Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Patching was the Anser after all...

After not really expecting much, yesterday (28th) turned out to be a really good day locally. During the late morning, I had a drive along Deeping High Bank where I was obviously overwhelmed to find this first-winter female Scaup:

Okay that sounded slightly sarcastic, but in reality this is the first Scaup in the Peterborough area in 2011 - they're pretty rare round here! So much so that local listing legend Mike Weedon was there not long after for an important PBC year tick. A couple of female Goosanders were also along the Welland - my first of the winter.

Encouraged by the pleasant weather conditions and the decent birds, I headed round to the Cross Drain at Baston & Langtoft Pits where a Water Pipit was scratting around in the recently-dredged surroundings. The Cross Drain is one of the best winter sites at BLGP when it has been dredged/drained; presumably the activity stirs up lots of food and the draining makes fish easy picking for egrets and herons. Also there today were 5 Green Sandpipers, 6 Little Egrets, 2 Redshanks, 2 Grey Herons and a few dabbling ducks.

Shit photo of Water Pipit and Green Sand getting amongst it.

I'm not going to lie, I was chuffed with the pipit - definitely the best views I've had of a winter bird on the patch. But my rare radar wasn't letting up, soon persuading me to head towards the old wader scrape where the local Greylag Goose flock has been congregating of late. There are still load of wild geese around, so I was keen to thoroughly grill the flock to see if anything interesting had joined them. It appeared that, from the first few scans, nothing had changed from my disappointing result last week. But, a bit of 'encouragement' saw the geese waddling off the heavily vegetated islands and onto the water itself and, bang! There were four Tundra Bean Geese, looking wary as f*ck but eventually playing ball for the record shots. Shame the sun went in:

Tundra Bean Goose is a Peterborough Area tick for me, so it was nice to find my own and even on the patch to boot. I gave Mike a call and he came charging down from the High Bank. Frustratingly the birds had disappeared back into vegetation but then, all of a sudden, the entire Greylag flock got up and headed noisily towards The Ocean. Shit! Fortunately, the targets announced themselves with a series of Pinkfoot-like calls (but slightly deeper) as they seperated from the main flock, flew over our heads and headed off west over Langtoft village - the buggers definitely would have been viewable from our house - drat!

Less than satisfactory views for Mike, even though it was clear they were 'Bean' Geese. Fortunately, they looked like they went down just west of the village and, knowing the fields opposite Langtoft West End GPs as a traditional hotspot for geese (Greylags, Canadas and rarer species alike), we headed down there. Mike quickly picked up four distant birds away from a nearer flock of Greylags. Phew... at least they were still here! 'Scopes up, but no! It was only a party of four European White-fronts (adult & 3 juvs)! They were feeding along the edge of an uncut sugar beet field, munching away but looking really wary. Fortunately, it soon transpired that the four Tundra Beans were also in the same field, and we left the eight birds together in field at about 13:45.

Euro White-fronts and Tundra Beans.

I could have gone for the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Chew over the weekend (or probably even early this morning); after all it would be a new WP bird. However, the morning had proved that, at least sometimes, local birding really is the anser. A great couple of hours that were infinitely more rewarding than driving 7 hours to mid-Somerset and back.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Patching is not the anser

Sorry for the lack of updates.

I've been really busy over the past few weeks and so birding has been minimal. I went out locally today looking for grey geese for a couple of hours in between work, but nothing despite a good few hundred Greylags making enough of a racket to attract any passing Anser within several miles.

Best today was a Green Sandpiper... desperate times.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Reorientating Pinks 6/11

Yesterday's patch Red-breasted Merganser was greatly appreciated, but it seems I underestimated this latest bout of misty conditions and northerly-based winds. I mentioned briefly yesterday that they tend to produce lots of birds in our area, and perhaps yesterday I should have put in a bit more work.

Although the merg had done one this morning, it seems that birds were obviously still reorientating back out towards The Wash. The first evidence I had of this was a group of 21 Pink-footed Geese in fields by the Cross Drain. This is by far the biggest group I've ever seen on the deck here and, when I checked back on them later in the morning, they had already cleared off - presumably they arrived in the poor conditions yesterday and had roosted overnight.

