Saturday, 26 July 2014

Early Pintail

25th July - I went down early afternoon, but only had about 30 minutes before I had to leave.  There were the usual BHG and LWHG to look through, though smaller numbers than of late and I didn't see anything unusual amongst them.  The only wader on site was a single juvenile LRP.  Shortly before I had to leave, the darkening sky began to rumble with thunder and a storm was obviously nearby.  A small flock of Mallard were flying over the east side of the lake - not unusual and I didn't pay much attention to them.  However, when they banked round on the southern side, I noticed that there were some Gadwall with them, showing their obvious white wing flashes.  I looked at them through bins and then realised that there was also a Pintail amongst them, showing its distinctive long-winged profile and white bordered outer speculum.  I followed the group as they flew round the back of the island and out of sight towards the works bay.  They then reappeared and flew back past the island.  I could see that rain was falling, though it hadn't reached me yet and the flock landed on the southern side of the lake.  It comprised 4 Mallard, 4 Gadwall and a single Pintail, the plain brown head and dull greyish bill of the Pintail was now obvious.  Suddenly the heavens opened and a deluge ensued.  I sheltered under trees, waiting for the worst to pass, but then had to leave - any record shots in the conditions and at distance would have been a waste of time.

I returned later in the day hoping to grab a record, as July Pintail is pretty unusual.  My previous earliest local bird was late August.  The Pintail was still present, but roosting at the back of the spit with the 4 Gadwall.  I attempted a record, but it doesn't show any diagnostic features at all.  It eventually woke up at about 9pm when the light was fading and a mist was appearing over the water, so again no conditions for my camera to take anything recognisable.  From what I could make out, it looked to be a female type rather than an eclipse male based on the bill looking fairly uniformly dark grey, the rather uniform plumage and the tail although fairly long and pointed, probably not long enough for a male.

For what it's worth, the record shot is below - the Pintail is the left hand bird asleep at the back (200yds away)

Bits and pieces from the 24th - a Redshank was another migrant wader just present for a single day, along with a Common Sand and single juv LRP (there had been 3 juvs on the 23rd), whilst the LWHG flock held an adult and juvenile Yellow-legged Gull.  The leucistic BHG from the other day was also present.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

More yellow-legs

22nd July - a hot and sunny day, so nice to be out, but not too much to look at.  The sporadic wildfowl visitors of the day were a couple of Shoveler and waders were limited to 2 juvenile LRPs, excluding the hordes of Lapwing.

By early afternoon, gull numbers had risen to sizeable numbers.  I estimated 500 BHG, 160 Herrings, including a fresh juvenile, 60 LBBG including 5 fresh juveniles, 1 adult Common Gull and 4 Yellow-legged Gulls.  The YLGs comprised 2 adult birds, a 1st summer and a juvenile, all of which have probably been seen over the past few weeks.  Only the 1st summer bird approached close enough for a record shot, the others were amongst the main throng and cloaked in heat haze.

Looks rather grotty as it is in moult, but easy to pick out from the crowd

As I commented in an earlier post when the juv YLG turned up in the first week of July, juv LBBG and Herrings usually arrive mid month.  My first juv LBBG was about a week ago and the first juv Herring Gull a few days after that.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Some wader passage

20th July - I made an unusual weekend visit this morning.  The weather was quite muggy, being both humid and overcast.  Being a Sunday, I was a bit lazy and didn't arrive until about 9:30am, but on arrival one of the first birds I saw was a small wader in flight low over the lake.  Half expecting it to be one of several LRPs on site, I was pleased to get it in my bins and see a nice black belly.  It was an almost full summer Dunlin.  It made several passes at the spit before eventually landing.  A further scan of the spit found 2 Common Sands (there had been 4 the previous day) and 3 LRP, 2 adults and a juvenile.  Otherwise it was the usual fare, with a gathering of BHG on the near spit amongst which were 2 adult Common Gulls (these first appeared on the 14th); 6 juvenile Little Egrets from the two nests, plus a couple of adults and 3 male Pochard, continuing the sporadic appearance of post breeding ducks.

The 3 free flying juvs from the first nest

I walked to the meadow and spent a while watching a Tit/warbler flock moving along the railway bank.  This contained an adult and 2 juvenile Whitethroats, which made me wonder whether they had bred on site as the juvs looked recent and a male Whitethroat had started singing from the same spot along the bank about a week ago, suggesting post breeding.  I don't usually see many Whitethroats here.  Post breeding warblers are certainly moving though, as I had seen a Sedge Warbler in the southern reeds a couple of days before and they certainly don't breed on site.  In fact, I only had 2 or 3 go through in the Spring.  Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were also seen in the flock.

