Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Drake Pintail

8th December - we seem to have entered a period where the bird life is more or less the same on each visit.  However, this morning, a lovely male Pintail had dropped in - a fairly scarce bird here, but always a welcome sight in full winter plumage.  He had chosen an area on the east side of the spit, which is always fairly distant from any point on the lake edge, so I could only take a record shot.  Initially looking quite wary and even taking short flights at times when other birds were disturbed by over flying Red Kites, he eventually settled down and went to sleep on the water.

A Firecrest was reported on Sunday, apparently seen on the west side with a tit flock.  I spent some time, as always in fact, checking the tit flocks and drew a blank.  There are lots of Goldcrests about though - I had 7 together around a small holly bush and well in to double figures just on the small stretch of west bank, so the number around the whole lake must be pretty high.  Just a single Chiffchaff heard, but there are at least three around the lake at the moment.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

2w Casp

1st December - my first visit for over a week due to being laid up with a nice seasonal illness!

As I walked in from the car park, I saw 10 Golden Plover flying away from me fairly low and continuing southwards.  These are my first at the lake this year, though I had a distant flock on patch back in October.

A quick scan of the gulls and a lovely 2nd winter Caspian Gull stood out like a sore thumb.  It was fairly small and quite dainty looking so presumably a female.  My efforts at capturing it on a photo for record purposes were hampered by the dull light and distance to the bird, but here are a few which give a feel for the bird.  It did have a fairly dark grey mantle, but this is over exaggerated by the camera.

I also noted a colour ringed LBBG, blue AMW, that I had seen here previously in 2012, so a nice re-sighting.

Otherwise, the mix of birds hadn't changed much over the week, although Pochard numbers have climbed slightly since I last counted them, with 64 birds in two flocks around the lake.

Calling Siskins have been flying over for ages, usually 1s and 2s, so it was nice to see a feeding flock of about 15 birds in a tall Alder next to the car park.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Third Kittiwake this year!

18th November - with strong overnight winds, a morning visit to the patch was on the cards to look for any displaced seabirds.  At first glance, I didn't notice anything, then a group of Black-headed Gulls and a Herring Gull drew my attention as they congregated in the south west corner and appeared to be taking an interest in something.  The bright morning light was right in my eyes from this angle, but I picked up a solitary gull sitting on the water facing away from me that slowly turned to reveal itself as an adult Kittiwake.  Amazingly, this is my third here this year following two in the Spring.

The bird was in the south west corner, so I walked down the path to get it in better light.  Unfortunately, it appeared to be either very tired or unwell, as although it was paddling about, it kept drifting in towards the banks.  I did see it picking at things on the surface of the water and at one stage it flew a couple of yards, so I'm hoping that it recovers itself to fly off rather than end its days here.  At least it enabled me to get a reasonable shot of this species for once and continuing my videoing exploits, I got one of these as well.

Video here

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

RCPs, gulls and geese

Last Saturday, 14th, I was tied up all day and unable to go birding, but it was a bit galling to
see that a male Red-crested Pochard had been present on the pit all day.  This was for two reasons: firstly it was the first record this year following a blank year; secondly news hadn't been communicated to the people who are trying for a year list.  The bird was not seen the following day, so that was that.

On Monday, after seeing the usual stuff at the pit, I decided to take a look at the pits to the west.  These don't usually hold much, but have turned up the odd good bird in the past, including a long staying Scaup a few years ago and a Red-crested Pochard even further back.  I scanned the ski pit with bins and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.  For some unknown reason, I thought a scan with the scope was a good idea - the light was not good and what brightness there was was against me.  Mid sweep, I picked up three Red-crested Pochards right at the back of the pit and keeping in the dark fringe of the lake - my excuse for not seeing them with bins!  Two males and a female and gratefully received after the weekend's missed bird, maybe it was one of these?  The light was so poor that only one record shot digiscoping was decipherable and this had to be lightened to be able to see the subject.  I have also been playing around with phone scoping and phone videoing through the scope, as the phone is more capable of taking recognisable shots in low light.  Both attempts are shown below:

RCP video

I went down for the gull roost on Sunday night, 15th and found a nice 1st winter Caspian Gull, the first since last winter.  Again, my camera would not focus in the low light, but my phone was able to take the following:

On Monday morning, 16th, although there were still in excess of 50 LWHG loafing about, the only interesting one was an adult Yellow-legged Gull.  I took some digiscoped shots with the camera, but also experimented with a bit of phone video through the scope.  If I can get an adapter to fix the phone to the eye piece, this might be a good way of getting records in the future.

