Friday saw me in Worthing again where I added Red-breasted Merganser to my ever growing from the pier list, it is now on seven! Saturday morning was domestic duties, mainly shopping and gardening. In the afternoon my wife and I headed off to Swanage to where my son and his girlfriend have recently moved. No birding on the way down as we needed to get there asap. Various walks on the seafront Saturday and Sunday turned up nothing of interest and no birding on the way home as we had visitors due at home around five. Most frustrating as there were good bird around at Lytchett Fields and Blashford Lakes. There wasn’t even time for a drive across the Plain. To cap it all three Common Scotors were gracing Lake 74 at the Water Park. After work on Monday saw me heading out to Twitchers hoping that the Scoters had stayed. After thirty minutes of looking amongst the many Wigeon and Coot I concluded that they hadn’t. A pity as they would have been a county year-tick. So onto today and I was near to finishing some training at work when I received a Grapevine text, two Cattle Egret at Ashton Keynes. Fortunately I was able to get there pronto and was rewarded with a long awaited and after three previous dips county tick. Wiltshre total is now two hundred and sixteen. Another look from Twitchers found a similar amount of duck but again no Scoters.
Did my regular drive at Barbury Castle on the way home from work this afternoon. Othe than a Kestrel and a flock of a couple of hundred Fieldfare not much was seen. The plover flock was in the farthest field from the road today. A quick scan with the scope showed that there were fewer Golden Plover and many more Lapwing. Back home I had a few jobs to do so planned to give Liddington a scan from the bedroom window. In the end I changed my mind and went up there. I found a sunny spot out of the winf to watch from and at about a quarter-to-four the first of two Short-eared Owls appeared. I watched it as it quartered the hillside until a couple of Crows started to mob it. It then climbed higher and disappeared out of view. I then found another perched on a Hawthorn and was watching this one when the first one reappeared. I had also seen one briefly over the field beyond the hill but this may or may not have been a third bird. Two Kestrels, a Buzzard and a few Fieldfare were the other birds seen.
On my way home from work I stopped off at Alexandra Park to check out the Plover flock. Similar numbers of Golden but more Lapwing although this time they were scattered across three fields with some being pretty distant. Having got a bit lazy with birding from the car at Barbury several times recently a report of four Short-eared Owls in the Liddington Castle area yesterday made me get my walking boots out. I made my way up there at a little after three and was rewarded with a sighting of a single bird at just before four. It was flying quite high and being hassled by a corvid. It then dropped down low and out of sight. Then it started to rain which unusually hadn’t been forecast! This stopped after about fifteen minutes and fairly soon after first one and the another SEO appeared. Both stayed high up and both were being hassled by corvids, one of them by at least four. Eventually they disappeared from view so I headed off home. Other birds seen were a hundred plus Fieldfare, Redwing,Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit, Kestrel, Buzzard and several gulls. Nice to have local SEO, I may try for them from the bedroom window tomorrow.
This morning work took me to Gosport where the delivery point is just across the road from Walpole Lake which is well known from a Ring-billed Gull that returned to the area for many years. Unfortunately it hasn’t been around for the last couple of winters. A quick walk to the water got me plenty of Herring Gulls, sixteen Brent Geese, five Redshank and a Little Egret. Later. on my way home I did the now regular drive to Barbury Castle. A look in at Wroughton Reservoir found a few Gadwall and a handful of Little Grebe. Red Kite, Kestrel, Fieldfare and Song thrush were the best around the Castle. Final stop was again Alexandra Park where I attempted to count the birds in the Golden Plover flock. They were scattered far and wide across one large field and also moving around a lot. I got as far as three hundred before losing the will to count but reckon that there were at least two hundred more. Also here were around a hundred and fifty Lapwing and quite a few gulls and Starlings.
