Monday, 28 January 2013

Pintail on the up

28th January - a lunchtime visit was greeted with much the same variety as yesterday.  The 3 regular drake Pintail were asleep amongst a flock of Wigeon near to the island - these are generally split into 2 birds and a single, the single having a nice long tail feather, the other 2 birds don't seem to have developed theirs - maybe 1st year birds?

A 1st Winter GBB Gull caught my eye as it descended to the near spit, as it had a black darvic ring on its left leg, with a metal BTO type on the right.  I haven't seen a ring on this species before, so was keen to read it, but unfortunately it hopped off its perch out of the water into the lake and then flew to the back of the spit where reading was impossible.  The brief view I got suggested yellow letters on a black ring, though these could have been dirty white and the first letter looked like a J.  I hope it returns to be read properly.

I decided to take a walk to the SE corner to view the NE side hidden from the west bank.  A very muddy walk and hard going, however, worth it, as a further pair of Pintail were roosting there - a male with a long tail feather and a female, so 5 birds in all.  A Little Egret was also roosting in a bush near the NE bay.

A sizeable flock of Fieldfare, about 110 birds flew north chattering, alerting me to their presence and a single sweep of the Snipe on the spit came to 90 birds - I'm sure more were hidden.  They are back on the spit at the moment, as the muddy flood meadows where they were feeding in large numbers has become re-flooded following the thaw.

I dropped in at the nearby Roach pit on the way home to take a look at the long staying juv female Scaup - she is looking more adult like by the day, now having a broad white face patch above the bill and some grey vermiculations on her back and flanks.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Where's the pot of gold?

27th January - another gull roost visit.  A 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared about 4:45pm.  I think based on size and the pattern in the lower scaps it is probably yesterday's bird.  I managed a blurred record in fading light - hopefully better to come!

32 Great Blacked-backed Gulls was a reasonable count, but again, no white-wingers!  A Little Egret came in to roost again, a Green Sand was on the spit and 2 drake Pintail were off the end of the spit before flying to the flood meadows.

Just after I arrived, a mini squall blew across creating a lovely double rainbow.

Gull Roost

26th January - I ventured down for the gull roost this afternoon.  The 3 drake Pintail remain.  There were good numbers of LWHG to look through, but only small numbers of BHG/Commons, which had maybe already departed to another roost site.  No hoped for white-wingers tonight, but a nice 1st winter Caspian Gull.  This is the same bird as seen last week, but not the previously regular large male.  It is a smaller bird and has very obvious regular largish dark diamond marks on the scaps.  It never comes in close when the light is reasonable for a photo, so I still haven't got a record of it yet, but if it stays regular, hopefully I will soon.

A Little Egret appeared in the island willow late on and a Green Sand called when it was too dark to see it.

Timber Doodles

25th January - still cold, but much more open water than my last visit on Tuesday.  I made a morning visit today.  The 3 drake Pintail were still happily up-ending on the nearside of the base of the spit and good numbers of dabblers are still present, but still very few diving duck.

I decided to do a circuit to try and get some of the commoner species I was missing so far this year.  In the small reed bed by the picnic bench on the NW side a Water Rail showed pretty well, clambering through the sparse reed stems and eventually swimming to further cover.  Best of all though, on the northern side of the lake, I came across not 1 but 2 Woodcock.  Unfortunately, I didn't see them on the ground, as they both flushed, but they both only flew short distances to further cover so hopefully weren't too put out by the experience.  Woodcock are reported here occasionally during the Winter and are probably present more often than seen, but this was a patch tick for me, so very pleased.  A Treecreeper was a further year tick.

As I walked back to the car, a Nuthatch flew over and I watched it descend towards the lakeside cottages.  A quick walk to view the garden feeders found it feeding on the nut feeder - I struggle with this species here and only saw 1 bird last year, so another pleasing year tick.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Frozen Over!

22nd January - well it must have been cold last night as the pit went from largely open water yesterday to almost totally frozen over today.  The wildfowl had kept a small area around the main island free, but that was about it.

A morning visit hoping for a cold weather movement of something interesting, but to no avail.  The 3 drake Pintail were still present but roosting and actually quite hard to pick out from the throng, though later in the afternoon they were all swimming and feeding together, which was much better.  A bizarre occurrence, when an over flying Skylark descended and landed on the ice in the middle of the pit and called down a second bird, before they realised their mistake and flew off west.  The muddy flood meadows are largely unfrozen and this morning the Snipe were probing away in large numbers.  I counted 84 birds and there could well have been others hidden in the longer grass.  Quite an amazing sight really, especially when you consider that last year we were lucky to get a handful during this period.  A further 4 on the spit made today's count 88 birds - a little down on the weekend.  Unfortunately, they had failed to attract any other wader species in.

I also made a quick visit pre school pick-up to see whether any large gulls had come in to pre-roost.  There were quite a few, mostly standing about on the ice, but at 2:45pm a smart looking 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared.  It found a small pocket of water to bathe in, which was my photo opportunity, but it got flushed by a low flying Red Kite and flew to the back of the pit to preen - here it remained.  It was not the regular 1st winter male, which is a very large bird, but a smaller and daintier looking bird.  It might be the second bird seen a couple of weeks ago in the roost, but without photos, it's difficult to be sure.

