Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a great 2014 and may wonderful birding events unfold for all of you.

Monday, 30 December 2013

2014 Year List January numbers

Looking into my available past records data, it looks likely January will score between 83 and 86 species.

In my endless spreadsheets for DP records, I now use a template list and use 4 categories to rate the likelihood of a species in any given month:

1 = We know this species is present
E = Expected (highly probable it will be seen)
G = Good Chance (multiple past records in this month)
p = Possible - (has/does occur but very infrequent)

So my January picture breaks down as

1 = 58 (I expect these on the 1st)
E = 16 (I expect these during the month)
G = 7 ( I look for and aim to all)
p = 23 (fingers crossed for any)

If I factor in 6 of the '23 possibles', for things like Raven, Chiffchaff, Barn Owl, Jack Snipe, Dunlin, Med Gull, maybe LSW, I'd match the record, but these and numerous others are not guaranteed. We should always be on the lookout to boost the month total, with the record January was in 2008 with 88, then 87 in 2011, 86 in 2012, a poor 83 in 05, 06 and 13.... I believe we can beat the record by 2-3.

What I think are tricky species to get on the 1st are : Mistle Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll, Little Grebe, Bittern, Little Egret, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Cetti's and this year Siskin are thin on the ground, no recent sign of Skylark, Meadow Pipit last on 15th, so maybe a fly over remains possible.

The park usually hits the 100 mark around the end March, to take on a good year list you need get nearly all of them.

Lets hope it doesn't flood us out for the first week, or we're all stuffed.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

WSL Bittern

At WSL tonight around 15:45 I had 1 dark Bittern which appeared circling low over the right hand end of WSL reeds and flew to the middle, right of the pale tree trunk. Around 16:00 what I think was a 2nd bird flew from the back to the far left central section, it seemed a fair amount paler in flight.

It was too cold to wait for confirmation of 2 stood in wellies, so I'll be checking it out new years day evening.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2013 wrap up

My time at my patch is now totally with a view to 2014, hearing of Bittern today is great news. Hearing Kingfisher is great too, as previous cold winters have made them hard to find in January. Winter thrush roost tonight....check, Bullfinch...check, Lesser Redpoll..check...

Looking at my 2013 total of 133 out of 138, I'm kind of blown away, matching my 133 out of 140 in 2011.

No doubt what helps is a very quick message passing arrangement, but either way 2013 is my fourth consecutive year in the 130's.

I'll do more on old years lists another time.

Recent flood conditions

I didn't make it out til late boxing day, just to see where the water level was really. Quiet high, but had clearly dropped a foot by then.

So I then went off for a quick walk up the old Colemansmoor Road, listening intently for crests, but getting none, I left.

Yesterday I had a further mooch around the Aviation Copse, 1 Goldcrest, Treecreeper, other tits. I went to inspect the water level from the meadow gates, a tree had fallen and was obstructing most the path.

Today Sandford Lane was totally open, but Sandford still impassable West side. Goldeneye, 25+ Pochard, a few Gadwall. Bittern hide path is still a bit deep to bother trying.

I did the car park field til around 16:00, Lesser Redpoll over, then groups of around 10 Fieldfare & Redwing began coming to roost from the East, by 16:25 100+ Redwing.

I had to leave before proper dark, I caught a brief Tawny call, but felt a Woodcock might go over any moment.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Where has the time gone?

I have been about for odd 20 minute visits, a Mistle Thrush here, a Nuthatch there, no Firecrest though, I did see 6-7 Lesser Redpoll Sunday, so the month is on 79.

With the weather being real nasty today, flood levels will probably push over Sandford Lane tomorrow onwards, but I'l be lucky to get out before Christmas day, we'll see.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas work party

Whilst waiting for the start of the work party, 1 then 5 more Meadow Pipit went over East, the month is now on 77, including Tim James report of a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker yesterday and someone else telling me they saw Kestrel recently.

During the work party Cetti's called nearby, 2-3 Bullfinch went over and meanwhile Bernie said he may have had Woodcock early last month, which would be a bit early, but nonetheless intriguing.

A report of Merlin yesterday at Teal Scrape, for me seems more likely to have been the small male Sparrowhawk that hangs around Lavell's, but who knows I may be wrong, it is just the description of what it did, didn't sound very Merlin like.

Having cleared another metre of reed edge on the scrape, we hope more Snipe and a Jack will be joining us any day. Whilst writing I note the male Goosander was back on Sandford this morning. I wnet back later to have a look as I always enjoy seeing Goosander on DP, especially males.

I see no reason why we cannot add the following to the month list with a bit of work over Christmas:

Med Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Redpoll

That would make 84 and be = 2nd highest month total, but if it turns cold before year end, we can hope for a Dunlin, maybe a Curlew, perhaps a good duck, like a Smew or Scaup?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Month list additions

I managed 2 short walks yesterday, 09:30 I added Coal Tit to Decembers list, along the Loddon opposite the green bridge...where 85% of records come from. 30+ Wigeon at LFGP, 2-3 Snipe and 200-300 Lapwing on the landfill, just visible in the mist.

At 16:00 I went to Bittern Hide, 9 Snipe, reasonable numbers of Teal, then on leaving the hide a Barn Owl peered out of the box, but just for a moment. Another month addition.

Today, I had a brief walk around the car park and to Bittern Hide, 40+ Redwing and 40 Fieldfare went East, a Grey Wagtail flew to the Emm Brook,  a Mistle Thrush over low East, both month additions, bringing the month total to 74, just one short of last December, but 16 short of the 2010 record.

The top Decembers are:

86 in 2010
84 in 2011
83 in 2009
81 in 2006 & 2007

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Snipe and Teal increase

A quick walk around the car park and 2 Goldcrest was all worth noting.

At Tern Scrape, 14 Snipe showed and there could be more out of view, so again I remain optimistic a Jack will show up. Still good numbers of Teal, 15 Pochard, 1 female Goldeneye, 1 male Sparrowhawk, 6-10 Fieldfare, a few Redwing, a Water Rail at the back of the scrape for few moments.

