Monday, 30 September 2013

Wigeon on the up

30th September - A small influx of Wigeon saw 22 birds present this morning, along with 12 Shoveler and 4 Gadwall.  No waders apart from Lapwing and Snipe - I found 9 of the latter creeping about in the longer vegetation, which may well have been hiding some more.

Best of the gulls was an adult YL Gull, which is probably the regular bird seen over the past month or so.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Spare half hour

29th September - I had a spare half hour or so just before lunch so popped into the pit.  Quite a fresh north easterly was blowing, but nothing of note had been pushed in and the juvenile Ringed Plover also seems to have departed.  Best bird was this obliging 1st winter YL Gull on the near spit.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Marsh Tick!

27th September - I've made a few brief visits this week pre and post work.  The juvenile Black Tern hung on for its 14th day until Tuesday 24th but was not seen after this.  It must be some sort of long staying record I would have thought.  The juvenile Ringed Plover which turned up on the 18th is still here - based on the breast band, this bird is different to the 2 which were here briefly on the 17th.  Poor record below

Wildfowl are building gradually, with 18 Shoveler noted yesterday, though just 3 Wigeon.  The odd Pintail may pass through soon, but none have been seen yet.
The past two evenings I have dropped in just before dusk and the gull roost is building, with getting on for 1,000 BHG, 100+ LBBG and 50+ Herring Gulls.  The single adult YL Gull has been seen on both nights and yesterday an adult GBBG was my first of the season.
This morning, apart from the Ringed Plover, not much to write home about.  I wondered around to the southern bank and back and noted a small passage of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, a single Reed Bunting flying over calling was also a probable migrant.  On my way back up the western bank by the base of the viewpoint, I suddenly heard a very vocal Marsh Tit moving around in the trees.  I managed to get it in my bins briefly before it moved off  northwards with a tit flock and was last heard near the cottages.  This is a patch tick, so well pleased and a bird not often seen here, though they can't be too far away - I certainly get them in my garden.
Last Tuesday, as I was leaving, a mother and 2 well grown young Roe Deer appeared on the base of the spit and started grazing, so I took a record of the mother.  Roe Deer are seen on and off throughout the year, including a Buck, but more often than not they are around in the morning and evenings when the light is poor, so it was nice to see them in the midday sunshine.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tern number 4

23 September - I had spent the morning in west Berkshire watching a delightful juvenile Red-backed Shrike - a long overdue county tick.  Making my way back eastwards by early afternoon, I had time to pop into the patch before picking the kids up from school.  It was overcast with a hint of rain in the air and as I walked in along the west bank as usual, a tern flew right next to me up the north-west arm. I was amazed to see that it was a juvenile Arctic, my fourth species of tern here this month.  It was giving lovely close views and favoured the western side, which is the closest for easy viewing - more often than not, these terns are over the larger body of water on the eastern side.  I made my way to the viewpoint hoping that it might land on the spit so that I could get a digiscope image.  Once here, it was apparent that there were actually 2 juvenile Arctic Terns, often in close proximity, though only one bird seemed to venture up the north-west arm.  Both birds had fully black small bills, but one was slightly longer than the other.  Neither made any attempt to land, so I resorted to taking hand held shots as the first bird made sorties past the view point - not great, but you can see most features, including the plain white secondaries, lacking any dark bar that juvenile Common shows.  You can also see the translucent primaries on the far wing of the first photo.

Funnily enough, an adult and 2 juvenile Common Terns had been frequenting the lake on and off over the past fortnight and when an adult Common Tern appeared over the far side as I was leaving, I had a brief moment of doubt, but it didn't last long!

The juvenile Black Tern was still present, often flying with the Arctics and the juvenile Ringed Plover also remained.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

7 Up

17th September - well the juvenile Black Tern is now on its 7th day, so despite initial signs of moving on, it obviously likes it here.

The only other birds of note were seen today in the early afternoon when 2 Ringed Plover flew in during rain.  They both looked like juveniles and after landing on the spit for a few minutes quickly departed.

The regular adult YL Gull is still being seen daily and a Common Sand is still around along with a couple of Snipe.

