Sunday, February 26, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 26 February 2006

First -winter Greater Scaup at WWT Slimbridge 26 February 2006, M.J.McGill

26 February 2006 The two Eastern Greylags were reported in the road fields from 0640 but were not there from 0805 at least. They re-surfaced feeding in the salt-pasture at Frampton on Severn see another of todays posts on this diary section. The Dark-bellied Brent, Pink-footed and up to five 'continental' Greylags were seen with c500 E.White-fronted Geese. Five Ruff, 9 Black-tailed Godwit and a number of Golden Plover, Curlew, Lapwing and Dunlin present on the Tack Piece. The female Smew was on the Long Ground Pool and the first-winter male Greater Scaup on the European enclosure pond.

Eastern and 'continental' Greylags at WWT Slimbridge, 26 February 2006

26 February 2006 Below are a few images to show that the two Greylags that were in the roadside fields when I looked several times from 0805 to this morning were not the Eastern Greylags. They were larger, paler and heavier billed (pale orange at best) but what I always call 'continental' Greylags. The images are of the two that were at the right hand end of the Whitefront flock late morning and were sat in with the Whitefronts earlier in the morning. The Eastern Greylags were refound on private land adjacent to the reserve at Frampton on Severn at 1530. Compare the rear flanks on the two continental birds to that on the Easterns. No zebra stripes on the birds on image 1 or 3 and quite a difference in the birds in all features. Even though the light is not so good in 1 and 3 it makes no difference to the flank markings. A few birders would not believe what we were saying, we were simply trying make everyone aware that they were not the same pair we saw last Wednesday.

The Eastern Greylags are viewable from the public footpath along the Glos to Sharpness canal. They are on private land with no public rights of way so please view only from the towpath (do not enter the fields, conservation awareness and goodwill from the landowner is currently appreciated locally). Look out onto the salt-pasture adjacent to the Splatt bridge north reedbed. They were dropping into hollows near the edge to drink and rest, they are wary and likely to flush. Please park sensibly if you visit as the lanes and parking spaces are limited and show consideration to residents).

Image 1 'continental ' type Greylag in roadside field at WWT Slimbridge, 26 February 2006, M.J.McGill

Image 2 Eastern Greylags on Tack Piece at WWT Slimbridge, M.J.MGill.

Image 3 'continental' Greylag in roadside field at WWT Slimbridge, 26 February 2006, M.J.McGill

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Cotswold Water Park sightings, 25 February 2006, M.J.McGill

25 February 2006 A visit to the Cotswold Water Park arriving at 0750 after an indecisive night due to forecasts of snow. Only a small amount of snow was on show on the Cotswold escarpment so it proved to be no problem. The wind was biting, blowing in from the east. Within ten minutes we were watching a flock of 16 Smew (5 adult males, 1 first winter male and the rest were all females). The males were displaying along with the first winter male, he was doing his best to get some practice in. Three pairs of Goosander were also present but no Red-crested Pochard. A flock of 26 Ruddy Duck, 8 Goldeneye and 100 Wigeon were on Pit 57. This Pit was very quiet. We moved to other western Gloucestershire pits and was surprised by the number of Gadwall (c100) and Wigeon (300) about. Both species were feeding alongside the Coot who were bringing the weed to the surface for them.

On checking a few more pits which were quiet due to the cold wind, building disturbance and choppy water we headed off to a couple of the Cotswold Water Park East. Another surprise came in the form of 178 Shoveler feeding together on Pit 114. A couple more Ruddy Duck were present with seven Goldeneye and two Little Grebe. Three Little Egret were in the riverside field at Fairford. Back to the CWP Western section to search through more duck finally produced Red-crested Pochard, we ended up seeing c40 in total.

Whilst searching through the diving duck I noticed a female Scaup and tried to get the others onto it by giving up my scope. They were unable to get on the bird straight away (-5 wind chill did not help). When I refound it, it was flank on and I was able to study it, I now thought it to be a female Lesser Scaup, it had the small bump or crest at the rear of the crown, no feathers hanging down, a blue concave bill with black nail, rounded forehead, the greyish feathering on the mantle and flanks were paler than that of any of the attendant female Tufted and more like female Pochard. The white frontal patch (feathering around the base of the bill was clearly defined and neater and more extensive than nearly all female Tufted I have ever seen). To great annoyance a low flying aircraft went over while I was setting up my Nikon Coolpix and flushed the whole lake. I did not scope the wing pattern as the diving duck went off between the wooded islands. The majority of the diving duck dispersed and my hunch is that they went towards Pits 10, 8, 74. I checked through the numerous diving duck on 10, 12, 16, 8 and 17 but there was no sign of it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Male Greater Scaup in Gloucestershire, January to February 2006

One of the Lydney first-winter male Greater Scaup (bird 1) 7 January 2006. M.J.McGill.

