Thursday, 31 March 2016


I had a stab at stealing one more early this morning, but even arriving at 05:45 was too late for Tawny Owl, so tried my luck at Lea Farm GP. Nothing doing at all there.

So on the to car park to meet BBC Radio Berkshire and during the broadcast I had my first Blackcap singing somewhere down to the left.

Mistle Thrush, 5 Blackbird and 1 Swallow were all worth mentioning.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

99 and hoping for some luck

Yesterday I had a good look for Blackcap without success, okay I got Raven again twice and another Swallow, but it made me grit my teeth when Trev had 3 Blackcap after I'd left, okay none were singing, but it kept me off 99.

Today Brian sent out a WhatsApp IM of Willow Warbler in 2 places, so when I headed over and met Trev at the bottom of the car park field, getting one there, but then seeing 1 more and hearing another, then on to around the benches and found another.

It was sunny, not too windy and Blackcap should have been singing, but they weren't and I am still one short of that 100 milestone.

But it's not over yet in terms of matching 2012's record, I just need 2 now. Blackcap is here somewhere, but I guess now I realise I should have made more effort to get Tawny Owl, as it is the only species I know is around for certain and with flooding making a lot of places out of reach, it won't be easy, although all day today and tonight might mean a big enough drop in water level to get down to Lea Farm for a stab at LRP, or anything really.

March species total keeps growing, 98 now and 3 more than the previous high of 2011, 5 more than 2006 & 2012. And they year is up there too, a new second place of 104, pipping 2011's 103 and just 2 behind the No.1 slot of 106 in 2012.

A mid afternoon tarmac path walk and car park sky watch still didn't get me Blackcap, but I lost count of Red Kite, 2 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 3+2 unidentifieds North, probably pipits, 1 Mistle Thrush, 5 Siskin NW, 2 Bullfinch, 2 Swallow N, 2 Sand Martin N, +1 toward BSL.

Monday, 28 March 2016


I didn't arrive early and when I did Sandford Lane was half under water, so couldn't go to the car park field. Instead I went up the West side of Sandford, 2 Oyc, a few Gadwall and Wigeon, on to BSL and scoping I picked up 3-4 Sand Martin staying very low to the far South bay, plus my first Swallow with them, so I'll keep updating the list running up to 31st, but am hoping to get out early for the next 3 mornings and hope it is calmer and not too flooded to add anything.

93 - Coal Tit 18th
93 - Redshank 18th
94 - Yellow-legged Gull 18th
95 - Meadow Pipit 22nd
96 - Merlin 25th
97 - Sand Martin 26th
98 - Swallow 28th

I worked hard to pick up Blackcap, but no sign, I did have a pipit go over North, before heading to Lea Farm. Not much to report there, 9 large gulls gave me something to look thru, 6+ Skylark on the landfill was a high count for this year, but searching every vent 3-4 times once again yielded no Wheatear, or other migrants.

No waders around the lake edge, just 6 Teal and 12 Wigeon, I did get the Mandarin yet again at the green bridge, so they are obviously contemplating a nest site somewhere near there.

So I am on 98 and the park is on 102, the latter is = 2nd highest year total by 31st March for 2011 and March hit a new highest of 96, after I discovered 10 Goosander flew over LFGP on the 23rd (GSE).

I am looking in the claims of Jack Snipe 23rd and Willow Warbler 27th, if both are confirmed, then the park would be on 104, just 2 off the highest year total by 31st March AND a new March high species count of 98, but either way we are on a new record.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Early 100 reachable

I knew there would be a fair chance of some hirundines on Saturday, the rain would surely bring them down. Out around 09:00 at LFGP, little was happening, a lone Redshank, 2 Skylark and the pair of Mandarin again on the Loddon near the green bridge.

Then out of the blue 2 Sand Martin appeared already gone past the hide and quickly onward North, shortly after Steve texted to say 10 more BSL, plus Swallow. So Brian, myself and Trevor left in hope of connecting.

The wind had got up and was actually quite cold, nonetheless not 10, but 16 Sand Martin were covering a wide area over BSL, but we could not locate the Swallow.

This was my 97th species for 2016, so banking on another Swallow, Blackcap and just one more in the next 2 days, I can hit 100 before March 31st.

My fastest to 100 year lists are 2012, 2013 and this year and to give an impression of comparison, they look like this;

94 - Brambling 12th
95 - Blackcap 14th
96 - Chiffchaff 15th
97 - Garganey 20th
98 - Red Crested Pochard 26th
99 - Linnet 29th
100 - Sand Martin 30th.

