Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Golden Tick

18th December - no updates in 3 weeks due to a rather slow period.  Most visits have had a real deja vu feeling about them!

I had been hoping to get Golden Plover - a bit of a gap in the year list - having failed to see any in the first winter period.  Several flyover flocks had been recorded in the previous few weeks, but not when I was there.  However, today I was in luck, a small flock of 21 birds flew in from the north and wheeled around for a while before departing.  A splinter group or another flock of 8 then flew over and off east and finally a single bird was seen roosting with the hundreds of Lapwing.

A quick catch-up on birds from the past few weeks:

A nice 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared in the small gull roost on 29th November.  However, since then the number of LWHG on site seems to have plummeted.

The long staying Dunlin and Oystercatcher were last seen by me on December 6th.

A male Shelduck turned up on December 13th and has remained ever since, though 4 were seen on the 15th.

I last saw the semi-regular Peregrine on December 3rd and there are now 2 pairs of regular Dabchick on site, which is nice.

The mild weather is not conducive to moving birds about, so Goldie might well be the last year tick of 2013.  I keep hoping for Goosander, which I missed in November, or maybe a Smew, but I won't hold my breath.  Still 129 is 4 more than last year, so not bad at all.

Monday, 25 November 2013

A couple of yellow-legs

25th November - a brief lunchtime visit, cool and overcast.  One of the first birds I noticed was an interesting looking 1st winter LWHG standing up to its belly just off the near spit.  It was a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull - we don't get a lot of these at this time of year and this is the first of this age since the summer.  I went to the viewpoint to try and grab a record, but I struggled with sharpness in the low light:

Also on the spit was a Dunlin that has been seen on and off over the past week and the continuing Oystercatcher

I could see that the majority of the LWHG and those beginning to fly in, were on the far side of the far spit.  This is partially obscured with vegetation, so I walked around to SE corner so that I could view them.  Funnily enough, amongst these was another 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull, which at first I thought was the original bird having flown over, but when I walked back, that was still in its original position, so two 1st winter YLG - nice!  These birds are too far away to get any worthwhile shots.  There were also 5 GBBG, 4 adults and a 2nd winter, so a few more coming in.

I didn't have the time or inclination to count the ducks, but it was obvious that Pochard have increased significantly since my last visit, with birds in their favoured area on the west side and also with the Tufties on the NE side.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Raven on the deck

22nd November - a nice sunny morning with little wind, but a little cold.  The lake and spit didn't hold anything new, so I wandered down to the riverside meadows.  The cattle were standing around on the footpath looking like they were trying to warm up, so not wanting to disturb them, I scanned westwards to see if there were any geese, as there usually are, and maybe something interesting in with them.  No geese at all, but quite a few corvids.  A Buzzard flew over them low north and was immediately mobbed and amongst these was a Raven, which briefly took to the air and then landed again just out of view beyond the fence line.  Being a year tick and a relatively scarce bird here, I decided a closer approach was called for, so marched across the field to the area fenced off by the STW - a spill earlier in the year, which I'm not sure has been fixed yet, but has been fenced off for months.  As I arrived at the fencing, the Raven took to the air and flew westwards directly over me - it didn't call, but continued southwards over the Thames and into Berks at Cock Marsh where it flew ever eastwards and out of view - a nice year tick and unusual to actually see on the ground rather than just passing over.

Returning to the lake, a sudden exodus of birds from the spit hailed the arrival of a Peregrine that flew low over the birds, though without much purpose and then flew off northwards - only my second sighting this year.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Brent Bonus

15th November - it was a gloriously sunny morning, but quite cold.  I decided to leave my patch visit to mid morning.  On arrival, one of the first birds I saw on the near spit was an unseasonal Oystercatcher - I thought I'd be able to get a reasonable record shot in good light, but almost immediately, the flock of 500-600 Lapwing got spooked and took the Oyc with them.  I watched it fly low south over the railway and assumed it might have landed on the small flood in the meadow.  I waited to see if it might return, but it seemed to have gone, so I made my way to the meadow - no sign.  Back at the pit, it was back on the spit!  The Lapwing were spooked with annoying regularity during the morning, sometimes taking the Oyc with them and sometimes leaving it stranded.  I went back to the viewpoint and managed some reasonable records.  Judging by its greyish legs, half-formed throat collar and brownish mantle, it looks to be a 1st winter bird.

