Thursday, 31 May 2012

3.X6 LBB Gull

I have received details back on the adult LBB Gull seen on April 26th - 28th bearing a black darvic with white 3.X6 (see here) - thanks to Paul Veron for the information:

It was ringed as an adult on 13th June 2010 at Burhou, Alderney, Channel Islands, was seen again at Alderney the following August and this is the first sighting since then.  It appeared to be a male of a pair, so I wonder if it is a local breeder.

Here is a picture of it after ringing:

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Late Shanks

28th May - I stopped in after work to see the Greenshank that had been found by Dave P in the afternoon.  Surprisingly, my first here this year, with the only other record being 2 brief birds seen by Wally S a few weeks ago.
Better late than never!
The hybrid Shelduck was still present, first seen on Saturday and obviously the same bird seen at Dorney Lake on May 17th.  It looks to be a Ruddy Shelduck x Common Shelduck, which gives it a bit of an Australian Shelduck look, especially the white collar.

The previous afternoon, a Ringed Plover, probably tundra, was present on the spit - small and dark backed.

Also a pair of Shoveler had appeared from somewhere, though had gone again today.

Friday, 25 May 2012

A Quiet Week on the Patch

25th May - Just a couple of visits this past week and it feels like Spring is drying up.

An early afternoon visit on Tuesday 22nd before school pick-up found a Redshank and Dunlin both in fine summer plumage, together with 2 LRPs and today on a morning visit, just an LRP.

On Monday 21st, I had decided to go for the Cattle Egret that had been found in North Bucks on the previous Saturday.  A detour on my way home from work was slightly easier than making the trek up north and back on the weekend with my family commitments.  I had good instructions on where to go and at 6:45pm was watching the bird feeding along a fence line in a cattle field together with a Little Egret.  It was a lovely warm sunny evening, so I spent some time watching the bird bedecked in its fine summer garb.  It seemed little concerned with the few walkers who were passing by occasionally.

I then decided to visit Manor Farm, as it was nearby and a new site for me and records many good birds.  Again, following instructions that had been given for the original location of the Cattle Egret on Saturday, I was soon parked up and walking out to the floods.  The western side appeared to hold most of the waders and I counted 4 Common Sands, 3 Ringed Plover, 2 LRP and 2 Oystercatchers together with 4 Little Egrets.  Whilst watching these, a Little Owl started calling from a large tree not too far from me and as I looked, it flew down towards the hedgeline next to the floods.  A pleasant evening - I called home at 7:30pm and said I was heading back.

At about 8pm, I received a text from Simon N informing me of a male Red-footed Falcon along the Jubilee River!  This site is about a 20 minute drive south of where I live and I was weighing up whether I was going to have time to get there before it got dark.  Jim R, who had located the bird, phoned me shortly later and said that the bird was sitting in a tree, so it sounded like it might roost there.  He said, "Are you coming for it?", to which I replied, "Yes, but I'm about 40 minutes away".  I phoned home again, explaining my change of plan and then had a stressful journey down wondering if I was going to make it.  Luckily, it was a light evening and I eventually arrived on site at 8:50pm, following Rob A along the last stretch of the drive.  Graham S was sitting on the river bank with his scope pointed at the top of an oak tree on the opposite bank and there it was, a lovely 1st summer male Red-footed Falcon.  The light was still pretty good, so I was able to watch the bird for a little while and note its plumage.  It fanned its tail at one point revealing all juvenile barred feathers with no moulted adult feathers at all.

A little walk from here and a Nightingale was singing.  A late flying Hobby flew past and as I walked back to the car, the Red-foot had dropped down from its high perch, presumably to roost.  All in all, a very pleasant and exhilarating evening - I returned home for 9:50pm and a late dinner!

