Monday, April 30, 2018

Black-winged Stilt, Eldernell

This bird was found by the Cambs bird race team of Mark Hawkes and his crew on Saturday morning (28.4.18). I have been saying for the last few weeks that the flooded fields of Eldernell have been looking like they were going to be ripe for a stilt at around the end of April. This is the fourth time I have seen stilts in the Peterborough area.
The previous occasions (and dates) were:
Maxey Pits, 1 bird, 26 April 2009,
High Wash, Nene Washes, 2 birds, 17 April 2015,
March Farmers, Nene Washes, 5 birds, 29 April 2017

So, it would appear that late April is good time for them around here. The current Eldernell bird was unusual in that it actually stayed overnight, and these photos were taken on 29.4.18. I don't know if it is still present today, but it certainly favoured a particular spot on the washes. On Saturday morning John Saunders and I watched it being pestered and pursued by a Black-headed Gull and it appeared to fly strongly north. We assumed it had gone for good, but it was back in the same little area within half and hour or so.
Let's hope it stays until the weekend when our mob are doing a Big Day around the PBC area.
By the way, it may look like it only has one leg in these photos, but it was just that it was sleeping with the other tucked up when the Grey Heron came fishing nearby and flushed it. Its other leg looked fine (as in the bottom photo)! I believe that dark cap and dark back makes it a male. It also has a pinkish flush to the breast. It is not easy to see from these photos, but it has a grey nape, at the base of which were dark splodges, just above the 'shoulders'. This pattern and the missing feather in the left wing at the join between the primaries and secondaries should make this particular individual easy to track, if seen again...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Thrice Bittern

The golden, bright blue lored male puffs himself up and reveals his pale epaulettes to impress the sky-pointing female

Left to right: brighter, 'dominant' male; rival male in puffed-up display mode; the female
The 'rival male' (greyish lores) sneaks off to fish away from the reeds
At the weekend I happened upon some incredible Bittern action. To cut a long story short, on Saturday: I watched a male Bittern boom for the first time in my life. I saw that male Bitterns have bright blue lores, and females greenish-buff lores. I watched a male Bittern puff himself up, reveal his whitish epaulettes, erect his crest and flirt with a female. I even watched the male booming while standing six inches from the female. They did everything but mate.
On Sunday: a third, probably younger male (paler plumage, greyer lores) joined the action, flirting with the same female, until gently seen off by the golden, blue-lored male. I watched both the younger and the brighter male booming. I saw all three Bitterns fishing; the 'younger' male even caught and ate a fish while the brighter male stood watching, only about 7m away from him.
Then an Otter turned up, spooked the three Bitterns into the open and later came back and fished in the same ditch.

Whimbrel at Deeping Lakes LWT

Arctic Terns at Ferry Meadows CP

Friday, April 20, 2018


Lottie the female Long-tailed Duck at Baston & Langtoft GP 'Wader Pit', south Lincs, seems to have made a remarkable recovery since last week, when she appeared to be in considerable distress, spinning round and round in tiny circles while nearly rolling onto her back and flailing her right leg in the air. Now, apart perhaps, from a slightly weak left wing, she seems fine, diving and swimming well.

Grey Partridges, near Baston, Lincolnshire

Monday, April 16, 2018

Female Ring Ouzel, Cairngorm, April 2017

Avocets, BLGP

This year, after several years of hardly seeing any Avocets around Peterborough, I have 'promoted' the species to 'elite' status. So, it was great to bump into a pair at the 'hotspot' of the so-called Wader Pit at Baston and Langtoft GP on 14.4.18. I first saw them when they were sharing a little flooded grassy island with some sleeping Shovelers, half a dozen Redshanks, four Little Ringed Plovers , my first Common Sandpiper of the year, and best of all, a Bar-tailed Godwit (my earliest PBC record by 6 days). Typically, for spring Avocets, they were prospecting for potential nesting areas. But, also typically, they had gone by the next day.

White Wagtail, BLGP

This male White Wagtail is one of at least three around the northern pits of the Baston and Langtoft GP, south Lincs, over the last week or so. This individual liked to feed around the gravelly 'viewing area'.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Slavonian Grebe portraits

This beautiful bird, found yesterday by John Sherwood on the River Welland near Crowland, is not only one of the prettiest birds I have ever seen in the Peterborough area, but also the first breeding-plumage Slavonian Grebe I can remember seeing in England (I have seen some in the Highlands on the breeding grounds). It was mostly picking insects from the surface of the river when I saw it yesterday evening; and I didn't see it dive at all. I did hear it make a weird whining, almost Water Rail-like call, though. What a brilliant bird.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Mediterranean Gull, Deeping Lakes LWT

This beauty is presumably a male, as he has been flirting outrageously and scandalously with a presumed female Black-headed Gull by the east pit at DLLWT...

Ring Ouzel, Baston & Langtoft GP, south Lincs

Juvenile Goshawk at March Farmers

I was very lucky to see just my third Goshawk in the Peterborough area on Saturday, while scanning the massively flooded March Farmers, Cambs. I saw a female Marsh Harrier powering over the flooded washes seemingly in pursuit of something, accompanied by some excited Carrion Crows. At first I thought she was chasing a male Marsh Harrier off her territory, but there was something odd about its shape: it was roughly same size as the female Marsh Harrier, but heavy and with much shorter wings and a very long tail. It almost looked like the raptor equivalent of a Pheasant. Also, how come the harrier couldn't catch up with this bird in front? Then I noticed it was heavily streaked on its breast, and the penny dropped... Here are record shots as it flew over the Nene Way powering south (the harrier and crows had given up by now). I reckon it could be a female, as it was very large (and absolutely nothing like a Sparrowhawk, folks). But I may be wrong.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

End of March 2018

Last week in March, 2008, I was on 125 (inc 17 'elites'). Year total: 189
Last week in March, 2009, I was on 131 (inc 22 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2010, I was on 126 (inc 15 'elites'). Year total: 177
Last week in March, 2011, I was on 130 (inc 18 'elites'). Year total: 182
Last week in March, 2012, I was on 134 (inc 21*(22) 'elites'). Year total: 183
Last week in March, 2013, I was on 128 (inc 20*(21) 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2014, I was on 124 (inc 17*(18) 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2015, I was on 114 (inc 11*(12) 'elites'). Year total: 172
Last week in March, 2016, I was on 127 (inc 13*(14) 'elites'). Year total: 188
Last week in March, 2017, I was on 134 (inc 23*(24) 'elites'). Year total: 186
Last week in March, 2018, I was on 124 (inc 14**(15) 'elites'). Year total: 195 (NEW record)
 * () Modern counting with Smew as an 'elite'
 ** () Modern counting with Smew as an 'elite'; plus (starting 2018) following changes:
Demoted from 'elite' to 'core': Crane, Cetti's Warbler, Bittern & Egyptian Goose
Promoted from 'core' to 'elite': Jack Snipe, Avocet, Turtle Dove, Barnacle Goose
Here is the traditional state of my personal PBC (Peterborough Bird Club area) year list summary, as of the end March (2018).
A pretty mediocre start to the year; though it is hard to judge, as there are new 'elite' rules in place (under last year's rules, I would have been on 18 'elites', which is still a pretty middling score). I have had a couple of weeks away on foreign work trips (Japan and Spain) and the weather has not been great for birding this year, with periods of heavy freezing, snow etc and in March some excessive rainfall. Still, undoubted highlights so far include a PBC tick: American Wigeon, just my third Red-throated Diver and just my fourth Kittiwake.