Monday, 29 April 2013

Local Redstart and Whinchat

26th April - I wasn't working on Friday and the weather front that had moved through overnight looked good for depositing some interesting migrants.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get out early and by the time I arrived at 10am, if any waders had been present, they were long gone.  A summer plumaged Dunlin and single LRP were the only waders there.  A quick circuit didn't produce anything new either.

I got a text from Alan S in the early afternoon saying that 2 Whimbrel had arrived and as I happened to be passing, I popped in to see these 2 birds roosting on 1 leg on the spit - obviously taking a breather.

I checked out the paddocks at Pump Lane mid afternoon - not included in this patch, but part of my wider patch.  It is a very good site for passage Wheatear and chats.  I had already seen quite a few Wheatear here this Spring, but this afternoon there were an impressive 13 birds together in one of the paddocks.

Then news of Berkshire's first Bonaparte's Gull then broke - a lovely full summer adult - couldn't miss that, so raced off to Hosehill to enjoy this beauty - pics here.  My poor effort below:

27th April - I was out early.  A pair of Oystercatchers, flighty around the spit and a group of 3 Common Sands in the NE corner were the best of the waders.  The eastern paddocks held 5 Yellow Wags and warbler numbers were on the up - no less than 4 singing Reed Warblers, with just a single bird noted the previous day, a couple of Sedgies and my first Whitethroat of the year here.  Best bird was probably the 2cy Caspian Gull, which was resting on the spit with the loafing LWHG before flying off.  This is probably the bird I saw at nearby Fulmer on April 22nd.

Again, I stopped off at Pump Lane on the way home.  I was pretty cold and the Wheatear numbers were lower - I counted at least 5 birds, but they were distant at the north end of the valley, probably trying to shelter from the bitter breeze.  Whilst scoping these birds, I noticed a female Redstart hopping along at the base of the furthest hedge amongst the Wheatear.  It was distant, but obvious and stayed in this small area all day - using the hedgeline, fence and field for cover and food.

28th April - another early morning, but as it was -1.5 degrees when I got in the car, I wasn't hoping for much!  Just as well - I did add a couple of species to the year list that I'm surprised I still needed - a couple of Linnets in the northern field and a pair of Bullfinches along the concrete road.

Once again I visited Pump Lane and my reward was a female Whinchat.  This bird was using the short posts and wires in the top vine field, along with a couple of Wheatear.  The paddocks held just 2 Wheatear, whilst 2 Lesser Whitethroats were singing near here - 1 showing well.  I took a couple of record shots of the Whinchat, but this was quite difficult due to the mass of wires now in place for the vines.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

From Yellow to Red

24th April - A morning visit was very quiet, though surprisingly, Collared Dove was new for the year!  Noticeably fewer warblers were singing than in the past week.  A Garden Warbler in the railway hedge and a Sedge Warbler in the slightly odd location of the hedge in the field north of the pit were the best.  The eastern paddock held 4 Yellow Wagtails, which are always nice to see, but otherwise little of note.

In the early afternoon, rather than a return visit to the pit, I decided to visit nearby Marlow low grounds, to check out the floods there.  My reward was my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year and a couple of Mandarin, but otherwise fairly quiet as well.  I had left myself about 20 minutes for a quick check of the pit before school pick-up to see whether anything had dropped in during the morning.  En route, I took a call from Mr Nicholls saying that a Spotted Redshank had been reported there.  Aagh!!!  Bad move visiting the low grounds, I thought, still I was almost on site.  I raced to the lake edge and couldn't see anything, being directed on to a Snipe by a visiting birder.  On to the viewpoint and thankfully there it was, distant and roosting on the back of the spit - relief and patch tick!  After a few minutes, it was disturbed by a few lapwing and flew closer calling and it eventually ended up on the near spit.  It was in transitional plumage, though still looked fairly pale, but I was grateful for the local grapevine and for not being at work this afternoon - thanks to Simon R for finding it.  This is a rare bird at Little Marlow and pretty scarce in the county - I remember missing a bird at the pit about 10 years ago in August when I first moved here and it was yet to be my local patch.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Lightning Strikes Twice

