Sunday, 25 November 2018

A definite OMG year

It has gotten beyond all my expectations and I am amazed at just how incredible the year has panned out. Yellow-browed Warbler was awesome, Grey Phalarope was outstanding and lucky I was close enough to get there in time, not forgetting Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, but today surely this was the last gift of 2018!?

Mid work party and I have no good reason to look West into the sky...but I did and my eyes were met with 4 very large birds moving North behind the remaining Poplar and right, focusing and my brain caught up....with my autopilot ID checking suddenly screaming "they're bloody Cranes, 4 Common Crane, where are my bins?" Scrambling through the undergrowth still shouting "Common Cranes, 4 Common Cranes" there these little beauties drifted majestically across our skies, just 200-250 feet up, then veering East but almost certainly dropping as they got just east of Twyford, so probably Waltham StLawrence, White Waltham area.

And I even got this record shot with my phone....bliss seeing therm in context beyond our infamous Oak tree.

I'd lost count, this is my 204th species for my patch, 138 this year, equaling 2012.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Still riding the crest

I have been enjoying so much luck lately and I'm happy to say it still hasn't ended, Friday afternoon I came down to enjoy the late afternoon sun and head off to WSL, but on arrival the Yellow-browed Warbler was showing beautifully, close and in full view at it's favourite tree....It's not been seen since.

Then 07:30 Sunday morning I was out at Sandford again, when something told me to look up and my eyes were met with a fast moving raptor, before lifting my bins I thought Peregrine, but when I got in it, it was way too small and compact.... a Merlin moving very fast in from the North at about 250 feet, it arced over me and headed West over toward Bader Way and gone.

I had to look it up, it was my ninth and all of them since autumn 2009, my second this year with first being the male perched on the landfill 17th March.

I'm hoping to catch up with a white faced Athya, but instinct and research says it's just a Tufted Duck, but I'm going to keep looking for anything more I can add.

Even if I add nothing I can say this year is up there with the best.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A 31 year wait is over

Driving back from Asda with my wife and my phone chirps the LWT bird news tone, I ask Emi to read it..."Phalarope next to bund Tern scrape, Steve Day"..........."Phalarope, what now?" I say. "call him, call him for me now". He says on loudspeaker "Yes it's still showing but getting grief from Black-headed Gulls!"

We are going by the Good Companions pub and had turned left already and now a very quick right down Fosters Lane took us down to near Just Tiles and on toward DP. We followed the slowest idiot in Berkshire down Sandford Lane and finally I pull up by the constantly locked Lavell's car park gate.

I then sprint to Bittern hide, bursting in Steve says "it's still here"

Quickly looking through his bins my eyes fall upon the somewhat distant but nonetheless blatant Grey Phalarope beyond the far end of the bund, at which point my body is bathed in warmth, joy, relief and pain with my whole diaphragm heaving in and out as I try and speak amid the gasps to catch my breath.

It's been a long wait for me, I was away when the famous 1987 October Hurricane hit, the two unrepeated megas have haunted me since, October 16th : 2 Grey Phalarope on BSL for one hour
October 17th : 1 Sabine's Gull on BSL.

But now after 31 years and 16 days, I got to see Grey Phalarope, even if it was just for 15, possibly 20 seconds, I saw it. Sadly them darn Black-headed Gulls chased it off and I was sad when I saw it leave over the Emm Brook and vanish behind the Oak, but not emerge the other side.

Blimey we've been unlucky in the last 2 years along, the Billingbear bird 2017 and 3 at Theale this year and I know numerous have been seen over the last 31 years, just not at Dinton.

My 203rd species, 137th this year. Here's to Steve's picture of this little stunner

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

New records?

Yesterday's Curlew got me thinking and looking in to old records. Plus I missed off Nick's Firecrest from the totals and Jo Taylor managed to squeeze a Yellow-legged Gull in on BSL without telling any of us 3 days ago.

So the park is on 141, just one away from the record - 142 set in 2012 and repeated just last year. But believe it or not, 141 was the old record set in 1983, the next biggest year list was 139 in 1984. This is the sixth year since 2011 we've hit 140 or more.

Can we get one more for the park to equal and one more to pass it?

