Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Steve texted saying Greenshank LFGP and I was there pretty quick and saw it in the NE corner before it got grief from Jackdaws, soon leaving to the SE, but turning ENE and into the gloom.

Over recent years many Greenshank have left after a few minutes, so it is always important to get there ASAP. I am happy to get one back after the 26th did exactly that at 07:40.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Rain and flooding issues again

Saturday I did manage to see 1 Linnet at the NW edge of DP, by standing on the grass verge by Sandford and Mohawk, 1 flying into the bramble after just 10 minutes. Brian had a Greenshank which as most do, flew off at 07:40.

2 Swift over BSL and another brief and distant Kestrel in front of the tall buildings of Winnersh Triangle, but with more or less constant rain on Saturday, it wasn't very easy to do much. A few brave ones of us sat in Bittern Hide waiting it out, but nothing showed up.

Sunday 04:15 and we, meaning myself, 9 others and Meridian News, were out for the FOLL dawn chorus and it was raining for about half of it, no owls, few warblers to start with, the nearby calls of Oystercatcher told us it was dismayed to have had it's nest flooded out....3rd time in 3 years.

Our walk was predetermined by flooding and around BSL West side was the only option, so naturally we opted for Nightingales and after seeing one with average views, we took a stroll around the viewpoint, allowing me to glimpse the Black Tern Brian had found 06:35 opposite the sailing club. It was a very brief glimpse, but with Nightingale now showing very, very well, saving the scheduled morning walk completely, so the Tern had to wait. It didn't and left 07:15 before we made it round the bay.

Several Garden Warblers sang, but poor views for just a couple of us and a Cuckoo put in a brief view after most had just left. Either way, most seemed very pleased with the fine views and song of Nightingale and we will repeat this next year, of course hoping it isn't flooded and raining.

The bigger picture consequences of the flooding are that we have lost all the lake edge and island nesting species....again. So Mute Swan, Greylag, Canada, Moorhen, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck and probably upset, or even ruined it for a few Reed and Cetti's Warblers too.

Meridian are apparently doing the feature on the dawn chorus walk this Friday, as part of the 6 O'Clock news.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Update and month so far

After seeing the White Stork, later got out again and did half an hour skywatching in the car park field, Derek and I picked up Hobby and Peregrine over Lavell's and Lea Farm landfill, around 14:30-45.

Today I bumped into Burt and Brian at Bittern Hide where we sat for about an hour, not really seeing much, afew Swallows, more on Sandford plus 6+ House Martin.

I was hopeful something magical might happen, another good wader, a Sandwich Tern, but sadly there have only been 2 confirmed sightings in April 7th 1985 and 8th 1989. If anyone knows who claimed the 4 on 7th 1996, let me know.

So the park year is on 116, April total so far is 102, =6th highest.with 2011

114 is the highest in 2013, 2nd is 111 in 2003, 3rd is 104 in 06', 08' & 12', finally 101 in 2007.

Month wise I am amazed we haven't had more Shelduck, but the month total is down because few wintering species lingered into April, no Wigeon, no Redwing, or Fieldfare, anyone had Siskin?

It's not too late for a Garganey, or an Osprey, but I will be trying to get Linnet tomorrow on the NW fringes of the park up where Sandford Lane meets Mohawk Way, I saw 3 flying North from Sandford Park yesterday and think they are local.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Fantastic off patch county tick

My good friend Derek arrived for coffee at about 09:35, about 2 mins before I looked at Berksbirds to find White Stork was being seen just outside Swallowfield. We left in about 5 mins and despite a wrong interpretation on my part as to which field we needed to view, we got to the right area and saw the bird perched at the top of the tree whilst we were still driving and found a good crowd, parking quickly at the now hard to park at site.

And there it was preening and looking ever more likely to fly off, which it of course did around 11:15....West it would seem, but could still be at AWE land somewhere. This places me on 259 for the county and 1 away from Brian, 3 away fro Derek, neither of them needing it.

Here my best iphone shots.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Early fog again

Arriving at BSL for 06:20 I could see no further than 110 metres and despite these being the conditions I saw such good birds 2 days ago, nothing was doing today. I hung in the car park for 15 minutes hoping for a Yellow Wagtail, but quit then a bit annoyed the fog had ruined my early morning attempt.

