Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Not such a grey day

17th December - there hasn't been much to report recently, with species and numbers staying relatively constant.

Three Shelduck appeared on Monday and were still swimming around today.  I had time to check the main pit and also the smaller pits and the western end.  These rarely have anything of note, but I counted 158 Coot on the Crown Plaza/ski pit, which is quite a good number and by far the commonest bird on the lake.

I also took a short walk in Emmett's fields to the north of the main pit.  I have seen very little here on past visits, but it does hold a few Yellowhammer, Skylarks and Linnets and I had three Stonechats and a Wheatear in the Autumn.  It was also the site of last year's Pale-bellied Brent Goose, which was only the second county record.  Anyway, today didn't look too promising and the only birds seen on the short walk north from the farm were five Greenfinches in the hedge and a few Linnets flying over.  That was until I approached the pheasant cover.  Glancing through the stems of corn at a recently cut area on the far side, I noticed two small blobs and was surprised to find a pair of Grey Partridge sitting there.  They remained in the same spot whilst I tried to grab a record shot, though this was made difficult as I was looking through the corn stems, playing havoc with the auto focus.  It was also very gloomy.

I do wonder where these birds come from, as I thought they had died out from this area.  There are so many shoots around and thousands of Red-legged Partridge are put down for these, so maybe some Greys are as well, although I have read that Greys are difficult to breed and aren't normally put down for shoots.  I did see a covey of 21 birds in October 2012 about five miles away, though they were in an area where many Red legs are put down, so who knows.  Whatever their origin, they are the first Greys I have seen on patch and am happy to add them to my list.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lunchtime gulling

8th December - I spent my lunchtime perusing the gulls on the spit.

First up was the first colour ringed Common Gull I have ever seen.  It had a red darvic with white code AV22 and from the CR website, looks to be a German ringed bird.  I duly sent an email and await a response.

Next, an adult Med Gull was lingering with the BHG. This bird has been seen a few times recently, but this is the first time I've set eyes on it:

An finally, a nice adult Caspian Gull appeared amongst a small number of LWHG.  I struggled to get any good photos of this bird, but have one reasonable shot that amongst other things shows the long pale white tip to the underside of P10.

Signs of Winter

3rd December - overnight temperatures have begun to drop, with a couple of frosts this week, which often brings about a bit of bird movement.

Today was cold, but nice and sunny and the winter ducks are beginning to look rather splendid in their full finery.  Amongst the Wigeon on the east side of the spit, a drake Pintail was newly arrived and in no hurry to move on, as it happily snoozed.  Nearby, were two females, which at the 300+ yard range I was viewing from did not stand out particularly well, as they too were tucked up and asleep.  I did see them flush off the bank once, but they soon returned to their slumber.

Shortly before seeing the Pintail, an immature Peregrine had flashed through over the spit, half-heartedly flying low through the Lapwings before continuing north.  It had also disturbed a 1st winter Med Gull from the spit that was preening amongst the BHG.  Fortunately, after flushing, it relocated to the open water, where I was able to grab a record shot:

I am assuming that this is the same bird seen back in mid November and also at the gull roost on the 30th.

A Chiffchaff was in the lakeside willows on the NE side and is one of two or three birds that are wintering around the lake, usually quite vocal. Another flock of Golden Plover, this time about 450 birds, were flying distantly over Emmett's fields to the north.  They were wheeling around for ages, but seemed unhappy to land.

Other birds of note recently were a pair of Shelduck that appeared on the 1st December and were still there the following day, another fly over flock of Golden Plover - c250 birds on the 1st and the continuing increase in the flock of Snipe on the spit - up to 13 birds on the 2nd.  Lapwing numbers are still high, with an estimated 1200 birds present on the 2nd, whilst 2-3 Water Rail are usually fairly vocal and sometimes seen on the west side of the lake.  I continue to count the wildfowl numbers on occasion, usually when they appear more obvious, and although the numbers of diving duck continue to be fairly low, the dabblers are still increasing - Wigeon are now into three figures, with 103 birds present on the 1st.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Not so Ruff!

24th November - I paid a quick pre-work visit to the patch this morning.  It was the first properly cold morning of the season, with temperatures barely above freezing.  The lake was shrouded in mist, though it was patchy and lifting, so not too much of a hardship.

