Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Quick twenty minutes

April 29th - I had a quick 20 minutes before work this morning and had the following:
  • A nice male Yellow Wagtail on the spit
  • My first Hobby of the year flying west over the south side of the lake
  • A Common Sand flying to the spit from the south bank
  • 3 LRPs
  • A Sedge Warbler singing in the NW corner near the cottages
  • 3 singing Reed Warblers on the west side
I didn't have time to go further than the west side, so a subset of what is probably on site.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Pied Flicker

A couple of hours mid morning on the 27th held no great surprises.  A Whitethroat in the SE corner was new in and the first around the lake this year.  A flyover Yellow Wagtail at Pump Lane was another year tick - why it was flying south I don't know - maybe it had seen the horrible weather further north!

April 28th - I arrived at the lake just after 9am.  A quick scan of the lake and spit with bins from the west side didn't reveal anything new, so I made my way to the viewpoint where the sun isn't in your eyes quite so much.  I had only been standing there for a short time when my attention was drawn to a small bird that had flown in and landed just above my head and uttered a soft call note I didn't recognise.  I didn't quite get it in the bins before it flew a short distance.  Mostly obscured by vegetation, I got a partial view of a small bird with very white undersides.  I was beginning to think Pied Flycatcher when it moved into view and revealed itself as a lovely female - fantastic! A patch tick for me and only the second site record, I think, following two birds seen in August 2004.

The bird then flew into a low bush that was almost at eye level where I again got a nice view of it and the large white tertial patch.  I had texted the news out by now, but the bird had flown from the bush and I had lost it.  I checked the general area, but couldn't find it.  Alan S arrived shortly later and we checked a bit further south.  He then stayed here and I made my way back to the area of the original sighting.  Within a few minutes I got a call from Alan to say that he had seen it on the small island which is only 30 yards or so from the viewpoint.  I quickly joined him and we watched it on the island for a few minutes before it flew back to the viewpoint and then disappeared again.  LGRE and Dave C arrived and we eventually found the bird again.  It was however very difficult to keep track of in the emergent vegetation on the trees and it was also beginning to stay very high up towards the tops of the trees.  It was last seen late morning, though due to the difficulty in locating it, I wouldn't be surprised if it was still there unseen somewhere - these cold northwesterlies don't seem like good migrating winds to me.

That's more like it!

April 26th - I had lain in bed the previous morning listening to the gentle rain falling and knew this was good weather to be on patch, but knew also that I couldn't get there.  It was disappointing, but such is life.  However, someone had been there and had only had 4 Arctic Terns, which would have been nice to see, but was not the end of the world to miss.

The following day, the 26th, I was free to visit, so was up and out by 6am.  The weather still looked good and it was staying dry, which is not always great for seeing birds, but is nicer to be out in!  The first birds I noticed were a couple of Common Sands resting on the newly towed out tern rafts.  This was followed by a couple of year ticks, firstly, at least 3 Garden Warblers along the south bank (the first had been seen a few days previously) and then a nice 'rattling' Lesser Whitethroat along the railway.  These are not easy to see on patch with just the odd Spring and Autumn record, so I stayed until I got a nice view of it.  As I continued along the south bank I heard Reed Warbler and then Sedge Warbler in the south east corner plus loads of Blackcaps.  Up the east bank, I flushed a Common Sand from the edge - was this number 3?  I was keeping an eye on the lake, but other than the burgeoning flock of Common Terns which will hopefully have a good breeding season, I wasn't seeing anything else.  Another Common Sand was on the north bank - bird number 4 or a repeat sighting?