The evidence suggests anything is possible, the species list seen before in November and December is quite impressive. I'll colour code it, black being occurred, blue being most likely of the list due to frequency beyond 4-5 records;

Red-necked Grebe
Slavonian Grebe
Bewick's Swan
Whooper Swan
Bean Goose
White-fronted Goose
Caspian Gull
Short-eared Owl
Little Owl
Bearded Tit

Obviously birds are unpredictable, so I'd like to think we have a chance at least of a first for the park like;

Great Northern Diver
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Dartford Warbler

And again long awaited one off's from the 80's like;

Red-throated Diver
Long-tailed Duck
Red-breasted Merganser

He's hoping for an exciting end to the year and being available to see whatever it is.

7 days later

I saw the Yellow-browed briefly on Saturday, but had little time and with the work party the next day, followed by family commitments, I've had no further chances.

During the work party a group of c70+ Fieldfare went NW, a Green Sandpiper flew over.

Well saying that I went yesterday to help my good friend AJ, but could not stay before it showed again, there was a Chiffchaff lurking too, Water Rail calling nearby. Right on school pick up Trevor called to bring my attention to Roger's picture of a Curlew at Lea Farm Lake. "Aaaaargh, I'm on my way" I said deserting my wife, running home with the shopping and heading there.

Barely 20 minutes later and I'm watching a fairly comfortable looking at a lovely Curlew on the East bank slightly back beyond the track. A Peregrine was chased by Lapwing and headed off East, a female Goldeneye was my first this autumn.

Until this morning, so I arrived early and had a stab for Great White Egret, first at Teal scrape, then John joined me for Lea Farm Lake - we now call it 'Lake' instead of G.P. so now I'll be using 'LFL' as the acronym.

4 Little Egrets went over towards DP, a Peregrine over low and landed in the big Alder in the NW corner, no Curlew though. A smattering of Shoveler, Teal and the same female Goldeneye.

Back down to Sandford and it wasn't long before the Yellow-browed Warbler was calling loudly above our heads in the usual Willow.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

what can I say

An obvious lack of blog posts doesn't mean I haven't been out....I haven't been out much and had little time to blog about it.

But then Wednesday that all changed, I could have made late night slot to report on it, but with the little darling re-appearing today I tried to grab a shot.

So Wednesday 24th October, I arrived in the West lay-by Sandford side, by the yellow gate, moments before I'd debated in my mind if I'd do the car park field for a late stab at a flyover Ring Ouzel, but opted for a Sandford check for ducks.

As I reached down to tie up the laces on walking boots, a Yellow-browed Warbler called loudly and was clearly not 70 feet away. This amused me a great deal, having worked my but off 5 years ago trying to find my first. And now my second didn't wait for me to get my jacket on.

It continued called nearby and I'd barely got poor views of it in the Willow by the Oak nearest to the lay-by, before I put calls out to a few regulars then pushed out the 'mega' WhatsApp message. Brian arrived and after just a few minutes of anxiety it began calling again, then showed in full view for a minute in a Hawthorn by the dead Alders up the path slightly.

It kept others waiting, before vanishing until Derek arrived and heard it over by Sandford Copse. here it got more mobile and then returned to it's original Willow.

Today it was back - obviously never left in fact, but today I got precious records shots unparalleled in birding circles....

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Autumn Pied Fly

Against any likelihood, I was excited to hear from Brian telling me a Pied Flycatcher was seen by Andy Merrick at the North end of Mortimer's Meadow.

Many of our more recent members and users of WhatsApp might well be wondering where the hell 'Mortimer's' is. It's immediately West of the Loddon parallel with White Swan Lake and The Bader Way to the West, it was once devoid of vegetation and no doubt ancient flood meadow.

For just 2 years 1983 and 1984 it was heaven, Dinton had it ploughed and in February and early March was the time to check it, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit, Wheatear, Redshank, Little-ringed Plover & Ringed Plover. It was darn good for Whinchat in the autumn too.

Sadly WBC had it landscaped, drainage seams dug in and planted tons of trees. Then millions of dog walkers came and all in all, we gave up watching the area, my last Whinchat's there were 7th Sept 2002, Brian finding them 3 day earlier.

So back to modern times, Andy Merrick found the juvenile Pied Flycatcher at the Northern end of the meadow in a copse out in the middle and it also had a Spotted Flycatcher in there too.

It occurred to me that with cattle grazing and so much hedgerow and scrub, we should spend more time there looking for Redstart and with so much dead wood I'd bet we've already missed Wryneck in's a big area, but Andy proved if you keep checking stuff turns up.

This places me on 134, my fourth highest year total. No sign of Curlew, Redstart, Little Owl and various other bits that could show up.