I completely forgot to say that the WSL Bittern on the 1st was too dark to be the Lavell's October bird, as for Peter's 2nd Dec bird, I still haven't seen it.

Tonight I revisited Bittern Hide and Steve and Marek had already reported near, or over 100 Teal, I think as it got dark a handful more dropped in and the count may have been near to 110.

It is only since 2009 that Teal numbers broke the 100 barrier, first in January with 112 to 130 between the 1st and 11th during a big freeze. Then in December 2009 a new record of 206/19th, also during a snowy spell. The record was broken again and stands at 263+/31st Jan 2010, with 250+/1st Feb. The 100 barrier was next broken with 150/1st Jan 2011 and 100+ still present 14th. Finally 100+/11th December 2012.

Friday, 6 December 2013

No Bittern

I checked out Teal Scrape just after 15:00, just 2 Little Grebe, 1 Water Rail calling and several Redwing, then decided Bittern Hide was where I wanted to stay til dusk. I crossed over to Sandford for a quick scan and was surprised to see the male Goosander still there.

At Bittern Hide 67 Teal were noisily pairing up, 5 Snipe, no doubt the same male Sparrowhawk shot by, then a Kingfisher did the same. 2 Little Egret over North just after 16:05, another Water Rail heard and as it got dark, the Snipe number increased to 9.

I hung on and hoped a Bittern would show, but despite calm conditions, no bird showed.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Hoping Jack sticks around

I had no time again today, but when Geoff said he had a probable Jack Snipe bobbing like mad, I took the 3 minutes I had to give it a try....no luck, just 11 Common on view. I expect he is right as he said it stayed low all the time, so very typical of Jack.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Bittern WSL again

I didn't pick up the Rick Dawson news of a male Goosander on Sandford at 12:30 until after 15:00, but on arrival in the lay-by, Brian said he couldn't find it. So I headed off to LFGP instead, only to find some muppet had left the outher gate unlocked and worse the locking gate to the hide wide open, but lock secured on the housing. What idiot would be so stupid as to do this I thought? I'll be getting our security camera out to catch these fools and are they going to get a telling off when I do.

On show, just 2 Snipe, 7 Wigeon, 3 Shoveler before I decided WSL was worth a check for Bittern, as soon as I crossed into Sandford, I could see a pale bird to the far Eastern end and could see thru bins, it was the male Goosander. I let Brian and a few others know, Water Rail called in the backwater by the old sluice and I headed off to WSL, but got a fine candidate for rubbish record shot of the month, at least it was kind of nice that it got up and flapped its wings.

At WSL, 15+ Wigeon, a few Gadwall, 10-15 Starling circling the reed bed, 2 more Water Rail calling, a Kingfisher calling nearby, then at 16:15 a Bittern climbed up just left of middle of the reeds. It looked like it could be the Lavell's bird, so perhaps it never left the area? On my walk back via Sandford Trevor was just catching the Goosander in the dying light from near the old sluice, a second Water Rail then a Cettis'called briefly.

On the Bittern front, if this was a new bird to the Lavell's October bird, this would be about my 33rd, or 34th Bittern since 2002 and not meaning to sound vague, it has been difficult to track all of the individuals with their plumage differences and variations, not forgetting their movements, disappearances and reappearances. Either way I have only missed 2-3 of them in 11 years and never tire of finding them, watching them and showing them to others.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Another one gets away

I was hanging around Teal Hide, 2 Little Grebe there and a tit flock came by with 3 or more crests and then took a walk to the river.

At around 14:45/15:00, I was slow to lift my bins to a bird flying towards myself and Richard Price, it was moving fast in an upstream direction along the Loddon, we were by the ditch. I didn't even clock it was a falcon until the last second, when it became apparent it was chasing a small bird, probably a Siskin, or something, it suddenly turned, revealing sharp wings took it's prey in a single 'cork screw' type turn and slightly fanned it's tail as it made a wide arc, mostly obscured behind the Poplars and I just couldn't quite see the length of it's tail, but it seemed to short for Kestrel, but perhaps too long for Merlin, but my hunch it was the latter.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

No Firecrest so far

A brief look yesterday and today brought no Firecrest, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen 2 days running Tuesday and Weds near the ditch at Teal Hide, opposite side of Loddon though (not by me).

3 Goldcrest by Sandford kissing gate, 7 Shoveler, 1 Little Egret LFGP, 3 reported earlier, 2 Snipe, yesterday's Shelduck still present too, on the walk back 3 Lesser Redpoll landed briefly, this is perhaps part of the flock of about a dozen Richard had seen, North along the Loddon, the day after Geoff had the Great White Egret.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Check those crests

Martin told me on my brief walk this morning he had LSW along Loddon opposite the ditch out of Lavell's by Teal Hide and perhaps even better, the 138th speices for the year, a Firecrest briefly with Long-tailed Tits at the same spot.

The Firecrest last was Feb 26th 2011 and an elusive little thing, but it gives us all something to check carefully for amongst the tit flocks.

The year list is still ticking along, 138 is the fourth highest ever and still time to add several more species, not that my predictions page offers much date likelihood, all could still occur.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Just a bit on the quiet side

I did get a couple of walks in recently, Friday to Bittern Hide, where 70 Teal was the highest count I've seen this autumn, just 1 Snipe visible. Saturday morning I did a circuit from Lavell's car park, sailing club, Sandford Hide, back round to Lavell's. Very little indeed, 2 Treecreeper with Long-tailed Tits, 2 Siskin over, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Little Grebe still at Teal end.

With not much happening, I thought I'd look at my garden list for this year and it isn't bad at all, 64 compared to 62 last year, 51 the year before, but as we didn't move in until August 2011, also not too bad, with the total since 2011 being 72.

