Sunday, 31 January 2016

Quick wet walk on the golf course

It's been very busy for me lately, but I finally got out after 09:30 today and decided to try for Lesser Redpoll. The drizzle was bearable and I headed up the West side, all the way to the metal food cabin, then continued around past the DP main centre and off to the East corner....nothing.

As I began the return on the East side, I picked up a Great Black-backed Gull going South, then a flock of Goldfinch caught my eye and landed in the Silver Birches to my left and I heard a Lesser Redpoll song, quickly picking up 4 females and a male.

A nice Fieldfare refused to move, so I had to take a snap of him/her too.

As with the start of the walk, I had to contend with dog walkers without their pets on leads, in just 45 minutes I saw over 10 dogs, not a single one on a lead. It put me in a bad mood so I marched on to the car park field, where a Nuthatch showed very closely, then Bullfinch. I did a quick scan of the landfill, checking the visible Lapwing just in case a Ruff was with them, but no luck. I suddenly realised I was starving so left immediately, my year list one more than when I arrived, on 83.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

n,n,n,n,n,n, 90, 90

Showing my age to try and make a point here.

Richard was a clever chap to see 2 Skylark over LFGP recently, it put the park year list on 89 and in touching distance of 90. And happily Martin Seward couldn't sleep and was at Teal hide this morning around 06:00 to hear 2 Tawny Owl, making the 90 mark for the first time ever.

This only leaves June as the one month we have never broken the 90 mark, but we should have already. In 2010, we hit 87, but were missing Peregrine, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Cetti's Warbler, Goldcrest, or Mistle Thrush. Although we did get Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Ringed Plover, Common & Green Sandpiper, Coal Tit and Linnet.

Then in 2012 we hit 87 again, but had no records of Little Owl, Cetti's Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit, or Linnet. But did record Garganey, Shoveler, Quail, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker & Stonechat. Not counted was an unconfirmed report of Green Sandpiper.

I am barking on about this, because I think it testifies that the DP area is an amazing place to be a local patcher, where even on a casual basis one can see well over 100 species a year. I shall be working hard this June to put the records straight and get all months in the 90 mark.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Bitterns a plenty

I was busy from mid morning til nearly 16:00 and in the meantime, it sounded like several people were treated to at least 2 Bittern flying around Lavell's. The pictures emerging seem to suggest neither bird seen at Lavell's today is the WSL individual.

If you aren't on Facebook I can't share the photos Martin sent me, but Martin Seward's shots are very good and show of a well marked and pale bird, with a more or less red eye.

Geoff Emmett's shot is heavily cropped, but appears to be a slightly darker, but still pale marked bird and even though it is not very clear the eye does appear to be more yellow, or pale orange. Gavin Turner caught a nice shot of what I am assuming is the same bird in flight, it has what I would call traditionally dark copper primaries.

The WSL bird, which I could not find tonight is much darker and is too far away to really tell eye colour, but even my recent shot seemed to point to a more red eye colour.

The long and short of it it that we appear to have 3 Bittern, first time since 2012, so we can hope to see them all for at least a month. We should pay attention to their colour phases, as it remains unclear if either of the Lavell's birds, were the one that was seen at WSL on the 19th.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that the Shelduck was species number 88 for January and a new record, mine is on 82, with Barn Owl giving me the most trouble considering the number of attempts I have made.

Shelduck twice in one winter

I was out much earlier than usual today, again hopeful for owls, but saw or heard none.

On entering Ron's hide around 07:25 I found a Shelduck, our first Jan bird since 2012, so hope this is a resuming the trend that occurred from 2004 to 2007, then 2010 to 2012.

A Little Egret materialised in front of the hide and I got a few shots, but it was painful trying and mostly failing to get it in focus due to it's constant movement.

Finally the sun came up over the brow, but shortly after the fog rolled in.

One update to ponder is John telling me this morning that he and others saw 2 Bittern at WSL on the 19th, the dark bird and another much paler one, the question is, was it the Lavell's bird or a 3rd individual?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Bittern double

When Peter et al reported the Bittern at Lavell's today I was determined to check it out and go on to WSL to prove my theory that they rarely commute between lakes during the day, therefore we had two.

I got down around 16:20 and met Trev outside, then Alan and Les in Bittern hide. Les's scope was still pretty much on it, so I was soon scoping this lovely mid phase bird fishing and over 30 minutes it caught 4 fish from the same point in the Reed Mace just right of the Phragmites section, left of Tern scrape.

