After a hectic twenty-four hours which consisted of spending most of yesterday evening at the hospital with my daughter who ended up having an overnight stay there. And then today a three hundred mile round trip to attend my Great Aunt’s Ninetieth birthday celebrations in Suffolk. A nice relaxing walk to Folly Farm and back was just what I needed. What I didn’t expect was a good sighting of a Quail flying across the road. No apparent reason but not much more than a couple of hundred yards from where I saw the young foxes the other evening. The Quail then started calling from the field to the west of the lane. Only my second ever sighting of Quail so I was extremely pleased. As usual there were several Corn Buntings singing along with a couple of Yellowhammers and a single Skylark. The other thing I didn’t expect was to stay dry. But I did, so pleased about that as well.
After the excitement of yesterday it was back to the normal birding whilst walking the dog. A walk near to Liddington Hill gave the usual Corn Buntings and Skylarks with Gold and Greenfinch plus many low flying Swallows plus Kestrel and Buzzard. On the mammal front, two young Foxes were a nice sighting.
Half past nine and I receive a text, White Winged Black Tern at the Water Park. A life tick just up the road and I am stuck at work with no chance of getting away. Great! Just have to hope that It stayed till the evening when coincidentally, Steve and I had planned to go anyway. I had an emergency appointment with the dentist late morning and as it happened I was only in a short time. So I decided on a quick visit to Twitchers. I had no binoculars with me so had t hope someone else would be there. I arrived to find I was the only one there, fortunately another birder arrived soon after and kindly (thanks Ian) let me use his binoculars. The Tern was soon seen and gave fantastic views. An absolutely fabulous bird. Back to work with a smile on my face. Later on Steve and I went to Twitchers again and had more great views along with several other birders. There were many hundreds of Common Blue Damselflies around and Steve found a female Black Tailed Skimmer.Also seen here was an Eygptian Goose. My first in Wiltshire. Stopping off at Kent End we saw several waders including Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, Redshank (a Wilts year tick) and Curlew. After popping into Cricklade to buy sausage and chips we headed for Somerford Common hoping to see Woodcock. Unfortunately we didn’t but were entertained for an hour and a half by the non-stop singing of a couple of Song Thrushes. A few bats also put in an appearance. Arriving home I went to update my lists and found that somehow I had forgotten that I saw a White Winged Black Tern at Farmoor last year. So not a lifer but who cares. Still a great bird.
Or as near as you can get to one in north-east Wiltshire. For a change I decided on a different walk with the dog this evening. I headed to the south of Chiseldon to stroll around a large field of Rape. However, things had changed since my previous walk here a couple of months ago. The wide grassy margins were no more and had instead turned into a jungle-like mass of between waist and shoulder high weeds. After no more than half a mile or so of battling the greenery I felt more like David Hempleman-Adams than Bill Oddie. I could have done with swapping my binoculars for a machete. Obviously, if I had been sensible I would have retraced my steps but that would have been the easy way out. On the bird front I managed to see or hear both Common and LesserWhitethroat, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Swift and House Sparrow. Eventually I emerged from the undergrowth, wet and covered in greenery. It will be at least another couple of months until the next visit.
Mainly a family day today but managed to sneak out about half five. I headed over to Buscot where a Turtle Dove has been showing well. I turned off of the main road into the village and as I approched the car park I could see the Dove perched on the aeriel of Buscot Manor. Exactly as it was in the picture on the Oxon Bird Log. Just a bit easy for my liking. That said it was a lovely bird and I watched it for quite a while as it flew and perched on various roofs and aeriels. It was purring most of the time which was great to hear. I just hope it manages to find a mate. Although that may be quite unlikely as this is now a rare bird. Also here were Swift, Swallow and House Martin with the Swallows in and out of the garages where they have nested. A stroll down to the weir and lock added Grey Wagtail and little else. Later on, during a pleasant walk with the do,g I saw Corn Bunting, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Skylark and Kestrel. I had hoped that the Quail would be calling but nothing was heard.
