Saturday, 22 March 2008

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) - Coate Water Country Park, Wiltshire. 22nd March 2008.

Red-throated Diver.

I headed off to Coate Water Country Park near Swindon, Wiltshire (SU177826) today with the hope of catching up with a Red-throated Diver that had been found on the 18th March, with the strong winds that have been blowing across the UK recently it was always a possibility of something interesting turning up but it's always a case of where and when. Even though the weather tried it's best to put me off I headed off to see the Diver or "Loon" as they're known in North America. After driving through rain, hail, sleet, snow and the odd sunny spell I arrived at my destination and within a minute of parking the car I was watching my first Sand Martins of the year which were busy feeding across the lakes surface.

The Diver was relatively close, sat on the water next to an island in all it's splendour, the dark red throat patch being clear to see on this adult bird as it preened for sometime before slowly drifting out towards the centre of the lake. After sleeping through the worst of the frequent Hail storms the Diver started to feed and I was amazed to see how long it could dive for, it seemed close to a minute at some periods often surfacing a great distance from where it submerged, much longer than the Great-crested Grebes and Cormorants that were also present and feeding.

As the next torrent of hail and sleet started I decided to make my way home and left the Diver as it continued further down the lake to feed, it's certainly my best views of any of the Diver family I have ever had, all of the Divers I have seen have been in Winter plumage and mostly out at sea so to see an Adult Red-throated Diver in breeding plumage was certainly worth the wait.

Added To My Year List

121. Sand Martin
122. Red-throated Diver

Monday, 10 March 2008

Theale Area, Berks. 10th march 2008.

I took a trip over to Theale, Berks today and met up with Roy Rose at Burnthouse Lane GP's. At Burnthouse Lane we viewed the Pits, a single Little Egret flew over and headed off Northwards, a single Green Sandpiper and a few Shelduck being the highlights amongst the more commoner species.

At Padworth GP's we braved the wind and rain to find a single Green Sandpiper and a single Common Sandpiper on the gravel pits, both year sightings for me. Great views of a Treecreeper as it climbed the tree trunks of the Alders next to the path, good numbers of Pied Wagtails with a few Grey Wagtails in tow and on our way back to the car a flock of 100+ Fieldfare & Redwing flew over.

Added To My Year List.

118. Green Sandpiper
119. Woodlark
120. Common Sandpiper

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Farlington Marshes & Hayling Island, Hants. 2nd March 2008.

Mediterranean Gull.

I joined Roy Rose on the Berkshire Ornithological Club's day visit to Farlington Marshes, Hants, so after an early morning journey to Roy's we headed off to Farlington. We arrived at Farlington Marshes and waited for the rest of the group to turn up, although there were blue skies from time to time the blustery wind conditions soon saw us adding a few layers as we prepared to tour the reserve. As we left the car park a male Sparrowhawk drifted over the top of us giving everybody a good view before it headed out over the reserve. At our first stop we encountered the first Brent Geese and Black-tailed Godwits of the day as well as Wigeon & Teal feeding on the pools, further along the route a Peregrine was found perched on a fence post doing it's best to get out of the strong winds blowing across the reserve. Unfortunately the sea was so far out that many of the wading birds were almost out of sight but whilst scanning the mudflats I did find 2 Common Seals that were relaxing on the shore.

We then headed off to Hayling Island and followed the BOC group leader to a car park where we parked up and made our way along the beachfront. A good selection of Gulls were on display and the usual human offerings caused a melee between them as they fought for scraps around the car park, further along the beachfront 2 Mediterranean Gulls in adult plumage sat in all their splendor calmly watching the world go by, they gave me a good opportunity to get a few shots before somebody disturbed them and off they flew. Other than the Gulls it was quiet, not much activity at sea but 2 waders flying low across the water were later identified as Sanderling. By the time we had walked to what i believe to be "Black Point" we were all a but weary from constantly trudging along what felt like miles of pebbles and a few had to take the weight of their feet while we viewed the area. Looking out across the water we suddenly noticed a head looking back at us, a Common Seal was bobbing up and down in the sea watching us intensely before it disappeared under the water.

