Saturday, 31 December 2016

Out of time

A last 2 attempts today failed to produce that all important one more species for 2016. I am not unhappy it's been a great year for me, for many I think.

At LFGP today, new in a rare December Shelduck in the SW corner til dark, 2 Jack Snipe, 29+ Snipe, Little Egret, Cetti's and Water Rail should hopefully all be available tomorrow to help kick off another year list. Will I find that Ferruginous?

The Shelduck was new for December, making a new high count of 87, beating the old 2010 record by one.

The month species total counts went like this;

New or = 1st place :

January - 90
March - 99
May - 96 (= 2012)
June - 90
October - 99
December - 87

New or = 2nd place :

February - 88 (= 2008)
August - 101
September - 102
November - 86

New 3rd place :

April - 108

Happy New Year everyone, I hope the fireworks end abruptly.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A last minute bird?

I have been too busy to post, but have been grabbing the odd 30-60 minute visit, Jack Snipe the other day at LFGP to prove to myself one was still around, but now 3 attempts have not got me the Ferruginous. Yesterday I was waiting near the North end of Heron's Water and heard a 'different call'.

My brain said "did that call go up in pitch or down?", and the bird repeated itself ..."down then". So if it wasn't a Coal Tit what was it? Does Coal Tit call ever fall, rather than rise?

I am not ruling out Marsh Tit yet and spent the last hour of good light searching Middle Marsh and Heron's Water. No joy.

WSL and all looked good for Bittern, a bird showed bang in the middle 16:07 but while I was 'WhatsApp'ing it, lost it, only to find a bird well left minutes later. This bird was very alert and kept peering, stretching, etc. It flew back to the right, landing just left of in line with the only pale tree trunk. I think it is likely there is two.

David Rimes seeing Peregrine on 24th puts December =1st best, there's time to add another one, a Skylark, Ruff, Goosander, Woodcock, Smew, Firecrest, Brambling.....

Friday, 16 December 2016

Best birds gone missing

I've checked up and down WSL for the Ferruginous, but no sign and there has been no sign of the Scaup since Sunday. Same for Jack Snipe, but it is likely one is still present somewhere.

I've done a couple of dusks, one at Teal, one at Bittern, but nothing to report.

Today, a Coal Tit on the feeders opposite side of Loddon, so 84 for December, but still missing Great Black-backed Gull.

Big flock of 186 Teal yesterday, many flushed off by a juvenile Buzzard on the bund again. 31 Snipe today, 120+ Teal.

Berksbirds is saying a flock of Waxwing in Maidenhead, gives us hope we might get on yet this winter, but I'm not hopeful as we don't have much Mountain Ash, no Sorbus, or Pyracantha, etc.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

No change

Lea Farm offered nothing really, well the Red Kite perched opposite the hide on the Loddon was nice.

Lavell's had 41+ Snipe, the ducks well spread out, so I decided not to try and count them.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

I can't help myself

Work prospects in 2017 will change my daily and weekly cycle, but until that become a certainty, I cannot help myself but play out my first few days of January.

I like to get out fairly early and plan to do so again, 2016 had me on 63 by the end of my Jan 1st, 68 by 2nd, 71 by 3rd, 75 by 9th and by month end I was on 83, somewhat of a record for me.

I always think ahead "I wonder what great birds I'll see this year" and it is rare I get predictions right and certainly would never have predicted Nightjar in any year, so for me 2016's star bird had to be that. But perhaps because I had become obsessed with Little Stint, that this little beauty also brings so much pleasure...I'm still gutted it didn't stay for friends to see.

Then there's the Tree Pipit on the deck, that hasn't happened in about 30 years, not forgetting the Ring Ouzel, again 28 years since the last one.

In many respects 2016, like 2014, feels like a year of long overdue repeats, or second chances and I am one happy bunny, with one more to go for that unbelievable life list of 200.

My top new DP lifer predictions as wrong as they might be, remain;

Great Northern Diver
Green-winged Teal
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Common Crane
Little Bittern
Long-eared Owl
Great Reed Warbler

If 2014 and 2016 were indicators of how life really pans out, then long awaited patch ticks for me should include;

Red Throated Diver
Cattle Egret
Long Tailed Duck
Red Breasted Merganser
Red Footed Falcon
Curlew Sandpiper
Grey Phalarope
Iceland Gull
Marsh Warbler

And it makes me wonder

No excitement, but a pleasant walk to the North side today, LFGP - 2 Little Egret, 15+ Fieldfare and 50+ Redwing in the trees opposite the green bridge, a Goldfinch flock of around 40, 12-13 Snipe, 9 Herring Gull, 19 Common Gull, a few Wigeon and Gadwall.

