Having posted yesterday that I wasn’t doing much birding at the moment it was typical that today an opportunity to go out arose. The day started with another Barn Owl sighting early this morning, this one a little further along the A4361 between Beckhampton and Devizes. Having finished at a reasonable time I decided to head out to the Water Park for a look at the Black-necked Grebe that has been on lake 65 for a few days. To get there I parked near to Ashton Keynes and walked along the Thames Path. I hadn’t been walking for very long when a flash of blue heralded the appearance of a Kingfisher. Fortunately, rather than disappearing from sight it perched on an overhanging branch and as I watched it dived into the water and emerged with a fish. wonderful to see. A Great Spot Woodpecker called from the trees and a brief glimpse was had as it flew away. Several Wrens were seen as I walked along the river along with various tits and finches. At lake 41 a white blob on the far back turned out to be a Little Egret rather than the hoped for Great White. I then spent a few minutes scanning 57 for the Scaup with no joy. Crossing the Thames on small footbridge I arrived at lake 65. There were a couple of birders here and one of them kindly let me look at the Grebe in his scope. I then found it myself and watched for a few minutes as it continually dived and resurfaced in almost the same spot. Then it was back to 57 to try again for the Scaup. Along with a couple of others I scanned with no success. Goldeneye and Pochard were the best we found. The it was back along the Thames to the car. A quick look-in at 28, 29 and 30 turned up a female Goosander but no Smew. A drive by Twitchers added Lapwing and Shoveler to the list of just over thirty species before I headed home.
Well maybe not the Last Post but as you may have noticed there haven’t been that many lately. Why? Well the main reason is that my enthusiasm for birding has dropped off in a big way recently. So no birding means no posting. There is no particular reason for this, priorities have changed and my time seems to be taken up by other things at the moment, therefore birds will just have to be fitted in as and when. However as always do a sighting of a Barn Owl alongside the Wroughton to Broad Hinton road early this morning was great. It was a bit of a surprise as the conditions weren’t great, strong wind and light drizzle aren’t usually a good combination for Barn Owls. Unfortunately it was probably pretty hungry from poor condition from the recent poor conditions so was getting out whenever it could.
With a longish walk at the Water Park planned for today I was a little disappointed to see that it was foggy when I got up. However by the time I set off it had started to clear. My first stop was at North Meadow outside Cricklade. on the flooded fields here were a few Lapwing and gulls and little else. From here I made a quick check of the scrape from Twitchers, just in case the Great White Egret was around. It wasn’t. I then went to look for the Smew and I found two Redheads on 28 along with a pair of Goosander. Then it was off to Waterhay for my walk along the Thames Path to the Reed Hide. A Common Gull was standing on its own in one of the fields and a flock of Redwings were in the trees of the car park. On 68a/b were eight Goldeneye. I cut through the hedge by lake 59 where four male and two female Bullfinches were seen. Small birds were in short supply with few seen overall. As I neared the Thames I could hear Curlew and found a flock of seventeen on the flooded fields across the river. Also here were two Blackwits, two Redshank and a Green Sandpiper. Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker were heard but not seen around here. Reaching the hides a scan along 74 found large numbers of Shoveler and Wigeon along with a few Tufties and Teal and a couple of Goldeneye. Not much was seen from the Reed Hide but Cetti’s and Water Rail were heard. Heading back alongside 68a/b a raft of around two hundred and twenty Pochard was a nice find. A flock of Lapwing flew up from the scrape as did three male Pintail. After returning to the car I decided to look in at Eysey on the way home. I stopped along Friday Hams Lane to check out another flock of Lapwing and got a flyby Kingfisher as a bonus. The water at Eysey was almost empty but a scan of the trees found a Buzzard. As I watched it flew and all of a sudden a Peregrine appeared and started to mob it. Eventually the Buzzard flew off and the Peregrine then disappeared over the trees. Nearing home I headed in towards Swindon to try for the Dipper that has been seen around the Eldene / Park South area. Parking in Shaftesbury Avenue I walked across to the small rubbish strewn stream. To be honest i didn’t think there was much chance of seeing it but as I approached the culvert where the Dorcan Way passes over the stream I saw it bobbing away on the edge of the water. As I watched it walked in and submerged. When it surfaced it stayed for a few seconds before flying along the culvert and out of sight. Certainly an interesting place for it to be and thanks and congratulations to the finder. All in all a good day out with three year and seven county ticks.
