A Lazy Day

The intended early morning visit to the Water Park didn’t happen as staying in bed seemed more appealing. When I did eventually drag myself up I had a fair bit to do at home as my Wife and Daughter were back home after a trip to New York. Have to say that I have enjoyed my few days of being home alone. Garden birding for me isn’t great as we just don’t get many visitors. Feeding is not an option as the local rat population always seem to turn up. A few things were seen though with the regular House Sparrows visiting the pond along with a couple of Starlings. The highlight was at least three and probably five Holly Blue butterflies along with an Orange tip and some Small Tortoiseshells. Buzzards were as usual over and a single Raven spent some time soaring above the house. Also of interest were a number of gliders using nearby thermals with at least five seen together.


Another Quick Decision

Following an early start and a return trip to Worthing it was finish work, go shopping then home to get a few jobs done. Things didn’t start well as after sitting out in the garden for a few minutes I managed to doze off for an hour. I then made the mistake of looking on Twitter where I saw that there was a large flock of Arctic Terns at the Water Park. A quick phone call confirmed that they were still there so against my better judgement I headed off along the A419 again. This time however, my luck wasn’t in as by the time I arrived they had all moved on. There were however a couple of consolation ticks, Common Tern for Wiltshire and a heard but not seen 2019 UK tick of Whimbrel.

A Quick Decision

With an early start in the morning I was just getting some food sorted. A quick look at Twitter and a message “six Black Terns from Twitchers” at 17.55. a quick time check, it was 18.08 and I was planning on being in bed by half-seven. The shall I shan’t I lasted about thirty seconds and about two minutes later I was on my way. Arriving at Twitchers initially there was no sign of any terns but a minute or so later two appeared from the northern end of the lake. They then moved back out of sight. A Cuckoo was calling and a couple of Little Egrets flew across towards lake 68. The two terns then reappeared and again moved back out of sight. This is a regular thing when these birds are here as they often favour the left hand end of the lake. They were soon back and this time I counted five as they flew along regularly dropping down to pick something from the surface of the lake. Then it was time to head home and with the A419 being nice and quiet I was back indoors at five to seven. Then it was a microwaved jacket potato and off to bed.

Another Wiltshire Ramble

Today myself and Matt spent some time birding around Wiltshire. We started reasonably early with a walk from Avebury to Fyfield Down and back. At Avebury despite the mist and a chill wind there were plenty of birds around. A Sparrow at the Church, a group of four Blackcaps and thirteen Tree Sparrows being the best. A Guinea Fowl was a surprise sighting. Heading up to the Ridgeway a female Wheatear and a first for year Whitethroat were seen along with several Corn Buntings. Crossing the Ridgeway onto Fyfield Down we were grateful to have worn our hats and gloves. Unfortunately the conditions obviously didn’t suit the birds as it was very quiet with just a few Yellowhammers and Fieldfare to be found. As we headed deeper into the sarsens just ones and twos of the common species were added. Eventually the sun started to burn through the mist and the temperature started to rise. This livened things up with plenty of Yellowhammers, Mipits and Linnets about. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard. Just before we headed back up to the Ridgeway in the last area of Gorse thing really picked up with more common stuff and a couple of Wheatear along with a single male Whinchat. Another year tick. A confiding Song Thrush was around the stones back in the village. Also noted were Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Swallow and House Martin. Our next destination was to be either Salisbury Plain or the Water Park. We chose the latter but again it was very quiet and was missing out on the influx of Little Gulls that were being reported in good numbers from various sites. NFY were Reed Warbler and Common Tern, the latter was seen on a brief foray to Lake 12 over the border in Gloucestershire. Wader numbers were low with a single Ringed Plover the best seen. Despite the bird numbers not living up to our expectations we had a most enjoyable time and ended with a total of seventy-one species.

