Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Frenchmen OTL

29th February - Little of note and none of the hoped for early migrant waders, although the wintering Chiffchaff continues to sing along the western bank.

The huge number of white feathers floating across the lake is evidence of the number of roosting gulls using the site, but little of note today.  I actually did a complete circuit of the site, which is quite unusual and probably why I am still missing a few 'easy' birds from my year list.  The arable fields to the north of the lake held a covey of 6 Red-legged Partridges, so another common bird ticked off!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Another Med - or the Same?

25th February - Steve R had reported an adult Med Gull from the pit this morning.  I paid a quick visit mid afternoon and was surprised to find presumably the same bird still present.  It had a partial hood, quite dark on the back of the head and a blood red bill, so sounds very like the description of the recent bird at Hedgerley.  It might also be the same bird seen intermittently since mid January, but since these birds look different almost daily at this time of year, it is hard to be sure.

A poor record is shown below, just before it sat down, put its head in its back and a Common Gull stood in front of it, never to show clearly again while I was watching!

Friday, 24 February 2012

A Visitor from Pitsea

24th February - very little of note today, although a Skylark over south was a patch year tick.

The Shelduck had moved on and no waders could be found.  A 1w Herring Gull bearing an orange darvic ring on its right leg appeared on the spit.  It was just too far for me to read, but with the aid of Alan S's 70x lens, it was no problem - AW1T.  This turned out to be a bird ringed at Pitsea landfill just 6 weeks ago on January 14th.  There have been sightings of birds from this site before - I just wish some of its rarer visitors could make it over here - the Slaty-backed Gull from last year springs to mind!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Some Waders

23rd February - a lovely mild morning found a few new birds.

Firstly, Shelduck numbers had increased to 4, with 3 males and a female.  Secondly, a Green Sandpiper was heard calling and flew over from the east continuing westwards - possibly new, but probably one of the local wintering birds.  Thirdly, a Dunlin appeared amongst the Lapwing flock and was watched feeding for a while before it seemed to depart when the Lapwing flushed (as they always do!)

Second of the year
The wintering Chiffchaff was enjoying the sunshine and singing intermittently along the west bank.  A Snipe also spent a lot of time soaking in the warmth of the sun.

The gull flock continues, comprising mainly Common Gulls, which number into the thousands as the day progresses at this time of year and Black-headed Gulls.  Large white-headed gulls come and go during the day, no doubt taking a break from local feeding sites such as Hedgerley landfill.  The Great Black-backed Gulls numbered 16 mid morning, which is still a reasonable number for this site, comprising 9 adults, 5 1st winters and 2 2nd winters.

Later on a Tawny Owl was heard calling from near the car park, which is a new one for the year.

A Damp Day

22nd February - my first proper visit for a while.  A male Shelduck was on the spit and there were an assortment of gulls to look through, but not much else...and then it rained!

One of the juvenile gulls had found a fisherman's lure in the shape of a small fish and was tossing it around being chased by other gulls.  I was rather perturbed to see that it still had a triple hook attached at one end!  I saw the same lure a while later still being played with, but minus the hooks, so I hope it had dropped off rather than been swallowed.

I spent a little while watching a very white-headed and white-bellied first winter gull, hoping that it might be something interesting - it certainly stood out from the crowd.  However, it always looked like a Herring Gull and when it opened its wings, it displayed a classic Herring Gull pattern.  It is surprising how pale these first winters can get at this time of year.  I know some of the northern argentatus can be pale, but this did not look big enough for argentatus and was probably just a bleached argenteus.


Just a Herring Gull
There were also 2 colour-ringed Herring Gulls, a red-ringed 1w and an orange-ringed 2w, neither of which I could read.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Colour-ringed Herring Gull Update

I have just heard back about the colour-ringed Herring Gull from last week . It is obviously a site faithful bird, as it was ringed at Gerrard's Cross landfill (I assume the Hedgerley landfill site).  It was ringed on 21st January 2004 as an adult, which makes it at least 12 or 13 years old - the ring was confirmed as 1652 on an orange darvic ring.  It has not been reported since its ringing until now.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Frozen Wasteland!

12th February - the previous afternoon I had toyed with the idea of making a late afternoon visit, but had decided to watch the rugby instead, only to find out later that 4 Smew had made a flying visit at about 5pm.  Therefore, this afternoon I made a visit in the hope of a repeat performance, but no such luck!

The lake was still iced over except for a patch only big enough to accommodate about 5 birds.  There were a few gulls standing about, one of which was a colour-ringed adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.  It bore a dark blue darvic with orange 'AEY' on its left leg.  A quick response from the scheme co-ordinator showed this to be a bird ringed at Gloucester landfill in February 2007.  It has never been recorded out of the country and was most recently seen on 24th January 2012 at Lower Farm GP near Newbury, Berkshire, about 27 miles WSW as the gull flies.  Interestingly, this site also hosted a Ring-billed Gull recently - it would be nice to get this gull to transfer here as well!

