Thursday, 30 October 2014

Very misty start

I took a walk around to WSL this morning in the grey misty conditions, I heard Goldcrests almost every 100 or so metres, the Cetti's that has taken up residence on the West side of Sandford showed quite nicely for a change.

No sign of the Goldeneye at the North end of WSL, just 1 Pochard on BSL and very little else to mention in my half hour stroll.

A late further stroll around the car park and 2 of the Stonechats, the male and female, were on top of the reeds just left of Lea Farm at about half the distance when they have been in the NE corner, so a few more poor record shots to post

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Late migrants

After missing our latest ever Wheatear on the 25th, I was hoping I'd get lucky with something else, best I could find was a Chiffchaff on Monday morning in the scrub left of Lea Farm, Richard had 2 more on the edge of the gold course.

What was more exciting was picking up a very distant flock of around 300 Golden Plover, so after missing the March 22nd flock of c400, I was very happy. At the same time, various flocks of Wood Pigeon were coming South, 300-550 at a time, with over 2000 over in 45 minutes.

This puts me on 132 for the year, just one more to level with my equal 3rd counts of 133 for 2011 and 2013 and perhaps the likelihood of a colder winter than last, it is still highly possible we will get a Goosander, Woodcock, a passing Brambling, or Yellowhammer and if the water levels fall enough for a good low cut of Tern scrape reed edges, a Jack Snipe might grace us too.

Also on the hoped for list is Merlin, Scaup, Smew, White-fronted Goose, or rare grebe?

The month is on 89, with the first Goldeneye in, with still a good chance of Bittern, Fieldfare, Lesser Redpoll, Mediterranean Gull and Barn Owl all possible. The record set in 2010 & 2012 is 93.

Today, 1000 more Wood Pigeon went over South, but apart from hearing Water Rail at Tern scrape, nothing much else to report.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Time flies

I have been out on the patch, but not much since that fine day I last posted.

I have even written a description for the rarities committee, which is unusual in itself for me, one because I rarely find anything good enough to warrant a description, secondly that the bird often sticks around long enough for a dodgy record shot, thirdly that I have become less and less bothered who believes me.

Anyway to linger for a few moments more on that day, there have been 5 records of Alpine Swift in Berks, 2 more are pending, mine is the last one and the only ever autumn bird.

So back to reality and day to day hum drum, I was out briefly yesterday, seeing 3 Linnet over the landfill heading SW, so the October passage trend continues for this species.

Little else has happened since the Alpine Swift, other than the Stonechats have still been seen regularly, up to yesterday at least and Richard and Geoff even got a couple of shots of them next to the hide.

I have just been looking at my year lists and this is the 5th consecutive year I have gone into the 130's, which I find remarkable. Also amazing is that since 2000 I have only had 1 year (2006) when I didn't get a patch lifer and on average find a new bird for the patch every second year.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Alpine Swift

I had been around the car park, seeing 3 Chiffchaff, a few Meadow Pipit, 5-6 Swallow East, 9+ Redwing and maybe heard Blackcap, then Trevor arrived and I decided to join him for a look for the Garganey. It wasn't around and not much else to see either in flooded conditions.

Over a 100 Redwing dropped in above the Emmbrook to our right and I scanned for more birds in the sky, I think I was tracking something, when I passed what I thought would be a Swallow, but staying on it, it turned and I could see it was a October!!!

Trevor took a moment to get on it, but we agreed it probably never got closer than 600 yards when we first got onto it. Heading SW, it moved with with very fast bursts of wing beats and then long low dives, rarely turning and never giving the 'shimmying' of Common Swift.

I couldn't bear it and tried and succeeded to get my scope on it as it passed in line with the tallest Poplar, I checked for paleness in the primaries and blunt wings...none, but on it's first turn in the scope I suddenly saw an obvious and well marked pale belly and said "******* Hell, it's got a pale belly".

It turned back towards LFGP and a group of Starling passed by behind and it looked bigger than initially thought, but without knowing how near they were, judging size was really hard.

It then went back SW over the houses immediately North of Sandford Mill, dived once more and looked to be gaining speed as we lost it behind the Poplars, heading towards Sandford Park, but not gaining height.

Awesome stuff and actually quite interesting how it never appeared that big, No. 18 on my prediction list and nice to know I am not going to end the year without a lifer on my patch, it is no doubt rarer than last Year's Yellow-Browed Warbler and 2012's Wryneck, but not Purple Heron...we saw that one too well to trump that!