YLG video

In my last post, I mentioned a colour-ringed gull that came back as being the product of an argentatus x michahellis pairing.  Well it has returned a couple of times and I was able to scrutinise it a bit further and take some record shots, both camera and phone.  I'm not surprised that I reported it as a Herring Gull, as it shows mainly these features in my opinion, particularly the coverts.  The tertials are a bit blotchy ended, but more Herring than YLG, though the tail does show a more YLG like tail band and white upper tail.

The other thing worthy of mention recently is the large counts of Egyptian Geese.  I counted a whopping 186, mainly on the spit, on the 10th.  This appears to be a record count for the site and almost a record for the county, with 198 being the only higher count I have been made aware of.  The photo below shows the geese all lined up on the back of the spit - plenty of Greylags too in the foreground - between 300 and 400 of these are around at the moment.  I'm still hoping they will pull in one of their rarer cousins!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

An interesting gull

Not much to report recently and in fact not much time on patch as half term and foggy weather have limited things a bit.

I did have an interesting gull recently though.  I don't report it much on here, but there are often plenty of gulls loafing about on the spit which makes the finding and reading of colour rings fairly easy compared with other sites where the birds are either further away or sitting in water.  Anyway, last week I found a 1cy gull in the twilight of the 28th October.  It looked to me, in the cursory glance that I gave it, to be a Herring Gull and it was sporting a green ring on its right tibia with the letters SD and a black ring on its left tibia.  I've only seen gulls ringed in this way from Dutch schemes, as this proved to be, but when I got the history back, the ringer asked if I had any photos, as this was an interesting bird from mixed parents, argentatus x michahellis.  Unfortunately, I hadn't, but now that I know it is a hybrid I would love to be able to grill it a bit better to see if there are mich traits in it that I had overlooked.  It was seen again at the weekend, but not by me, so maybe it is hanging around.

I also had a returning Common Gull on Monday, ringed in Germany, red AW22.  I hardly ever see ringed Common Gulls even though we get thousands here in the Spring, so it was nice to see him again.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


A lot of birding is about being in the right place at the right time with an element of luck thrown in.

The arable fields at Emmett's farm along with various stretches of set-aside and game cover strips has always looked to me to offer my best chance of getting species such as Merlin, harriers and owls.  Indeed I was fortunate enough to bump into a male Hen Harrier here just two weeks ago.  For the previous three days, I had made a special effort to walk around this area - I had even taken my daughter for a walk around in the last hour of light on Sunday specifically checking for owls, but with no luck.  Yesterday, I had spent about an hour up to midday here.  I had found a Stonechat, but everything else was as expected.  A farmer was spraying all his brassica crops, so anything lurking within these fields would have been flushed - in fact a Snipe was - a little unexpected.

Move on five hours and Dave C arrives to see the Stonechat, which is still in the same hedge line, but he then chances upon the very bird I had been hoping to see, a Short-eared Owl.  He had it flying over the crop field for a brief time before it disappeared from view over the brow of the hill and was unable to relocate it.  A great find.  However, I was now tied up with family duties, so thought that this was going to be another one that got away.  Due to the late hour that Dave had found the bird, I thought there was a good chance it would still be there, especially as the habitat looks good and fortunately I had a small window of opportunity just as the light was dropping.  I arrived on site at 6:15pm with my son in tow and walked up the track towards the open barn.  Within 5 minutes I was looking at a Short-eared Owl flying over the rough set-aside just to the north of this - get in!  I watched it for two minutes before it flew over the hedge at the top of the hill and out of sight.  Despite watching until almost dark, it didn't reappear.  There are lots of fields here, so it could have been ranging over a wide area.

