Ring-necked Parakeet

June 2011

18th June 2011 – Greater London, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire

A quickly arranged trip the previous day saw me collecting a South African couple who were new to British birding for a trip around a few sites to the west of London. 

After a 6am pick-up we were soon at our first destination, Minet Country Park in West London. On getting out of the car, the first bird we saw was a male Common Kestrel, hunting for his breakfast. Over the next few minutes whilst we were watching Common Whitethroats and European Goldfinches we kept seeing the Kestrel and even got excellent ‘scope views of him perched. The grasslands around the northern end of the site also supplied us with Song Thrush, (Common) Reed Bunting, (Common) Skylark and (Common) Linnet whilst the wooded area adjacent to the drain held a stunning male (Eurasian) Bullfinch, (European) Robin and Blue Tit. Also at this site we saw Ring-necked (Rose-ringed) Parakeet, Eurasian Jay, Common Swift, Chiffchaff and a Stock Dove flew up from in front of us as we returned to the car.

Our next stop was Wraysbury Gravel Pits in Berkshire. The Station Pit held Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose and the trees on the far island were full of Grey Heron and Great Cormorant with a single Little Egret just visible through the leaves. A Common Tern gave good views as it fed over the lake. The walk along the river towards the scrub areas afforded views of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tit, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, (Winter) Wren, another Eurasian Jay more Chiffchaff and a (Western) Reed Warbler was heard but not seen. The fishing lake had three pairs of Common Tern on it and several Tufted Duck. The scrubland was full of Common Whitethroat and in this area we also saw European Greenfinch and a Mistle Thrush mobbing a Common Buzzard. When this Buzzard took off and started soaring it was joined by a second bird and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk briefly. We later saw both Buzzards again, one being mobbed by a Carrion Crow whilst the other snuck past with a large prey item, probably a young Rabbit. Nice diversionary tactics! The Sailing Club Pit held a pair of Mute Swan, a family of Canada Geese and a Pied Wagtail was feeding along the jetties whilst several Black-headed Gulls rested there. A (European) Green Woodpecker flew past and we could hear another calling (probably a young bird) from the island but couldn’t locate it amongst the foliage.

Willow Warbler were also present on site, and several were heard, but the breezy conditions meant that they weren’t making themselves visible, preferring instead to sing from the middle of the birches trees, keeping out of the wind and hidden from us.

Following an excellent and much needed lunch in the local hostelry we then went to Little Marlow Gravel Pits in Buckinghamshire, seeing Red Kite from the motorway. The pits itself had several Great Crested Grebes, offering much closer views that we had had at Wraysbury, Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhen and the sand spit held several Common Tern, and a single Northern Lapwing as well as Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls, Grey Heron and the Great Cormorant and Grey Heron colonies on the island were bustling with activity. An unexpected surprise was a very obliging family of Sedge Warblers, a species that doesn’t normally breed here.  We started walking around the lake and found a family of Eurasian Coot with some very small babies, saw a couple of Common Kingfisher darting past low over the water and we heard a Goldcrest. On reaching the southwest corner, we discovered at least two juvenile Eurasian Nuthatch feeding in the trees – another unexpected species. The woods across the River Thames had several Red Kite soaring above them. Our next find was a young Common Kingfisher that was perched in some low branches by the water’s edge and stayed still giving crippling views for several minutes. The restored farm buildings had three species of hirundine circling around them, Sand Martin (Bank Swallow), House Martin and Barn Swallow, though only the latter came low and close enough to get good views of. We also got good, if brief, views of (Western) Reed Warbler around the lake.

Our final stop for the day were the fields at Stokenchurch in Oxfordshire. Here there was a field full of corvids and we added Rook to the day-list as well as renewing our earlier encounters with (Western) Jackdaw and Carrion Crow and had good views of Yellowhammer, whilst all the time at this site the Red Kites entertained us overhead.

Non-avian species that were recorded were Large and Small White, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and Specked Wood Butterflies whilst the Odenata (Dragonflies) were represented by Emperor, Banded Demoiselle and Blue-tailed Damselfly.

The total number of species recorded during the day ended on 67 of which 37 were new birds for my clients. The “best bird of the day” accolade goes to Nuthatch, though other species that were very close in the running included Kingfisher, Great Tit, Bullfinch and the family of Coots with babies. Personally I most enjoyed seeing the family of Sedge Warblers. 

