Friday, 28 August 2020

Is 130 or above still possible?

I have hit 130 or above for the last 10 years, if I can do it this year somehow 11 consecutive years sounds even better to me. The question is with such a slow start and lockdown, do we normally see enough new species Sept to Dec for me to reach it?

Pintail - Seen every September since 2014, except 2018

Garganey - Seen 5 out of the last 10 years in Sept, or Oct

Red Crested Pochard - Seen 2 out of the last 10 years in Dec

Marsh Harrier - Seen 6 out of the last 10 Septembers

Osprey - 4 Augusts and 1 Oct in the last 10 years

Merlin - 5 out of 10 Octobers, or Novembers

Ruff - 4 Out of 10 Decembers

Jack Snipe - 4 Out of 10 Octobers, Novembers or Decembers

Curlew - 4 Out of 10 Sept, Oct, or Decembers

Spotted Redshank - Wildcard, but late August to early Sept is best window

Little Gull - Rare in the Autumn, but keep checking

Yellow-legged Gull - Wildcard

Arctic Tern - Late Aug, but also Sept records in 90's

Tree Pipit - A few days left to catch on going over

Rock Pipit - With the gravel being consolidated into specific locations, we are long overdue a bird on the deck

Ring Ouzel - Wildcard, must go over most years

Yellow-browed Warbler - We've had 2 in 7 years

Firecrest - Overlooked and likely most years

Pied Flycatcher - Still time if we check hard

Brambling - Oct onwards for fly overs and around the feeders

Linnet - Mid Oct to early Nov is best passage

Lesser Redpoll - Become rarer as a wintering species, but passage in Oct to Nov

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Let's not get over confident

Having enjoyed self finding a great bird, patch and county tick, and then getting double the value from predicting it, would it be too much to share a list of predictable species? I may have already done so before, but an updated perspective won't hurt.

Who cares, I'm fine with making mistakes and learning there is solid rationale to my ponderings;

Great Northern Diver - Berkshire's most frequent visitor never seen on DP, or over for that matter

Storm Petrel - Tricky species, but the randomness of the last 2 make it just as possible we can get one

Little Bittern - This sits in my top 5 most likely due to the same reasons I already predicted Night Heron

American Bittern - It's not for fun that I include this, as Berkshire's best Bittern site we are tops for one

Spoonbill - This one is just for me having missed the 14th May 2007 pair, I reckon in the next 2 years

American Wigeon - We haven't had a big winter for Eurasian Wigeon since 2010, but I'm not convinced it's about flock size anyway, Top 3

Green-winged Teal - This sits in my top 3 most likely, our Teal count keeps rising and with the new marsh we could easily hit 500+ and score in the next 2-3 years, Top 3

Blue-winged Teal - Not high on the list, but nonetheless as possible as many other things

Ring-necked Duck - I am amazed we haven't had one already, Top 5 for sure

Long-tailed Duck - Perhaps on time span alone we should probably have had another, the only record was 1983

Lesser Scaup - Never say never, enough records for us to stand a good chance

Black Kite - We have a pretty good record for raptors, so why not

Baillon's Crake - A bit on the hopeful side, but no reason why not

Waders, waders, waders, surely nothing is off the table?

Black-winged Stilt - Records nearby over the last 2-3 years, we're next right!?

Stone Curlew - Random, but always possible and almost certainly flew over already at night

Kentish Plover - How they would come running and again why not us

American or Pacific Golden Plover - I only thought of this due to our fly over this Eurasian this week, was it Eurasian though? We can never be sure can we?

Curlew Sandpiper - Assuming the Oct 2nd 1988 record isn't complete shite (oops) then we are overdue one big time

Pectoral Sandpiper - It's amazing what hasn't made an appearance, this is quite a shocking situation, surely it's about to change this year? Top 5

Lesser Yellowlegs - Oxon had one, why not?

Marsh Sandpiper - Oxon had one, why not?