I made my way back to the bench on the west side where Ben H was sitting with his two dogs - I had passed him earlier and he hadn't seen anything of note either.  It was now a little after 8am.  As I stood talking to him, I scanned the tern flock in the south east corner and immediately saw a small tern - 'Little Tern!', I exclaimed.  I put the scope up for a better view and then unbelievably saw an adult Kittiwake sitting on the water in the same area.  Two good birds within a minute - incredible!  I went to the viewpoint, which is marginally closer to the birds, in the hope of grabbing some record shots.  I had no hope with a flying Little Tern, but fortunately after ten minutes or so, it made its way to the spit and settled there for a while.  In the dim morning light, focussing is a problem for my digiscoping, but I managed one reasonable record:

I really struggled with the Kittiwake, as it was fairly distant and constantly on the move drifting, so here is a classic record shot!:

Jackie N and Jim R joined me after a while and saw both birds.  Jackie left and Jim continued round the lake to see if he could get any closer.  As he was walking, I watched the Kittiwake lift off and fly low out of the SE corner where it very likely flew into Berkshire as the river and boundary is only about 50 yards from here.  The bird had been present for about an hour.  The Little Tern was to stay all day and was seen flying off at 8:20pm that evening, so an extended stay.

Some much better shots of the tern are here:

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3

And a marginally better Kittiwake shot:

Photo 1

Also on the spit, a Green Sandpiper was with 2 Common Sands and I had just seen 2 Common Sands on the far side of the spit, so definitely 4 birds.

I was now running out of time as I had to get home, but decided to check Pump Lane paddocks.  On first glance there appeared to be little here.  I saw a Blackbird by the far hedge, which is about 400yds away and pretending it might be a Ring Ouzel, I decided to scope it - Blackbird!  However, a small scan right and I suddenly picked up a small pale brown bird flying back to the fenceline showing a nice red tail - bingo!  I had seen a female Redstart in the same hedge a couple of years ago in late April, so a nice repetition.  I watched it for about 10 minutes and then headed home with five nice year ticks under the belt.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Arctics arrive bang on cue

April 21st - with high pressure, light easterly winds and a warm sunny day, it was no surprise that there were Arctic Terns on the move today.  There were also plenty of Little Gulls and a few Black Terns in the region, but they chose not to visit my patch.

I found the first two Arctic Terns shortly after 9am.  As usual they favoured the larger open water on the east side of the lake.  There were also 14 Common Terns on site, but these were mostly on the spit, with just two flying with the Arctics initially.  At just after 9:30am, all 14 Common Terns were on the spit, a further two Arctic Terns joined the first two and all four birds flew west, the Commons all took off en masse and the four Arctics spiralled up and off west.  About twenty minutes later, I noticed another Arctic Tern flying around with the Commons and then another, so back to two birds.  These were watched for a while and then were also seen to spiral up high and off west.  With a bit of deja vu, shortly later we were back to one, two then three Arctics flying around, though by late morning there were just two birds, both of which stayed until the evening.  It is difficult to say how many birds were actually involved, as the birds that were seen to spiral off may have returned, but a minimum of 4 birds and probably 7 or 9.  Common Terns had also risen to 22 birds mid afternoon, so some fresh arrivals of these too.

A few record shots of the two birds that remained in the afternoon and eventually landed on the spit:

Only one of the two birds together
A couple of the Common Terns

A Black-tailed Godwit had also arrived just after 9am and was seemingly happy feeding on the spit, but when the Common Terns all spooked just after 9:30am, it flew off.  I failed o get a record shot, as I was viewing distantly from the southern bank at this stage.

A Sedge Warbler was new in in the NE corner was the first one on patch this year - there are only ever a few migrants each year, whilst a new Reed Warbler was singing in the SE corner.

A Green Sandpiper was also another year tick.  A bird present in the works bay area was presumably the same one seen in the same place last Friday and Saturday.  A Common Sand and pair of LRP made up the rest of the waders.

Another interesting bird was a mixed singing Willow Warbler in the NE corner.  It began with several Chiffchaff type notes and ended in the usual Willow Warbler descending flourish.  I took a recording on my phone so will try and upload it later.

