So that is it, 2012 is over. The Jubilee, the Olympics, the rain and some cracking birding. A record year for me with 215 species seen, and also a Wiltshire record of 162. As far as life ticks go I have had 11 along with 4 that were new to my Wiltshire list. This brings my totals to UK 268 and Wiltshire 206. To put this into perspective, I know of one Wiltshire birder whose total for 2012 is around 10 more than my life list! I have done a bit of twitching and a lot of local birding. But for most of us the numbers are just a side-show to the birds themselves. For me, the best bird of the year was the Black-winged Stilt at Standlake and the best Wiltshire bird the White-winged Black Tern at the Water Park. There have been a couple of disappointments, the biggest being the Black-throated Diver that turned up at Moulden Hill Country Park on the day I went off to France to visit my Sister, and then stayed until the day before I came home. C’est la vie! But overall I have enjoyed all of my trips out, the long days and the short walks. My favourite place is still Liddington Hill and my favourite birding trip is still the one to Martins Haven on the Coast of Pembrokeshire. I have also managed to keep going with this blog, a total of 323 posts so far and just short of 15,000 views. It amazes me that people are still reading it. So all that is left is a couple of thank you’s. To all who have spent time birding with me this year, without you I wouldn’t have learnt as much as I have. And finally, thanks to the many of you who have followed me on this blog. I hope that someone, somewhere, has learnt as much from me as I have from the many blogs that I myself follow. Happy New Year to you all.
I would like to say a big thank you to Tony and Graham for the effort they have put in at both hides by putting up and filling the feeders. The opportunities for viewing and photographing some very good birds have certainly increased due to their efforts. If anyone would like to donate seed or fat balls it would be appreciated by all. Unfortunately it is not all good news as yesterday somebody stole a feeder from in front of the first hide. Hopefully an isolated incident.
I didn’t get out of bed until half-nine this morning which is fairly unusual for me. I spent a few minutes checking out the front garden. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird and House Sparrow were all seen which is a pretty good selection for here. After a late breakfast we had a family garden clearing session during which great views were had of a Red Kite as it drifted over the village. At just gone three I managed to sneak off to Coate for the last hour or so of daylight. Plenty going on at the far hide with all the regular ducks around including nine Goosander. A Kingfisher was seen twice and just as I was leaving the Great White Egret flew in. From the first hide a Sparrowhawk flew over, a party of Long-tailed Tits were on the feeders and the regular Water Rail was around along with four Moorhens.
For many a year I have intended visiting the “Ghost Village of Imber” on Salisbury Plain. Access to Imber is only possible on a few days each year. Today was the day pencilled in for a visit and the day dawned wet and windy, again! Myself, Steve and Pete decided to head south regardless. The original plan to spend all afternoon on the Plain seemed pointless so we first dropped in at Langford Lakes WWT Reserve. En-route at the Crammer Pond in Devizes a Barnacle Goose was a surprise sighting amongst the Canada Geese. Arriving at a very wet Langford Lakes, lunch was taken on the verandah of the visitor centre. We had good views of a Kingfisher and there were several Gadwall, Shoveler and Tufted Duck on the water. Moving on through the reserve we saw a probable Green Sandpiper as it flew off, Great-spotted Woodpecker and three Redpoll. A short drive along the A36 to the first main lay by gave us good views of seven Little Egrets in a riverside field. Then it was off to the Plain. With no sign of the forecast improvement in the weather there was little chance of catching sight of a hoped for Hen Harrier. There were plenty of Corvids around including a couple of Jays. Passing through Imber Village (we had decided not to stop in the rain) we headed along the road to Warminster. Passing many abandoned Tanks we stopped a couple of times to scan the area for the Great Grey Shrike that was reported here earlier in the week. When we got to Warminster Vedette the rain had stopped and the sun put in an appearance. So it was all out the car and telescopes at the ready. As is usual it was Steve, living up to his “eagle eye” reputation who found the Shrike (year tick). We all had good if distant views as it worked it’s way along the ridge of Boreham Down O.S. 407903. Please note that the Imber roads are open until 08.00 07-01-2013. Also that you must not leave the authorised route under any circumstances! After watching the Shrike for a while we headed back through Imber Village to Gore Cross. On the way we had good views of a hunting Short-eared Owl. Crossing the A360 at Gore Cross we followed the SPTA Perimeter Road as far as Redhorn Vedette. Another SEO was seen along here and we also had excellent views of Jupiter and the International Space Station. So another good day of birding showing that, whatever the weather, it is always worth getting out.