Spotted Sandpiper - It's got to be a good candidate

Red-necked Phalarope - They do like bigger waters on the whole, but Moor Green had one

Arctic Skua - Fly over flock of 2005 will haunt me forever, maybe a sick bird will stay long enough one day

Sabine's Gull - 1987 will haunt me longer, but could it happen again?

White-winged Black Tern - Good old random will produce one not far from now

Caspian Tern - Just because I want it to happen

Whiskered Tern - Moor Green had one...

Long-eared Owl - Perhaps we've had it in modern times, but we should have worked harder 15 years ago when they wintered nearby

Bee-Eater - Come on, it's sunny the wind is from the South, tomorrow please

Hoopoe - What fun to be had with one on the golf course, then behind Lavell's

Red-rumped Swallow - I've had this in my top 5 for about 10 years, soon my friends, soon

Citrine Wagtail - I saw one at Fleet and with that in mind, I'm not convinced having Yellow's makes a difference...hopefully

Bluethroat - We got marshes and reeds

Great Reed Warbler - It was on my list before the Green Park bird and it remains in my good chance list

Savi's Warbler - Oxon had one this spring

River Warbler - I like them, what more do you need

Fan-tailed Warbler - Seems unlikely, but what the heck

Dartford Warbler - Should have had one already, random stuff

Marsh Warbler - Tricky expecting another, but it's never impossible

Aquatic Warbler - When it happens it's most likely going to be pulled out of a net, but maybe someone will get luckier than that?

Barred Warbler - Coastal only, still possible

Arctic Warbler - A good look for one can't hurt

Penduline Tit - Marshes and I'd really like one

Red-backed Shrike - Good chance

Snow Bunting - Somewhere at Lea Farm, or just minutes at the DAC beach

Serin - Fly over always possible

Ortolan Bunting - Fly over always possible

Little Bunting - Feeding station bird of course

Lapland Bunting - feeding station bird?

Monday, 10 August 2020

Night Heron - The photographs emerge

 After a telephone conversation, my friends wife had him send some photographs over a 'strange heron' and you could tell straight away it was the Night Heron..."when was this?" I asked...."Thursday!"..."oh blimey, that's 2 days before I saw it and none of us knew"....."Any sign since?..."afraid not".

Nothing we can do now, so let's hope it has stuck around and is using pools to the East and maybe roosting nearby??



There is no public access to this small and now very dried up pond, regardless of anyone's feelings that them seeing this bird is being more important than residents privacy, it isn't.

That was 4 days ago so if in the unlikely event it does show up again, I've asked them to tell me and we'll go from there.


That morning after feeling

2 days on from seeing the juvenile Night Heron I have reflected on many thoughts, not least how much fun it was telling the story of it happening. 

I have always said, the best birds are those you get to share with good friends and I will say once more, the blissful difference of finding a bird versus 'twitching' someone else's bird are significant;

I have twitched many other people's birds and 'that journey' to park is often fraught with moments where you think "why do I have to behind the slowest driver in the world", or where am I supposed to park when you get there. The Grey Phalarope of 1st Nov 2018, wasn't exactly a classic, because I was already in the car - returning from shopping and luckily I was in Woodley, so it took me barely 3 minutes to get to the car park gate. Had I not sprinted to Bittern hide from the car park gate and had Steve Day not have waited and handed me his bins, I would have missed it....lucky for sure.

On a normal day am I lucky, I'd contest not really, but the thing is I am out there 97% of the time, I've never stopped doing my patch in 20 years. Sure I go on holiday and miss stuff, most notably the Great Reed Warbler at Green Park, which is a shame, but I can't do anything about that, what I can do, is get up at dawn and get myself to there. As my good friend Trevor says, "I won't see anything from my sofa". So I do it, it's pretty quiet much of the time, but many days there is something interesting to see, you just have to stay sharp and humble enough to enjoy what is there to see.

On that subject. here is a picture of this mornings Shoveler in the early sunlight.

Here is the link to the short video I took of 6 Common Sandpiper that were only there 3-4 minutes.