Hunting the Gropper

An evening walk in the Kennet Valley turned up trumps with first for year Grasshopper Warbler and Cuckoo. I started off at Knighton and within a minute of getting out of the car had heard Blackcap, Cetti’s Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. A couple of Song Thrush were singing loudly and a Wren was chattering away. As I crossed the river bridge I disturbed Heron, Mandarin and Mallard. Heading east along the track towards Littlecote I added Jay and Sparrowhawk, a Sedge Warbler was singing in the same area as on Sunday morning. I then heard the distinctive song of a Gropper, it always amazes me how far this carries as it was a good one hundred yards away across the river. This one was a day earlier than my first of 2018. From here I moved west along the valley to Axford. I had just got out of the car when a Cuckoo started calling and it was fairly close by. It then went silent before starting to call again a little further away. I managed to find it sat in some riverside trees giving a good but distant view. Also seen were a few Roe Deer and a single Hare. Then it was onto Marlborough for a celebratory portion of chips which were eaten on a back road drive home where I was hoping for my first Barn Owl of the year. Yet again, despite passing a large amount of fence posts I failed to find one.

Lanzarote Part 4 (final part)

Our next trip was a day on the nearby island of La Graciosa where our intention was to have a good long walk. We headed off to Orzola which is where the boats leave from. The crossing takes around thirty minutes and for the first part is quite lively. I was hoping to see some Cory’s Shearwaters from the boat but all I got was YL Gulls and a couple of Sandwich Terns. Arriving on the island our first stop was the local bakery where the filled baguettes made us regret buying service station sandwiches. We got over it with a couple of nice doughnuts. We then set off across the island on what was to be ten mile (sixteen kilometre walk). It was fairly warm with the temperature being in the low twenties but the usual stiff breeze helped to keep us cool. It was as expected very quiet for birds, House Martins and Swallows were flying around Caleta del Sebo with the usual Pipits and Linnets, and a couple of Shrikes and Ravens. The path took us across the island to Playa De las Conchas and then on to Los Arcos where we had our lunch overlooking a pretty rough sea, and Playa Del Ambar which is covered with what must be millions of tiny shells, before following the coast to the small settlement of Casas De Pedro Barba from where a precarious cliff edge path took us back to the ferries. The small village here seemed to be where old four wheel drive vehicles end their days. A single was seen here picking food from the rocks. Part of the reason that we visited earlier in the year was to do some walking and this one did not disappoint. Back at the port we treated ourselves to another pastry from the bakery before embarking on the return journey.  The boat went fairly close to the impressive cliffs on the main island but some serious scanning didn’t manage to find any falcolns. However this time I did manage to get the Shearwaters with several dozen wheeling around fairly close in to shore. Also here were a couple of Redshank. Our final trip was to Cueva De Los Verdes where the lava has created a complex of tubes and caves. From the nearby coast more Shearwaters were seen. In the afternoon I had a look at the golf course just outside of Puerto Carmen but the wind had become even stronger and there were literally no birds to be seen. I drove back to the hotel on some quiet back roads but only found more PIpits, a few Egrets and a Kestrel. In all on the trip i managed forty-five species which included ten lifers, a total with which I was quite pleased with considering that in all I spent the equivalent of just a single day birding.

Lanzarote Part 3

The following day we had booked another trip with Eco-Insider. This time for a walk up to the volcano of Caldera Blanca. This turned out to be a fabulous walk which included a 1.1 km circuit of the crater rim. With fabulous views throughout another highly recommended trip. Not much going on the birding front with just Doves / Pigeons, Pipits, Linnets, Kestrel and Ravens and YL Gulls seen. A couple of the Ravens were loitering at the highest point which is where people sit and eat their food. Following the walk we chilled out at the hotel where amongst the sparrows and doves I was amazed to see a Great Grey Shrike taking chips from the area around the main pool. Amazing how birds adapt their behaviour to take advantage of our excesses. In all I saw it three times around the hotel. Also around the hotel today were a few Common Swifts, at least one Plain Swift and a few House Martins. For the next three days we had hired a car to start  headed for the other end of the island. Our first stop was a site recommended by Carmen and was called Bosquecillo. A walk here got Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Great Grey Shrike, Spectacled Warbler, Canary and African Blue Tit. There was an outside chance of Barbury Falcon here but we didn’t see one. The latter was heard several times but we got back to the car without seeing one. I said to my Wife that I would have another wander and hope to actually see one. After about five minutes wandering aimlessly around in the scrub my phone rang. Of course it was my Wife telling me that she was watching one atop a bush just a few yards from the car. Fortunately I managed to see it and eventually managed two more. We then headed into Haria where we visited the home of Cesar Manrique also had something to eat. From here we went to the Mirador Guinate and Mirador del Rio. The views were absolutely spectacular looking out across La Graciosa. Again though no sign of any falcons. I did however manage a picture of a Berthelot’s Pipit.P1000249From here we headed to the other end of the island for a look at the Janubio Salt Pans before watching the sunset into the sea at Los Hervideros. With only a short time available it was a case of scanning the Salt Pans from the road but I managed to add Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, Redshank, Black-necked Grebe, Ruddy Shelduck, Grey Heron and Cormorant to the list. A couple of hours walking the area would I am sure turn up a good many more. Unfortunately the sunset didn’t go to plan due to a line of cloud sitting along the horizon. In the other direction though we were treated to the sight of the full moon rising over the lava fields and volcanoes.20190320_191100


