Sunday, 3 March 2019

Laughable progress

I'm still getting out most mornings at, or near dawn. I was about 10 minutes too late for the Red-breasted Merganser on Saturday morning. The female Goosander remained until near 07:30, but slipped away almost unseen. She did the same this morning, but whilst the Peregrine was causing havoc.

The park year list has been totting up, mine has done next to nothing, only adding 4 since the sawbill fest began, Skylark, Grey Wagtail and Coal Tit 17th Feb, but only Kestrel since.

Meanwhile I've missed a Stonechat after a work party, but with a broken phone I didn't even hear about it, then a Linnet, then a Redshank, another Green Sandpiper and yesterday the earliest ever Sand Martin by 8 days.


A drizzly morning as we wait for the storm to roll in tonight, but good views of Peregrine, 40 winter thrushes, most likely Fieldfare, 3 Goldeneye, 60+ Shoveler, 40+ Teal, 4 Little Egret, 2-3 Cetti's heard, c40 Snipe on Sandford and to cap things off 3 separate vews of Stoat in and out of the hedgerow of Sandford near the double pylon, even flushing it out for John at the end....... A lifer would you believe!

Monday, 18 February 2019


I didn't need to convince myself of what I saw yesterday morning, I'd said it all in my previous post, but when Geoff called to say RB Merg back at Lea Farm, I couldn't help dashing back to try for a record shot.

This time the little beauty again brought his female companion - a Goosander and a male Goosander too, but clearly felt she was his.

Here are the best of my record shots as they happened.

When they all left at 12:02, they went over towards DP, but as I'd expected they came back moments later, veered over of Lodge Wood and looked to be heading and dropping towards Hurst Green pit, Andy T proved my theory correct and I heard many Berks birders got to enjoy it/them and maybe a few learned a little about identifying female Goosander!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The 80's get backs continue

My rather intermittent year listing efforts have continued, but I have made a few successful attempts to keep seeing pre dawn Woodcock at Teal scrape, two again this morning 06:49. I say two, but one went past, looked to be dropping, then 20 seconds later what may well have been a second bird did the same, coming in so low it was unlikely to have been the first bird doing a complete circle of the inner island - I also feel that when the Jackdaws are 'inbound' it tends to mark the end of Woodcock flight.

So Cetti's and Water Rail call, the latter failing to do so by my late arrival and it's "where to next?" knowing I was still missing getable year ticks like Kestrel, Coal Tit, Skylark and surely Grey Wagtail by now?

I decided on Lea Farm, perhaps a Jack Snipe, or...what?

A few more ducks now the sheep farming has moved to the back landfill, 96 Wigeon, 45+ Teal, 4 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Snipe and despite the murky'ish start making it not so easy to see, I felt I'd covered it by 07:30.

Now it's fair to say I like to be thorough and scoping is the only way be so, but when you are peering through your scope counting ducks etc. it is fair to say anything can fly over and you'd be oblivious, but it can't be helped when you are on your own.

So, it was just like that this morning and as I often do I like to do a final 'bins scan' to check nothing obvious has dropped in while I've been going metre by metre along the edge.

And then 'boooooom'..."sawbills in the NE corner" straight to scope, a pause while the brain catches up with the eyes on what you hadn't expected. I'm looking at a male Red-breasted Merganser just right of the North spit...."wow, wow, wow...unbelievable" to quote my dear Kate Bush.

It dived immediately and I went back to bins as I tried to confirm that in my head I'd seen two birds thru bins "yes there is a bird to the right, a redhead", scope again "yep there she is it's a pair, but there is the male again, wow" She dived and both went behind the North spit.

In those moments when you think "blimey another lifer form the 80's I've been waiting for for over 30 years" the subconscious brain is saying other things. Mine was saying "the line between the head and neck was very clean, the bill didn't turn up" but my conscious brain had gone into "must call friends and WhatsApp this mega news".

Call I did, but no farther than the second call and they had reappeared and were lifting off the NE corner, clockwise towards me, then away North and gone.

In short I don't leave my patch much nowadays, so don't see many Red-breasted Mergansers, a few more Goosander and in the panic of seeing a lifer, things got a little fuzzy, but I've played back in my head what I saw and I know that it was not a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers, but a male and a redhead Goosander....a life and a nice year tick.

Not to regret it, but today of all days I decided not to bring my busted tripod, so much as I would have loved to have got even the worst record shot in the world, both the practicalities and my endeavour to get the news out meant the opportunity passed and was missed....I do try to my best to help others see good birds.

Once more for the record, it really does help if you get out nice and early!

