Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Scoter Patch Tick!

At the end of my previous post, I had discovered a 2cy Little Gull on the 4th.  Well this lovely little bird was in no hurry to leave and actually stayed for three days, last seen late on the 6th.  Work got in the way of me ever getting a good photo of it, the best I did was this long range effort from the south bank early on the 6th, heavily cropped from about 250m away.  Even so, there is a noticeable pink flush appearing on the underparts.

Dave Parmenter kindly sent over a couple of his flight shots from the 4th and I've posted these below:

On the 5th, the Little Gull was often in the company of my first Common Tern of the year.  Common Tern numbers rose quickly - 2 on the 6th, 7 on the 7th (9 in the evening) and 8 on the 8th.

I did a circuit on the morning of the 7th and there had been an obvious influx of Blackcaps.  I counted 10 singing males and a female.  I also eventually picked up my first Sedge Warbler of the year in the south-east corner.  It had been found the previous day, but had not been singing this morning, si I had to return at midday when it was much more obliging. Five singing Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler made up the warbler count.

The morning of the 8th was yet another damp and murky one.  I arrived at about 7am when it was at least dry, though visibility was poor.  It was soon obvious that nothing new had arrived overnight onto the lake area, however, there were numerous reports of local Kittiwakes and Little Gulls and especially Common Scoters, so there was passage going on.  I decided to stick it out and see whether I might get lucky.  I counted the eight Common Terns over and over again as they move between the sand spit and the east side of the lake.  Then, at 9am, there were suddenly nine terns.  A quick scan through them revealed the newcomer to be a smart Arctic Tern, much cleaner and whiter than the Commons with very long tail streamers.  In the very poor light, my attempts at recording any sort of flight shot were almost impossible, but thankfully after some time, it decided to land on the sand spit, so I grabbed a couple of records at distance.

Looking in the records later, it appears that this is the earliest ever Arctic Tern for Bucks.  Funnily enough, another arrived in the north of the county at Willen Lakes at the same time.

I stayed in the south-east corner watching the terns and watching for other new arrivals.  A pair of Wigeon flew in and around the lake, eventually landing.  This tripled the number on site, as we had been down to a lone male swimming around the new tern rafts.

At 10am, when I should have been leaving, a couple of dumpy, black ducks flew straight past me and out of sight flying towards the south-west corner.  I knew immediately that these were Common Scoters and sent a quick message out on WhatsApp while racing to get a view of where they might have landed.  Common Scoter is very unusual here, there have been several prior records, but none for many years and these were a patch tick for me.  Even in years where they seem to be everywhere, they seem to avoid this place.  Anyway, these two hadn't!  When I reached a spot to view the south-west corner, they weren't there.  I scanned over the whole lake and found that they had doubled back and had landed on the east side, a nice male and female.  So, back to the south-east corner.  The birds were never particularly close, they always seem to find a way to be in the centre of the water, as far from the banks as possible.  This plus the awful light conditions meant that getting record shots was a bit tricky, so I have enhanced it a bit to try and get some colour.

Very pleased with this patch tick, I overstayed my allotted time by quite a bit and waited until someone else arrived, which turned out to be Jim R, some 45 minutes later.  After some more watching and chatting I eventually tore myself away and went home for a very late breakfast, more like lunch really!

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