I stood on the west bank and methodically scoped the birds on the spit and the lake.  A small group of seven Snipe on the left side, half hidden in vegetation, was a slight increase on recent counts.  Egyptian Geese seemed quite numerous amongst the Greylags and a quick count found 76 birds present - a reasonable total.  Otherwise, it was the usual fare - Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall dotted on and around the spit, a few Pochard and Tufties on the water amongst the Great Crested Grebes and large numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Lapwing.

The Lapwing would spook occasionally, as they always do and many hundreds of birds would wheel about before descending back to the spit.  Whilst they were in the air, I gave them a quick scan with bins to check for waders, as I was conscious that a Dunlin had been seen on Saturday, but I didn't notice anything through the mist.

My quick visit came to an end and I began to walk back to the car park, stopping briefly to check for a Water Rail that was 'kipping' away in the NW reed bed.  As I stood, I looked up to see a small flock of about 20 Lapwing flying past heading NW.  Amongst these was a medium sized wader.  Its size, flight action, long wings, long neck, mid sized slightly drooping bill and obvious broad white base to the tail, revealed a nice Ruff.  I would say it was probably a male due to its size.  It continued to fly through with the Lapwing and I soon lost it behind trees.  It did not appear to return, but as the sizeable Lapwing flock is ever present at this time of year, one to look out for over the coming days.

Other birds of note from last week have included a couple of nice flocks of Golden Plover - 150 last Tuesday and 70 last Wednesday.  Both of these have just flown over and eventually flown off north.  A 3rd winter Caspian Gull visited the pre-roost  on the 19th.  I was unlucky here, because I had worn a thick jacket in the morning as it was cold and put my camera in the inside pocket.  In the afternoon, I had worn a thinner jacket and forgotten about my camera, so when the Casp appeared early afternoon in good light, I could have taken some nice shots of it, but alas it was not to be.  This is the first 3rd winter I have seen on the patch.

A Coal Tit has taken to feeding at the cottage feeders and can be seen on most visits - not an easy bird to see on patch.  2-3 Water Rails are frequently vocal and can be seen with patience in the west and NW reed beds.

Finally, a couple more white darvic ringed BHG have been seen.  One is a new bird and is from a Polish scheme, details awaited; the other is from a Danish scheme and was also seen last year, though I have never been sent any detail - I keep trying!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Long distance gull

I was able to watch the gull roost late last week for the first time in a while.  By the time I got there, most of the Black-headed Gulls had already departed, as this site is a pre-roost for this species and they fly elsewhere.  I have seen almost 1,000 birds gathering during the afternoons recently, so numbers are beginning to build.  The best bird was probably a 1st winter Med Gull that was on the spit briefly before flying off with the Black-heads.  I had seen this bird the previous day, but just in flight as it flew in from the north but flew straight through and departed to the south west.  I was keen to look through the large gulls for Yellow-legs and Caspians and it was nice to see good numbers of large gulls arriving.  Unfortunately, I failed to pick out any of the scarcer species, but there were around 500 Herring Gulls to look through, very much fewer LBBG, only about 50 birds and 10 GBBG, 9 adults and a 1st winter.

One of the Herring Gulls, an adult, had a black colour ring with white code J1281.  As always, I used the colour ringing website to trace the scheme and sent an email.  Over the weekend, I received details back from the Norwegian scheme and found that the bird had been ringed as a 4cy+ (i.e. adult) male on the 12th July 2009 at a place called Berlev├ąg havn, Berlev├ąg, Finnmark.  It had been seen again near this site in April 2013, where it was probably breeding and this was the only other sighting since.  I had to google the location to find where it was and was amazed to see that it is right at the northern end of Norway, well within the Arctic circle and over 2,600km away.  This is by far the longest distance travelled by any of the colour-ringed gulls I have recorded on the patch to date and it is really interesting to be able to discover these details relatively easily through colour rings and websites.  Here is a map showing where it was ringed:

Addendum - I have decided to include Caspian Gull on my year list on the basis of the bird seen on October 27th and 28th.  Although it showed a weird bill and slightly streaky head and undertail coverts, I could not see anything else that didn't look spot on for Caspian.  It is possible that some sort of illness/disorder may have affected it's bill colour and length, which may in turn have caused an arrest in its moult of the head. I have put it down to 'within variation' for cachinnans.  I haven't seen it since, but hope it continues to visit through the winter to see how it looks.

Monday, 3 November 2014

When is a Casp not a Casp?

