A repeat visit to Barbury Castle after work this afternoon. The weather was different again with lovely sunshine. A brief view of a flying Short Eared Owl as I drove along the track at the bottom of the Castle, the Kestrel was hunting from the same fence posts as yesterday and there were a couple of Buzzards around. Also two Stock Doves, two Corn Buntings and a small flock of Fieldfare and Redwing. I met up with Steve and we saw a small group of Starlings heading west, presumably going to join the roost at Wootton Bassett. Around twenty Golden Plover flew over and another brief view was had of an Owl. It was now past six o’clock and rapidly getting dark so we called it a day and headed home.
Yesterday after work I had planned to go to Barbury Castle as Short Eared Owls were seen there on Sunday. However, as it was raining I didn’t bother. Today the weather, although not great was dry and calm so I decided to try my luck. Along the road to Barbury I saw a Buzzard in a roadside tree. Approaching the Castle I rounded the final bend to see another Buzzard in another tree, except it wasn’t a Buzzard it was a Short Eared Owl. I stopped and reversed onto the verge. The Owl just sat and watched me, with the tree only about twenty-five feet away. I watched the Owl for about a minute before it flew out past the car and landed about fifty yards away in a field. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me. Will I ever learn? I then drove on to scan the banks of the Castle and had great views of a second Owl quartering the short grass. A Kestrel was hunting from a nearby fencepost and a small flock of Fieldfare flew overhead. I shall be back tomorrow with my camera.
As the weather looked good we (the family and dog) decided to go out for a walk along the Tan Hill Way. Starting from just outside Alton Barnes we walked up towards Milk Hill. After watching a Hot Air Balloon land nearby we carried on up to the ridge to enjoy the amazing views. Skylarks and Yellowhammers were singing and a flock of around forty Golden Plover few over. With lovely sunshine and excellent visibility the panoramic views were stunning. Norfolk may beat us for birds but it cannot match the scenery! Near to Milk Hill is an area which is used by Paragliders and we stopped to watch. There was obviously not enough wind so not a lot was going on. I walked over to a nearby area of scrub and small trees, several Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers and Chaffinch were seen. Suddenly a bird flew out I caught a view of a red tail as it alighted on a fence. My view was impaired by branches but I moved round and as it flew I identified it as a Black Redstart. Unfortunately I could not relocate it. A great pity as I would have liked a longer look at what was a Wiltshire first for me. After this we stopped for a picnic. Sitting out in the sun, close to the highest point in Wiltshire it was hard to believe that it is still February. We walked past the White Horse, over Walkers Hill and back to the car. Next stop was the Barge Inn at Honeystreet for a drink and a plate of chips. Next surprise was seeing this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flying around in the pub garden. An earlier than usual sighting. After a quick look at the Narrowboats on the Kennet & Avon we headed home. My wife decided that she was going to watch the League Cup final, I decided to spend an hour at Coate Water. Nothing unusual seen but a good view of a Kingfisher flying across the lake. A great finish to a good weekend.
I needed to go to Marlborough so decided on a walk from the southern side of Savernake to Great Bedwyn then along the Kennet & Avon to Wilton Water and then back through Haw Wood to the car. Starting from St Katherine’s Church I headed along the edge of Bedwyn Common. Plenty of birds around witha Song Thrush singing and a couple of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers drumming. Jay and Nuthatch were also heard and a Treecreeper seen. There had been a lot of tree felling in this area with several log piles by the track. The first of several Goldcrest was seen here. Next a couple of Red Kites and a Buzzard drifted over. After a short walk along the road I reached Chisbury Wood. Several more Goldcrest were seen along with another Greater Spotted Woodpecker. I stopped at a clearing to scan the treetops and a Green Woodpecker flew over. Then two birds flew into a nearby tree. They were a pair of Crossbills, always a good bird to find this was my one hundredth species for Wiltshire this year. They stayed feeding giving excellent views. Not the best picture but a fair record shot. Heading across the fields into Great Bedwyn a couple of Skylarks were flying around. First stop in Bedwyn was the bakers shop for some cakes, then it was off along the canal to Wilton Water. It was a bit odd on the canal as in just over two miles I only saw a few Mallards and Canada Geese. No Moorhens, Coot or Grebe. It maybe that there are Mink here and they have wiped out most of the other wildlife. The regular pair of Grey Wagtails were at Crofton Lock and on Wilton Water there were a good number of Waterbirds including more than a dozen Gadwall and half a dozen Little Grebe. Then it was back towards the car, around three miles away. The farmland section of the walk was disapointing with nothing seen other than a flock of around two hundred Lapwing. A pleasant walk through Haw Wood and along Hatchet Lane took me back to the car. Four hours, seven and a half miles with forty seven species made for a great morning. I then headed into Marlborough for a bit of shopping. As it was lunchtime I got a portion of chips and stopped off at Ogbourne St Andrew to eat them. Here I added Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow to the day list.
