I headed off towards Theale today hoping to catch up with a pair of Garganey that had been present at Woolhampton gravel pits for the last week. Stopping at Theale main pit i soon bumped in to local birder Ken Moore, Ken watches the Theale area like no other and if something turns up he's often the one to find it. Ken gave me the directions to Padworth and Woolhampton and helped me with the access and viewing points, as we walked towards the lay-by a Chiffchaff burst in to song which on a beautiful day like today made it feel like Spring was well under way. Saying our goodbyes i got in the car only to see a male Blackcap perch up on a tree branch in front of the lay-by, a quick flit around the bushes and it soon disappeared again.
Next stop was Padworth, this is the first time i have visited Padworth Gp's and with the weather being so nice a walk round the whole pits was in order. 2 Chiffchaffs were calling from the trees along the River Kennet and a Mute Swan was sat quietly on it's nest. Scanning the gravel pits i soon found 2 Redshank as they probed along the waters edge, Pied and Grey Wagtail were busy checking the mud for insects and a solitary Green Sandpiper was busy wading further along the bank. 4 Egyptian Geese joined the number of Canada and Greylag Geese feeding and sleeping in the surrounding fields and at least 5 Shelduck were present.
Woolhamton Gp's is another site that i had never visited until today and on arrival it didn't take long to hear a Chiffchaff calling as i walked towards the gravel pits. Sadly there was no sign of the Garganey on the small pit but looking out across the largest pits 5 Shelduck were present, a few Cormorant and the usual odd and sods. My first year sighting of Sand Martin as at least 5 circled above and 2 Cetti's burst in to song from the reeds.
Off to High Wycombe next to see the mass Brambling flocks coming in to roost at Penn Wood, entering Penn Wood a Nuthatch was soon spotted clinging to the side of a beech tree and was soon joined by it's partner with a bill full of nest material, standing quietly gave me excellent views as it flew to the tree above me and disappeared into what i presume was an old woodpecker hole. A male Brambling flew out of the bushes and was joined by another 3 or 4 as they flushed in to the trees above, their wheezing calls could be heard distinctly from the tree tops. Continuing down the pathway a Chiffchaff was sat in a tree calling out across the woods and was soon joined by another close-by, their "chiff-chaff" calls echoed through the wood. Approaching the roosting spot the wheezing calls of Brambling could be heard once again, this time increasing in volume as small flocks joined up with each other in the tree tops. Small flocks alternately flew to the conifers to feed on the cones and clung on tightly as they were blown in the evening breeze. I was surprised to see how agile they were, much like the Siskin when they feed upside down on Alders. Goldcrest and Coal Tit also made a number of appearances. Walking back towards the car still more Bramblings were flying overhead, heading off to roost. I've seen large flocks of Brambling in Thetford, Norfolk but this flock dwarfs my previous sightings and 900+ have been recorded in Penn Wood recently.
The first Chiffchaff in the garden for this year was heard and seen on the 27th March, it sung for over an hour before departing along the hedgerow and out of sight, a Blue Tit carrying nest material was also seen entering a small hole in a Apple tree. I cleaned the next boxes out the previous week and found that 3 had definitely been used for roosting, within days of cleaning them out i watched 2 being entered by Great Tits and another being entered by a pair of Blue Tits. My Camera nest box is also in use by a pair of Blue Tits, last year a pair of Blue Tits successfully raised a brood of 12 in it.
I actually manged to see a Bullfinch which had been eluding me for this year, a female flew across the road in front of me near Skirmett, Bucks.
Added to my year list
121. Green Sandpiper
122. Sand Martin