Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Unseasonal Caspo

May 19th - the lake has been attracting about 20-30 LWHG most days recently.  Quite a few adult LBBG, which are presumably local breeders, but also many immature birds.  Today, a rather interesting and very bleached 2cy bird arrived late morning and immediately stood out as a contender for Caspian Gull.  I set about taking some record shots and trying to see all the required features.  Although the coverts were very worn, the inner GCs appeared to show nice broad pale tips and in some angles, the inner GCs appeared to show solid centres, but to be honest, there wasn't much left in the way of markings here.  What was left of the dark marks on the scaps looked good and the tertials looked to have remnants of pale tips, though these were quite worn and brown looking.  The head was nice and white with a dark streaked shawl, a small dark eye and a good looking long and narrow bill beginning to show some paleness at the base.  The legs were long, particularly the tibia and were a good shade of pale pink.  I was keen to see the underwing, particularly after last year's May contender, which looked quite good until it showed a dark brownish underwing.  This bird had a nice pale almost white looking underwing, so another box ticked.  Finally, the tail band looked good, despite being worn and brown and the upper tail was nice and white.  So, all in all, the features all pointed to Casp and I couldn't see anything to suggest hybrid, so a nice unseasonal find:

Monday, 18 May 2015

Ups and downs

Last Monday 11th, I had spent a couple of hours from 9am at the lake. It was sunny and settled and not a lot seemed to be happening, so at about 10:45am, I said farewell to regular Alan S and set off elsewhere in search of Nightingales.  At 11:45am, whilst at least half an hour away from the patch, I received a text from Alan to say that a Spoonbill had just landed!  I quickly made my way back, but had got the unwanted text en route - 'Spoonbill has flown off west'.  So I arrived back and the bird hadn't returned.  It had spent all of 8 minutes on the spit before being spooked by the terns and flying off and I had missed it by about 20 minutes - the joys of patch listing!!! I wonder whether it might be the adult bird from last year that was present on two separate days in May and one in July (assuming it was the same bird).  I spent the next couple of hours in a fruitless wait for a no return.

The following day a summer plumaged Dunlin arrived and was around for a couple of days and a Common Sand on the 12th became two on the 13th.  There has also been a pair of Oystercatchers that fly in and out quite a bit, though Alan discovered that there might actually be two pairs, as he saw four birds together later in the week.

An unseasonal pair of Shoveler turned up on the 13th, possibly failed breeders, and on the 14th a further male joined them.  The 14th was a wet day and a late visit after work found 8 adult Little Egrets standing in the west end of the heronry.  The first nest hatched three juveniles this week, so another breeding success for this species.

Yesterday, the 17th, I was pleased to receive a text from Alan to say that he had discovered an adult Little Gull on the pit.  I was travelling back from Aylesbury with my daughter and could not get straight over there and conscious of how quickly these birds can depart wanted to get there as quickly as I could.  Once back at home the dreaded text arrived - 'can't see the bird', so I thought I had missed another good bird, but luckily, shortly later it was back, so I headed straight down and within a few minutes was watching a glorious full summer adult Little GullIt was swimming at the end of the spit, so I grabbed some quick record shots before enjoying watching it further:

This is a surprisingly scarce bird here and is only my second record since one in April 2004, though there have been other birds that I've missed, so I was very pleased to catch up with this one.  I had also missed another one last month that had arrived and gone straight through shortly after I had left the site for work.  At one point, I watched it fly off from the pit, showing those beautiful dark underwings, and fly off down the river.  I assumed that it had gone, but ten minutes later it returned.  In fact, according to other observers, it did this several times during its stay and was maybe using the river to feed.  It was last seen just before 7pm gaining height over the island and flying off S/E.

So onto today, the 18th, another wet morning.  I arrived at about 8:50am after dropping the children at school when the rain was fairly light.  Two Common Sands were new in and two LRPs and a pair of Oystercatchers made up the wader count.  At c9:45am, I suddenly noticed an adult Kittiwake flying in towards the end of the spit - it had presumably come in off the river.  It touched down on the water just beyond the spit where I took some truly awful record shots (these birds always seem to arrive in dull and wet conditions when my digiscoping fails to focus on anything!).

It drifted beyond the spit and then after only about three minutes on site it took to the air and flew off west, maybe back to the river.  This is my second Kittiwake this Spring following a bird in April and another one in March last year, so three birds in just over a year is pretty good going for what is supposedly a rare bird on patch.  The rain then set in and lasted until late morning, but little else of note was seen other than a single Linnet that flew in and landed on the spit - not common here.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A quiet spell

Not much seen during my last few visits, but highlights have been a couple of tundra Ringed Plover on the 7th and a 2nd summer Yellow-legged Gull on the 6th.