This is second of the two Lydney first-winter males on 7 January 2006. M.J.McGill.

The first winter male Greater Scaup at WWT Slimbridge 20 February 2006. J.S.Lees

The same bird on South Lake when it arrived on 8th January 2006. M.J.McGill.

Have a close look how much the head colour has changed, the flanks have whitened and the vermiculations (greyish feathering) has advanced. The Lydney birds were way ahead in their moult, I have seen this before in previous winters at WWT Slimbridge. A first-winter female was with the two Lydney birds with at least two different females at WWT during this period at WWT Slimbridge.

WWT Caerlaverock 22nd February 2006

22 February 2006 James Lees had some WWT business to attend to at WWT Caerlaverlock representing the Slimbridge Reserve team, primarily to catch Whooper Swans for ringing. This was the second such visit for him this winter and a selection of images capture the highlights. I will add a picture of the Taverner's Canada Goose later from the previous visit. A total of 200 Whooper Swans, 12,000 Barnacle Geese, 70 Pink-footed Geese, 300 Golden Plover, Brambling, 40 Yellowhammer, 120 Chaffinch and the Lesser Scaup was showing very well. A magnificent flock of pre-roost Starlings (hundreds of thousands) were seen on the return journey near Carlisle.

Lesser Scaup at WWT Caerlaverock, 22 February 2006. J.S.Lees

Barnacle Geese on the entrance road at WWT Caerlaverock.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 23 February 2006

23 February 2006 No sign of the Eastern Greylags between 0900-1030 at least but the three 'continental' Greylags were on the Top New Piece. The E.White-fronted Goose flock numbered 643 with one Dark-bellied Brent, one adult Pink-footed and the Bar-headed Goose with them. At least 13 Ruff, 10 Black-tailed Godwit, 200 Dunlin, 48 Curlew and 21 Redshank were present on the scrapes and fields. A male Red-crested Pochard was on South Lake. The adult female Peregrine was on the Dumbles.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

WWT Sightings 22 February 2006

22 February 2006 The three 'continental' Greylag were on the spartina island in the estuary. I had the optical stamina to distantly count at least 575 E.White-fronted Goose and the Dark-belleied Brent were feeding on the Warth (Lower Dumbles). The Bar-headed Goose was also with them. Nine Meadow Pipit, seven Skylark and five Linnet fed around the Holden Pool. The Tack Piece held 200 Bewick's Swan, 1200 Wigeon, 1 Knot, 200 Dunlin, 7 Ruff (1 colour-ringed), 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Curlew, 4 Oystercatcher and 13 Redshank. At least six more Ruff were at the South Finger as well as the female Smew. Dave Paynter relocated the 2 Eastern Greylags on the Top New Piece.

Yesterday I also saw a Slimbridge colour-ringed Lapwing from our 2004 breeding season which was very encouraging. MJM.

Eastern Greylags at WWT Slimbridge, 21st February 2006, MJMcGill

Eastern Greylags at WWT Slimbridge 21st February 2006

The pair together on the Tack Piece scrape. We have never had genuine pink-billed birds with all of the structural features and behaviour. This pair were very hungry with the behaviour of newly arrived geese. On checking with Dave Paynter we have never seen the Eastern Greylag at Slimbridge. This accounts for decades of birding the site. The three 'continental' Greylags were feeding on the spartina island out in the estuary. This is common behaviour from the small numbers of shy, larger, paler Greylags that have wintered for the past 4-5 years. These particular birds are not the same as the two new arrivals or the wintering flock of 300-470 but provide a very interesting comparison nonetheless. We used to keep four Eastern Greylag in the collection around ten years ago which I was aviculturally responsible for and these two are identical. Very interesting that they arrived on the easterly. MJM.

Eastern Greylag at WWT Slimbridge, 21 February 2006 MJMcGill

One of the pair seen on the Tack Piece 21st February 2006.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 21 February 2006

21 February 2006 A bitterly cold wind had begun to have an impact on the birds as things begin to dry out a little. 1 Spotted Redshank, 12 Redshank, 10 Ruff, 1 Little Stint, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 200 Golden Plover, 700 Dunlin and 2500 Lapwing were feeding on the Tack Piece. 200 Bewick's Swan, 1500 Wigeon and 400+ Pintail were the pick of the commoner wildfowl, the Ferruginous x hybrid was in the Rushy. The E.White-fronted Geese were distantly viewable on the Warth (Lower Dumbles) with a female Peregrine near the Holden Tower. A large gull passage is currently underway today and yesterday.

