Sunday, 13 January 2008

Brambling - Remenham 12th Jan 2008.

I made a visit to Coldhabour Lane in White Waltham, Berks today hoping that I might get a chance of seeing Merlin, after touring the lane and viewing the fields from a number of vantage points I hadn't seen much and apart from a small flock of finches that flew over it was very quiet. As I approached the A4 I noticed a large flock of Fieldfare 150+ feeding in the fields and stopped to take a look, a small number of Redwing were joining the Fieldfare and the hash chattering call of the Fieldfare was unmistakable.

I decided to drop in to Remenham on my way back home and making my way along Remenham Lane I soon noticed a number of Finches flying across the road and into a nearby hedge, I stopped the car and in the process of getting my scope out I startled 2 Egyptian Geese that were feeding in the edge of the field, they soon made their way out in to the field and were joined by 32 Greylag Geese that flew in from the River Thames direction.

Looking along the hedgerows soon gave me a glimpse of a Yellowhammer sitting in the hedge and then I noticed a large amount of birds darting in and out of the crops growing along the edge of the field, I was soon rewarded with some close views of Brambling, Yellowhammer, Linnet and Chaffinch in a flock that must have amassed some 75+ birds. They were feeding in the crops and returning to the hedgerows every few minutes and this continued for over 25 minutes, I continued scanning the hedgerows until I found another flock of Finches further away perching in a large tree next to the track. Even though they were at a distance it was easy to see another small flock of 20+ Brambling with another small Finch flock. They continued feeding whilst I watched them and at one point I had Brambling and Yellowhammer both feeding on the floor only metres away from me on the other side of the gate. There are a number of Pheasant pens in the area and the crops and seed that are left to entice the Pheasants and other game for shooting are obviously benefiting the Finch flocks. A covey of Red-legged Partridges were heard long before 7 came running up the track towards me, it wasn't long before they disappeared into the crops in front of me followed by another 5 shortly after. 3 Ring-necked Parakeets passed over nosily and headed off towards Temple Island and 2 Red Kites drifted over the fields towards Aston.

Seems to be a good year for Brambling with flocks being seen at Penn Wood, Wycombe & Chisbridge Lane, Frieth and now Remenham, Berks to name but a few.

Added To My Year List 2008.

106. Linnet

107. Ring-necked Parakeet

Egyptian Geese

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Lesser Scaup - Appleford GP's, Sutton Courtenay, Oxon. 9th Jan 2008.

I headed off to Appleford gravel pits, Sutton Courtenay, Oxon this afternoon hoping to catch up with the 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup. After parking in the village and searching many of the local pits I finally found the Lesser Scaup on the Hanson pit which can be viewed from SU517939. It remained in the South-east corner diving alongside Tufted Duck & Pochard until dusk. Earlier whilst trying to find the Lesser Scaup i watched 2 Kingfishers chasing each other around one of the anglers pits and a male & female Goosander were present on one of the pits heading towards the Hanson's pit.

Added To My Year List 2008.

105. Lesser Scaup

RSPB Otmoor, Oxon. 8th Jan 2008.

