Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Summer summary and the start of Autumn passage

Once again I have been a bit lax in updating the blog, but for those that are interested, I do update twitter on a regular basis with sightings from the patch (it's quicker and easier!)

Following on from where I left off in early June - a female Shelduck was present for a few days mid month, but the first new year tick for me was a female Mandarin.  It is surprising how occasional these birds are at the lake considering the proximity to the Thames where they are fairly regular.  This bird was first seen on June 19th and appeared to be in heavy wing moult.  I don't think it could fly, as they are usually one day birds, whereas this one stayed for several weeks.

On June 25th, Kevin H was doing his usual evening stint at the lake and sent a message to say that a Whooper Swan had just flown in.  Now this was an interesting record.  I went straight down to take a look and found a splendid adult Whooper parading around the lake.  The origin of this bird remains unknown, but is likely to be a feral from somewhere local, though I am unaware of any local records.  The closest birds I know about are two only ever seen around Warfield, Bracknell and two in the Luton area of Beds, again which do not seem to wander far.  This bird is unringed and seems more wary than the Mute Swans, though does venture in to the sides sometimes when food is on offer.  Whatever this bird's origin, it seems to like the lake, as it has been here ever since.  The resident Mute Swan took an instant dislike to it and was often seen chasing it around, though that might have been because it had a young cygnet - it seems to have settled down now and is more relaxed with the newcomer.

Look, no rings!
And a bit of video here showing its rather evocative call.

The last week of June also saw a small passage of Little Egrets through the site.  On the 26th, a colour ringed juvenile arrived with its parents.  A quick check found that it had been ringed on May 13th at Lee Valley CP in Essex.

These egrets only stayed a day, but on the 28th, a further two adults and three juveniles arrived, again only for a day, so a definite passage.  Our only pair of breeding egrets this year fledged three young, but they were still in the nest at this time.

Yellow-legged Gulls have been arriving in small numbers.  Along with the 3rd summer with the broken leg, another third summer was seen on June 28th.

Open wing of 4cy with broken leg
Distant 3rd summer June 28th
 Then a few adults started to arrive with the first two on July 11th and then birds seen quite regularly thereafter, though possibly the same one or two birds involved.

June 30th saw my first Green Sandpipers of the year.  Two birds flew off the back of the spit in the morning and disappeared high north.  The same day, a juvenile Little Ringed Plover joined two adults and I am hopeful that this is evidence of successful local breeding.  On July 2nd, two juveniles were present.

There have been small movements of wildfowl during the summer.  For instance, 17 Gadwall arrived on June 15th, though didn't linger; two Teal were present for a day on July 2nd; a pair of Shoveler were present for a day on June 14th, with further females on 29th and 4th and 10th of July; there has been a single male Pochard throughout, but it was joined by four further males on June 21st, falling back to two and then a full grown juvenile appeared on July 2nd and remained for a week.

The most unexpected arrival though was a drake Scaup.  I found this bird on the morning of July 9th and convinced myself it was probably a hybrid.  On first looks, it seemed to be the same size as a Tufted Duck with too much black on the bill tip.  However, with further observations, it became clear that it was actually slightly larger than Tufted Duck and the bill tip only had black on the nail and slight surrounds.  This was actually quite hard to see, as the bill was quite dark.

I sent some photos off to a wildfowl expert who said that the bird was probably a 1st summer drake due to the apparent contrast in the wing coverts.  This led me to speculate that it might be last year's juvenile drake that spent a week here in October and also favoured a similar area.  Scaup is a rare duck here, so it seems plausible and I hope that if it is, then this might become a regular visitor.  This bird is in eclipse and appears to be in active moult, as it is getting scruffier by the day and as I write is still present for its 18th day.

Day of arrival

Day of arrival

Day of arrival

July 22nd diving

July 22nd diving - note camera has given wrong eye colour cf other pics

July 22nd - much scruffier now than when it arrived

Cuckoo is never seen particularly regularly on patch and this year was no different, with just a single singing male heard on one morning.  Silent, presumed females were seen on two or three dates, with one obviously patrolling the banks in May.  It is interesting, therefore, to see that juvenile Cuckoos have been reared here for the last three years, with Cuckoos taking advantage of the many pairs of breeding Reed Warblers.  This year's bird used a nest in almost the exact same location as last year.  Simon R was the first person to hear a suspected juvenile calling from the nest, but we had to wait a couple of weeks until July 5th, before Alan S finally saw a just fledged bird sitting in the bush above the nest.  I managed to take a couple of head shots as the bird remained mostly hidden.

We were then treated to a juvenile Cuckoo being fed by its hard working foster parents for the next two weeks in the general vicinity before it finally departed on July 19th.  It was usually very difficult to get a clean view of it as it was always partially obscured in foliage and often high up, though it was easy to locate by its persistent begging calls.

On my arrival on the morning of July 12th, I was pleased to be greeted by a spectacular flock of seven summer plumaged islandica Black-tailed Godwits.  They had been appearing at various sites for a while, so I guess it was just a matter of time before they eventually appeared here.

It was nice to get the rather strange July combo of Black-tailed Godwit and Scaup!

A pair of Redshank also flew in whilst I was watching the Godwits.  Again, there haven't been too many records of these this year.  Just these two and a single on June 25th recently.

Another interesting wader record was the arrival on July 9th of an adult pair and single full grown juvenile Oystercatcher.  They didn't breed on site, although adults have been present throughout, but it is nice to speculate that these are local breeders from the near vicinity.  They have remained on site ever since.  The only other waders have been up to three Common Sands occasionally and the odd Little Ringed Plover.

Adult and juv

Juv being fed by adult
 On July 13th, a quick morning visit found a nice fresh, dusky headed, juvenile Mediterranean Gull on the spit.  Always nice to see one of these locally.

The odd Common Gull has started appearing again too, the first being a 2cy bird on July 11th and an adult from July 21st.

The final bird of note was a singing Cetti's Warbler that I think I startled right next to the path on the southern bank.  It sang briefly three times before moving slightly to the west and was not seen or heard again.  I hope that it's still on site.  This is a surprisingly scarce bird on site given its habitat and closeness to other known breeding birds, but as this is the third year in succession that one has appeared, maybe it won't be too long before it becomes a regular bird.

A few non avian records of note: a glow worm crawling across the path on June 18th; a Purple Hairstreak resting amongst Ash leaves above the bench on July 5th; an Essex Skipper flitting around the southern bank on July 10th; a Six-belted Clearwing moth (one of two) that came to pheromone lures around the mass of Bird's-foot Trefoil on site and a Roebuck taking a swim on July 22nd.


I really must blog more regularly, as this was what I thought was a quick update and has actually turned into a bit of a monster - more has happened than I thought!