On Sandford I could not pick out the Scaup, 40-50 Pochard and 30-40 Tufties. Lavell's 33 Snipe, 100+ Teal, 90+ Shoveler.

Finishing my loop, I was sort of checking crests and saw the Chiffchaff in the trees near the yellow gate.

So month wise, we are missing Coal Tit and Great Black-backed Gull, but we are already on 83 equal 3rd with 2009 and 2015, with 86 being the record, it is surely highly possible we can pass that.

December candidates are numerous, most obviously Goosander and Smew, but others include Red Crested Pochard, Peregrine, Ruff, Curlew, Dunlin, Firecrest, other swans, or geese,...even Lesser Redpoll and whilst rare Merlin and Yellowhammer are not out of the question.

Keeping on going

I went out into the gloomy grey morning, checking yet again for a stray Goosander, yet again compelled to do WSL and while I'm at it, find that Ferruginous again.

But I didn't see either and having even checked Tufties Corner South of WSL, am wondering where the hell the Fudge has gone. Could it be on Redwood Lake? Or 'The Moors' South of that? I'll try and check over the Christmas period, but with Rick seeing it on WSL a few days ago it has to be local somewhere??

Little to mention on the whole walk, couldn't find the Scaup, Lavell's had a nice count of Teal, at least 120-130, 100+ Shoveler.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

A grey birdless hour

What a difference a day makes, Lea Farm nowt, Sandford a few Pochard and Tufties, Lavell's - 16 Snipe and overall less of all the ducks.

Blimey, hope there's more on the bird walk tomorrow.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Scaup picture fest

After doing a loop around Sandford, BSL and WSL, seeing nothing, I headed to Lavell's, Grey Wagtail in the meadow, then barely sat down a gent said "is this the Scaup?". Yes it was and over the next 45 minutes it showed very well, allowing lots of photo opportunities, catching it at all angles.

Jack Snipe was there, but not showing well.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Long awaited repeat

I was out checking Lea Farm GP, after yesterday's fogged out day, 1 Little Egret, 1 Jack Snipe, little else, I then got a shot of a Fieldfare above Teal hide, which I was happy with.

Walking back I got a WhatsApp from Martin that a Tweet had gone out about a Scaup on Sandford, so I headed straight there and was soon looking at a male in the final stages of moulting from eclipse.

It dived constantly, so was near impossible to photograph with an iPhone.

It had the green sheen on the head, big billed and was a bigger than Tufted, so it is clear this is not a hybrid.

The last Scaup was August 4th 2009 and a 1st Winter male in 2008 Feb 17th to 25th.

So the full history of Scaup:

7th Dec 2016 - Adult male Sandford (Ian Paine at al)
4th Aug 2009 - female BSL, moved to LFGP (FJC, TAG, et al)
17th to 25th Feb 2008 - 1st Winter male Sandford (MFW et al)
28th Feb 2000 - No details (observer unknown)
3rd Jan 1999 - female (JJW)
11th Aug 1996 - 2 Lavell's (observer unknown)
14th Aug 1990 - No details (observer unknown)
2nd & 10th Jan 1989 - female BSL (FJC - 1988 bird)
24th Mar to 15th Apr 1989 - 1st summer male Sandford (many observers)
8th Oct 1989 - No details (observer unknown)
24th to 27th Nov 1988 - 1st year female BSL (P Ball)
22nd Oct 1986 - Eclipse male BSL (FJC)
21st Oct to 10th Nov 1985 - Sub adult male BSL (TAG et al), then 4/11th original bird joined by 2 females and immature male, last female seen 16th Dec

A mixed history indeed, the usual 'OU's' for records, but even in the few records we have these do not stand out as odd dates, so I believe they are all genuine records.

The notable point is the 8 year break from 2000 to 2008, then 7 more to today's bird.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Freeze continues

I only had time for a shorter loop around the sailing club and Lavell's this morning, 12 Common Gull with 1000+ BH's there, I checked for Med without success.

A Meadow Pipit on the wires of the car park field caught my attention, it dropped to the car park but then flew off South. A 10 minute look down the landfill, brought 3 Raven almost immediately, this time coming in from the NNE and flying straight down the East side of the landfill, before peeling off more Easterly beyond Lea Farm, The Little Owl was no doubt warming itself in the Oak left of Lea Farm.

At Bittern hide, much water was frozen and another 600-1000 BH Gulls were gathered, another 6 Common Gull and at least 8 large gulls too, one took my eye and here are the shots, none are great.

