For a change I decided not to take the dog out this evening and instead, made a flask of coffee and headed for the far hide at Coate. On the way to the hide Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, a couple of vocal Song Thrush and two Roe Deer were seen. Some of the birds seen from the hide were Heron, Kingfisher, Gadwall, Mute Swan with two Cygnets, Swift, Swallow, House Martin. There was also a Rat and a Pheasant eating seed that had dropped from the feeders. I am off to London tomorrow afternoon and then on to Norfolk for a week. Although it is a family holiday there is already a bit of birding planned. If I can sort some internet access there will be some posts throughout the week. If not it will be one large post when I return.
After another couple of days away it was down to the evening dog walk to produce some birds. It turned out to be fairly quiet with just the usual Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Skylarks. Three Red Legged Partridge, a Buzzard and a Kestrel were seen as was a Fox and a Roe Deer.
Just back from a walk on Russley Down with the dog. First bird seen and heard was a Corn Bunting followed by two Yellow Wagtails. A couple of Red Legged Partridges flew up off the path as I approached. Whitethroat was heard and seen along with Yellowhammers, Skylarks and several more Corn Bunting. I stopped for my coffee and to enjoy the sight of effect the sun shining through the clouds. Suddenly the dog saw something behind me, turning I saw the front half of a Badger that had seen us as it emerged from a crop of Rape. For a second or two the Badger looked at us before turning back into the crop. I didn’t even have time to lift my camera before it went. On the walk back Kestrel, Buzzard and Swallow were all seen. I had been hoping to hear Quail but no joy. Maybe next time.
For various reasons the birding day out isn’t happening today so it is local birding again. For a change I started at Shaw Forest Park, not a place I visit very often. Among the birds seen were several Common and one Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Green and Goldfinch. Next stop was Southleaze where the water level is still high, Swift, Skylark and Red Legged Partridge were seen and a Green Woodpecker heard. Final call was the floodwater at Coate, along with several Linnet were Lapwing, Shelduck, Gadwall and loads of Swallows. Back home for domestic duties and hopefully a trip out late on.
With a full day of birding planned for Sunday I need to get on with jobs at home. So unfortunately, no proper birding today. After a nice BBQ at home I took the dog for a walk along towards Liddington Hill and then across the fields to Badbury. The farmers around here seem pretty good at helping wildlife so there is always plenty to see. On a two and a half mile walk I had fifteen Corn Buntings with ten singing and two seen in display flight, nine Skylarks, two Yellow Wagtails and singles of Whitethroat and Blackcap. Also seen were Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove. Blackbird, Crow and Jackdaw. Not bad for a walk with no stops and no binoculars.
As planned this evening Steve and I headed off to Savernake Forest. We arrived there at around quarter past eight. Parking at Eight Walks we strolled down to Thornhill. Fairly quiet on the walk down with Blackcap the best bird. As we approached the pond a pair of Mandarin flew out of the reeds calling as they went. In the pond were several newts and many tadpoles. Steve identified some Brown Silver-line moths. Green Woodpecker and Cuckoo were heard in the distance and a Little Egret flew over.. Moving on to our preferred Nightjar spot we saw Muntjac and Roe Deer. Almost immediately we heard and briefly saw Woodcock. Over the background noise of a large tractor working on one of the local farms we then heard a Nightjar churring. This was followed by a great view as it flew overhead. It then started churring again before flying back over to its original spot. So unusually we had better view of Nightjar than Woodcock. Also heard were young Tawny Owl and several Bats were seen. On a leisurely drive home along the back roads, no Owls were seen. However we saw the target birds so no complaints.
Back home now after a three-day course at Heathrow. An enjoyable course with a nice hotel to stay at. Birdwise it was Kestrel and Skylark on the airport, respectively hunting and displaying just yards from the main runway. An early evening drink with a work colleague at a Pub next to the River Thames gave the chance of some no optics birding ( I had a pint!). In keeping with the multicultural feel of the area I saw Mandarin, Eygptian Geese and the dreaded Parakeets. Also here were Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mallard Canada Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Swift, Swallow, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wood and Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw and Crow. With the birds, boats on the river, aircraft overhead and a good pint it was a very pleasant evening. On a short walk with the dog this evening Corn Bunting, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and a pair of Mallard on a flooded field were seen. With the forecast remaining good, another trip out to Savernake for Nightjar and Woodcock is planned for tomorrow evening . Fingers crossed for some good crepuscular birding. With a possible trip to the South Coast on Sunday for the WOS walk at Tyneham it could be a good few days birding.
Waking to another grey morning I set of for Fyfield Down. In the back of my mind was the possibility of finding a Woodchat Shrike. I had only walked about two hundred yards from the car and was regretting not staying in bed. It was just cold and miserable and as you may have guessed I had left my hat and gloves at home. On the drive up from the A4 I had seen a couple of Grey Partridge. Next decent bird seen was a female Wheatear. I then spotted a pair of Red Legged Partridge which from their behavior may have had young nearby. They actually came closer to me, were very vocal and appeared to be trying to lead me away. Geeen Woodpecker was heard and then seen along with Whitethroat, Long Tailed Tit and Song Thrush. Another couple of Wheatear were found along with some Skylark. It was a relief to reach Totterdown Wood and to get out of the wind for a while. Plenty of birds here with Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Bullfinch added to the list. Heading back towards the car along the gallops there were eight Skylarks in the air together Also in one of the adjoining fields were at least a dozen Hares. Most crouched low on the ground. Kestrel, Starling and Wren were the final birds seen, the final species total being a fairly respectable total of thirty. On arriving home I looked on Birdguides and saw that a Woodchat Shrike was at Martin Down NR. Just thirty miles to the South and similar habitat! My thoughts hadn’t been that far off the mark after all.
The Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) is listed as a Red Status bird. The definition of this status is;
Red list criteria
- Globally threatened
- Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
- Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
- Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
Fortunately for us in Wiltshire, this area is a stronghold for these birds. This afternoon on a family walk along the Ridgeway and onto Russley Down We saw or heard in excess twenty. The jingling call carries a fair distance and was with us all along the walk with birds perched on fence posts, the tops of trees and bushes. Competing in the singing stakes were many Skylarks. Also seen were Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Kestrel, Buzzard and a couple of Yellow Wagtails. The other highlight of the afternoon was, whilst I was gardening I heard a couple of Crows (not unusual). When I looked up they were mobbing an overflying Raven, a new addition to the garden list.
As is often the case with the weather forecasts, all say something different so best to just look out of the window. I woke at six and “looked out of the window”. Grey and damp so dump plan one, which was to go on the bike to Greenham Common. Instead I headed to the Water Park in the car. First stop was Kent End where all the rain we have had has covered of the gravel islands and created many extra pools in the grassier areas. Some patient scanning found eight Ringed and two Little Ringed Plover, two Dunlin and four Lapwing. Also seen here were Blackcap and Whitethroat. Next was Lake 74 from Twitchers. Plenty of Swifts and Swallows over the water along with a couple of Common Tern. The only wader found was a Common Sandpiper. Also seen and heard were Sedge and Cetti’s Warbler, Blackcap, Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker. Lake 97 was quiet with just two Grey Wagtails worthy of note. Heading home I decided on a quick look in at Coate Water. Grey and Pied Wagtail were on seen along with Swift, Swallow and Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Nothing of any great interest at the flood water which is now more of a third lake. Then it was back home and on with the domestic duties.