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29th June 2011 – Greater London, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire

Thirty minutes after a 6am pick up from their hotel in Knightsbridge, my clients, a couple from the Boston area of the USA, and I were at out fist site of the day, Minet Country Park near Hayes in West London. The field inside the “cycle track” gave excellent views of perched Common Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting, whilst all around us Common Whitethroat were singing as well as family parties of this warbler species being seen. We also have good views European Goldfinch and European Greenfinch and a Common Kestrel hunted over the grasslands.

The main hedgerows were alive with birds in the morning sunshine and we saw both Great and Blue Tit, Blackcap, Song Thrush, a very obliging Chiffchaff was singing from a bare branch and Robin and two Purple Hairstreak butterflies were resting in an Oak tree. The Lepidopteran theme continued in the meadows where there were loads of Marbled White and Meadow Brown Butterflies and a Cinnabar moth and the birds were represented by a singing, but unfortunately not seen, Lesser Whitethroat; likewise a Green Woodpecker

We then moved on to Wraysbury Gravel Pits in Berkshire. The pits themselves were fairly quiet but while watching the Great Crested Grebes, Grey Heron and Greylag Geese we had a good view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker sitting in the uppermost branches of a dead tree which of course flew off just as I got the ‘scope on it.

As we headed out towards the site proper, I heard a Pied Wagtail alarm calling and a Eurasian Hobby appeared overhead before stooping off towards the lake in search of dragonflies. The path along the river produced the most birds at this site with good views of Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Blackcap and we heard Western Reed Warbler.A Common Buzzard was heard calling overhead and was soon seen, before being joined by two more Common Buzzard (presumably the local birds have bred successfully) and a pair of very vocal Peregrine (the first I’ve seen at this site). The insect interest continued with lots of different species of butterfly including Comma, Red Admiral and Large and Small Whites while dragonflies were represented by Small Blue Damselfly, Emperor, Southern Hawker and Banded Demoiselle. A reptile was also seen briefly by one of my clients but we could not relocate it so could not identify whether it was a Slow Worm or Grass Snake, thought the latter was more likely.

 A walk across the scrub to the Sailing Pit produced brief but “tickable” views of Sedge Warbler and Common Linnet and the walk back gave us a very good and prolonged flight view of Green Woodpecker, another (or the same) Eurasian Hobby, Eurasian Jay and Tufted Duck. Surprisingly there was no sign or sound of the several Willow Warbler that frequent that area, through I had heard a distant bird singing shortly after we arrived at the site.

We then moved onto Little Marlow Gravel Pit in Buckinghamshire where after lunch in the local pub we walked around the main pit. The sand spit held good numbers of Northern Lapwing, plenty of Common Tern, Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a single adult Little Ringed Plover and a pair of Common Teal and we had good flight views of a Common Kingfisher dashing across the water. There were several Tufted Duck on the lake, a single female Common Pochard, and plenty of Great Crested Grebes, Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhen, whilst the reeds held a family of Sedge Warbler. The fields down to the river provided us with excellent views of a Mistle Thrush collecting food, a male Pied Wagtail and a flock of  Eurasian Jackdaw hunting for “leatherjackets” (Crane Fly larvae) and beetles in the grass, whilst Sand Martins (Bank Swallow) and Barn Swallows hawked insects overhead. Further around the pit we found a family of Reed Warblers that showed themselves well in the reeds and surrounding vegetation and a pair of Long-tailed Tits were mixed in with a loose flock of Blue and Great Tits.

All three hirundines species; Barn Swallow, Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) and House Martin were seen hunting for insects around the farm and we heard another Common Kingfisher calling but could not locate it. The woodland area was very quiet with only the occasional high pitched calls, from young birds, (probably Blue  Tits) from deep within, but we did come across another tit flock in the wet meadows. As well as Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, this flock also held a pair of Eurasian Treecreeper and at least two Chiffchaff.

Our final port of call for the day was the fields at the base of the below the Chiltern ridge below Stokenchurch. Here we had excellent views of Yellowhammer and surprisingly, our first Common Chaffinch of the day (though we had heard others at both Wraysbury and Little Marlow GPs), a splendid male, as well as the ubiquitous Red Kites which offered superb photo opportunities. The fields were full of Rook and several Common Skylark were seen. A quick peer over the fence before we got back into the car to head back into town gave us two more birds for our day list, Common Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge, which took our total to 74 species recorded during the trip.

The favourite birds for the trip were Green Woodpecker (which had been a keenly sought- after bird) and Blue Tit for my male and female clients respectively and for me it was either the Peregrines at Wraysbury of the Little Ringed Plover at Little Marlow.   

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Great Crested Grebe at Little Marlow GP

One of the family of Coot at Little Marlow GP

Common Kestrel was seen well during both trips this month at Minet Country Park

Juvenile Common Whitethroats were very much in evidence this month