I could hear but not see Common Terns calling and a few Willow Warblers, but that was it.

Am also annoyed the White Stork seen at Farmoor yesterday didn't make it over Berks!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Contrasting days

This morning was so quiet compared to yesterday, just the Cuckoo calling again in the tall willows behind Teal Scrape and a small group of Swallow heading West was all worth noting.

I have looked at past wader records for end of April and May and provided total number of records per month, based on frequency order

Dunlin : 13 April records, 19 May
Curlew : 9 April records, 3 May
Greenshank : 7 April  records, 13 May
Whimbrel : 4 April records, 5 May
Grey Plover : 2 April records, 3 May
Black-tailed Godwit : 1 April record
Turnstone : 1 April record, 4 May
Ruff : 3 May records
Sanderling : 4 May records
Temminck's Stint : 2 May records

Make what you like of this information.

Early lunch visit got me Sedge Warbler finally, at the back of Tern Scrape, also Reed Warbler there and mating Oystercatcher.

Monday, 21 April 2014

That's much more like it

An early start and I even brought my first cup of tea of the day with me.

Opting for BSL first I could see it was fairly thick fog, so doubted I'd see much, but maybe a Common Sandpiper might be there at the beach. But before I'd even got to the bridge at 05:58, 2 medium sized waders came over my head at about 70-80ft, seeing straight bills with my naked eye, it was clear Whimbrel was out and having to move to get my bins quickly on them, they were moving away ENE fast into the fog, but I could see no wing bar and no obvious trailing legs....they had to Bar-tailed Godwit....and in just 1-2 seconds they were gone into the fog.

This is my 6th record for Bar-tailed Godwit, with only 10 records for the park, 3 in April, 3 in May, 2 in Sept and 1 record is 'Observer Unknown' in March, the full history of records is;

Apr 20th 1982 : 2 Over BSL 06:14 (FJC)
Sept 16th 1984 : 1 Over BSL (Tom Bedford)
Mar 17th 1988 : 2 Over (OU)
Aug 1st 1996 : 32 Over but not specically identified as Bar-tailed (Brian Uttley)
Sept 11th 2005 : 1 Over 10:30 (PMC & bird walk)
Apr 29th 2007 : c56 Over LFGP NE 19:49 (FJC)
May 17th 2008 : 1 Adult female BSL island (ARy, BTB et al)
May 14th 2009 : 1 Adult female LFGP (TGJ et al)
May 6th 2011 : 1 Flew off WNW LFGP 07:07(FJC)
Apr 21st 2014 : 2 Flew over BSL low 05:58 (FJC)

And just when I thought it can't get better, at 06:09 as I got back to my car parked at the locked gate, I looked up and got onto a Marsh Harrier heading North, it had already gone over and was probably about above the bottom of the car park field, or just beyond, at around 250 ft. Due to the fog and direction of light I had no chance of sexing it! This is my 8th at DP.

After all that I had a much quieter visit at LFGP, 6 Common Tern, my first Cuckoo and another Hobby, which went over my head at 12-15ft North along the hedgerow.

Update for later today is a possible Goshawk seen by Roger Stansfield, that went over LFGP North. I also saw 2 Mistle Thrush young being fed in the car park field at last.

Update #2 : GSE gave me his picture of the Arctic Tern he photographed on the 19th and so thought it fair to compare it with the 13th April 2013 bird

Sunday 20th

A short visit to LFGP Sunday morning was rewarded with another Arcitc Tern thru at 08:34, but that was about it, despite the optimism from me and Marek.

By lunchtime we had thunder and lightning, but no passage still.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Mediterranean feel to the cold

Out later today at around 08:00 and having done a circuit of the car park field, had Mistle Thrush, Garden Warbler, 2 House Martin over BSL picnic area, I was thinking things weren't looking to hopeful for year ticks.

But then I stopped on the tarmac path to chat to visiting Devon birder Clive and after a few minutes and several Swallow and at least 3 Common Tern over, I then heard a gull call, which made me raise my bins to find 2 adult summer Mediterranean Gulls going over West. They were not particularly high up, but just kept on going West....my first pair of Meds at the patch. Clive went on to say he was fairly sure he had Yellow Wagtail over calling somewhat earlier.