Barnacle Goose, The Crammer Devizes
Tank on SPTA
A family day out to the Motor Museum at Beaulieu today. I knew that there wouldn’t be any birding time so the binoculars didn’t even come out of the car. It was a great day out despite the rubbish weather. Although it didn’t actually rain while we were there, just grey and miserable. It was interesting to see the stuffed bird collection in the Palace, an insight in how the way we study birds has changed. On the way home a couple of birds were seen flying along in front of the car. I was a little puzzled as something didn’t look right. Then the brain clicked and I realised that they were bats! At the end of December!
One of the many things that needed doing today was a trip to the tip in Marlborough. I decided to take my lunch with me and to go for a walk in Savernake Forest. Lunch was taken at Eight Walks and then I headed off for a circular walk through Thornhill. The first of half-a-dozen Jays was the first bird seen followed by around thirty Redwing feeding in a field. Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Goldcrest were seen on the way to Thornhill. Very quiet around here with just a few Long-tailed Tits passing through. A lot of felling has been done in this area and the ground was churned up and littered with branches making walking quite difficult. On reaching the next main track there was plenty more deep mud from the forestry trucks so again it was hard going. A mixed flock of birds passing through included a few Marsh and Coal Tits amongst their commoner relatives. Another small flock appeared, this time consisting of around twenty Redpoll. They flew around a couple of times without settling. The final area I walked through was where Lesser-spotted Woodpecker has been seen over the last couple of years. Today though this was the silent part with at times not a sound to be heard. I just sat there quietly for a few minutes and enjoyed the solitude. Then it was back to the car and off towards home. A brief stop by the River Kennet added, amongst others, Grey Wagtail and Little Grebe to the day-list and a drive by Barbury Castle didn’t turn up a Short-eared Owl but A smart male Bullfinch was some consolation.
To give myself a bit more time at Coate I took my lunch to eat in the far hide. I sure know how to live it up! Still, eating Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sub Roll, two pieces of cold KFC, all washed down with Minestrone Cup-a-Soup whilst watching Great White Egret, Kingfisher and Water Rail is a pretty good lunch I say. Unusually a few Pochard were near to the hide, they usually stay well away. The Egret was quite mobile making a couple of short flights into a nearby field and covering a fair bit of the reedbed in its search for food. Kingfisher was seen four times flying across the lake, briefly perching for a quick picture. A stop at the first hide gave good views of a Nuthatch and a handful of Goosander were on the main lake. Then it was off home in some of the heaviest rain I have ever walked in. Fortunately my waterproofs were well up to the challenge and I arrived home totally dry on the inside.
Smoked Salmon Sub and Cold KFC, heaven!!
I had planned to walk over to Coate first thing but decided to leave it until this afternoon. A pleasant surprise in my often birdless garden was a Coal Tit. I have only just started putting food out again so it was good to see the birds are coming back already. On a short walk with the dog a few Fieldfare were about and a look in at the local flood water was worthwhile with a Green Sandpiper seen. At the moment I am sat in the office upstairs looking over Liddington Hill. I can see a couple of walkers having a rest next to the shining white trig point. I don’t suppose they would ever think that someone is watching them.
Coal Tit through the bedroom window
Star birds today were the Duck, Chicken and Guinea Fowl that made up the three bird roast we had for our Christmas Dinner. Not far behind was the Red Kite that I watched drifting over the fields opposite the house as eventually it circled over the garden a couple of times. Not many birds actually in the garden with just Great and Blue Tit, Robin and Wren seen. A scan over Liddington Hill gave Kestrel and Buzzard On a late afternoon walk with the dog a small flock of Fieldfare were flying around.
Happy Christmas to all of you who have looked at this blog over 2012. Thank you very much for following my ramblings.