A fly over Rook was another patch year tick - I really must try and clear up on some of the commoner birds I still need!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow brings in Pintail

21st January - having spent the weekend sledging and building snowmen, I took the opportunity on my lunch break today to catch up with the 3 drake Pintail that Kim D had discovered the previous morning.  Luckily, they were still on site, 2 drakes keeping close company and feeding along the nearside of the spit, the third asleep amongst wigeon in front of the island.  A scarce bird here, with just 1 or 2 records per year, so nice to get on the list.  Snipe numbers are still impressively high, with birds visible on the spit, feeding on the muddy flood meadows and flying between the two.  I didn't attempt a count today, but numbers in excess of 100 birds have been recorded in recent days - today's number was in that vicinity.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Bad Weather Dunlin

14th January - there had been several reports of Brent Geese at various localities in the morning, so on my lunch break, I checked the pit quickly.  No Brents, but as is often the case in inclement weather a couple of Dunlin had appeared on the spit.  Also of note were 55 Snipe - these birds were grouped together on 2 or 3 of the small islands that is slowly returning to a solid spit and there may well have been 1 or 2 more hidden on the far sides.

The snow began falling quite heavily, so it became difficult to see too much, but a Dabchick on the far side beyond the spit and a calling Chiffchaff near the railway were both new birds for the year, as was a Grey Wagtail flying over the car park.

More gulls but not much else

I've paid a few visits over the past week, but have been a bit slow on the updates!  Not much to trouble the year list, but there have been some nice gulls to watch in the pre-roosts.

On the 11th, the regular male 1st winter Caspian Gull was 1 of only 4 large gulls present in the morning.  As I watched it, it took off and flew south on to the riverside Spade Oak flood meadow, which having recently been flooded, is now covered in mud and attracts many hundreds of BHG to feed.  Here, it was the only large gulll and it picked at the mud quite happily for half an hour before flying off west - not sure where it was heading.  A Little Egret was also amongst this throng and my first of the year here.

The regular male Shelduck had been joined by a female, but I didn't see either over the weekend.  The over wintering Green Sand was also seen a couple of times on the spit.  It is not always on this pit and gets on the STW and other areas.

I made it down to the gull roost on the afternoon of the 12th.  The big 1st winter Casp was present when I arrived, to the delight of a couple of visitors - they had seen an adult Med Gull earlier, which I thought might be the same bird I had seen the previous day near Hedgerley landfill, as many of our gulls come from that site.  I began to search through the hundreds of BHG and found a 1st winter Med Gull - as usual, the small gulls were constantly being put up by things that the large gulls generally ignore, so it was difficult to keep tabs on.  A second 1st winter Caspian Gull appeared at the back of the spit - smaller and daintier than the usual bird, but nicely marked - not sure I've seen this one here before, but it might one of the birds seen before Christmas.  Finally Mick M picked up the adult Med hidden amongst the BHG - I only managed to see its head and from this it looked very similar to yesterday's bird, with the black hood beginning to show, particularly around the eyes, ear coverts, back of the nape and top of the crown.  The bill was also solidly red with a black sub terminal bar.  The 1st winter Med reappeared nearby briefly so both birds were almost together, before they all got put up and many of the BHG plus the Meds flew off south.

A poor record of the regular bird - I blame poor light!
Another visit to the gull roost on the 13th was less exciting that the previous day.  Both 1st winter Casps were seen first thing in the morning, so had presumably roosted and an adult Med was seen early afternoon, but all of these birds failed to appear in the late afternoon.  However, one of the first birds I looked at looked good for adult Caspian Gull - I haven't seen this age here before, so I scrutinised the features and it all looked good - it even did several laps of the lake showing off the wing tip pattern and underside of P10 nicely.  A screaming Water Rail was a further year tick.

This Goldcrest was displaying to a female in the depths of a hedgerow showing off his lovely red crest, so i grabbed a record shot:

And finally just off patch, a record shot of some of a group of 28 Waxwings that were feeding on rose hips at the Jubilee River recently - typically confiding, they were right next to the path and me!  Unfortunately, the light was horribly grey, but you can see what they are!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Casp in Gull Roost

5th January - having failed to see the 1st winter female Scaup on the Roach pit or environs on Wednesday, I wasn't too surprised when LGRE called to say it was still there today, so I paid a quick visit this afternoon to find it showing well.

Little Marlow GP is still very wet, though the water level had dropped slightly since mid week.  I only had time to watch the gull roost and was pleased when the regular male 1st winter Caspian Gull arrived just before 4pm.  The long staying male Shelduck was still present, though the earlier wintering Green Sand and Little Egret could not be found.  GBB Gulls numbered in excess of 20 birds, but little else of note, apart from a group of about 40 Fieldfare over presumably to roost late on and the regular throng of roosting Jackdaws.

Whilst on site, the other regulars who were watching from the bench had a female Pintail fly over - unfortunately I missed this from my view point - I'm sure there will be others!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Slow Start to 2013

2nd January - my first trip to the patch this year was a quick lunchtime jaunt.  I had heard that the water level was high and indeed it was - higher than the flooded period of a few weeks ago.  The spit was completely submerged apart from a small area at the tip and a slightly larger area at the eastern base.  Consequently, the number of birds was well down on what I would normally see - Teal and Shoveler were totally absent as far as I could make out, probably due to the lack of dabbling areas.  I did manage the 5 commoner species of gull, including a 1st winter GBB Gull, but of most interest was a nasal saddled female Tufted Duck.  I noticed this bird from the western bank in the NE bay, so battled my way through flooded paths and slippery mud to that side, but by the time I'd got there, it had swum towards the base of the spit, so still too distant to read accurately.  From what I could see, it is very possibly the semi-regular bird blue 'BFK' seen here several times since Oct 2011 - see here . I noted it on Nov 7th last year, but have not seen it since.  If this is the same bird, it will be the first time I have seen it mid winter as opposed to the autumn and spring.