It is such a pleasure watching Bittern feed - heads down, beak in the water, head tilted to one side, then when they are about to strike, they vibrate with excitement and it seems, rarely miss.

Just after I tweeted and 'WhatsApp'd the news out, I marched off to WSL via the sailing club, scanning all the way, just in case a Goosander was in.

On arrival at WSL, I met Roger and he had the same idea as me, within about 5 minutes we were watching a much darker bird climb mid way up the reeds, offering pretty good views considering the distance.

I am always happy with one Bittern, two is fantastic.

From what I could make out the Lavell's bird had a rather dark red eye, which I have always presumed meant an adult, but it did have much paler primaries then expected. The WSL bird despite the range appeared to also be dark eyed, so it might well be that we have adult, or near adult birds here, which if true is not that common. We can only speculate that some are birds that have visited us before, but without a means to identify individuals, such as colour rings, we can never be sure.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Another Great White Egret

With my son home from nursery early due to a high temperature, I hadn't expected a chance to get out. A Chiffchaff in my garden was a surprise and thought that was my birding for the day. But my wife said Ethan was fairly stable and 30 mins or so wouldn't harm.

So, of I went at 16:20 and it was not too exciting at first, I had planned to wait for Barn Owl as one was seen at the rather odd time of 12:23 today, so it must be hungry after substantial flooding and now heavy frosts, must have played havoc with feeding opportunities.

Nearly all of Lavell's was frozen, same for Sandford and even BSL, so after a quick circuit I went back to Lavell's in hope of said Barn Owl. A Little Egret went over North at a fairly typical state of light and time of 16:35.

2 Water Rail called, the Starlings were all but in the reeds on arrival, 3 Teal, 2 Gadwall, 3 Mute Swan and a few Coots were all that were to be found on the little open water there was.

I stood outside scoping the box for 5 minutes and thought I "I can't be bothered for now" so at 17:04 began my walk back. Barely half way and I saw what I thought would be a Grey Heron coming in over the trees from Sandford, lifting my bins 'just in case' I was surprised to see that even in dying light it was in fact all white.

The moments that follow when you get a bird in flight always pass very quickly, but I noted the bulging look of the upper breast due to the fully retracted neck. it's broad and deep wings, it's long trailing legs and long dagger like bill....."good grief it's another bloody Great White Egret" I said, fairly calmly.

It looked as if it would glide into Lavell's, but either saw me and changed it's mind, but then 'braked' in the air and turned left away from me, but glided away roughly WNW over the trees alongside Sandford's North edge and appeared to be dropping.

For me I think it is worth mentioning that Little Egrets tend to fly over to roost much earlier and when it is much lighter, so whilst time of day alone cannot be a reason to assume you have a rare egret, the moment I saw the bird, it was always worth checking.

I ran to the car, bombed to the other end and ran out to the edge of Sandford, but couldn't pick up anything, nor had the time, or light to investigate further.

I headed home to find my son asleep on mum's lap, with an even higher temperature than earlier, so needed to call the docs and head straight out before having time to tweet, or WhatsApp any news out.

When I got home, I pushed out the news, as I went to my blog I thought can I refer to is as an other GWE, no I just can't bring myself to reduce such a cool bird to an acronym.

Wouldn't it be nice if just for once, this bird shows again and sticks around for a few days!

Some catch up news from yesterday, Renton saw a male Stonechat from the Loddon footpath at the river junction near Ron's hide, so that made species number 86, the Great White Egret made it =1st with 2011. This is without Skylark, Meadow Pipit, or Tawny Owl, all of which are usually recorded in the last week of January.

If we can add 3 more species and set a new January record, it will also mean there are only 2 months of the year the park has not reached or exceeded 90, which I think is remarkable.

Stonechat hasn't been recorded in January since 2002 and I think this is only the 3rd time ever, so kind of rare really.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Ferruginous again

At WSL on Sunday I got a few more Ferruginous pics, as it was and has been regular under the trees with the Tufties near the reed bed.

The white behind the nail is more obvious now and somehow it looks more peak headed than before, some out of focus wing flapping also shows correct wing bar pattern.

I had to leave before the Bittern showed so still haven't seen it well yet.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Briefly close to year list parity

At the start of yesterday, I was 2 off the park's 82 and very pleased with being on 80 by 16th January, but by mid morning I had dropped Green Sandpiper, by dusk Goosander too.

So I was out 07:30 marching around in the snow, determined to find a Goosander. First I checked Sandford, nothing, but the female RC Pochard was present as usual.