We were just about to head back to the car park when a Tern came in to view, I must admit I had to have a double-take as I couldn't believe what I was seeing, "seems a bit early for a Tern" I thought to myself but as it approached us it was clear to see it was a Sandwich Tern. It continued passed us and along the shore line, a big surprise for me to see one so early in the year and it certainly rounded off an enjoyable day.

Added To My Year List.

116. Sanderling
117. Sandwich Tern

Glaucous Gull - Little Marlow Gp's, Bucks. 1st March 2008.

Glaucous Gull-1st Winter Juvenile.

A juvenile Glaucous Gull was found at Little Marlow Gp's, Bucks mid-morning so a quick change of plans saw me heading towards Marlow in search of this scarce winter visiting Gull. Scanning through the Gulls on the spit it took me awhile to find the Glaucous Gull due to the fact it was hidden behind the rest of the Gulls preening. It showed intermittently and it wasn't until a large number of Gulls took to the air that it could be seen a bit clearer, this large Gull which breeds in Iceland showed the large pink bill with black tip, pink legs and a buff oatmeal colour to it's plumage making it a first winter juvenile. This is the first time I've seen a Glaucous Gull and i was delighted to see it as by the following day it had departed.

Added To My Year & Life List.

115. Glaucous Gull

297. Glaucous Gull

Monday, 3 March 2008

February's Local Sightings.


February started much the same as January with the usual species visiting the garden, a single Marsh Tit continued to visit daily along with the odd cameo from Nuthatch. A male and female Great-spotted Woodpecker have become regular visitors as well as a party of 4 Long-tailed Tits and are regularly found feeding on the peanut feeders, the Long-tailed Tits becoming very tame and giving me a great chance to film them up close.

Long-tailed Tits.

Small numbers of Redwing & Fieldfare have appeared throughout the month and can often be seen feeding alongside Mistle Thrush in the fields around the garden and along Shogmoor Lane,Skirmett. Blackbird numbers have slowly decreased with the remaining birds often being seen together in pairs. Both Black-headed & Common Gull can be found feeding in the fields throughout the Hambleden Valley and would presumably return to roost each night at Little Marlow Gravel Pits. Numerous sightings throughout the month of Tawny & Little Owl and a Barn Owl was seen flying over Shogmoor Lane, Skirmett, early evening on the 1st Feb, Sadly not by me!. Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are all regular species around the garden at the moment with many of the Kites already displaying for potential suitors for the breeding season.


On Wednesday 20th a blanket of fog and a drop in temperature encased the valley around skirmett bringing with it the first sightings of Brambling in the garden, 3 males & 2 females were busy feeding along with Chaffinches under the feeders and making the most of some finch seed and black sunflower that I had thrown out on the lawn, an increased number of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch was very evident with 6 Greenfinches & 4 Goldfinches using the feeders for the day. By the following day 4 of the Brambling had departed leaving a single female which stayed until the 22nd, A single male turned up on mon 25th and was still visiting the garden on the 29th.


Another visit to Chisbridge Lane, Frieth, brought excellent views of the Brambling flock that is still present, at least 30+ are still accompanying the Finch flock that continues to feed on Maze crops near Chisbridge Farm. The Finch flock which is in the religion of 100+ birds are often found sitting in the trees next to the lane and near the double field gates. Whilst watching the brambling a double bang from a nearby crow scarer went off flushing over 200 Woodpigeons from the crops, as I watched them circle up and over the fields 8 red-legged Partridge scurried from the crops and ran down the side of the field, stopping every now and again to look over their shoulder before carrying on across the field . I scanned the area they came from and was delighted to find a single Grey Partridge slowly wandering alongside the crops, just enough time for me to get a few photos before it disappeared into the Maze.

Male Brambling-Chisbridge Lane.

Female Brambling-Chisbridge Lane.

Grey Partridge-Chisbridge Lane.