We decided to go to Hungerford for the afternoon. After having a sarnie on the common we walked along the canal to the town. A few birds were about , the best being a Kingfisher which gave us great views as it flew low along the water. An hour or so was spent in the town and on the return walk Wren, Bullfinch and Red Kite were seen. A quick stop was made at Chilton Foliat where several dozen Swallows and a few House Martins were skimming low over the wide water. Also here were eight Gadwall and a couple of Little Grebe. Final birding of the day was a few minutes scanning Liddington from the window at home with a couple of Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Heron seen over the Castle.
This morning it was out looking for Grasshopper Warbler (“Gropper”). Setting off in the morning sunshine for Knighton on the Kennet which is my favourite site for these birds. A quick stop was made at the foot of Liddington Hill to say good morning to Pete Adams and friend who were out for some Ouzelling. As is often the case in the Kennet Valley the temperature dropped about three degrees so it was quite chilly. Song Thrush, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard straight away and a couple of Canada Geese flew noisily overhead. A Cetti’s called loudly but five minutes of looking at a bush revealed nothing. After crossing the river there is a strip of woodland where a pair of Nuthatch were chasing each other around. Also here were a pair of Treecreepers and a few Blackcap. I could hear a Gropper reeling from across the river but no chance of seeing it from here. Dropping down to the river I disturbed a Common Sandpiper which was a bird I hadn’t expected to see. Also here were a couple of Gadwall. Another Gropper was heard and after about fifteen minutes of searching I got a short but good view of the bird. On the return walk, Reed Buntings, two Cormorants and several Wren were seen and a Green Woodpecker and Song Thrush heard. I took a few interesting pictures today (my opinion) so have added a slideshow to show what was seen on a morning walk along the Kennet. And yes that is where the car was!
As planned I was out the door at half-six and headed for the Water Park. A quick stop at Liden Lagoon failed to come up with the hoped for Common Sandpiper. The chosen area today was Waterhay and Cleveland lakes. I was greeted at Waterhay by singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler and the distant yaffling of a Green Woodpecker, a call that was to be heard all the way around the walk with maybe half a dozen separate birds heard although only one was seen. The first of many Reed Buntings was seen along the path to Cleveland lakes. Further along by lake 68A/B I saw my first Whitethroat of the year quickly followed by the first Common Tern flying over the scrape. The Green Woodpecker was seen near to the Reed hide. Only gulls could be seen on the scrape and a couple of Little Egret on the edge of lake 74. A Curlew flew over being mobbed by a couple of Gulls. On the walk back along the Thames Path a Cetti’s Warbler called from a bush right next to the path, a couple of minutes standing was rewarded by excellent views. One of the morning’s highlights was seeing a U2 reconnaissance plane fly over after taking off from Fairford. Soon after this I heard and then had good views of a Cuckoo. As the morning warmed up, several Orange Tip butterflies were seen on the wing. Several Sedge Warbler were singing but none seemed willing to show themselves. Finally I managed a fleeting glimpse of one among the reeds. Next I headed to Shorncote hoping to for some Waders. However the rain over the last few days had raised the water levels and none were seen. Kent End was quiet with just half a dozen Teal and a Lapwing. Final stop was Twitchers where there were some other local birders. Green and Common Sandpiper were seen on the far shore and a Sparrowhawk flew in front of the screen at low-level. A final final stop was made near lake 75 to look for the two Eygptian Geese that have been around. Plenty of Canada and Greylag but no Eygptian. The trip ended with a total of fifty-eight species seen of which four were year ticks.
A bit of a busy afternoon as I had to collect the motorbike after it’s MOT and later on take my daughter to the doctors. Also I needed to do a bit of shopping. After collecting the bike I went home for some lunch and then headed for Wroughton via the small lake at Southleaze. This lake has been quite good for waders over the last couple of years. Unfortunately the rain this week has raised the water levels enough to cover all but a small amount of the muddy margins. There was one Green Sandpiper and a Moorhen plus quite a few hedgerow birds. After shopping in Wroughton I stopped for a quick look at Wroughton Reservoir. Probably one of the lesser watched areas of water in the area. There are usually a few waterbirds. Little Grebe seem to do well here with half a dozen not an unusual sight. Today though there was only one. An unexpected bird here today was a male Red Crested Pochard, a bird rarely seen away from the Water Park. Next was the doctors and following this I decided that the dog needed a long walk at Liddington! I did the long circuit from Folly Farm, up onto the Ridgeway to the Castle and then back to the car. A very pleasant walk with the jangling song of Corn Buntings heard all around. As usual there were also plenty of Skylark, Yellowhammer, Linnet and Meadow Pipit seen. Leaving the Castle and walking along the western flank was again the best part, with five Ring Ouzels and at least ten Wheatear seen. So, another productive afternoon was had. Plan for tomorrow is an early start and with a few hours birding at the Water Park.
