Thursday, 15 February 2018

2 more

Same story will no doubt be my mantra for 2018, less patching time, but targeted and more frequent pre work visits becoming the key slots.

Since the Brent Goose, which could still be present, I picked up 2 more year ticks last Sunday, 2 Oystercatcher heading toward LFGP, then 2 Skylark over the landfill. Funny how the latter appears out of nowhere and it can be either January, or February, but always a bright day suddenly up singing.

As I've said many times, there isn't much to distinguish a big year list by at this early stage in the year, but one certainly needs to take every uncommon bonus species you can, so Goosander and the Brent Goose qualify for sure. Jack's Jack Snipe is also a good candidate and I am certain it is still around, just hiding in a new favoured spot.

What next then, over the last 6 years we have had the following species by this time in Feb;

Great White Egret, Little Owl, Golden Plover, Merlin, Ruff, Red Crested Pochard, Pintail, Curlew, Dunlin, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Caspian Gull & Kittiwake.

We can add Med Gull to that and Redshank will follow and whilst it's a good indicator, we must all remain vigilant for other species too.

So far we have both months in 3rd place, Jan on 86 = with 2012, 16 & 17, Feb on 89 a new 3rd place, knocking 2008 by 1. And that is without Pintail, Golden Plover, Little Owl and Red Crested Pochard....the most frequent occurring in recent February's.

If we add those 4 this month, a new 3rd place for the year total is on and equal first place for February species count, which seems plausible to me. I've certainly put in 3-4 hours of Golden Plover attempts so far. Yesterday morning a rakish raptor approached from the North, but was just a Kestrel, odd how unusual that is these days.

Sighting of the week for me was the 5 Hawfinch on the 10th, I'm going to miss them so much when they appear no more.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Time pressures

So little time in comparison to many previous years, but somehow I'm still not far off par for the park.

A lucky, if not infeasible Green Sandpiper at the balancing pool back on the 27th Jan was good, I barely saw a blink of a bird, but something told me a bird with a steep dive had dropped there and sure enough it was there, I barely had time to get Brian and John back with me, before it was off high SE.

As for last Sunday night, it was outstanding. The cast were a Peregrine on fire thru towards the scrape as we crossed the foot bridge from the car park, shortly after we were watching it perched in the Poplar.

Water Rail calling, Snipe showing, then out of the blue the first Bittern on Lavell's in about a year came in high from Sandford, circling twice before landing in a 'classic' high up front of reeds position, but the show was not over yet.

As we left the hide, there was the Barn Owl sat in the doorway for several moments, but the finale was a fine Woodcock coming in fast over our left side as we looked South toward Sandford, it was in view for nearly 3 whole

This morning I was out hoping to find the Oystercatcher on the beach at BSL, no luck, same for Little Owl, so no show for this all year so far. I met Richard Sajdak and said I'd catch up at Bittern hide, when I did I dropped the viewing flap, scaring many birds off, but thankfully not the Brent Goose that was on the bund, a fantastic bonus bird.

I do use Twitter a bit now, so feel free to catch up with my Tweets there, often ahead of my blogging which time pressures are reducing.

The Jack Snipe is still out there somewhere.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

83 ain't bad

Few visits over the last 2 weeks, but still more or less keeping pace with past years. My last Hawfinch was a male 14th, but I've been back twice for more Woodcock and even my son saw one with me last night.

I've had 3 sightings of Peregrine already, 3 of Raven, so both must be over more or less daily.

Unlike previous years Little Owl is keeping us waiting, but I think it's worth mentioning that Meadow Pipit has only been seen in our patch in January since 2009 and this year in particular has 5-10 remaining on the landfill.

I guess we have had several years recently when Pintail, Golden Plover, Chiffchaff, Jack Snipe, Ruff and even Red Crested Pochard have appeared in January. We must keep our eyes peeled for all these and bonus wildfowl, other grebes are nearby at Henley Road and Sonning, a Merlin could fire thru at any time. Skylark & Blackcap are not at all common in January, but possible.

Today's surprise was the arrival of an Oystercatcher, about 2 weeks before we normally get one, I'll hope to catch that tomorrow, or the weekend if it sticks.

The park's 86 species so far is equal 3rd with 2012 & 2017. 2nd place with 87 belongs to 2011, 1st place with 90 is 2016. Given what I said above it could be matched or even broken if conditions are right.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

A good 3 days

Friday night I was out feeling what a dull quiet evening it was, so left Bittern hide before dark and then lifted my bins at something near John's bench and to my surprise it was a splendid female Brambling, but off she went toward the meadow then turned right, perhaps heading for the car park field.

Then Saturday morning, I'm hoping for good things, but it never really happened, John picked up a Raven doing the usual SE across the landfill, a female Hawfinch obliged in the car park, 250+ Lapwing overhead, a lone Great Black-backed Gull, but nothing much more.