Saturday afternoon Pete and decided to head for Salisbury Plain. On the way we had a look at the Alexandra Park Golden Plover flock and noted that it had grown to at least four hundred birds. A quick look in at West Kennet got Pied Wagtail but no Black Redstart, maybe the one seen at Oare is the same bird. A few Buzzards were seen in the fields including one very white individual. For a change we had decided to go to the central area of the Plain but unfortunately when we arrived at Redhorn Vedette the red flags were flying so we could only drive along the perimeter road rather than walking onto the Plain. Pretty well all that was seen was corvids until Pete spotted a bird in a tree. A check with the scopes revealed it to be a female Merlin. A Wiltshire year-tick for both of us. The only other bird of note here was a Mistle Thrush. Reaching Casterley Vedette we headed off towards the eastern side. Once we were there almost the first bird we saw was a female Hen Harrier. This was at around half-past three and the bird appeared to be heading off to its roost site. Next was a good-sized flock of thrushes and Starlings. We managed to pick out a couple of Redwings amongst the Fieldfare. After a bit more driving around during which we saw Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Stonechat we parked up on a high point to scan for Short-eared Owls. None was seen but we did manage to get a Green Woodpecker and a Pheasant. In all we saw twenty-one species. On the way home a diversion was made along the Grand Avenue but again no sign of a Tawny Owl.
On my way home from work I checked the fields opposite Alexandra Park. The flock of Golden Plover was still there but the number of Lapwings was down to around a hundred. Following yesterdays report of a Short-eared Owl at Barbury I headed over there at a little past half four. At around five an Owl was seen over the top of the Castle. Over the next few minutes it occasionally came into view before gaining height and heading off to the west. The only other things of interest seen were a Kestrel and three Roe Deer.
Just three foxes seen on the drive to work this morning. I was back in Worthing and had three Turnstones on the pier. After work it was another drive to Barbury. On the way I looked in at Wroughton Reservoir, five Little Grebe and three Gadwall were the best seen. Barbury was very quiet with no sign of the Stonechats. Two Kestrels and the flock of Fieldfare were the only decent birds on or around the actual Castle. Driving back home there were a lot of Pheasants around. I then saw a small flock of Partridges, a quick stop and check showed them to be eight Greys, great to see. Finally in the fields opposite Alexandra Park were at least three hundred of Golden Plover and the same of Lapwing along with a lot of Black-headed Gulls.
Now all of the medical stuff from the past year seems to be sorted the easy life at work is over and it is back to early morning starts for me. Leaving the house at 03.05 yesterday morning I drove in via Broome Manor Lane. In short order I saw a Muntjac in the hedgerow and a Badger and a Fox both ran across the road in front of the car. Later on in sunny Worthing a walk along the pier got me a few Turnstones amongst the feral pigeons and Black-headed Gulls. After work I had a drive round at Barbury Castle. Plenty of birds around with two Stonechats and thirty or so Fieldfare the best. Red Kite, Buzzard and two Kestrels along with a single Mistle Thrush were also seen. A flock of over a hundred Lapwing were doing what Lapwings do best (very little) in a field near to Hodson This morning I drove to work via Wroughton where I saw another Fox and had a Roe Deer hurtle out of a field and across the road causing me to brake sharply. The afternoon drive home again took in Barbury Castle. Quieter today with just the two Stonechats, the flock of Fieldfare and a Buzzard. The Lapwings appeared not to have moved from their field and there were a good number of Black-headed Gulls scattered around in the fields.
Arrived back home yesterday from a week staying in Woolacombe North Devon. A great area to stay in and reasonable for birds if you bother to go looking. I didn’t as there were too many late nights and lazy mornings. Over the week I managed to note just thirty-one species which was pretty poor. Top of the list was a Dipper on the river at Lynmouth, also good were Wheatear, some Stonechats and Ravens seen on a coast path walk near to Croyde. This morning I intended going out at first light for a walk at Liddington Hill but again the warm bed won. Working everyday this week so an effort needs to be made next weekend.
I had a couple of hours spare this morning so headed off to West Kennet where a Black Redstart was seen a few days ago. Even though it is just a few miles from home this was a new area for me. Although there was no sign of the target bird the area certainly has potential and deserves another visit when more time is available. There is a good mix of farmland, hedgerow and downland. It is close to the source of the Kennet and currently the river is dry but through the winter it should fill up adding more interest to the area. The best birds seen here were a flock of twenty-one Golden Plover, my first of the autumn. I then crossed the A4 to Avebury Trusloe where I walked up to Windmill Hill. There were many Skylarks passing overhead along with a couple of flocks of Linnets. Otherwise it was the normal farmland birds, Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Goldfinches.