Woke up this morning to grey skies as per the forecast. I needed to go to Marlborough so had decided on a walk on Fyfield Down. I arrived there at around half nine. It was still pretty dull and seemed like it might rain. I took my usual route into Clatford Bottom and then headed north to Fyfield Down. There were hardly any birds around to start and I was beginning to wish I had stayed in bed. In a small group of trees I found Goldcrest and Siskin which lifted the mood a little. I then reached the first area of Sarsen Stones. This part of the walk is usually good for Pipits and Wheatear but was totally devoid of birds. I heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling in the distance but that was it. Not even a Crow or Wood Pigeon. I decided to stop for a coffee at one of the largest stones. Normally a good place to sit and scan. This is what I did and almost immediately found a male Ring Ouzel feeding on the grass path a couple of hundred yards away. The first for the year and also a first fo me at this site.The white crescent on its breast stood out well. I watched it for a few minutes before moving on. I was taking a circuitous route to avoid disturbing it when along came a group of mountain bikers. The bird flew to about fifty yards from me and settled to feed amongst the rocks giving some more great views. No camera of course!. obviously my mood had now totally changed. Amazing what one bird can do. Strangely the birding improved with a Curlew heard and flocks of Fieldfare, Redwing, Meadow Pipit and Starling seen. Also a couple of Buzzard and a single Red Kite. Walking through Totterdown Wood added Nuthatch and heard only. a Chiffchaff and the years first Willow Warbler. The walk ended with a creditable thirty-four species. Later on in the day Nigel found a female Ring Ouzel in the same area. That was it for my birding today with painting and gardening filling the afternoon.
Despite the crazy fuel situation I headed out for a couple of hours at the Water Park this afternoon. First stop was Whelford Pools where the water level on one of the lakes is quite low. This has uncovered large areas of gravel and some small islands. Ideal for waders. Today there were six Green Sandpipers and a Snipe, also five Shelduck and several Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. A site to watch over the next few weeks. The only downside is that is in Gloucestershire so if any good birds turn up they won’t go on the Wiltshire list. I then headed over to Twitchers Gate to look for the male Garganey that had been seen during the morning. I wasn’t very hopeful. However I found it almost immediately although it was asleep. An excellent year tick. After a few minutes it started swimming around giving excellent views. Not much else of interest, just a few Wigeon and a singing Cetti’s Warbler. Then it was off home to do some decorating. This was followed by a quick visit to Liddington Hill on the way to Wickes and Sainsbury’s. Fairly quiet here with just a few Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Yellowhammer seen. There has been a Peregrine seen here a couple of times recently but not yet by me. Something else to look out for over the weekend.
Of what? Well actually a day off of work and almost a day off of birding as well. We were having new windows installed at home. I spent a good part of it out in the front garden finishing off the fence and doing some digging and stuff. Saw a few Greenfinch which was good. Unfortunately, by the time the workmen had finished and I had got the rooms back in some sort of order it was almost six o’clock, so not much time left for going out. I decided on a walk to the far hide at Coate and back. This is actually the nearest point of Coate to home and takes just over half an hours brisk walking. On the way I heard four Chiffchaff singing. I spent about half an hour in the hide and saw amongst others, Goosander, Teal, and Shoveler. Also there were at least five Snipe on the island and a couple of Reed Bunting under the feeders. As I was leaving a Green Sandpiper flew up from near the boardwalk. The walk back was more of a route march with just two more Chiffchaff and four Song Thrush heard singing.
The good thing being my first Wheatear of the year. I went for another walk on Liddington Hill and again there were good numbers of Fieldfare and Meadow Pipits on the northern and western slopes. The usual Yellowhammers and Skylarks were also seen. Finally, on a fence post near to the Castle I picked out a male Wheatear. He posed for a minute or so before flying off into the Castle. I then had another sighting of I think the same bird as it flew back over my head to land on a rabbit warren on the western slope. Hopefully this will be the first of many to be seen. Next target, Ring Ouzel, not such an easy one to find but I am lucky to live so close to what is probably the most reliable site for them in Wiltshire. In fact I am confident that with patience and a little luck I could find one on the hillside by scoping from my bedroom window. We shall see.
Headed over to RAF Benson in the heart of Red Kite Country for Sunday Lunch. Had a great meal and also great views of a lot of Red Kites. I imagine that the quantity seen here is what we will be seeing in Wiltshire in a few years. On the way home a small diversion was made to look for the Great Grey Shrike that has been at South Leigh for a week or so. Continuing my recent track record with GGS, I didn’t see it, the only consolation was that it doesn’t appear to have been seen by anyone today. That is now three GGS I have been for and not seen in just over three months. The day was rounded off with the now regular dog walk on Liddington Hill. Only Linnet added to the day list but there was a great sunset and the nice sight of a crescent moon close in the sky to Jupiter and Venus.