A rather grey and windy day greeted me when I arrived at RSPB Otmoor this afternoon, a few small showers passed over and despite the main track being extremely muddy I made my way towards the main fields. At the feeder station Blue & Great Tits were busy on the feeders and as I watched a male Reed Bunting perched in the trees behind before dropping down to the floor to feed. The main field was rather quiet apart from the usaul ducks and a Grey Heron, a few Starlings passed over and a Kestrel was at the far end of the track by Noke floods. I scanned the floods near Noke woods and found Mallard, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon & Shoveler and whilst scanning through the ducks a male Pintail passed through the scope. Mute Swan & a flock of Greylag Geese were present but there was no sign of either White-fronted or Pink-footed Geese that were reported earlier in the week, I decided to carry on along the path and after 15 minutes of truddging through the mud I arrived at the pump house at the far end of the footpath, looking back across the floods 5 White-fronted Geese appeared in the distance from behind one of the bunds. I decided to walk back towards the reserve in the hope that I might get better views of the Geese and hopefully find the Pink-footed. I arrived back at the main track and viewed the floods, as I watched the White-fronted Geese they flew to the edge of the field and in perfect view, I continued to watch them and after about 15 minutes the Pink-footed Goose flew in and joined them to graze on the grass. I continued on to the first screen and within 5 minutes a female(ringtail) Hen Harrier drifted over the reeds searching for food, this individual seemed to have an injured leg as the left leg was hanging down and remained there whilst it hunted over the reedbed, it quartered the reeds before dropping down in to them and out of sight. Another Kestrel began hovering to the right of the screen and while I scanned the wildfowl on the water I spotted a lone Snipe sat at the waters edge. As the light started to fade a number of small Starling flocks joined together and within 25 minutes the number had risen to at least 5,000 birds circling over the fields, as I headed back along the track more and more Starlings flew in to join the main flock and a female Stonechat flew across the path and into the bushes.

Added To My Year List 2008.

98. White-fronted Goose
99. Pink-footed Goose
101. Hen Harrier

Chisbridge Lane, Frieth. 7 Jan 2008.

I decided to head up to Chisbridge Lane this afternoon to see what was about, as I left home a Stoat ran across the veg patch and out into the orchard, good to see it's still about as Rabbit numbers seem to be very high at the moment and hopefully the Stoat will thin them out a bit. 3 Kites over the cottage, Marsh Tit still visiting the feeders as well as a Great-spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch numbers have increased from about 6 regular visitors to 15+.

At Chisbridge Lane the Finch flock was still present in the cereal crops, I waited in the car as a passing shower brought the birds to the trees next to the road, at least 25 Brambling, 25+ Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch and 2 Yellowhammer perched in the trees until the shower passed and then slowly returned to the fields. 3 Red-legged Partridge fed along the side of the field with 2 Male Blackbirds, a Kestrel passed over and began hovering next to the farm followed by 3 Red Kites that drifted over. A large flock of 100+ Wood Pigeons scattered from the woods behind the fields. Further down the road a flock of 35+ Skylark flushed from the fields as I drove past followed by a small covey of 6 Red-legged Partridge that ran across the road and into a nearby field. Good numbers of Hare, 25+ spread out across the fields.

Added To My Year List 2008.

94. Brambling

West Sussex. 6th Jan 2008.

Little Egret
Red-breasted Goose

After my good friend and fellow birder Roy Rose and I decided we would have a good attempt at a decent year list for 2008 I've been planning trips and routes in the aim to see some of the overwintering rarities and scarcities that might be on offer. My first choice was the Hoopoe that had been seen in Kingsley, Hants since 24th December 2007, always a fantastic bird to see and at this time of year it would certainly be an added bonus, the last time I had seen one was back in late March 2005 at Reading Brewery so that was the first stop. As I looked through the birdmap on I noticed that the Cattle Egret at East Lavant, West Sussex was still being seen on most days and as it had been present since the 7th December there was a good chance of connecting with it, as it's not far from Kingsley it was soon added to the trip. As long as we were in the area it made sense to keep heading south for the long staying Red-breasted Goose at West Wittering and maybe just enough time to drop into Pagham Harbour and Church Norton.

The Plan was hatched and the journey programed into the Sat Nav, a beautiful cold but sunny day greeted me as I left home for Roy's house. Our usual Red Kite was sat in the tree outside the cottage and further along my journey a flock of Feral Pigeons sat on the farm roof by the Ploughden Arms pub in Shiplake, as I approached Caversham a number of Starlings were seen, and at Roy's a small flock of Fieldfare were busy feeding through the fields as we loaded the cars.

