Last weekend we had a family get together with eleven of us meeting up in Eastbourne. Although not a great distance from home the South Coast between Newhaven and Rye is an area that other than a couple of work trips I have never visited. We were pleasantly surprised with Eastbourne which has a not so good reputation, especially for the younger person (although i am not that young myself ). We initially met up in the lovely village of Alfriston for a very good cream tea before heding to our hotel. There were no plans for birding and with limited knowledge of the area we did happen to hit on a good place for a walk on the Saturday. This was Cuckmere Haven. Despite there being a lot of people around we managed twenty-three species whilst here. Back home and it seemed a good time of year to restart the after work visits to the Water Park. Yestarday I managed seven Green Sandpipers and a single Common while today got an impressive twelve Green, two Common and two LRP along with eighteen Common Tern, loads of Sand Martins and a Hobby. Nothing amazing but still worth seeing.
Another choice of activity today. Fairford for the airshow arrivals or local birding. Surprising myself I chose the birds and decided to start at Avebury. I did a circular walk out to Windmill Hill, a place I haven’t been for a few years. A really pleasant walk, starting at the stones, climbing up onto the Downs, passing round barrows and all with fabulous views. On the walk up there are several fields planted with wildflowers, part of the Marlborough Downs https://www.spacefornature.net/grassland I would think. On Windmill Hill, despite it being fairly early were hundreds of Butterflies with them flying up with every step taken. From here I intended to head for Savernake via Greggs in Marlborough. However I decided to go to Marshalls bakery in Pewsey which gives a lovely drive through the Pewsey Vale. Along the way there was a military helicopter hovering very low alongside the road so of course I had to stop for a while to watch it. when I got to Savernake I started at St Katherines where I finally caught up with a Wiltshire Spotted Flycatcher in the churchyard. Despite sitting quietly for more than half an hour it didn’t come close enough for a photo. Also here I saw Greenfinch and Goldcrest. Although conditions weren’t ideal I headed for the column in Savernake to look for Purple Emporers. As expected they didn’t show but a Silver Washed Fritillary showed well and I also found a patch of wild raspberries which were very tasty. Final sighting was of a pair of Bullfinches along the Grand Avenue which gave me a day total of forty-five.
With nothing better to do a last minute decision was made to go out to do some evening birding. The choice of destination was either Savernake for another try at Nightjar or Salisbury Plain for whatever was around. Salisbury Plain won and I arrived there at about half past seven. First sighting was of a Merlin (the helicopter variety). There were plenty of birds around with Skylarks still singing. Whitethroats were seen carrying food and the first of five Quail was heard. A Hobby shot across the track ahead of me and a Buzzard circled overhead. I found a good place to sit and scan. Quail were still calling and a distant Curlew was heard before finally a Barn Owl appeared in the distance. I am not quite sure how I managed to get to the middle of July before seeing my first for 2019.
It was my monthly working weekend so no birding and not much time for the sport on Sunday. Apart from the cricket the highlight was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth out the back of the garden. Today I made afternoon visits to Coate Water and Stanton Park looking for Kingfisher and Spotted Flycatcher and managed to see neither. A count of eighty-three Mute Swans plus seven Cygnets at Coate was impressive. Late afternoon while I was watering the front garden a Banded Demoiselle was an excellent garden first. I guess that I probably need to spend more time checking the garden.
Obviously not my only visit to Wales but I do try to do a day trip to the Pembrokeshire coast every year. To make it a little easier I headed off on Thursday evening to the RSPB reserve at Dinas to sleep in the car ready for an early start in the morning. I arrived at eleven in the rain which didn’t bode well, Fortunately when I woke Friday morning it was dry and at just gone 06.00 I was out of the car and watching a Wood Warbler that was flying back and forth from the woodland. I did the loop around the reserve whih has to be one of my favourite ones. Two more WW’s were seen along with a single Pied Flycatcher and a couple of the Spotted version. Along the river it was pretty quiet with just Grey Wagtails seen. Nuthatches were all over with three family groups seen along with a family of Treecreepers and one of Great Spots so all in a great start. The only disappointment was no Redstarts but this was soon sorted with three seen along the road just outside the reserve. Next stop was Fishguard where the harbour came up trumps again with a Black Guillemot seen with the first minute or so of scanning. Also seen here were Curlew and Oystercatcher. Having expected to be here for at least an hour this put me well ahead of schedule. I had a quick look at the Gann Estuary but the tide was well in so nothing of interest. Then it was Martins Haven for a look at the seabirds around Skomer. As always a great hour or so spent here chilling on the headland scanning the many Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills. Absolutely magical. Plenty of other stuff seen here but for the first time no Choughs which was a shame. All fledged and dispersed I suppose. I had a short stop at Marloes and a walk to the beach got plenty of small birds but again no Chough. Then it was the long drive home and because I was ahead of time I popped into Box where I managed to add Dipper to the Wiltshire year list. As it was such a lovely evening I drove home around the lanes to enjoy the wonderful evening light along the Pewsey Downs.