I woke a bit later than usual to another lovely morning. Going out with family at half eleven so time for a couple of hours local birding, hopefully to find the Black Redstart at Draycott and Wheater at Liddington. First stop was Draycott, only a mile or so from home but not an area I have visited more than a couple of times. There were plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing in the field but no sign of the Black Redstart. Green and Greater Spotted Woodpecker were also seen. Probably I should have spent more time here, but decided to move on to Liddington Hill A couple of Corn Buntings were heard on the way and another was singing by where I park. Yellowhammers were easily seen along the hedgerow and many Meadow Pipits were in the grass along the western side of the hill. Reaching the Castle itself there were many more Meadow Pipits and plenty of singing Skylark. Unfortunately there was no more time to hang around so it was back home to get ready to go out.
A day at my Mums in London today with no birding planned. I took the dog out before we left and had Green Woodpecker and Skylark as well as Blue Tit, Blackbird etc. The usual Parakeets heard and seen as soon as we arrived in London along with great views of another Green Woodpecker. We headed to Richmond for food and retail therapy. Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Heron and Eygptian Geese were among the birds seen along the Thames. While here I got a text from Steve saying he had found a Black Redstart about a mile from home, hopefully it will still be there tomorrow. Arriving back at Mum’s around five, I realised that there was time for a quick visit to Staines Reservoir. A good decision with Little Gull added to the year list. Other good birds seen were Black Necked Grebe, Redshank, Scaup, Goldeneye. Not bad for a non birding day.
As planned it was off for a ride on the motorbike this afternoon. First stop was a quiet Whelford Pools, next was the Richardson Amey reserve at Lake 119 on the outskirts of Lechlade. I haven’t been here for years, when I last stopped here there was a hide, this has now gone and has been replaced with a seat. A Green Sandpiper, three Teal and a couple of Herons were seen so a worthwhile stop. I then headed to Brize Norton. Not much to be seen Aircraft wise but four Buzzarda Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and a Skylark were nice to see. Also seen were several brimstone butterflies. After this I headed home to get some more done in the garden. Around five o’clock my wife, daughter and I took the dog for a walk on Liddington Hill (just for a change!). Still no sign of a Wheatear but plenty of Fieldfare and Meadow Pipits again. We stopped at the Trig Point to enjoy the views. Whilst scanning around I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a raptor dropping down in the grass in the centre of the Castle. I watched the area after a minute or two and the bird flew up, not a raptor but a Short Eared Owl. We had stunning views as it gracefully quartered over the Castle, At times the wings appeared to be translucent in the when they caught the sun. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me but no matter, it was just great to watch. So yet again another fabulous unexpected sighting to finish off the day.
And it won’t be the last after work visit although with the clocks changing on Sunday it will be nice to have a bit more light in the evenings. More evidence of migration again this evening with a large flock of Fieldfare feeding in the west-facing fields near the Castle. I reckon at least two hundred and fifty birds with several Starling amongst them. I thought that I picked out a Wheatear but unfortunately could not relocate it when I moved in for a closer look. One each of Buzzard, Pied Wagtail, Skylark and Corn Bunting were seen along with plenty of Meadow Pipits again. Quite a few of them were performing their display flight, always one of my favourites to watch. With the forecast good for tomorrow I am planning to go to work on the motorbike and then have a ride out in the afternoon. Destination unknown at the moment. One little extra that I forgot to mention from earlier in the week was a sighting from work of two soaring Buzzards being mobbed by five Herring Gulls. We get a fair few Buzzards using the uplift from the factory buildings and although the Gulls are discouraged from nesting I would think that they we prospecting the area for nest sites.
A day off from work today so it was out early for a walk at the Water Park. Waterhay and the Cleveland Lakes were the chosen area. First birds heard and seen were Green and Greater Spotted Woodpecker. There were plenty of small birds flitting around with Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Mistle and Song Thrush and Chaffinch, Dunnock and Robin all seen. On Lake 82 were eight Goldeneye, in total during the morning I saw over thirty. Next birds seen were the first of many singing Chiffchaffs and the first of many singing Reed Buntings. Two Kingfishers shot across the path in front of me by Lake 68a and a couple of minutes later went back the other way. Walking all the way to the Reedbed hides added, Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant, Shoveler, Shelduck, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Fieldfare and Redwing to the list. Plenty of Gulls around and four Jays were seen on the way back to the car. A stop at Lake 9 was worthwhile with almost a hundred and fifty Wigeon, twenty-five Great Crested Grebe and fifteen Cormorants seen. Total species for the walk was forty-seven with no raptors seen and Lapwing the only wader. A very enjoyable morning. Next was a walk on Liddington Hill with the dog, main interest here was a flock of around thirty-five Fieldfare and more than fifty Meadow Pipits, presumably migrants moving through. Also a few Skylarks were singing and displaying. Then it was back home to do a bit of gardening before getting ready to take my daughter and two friends to Cardiff to see JLS in concert.