Monthly Archives: December 2011

Christmas Day

Woken up at a civilised eight a.m.after going to bed at 02.00!

The only birds today were the Duck, Turkey and Guinea Fowl that made up the three bird roast dinner and a few live ones including one each of Coal and Marsh Tit seen on a post meal stroll.

A quick look on the CWP website showed that the Great Grey Shrike is still around.  Guess where I will be heading tomorrow morning!

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On the Downs

Christmas eve, all the shopping done and presents wrapped so time to get out and about.

Leaving home at first light to walk to Liddington Hill and up onto the Ridgeway. First bird seen was a Kestrel and then a Buzzard, not a bad start. With a chill wind on my back I made my way up to the Castle. Three Magpies,  a couple of flocks of Fieldfare and two Ravens on the way up. Onto the Ridgeway and a mile walk to my coffee stop with hardly a bird seen. I couldn’t blame them as the wind was not pleasant. Turning down the track to Lower Upham the birds appeared with many Tits and Finches, including a pair of Bullfinch. Back onto the fields along some game cover the birds continued with Goldfinch, Linnet, several Yellowhammer and a pure white Pheasant. At least 40 Skylark went up along the way and a Red Kite was working the south face of the downs. Finally a flock of around two hundred Linnets and a few Corn Buntings were added to the list.

Arriving home it was suggested that I took the dog out so off again around the bottom of the village. This extra walk added Common Gull on the green over the road and Goldcrest, Coal Tit and a couple more Bullfinches.

An afternoon stroll around Coate Water was pleasant with around fifty Teal and sixteen Goosander the highlights.

Shortest Day

Well it is now the winter solstice and we can start to look forward to a slow increase in daylight. I enjoy this time of year but it is a frustrating time for the working birder.

Sunday Stroll

After considering various options I decided on a walk in the Kennet Valley. Starting from Axford, up to Hens Wood and then dropping back to the meadows along the river. The temperature was zero on leaving Chiseldon and minus four at Axford. The Kennet Valley is often much colder than the surrounding areas. Good numbers of garden birds greeted me and then a small flock of Siskins in the riverside Alders. The climb up towards Hens Wood gave the first of many Nuthatch and Coal Tit, also good views of a Green Woodpecker. A pair of Bullfinches were nice and then a couple of Goldcrest in with a large mixed flock of Tit’s was seen moving through the trees. A Barn Owl looking out of a nest box was a nice surprise and at then at around nine thirty the incongruous sound of a single call from a Tawny Owl. More Bullfinches and a single WillowTit were the last birds seen in the wood. Dropping down to the river, a a stop for coffee was interrupted by the squeal of a Water Rail. The bird was soon picked out at the edge of the river and watched feeding for around five minutes. ARed Kite drifted over and a couple of Jays were noisily moving through the trees. The regular small group of Mandarin were seen and also the pair of Black Swans which frequent this part of the Kennet.  Arriving back at the car the species count had reached a creditable forty.

A quick note about Hens Wood. This is a private wood that is owned by Ramsbury Estate. It is worked for timber and also used for shooting. Please keep to the public right of way.

On the way home a small detour at Draycott added a Little Owl enjoying the sunshine. Three species of Owl in the daytime makes a good trip.

Enjoying the Sun

Later on a late afternoon walk to Liddington with the dog. Again no Short Eared Owls but still a pleasant walk.

Bird whenever you can

Friday afternoon again and off to Marlborough to collect my new glasses. All done in less than half an hour so off to the chippie to get my lunch. Bins are in the car so drive to Ogbourne St Andrew to eat and birdwatch. Not so easy while eating chips but good views of three Tree Sparrows in a mixed flock of farmland birds. Then it’s off to Wroughton to collect my daughter. Red Kite and Bullfinch en route. An hour at home and then on the road again, heading for London to visit my mum.

Saturday morning, crisp and clear and no time for birds. Just the usual screeching Parakeets flying around. Horrible birds that should be culled. Don’t ever wish for them to establish a population in Wiltshire. Arrive home mid afternoon in time for a quick visit to Liddington Hill. No Owls today and can’t say I blame them. The wind chill must be about -3, freezing.

Always birds somewhere.

Just to show that birds can pop up at anytime. I was filling the car with petrol at Chiseldon petrol station at quarter to six this evening and a Robin suddenly burst into full song. Confused? Well at least one of us was.

Putting something back

Sunday morning and another struggle to get up after an evening out for the 21st birthday of my son’s girlfriend. Half past one again! getting to be a bad habit.

A work party at the Water Park was today’s pleasure. The plan was to clear brush and willow along the shore in front of the scrape at Lake 74. Also some clearance work at Twitchers Gate. A very enjoyable time was had with coffee and mince pies to finish things off. No birding done as the rain came in just as we finished.

Searching for Owls

Mid afternoon saw myself and Steve heading for Liddington Hill hoping for Short Eared Owl.  I have been visiting this area for many years and can actually scan the hillside from the bedroom windows at home. A couple of recent sightings of SEO ‘s had bought us here so with full flasks we started scanning. A couple of people walking their dogs around the Castle disturbed a couple of Buzzards. As they wheeled around the Castle another bird flew up and started mobbing them. Amazingly it was an SEO, then another flew up and joined the first, both hassling the Buzzards. Target bird seen within ten minutes! We decided to change location and made our way to the top of the hill. A peek over the top of the earthwork and an Owl was seen. We made our way to the Trig Point and watched an Owl quartering the rough grass of the Castle. Another was found hunting along the Ridgeway. A call from Steve of “Harrier” and the bird was seen to land in the middle of a field. We both moved to our scopes but in those few seconds the bird disappeared so we could only note ‘probable Ringtail Hen Harrier. Anyway a successful session and only five minutes from home.

A walk at Coate Water

Alarm went off at seven as the plan was for a walk from home to Coate and back. However as I was tired after picking up my wife from a Christmas do at 01.30 I didn’t  get up till eight. So I drove to Coate and walked around. It was pretty cold with some ice on the lake. first stop was the Tawny Owl roost tree but no sign of the bird. Grey and Pied Wagtail were seen and then two Treecreepers moving along with a small flock of tits. Near to Nightingale Cottage a Marsh Tit was heard along with a couple of Nuthatches, one of which was seen. Next were two Goldcrests and a Common Gull on the lake. From the first hide eight Goosander were seen and from the second around 40 Teal and a few Gadwall and Shoveler. A dozen or so Cormorants and half that of Herons were in the trees. Continuing around the fields to the east of the lake a good number of Fieldfare and Redwing were moving around. Bullfinch was heard and a Snipe flew up as I walked across the dried out flood water area. Arriving back at the car with a satisfying total of 51 species seen and heard.

Fourth time lucky?

I finish work at lunch time on a Friday and usually try and get some birding done. Last Friday I went looking for the five Cranes that had been around on Thursday. No luck.

Today it was back to the Water Park to try again for the Great Grey Shrike, I don’t usually go more than a couple of times for a specific bird but this would be a Water Park and year tick. Also a Temminck’s Stint was at the same site. Possibly the same bird that I saw on the Scrape on Pit 74 last month but always good to see.

End result was, No Shrike, no Stint and an extremely wet foot from a deeper than expected puddle! But as always still a good couple of hours with some  Lapwing / Golden Plover flocks around and a couple of Dunlin and the same of Water Rail calling.

Drove home via Barbury hoping for Short Eared Owl. Another blank but compensated for by a good view of a Merlin.