Too gloomy to read, but it is 'AEY'
I stayed to see what the usual roost might bring, but unsurprisingly, the gulls had pretty much all departed by dusk.  A wandering fox was an obvious threat.  There was, however, quite a large roost of Jackdaws, which is a feature of this site, which numbered many hundreds.  Another feature is the Magpie roost at the base of the spit - again numbers probably topped 100, but I did not attempt a count.  2 small passerines dived into the reeds near the cottages, of which the one that I saw was a female Reed Bunting - another 1 for the year list.

As I left, the only waterfowl remaining were 2 Egyptian Geese on the spit, a single Greylag in the lake 'puddle' about 30 Teal in a tight group on the spit, a handful of Coot and Moorhen and a pair of Mallard - roll on the predicted thaw!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

And Another White Winger!

7th February - I was hoping to find some interesting wildfowl today brought in by the recent cold weather.  However, on arrival at the lake, I could see that it was pretty much iced over, although it was thawing and had a slushy look to it.  Had there been any ducks, I'm sure they could have made some open patches of water, but they had obviously been forced off over the weekend.

As it was, I just had several groups of gulls to look through that were standing on the ice.  These were predominantly Black-headed Gulls, with a few Commons and only 20 or so LWHG, so very little!  I was tempted to leave, when another scan through the gulls at about 10:30am found a lovely 1st winter Glaucous Gull standing on the spit in front of the island - it had obviously just flown in!  It stayed on the spit for a while before making a short flight to a small group of LWHG standing on the ice a few yards to the south.  Here it remained for about half an hour, then made the short flight back to the spit, which enabled Dave P to see it.  A further 5 - 10 minutes elapsed when the small group of gulls the Glauc was with spooked and flew.  They flew around the back of the island and I thought they might land again, but instead they circled upwards gaining height and the Glauc and a couple of other LWHG departed to the west, parallel to the Thames.  I was expecting it to fly NE towards Hedgerley, so where it was heading I don't know.  It was interesting to note that when in flight, the Glauc, despite its large size was harried a few times by the other gulls.  Unfortunately, Mike and Rose C arrived just a few minutes too late - I was also attempting to borrow Rose's 50x scope to read the white(ish) darvic ring that one of the Herring Gulls had on its right leg, but that decided to take that moment to depart too!

Glaucous Gull is another patch tick, so an excellent morning!

Friday, 3 February 2012


3rd February - 2 days ago there was practically no ice on the lake, today there was appreciably more ice than water.

The NE corner held the most open water and this is where the aythya flock was gathered, though I could only find Tufted Duck and Pochard and just a single Great-crested Grebe.

The gulls were gathered in small groups, with many either standing or sitting on the ice.  One group on the east side held a number of LWHG, including a 2w Yellow-legged Gull.  Even at distance it stood out, with a largely dark grey mantle and scaps; obviously dark greater coverts forming a rectangle that contrasted with much lighter median and lesser coverts; dark tertials with broad white tips and quite leggy.  It was quite a large bird, obviously larger than accompanying Lesser Black-backs.  I walked around the lake to get closer and take some record shots, but inevitably, whilst doing so, it had flown off!  In fact quite a few of the gulls had started to depart, but I noticed a Herring Gull with an orange darvic ring on its left leg.  It appeared to be marked with '1652', which would make it a FERA ringed bird from somewhere in the UK, but I am still investigating.

With 3 Great Black-backs

I counted 12 adult Great Black-backed Gulls before they started to depart.

Otherwise not much to note - Shelduck numbered 5, with 2 pairs and another male and a Common Snipe was foraging on the spit.  I've added Greenfinch and Dunnock to the yearlist, which I seem to have omitted, but definitely saw today!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Cold Weather Pintail

1st February - another cold day only a couple of degrees above freezing, but gloriously sunny.  I made a quick afternoon visit to the pit after twitching a nearby 1w Glaucous Gull at a landfill in Knowl Hill, Berks.

Almost the first bird I saw was a rather flighty female Pintail in the southern bay of the spit, but partially obscured.  I went to the viewpoint and found the bird had moved further away and was near the right side of the main island - still close enough for a reasonable record shot in good light.  However, I found that I'd left my camera battery charging at home!  I made a quick dash home and back again by which time the bird had been 'lost' by one of the regulars who was on site.  I picked it up again in the north-east corner of the lake, about as far away as it could get from the my position on the west side and I had no time left to walk around, so unfortunately, another distant record shot!  Pintails are irregular visitors to this site either during the autumn or winter, so nice to get one early in the year.

Distant female Pintail