Friday, 18 May 2012


18th May - Dick S had paid an early morning visit and posted his sightings to the yahoo group.  It included seeing a winter plumaged Dunlin, which I thought was potentially an interesting bird.  So I made my way down just after 10am for a quick look.  In the southern bay of the spit, I quickly located 3 waders, An LRP, a Dunlin in transitional plumage, with some rufous on the mantle and a few black spots on the undersides and a Sanderling - great! This bird had presumably arrived in the intervening period.  I took a record shot and sent the obligatory text to get news out, but at c10:25am all 3 birds suddenly flew for no apparent reason.  The Sanderling called a few times as it did so.  I could not relocate the birds by 10:45am when I had to leave, but it is possible that they are hidden somewhere on the spit, as I didn't check all areas.  17 days since my last year tick, so hopefully this will be the start of an end to that lean period!


The other thing of note this morning was 13 Shelduck all asleep across the spit.  This is a record count for me at this site and following yesterday's report of 10 at Dorney Lake, which isn't too far away, I wonder if these have relocated.
There were 8 in this group, so I've obviously 'chopped' some off!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Cold and Wet!

15th May - I arrived at 9am this morning when the band of rain appeared to have moved through, but it felt freezing with a north westerly blowing through at about 7 degrees - I wish I'd worn my winter gear!

The most obvious thing on arrival was the large number of hirundines flying low over the water - I can't think that there was much flying for them to feed on though.  Swallows and Sand Martins predominated, I guesstimated about 100 of each, with smaller numbers of House Martins, about 50.  At one stage the Swallows in particular started landing on a convenient stick and also on the spit edge.

2 LRPs were the only waders noted, presumably the same 2 that have been seen recently.  At 10am, another small wader flew in, but unfortunately it was just a Dunlin - still another passage wader at least.

Along the west bank a pair of Coot had 6 small youngsters - the third pair I have seen with young along this bank - I wonder how many will survive?

I left to check out some other sites, but returned briefly in the early afternoon to find much the same, though the weather had become a bit sunnier and warmer.  Hirundines were less obvious, but Swifts were around in good numbers, maybe 80 - 100 birds wheeling about.  A Hobby also circled over heading west.

Another quick stop at 4:30pm, as I had heard that a possible interesting wader had appeared, but alas no.  However, as I stood on the west bank, a 2cy Peregrine appeared low from the west and buzzed the end of the spit.  I first saw this bird on April 18th and it has been seen twice in recent days as well - quite brown on the back and quite dense but fine dark streaking on the breast.  The Peregrine flew through having a go at a Lapwing on its way and departed to the east.  The attack had made the Common Terns form a tight group and I counted 33 birds, my largest count to date.  Often there are 10 or less on the lake, with many fishing in the nearby Thames.  Oh, almost forgot, as I drove in, a Hobby was flying north over the A4155 in the village.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


On the 26th April, I noted a 3cy Herring Gull with a white darvic and black letters A7GX.  This matched a scheme in Sussex and I received the history yesterday.

The gull was released from an RSPCA wildlife centre on 30th July 2010 as a juvenile on its maiden flight.  It was released at Pett Level, E. Sussex.  Subsequent sightings have been received from:
Alexandra Palace, London: 3rd January 2011
Springfield Farm landfill, Bucks: 4th February 2011

It's all Gone Quiet...

11th May - a quick pre-work visit this morning.  A Ringed Plover and LRP were lurking on the back of the spit and were the only waders of note.  Duck numbers are dwindling - just a single male Teal, the long staying male Wigeon and a male Shelduck.  In the south-east corner, 31 Tufted Duck were gathered and an adult Common Gull was loafing on the near spit.

No year ticks since May 1st in what should be a productive period!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Another Whimbrel

8th May - I arrived at 9am this morning and could see very little of note other than the usual Common Sandpiper and a pair of Shelduck.  I scanned for about 20 minutes and then went to check the meadow.  I was quite surprised then to receive a text from Mick M at 9:30am saying 'Whimbrel on the spit'.  I was on the southern bank and couldn't see one, so I phoned him and he said it was on the far side amongst Egyptian Geese - this part was hidden from me behind the island.  5 minutes later after I walked to the SE corner, I scoped the Whimbrel, which was roosting on one leg with its bill tucked in its back.  Had I missed it earlier? Had it been hidden amongst the geese or had it just flown in?  Anyway, a nice bird to get.  There have been several records of Whimbrel this year - the only 'proper' wader obviously migrating through the site so far this year - and most have been very short stayers or fly overs.  This bird seemed to be fairly settled.  I grabbed a couple of distant record shots and then walked back round to the west side to see if it was closer there for another shot.  However, as I approached the viewpoint, I could hear a Whimbrel calling and though I didn't actually see it leave, I could hear the calls disappearing northwards and the bird was gone.  It was 10:20am, so a stay of at least 50 minutes - slightly longer than usual!