Back from another non-birding weekend in London. Having dropped my wife and daughter early doors at Wimbledon so that they could spend the morning queuing for tickets I made a stop at Osterley Park before going back to my Mums. It turned out to a good choice with my first Little Owl of the year. Not much else other than a couple of Green Woodpeckers and the usual screeching parakeets. That was it for birding but I did manage a bit of plane spotting from the garden.
The purple patch continues for Gloucestershire with a Night Heron turning up in Pittville Park Cheltenham. The same place as I had my very first UK one in 2014. It was first seen on Sunday and I wasn’t able to go. As it was still around on the Monday morning I decided on another evening dash a la the Red-backed Shrike last week. I picked Matt up at just gone six and by seven we were on site. It was a fine evening with a lot of people around, joggers, cyclists and dog walkers with many of them either inquisitive or amused by the throng of birders. Whilst waiting (hoping) for the star bird to put in an appearance we were entertained by a Common Sandpiper and a Kingfisher. This being my third Gloucestershire twitch in eight days I was able to recognise some of those present. With, as usual an early start for work the next morning i only planned to stay until eight but with no sign of the Heron extended this to half-past. A good decision as it suddenly appeared at around twenty past and gave good views for a couple of minutes before moving out of sight into the bankside vegetation on the island. So another worthwhile trip the bird being a lifer for Matt and a year-tick for me. Below you will find my best photographic attempt and a much better one courtesy of the Wiltshire based Jon Mercer.
Another trip out to Salisbury Plain. This time to take my BMW driving friend off road on a Quail hunt. Sometimes my Honda Jazz is the go to vehicle. Fortunately the wind had dropped a little and the sun was out so we had high hopes. Pulling up at a favoured spot we weren’t even out of the car when we heard a Quail calling. We spent around an hour here and in total had at least six calling birds. Also a couple of Whinchat and several Corn Buntings amongst the many birds around. Also seen were good numbers of Butterflies, Moths and Pyramidal Orchids. An added bonus were the gliders launching from Upavon Airfield. From here we headed to the Central Area Perimeter Road hoping to find a Great Bustard. Unfortunately we didn’t but no matter as always it is a great place to be.
Life has been pretty hectic recently with lots of trips to London with my mother having been in hospital. So birding and blogging have both taken a bit of a back seat. However it has all kicked off this week starting with the Little Bustard turning up at Slimbridge last Sunday. Instead of heading straight there I faffed around for the best part of three-quarters of an hour before setting off. This meant I arrived about twenty minutes after it flew off further onto the Dumbles. it took a couple of hours to get some less than satisfying views of the bird but just about good enough for a lifer. On Wednesday it was another trip into Gloucestershire for a Red-backed Shrike that had been found at Birdlip. This time I didn’t hang around and within a hour I was watching the Shrike, along with a handful of other birders. On Friday evening my wife, the dog and myself headed for an evening walk on Salisbury Plain. The Plain is one of my favourite spots but it can be an all or nothing place to visit. This evening came up trumps with two Stone Curlew, seven Quail (heard but not seen as usual), four Whinchat and two Grasshopper Warblers, both of which were seen. a Great Bustard that was no more than ten feet away on the edge of the track before it flew across the front of the car and landed in sight around a hundred metres away. My second Bustard in a week and the third of the year. And yes I know they are a re-introduction but still great to see. Also loads of butterflies, insects generally and several Pyramidal Orchids.The only disappointment was yet again not a sniff of a Barn Owl. There was also an impressive sunset. On the way home we spent half-an-hour in Savernake with no sight or sound of a Nightjar. This morning I actually managed to get out on the motorbike with a morning ride out to Greenham Common. Arriving later than intended at about nine and despite the amount of people and the heat there were good numbers of birds to be seen. Woodlark and Tree Pipit obliged but Dartford Warbler didn’t. The Woodlark bought up my two hundred for the year.