Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Foggy and Quiet

April 29th - as often seems to be the case, when I have time to spend birding, the conditions are less than optimal.  This morning was foggy, though it lifted fairly quickly, but it was soon obvious that nothing much was on the move.

I spent some time tramping around most areas of the patch, ever hopeful of picking up an interesting migrant, but alas not today.  I returned to the lake in the early afternoon and sat on the western bench, again hoping that something might fly in or over.  It had got quite warm by this stage, so I knew Hobby ought to be seen.  It's quite late in the month not to have had one yet, but sure enough, at 2pm I saw one fly in from the south.  When it was over the lake, it started circling and then gradually drifted off west over my head - it's always great to see these lovely falcons back in the skies.  At 2:40pm, I saw another Hobby flying quite high over to the north - and that was my main bit of movement for the day.

Garden Warblers seem to like the habitat around the lake.  Today there were 4 birds singing away, 2 on the south side by the railway and 2 around the northern cut.  A Reed Warbler was back in the small stand of reeds on the southern bank and the bird at the base of the spit is still chuntering away.  Common Terns seem to have plateaued for the time being - my best count today of 24 birds was the same as the last couple of days.  2 LRPs were the only waders on site (apart from a couple of Lapwing) and on the wildfowl front, 6 Shelduck and a single male Shoveler were the birds of note.  The Teal seem to have moved on in the last few days.  A single Swift and a few Swallows and House Martins were also seen.

In the vine fields at Pump Lane, no migrant chats or Wheatears, but it was nice to see Linnets and Skylarks singing away.  I took this shot of a Skylark using one of the many metal posts as a song post - unfortunately there are always a million and one wires between me and the bird!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Plus One

April 28th - a quick lunchtime visit was rewarded with a calling Yellow Wagtail that flew over north as I was walking past the cottages.  I should have had several of these by now, but my holiday, plus the lack of short grass and grazing ponies in the usual paddock on the east side have had their effect!

A Common Sand on the east side, 7 Shelduck, a Little Egret in the east paddock and a lone male Shoveler were the best of the rest.

Seeing black

Conditions over the weekend looked promising for some passage waders, terns and gulls, with winds from the SE and plenty of rainy weather fronts moving through.  Consequently, I was at the pit early(ish) on both mornings.  Saturday seemed to get quite a bit of good stuff at other sites, but I drew a blank, a Swift that appeared just before 8am being my only bird of note and new for the year.  Common Terns numbered 14 and Shelduck 6 and a lone male Shoveler being about it.

On Sunday, the first couple of hours were pretty wet.  There is no hide here, so I stood expectantly underneath a brolly.  A Common Sand flying to the main island was a year tick, whilst a pair of LRP were the only other waders.  A pair of Shoveler flying over the island joined the solitary male briefly.  The rain eased at about 8 am and about 15 minutes later, I thought I'd seen an Arctic Tern at the back of the pit and the Commons seemed to have increased in number, however, a quick squall made me lose the bird.  5 minutes further on and dry again, I looked at the back of the pit and there was now a lovely summer plumaged Black Tern dip feeding amongst the tern flock. There too was an Arctic Tern, both terns presumably arriving at the same time after the rain had stopped.  Commons numbered 24, which is the highest count of the year so far. At one point, there were 19 Commons and an Arctic lined up on the sand spit, which would have been a nice photo if I'd bothered to take my camera out of my pocket!  Apart from 2-3 Swift flying around, that was it for my passage day - oh well, better than nothing!

This rather nice record shot is courtesy and copyright of Jim Rose

A few other brief visits last week have produced a single Dunlin, 3 LRP, including 2 males on Thursday morning along with a Whitethroat near the cottages. At least 3 Garden Warblers, 2+ on the railway bank and 1 near the cottages on Sunday and 2 Reed Warblers, 1 on territory at the base of the spit and 1 in the reed bed by the bench on several visits.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Love to chat

April 22nd - I was unable to do my normal patch visit today, apart from the brief lunchtime visit to the lake, so it was nice to receive a text from Dave C mid afternoon telling me about a lovely male Whinchat he had found in the horse paddock at Pump Lane.  I was able to drop in in the evening to find it still present, often feeding on the ground around the dung piles, but sometimes perched up on the fence in normal fashion.  It's always nice to see Spring males and this was a true cracker.

Wader Passage!

April 22nd - I wasn't able to visit in the morning, but made a quick lunchtime visit.  The warm and damp air had a good passage feel to it and I would have liked to have stayed longer.  However, there had been an arrival of waders, unfortunately they were all Dunlin, 7 of them.  I shouldn't say unfortunately really, as this is a good sized flock for the site.  The birds were mostly in summer plumage, with one or two still largely winter.  They were quite settled when I arrive, but were becoming much more flighty when I left.  A poor record (bad light conditions!) of 5 of the flock below:

In addition, a single LRP was on the spit and the Common Terns had increased to 14, though sadly they didn't contain any scarcer terns amongst them.

A Reed Warbler singing from the reeds at the base of the spit was another year tick.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Warbler arrivals

April 21st - another morning visit over this Easter weekend.  The Dunlin was still present, but little else on the spit or over the lake.  I continued to walk around the lake to the southern railway bank, a favoured place for migrant warblers and was pleased to find my first Whitethroat of the year singing near to the meadow gate.  Mid way along the southern bank, a Garden Warbler was also new in and singing away, whilst a little further along a Lesser Whitethroat rattled away briefly to make up a nice trio of sylvias.

There are still a few more common migrants to see that will hopefully turn up over the next few days, but hopefully some scarcer ones will appear too and also waders, which seem to have been very thin on the ground so far this Spring.