Last Monday, October 27th, I visited the gull roost for the first time in a while.  It was nice to actually have a pre-roost to look through again and the mown spit gives them areas to congregate on.

One of the first birds I looked at immediately jumped out as a 1st winter Caspian Gull.  Its plumage and structure looked spot on, although in the dim light, I was a bit concerned about its rather too streaky looking head and why it had a weirdly long and mainly pink bill.  However, with everything else looking good, I put this down to variation.  An adult Yellow-legged Gull joined it and 5 adult GBB Gulls were the other birds of note.

The following day, I went down  mid afternoon in the hope of seeing the previous day's birds again.  Fortunately, the 1st winter Caspian Gull was one of the few LWHG present.  In much better light, I was able to study it in more detail and take some photos.  Its provenance was beginning to worry me a little, because although pretty much all of its plumage and structure looked great for Caspian, why did it have such a streaky looking head, particularly flaring out behind the eye? and why were its undertail coverts fairly heavily marked? and what a weird looking bill that didn't seem to fit anything.  Take a look at these:

Adult YLG behind
So, I was left in two minds, it was either a good Caspian, but a slightly aberrant one - have you ever seen a 1st winter LWHG with a bill like this? Or, it was a Caspian Gull with some hybrid genes, that might explain the streaky head and undertail coverts.  If it was a hybrid, the genes haven't affected the mantle, coverts, tertials or underwing, which all look good for Casp.  Structurally it looks good as well, though apart from the features mentioned, I did wonder if the legs were a bit short - nice pale pink colour though.

That's the second Casp this year that has had the spectre of hybrid genes - just waiting for an unequivocal one now for the year list!

At least this was straight forward!

Monday, 20 October 2014


It has been fairly quiet of late and despite putting in some time early last week when weather conditions had produced numerous Bonxies, plus the odd Grey Phal and Gannet on local waters, my patch failed to produce anything of such quality.

A piece of good news is that a work party managed to clear all the tall vegetation from the spit on the 11th.   This has created some damp grazing for the geese, but also Wigeon, which have begun to increase in number - I counted 38 on the 15th, but this will undoubtedly rise.  Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall are also increasing as the season progresses.

On the 14th, while I was waiting for the seabird extravaganza to begin (not!), there was an obvious westerly movement of Redwings.  Having only seen my first of the Autumn the previous evening, it was great to count 1,213 birds flying over during a 2 hour period in the morning.  I didn't even get there that early so probably missed lots during the post dawn period.  They were travelling in flocks of generally 50-70 birds, but the highest noted was 130.  A single Golden Plover also flew north during this session.  A smaller movement of 210 Redwings was seen on the morning of the 15th.

Snipe numbers have actually dropped off since the spit was cleared, presumably because their cover has now gone.  Having seen 16 birds on the 4th, I haven't seen more than 5 since, but I'm still hopeful that a Jack will pay a visit.

Gull numbers are still quite low, but should start to increase as there is now more space for them to gather.  Best birds recently have been a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on the 18th:

Also this interesting intermedius/fuscus type LBBG:

It was on the back of the spit and fairly distant, but stood out due to:
1. Darkness of mantle
2. Still seemingly in summer plumage, with a clean white head
3. Daintiness and smaller size (look at the graellsii to the left) and domed shape to head

It didn't open its wings or move from the water whilst I was there, so I couldn't see its leg length or more importantly whether there was any contrast between the mantle and wing tip and whether the bird had started its primary moult yet.  A good indicator of fuscus is that it should not have started its primary moult, whereas graellsii and intermedius should have done.  However, there have been a few claims of fuscus in the country recently, so I wonder whether the northern range of intermedius might look like and behave more like fuscus.  It doesn't help this bird though, as I didn't see it well enough and haven't seen it since - hope it returns!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Quality wader

6th October - following a wet and windy morning, I took my lunch break just as the rain was beginning to subside.  I donned my wet weather gear and went to the pit to search for some 'good' birds.  I didn't see anything much on my first look from the west side other than a small flock of 12 Wigeon, which were new in.  I looked through the geese for possible wild ones, but only found the usual Bar-headed Goose, pretty, but not what I was after.  A look at the meadows revealed very little too, so I continued along the south bank to look at the east side of the spit.  There were 5 more Wigeon sitting on the water, so that made 17, a small influx, but there was nothing on the spit other than BHG and a couple of Herring Gulls.  I wandered back towards the car stopping to look at some vocal Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff and as I neared the viewpoint I took another look at the birds on the west side of the spit.  Almost immediately I clapped my eyes on an Avocet that was wading up and down the edge of the spit feeding away and seemingly catching quite a lot of tasty morsels.  This is a good wader for the site and represents about the 4th record (I think).  I wondered whether I had missed it amongst the BHG when I had arrived or whether it had flown in whilst I was in the meadow - it is surprising how they blend in amongst BHG.  I grabbed some record shots in the poor light and was thankful that it wasn't too far away, as it was constantly moving so difficult to get in focus.

