That was the sum total of my shopping trip and Owl drive this evening. Having run out of my favourite porridge a trip to Waitrose was needed. Taking advantage of a fairly nice evening I decided to take a circtuotus route home hoping for an Owl or two (or more). Starting off along the Grand Avenue I spent more time looking for potholes than I did for Owls, it is definitely better with two people in the car. With nothing seen in Savernake I drove along to St Katherines, here I saw the first of half-a dozen rabbits. During a stop for coffee and cake by the church I heard a distant Tawny Owl calling. Then it was back to the A4 and down through Stitchcombe were I saw the Fox. Along to Axford and then to Aldbourne and Foxhill before arriving home in Chiseldon. Disappointing and a bit worrying not to see a Barn Owl. They must have fared badly with the Snow last week.
After much deliberation yesterday evening Pete and I decided on a trip to Moor Green NR in Berkshire to try for the Pallas’s Leaf Warbler that has been knocking around for a while. After a drive along the M4 and a tour of the moneyed lanes of South Berkshire we bagged the last space in the small car park at Moor Green, a new site for us both. A muddy walk through the reserve took us to the Blackwater River where the Warbler was, hopefully to be found. We soon found the flock of Long-tailed Tits with which the Warbler had been associating. Pete had a brief glimpse of what may have been the bird but not a good enough view to be sure. In the company of a few other birders and photographers we headed west along the river, over the conveyor bridge to the grey box, apparently it’s favoured area. Here we were told that it had given great views “in that tree just there” about five minutes ago. So there we stood for the next hour, to be honest, not really my type of birding. There was however plenty more to look at on what was a fairly pleasant morning. A Snow Goose of unknown origin was feeding with some Barnacle Geese. A year tick? make up your own mind i suppose. Also seen were Canada Geese, Egyptian Geese, Lapwing and plenty of gulls. Eventually the crowd headed back east and we followed them for a while. We then decided to go back to our original spot, stay a few minutes and then if we didn’t find the bird to head off. As it happens we struck lucky as it appeared on the far bank of the river, then flying across and giving great views right in front of us. Along with trying to get a view of the crown stripe as it constantly flitted around I managed to get a couple of poor pictures. Mission accomplished we headed back to the car adding a few more species to the day list on the way. Our original plan was to go into Reading for Firecrest but we gave this a miss. Instead we went deep into Red Kite country to Cholsey Marsh for Great Grey Shrike. Another new area for us both. Parking in Ferry Lane we didn’t really know where we should be looking so after a soggy walk along the Thames we returned to the car for a bit of lunch. From here we scanned the marsh and almost immediately Pete found the Shrike in a hedgerow, after just a few seconds it flew, giving a brief but good view before disappearing across the Thames. After this and feeling pretty pleased with ourselves we were off again. Next site was to be Farmoor with a quick look in at Appleford Pit were we found around a dozen Red Kite and several hundred corvids on the adjoining rubbish tip. At Farmoor we couldn’t find either Scaup or Slavonian Grebe. Greylag Geese were feeding on the nearby fields, the fifth species of goose for the day.At least thirty Goldeneye were around and we had a brief view of a Kingfisher as it flew across the reservoir towards the river. Best of all here was a Barn Owl hunting along the grassy bank of the reservoir until a heavy rain shower saw it heading for cover. So ended a great day of birding in a not for us, often visited area.
Pallas’s Warbler, Moor Green.
Barn Owl, Farmoor.
Not enough to kill a King but there certainly were a lot of them in the Royal Hunting Forest of Savernake this morning. Well I know what I am on about and it is a bit tenuous! After a quick visit to the shops in Marlborough this morning I headed off to Savernake Forest for an hour or so. I was going to go to Eight Walks but the Grand Drive was very icy despite the rain last night so I stopped a bit sooner and walked down past Braydon Hook House. As I got out of the car a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling. I managed to find it just before it flew. Then I saw the first of the many Blue Tits that were around. They seemed to be everywhere outnumbering by about three times, all of the other birds seen. In all only a dozen were species seen, the best being a Sparrowhawk that passed overhead and a Goldcrest that was feeding at ground level. The best birds were all heard but not seen, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Bullfinch. Back at home a bit of garden watching was almost birdless apart from a couple of House Sparrows. Also seen was a Red Kite as it flew low over the garden and across the village. Later on I took the dog for a walk to Coate Water and back. In all just under seven miles in three hours. Definitely birding pace. Best of the bunch were three Great Spots, another Sparrowhawk, Common Gulls and Goosander on the main lake, good views of a Kingfisher catching fish at the Broome Manor Lane end of the main lake and finally the Great White Egret as it flew across the front of the second hide. Also of interest was a flock of at least two hundred Jackdaws that flew in to roost. At the north edge of Hodson Woods was another large gathering of Jackdaws, maybe gathering together to also head for Coate.