So thanks to Dave for turning up this patch tick - wish I'd found it though!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

On patch and off patch

October 20th - I was out today and yesterday morning, both days being fairly similar.  Signs of vismig, with small numbers of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits going over along with 1s and 2s of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.  I haven't seen too many Redwing yet - maybe I'm not out early enough, but I had a sizeable flock of about 75 Fieldfare go over NW yesterday, my first real numbers of these this autumn.  On the passerine front around the lake edges, there are still a handful of Chiffchaffs, plenty of Goldcrests and the odd Treecreeper amongst the Long-tailed Tit flocks.  A Coal Tit seems to be fairly regular around the edge of the STW.

I had a Yellowhammer fly over Emmetts yesterday and there are many more Skylarks and Mipits on the fields along with a flock of about 30 Linnets and single Lesser Redpoll.  There are 2 or 3 Chiffchaffs here too - they often fly into the game cover to feed.

Wildfowl on the lake is as expected with reasonable numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal, a flock of 200+ Tufted Duck that move between here and Randall's Lake to the west, just into double figures of Pochard and a handful of Gadwall.  The Greylags have taken over the spit along with plenty of Canadas and Egyptians - hopefully they will pull in one of their rarer cousins soon.  10-20 Snipe are still feeding on the base of the spit.

Of more interest was a female type Goldeneye that I watched fly in this morning at about 10:30am.  These are not regular birds here and usually turn up as single day migrants or from cold weather movements in the winter.

It started feeding as soon as it arrived and spent most of its time under water, so other record shots looked like this!

Two vocal Water Rail on the west side, one showing itself, were my first of the autumn here.

I also found another Stonechat at the top of Emmett's fields near Bloom Wood.  I didn't have my scope with me so had to settle for a digibinned record shot.

The other slightly annoying thing happened yesterday morning.  I was standing on the southern bank when a loud, single pipit call rang out over my head.  It sounded just like a Rock or Water Pipit, but when I looked up I could only see what looked like 4 Meadow Pipits.  Whether it was these birds, one of them, or another unseen bird that made the call, I don't know, but it was a very brief look before they flew off never to be seen again, so possibly one that got away.

I also can't resist giving a brief account of a day trip to North Norfolk last Friday 16th.  There had been a mouth watering list of good birds turning up here over the week, so I decided it was too good to miss.  Centred on the Holkham Pines/Wells Wood area but travelling as far east as Beeston Regis, by the end of the day I had had two Red-flanked Bluetails, two Isabelline Shrikes, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler, a Pallas's Warbler, a Blyth's Reed Warbler and an Olive -backed Pipit.  There were plenty of other common migrants too, including a couple of Firecrests, a fly over Short-eared Owl, Bramblings and plenty of other birds.  A fantastic day out and one that will be hard to beat in terms of quality of birds seen - slightly better than on patch!!

I hardly took any record shots, as there are so many proper ones on the internet, but I did take a couple.  They are both pretty poor as it was a dull day, but shown here for posterity:

The very confiding OBP at Muckleburgh Hill - too close for digiscoping - shame I couldn't get it sharp

The Beeston Regis Izzy Shrike

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

And some more.....

13th October - another lovely sunny morning, but the NE breeze was even stronger today and felt bitter at times.

I had a quick look around the lake, but it all looked as normal.  No sign of yesterday's Pintail, numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal still creeping up and 14 Snipe feeding around the base of the reeds on the spit.  I had my first Great Black-backed Gulls of the autumn, with two adult birds present.  Common Gulls are also beginning to increase - 14 this morning on the spit and several flying north presumably to feed on the field that is being ploughed at Emmett's.  Goldcrests are everywhere, tzitting away, I also had another or the same Coal Tit in with a tit flock on the west bank - quite vocal too.  Just a few Chiffchaffs around now and no other warblers.  A Lesser Redpoll was disturbed from willow herb on the south bank and a few Siskins still going over, mostly singles.  A lone Little Egret flew over the railway and on towards Cock Marsh.  I also had my first Redwings of the autumn, with a flock of about 25 birds flying west.

