Friday, 29 June 2012

June Med

29th June - an early afternoon visit on a windy day with some early showers giving way to sunshine.  A Common Sand was new in on the near side of the spit and after a quick scan a second bird flew around to the back of the spit.  The 2 Oystercatchers were once again present along with at least 5 adult LRPs and 3 of the regular 2nd summer YL Gulls were in with the LWHG flock.  4 Shelduck on the back of the spit were the first I'd seen at this site for a while.

I spent a bit of time scrutinising the Common Terns resting on the near spit.  Yesterday evening, Jim R had seen 2 birds wearing faded colour rings that were possibly birds ringed at this site as juveniles.  I have been looking at the terns here frequently and hadn't noticed any before, other than a bird with a single BTO ring, so wondered if I had just missed them or whether they were newly arrived from a failed breeding attempt elsewhere.  Anyway, this time of day was not great for terns sitting on the mud, they usually build up later in the day, but as luck would have it, out of 3 birds, 1 was one of yesterday's colour-ringed birds.  It bore a BTO ring on its left leg and a smaller colour ring on its right.  The top colour was definitely blue, but fading and the bottom colour just looked like a faded white.  This would possibly make it a bird ringed at this site in 2009.

Whilst looking at the tern, I noticed that a nearby Black-headed Gull also had a colour ring - a black one on its left leg with white A2NO, with a metal ring above the knee on the right.  This looks to be from a scheme in Germany and I await further details.  A poor record shot through some drizzle just about shows the code (if you use your imagination!)

A little later, a 1st summer Med Gull arrived in with the increasing flock of post breeding BH Gulls.  It had a wash and brush up and then attempted a quick nap, but was startled by something, though still there when I left.  I always think that this age looks a little scruffy, probably due to the patchy, spotty hood, which was quite extensive on this bird.

A male Blue-tailed Damselfly settled on the foliage next to where I was standing, but every time I tried to take a photo it flew to a different spot - I gave up in the end.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Returning Shovelers

28th June - a quick look before school pick up found a couple of Oystercatchers on the spit again - these birds are presumably visiting some of the other local pits when not being seen here.  The gull flock held 2 Yellow legs - an adult and yesterday's new 2nd summer.  Post breeding adult Black-headed Gulls are beginning to build, with maybe 40 birds now lingering on the spit.  However, birds of the day were probably the 3 Shoveler that were new in - a male and 2 females.  These birds were dabbling at the base of the east side of the spit.

It was vey hot and around the lake edge were large numbers of Common Blue Damselflies.  I grabbed a record shot of a male Black-tailed Skimmer that kept returning to the same lakeside twig.

1 of today's birds have a scratch!

More of the Same

27th June - 7 adult LRPs at midday, 6 together in the southern bay and a further single.  I assume that these are failed breeders from other sites.  No sign of any other waders on site though, but I expect the first returning adult Blackwits will be seen soon.

The gull flock held 5 Yellow-legged Gulls - all of yesterday's birds present again (adult and 3 2nd summers) plus a further new 2nd summer.  This bird was similar to yesterday's new bird, being a large male in similar plumage, but had noticeably broad white tips to its tertials.  They were actually grouped quite closely on the edge of the main flock, apart from the 2nd summer with the bleached coverts, which was sitting in its usual spot in front of the island away from the other gulls.  When I returned for a quick look in the late afternoon, most of the gulls had departed the site, but there were 2 2nd summers present, one of which was a dark eyed bird and so different to the earlier birds making a total count of 6 birds on site today and 8 or 9 so far this June - 1 adult, 6 or 7 2nd summers and 1 1st summer.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

More Gulls....

26th June - a warm and sunny morning for once!  On arrival, 2 Oystercatchers were immediately obvious on the end of the near spit, but shortly later, a third bird flew in.  The male took a dislike to this new arrival and chased it off.  LRPs have built in recent days, with 7 adults reported over the weekend - presumably failed breeders.  Today there were still lots around the edge, but I was never sure that I had seen more than 5 - I wouldn't be surprised if there were more though.  An adult Little Egret complete with head plume was fishing on the back of the spit and 2 Hobbies flew through.

With little else to look at, once again my attention was drawn to the gull flock.  I eventually picked out 4 Yellow-legs - 3 of these were birds I had seen previously - an adult, a 2nd summer with bleached coverts and a single replaced grey central greater covert (this bird usually sits on its own in front of the island) and a 2nd summer with streaking around the eye.  The fourth bird was a new 2nd summer - a large male with a long bill, a black sub terminal band mainly on the upper mandible and long legs which were just beginning to acquire some yellow and still looked pale pink in some angles.  It looked taller and bigger than most of the birds around it.  I took a record shot at distance as it was in the usual gull spot on the back of the spit.

