Friday, 25 May 2007

Remenham, Berks. 17th May 2007.

Common Tern.

A pre Berks bird race visit to Aston and Remenham today to check on a couple of local species, the county boundary which separates Berks/Bucks runs mostly down the centre of the River Thames and before i had even got out of the car i could hear the squawking of Ring-necked Parakeet from the trees above and shortly after 2 flew from the car park at Ferry Lane across the river and into Buckinghamshire.
Along the Thames towpath towards Hambleden Lock 6 more Parakeets flew over heading towards their usual haunt just inside Buckinghamshire. No sign of any Warblers or Spotted Flycatchers at Aston yet so i continued towards Temple Island at Remenham, a single Reed Warbler was singing from the Bucks side of the River Thames near Henley Management College and soon after a male Reed Bunting perched in a tree along the towpath and began to sing, 2 Whitethroats could be heard singing from the scrub next to Hambleden Lock.
Nearing Temple Island i could hear the squabbling calls of Common Tern and was surprised to count at least 10 feeding between Remenham Church and Temple Island, a large number of insects were hatching from the waters surface and the Common Terns plucked them out of the air as they rose, there's often a pair near the Hambleden Lock but I've never seen this many here before. A Hobby flew low across the fields at Remenham before crossing the river and joining another feeding in Bucks airspace, after watching them hawking for insects over the river they disappeared into Bucks.
Back at Hambleden Lock i managed to catch up with another pair of Common Terns which sat quietly together on post next to the Lock, minutes later the male had "jumped aboard" and the sights of spring were there for all to see, it lasted much longer than i had expected and their long migration from Africa had obviously added to their stamina, after a couple of minutes the male finally dismounted and sat next to his mate, a quick preen of the feathers and off they went towards Temple Island.
Near Ferry Lane car park i suddenly picked up on a flash of blue as a Kingfisher darted across the fields and headed off towards Hambleden Marina, i could hear it calling as it crossed the river and disappeared behind one of the islands.
Added To My Year List.
156. Hobby

Monday, 14 May 2007

Spoonbill - Lea Farm GP's, Lavell's Lake LNR, Berks. 14th May 2007.

Little-ringed Plover.
Little-ringed Plover & Dunlin.

With the unexpected news that 2 Spoonbills had been found feeding at Lea Farm GP's, Lavell's Lakes LNR, Berks it gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up on a few species that I hadn't seen this year
On arrival the Spoonbill were feeding on the far side of the lake although they had flown off at one point only to return later, both birds fed along the waters edge then preened, I left them as they settled down to sleep. A good influx of these birds has been seen recently with sightings also at Dorney Wetlands, Berks and Linford NR, Bucks. 2 Little-ringed Plovers, a single Greenshank and a single Dunlin were also present. A Cuckoo could be heard calling from Lavell's.
At Black Swan lake, Dinton Pastures a single Black Tern was flying with the Common Terns, and a walk around the lakes produced 5 bullfinch in a group and another pair near White Swan lake, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and good numbers of Common Whitethroat all present along with a single Lesser Whitethroat. My first year sightings of Reed and Garden Warbler followed by Nightingale, a single Red Kite drifted over and 2 Green Woodpeckers were present.

On my way back to Lea Farm GP's to check the Spoonbills again I met another birder who told be they had flown off after a low flying helicopter had spooked them.

Added To My Year List

151. Spoonbill
152. Black Tern
153. Garden Warbler
154. Reed Warbler
155. Nightingale

Local Sightings.

Saturday 12th April afternoon saw good numbers of Swift, Swallow and House Martin over the valley, Bad weather had obviously pushed them down into the valley and at one point I counted at least 75+ House Martins as they bunched into tight groups, at least 20 Swifts and a good number of Swallows joined them. Saturday evening during the break in the weather a Barn Owl was perched roadside near Skirmett, presumably making the most of the dry spell in what had been a very wet day.

Sunday 13th April afternoon again saw a small group of Swifts and House Martins over the cottage during the bad weather but they didn't linger for long and headed North. Sunday evening found the Barn Owl again in the same place during what I could only describe as a downpour, it looked soaked as it perched on the roadside fence post and I put it down to the long spell of wet weather that may well have forced the Owl out to feed.

Monday 14th April evening and the Barn Owl is present again, my earlier thoughts on it being forced out to feed due to hunger has now changed, I watched it quarter the fields for 30 minutes and make 6 successful catches, it only failed on one attempt and there seems to be a good supply of Voles etc about. After each successful catch it disappeared from sight with it's prey only to return minutes later to continue hunting, I now believe it must have young and is busy feeding them, let's hope they have a better year than last. While watching the Barn Owl a Kestrel made a desperate attempt to steal it's prey by chasing it across the fields unsuccessfully, good numbers of Common Whitethroat were singing from the hedgerows along with the song of Yellowhammer and Skylark and for just a second I thought I heard a Cuckoo call, I waited quietly and then again in the distance "Cuckoo Cuckoo", a sound that is not so common in this area nowadays although i did hear one in Turville near the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" windmill in 2004.

My new record for Red Kites over the house now stands at 15.

Monday, 7 May 2007

TABCG Wales Trip. 6th May 2007.

Tawny Owl - Elan Valley.

Buzzard - Gigrin Farm.