It was a long way away!

Arctics Drop in

7th May - I had a text from pit stalwart Alan S in the afternoon informing me of 21 Arctic Terns that had just dropped in to the pit during rain.  I was able to get on site relatively quickly and watch many Arctics flying over the favoured eastern side of the lake.  It was difficult to count exactly how many there were, because there were also Commons in with them and birds kept disappearing into the NE corner.  Alan had counted 21 when the birds had arrived and actually landed on the spit.

At one point, I counted 20 terns forming a tight flock as if ready to leave and it might well be that all of these were Arctics.  I watched at least 2 small groups of terns depart to the NE during my visit and there were still 10 on site when I left.

Other birds of note were a non-breeding type Ringed Plover and 2 LRPs.

Red Rump Reported

6th May - I spent an hour and a half on Sunday morning checking to see if anything of note was available for the Bucks Bird Race team who were on their way to a record breaking 122 species today.

4 Little Ringed Plovers were on the back of the spit - my largest count this year, and the continuing Common Sandpiper.  Yellow Wagtails were once again on the spit - this species is having a good run of records at the moment: 7 on Friday, 20 yesterday and 11 today, though I didn't manage to see all 11 this morning.  The continuing male Wigeon, small numbers of Teal and Egyptian Geese were all target birds for the racers.

It was a cold morning and hirundines were once again much in evidence, with House Martins coming through in their 100s over the previous few days.  We had all been checking the white rumps for an orange one - there had been several recent records nationally for Red-Rumped Swallow, with the closest being at Farmoor - not too far away.  Anyway, as ever, none were seen and I departed at around 9am.  It was therefore a bit galling to discover that a regular dog walker, who also apparently knows his birds (though no one seems to know his name!) reported to several local birders the following day, that he had been watching a Red-rumped Swallow for 20 minutes at about 10am the day before.  It was flying backwards and forwards in front of him, low over the eastern side of the lake!  I don't know if he will submit this report, but it sounds like it could well be the one that got away!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Cranes! - Almost on Patch

5th May - I had been spending the day with the family, so had not been birding.  However, I’d noticed that 3 Cranes had been seen over Moor Green Lakes in S. Berks in the morning and then what were presumably the same birds further south over Fleet Pond, so thought they had flown away from us

In the afternoon, my wife had taken my son shopping and my daughter was finishing off some homework and by chance, I noticed that the 3 Cranes were being reported again in Berks, but this time around Reading and on a path that seemed to be taking them closer to Marlow - the last report was of them heading NE somewhere near Wargarve.  I said to my daughter, “Put your shoes on, we’re going to look for some Cranes!”.  We drove probably less than a mile from the house to the Wycombe Hill running downhill into Marlow, as this is a high point and gives a good view of the Thames valley. The first stop at a layby, gave a slightly restricted view, so I drove further down and pulled off just north of Pump Lane near the Three Horseshoes.  The view here was fairly unrestricted looking westwards.  I put my bins up and unbelievably almost immediately was looking at 3 Cranes flying distantly towards me just above the skyline.  I said to my daughter, “I’ve got them!” and jumped out of the car, set up the scope and watched the birds as they flapped steadily and majestically towards me.  The time was about 2:50pm.  In hindsight, my next move was a mistake, because it looked as though they were heading slightly to the south of me and I assumed that they were following the river, which would have taken them directly over Little Marlow GP.  Having since looked at the map, I can see that they were actually flying a fair bit north of the river and were somewhere on the west side of Marlow.  As it was I drove to Little Marlow GP, expecting to see them fly over my head, but I never saw them again, because they had actually veered more north easterly and gone over Handy Cross roundabout – if I had stayed where I was, they would have flown pretty close to me – a disappointing error, but I’m still glad to have connected on a rather fortuitous afternoon.

