Saturday, 28 January 2017

Barnies, but are they tickable?

On a very cold Thursday last week, in bitter east/south easterlies, Jim R had a flock of 21 Barnacle Geese fly in to the lake.  They landed on the spit briefly, before flying to the riverside meadows and then departed NW and that seemed to be that.  Then at the roost last night, Paul W had the same 21 birds fly in and roost on the frozen ice of the lake.  This morning, I paid a quick visit mid morning and found the birds still stood on the ice.  They stayed there a while, until about 10:30, before taking to the air, flying around a bit and then off east.  However, shortly later they returned following some Greylags in and ended up grazing on the spit.  They were still present this afternoon and were seen flying off to the river meadows late afternoon.

Barnacle Geese are always tricky when listing is concerned, however, a large flock in Winter following freezing conditions does seem a whole lot better than a singleton in the middle of summer, which is how I usually see them.  There are some sustainable category C flocks that these birds could have come from, they could even have been pushed over from the continent.  However, there is also a similar sized flock in the Moor Green area in Berks that are from an untickable population deemed not self sustaining.  To my knowledge, these birds are almost always in that area, but on reading a report on this population in the 2005 Berks Annual Report, it stated that exceptionally in the winter of 2006, 45 birds from this population were traced to a flock in Ibsley, Hants in Jan/Feb.  So it is possible that they may have wandered here.  They were at Moor Green last weekend, but I don't think have been seen there since, though they are not always seen at the reserve itself.  From my perspective, I would be tempted to count them on flock size, winter conditions and time of year, but I guess being prudent, the Moor Green birds need to be seen again concurrently with this flock before that happens.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Slow and steady start to 2017

2017 has started pretty much as 2016 finished.  I have birded the patch fairly steadily when time and weather have allowed and as of today am on 73 species for the year.  There are still some easy gaps, but I have managed to miss two good birds so far - a male Goldeneye that was around on the 5th, which happened to be my first day back in the office after Christmas, and probably more galling, a calling Brambling around the cottages yesterday, whilst I was oblivious just a 100 yards or so away.

There haven't been any other surprises recorded to date and my best bird of the month so far is probably the nice adult Med Gull that appeared in the roost on the 14th.  Unfortunately, it was right on the east side of the spit, so too far away to get sort of record shot.  The two male Shelduck have been present throughout, though intolerant of each other and always apart, and represent my best duck of the month at the moment.

I have, at long last, upgraded my camera and so intend to post many more photos of birds that I wouldn't even have attempted to take with my old set up.  I am still getting used to it, but am enjoying the better opportunities it brings.  So below are some of the usual suspects that are around at the moment.

Yesterday, I had a nice amble around the farmland at Emmett's and these are some of the birds I saw:

 And finally, the lake has largely frozen with the recent cold nights, which has brought the gulls out onto the ice:

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Annual Round-up

It's been a while since I posted anything, but that is a reflection of the poor December I had combined with the usual lack of birding over the Christmas break.  In fact, I failed to add another year tick after the 8th of November.

For completeness, the main bird of note in the month was the adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, that continued its week long stay from the end of November and was generally to be found grazing on its own in the field just to the north of the lake.  It was last seen on December 4th.  As is usual at this time of year, a Shelduck reappeared on the 5th, the first sighting since June, and was joined by a second bird from the 11th.  They have both been present ever since and will no doubt stay for a while.

Otherwise, the male hybrid Pochard x Ferruginous Duck was usually to be found amongst the aythya flock near Works Bay; Little Egret numbers took a small boost, with 8 - 10 birds often found in the Works Bay area - still hoping for another appearance of a Great White!; Snipe numbers on the spit rose steadily and reached highs in the mid 50s; an immature Peregrine has become relatively regular, usually just flying through and scaring everything, but occasionally perching up temporarily.  And that really is about it......

And so to my reflections on the year.....numbers-wise, it wasn't dissimilar to the past few years, just a few species down at 133.  There were a higher number of missed species than usual, so 2016 could very easily have been a record year for me.  The year began with a bad miss, a drake Ring-necked Duck, which was present on the afternoon of the January 2nd whilst I was away from home for the first time over the Christmas break with the family in Oxford.  Brief fly throughs of Merlin and Goshawk were never gettable.  An adult Kittiwake came in to the gull roost in early March whilst I was cooking dinner.  Holidays and work cost me a few, a Curlew at the end of March, a flock of 13 Sandwich Terns in August and a Ruff in September. And try as I might, I couldn't connect with Barn Owl, probably my easiest miss of the year.  So 133 out of 141 has too many misses for my liking, but I guess that's patch birding for you.

I shouldn't really dwell on the misses though, as there were also many highlights.  I managed to see two new patch ticks with a couple of Brambling in February and the first Little Stint for 10 years in August. There were also some nice scarcities:

January: three Caspian Gulls at the roost on the 23rd, a 1st, 2nd and 3rd winter on the same evening as my only Woodcock of the year, which flew over the car park at dusk.  I was pleased to find Grey Partridge on the farmland again, with up to 5 birds seen.

A juvenile Glaucous Gull came in to roost on the 30th and was last seen here on 11th March, though was never regular and used several roost sites in the area. (I never got any good record shots of it!)

February: Two 1st winter and one or two 2nd winter Caspian Gulls, including the bird below

Three Pintail and a male RC Pochard appeared on the 10th

Med Gulls started to come through on passage, including this adult and 1st winter

Patch ticked two Brambling on farmland on the 22nd feeding with a large finch flock.
March: The highlight was a drake Garganey on the 23rd

Several more Med Gulls passed through, with at least two adults, a 2nd summer and a 1st winter/summer.

A Siberian Chiffchaff on plumage, though it was never heard calling, took up residence around the small reedbed on the southern bank mid month and was present for about a week.

April:  A flock of six Greenshanks turned up on the 20th, but were always distant

May:  Conditions were good for passage in the second week.  I had 16 Ringed Plover through on the 9th, four Black Terns, an Arctic Tern and an adult summer Little Gull on the 10th, 10 Black Terns, an Arctic Tern and a Whimbrel on the 11th, two Black Terns and an Arctic Tern on the 12th and another adult Little Gull 13th and 14th.

Only my second patch Cetti's Warbler was found on the 13th and remained for several weeks.

June:  Return Black-tailed Godwits started passing through from the 29th.  I saw these two on the 30th.

Yellow-legged Gull passage was light this year, a 2nd summer appeared on the 7th, followed by a few adults.

July:  A Whimbrel was on the spit briefly on the evening of the 21st

A female Pied Flycatcher was discovered in the SE corner on the 27th and remained there for 3 days! Only my second patch record. (very hard to digiscope!)

August:  My fist fully juvenile Caspian Gull on the 11th, originally mis-identified as a YL Gull

A juvenile Little Stint, the first for 10 years and a patch tick for me on the 12th

Four Black Terns on the 28th, with one staying a while

September:  two Redstarts and a small passage of Whinchats through the month, including this one

An early adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the 18th, only my second patch record

An early Jack Snipe on the 23rd

October:  A passage Pintail on the 3rd.  A small passage of Stonechats, including this nice male

A 1st winter male Scaup on the 24th for a week was only my third patch record

November:  One of at least two 1st winter Yellow-legged Gulls on the 2nd.

A 2nd winter Caspian Gull on the 6th, my only Goldeneye and Goosander were seen on the 8th, while a second adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose for the year flew in on the 28th and remained for a week.

December:  The Dark-bellied Brent Goose remained to the 4th

And so on to 2017..........