Monday, 20 May 2013

21st Wader Species

20th May - a quick pre-work visit prior to 9am found little of note.  During the morning, a number of local Turnstone reports came through, including 3 flying through QMR and a single at Tring, so I thought it was worth having a further check at lunchtime.  As I arrived, I could see a wader on the point of the spit and a quick check revealed not a Turnstone, but 2 Sanderling, a nice summer plumaged bird and one in transition.  So another good wader species for the patch year list, my 17th and the site's 21st - not bad for a single lake!

Some record shots here:

A LRP and 3 Shelduck were the supporting cast, whilst high teens of Common Terns are still frequenting the spit and not the rafts!  Maybe Turnstone will appear tomorrow!

Quality not Quantity

18th May - I have been moaning about the lack of waders through the site this year and numbers wise, there have not been many, but the species list is rolling along quite nicely.  This afternoon, agitated by my inability to twitch the Kent Dusky Thrush, I was pleased to take a call from Alan S.  He and the regular Saturday crew had just found 2 small waders with a Ringed Plover and thought they were probably Temminck's Stints, but they were viewing at distance from the south bank and were walking around for a closer look.  I was soon on site, passing Ash S on my way who was oblivious to the waders' presence, who followed me to the lake edge.  The group of 3 waders were soon in the scope and were indeed 2 fine Temminck's Stints and a Ringed Plover.  I went to the viewpoint to find Alan S et al enjoying the birds from there - another quality find.  The birds were on view at the closest point they could be to the bank, but they were so small that they kept getting obscured amongst exposed roots.  As ever, I took some record shots, but the camera's auto-focus was struggling to pick out the waders to focus on!

Nice size comparison to a Lapwing
Record of the 3 birds together
I have seen a Temminck's Stint here before - a 2 day bird in May 2008, but I think this is only the 25th record for Bucks, or thereabouts, so pretty scarce and some compensation for missing the Dusky Thrush!

The previous morning found the usual suspects of a pair of Oystercatchers, a LRP and 2 Shelduck, though a brief Little Egret was unseasonal.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


15th May - an afternoon re-visit in the hope that on a day when many waders and terns were passing through frustratingly north of here, something new might have come in.  I found nothing new and an LRP was the only wader on site!

A nice male Yellow Wagtail perused the spit for a while and then continued on its journey.

I passed the time chatting with Graham S whilst the weather gradually cleared to leave quite a sunny and blue sky.  Raptors were obviously enjoying this sudden break and we watched several thermalling Buzzards, passing Red Kites, the odd Sparrowhawk and a single Hobby fly over.  Just before 4:30pm, I noticed an interesting raptor flapping slowly across the middle of the pit.  I jumped off the bench and scoped the bird to reveal a cream-crown Marsh Harrier - yay - a patch tick!  I was following the bird in the scope, so giving lousy directions to Graham who had failed to pick it up before it disappeared behind the willows on the base of the spit!  Luckily, it soon re-surfaced and we both watched it circling just north of the pit before it continued flapping NW.  This direction would have taken it somewhere close to my house, so it might have been viewable from there if anyone was looking!

Wader Passage..........

15th May - an early start in the hope that as the overnight rain stopped, some birds might move through.  In reality, this did happen, but only to the tune of 2 Ringed Plovers.  Ah well, a year tick, so can't complain.  These birds flew in at 6:40am, never looked very settled and seemed to have disappeared an hour later.  A shockingly awful record in low light which makes the bird on the right look a bit like a Turnstone (I wish!).  You can just about make out the orange based bill etc..

And here's a much better record from Dick Seekins, as he doesn't use a box brownie and a milk bottle!

The only other wader on site was a Redshank that flew in at 8:20am, but that didn't stay long either!

As ever, the LWHG flock was worth a scan.  The regular 1st summer YL Gull was there again, but so too was a nice looking 3rd summer - a couple of records of this bird below.  Looking superficially adult like, this bird still has black primary coverts, some black in the tail and a pale tipped bill with a small black sub terminal bar on the upper mandible.

A Hobby either flew through 3 times over an hour, or more than one bird was involved.  At one point, it attempted to catch a low flying hirundine and was barely a few inches above the water!  It must be getting hungry, as there won't be any dragonflies on the wing in this weather and very few insects - it was only 5 degrees C this morning!  4 Shelduck were the best of the rest.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Dunlin Still

14th May - this morning the summer plumaged Dunlin was present for its 3rd day along with 2 LRPs, whilst the regular 1st summer YL Gull was still with the 100+ LWHG.  Must get some more waders soon........