Doesn't look quite so big in the water
There were also 3 colour-ringed birds, none of which I could read: the usual white-ringed 2cy LBB Gull; a white-ringed adult Herring Gull and an orange/red-ringed 2cy Herring Gull.

Fortunately, when Dave P visited in the afternoon, the gulls were flushed from their usual spot and landed on the near spit.  This enabled him to get some better shots of the YL Gulls described above and also read 2 of the darvic rings.  His shots are featured below:

The adult bird

2nd summer with streaky eye, plus A7WD LBB Gull
The 2cy LBB Gull had a white ring with black A7WD and the adult Herring Gull had a white ring with black A6VH.  Both these birds are from a scheme in East Sussex that releases injured birds from the RSPCA and I await details - Thanks Dave!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Gulls Starting to Build

22nd June - an early afternoon visit on a windy day.  An Oystercatcher was present again feeding around the spit edge before flying to roost in the centre.  LRPs are still evident - at least 3 around the edges and possibly more.

The loafing gulls are obviously building in number - I counted 220 birds, but more were flying in and there was some toing and froing, so an estimate of at least 250 birds.  Many of these are immature Herring Gulls, with the odd adult, LBB Gulls are represented by many more adults, presumably local breeders and immatures.  When I arrived, most of the gulls were standing in 2 groups on the southern side of the spit, so were relatively easy to scan.  I suppose that something had just spooked them.  They soon flew back to their normal position on the eastern side and promptly sat down to roost when they are more difficult to scrutinise amongst the vegetation.  On the initial scan I picked out 3 2s Yellow-legged Gulls - 1 of these kept apart from the rest of the gulls and chose a position in front of the island.  This is where the bird was that I took a snap of the other day and I think it's the same one, as it has very faded greater coverts but has replaced one of the central feathers - this can be seen in that photo and those below:

Looks like a bit of a brutish male in this shot
I walked round to the south east corner to get a better look at the back of the spit and picked out an adult Yellow-legged Gull - the first returning adult of the summer.  It flew from the water's edge to the gull throng and sat down to roost for some time, but at 14:45 it stood up and suddenly took off on its own for no apparent reason and I watched it circle up westwards in the wind before flying off south over the Thames and on over Cockmarsh, Berks.

There were lots of Swifts flying over the lake.  At least 50 on view at any one time, so undoubtedly more.  A Hobby also arrived with them and started feeding.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Some Mid-week Snippets

Two very brief mid afternoon visits so far this week.  On Tuesday 19th, a Common Sandpiper was creeping around the near edge of the spit, probably an early Autumn returning adult.  2 Oystercatchers were wandering around the back of the spit, neither of which had a limp like Saturday's bird, so either the limp had cleared up or different birds are involved.  At least 3 LRP were present, though possibly more, as they were moving around quite a bit and a 2s Yellow-legged Gull - this was the bird with the obvious dark streaking around the eye.

Yesterday, the waders had cleared out and it was back to the usual LRPs.  Another 2s Yellow-legged Gull was present - this bird had a clean white head and a yellow eye.  There have now been at least 5 and possibly 6 YLG here since June 6th, 4 or 5 2s and 1 1s bird.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Oycs drop in

16th June - a windy day, dry in the morning with some showers in the afternoon.  2 Oystercatchers were reported early afternoon - I had missed the only Oyc of the year so far a couple of months ago, so was keen to see these - not unusual here, but not common.  I wondered whether these 2 might have been failed breeders, as a few local pairs seem to have been washed out with all the wet weather so far this year.  Anyway, as it was, I could only make a brief visit late afternoon when the weather was decidedly showery and a bit gloomy.  1 Oystercatcher was immediately obvious on the spit, so I took a record shot, but the other bird was nowhere to be seen, so I assumed that it had flown off.  The remaining bird was lame in its right leg and was often standing on the left or sitting down.  A report of 2 birds again at 7pm, so where the second bird was whilst I was there I'm not sure - maybe an adjacent pit.  Anyway, a welcome addition to the year list.

The adult LBB Gull with black G:K was again present, but no sign of any YL Gulls at this time.  A Hobby also flew through.