93 - Sand Martin 20th
94 - Redshank 20th
95 - Swallow 23rd
96 - Mandarin 23rd
97 - Peregrine 26th
98 - Garganey 29th
99 - Brambling 10th April
100 - Common Tern 11th April

93 - Coal Tit 18th
93 - Redshank 18th
94 - Yellow-legged Gull 18th
95 - Meadow Pipit 22nd
96 - Merlin 25th
97 - Sand Martin 26th

2013 was flying, but I must have been busy, or something because of the break in the timeline of new birds.

I have a busy day today, but if I can get out for an hour very shortly, I will give myself a chance to catch up with Brian's first Blackcap today and maybe a Swallow? If not tomorrow despite the heavy rain forecast should still offer chances to beat 2012's number 1 spot.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Raptor joy

Things were panning out to be very dull considering the lovely blue sky, 2 Skylark, 2 Teal, 7 Wigeon seemed pitiful in fact, but there was lots of raptors up, 10+ Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, countless Kite, but no hirundines, no pipits, no finches.

Finally the first person to join me in Ron's hide was Marek, we got him the Skylark and mulled over how quiet it was, then Richard and Gill arrived, followed by Geoff.

I was scanning the sky, when I picked up a small raptor circling over the South end of the opposite landfill area, it was 'quivering' it wings as it turned, something I've seen in Kestrel and Merlin, but it seemed compact so had my attention. Looking into the sun no colour could be made out, but it only turned 5-6 times in small'ish circles, before heading away NNE, but it just kept accelerating faster and faster, vanishing between the trees near the high chimneys of the mansion to the East.

I had just enough time to get Marek on to it for a few seconds, I'm not sure if the others did see it, but am sure it was a Merlin, as I have never seen a Kestrel accelerate that fast over the flat, plus it was too compact, it looked more like a very small Peregrine in behaviour.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Grey start

It was very grey at 05:59 as I left the house so no need to scrape the ice off this morning, so arrived 5 minutes earlier and opposite the green bridge were 2 Little Egret that clocked me and went off North, not to be re-found on LFGP.

On LFGP, rather quiet, 26 Teal, 70 Wigeon, 3 Gadwall, 1 Snipe and despite much scanning, had no luck in finding a Wheatear, Garganey, Sand Martin, or anything else new.

The winter thrush flock seemed bigger today, about 100 of Fieldfare and Redwing together on the East side in trees just beyond the landfill, but circling like they were getting ready to go there.

On my walk back I heard Mandarin and looked back to see them on the Loddon near the green bridge, but shortly after I picked them up heading for Sandford Copse, I also heard Parakeet again.

At Sandford, there were more Gadwall and Wigeon, a guess of around 100+, but nothing else, I did a quick look at Bittern hide, 12 more Teal, 5 Shoveler, 2 Cetti's heard, 6 Snipe and I checked them all for Jack, with no luck.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Life list predictions

Since I managed to tick No. 18 Alpine Swift off my lit, it is time I removed it and updated the whole list, perhaps with a tweak of reality added.

I'll leave it for a few more days while I continue to dream of wonderful things and adjust it to account for 'unblockers' like....and I am always hopeful, Red Breasted Merganser, Red Throated Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Grey Phalarope, Marsh Warbler, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Shag, Cattle Egret, Spoonbill, Red-footed Falcon, Common Crane, to name most of them.

Early mornings

I've been threatening and finally got out of bed this morning, arriving at Lea Farm GP at 06:05, perhaps 10 minutes earlier would have been better as the sun was just up over the brow and making it pretty hard to see much on the NE corner, the mist didn't help much either.

More or less as soon as I arrived, 2 Oystercatcher darted thru low and onward toward DP, I couldn't see any other waders, but the mist did prevent finding any Snipe.

It was evident there was a little Wood Pigeon movement going on, with many groups of 15-50 passing NE, certainly no less than 250 went thru in 50 minutes. Quite a few small birds were darting about North too, mostly finch looking, than pipit. A lone Nuthatch on the feeders.

42-45 Fieldfare were still loitering over the far landfill, 1 Skylark up, a few Redwing, a Sparrowhawk displaying. About 70 Wigeon on the lake edge and grazing, less than 10 Teal and Gadwall, I also saw a Mistle Thrush in the Willows next to the road on the edge of the DAC.

