Thursday, 31 December 2015

An inspiring last day of the year

I woke around 07:00 and lay there thinking I should get up and go out early for a change. After umming and ahhing for 15 minutes I got up and went straight out, thinking a Barn Owl might still be possible in the half light.

As it happens it wasn't, but undeterred I went into Bittern hide and scanned around, A Water Rail was scampering along the reed edge heading towards the hide, the usual number of Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 11 Pochard, the female Red Crested Pochard, then joined by the male no doubt flying in from Sandford - hopefully they won't disappear overnight due to new years eve fireworks.

Not much else showing I went over to check Sandford, another 7 Pochard and again a good stock of Wigeon and Gadwall, with many more Wigeon on BSL. I put in a cursory look for Goldeneye, but decided the car park field was my preferred option.

And I'm glad I did, after 10 minutes of not much more than a single Great Black-backed Gull, I picked up a distant flock off birds in my bins and needed the scope to confirm a nice flock of about 300 Golden Plover, from where I stood at recently expanded landfill viewing area at the bottom of the car park field, they were well left of the typical area I pick them up, pretty much directly behind Ron's hide, my guestimate was that they were over Thames Valley Park area and heading SW.

I sent out Tweets and WhatsApp messages and when I looked up again I could no longer pick them up. I scanned around the landfill for other species, a Mistle Thrush, a Nuthatch called near Lea Farm, but nothing else really. I scanned one more time and saw the Goldies again, but this time they were nearer and the flock had grown massively, to around a 1000+ in one spread out flock and moving back and forth, seemingly reluctant to move on. I reached for my phone to update the Tweets and WhatsApp messages, when I noticed 5 large wildfowl coming in over the landfill heading slowly SW, bins up and they were December "how weird and cool is that I said".

The Shelduck were gone quickly so I went back to the Goldies and watched them for another 10 minutes, but they never got any closer, the flock splintered a few times, but always converged again, the last time I saw them they were considerably further to the NW so somewhat beyond Play Hatch.

The Goldie flock is the biggest by three fold of any count I've had, or ever heard of around DP, the Shelducks were the first December ones since 1 on 22nd 1984, along with 3/15th & 2/22nd 1981.

There have been 3 November records in recent years, 2008, 2010 & 2011, so you could say a December record was looking likely, except that since 2012 Shelduck records have plummeted.

So I went away very happy and excited about 1st January 2016, hope I see lots of you local out there tomorrow. I am sure the Bittern is going to be a right pain to see, I can't do dusk tomorrow, but will be out Saturday and Sunday evening.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Another dusk, but a different result

After Brian texted me to report the Bittern at Teal scrape 11:20, I got there 20 minutes later and it had not showed again.

I went back at 15:30 and met Alan, a Little Egret was on the bund, 2 Cetti's called, 3, possibly 4 Water Rail too. Small groups of Redwing, the odd Reed Bunting all came in, 1-2 Fieldfare.

The egret left 16:11 and another flew over South 16:21, then as we were about to give up, out came the Bittern from the near left and flew to the back of the scrape, dropped and was gone! An amazing 6-8 second view awesome.

But I'm happy just to have seen it in December, it looked like a fairly rich rufous coloured bird, plus I've never known of a Bittern roosting other than on the main island, so it's a first for me.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Quiet afternoon

I got out for the last one and half hours of light, all around Lavell's, the highlights were 1 Fieldfare, 2 Greylag, 1 Little Egret, 1 Little Grebe and all the usual ducks and Water Rail.....and no Bittern.

The Teal were displaying well and I tried pretty much in vain to capture some video of the full display including the tail point at the end. After I posted it the quality was even worse, so maybe I'l open a youtube account and post it up there.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Preparing for 2016

I got out for about 2 hours again today, I didn't cover as much ground as I had hoped, but got side tracked into checking Wigeon on Sandford, also finding the pair of Red Crested Pochard in the process.

I didn't count any of the ducks, but there were pretty big numbers of Gadwall and Wigeon present, still a good wedge on Lavell's, but much of the surface weed having been eaten, less and less ducks are there now. Teal and Shoveler, but no Pintail visible.

At Teal scrape, lots of Water Rail activity, but no Bittern for me still.

I am not quite on a count down to 2016, especially bearing in mind a year tomorrow I found 3 Bewick's Swans on LFGP. Not that I expect any repeats, but I last minute Woodcock, or Bittern has to be possible.

I do hope all 3 of unusual duck species are on for January 1st, as no one can be convince me that the Ferruginous having a ring makes it an escape, if it is present I shall be year ticking it.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

A chance to get out

I managed a walk at last, only for two hours and didn't really cover much ground. At LFGP there was just 30 Teal and a flock of about 200 Lapwing. Whilst at Ron's I noticed someone had written on the white board 'Bittern 23rd Dec' but no name, nothing in the log itself, so nearly as useful as a chocolate tea pot. Is it too much to ask for people to write a time, their initials or name? Or heavens forbid it, actually share the news with other people? Or am I being old fashioned?