Stomping up to LFGP, nothing really, just 60+ Teal and no sign of the Green Sandpiper. I stopped at the outlet ditch from Lavell's to take a shot of some bird foot prints....just for fun.

Back to Sandford, onto BSL, round via BSL and back....nowt.

Back in the warm at home and Marek has just had Lesser Redpoll, so I am now down 5 on the park's year list. The only one to really fret about is Goosander as they are always tricky, mostly fly overs and when they do land, it's not usually for long.

85 for the park is very good and we are missing Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Tawny Owl and Linnet, which is we already know has to be highly possible due to the flock in the field just East of the golf course. Getting those 4 would secure a new January record, but various other things are also possible, good birding folks.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Still lovely crisp and bright

Nothing much to report this morning, the Little Owl showed quite well out of the hole before a couple of Jackdaw took exception. I've cropped the shot so folks can see where it sat in relation to the hole, in the top left.

I have been allowing the rubbish thrown into the scrub around the edges of the car park field, to really irritate me, so today I decided to climb in and throw a load of it out and place it in two piles, I intend to send these pictures of it to the council and ask why they have increased the parking charges, when they cannot even pick up the obvious litter, let alone fine a single person for littering, or dog fouling.

I know I'm in the mood for a fight with the council and having emailed radio Berkshire to ask them if they would ask WBC to comment, even they ignored me, so someone's going to get it from me soon.

After I left a Green Sandpiper was seen at LFGP and even though it is only the second year running in recent years we have had this species in January, it seemed fairly predictable with October, November and December records.

I also got third hand reports of Goosander at WSL mid afternoon and just read on Berksbirds it was Linda Garner Langham, with photo.

Well done Linda, you put the DP year list on 84, matching last year and moving it in to =3rd highest January.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Dusk wasn't bad either

Heading for WSL at 16:00 I had high hopes, which were rewarded immediately with a Bittern, more or less in the middle of the Phragmites reed bed. It never showed very well, but had a little flap and kept lifting it's head every few minutes. A good 80th species for my year list

The Ferruginous swam by around 16:25 and I decided to go and check BSL, nothing too exciting to report, but a male Goldeneye in the bay nearest to Sandford was nice.

Just Coal Tit and Barn Owl for year list parity!

A great dawn hour

My promises to take a snap of the December flowering Blackthorn are presented here now.

A coups of nights ago I also had 5 minutes to estimate the Starling flock size and I reckon it is over 2000 birds now.

Having been stuck at home and not been able to get out since Weds and knowing it was much cooler out, I was keen to have a recky for a Goosander early this morning.

I arrived near 08:00 and parked in the middle lay-by, quickly checking Sandford's Pochard flock, 80 and both male and female Red Crested Pochard present, the first time the male has shown this year. Just 5 more Pochard on Lavell's and water levels' still high, but more than a foot lower than the previous 3 days, meaning no problem getting to Bittern hide, even with walking boots. That said the path was slushy under the icy surface. Before I left I took a few shots of the ice next to the path to Bittern hide as it almost felt like a novelty seeing ice this winter.

I didn't linger at Bittern debating whether to go BSL or car park field first, I opted for the latter and was rather glad I did.

Scanning the landfill 08:40, nothing much really going on at first, then 5 minutes later I heard a cough over towards Lea Farm, noticing a chap over near the green building, then I looked back left, but looking back straight, there were 4 'Gadwall' that had risen up from the balancing pool and almost didn't bother binning them, but I got an instinct to check and realised 1 was a male Pintail, the two pairs split, the Gadwall went towards Lavell's, the Pintail pair headed off and finally dropped over Hurst Green Pit.....a great get back from Brian's pair on the 1st, perhaps even the same birds?

4 minutes later and scanning with my scope I picked up 2 large corvid types coming in from about 3/4 mile to the NNW, they had strong deep wing beats....I knew they were 2016's first reported Raven and I tracked them all the way in over LFGP, over Lea Farm and on SE, only circling twice as they got near.

Another 2 minutes after that and I picked up a Little Egret heading North over LFGP, brilliant I thought, 3 great year ticks, 1 new for the 2016 park year list too. I am 79 of 82, it is turning out to be a very good start to the year, still the rather tricky Bittern and Barn Owls to see and a much less troublesome CoaL Tit to bump into.

I headed off to BSL thinking a start to a day rarely goes this well, could the luck even produce a Goosander. I checked from the sailing club and near the sluice, but couldn't find one, plus most of the Wigeon got spooked by something. I decided to quit while I was ahead, feeling the new cold weather biting my finger tips and nose.

