Sunday, 14 January 2018

A good 3 days

Friday night I was out feeling what a dull quiet evening it was, so left Bittern hide before dark and then lifted my bins at something near John's bench and to my surprise it was a splendid female Brambling, but off she went toward the meadow then turned right, perhaps heading for the car park field.

Then Saturday morning, I'm hoping for good things, but it never really happened, John picked up a Raven doing the usual SE across the landfill, a female Hawfinch obliged in the car park, 250+ Lapwing overhead, a lone Great Black-backed Gull, but nothing much more.

Back again in the evening, again it felt quiet, but it soon changed at 16:31 when I picked up a Peregrine swooping in over the scrape, scaring the hell out of the Lapwing, before it landed in the remaining Poplar. It sat for 5 minutes checking everything out, before taking another wide circle of the whole lake and returned to the same spot. Off it went 3-4 minutes later out over the landfill.

A Little Egret lingered in the new reed bed diggings and I commented to Pete that it might have been worth a dash to WSL for a Bittern, but I was glad I had not chosen that option and as a result had had my best views of Peregrine in about 5 years. John pinged up Bittern moments later.

I decided I felt lucky and told Pete I was going to have a stab at Woodcock, just 24 minutes later and we were watching 2 doing two complete circles of the our heads as they came around together, barely a metre apart, my best views at Lavell's since 2003.

So on to today and it was bird walk time, just one paying customer. Alan and I escorted our customer and had a splendid walk. Male Hawfinch in the car park field, my first male this year, great views of Goldcrest, Treecreeper and at Bittern hide, the Peregrine came in repeated last night's performance in better light this time.

Lots of Shoveler on Sandford, as we walked under the Alder near to WSL reeds, a mixed flock of Golfinch, Siskin and a lone male Lesser Redpoll, added 2 more year ticks for me, the latter being a park year tick. The 2 Ferruginous were at Middle Marsh, which regardless of origins are still nice birds.

So 81, out of 85 species seen. I'm 3 behind 2017's heady heights on the same date. Missing Kestrel, Green Sandpiper, Shelduck and Tawny Owl. 2017 offered Chiffchaff, Golden Plover, Jack Snipe, plus the 2 big ones Brent Goose and Caspian AND we ticked Ferruginous then too.

January into February is fairly predictable so getting ahead is always a matter of tiny margins, the expected additions, more or less in date order are;

Golden Plover
Little Owl
Jack Snipe
Med Gull

Wild card species always possible are;

Yellow-legged Gull
Brent Goose

I hold on to the hope we might yet get;

Water Pipit
Great Grey Shrike
Hen Harrier
other geese
Great Northern Diver
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Common Crane

And why not?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


No not trombones, but my year list of course.

I was heading out suited for work, but not a set appointment when I heard the familiar WhatsApp message tone I'd set for FOLL Bird News. 12:19 Richard's message said 'Goosander from Bittern hide', then I noticed Tim James' text saying male 'Goosander Lavell's', 26 minutes had passed and this underlines why we moved over to WhatsApp, so that anyone can act on the group message and not fall foul of my, or anyone being out of signal, or have simply not seen the message.

I arrived at 12:34 in my suit, but within 90 seconds the Goosander was lifting off the water, circled twice and headed toward BSL. Luckily Steve found it near the picnic area and it was there all afternoon.

If you want news fast then get on to our WhatsApp group, texting works most times but I can't always respond, or even read messages due to being in the car a fair bit.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happy New Year everyone

I've had time to go birding, time to eat and sleep and do some work, but no time to blog, so for now the park is on 78. More to come later. Happy New Year. The high winds give me hope a seabird might show up!

So, Jan 1st yielded 76 species, pretty good, the best birds being Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Coal Tit, Shelduck, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Egret, Bittern, but the star was of course Hawfinch, which kept us waiting for an hour longer than most other recent mornings.

I ended on 69, missing various things including Jay of all things.

The 2nd January offered some catch ups, new for 2018 Mistle Thrush, adding Jay, then House Sparrow for 2018, then Raven and Little Egret, placing me on 74, but Kestrel, Siskin, Shelduck and Tawny Owl are eluding me for now.

Looking back on 2016 we had Pintail, Red-Crested Pochard, Golden Plover and in 2017 the exciting occurrence of Brent Goose and Caspian Gull. There will be much to do to stay on track, but as it all evens out by about the 21st February, we just need to stay vigilant for the precious bonuses like Goosander, Woodcock, Jack Snipe etc. to put us ahead come year end.

Good luck and above all have fun birding everyone.

Thursday, 28 December 2017


Feeling a bit coldy today, I stayed home but with such a sunny day yearned to be out and did so around 14:30.

