Monday, 31 August 2015

A wet and interesting morning

As I left the house at 06:15 it was hardly raining at all, but by the time I got to LFGP, it got heavier and heavier. I scanned and scanned for a Whinchat, but none to be found.

A Green Sandpiper fed in front of the hide, a Common Sandpiper flicked around and landed on one of the small rafts. With the SW corner islets, under water there were no waders there, well nothing there at all.

Most of the Lapwing were half hidden behind the lake edge vegetation and I didn't scan through them thoroughly, but did find 2 Wigeon on the NE corner lake edge.

A kept waiting for window in the weather, to leave and at one point it got very black and suddenly the rain stopped. I had been glancing at the feeders and had already collapsed my tripod and covered my scope, then closed the front flap. Taking one last glance at the feeders, I sensed a sudden commotion and noticed the Lapwing flock over the North spit in a state of panic, but suddenly heard a call and picked up a fast moving, smallish wader moving away very fast.

I knew I had no time to get my scope out, so stayed on had a very fast wing beats and as it turned, or more like jerked left and right I could see it had long, slender and very pointed wings, but no wing bars, no trailing legs and whilst I didn't see the bill clearly, it was fairly short, like a Golden Plover.

The call was repeated 4-5 times and even though it was going away the whole time, it was quite clear and a little like a Ringed Plover, but less pronounced.

I thought, "Good grief I should know this, especially when a wader calls". I can say it wasn't a Golden or Grey Plover and it was too big for Ringed Plover. What does that leave?....not much when you just didn't get enough on it. Something good I feel and having listened to wader calls on Xeno Canto, the nearest match was Dotterel, which would be a first for the park. But I doubt they move this early and as with other 'not quite clinched birds' "I just have to let it go".

I curse that I had shut the front lap and my scope up, barely 30 seconds before and I almost certainly would have clinched it.

I went round to BSL and heard a Redshank immediately, but never saw that. A quick circuit of the sailing club car park area and 1 Spotted Flycatcher later I headed to the car park field, but with the rain now setting in again, nothing was showing.

Geoff texted around 11:45 to say a Bittern had just flown in to the reeds to the left of Ron's Hide, a wonderful last species to add to August's total, finishing on 104....assuming no-one finds something new before dusk tonight.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A rarely walked path...for me

I took out the family for a visit to the adventure playground and we chose the golf course as our route back.

As well as seeing good views of Hobby hunting low, I also saw a Spotted Flycatcher on the overhead wires, which must have been additional to the 2 reported by Brian in the compound.

Now that the golf course is open to anyone, I might well make a few trips out there, as it offers the best view of the sky on the whole of DP.

I'll be offering the following shots as a contribution to the 'sites of interest' pages on the new FOLL website, hopefully launching in the next 3-4 weeks.

There are plenty of places a good bird could be hiding, damp ditches might produce a Stonechat, various other open areas too for Wheatear, pipits, or if we want to get really optimistic a shrike, or a Hoopoe. If DPCS would corden off some areas so nobody could walk, it could have a really positive impact...but they won't of course.

Breaking records

Out at 08:15 I went to the car park first, with the gates locked I couldn't get proper views into the compound, so didn't find any Spotted Flycatchers. Little happening on BSL.

In the car park field, I heard Redstart, but it took 3/4's of an hour to see a male, which then showed well. Quite a few Blackcap, then a Garden Warbler, then a Whitethroat, then a Lesser Whitethroat showed in the dog rose.

Taking a look over the landfill, 2 groups of 7 & 6 Shoveler went over, another Whitethroat out on the Hawthorns. Brian texted with news of a Wheatear, but it went out of view so I stayed where I was, finding it out on a vent.

Back to view the Redstart and I couldn't help but take a few more shots, this one being the best...still not great.

Adding Wheatear and Lesser Whitethroat to the August list puts the park on 102, one day to go to find a Whinchat, keep em peeled folks.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Redstart double

I arrived in the car park field around 08:30, hearing a Redstart as soon as I got there, I quickly picked up a male and assumed it was the same bird of the last 2 days. But the calling was coming from behind me and when a bird came from that direction I got my bins on it realised it was another male Redstart.

It took another hour to see it again whilst watching the other male in view at the same time, both stonking adult males and this appears to be the first time, as we normally get more immatures/1st winters.

Brian had 2 Spotted Flycatchers in the compound, but they had vanished when I got there. We did have 2 House Sparrow in the car park field.

Overlooking the landfill, there were a few passerines moving about, at least 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Reed Warbler. Another Willow Warbler was seen in the car park field later, along with quite a few Blackcap.

It was ideal raptor viewing by the time I had to go! I wonder if anything went over today.