Just moments later I picked up a pair of Mandarin flying North over the West end of Lavell's.

It was time to leave all too soon, but I was back at lunchtime doing another skywatch, which again was very slow, bar a few groups of Swallow over, when at 15:08 I picked up the years first Hobby circling and then drifting off North. Who doesn't love Hobby!?

The last expected migrants for me are Cuckoo, Common Sandpiper and Sedge Warbler and then I hope we have a good passage spell over the next 3, or so weeks before my trip to the Philippines.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Freezing start

A pre sunrise walk was very cold with the Northerly breeze, but at LFGP 2 Little-ringed Plover and 2 Redshank and the usual Red Crested Pochard showing well.

Oystercatcher at Sandford, but nothing much else, so onto Lavell's where 2 Garden Warbler were new in and singing and being chased by Blackcap next to John's bench.

The 3 Shoveler still on the scrape and then my first Common Tern for the year, over towards BSL, puts me on 105 now.

A lunchtime skywatch yielded nothing really, just 2-3 Sparrowhawk, 5-6 Buzzard and Red Kite, two groups of 2 then 4 Swallow headed into the now NE but just as chilly wind.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Big arrival day

Marek was out early as usual and added Cuckoo and Common Sandpiper, I got Whitethroat yesterday and today, I found Reed Warbler at the West end of Sandford, Trevor hearing two shortly after. At BSL a Nightingale sang briefly, a Lesser Whitethroat called frequently.

Back round to Lavell's and House Martin, followed by Swift over, added 3 more for me today.

I found the discrepancy in my spreadsheet, it was Common Gull down twice, I have added Pheasant where the old Common Gull entry was so 3 today makes 103, 9 behind the Park, 5 of those being temporary misses I am certain I will catch up with. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Elusive Gropper

Marek texted early yesterday saying Gropper calling near LFGP hide, but it went quiet long before I got there and only called twice after, but neither time I was there. Another report came from Bittern Hide later, but again despite a late dusk attempt at both sites, none called.

Over the past 3 days I have done sky watched from the car park and not seen much really, just Buzzard, Red Kites, the odd Sparrowhawk, Mistle Thrushes, which have no doubt fledged their young and seem to be in the grounds just to the East.

Today a brief walk to Bittern Hide with my son, brought Whitethroat singing, but I couldn't see it as my son was standing on the seat and I couldn't let him go for fear of him falling.

Marek also told me I missed off Pheasant from my yearlist, so I guess this makes 101 now, still not having had time to get Sedge Warbler, nor seen Common Tern so far.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Rather good birdwalk

Before I arrived Richard texted to say Green Sandpiper SW corner LFGP and with just a few minutes spare before the bird walk, I debated trying, but I went for it and as I crossed the green bridge that familiar call rang out as the Green Sandpiper flew over my head SW....saving me the 150 yards each way trip to Ron's hide.

On to the bird walk and Richard called saying "you're not going to believe this but we've got Red Crested Pochard with 3 young at LFGP". Amazing I said and pledged to head there later, but as usual, we went to BSL first, where the only birds to mention were the pair of Red Crested Pochard at the waters edge of the far end of the large island...so two pairs have been hanging around all this time!?

I thought it would be worth a try and my instincts were right, 2 for Nightingales were singing on arrival at the BSL/WSL hedgerow. One was in view no doubt enjoying the warm morning sun, but sadly it was brief and didn't show after, despite our trying pretty hard to see them for an hour. During our efforts the second was singing quite near the base of the viewpoint, so we headed there and despite failing to see it, heard it very close by, then we heard Cetti's and then as we went to leave I picked up Lesser Whitethroat singing, then a second. This is one day earlier than ever recorded, the 2nd earliest was 14th 2007 and then next, 16th 2011, but the species does not usually show up until between the 23rd to 25th.

Time pressed on and a quick look at Sandford produced the pair of Red Crested Pochard from BSL, plus a lone male Shoveler, after that I had to leave, but very happy with 3 year ticks and one of those an earliest ever arrival.