I don't need to tell anyone to enjoy their birds and birding, it's not a challenge, but for anyone thinking I'm a lucky soandso, I just go out nearly every day at dawn and encourage everyone else to do the same.

AND, once in a while you get lucky, well actually 4-5 times on average, this year : 1 Sandwich Tern in and out in 45 seconds, 2 Cattle Egret flew over two mornings on the trot, Hawfinch flew over 17th May!, 3 different Med Gulls and we haven't even reach mid August, when peak passage starts and I ALWAYS remain optimistic something will show up. 

I guess what I'm saying is consistently visiting at dawn 97% of the time brings rewards, but you've still got to remain on it, sharp for that 5-15 second fly over view of an amazing bird like Berkshire's 4th ever Night Heron.


Saturday, 8 August 2020

I did make that prediction didn't I!

Back in May - my last post I wrote a short piece on the rather impressive track record our patch has for herons and allies, stating that we stood a better chance than any of pulling a mega heron...and we did.

06:13 this morning I was panning around seeing not a lot, 3 Common Sandpiper were the highlights in fact, I was a bit bored and just looking with my naked eyes around the lake, I happened to look left as a 'heron' came in from that direction (North) and lifted my bins thinking "those wings look rounded" and OI was met with a bit of a surprise.

Still partially face on I first saw it's stout bill, bright yellowish/orange eye and grey streaked underparts, as it came past revealed the short neck, very white spotted upper wing and legs just dangling a little behind. I knew immediately this was a juvenile Night Heron, or sometimes called Black-crowned Night Heron, because I've seen literally thousands of them in the Philippines at various sites I've visited.

I didn't count how long it took to fly past, which it did at tree height and was lost as soon as it went over the trees behind the SW corner, but I'm guessing 15 seconds, give or take, but I knew in the first 2, so I enjoyed the moment to it's full and sat for about 2 minutes repeating "I've just found a County and patch tick, I've seen a !*^$£'ing Night Heron.." and laughed out loud. 

I came to my senses and called a few friends and then WhatsApp's the 'Mega Alert', I spent another 30-40 minutes in the hide, filmed a pretty nice Kingfisher and then went 'walkabout' to see if it had put down to roost anywhere obvious...no such luck.

Will I be out tomorrow to check it does the same...you know I will.

Those of you who like stats, this Night Heron was;

My 19th first for the park

My 189th self found species

My 206th species

My 264th County Species

Oh yes and my 116th species this year

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Why Lavell's, Dinton Pastures and Lea Farm are on for Berks lifer

I have been saying for years that our little patch is one of the best for heron species and sad as it may be that during lockdown 2 Cattle Egret flew over Dinton and Lea Farm Lake two mornings on the trot.

No-one could have done anything about it, not least because of lockdown, but also because I didn't realise they were Cattle Egrets first morning and only twigged the second, but sadly they were not repeated a third.

24th I picked them up going away from me, thought I saw yellow on the bills, couldn't gauge size, so let it go as a missed opportunity, think Great White anyway. Then 25th over they came this time head on and I instantly saw they were Cattle Egrets, but on they flew. Where had they roosted? We'll never know, but I suspect on DP somewhere.

They did end up in the 'Shetland Pony field' adjacent to Hurst Green Pit, where my friend Mark took 2 photographs before they flew off and I even suggested looking there without going myself, so when you think he found them nearly 2 hours after I saw them fly over, a good handful of people could have at least had a chance to see them. Given the circumstances I could hardly justify putting the news out a tempting locals to twitch these birds. Anyway I deprived myself the chance to watch them for nearly 2 hours. Luckily Mark got these two shots to remember it by;



So our third record and nice to get another self found species for me on my patch...188 out of 205 species ain't bad.

Now let's look at the herons and allies picture...