Today, a walk around the lake found numerous Chiffchaffs - at least 15 and a few Blackcaps, whilst yesterday and in slightly lesser numbers today, hirundines were over the lake in force.  Yesterday saw an estimated 100 Sand Martins, the first large count I have seen this Autumn, similar numbers of House Martins and 200 Swallows.  A couple of Dabchick were also a nice addition - possibly new birds or maybe a new one joining the fairly regular singleton.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Black Tern Stays

14th September - well despite it looking decidedly unsettled on arrival on Wednesday, the juvenile Black Tern is still present for its 4th day this morning.  On Thursday, it was settling occasionally on a piece of wood, so I grabbed this record:

I narrowly missed a passing Ruff on Thursday that was seen late morning but was not there at 12:30pm - a record shot shows what looks like a nice moulting adult male, posted here. The only other waders at the moment are a long staying Common Sand and the odd Snipe.

This morning, the 3 regular Common Terns, an adult and 2 juvs that have been present on and off for a couple of weeks were flying around with the Black Tern.  Also on the spit was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull - a different individual to the one seen a few times a week or so ago.

Amongst other features, the many moulted scaps and dark centred pale fringed tertials help to ID this bird.

There were lots of Swallows and House Martins low over the lake too in the mizzly conditions, probably 3-400 birds equally mixed, but very few Sand Martins.  I also took another shot of the regular Black Swan family - the juvenile now pretty well full grown.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

.......deserves another!

11th September - I made another early afternoon visit vaguely hopeful that a skua might fly over, as some had been reported flying over London.  However, on arrival, it was fairly obvious that not much was happening.  After a quick scan of the usual birds, I settled into watching fly over birds.  Shortly after 1pm, I noticed a small, darkish looking tern flying in high from the north over the north-eastern side.  A quick look through the scope confirmed my suspicions that it was a juvenile Black Tern.  It never looked particularly settled and was often flying higher than the surrounding trees doing a bit of mid-air preening and also ranging quite a way outside the pit.  However, it also came down the lake to surface feed on several occasions.  It landed on the end of the spit for about 5 minutes enabling me to grab some record shots:

So, although looking like it was going to leave any minute, it stayed at least 2 hours whilst I was there and was still present at 3:10pm when I left.

A quick pre-work visit in the morning found the semi-regular 3 Common Terns, an adult and 2 juveniles.  They are often not at the lake though, so I wonder if they visit the river or nearby pits.  5 Shoveler was a slight increase on previous days.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

One good tern...........

9th September - I was working from home today and had seen a fairly steady fall of rain all morning, in fact by late morning it was raining pretty heavily.  Wet weather often produces some interesting birds at the pit, so by early afternoon when the rain had lightened and was expected to pass through, I decided to take a late lunch and have a look.

On arrival, there was still a steady drizzle, so I birded with a big brolly over me in one hand and the scope handle in the other.  There wasn't obviously anything new in, a juv Common Tern was patrolling the eastern side, the 2 Wigeon remained, Snipe numbered 3 on the western side of the spit and a Common Sand was probing the spit edge.  The regular adult YL Gull was in and a male Gadwall was possibly new in as well.  A Hobby flew over low and made a couple of assaults on the low flying Swallows and House Martins almost above my head before flying off east.

Shortly before 2pm, the rain subsided and I was able to put the brolly down.  I was scrutinising the hirundines flying low in the NW arm when I heard a familiar harsh 'kirrick' call several times to the south of me.  Knowing this was Sandwich Tern, I binned the end of the spit and saw 2 adult Sandwich Terns descend to the end of the spit - one was very white headed and in almost full winter plumage, the other had more black in the crest.  I hurried over to the viewpoint to try and grab some record shots, but in the few seconds that it took to get there, they had taken off again.  It was now obvious that there were actually 3 Sandwich Terns flying around and plunge diving off the end of the spit, as another very white headed winter plumaged adult was also present.  They were flying very close to me and the yellow tipped bills were quite obvious as was the lack of any apparent juvenile plumage.  I watched them for a few minutes until a Red Kite decided to fly fairly low over the spit putting up the BHG flock - the flock took off to the south taking the terns with them and I watched them fly low over the southern hedge presumably back to the Thames where they had probably come from in the first place.  That was that I thought, but a few minutes later, one of the white headed birds returned and began to fly up and down the southern side of the lake.  It plunge dived and caught a fairly large fish and then flew off to the eastern side where I lost it behind the island, before it returned and landed on the end of the spit.  Here it remained for some time, preening and roosting enabling others to get a view as well.  I took a few record shots of this bird:

I have now seen Sandwich Terns on 5 occasions at the pit and 3 of these have been when wet weather has been around, so obviously a good time to look for them.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ruff Justice

8th September - I cycled to the pit this afternoon with my daughter.  Not long after we had arrived, a large black cloud rolled over and a heavy shower started which lasted a good 10 minutes or more.  Fortunately the trees on the western bank gave pretty good cover, so we only got slightly damp.  During and immediately after the rain stopping, no hoped for migrants had been forced down at all.  We ventured to the pit edge to avoid the drips now falling from the trees and a scan around revealed 2 Wigeon as new arrivals, the continuing Common Sand, Snipe, adult YL Gull and juvenile Common Tern, which was calling frequently.  The adult Dabchick was also in front of the spit and has been seen a couple of times recently, along with 3 Pochard, 3 Shoveler and 20+ Teal.