The highlight of the day was discovering two apparent Eastern Greylag Geese (Anser rubrirostris). They were present on the Tack Piece from 0955 to 1045 at least. Look out for very large, heavily built birds with bright pink (bubblegum) legs and long, heavy pinkish bills. They have a very pale overall plumage with very broad edges to all feathers which exaggerates the paleness. They are an adult pair, the male has two small spots on the vent. The more usual Western Greylags (Anser anser) were also present for direct comparison. I will hopefully add some pictures to the gallery of these excellent birds.

Monday, February 20, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 20 February 2006

20 February 2006 The first winter Greater Scaup was back on the European enclosure pond. The Ferruginous hybrid was on the Rushy. The two Little Stint, three Ruff, 1 Knot, 11 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Spotted Redshank were all seen among the waders. (Bob Radford and Graham Clarkson).

We managed to count 23,255 wetland birds yesterday but some species are already leaving the reserve. Pintail numbered 437 which is a reasonable count but Coot, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, E.White-fronted and Bewick's Swan had all gone down in number.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 19/17 February 2006

19 February 2006 Highlights on todays Wetland Bird Survey included the first winter male Greater Scaup which is now moulting rapidly. It has added a fair bit of the grey, vermiculated (barred) plumage on the mantle. It was on the deepened scrape from the Zeiss Hide this morning. Perhaps this is where it goes when not on South Lake and the European Enclosure. The Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Geese were in the roadside fields with at least 700 E. White-fronted Geese, 101 Barnacle and the Bar-headed Goose. The E. White-fronted with the white breast bar was very close to the road today. Also two Hares were in the fields here. Watch only from a car or near the car park to avoid flushing them. 217 Bewick's Swans were on site at 0800. A Little Egret flew along the canalside ditch heading north at 1548. A Great White Egret was reported at the South Finger yesterday afternoon. At least two Little Stint, 16 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Ruff and 21 Redshank were seen this morning. I saw three Stonechat on the 100 Acre fences with a Kingfisher along the ditch. A flock of 45 Chaffinch and 34 Reed Bunting fed under the flailed hedges. The Ferruginous x hybrid was on the Rushy. MJM.

17 February 2006 The first winter female Greater Scaup was on Frampton Townfield Lake today with c30 Tufted Duck, three female Goldeneye and two Pochard. MJM. The first winter male Greater Scaup was on the European enclosure pond today with the Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Geese seen from Holden Tower. JSL.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

WWT Slimbridge sightings 16 February 2006

16 February 2006 As predicted the wader numbers had increased. A flock of 8000 Lapwing, 2400 Golden Plover and 2200 Dunlin also harboured at least one Ruff, one Spotted Redshank, 16 Redshank, 26 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Knot (the first of the year). At least 18,000 birds were on show from the Holden Tower today, I strongly suggest a visit before they disperse in a few weeks or if it freeze, excellent spectacle. The E.White-fronted Geese were in the Severn/Goose House Grounds so were not easy to see or count. The Bar-headed Goose was with the Barnacle Geese again. The three 'continental' Greylag were in the Top New Piece with a few of the re-established flock. It provides a good comparison opportunity. The first winter drake Greater Scaup was back on the European enclosure pond but no sign of the female today. A Tufted x Pochard hybrid male was on the Knott Pool and Long Ground Pools. A small Merlin (probable first winter male) was seen on the Top New Piece and a female Peregrine was on the Dumbles.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

WWT Bird sightings 11-15 February 2006

15 February 2006 The waders are building up in number due to flooding of the Top New and Tack Pieces. Up to 7000 Lapwing, 1700 Golden Plover and 1000 Dunlin are back and should increase massively if the mild and wet weather lasts. We have been pumping onto these fields so make the most of the winter birding over the next few weeks as they will all be off soon. A group of four Redshank were in company of the wintering Spotted Redshank from the Martin Smith Hide. MJM rediscovered last week's first winter female Greater Scaup today from the Robbie Garnett Hide and at least 11 Black-tailed Godwit and the Ruff (no counts) were with the Lapwing. The three 'continental' Greylag were on the Top New Piece. The Ferruginous x hybrid was on the Rushy. Single Lesser Redpoll are seen daily at present.

14 February 2006 The female Smew was on the South Lake and the first winter male Greater Scaup was on the European enclosure pond. A flock of nine Ruff on the Tack Piece included a colour marked individual, a further? 16 were seen on the Top New Piece. A Water Vole was next to the entrance ramp rhine (ditch). The three hulking 'continental' Greylag Geese were on the Top New Piece (look out for the larger size, paler plumage and heavy bills).