The slight annoyance is what is missing for 2013, Skylark, Kestrel, Lapwing, the latter has yet to fly over at all, which is hard to believe, as is Mute Swan, or Tufted Duck, but to me even Wigeon and Greylag should be achievable. Of course I'm not grumbling, 64 in, over, or heard in anyone's inland garden has to be good, but I did get 71 whilst at Dunbar Drive and 76 at Shackleton Way, both totals were over 2 years though.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Few visits this week, today's was short due to it being darn cold, NNE wind making it horrible. Birds were few, Little Grebe near Teal Scrape, Water Rail heard briefly, a few flocks of Redwing over, tit flocks keeping low, couldn't get the enthusiasm to go to BSL for the pair of Goldeneye.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Weekend mini visits

Yesterday and today I was hardly around, the best I got yesterday was 36 Fieldfare SW ovr BSL, 2 Nuthatch just to the East of the car park field, 2 Cetti's calling near Bittern Hide, on Lavell's the Pochard count has reached 16 and 12 Snipe were reported, of which I saw 6. I may have seen a Great Black-backed Gull drifting over North too. I did check Sandford for Athyas but no Goldeneye were present.

I also saw a flock of 10+ Siskin near the wooden bridge into Lavell's, my largest flock this autumn.

Today my visit was even more brief, with 10 Fieldfare going East being the highligh.

Friday, 15 November 2013

LSW roost ruined for second year running

It was amazing we saw the return of a male to the same trees as last year, especially after the tree of choice was blown down, but sadly a bloody Great Spotted has destroyed it's roost this year. If I had been there like Geoff when it was happening, I'd have thrown stones at the dam thing.

But there we have it, our lovely little male Lesser Spotted came in the evening of the 13th, took a good look, pecked around a bit, tried it and decided this is ruined and off it went somewhere South.


It did not return last night

Today a short circle of the car park field, just 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Siskin, Lavell's : 6 Snipe, Sandford : Nothing to mention, BSL : 2000+ BH Gulls, needing to be checked for Med.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Calm and clear

Very little over today, just 2 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 7-8 Snipe in the usual far corner of Tern Scrape.

Walking my mums dog later at Sandford Park, 39 Fieldfare over West.

Frustrating news of a Great Spotted Woodpecker pecking out the Lesser Spotted's roost hole and chasing off the male, may have ruined all further chances of our roost site remaining occupied each evening, I'll try to get there this evening for an update, but it doesn't look good.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Back to normal

Todays 1.5 hours was more typical, although Fieldfare were going thru, 12, then 16, then 150+ West/South West. Other than that, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Skylark and 1-2 Siskin was about it.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Patchwork update

My good friend AJ suggested I updated my patchwork list, so reluctantly I did. I say reluctantly as last years record breaking score makes my 'comparative year list' unbeatable, so I cannot reach 100% let alone pass it and knock Marek and Adam's London Minileagues scores of 103 & 104% out of the park.


Despite this adding Yellow-browed Warbler and Whooper Swan at 3 points each is some compensation, perhaps they deserve to be 5 points each for finding them myself?!

I think I'll be lucky to add anything new for the year now, but I hope I'm wrong and we have the best late autumn and winter ever, bringing Hen Harrier, Hawfinch, Merlin, Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, Scaup, White-fronted and Brent Geese, Red Crested Pochard, Great Northern Diver, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Ring-necked and Ferruginous Ducks and Yellowhammer!

It's okay to dream!

Oh yes, the 1996 record of 4 Whooper Swan flying over was 31st December (AJ)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Myth turns to reality

After a late start and me catching up with the group, we were all having a quiet bird walk, then we left Lea Farm G.P. and we were heading up the tarmac path to Bittern Hide, when we noticed a group of 7 large swans, they had already passed over and we could only see them from underneath, but something about them made me dash to where we view the Barn Owl from to get another look.

Tony was still on them as I picked them up in the scope over the East side of landfill, still going North, luckily almost as I said "if only they'd turn", they did turn left and I could see yellow bills..."They are Whoopers" I shouted, then they turned back the East and headed away out of view, looking like they wanted to set down somewhere. I texted my two friends based in the East and one called me to say he had just got home, but he might pop out to Remenham later.

There are just 2 other records 20th March 1982 and I am getting details of the other record in the nineties.

Tony has a record shot, which he has posted on Berksbirds : http://www.berksbirds.co.uk/show_photo.asp?photo_id=7478

I am thrilled to get a 'Mythical species' onto my patch list, my 195th and 133rd for the year....awesome!

Marek texted later to say Birdguides reported 7 Whooper on Staines Reservoir somewhat later, staying until dusk, so even though I only had a less than 1% doubt about disimissing Bewick's, it was nice to have the species confirmed elsewhere.

Still smiling now ;0)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cold, wet and getting colder

Thursday I did spend an hour in the car park field as usual and had feelings of great potential, not that it lived up to it, but I left feeling something would happen. Richard said he and Les saw a possible Marsh Harrier around 11:15, but lost it as they tried to stay on it from Bittern Hide.

My car was in for a service Friday, so walking back via Woodford Park with my son, I was frustrated to see a Yellowhammer over low calling, heading SE, so maybe towards D.P.

Today I got out after it began raining, it was much cooler at around 6-7 degrees and saw just 1 Meadow Pipit and a few Redwing, then later a Mistle Thrush, but I never left the car park, so couldn't have expected much else.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Weds update

After I posted, Geoff texted with Mandarin and Goosander just flown in at LFGP, sadly I saw neither, despite the Goosander swimming into the SE corner, they never re-appeared. I did see Grey Wagtail on the walk back. Steve told me he thinks he had Little Egret this month.

This morning with it being so still, the air somehow felt very good, 2 Lesser Redpoll over, 4 Ring-necked Parakeet again, 1 Mistle Thrush, a couple of small flocks of Redwing, 2-3 groups of <10 Chaffinch, 3 flocks of around 100+ Wood Pigeon SW and again a distant tight flock of what were probably Golden Plover, but just too far to be 100% sure.