Later I was doing some gardening and about to add to my large open compost heap, when I small bird jumped up onto the Blackberry, it was a male Whitethroat a great garden tick and the second unexpected warbler this year.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Trying not to be annoyed

A very quick car park field visit before a day out with the family and I was speechless to find 2 digi scopers 40-50 feet from the fence line frequented by the Redstarts.

I am always in two minds about whether I say anything and what I might say, feeling rather grumpy I said nothing to them directly.

My sentiments are clear, if the bird remains hidden you are too darn close and therefore preventing it from feeding AND depriving other bird watchers from seeing it.

If this happens again, which is highly likely I may not be so muted and despite it being a country park and for that reason folks can argue that they can stand where they want, sure you can stand anywhere, but where are you going to stand if I chose not to share my finds.

I expect it wasn't even people who are kind enough to read my blog, but if you do and see people doing this, please find a nice way of saying "stay back and put the birds welfare first", I really don't want to lose my cool and shout at people, but if I feel I have to I will.

During my brief 35 minute visit I had 2 Kestrel, 1 Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Red Kite and Buzzard. I heard from Brian that all the Spotted Flycatchers had gone today.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Getting busy

It was after 09:00 before I got out today, I went to check on the Spotted Flycatchers and sure enough they were still there, except that now there were at least 5, another bird flitting back into the trees may have been one as well.

Over BSL were about 30 House Martin and 1 Swift, my first in ages.

Back to the car park field and I picked up plenty of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and a Garden Warbler, then 2 Redstart, one was either the same 1st winter male as Tuesday's, or a different one, the other bird was a stunning adult male. 

Steve texted to say Water Rail from Bittern hide, so we have now hit 100 species in August for the first time ever.

Then Steve and Richard appeared and stood with me in the car park, what may have been Spotted Flycatcher number 6 landed on the wires for a few moments before heading towards the sailing club compound.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Back for a photo

The rain finally stopped for an hour around 12:30, so I dashed out. Hobby flew over the car park field low West on arrival. A lone Common Tern flew South over BSL, but then flew back 2 minutes later.

At the compound 3 of the Spotted Flycatchers were on show, the fourth kept back in the undergrowth behind. After nearly 50 shots I got the following

There was a Willow Warbler in the same tree as them, for a few moments, then it was off for a quick walk around the car park field. Surprisingly no Redstart, or anything much. Beyond the landfill a Raven went West.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Not 1, but 4

The annual autumn Redstart created a nice sense of fun and friendly gathering in the car park field, but the other species I was hoping for was a Spotted Flycatcher. And sure enough Bert May had one mid afternoon somewhere along the tarmac path to the hide...not to be relocated by me with the 5 minutes I had free before family pickup time.

I passed Brian on the way out and he went on to look better than I could, not long after he called with 1 in the sailing club compound. Then a text shortly after saying 4!!!

I took the whole family back en route home, met with Brian, Marek and Trevor and saw all of them, 3 on the dead Elms, 1 on the bushed behind..... a lovely sight, sadly no chance for a record shot.

Looking back, the time has flown since the last big Spotted Flycatcher day, when 5, possibly 6 were seen on the 31st August 2010. I have seen 4 out of 5 of the last autumn birds, the latest being 27th Sept 2011, I hope quite a few more show up late into September this year. The latest confirmed sighting is 29th September 2000, although there is a mention of a possible in October 1980.

Autumn Redstart again

As soon as I was beyond the central scrub compound I could hear a Redstart and picked up what I first felt was an autumn adult male in the usual area along the barbed wire.

A few others arrived and it showed well on and off, but as I was about to leave someone said "there's two". Talk of a grey backed and better marked adult, ear covert markings, etc followed, but as often happens 2 were not seen at the same time. I remain uncertain if there was 2, or it was just light playing tricks on our eyes...we'll see.

This is the 4th August record, compared to 6 September ones since 2009.

Here are my rubbish record shots

As I was about to leave a Mistle Thrush dropped in, marking species 99 for August = highest along with 2013. If we can find a Water Rail and a Lesser Whitethroat we have a new high count for the month. Bonus waders and wildfowl would be brilliant too.

Ron also told me the Little Egret count has now reached 15.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Adding a wader...just

I was at LFGP hide with Marek before 06:30 and Green Sandpipers were calling from all corners, the total count was 8. 7 Little Egret swooped in, a Common Sandpiper zipped about.

We left at 07:00 and before we reached the green bridge, I heard Greenshank, but didn't even get time to get my bins on a group of 6 waders before they were lost behind was smaller, so who knows what was with them?

This addition puts me on 122 for the year and it was a good choice of morning to be out early.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Poised for a new August record species count

The last 2 year ticks for the park and the steady increases and additions all month have put August onto an equal 2nd place of all 97 species (made just last year) and with 99 being the record (in 2013) it seems very likely we will reach 100, or more.