Anyway, back to today...I headed to Teal hide and sat for nearly an hour scanning over and over, but saw no Bittern, lots of trodden reeds, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and head 2 and saw a third Water Rail. On the way out a small flock of around 12-15 Siskin landed, then headed off North. On to Sandford and a good number of duck, but nowt special, I did have a Great Black-backed Gull over, so added one for the month list.

December's tally is 79, 4 more and it equals top 3 position of 2009's 83. We are missing Kestrel, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Med Gull, Woodcock, Peregrine, Barn Owl, Little Owl and despite the warm weather something could still show up over this last week of the year.

After I got home, I just read a Bittern was seen at Teal scrape, again the observer chose not to record a time, not very useful, but better than not reporting it at all.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Not a BTO Ferruginous

I contacted the BTO asking if they rang Ferruginous Ducks, they do, but only sadly only 4 ever, the last in 2004, so not our bird.

No news from the WWT so far, but let's keep our fingers crossed my email arrives in the inbox of someone who knows and cares.

No news today, but I hope to get an hour out tomorrow, at the very least to admire our new landfill viewing area. It's no great achievement, just a little more space for a few more people.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Ferruginous Photos

I went back and found the Ferruginous today, vary wary as usual, but managed these shots, not many are very good and several are not in focus, but I feel they capture various poses and features to underline the authenticity of the species.

On Sandford I found a very Scaup faced Tufted, but it wouldn't stop diving and only got one rubbish shot of it.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

December's interesting ducks

This autumn has already been rather interesting from a duck perspective, but when I arrived yesterday late afternoon it went one notch even better, with a nice female Red Crested Pochard preening in the dying light.

It's nothing to get too excited about, but with our Ferruginous Duck on it's 17th day today and the female Pintail now present for 34 days, it's kind of pleasant to have a good wedge of the County's best birds all within walking distance.

My stay yesterday was also for another attempt to find Bittern and Woodcock and Barn Owl, but I saw none of them. My second trip to WSL in a week also failed to produce Bittern there, so as much as I don't want to accept it, it could be that we just don't have a staying one so far.

WSL did provide the little Starling roost of around 700+ birds, which even on a small scale they still managed to show off some nice murmuration shapes.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Genuine Ferruginous, not quite a rant in defence of the facts

I deliberately didn't put '?' as my feelings are not in the slightest inclination to question either the authenticity of the purity of our birds genes, nor it's origins.

We can never be 100% sure, but that is more or less true of nearly all, if not all Ferruginous Ducks that occur in Berkshire, unless a colour ringed bird can be traced to it's origins.

So, and I do not mean to sound defensive, there would be no point, but why have some people in the bird news community decided to slate this bird as escaped because it has a ring?

Do they know something I don't, did they somehow see the tiny numbers and letters on it's BTO type ring? No of course they didn't, it is just easier to make negative assumptions. But why I have no idea?

I have looked at all the reasons and arguments for it to be considered a hybrid and none of them add up, it is a genuine Ferruginous, most probably an adult male just completing it's moult from eclipse.

It doesn't especially add more argument to it being wild, but there is a fair bit to read if one wants to and evidence of bonfide ringing of wild birds...of course.

And on to ringed birds, which there is little data:

The latter link reveals no birds have been recovered since 2010.

The following link is a 51 page study on the European conservation program in 2006

More data at

Birdguides historic records

If you subscribe to ResearchGate you can download another study here

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Ferruginous strikes again 6 years and 4 days after my last find

Having barely been on my patch recently, I was abundantly aware I was unlikely to find something good on my random 30 minute visits. So this afternoon, my wife said, "go on, you've been dying to get out" and despite a reluctance, I went, thinking I'll cover the 3 main lakes at the North end.

I arrived in the layby at Sandford and lifting my bins noticed a group of Pochard, thinking back to my conversation with Brian yesterday, about noticing an influx of Pochard and that led me to finding a male Ferruginous Duck in 2009.

So I raised my tripods legs, began scanning and immediately found this rather chestnut coloured duck asleep under what I refer to as the Little Egret tree.

It remained asleep, but I felt it was an obvious Ferruginous, then it did wake and pop it's head up for about 2 seconds, nice shape and bill detail.

Then as folks began to arrive it eventually woke up and began preening, revealing a BTO ring on it's left leg and some spots around the breast.

Then it jumped of the branch and swam around, Dave Rimes got some shots of it's underwing during a little flap and it seemed like we all felt it was a real and not hybrid individual.

A link here shows an identical underwing to that captured by David -

Now I've had time to update my records, I can also add that this bird was my 130th for my patch this year, so the 6th year on the trot I have reached the 130's. We now know it has vanished too, so identically to 2009, it was a one day bird..I suppose it could show up again, but doubt it will. I hope to put in some soon time to try and connect with that Firecrest and maybe find a Bittern at WSL?