At my car I hung on hoping for a Yellowhammer and got onto a bulky bunting sized bird heading SE, with fluttering wings and an undulating flight, it may well have been Corn Bunting, but having packed my scope into the boot, I couldn't get enough on it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Much quieter, but hopeful...as always

Passage seems to have tailed off, with hardly any birds over my car park field hour, I did see 4 Ring-necked Parakeet, 1 Mistle Thrush, 3-4 Lesser Redpoll with as many Goldfinch, that landed on the Hawthorns left of Lea Farm.

Geoff had a Barn Owl in the box yesterday, bringing the month total to 74 so far, 7 to go to match 2012, which is do-able assuming the following all show up : Peregrine, Little Egret, Bittern, Chiffchaff, Goldeneye, Grey Wagtail and Coal Tit.

Most likely possibles for November are : Jack Snipe, Woodcock, Golden Plover, Blackcap, Linnet, Raven, Pintail, but I still hope for Stonechat, Merlin, Firecrest, or a good Grebe and with 2 Shag at QMR, we should be checking all the Cormorants.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Cetti's increase

I have been colating mine and others reports and with 3 Cetti's at Bittern Hide end a couple of days ago and 1 at LFGP, 1 WSL and 1 Sandford, it is possible, if not likely we have 5, even 6 birds in the general area, so encourage everyone to report their reports to me to get as good an idea as possible on the total DP population. I suspect there are more than 1 at WSL, so a thorough check of all lakes might reveal 7, or more, suggesting a good breeding year.

Meanwhile the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker began excavating a new hole yesterday, implying I was right about it's contentment with the first roost site.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

A totally rewarding late afternoon visit to last years roost site, when the male arrived at 15:58, in the top of the tree to the left first, then for 15+ minutes at the roost hole. I am fairly sure it has further excavation to complete as it seemed almost impatient for folks to walk on by, even leaving the hole 2 more times before I left at 16:17.

Despite the average to poor quality of my shots, it remains a quality bird, which I hope and trust others will respect and ensure it is not unduly disturbed.

Sunday morning blues

I was out around 9:00, straight to Bittern Hide, just 1 Cetti's calling, 2 Snipe visible, 1 Water Rail heard, 5 Fieldfare over SSE, but not much else in the bright blue sky, but the wind was cold. No Bittern since Weds!

Marek arrived and we chatted about his Scillies trip and good timing to get the Hermit Thrush in Cornwall same day he came off. Not long after I left he had the first Yellowhammer since 2009, a DP lifer for him and 136th for the park year list....am so happy for him.

We also chatted about the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker he saw and photo'd on the same Alders as last years roost site, so am hopeful of a visit either tonight, or soon as the weather and my son allows, fingers crossed the hole it was inspecting turns into a roost site.

Friday I did make it to WSL, but no Bittern showed, although the reed looks trodden in places, the best I got was Cetti's calling and 2 Kingfisher between WSL and Sandford. Yesterday Lavell's had 3 Snipe, 2 Sparrowhawk and was overall quiet.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Nice before rain

09:00 car park field and 1 Mistle Thrush immediately, then Great Black-backed Gull flying over slowly North, amazingly only the 6th bird this year, but quite early for D.P. Several small flocks of Redwing East, totalling around 40, all East, 5 Siskin SE, 1 Meadow Pipit and 1 Skylark on the tip, as I arrived back my car 29 Fieldfare flew East.

By now the lake water levels should be dropping, so we might hope to see more of the Bittern, I'll be out later and shall probably check out Lavell's, then WSL to see if we have a second bird and to see if a Goldeneye is here and what Athyas are about.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

88 for the month

Today it was quiet, bar a Mistle Thrush, 2 Fieldfare, 10+ Chaffinch, 2 Siskin, 30-40 Redwing and unless anything happens later today, my adding Lesser Redpoll over the car park field this morning, brings the month total to 88. Not too bad a score, but with a number of 'no shows', it could have been better, most obviously Hobby, Yellow Wagtail, Stonechat, Sand Martin, but raptors like Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Merlin could all have gone thru unseen.

Not that October was a bad month, the first Yellow-browed Warbler, maybe even two different birds, a Rock Pipit, possibly 1-2 more, Wheatear and a very out of season Redshank all worth connecting with and not forgetting our 13th consecutive winter of Bittern visiting.

November may hold new treats, most reent years varying between 78 and 84, the record set in 2011, was 90 species.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Bittern at last

Over a week since it arrived I finally got good views of our Bittern at Tern Scrape.

I had completed my car park field visit, picking up 2 late Swallows going South over the landfill, a Mistle Thrush, 13+ Skylarks going South, 2+7+3+2 and 1-2 more heards.

Off to Bittern Hide, meeting Richard, when he said movement near the reed pile and out popped our Bittern, good timing for me I said, both of us snapping away before it flew to the main island and landed out of view.

Here is my best shot, plus the nearby Snipe

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

High water

Recent rains have left the water level rather high, the bund is fully under and reed beds in deep water, so Bittern finding will be even more difficult for now.

I heard a Chiffchaff on arrival at the layby, Grey Wagtail over Teal scrape, then a Nuthatch to the West, at the car park another Nuthatch, 1 Siskin over. At Bittern Hide, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Snipe on floating vegetation, 3 Teal to the back left.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Work party Sunday

No birding today, just strimming the reeds near to Bittern Hide, allowing better viewing for Water Rail, Snipe and maybe a Jack Snipe soon. The team did willow removal all around the scrape, we then did some strimming in front of and along the bund for better viewing of the scrape at Teal Scrape. I got 3 wasp stings for my trouble and am currently in pain.

Sue said she may have heard Raven go over before 11:00.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

October Goldeneye

Steve texted with the first Goldeneye of the autumn on LFGP, just the 8th record for October return birds, but the fourth since 2007. By the time I got there it had gone, but we re-found it at Sandford...as expected.
It is an adult male just completing it's moult. Also present were 3 Pochard, most of the Teal were on Teal Scrape, with Water Rail 'picking' and showing again briefly.

Month list is 87, equalling 2007, but 3 to go to match 90/2009, 4 to reach 91/2011, 6 for 93/2010 & 2012.

