Thursday, 28 February 2013

Colds playing havoc with my time in the field

Another bout of colds, headaches, sort throats etc, has kept me out of action, but as it was the last day of the month I thought I'd get out for an hour and put up another old feeder at LFGP which I only cleaned yesterday. Even before we got to the hide I said to Richard "Shelduck, in front of the Sand Martin wall". From the hide we could see it was a splendid male, the first this last. 88th species for the month, 91 for the year, my 88th.

Also present were 400+ Lapwing, 300-400 Starling, usual 150 Wigeon, a lone bobbing Snipe, numerous Red Kite and Buzzard up, plus a distant Sparrowhawk.

A few 'small job's pinged around remaining unidentified finches, but I did get brief glimpses of Skylark and what I think were 2 Meadow Pipit going over the brow of the far landfill, the latter being a month tick so unless someone gets a Grey Wagtail we finished February on a very respectable 89.

A handful of Adult Lesser Black Backed Gulls and other 2nd winter Herring types came and went, I paused on one 2nd winter, but concluded it was Herring.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Mediterranean Bus Service

It is great to be able to say, you go months without one and then 2 come along together, well sort of, 2 in 3 days. The near adult Mediterranean Gull was re-found by Steve on BSL and I was just moments away finishing off some work party lopping. It continued to show for a good 20 mins after I got there and after 101 shots, managed to get these okay'ish and rather cropped pics;

2 Meds at large, but work party comes first

We held our usual 4th Sunday work party, clearing reed edges for new growth and Snipe to feed for the remainder of the winter, various areas of Crassula were cut and piled up to allow Teal, Snipe and whatever else to feed, the last of the willow cuts were burned, the layby hedge was cleared to make it safer to see when crossing, the Barn Owl box was emptied of all the Jackdaw rubbish and two of the boys towed in one of the rafts for servicing and to prevent Black Headed Gulls getting too established ahead of Common Tern arriving in late April. Steve caught a variety of great shots of us all at work, available to see at;

Meanwhile the Adult Winter Mediterranean Gull was seen on BSL, meaning with yesterday's 1st Winter, we have 2 in the area worth looking out for.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Mid morning Med

Marek texted earlier with news of 27 Golden Plover over LFGP landfill, but I wasn't ready to go for nearly another hour, when I did arrive at the layby I parked by his car, but immediately got a call from him asking if I got his message and replied saying yes and was heading up to LFGP to look for the Golden Plover, to which he said "no the other message about the Mediterranean Gull, a first winter on BSL and I am watching it now"....."I'll be there in 60 seconds I said". Luckily it was still present, but left to the East after 2 minutes, but I expect it stayed local.
Snow flurries continued as I spent an hour at LFGP, checking all the big gulls, then everything went up and the 27 Golden Plover appeared from behind the ridge of the far landfill cell, which shot off South. The Lapwing flock has swollen to around 700+ and the usual 145 Wigeon, c40 Teal, all around the Eastern lake edge.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Linnet flock brightens up another cold visit

And just when frost bite was making this mornings visit to LFGP all seem not really worth it, a flock of finches appeared out of the NW corner and thankfully circled back and landed in the right hand of the three Oaks, allowing me to confirm their identity as Linnets, the largest confirmed flock since 20-25 15th Oct 2010 and prior to that c20 23rd Oct 2008. I got a distant and poor record shot of this 86th species for my year and 90th for the park.

Linnet used to breed in various spots around DP, but declined steadily and then the landfill was the last stronghold, 60+ there 4th Feb 2007.
That said, in 2011 I did find evidence of 1, or possibly 2 pairs breeding in the bushes opposite the commercial buildings on Sandford Farm and frequently saw 4 birds on Sandford Park during the summer last year, so hopefully they are hanging in there.

Other than this a few Herring Gull, including one with just one foot lingered, 300+ Lapwing and 200+ Starling kept rising above the landfill, the usual 150+ Wigeon were noisy and 2 Little Grebe on the Loddon opposite the hide was about it.

Not sure why Shelduck hasn't showed up yet and Redshank hasn't kept us waiting until March since 2009, but twice arrived on 26th in 2012 and 2010.