My thinking was 2nd winter Yellow-legged, as the tertials were not in keeping with a Herring of that age, but it doesn't look very dark grey, nor does it have a particularly big bill. I am out of practice with large gulls because we get so on the deck few these days.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Pushing for a good month

I was out around 08:10 on the way along the path I spooked 3 Little Grebe and they flew down river.

At Lea Farm G.P. 50-60 Redwing in groups of 10-15  were on the move North, 2 Mistle Thrush, 3 Fieldfare and then 10 Meadow Pipit on the far landfill, this is a good flock for December. All but the Redwing were month additions.

3-4 Parakeet landed high up on the East side, I couldn't find one Snipe though. As I exited the hide< i heard that call again, but seeing a Song Thrush flying away have to assume it was that!

Nowt doing at Lavell's, but checking the landfill from the car park field, 25+ Golden Plover were circling back and forth the usual air space.

Tonight I went to WSL and at 16:00 had about my worst views of Bittern ever, it never moved and stayed low.

Back at Lavell's by 16:20 and 100 Shoveler and 96 Teal were close to the hide, by 16:35 I heard 4 Snipe leave, but hadn't seen one when in the hide.

We are already on 79, just one behind 2014's total December species count, only 4 more to reach 83 and 3rd place = with 2009 and 2015. As far as I am aware we are missing Grey Wagtail, Kestrel, Coal Tit and Great Black-backed Gull, so it won't take much to get us even higher up the podium....86 is the record from 2010.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Blue to grey

The last two days of bitter frosts and bright blue skies, to grey and cool, but my walk down to Lea Farm G.P. was not dull at all.

Before I even got into Ron's hide, I heard a call that stopped me in my tracks, a sharp and high pitched note, "sweep" note similar to Robin, but I am convinced it wasn't that. I am inclined to believe it was a Hawfinch, but cannot be 100% sure. It sounded like it was moving about quite close, but I never even saw a movement, other than Robins and Blackbirds, so I cannot rule out it being one of them giving an unusual call....but I doubt it.

Here is a link to a Hawfinch call matching what I heard

So into the hide and I picked up a female Pintail lifting off and heading left, but rather than it going away strongly I suspect it stayed local. 2 Little Egrets were pinging about. The 2 Raven went over SE and kept going, albeit with a sluggish flight so again they must be local too.

Nothing more doing, I left the hide and felt that lingering outside the hide might give me a chance at hearing the odd call again. No luck, but I scoped a flock of Goldfinch just beyond the river junction and found a single female Siskin, which are very thin on the ground so far this winter.

As I approached the layby I checked 2 birds in the last Willow at the path junction and 2 male Blackcap met my eyes. I am not sure I've seen 2 Blackcap at DP ever in December.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Podium place November

So November is behind us, we missed out on Lesser Redpoll, Peregrine and no confirmed sightings of Little or Barn Owl, although both owls almost certainly present.

There is a serious lack of winter finches and thrushes, so getting the month anywhere near the record of 86 is going to be tough. The hard frosts have not made any impact so far, in bringing anything new in, but the pair of Mandarin on WSL today, is only the 3rd ever December record, so worthy of a rubbish record shot.

I found them under the trees on the East side, looking for the Ferruginous, which was nowhere to be found for the second day, fingers crossed it does show up again.

A Chiffchaff in the NW corner of Sandford, is another one not seen in December 2015, Parakeets, seem to be permanent around the car park and to the East for now....wait til 1st Jan!

So November finished on 86, one more than 85 in 2015, stealing 2nd place and two more than 2010 & 2013's 3rd place.

The year is 139, =4th place with 1984 & 2011.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

2 Jack City

I did a circuit of Lea Farm - nowt but a Little Egret, Sandford - nothing at all, WSL - Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufties, BSL, Tufties and 20-30 Pochard, 1-2 Wigeon and finally Lavell's, which was by far the best site - 2 Jack Snipe, at opposite ends of the scrape and looking pretty similar in colouration and plumage. Have we ever had 3 this winter, I am not sure but doubt it.

I spent a while just taking shots of various things in wonderful bright light, with -10 or lower last night the frost was pretty hard and lingering, so offered some chances to play with light effects, not that most, if any came out.

I took just one half decent shot of the nearer Jack Snipe

If it comes out, I took a clip of it bobbing too

This is the third day in a row I've seen a Jack Snipe at Tern scrape

Sunday, 27 November 2016

If we could read that ring

The Ferruginous Duck on Middle Marsh has a ring and let's face it the likelihood of another Ferruginous choosing that lake as a nice place to hang out, was statistically impossible so it must be our original bird returning.

