Monday, 31 December 2012

125 All Out

31st December - well 2012 draws to a close and my visit on the 23rd proved to be my last of the year.  My personal patch year list closes on 125 - I failed to include House Sparrow, which I didn't see around the lake itself but saw them apparently nesting on several of the houses in Church Lane in the Spring/Summer, so have added this on.

The overall site list was probably about 10 species higher than this, so something to aim for next year.  I have decided to take part in the Patchwork Challenge next year - see here which adds a bit more fun to it.  I'm using 125 species as a benchmark, as this was my first year list on this patch.

As always, I am grateful to the other local LMGP patchers who find birds and get the news out.

There are many highlights from the year and I have put a photo record of some of them below:

The white-winged gulls at the beginning of the year

An early Sandwich Tern

A Rock Pipit followed by another Sandwich Tern and the start of many Arctic Terns in April/May

Spring wader passage was a bit slow, but quite a few Whimbrel and a single Sanderling were noteworthy

Summer brought the usual build up of Yellow-legged Gulls, but at least 2 Caspians joined them, along with 2 mid-summer Med Gulls

Late summer brought a couple of Red-crested Pochards and a juvenile Black-necked Grebe

One of the main highlights of the year was the incredible flock of 19 Little Terns that arrived in mid August

August also brought a Turnstone, but further waders were few and far between until a Knot arrived for about 20 minutes during a foggy November day

A confiding male 1st winter Caspian Gull was one of at least 3 that appeared in November/December

1 or maybe 2 Goosanders put in a brief appearance and finally a flyover Waxwing in December

Roll on 2013!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Two Casps

23rd December - an afternonn visit for the gull roost found the regular male 1st winter Caspian Gull already present.  Another 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared at the end of the spit as well - a different bird to any I've seen here this autumn.  This is the first time I've seen 2 birds together and is the 5th bird (I think) at this site since June.

Scaup Photos

Managed a couple of record shots of the 1st winter female Scaup on the roach pit on the 21st.  The light was reasonable but a bit hazy.

I think the left hand bird in the bottom photo is the one claimed as a possible second Scaup or hybrid.  To me it looks like a juv Tufted Duck.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Off Patch Scaup

19th December - I made a pre-work visit to another of the pits in the Marlow GP complex, known locally as the Roach Pit and probably only 400-500 metres from LMGP as the crow flies.  A juvenile Scaup had been photographed here last week with what looked like a pink rubber band around its neck.  I had made a visit the day after this discovery, but during the cold snap, the pit had iced over and nothing was found.  Anyway, this morning, a juvenile female type bird was back, loosely in the company of 4 adult male Tufted Ducks and a probable 1st winter male.  It didn't have any pink neck band though.  It was diving frequently, with the obvious leaping out of the water style, and showed obvious white ovals on the lores, a large greyish bill with restricted black on the nail, a dull eye and slightly larger more bulbous body to the accompanying Tufties.  Hopefully if it hangs around in better light, I will be able to get some photos.

Curiously, later in the morning, 2 juvenile Scaup were reported from here, keeping very close company, although one may have been a hybrid, but no Tufted Duck, so exactly how many Scaup are in this area is now a bit clouded - I haven't noted any of these birds on LMGP yet, but a return visit is obviously called for!

Waxwing Bonus!

18th December - I haven't made many visits recently for various reasons.  The only different bird of note was a female Goosander on the 11th, which was too distant to see if it was the same as the previous bird or different, though a suspect a different bird.  This bird didn't hang around for long though!

I popped down this morning for a quick check.  Nothing out of the ordinary, though it was nice to see the spit reappearing after the rain.  The CR Lapwing was present again, but disappointingly I have had no response from anyone on the likely origins of this bird.  The markings suggest a German scheme.

I also made a quick visit before school pick-up where I joined Dick S.  Little change from the morning and the LWHG pre-roost didn't really materialise today.  Snipe are still around in good numbers - a count of 27 birds is probably lower than the actual number present.  Best bird of the day by far was found as we were leaving - a short trilling by a Starling-sized bird flying overhead from east to west alerted us to a lone Waxwing.  I got it in my bins before it disappeared over the STW and noted a pale tipped tail and stubby looking head.  It trilled again, presumably looking for other birds.  Maybe this will be the fore runner of some more birds in the locality.  Anyway, a fantastic patch tick!

Friday, 7 December 2012

A New Casp

Fellow regular gull watcher Dick S photographed a 1st winter Caspian Gull on November 23rd, which is obviously a different bird to the regular one.  It has very faded coverts and shows quite a few second generation lesser and median coverts - another one to look out for!