Whilst watching the Avocet, a Water Rail flew past me along the bank towards the NW corner, which is my first of the autumn/winter.

Sunday, 5 October 2014


I've been a bit lax in posting of late, but there have been a few nice birds over the past 10 days.

Firstly, the patch has joined in in the bumper Stonechat passage seen recently, which is lovely to see, as Stonechats once quite easy to see in the county on passage and in the winter have been rather scarce over the past couple of years.  The hills to the north have had flocks of 19, 12 and 12 respectively, with other birds seen at other sites.  My patch had 3 birds on the 1st, when I found 2 males and a female type just to the north of Emmett's farm using a small patch of teasels and farm machinery to perch on.

A Yellow Wagtail over calling at the same time was nice.

On the 30th, a juvenile Peregrine was around the north side of the lake for a while and a couple of Ravens shared the same air space momentarily.  Snipe continue to climb in numbers, though are often hard to see on the overgrown spit, I often see them flying in from the south early in the day.  There were 11 on the 30th and 16 yesterday (4th) - hopefully a Jack will join them soon!  The only other waders seen during this period were 2 Green Sandpipers on the NE side of the spit on the 1st, though they flew into the works bay shortly after being seen.

Wildfowl have been thin on the ground so far this autumn.  Apart from the hundreds of Greylags, including several farmyard crosses and the lone Bar-headed Goose, a standard fixture during the winter months, Teal have been the most numerous of the scarcer ducks, but only between 10 and 20 so far; Shoveler have peaked at 10 on the 1st and just a single Wigeon on the 4th.  The usual pair of Black Swans are still ever present, which is not surprising, as they are pinioned.  I've no idea who placed them here, as they must have been by someone, but it has been suggested that they came from the manor house - they first appeared with a juvenile in the summer of 2013.

The male Firecrest continues to roam the area along the concrete road and is often seen near the crossroads with its Goldcrest friend.  I'm hoping that it stays to winter and can get onto my 2015 year list!  Otherwise, a late Willow Warbler on the 1st and a handful of Chiffchaffs are the only warblers I've seen.  There was a notable increase in Goldcrest numbers last week and there are calling birds all around the lake, certainly well into double figures of birds.

Last night, I finally visited the patch at dusk to add Barn Owl to the year list.  There have apparently been two pairs on site this summer, though I don't know how successful they have been.  When it was almost too dark to see, a bird screeched overhead and was joined by another near one of the nest boxes and I watched two white blobs wheeling about for a while until they both disappeared.

This morning, once the mist had cleared, the only interesting bird on the lake was a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull that I watched flying in from the west.  It settled on the spit with the BHG flock and was one of only two LWHG on site.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Filling a gaping hole

24th September - some rain this morning made a change and I was, as always, optimistic that it might produce something at the lake.  However, with a strongish breeze from the NW, conditions were obviously not optimal and my vigil produced very little.

Swallows were moving steadily NW into the wind at a rate of about 100 per hour and I saw about 200 during my watch.  House Martins were much less plentiful, only about 40 of these.  Meadow Pipits were passing over in 1s and 2s and probably numbered about 20 birds in total.  There were a few Snipe feeding along the edge of the spit and also into the vegetation, so there could have been more than the 9 I saw, 4 of these were seen to fly in from the south and may have been feeding on Cock Marsh.  5 Shoveler represented a slight increase and a 2nd summer Common Gull was the only gull of interest.

The male Firecrest remains faithful to the hedgerow along the concrete road and was seen again with a Goldcrest, located as always due to being very vocal.