Off we set and before long we arrived at Kingsley, sadly no sign of the Hoopoe and after an hour of searching nearby fields and paddocks there was still no sign, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle & Song Thrush but no Hoopoe, we decided to leave and return later if we had time.

After a short drive we arrived at East Lavant and as we drove along Fordwater Road I spotted a few Egrets in a field, we stopped the car to scan the fields and promptly found the Cattle Egret in the cattle fields along with Little Egret. We made our way across the public footpath and stream to where 3 Little Egrets were feeding with the Cattle Egret. We watched it for sometime before it headed down a ditch and out into the next field, whilst walking back towards the car a Grey Wagtail flew over calling as it headed upstream.

The next stop was West Wittering to hopefully find the Red-breasted Goose and upon arrival we soon noticed a large Goose flock feeding in the fields behind the cafe. We scanned the flock and only managed to find Brent Geese so decided to walk around the fields to view from the northern side, the field slopped away and many of the geese were being lost to view as they headed to the rear of the field. We met a couple of local birders that gave us directions to another location where the Red-breasted Goose had often been seen and we said our goodbyes. We stayed to check the pools and beach front which hosted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Shelduck & Oystercatcher and back near the car park a small flock of Golden Plover had joined the large flock of Brent Geese. I know the Witterings pretty well and spent many family holidays there in my youth, my late father spent many hours birdwatching at Pagham, Selsey and at West Wittering and I guess that the times we spent together have imprinted a fondness for the area and a sense of direction so by the time we got in the car and left for Bracklesham we were there already. As we drove towards the South Downs Caravan Park I spotted a large flock of Brent Geese in the fields opposite and we stopped the car to have a look, it didn't take long to find the Red-breasted Goose in the middle of 300+ Brent Geese although the Black Brant wasn't with them. By now time was ticking away and at 3pm we left Bracklesham hoping to have a quick look at Pagham Harbour and Church Norton before we headed home.

We had a quick look at the visitor centre to see what sightings had been seen but the book was empty so we headed off to the Ferry Pool hide. The Ferry Pool was extremely quiet and we made our way to the sluice gates to look down the channel towards the harbour, two birds caught my eye as they flew across the fields that are next to the path and as I watched two Short-eared Owls appeared again as they quarted the fields. We only had an hour or so of light left so we got back in the car and drove to Church Norton, the mudflats were very quiet other than 6 Avocet and a few Shelduck in the distance so we made our way towards the beach. At the beach the birdlife was much better with Turnstone, Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover and Redshank on the shoreline and at least 5 Mediterranean Gulls joined the melee of Gulls feeding on the waters edge. Out at sea were Red-breasted Mergansers, a Black-throated Diver flew West and a Slavonian Grebe drifted Eastwards, whilst scanning the harbour entrance a pair of Velvet Scoters took flight from the water and headed round the spit towards the harbour, good views of the white secondary panels in their wings as they flew.

We never made it back to Kingsley so the Hoopoe will have to wait for another day.

Added To My Year List 2008.
70. Cattle Egret (East Lavant, West Sussex)
81. Red-breasted Goose (Bracklesham, West Sussex)
82. Short-eared Owl (Pagham Harbour, West Sussex)
89. Mediterranean Gull (Church Norton, West Sussex)
91. Black-throated Diver (Church Norton, West Sussex)
92. Slavonian Grebe (Church Norton, West Sussex)
93. Velvet Scoter (Church Norton, West Sussex)

Theale Area, Berks. 5th Jan 2008.


I headed off to the Theale area with the hope of seeing the rarer Ducks that have been present since the end of last year, my thinking was to see the long staying Red-crested Pochards, Scaup and Ferruginous Duck to start off my year list and before they departed.