But one can't help wondering where it went and if only we could get the ring number, that would reveal a thing or two.

It makes me grumpy hearing people making the assumption that a ring means escaped, it proves nothing.

So today was work party and just minutes before more wildfowl went over, with at least 4 being Pintail. Jack told me during the work party another flock went over earlier.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Cold and foggy start - but amazing afternoon

I went straight to Lea Farm GP and it was fairly thick fog, which just got worse over the 25 minutes I lingered. I moved on due to the cold and at Bittern hide counted the Shoveler once again, still around 120, 45 Pochard dropped in with Tufties.

Checking the scrape I easily picked up a Jack Snipe, with at least 16 Common, but conditions were not conducive for a good shot

A male Pochard sat close allowing a nice shot, plus the juvenile Great Crested Grebe was worth a try too

On Sandford another 37 Pochard and 3 female Goldeneye, then as I was greeting Richard and Gill a flock of about 80+ Wigeon came in from the South, heading for LFGP.

I had family engagements around lunchtime, so when Steve's text came in saying 'Ferruginous Duck Middle Marsh' I was eager to get back and see it.

On my way over around 14:25, I was driving along Mohawk Way and about to turn right into Sandford Lane, when I saw a flock of 'somethings' in a tight cluster, moving away. I decided I would go beyond Sandford Lane and pulled up in front of the new houses, quickly jumping out I could see half the flock vanishing as I reached for my bins.

I was fully expecting to see Golden Plover, but all I could make out was 40+ ducks moving quickly with no obvious wing markings...not surprising at the range they were by now. I thought 'probably Wigeon again'.

I'd pulled up in the lay-by and was half way along the West side of Sandford when Jules and Jack's WhatsApp message came in "100 Pintail over LFGP North". Hmmm I thought!

Onward to Middle Marsh calling Jules on the way, she told me Jack had some pictures and were now heading to Middle Marsh too.

Trevor was still on site and we quickly found the Ferruginous Duck again, here are my latest shots, none are any good at all

Jack and Jules did arrive and I got them on the Ferruginous and then Jack showed me the shots, unquestionably Pintail, 40+ in one shot, 30+ in another, amazing.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Shoveler highs

The claims of an enormous number of Shoveler were partly proven today, I did 2 counts of the flock on Lavell's, reaching 172 and 151, which is quite a disparity. So if we opt for the fact that several swam around the island, we can say it was somewhere in the middle. Either way 151 is a new record by about 20.

The Pochard were split between Lavell's (37) and Sandford (50), no big numbers of anything else, the Teal being hardest to count as they were all tucked in to the flooded lake edges.

8 Fieldfare over NW was about all.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Black Swans

Simon Bartlam first notified me of 2 Black Swans on LFGP this morning, but I was tied up all morning. They had moved to Lavell's, but gone by the time I arrived, Geoff told me there was a huge flock of Shoveler, half of which left before my arrival. I counted 116, then 1 more on Sandford and Heron's Water, but no other flocks.

On Lavell's there were 27 Pochard, on Sandford there were another 38, so 65 is the highest count this autumn, 2 Goldeneye and 130+ Tufted Duck.

At Lea Farm I finally found the Black Swans, where my second Great Black-backed Gull in two days went over too.

We think the last Black Swan was in 2007.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Benefits of flooding

I managed a 30 minute trip around the car park and Bittern hide this afternoon and was happy to see a Great Black-backed Gull heading North towards Sonning pits and a then a flock of about 10 finches, most likely Linnet heading over Tern Meadow, East.

At the hide the Shoveler were very close, a female just yards away, begging for a picture

A little further away were several more asleep

I was scanning thru all the ducks, about 80+ Shoveler in all, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, then a few Snipe tucked in around the reed piles, but then a Shoveler caught my eye due to it's pale appearance and I got one decent shot of it before it vanished into the reeds while feeding.

It got me reading about aging Northern Shoveler, but I have to say in this case I am none the wiser, because the undertail coverts are all white.

The article I read is here

The bird in question

P.S. 24th Nov
I wrote an email to Peter Pyle in the U.S. and he very kindly replied quickly to say he agreed it was an adult female, a darker bill than might be expected, but certainly a leucistic individual and despite the unusual white under tail coverts, unlikely to be a hybrid.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The theory seems to be looking correct

At Bittern hide last night I'd just missed the Starlings come in to roost, I said that I'd read Bitterns are rather partial to a Starling or two, so if you have a roost, you may not have Bitterns present.