I have been conscious for a while that I still haven't seen Coal Tit for the year.  This is a slightly tricky bird to get around the lake - I usually see it during the Winter when forays are made to the feeders in the cottage gardens, but I had missed out during the first Winter and the small stand of conifers which it liked have recently been cut down.  So I decided to pay a rare visit to the churchyard where there are several big yews and other conifers - I had been a couple of times in the Spring to no avail.  However, today, as soon as I got of the car I could hear Coal Tits calling from the large trees by the entrance to the manor and soon enough, a single bird flew down into the yew by the latch gate fed for a while and then flew back into the grounds of the manor.  Success and another one for the list.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Another Stonechat

22nd September - I think Stonechats have had a good year as there seem to be above average numbers passing through the region.  Yesterday, five birds were reported from hills to the north and today three more not too far away, so I decided to check out Pump Lane at lunchtime, which is the most likely place to get one.  Bingo! as I walked the footpath near to the vines, a Stonechat flew up from the area of rough planting next to me.  It perched up on a nearby tree to allow a record shot to be taken.

Not much else other than a few Meadow Pipits.
A quick check of the pit found the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull on the spit, one of two LWHG present! Otherwise, 2 Little Egrets, 2 Snipe, a single Shoveler and into double figures of Teal.
On Friday morning, a quick stop at the lake before work was rewarded with a Ringed Plover on the spit, the first of the autumn.  Yesterday, despite not being reported on Saturday, a juvenile Ringed Plover was in the same spot, though I watched it fly off SE, so possibly the same bird.  The Firecrest was still around yesterday, still associating with 1-2 Goldcrests and all still very vocal, which is the best way of picking them up.  I also had 2 Shelduck flying over east early on, the first since the middle of June.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Firecrest Lingers

17th September - I had only heard negative reports on the Firecrest since watching it last Friday, so assumed it had moved on and spent no time looking for it yesterday.  However, this morning, a bit of dejavu when no sooner had I left the car in the car park than I heard strident crest calls coming from the hedge by the crossroads.  A few moments later, the Firecrest appeared in the company of a Goldcrest.  I watched this beauty for a few minutes until it flew over the road and I continued my walk.  An unexpected sighting, which means that it has been present for at least 6 days, which is odd for an Autumn migrant - maybe it will take a liking to the place and over winter.

When I returned an hour later, I gave it 10 minutes in the company of Graham S, but to no avail.  However, I came back at 2:30pm just before school pick up and within 5 minutes, crests were calling by the cross roads and there it was again.  I tracked it with 1-2 Goldcrests moving along the hedge towards the cottages for about half an hour before I had to leave.  A lovely little bird, that shows well on occasion, but can be hidden within the foliage, I just wish I had a proper camera to do it justice.  I've attached another massive crop from my point and shoot camera, as it looked at me from a hawthorn bush.

Not much else on site today.  A Green Sand flew over going north and a Yellow Wagtail flew over going south shortly followed by my first Skylark of the Autumn here going SE.  There are still warblers moving through, at least 6 Chiffchaff today in a small area, some singing, 4 Blackcap and a single Whitethroat.  The spit is swamped with Greylags at present, in excess of 300 birds, which doesn't leave much room for anything else!

I took a walk over Emmett's fields and found a Wheatear in one of the stubble fields, a few Linnet flying around, about 10 birds and 2 Ravens, which were flying with Red Kites and Buzzards.  A flock of 7 Mipits flying south was another sign of migration.

Yesterday, the highlight of my visit was a nice 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull, one of only a handful of LWHG on site.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Firecrest brightens up a dull morning

12th September - as I got out of the car this morning, I could hear a tit flock going through the trees right next to me.  Not unusual at this time of year.  I watched it for a short while and as usual saw mainly Long-tailed Tits with quite a few Chiffchaff, so I began to walk off.  I had only walked a few paces when I heard crests calling, again not unusual as there are lots of Goldcrests on site all year round, but I turned to watch the elder bush they were coming from and immediately saw a cracking male Firecrest with its crest up chivvying was I presumed was another crest, though this was hidden by foliage.  The view lasted all of 5 seconds and then I lost it.  I waited another 10 minutes, but the tit flock had moved on and the crest calls had stopped, so I went to the lake.

Nothing much here, although there were tit flocks and Chiffchaffs all over the place, many singing intermittently.  I decided to walk the circuit, which I haven't done in ages, as it's usually quite unproductive.  Today was no exception!  A couple of Bullfinches in the southern trees and a Reed Warbler scolding from a reed bed on the NE side were the highlights!