At Bittern Hide, I got onto Peregrine over the landfill again, this time circling and diving for 5 minutes and by it's compact look, must be the same male I saw recently. Correcting my earlier claim, this was my 6th for 2013, 4th this month.

With a big storm hitting overnight Sunday, I hope something really good shows up!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Rare October Redshank

When Geoff texted saying Redshank LFGP, I knew it was rare in this month, but when I looked it up, there has only been one other record, this was a staying bird in 1983, joined by another 21st, but no reports after.

So even if I didn't get time to look for Bittern, it was splendid to see Redshank in October and better when it flew to the SW corner and had a bath.

Also present were 2 Meadow Pipit on the shingle island, 3 Snipe, 43 Teal, with 2 flocks of 10+ Chaffinch over West.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bittern still tricky

The car park field was fairly quiet bar 1-2 Skylark, 3-4 Redwing, 10+ Chaffinch over, 10+ probable Fieldfare West, but then I got onto a Peregrine, my third time this month, a compact, so probable male was swooping low and fast North over the landfill, no doubt scoping for a weakness in some poor victim, but it powered on North, then turned West after Lodge Wood, out of sight.

On to Bittern Hide, nice and calm and sunny, but no sign of any Bittern.

Later a text from Geoff, the Bittern was seen in flight landing at the far end of the island reeds, I was down in 10 minutes, but it had vanished into the reeds. Whilst there 2 Water Rail called, 1 was seen briefly.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Tricky Bittern

A 20 minute dusk visit was all I had time for last night, but it was rather windy, so turned a blank.

A 45 minute late morning look faired no better, again in windy conditions, present were 8 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard, 3 Pied Wagtail and 2 Snipe hiding well, but little else.

Hopefully the wind will die down soon, allowing a successful look for our Bittern, just the fifth to arrive in October.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Windy n wet

My usual car park 30-40 mins was not full of excitement, but there was more Chaffinch passage, 4-5 groups of 8-15 birds, so around 60 SW. A small flock of 9 Linnet seemed to land out of view near LFGP out of view from my car park field position. 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Siskin heard, 3 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush East and in the car park field, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Nuthatch with tit flock.

A text arrived a short while ago from Steve saying someone had reported Bittern from Bittern Hide around 11:00, so if I don't get there shortly, I'll try later...if possible.

Monday, 21 October 2013

YBW pic

Here is the shot Geoff took, so well done for getting a shot at all and thanks to him for allowing me to publish it.

Wish I'd been able to capture a shot when it was at the top of the bare Alder, just after I found it, or perhaps been there when Trevor said it was in view for 20 seconds!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

For my U.S. and wider audience

I am flattered to find I have people in other parts of the world checking out my blog, so I wanted to tell all of you that I will be starting a bird tour guide company shortly.

With Berkshire 5 minutes from Heathrow, I know I can offer extensive expertise of the birds and sites of Berkshire to anyone from outside the UK, so if you are planning a trip here, staying for just short while on business, just passing through, or even stuck here due to cancellation issues, I know I can give you quality time in the field and get you back to the airport with minimum effort and hassle.

I'll post a link as soon as I have built the site.


Saturday & Sunday catch up

Another quite busy weekend, but managed to get in an hour very late morning Saturday, just car park field again, but added Mistle Thrush for the month, off North, then Coal Tit with the tit flock, plus a smattering of Chaffinch going WSW.

Today, I did an hour from 09:00 and could immediately see a good deal moving thru, c200 Redwing West, 11 Fieldfare SW over the landfill...the first here of the Autumn, 6+ Skylark on far landfill, 1-2 Meadow Pipit, small flocks of Chaffinch totalling around 60+ West, 30+ finch sp, very probably Linnet South, 7 more 20 minutes later. Starlings kept on heading SW and I wasn't even counting at first, but think easily 1000.

I accompanied Geoff to LFGP, about 25 Teal, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Red Kite, 2 Buzzard and a pipit somewhere to the SE called on two occasions, that had me thinking possible Rock, but despite several scans, could not find it....And no sign of Stonechat so far either.

Geoff gave me copies of his YBW picture, so I'll be scanning and uploading that tomorrow.

I think Dave Rimes took a couple of nice shots, posted on his blog (on the link below), the only comment I have is that with such a gap of 12 days, we cannot rule out this bird being a totally different individual.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Memory lane after a twitch for an off patch mega

My good friend AJ on Hayling told me yesterday, he was pretty sure he had photo'd Britain's fifth ever Semi-palmated Plover whilst I was watching the Yellow-browed Warbler and having missed the Dawlish bird in 1998, something said I should try for this.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that nowdays I do not generally twitch outside Berks any more, I used to do it quite a bit and enjoyed all of my last notable twitches;
  • Sandhill Crane 3rd Oct 2011
  • Marmora's Warbler 4th June 2010
  • Eastern Crowned Warbler 23rd Oct 2009
  • American Black Tern 31st Aug 2009
  • Collared Flycatcher 2nd May 2009
  • Crested Lark 3rd May 2009
  • White-throated Sparrow 13th April 2009
  • Brown Shrike 12th Oct 2008
  • White-crowned Sparrow 12th Jan 2008
  • American Buff Bellied Pipit 9th Oct 2007
  • White-tailed Plover 7th June 2007
  • White-billed Diver 3rd Mar 2007
  • Pacific Diver 3rd Jan 2007
  • Long-billed Murrelet 11th Nov 2006
  • Killdeer 8th April 2006
  • Grey-cheeked Thrush 20th Nov 2005
  • Red Flanked Bluetail 19th Oct 2005
  • Little Crake 17th Sept 2005
  • Collared Pratincole 4th June 2005
  • Trumpeter Finch 21st May 2005
  • Masked Shrike 31st Oct 2004
  • Western Sandpiper 9th Oct 2004
  • Cream Coloured Courser 2nd Oct 2004
  • Black Stork 21st Aug 2004
  • American Robin 20th Dec 2003
  • Lesser Sandplover 24th July 2003
  • Black Lark 3rd June 2003
  • Audouin's Gull 5th May 2003
  • Lesser Kestrel 18th May 2002
  • Little Bittern 27th Mar 2002
  • Ross's Gull 8th Feb 2002
  • Redhead 9th Dec 2001
  • Snowy Egret 10th Nov 2001
  • Green Heron 26th Sept 2001
  • Rufous-necked Stint 22nd Sept 2001
And I did quite a lot in the late eighties so have some crippling birds ;
  •  Bridled Tern 4th July 1988
  • Ancient Murrelet 17th June 1990
  • Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 9th July 1989
  • Roller 3rd June 1989
  • Tree Swallow 9th June 1990
  • Nauman's Thrush 8th Feb 1990
  • Golden-winged Warbler 12th Feb 1989
  • Lark Sparrow 16th May 1991
So I am sure any of you who became twitchers after 1991 will find some of them painful to contemplate, but we had dips too by the way, bringing me back to the bird in question Semi-Palmated Plover.

