And it really was. Went to my Mums in London on Saturday and then on to see my Aunt in Suffolk on Sunday. The only birds of any interest that were seen were a couple of soaring Buzzards. A bit of an anti-climax after the last few good birding days.
A day off work today for a trip to Silverstone where my son was having a drive in a single seat race car. Coate Water was my first stop to have a quick look for a Little Gull that was seen earlier in the week. As expected it wasn’t seen. Taking a cross-country route the flooded fields near Kelmscott had large numbers of gulls loafing around. Also seen along the way were a few Red Kites. At Silverstone were loads of corvids, and a few Pied Wagtails. Reacting to a text I had received my original plan of a stop at Farmoor was changed for a stop at the Water Park. After a very pleasant drive through the Cotswolds I arrived at Twitchers Gate. Along with two other birders, Nigel and Mark we started searching for the reported Little Stint. First a Ruff was seen and then a Lapwing. Mark then found the Little Stint, an excellent find, as it was sleeping and blended into the stony ground it was stood upon. There was no sign of the Great White Egret although it had been seen earlier on in the afternoon. So what started out as a non-birding day ended with an unexpected Wiltshire tick.
A normal working day today. Started this morning with walking the dog at just gone six. Robins and Blackbirds were heard and seen. At work a Chiffchaff was heard in the same place as it was yesterday. A brief visit was made to Coate on the way home. A quick look at the main lake found almost nothing with two Herons and six Squirrels all that is worth mentioning. At the now filling up floodwater were just two each of Teal and Lapwing. Around a dozen Pied Wagtails were in with the horses and at least fifty Swallows still in the area. On the evening dog walk I heard two or maybe three Tawny Owls calling. Soon be time to restart the Owl drives I think. With a Great White Egret and some Ruff seen today, a trip to the Water Park after work tomorrow is the planned activity.
This evening I took the dog for a walk around Coate Water. There were very few birds on the water apart from a few Mallard, Coot and Feral Pigeons around the diving board. A couple of Grey Wagtails were flitting around near the boathouse and several Robins and Blackbirds were seen and heard. Seemingly out of nowhere a load of hirundines appeared over the lake, mainly House Martins along with a few Swallows and a couple of Sand Martins. A few Tufted Ducks and Coot were at the end of the lake.Plenty of corvids were going to roost as were a few Herons. Heading towards the far hide a few more House Martins headed over. There were a few more ducks on the second lake including a few Gadwall. Heading back along the main lake to the car I realised that I hadn’t seen a single gull. Pretty unusual for Coate.
….than driving over a hundred miles to the WOS meeting in Devon today. A great shame as we had been looking forward to visiting an area new to us. Pete Adams and I still fancied a bit of birding so we decided on a morning visit to Farmoor. With the rain forecast to arrive around ten we were hoping to stay dry. Arriving before eight we were the first car in the car park. Plenty Pied Wagtails, gulls and Coots to start. A few Swallows were around. First waders seen were some Dunlin with a Grey Plover a good find. While we were talking to local birder Dai (Insomniac Birder) a Ringed Plover flew over calling loudly. We watched it circle round a couple of times before it headed off to the west without stopping. Heading down to the river a couple of Chiffchaff were seen, as was a Kestrel. Great-spotted Woodpecker was heard. Thanks to a tip-off from a another local birder, (all are very friendly here) we had good views of a Little Owl sat in a hedgerow across the Thames. Back at the reservoir we paid a visit to the new hide which is a great addition to the site, where we watched masses of Swallows, House Martins and a few Sand Martins feeding over the water. Then it was back to the car having managed to stay dry as we had hoped. It actually started to rain about halfway home so out timing was spot-on. For any Wiltshire birders who haven’t yet visited Farmoor I can recommend it, just be aware that it can be a very cold place.
The original plan for this weekend was to go on the WOS trip to East Devon. However with the forecast for Sunday looking grim I decided to try to fit something in today. With the family plans sorted I headed for Slimbridge where there was a walk onto the Dumbles planned to look for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. At midday a group of around fifty people headed out from the Holden Tower towards the river. On the way out Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Wheatear were seen and on reaching the bank we started scanning, initially with no luck. A number of Ringed Plover and Dunlin were found but no Sandpiper. After moving on a couple of times somebody picked up a wader feeding in the Spartina grass, no more than a hundred yards away. As more of us found the bird it was called as the Buff-breasted, then another birder called a Pec Sand and we then realised that there were actually two birds feeding close together. A real bonus. Even better they were moving in our direction until eventually they were no more than thirty feet away from us, totally unconcerned by the mass of optics and cameras pointed at them. After a magical three-quarters of an hour or so I decided to head back to the main reserve. A great life tick and a great bonus bird. I then headed for the Zeiss hide to check out the waders there. It didn’t take long to find the third American wader of the day, still hanging out with the Godwit flock was the long staying Long-billed Dowitcher that I first saw in July. Also seen were several Ruff and Redshank but I had no luck in finding the Spotted Redshank that has been here this week. So a great trip with three new birds for the year taking me over the two hundred species mark. A long way off of the four hundred and twelve seen in whole of the UK but very good for me.
A late afternoon visit to the rapidly diminishing flood water at Coate saw a lot fewer birds than previously with just four Teal, three Lapwing and the same of Moorhens on the water. As usual, in the horses field were plenty of Pied Wagtails, a couple of Meadow Pipits landed, briefly on the wires and overhead there were at least a hundred Swallows along with a few House Martins. It can’t be long before the bulk of them are gone.
An after work visit to the Water Park for a bit of birding and also to say goodbye to Gareth Harris who is leaving for pastures new. With almost all of the water at Waterhay there was very little to see. A small flock of House Martins were feeding overhead. Moving on to Twitchers it was good to see that some clearing work had been done and the view of the scrape area is much improved. Many thanks to all involved. Just the usual fare here with plenty of gulls flying in. Around fifty Cormorants were loitering around the scrape but most flew off when a fox paid a visit. More House Martins and a few Swallows were about as were a couple of parties of Long-tailed Tits. Then it was along to the White Hart in Ashton Keynes to say goodbye to Gareth. A nice pub but £3.30 for a pint!
This afternoon the field opposite the house was being ploughed, by five o’clock there were at least a thousand gulls to be seen. As I was cooking dinner I didn’t have much time to search through them properly. However from the time I did spend I can say that around 95% were Lesser Black-backed withe the remainder being split between Herring and Black-headed. It was quite an impressive sight and it was a shame that I couldn’t spend some time looking at them as gulls are certainly one of my weak points and the chance to scan them from the comfort of home would have been great. Also with them were many Jackdaws and a couple of Buzzards. Certainly not a good time for the worms. For the evening dog walk I went to Draycot and saw one of the Little Owls for the first time for a while. Also here were a couple of Roe Deer.