Other year ticks over the past week have included two Swifts on the 19th - seven were reported on the 18th and I had five more on the 20th, so quite early this year.  My first Reed Warbler was singing on the 19th in a reed bed on the south bank and this morning (22nd) I had my first Nuthatch singing near the NE corner.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Year list ticking along slowly

I've made a few visits over the past week, mainly early morning, but now that the children are back at school, I should have more time to get out.

I had to wait until the 11th for the first Willow Warbler, a sign of how late Spring has been for some species, obviously held up by the spell of cold weather with northerly winds we had in March and early April.  That was also the date for my first House Martin.  There were 5 LRPs chasing each other around the spit first thing and a single Oystercatcher.

On the 13th, a single Common Tern was flying around - there were 6 today, so numbers will soon build and the tern rafts will need to be put out for them. The same morning, a Common Sandpiper was flying around the east bank; 3 Willow Warblers were singing and a single Oystercatcher and 3 LRPs were on the spit.

The following morning, there was little change at the pit, though a 4cy GBB Gull and a 2cy Common Gull added a bit of variety on the gull front.  I decided to check Emmett's fields for once and maybe chance a Redstart - not to be, though a singing Whitethroat was my first of the year.  After umpteen checks of the Pump Lane paddocks over the previous few weeks, I finally found a small fall of Wheatears.  5 birds, 4 males and a female, were running around distantly at the north end of the paddocks.  At the vine fields, a further pair were on the posts.  These 2 were close enough for a nice record shot, but I had left the scope in the car (I digiscope!).  I went back to get it and on my return I found that they had hopped off the posts into long grass, so that put paid to any photos!

This morning, I made a quick pre-work visit.  Best bird was a moulting Dunlin, amazingly my first of the year.  Poor record below:

Otherwise, Willow Warblers were up to 4 birds and Blackcaps numbered 9.  The Common Sand was still around the works bay on the NE side and 2 LRP were still present.  I saw 4 Common Terns, often settled on the spit, though 6 were reported later.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


8th April - I've been away over Easter and coupled with school holidays this has meant little time on patch.

On Easter Sunday, I received a text from recently retired Alan S that a male Goldeneye was on site.  This was the first record of the year - another sign that the winter period was particularly slow this year.  I had to wait until the evening, but the bird was still present, though distant, preening beyond the spit.  I managed a record shot in fading light and was also pleased to get my first Swallow of the year that went over late on with 5 Sand Martins.

I had missed some good hirundine passage over the weekend, when 1200 Sand Martins, 300 Swallows and 50 House Martins were logged during the day on Saturday.  All coming off the river and heading north over the pit, which they do when conditions are right.  Still, I was pleased to see my first Swallow, but will have to wait for the House Martin, as the prevailing sunny conditions aren't conducive for seeing hirundines.

3 Little Egrets were also looking interested in the heronry, so fingers crossed for another breeding success and 3 Little Ringed Plovers were running about on the spit.

On Easter Monday, I made a morning visit and was serenaded by a male Blackcap along the concrete road as I arrived.  Little else was seen though - Spring still seems very late this year - no Willow Warbler yet and still no Wheatears at Pump Lane, which are usually March birds.

Today, 8th, I made another early morning visit, but had to wait until 7:30am for  the fog to lift!  2 Little Ringed Plovers on the spit were joined by a third bird which flew in high from the south.  The 3 Little Egrets were making their presence known, flying around and making a bit of a racket and a single Swallow flew north.  A further Swallow was seen flying south over Pump Lane vineyards, but that was it.  So it was nice to get another text from pit stalwart Alan S saying that a Black-tailed Godwit had flown in at about 1pm.  I was able to get down and grab a couple of record shots of this nice islandica bird in almost full summer plumage.  It was feeding avidly and usually had its head under water, but I did get one showing the bill!

Hopefully this is a sign that things are picking up.  I'm now on 91 for the year, which is pretty low for this time of year - last year I was on 97 by April 1st.