Eleven of 21 Pink-footed Geese near the Cross Drain

Further sign that things were on the move was later provided by a further 47 Pink-footed Geese flying low east over the northwest pools as I searched for the merganser. There was one considerably smaller bird amongst them, but I couldn't get anything on it - instinct suggested it was just a runt Pink.

There wasn't too much else of real note this morning aside a few flyover redpolls; I spent an hour or so hunting Firecrests with little luck. The weather forecast is for further overcast conditions and northeast winds tomorrow; these can be very productive in our area in autumn and winter so I live in hope.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Patch Tick!

Quick health warning that this post contains some horrendous images taken in horrendous light conditions.

Tiring week, this week. The shock of full time employment was evidently too much for me following three years of not really doing alot at university. Anyway, I woke up this morning about 8 feeling a bit shell-shocked, and was mildly disappointed to see that it was pretty foggy outside. Great - a morning's birding ruined.

Long story short, things started to clear up yet it was still pretty misty on my arrival at my favourite place in most of the world, Dogsthorpe Tip. The poor visibility was making gull-watching pretty difficult, but it did mean that the birds were mostly cotching on and around the pit, giving good views when the weather cleared. Although there were plenty of birds present, alot were sat out of view behind the crest of the 'hill' of ex-rubbish and finding anything interesting was proving difficult. The best I could do were the two creatures below:

Adult Yellow-legged Gull - a decent winter bird here.

First-winter Med

I also had a black darvic-ringed 1st-winter GBB Gull with the inscription 'JP070'. Which reminds me - the yellow-ringed 1st-winter Herring Gull I had earlier this week had actually been ringed the previous week at Blackborough End Tip (Norfolk). Interesting to get proof that gulls commute between Peterborough and there, but not quite the Polish-type I had hoped for.

As the morning wore on, the gulls started to misbehave a bit more, getting restless as there was no tipping activity occurring. By just after 11:00, they started to disperse and so I headed off home via Deeping Highbank, where these four adult Whooper Swans were chilling out in a field by the River Welland towards Spalding:

After heading home for some lunch and a chill out, I headed back down the patch to see if anything was lurking on the pits. These cold, calm and misty mornings traditionally produce decent birds in the Peterborough area; I've had Long-tailed Duck and White-fronted Geese amongst other bits on days like this previously. A check of the old wader scrape revealed plenty of birds, but nothing out of the ordinary, although a Dunlin was flying around calling in the poor visibility. It might sound weird, but waders such as Dunlin are usually a good indicator that some kind of displacement has gone on here in winter; indeed on 'Long-tailed Duck day' I saw Dunlin, Sanderling, Grey Plover and Curlew locally. So, with renewed vigour, I decided a more complete check than usual was necessary.

Our old friend Pochard 'H'. I originally thought it was an 'N' but better views today confirmed otherwise.

A female Pintail was nice on North Pit with a decent selection of dabbling ducks, as were a few redpolls and Siskins. However, that one bit of real quality was still lacking as I headed towards the northwest pools to check the slurry pits here for any odd waders. What I wasn't expecting here was to pick up on a young drake Red-breasted Merganser, just sort of floating about and looking a bit knackered on one of the small pools. After what must be about six or seven years since Mike Weedon gripped me off with a short-staying party of three at BLGP whilst I was in Norfolk, it was great to finally nail this to my patch list. And this is what it looked like, in the dank conditions:

Mike even managed to get over from the Nene Washes and successfully twitch it for his PBC year list, just as dusk was approaching.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Caspian Gull, 1st November

This 1st-winter Caspian Gull was amongst increased numbers of large gulls at Dogsthorpe Tip today. I also had a couple of birds with yellow darvic rings; one was a 1st-winter Herring "1U1B", the other was a 2nd-winter that I didn't manage to see on the deck although in flight it looked quite Caspian-ish.

Last week's Glaucous Gull appears to have moved on for now; surprised it hasn't been picked up elsewhere as it's not exactly a subtle bird.