Someone said to me recently that they never see Rooks even over their garden and I told them I have them in my garden every day, which I know is quite uncommon really as they do like their open grassy spaces. So here are this mornings shots of 4 of them scoffing bread and scraps from last nights dinner

My late morning update : 12+ Meadow Pipit, a trickle of 1' & 2's and a 4 North, the 3 pipit sp heading SW were too far to ID. There was actually a lot flying North in the bright sun, heard a Siskin, 2 wagtail sp, various other little jobs, mostly too far away.

A spectacular Buzzard stood out from the crowd, it was all white underneath, bar some dark streaks on the flanks, all white head, dark carpals, primary and secondary tips and nearly all the tail was white too, amazing looking bird.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Still cool

Out about the same time as yesterday, it was much quieter at LFGP, but the Mandarin were paying a lot of attention to Alan's new nest box.

A Little Egret in the SE corner really was about all there was, so off to Sandford where 2 Oystercatcher were asleep, 1 Pochard, but still okay numbers of Gadwall and Wigeon.

On Lavell's, 3-4 Snipe and the Little Egret dropped in, but little to speak of, although I did get one half obscured snap of 2 male Bullfinch hiding in the Blackthorn.

So on to the car park field and a Mistle Thrush was the highlight, then a little look from BSL sailing club beach, provided nothing, but suddenly a heard a high pitched call and looked up to see two 2 Pipits flying fast SW, getting the scope on them you couldn't say with any certainty what they were, but something about the directness of flight and lack of undulations, plus their general shape, for me pointed towards Rock Pipit, but being it was to quick to be sure.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Very productive hour

I got out at 08:10 and was just level with Teal hide when I heard my latest year tick. a Coal Tit, but it only called once.

Moments later I heard then saw a pair of Mandarin flying away from me along the Loddon, which I then flushed again outside Ron's hide, where they flew towards the North end of LFGP.

When in the hide, I found 2 Oystercatcher, joined by 3 more briefly, one landing in front of the hide so I missed the brief chance to get a record shot of all 5, but did get one of the one close by.

I could hear Redshank, but it took me ages to find it and when Brian walked in, I said that it was so noisy there must be two around, moments later, one, then the second joined it in front of the hide.

bloomin twigs

The Mandarin were now circling the lake every few minutes and we watched them land in the Oak at the North end, you can make the female out in the bottom left and the male just about in the top right of the shot below.

A flock of about 35 Fieldfare and 20+ Redwing had taken my attention for a moment and I was packing up to go when a large gull circled in with LBB's, but it was a nice mid grey above and I said "we have a good candidate here", it landed in the SW corner and sure enough was a rather splendid 4th calendar year Yellow-legged Gull, which stayed for all of 2 minutes.

After all the fun of earlier, I am looking down the list of 88 species so far for March and think we could easily blow the 95 record out of the water.

Birds frequently seen in March, but yet to reported are (in bold would be year ticks) : Bittern, Pintail, Garganey, Red Crested Pochard, Goosander, Ruff, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Jack Snipe, Med Gull, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Wheatear, Blackcap, Brambling & Linnet.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Stonechat get back

I went down to the end of Sandford Lane and checked the puddles once more for pipits, or wagtails, but again no joy, I heard 2 Coal Tit calling from beyond the house next to the Jolly Farmer pub and thought I bet I could hear them from the golf course so headed off there to try.

After about a 5-6 minute wait, I gave up and the presence of 3-4 dog walkers without dogs on leads...of course, made my decision to head for the car park field. As I got to the newly cleared exit/entrance, I happened to look back and caught a glimpse of something small moving near the small ditch, I thought it might just be a leaf blowing across, but on lifting my bins was a little surprised and a lot delighted to see a female Stonechat, a great get back on the one seen by Renton in January beyond Ron's hide.

Inevitably, a dog walker arrived within moments and the bird moved to one of the bridges as captured in my last shot and then darted into the garden to my left and neither I, nor Brian and Alan could re-find it.

Historically March has been an okay month for Stonechat;

2016 - 16th
2015 - 18th
2005 - 16th
2004 - 26th
1996 - 10th
1988 - 24th to 27th
1984 - 1st, 22nd & 24th
1981 - 15th

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

March Dunlin

Richard called me at 11:45 saying "Dunlin on BSL sailing club beach"....."on my way" I said and 5 minutes later was watching a nice winter plumage bird from 45 feet. Great to get a Dunlin so early in the year and 4 out of the last 6 years have had March birds, but prior to that we have to go back to 1998.

The trend so called, is either first week, end of 2nd week and end 3rd week, almost never last week.