I took a look at Emmett's, where there are small numbers of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Linnets along with a gazillion Pheasants waiting to be shot (lovely sport!).  A couple of Raven flew over low north, cronking as they went and then distantly to the north, a flock of about 50 Golden Plover were wheeling about.  Following a fairly poor first winter period, I am just now picking off the birds that I would have expected to get then, Golden Plover being another one.  These birds are presumably part of a larger flock that I have been watching just up the road but off patch.  They have been building up for a couple of weeks now and I counted 280 last weekend.  They seem to do this every year in October, but then seem to disperse to other sites.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Some new arrivals

12th October - a lovely sunny day, although the NE breeze was a bit cutting.  I was very happy with the two year ticks that arrived on patch today.  The first of these was a flock of three Pintail that flew in from the west whilst I was watching from the southern bank.  They pitched down on the east side of  the lake and then made their way to the mouth of the works bay where they began up ending with a few Canada Geese.  I always find it a bit odd when different duck turn up and seemingly ignore the numbers of other duck present, especially Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler at the moment, and go and do their own thing.  I managed a distant record shot shortly after they had pitched down:

Pintail are about annual, with the odd bird or two turning up from autumn and through the winter.  However, we have been a bit spoilt in recent winters, as the wet conditions have made the patch more to their liking and flocks into double figures have stayed around for some time - not last winter though - these three being the first of the year.

The next year tick was one that I alluded to recently and thought might bypass me this year.  Well it wasn't to be, as I found a nice Stonechat fly catching in the sun along the path by the athletics track.  In fact, it was within a few yards of where the gropper was last month.  It had found a hawthorn to its liking and kept coming back to the same perch.

Front view
Back view
A bit further along this path, there are always Green Woodpeckers clinging to the wooden fence posts of a fence that runs into a weedy field.  Today I decided to snap a record of a female bird.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Grey Ghost!

October 6th - the lack of recent updates reflects the lack of decent birds.  I have been trying to get the enthusiasm up to write a blog post on the mediocrity of the patch, but now I have a great excuse.....

I spent this morning tramping around and looking yet again for something worth while.  It wasn't as wet as yesterday, but there were some pretty heavy showers to try and evade.  I was seeing the usual crowd - the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull, three Common Gulls, a few fly over Siskins, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, a slight increase in wildfowl, with 33 Wigeon, 30 Shoveler and about 40 Teal, a handful of Snipe, but that was about it.  Ever the optimist, I keep listening out for the distinctive call of Yellow-browed Warbler, but all I've had so far are numerous Goldcrests and dwindling numbers of Chiffchaff - a Coal Tit on the west bank last week was slightly more unusual for here.

I returned home and decided that after lunch I would try Pump Lane, Emmett's fields and then the west side of Marlow GPs in the hope of turning up a Stonechat - another species that I thought I would have had by now, but could well become a blank year for it.  At least the weather had dried up by the afternoon.  Pump Lane had a small flock of Meadow Pipits and a few very pale grey female Pied Wags trying to look like Whites.  I arrived at Emmett's and decided that I would leave my scope in the boot and just take bins - my expectations were falling fast.  However, things were about to change..........

I had only walked a few hundred yards when a bird of prey lifted off from beyond the game cover about 50 yards ahead of me.  I could see immediately that this was going to be a harrier, however when I lifted my bins up I was amazed to see an adult male Hen Harrier flapping gracefully over the field.  It held a small dark shape in its talons that was indeterminable, presumably either a small bird or a small mammal and also presumably just caught.  I watched it fly low over the field to the west and then it disappeared below the ridge of the field, though it did look like it was coming down again.

I then planned my next move.  I needed to get news out, as a Hen Harrier is a good local bird, an adult male is an extremely good local bird.  I decided to post the record on the county website, as this would inform many people and the record would also be picked up by the bird information services and sent out.  I then had to return to the car to collect my scope.  I intended to walk via the permissive path to the ridge that the bird had disappeared behind and hope that it was still visible.  The walk took some minutes and once at the ridge I could see more fields stretched out between me and the A404 bypass - this is not an area I had looked at before.  I scanned with my bins and almost immediately picked up the harrier again.  This must have been about 20 minutes after my initial sighting, so it looked to be sticking for a bit.  It was flying over a short grass field several hundred yards to the west.  I got it in the scope just to make sure that I wasn't messing up a Pallid or Northern, but no, a beautiful adult male Hen.  After a short while, it descended and landed in the field and remained there for some time - maybe it had devoured its prey item and wanted a rest.  I took some very distant record shots.  It then took off, flew a fair bit closer and then landed in another field.  I took some more record shots.  Flight shots would have been better to show it in its full glory, but I can't do those with my set up unless it is very close.  A couple of magpies landed next to it and scared it into flight, but it just returned to its original field and landed again.

