Moules Frites at a restaurant in St Valery yesterday had the bonus of a view over the River Somme and some extensive saltmarshes. Many gulls seen including a single Yellow-legged ans several Mediterranean. A couple of hundred Shelduck, three Black-necked Grebe and twenty-eight little Egret were the best of the rest. Today started with coffee and a pain-au-chocolat at Le Crotoy before we headed for the bird reserve at Marquenterre. Two White Storks in a roadside field were a good sighting as was a single Brambling in the car park at Le Crotoy. A couple of dozen Redshank were on the sandbanks here. At Marquenterre we walked the full eight kilometre trail and visited all twelve hides. Highlights here were Common Crane, three Great White Egrets, Kingfisher, Spoonbill, three hundred Curlew, a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit and around two hundred and fifty Pintail. Yesterday a Great Black-backed Gull was seen to take and eat a Pintail. Final birds of the day were seen on a walk on the salt marshes, these included Peregrine plus Hen and Marsh Harrier.
…I am going to France tomorrow so something good will turn up nearby. Many a word spoken in jest as I had a call in the afternoon with news of a Black-throated Diver at a local country park. Can’t see this one staying until I get back on Friday! Anyway, back to my trip to France visiting my sister near Abbeville. From the ferry six species of gull were seen plus Fulmar, Kittiwake, many Gannets, several Auks and best of all a Great Skua which was harassing a Gannet. Unfortunately this was seen in French waters. In France we had stopped at Etaples War Cemetery where an unidentified Swift species was seen. An interesting sighting. That was it for the day but although this is not a birding holiday my sister and I hope to get out and about at some stage.
It was an early morning walk around Liddington Hill for me this morning. Fortunately I thought to put on winter gear as there was a cutting north wind blowing. Almost immediately I found a large flock of Fieldfare and Redwing, the first of over four hundred seen throughout the walk. Scattered amongst them were Starling, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer, Linnet and Corn Bunting. A brief view was had of two Ring Ouzels as they flew into a dense clump of bushes, however I didn’t see them again. A Yellow Wagtail was a surprising find, a Merlin was not. Other raptors seen were Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. A couple of Skylarks were singing, several Meadow Pipits on the fence-line and a single Wheatear was found on the earthworks of the castle. So despite the wind a great walk with a total of twenty-eight species seen. Also seen were five Roe Deer and interesting ring of large fungi.
…of birding was all I could fit in today. A brief stop at Wroughton Reservoir was made with the large family of Mute Swans seen plus a few Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Coot plus singles of Little Grebe and Moorhen. A drive around the Barbury Castle loop gave me two each of Buzzard and Kestrel, a small flock of Fieldfare and best of all a male Stonechat. The weather is looking reasonable tomorrow so I am hoping to get out for a while in the morning. Probably up to Liddington and along the Ridgeway for a while.
…which after three days of dank depressing weather of which the highlight was the fog and mist lifting to reveal low cloud and drizzle was a nice sight. The hoped for Owl on my evening dog walk did not oblige and no migrants were heard. So roll on the weekend for the chance of some birds.
Today we went on a family outing to Batsford Arboreum. It was quite foggy when we arrived but was forecast to clear. Loads of birds around with Goldcrest and Coal Tits seemingly all around. Nuthatches were seen and heard and Great-spotted Woodpecker heard. As the fog cleared a few thrushes were seen passing over and a couple of Buzzards soared overhead. I would imagine a good list of birds could be had if that was all you did here, as it was the birds were just a nice extra to the gorgeous autumn leaf colours of the trees. After a lovely dinner of Roasted Ham with all the trimmings we wandered around the shop and garden centre before heading home. I was going to stop somewhere for a bit of birding but it started to rain so decided to head straight home.