The TABCG annual pilgrimage to Wales is always an excellent days birding, the chance to visit a few typical welsh habitats and see a number of specialist species.
The first stop was Goldcliff which is part of the Newport Wetlands and by now the weather was cloudy, windy and there was the odd drizzle of rain. A Chiffchaff was calling from the car park in almost the same spot one was calling on the previous years trip. Looking out across the wetlands a flock of 50+ Dunlins were busy feeding along with Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Oystercatcher. A Ringed Plover was feeding along the edge of one of the islands with Lapwing, Shelduck, Canada Goose, Curlew and Whimbrel nearby. A single Avocet was found feeding on the other side of the water and a Little Egret soon appeared at the waters edge. 2 Ravens flew over and a male Cuckoo flew past the front of the viewing screen. Very few Warblers heard or seen which was probably down to the wind.
Next stop was the usual Dipper site on the River Usk, a Common Sandpiper was the first sighting as it fed along the side of the river and shortly after we spotted a Dipper as it perched up on a group of stones along the waters edge. It perched up and in true Dipper fashion continually bobbed up and down. Grey Wagtail were also present.
After negotiating the country lanes and passing church go'ers we finally made it to Llangorse Lake, no sign of either Little Gull or Garganey but good numbers of Swift, Swallow, House & Sand Martins feeding over the lake. A Blackcap flitted through the bushes next to us as we watched the lake and a Little-ringed Plover was feeding along the waters edge. Another 2 Ravens were flying across the hills as we left and as we passed a farm a single Raven flew low across the road in front of us.
Elan Valley was the next stop and a chance to get some good views of Warblers, After crossing over the river towards the woods the first species sighted was a beautiful male Pied Flycatcher sat in the trees next to the path, he sat perched above looking down on the group before flying off in to the wood. Walking along the path which leads up the hill to the top of the valley we soon came across a Willow Warbler singing from the trees above, and soon after another joined it on the other side of the path. It didn't take long to hear the first Wood Warbler singing from above and scanning the tree canopy found an individual perched on a tree branch, Chiffchaff were calling and further along the path a pair of Pied Flycatchers passed through the tree tops and another Wood Warbler called before disappearing amongst the trees, close by a pair of Nuthatches were chasing each other around the trees. Towards the top of the path a male Common Redstart showed incredibly well as it perched on a fence post before flying out of sight. Suddenly we were alerted by a younger member of the trip to the find of a Tawny Owl perched on a branch further back down the path, it has to be said that you can wait a whole lifetime to find a daytime Tawny Owl perched out for all to see and to have a camera with you was an extreme bonus. We watched the Owl for near to an hour and everybody got some fantastic views. For me it was certainly the best moment of the trip and with Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher also present the Elan Valley is always a fantastic place to visit.
Gigrin Farm was the next stop and a great chance to see Red Kite, Buzzard and Raven up close. Viewing from the hides overlooking the feeding area gave some great views of the melee at feeding time, Buzzards perched on the ground feeding on the meat whilst trying to evade the swooping Red Kites, Ravens adding to the frenzy by scavenging what they could and an extremely brave Grey Heron managed to grab the largest chunks of meat while coming under attack from everything else, it struggled to swallow the meat easily which formed a huge bulge in it's throat but still came back for more.
Clawdd-ddu-bach near Craig Goch reservoir is always the last stop before heading back home, by now it had started raining and visibility was getting poor but still a chance to get the final days species. Another pair of Ravens passed by, a couple of male Wheaters appeared on a rock next to the road along with a small flock of Meadow Pipit and finally a Male Stonechat.
A fantastic days birding even if the weather was a bit grim at times, best bird for me was certainly the Tawny Owl.
The Theale Area Bird Conservation Group (TABCG) Website can be found here -
Added To My Year List
142. Avocet
143. Black-tailed Godwit
144. Cuckoo
145. Common Sandpiper
146. Dipper
147. Pied Flycatcher
148. Wood Warbler
149. Common Redstart
150. Wheatear

Bonaparte's Gull, Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon.

With the Bonaparte's Gull still present at Farmoor reservoir, Oxon, I made my way over to see it. On arrival I made my way to the reservoir gate office to show my Thames Water Pass and was told the Gull was still present in the SW corner of F2. As I walked around the F2 basin towards the South-West corner a good numbers of Swift, Swallow, House & Sand Martins were busy feeding over the water along with Common Terns.
The Bonaparte's Gull was in a small group of Black-headed Gulls near the SW corner and showed well while sat on the water, it spent much of the time feeding on insects on the waters surface, facing into the wind whilst flying and then dropping down and picking them off the water. This 1st Summer bird was first reported on the 1st May and this is my first ever sighting of this rare North American Gull. It is the American equivalent of the Black-headed Gull but smaller and a more delicate looking bird, it has a smaller and finer all-black bill and in summer the hood turns black rather than the chocolate brown of the Black-headed Gull.
Looking through the Terns I spotted at least 1 Arctic Tern feeding over the F2 basin with the Common Terns.
Driving back through Hambleden a singing Common Whitethroat appeared at the top of a hedge and allowed me to watch it from the car before it flew across the road and into undergrowth.

Added To My Year List
139. Bonaparte's Gull
140. Arctic Tern
141. Common Whitethroat