Monday, 13 May 2013

Plenty of Swifts

13th May - highlights of a quick pre-work visit were a nice male Yellow Wagtail and yesterday's continuing summer plumaged Dunlin, both on the spit.  Otherwise just 3 Shelduck, a pair plus another male, between 10 and 20 Common Terns and the 100 odd flock of loafing LWHG.  The 1st summer Yellow-legged Gull was seen on both weekend days, but I couldn't find it in a quick search.

A lunchtime visit added a single Oystercatcher, which once again flew off over the STW.  However, the main spectacle was the huge number of Swifts - well into 3 figures, zipping about all over the place.  Swallow numbers were well down on yesterday, whilst House and Sand Martins both numbered some 10s.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mandy Fly past

11th May - an Oystercatcher was calling as I arrived and I watched it fly off west.  Otherwise, a good looking spit for waders was devoid of any!  A Common Sand was seen on the eastern bank.

Best birds of the morning and a patch year tick was a pair of Mandarin Ducks that flew east over the bottom of Randall's meadow and continued along the Thames.  A pair has been reported from the low grounds and Higginson Park to the west, so possibly these birds.

Edit:  A Redshank in the late afternoon, plus plenty of low flying Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and Swifts plus a brief Hobby.

White and Yellow

9th May - strong south westerlies don't usually produce birds, so I wasn't expecting much.  A couple of Common Sands and a LRP on the spit, but also a nice White Wagtail.  I'd been away when the main push of these came through in late March early April, so it was nice to pick one up.  It was lame in its left leg, which might even have been missing, so was hopping and fluttering over the spit and may have been the reason it was a little late.

There were plenty of Swifts and hirundines flying fairly low over the water and Common Tern numbers were up to 20 birds, but they still pay little attention to the newly placed tern rafts.

As usual, a little flock of loafing LWHG was gathered.  Mainly second and third calendar year Herring Gulls, with a few LBB Gulls.  However, of note was a 1st winter/summer GBB Gull, which I'd also seen at nearby Fulmer Lake on the 2nd and a 1st summer Yellow-legged Gull.  This bird has been present on and off since late April, but being quite bleached, I've taken my time in confirming it.  The lesser and median coverts are bleached to almost white, but there are several new generation feathers growing through, which is always a good sign for YLG at this time of year.  What you can see of the outer greater coverts look to be dark centred, which is another good feature.  The tertials are all dark centred, though the tips are worn.  The head is white (as are most 2cy Herring/LBB Gulls at the moment!), but there is still a little dark streaking around the eye.  The bill is all dark, with a slight pale tip and large and heavy and the head is quite square looking.  Heavy neck/nape streaking helps the white head to stand out and the inner scap markings look OK.  Structurally, it is quite long legged, long winged and high breasted, so all in all, good features for YLG.  In flight, it is moulting its inner primaries.  A few record shots below:

The GBB Gull

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

More Wood

7th May - probably the hottest day of the year so far.  A morning visit showed me that it was all quiet on the migrant front - just a Common Sand and 2 LRPs representing the waders and 3 Shelduck.  Another visit in the early afternoon found exactly the same - I did attempt to string a/the distant Common Sand feeding in a peculiar manner gently picking flies off the mud - in the heat haze, it bore a passing resemblance to a Wood Sand, but this didn't last for too long!

Whilst cooking dinner in the evening, I received a text from regular stalwart Alan S, saying that there was now a Wood Sand on the spit - what a coincidence!  I had to finish my culinary delights, but then left mine warming in the oven, whilst I took an unusual evening jaunt to the pit to join Alan S, Malcolm P, Simon P and Jim R to admire the newly arrived beauty.  Luckily it was feeding on the near spit and gave very good scope views.  Unfortunately, the light was dipping, so record shots became more difficult - my best rubbish attempt is below.  Thankfully, Jim R has a rather better set up than me so managed much better and has allowed me to show a couple of his.

Best of a bad bunch!