Most likely candidates to come are;

Garganey - Lots of August records
Pintail - Frequent August records
Osprey - Frequent August records
Marsh Harrier - A number of August records
Water Rail - which may have already been heard
Dunlin - Numerous August records, although more early in the month
Ruff - 3 August records, 2 in recent years
Curlew - Numerous August records
Spotted Redshank - 6 August records
Wood Sandpiper - The weather we having now is good for this species
Tree Pipit - Always possible
Redstart - 3 out of previous 4 Augusts
Whinchat - Highly possible
Wheatear - Highly possible

There are plenty of wildcard possibilities too.

Keep them peeled guys and girls

With multiple Greenshank thru Farmoor this morning, I'd be happy to get call later today saying one is on LFGP.

Did I say the Black Tern appears to have gone today.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

3 strikes and you're out?

I am not used to missing too many birds on mt patch, but that is what has been happening this week, another Greenshank, what sounds like a Grasshopper Warbler just outside Ron's hide and yesterday an August Stonechat, which is unheard of.

The Little Egret count is thru the roof at 14 today and amazingly, the juv Black Tern is still at LFGP 9 days on, which might be 8 as Friday evenings bird may have been a different juv to the one seen on Saturday onwards, it matters little a Black Tern staying any number of days is unheard of too,

Today I did see 2 juv Bullfinch and 2 Hobby again today, over the car park field, yesterday I had 2 Hobby heading off SE from the South end of the golf course.

So  I'm 6 off the pace at 121 of 127, but to be frank am not sweating it just yet.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Where does the time go?

I haven't had many visits to the patch since Saturday, but I did get in about 1 and half hours at lunchtime yesterday, at the car park field and Bittern hide. With little in the sky I went for look over the landfill, hearing Ring-necked Parakeet, a few Swallows and House Martin over South, a Nuthatch to the East.

At Bittern 31 Gadwall, 2 Wigeon, but not much else.

As of today it looks as if I have missed 2 Greenshank in less than a week, singles going thru without stopping.....there's still time. Also today a possible Grasshopper Warbler near to the hide, but vanished before it was confirmed, plus a new park record of 12 Little Egrets and the Black Tern is still here....amazing.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Black Tern repeat

I was out around 07:15, checking BSL where I found nothing, a quick loop around the car park and again nothing, but I thought I heard Raven off to the East.

Off to LFGP and the first thing I saw was a juvenile Black Tern constantly on the move, up and down the lake. In the SW corner 4 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 3 Little Egret and the usual Lapwing flock.

I heard heavy earth moving equipment off to the North so went to investigate, 100 yards before the bailey bridge on the other side of the river, diggers were clearing the top soil and making large mounds. I know this is in preparation for depositing of mulched wood from the development, but I wasn't expecting it now.

I had recently enquired why the landscaping to make the nature reserve area as would best benefit the wildlife could not go ahead for some time yet. For those who don't know, it is because it was agreed that not until the 300th house was completed, that they would start the landscaping.

I will be making further enquiries as to why when the equipment is now there, that the conservation work cannot begin.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Drizzle & Easterly wind

Nothing had appeared before I left LFGP at 10:30 this morning, Marek had the autumn's first Wigeon on Sandford earlier, but I couldn't find them.

So I went home, only for Alan to call me saying Ringed Plover now in the SW corner, but not needing it, thought maybe later.

Then he called again saying "Black Tern?!" Okay I thought I'd better check it out and dashed down.

It was still flying around on arrival, except it was a juvenile Arctic Tern, not Black, still nice though and had even landed in front of the hide before I arrived. Alan shared these shots with me;

Then it flew into the SW corner and off South.

Meanwhile the Ringed Plover was still there and 3 more Green Sandpiper were joining the other 2 already there. Scanning around I noticed a wader on the North spit, having had a Green there earlier, I checked again and found it to be the autumn's first Snipe, so very nice.

4 Little Egret were highly active and overall my re-visit was well worth the effort and putting the park on 91 for August, means just 2 more to go to equal 3rd place for all Augusts.

Somewhat later I was about to look online for some ideas for a noodle dish and I refreshed Berksbirds, to find 3 Black Tern had been seen at LFGP around 15:35, exactly when I was at Sandford having a meeting with DPCS and the EA.

It was now 17:05 and Marek sent a text saying 1 Black Tern still present, so off I headed to LFGP for the third time. It was showing on arrival and stayed til 18:26 per my good friend Trevor, by which time another Ringed Plover had joined the first.

