Wiltshire Bird Race

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.

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