Friday, 15 June 2012


15th June - On June 6th, I saw an adult LBBG with a black darvic and yellow G:K on its right leg.  It turns out that this is a regular bird at Little Marlow.  Having received details back from Peter Rock in Bristol, it transpires that this bird was ringed as a juvenile female in Bath on 29th June 2006.  It has been seen annually on many dates up to 2010 at Costa da Caparica, Portugal and at LMGP on:
  • 22nd August 2009
  • 24th August 2010
  • 31st July 2011
Being seen in early June this year, it is very likely a local breeder - maybe Cressex?  I also saw it again today.

And Some More....

15th June - nice to get some warm sunshine this afternoon after the heavy showers in the morning and a strengthening wind.

I enjoy searching through the gulls and trying to sort them out and this afternoon there were 3 Yellow-legged Gulls in amongst a growing flock of LWHG, all 2nd summer birds.  The bird with obvious dark streaking around the eye was present again - seen on Sunday and Tuesday - and also 2 new birds, both with yellow eyes.  One of these, pictured below, was quite large and presumably a male.  It spent some time attacking a carcass on the spit, which looked to be a Cormorant (I was told that a Heron carcass was in this area, but this looked to have Cormorant coloured feathers and some white on the face)

Are they looking at something?

I have now seen 5 different YL Gulls in the past 10 days, a 1st summer and 4 2nd summer birds, but with only short sporadic visits I wouldn't be surprised if more were about - 1 of the birds today flew in and flew off again after 10 minutes.

I only saw 3 Shelduck today, but a pair could have been hiding somewhere and the Ruddy Shelduck x Shelduck hybrid remains.

The Common Terns seem to be faring OK on the rafts - on Tuesday I saw 4 chicks and at least 7 sitting adults.  A Kingfisher following another bird around the pit today was also presumably a juvenile.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

More Yellow Legs

10th June - an early evening visit in poor light and a little drizzle.  The summer doldrums are beginning, with 2 LRPs being the only waders of note.  5 Shelduck remain and the hybrid Ruddy Shelduck x Shelduck has reappeared.  2 Little Egrets were present - 1 on the back of the spit and the other perched low in a willow on the island.

I wandered round to the southern bank to view the few LWHG that were on the back of the spit and mainly obscured by vegetation.  1 of these was a 2s (3cy) Yellow-legged Gull and following a quick scan, another 2s (3cy) bird was found.  1 of the birds had a dark iris, whilst the other had a lighter iris and a small amount of dark streaking around the eye.  They remained separate for much of the time, but when they did meet up, they adopted a head down parallel walk for a little while.  A few poor record shots below - the auto focus was struggling to work in the poor light!

Bird 1

Bird 1

Both together
These 2 birds were part of a flock of just 37 LWHG, though this had risen to 50 when I left - I'm not sure whether they are the herald of the usual summer build up, as they are slightly early for this and there was also a 2cy bird here a few days ago.  There do seem to be more Yellow-legged Gulls reported now in what was classicly a period when they were absent, so maybe its a sign of a more general spread of the species.

The 2cy LBB Gull with the white darvic and black lettering was present again, but I still could not read it - maybe third time lucky!

The Bar-headed Goose that is present on and off with Greylags appeared - it seems to spend its time between here and Dorney and probably places inbetween.  Also the large brood of 14 Mallards, still following mother even though they are now the same size.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Loafing Gulls

6th June - between the showers it was quite pleasant this afternoon.  Yesterday, I had popped down in the late afternoon, which was my first visit for some days and seen a summer plumaged Dunlin, a Redshank wading near the island, 2 LRPs and a pair of unseasonal Shoveler.  Also of interest was a brood of 14 almost full grown Mallard accompanying their mother - a very high count and presumably zero mortality rate, which is quite remarkable.  I haven't seen these before around the lake, so they may have flown in from elsewhere.

Today, apart from the usual pair of LRP, the other waders had departed and with no new arrivals, the main interest was the loafing LWHG on the spit - these come and go from various feeding locations, but around 100 or so birds may be present at any one time.  Not too surprisingly, amongst the flock this afternoon was a 2cy Yellow-legged Gull.  It had very bleached coverts, but stood out from the crowd - I particularly liked its long fleshy pink legs.

There were also 2 colour-ringed birds - an adult LBB Gull with a black darvic and yellow 'GK' on its right leg and a 2cy LBB Gull with a white darvic and black letters - unfortunately this bird spent too long knee deep in water for me to be able to read the letters properly - maybe another day.

The 14 strong Mallard brood was again present along the western bank and 5 Shelduck were around the spit