrings.  At 2:30pm, another scan of the gulls on the back of the spit found a rather smart, but diminutive looking 1st winter Caspian Gull - a long expected patch tick!  I took a few record shots, but at distance in the gloom they were very poor.

1st winter Caspian Gull 4th January
It was quite a diminutive bird, probably a female, you can see its size next to a juvenile argentatus Herring Gull in the top photo.  It showed a very white head, breast and belly, with a nice streaky shawl on the nape just reaching the sides of the breast.  It was always standing below the level of a ridge, so I couldn't see its legs and then swam right behind the flock of BH and Common Gulls, so that I could only see its head sporadically.  I then had to leave for the school pick-up.  Just as I was leaving, an adult Yellow-legged Gull arrived.