Saturday, 12 January 2013

Buff-Bellied Pipits. Queen Mother Reservoir

Got up this morning with the intention of a visit to the patch at Lee Valley.
But at 6.45 the phone bleeps into life, It's Brian and he's making the trip to The Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire. 
So plans changed we meet up and head off towards the reservoir. On route we call in at Staines Reservoir, hoping to add a year tick or two.
But it proves fruitless as no new birds are added. I was thinking I would at least add Black-necked Grebe from here, or Scaup or maybe a Great Northern Diver. But the only grebe seen were Great Crested and apart from the usual ducks, Cormorants and gulls, a handful of Goldeneye were the only other birds noted.

So on to Queen Mother Reservoir hoping for views of the Buff-bellied Pipit.
At 9am and after pulling into the reservoir car park, giving our names and handing over the donations, we head off up the slipway with permits in hand.
Plenty of birders are already present, but as yet none have seen the bird. At 9.25 the pager bleeps and informs us that the bird  was seen in the south west corner but had then flown off towards the sailing club.
So we decide to make our way back towards the sailing club.
No sign of the bird anywhere during the walk back, and the guy who reported seeing the bird is now heading off along the opposite side of the reservoir in search of it.
We make good use of the sailing club cafe, and refuelled and warmed up we head back out in search of the pipit.
The Long-tailed Duck is picked out amongst a group of Tufted's while we scanned from the sailing club. Heading back down the path we stop at the pier and scan the reservoir for the Slavonian Grebe. Brian gets on it, but it's way over below the far bank and I can't get a view of it.
A nice bonus comes along in the shape of two Peregrines. One flies low across the reservoir and joins the second bird on the tower in the middle of the water.
I head off with dad to see if we can catch up with the Slav Grebe. Plenty of birders have seen it, but it always seems to be moving away from us.
We have now walked well over half of the reservoir without seeing it and start to think about heading back towards Brian.
I give it a last scan and get straight on it. A Great Crested Grebe in front, with the Slav Grebe tucked in behind it. Dad has trouble getting good views of the bird as it dives regularly and reappears some distance away. But he manages good enough views in the end.
So now just the long walk back towards Brian and the car. As we turn the corner and start the walk back up the path, two birds fly in from behind us and drop down onto the concrete bank in front of us.
At first I'm thinking wagtails, as we have been seeing wagtails all morning feeding along the water edges. But viewing them through the bins they are clearly the target birds.
As I turn round Brian is right next to me. He has had them from his spot and followed them down along the bank.
They only feed for a very brief time before they take flight and head up and away out across the surrounding fields and towards some distant houses.
Later in the day they would be reported from Kingsmead Quarry at Horton Gravel Pits.
While searching for the birds earlier we hear some birders saying they doubt whether there was ever two birds present. So it's good to see both birds drop in and feed together. 
A day that started frustratingly at Staines, ends with two Buff Bellied Pipits, Slav Grebe, Long-tailed Duck and two Peregrines.
Another tick is added on the way home when three Red Kites are seen along the M25 between junctions 20 & 21.

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