Sunday Morning Up The Hill

My plan for this morning was to spend a couple of hours on Liddington Hill. Once again I didn’t get up as early as planned so it was close to nine before I got there. The initial climb along the hedgerow turned up a couple of singing Blackcaps and the usual mix of Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Chaffinch. A lone very noisy Fieldfare was seen and it appeared to be displaying, flying from bush to bush calling loudly. Looking back I saw another birder appear and it was someone that I know. As he moved up the hill he was stopping to scan the hedgerow. A she did this a Ring Ouzel flew from a nearby Hawthorn, passed almost directly over him and dropped back into cover behind him, all without him seeing it. I gave him a call just to let him know and then walked back to meet him. Together we headed back the way the bird had gone and Graham managed a brief sighting of it below us on the grass. I then saw it again as it passed us low along the back of the hedge. This is a game I have played many a time here and I have always found it best to find a good vantage point and to just sit quietly and hope. Before we could do this an RBA alert came through “five Ring Ouzels Liddington Hill” fortunately again from a friend. I made a quick phone call to find out whereabouts they were. It was just under a mile away so within around fifteen minutes we had managed to find at least three that were moving around with a flock of Fieldfare. We also managed to get another couple of birders onto them as well. Further reports throughout the day indicated that ther ewere at least six in the area. On the way back to our cars another flock of Fieldfare arrived, this one consisting of around a hundred birds.

A Chilly Spring Walk

My intention yesterday evening was to head down to Knighton on the Kennet for Gropper as I do around this time every year. However after a busy week at work I was way too tired to go. A beer and bed was what I needed. Instead I went this morning. On opening the car door I was greeted with a good amount of bird song, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Song thrush being the dominant sounds. Walking down towards the river I thought I heard a very brief snatch of a Willow Warbler but couldn’t be sure. It was a lot colder than I had expected it to be, not good for the birds that had returned early in the warm period of a couple of weeks ago. The explosive call of a Cetti’s was heard, the first of six along a half-mile stretch of the river. There were also plenty of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. A Marsh Tit was quite showy, but when I got the camera out it decided to clear off after I managed just a single shot. The first of three Mandarin flew over, a Wiltshire year-tick. I then heard a short burst of song from a Sedge Warbler and a short while later a half-hearted attempt from a Willow Warbler. Two year ticks. After about a mile I turned back and on the return journey the Willow Warblers had managed to get themselves motivated with three heard in good voice. A lone Swallow passed overhead along with Red Kite and Buzzard which contributed towards a species total of twenty-eight with five species of Warbler seen. P1000596

In the afternoon my Wife and I took the dog for a walk at Cleveland Lakes. We started with a quick look at an almost birdless Kent End followed by a very nice tea and cake session at Jenny’s cafe before the walk which was very pleasant but fairly quiet on the bird front. A couple of Snipe being the best birds seen.

So Many People

I had a short walk on Liddington Hill late this afternoon and it was pretty busy up there. Unfortunately more for the amount of people than birds. Just a very brief view of an Ouzel as it shot into the hedgerow. Not surprised it was hiding away with at least eight birders / toggers around. Not a great deal of fieldcraft being demonstrated either. Also had my first UK Wheatear of the year with three birds seen. A couple of Swallows through as well.P1000586