Thursday, 21 February 2013


I suspect the Jack Snipe are here still, but staying low, or at least out of the freezing cold wind.
All we had of note today was a Great Black-backed Gull North over LFGP, several Herring Gull types kept me busy....just to be sure.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

2 Jacks and a new record

As Geoff suspected, Monday produced 2 Jack Snipe which showed til about 15:00 then did their usual disappearing act. Looking back at the archives, that makes 3 years on the trot with 2 Jack Snipe here, which has never happened before, or at least not on record. The highest count is 3 on March 10th & 11th 1983, but there is an unconfirmed and in my opinion a totally doubtful record of 6 on Feb 27th 1992 (OU) 'OU' meaning Observer Unknown, or not recorded.

Meanwhile Richard came across a female Blackcap near the DP centre cafe and then shortly after I left Lavell's at 17:30 a Peregrine was seen doing a very fast fly by, bringing the park to 89 for the year, 85 for the month, equal to 2003, but with 10 days of month left and various species still expected including 2 overdue year ticks in the form of Redshank and Shelduck. Still likely this month are Ring-necked Parakeet, Coal Tit, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail and other good possibles could include Pintail, Curlew, Red Crested Pochard, Smew and Goosander.

With Jack Snipe not showing I took this shot of an immature Grey Heron.

This morning the scrape was frozen so I suspect the Jack Snipe were hiding, unlike 1 Common Snipe I got a shot of, the Teal are looking their best too.

At the other end the Nuthatch was singing his head off in full view, as were at least 3 Great Spots.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Jack shows well at last

It started totally fog bound, so I stayed at home, but by mid am it was beautifully bright and clear and after a hopeful very sunny morning walk around the Sandford, the Chiffchaff still showing, then the Loddon hearing Nuthatch, 1-2 Treecreepers, 1-2 Great Spots, 3-4 Redwing and not a whole lot else, it was time for me to drop into DP Ctr for a chat. Geoff soon texted saying the Jack Snipe was fully on show, but apart from putting the news out I had to wait nearly 30 minutes, no worries of course it was still showing nicely, mostly asleep, but a occasional bobs kept us sure it was awake. Lavell's remains the place in Berks to see Jack Snipe without having to tread on them, always such a great bird.

Friday, 15 February 2013

LGL is a lucky charm

It was probably the years best day so far, bright and sunny, light breeze, 10 degrees, all at I'm not doing poetry. Woodpeckers were out in force and I felt LSW could be out there, a Nuthatch sang but remained unseen in the big Poplar other side of the Loddon near the green bridge, I did a quick check of LFGP and checking all the gulls 3-4 times I left and parked at Lavell's car park.

I enjoyed the 5 Lesser Redpoll on the Nyjer feeders but it felt too sunny to linger in the hides, so walked slowly out and picked up 2 Common Buzzard, 5 Red Kite, 3 Bullfinch, then a Sparrowhawk shot by whilst I chatted a while with Linda (LGL), having a seen a Muntjack bolt across the path between us.

As we chatted on the tarmac path, I noticed 3 flocks of Fieldfare pass over W, WNW, first 30-40, then 70-80, then another 30+, just 2's & 3/'s of Redwing with them, as we continued chatting 2 'corvids' drifted in from the North and I glanced up, at first not paying them much attention, even collapsing my tripod legs during the chat preparing for an imminent departure, but after a third glance, I binned them and realised they were large, had broad wingspans, were heavy billed and had obvious wedge shaped tails. I dropped down to open up my scope without wasting time on re-extending the tripod legs and quickly got good views of them as they circled at about 500 feet, but began quickly drifting SE.

Getting my 85th species for the year (87th for the park) was all down to having a nice chat with Linda, had I not bumped into her I would have left too early to have seen them, thanks Linda.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Hard work, but worth it

When I said Jack Snipe returns, I should have said "for 2 people" because it didn't show all day today either, neither did Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, or Med Gull, but it seems far fewer Black Headed Gulls visited LFGP for whatever reason, so was maybe somewhere else local?
Still it was mostly a nice bright day, the Teal looked great, a lone snipe on Tern scrape sat in view, the Cetti's was calling intermittently, but pretty close by.
Dusk at LFGP, 200+ Lapwing roosted, a lone Fieldfare at Lavell's appeared lost, but my target species kept me hanging on, then at 17:52 2 Woodcock shot out from the trees somewhere opposite at the river junction, headed over to the right into LFGP airspace and were gone, all in less than 2 seconds but nonetheless, wonderfully year tickable views.
I maintain this is about the hardest to get annual visitor, perhaps along with Little Owl, but at least the latter can show up any time, Woodcock is only winter. That said it is my 9th consecutive year of connecting, only dipping in 2004, the new era of Woodcock records occurring at Lavell's at dusk beginning in 2003.
Oh yes, did I say 84 out of 86.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Jack Snipe re-appears