23rd April - I had a spare half hour before work, so decided to try and see some of the regular migrants that I'm still missing for the year.  As I walked towards the bench, I heard a distant trilling and thought I must be hearing things - surely not another Wood Warbler.  A couple more paces and boom! (as Martin Garner would say) there it is again, a singing Wood Warbler.  This bird was much more vocal than Saturday's and I was soon watching it flitting around the hedges and tree tops of the main path giving it's full repertoire.  I'd seen Mick M's car in the car park, so called him up - he was in the meadow, but was soon alongside enjoying the bird as well.  The news was duly put out and fortunately many people were able to see this bird as it remained on site for the rest of the day.  It was remaining fairly faithful to a small stretch of hedgerow just south and north of the bench on the west side, but also went into the STW and the cottage garden west of the path.

Some photos were taken by Jim R and Dave F and are on the Bucks website here . I will try and get one to post on my blog, but certainly one of Jim R's photos clearly show how white the undersides of this bird were, with yellow restricted to the sides of the upper breast and the chin.  This is obviously a different bird to Saturday's, as that showed more yellow in the throat and upper breast.

Thanks to Jim Rose for this shot of a lovely bird

I never got further than the Wood Warbler, so the other migrants will have to wait to get added to the year list!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Seven Whistler

21st April - Alan S had a brief Whinchat and fly over Whimbrel this morning.  I couldn't get out until this evening, so was pleased that a Whimbrel was happily ensconced on the spit when I arrived at 5:30pm.

2 LRPs were also present, whilst a calling Green Sandpiper also flew over.  Common Terns numbered 13, with 11 lined up on the spit when I left.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wood you believe it!

20th April - I made an early(ish) start this morning and was out the door at 6:30am. It was only 0.5 degrees, so when I arrived at LMGP, I had full winter gear on! There was partial mist over the lake, though this was quickly disappearing, but it was obvious that nothing much of note was present – just 3 Common Terns and a single LRP. I decided to do a circuit, finding nothing on the meadows, but there were plenty of Blackcaps and Willow Warblers singing. In the SE corner, a Garden Warbler in sub song was new for the year, showing itself in a patch of ivy. A Sedge Warbler singing in the same area an hour later was silent at this time and the obvious influx of Whitethroats seen by others later (I didn’t have any) were also silent – it was probably too cold for them!

At about 7:30am, as I passed the small wooden bridge on the NE side, I stopped in my tracks as a familiar trilling song coming from the hawthorn hedge just in front of me alerted me to a Wood Warbler! Then nothing for the next minute or so, so I began to think I’d imagined it. Then it sang again – phew! but then stopped. It gave its lovely trilling song about 5 or 6 times over the next 10 minutes from the same patch of hawthorn hedge about 20 yards in front of me, but I couldn’t see anything except a Blackcap. Then I saw it emerge from the back of the branches at the top of the hedge, a lovely clean-looking phyllosc, with primrose yellow throat, face and super and clean white lower breast and underparts. Having now heard the bird singing and seen it, I decided to text the news out. I took my eyes off it and sadly and disappointingly never saw or heard it again – I’ve no idea in which direction it went. It was still cold, but beginning to warm up, so I hoped that it was feeding up and might start singing again in warmer weather, but it appears to have moved straight through.

A very unexpected patch tick – might get Whitethroat for the year tomorrow.

18th April - Arctic Terns were making an obvious movement through the region today, so I made a mid-afternoon visit in the hope of finding some.  At least 6 commic terns were in flight as I arrived, which was a good sign and a quick check revealed 4 Arctics and at least 4 Commons.  The Arctics were generally staying on the east and south-east sides of the lake, but never presented a photo opportunity for me (can't do flight shots!).  An LRP on the meadow was new for the year and presumably the same Common Sand as yesterday was in the NW arm.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Sprinkling of Migrants

A few visits over the past few days have given me a few more migrants, but still plenty more to get:

16th April: 4 Common Terns were my 1st of the year, but little else, though plenty of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs singing around the lake.

