Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Completely Unexpected Garden Tick!

21st July - a report from the garden rather than the pit - only a couple of miles away!

We were due to be away for the weekend and planned to leave by 10:30am.  I had got up quite late and chose to have my morning cuppa looking at the birds in the back garden.  It was about 8:30am and there were quite a few Chaffinches and Blue and Great Tits moving through the trees at the back.  To set the scene a bit, my garden is effectively woodland edge, as it borders extensive Chiltern woodland and lies in a wooded valley running down to the Thames.  The garden itself has several mature trees towards the back about 30 yards from the house, including a couple of Beech, an Oak and a stand of Silver Birch which adjoin the wood.  Birds often move through these trees coming in and out of the wood itself.

As I watched, I caught sight of a phylloscopus warbler moving through the Oak and fairly high up - my first since the Spring.  Partially hidden by leaves, it still showed a nice green mantle and very white undersides.  I immediately thought possible Wood Warbler! and went straight outside to the patio to see if I could hear any calls and see the bird better.  Typically, I thought, the bird seemed to have disappeared and I was regretting not having stayed on the bird in the house - another one that's got away!  I sat on the bench and continued to watch the trees.  After about 10 minutes, the warbler suddenly appeared again.  This time it was mid way up the Silver Birches and it showed really well for 10-15 minutes whilst I watched it - a lovely Wood Warbler!  To add to the features I had already seen, the bird showed a lovely yellow throat and upper breast continuing onto the face and supercilium, which was fairly long and broad.  In the morning light, the bill looked basically orangey and seemed to match the colour of its legs.  It typically had very long wings, with the primaries extending right down about half way along its tail - this gave it a curiously short-tailed look.  It was quite active, moving around the trees apparently looking for food, though not as frenetic as Willow/chiffs tend to be and exhibiting none of the tail pumping that Chiffchaffs do.  It was also silent during the time I was watching it.

I was conscious both of the scarcity of the bird and my looming deadline to leave the house and I hadn't yet had breakfast, shaved or packed anything.  I had to leave the bird whilst it was still on show, but phoned a local birder to see if he wanted to come and take a look before I had to leave.  He arrived some 20 minutes later and we both went to the patio to look, but couldn't find the warbler.  After a further 20 minutes with no luck he left, as did I shortly afterwards, so I was unable to keep tabs on whether it had gone for good or just temporarily.

This woodland edge habitat has been quite lucrative over the years and is a habitat type that probably doesn't get watched that much in normal birding, but just happens to be my garden outlook.  To add to this totally unexpected Wood Warbler, I have had 2 Pied Flycatchers and 2 Firecrests in the past as well as the more normal migrants, so it always pays to keep your eyes open!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Weekly Update

19th July - I have paid a few visits during the week.  Nothing new for the year, but a summer plumaged Dunlin on the 15th added a bit of variety to the long staying Common Sand and pair of Oystercatchers.

Yellow-legged Gulls are still ever present amongst the loafing LWHG, though in varying numbers and ages.  I've not managed more than 6 birds together this week, which was the number seen yesterday, 18th.  An adult, a dark-eyed 3rd summer, which I initially thought was an unusual dark-eyed adult until it opened its wings to reveal some dark feathering in the primary coverts - still, dark-eyed 3rd summers aren't that frequent either and 4 2nd summers.

I also managed to read a couple of colour-rings on the gulls - well almost 2!  The first was a 2cy LBBG that had a white ring on its right leg and black code G+N.  This bird was ringed on 1st July 2011 in Cardiff - a female - and this is the first sighting since then.  The second was a juvenile BHG - I just glimpsed the ring and the first letter of the 4 digit code, an R, before it waded into the water and then flew off.  The metal BTO type ring on its right leg was also placed above the knee, which tends to be the European style.  Anyway, this partially read code was enough to trace it to a bird ringed as a chick on 5th June 2012 at the colony at Oye Plage, Pas de Calais.  Hopefully it will return to be properly read.