I counted 11 Snipe sunning themselves then started to pack up.  Whilst doing so, a familiar birder approached, though I think I've only seen him once before.  I told him about the Oyc and he responded with, "I've just seen a Brent Goose".  Some frantic questions revealed that he had seen a lone Brent Goose feeding in a newly sown crop field just to the north of the patch, but only by some hundreds of yards.  He had seen it 45 minutes earlier, but had lost it after it had flown south and was checking to see if it had flown in here - it hadn't, but I was now on the hunt - surely I hadn't missed a flyover Brent!  I first checked the fields immediately north of the pit to no avail, so I decided to revisit the site of the original sighting.

Parking by the farm shop and walking north about 100yds, I had a good view over several fields to the NE and almost immediately espied a lone Brent Goose feeding 2 fields over - it was very distant.  After a few minutes, a Red Kite landing too close for comfort flushed the goose and it flew off south gaining height - to the pit I thought, but as it neared the road and the edge of the patch, it doubled back and finally landed slightly closer just 1 field away.  It was still distant, but I was now struck by how pale the flanks looked and by the obvious demarcation between the dark neck and the paler breast - could this be a Pale-bellied? I was struggling to remember the possible variability in Dark-bellied, so didn't want to make a false call.  I took some record shots, which are below, though heavily cropped, but before I was able to get home and look at them, a phone call and then a text book that Graham S fortunately had in his car, said that a key feature in Pale-bellied is the lack of a dark belly between its legs.  Though distant, this bird seemed to show a white belly here - surely it was a Pale-bellied.  I was never confident in ageing it either at the distance it was, but the cropped photos appear to show an adult.

I was soon due to pick the kids up from school, but first I stepped back into the northern edge of the patch and was pleased to be able to see the goose through a thinning hedge.  Eventually, after picking the kids up and various ferrying trips, I was able to review the record shots, plus google images, Collins et al and feel fairly confident that this is indeed a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, only the second seen in Bucks - thanks to John H for the tip off!  Apparently Mike C couldn't find the bird around 2:30pm after some local shooting had started up, but I hope it gets relocated and is a bit closer!



Tuesday, 12 November 2013

First Med in a while

12th November - it made a change to have some nice weather and I spent a while checking out the ducks and gulls.  The only bird of note was a 1st winter Med Gull, my first here since early September, though it only stayed for about 15 minutes for a quick preen and then was off west over the STW.  A few record shots:

I decided to do a few species counts, as it seemed that there had been a general increase in many of them - not all species were counted, but some selective ones were:

Common Gull - 76 - numbers of these will continue to rise as we go through the winter
GBB Gull - 1 - a regular adult, again there will be many more of these in the winter roosts
Wigeon - c80 - I reached 80, but there were some hidden at the back of the spit.  These will probably peak at around 150
Shoveler - 36
Gadwall - 18
Pochard - 27
Egyptian Goose - 25
Snipe - 7
Lapwing - c500 - these can rise to well over 1,000

Teal numbers were probably close to 100, but they were all over the place, so I didn't attempt a count.  GC Grebes were in excess of 20 and the Tufted Duck flock was well into 3 figures.  Amongst these it was nice to see the blue nasal-saddled female, code BFK, again.  She has returned here each autumn and spring and occasional dates in the winter since 2011 having been rung at St Philbert de Grand Lieu just south of Nantes in December 2010.