I noticed Pete S and another guy nearby scanning in the wrong direction.  Assuming they were looking for the harrier, I waved my arms to attract their attention and then beckoned them to come up the hill.  Within a few minutes, they had the bird on the deck in their scopes and I had to leave for school pick up.  What a fantastic afternoon that turned out to be!

Edit: it transpires that what must have been the same bird was seen earlier in the day at Staines Moor, where it was watched hunting for 90 minutes before flying off NW at 12:30pm.

Initial view in field digiscoped at about 50x

Luckily it came a bit closer, but still hundreds of yards away

Same shot but cropped

Some other photos that I've taken over the past few weeks but not had a blog post to use them on:

The regular adult YLG

An over exposed 1w YLG

And again...
Quite enjoyed watching a small flock of goldfinches feeding on teazels

Noticed in the photo that this bird is ringed

Juv male Sprawk trying to dry out on the spit after this morning's showers
I've seen a couple of Red Underwings on patch this September. Not an uncommon moth, but one that I don't see too often. This one was digiscoped from 50 yds away on a telegraph pole, so hasn't come out too badly.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Missing out

Last Friday 11th, Dave C found a Black Tern hawking over the east side of the lake - unfortunately I was at work.  Its continued presence was broadcast through the afternoon, so I was hopeful of picking it up on my way home.  Alan S was still watching it at 6:30pm, until he departed.  I rolled up at 7pm and you've guessed it, no bird!  A very frustrating dip of a bird that has been ridiculously scarce in the county this year, this being the first and only record this year,  Ah well, it's difficult to see everything!

Roll on three days to Monday 14th.  I was on patch by 9am and checking out the usual haunts.  I was concentrating on the south bank, as this gives a good view of the lake and spit and is also where a lot of the passerine migrants tend to be.  At 10:45am I receive a text from Alan S saying that Neil W has been out running along the Thames and about 30 minutes earlier had seen an Osprey flying over.  It was also following the Thames and was flying west having apparently come from the direction of Little Marlow just a hop skip and a jump away.  How annoying is that!!  It certainly didn't fly over the pit, as I had been watching that all morning.  Two possibilities are that it flew along the Thames behind me and obscured by the railway hedge or that it flew in from the north but further west than the pit and only started following the Thames when it encountered it.  Either way, another one that feels like it has been missed!

Spotted Flycatchers have been having a good year on passage here, hopefully a sign of a good breeding season.  Up to 4 birds have been seen over the past week, mainly on the south bank.  On the 14th, I found 3 birds in the cottage garden staying faithful to a large cherry tree.  This morning there were 2 in the railway hedge.

Siskins have started returning to the region in numbers and I had yet another fly over this morning.  Also, slightly less expected, was a noisy flock of 12 Redpolls flying over north on the 14th and this morning another 2 flew over low west along the railway.  Having missed both of these species in the winter, Siskin in particular being non existent everywhere, it is nice to catch up with both again.

On the gull front, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was new in on the 11th and seen again on the 14th.  It had typically moulted most of its scapulars.  I always like the pale pink legs on birds of this age.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Whinchat hunt brings a Whinchat!

9th September - well it had to happen eventually I suppose and better late than never.  A quick lunchtime check of the paddocks failed again, though 5 Yellow Wagtails were fairly close in feeding around cattle.  One digibinned below:

I then checked the same weedy fields as yesterday and finally success as a single Whinchat was feeding from the fence line next to the athletics track.  Coincidentally, this is the exact same spot as one I had last year and on exactly the same date.  I took one lousy record shot and then my camera battery died, which is a shame, still you can see what it is.

Whinchat hunt brings a gropper

8th September - it has been an odd year for some species, birds that I would normally expect to see on migration have either been very few or non-existent.  Whinchat is a bird that I often see in Spring and have always in previous years had several Autumn records.  This year, my main site for these at the paddocks and vineyards has failed to produce any as yet and Wheatear, another bird seen frequently here, has been well down.