Back again in the evening, again it felt quiet, but it soon changed at 16:31 when I picked up a Peregrine swooping in over the scrape, scaring the hell out of the Lapwing, before it landed in the remaining Poplar. It sat for 5 minutes checking everything out, before taking another wide circle of the whole lake and returned to the same spot. Off it went 3-4 minutes later out over the landfill.

A Little Egret lingered in the new reed bed diggings and I commented to Pete that it might have been worth a dash to WSL for a Bittern, but I was glad I had not chosen that option and as a result had had my best views of Peregrine in about 5 years. John pinged up Bittern moments later.

I decided I felt lucky and told Pete I was going to have a stab at Woodcock, just 24 minutes later and we were watching 2 doing two complete circles of the our heads as they came around together, barely a metre apart, my best views at Lavell's since 2003.

So on to today and it was bird walk time, just one paying customer. Alan and I escorted our customer and had a splendid walk. Male Hawfinch in the car park field, my first male this year, great views of Goldcrest, Treecreeper and at Bittern hide, the Peregrine came in repeated last night's performance in better light this time.

Lots of Shoveler on Sandford, as we walked under the Alder near to WSL reeds, a mixed flock of Golfinch, Siskin and a lone male Lesser Redpoll, added 2 more year ticks for me, the latter being a park year tick. The 2 Ferruginous were at Middle Marsh, which regardless of origins are still nice birds.

So 81, out of 85 species seen. I'm 3 behind 2017's heady heights on the same date. Missing Kestrel, Green Sandpiper, Shelduck and Tawny Owl. 2017 offered Chiffchaff, Golden Plover, Jack Snipe, plus the 2 big ones Brent Goose and Caspian AND we ticked Ferruginous then too.

January into February is fairly predictable so getting ahead is always a matter of tiny margins, the expected additions, more or less in date order are;

Golden Plover
Little Owl
Jack Snipe
Med Gull

Wild card species always possible are;

Yellow-legged Gull
Brent Goose

I hold on to the hope we might yet get;

Water Pipit
Great Grey Shrike
Hen Harrier
other geese
Great Northern Diver
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Common Crane

And why not?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


No not trombones, but my year list of course.

I was heading out suited for work, but not a set appointment when I heard the familiar WhatsApp message tone I'd set for FOLL Bird News. 12:19 Richard's message said 'Goosander from Bittern hide', then I noticed Tim James' text saying male 'Goosander Lavell's', 26 minutes had passed and this underlines why we moved over to WhatsApp, so that anyone can act on the group message and not fall foul of my, or anyone being out of signal, or have simply not seen the message.

I arrived at 12:34 in my suit, but within 90 seconds the Goosander was lifting off the water, circled twice and headed toward BSL. Luckily Steve found it near the picnic area and it was there all afternoon.

If you want news fast then get on to our WhatsApp group, texting works most times but I can't always respond, or even read messages due to being in the car a fair bit.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happy New Year everyone

I've had time to go birding, time to eat and sleep and do some work, but no time to blog, so for now the park is on 78. More to come later. Happy New Year. The high winds give me hope a seabird might show up!

So, Jan 1st yielded 76 species, pretty good, the best birds being Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Coal Tit, Shelduck, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Egret, Bittern, but the star was of course Hawfinch, which kept us waiting for an hour longer than most other recent mornings.

I ended on 69, missing various things including Jay of all things.

The 2nd January offered some catch ups, new for 2018 Mistle Thrush, adding Jay, then House Sparrow for 2018, then Raven and Little Egret, placing me on 74, but Kestrel, Siskin, Shelduck and Tawny Owl are eluding me for now.

Looking back on 2016 we had Pintail, Red-Crested Pochard, Golden Plover and in 2017 the exciting occurrence of Brent Goose and Caspian Gull. There will be much to do to stay on track, but as it all evens out by about the 21st February, we just need to stay vigilant for the precious bonuses like Goosander, Woodcock, Jack Snipe etc. to put us ahead come year end.

Good luck and above all have fun birding everyone.

Thursday, 28 December 2017


Feeling a bit coldy today, I stayed home but with such a sunny day yearned to be out and did so around 14:30.

Around 14:45 I picked up 6 Linnet heading West over the landfill, 30 minutes later a strung out group of about 32 Golden Plover headed out East, as per recent winter sightings they were 1.5-2 miles North of us, beyond the A4, but they stayed visible and came even closer beyond the green barn at Lea Farm itself. I kept looking but no sign of the Little Owl.

2 Little Egrets went over later, a juv Great Black-backed Gull off East.

At Bittern Hide, little to speak of until near dark, at 16:39 2 Snipe left the scrape, 3+ more minutes later, then 2-3 more moments after, then at 16:47 a Woodcock went away from me SE more or less towards the sailing 137th for 2017, my =2nd highest year total, last reached in 2014.

Missing 5 species this year, poor misses of Redstart and Little Gull, notable no shows of Curlew & Ruff.