About 20 Siskins went over in a couple of flocks, single figures of Skylark and Mipit, c70 Redwings in a couple of flocks and getting on for 100 Woodpigeons.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Gulls - don't you just love 'em.........

5th November - I had seen a gull that I had assumed was a dark eyed adult Yellow-legged Gull coming into roost about a week earlier.  It seemed odd, though the light was too poor to get any proper detail.  This afternoon, the same bird appeared, so I was able to get some more detail and take some record shots.

It definitely has a dark iris - even in bright sunlight it looks dark brown.  The mantle is dark grey and looks too dark to be anything other than YLG.  It has dark primary coverts, so is not adult, but the tail is pure white and the tertials show no sign of immaturity, so either an advanced 3rd winter or possibly 4th winter bird.  The bare parts are quite washed out - the bill being pale yellow, quite long and with an obvious sub terminal bar, again a sign of immaturity; the legs very pale yellow, almost fleshy in some lights.  The primary tips looked extensively black, typical of YLG to my eyes, with just a single largish white mirror on P10.  I didn't manage to get a shot of the open wing, but this is how it seemed to me on a few brief flights.  The top of the crown shows some faint streaking, again not unreasonable for YLG.

All in all, it adds up to being a 3w/4w dark eyed Yellow-legged Gull, but it still seems slightly odd - the small dark eye in particular being quite strange for a YLG of this age (though not unheard of).  The diluted pale bare parts seem a bit odd on a YLG of this age, but immaturity could account for this.

In some shots, it gives some structural resemblance to Caspian - small head, small dark eye, fairly long and parallel sided bill, but I don't think it is this species.  My gut feeling is a YLG, but it still seems a bit odd and I wouldn't be surprised if it had some other genes present, though equally it could just be an odd pure YLG.

What do you think?

Monday, 4 November 2013


4th November - my first November visit was a quick lunchtime check on a lovely bright and sunny afternoon.  Almost the first bird I looked at was a large gull with a monstrous bill preening in front of the island - I was pretty sure it was a Caspian Gull and when it turned side on, I could see that it was indeed a 2nd winter Caspian Gull.  This is the first 2w Casp I have seen here and I wondered whether it might be a returning bird from one of the many 1w we had here last winter.  The fairly distinctive bill certainly looks similar to a 1w bird seen here in November last year - it has a fairly distinct convex slope on the tip of the upper mandible and an identical pale tip.

It was always a little distant, but I took some records in different poses to try and capture most of the features.

Apart from a Chiffchaff with a strident call at the end of the viewpoint, nothing else of note.  I didn't have time to complete a circuit - I would like to take look at the athya flock, usually on the NE side, as a female nasal banded TD has turned up again and is likely to be the regular bird, BFK, noted here every year since October 2011.

Pegged back

Well the rest of October has been very quiet - hence the lack of updates.  I did manage to get one more year tick with a Peregrine flying over carrying prey, possibly a Starling, on the 28th.  It looked very odd initially because of this, but flew off purposefully SE, presumably to somewhere it could take its meal.

I've seen 2 Dabchick several times, which I don't think are ever that common here, so nice to see.  Also a Little Egret on the 22nd.  3 House Martins over NW on the 14th were my last of the year, but no further sightings of Swallow here.  Otherwise, it's been the usual wildfowl, with numbers gradually creeping up and a handful of Snipe.

One oddity on the 28th was a colour-ringed Jackdaw.  The roost is now many hundreds, but I don't generally look too hard at them.  This bird jumped through my scope whilst I was watching the gulls - it had green above yellow on the right leg and blue above a metal ring on the left.  It looks to be a British bird, but I await further details.  I have noted a few CR gulls, but they have all been repeat sightings.