I brought the family and knowing high tide wasn't until 10:00 we planned to arrive near then, but didn't leave until 09:45 in the end. As it happened it didn't show and the awaiting crowd dispersed, but when we finally arrived at AJ's house at 11:30, he was on site still and said over the phone "someone has claimed it, but even though I doubt it's an authentic claim, everyone is coming back"

On arrival we quickly established it was genuine and enjoyed an hour of watching it at about 150 feet range, before my son got fed up of palying in the nice soft sand and we all got hungry. There were of course the usual few who decided they must get closer than everyone else, but I won't talk about the stupid people today....so here are my best iphone shots

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Yellow-browed Warbler at last

I continued my search for YBW at 09:30 entering DP at Colemansmoor Road over the most Southerly wooden bridge near the park and ride, then walking slowly along parallel with the A329(M) to Tufties Corner and up to the fishermans car park, then back along the South edge of WSL.

The one tit flock I did find had a lone Chiffchaff and as time was pushing on, I marched up the the other large wooden bridge where it crosses to Mortimer's Meadow and before I fully crossed the familiar call of Yellow-browed Warbler hit my ears, coming from the Alder right by the bridge, but hidden in Ivy.

For a second I wondered if someone was playing a tape as it was really loud, I called Trevor, who was readying for his trip to Norfolk, then Richard, but no reply. So decided seeing the bird might be a good idea before I called anyone else.

It began calling again, then Richard appeared from Mortimer's direction and at the moment it left the Alder and flew high up into a bare Alder where Richard and I had a pretty good view of it, it's supercillium, wing bars and pale underparts all nicely visible. Then it moved back one tree flitted a bit, then back to the Ivy covered Alder and that it where it stayed until I left at 11:49.

I heard it moved to nearby Willows 12:05, so others got some views too.

All I can say is "194 for my park list, 131 for the year, excellent!"

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

still in search of YBW

With just 45 minutes available, I tried the Western fringes of DP today for YBW, around West of Bader Way and along the hedgerow of that side of Mortimer's Meadow....not much to say, just a Chiffchaff, but finding Sycamore trees on DP isn't easy either.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Still no Stonechat

With murky conditions, I thought it might be worth a try, so made a quick visit to LFGP to check for Stonechat, but I was not rewarded with one. I did hear Coal Tit nearby the green bridge, new for October, plus 1 Chiffchaff in the tit flock. Over the landfill, just a few Skylark, Redwing, 1-2 Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtails, plus a couple of handfuls of Teal and 1 Wigeon over, was about it.

10 minutes in the car park field was even more quiet, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Chiffchaff, plus one finch flock sp going South.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Time to invest in a really good camera?

A half hour visit to Bittern Hide while it tipped it down was rewarded with stunning views of a pair of Kingfisher, they sat for 7 minutes mirroring each others movements until the Moorhen pushed them off, sadly nearly all my iphone shots were blurred and this is the best I got

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pintail before rain

With heavy rain forecast, I knew this months bird walk might not be well attended, so those who chose not to come missed the birds of the day right at the start, when 4 Pintail (3m,1f) came in from the East.

The 4 birds followed the Emmbrook and look like they might drop onto LFGP, but they just kept on going North and out of sight. Only the second record this year and only the 7th October record ever, although 4 of those records have been since 2004. A count of 4 is the first time for a count above 3 in October!

A handful of Gadwall, 1 Wigeon on BSL, 1 Kingfisher, then a few Teal and 2 sightings of Kingfisher on Sandford. At LFGP more Teal, 1 Shoveler, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, another Kingfisher, then 5 late Swallows in the NW corner briefly, before heading West.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Milestone reached on my year list

I couldn't get out this morning until after 11:20, but when I did I spent an hour only in the car park field, so wasn't expecting too much to happen.

Ring-necked Parakeets were calling as usual, 2 or more Chiffchaff, 1-2 Meadow Pipit, 1-2 Skylark, a flock of around 25 Redwing going East.

As approached the stile, I could hear a Water Rail at the balancing pool, but didn't get onto it before it stopped 'picking'. As it was bright I headed to the usual landfill watch point as I could see Buzzard and Kite up.

4 different Buzzard including another quite pale bird were visible, then I got onto a Peregrine over Lea Farm itself and as it was circling slowly and consistently I made an attempt to catch a photo on my iphone, heavily cropped of course, the first is complete rubbish, but the second actually looks like a Peregrine.

Raptor presence soon died off, so I retreated back to my car and sat leaning in my boot as I often do to stop my back aching. I could see small groups of 4-8 Chaffinch heading WNW and about 25 in 15 minutes, then a flock of 'finch sp' South, could have been Linnet, but I didn't get enough on them. "5 more minutes" I said 3 times picking up 1-2 more distant Buzzard, then suddenly right overhead a Rock Pipit call and I looked up to see it flying SE, as it called again it, fluttered and then continued on SE....."glad I stayed another 5 mins" I said to myself.

This marks 130 on my year list, knocking my 129 in 2009 off my 4th highest total. And it was my first Rock Pipit since seeing and hearing 2 over off the tip 16th 2002, although I did have a probable over 15th 2010.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Bitter cold North wind brings winter thrushes

Car park field as usual and several flocks of Redwing passing over West, 3 flocks of 15-20, plus a few smaller groups meant about 70-80 birds over in 45 minutes.

