Saturday, 1 April 2017

Week Off

I had most of last week off work as I was using up some holiday before the end of March.  Consequently, I spent a fair amount of time birding the patch and was able to see some nice birds as Spring migration starts to pick up.

27th March - this morning, there was an obvious small window of opportunity for observing migration as the mist of the morning was lifting and before the skies gave way to sunshine.  This was around 10-11am.

I had picked up my first Blackcaps of the year whilst walking round the lake, two males and a female in the south east corner, a further female was seen later on the north side.  There were also quite a few Meadow Pipits passing over, generally flying north west - I counted around 50 birds in several small flocks.  As I reached the east side, a steady flow of Sand Martins became obvious.  Hirundines often do this at this site in Spring, they seem to fly in off the river and head north over the lake.  If the conditions are right, they are low enough to see and quite large numbers can be logged fairly early in the season.  I stayed watching these birds for some time to see if I could see my first Swallow.  Surprisingly, a single House Martin passed through, but no Swallows.  This is my second earliest House Martin record.

There were quite a few Black-headed Gulls hawking low over the lake, but at about 11am, I noticed two other gulls descending from height.  A quick look through bins and I could see they were adult Little Gulls, still in winter plumage.  This is a good record for this site that often seems to miss out on Little Gull passage when other local sites pick them up, but was obviously a consequence of the easterly wind.  I managed to take a few flight shots (I've never been able to do this before!) as they hawked over the lake - beautiful gulls.  They stayed on site for about an hour before rising up and continuing on their journey.

Whilst watching the Little Gulls, a large, noisy flock of about 100 Wigeon flew over me from the east - more migration!  About half the flock descended to the lake, but others carried on.  A pair of cronking Raven also flew low over the lake from the east.  Later, a single bird flew over west and later still, another single bird was circling high over the lake.  There were also still 68 Shoveler on site, groups of males often flying around chasing the females - they often stay late in to the Spring here, but will soon be gone.

28th March - nothing new seen on this day, though the reappearance or new arrival of a second drake Garganey was notable.

29th March - My first Swallows of the year came through this morning, two birds with about 75 Sand Martins.  I heard three singing Blackcaps and had my first Lesser Redpolls of the year when three birds flew over calling.  Meadow Pipits were still passing over, though just 14 birds this morning.  A presumed feral Barnacle Goose flew in with a Greylag and a single Siskin passed over.  Little Ringed Plovers and Shelduck still present.

Massive crop!

Just before school pick up, I decided to try the small lakes on the west side of the patch that I hadn't visited in a while.  As usual, these were fairly quiet, but as I was leaving the Roach pit an Osprey flew directly over me at very low height.  I watched it through bins, then thought I ought to try and get a record shot.  However, the camera was in its bag and by the time I had got it out, taken the lens cap off and extended the zoom, The Osprey had flown over the Marlow bypass and was continuing at low height right over the centre of Marlow.  I tried, but in the low light (it was very overcast) and at distance, I failed to get the bird in the viewfinder before it disappeared.  The bird appeared to be tracking just north of the river Thames and I assume it had come off the Thames when it first flew over me.  I wouldn't be surprised if it actually flew over Marlow high street, which would have been some sight!  This is the first Osprey I have seen in March and only my third on patch and the first for a few years.

30th March - there was nothing obviously new in when I first arrived in the morning, but by the time I had reached the south east corner, I picked up a Common Tern hawking the south west corner, having obviously just arrived.  This is my earliest Common Tern record in Bucks and only my second ever March record.  I retraced my steps to get a record shot as the bird often rested a small lump of wood near the spit.

I continued my walk around the lake and heard seven singing Blackcaps, an obvious increase, and my first Willow Warblers of the year.  In fact two birds, one in the north east corner and one near the works.

There is also lots of Great Crested Grebe display going on a the moment, with several pairs on the lake.

31st March - with lots of local Sandwich Terns around this morning, I was hopeful of picking one up on the lake, as it does fairly well for this species.  However, my arrival at 8:50am may have been too late and none were seen.  There was a good passage of hirundines though and my estimates for the morning were about 150 Sand Martins, about 20 Swallows and a single House Martin.

Three Little Ringed Plovers were chasing each other around the site and later became four.

So not a bad few days.  I've picked up all the migrants I would hope to see in March, plus a few more, and am only missing Wheatear.  My best patch areas for Wheatear are the fields and paddocks in Pump Lane, but these have failed to produce any as yet.

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