Due to the lack of patch activity, I've successfully twitched a few other birds over the past few weeks:
  • A Radde's Warbler at Andover, Hampshire on the 13th.  A bogey bird that I've dipped several times over the years.
  • A Semipalmated Plover at Hayling Island, Hampshire - a superb find by Andy Johnson, an old birding friend from my original patch at Dinton Pastures, Berkshire.  Together with him and Fraser Cottington, we hold (or share) the Berkshire bird race record at 121 species.
  • A Ring-necked Duck at Wilstone Reservoir, Herts on the 29th.  I hadn't seen one for a few years and it was too close to ignore.
  • A fantastic Hermit Thrush at Porthgwarra, Cornwall on the 30th - I don't do too many long distance twitches nowadays, but occasionally get the urge......with a White-rumped Sand thrown in for good measure.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Seeing Red

11th October - a strong NE/E wind was blowing so I spent a couple of hours watching for new arrivals and flyovers hoping for an interesting seabird - Gannets, Skuas, Kittiwakes and Little Gulls were being reported from many inland sites.  As is usually the case, none of these ever arrived, but there was a strong passage of Redwings - I counted 465birds, mainly in flocks of 20-50 birds, all heading W to NW.  With these, just a single Fieldfare.  Other passage birds included 4 Skylarks and a single Reed Bunting.  On the lake itself, usual fare, including the regular adult GBB Gull.

At 2pm, I received news via the local website that 2 Red-crested Pochards had flown in, landed briefly and then flown off back towards the river - typical, I thought, after spending all that time in the morning with no rewarding year ticks.  Fortunately, Alan S was on the case and relocated the birds in the NE corner a short while later, so they must have flown back in again.  So I was able to pop back down and get my year tick, a get-back, having missed a male back in February.  The birds were an adult and 1st winter male, the 1st winter retaining its juvenile dark bill and just beginning to attain its golden hood.  It was late afternoon and rather dark by this time, so I struggled to get a record with any sort of focus, but here's one 'just for the record':

These birds put me on 125 for the year, which equals my first attempt total for last year.  I still have the odd 'easy' bird to get, including Golden Plover, which should start flying over soon, but have probably missed any chance of getting a Greenshank.  These are normally very regular here, so an unexpected miss, pretty much all the records this year have been flyovers, with none lingering at all.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Late Reed Warbler

7th October - a lunchtime visit today after the early fog had lifted.  There was an obvious movement of Meadow Pipits going on during my visit - I estimated around 70 birds went over in under an hour, including a single large flock of about 50 birds that flew north and may have been disturbed from the riverside meadows.

I walked down the western and half the southern banks keeping an ear out and close eye on any tit flocks, in the optimistic hope that a Yellow-browed Warbler might be found.  My reward was just a couple of Chiffchaffs, however, a movement in one of the reed beds on the southern bank caught my attention.  Closer scrutiny revealed a late juvenile Reed Warbler, probably my latest ever.  It kept within a small stretch of reeds and was fairly difficult to see, though eventually gave itself up and my attempts to turn it into something rarer failed!

Whilst watching this reed bed, a male Mandarin flew in and landed on the lake in front of me - quite a scarce duck here.  It remained for a matter of seconds before taking flight and flying around the island towards the NE bay - I didn't see whether it landed here or continued onwards.

Back on the spit, the group of Snipe was probing around in the long stuff, so difficult to see, though double figures of birds are still present.  Wigeon numbers have fallen back slightly from last week, but Shoveler have increased to at least 28 birds today.  Teal are around in small numbers, but widely dispersed so I often don't bother to try and count them.  Pochard are also creeping upward with 13-15 birds diving away in the NW arm.  The main Tuftie flock tend to keep to the NE side and I usually just scope them from the southern bank to look for any oddities - none seen today.

Finally, the very regular adult YL Gull flew in whilst I was on site and I couldn't resist another shot of him.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Wigeon on the up

30th September - A small influx of Wigeon saw 22 birds present this morning, along with 12 Shoveler and 4 Gadwall.  No waders apart from Lapwing and Snipe - I found 9 of the latter creeping about in the longer vegetation, which may well have been hiding some more.