A juvenile Herring Gull on the 18th was my first of the year and a male Pochard was still present.  At least 4 juvenile Common Terns are now flying, with several more to come.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Well Travelled Gull

13th July - I've popped down a few times this week, but not seen anything different to the norm.  I paid a quick visit this morning and again this afternoon prior to school pick up and these are the highlights.

LRPs have dwindled away from their peak of 12 or 13 birds last weekend - 5 were noted today, including 4 adults and a juvenile.  A Common Sand still lingers, as do 2 Oystercatchers.  A Shelduck that arrived yesterday was still present on the spit as was the single Teal.  A male Pochard also returned last weekend, but having seen it a few times in the week, I couldn't find it today.

New in was a juvenile Little Egret, possibly a local breeder.  Its knees and lower legs looked strangely thick and ungainly.

YL Gulls are still much in evidence, though the mix seems to change day to day.  Today there were 6 birds, 3 adults and 3 2nd summers.  The 2nd summer birds all looked familiar, but the adults included a darkish eyed individual that I first saw a few days ago and another new bird that had a ghosting effect of a hood coming through.

The post breeding Black-headed Gulls have been building over the past fortnight and now number into 3 figures, including about 5 juveniles. Today, a bird wearing a black darvic on its left leg and white code P430 caught my attention.  It also had a metal BTO type ring on its right leg.  A quick look at the CR website showed it to be a bird ringed in Lithuania and a very quick response from that scheme gave the following details:  it was ringed on 30th March 2010 as a 3cy+ female at Dumpiai dump, Klaipeda, Lithuania on the Baltic coast.  It was seen again there on 10th April 2011 and now here at LMGP!

There was another bird wearing only a BTO type ring on its right leg, but not much chance of reading that!

The breeding Common Terns have now raised 3 juveniles to flying stage - this bird had been handed quite a large fish and struggled to eat it.

Another breeding success was a newly fledged Great-crested Grebe chick seen sitting on its parent's back and also swimming and diving independently.

A pair of Egyptian Geese, one with a pale head, hatched 7 goslings just over a week ago.  These soon became 6 - 3 light birds and 3 darker birds, but they lasted about a week.  Earlier this week, 2 of the lighter birds vanished and we are now left with 4.

A bit of excitement in the afternoon when an immature Peregrine, probably a 2cy bird, buzzed the spit a couple of times before flying off west.  This is probably the same bird seen a few times back in the Spring - where it has been in the meantime - who knows?

Friday, 6 July 2012

More Birding with a Brolly!

6th July - the truly dismal wet summer rolls on.  I ventured out early afternoon in the hope that some waders might have dropped in, but no such luck - a Common Sand and continuing LRPs were all that was present.

YLGs are still very obvious - at least 8 birds today - 2 adults, neither of which had a red colour ring, so at least 1 new bird, 5 2nd summers, some obvious returning birds in this group and a juvenile.  I had assumed that the juvenile was probably the same bird seen in the week, but when I compared photos, it is obviously a different individual in both head plumage detail and bill structure.  It is a shame that it was raining all afternoon, because the juvenile chose to stand on the near spit and in good light would have given me a nice photo, as it was, all I could manage was a blurred image - you can still see the relevant YLG characters though and a nice white upper tail as it flew off.  This bird has a slightly hooked bill tip not shown by the bird a few days ago.

The only other bird of note on a damp afternoon was the first returning Teal of the Autumn.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

White Gulls

4th July - I popped down again early afternoon to see if I could read the red ring on the adult YLG.  Most of the LWHG still seemed to be present and the 2 adult YLG were sitting on the northern side of the spit, so I waited to see if they would move.

Whilst doing this, I noticed a white-winged gull flying towards the near spit - an adult Med Gull - it was c1:30pm and the gull landed and proceeded to preen.  It never looked particularly settled - after a few minutes it took off and landed on the back of the spit with the LWHG, it then returned to the near spit only to take off again fly a circuit and return.  The last time I saw it was just before a helicopter flew over, after which it had vanished having been on site for only 20 minutes or so.  It looked to be moulting its inner primaries and the hood was beginning to get a few white flecks in it. Some record shots below:

As I waited, I also took the opportunity to recount the waders seen this morning.  This time there were a definite 11 LRPs, 10 adults and the juvenile and 2 Common Sands.