Against the backdrop of a very flooded scrape, Daniel re-found what I am going to say was the same Jack Snipe I was pretty sure about from the 9th, so nice of it to show up again. I had little doubt a Common Snipe would do as much bobbing as I witnessed on the 9th and have no guilt in retrospective year ticking it.
Sadly the bird never showed again despite 4 of us waiting until dusk for a view and neither did the 2 Water Rail we heard calling either. A male Goldeneye flew over towards LFGP and a Little Egret headed norht just before 17:00, these and 3 Starlings coming to roost, were our only rewards.
Also seen today, were Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the trees above the feeders and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull at LFGP, all found by Daniel, who as far as I'm aware only visits DP about twice a year, so well done to him for putting the park on 86 for the year, adding one for me, but still keeping me 3 off the pace....A good look tomorrow might change all that!?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Rain, rain, rain....okay snow, snow, sleet! It's flooding either way.

I had a quick morning walk to LFGP while I could, back to wellies again as the path was submerged but passable, but I expect won't be tonight. The Lapwing flock was distant and very hard to look thru with it snowing so hard, I could hear most of the Teal were in the deep vegetation of the submerged SW corner.

Suddenly all the Black headed Gulls have vanished, perhaps on flooded fields?

A singing Goldfinch just outside the hide, seemed out of character for the conditions, a Little Grebe swimming along with the turbulent Loddon flow also made me wonder how they would catch fish in the brown fast flowing water.

Will we ever have dry paths again, well of course we will, but it makes me laugh to think of those fools in WBC who think adding a hard surface to make a lovely cycle track along the Loddon is a good idea, with flooding like this all winter many sections of their precious cycle path will be gone in a month....muppets.

And yes, we will fight against it all the way, how dare they intend to ruin our most tranquil and beautiful, quiet riverside walk!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

One rainy Sunday

As forecast it was raining all day, a 08:45 quick check of Ten scrape produced 6 Snipe, all common, but a DP first for me was mating Teal in the scrape at the very back. I don't believe for one second they will stay to breed here, but nice to see anyway.
On to the bird walk and rather few ducks on BSL really, Sandford had very few as well, a brief Sparrowhawk, the usual Chiffchaff along the backwater, a lone Siskin over. At LFGP several Herring Gulls kept me busy for a few minutes and as usual I snapped away with my iphone camera.

135+ Wigeon, 50+ Teal, the years second Great Black Backed Gull flew over North, 30-50 Lapwing, 150 Starling and I did get onto a flock of finch heading West beyond Lodge Wood, but they were too distant to identify and lost behind the wood itself. At Bittern Hide the 6 Snipe still sat, a few Teal, Gadwall, pair of Shoveler, plus 2-3 Lesser Redpoll on the feeders was about it.
I even went back to LFGP for 17:00 and got wet all over again......for nothing, no Woodcock showed and I don't blame it.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dusk challenges

I arrived at Lavell's Bittern hide deliberately late around 17:20 for a stab at Woodock, armed only with bins......foolish and I know better, as in minutes I picked up a Bittern followed by 7 Snipe, but one was bobbing like mad at the back of the scrape, but without scope it was too distant and dark to be sure it was Jack Snipe. With the Snipe generally leaving the scrape at dark, I can only hope it come back and will be re-found me.
Marek called me 17:32 with news of a fly by Woodcock outside Ron's Hide, great! I guess I am there same time tomorrow night.

Another possible YLG

I  am more hesitant now about reporting definite Yellow Legged Gulls, especially 2nd winters, but a bird I kept looking at today had some good features on it, I wasn't totally convinced by the tone of grey, head shape and bill at some angles, but it looked pretty like one most of the time and was aggressive and bigger than nearby adult Herrings. I await confirmation, but here are a couple of shots;

Also present 130-150 Wigeon, 1 Little Egret, 2 Skylark, 30-40 Teal, c50 Lapwing, but not much else.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Previous February stats

As we have yet more heating repairs today, I am killing time reading into the data back to 2003 and I find it curious that there is so much difference in the total number of species. Last year was amazing with 93, a new record on the previous high of 88 in 2008, it then goes 84 in 2004, 83 in 2011, 81 in 2004 and 2010.
With Mistle Thrush being seen in the car park yesterday, the park is on 73 for the month.
The year list remains on 83 as I cannot say with any certainty that Yellow Legged Gull has occurred as I didn't see the claimed 2nd winter bird, the pictures I saw were inconclusive.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Quiet spell continues