As I neared the car park and walked the northern footpath north of the concrete road, I heard crests calling from a low oak right next to the path - I almost ignored them, as I often do, but today I stopped and walked back towards the calls.  I picked up a bird - it was a Goldcrest, then another bird - a Firecrest!  It was now about an hour and a half since I had first seen the bird less than 100 yards away, so it looked to be favouring this general area.  It wasn't with a tit flock now and just kept close company with this Goldcrest, both being quite vocal.  It was showing really well in the undersides of the trees, so after watching it for a while, I decided to try and use my point and press camera for a record shot.  This would have been impossible if it hadn't been fairly close and in fact at one point it came within 6 feet of me, though the lack of light underneath the trees didn't help.

You can make out the white super and vivid green mantle

Same record shot cropped
Unfortunately blurred, but you can see the head pattern

This is another patch tick for me and a bird that is fairly scarce on site with only a handful of records that I am aware of.

Last Tuesday, I walked around parts of the patch that I rarely see and found a nice Whinchat perched on the fence surrounding the new athletics track.  It actually looked to be lying on it having a rest when I first saw it and then stood up to show its legs in a normal posture.  A Spotted Flycatcher was also in this area and now makes about 5 of these over the past couple of weeks, so obviously having a good year.

On a couple of after work visits, I have seen the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull both yesterday and the day before and yesterday it was joined by another adult, a bird with vivid yellow legs rather than the washed out colour of the regular bird.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Perseverance pays off

8th September - well all my checking of hedgerows and fence lines over the past few weeks finally paid off today when I found a female/immature type Redstart.  It was using a fence line to the north of the 'polo' field in Pump Lane and was happily flying down and up along it until it flushed into the nearby hedge when someone came to tend their horse.  Hopefully it will remain for a better photo opportunity, as my quick record was taken at a range of 260m, as measured on google maps - I'm amazed anything came out at all!

Edit:  It was still in the same place at lunchtime and I managed to get slightly closer for a more recognisable record.  It was also quite vocal, easily audible from where I was standing 100yds or so away.

Nearby in the paddocks, a Whinchat was also taking advantage of the fences and hedges - another poor record in strong sunlight at about 150m range.

Other birds noted were a flyover Yellow Wagtail, 5 Meadow Pipits and a couple of Whitethroats.

Weekly round up

I haven't been on patch much over the past week, a few quick visits generally before and after work here and there, but there are some snippets worthy of note.

A Whinchat was reported from Pump Lane on the 1st.  I paid a visit after work on the 3rd and found presumably the same bird in the same spot.  It was sitting on top of the vines at the top of the vineyard and allowed a quick (rubbish!) record shot in low light.

6 Yellow Wagtails also flew over.  In a quick pre work visit to the lake in the morning, 3 Wigeon were my first of the autumn.

After work on the 4th, a noisy flock of 4 Common Sands were flying around the spit, the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull was present again and 13 Teal represented a small influx.  It was interesting to see about 60 Pied Wagtails flying over east to roost.

Not much pre-work on the 5th, but a steady passage of Swallows S/SE numbered in excess of 300 birds by the time I left. 2 Yellow Wagtails over here and 1 more at Pump Lane.

On the 6th, it was nice to see a Spotted Flycatcher at Pump Lane - this bird was near the warehouse.  The following day, it or another was near the aerial compound and a Wheatear was in the paddocks.  Best birds of the day though were 4 Raven flying north over the lake early morning.  They appeared quite high from the SW and were flying as 2 singles and a pair, though may all have been a family group.  The pair were tussling and cronking as they flew.  I don't see many Ravens here, though they are fairly regular over the woods not too far away, so nice to get them on the patch list for the year.  A single Yellow Wagtail over, a couple of Little Egrets and 2 flocks of Shoveler (4 and 5) flying over were also notable.

I should also mention that the last of the Common Tern colony departed last weekend, last seen on the 30th.  I last saw birds on the 29th.

Now where is that Redstart!  They seem to have been everywhere else but here in some numbers this year.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Honey Monster!

29th August - I was out early this morning.  2 Redshank were new arrivals and fairly vocal as they were put up a few times by the ever nervous Lapwings.  However, they remained on the west side until I left and were with a Green Sand for a while that flew in at 8am but flew back west just after 9am.  I suspect that this bird is using Randall's lake, as I have seen a Green Sand fly in several times now over the past week.