I also suspect that they would have been viewable from the garden for a short time!

Friday, 4 May 2012

A Trickle of Passage

4th May - a brief visit before work found a 'flock' of 4 small waders on the end of the spit.  These were yesterday evening's 2 Dunlin and LRP, which had been joined by a Ringed Plover.

I picked up a female Yellow Wagtail in flight above the spit and watched it land.  Whilst watching it on the ground, another drab female appeared, then a smart male followed by 3 more males, so 6 birds in total.  These remained for about 20 minutes before all 6 birds took flight - 3 flew south east over the railway and the other 3, 2 males and a female returned to the spit.

3 male Shoveler were new in on the spit.  A male Pochard had been present the previous evening, so a few duck moving about at the moment.  The long staying male Wigeon remains and a pair of Shelduck were on the spit.

A Cuckoo was singing from willows on the north bank and watched flying off west over the STW and a Garden Warbler was singing strongly and showing well near the 'west' bench.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Another Dunlin

2nd May - a quick pre-work visit found another Dunlin moulting to summer plumage on the spit.  This was a different bird to yesterday's 2, being quite rufous above but with quite sparse black streaking on the belly.

I went to the meadow and saw very little until 2 Cuckoos flew over along the railway bank, with one settling in the SW corner.  This bird was very vocal and sang here for a while before working his way up the west bank and then back again.  A second singing bird on the north side by the concrete road was either the second bird or maybe even a third.

A Reed Warbler was singing from the reeds by the cottages - the first I have had in this stretch this year and the long-staying male Wigeon remained.  A single LRP was also present.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May or November?

1st May - Overnight rain continued into the morning with some easterly winds, so I was hopeful of seeing something interesting.  In fact, the morning was wet and uneventful, but a few reasonable birds later on salvaged the day.

I was on site at 8am under a brolly, as the rain was persistent, though not heavy.  The wind was easterly, but quite light.  I left at 9:30am, as very little was happening.  Of note in this first stint was a Hobby that buzzed the end of the spit in the rain before departing and a Cuckoo calling late on from the northern side.  A Reed Warbler could be heard singing from the reeds at the base of the spit, a pair of Shelduck and the lingering male Wigeon.

I returned at 11:30am when the rain had stopped and there were signs of brightness, though it was still quite murky.  2 Dunlin had arrived during this time and were feeding towards the end of the near spit.  They were moulting into summer plumage, with 1 bird slightly more advance than the other.  I took a few record shots through the gloom:

The back bird more advanced than the front

More advanced moult

Less advanced moult
At midday I was joined by Mick M - it still felt slow, but promising.  A further pair of Shelduck flew in from the SE.  At about 1:30pm, I noticed that the tern numbers on the eastern side seemed to have risen slightly and after scoping, noticed a lovely Arctic Tern amongst some Commons, though still only had 12 terns on site.  Shortly later a band of rain came through, so this might have pushed the tern in.  We watched the Arctic for some time, though it kept disappearing behind the reeds in the NE corner, as it flew low over the water, picking insects off the surface, its very long tail streamers particularly noticeable. Another single bird, which is slightly odd for a bird known to move through in some numbers.

A Hobby went over north at about 2pm and a Common Sandpiper flew around the lake, seemingly avoiding landing on the spit.  30 minutes later I was getting ready to leave when I happened to glance up and see 2 mid-sized brown birds flying over going NW into the NW corner.  A quick look through bins confirmed these as Whimbrel - they could have so easily been missed, as they didn't call once.

I then left for the school pick-up, but thought with a few minutes spare I would check the local paddocks - good move, because a lovely male Whinchat was feeding around the horse manure piles in the bottom of the valley.  3 Wheatear were also nearby.  I had to dash, which was unfortunate, because later visitors found a further Whinchat and Wheatear - ah well.