It often happens that after a cold spell, many birds vanish and it all seems quiet, but it isn't quiet when you listen to how many birds are singing. Woodpeckers are drumming like crazy, I had 3 Bullfinches near John's bench yesterday all very vocal, tits are singing like mad, grebes displaying, Teal, Gadwall.... a lot.
Today I was out throwing seed along Sandford's backwater, the Chiffchaff was calling loudly there too.
At WSL Little Grebe was hiding in the edge of the reeds, 11 Goldeneye were on BSL, I suspect more out of my view tucked in South Bay. A lone juvenile Herring Gull made me check twice, but it was just a Herring.
Tonight one Bittern showed at WSL as the rain began to fall steadily a Little Egret over high North a little before that.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Not Yellow Legged Gull

My good friend Adam sent me an email explaining why my YLW wasn't one.
I think I knew already, but allowed myself to be fooled by the yellow appearance of the legs and not focus on all the other things one must check when ID'ing YLG. To mess up an adult is pretty rubbish though!
Adam said ...
1. It has streaking around the head, YLG would be clean white this time of year.
2. Wing tip pattern is wrong for YLG, but OK for argie HG – broad white tip to P10 is usual for HG, unusual for YLG; YLG shows much more black in the wing tip, HG, especially argie HG has more restricted black (as your bird).  Only P10 to P6 have black tips, with perhaps a small smudge on P5, which is good for HG but not for YLG.
3. Structurally to me it looks quite short, fat legged compared to YLG which is quite long thin legged – I’ll take your word that it has yellow legs, maybe it was a lighting effect?, they certainly look pink in the photos.  It also doesn’t have the high breast often seen on YLG.
4. Dark mantle is good for argie HG – they can look very dark at times.
Trevor did say him and Geoff had a 2nd winter, so if I can get copies of pics of that bird, I'll scan and post them soon.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Yellow Legged Gull

My morning visit to LFGP was feeling a bit birdless when a large gull appeared without me seeing it fly in and was stood on the water covered shingle island, with legs therefore not showing and to make matters worse it was face on, but its folded wings looked a darker grey. After 20 minutes, I gave up waiting for it to turn and headed back down the path to try and photo it more side on, as luck would have it a Cormorant decided to compete for position and the gull won, enabling me to catch these shots.....I'd be the first to say the legs don't look that yellow in the photos, but they were. I believe the open wings tell us all we need to know either way.....or I am much worse than I thought at identifying Yellow Legged Gull, comments welcome....Adam, PBT, or anyone else who wants to chip in;

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Bright but quiet

The Nuthatch was singing close to Sandford Mill again, this time I picked it up left of the big Yew, then it flew to one of the large Limes, where I lost it, just a few short song notes were heard after. Two if us thought we heard Coal Tit rather distantly too, several Redwing were present, Great Spotted Woodpeckers out in force drumming in various locations.
Sadly the water has remained pretty high, whilst everywhere was accessible, it was all hard work in the deep mud, so after dropping sacks of bird food at Bittern, there wasn't much time for anything else until dusk.
My dusk visit produced very poor views of Bittern at WSL, but Goldeneye numbered at least 20, 7 males + 9 females BSL, 2 males + 2 females Sandford, I suspect I missed several more females by not viewing BSL's South bay, so hope to do that tomorrow.

Friday, 1 February 2013

New month, new expectations

A shortish walk to LFGP, still held some often tricky to see species for the time of year, Nuthatch was singing near Teal hide, A Little Egret on the North spit, just 1 Snipe, a few Fieldfare far off, plus 3 Skylark chasing each other and displaying, a lone male Goldeneye, all the usual common gulls, Siskin over and at Sandford the same Chiffchaff feeding avidly along the backwater.
With the park on 83 species for the year so far, new additions we can expect during February are Redshank, Shelduck maybe a Mandarin, at this time last year, the park was on 86 species including all the following we haven't had so far this year ; Peregrine, Jack Snipe, Yellow Legged Gull, Marsh Harrier and Merlin, plus Bearded Tit, but we didn't know about this record for months to come. Raven was recorded on 1st Feb 2012. Certainly Raven, Peregrine, Yellow Legged Gull and probably Woodcock should be added this month.