Walking back up the western bank, I suddenly heard a Whimbrel call.  It sounded almost directly overhead, but I couldn't see it and my vantage point had many trees in the way.  Luckily, it continued to call and was obviously flying east, so I was eventually able to see it flying off into the distance.  Another wader I thought, though not a year tick, shame it didn't land.  This was at about 10:15am.  About 10 minutes later, I was still mid way along the west bank and scanning the spit to see the areas obscured by vegetation further up, when I heard the distinctive call of Wood Sandpiper.  Unfortunately, my position here was even more obscured by trees and the bird didn't call again, which frustratingly meant that I was not able to get on the bird.  I don't like claiming heard only birds, but Wood Sand has a distinctive and recognisable call, so I've put it on the list.  Hopefully another will actually land on the spit for better scrutiny.

With 3 waders new in (or over!) during the morning, I hung about for a further 30 minutes optimistically scanning the skies, but to no avail.  However, a nice leucistic BHG was another interesting bird to look at.  Not as fully white as some I've seen, but still quite washed out and looking very white in flight.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Juvenile YLG

8th July - in my haste to post my Greenshank year tick, I forgot to post some sightings from Tuesday 8th. On arrival, I was pleased to see a couple of Green Sands, a Common Sand and the family party of 3 LRPs on the west shore of the spit.

Most birds on the spit seemed edgy and flighty and I soon discovered why, as a family group of 4 foxes appeared through the vegetation.  Although they spent most of their time play fighting, they did wander over most of the spit and consequently the Green Sands didn't stay too long.  I decided to return later in the day.

In the afternoon, I found my first juvenile LWHG of the season.  This is quite an early date for locally bred gulls - I don't normally see juvenile Herring and LBBG until mid July, so I suspected that it might be a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, which breed earlier than our birds.  I find these a bit tricky to separate from some juvenile LBBG, but it appeared to show all the necessary plumage and structural features to confirm it as this species.  I took quite a few record shots to illustrate this:

This shot is over exposed, but it does show the black tail band and extent of white in the tail with just a few dark marks in it:

Structurally, it is a much stronger and sturdier looking bird than LBBG, with quite a large bill, though not as large as some.  It also shows the brown rather than black/greyish tone to the plumage and a more white undertone to the head and neck. Here you can see that the dark marks on the undertail coverts are largely restricted to the sides.  The Greater Coverts are also solidly dark based, but become more barred on the inner GCs:

This shows the stronger structure quite well and the sturdy bill. Note the white undertone to the head and neck with darker streaking around the eye:

Another shot showing the Greater Coverts nicely:

I haven't mentioned the tertials yet, but here you can see that they are dark centred with pale fringing that doesn't reach the mantle.  The fringing is slightly notched, but nowhere near as much as in Herring Gull.  This picture also shows the dark anchor mark at the end of the tertials created by the pale tone towards the tip:

Unfortunately I didn't see the open wing, but was happy with the identification from what I had seen.

The regular adult YLG was also present, as now were 7 LRP, 4 adults and 3 juvs (I only saw 1 juv last year, so 3 birds are nice to see). 2 Oystercatchers completed the waders, whilst 3 Teal, a male Pochard and a Little Grebe were also noteworthy.

Another wader notched up

10th July - a quick 10 minute check after work produced my first Greenshank of the year and in fact my first since 2012, as unbelievably I failed to see any last year.  A Common Sand and the regular presumed family party of 3 LRP, an adult and 2 juvs,were also present.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Spoon buses!

July 7th - Little Marlow GP had no records of Spoonbill until May this year and now it's had 3! Well, it is very possibly the same bird 3 times - certainly the 2 May records a week apart looked to be the same adult bird and this morning I discovered a roosting adult on the spit in front of the island, which may be the same bird making a return visit.  It did very little in the short time available to me this morning other than stand on one leg with its bill in its back.  It did occasionally have a quick preen to show off its monstrous bill, but was still roosting when I left.  A couple of record shots taken into the sun:

A quick scan of the other birds viewable from the western bank revealed the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull, 4 Little Ringed Plovers, including an adult and 2 full grown juveniles in close proximity that may well be a local family group and a single Oystercatcher.  On the island heronry, the 3 full grown juvenile Little Egrets from the first nest were engaging in a lot of wing flapping and must surely make their maiden flights at any time.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

CR Med

July 5th - during an hour in the late morning a nice adult summer Med Gull arrived on the spit, but unfortunately only stayed for about 15 minutes before flying off.  It had a white colour ring code 3H47 on its left leg.  I have emailed the scheme, but in the meantime found the following link which gives details of the bird up to July 2013:

Also present in the reduced flock of LWHG were 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, the regular adult and a 1st summer bird in active moult:

2 Common Sands, an Oystercatcher and a Little Ringed Plover were the sum of the waders present and a single male Pochard the only slightly unusual duck.

Yesterday evening, 6 Little Ringed Plovers, all adults, were on the spit but quite flighty and as they weren't here today, were obviously on the move.