12 February 2006 At least two Little Stint were on the Dumbles. The geese came in to drink on the Tack Piece and brought an escaped (non WWT) Bar-headed Goose with them. It seems to prefer the Barnacle Geese for company. The Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Goose were also seen. A female Merlin raised over 2500 birds by hunting over the field in it's thrush style hunting flight, also Kingfisher, Water Rail and up to ten Snipe were seen from the Martin Smith Hide and sixty on the Top New Piece.

11 February 2006 The dawn exit flight of the 800 E. White-fronted Geese was excellent due to a stunning sunrise as a backdrop. A female Merlin dashed over the South Lake heading toward the river and an adult male Red crested Pochard, first winter male Greater Scaup and adult female Smew were all present on the frozen lake. Other species seen/heard on this Breakfast with the Birds event included four Cetti's Warblers (six on site at least) and a male Stonechat. The Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Goose were also seen. A Siskin showed to less than a foot at the Peng Obs as it fed on buds. MJMcGill and JS Lees.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gloucestershire sightings 10 February 2006

10 February 2006 A recycling trip at Hempsted turned into a gull search and I walked the SevernWay footpath along the R. Severn to view the loafing gulls on the opposite side of the river. Nothing of any note to report. I made the most of a very fine, still and sunny day and had a look for passerines. I visited a patch of setaside in Berkeley where a flock of 80 Linnet, 10+ Tree Sparrow, female Brambling and a number of commoner passerines could be found. I looked at a favoured spot in Sharpness and located two female/immature Black Redstart. It was fantastic viewing with the audible bill snap and flight feathers clicking on bricks when grabbing insects. Although they are sombre plumaged birds they are somewhat transformed when feeding as the red tail becomes very apparent as they sally and tumble down drainpipes and tiles. See the photos page for latest images of the Black Redstarts (you may have to use the direction buttons beneath the gallery tile to locate them). MJMcGill.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

WWT and Gloucestershire sightings 5 February 2006

See the Photos for Latest images of Tundra Bean Geese and Snow Buntings from Norfolk, Note the Pink-footed Goose. On Birdguides recently the flock has been reported as eight Tundra Bean but there were seven and the Pink-footed when we visited. Also some extra pictures of WWT Slimbridge 2005 rarities have been added.

5 February 2006 A great day at WWT. I (MJM) lead the Breakfast with the Birds event walk from 0630 and we kicked off with a calling Tawny Owl in the Decoy. After a quick look at the Bewick's Swan roost (243) we made for South Lake where we watched the 780 E White-fronted Geese leave the roost. Over 1200 corvids (Rook and Jackdaw) also left their roost. We had a look at the first winter male Greater Scaup on the European enclosure pond. The South Lake held two Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit. A Common Snipe ringing session later in the morning also gave us the opportunity to see 10 Jack Snipe. We also discovered another two female Greater Scaup each one flew off with Tufted Ducks, one flock went off towards Frampton. One appeared to have quite a strong clear white facial patch, possibly adult, the other more diffused and scruffy so we thought first winter. We also saw a Bittern on the ice but it crept off into the reeds. Two Little Grebe were a good midwinter sighting.

We topped up the winter feeding station and saw the female Merlin nearby, six Bullfinch, 12 Redwing as well as 19 Redshank on the river. On returning to the centre we had a look at the female Smew on South Lake. Over lunch the geese were brilliant with nearly the whole flock visiting the Tack Piece to drink bringing the single first winter Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Geese with them. A Peregrine was keeping a watch from the Turkey Oaks. On the Rushy the sun came out, the first time for while locally and the Ferruginous hybrid was present with the aythya duck. MJMcGill and JSLees.

After work I popped in to Townfield Lake (Frampton Sailing Lake) where I relocated the first winter female Greater Scaup, five female Goldeneye, c35 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard, 3 Little Grebe, 12 GCGrebe and 180 Coot were feeding. Unfortunately a guy was out on a small boat and pushing them around the lake. MJ McGill.

Friday, February 03, 2006

WWT Sightings 2 and 3 February 2006

3 February 2006 The first winter male Greater Scaup was seen on the South Lake but no sign of the redhead Smew that was reported at the South Finger yesterday. The E. White-fronted Goose flock numbered 740 and were very obliging. The Dark-bellied Brent and Pink-footed Goose was as usual with them. The Barnacle Goose flock has increased to 105 which begs the question are the extra birds wild vagrants? Two Ruff with the Lapwing from the South Finger hides.

2 February 2006 The Pink-footed and Dark- bellied Brent Geese were with the E.White-fronted Geese.