I am now also tinkering with how I present my blog, bold type doesn't quite make it obvious enough to show a year tick, so I think bright red will make it easier. Still have to add the year list in, which I will do. For me another exciting milestone looms as I am very close to my 50,000th blog view, so thank you to all of you who read and tell me you do and enjoy doing so.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A little error

I was updating my year list this morning after seeing Grey Wagtail over near the BSL sailing club sluice, it never got to the beach, turning back towards Lavell's footbridge from the car park, had it not been calling I would not have picked it up. I am on 76 of 81 species.

When I came to the January totals of the last 10 years, I then checked what species were seen in 2008 to reach 88, I suddenly realised I had messed up, it was February 2008, not January that had 88 species, January 2008 had by recent standards, a pitiful 75 species.

Now corrected January's look like this;

87 in 2011
86 in 2012
84 in 2015
83 in 2005, 2006 & 2013
81 in 2004, 2014 and 2016
79 in 2007
76 in 2009
75 in 2003 & 2008

So we only have to find Meadow Pipit, Skylark & Tawny Owl and we hit = 3rd place.

The following are likely;

Raven, Linnet, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Green Sandpiper

The following are possible too;

Lesser Redpoll, Blackcap, Firecrest, Med or Yellow-legged Gulls, Jack Snipe, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew, Goosander, Smew, or unusual wildfowl pushed thru by cold weather.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

One more

I managed a late afternoon walk, but the weather was pretty dreadful and getting worse all the time. I met up with Marek and we ended up watching the landfill from the car park for anything that showed.
We did get Kestrel and only when I checked my year list did I realise I was on 75....all the more reason for me to catch up and get my year list published on my blog.

Even the Starlings gave up early tonight and again no sign of a Little Egret.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Bright dusk

A rather nice sunset got me as enthusiastic as this morning, my reward was a Little Owl in the usual Oak tree left of Lea Farm buildings, so my 73rd and DP's 80th species this year.

I'd hoped for a fly over Little Egret, but settled for a nice Starling roost of around 1500+ birds over Lavell's until 16:20.

Here are my sunset pics.

And the zoomed and cropped ones

Bright morning

I was out around 08:30, it was nice bright and cool, so my hopes were high of some excitement and as pleasant as it was, very little showed.

61 Pochard on Sandford, plus the female Red Crested Pochard, I've tweeted and WhatsApp'd it so many times now, my phone's predictive offers it as soon as I type R, C & P.

I checked BSL quite well, but just Wigeon and Gadwall and 2 more Pochard. In the car park field, very little at all, just 2-3 distant Fieldfare. I did pause to watch a Red Kite on the trees above the Barn Owl box and took a series of pictures, nothing special, but nice light and more or less in focus.

At Lavell's another 18 Pochard, so their numbers are well up, a Little Grebe hiding under trees far left side, was new for my 2016 year list, so 72 of 79 now.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

The stealthy year tick

It's been a tricky week for getting out when Goosander could drop in any moment, but I managed the last hour of light tonight. I began at Sandford picking up the female Red Crested Pochard asleep on the far side, 20+ Pochard present too and lots of Gadwall.

I decided I was near enough to WSL to give Bittern a try, but there was virtually nothing to hear or see there, barely any Starling, 1 Sparrowhawk was about it.

I marched back to Lavell's and saw the flock of Starling vanishing over there from Sandford, heading straight to Teal hide, I half expected to hear more birds, but as it was much cooler and getting late, nothing much did.

In a few moments at 16:59 I picked up a Woodcock coming toward the hide, it turned right and looped back, repeating the loop, before seeming to drop towards the right of the scrape. I waited to see if it was going to return, but after about another 5 minutes it was nearly totally dark looking North, so left. On my walk back I made a few lame Tawny Owl calls, hearing something towards Sandford copse, I couldn't be sure if it was even a bird, so dismissed it.

My feelings are that if you want the hardest to find winter species, you have to work at it, but at least be smart about it, so looking for Woodcock as I did today, or anytime into late February will do, same applies to Bittern, most likely still at WSL, but perhaps our elusive bird is still lurking around Lavell's somewhere?

I think one can be a little more relaxed about Barn Owl, but all of the aforementioned can often be seen around Bittern hide, then concentrate there. Tawny Owl might well be even harder to see than all the other owls, I am always happy just hearing them myself, but it's one species that most resort to short bursts of tape luring to catch a glimpse of one. As long it is a short burst, I am not one for getting bent out of shape on such things. If it was a Baillon's Crake, or Marsh Warbler in late May, well that would be a different matter.