1-2 Meadow Pipits, 1-2 Chiffchaff, 4-5 Song Thrush in the car park field together, 4 Teal , 4 Gadwall on Lavell's.

For fun I have added my latest hoped for additions on my prediction list.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Late Wheatear

Stuck on the phone late morning Steve texted saying Wheatear LFGP, finally I got out for a 10 minute look before the nursery run, Wheatear still showing to right of shingle island as described by Steve, but I soon lost it behind foliage. This was my latest by 5 days, the latest birds being 15th 1982 (OU - Observer Unknown) and 12th 2011 (RNM). From my perspective if we don't know who the observer is, it cannot be verified. There is another 18th 2011, but I don't believe that either and as it's my blog I can say what I like!

Scanning I picked up 8 Meadow Pipit, several more 'small bird sp' flying South, then a tight flock of about 17 Redwing heading SW.

Then I picked up a Peregrine circling at 250-300ft, just East of the landfill, I watched it for my last 3 minutes to check it wasn't my latest Hobby. Though just my fourth this year.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Last day of warm weather?

I took a stroll around the car park field 09:45 in the warm sunshine, probably the last warm day this year? A Skylark went South, the first Autumn Siskin East as soon as I arrived. Another Skylark went NW 30 mins later, 7 Meadow Pipit + 2+3 more South, 8 Linnet South, several Goldfinch, 2-3 Song Thrush, 2-3 Chiffchaff and probable Blackcap called briefly.

I scanned BSL very briefly, picking up 7 Swallow moving SE, staying low in the increasing breeze, back at my car I scanned one last time, picking up Buzzard going in various directions, but then an almost totally white bird underneath, with white upper tail coverts, totally grey head and upper wing coverts, scoping it, it was clear it was just a Buzzard, but it got me going for a few seconds.

76 species for the month so far.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Yellow-browed Warbler

I have said it for the last 3-4 days and for Dave Rimes the park's first Yellow-browed Warbler showed for just a few seconds, very well, so sadly I wasn't the one to find it and didn't relocate it in my 4 and half hour search. Notably the tit flocks went missing after 13:00, making it hard to know where to look.

Meanwhile Meadow Pipit passage was considerable by our standards today, when I arrived after 11:00 groups of 16 and 11 and numerous groups of 4-8 went over, South and later SW, making an estimated count of 80+, which given no-one was counting earlier, could have been just the tip of the iceberg. 7 Swallow went thru on arrival.

On my search for the YBW I found at least 7 Chiffchaff mostly with the tits prior to 13:00, 1 or 2 as I walked around Lavell's, Sandford and along the Loddon to LFGP.

At LFGP 15:00 3 Meadow Pipit lingered in the SW corner, 30+ Teal there too. A Hobby was also reported.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Goldies again

Within 1 day of last years flock of c15 on 3rd October, a larger flock of around 56 Golden Plover were flying East, then back West 2 miles or more beyond the landfill, so about the Borough Marsh vicinity at 09:30. 2+2 more Meadow Pipit over the landfill, 4+4 House Martin thru ESE, followed by 7 Swallow, whilst a lone Skylark fluttered over the landfill, then 2 Bullfinch flew rather high East.

In the car park field, 3 Chiffchaff called, a Nuthatch nearby, but nothing else.

On Sandford 2 Little Grebe and a very quiet sub song Blackcap, well at least I hope it was only a Blackcap, as it didn't show and was rather brief.

The month is on 71, 81 in 2006 is the lowest in recent years, 93 the highest in 2010 and 2012.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Diverted off patch

I was heading down for my 30 minutes in the car park, when Richard called saying Geoff had a Spoonbill at Henley Road G.P.'s. So I went there instead, sadly it flew off, or out of sight and that was all I had time for.

Oxon is getting very good birds right now, Great White Egret, Yellow-browed Warbler and 4 Great Skua together last night at Farmoor.

Marek found the first autumn Pochard for DP this morning, so we are in a different league to Oxon!

October can be very good though and we are long overdue our first Yellow-browed Warbler and should that Spoonbill drop in, I'd be very happy after missing the May 14th 2007 birds.

We will hopefully see our annual Stonechat around the 11th to 14th and whilst it hasn't happened more than once winter thrush passage can also be accompanied by Hawfinch, but we should check for Ring Ouzel too.

With more time I'll compile a past October rarity list, one unrepeated species is Curlew Sandpiper 2nd Oct 1988, but we'll probably have to wait for that another year, so for now observations are that it is not a bad month for a passing Merlin in recent years.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Mild weather

In the nice mild but hazy morning, an hour in the car park field started well with 7 Ring-necked Parakeet to the East, 1 Nuthatch, 3+ Chiffchaff, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Blackcap, 20+, then 30+ House Martin and a few Swallow thru SE, but was quiet there after, until 2 Snipe flushed off LFGP just before I left.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Crazy busy off patch

I did manage the odd 30 mins around Lavell's over the weekend, but too little time meant despite an attempt to look through the tit flocks, no Yellow-browed Warbler was found...... With hundreds in the UK, one must have passed thru somewhere in Berkshire. I did see 5-6 Chiffchaff and 1-2 Blackcap, but nothing else.

Today, I spent 30 minutes in the car park field and had 2 Yellow Wagtail over around 09:45, but I ended up chatting about Philippines birding to one of 2 guys I met in the field, he was heading back to complete his final year's PHd there and I am seriously jealous and can't wait to go back, hopefully next Christmas.

They had also seen Water Rail at Teal Hide, whilst doing the rounds for Yellow-browed, Redwing,, or Siskins, but none showed, we did have 2 Song Thrush, so perhaps some Redwing will pass by tomorrow?