Bittern : First record July 29th 1983 (FJC), wintered 1985, 1988, 1995 and only 2000 and 2001 were the only years we haven't had birds.
Cattle Egret : First record 1/21st May 2007 (ADB), 1/10th May 2017 (GSE et al), then 2/24th & 25th April 2020.
Little Egret : First record Feb 19th 1991 BSL (VB), but not again until 1/9th Aug 2000, 2/13th, recorded every year after that and seen in every 2008, then year on year since 2010. Post breeding high counts hit 8 in 2007, 11 in 2010, 15 in 2015 and then a new trend a new high count of 18/29th Nov 2019.
Great White Egret : First record 1/5th Nov 2009 landed Lea Farm Lake (FJC), then 1/5th Sept 2013 (FJC & BTB), 1/21st Nov over (GSE), 1/18th Sept 2015, 1/20th Jan over (FJC), 1/13th May 31st Oct 2017, 1/9th April 2018, then a pair wintered locally and were seen dawn and dusk Jan to April 2019, and a single in Oct, Nov and Dec, 1-2 probable fly over sightings so far in 2020.
Grey Heron : Always common, small colony breeds on BSL's Goat island
Purple Heron : First and only record, an immaculate adult (Male?) found by Tern scrape 4th April 2000, stayed overnight and twitched by many next day.
White Stork : Dubious claims of sightings back in the 80's but first record 2/28th June 2018 (Ian Paine), photographed over Binfield later. Then 2/20th May low over Lea Farm Lake South (Suren)
Glossy Ibis : First and only record, 1/7th May 2011, (Ian Paine, Les Blundell and RSPB) stayed for barely one hour, relocated to Dorney where it did stay for a day or 2.
Spoonbill : 1/21st Oct 1983 (D Finnie) over along Emm Brook by golf course, unconfirmed claim of 2/13th May 1996 (not in County report), then 2/14th May 2007 (Tim James et al), stayed several hours in rainy conditions.
Common Crane : 2/6th May 2012, passed by North of DP heading East along A4 area, so not right to include them, it's just worthy of mention, but 4/25th Nov 2018 flew East over Lavell's and Lea Farm during a work party (FJC et al).

Does any of this mean anything in the grand scheme of things? I think so and despite it being complete speculation, with a heron/egrets and allies record like that I feel we have about the best chance in the county of pulling in one of the following any year now;

Black-crowned Night Heron : 3 county records - Burghfield Jan to Mar 1976, Wraysbury 4th to 8th May 1983, Thatcham 30th July to 6th Aug 1987, then 30th Aug to end Sept nearby.
Little Bittern : 1826 2 immatures shot, 1865 shot, 18th & 19th April 1972 Padworth

Sure I'd be happy with Spoonbill due to absence when the 2007 birds dropped in, but I'll stand by my prediction, that most likely a Little Bittern will be found on my patch in the next 2-5 years.



Monday, 27 January 2020

January lists compared

As you know I've been slacking on the blog front for many months, it's not been deliberate, time is hard to find with so many commitments and even birding time is hard as there is no light in the mornings yet....how I yearn for it.

It's been slow, but comparing January totals show this;

2012 - 82
2013 - 82
2014 - 77
2015 - 81
2016 - 83
2017 - 84
2018 - 84
2019 - 81
2020 - 83 (on 27th)

What does it all mean?

In my opinion nothing much, as unless you see the 'bonus birds' you'll catch up with everything else later anyway. I'm missing Mistle Thrush, Green Sandpiper & Marsh Harrier and a no show for the park so far from Mandarin, Golden Plover, Great White Egret, Firecrest, Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Med Gull, Red Crested Pochard, Pintail, Jack Snipe, Linnet, Ruff and Yellow-legged Gull.

Most are possible, some probable, but none are guaranteed as being around now.

The Marsh Harrier is a shame, but most sightings are April, August and Sept, getting a Goosander is the best bird for me so far this year, but Woodcock isn't exactly proving easy for others.

Next month Redshank and Oystercatcher usually show up, but it's a funny month, anything can happen, last year we had a rather nice Red-breasted Merganser proving the case in point.

Oh yeah, I'm vlogging more than blogging, it's kind of fun, I hope you can follow me, I've already got 10 followers, so that's exciting.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEElyVlyaSBYA51Z9U1YYAw