Armed with those thoughts and it's failure to show at Lavell's, I headed down to WSL tonight, no Starlings, but indeed a Bittern moving around the usual middle area from 16:20. Light fading fast it appeared mid phase in colour, so neither pale, or dark, but no way of telling if it was the Teal scrape individual.

I am glad to see one so early in the winter, I just love Bitterns!

2 Water Rail, 1 Cetti's also heard, plus 1 of each at Sandford, where quite a lot of Shoveler were too.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Expected arrival

I had done my loop yesterday and seen very little to speak of, when Steve texted to say 'Bittern near Teal Scrape', it took me over 30 minutes to get there, by which time the little tinker had flown to the back left of the scrape and was not seen again.

My best birds were 4 probable Golden Plover moving West.

This morning I was out in the frosty conditions around 07:20, LFGP offered a few Snipe, a few Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall and Lapwing, 1 Little Egret huddled up in the SW corner looked cold.

I took a shot of the moon and why not nearly everyone else has been lately

On to check Teal hide, others had been there early with no sign.

Bittern hide was more fruitful, 128 Shoveler, 58 Teal, 25 Snipe.

The car park field was almost birdless, but a look over the landfill rewarded me with a large flock of Golden Plover, as usual moving back and forth in front of Bowsey Hill, I estimate it was around 350-400 and at times spread over a wide area.

Brian arrived, I got him on the flock and then about 40+ of them broke away and came SE, passing just beyond Lea Farm buildings, so nice views by our standards. Annoyingly, the camera focused on the nearby bushes, but I left the shot in as an indicator of size of the flock, this is only 60-70% of the flock originally in view.

While all this was going on, I watched 2 Little Egret heading in from the North, but hey kept going over Lavell's.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Waiting for the cold

The day before yesterday I found the Jack Snipe asleep at the base of one of the reed piles again, no decent picture was achieved.

On the path from the car park to Bittern hide were a minimum of 6 Goldcrest, then at Sandford 4 Goldeneye, comprising 3 females and 1 male, the latter being the male with dusky flanks. 3 males had been seen on Sunday, so there is some passage going on.

Yesterday 31 Snipe on Tern scrape, 50 Teal and a lone Little Egret.

I'll be going out shortly and as the temperature is falling, hope more ducks will be arriving and will as always check every Athya for Scaup, Ferruginous, etc. and other grebes.

Yesterday I went all the way along the inner side of WSL, back on the West side of BSL, round to Lavell's and Sandford. Not much to speak of really, a Chiffchaff along the West side of Sandford, no Goldeneye, about 20 Wigeon and 20 Gadwall and 10+ Tufted on WSL.

I was keeping tabs on Goldcrest, 2-3 in various places, 4 in the Southern bay of BSL, as it was a bit windy I wasn't lingering anywhere, but I certainly think a minimum of 12-13 and bearing in mind I had 6 on Lavell's alone the other day, I certainly think the total, should one cover the entire park, would be in excess of 25. I'd need to get my bike out to cover all the 'unwatched' spots, such as by the The Eastern edge of the golf course, all around the DP centre, Middle Marsh, Tufties Corner down to the footbridge near the cinema, then up to Mortimer's Meadow, tricky to cover there without doubling back because the Loddon path is one route, then all the old orchard area near Redwood Close on the outer Western edge, then around the aviation museum and back to Lavell's.

The Pochard were clustered on Lavell's, as were the Teal, 80+ Shoveler too, but not a single Snipe, so perhaps the farmer was out tending his cows and scared them all off?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Jack where we can see him properly

Waiting for the bird walk to start, I was chatting away, when someone said "Egret", I turned as it flew over mid way over the car park right to left and over the Oak. My brain was in chaos as I tried to get scale and reconcile the long legs held out behind it...but it was just a bit too brief.

My instinct says Great White, as it looked a lot bigger, longer wings held out straight not bowed and much longer trailing legs, and it's flight was not the buoyant flaps of the Little's we see daily around the area. So we headed for Bittern hide to find nothing.

The rain yesterday has pushed up the water levels (and still rising), so on further inspection during the bird walk, there was a Jack Snipe on the bund, then climbing up the pile of stacked reeds, placing itself higher than all the other surrounding Common Snipe....something I've never seen before.

102 Shoveler on Lavell's was worthy of a mention.

LFGP did not produce the Great White either, 232 Lapwing, 31 Cormorant, 30 Gadwall, c30 Teal, c40 Wigeon, Nuthatch, Water Rail.

As we got to Sandford all the Athya's arrived, 135 Tufted, 3 Goldeneye (2m), 30 Pochard, so I'll be keeping an eye on them from now on for something exciting.