I feel compelled to summarize the ticks I've had in the last 10 years, that I only dreamed would occur again and in some cases waited 30 years or more to see;

Whooper Swan - 7/10th Nov 2013 - Previous confirmed record 1/20th March 1982
Bewick's Swan - 3/28th Dec 2014 - Previous confirmed record 18/22nd March 1996
Red-breasted Merganser - 1/16th Feb 2019  - Previous confirmed record 4/5th March 1986
Little Stint - 1/8th Sept 2016 - Previous confirmed record 1/22nd Sept 1993
Grey Phalarope - 1/1st Nov 2018 - Only other record 2/16th Oct 1987 (Hurricane)
Nightjar - 1/30th Aug 2016 - Previous confirmed record 2/11th Aug 1984
Wryneck - 1/29th Aug 2012 - Previous confirmed record 1/24th & 25th Aug 1997

Not ticks but long time between records

Ring Ouzel - 1/13th April 2016 - Previous confirmed record 1/15th April 1988
Ferruginous Duck - 1/2nd Dec 2009 - Previous confirmed record 1/18th Feb to 11th March 1988

Still waiting on the next

Red Throated Diver
Long-tailed Duck
Red-footed Falcon
Hen Harrier
Wilson's Phalarope
Curlew Sandpiper
Iceland Gull
Arctic Skua
Marsh Warbler
Marsh Tit

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Slow January?

Into February already and the park is on 88 and for those who don't know, it's pretty good, take a look at the January tables I keep track of;

90 in 2016
88 in 2019
87 in 2011
86 in 2012, 17 & 18
84 in 2015 
83 in 2005, 06 & 13
81 in 2004 & 14
79 in 2007
76 in 2009
75 in 2003 & 2008

A new second place and that is without Goosander, Green Sandpiper, Stonechat and of course Hawfinch, to just compare 2018. What we are ahead with is Great White Egret, Mandarin, Red Crested Pochard, Golden Plover, Chiffchaff & Crossbill.

I've been hoping with the snow over the last 2 days we might get a Goosander, or a Pintail, but there's plenty of time.

So what the heck has happened to my year list? 7 off par, dreadful. Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit, Brambling, Crossbill, Lesser Redpoll. The worst is Crossbill, they are very rare and always only fly overs.

Speaking of fly overs, there was an obvious movement of finches this morning, Chaffinch sized, 4-5 groups all heading West, to North West, between 25 and 40 birds in each with the best views at the sailing club, where despite not one calling 2+ had deeply forked tails, which for me makes them Brambling.

Not much else was happening today, lots of crunchy, slippery ice, cold breeze, but nothing notable. I even popped back hoping for something...a Little Owl, Golden Plover, Raven...nothing, but notably a Barn Owl out at 15:30 testified that they are finding it tough right now.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Gems few and far

January 1st was okay, my day list was 64, 5 behind 2018 but at least Marek found the bird of the day in the form of a Red Crested Pochard on Sandford. Although I'm still the only one to see Golden Plover, with about 10 moving distantly beyond the big Poplar mid am.

Woodock and Peregrine were added 2nd, plus 3 others, then Shelduck, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk, brought me up to 74. Bittern and Raven next day, Mandarin 6th, Siskin and Great Black-backed Gull, Meadow Pipit 13th, finally adding Great White Egret 20th.

So these 2 Great White Egret(s) have been passing over South at dawn, then back at dusk for at least 10 days and if it were not for Geoff photographing them, we'd never have known.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Farewell 2018...a stunning year for me

From 1st Jan 2018, it was ace, Hawfinch being the top bird of the entire winter, way overshadowing the rare sight of wintering Stonechat, not to mention normally tricky first day species like GreyWagtail, Kingfisher, Coal Tit, Barn Owl and Bittern.

The Goosander, Brambling, Peregrine and Woodcock by the 13th Jan, then the joy of finding another Brent Goose 6th Feb, Jack Snipe 24th, Med 28th.

But then there was lovely little surprise waiting for John and I on that snowy 1st March dawn, 3 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 7 at LFL later and Pintail thrown in too. A Golden Plover on the deck at Sandford was rare in itself on the 3rd, Black-necked Grebe trumped that later that morning.

My 8th Merlin, a male perched on the landfill for 5 minutes on 17th was pretty special.

The sequence of Wheatear, Arctic Tern, Little Gull, then yet another Great White Egret find for me on 9th April, kept spirits very high.

28th April was another dash for gold, with the first Wood Warbler in a generation, only seen by 6-7 people. The 2 Whimbrel on the deck at LFL on 30th, was wonderful to share with good friends.

You cannot take for granted species like Ringed Plover, Garganey, Black Tern, Greenshank, Red Crested Pochard, or Black-tailed Godwit, but they all showed up in our hottest of long hot summers, Linnet, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat and Yellow Wagtail kept me guessing and working hard, but it all came good.

12th Sept the game went up a notch, Pied Flycatcher being unheard of in autumn before, then up another notch 24th Oct with my second self found Yellow-Browed Warbler, staying 10 days.

A last ditch Curlew helped the wader count 29th Oct, AND oh boy was I lucky to be in the car returning from a shopping trip when Steve Day put out the news of Grey Phalarope at Tern scrape, I got there with 24 seconds spare before it left.

AND that should have been it, all my luck used up, but NO, one more gem in the form of 4 Common Crane graced the skies as they drifted over East during the work party.

Farewell 2018, bring it on 2019 I can't wait to see what treasures await us.

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.