I arrived at Wigmore Lane gravel pits and met Roy Rose and we made our way to the lake they currently inhabit, We soon found the 2 male & 1 female Red-crested Pochards and shortly after the male Greater Scaup behind the Island but there was no sign of the female Ferruginous Duck. We decided to search for the Ferruginous and headed off towards some of the other lakes encountering a number of Tit flocks one including a single Siskin and a single Bullfinch amongst 9 Long-tailed Tit. On the furthest Lake we found a large flock of Greylag Geese, Shoveler and 3 female Goosanders which departed 5 mins later, sadly there was no sign of the Ferruginous Duck.
We headed off to Searles Lane gravel pits next and as we walked towards the pits a flock of 40+ Siskin flew from the Alders overhead, they flew tightly together calling as they flew further down the path. The Black-necked Grebe was still present and was feeding on the far side of the southern lake close to the reeds. Ken Moore & Roger Stanfield joined us and we scanned the Gulls on the pits, Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser & Great Black-backed Gull all present, local birder and finder of rare ducks Ken Moore soon found Yellow-legged Gull but no sign of the Caspian Gull that was seen earlier. A pair of Egyptian Geese were present along with Goldeneye.

We stopped off at Theale main pit and met Ken Moore & Ken Spring who let us know that the Ferruginous Duck was again visible at Wigmore Lane, a quick scan of the main pit where 2 Peregrines were perched on the pylon, a male on the right side of the pylon and a female which was sat next to a nest at the top of the pylon.

Back to Wigmore we headed and met up again with Ken Moore who showed us where the female Ferruginous Duck was, she was asleep on the far side of the pit until she slowly drifted towards the island.

Added To My Year List 2008.

39. Greater Scaup
40. Red-crested Pochard
57. Yellow-legged Gull
58. Black-necked Grebe
61. Peregrine Falcon
64. Ferruginous Duck

A Year Of Birding 2007.


2007 started well with a Bean Goose being found on the 2nd January in the fields between Aston & Remenham, it stayed until the 8th January feeding in the fields with Mute Swans. Shortly after both Lesser & Greater Scaup were found together at Sonning Eye pit's in Oxfordshire and on the 4th of January I made a mad dash to see them before it got dark.
Staines produced Great Northern Diver and Black Necked Grebe and then it was down to Wraysbury to see Smew. Bray gravel pits hosted a Slavonian Grebe from the 23rd of January to the 12th of February and I was so pleased to see one I made 2 visits to look at it. A visit to Finchampstead Ridges bought the annual sighting of Firecrest as one flitted through the holly bushes along Dell Road and across the road at Moor Green Lakes the wintering Goosander flock put on a welcome show in the Winter sun.



2 Bitterns put on a good show at Lavell's Lake on the 3rd followed by a Water Rail and singing Cetti's Warbler. It was then off to Hawley near Camberley to see the Yellow-browed Warbler on the 10th, another lifer for me and well worth the visit.On the 11th I made my way to Amwell Gravel pits to see the Little Bunting, fantastic views from the viewpoint and also amazing views of Water Rail as I fed in the open below the watchpoint.Dinton Pastures hosted a single male Red-crested Pochard which I saw on the 18th and another visit to Lavell's Lake on the same day brought good views of a single Bittern. A pair of Grey Partridge wandered through the garden on the 26th February allowing me to get some great photos as they sat in the adjacent paddock, they stayed around for most of the afternoon and then headed off through the fields, not a bad garden tick at all!.The month ended off on a high as I managed to find the single Waxwing in Botley, Oxford on the 27th.

Water Rail
Little Bunting
Red-crested Pochard
Grey Partridge


Finally I found a Barn Owl close to home on the 3rd March just when I was beginning to think they hadn't made it through the Winter. Cropredy in Oxfordshire hosted a Common Crane which stayed faithful to the fields alongside Appletree Road and gave good views although distant at times.