17th April: an early morning visit in light drizzle found presumably the same 4 Common Terns, a Dunlin moulting to summer plumage and a Common Sand flying around the west bank.  A few hirundines and the same singing warblers.  I didn't have time to visit the SE corner where a Sedgie or 2 have been seen recently.  3 Shelduck are still regular, though this number moves up and down a bit and still 5 or 6 Snipe.  There are still good numbers of LWHG loafing on the spit, mostly 1w/2w Herring and LBBG, but very few BHG and just a couple of Common Gulls today.  I did, however, see my first Yellow-legged Gull of the year here this morning - a 2cy bird, which was keeping itself to itself standing in the water on the end of the spit.  A couple of record shots in the gloom - 1 almost in focus shows most of the feather detail, the other gives an idea of structure.  I didn't see the legs or open wing, but the tail had a nice black terminal bar with some further black spotting above it and a white upper tail.  The GCs were dark centred on the outers, there is some replacement of the LCs and many scaps are also replaced.  It had an obvious dark eye mask and a heavy black bill.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Early Swift

14th April - a late afternoon visit on a fairly warm but breezy day.  No sign of any Common Terns, although a single has been reported over the past few days.  I decided to try the meadows and paddock for wagtails.  Nothing much in the meadows, but the eastern paddock held a double figure flock of wagtails - no White amongst the Pieds, but a nice Yellow to brighten up the day:

Walking back round the lake, I stopped in the SE corner to see if any terns or gulls might drop in, which they didn't, but the hirundine flock took my interest, being about 80 birds strong, mostly Swallows and Sand Martins with a few House Martins mixed in and then a Swift flew over.  This emulates last year when 2 Swifts appeared on this date - pretty early and my joint earliest ever - maybe Spring has arrived.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Yammer leads to Osprey

13th April - I was up and out early this morning only to find that there was localised fog all along the river Thames, which covered the pit as well, making viewing impossible.

I decided to walk to the SE corner and back to check for migrant passerines and found a noticeable fall of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, with 3 of the former mainly in the SE corner and 7 of the latter.  I hung around on the west bank to see if the fog might lift, but at 7:30am gave up and moved off site.  The fog was extremely localised and even back at the car park it was noticeably clearer, with the Marlow road being totally clear.  I decided to check the Pump Lane area for any Wheatears, Redstarts or Ring Ouzels, though was massively over optimistic and drew a complete blank, in fact it was almost birdless!  On returning to my car at the bottom end of the lane near the polo field, I heard a Yellowhammer singing across the field to the east, which rather depressingly was a county year tick - my local birds seem to have dwindled to extinction this year.  I spent a couple of minutes trying to find its song perch and whilst doing so noticed an interesting large blob flapping just above the horizon of a distant wood.  Luckily I hadn't put my scope away and quickly got onto the bird, which proved to be an Osprey!  It was flapping purposely along just above the wood which was probably half a mile away, being followed half-heartedly by a Red Kite, before it disappeared from view behind further trees.  I looked at my phone which said 8:12am, so probably first saw the bird at 8:11am (more or less) and it looked to be flying N or NNW.  About an hour later, I found out that Dave P had seen an Osprey fly straight over and through Little Marlow GP at a reasonable height at 8:06am at a fog free site - if only I'd stayed!  Presumably the same bird and yet again I miss out on a patch Osprey, though not by much.  However, I'm glad I was lucky enough to see it at all - thanks to the singing Yammer for keeping me looking in the right direction!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Back Off Hols

12th April - back from a fortnight away in sunny Cyprus where the birding was very enjoyable.  Missed a couple of nice county birds whilst away with long staying Stone Curlew and local Black Redstart, but such is life.

A quick afternoon visit to catch up with some of the Spring migrants I would normally have had by now. First up was Sand Martin and Swallow, with quite a movement of these off the Thames and through the pit.  Next, a lone Oystercatcher was roosting on the end of the spit and finally to round off the hirundines, a few House Martins were also seen moving through.  I missed a Yellow Wag that had been seen earlier on the meadow, but a single Redshank was wading around.  Roll on some more passage.