Brian did text on Friday or Saturday saying Coal Tit could be added to the month list, so we finished on 93, better than the 90 in 2009 at least, 2 behind 08 and 11.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Too busy to enjoy the passage

Marek was out early to find an adult Little Gull on BSL, which of course didn't stay....they hardly ever do, before that he had Dunlin, Green and Common Sandpiper LFGP.

Oddly enough the September Dunlin is rarer, this being only the third ever, the Little Gull was the fifth. No sign of any waders by 09:30 (TAG).

Steve than went on to find the first autumn Water Rail at Teal Scrape, putting us on 92 for the month, with Siskin and Redwing still the most likely to occur. That said a lot is still possible, Bittern, Garganey, Pintail, Peregrine, Greenshank, Arctic Tern, Whinchat, Sedge Warbler and I don't believe we haven't had Coal Tit somewhere this month.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Weekend away and nothing missed

A weekend away in Carlisle non birding, at my sisters wedding and am happy to say I missed nothing vital, I took a brief walk to Bittern Hide 18:45 last night, the mud edge on the main island still looks good for something, this time 6 Teal and not much else though. Peter had a Spotted Flycatcher in the morning, maybe the same bird on Sandford later, the latest was 29th Sept 2000.

A quick dusk walk to Bittern Hide at 19:00 and 35+ Greylag came in from the North making a lot of noise , headed over to BSL, circled and off back North, but may have landed on the landfill. At the hide I got onto a Reed Warbler feeding along the face of the main island reeds, the light was very poor, but I know it wasn't a Sedge.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Meadow Pipit passage

The Meadow Pipit passage is gathering pace, with a number of small flocks over this morning, prior to the breeze picking up. About 40 in total going thru in an hour, comprising, on arrival 4 + 5 South, then 2 + 3, then 11, then 8-10 which lingered in the nearby landfill cell for a few minutes, 3+ alighted the telegraph wires with Goldfinch before moving off South and 4+ heading back onto the landfill around 10:00.

Based on the last few years, we should see these sorts of numbers and some larger flocks move through as we progress into October.

A pair of Mistle Thrush over the landfill East, c40 House Martin, and a few Swallow, was about it, warblers much reduced from yesterday.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Reasonable passage

A mid morning visit to the car park field was quite good, considering the last few cold days have been so quiet, a female Whitethroat and many more Blackcap and Chiffchaff were present, a Mistle Thrush flew West, 2, then 3 Meadow Pipit South, then 5 Yellow Wagtail went over SE at 10:48, followed by what was probably 7 more a few moments later.

Hirundines number were low, just c20 House Martin and less than 10 Swallow in the hour I was there.

3 Buzzard circled nearby, but it was not raptor weather!

Monday, 16 September 2013

September Ringed Plover

Saturday 14th around 09:15, I was just returning to my car after a quick car park field walk, when Brian texted, saying juv Ringed Plover LFGP NE corner, so I marched up there pretty quick.

September birds are rare, the archives go as follows:

1/4th to 7th & 12th 1993
1/15th to 30th 1984
1/5th & 22nd 1982

Additionally just missing September, 1/1st October 1989.

While we were there Richard spotted a Wheater, then we had 2, then 3, then 4, Trevor stayed and found we had 5, a new autumn high count.

On the way back we got distracted by a single note call, of a nearly unviewable bird, some say it was juvenile Bullfinch, I am not convinced. It was gone by 14:00.

Today, I did a quick 07:15 walk around the car park field, 2 then 3 Meadow Pipit over SE, then an adult winter Common Gull, again not so common in September, went over North, 6+ Chiffchaff most of which were with a tit flock, plus 3-4 Blackcap. The month list is on 88, after Marek got Linnet Sunday morning at LFGP.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Getting quiet

I missed yesterday totally from a patch perspective, gladly nothing important missed, 3 Yellow Wagtail went thru early (Marek).

Today a brief car park field visit brought only 5+ Blackcap, 3+ Chiffchaff, our male Redstart didn't show yesterday, but it broke the record with a 13 day stay. There were later birds 15th to 18th 2012, 14th & 27th 2011 and 22nd to 25th 2009, so passage might not be over?

On BSL 11 Wigeon and 3 Gadwall, were all I could see in a 5 minute look. The month is on 82, so a considerable way to go to reach last years amazing 104. The other most recent Septembers brought 97 in 2010, 95 in 2008 & 2011 and 90 in 2009.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Monday, Tuesday

I finally got an hour in near dinner time, arriving in the car park 18:10 and the Redstart was showing well in the sun, after raining on and off all day. Suddenly I heard Little Owl at the bottom of the field, but could not find it. At the balancing pool a Cetti's called, then I got my bins on it at the base of the Phragmites, just briefly of course.

Back at the car park, a Hobby went over low NE. A brief look at Bittern Hide produced nothing really, but the mud still looks good for a rail, or crake any day.

Tuesday morning 09:10, the Redstart was present again forhis 13th day, showing well again

A few Blackcaps fed in the Elder, 1-2 Chiffchaffs, Nuthatch calling nearby, 50-100 House Martin mostly over the landfill.

As I was about to get in my car 3 Meadow Pipit went over SE, quite low and giving just a couple of calls.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Lack of sleep stops play

My baby son is not well and struggling to sleep, so after a poor night for all of us, I laid in and missed the start of our monthly guided walk, but as it happens, it was darn quiet.

LFGP, just 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Hobby, which showed nicely late morning, a few House Martins, 3 Sand Martin, a few Swallow. 21 Shoveler, c20 Teal, the GC Grebes continue to brood their 3 eggs.

I moved to the car park to check on our Redstart, yep still there and with rain about to arrive, a good 100+ House Martin drifted in from the SW, to over the landfill.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

10 day Redstart

When it is all quiet, I can still find interest in our male Redstart, now on his 10th day, always hanging out somewhere near the thorn hanging over the barbed wire fence. Nearby 10 or more Blackcap feeding as one flock, a juvenile Green Woodpecker quietly foraging the ground in front.

Another hour skywatching produced <10 Swallow, <10 House Martin, 4-5 Buzzard, 4 Red Kite, 2 Sparrowhawk together and 1 Hobby briefly.