Some time after 2pm, something unseen spooked the whole flock of LWHG and rather than taking flight and returning as they often do, they all circled higher and higher and left the site, so the red ring will have to wait for another day!

A little later, 3 Oystercatchers flew in and a leucistic Black-headed Gull also landed for a couple of minutes before departing - not as white as some I have seen, but quite distinctive nonetheless.

A Hobby flew over as I left to collect the kids.

Red-crested Pochard - Patch Tick!

4th July - a quick morning visit trying to dodge the showers.  Almost the first birds I looked at were 2 Red-crested Pochards sitting on the end of the far spit - unexpected at this time of year and a patch tick to boot, so very pleased!  They were both males, 1 in full eclipse and the other partial, still retaining some golden feathers in the head and some black on the lower neck/breast.  A couple of record shots in poor light:

Full eclipse
Partial eclipse
LRPs are still around in good numbers - I counted at least 10 this morning, all adults plus yesterday's single juvenile, but I could only see 1 Common Sand.

Yellow-legged Gulls continue to arrive, with 9 counted amongst the LWHG flock - there could easily be more.  These consisted of 2 adults, 6 2nd summers and a 3rd summer.  A new adult and 3rd summer bird at least.  There have been at least 12 different birds on site so far since June 6th and very probably more - the bulk of these have been 2nd summers and it is becoming difficult to keep track of these.  The new adult (though I did see it briefly yesterday, but only for a nano-second) has a red darvic ring, which is probably from the North Thames Gull Group, but I wasn't able to read it - hopefully it will stick around so that it can be eventually.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Some Movement and Some Juveniles

3rd July - an overcast and humid morning, but largely avoiding the showers.  I was hoping that yesterday's large number of reported Common Sandpipers (8 or 9) might still be present, however, on arrival mid morning it was obvious that they were not.  There were lots of waders around the spit edge though, including an ever growing number of LRPs - I counted 11 birds at one point, 10 adults and the first juvenile of the season.  Amongst these, 2 Common Sands were on the near spit and a newly arrived Green Sandpiper and first of the autumn was on the back of the far spit.

As ever, my attention turned to the loafing LWHG flock and almost the first bird I looked at was a fresh juvenile sitting down with its head in its back away from the other birds.  This was the first juvenile large gull I had seen this year and it looked good for Yellow-legged.  Eventually, it woke up, stood up, walked around and flew, confirming that it was indeed the first juvenile YLG of the season - it eventually flew eastwards, I assume towards Hedgerley landfill.  Luckily Dave P was on site and took some good record shots, which are shown below - my efforts in the light conditions would have been hopeless.  Features noted included a white upper tail, with a black tail band and a pale grey wedge up the back in flight; darker inner greater coverts; dark centred tertials with pale tips and edges, but not reaching the coverts; dark spotting on the edges of the undertail coverts only; large black bill; contrasting dark eye patch with paler head; long, thin legs.

There was possibly another juvenile YLG on site, but I was never sure whether I had actually seen 2 or the same bird in different locations.  The regular adult and 3 of the 2nd summer birds were also present.  It was also nice to see a fresh juvenile LBBG - another first for the season.

At about 11:05am, I happened to look up just as a Curlew was flying overhead, which was lucky as it didn't call once.  Also seen by Dave P, it flew in from the east and continued westwards.  Shortly afterwards, the Green Sand started calling, flew to the southern bay and looked a bit perturbed, which was explained when a second bird appeared alongside apparently having just arrived - Dave P's shots are shown below - Thanks Dave!

The 2 regular Oystercatchers had also arrived silently during this period.  The 40+ Black-headed Gulls that prefer to hang out on the tip of the near spit contained a juvenile - my first this year, but has been reported for a few days now.