The problem with early morning viewing is that from my usual west side viewpoint, you are looking straight into the sun.  So I made my way down to the meadow with the intention of watching from the southern bank - not something I do very often.  My first scan of the weedy Spade Oak meadow revealed the continuing presence of the juvenile Stonechat - not sure how I missed that yesterday.  I decided to walk to the river and look back at the weeds to try and get a better record shot than my previous effort (not hard!!).  You can see that it is still largely in juvenile plumage and quite a scruffy little bird, but good for the patch.

I then made my way to the southern bank and was pleased to find that a single Spotted Flycatcher was still in the same place as yesterday.  It was very vocal this morning.  I decided to use the fishing swim near the Spot Fly as my vantage point and watched from here for some time.  I picked up 4 Swifts feeding over the poplars on the NE side and there was a steady pulse of hirundines moving through, about 30 Sand Martins and 100 Swallows.  The House Martins of about 100 seemed to be more resident than migrating.  I saw 12 Ring-necked Parakeets fly in from their overnight roost and a lot of geese flying around, c50 Egyptian, c200 Greylags and c100 Canadas, but otherwise not much was happening.

Conscious of the fact that my 2 recent Ospreys had both been seen at around 8:45am, I decided to give myself until 9am just in case.  However, at 8:50am with the weather looking fairly settled, I gave up and started my walk back.  Almost immediately I noticed a buzzard type bird flying south over the STW to the west.  Living in this area, you get very used to seeing Red Kites and Common Buzzards flying around and this bird looked different.  It was obviously a buzzard sp, but its flight looked different to Common, a nice steady and deep wing beat and even from my vantage point through bins the tail and wings looked long.  The upperside was a dark brown not dissimilar to many Common Buzzards.  I had only seen the bird briefly and kept losing it behind trees on the west bank, but I had my suspicions that it was a Honey-buzzard, so I legged it as fast as I could  back to the meadow over the railway crossing.  I knew that I would be able to see without obstruction from here and given the bird's flight path, it should be easily visible if it kept going.  Success! As I entered the meadow, the bird appeared from the STW over the railway and wasn't too far west from being overhead.  I looked at it through bins and could now see that it was a Honey-buzzard - get in!! It was extensively and fairly evenly dark barred over its underwings and belly, with a terminal bar and two other bars on its tail.  The hand area of the underwing appeared slightly paler than the rest of the wing.  However, this view didn't last long, as the bird kept on flapping southwards.  I switched to my scope and watched it flapping and gliding on over the river and over Winter Hill in Berks until it was lost from view - it was probably only c100ft - c150ft up, so fairly low.  As the bird glided away from me, the completely flat wing profile, including the wing tip was very obvious.  Judging by the plumage features that I saw, it looks to be an adult female bird.  A totally unexpected patch tick and one that would have flown straight through unnoticed if I had been standing in my usual spot on the west side, as trees block out any view of the west - luck was with me this morning!

Everything seemed a bit of an anti-climax after that, but I checked Pump Lane paddocks and found 2 Yellow Wagtails with the horses and a little further on a Yellowhammer flew over calling.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

More Spot Flys

28th August - a late afternoon visit to the lake.  The mix of Common Terns had changed since yesterday, with 3 adults and 2 juveniles present.  I bumped into Dave C who had earlier seen a juvenile Med Gull, though this had now departed, but I did pick out a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull along with the semi-regular adult.  Whilst on the western viewpoint, a flock of 6 noisy Yellow Wagtails flew over and just after Dave had left, a Green Sand flew on to the spit.  We had seen 3 Shoveler, 4 Teal and 4 Swifts during an hour's watch, but little else.

After Dave had left, I went down to the meadow, but could find nothing there, so continued along the southern bank.  I hadn't gone very far when I saw a Spotted Flycatcher fly up from some dead branches in the hedge in the same spot as I had seen one yesterday - very possibly the same bird.  I stopped to watch and the saw that there were 2 Spot Flys.  I took some reasonable photos in the early evening sun.

Whilst watching the flycatchers, at least 5 Willow Warblers, a similar number of Chiffchaffs and a single Lesser Whitethroat moved through the hedge.  Overhead, Yellow Wagtails were seen fairly often, with a single, then 4, then another single and finally a group of 8.  In all, 20 birds were noted, though there could easily have been duplication of a flushed flock from somewhere.