Best of the gulls was an adult YL Gull, which is probably the regular bird seen over the past month or so.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Spare half hour

29th September - I had a spare half hour or so just before lunch so popped into the pit.  Quite a fresh north easterly was blowing, but nothing of note had been pushed in and the juvenile Ringed Plover also seems to have departed.  Best bird was this obliging 1st winter YL Gull on the near spit.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Marsh Tick!

27th September - I've made a few brief visits this week pre and post work.  The juvenile Black Tern hung on for its 14th day until Tuesday 24th but was not seen after this.  It must be some sort of long staying record I would have thought.  The juvenile Ringed Plover which turned up on the 18th is still here - based on the breast band, this bird is different to the 2 which were here briefly on the 17th.  Poor record below

Wildfowl are building gradually, with 18 Shoveler noted yesterday, though just 3 Wigeon.  The odd Pintail may pass through soon, but none have been seen yet.
The past two evenings I have dropped in just before dusk and the gull roost is building, with getting on for 1,000 BHG, 100+ LBBG and 50+ Herring Gulls.  The single adult YL Gull has been seen on both nights and yesterday an adult GBBG was my first of the season.
This morning, apart from the Ringed Plover, not much to write home about.  I wondered around to the southern bank and back and noted a small passage of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, a single Reed Bunting flying over calling was also a probable migrant.  On my way back up the western bank by the base of the viewpoint, I suddenly heard a very vocal Marsh Tit moving around in the trees.  I managed to get it in my bins briefly before it moved off  northwards with a tit flock and was last heard near the cottages.  This is a patch tick, so well pleased and a bird not often seen here, though they can't be too far away - I certainly get them in my garden.
Last Tuesday, as I was leaving, a mother and 2 well grown young Roe Deer appeared on the base of the spit and started grazing, so I took a record of the mother.  Roe Deer are seen on and off throughout the year, including a Buck, but more often than not they are around in the morning and evenings when the light is poor, so it was nice to see them in the midday sunshine.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tern number 4

23 September - I had spent the morning in west Berkshire watching a delightful juvenile Red-backed Shrike - a long overdue county tick.  Making my way back eastwards by early afternoon, I had time to pop into the patch before picking the kids up from school.  It was overcast with a hint of rain in the air and as I walked in along the west bank as usual, a tern flew right next to me up the north-west arm. I was amazed to see that it was a juvenile Arctic, my fourth species of tern here this month.  It was giving lovely close views and favoured the western side, which is the closest for easy viewing - more often than not, these terns are over the larger body of water on the eastern side.  I made my way to the viewpoint hoping that it might land on the spit so that I could get a digiscope image.  Once here, it was apparent that there were actually 2 juvenile Arctic Terns, often in close proximity, though only one bird seemed to venture up the north-west arm.  Both birds had fully black small bills, but one was slightly longer than the other.  Neither made any attempt to land, so I resorted to taking hand held shots as the first bird made sorties past the view point - not great, but you can see most features, including the plain white secondaries, lacking any dark bar that juvenile Common shows.  You can also see the translucent primaries on the far wing of the first photo.

Funnily enough, an adult and 2 juvenile Common Terns had been frequenting the lake on and off over the past fortnight and when an adult Common Tern appeared over the far side as I was leaving, I had a brief moment of doubt, but it didn't last long!

The juvenile Black Tern was still present, often flying with the Arctics and the juvenile Ringed Plover also remained.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

7 Up

17th September - well the juvenile Black Tern is now on its 7th day, so despite initial signs of moving on, it obviously likes it here.

The only other birds of note were seen today in the early afternoon when 2 Ringed Plover flew in during rain.  They both looked like juveniles and after landing on the spit for a few minutes quickly departed.

The regular adult YL Gull is still being seen daily and a Common Sand is still around along with a couple of Snipe.