Common Crane


On the 1st a visit to Penn Woods near High Wycombe brought fantastic views of Brambling as they came in to roost, certainly worth a visit to see hundreds of Brambling. I managed to see the Male & female Garganey at Woolhampton gravel pits on the 5th and managed to get some good photos that I sent to birdguides and then it was off to Aston Rowant the next day to catch up with the arriving Ring Ouzels that always stop there on migration. At home on the 9th a lone Grey Partridge wandered through the garden followed hours later by a singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. On the 11th another Ring Ouzel turned up, this time at Twyford gravel pits which I couldn't resist going to see, good views as it fed in one of the horse paddocks near the railway bridge. Then on the 29th a trip down to Frampton-on-Severn, Glos, to see the Glossy Ibis invasion with at least 8 individuals present along with a Spotted Redshank, Marbled Duck was also present on the adjacent pools.

Willow Warbler
Ring Ouzel
Glossy Ibis


The month started well with me getting to see Bonaparte's Gull at Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon, another lifer for me, I also picked up Artic Tern on the same day. It was then time for the Theale Area Bird Conservation Group(TABCG) annual trip to Wales on the 6th, never disappoints and the highlights were Cuckoo, Dipper, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Common Redstart, Wheatear, Raven and a Tawny Owl perched out in the sun for all to see. Lea Farm, Lavell's Lake hosted 2 Spoonbills on the 14th and a Black Tern at Black Swan Lake Dinton Pastures and sightings of Nightingale, Reed & Garden Warbler and 5 Bullfinch rounded off a good day. My first Hobby of the year drifted over the fields next to temple Island,Remenham whilst I watched the common Terns on the 17th. The annual TABCG Berkshire Bird Race on the 26th provided a great days birding, rather tiring to say the least and after competing in it for 3 years I should be used to it by now, a new team this year and a respectable 98 species, not bad seeing as the winning team recorded 105.

Bonaparte's Gull
Tawny Owl
Common Buzzard
Common Buzzard
Common Tern


The annual TABCG Nightjar walk at Padworth Common as very successful, a few new faces joined us as we attempted to see both Nightjar and Woodcock at dusk. Probably the best views of Nightjar that I've had as two males displayed metres in front of us, Woodcock continually passed over throughout the evening whilst Roding along their territories. Good views of Turtle Dove at RSPB Otmoor as one perched in the trees behind the car park.


The 18th bought my first ever sighting of the rare Purple Emperior as a male flitted across the Warburg Nature Reserve car park, 2 Marsh Tits were using the Niger feeders and were viewed extremely close from the hide next to the information centre. A family party of 7 Mistle Thrush were present in the fields and occasionally using the bird bath, 2 Juvenile Great-spotted Woodpeckers were busy being fed in the garden and the Little Owls had a brood of 2 young.


My first calling Quail for many years was heard on the Berkshire Downs along with good sightings of Wheatear, Grey & Red-legged Partridge. A juvenile Marsh Sandpiper was at Farmoor Reservoir on the 5th and whilst walking back across the causeway to the car park a female Purple Emperor flitted along in front of me before coming to rest on the side of the causeway. Back to Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon on the 12th to see my first ever Purple Heron, 2 Black Tern were also feeding over the F2 reservoir. On the 14th, a wet and miserable day I made my way to Moor Green Lakes, Berks to see the juvenile Little Stint and followed that on the 19th with a Wood Sandpiper at Days Lock near Dorchester, Oxon. An Adult and juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was seen on the 24th at Borough Marsh, Berks and I finished the month off back at Days Lock, Dorchester adding Ruff to my year list. Tawny & Little Owls were a regular visitor around the gardens, 3 juvenile Green Woodpeckers were often seen feeding with their parents in the paddock, 2 Marsh Tits were regular visitors to the feeders and also Stoat and Badger were both seen around the garden.

Purple Emperor
Little Owl
Juvenile Little Owl


A trip over to Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon on the 29th gave me fantastic views of Grey Phalarope and whilst watching it an Artic Skua flew low over the reservoir before gaining height and flying off out of sight. Badger sightings at the start of month were regular with at least one individual being seen next to the cottage and along the driveway. Tawny and Little Owls were also regular sightings around the garden and along Shogmoor Lane, Frieth throughout the month as were Sparrowhawk.

