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.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Some signs

A little walk around today wasn't very exciting, LFGP offered about 8 distant Fieldfare, 20-30 Redwing, but just a small handful of Wigeon and Teal, then I re-found one of the Jack Snipe, more or less where they have been hanging out on the East shore.

A Ring-necked Parakeet went over along the Loddon, Water Rail called from the now rising waters of Lavell's, surprising to hear 1 and 1/2 inches of rain fell last night.

At Sandford 102 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard, 1 female Goldeneye, nothing on BSL, a Cetti's teased me on the way out and back from the lay-by.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Migration over, surely not?

I haven't posted for several days because it has gotten very quiet, most of the Snipe have left Tern scrape, with just 2 there today.

3 Fieldfare and 20+ Redwing over, a couple of flocks of Wood Pigeon, the odd finch over.

Pochard numbers are sneaking up, 1 Lavell's, 5 Sandford, 7 BSL.

The Grey Wagtails at BSL are still fun trying and get a decent pic

Thursday, 3 November 2016

A bunch of Snipe

I had a brief 30-40 minutes in the cold mist Tuesday morning, adding 4 Siskin to the new month list, 4 Pochard on BSL, then at Lavell's 2 Pintail, 1 a male over then back toward LFGP. As I was leaving two groups of Wood Pigeon came over SE.

Later I was told someone claimed a Jack Snipe at Tern scrape yesterday, when I got there a chap said he'd been around all morning but not met anyone making that claim.

Undaunted I went in to Bittern and scanned for an hour, seeing 38 Snipe, but no Jack. 2 Pintail were present, the buff female/juv and another asleep on the bund.

Doing a circuit, I picked up a Lesser Black-backed Gull  and Parakeet for November.

Today I had to skip first thing, but came back to Bittern hide for another look, 24+ Snipe, 2 Cetti's heard, a Black-headed Gull with yellow ring number 2 BTS will be interesting to see where it has come from.

The car park field got me another Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff and Kestrel, but little else, although the month is already on 73.

So scanning and checking the ducks I took shots of this rather interesting Tufted Duck

Ive seen my fair share of white faced Tufties, which generally look like obvious Tufties, but this one's head shape looks more interesting in the lower shot, you can make out a single longer feather on the nape indicating a tuft. The flanks do not show the kind of vermiculation I'd expect to see on a Scaup. Am reading up more, but thunk the tip of the bill is too extensively black, rather than just the nail itself.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

October and the last 2 months of the year

The park sits on 139, which includes the Marsh Tit heard only last month, which I suspect some people doubt, but I am happy with the call description.

October was pretty darn good, 98 species and it was slightly frustrating to hear a Brambling this morning and not yesterday, but hey ho.

The star bird was Osprey on the 14th, but other nice ones were 2 Jack Snipe, Shelduck, our long staying Pintail, Garganey last seen 1st, Whinchat & Wheatear 2nd, Hobby on 2nd & 4th, 2 Red-legged Partridge 2nd, Curlew 29th, sadly the raptor on the 6th cannot be confirmed but was most likely a dark morph juvenile Honey Buzzard.

So what shall we be all optimistic about?

Certainly Bittern and as I already said, I think we have one at Lavell's now, so far undetected. Wildfowl will continue to gather and November is a very good month for passage birds, past years have produced so many different species, but I'd love to see a Red-necked Grebe again, with no confirmed records since 1996.

On hoped for firsts for the park, we are way, way overdue our first Great Northern Diver and with our populations of Teal and Wigeon, we should stay extra vigilant for Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon. Let's not forget our track record of Athya ducks and with a Lesser Scaup at Little Marlow recently, we need to check all our Tufted and Pochard gatherings for this, a Ring-necked Duck, or perhaps our Ferruginous may return?

Don't forget we've had 2 Great White Egret records in November!

Wild swans and geese are more than likely in November - 7 Whooper over 10th 2013 and White-fronted Geese are highly likely to pass over from the first week through to the end of the year.

Despite my Taiga Bean Goose not getting a mention in the 8th December 2010, that is what it was, so I say check all the geese and swans at all times.

Goosander can show up from about now, Smew from late November.

With the SW corner still offering exposed mud, I guess some passing waders could show up, a late Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, but Ruff seem to prefer the landfill.

Finches have barely featured so far, but Siskin and Lesser Redpoll will gather if it gets colder, the thrushes are here, but will increase.

Will we see another Bearded Tit, some Waxwings over, a Firecrest lurking in the hedgerows, or will we get a rarity at the feeders?

Time will tell, good birding everyone!