After the dog walk last night my left foot was wet, a quick check of my walking boots revealed a split, most likely cause was using my feet as brakes whilst coming down Liddington Hill on an airbed last Sunday. So it was of to Cotswold Outdoor at the Water Park to look for a new pair. There was only one pair that I liked the look of and they didn’t have them in my size. I actually fancy a pair of Alt-Berg boots, a British company with factories in Yorkshire and Italy. Nearest stockist is in Reading so that is my destination next Friday. Until then I have made a temporary repair to the old ones. Anyway, onto the birds. A quick check of the feeders in the Gateway Centre got me my first Reed Bunting of the year, also here were a few Goldfinches and Tits. I stopped at Lake 12 to have my lunch sat in the car checking out the gulls. Over five hundred on the water but I couldn’t pick out any other than the four common species. Lake 62 gave a Goosander but no Smew amongst the more regular ducks. Also a flyover Sparrowhawk. A very chilly half-hour at Twitchers Gate was worthwhile. At least four hundred each of Wigeon and Teal along with a few Gadwall, Tufties and Mallard. Two Goldeneye, singles of Pintail and Shelduck were all year ticks. Four Snipe were also picked out on the banks and the same number of Little Grebe sheltering on the edge of the main lake. Final stop was at Waterhay where nine Pied Wagtails and two Meadow Pipits were scuttling around on the flooded field next to the car park. In the floods by the river were a handful of Teal and a Green Sandpiper. Not a bad list with not going more than a hundred yards from the car.
I had the afternoon off of work today as I had a few things that I needed to do. Fortunately I was all done a bit earlier than expected. Arriving home I had a quick look out at the garden to see that the feeders were all busy. I went out to fill them up and as I did so a flock of around a dozen Long-tailed Tits flew in. First ones I have seen in the garden this year. Next I took the dog for a walk. Heading to the south of the village there were quite a few birds around. Bullfinch, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Jay being the best of the bunch. The extra light in the afternoons is noticeable but it will be another couple of weeks before there will be enough to do any birding on the way home.
I dragged myself out of bed at eight with the intention of walking over to Coate Water, I needed to be home by eleven as we had things on at home. A reasonable start with great views of a Goldcrest flicking around by the stream. Also along here were a Wren and a few Dunnocks and Blackbirds. Further on, Nuthatch and Bullfinch were heard but not seen. For some reason as I reached the old railway path my enthusiasm started to wane and soon after I decided to turn around and head home. Very unusual for me and I have no idea why. I arrived back home to find bacon and sausages on for a cooked brekky. Fortunately there was enough for me so actually a good result. I then spent some time watching the garden again. Nothing new seen but it was good to have good numbers of birds around.
- Washpool Chiseldon.
With things to be done at home in the morning and a sledging expedition on Liddington Hill in the afternoon it was going to be another almost birdless day. I managed a bit more garden watching which was much the same as yesterday with the addition of Greenfinch and a visit from a squadron of Jackdaws who cleared most of the food I had put on the ground. On the visit to Liddington Hill I saw singles of Wren, Fieldfare and Buzzard and that was about it.
After a fortunately easy drive home from work at lunchtime I spent a bit of time watching the garden. Quite a bit of action with Great and Blue Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Song and Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Pied Wagtail and Wood Pigeon all visiting. Then it was off for a walk around the outskirts of Chiseldon. Well worth the effort, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest and Treecreeper being the highlights. I thought that would be it as far as activity went, I had planned on a quiet evening in front of the fire. That all changed when my son arrived home and announced that we were heading off to Liddington Hill. So it was back on with the warm gear and off out. forty minutes later and after a hard slog through some pretty deep snow we were at the Trig Point at the top of the hill. Again it was worth the effort as it was quite bright and the visibility good. after a bit of fun jumping into deep snow drifts we headed home for our dinner.<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-2354" alt="Snowy (768×1024)"
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I had the chance to drive through some parts of Wiltshire that I hadn’t been to before. Unfortunately it wasn’t on a birding trip. We were heading to Gillingham, just over the border in Dorset. A couple of Kestrels and Buzzards were seen on the way down and a quick stop in the lay by on the A36 that looks over Langford Lakes gave a lot of gulls and Canada Geese.Later in the afternoon we drove to Shaftesbury for a walk around the town. Very pleasant but very cold. After a nice day we left Gillingham at just before seven I planned a route home taking in a few bits of Salisbury Plain. Despite crossing over Haxton Down to Everleigh no Owls were seen which was a bit disappointing.
I had thought about a quick trip up the M4 to put the Buff-bellied Pipit on the year-list but decided against it when I saw the weather forecast. I didn’t get up until nine and then pottered around doing bits and pieces at home. Three Greenfinches on the peanuts in the front garden were the only bird action. A drive over to Coate Water to have my lunch in the far hide was next. Three Song Thrushes were the first birds seen. The Great White Egret was flying around when I arrived but soon dropped back down on the edge of the lake. There were plenty of ducks flying around as well with three Wigeon the best. Shoveler had returned after being absent for my last few visits. A calling Great-spotted Woodpecker flew in and a Little Grebe appeared in front of the hide. Moving on to the other hide another Woodpecker was seen. At the hide there were loads of small birds in the bushes, mainly Blue and Great Tits but a single Siskin was the first of the year. A look on the main lake showed no sign of the Smew or Red-crested Pochard that were reported earlier in the week but there were a few gulls and Goosander here. I then headed off for Barbury Castle with a quick look-in at Wroughton Reservoir on the way. Highlight here, ten Little Grebe. Barbury was very quiet with a few corvids and Wood Pigeon plus single Kestrel and Buzzard. Twenty or so Golden Plover were all that was left of the Golden Plover flock from yesterday.