With a lot to fit in this afternoon there wasn’t going to be much time for birds so it was a case of fit it in when ever. I started with a visit to M&S and Homebase at the Orbital. A quick check of the trees but no sign of Waxwings. Then it was off to a Blood Donor session in Covingham. After that I stopped off at Liden Lagoon for a few minutes. A fair few birds around with three each of Cormorant and Herring Gull plus single Heron, Goosander and Tufted Duck being the best. A very brief look-in at Coate gave me ten Goosander, three Great-crested Grebe, Great-spotted Woodpecker and two Coal Tits. Then it was a quarter of an hour at home before a visit to the garage for a small job on the car and then to Wroughton to collect my daughter after a school trip. I managed a drive round by Barbury Castle on the way with Kestrel, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush and several Blackbirds seen.
I picked up on this from Gary Bagnell’s website, http://www.premiershipclub.com/apps/blog/. Seems like it is taking off on Twitter.
It would be nice to do something a bit different in January so I reckon I will give it a go. Does anyone else in Wiltshire fancy joining in?
They certainly don’t go together at this time of year, not at the sort of place I work anyway. The main problem with working a Honda is the inflexibility, even away from the production line you can’t just go in late or have an extra long lunch break. So it really is Friday afternoon and weekends only at this time of year, along with all the other things that need to be done in the daylight. Predictably, the first local Waxwings turn up in the early part of the week. Half-day holiday or wait until Friday? Well, short notice holiday isn’t always easy either so it may have to be Friday. Still I am fairly certain that if these ones don’t hang around there will be more.
A combination of domestic duties and the weather forecast forced a change of plan from the afternoon WOS walk at Bradford-on-Avon to a long morning of birding based around Savernake and the Kennet valley. Pete and I set out at eight and started with a drive along the Grand Avenue where we were rewarded with a great view of two male Fallow Deer that walked across the road in front of us Both had good sets of antlers. Our first stop was at St Katherines where some patient watching amassed eighteen species including Siskin, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Redwing, Greenfinch and Jay. Also seen here were two Red Kites lazily drifting low across a field. Onto Chisbury Wood which was very quiet, Although a flyover Raven was a good sighting, this being our sixth type of corvid for the morning. Apart from that only Great-spotted Woodpecker was added to the day-list and a small mixed flock which included both Treecreeper and Nuthatch greeted us as we arrived back at the car. Then it was a change of habitat with a short walk along a fast flowing Kennet & Avon Canal to an overflowing Wilton Water. The highlight here was a count of seventeen Little Grebe, another (of at least nine for the trip) Red Kite, and the first of only two Buzzards. Heading on we found a couple of flocks of Fieldfare, at Froxfield a handful of Teal and a couple more Red Kite. Little Grebe, Gadwall, Heron and Cormorant at Chilton Foliat and at Stitchcombe a family group of nine Mute Swans along with another Little Grebe and a couple of Cormorants overhead. The final site visited was a farmland site on the Marlborough Downs near to the Ogbournes. Here we were treated to plenty of small birds including at least thirty-five Corn Buntings lined up on some overhead wires, House and Tree Sparrows plus Yellowhammers, Linnets, Chaffinches and Greenfinches in varying numbers. Final bird seen back at Chiseldon was a Goldfinch bringing the overall tally to a very respectable fifty-one species over a fifty mile drive.
Sainsburys for seven, M&S by eight, over to Shrivenham and home before ten. That was my morning and because of the fog I was actually home by half-nine. I made one stop on the way around with plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings in the trees. Also seen were a few Chaffinches and a couple of Yellowhammers. Later on I needed to take my daughter to Old Town for an hour so I went for a walk along the Old Railway path while I was waiting for her. Plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing here as well along with loads of Blackbirds. A large mixed flock of Tits made their presence known as they flitted through the trees. A dozen or so Pied Wagtails were on a flooded field along with Linnets and Goldfinches. Just before I got back to the car a couple of Jays were squabbling away, so busy with each other that I managed to get within a few feet of them before they flew off. I had planned on spending the last hour of daylight in the hide at Coate Water but after spending a couple of hours out in the rain doing some essential work in the garden I decided to give it a miss. Here’s hoping for an improvement tomorrow. A point of interest I noted today is, just to the West of London, with a five-mile drive from Queen Mother Reservoir to Thorpe Park via Staines Reservoir you could bag five species of Grebe. I can’t imagine that happens very often inland.