I am on 99 for the year!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Gull rescue

After a couple of weeks of BH Gulls being reported as stuck under the netting we planned to remove it today. I was tied up all morning and another Dunlin was seen in my absence and was gone when I arrived to meet Alan.

What I did find was a female Wheatear on the track towards the SE corner, about parallel with the Sand Martin wall, so much closer than the March bird, allowing at least a record shot or two.

A few groups of 5+Sand Martins, then 10-15 went thru North, along with 3's and 4's of Swallow.

And of course we took off the netting and let the BH Gull escape, leaving it free for all to fight over, which was not really planned until the Common Terns arrived in force later this month, so the gulls will have a significant advantage this year.

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Tern for the better

At LFGP this morning, it was pretty quiet until I saw a Tern coming over, it circled the lake and showed a fine black primary edge front and back, long tail streamers, short bill and elastic wing beats, but I couldn't pick up the translucence in the wings, either way it was an obvious Arctic Tern and made up immediately for my missing the Little Gull a few days ago.

Shortly after 7 Sand Martin went thru and 4 Oystercatcher came in and out.

After I left a Common Tern arrived, but likewise left quickly after.

An hour and 3 quarters in the car park was quiet, 6-7 Buzzard and tow lots of 3 Swallow thru.

I meant to post that on the day of the Dunlin, I had a distant small falcon harassing a Red Kite, but it was just too far to ID, most likely a Kestrel?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

1 out of 3

Marek was out early again today and had a Common Tern thru, I arrived LFGP about10:00 and found a summer plumage Dunlin, which despite getting grief from various species, stuck around for others to year tick

Over North went 5+ Sand Martin and 1 Swallow, a Skylark landed in view nearby for a change, little else for a while, then a pair of moulting Raven went over low, drifting East, then SE 12:05.

After I left a 1st winter Little Gull circled once and off North before I could get back. This was the 100th species for the park this year.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Another 2

Thinking it was bird walk day I went up to the car park field and heard Willow Warbler, I went to have a look. After several minutes at the bottom of the field it dawned on me it was the first Sunday, not second.

Very little about on BSL and SL, so headed for LFGP, but half way to the green bridge I picked up a distant calling Coal Tit, excellent, 2 year ticks in 30 minutes and now only 3 off the pace at 94 of 97.

At LFGP 2 Sand Martin, a possible House Martin and 1 Swallow went thru quickly overhead. In spring hirundines have the habit of going behind Ron's Hide, or directly over so you have to got outside and have less than a 50% chance of picking them up again, hence the possible House.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Working the patch

I found Marek at Ron's Hide and we scoured the lake and landfill, a Redshank, an Oystercatcher, a Skylark, a few Teal, 1 Goldeneye, 1 female Pochard, Gadwall and lots of BH Gulls was about it.

A search of Sandford brought the 2 male Red Crested Pochard, BSL had nothing to mention, so then a little watch at the car park field, which was better, Nuthatch singing, then Marek picked up 2 Raven off to the NE, 1 Little Owl for a moment in the usual Oak, 2 then 4 more Sand Martin North, plus the usual Mistle Thrush stuffing it's beak with food.

Later Marek texted with news of Willow Warbler at Mortimer's, Martin Mitchell reported one at BSL viewpoint earlier too, putting the park on 97.

Marek asked me what was the highest day list and I am going to have to consult old note books to answer that question, I think it is around 70, or just under.

An after lunch quick walk produced very little except my first chance since February, to get a record shot of the female Red Crested Pochard on Sandford.

I took some distant shots of the Little Egrets on the 3rd, here are two of them

Friday, 4 April 2014

Quiet it has been

I sound like Yoda, but yes it has been very quiet and one can wonder why with such mild weather all winter and when the Chiffchaffs started arriving 9th March I thought spring would be early....but no!

I did a quick look back at records and 2014 is the lowest start to the year on record, comparing March 31st totals, 2012 is highest with 106, lowest was 2004 and 2010 with just 97. So 2014's 95 is utterly pitiful, but in many ways not surprising due to the mild winter.

The Oystercatchers look like they are settling on Sandford and the car park Mistle Thrushes are feeding avidly, indicating young mouths need feeding.

At least the 4 Red Crested Pochard are still about and a short walk today brought the first Swallow over Lavell's briefly, then off North.