Around 14:45 I picked up 6 Linnet heading West over the landfill, 30 minutes later a strung out group of about 32 Golden Plover headed out East, as per recent winter sightings they were 1.5-2 miles North of us, beyond the A4, but they stayed visible and came even closer beyond the green barn at Lea Farm itself. I kept looking but no sign of the Little Owl.

2 Little Egrets went over later, a juv Great Black-backed Gull off East.

At Bittern Hide, little to speak of until near dark, at 16:39 2 Snipe left the scrape, 3+ more minutes later, then 2-3 more moments after, then at 16:47 a Woodcock went away from me SE more or less towards the sailing 137th for 2017, my =2nd highest year total, last reached in 2014.

Missing 5 species this year, poor misses of Redstart and Little Gull, notable no shows of Curlew & Ruff.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Closing out with a review of some recent trends

Yes I've gotten out of the habit of posting to my blog, time and being out of pace with it all makes a difference. I apologize to all who bother to read when I do post, I'm trying to keep things going.

To offer some thoughts on today's birds I knew it was worth mentioning that Raven and Shelduck in particular are worth mentioning.

Prior to 2008 there had been just a handful of late autumn and winter records of Shelduck;

1981 - Dec:3/15th, 2/22nd
1984 - Dec: 1/22nd
1992 - Oct: 1/18th
1998 - Oct:1/2nd & Nov:1/2nd

Since 2008;

2008 - Nov:1/23rd
2010 - Nov:1/12th LFGP, female on shingle island
2011 - Nov:1/16th LFGP @ 13:00, flushed by sheep farmer @ 15:30
2013 - Nov:1/27th LFGP, 1/28th
2015 - Dec:5/31st over landfill then Lavell's SW 09:12
2016 - Oct:1/26th LFGP, Dec:1/31st LFGP, male SW corner
2017 - Oct:1/31st Tern scrape til 06:56 only, Nov:1/13th Sandford, Dec:3/17th LFGP, 1/18th, 3/27th

It says to me that LFGP has become a very attractive site and with nest prospecting in 2016 and a little in 2017, we should do more to make this species a breeding success story.

Raven is similar in their frequency trend;

2009 - Dec:1/26th over car park calling SE at 50 ft @ 11:10
2010 - Oct:1/24th, over LFGP for 20 mins, 2 seen later, 1/25th 1 calling over Lodge Wood, East then back W 13:10, then bird further NE high and circling/tumbling.
2011 - Nov:2/14th dropping onto landfill over brow 11:47
2012 - Dec:1/10th LFGP low over landfill
2013 - Dec:1/10th over 13:24 at 150ft calling loudly SE towards Sandford/Lavell's
2014 - Oct:2/10th, singles West over Lodge Wood, Nov:1/6th LFGP, Dec:1/19th over
2015 - Oct:2/4th LFGP, Nov:2/15th low over Lavell's and Poplars NW calling quietly
2016 - Oct:2/4th in from West, dropping as they headed East,1/12th W of LFGP squabbling with Red Kite then dropping N of Woodley 12:20, 3/13th LFGP, 1 chasing 2 away very high SE, then back W, 2 returned lower WNW in front of Lodge Wood 14:30, 1/20th E beyond far landfill, Nov:1/11th over LFGP, Dec:2/2nd over LFGP SE 09:54
2017 - Nov:1/5th drifted over from landfill South 07:45, Dec:2/12th SE low over Lavell's 13:50, 1/14th, 2/17th, 2/27th 08:30 LFGP over Lodge Wood very vocal

Monday, 4 December 2017

clear out

I ended up with two copies of the same book 2 Christmases ago, embarrassing as it is, it was too late to exchange it. So anyone who wants a copy of 'Shrikes and Bush-shrikes' please let me know as I'm selling a pristine copy on ebay for £20.00

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Give me back the mornings

I miss having even 30 minutes of time before each working day to check even a couple of parts of my patch. I've been busy and am desperate to cover some ground, perhaps check for a Firecrest in a few spots, a Goosander going over, but most of all a year tick like a Woodcock in the dying light at Lavell's.

Some chances will come, but not so many I can afford to be complacent.

Today I had about 2 hours and had a look over LFGP for the first time in weeks, 72 Teal, 4 Snipe, 1 Little Egret, a handful of Wigeon and Shoveler. A Peregrine over quite low, appeared to compact to be a female.

Back on 22nd November I was escorting a Thames Water grant partner around the new diggings and looked up to see 160+ Golden Plover over pretty high up in the brisk windy conditions.

Since then it has all been about Hawfinch in the car park field, which show well each day and did so for me this morning too. I could never get bored watching this species and know this is a lifetime one off event.

Will we get one more year tick, a lot depends on the weather. Curlew have shown up in frozen conditions more than once. Firecrest may be out there already, Smew is random, but possible as are White-fronted Goose, Scaup, Merlin and a handful of other now scarce species.