Grey Phalarope


A family holiday in Kalkan, Turkey, between the 1st-8th added 23 species to my life list and the bonus of watching Red-backed Shrike, Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush and numerous Raptors from the villa roof was very appealing, a little known area of South West Turkey with very good potential due to the varied habitat. The day after I returned from Turkey the news broke of a mega sighting at Farmoor Reservoir on the 9th, A Buff-bellied Pipit was present along the far end of the causeway and despite the weather being terrible the Pipit was very obliging and allowed me to add it to my life list. My last trip of the month took me to Wishmoor Bottom, Berks to see Great Grey Shrike and then off to Pagham Harbour where I managed to see Pomarine Skua on the mudflats and a flock of Common Scooter at sea at Church Norton.

Rock Nuthatch
Blue Rock Thrush


On the 17th a female/immature Merlin swooped low over the road at the top of Shogmoor Lane, Frieth, Bucks, my first of the year. A day later I made the trip over to Wigmore Lane, Theale, Berks to see the Greater Scaup and Ferruginous Duck, both birds were found by Theale birder Ken Moore and both are still present.


A trip to see the Juvenile White-tailed Eagle(Sea Eagle) at Shipton Bellinger was unsuccessful although I did have good views of Raven and Peregrine. The Eagle is still present and I will certainly try again in 2008. A visit up to the Berkshire Downs on the 22nd brought good views of both Short-eared Owls and a female Hen Harrier, and a small flock of Brambling near home at Chisbridge Lane, Frieth ended the year.

2007 Year List Total = 212
2007 Garden Year List = 49

Species added to my Life List = 35

Thursday, 3 January 2008

December Sightings.

The month of December saw the usual visitors to the garden feeders, Blue, Great and Coal Tit were regular sightings feeding on Black Sunflowers as were small numbers of Chaffinch and Greenfinch. Blackbird numbers seem very high this year with at least 8 individuals been seen around the cottage and even more out in the fields, Redwing continue to be seen in one or two small groups of at least 15 birds and although Fieldfare seem to be thin on the ground two Mistle Thrushes are often in the fields and around the garden. Robin, Dunnock, Wren & Great-spotted Woodpecker have also made regular appearances.

The resident Little Owls have been very quiet and only seen on two occasions this month, I'm interested to find out if they are using a nestbox I put up for them but signs don't look too promising. Tawny Owls are still calling on most evenings and during the few days before and after Christmas an individual was calling from the cottage roof in the early hours, probably perched on the chimney warming itself up during the chilly evenings. Another single bird flew through the paddock and straight passed me one early evening as I collected wood from the shed, it always amazes me how quiet these birds are as they fly and I got a fantastic view as it flew through the beam of the outside light. You can't buy moments like that and I guess that's what makes wildlife so special, unscripted is probably the best description.

The eve of Christmas Eve bought an unexpected but very welcome visitor as I was glancing out of the window at the feeders, a flash of Blue darted towards the top of the feeder stand and there sat a Nuthatch. A nice change from the usual visitors and although not a unusual sighting in the garden there have been very few visits from them recently. Later in the day I heard a bird calling from the bushes next to the garden and rushed to the window in the hope that I might get a sight of a sporadic garden visitor, I waited for the bird to call again and suddenly heard "pitchoo", the sneezing call of the Marsh Tit and as I watched a single bird hopped it's way to the top of the bush. This is the first sighting I've had since August and they always liven things up a bit in the garden, I've often noticed that they are heard long before they appear at the feeders. Finally a pair showed throughout Christmas and on to the New Year. They often have a tendency to disappear for months at a time and due to them being in rapid decline it's always a relief to see them back in the garden and still about. I've been lucky enough to have this species as a garden visitor in two gardens I have lived in during the last 5 years.