I haven't totally decide the order to put them in, so for now based on Berks rarity status perhaps like this;

Purple Heron - April 5th 2000
Alpine Swift - Oct 15th 2014
Yellow-Browed Warbler - Oct 5th 2013
Great White Egret - Nov 5th 2009
Honey Buzzard - Sept 23rd 2000
Goshawk - Apr 6th 2009
Whooper Swan - Nov 10th 2013
Ferruginous Duck - Dec 2nd 2009
Wryneck - Aug 29th 2012
Avocet - March 13th 1983
Black-Throated Diver - Jan 25th 1987
Little Tern - June 18th 1983
Montague's Harrier - Aug 26th 2007

But as my good friend Andy Johnson said "just 4 off the big 200", what a thought.

Not to sound like it's unfair, but I should have 4 more on my list;

Quail - 1/20th June 2012, heard by Maidenhead birders (B Stacey & G Marsh) heard it 10:00. I didn't hear about until late afternoon and did come back for dusk, but left to see visiting family and it called once 35 minutes after I left.
Common Crane - 2/6th May 2012, flew East 3-6 miles to the ENE, could have possibly been picked up in the scopes?
Hawfinch - 1/13th Oct 2010 Heard a rasping call, looked up to see a short tailed bulky finch heading very fast NW, completely failed to get in focus in bins, or in the scope at all. But sadly saw large white upper wing marks and knew it was one.
Red-footed Falcon - 1/6th Oct 2012 A short tailed falcon went fast South over LFGP, I was looking into sunlight and could no colour, or features on the bird, but surprisingly it turned and hovered at 300ft, then circled and hovered again, then dived down like a Sparrowhawk.... Hovering is well known in Red-footed Falcon

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Keeping our eye out

Suddenly good sea birds are in the county and just outside, we need to be on the lookout for Skuas, Phalaropes, Little Gulls, obscure waders and ducks.

Meanwhile Alan re-found the Garganey back on Tern scrape, til 15:22, then went to Teal, spent 5 mins there, then went off over towards LFGP with 4 Teal, but could not be re-found again.

I went via the car park, had 3 groups of Redwing, c20, 6 & 10 and looking likely to stay local.

Here are two rubbish shots of the Garganey

At LFGP, 5 Snipe flushed off from in front of the hide, a Green Sandpiper and the male Stonechat was still around, another rubbish shot of that, annoyingly it came from left of the hide, so a better shot would have been possible had I known.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

WSL dusk visit

I have been meaning to check on WSL at dusk since the July fishermen reports on Bittern, so tonight I did and saw no Bitterns. I did hear 2 Water Rail and 1 Kingfisher, but had little else to mention.

There have been Bittern in 3 of the last 4 Octobers, so we stand a good chance of getting one!

Friday, 10 October 2014

October Garganey

I was driving home from shopping and house viewing, trying to get back in time to get the washing off the line and feed us all, when Steve called saying he was fairly sure he had a Garganey. Over an hour later I called to say I was heading down and as soon as I got there, it obviously was one.

It is only the 4th October bird, so always a bonus and great to see them so late into the autumn.

Here the best shots I could get as it never really stopped moving;

Ruff time

Yesterday I got the text 3 Ruff in SW corner, but before I could even move from my office, "sorry they got harassed by Lapwing and left SE, after only 3 mins". I was too tied up to visit, but Geoff said 2 Stonechat and a possible Whinchat, the latter was not confirmed.

And today, Geoff texted saying Ruff in front of Ron's Hide, but this time Sheep flushed it and it left high East.

I went to the car park, 2 Blackcap, 3+ Chiffchaff and opposite Ron's, 2-3 more Chiffchaff, a scattering of Meadow Pipit over, 6+ Skylark, 20+ House Martin heading South, 3 Swallow, 1 Grey Wagtail in front of the hide, 2 Kingfisher flashing about, 2 Snipe in the SW corner. 2 Raven went over low West separately, calling quietly.

On the way back numerous Goldcrest and Cetti's calling across the Loddon near the Hazel fencing.

It's funny, but with the month on 76, it is actually hard seeing how we get much in to the 80's, but probably will.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Chats still present

Brian texted earlier to tell me the Stonechats were still present, but I couldn't get out til lunchtime and despite Trevor not finding them in an hour wait, both jumped up 5 seconds after he left the hide.