Whilst watching the now familiar party of 3 Black Swans swimming by, we were joined by Dave C and later Mick M and were lamenting the lack of new birds.  Mick M had to leave and 10 minutes later I was about to leave as well when I saw a wader flying over fairly high to the east having come over the STW.  Due to its size, I suspected a Ruff and looking through my bins confirmed this, the first Ruff I have seen here for 3 years.  It flew around a couple of times and made two passes at the spit, looking as if to land, but each time it accelerated away, like a plane missing its landing spot.  I think the large flock of gulls on the spit were putting it off.  Eventually, it flew off high to the north and I watched it disappear, so unfortunately, no record shots, but it's nice to get another year tick at last - it's only been 5 weeks since the last one!

Monday, 2 September 2013

A new Juvenile Med Gull

September 1st - a late afternoon visit and there were plenty of gulls to look through.  Best bird was a moulting juvenile Med Gull - a different looking bird to the regular one that has now not been seen for a couple of weeks.  Record shots below:

Otherwise, just the regular adult winter YL Gull and a single regular Snipe of note.

First autumn Whinchat

Unfortunately not on the patch, but at the regular nearby site at Pump Lane paddocks.  I noted my first returning Wheatear here on the 15th and Alan S had been seeing more Wheatears here whilst I was away towards the end of the month.  On my return I found 2 more Wheatear on the 28th and then on 31st, 4 Wheatear, 2 Yellow Wagtails feeding around the horses and a single Whinchat

A nice end to a quiet month

August at the pit is usually pretty good for picking up waders, terns and passerine migrants, but this year has been very quiet and the worst in several years.  I have had little time to visit over the past fortnight with work and family commitments, but the only reports from the site of any interest have been a flyover Greenshank and passage Spotted Flycatcher, so it doesn't look as though I've missed much!

August ended as it had begun with a couple of Black-tailed Godwits found on the 31st.  I thought on first glance due to the overall pale buffy look to the birds that they were juveniles, however, on closer inspection, they appear to be moulting adults - one in almost full winter plumage with a few summer scaps and the other with more adult scaps, a more orange face and neck a few remnants of black barring on the undersides. A few record shots below:

August 31st also saw 3 Yellow-legged Gulls, the highest group this season, including my first juvenile, a fairly regular adult attaining winter plumage and another adult which quickly departed.  The juvenile was readily picked out amongst other things due to its many moulted scaps, narrow pale fringed, dark centred tertials, pale face with a dark eye smudge and heavy, solid black bill.  It was fairly distant, so my record shots are just that!

This blurry record of the adult coming into winter plumage was taken on the 17th

The visit on the 31st also included a Dunlin that was flying around for a while, but never landed and eventually departed to the SE.  The resident Common Terns seem to have left now - birds are still being seen on and off in varying numbers, but these are probably migrants, especially as there are often several juvenile birds and we only managed 2 fledged young this year, both of which left a while ago.  Today there was a single adult present.  Ducks are also appearing in dribs and drabs - a couple of Shoveler, 8 Teal and 2 Pochard today, joining the building Tufted Ducks and resident Mallard.

On the passerine front, little to note.  I did see a flurry of warblers mid month, including family groups of Reed Warblers, Garden Warbler, Blackcaps, Willow and Chiffchaff and on the 28th a nice Lesser Whitethroat feeding on Dogwood berries by the cottage gardens - this being only my second this year.

I don't usually mention Ring-necked parakeets, as they are seen or more usually heard fairly often. However, on the 14th, a bird was perched on a small oak near the cottages so I took this shot of it:

There was a noisy group of 7 birds flying around, including several short-tailed juveniles, so evidence of some local breeding.

On the plastic front, the family group of 3 Black Swans are still present and a Barnacle Goose has appeared along with the regular Bar-headed Goose amongst the ever growing Canada/Greylag flock.