Marek took some shots of the Black Tern, it even landed giving an excellent comparison of the Arctic juv earlier

So quite a day for terns and reflected elsewhere in the County with more Black Terns and Little and Sandwich seen at Theale too.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Spot Fly & Owls success

Geoff and Les saw a Spotted Flycatcher by the feeder at LFGP, but it moved on and was not seen again. In my search, I arrived at the car park field to hear Little Owl, Richard, Les and Darren were on a juvenile sitting on the green barn guttering at the far left hand end. Great to have proof of breeding. The others also saw at least one Barn Owl chick in the box earlier.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Common Scoter...nice one Marek

Marek called me and again I wasn't up yet, this time a female Common Scoter was gracing BSL.

Dressed in no time, if you call joggies and t-shirt dressed, I went to BSL, speaking to Marek it had swam into the big bay, so I had to go round to view it from near Sandford, where it was looking fairly happy, but slightly nervous.

The last Common Scoter was a male on 18th March 2004, apart from the 3 March records and the May bird, there have been 2 other summer records, 1 female 4th to 7th June 1991 and another female 17th July 1989.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A few brief visits

I have been short on time to blog recently, but highlights this week have been an adult Garden Warbler in the bog Hawthorn, a couple of Whitethroat, a family of 3 Grey Wagtail in the sailing club car park..not the beach. I missed the last Black-tailed Godwit on the 5th. Up to 9 Little Egret have been seen at LFGP, a new August high count.

Today was bird walk and one or two nice things showed, first a Hobby hunting, then perched at Lavell's, offering a rare chance this year for a record shot. 1 was seen briefly later at LFGP too.

7 Shoveler on Tern scrape, was a little jump up from 2 yesterday and 1 all week, 22 Gadwall there too.

At LFGP, Alan, Geoff and others were watching a Redshank, which turns out to be only the second ever August record. Alan also informed me he had a Common Gull yesterday and if correct would be the first ever August record.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Belated photos from Andy fault not his

One or two people asked me to post the fab photos Andy Burns took of the Mediterranean Gull and the Sanderling, as not everyone is on Facebook;

And the Sanderling

Green Sandpipers galore

When Brian sent his first text to say 7 Green Sandpiper, I thought 'nice', as the count grew from 8, to 9, 10 then finally 11, I was very interested in seeing this new record count....but I was tied up until lunchtime.

Luckily the count just kept getting bigger, Geoff counting 14, Brian and I reaching 13, 4 more than the previous record of 9/2nd August 1993.

We rarely get flocks like yesterday's, so here are the big count days for Green Sandpipers, starting with the highest;

14/3rd Aug 2015

9/4th Aug 2015
9/2nd Aug 1993

8/1st July 1993
8/4th Aug 1994
8/2nd Aug 1998

7/27th Aug 1982
7/17th Aug 1986
7/14th Mar 1993
7/21st Aug 1993
7/2nd, 13th & 28th July 1994
7/2nd Sept 1999

6/17th Aug 1985
6/4th & 30th July 1992
6/29th July & 6/1st & 4th Aug 1998
6/27th July, 6/10th Sept 1999

5/18th Aug 1982
5/14th Mar 1983
5/12th & 15th Aug 1986
5/1st & 18th Aug 1991
5/23rd & 25th June 1992
5/1st July 1994
5/27th Mar 1995
5/9th July 1995
5//14th, 27th & 28th July & 5/11th & 15th Aug 1998
5/2nd April, 5/24th July, 5/3rd to 7th Aug 1999

1999 was the last time we hit counts of 5, 6 & 7, but 4/29th December 2001 was the last time the high count got above 3...until this year. The pattern of records has been increasing again since 2006....when we got LFGP!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

August a month of many stories

A two hour visit today got Nuthatch, Ring-necked Parakeet on to the month list straight away, 2 Common and 1 Green Sandpiper at LFGP was typical.

A discussion I had with Brian led me to highlight the array of Wood Warbler reports, which few long term DP listers have been able to connect with;

1/1st Aug 1982 - Reported via ROC newsletter (OU)
1/12th Aug & 13th 1983 - North Sandford )Lavell's) On Sandford Mill land for 3 mins 7.20am (FJC & DF), again 13th (Mike Collins & Kevin Templeman)
1/17th May 1984 - Singing (RJC), then 1/13th  July (MC & KT)
1/21st April 1992 - Singing just off park along Colemansmoor Road (PA et al), then another 23rd (MJ Hallam) and then 1/3rd May Sandford (Patrick Crowley)
1/22nd April 1998 - Middle Marsh (Patrick Crowley)
1/25th April 2003 - Lavell's (K Creed) and 1/9th Aug (John Tilbrook)

I guess my opinion doesn't matter, but as it's my blog I get the freedom to say what I like and I doubt a number of these records. I will look into the first report when I have time to read my old Berks reports.

I have doubts about the July 1984 record and don't know much about Patrick's records, so I'll ask him, but I don't believe Kevin's 2003 bird either.

Overall it's a messy affair.

Over the coming days I'll post more about August delights from years gone by, not all of them were delights for me.