The following shots are courtesy of Dick:

More Casp Shots

7th December - the lake was awash with LWHG when I turned up just before midday and this included the regular 1st winter Caspian Gull.  It eventually came in quite close, so I could take some better shots of it, though the bright sunshine created some shadow.

Otherwise, not much of note - the drake Shelduck remains and a Chiffchaff was seen on the western bank.  The now exposed muddy flood meadows have attracted many hundreds of foraging BHG and at least 30 Pied Wagtails were finding this to their liking as well.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Another Casp or Maybe the Same?

5th December - I made an afternoon visit just before school pick-up.  The water level was still high, but the sun was shining, although it felt freezing in a northerly breeze.

The imm female Goosander was still present on arrival showing nicely in the NW arm.  However, shortly later, she flew to the small remaining spit amongst the gulls, then swam out to the middle of the pit before taking to the air and flying off strongly SE.  The male Shelduck was still present and the other waterfowl were similar to yesterday.  Snipe are still present in good numbers, often feeding on the remaining islets and flying around in small groups.  A Chiffchaff was seen a couple of times on the western side, found through frequent calling.

LWHG started arriving in good numbers from 2pm and there were probably 2-300 to look through, mostly Herring with a few LBBG and GBBG.  At about 2:40pm I picked up a striking 1st winter Caspian Gull.  This bird was unringed and I thought initially was a different bird to that seen in November, but now I'm not so sure.  It showed well in the afternoon sunlight, but was always fairly distant for photos.  A couple of records are below, which show most of its features well enough, although it was preening at this stage, so the pose is never quite natural and the colours are affected by the strong sunlight.

Edit: having compared these record shots below with those taken before (see here), I think it is probably the same bird as before, even though it didn't give that impression this afternoon.  Both birds show a dark brown feather towards the end of the inner greater coverts on the right side, which stands out as a dark mark against the other washed out inner greater coverts.  I don't think this is a usual feature.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Goosey Goosey Gander

4th December - the lake is still high, though the flood meadows are now mostly meadow.

A morning visit found many hundreds of BHG milling about and still plenty of dabblers, though the drake Pintail of the previous 3 days had moved on.  A Peregrine flew through and put everything up before departing to the west and I then noticed a female type Goosander in the NW arm, which on closer inspection appeared to be a bird of the year, with a pale line along the lores.  It seemed to favour this area, though did move around the lake at times and even hauled itself out on a bit of spit a couple of times.  My second of the year following a bird back in January.

Eyeing up something
The drake Shelduck remained, as did large numbers of Snipe and the regular Green Sand.

On the gull front, I dug out a 1st winter Med Gull from the throng of BHG before they were all put up and it duly disappeared.

Floods Swell Duck Counts

2nd December - well the rain made its way into the Thames, which duly broke over the riverside flood meadows.  I hadn't seen this before, so took some snaps:

Looking east.  This is usually a meadow grazed by cattle.

East. The Thames is back middle to right

Looking west. Some meadow still visible

Riverside benches
Spade Oak meadow held several species of duck and also a Dabchick that was diving near the dividing hedge.  Don't suppose that is recorded here very often!

The Thames had also seeped into the lake, which had risen by 2 to 3 feet, covering much of the spit and flooding the SW corner.

Still some spit showing
These conditions were obviously to the liking of the dabblers, which swelled their numbers considerably over several days.  I did a count on Friday 30th and found 118 Teal, 102 Wigeon and 53 Gadwall.  Shoveler numbers had also increased, though these were harder to count.  A drake Shelduck had also appeared.

Weekend counts were quite a bit higher again, but the diving duck are still relatively sparse.  A drake Pintail was a nice addition over the weekend, which I popped down to see on Sunday afternoon, following 2 drakes and a female that I had missed on the 28th.  Snipe seem to be loving it here at the moment - having counted 22 on Friday, they rose to the 30s on Saturday and the Sunday afternoon peak count was 48.  Great to see these birds in numbers and a bit strange to see frequent sorties of birds flying around in flocks of 20+.  The Green Sand is also enjoying the conditions and is present more often than not.

The Sunday gull roost was fairly uneventful, though the very white headed 1st winter gull appeared again, but distantly.  It still looks to be YLG on structure, but has a lot of Caspian features.  I even called it Caspian when it first arrived.  I'm hoping it appears in the afternoon pre-roost so it can be grilled a bit better.

I took a record shot of one of the 1st winter GBBG as there were a few about last Friday.

One other bird of note from Friday was a male Blackcap around the western bench briefly.