Today, a walk around the lake found numerous Chiffchaffs - at least 15 and a few Blackcaps, whilst yesterday and in slightly lesser numbers today, hirundines were over the lake in force.  Yesterday saw an estimated 100 Sand Martins, the first large count I have seen this Autumn, similar numbers of House Martins and 200 Swallows.  A couple of Dabchick were also a nice addition - possibly new birds or maybe a new one joining the fairly regular singleton.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Black Tern Stays

14th September - well despite it looking decidedly unsettled on arrival on Wednesday, the juvenile Black Tern is still present for its 4th day this morning.  On Thursday, it was settling occasionally on a piece of wood, so I grabbed this record:

I narrowly missed a passing Ruff on Thursday that was seen late morning but was not there at 12:30pm - a record shot shows what looks like a nice moulting adult male, posted here. The only other waders at the moment are a long staying Common Sand and the odd Snipe.

This morning, the 3 regular Common Terns, an adult and 2 juvs that have been present on and off for a couple of weeks were flying around with the Black Tern.  Also on the spit was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - a different individual to the one seen a few times a week or so ago.

Amongst other features, the many moulted scaps and dark centred pale fringed tertials help to ID this bird.

There were lots of Swallows and House Martins low over the lake too in the mizzly conditions, probably 3-400 birds equally mixed, but very few Sand Martins.  I also took another shot of the regular Black Swan family - the juvenile now pretty well full grown.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

.......deserves another!

11th September - I made another early afternoon visit vaguely hopeful that a skua might fly over, as some had been reported flying over London.  However, on arrival, it was fairly obvious that not much was happening.  After a quick scan of the usual birds, I settled into watching fly over birds.  Shortly after 1pm, I noticed a small, darkish looking tern flying in high from the north over the north-eastern side.  A quick look through the scope confirmed my suspicions that it was a juvenile Black Tern.  It never looked particularly settled and was often flying higher than the surrounding trees doing a bit of mid-air preening and also ranging quite a way outside the pit.  However, it also came down the lake to surface feed on several occasions.  It landed on the end of the spit for about 5 minutes enabling me to grab some record shots:

So, although looking like it was going to leave any minute, it stayed at least 2 hours whilst I was there and was still present at 3:10pm when I left.

A quick pre-work visit in the morning found the semi-regular 3 Common Terns, an adult and 2 juveniles.  They are often not at the lake though, so I wonder if they visit the river or nearby pits.  5 Shoveler was a slight increase on previous days.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

One good tern...........

9th September - I was working from home today and had seen a fairly steady fall of rain all morning, in fact by late morning it was raining pretty heavily.  Wet weather often produces some interesting birds at the pit, so by early afternoon when the rain had lightened and was expected to pass through, I decided to take a late lunch and have a look.

On arrival, there was still a steady drizzle, so I birded with a big brolly over me in one hand and the scope handle in the other.  There wasn't obviously anything new in, a juv Common Tern was patrolling the eastern side, the 2 Wigeon remained, Snipe numbered 3 on the western side of the spit and a Common Sand was probing the spit edge.  The regular adult YL Gull was in and a male Gadwall was possibly new in as well.  A Hobby flew over low and made a couple of assaults on the low flying Swallows and House Martins almost above my head before flying off east.

Shortly before 2pm, the rain subsided and I was able to put the brolly down.  I was scrutinising the hirundines flying low in the NW arm when I heard a familiar harsh 'kirrick' call several times to the south of me.  Knowing this was Sandwich Tern, I binned the end of the spit and saw 2 adult Sandwich Terns descend to the end of the spit - one was very white headed and in almost full winter plumage, the other had more black in the crest.  I hurried over to the viewpoint to try and grab some record shots, but in the few seconds that it took to get there, they had taken off again.  It was now obvious that there were actually 3 Sandwich Terns flying around and plunge diving off the end of the spit, as another very white headed winter plumaged adult was also present.  They were flying very close to me and the yellow tipped bills were quite obvious as was the lack of any apparent juvenile plumage.  I watched them for a few minutes until a Red Kite decided to fly fairly low over the spit putting up the BHG flock - the flock took off to the south taking the terns with them and I watched them fly low over the southern hedge presumably back to the Thames where they had probably come from in the first place.  That was that I thought, but a few minutes later, one of the white headed birds returned and began to fly up and down the southern side of the lake.  It plunge dived and caught a fairly large fish and then flew off to the eastern side where I lost it behind the island, before it returned and landed on the end of the spit.  Here it remained for some time, preening and roosting enabling others to get a view as well.  I took a few record shots of this bird:

I have now seen Sandwich Terns on 5 occasions at the pit and 3 of these have been when wet weather has been around, so obviously a good time to look for them.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ruff Justice

8th September - I cycled to the pit this afternoon with my daughter.  Not long after we had arrived, a large black cloud rolled over and a heavy shower started which lasted a good 10 minutes or more.  Fortunately the trees on the western bank gave pretty good cover, so we only got slightly damp.  During and immediately after the rain stopping, no hoped for migrants had been forced down at all.  We ventured to the pit edge to avoid the drips now falling from the trees and a scan around revealed 2 Wigeon as new arrivals, the continuing Common Sand, Snipe, adult YL Gull and juvenile Common Tern, which was calling frequently.  The adult Dabchick was also in front of the spit and has been seen a couple of times recently, along with 3 Pochard, 3 Shoveler and 20+ Teal.

Whilst watching the now familiar party of 3 Black Swans swimming by, we were joined by Dave C and later Mick M and were lamenting the lack of new birds.  Mick M had to leave and 10 minutes later I was about to leave as well when I saw a wader flying over fairly high to the east having come over the STW.  Due to its size, I suspected a Ruff and looking through my bins confirmed this, the first Ruff I have seen here for 3 years.  It flew around a couple of times and made two passes at the spit, looking as if to land, but each time it accelerated away, like a plane missing its landing spot.  I think the large flock of gulls on the spit were putting it off.  Eventually, it flew off high to the north and I watched it disappear, so unfortunately, no record shots, but it's nice to get another year tick at last - it's only been 5 weeks since the last one!

Monday, 2 September 2013

A new Juvenile Med Gull

September 1st - a late afternoon visit and there were plenty of gulls to look through.  Best bird was a moulting juvenile Med Gull - a different looking bird to the regular one that has now not been seen for a couple of weeks.  Record shots below:

Otherwise, just the regular adult winter YL Gull and a single regular Snipe of note.

First autumn Whinchat

Unfortunately not on the patch, but at the regular nearby site at Pump Lane paddocks.  I noted my first returning Wheatear here on the 15th and Alan S had been seeing more Wheatears here whilst I was away towards the end of the month.  On my return I found 2 more Wheatear on the 28th and then on 31st, 4 Wheatear, 2 Yellow Wagtails feeding around the horses and a single Whinchat

A nice end to a quiet month

August at the pit is usually pretty good for picking up waders, terns and passerine migrants, but this year has been very quiet and the worst in several years.  I have had little time to visit over the past fortnight with work and family commitments, but the only reports from the site of any interest have been a flyover Greenshank and passage Spotted Flycatcher, so it doesn't look as though I've missed much!

August ended as it had begun with a couple of Black-tailed Godwits found on the 31st.  I thought on first glance due to the overall pale buffy look to the birds that they were juveniles, however, on closer inspection, they appear to be moulting adults - one in almost full winter plumage with a few summer scaps and the other with more adult scaps, a more orange face and neck a few remnants of black barring on the undersides. A few record shots below:

August 31st also saw 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, the highest group this season, including my first juvenile, a fairly regular adult attaining winter plumage and another adult which quickly departed.  The juvenile was readily picked out amongst other things due to its many moulted scaps, narrow pale fringed, dark centred tertials, pale face with a dark eye smudge and heavy, solid black bill.  It was fairly distant, so my record shots are just that!