Much better, courtesy Jim Rose

And another by Jim Rose

Monday, 6 May 2013


6th May - another early morning visit, though a bit later today - well it is bank holiday!  I was on site about 7:30am on yet another lovely sunny morning.  2 Common Sands and 2 LRPs were the only waders visible, so I walked to the meadow.  This has been fairly unproductive this year (apart from the Avocet!), so I was pleased to see a nice male Wheatear - my first of the year here.  It looked good for Greenland Wheatear, being quite orange on the breast, tall and pot-bellied with thickish legs.  I struggled to get a record shot in focus due to the heat haze, even at this time, but here it is:

I continued my walk to the eastern side, enjoying the warbler song, but still no Cuckoo!  I also hung around watching the Common Terns in case a Black appeared, as they seemed to be on the move in other areas today, but no luck.  So I walked back round to the western bank, where Alan S and Kim D were sitting.  We had a chat saying that something might well drop in today and as we spoke, I put my bins on a large bird flapping over the base of the spit towards us and suddenly exclaimed, "Crane!".  A lovely adult Crane was flying over fairly low from the east.  It looked to be going straight over, but then suddenly banked and started to circle over the car park area.  This gave me an opportunity to grab a record shot as it circled through the tree line from where we were watching.  I also scoped the bird to see whether I could see any colour rings on its legs, which might indicate Somerset origin, but they looked clean.  After a few minutes, it suddenly reverted to its westward path and flew off - fantastic and another patch tick!

real life hand held camera

Cropped and pixilated

Real life through the trees

Cropped and pixilated
After the Crane departed, so did I, but whilst driving back towards Marlow, I saw the bird again - it was flying distantly over the centre of Marlow going roughly WNW being followed by a couple of (tiny!) Red Kites.  This was about 9:15am.  At about 10:45am, presumably the same bird was seen on this flight path near Dorchester Oxford.  I can't believe it took it an hour and a half to get there though, so did it land somewhere in the meantime?  A great morning - Greenshank flew in after I left, but that'll have to wait.

6th Garden Marsh Harrier

5th May - I did an early morning stint at the pit hoping for some waders, but yet again, the weather conditions weren't helpful and apart from an Oystercatcher, 1 or 2 Common Sands and a LRP, there wasn't anything else.

Back at home, I was doing various things in the garden and enjoying the lovely sunny day.  I was eating a late lunch sandwich on the patio at 2:30pm and as usual watching the skies to see what was moving when a dark, long winged, long tailed raptor appeared to the east amongst the usual Red Kites and Buzzards.  I was pretty sure it was a Marsh Harrier and had distant views through my bins.  It started thermalling, which gave me time to run to the car for my scope, through which I had much better views of this female Marshy.  It continued to thermal to quite a height with 2 Buzzards, before drifting off to the south-west.  This is my 6th Marsh Harrier from the garden since 2007, though the first since 2010 and also the first Spring bird.

Several Swifts and plenty of hirundines were also going through at quite a height during the afternoon.


29th April - on a tea break mid morning, I had my first Hobby of the year, when 2 birds circled up the valley where I live, briefly joining a couple of Ravens.  I hoped that a quick lunchtime walk around the lake might turn up Hobby there too, but not this time.  Highlight was a rattling Lesser Whitethroat in the eastern hedge and 5 smart Yellow Wagtails in the paddock.  The lingering Common Sand was still feeding around the lake edge rather than on the spit.

The female Whinchat was still in the top vine field at Pump Lane with a pair of Wheatear

30th April - a lovely sunny and warm day, but appeared very quiet on the ground.  A visit to the pit didn't bring anything new - still plenty of Garden Warblers singing - they seem to be in in good numbers this Spring, but no Cuckoo yet.

I decided to visit nearby Marlow Low Grounds, some flooded meadow the other side of Marlow, in the hope of some waders or possibly Garganey.  Walking along Lower Pound Lane, it was very pleasant, but little of note.  The floods themselves were also quiet, a single Snipe probably the best bird, so I began the walk back to the car.  As I passed the last house in the lane, I caught the distant sound of familiar trilling - surely not.  There it was again, the unmistakable song of yet another Wood Warbler.  Something odd is happening with this species this year, as it seems to be turning up in good numbers in the home counties, when it is normally scarce - I guess the cold Spring has had some effect here.  Anyway, this bird was singing fairly regularly and appeared to be doing a circuit between the river and my path, though was never particularly close to me and was always on private land.  In an attempt to actually see the bird rather than just hear it, I rang the bell of the house to see if they minded me standing on their land for a while - they didn't (for a short while anyway).  This didn't really help due to badly placed conifers, so I returned to the path and eventually had reasonable views of the now silent bird as it fed in the nearest trees to me about 50 yards away.  It went very quiet about midday and apart from 2 other observers, I don't know whether it was seen later or not.  My third in 11 days - pretty pleased with that!

Whilst there, 3 Hobbies appeared overhead, so I thought I'd try my luck back at the pit and sure enough a single Hobby flew over early afternoon.  A single Snipe was also still present here on the spit with a pair each of Shelduck and Teal.