Another busy day on the home front with little spare time for birds. A quick stop was made at Southleaze this morning on the way back from the hire shop. Very quiet with a tiding of five magpies, a small charm of goldfinches and exultation of skylarks (although they weren’t actually exultating, just pipping away as they flew over) plus a single Moorhen. After some more painting and a bit of carpet laying I managed a productive hour around Liddington Hill. A fair-sized flock of Linnets and Chaffinches was moving through and there were two Ring Ouzel, three Mistle Thrushes, four Fieldfare and a few Blackbirds moving around in the bushes. Also seen were Kestrel, Meadow Pipit, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits plus plenty of corvids and pigeons. The Ring Ouzels certainly weren’t keen on showing themselves, I picked them up by sound and only managed some brief glimpses as they moved between bushes.
I managed to fit a bit of birding into a busy day. After a drive to Marlborough to go to the butchers and the recycling centre I drove home the long way. First stop was by the River Kennet just outside Axford. Chiffchaff was the first species noted with two seen flitting around. Then it was Blue, Great Tit and Chaffinch. Two Goldcrest were in a bush next to the path, they were both calling and one came to within a couple of feet of me, seemingly untroubled by my presence. On the river were varying numbers of Swan, Cormorant, Mallard and Moorhen. The explosive call of a Cetti’s was heard but despite trying was not seen. Neither was a Nuthatch that was in the trees above me. A Grey Wagtail flew along the river and a small flock of Redwing along with a couple of Bullfinches appeared and landed in the top of the trees. On the drive home there were large numbers of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges, many destined for the pot I would think. Near to home a Kestrel and a couple of Buzzards were seen.
It was straight home from work and out with the paintbrush for me today. However when i came out of work and saw what a lovely evening it was I decided that the dog deserved a walk at his favourite place Liddington Hill. I arrived at the Hill at just gone half past five. All was quiet on the bird front with just a few Crows and Jackdaws seen. A couple of Linnets flew over and a Blackbird was heard. I spent a couple of minutes scanning the grass but saw nothing. Moving on I became aware of birdsound, Fieldfare, but where were they? I soon found them perched low on a Hawthorn by the field edge. My first ones of the Autumn. Turning back towards the car I saw a bird fly down from the ridge, it was a Ring Ouzel and it disappeared into another Hawthorn, soon to be followed by another. Following the hedgerow along I found a Song Thrush, a Robin and some more Blackbirds. Then another, or one of the same Ring Ouzels was seen flying across in front of me. An excellent end to a spur of the moment walk. Then it was back home to get on with the painting.
Today myself and Steve Davies took part in an Autumn Bird Race in Wiltshire. We started in Hannington at Seven o’clock with a heard but not seen Tawny Owl. First stop was Coate Water. We arrived here in the fog which made things a little difficult although it did clear a bit before we left. Half-a-dozen Siskins and 60 Lapwing were the best birds here. Heading South my local Little Owl could not be found but three Ruddy Shelduck and a late Spotted Flycatcher were an unexpected bonus. Heading onto the Marlborough Downs we added Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Stonechat and Sparrowhawk to the total. Originally we hadn’t intended going as far as Salisbury Plain but decided we would as Steve wanted to see the Red-backed Shrike. En-route we saw the first of several Red Kite and Jays. The Shrike turned out to be the easiest bird of the day as it was seen before we even got out of the car. Along with around a dozen other birders we enjoyed great views of the bird. On one occasion it came so close the photographers couldn’t even focus on it. Absolute magic! A couple more Stonechat were seen on the Plain along with Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Skylark and Linnet. Lots of Buzzards and Kestrels around as well. Back to the Kennet & Avon Canal at Wilton Water for Grey Wagtail and Little Grebe and then to the Savernake Forest area where with some hard looking we got Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit and another good find, Willow Tit. Another foray onto the Downs failed to find Wheatear but did give Red-legged Partridge. Then it was off to the Water Park where the water levels have again risen well above normal. Pretty quiet here as well with Little Egret, Snipe, Pochard and the first seen rather than heard Great-spotted Woodpecker. It was now almost dark and a quick look for Red-crested Pochard on Lake 301 was unsuccessful. We were hoping for a Barn or Tawny Owl on the way back to Hannington but neither were seen. In all we covered a hundred and twenty-three miles, saw sixty-nine species and heard six more. We both had a very enjoyable time with some good birds seen on what was a lovely Autumn day. The overall total of species seen during the day by all of the teams was eighty. Not a bad result.