He obviously came back and saw both, here is one poor record shot.

The Green Sandpiper present over the last few days came in just to the left of the hide, providing an irresistible chance to get a half decent shot.

Monday, 6 October 2014


It was raining, but not too hard when I got out at 08:45, a Kestrel and 12 Meadow Pipit from the bottom of the car park field, plus heard Chiffchaff and 1 Blackcap, over 100 Wigeon left the balancing pool I thought I should check them all properly, noting a Little Egret flying over LFGP North.

It looked like it was going to rain harder so I went on to LFGP quickly and then counted the Wigeon, 130 is still a good count, 50+ Shoveler is too. It began raining much harder and felt I should leave soon, so I quickly scanned and counted some of the other birds, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Snipe, 4 Swallow buzzing around low.

Then something small looked like it dropped on the lake edge in the far NE corner, scoping I couldn't see anything, other than the second Snipe running for cover. Then I noticed a small bird perched on the only piece of bramble there, an adult Stonechat...nice, then suddenly a second...a juvenile, extra nice.

Looking back into those archives, the first time I have found more than 1, plus there have only ever been 4 records of 2 and one of 3, back on Oct 4th & 6th 1989. With so many records of Stonechat since 2005 in October, it is the best month to look for them.

Here are the Sept to November records, earliest to latest;

Sept : 1/1st & 22nd 2014
Sept : 1/16th, 19th, 21st & 31st 1989
Oct : 3/4th & 6th 1989
Oct : 2/6th 2014
Oct : 1/9th 1998
Oct : 1/11th 2006
Oct : 2/11th 2007
Oct : 1/11th 2012
Oct : 1/14th 2009
Oct : 1/22nd 1980
Oct : 1/27th 2005
Oct : 1/27th 2010
Nov : 1/4th 2001

October species total is on 74 species, 7 more to match 2006, 13 more to match 2007, just one more than that to match 2013. Lots more to happen yet and I hope for something unexpected and exciting.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

First autumn frost

It was darn chilly when I went out around 08:45, a light frost on the car park fields shady parts. A bit of activity in the skies, a few Meadow Pipits, 2 Skylark, 7-8 Blackbird in the scrub left of Lea Farm, 2-3 Blackcap and 3+ Chiffchaff in the car park field.

I heard Green Sandpiper, a Mistle Thrush distantly over LFGP, 5+ Song Thrush flying around.

At Teal Hide a Water Rail called, a Grey Heron caught a vole.

At LFGP, 3 then 2 more Skylark, 5 House Martin, 1 Swallow over, Grey Wagtail in front of the hide, the Green Sandpiper in the NE corner. The SW corner was packed with Shoveler and Wigeon, but not much else.

A one minute look over Sandford and another Water Rail near the hide + 1 Pochard.

Friday, 3 October 2014

October Black Tern - Rarity is contextual

I was sat at Ron's Hide counting wildfowl, with an excellent count of 71 Shoveler, then watching the sky and seeing a few raptors, plenty of Red Kites, Buzzard, including another very pale one, with most of the tail completely white, a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk and another small raptor too distant to be sure about.

Suddenly a moulting adult Black Tern flew thru my scope view, but I didn't get enough on the tail to be sure it wasn't White-winged....yes I know wishful thinking, but I called Richard and he and Steve had just seen it come by at Bittern Hide. We agreed to go to BSL and meet there.

I went saw nothing and after 10 minutes looked at my phone to see yet again I had left it on silent and missed calls and texts, saying it was on Sandford. By the time I got there it had gone and as Richard had already left, Steve and I went on to BSL, picking it up near the sailing club....showing dusky upper tail and no black underwing coverts, so Black Tern it was.

Looking back there have only been 2 previous October records;

1/1st 1982 (MR), 6/3rd (FJC & DF), 5/4th, 4/5th, 3/6th.
1/9th & 10th 1987 (RTT)

So you could say it has been a while, certainly 32 years for me and I think rarity has a context, other than just rarity of species itself, date rarity is just as much fun and interest.

Pics courtesy of Steve

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Signs of winter passage

A lunchtime visit today revealed lots of small birds going in all directions, 10+ Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 3 Song Thrush and odd finches which I couldn't ID and more notably 40+ Chaffinch all West, spread over an hour in groups of 6-10+, .

4 Ring-necked Parakeet were pinging about to the East and I heard a Cetti's towards Lavell's.