The gull was unexpected, as May is not generally a good month for these.  Its bare parts were particularly bright.

The Ringed Plovers were present all day on the 7th, but I wasn't able to get there until late in the day after work , so my record shot is particularly bad in poor light:

After a quick but fruitless visit yesterday morning, I decided to go and see the Greater Yellowlegs in Hampshire.  I was especially pleased to see this bird turn up again, as I had dipped it about 3 weeks ago.  A nice and confiding Bonaparte's Gull was also on offer in Southampton, so a pleasant afternoon all round:

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Spot Fly

May 5th - today looked promising with rain moving through and strong winds, though they were mainly from the west, which is not a great direction, east is much better.  I spent the morning waiting for birds to turn up, but nothing really happened, due probably to the westerlies.

An Arctic Tern arrived mid morning and stayed for twenty minutes or so.  Alan S and I watched a Common Tern chase it on a couple of occasions, so maybe it didn't like it intruding on its territory.  At about 11am, all the terns and hirundines on site formed a big ball and we looked around for the Hobby, but were surprised to see an unseasonal Peregrine fly through, the Arctic never returned.

It was nice to see good numbers of hirundines and Swifts, 150-200 each of Swallow and Sand Martin, 50-100 House Martin and 100-150 Swifts.

I left Alan at midday to go and pick up a new lawnmower blade, after which I decided to check Pump Lane paddocks.  I spied a very orange looking bird distantly to the north, which instantly disappeared and it took a further 15 minutes to find it again - a nice female Greenland type Wheatear.  As I was leaving, a darting bird in front of me proved to be my second earliest Spotted Flycatcher - not an easy bird on patch, particularly in the Spring, so a nice surprise.  It was flycatching for a while and then spent some time sitting on a wire of a fence keeping out of the very windy conditions - I was able to take a poor record shot, but you can see what it is!  Alan had texted in the meantime that a Dunlin had arrived at the pit, but I didn't have the time to go and see it - I'm sure there will be others!

Another day, another wader!

May 4th - I didn't fancy an early morning today - not a good attitude for finding birds!  Anyway, we had semi-planned a family walk along the river before lunch.  So when the text arrived from Alan S saying that 2 Whimbrel were on the spit just before we were due to leave, it made the decision of where to start the walk much easier!

Whimbrel, along with Blackwits, are about the most regular of the scarce large waders on patch and most Springs will turn up a few birds.  So at about 11am, with a quick minor detour, I spent all of 30 seconds looking through Alan's scope at a nice pair of Whimbrel.  We continued on our walk, which was very nice in the warm sunshine - birds on note were a Yellow Wagtail flying off from the cattle field and a couple of singing Whitethroats.

On our way back to the car, I received another text from Alan saying that Jackie N had found a male Mandarin on the east side of the lake, but only viewable from the east side - this was unfortunate, as our walk did not take us this way, so that year tick would have to wait.

Fortunately, I had a spare hour late afternoon, so made my way down again.  I drove straight to the east side and within a few minutes was looking at a distant male Mandarin.  It is surprising how scarce these are on site, particularly as it is not too difficult to find them on the Thames nearby - I average about one sighting a year and usually of wandering males.  Suddenly, for some unknown reason, the Mandarin took off and flew towards the main island where I lost sight of it.  Then, the two Whimbrel revealed their continued presence by taking off and calling.  I watched them distantly as they flew around but then descended back to the spit.  I decided then to drive quickly back to the west side, as I wanted to take some record shots.  On arrival, the two birds were quite close on the near spit, so I grabbed some reasonable records.  They were calling fairly constantly and took off several times, but kept returning, but they were obviously looking to leave.  They were still there when I left at 4:30pm but were seen to fly off high north just 30 minutes later.  An added bonus was that the Mandarin had also flown to the near sand spit, so I was able to take some shots of him too!

I like this one - Mandarin shaking, tern looking skywards

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Greenshank twitch!

May 3rd - With a weather front moving through the region this morning I was hopeful that the rain would have pushed down a Black Tern or some waders, so I was out early for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately it hadn't and apart from a Common Sand and some hirundines and Swifts, there was nothing new in.  The rain started up again just before 8am and didn't look like stopping, so I went home.

Just after midday, I received a text from Alan S saying that he had a distant medium sized wader on the spit and shortly later another saying that it was a Greenshank - waders have been a bit thin again this Spring, so this was a nice bird to get, particularly as I had missed two or possibly three Greenshank in mid April.  So I made a quick twitch, found a lovely summer plumaged bird on the back of the spit, grabbed a record shot and departed (help with son's homework beckoned!)

There was also a partial summer plumaged Dunlin around for a few days last week that I managed to catch up with on Friday morning before work.