2016 - Mar 15th
2015 - Mar 23rd
2012 - Mar 3rd
2011 - Mar 5th
1998 - Mar 23rd & 24th
1996 - Mar 25th
1994 - Mar 16th
1993 - Mar 20th
1991 - Mar 7th
1989 - Mar 13th
1987 - Mar 1st
1986 - Mar 14th
1984 - Mar 9th
1983 - Mar 21st
1981 - Mar 22nd

It was great to see this bird and so close, allowing some rather nice record shots.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Slow start to month

I got an hour in 09:30 this morning, but had another look at the flooded field at the East end of Sandford Lane,  a lot less BH Gulls, 6 Greylag, 3 Egyptian, 10 Canada, 3 Mallard, one Pied Wag heard, but nothing else. It is perfect for pipits, namely Rock and Water, but it will need to stay as wet as it is now to pull one in...I'll keep looking.

At Lavell's I just did the car park field overlooking the landfill, plenty of Red Kite up, a Sparrowhawk, 10-20 Redwing in the field, with singing too.

I was following a Kite, when I picked up a flock of about 27 Golden Plover moving sort of East, the usual distance of about 3+ miles and quickly out of view beyond the green barn. A Great Black-backed Gull was nice too, as was the Skylark, all three being new for this slow starting month.

At 77 we are 8 off the bottom score for March 2003, 2007 & 2015, but there is lots to add yet, including Bittern, if someone other than me wants to get out and check before dusk this week.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Where are the Shoveler

It occurred to me while adding species for March I hadn't seen a Shoveler for a while, so while I was out Sunday, I looked around but couldn't find one. It was only doing a loop up to WSL, that I by chance peered North down Heron's Water (looking for Ferruginous), that I found a pair.

I'll probably do a review of counts, but am not sure I have access to everything in one place to make that happen quickly.

Anyway, I am still yet to get out early one morning, in hope of something good, Rock Pipit must be a possibility now, they are being seen at Farmoor.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Old March posts reloaded

I did a quick walk this morning, a lone Male Goldeneye and a Little Egret were my highlights, so with a very cold breeze and nothing about it is time to reflect on past March records, with many splendid species, now highly unlikely to reoccur.

13th 1980, the first Grey Partridge for the park (AC).

8th 1981, the park's first Jack Snipe (AC)

Feb 28th 1984 a Pink-footed Goose was found (FJC & MR), staying 29th and 1st March. 15th same year the first confirmed Oystercatcher (MC & KT).

On 20th March 1982, a lone Whooper Swan flew in from the West and may have lingered for a few hours (MR, JBu & Bird Walk).

March 23rd 1984 a female Red-breasted Merganser was on BSL (BU), then 5th 1986, 4 females flew over (RTT).

On 12th 1983, 18 Brent Geese went over from the West 07:18, seen from North Sandford (Lavell's), circled and nearly landed, then headed off West (FJC, PJ & MR).

On 13th 1984 at 07:03 an Avocet flew over BSL, nearly landed on Sandford and North Sandford (Lavell's), then flew back to BSL and landed on the edge of lake mid way along the golf course strip for a few moments, before being flushed by a dog walker at 07:13 (there's a surprise).

Then 13th 1986, 2 male Common Scoter were found on BSL in the afternoon (FJC & PB), a single 22nd & 23rd 1996 and another single 18th 2004.

29th 1986 the first Merlin went over (T Bedford)

Rock Pipit : March 2nd, 11th & 12th 1983, 29th 1991, 2nd 3rd 1992, 20th 1998.
Water Pipit : March 15th, 16th & 17th 1981, 15th & 20th 1982, 10th, 11th, 12th & 16th 1983, 10th 1984, 30th 1986, last recorded 21st & 22nd 1992!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

So little activity

February ended without much event, although if we assume Tawny Owl and Ring-necked Parakeet were around somewhere, the month provided equal 2nd position with 2008, so ahead of every year but 2012.

What this means if anything is that we start March 2 on 93 species, so 2 ahead of the year list in 2007, 1 shy of 2005, 2 shy of last year, 7 shy of a podium 3rd place position.

By the end of March we would expect year list first appearances from;

Blackcap, Little ringed Plover, Sand Martin and Redshank

But good chances, subject to weather, wind direction etc, of;

Ringed Plover, Jack Snipe, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Brambling & Linnet

I feel we should remain hopeful and vigilant of visits from;

Uunusual wildfowl, especially Scaup, Common Scoter, but other geese and swans, plus Yellow-legged Gull, Rock & Water Pipit, in that order. March isn't a bad time to pick up Green Sandpiper too.