Today, after failing yet again to find a Whinchat at Pump Lane, I decided to broaden my search and check the weedy fields to the west of the main pit.  These always look promising and I had one near the athletics track last year, but it is an area that I do not check that regularly.  I had just climbed and then descended a bank after checking one of the last fields and drawn a blank when a small sandy coloured bird flew up from the long grass next to the path, flew a few yards right past me and dived into the base of a rose bush.  From my brief view, it looked like a warbler - I was intrigued.  I walked the few paces back to the bush, but could see no sign of any bird or any movement.  I was thinking, what species of warbler would behave like this?  Grasshopper Warbler jumped to mind.  After waiting about 10 minutes and seeing no sign of anything, I tried pishing - this had no success either.  A few more minutes went by and then I glimpsed a bird with distinctly dark centred tertials dropping down from low vegetation back into the grass just beyond the rose bush.  I was now pretty sure that this was a gropper.  More time elapsed and I was getting no further views, so I decided to try playing some gropper reeling on my phone.  Almost immediately, I saw movement, as something appeared to walk towards me on the ground underneath overhanging brambles.  It was within a few feet, but I couldn't see what it was.  I stopped the playback and watched for another 10 minutes, but got nothing further.  I thought perhaps I was too close to the bird, so I walked a few yards up the path and tried the playback again.  Again, immediately a bird climbed through the grass just a few feet from me.  I could now clearly see that this was a gropper - get in! A very rare bird in this area.  Jim R told me that he has only seen one before and that was about 30 years ago!  I stopped the playback and the bird sat out in the open looking at me for a while and then turned around and disappeared back into the undergrowth.  I don't normally like using playback, but in this instance, I don't think that I would have had any views of the bird - it was incredibly skulky and if I hadn't chanced upon the first flight view, I would have been oblivious to the bird's presence.  It was silent throughout and my playback times were minimal.  The bird's short spell in the open enabled me to take a few record shots on my phone, a couple of which I have cropped and shown below:

Earlier in the day, I had seen 4 Yellow Wagtails fly over the lake and had had my first Siskin of the year with a single fly over.  There were large numbers of hirundines flying over and above the lake and also settling in lakeside trees.  The bulk of these were Swallows at around 400, there were about 100 House Martins and just a handful of Sand Martins.  I found a bare branch that they kept settling on so took a few photos - it was nice to see good numbers of juveniles:

Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin at the back

Sand Martin

Juv House Martin
At one point the birds rose into a tell tale ball, so I looked around for a raptor,  Sure enough a Hobby appeared and almost immediately went into a stoop.  It had singled out a Swallow low over the lake.  It missed its prey, but then rose higher and dropped again.  This time, the impact was an audible thump, as the Swallow was held in the Hobby's talons and it flew off to devour its catch.  Not something I've seen too often.

The Cettis' Warbler has started to sing in brief bursts and looks to have taken up territory in the NW corner of the lake.  It seems to be most vocal in the mornings.  Other warblers seen were yet another Lesser Whitethroat in the railway hedge, 3 Reed Warblers, 2 Willow Warblers, at least 20 Chiffchaffs, mainly in the railway hedge and getting on for 10 Blackcaps.

A common Sand was the only wader seen today.

A few highlights from earlier in the week:

Pump Lane had a flock of 10 Yellow Wagtails feeding on the short grass around horses on the 6th.  On the same day, a late Swift was over the lake and 2 Common Sands had arrived, still there on the 7th.  A single Wheatear on the 7th at Pump Lane is surprisingly my first of the Autumn.



Monday, 31 August 2015

Bits and pieces

Following my fly over Ruff last weekend, Alan S found a juvenile actually on the deck on Wednesday and it was still there on Thursday, so I popped in after work and took a record shot.  Nice to actually get one on the ground for once!

This bank holiday weekend, I have been out each morning from around 7am for a couple of hours, but with little to show for it.  Highlights have been a repeat sighting of the Cetti's Warbler on the 30th.  This must be the bird I saw on the 16th, as it was only yards away from that sighting.  It was calling frequently, which gave it away, as it was otherwise very skulking and hard to see.  It obviously likes the habitat, so will hopefully stay - and maybe start to sing.  On the 29th, a tight flock of 15 terns flew over and departed to the west.  Unfortunately any hope of a scarce species was soon dashed, as they were all Commons - mainly adults but with at least two juveniles.  A further two terns this morning that arrived at 9am during a break in the rain were also adult Commons.  A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull amongst the many juvenile LBBG and Herrings on the 29th was my best gull.