I will be updating my year list and various other sections very soon.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Just some shots I took

I didn't take the photo of the flowering Blackthorn, but wish I had.

Instead I took some of the flooding near Betty's bench last night and the Alders today at Woodford park. It is the same story everywhere bulbs about to bloom, shrubs and trees in bud and scares me of what damage this might do to the ecosystem, how will our pollinators cope and compensate?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Rain, rain, rain

Good grief, back to 2014, with rising water levels and struggling to get anywhere around the park, although the levels were lower this morning than those of last night.

I was going to go across the golf course, but the 5-6 dogs charging everywhere quickly dissuaded me there would be any point. So off to the car park field I went, meeting Brian at BSL on the way, then Trevor in the car park itself.

A good scan over the landfill, 3 Ring-necked Parakeet, 2 Egyptian Geese, lots of Lapwing, 2 Buzzard, but no new ones for me until I picked up something heading in from the North with a powerful wing beat. I watched for a few more seconds thinking wader, or raptor? then as it came over Lodge Wood it veered right to the East and immediately became obvious "Peregrine" I shouted, quickly getting the other chaps onto it. 09:05 in view 09:06 and it was gone, I suspect a male.

Then Trev and I headed for Bittern hide, wading thru just about passable water depths, no sign of Little Grebe, but they were seen yesterday, then I heard Treecreeper and we both then enjoyed good views on nearby trees, along with 2 Nuthatch. Time to go and I went away happy on 70, of the 78 now recorded on the park so far.

Later I came back to check for Golden Plover to the far North, but had to wade up Sandford Lane due to the rivers coming up further. Not long into my watch I picked up about 40 Golden Plover in front of Bowsey Hill fast East, but they were miles away. 71 out of 78.

A good flock of around 1000 Starling were circling and making nice shapes as I waded back to the car, sadly I had to leave before a Little Egret was likely to head North.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

7 behind

It doesn't mean much at this very early stage, but not being available last night for dusk specialities, cost me a Barn Owl and a lucky Bittern for Brian and Marek.

Today I laid in until 09:00 and given the weather wasn't too good, I probably shouldn't have as it soon declined into constant rain. My first stop was LFGP for Pintail, my predictions were right and there was no sign. At least I got Rook.

I met Marek near the green bridge and learned of yesterdays reports of Little Egret, I then bumped into Brian and he had Kestrel and Mistle Thrush on the golf course, plus the Siskin flock along the golf course strip. So I headed there, only to bump into my old friend Paul Cropper, heading to Bittern hide, so joined him instead.

Not much showing but when the RSPB group arrived someone announced Nuthatch on the feeders, I quickly scampered over to view it as it returned to the feeder. Then I clocked a single Fieldfare flying right, before Marek sent a WhatsApp message "Coal Tit and Chiffchaff by the green bridge".

I headed there with Paul, Sue and Jane, quickly picking up the Chiffchaff in the willow, calling softly, but no sign of the Coal Tit. Some new feeders have been put up in one of the gardens near to the mill, so that might bring other opportunities?

It was time to go, but just before I got to the lay-by a Siskin called overhead, adding 5 for the morning, so now I was on 68 of the 75 seen so far.

My return to Bittern hide this evening produced nothing.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Very cold 1st morning

Okay minus 1 isn't that cold, but compared to the rest of the winter so far, when I arrived at 07:20 I was frozen. Multiple loops around Lavell's and car park field, then Sandford, BSL and off to WSL I picked up all the expected, or hoped for stayers. Red Crested Pochard and Ferruginous being most notable.

But I was also pleased with Mistle Thrush at the WSL/BSL hedgerow, the 2 male Goldeneye at BSL's South first this winter, then 3 Ring-necked Parakeet over Lavell's mid morning, plus 2-3 Great Black-backed Gulls over.

I scored 63, only missing Fieldfare and Siskin reported by others by the time I left at 10:45. Whilst typing a WhatsApp message has come in a pair of Pintail at LFGP is a more annoying miss, hope they stay til tomorrow.

Missing off the list, but on site somewhere are, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Bittern, Kestrel, Treecreeper, Rook & Nuthatch.

Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail and Lesser Redpoll are all tricky and not recorded in December as far as I am aware. I'll do a more comprehensive list soon, but we can expect 11 more for sure, plus another 9 which have a good chance of occurring in January, if we got all of them and added just 3-4 of the many other possibles, we'd break the 2008 record of 88.

Now is the time to look for Goosander, the first few days in January often have fly overs.