A bit of a downer today as I wasn’t able to partake in my normal Friday afternoon birding. Domestic activities took precedence with the gasman coming to fit some new parts to the boiler and also a man to fit a new multilock to my twenty plus year old double glazed door. Anyway all done now and it did give me a chance to get a few other bits and pieces sorted out. All I need to do now is decide where to go at the weekend. As it is a quarter to eleven now I need to make my mind up fairly soon.
The weather was quite pleasant when I came out of work today so I decided to have a walk at Coate on the way home. The main lake was fairly quiet with ten Goosander and twenty-four Pochard seen. A quick scan for the Bittern was made but it was not showing. Maybe it has finally moved on. More activity on the other lake with both Heron and Cormorant very active. A drake Pintail was the highlight of the visit being a fairly rare visitor here. Another 15 Goosander, a pair of Shelduck a dozen or so Shoveler, the same of Gadwall and plenty of Teal. A handful of Song Thrushes were singing and a few Redwing and Fieldfare were moving around. One Snipe flew up from a soggy patch on a field margin and apart from plenty of Rooks going to roost, nothing else was seen.
At long last there is now enough light to allow a bit of birding after work. Although not the nicest of weather I drove over to Nightingale Wood for a short walk. It seemed that the birds had more sense than me and there wasn’t much to see, but it was just nice to be out. Best birds seen were a couple of Snipe and 10 Reed Buntings going to roost. Also a few Fieldfare flew over and a group of Pheasant ran across the path in front of me.
My wife’s birthday today and since we saw the forecast for today it was planned for the family including the dog to go to Mudeford for the day. From checking birdguides and the local websites I had seen that there were a few decent birds in the area so had thought that maybe a bit of birding could be done. My wife does enjoy seeing easy interesting birds. After an easy drive down we parked at Avon Beach. We started with a coffee by the car which gave me time to scan the sea. Almost immediately I picked out the one bird that I really wanted to see. A Long Tailed Duck which was a life tick. The views were distant but good. We walked along to the Quay to do some crabbing and I managed some closer views. No sign of the Slavonian Grebe although it had been seen. Next was lunch at the Avon Beach Cafe, another excellent and highly recommended eatery. All the better for being able to seawatch whilst eating at the outside tables. Amazing to be able to do so in the middle of February. After a pleasant walk along the promenade we returned to the car to head home. A quick stop was made overlooking Stanpit for a quick look for the Spotted Sandpiper. Unfortunately the tide was out and there was no time to scan a large area containing several hundred waders. A short stop at Blashford Lakes was worthwhile with great views had of a Bittern and a few minutes watching the extremely busy feeders at the Woodland Hide.
My mum is down for the weekend and we had talked about a walk in the Great Bedwyn area. However when I got up i noticed the house was colder than usual. Checked the heating and found that the boiler had packed up. Called the Service Line and made an engineer appointment for between ten a.m and six p.m.! Fortunately the engineer came just before twelve and only took around half-an-hour. Unfortunately, by then it had started to rain. We decided to go out anyway and headed for Chilton Foliat. Braving the rain, a scan of the Wide Water and the Kennet gave thirty-one Gadwall, seven Little Grebe, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Red Kite. We then went onto Cobbs Farm Shop just outside Hungerford for coffee and cake. A very nice and highly recommended establishment. Next was a stop at the pond near Froxfield, quiet, but four Teal and more than a hundred Lapwing were good sightings. Nearer home, a stop overlooking Aldbourne Chase was rewarded with a count of eleven Hares. Finally a quick look for the local Little Owls was not successful. We had left home in the rain and returned in glorious evening sunshine. Oh the joys of the English Weather.
A drive to Devizes for a W.O.S. indoor meeting. Steve had a fleeting glimpse of a Barn Owl on the way. After an excellent talk about St Kilda we headed home through the back roads. We reached Marlborough without seeing any wildlife at all and we were beginning to think it may be a blank night. Skirting the edge of Savernake we stopped for a coffee at Cobham Frith. Here we heard a Tawny Owl calling nearby. Starting off again, at last we spotted a Barn Owl on a fence post near to the old Ramsbury Airfield. Out through Ramsbury and we headed towards Aldbourne. Just before reaching Aldbourne a Tawny Owl was spotted perched in a roadside tree. I was a bit slow in reacting but we did have a good but short view. Finally not far from home we came across another Barn Owl obligingly perched atop a footpath sign. We stopped and had great views with the binoculars before it flew off. Again, another fruitful evening with Steve, who had seen a Barn Owl on his way to work in the morning having a total of four for the day.