Wet weather Marshy

April 20th - there was an expectation of passage today as the easterly winds continued and a wet front was forecast to move through during the afternoon.  During the early morning, many local sites had Arctic Terns plus a few Little Gulls, but my patch had nothing!  I was away during the day enjoying a nice family Easter lunch.  During this time, the weather turned very wet and gloomy.  However, it was clearing up nicely in the early evening, so having returned home, I decided to pay a visit to the pit to see if there had been any new arrivals.

I didn't arrive until gone 7pm and the first birds I saw were a summer plumaged Dunlin and a Little Ringed Plover - both new in, but neither particularly exciting.  At just after 7:30pm, I happened to look up and see a raptor that had passed over me relatively low.  It had flown in from the SW and was continuing to flap it way northwards.  It looked like a Marsh Harrier and through bins, I could see that it was in fact a lovely male.  I watched it fly ever northwards until it disappeared, however, given the time, I wondered where it might roost, as there wasn't much light left.

Nothing else arrived, but a nice end to Easter Sunday.

Arctics on easterlies

April 19th - on arrival this morning, a Cuckoo was singing from the southern bank.  Unfortunately, after a few minutes it stopped and presumably departed, as it wasn't heard again.

A cool easterly wind had been blowing over the past couple of days.  Winds from this direction often see an arrival of migrant terns, gulls and waders, so it's always worth a look just in case.  Several Common Terns were the only migrants visible first thing, however, when I reached the middle of the southern bank, a tight group of 6 terns flew in over my head and proceeded to fly around the lake.  A nice group of Arctic Terns - always nice to see.  I spent some time watching these and about 15 minutes later, another group of terns descended to join them - there were now 9 Arctics present, all flying in a fairly tight flock around the lake.  They remained for at least the next hour, but as I was leaving, just a single bird was left, the other birds had left unseen whilst I was walking back.

A quick visit to Pump Lane paddocks in the afternoon for possible Wheatear, Redstart or chats found none of these, but a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away from the hawthorn hedge by the vine fields.

Playing catch up

I've just returned from holiday, hence the lack of updates.  Surprisingly, given that I was away for the first half of April, it doesn't appear that I have missed too much - at least from reported sightings! In fact, just House Martin and Common Tern to get back.

April 18th was my first visit to the lake after my break.  Common Tern and House Martin were soon seen with at least 4 of the former and around 10 of the latter amongst the Sand Martins and Swallows. There had obviously been a clear out of ducks whilst I was away.  The long staying Garganey had finally upped and left during the first week of April; all the Wigeon had departed, as too had the Shoveler and only a handful of Teal were left.  Kim D had seen a late pair of Pintail arrive the previous evening and this morning they were still dabbling around the main the island.  A walk around the lake found the usual Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing, with a couple of Willow Warblers.  In the SE corner, my first Sedge Warbler of the year was singing and seen in a lakeside willow.  This became my 100th species of the year.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Dead Gulls!!

There is always the odd gull casualty on the patch.  With the numbers that visit, it is inevitable that a few of them will be ailing and some then die.  The carcasses don't tend to last too long, as Red Kites are quick to take an easy meal.  There was a rather sick looking BHG a week or two ago, which eventually perished and became a Kite meal - the pile of feathers on the spit are all that is left.

I noticed a dead BHG on the east bank a week or 2 ago and a dead Coot on the NE bank.  Today, another BHG was looking rather forlorn as it floated about on the southern side of the lake, whilst on the west side I found a very fresh looking corpse of an adult LBBG.  I always begin to worry when I see what seems like an increase in casualties, plus the location of today's LBBG in the hedge line between two paths on the west side seemed a bit odd.  I couldn't see any signs of gun shot wounds, but that it always my concern.

A few more migrants

I've been on the patch several times since my last update.  Though the anticipation is always high before each visit, in reality there is not much to show for the time spent.  Highlights are the continuing 3 Garganey, the original pair plus additional male.  The original pair have now been on site for an unprecedented 33 days, whilst the other male has 1 more day to make it 2 weeks.  Unbelievable really, but great to have these dapper ducks around.

The 27th saw another 2 Swallows moving through with 13 Sand Martins - still no large numbers of the latter yet, but it will happen soon!  I also had a male White Wagtail briefly on the spit on the 27th long enough for Simon R to see it as well before it disappeared.  Shoveler numbers are still impressively high for the time of year - I counted 75 birds on the 27th.  There is plenty of displaying and aerial duck chases going on, but they will probably all disappear over the next few weeks.  Conversely, most of the Wigeon have departed already, with only 6 birds remaining.  Snipe are also dwindling, but it always difficult to get an accurate count of birds as they are usually around the reed fringe - I counted 17 birds on the 27th, but have struggled to reach 10 since.

Blackcaps have now arrived in some numbers. After the first singing male on the 25th, there were at least 3 on the 27th and today I counted 8 birds, 7 singing males and a female.  Pretty much all of these have been along the southern side of the lake.  Today also brought my first Willow Warbler of the season with a singing bird, again in the southern railway hedge.  Another Swallow and 7 Sand Martins completed my hirundine count today.

Yesterday evening, March 31st, a quick stop off after work found 2 Little Ringed Plovers on the east side of the spit.  2 have been reported a couple of time recently, so presumably the same birds - lets hope they stay in the vicinity.

I was hoping for an early tern or Little Gull this morning in misty conditions, but alas it was not to be.  A Peregrine powered through, flying steadily east and was my first of the year.

Several checks of the Pump Lane paddocks and vine fields has come to nothing, until this afternoon, when a female Wheatear was using one of the vast network of vine wires as a perch.