Monday, 21 April 2008

21st April 2008

There were two Arctic/Common Terns at the lakes today. They spent most of their time at Windmill Pool, fishing and resting on the buoys there, but would occasionally venture over to Engine Pool for a minute or two. I must admit that when I went to Earlswood today, I was really hoping to see one, especially as good numbers of Commons, Arctics and Blacks had been reported elsewhere. Upon reaching Windmill Pool, I started scanning the water and soon noticed something small and white on one the buoys. It was one of the terns and, seconds later, I spotted the second on another buoy. Using my Collins Bird Guide, I quickly realised that they were either Commons or Arctics. But which?
As they're quite small birds, and were perched not particularly close to me, picking out distinguishing features with my 10x25 binoculars was difficult. By getting as close to one of the birds as I could and comparing it with the plate and notes in my Collins, I came to the conclusion that it was a Common and that the other was probably the same. I felt even more confident with my ID after talking to a couple who are regular birders at the lakes, because the man said that he could see a black tip on the bird's bill. I continued walking around the pool, thinking I'd clinched the terns' ID. But...
Then I met two more birders who seemed to have been watching the terns for some time. I think one of them thought that the terns were both Commons, but the other thought one or both were Arctic. I must admit that on this occasion, the tern perched closest to us that I was looking at didn't look so Common as the one I'd been studying earlier. Its short legs and dark red bill suggested Arctic, but its tail didn't seem to be any longer than its folded wings and its bill seemed too long.
I left the lakes not knowing exactly what I'd seen. Hopefully, the terns stay at least until tomorrow morning so that I can have another go at identifying them.

One thing I didn't see at Windmill Pool was a Black Kite. A bird that was possibly this species was seen flying "northeast through the bottom end of Windmill Pool over woods by the Reservoir Pub" and reported on BirdGuides (per S. Seal, Warwickshire Birding). Interestingly, it was seen there at 16:12 (per D. Hutton, BirdForum), when I was at the pool, though I was probably still concentrating on the terns at that point. I'm told though that it was likely an escape from London Zoo (Mike, BirdForum).

Other notable birds seen:

Terry's Pool: Male Shoveler (presumably the same individual I saw last time) and Tufted Duck pair. 8 Willow Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs heard/seen around edges. 1 or 2 Swallows over water.
No sign of the Greylag Geese, but the couple I met said that the pair were only there for the one day.

Engine Pool: Mute Swan pair. Just 1 Willow Warbler heard around edges.

Canal feeder: 1 adult Grey Heron and 2 Moorhen visible amongst reeds just beyond gate.

Windmill Pool: 5 Tufted Ducks (3M+2F), 1 juvenile Mute Swan. Female Mallard, almost certainly the same one I saw last time, with 7 ducklings. Hirundine numbers above pool much reduced since previous visit, but all 3 species observed. 1 Willow Warbler and 1 Chiffchaff heard around edges. A 2nd Chiffchaff was singing from land south of pool.

M.P. Griffiths

P.S. saw 5 or 6 birders at the lakes today - never seen so many there, except when I went to see the Grey Phalarope last year.

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