I am still struggling to get my birding year going, in the words of my wife “I am just not feeling it at the moment”. However there have been a few moments over the last week. The first was a Barn Owl riskily hunting the verge alongside the A350 at Lacock early on Friday morning. A perilous thing to do as shown by the sighting of a dead one alongside the A421 near to Bicester on Wednesday. Saturday morning found me in Savernake Forest after a bit of shopping in Marlborough. I recently read somewhere that Blue Tit numbers were well down, not in Savernake they weren’t as it seemed that every other bird seen was one. A Grey Heron at Thornhill pond was a surprise, I don’t think I have seen one on the ground in the forest before. ALso of interest was the number of Bullfinches seen, at least a dozen were noted. I have noticed elsewhere that they to seem to be around in good numbers this winter. For Sunday, somewhat rashly I had volunteered to drive a minibus full of members of the Delta Reds Netball Team (including my wife I should add) to Wembley to watch England in the Quad Series. After dropping them off I headed for the WWT centre at Barnes to pass the time until I needed to pick them up. A worthwhile visit with good views of two Bittern and a Caspian Gull which was a lifer for me. Several Snipe and Pintail were noted but the Water Pipit couldn’t be found. Yesterday afternoon I took the dog for a walk along the Railway Path. A good few birds around with another three Bullfinches being the best. This afternoon a walk with the dog in the Hackpen area got me up to one hundred species for the year. My slowest century for a good few years. The fact that eighty-six of these have been in Wiltshire shows how little travelling I have done so far. Still it was a good bird that got me there, a Tree Sparrow. Two more Bullfinches were seen but better than that three Greenfinches also. I have now seen a grand total of five this year. A good few Raptors about with Buzzard, Red Kite and Kestrels seen in various numbers. I have noticed over the last few mornings the increasing number of Song Thrushes singing, a sign that Spring is not that far away maybe. All being well the plan is for a few hours at the Water Park tomorrow so hopefully a good day-list will be had.
….as in a quiet start to February after a quiet finish to January. On the return leg of a wet trip to Bournemouth today a good few birds were noted at the pig farm at Old Sarum. Several hundred Lapwing, plenty of gulls and a couple of Little Egrets were seen as I drove past. On a stop for a break near to Bulford I saw and heard several Skylarks displaying. Nearer to home and just before leaving the M4 an adjacent wet field held a skewer of Egrets. Obviously I wasn’t able to stop to confirm which sort. So on my home from work I headed along Wharf Road to see if I could find them. The field I had seen them in is not really visible from Wharf Road but fortunately they had moved and were in the field next to it. I was also lucky that there was a place to pull in. A quick count revealed twenty-two Little Egrets and unfortunately none of the Cattle variety. This is the largest gatheing of egrets I have seen in the Swindon area. It could be worth keeping an eye on the area in case something more interesting turns up. I stopped by Wroughton Reservoir as well and there were fewer birds than last time. Twenty-one Gadwall, four Tufted, five Little Grebe and a couple each of Mallard and Moorhen was all that was there.
A thank you to the sharp-eyed readers of this blog who pointed out that yesterday I managed to turn a Siskin into a Serin. This small error has now been corrected. My apologies to the hordes of birders who raced down to Blashford this morning to see the aforementioned bird. I hope you had a great time looking for it!!
Yesterday I had to go to Swanage but had little time for birding. Also I wasn’t able to take my scope so just had binoculars. The only birds of any interest identified on the sea were a few Gannets and a couple of GBB Gulls. On the way home I made a brief stop at Blashford Lakes. The Woodland Hide was as usual great with the feeders busy. A smart male Siskin was best here. Ivy South didn’t have a Bittern waiting for me and a couple of minutes in the Tern Hide was long enough to get my first Goosanders of the year. There was enough light left for a bit of a drive around on Salisbury Plain which was worthwhile with three Short-eared Owls being seen. Also a couple of large flocks of Starlings passed over and I got my first Linnets of 2017. Today was spent at my Mums in London. A walk in Osterley Park found a single Egyptian Goose amongst loads of gulls, a few Shoveler and a single Teal loafing about on the ice on the still almost completely frozen lakes. As usual plenty of Parakeets were flying around but little else was noted.
Another trip to Worthing today and it was a lot nicer driving now that the fog has finally gone. For various reasons I wasn’t able to have my normal walk on the pier but despite the biting wind I did manage a ten minute walk along the front. Only birds seen were a few gulls and a couple of Cormorants. Driving back I was just about to join the A27 near to Patching when I noticed a few gulls milling around. Obviously it isn’t always easy to look in detail while driving but one of the birds looked a bit different and it appeared that it was being mobbed. As I got a bit closer I realised that it was a Bittern. Slowing right down I managed to get a reasonable view of it before it dropped down behind some trees. Checking on a satellite view of the area this evening there is a lake behind those trees so I guess that was where it was headed. Quite a surprise sighting. Further along the road and with the tide right in there was nothing to see as I passed Langstone Harbour but in the water alongside the road to Portchester was a flock of around forty Brent Geese. Back in Wiltshire on my way home I looked in on Wroughton Reservoir where the numbers had dropped back to normal with just a couple of Little Grebe and a few Tufted and Gadwall.
Yesterday afternoon I took the dog for a walk along the railway path. There were a lot of birds around, mainly the commoner stuff with five Bullfinches being the highlight. Today I was going to do the same walk but at the last minute decided to drive up to Folly Farm and walk along towards the Ridgeway. In contrast to the walk yesterday it was very quiet on the bird front. In the first half-hour I only saw Buzzard, Red Kite, Robin, Blackbird and a few pigeons and corvids. I then turned back towards Liddington Hill and saw a covey of twelve Red-legged Partridge flying across the top field. A female Stonechat popped up on the fence and a couple of Wrens were flitting about. Another Partridge flew off from the grass and from the call it was another Red-legged. A bit further on it flushed again and flew off ahead off me. Further still and a movement caught my eye, expecting it to be the Partridge again I was pretty surprised when four Short-eared Owls flew up from the grass. Two headed in one direction and the others singly went different ways. I got reasonable views before they all disappeared from sight. A fabulous sighting. A small flock of fourteen Meadow Pipits were the only other birds seen.