It was off to London after work today to see my Mum. I resisted the temptation to have a look in at the Queen Mother Reservoir for a Red-necked Grebe. I have not been there before so didn’t know if it would be possible to view there. After a sandwich at Mums we went for a walk in Osterley Park. As to be expected mid-afternoon it was fairly quiet. A noisy flock of Long-tailed Tits appeared along with a single Treecreeper. On the lake were Cormorant, Heron, Great-crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Black-headed Gulls. Also here was a female Goosander, which I later found out from the London sightings website was a first for the park. Heading back to the car-park we stopped at an area where Firecrests are sometimes seen. Several Goldcrest were seen but no Firecrest, also here were Nuthatch, Coal and Marsh Tit plus a small group of Redwing. I will also mention the large amount of my least favourite London bird, the noisy annoying Ring-necked Parakeets. So a pleasant walk on a lovely afternoon, nice to see the sun again. Just hoping it stays dry so I can divert of the motorway for a bit of Owl hunting on the way home.
My intention had been to go out at first light this morning but in the end, even though my wife went off to a car boot sale at half-six, a warm bed won the contest. I eventually arrived at the Water Park at just gone nine. I turned onto the Spine Road in quite thick fog but fortunately it cleared a little further along. Very Why it should only have been at the northern end I have no idea. I only planned to stay for a couple of hours so just had quick looks at three or four sites. There were good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing around, Song and Mistle Thrush were also seen as were Reed Bunting and Goldcrest. Five Skylark were flying around at Kent End as I drove by and a couple of Curlew were amongst the Cormorants on Lake 74. Three Green Sandpipers and several Pied Wagtails were on the flooded fields at Waterhay. Best bird of the morning was a Jack Snipe, only the third I have ever seen. The Jack Snipe was species number 211 for the year, my best ever. It was also 159 for Wiltshire, which equals my previous highest total. When I arrive home I was greeted by dozens of Hoverflies making the most of the sunshine and the flowers on the Ivy that cloaks my garage. Final outing for the weekend was a late afternoon visit to the far hide at Coate Water. I was hoping to see a Water Rail which would up my Wiltshire total to a record 160. However, as on many previous occasions this year, they were heard but not seen. I did see my first Goosander of the winter along with a Kingfisher and three Little Grebes. Plenty of Ducks around with Teal, Tufted, Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Mallard all noted. I left the hide in the dark to the sound of the alarm calls of probably half-a-dozen Blackbirds. I have no idea of what was bothering them but they were certainly agitated.
I needed to go to Marlborough today and planned to do some birding after. I thought about heading down to Salisbury Plain again but as it started to rain on my way to Marlborough I settled on a walk through Hens Wood to the Kennet Valley. Parking by the A4 I headed along the footpath that runs right through Hens Wood. (PLEASE NOTE THAT HENS WOOD IS PRIVATELY OWNED AND THE ONLY PUBLIC ACCESS IS BY THE MAIN FOOTPATH). The first bird seen was a Barn Owl that flew along the field margin on the other side of the hedge. I had been hoping to see one on the return part of the walk but was not expecting one at just gone two o’clock. Next was a Jay, the only one seen, of around a dozen that were heard. Also heard but not seen was the first of many Wrens. A mixed flock of birds moving through the trees contained Goldcrest, Coal, Blue and Long-tailed Tit. A Willow Tit was heard but not seen. A vocal Great-spotted Woodpecker was eventually located in the treetops. Coming out onto farmland at the far side of the wood, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and several Pheasant were seen. Reaching open ground overlooking the River Kennet I stopped for refreshments, Coffee and a Belgian Bun. A Red Kite drifted east, and the bird of the day, a Peregrine flew in the opposite direction. I had heard they were in this area but had not managed to see one here before. More Jays were calling as was another Woodpecker. A single Mute and two Black Swans were on the river, along with Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. A small flock of Fieldfare flew over and several Crows were flying north. Heading back into the wood a brief glimpse was had of a Marsh or Willow Tit, unfortunately it didn’t call so remained unconfirmed. Several more Goldcrest and Coal Tits were heard and in the distance a Tawny Owl called. Another Marsh Tit was calling but not seen and along the track back to the main road were a flock each of Fieldfare and Linnet. In all a total of thirty species were seen on a two and a half hour, four mile walk.
A Waxwing was reported in Wiltshire on Birdguides today. Hopefully the first of many.
A trip to Salisbury Plain for Short-eared Owl was planned for this afternoon. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t particularly conducive, being quite foggy. However, we decided to go anyway. Who dares wins and all that stuff. Arriving on the Plain the visibility was even worse. First bird noted was a Meadow Pipit, soon after three Red-legged Partridges scuttled along. A few Crows and Wood Pigeon were around and we saw the first of three Stonechats. We parked up at what is usually a good viewpoint and saw nothing. Moving on a small flock of Linnets flew from a small tree. Next seen were a few Starlings and the first of two lots of Fieldfare. As expected and despite a fair bit of driving around, no raptors were seen. Some Magpies and a single Blackbird gave us a creditable (for the conditions) total of ten species.