The railway hedge continues to hold a lot of warblers.  Chiffchaffs predominate, with several now singing again.  There are usually at least 20-30 in this small stretch.  On the 29th, there was also a good passage of Willows - I counted 9 moving through and yesterday one of these was in song.  Plenty of Blackcaps tacking away and yesterday also a juvenile Whitethroat.

Teal numbers are increasing day by day - 13 yesterday had risen to at least 16 this morning along with 4 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, a few Gadwall and into the 10s of Mallard and Tufties.

This morning's rain had brought down a lot of hirundines, predominantly Swallows (c150), but also reasonable numbers of House (c50) and Sand Martins (c30).  I won't be surprised if something good turns up later, as birds are on the move all the time.  A good example was my lack of any waders on the morning of the 29th, but a Greenshank was seen roosting at midday and seven Black-tailed Godwits flew in during the evening.  So it's always worth taking a look - must be a Black Tern around soon!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A trio of Spooners

With the school holidays upon us, my patch birding has been rather restricted of late, so I took the opportunity this weekend to make a couple of early(ish) visits while everyone was still in bed.

The best bird from my Saturday visit was undoubtedly a Ruff.  A tricky bird on patch, though just about annual and this one along with my past two records was a fly through.  I picked it up whilst walking down the west side of the lake and doing periodic scans.  It flew in from the north, did a couple of circuits of the lake and then descended as if to land on the spit, though I lost it behind vegetation at this point.  Further searches failed to find it on deck, so I presume that it just flew on through.

Not much else of interest, though ducks are arriving and moving through in dribs and drabs - 8 Teal and 2 male Pochard around this morning.  A single adult Common Tern was probably one of the four adults I had seen the previous evening on a quick stop off after work - all probably migrant birds rather than left over breeders.

On the Sunday morning, two new arrivals were a couple of Green Sandpipers that were quite vocal and being chased quite a bit by the Lapwings.  These didn't last too long and had gone by the afternoon.  A fly over Yellow Wagtail, calling as it went and a single Swift were also interesting.

2 Shoveler and 3 Gadwall were the new ducks of the morning, whilst at about 8am, what seems to be a regular event was the arrival of large numbers of geese.  They fly in from the north and make a real racket - I counted 252 Greylags and 46 Canadas and amongst these was the regular Bar-headed Goose.  This bird spends the summer along the Jubilee River a few miles away and returned here about a week ago - he or she must be getting on a bit now.  The adult Common Tern was still flying around, but flew off west later on.

My parents were coming over for lunch later, so I headed home and shortly afterwards, the rain started falling.  Around tea time, I noticed a report of 3 Spoonbills on patch - what!  I looked at my phone and saw a text I hadn't seen from Jim R - he had found the birds after the rain had subsided.  My parents were still visiting and I began to get quite twitchy, especially as I had missed the Spring bird by about 20 minutes - how long would these bird stay?  I needn't have worried, because after my parents had left and I raced down to the lake at about 5:30pm, I found all three birds still present with their heads and bills tucked in their backs, obviously not going anywhere.

The birds were an adult and two juveniles and I thought very possibly a family group and interestingly, the adult was colour ringed.  A check of the ringing schemes later on found that this was a Dutch ringed bird - a source of many of the UK birds - it had dark green over a yellow flag over dark green on the left leg and dark blue over metal over pale lime green on the right leg.  Jim R is following this record up with the scheme, but the administrator is away for a fortnight.  It is amazing to think that Spoonbill was a new bird to the site in May 2014 and we had three records that year - possibly the same bird, followed by another adult this May and now three more birds - I guess a sign of the times.

My record shots are just that, but pleased to get this one back this year.

CR adult in centre

One juvenile showing its bill

The other juvenile wakes up momentarily

After more rain over night, I half expected the birds to still be there the next morning, but it was a bit surprising to hear that the adult had stayed and the juveniles had departed.