This blurry record of the adult coming into winter plumage was taken on the 17th

The visit on the 31st also included a Dunlin that was flying around for a while, but never landed and eventually departed to the SE.  The resident Common Terns seem to have left now - birds are still being seen on and off in varying numbers, but these are probably migrants, especially as there are often several juvenile birds and we only managed 2 fledged young this year, both of which left a while ago.  Today there was a single adult present.  Ducks are also appearing in dribs and drabs - a couple of Shoveler, 8 Teal and 2 Pochard today, joining the building Tufted Ducks and resident Mallard.

On the passerine front, little to note.  I did see a flurry of warblers mid month, including family groups of Reed Warblers, Garden Warbler, Blackcaps, Willow and Chiffchaff and on the 28th a nice Lesser Whitethroat feeding on Dogwood berries by the cottage gardens - this being only my second this year.

I don't usually mention Ring-necked parakeets, as they are seen or more usually heard fairly often. However, on the 14th, a bird was perched on a small oak near the cottages so I took this shot of it:

There was a noisy group of 7 birds flying around, including several short-tailed juveniles, so evidence of some local breeding.

On the plastic front, the family group of 3 Black Swans are still present and a Barnacle Goose has appeared along with the regular Bar-headed Goose amongst the ever growing Canada/Greylag flock.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Off Patch Birding

I haven't had much time to visit the patch over the past week with work and school holidays getting in the way.  It doesn't look like I've missed much though apart from a brief flock of 6 Greenshank that Kevin H saw fly off west from the spit last Thursday (8th) - a large flock for this site.  Hopefully 1 or 2 more will appear over the next few weeks.  Whilst I'm thinking about 'missed' waders - I bumped into a guy that I didn't know last week who said that he'd had a flock of half a dozen Black-tailed Godwits on the spit.  This was early on Sunday 28th July - he said that he watched them fly off south at around 6am - so you never know what else is going through unseen when we're all in bed!

The juvenile Med Gull is still being seen most days.  It has started moulting its scaps now - I first noted this last Monday (5th) and took this record showing a nice pale grey scapular:

Today there was nothing unusual of note, but it was interesting to see at least 5 broods of Great Crested Grebes with recently hatched young - I saw broods of 4, 2, 2, 1 and 1+ (at least 1 hidden on the adult's back).  They have hatched quite late, but obviously find the lake to their liking.  A single winter plumaged Dabchick was also lurking under the island.

I have managed a couple of off patch visits recently.  Firstly to see a nice adult Pec Sand at nearby Eton Wick, Berkshire on Sunday 4th.  There was a juvenile at this exact same location last Autumn, so you could speculate that it is the same bird using the same route.  The bird was keeping the company of 2 adult Dunlin, but refused to fly into Bucks as last year's bird did on several occasions.

Secondly, a visit to Tring Reservoirs, specifically Startops End Reservoir in mid Bucks.  A 1st summer female Common Scoter had been showing well for several days, so I decided to take a look.  This reservoir is a bit frustrating for county birders as the Herts/Bucks boundary runs through the NW part of it, most of it being in Herts, but the smaller NW side being in Bucks.  If the bird is flying, such as last year's Sabine's Gull, then it can easily enter both counties, but a more sedentary bird such as last year's Snow Bunting can be more difficult.  Luckily for me, the Common Scoter was in the NW corner on my arrival as that is where the loafing wildfowl flock was frequenting, so no waiting for it to swim into the 'correct' county.

And finally a couple of interesting non-avian garden records.  I am lucky that I get Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies annually in the garden as a small breeding population frequents the adjacent woodland.  Over the past week, a couple of females had been visiting the buddleia bushes and also ovipositing all over the place, including in the brickwork of the house under the damp course.

Striped Lychnis is a scarce national moth species, but Bucks is one of its strongholds.  It was nice to find a distinctively marked Striped Lychnis caterpillar in the garden feeding on its foodplant, a verbascum sp.