MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2009
The thaw continued with a vengeance today but early on, the roads were like a skating rink where they had not been gritted overnight. Light rain throughout much of the morning increased with intensity during the afternoon.
Following last night's roosting GLAUCOUS GULL, just 5 of us gathered shortly after dawn (0657 hours) (including Mick Frosdick, Alan Reynolds, Jim Rudland and myself). In light freezing rain, the immature GLAUCOUS GULL was under observation from 0705 until 0733, before it flew off low NW.
As usual at this time of year, the bird was difficult to age with certainty but with quite extensive pale yellow in the iride and marked contrast in the upperwings, it was most likely a 2nd-winter. The heavy bill was extensively pale pink at the base with a black subterminal bar and a slight pale tip. The head and underparts were largely white but heavily blotched pale biscuit, with some darker feathering on the hindneck. The mantle and scapulars were pale, primarily pale buff or biscuit, but with no grey on the mantle and just a hint in the scapulars. The tertials did have some grey feathering, with the greater coverts whitish and slightly vermiculated.
I was surprised at the number of gulls left remaining, with 77 Herring Gulls still on the lake, 14 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, several Great Black-backed Gulls, 15 Common Gulls and over 200 Black-headed Gulls.
The Supporting Cast
A total of 61 species was recorded including my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker of the year and first Cetti's Warbler in the county this year.
Great Crested Grebe (7)
Little Grebe (3)
Sinensis Cormorant (30+)
[EURASIAN BITTERN - seen briefly early morning - MF]
Grey Heron (3)
Mute Swan (6)
COMMON SHELDUCK (drake still feeding just off of the watchpoint)
Eurasian Wigeon (2 drakes)
Common Teal (28)
Northern Pochard (26)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (female still present on Hollycross Lake, skulking by the island)
Tufted Duck (72)
Common Goldeneye (9)
WATER RAILS (2 showing very well in the 'cut reeds' viewable from the watchpoint)
Coot (much frenzied fighting going on, particularly on the ice)
Common Snipe (14 feeding in rain on short reeds)
Green Woodpecker (2)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (4+)
**LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (the regular male appeared at 0915 in the tall trees on the west side of the canal just south of Hardmead Lock. It fed for a short time before flying across the canal and into the dead trees on the opposite side. It then flew to the tall trees adjacent to the North Lake and river).
Dunnock (6 at the cut reed feeding station)
Song Thrush (5)
Mistle Thrush (3)
Fieldfare (22 in snow-covered field east of the river)
CETTI'S WARBLER (1+, singing erratically)
Great Tit (9)
Blue Tit (6)
Coal Tit (1)
Long-tailed Tit (8)
*SISKINS (50 by the White Hide)
BULLFINCH (pair by canal)
Reed Bunting (7 at feeding station)
After speaking to Mike Ilett and reading of his recent sightings, I decided to spend a few hours birding the open farmland in the Sandon and Kelshall areas. Conditions were virtually 'white out' with lying snow of four inches or more on the fields.
At Deadman's Hill, a total of 9 GREY PARTRIDGES was encountered (all east of the road, with 5 north of Bury Barns at TL 297 364 and a covey of 4 at TL 296 370. There were also 4 Red-legged Partridges.
In the environs of Lower Heath Farm (TL 302 377), many more GREY PARTRIDGES were seen, with 15 in one covey at TL 304 377, 9 scattered in small groups at TL 300 378 and 2 on the opposite side of the road at TL 302 372 - a total of 26.
I then walked out to the Wheat Hill Farm game strips (at TL 307 349) where an enormous number of farmland species were feeding: top billing went to 18 CORN BUNTINGS, although a gathering of upwards of 345 YELLOWHAMMERS was truly exceptional, whilst 234 EURASIAN SKYLARKS were in neighbouring crops, a few Meadow Pipits, 15 Reed Buntings and at least 36 Chaffinches. A single male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was patrolling the strips and waiting for an opportunity to catch an unsuspecting hungry individual.