… to Coate Water was all I could manage today. I had hoped to go to Twitchers after work but family stuff got in the way. I had an hour to fill so it was off to Coate for a quick look around. Hardly a bird on the main lake which was disappointing, I had been hoping for a Little Gull or a couple of Terns. There was plenty of birdsong with Blackcap being the main one heard. This was backed up by Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and a couple of Song Thrush. Three Bullfinch were seen by the far hide with small flocks of Gold and Greenfinch also around. There were plenty of Swallows over the lake along with a couple of House Martin. On the way back to the car a Green Woodpecker was heard and then seen on one of the meadows. There seems to be a few around Coate this year. The early evening dog walk just had the usual birds heard and seen. I am hoping to get a decent birding day in at the weekend although the changeable weather could make it interesting. Deciding where to go will be the hardest part of it. Finally for now, a friend of mine at work who has a passing interest in birds told me that while he was walking near to Cherhill around seven o’clock he saw five Owls flying around. He said they flew up from an area of long grass not long after it stopped raining. Definitely not Barn Owls being much browner. Sounds like Short Eared to me. An interesting and quite late sighting.
Just a quick stop at Coate on the way home again. Very similar to yesterday with two each of Lapwing and Shelduck, four Gadwall and eight Teal plus a Barnacle Goose with the Canada flock. On the evening dog walk the only sighting worth mentioning was a group of Swallows that were forced down low by a heavy squall that blew over. I got absolutely soaked.
I made a quick visit to the floodwater at Coate on my way home from work. Just the usual stuff with a couple each of Lapwing and Shelduck, three Teal, four Gadwall and a hybrid Greylag Goose mingling with the Canada flock.
I also drove along to Folly Farm to give the side of Liddington a scan. All I could see was a few corvids and a lot of rabbits although I didn’t hang around for long in the chill wind. The evening dog walk was windy and cold. A Mallard dropped into a back garden along Butts Road. Apart from a few Blackbirds very little else was seen but a Green Woodpecker and three singing Song Thrushes were heard.
A family day rather than a birdwatching day. However with the destination being Mudeford I was hopeful of seeing a few decent birds. Unfortunately that wasn’t how it turned out. Maybe because of the strong wind blowing from the land there were very few birds around. A small group of Turnstone, a few Oystercatchers, some Swallows and Sand Martins and a couple of Little Egret were the only things of note. I had been hoping to drive home via Hordle to have a look for the Rose Coloured Starling but we ran out of time. So, a nice day, a nice lunch at the Avon Cafe but not good for the birdies. If I am correct a first winter Herring Gull.
Things improved dramatically after this morning’s damp start. Lunch was taken in the far hide at Coate Water with Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and many Blackcap seen on the way there. Also 21 Mute Swans which is, I think the most I have seen together at Coate. From the hide Swallow, House and Sand Martin were all seen and on the floodwater were four Lapwing and two Shelduck. After an hour at home I headed off to Liddington, no dog, just me and my flask. I parked by Folly Farm and headed for the west flank of the hill. Initially it was fairly quiet but then I picked out the first of at least four Ring Ouzels (3m, 1f) and also several Wheatear. I wasn’t able to count all of the Wheatear, the most that I could confirm was fourteen but I would estimate that there were more than twenty in total. There were also dozens of Meadow Pipits, several Linnet and Yellowhammers and also a few Corn Bunting and Skylark. I sat quietly on the hillside enjoying the solitude.
Right, now for the bizarre bit. There I was, sat quietly drinking my coffee on Liddington Hill when I heard the sound of ducks! I looked up to see two Ruddy Shelduck flying over, they headed across the field towards Folly Farm and landed on the roof of one of the barns. I watched them for a minute or so while they wandered around on the roof before they both flew off to the north. Definitely one of the strangest sightings I have ever had!
Loads to do today so I had a plan. Up at first light, an hours birding at Knighton, then into Marlborough for some shopping. After that It was spend the morning in the front garden and then an afternoon walk on Liddington and the Ridgeway. Woke at half six, pouring with rain. Decided to go to Marlborough first. First bird seen was a Red Kite. Despite the rain I headed for Knighton anyway. When I got out the car I could hear Chiff Chaff and Willow Warbler singing. Just went for a short walk and as well as the aforementioned added Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wren, Blue Tit and Goldcrest. Mallard, Coot and Moorhen were seen on the river. Although it wasn’t as good as it should have been it was still a nice walk. Here’s hoping the weather improves later.