After loads of downland birding I fancied a change of scenery. With the recent south westerly winds the Severn Estuary looked promising with various seabirds having been driven in. A quick check on the local website http://www.severnsidebirds.co.uk showed that there had been good birds around. The weather forecast was dry after five with a bit of wind. All looking good so I rang Steve who was keen to give it a go. We left Swindon at five and arrived at Severn Beach around six. The tide, as expected was right out but coming in, surprisingly the weather forecast was wrong and it was raining hard. We parked the car with a view of the estuary and with the windows shut started scanning. One Shelduck and several Herring Gulls were all we could see. Another birder had arrived and was parked behind us. Steve then picked up a small black bird with a white rump, maybe House Martin? Just in case we got out the car and started scanning. The other birder came over saying “as you are both out in your t-shirts there must be something good” at that moment there wasn’t but then we picked the bird up again and realised it was a Storm Petrel. Fairly close and giving a good view. A life tick for myself and Steve. We didn’t see it again and with the weather closing in even more decided to head off. A quick stop at New Passage added Oystercatcher and Curlew to the list. So we did a hundred miles driving and got wet and cold but it was well worth the effort. A place to be visited more often.
Nothing exciting, a bovril roll and a pain au chocolat washed down with orange juice and eaten in the far hide at half past six. I know how to spoil myself! For some reason I woke at just gone five , saw it looked a nice morning so decided to get up and go for a walk. I even remembered to put my gaiters on so I didn’t get soaked walking the long way to the far hide. On the flood water were at least fifty Mallard, a few Canada Geese and two Lapwing. Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Linnet and Chiffchaff were seen or heard and there were plenty of low flying Swifts and Swallows. Further on towards the hide, a female Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat were seen and anther Chiffchaff heard. On the feeders at the hide there were several family groups of Blue and Great Tits and a fleeting visit from a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. A group of Mallards including eleven young were dabbling in the water under the feeders. Not much else to be seen with just a few Coot, Gadwall and Tufted Duck plus Cormorants and Herons. Walking on from the hide, through the meadow, I saw what I think are Marsh Orchids. I am ashamed to say that my knowledge of wild plants is very poor. Spotted Flycatcher was seen along the path to the main lake. In and on the main lake were several large Carp by the causeway, singles of Common Tern, Herring Gull and Kingfisher along with a few Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swans and at least a hundred Canada Geese by cafe. Cetti’s Warbler was heard over by the boat house. In all thirty-eight species seen and I got back home by eight o’clock.
…I’m afraid. Hope it isn’t getting boring. Afternoon spent in the garden and then the usual dog walk. Same route as the last couple of evenings. No Quail calling this time so it was Corn Buntings, Skylark, Linnet, Goldfinch, Swallows and Swifts, Kestrel and two Grey Herons heading south and calling loudly, again quite unusual. Also a Fox crossed the road ahead of us as we came into Badbury.
I needed to take the dog out early this evening, it was quite windy and there was a bit of rain in the air. So, I didn’t take my binoculars, or my coat. Will I ever learn? I guess not after all this time. Started with a couple of Corn Bunting singing, with one giving a display flight. A couple of Swifts passed low across the road. Then a Skylark flew up from close by and started singing. I stopped to watch and just caught a snatch of sound. Was that a Quail? Surely not in these conditions. I only go out for them on nice evenings. Heard again, definitely a Quail, retracing my steps and along the lane opposite, following the sound. I pinpointed it to a nearby uncut meadow and moved along with the bird. I reckon I got within about twenty feet of it but no sign. With binoculars? Maybe. Then it started to rain hard and that was it. I turned for home which was over half a mile away. Arrived back soaked to the skin but pleased. As I have said before, when you least expect!
Looking out of the window this evening and seeing the threatening sky I decided not to go far on the evening walk. I decided on my usual loop around to Badbury and back, about two and a half miles. On the bird front it was noticeably quieter with just half a dozen Corn Buntings, three Skylarks and a single Whitethroat singing. A small party of Swifts flew around noisily over Badbury and a Red Kite drifted over heading south. It also got dark a lot quicker than yesterday evening. So we are now well into that period of the summer where the birding goes quiet, usually Butterflies and Dragonflies provide interest but so far they have been fairly hard to find.