After a bit of a wait my new boots have finally arrived. Can’t really complain as they were actually made to order. So far they have only been used in the living room and for a couple of ascents of the stairs. Looking forward to getting up on the Ridgeway on Saturday.
Saturday morning and we were due to head off to London at around ten o’clock. With a bit of time spare I managed a bit of garden watching. All pics were taken through the window.
We set off along the M4 along with the regular Red Kites a Raven was a good sighting. Crossing the Jubilee River, Tufted Duck and Cormorant were noted. The main reason for the trip to London was that my daughter and her friend were going to the One Direction concert at the O2 Arena. Early afternoon saw us arrive in Docklands via the Underground and we spent some time at Canary Wharf and then had a ride on the Docklands Light Railway. Plenty more Tufties were seen along with Great-crested Grebe, Heron and many gulls. After dropping the girls at the Arena we went for a trip over the Thames on the Emirates Air Line Cable Car. A must do experience if you are in the area.
Then we walked along to the Pilot Inn, which is a great Fullers Pub http://www.pilotgreenwich.co.uk where we whiled away the time until the concert with a lovely meal, and for me three pints of excellent Chiswick Bitter. Definitely another highly recommended place to visit. We got back to my Mums house at a little past midnight. Leaving London late morning having, amazingly avoided hearing or seeing a Parakeet it was more Red Kites on the M4 and then home with a diversion to collect the dog from Kennels in Wootton Bassett. After a sandwich for lunch and a less than common Coal Tit sighting in the garden it was off for a dog walk at Coate Water. I decided to walk home while the others went back in the car. Plenty to be seen with Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit in the trees. The long staying Great White Egret is still here as were just two Goosander. Not so many ducks around with Tufted being the most numerous along with a few Pochard and Teal. Very little of interest on the way home, just a couple of Buzzards plus Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird,
I needed to go into town after work so no real chance of proper birding this afternoon. I went out with the dog at just gone three. I drove up the lane to Folly Farm and then walked up to the Ridgeway, back along to Liddington Hill and then back to the car. A flock of about twenty Chaffinches was checked for Brambling with none found. A few Blackbirds and Yellowhammers were around and a large corvid flock was feeding around the sheep in one of the fields. Unsurprisingly, with the bitter wind there were few birds along the Ridgeway, Just a couple of Linnets and a single Blackbird. One of the fields was being ploughed and this had attracted forty or so Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I stopped by the Trig Point for a much-needed warming coffee and some chocolate cake. As I made my way across the centre of the Castle a handful of Meadow Pipits and four Red-legged Partridge flew up. On dropping down the slope on the lee side of the ridge the conditions improved dramatically. However the amount of birds didn’t with just a few more Yellowhammers and Blackbirds seen plus singles of Buzzard and Dunnock. Arriving back at the car after around two hours I certainly felt invigorated. Off to London with the family again tomorrow so it will be a quiet weekend on the bird front again.
There is now enough time for me to do some birding after work. Today I decided to stop off for a circuit of Liden Lagoon. Although it was pretty cold and fairly quiet on the bird front it was nice to be out again on a weekday. Best birds seen were a couple of male Pochard. Also seen were Tufted Duck, 9 Moorhen and 36 Canada Geese. Off of the water were Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird and Blue Tit.
Regarding the pictures I put on the blog. I make no apologies for the appalling quality of some of them. Some of them are okay and some are not so good. I don’t in any way profess to be a photographer. Basically I am a birdwatcher of sorts who carries a bridge type digital camera around rather than a photographer who happens to own a pair of binoculars. Today for instance I had been watching the Grebe for about ten minutes before I even got the camera out of my rucksack. Hopefully though, at least in a few cases they add something to the words that I put together.
I had noticed on Birdguides that a Pied-billed Grebe had been found at Ham Walls on the Somerset Levels. I don’t have a wish list of birds as such, but if I did this one would be right up near the top. I wasn’t able to go yesterday and had a walk at the Water Park scheduled in for this morning with family time this afternoon. I mentioned the possibility of an early morning dash to a couple of friends but had no takers. Decision made, CWP in the morning. We went out for a meal last night and afterwards dropped my son at his mates as they were going out for a few drinks. I had offered to pick him up in the early hours. However at half eleven he called to say he was staying at a friends. I then started thinking about going for the Grebe again. When I went to bed I decided to set the alarm for half-five and if I felt okay to head off to Somerset. So six a.m. saw headed out of the house and onto the M4. This really is the first time I have decided on the spur of the moment to go twitching. Just before my exit on the m% I ran into fog which wasn’t what was needed. Fortunately though I soon ran back out of it as I headed inland on the A39. I arrived at the Ashcott Corner car park, which was almost full, at just gone half seven, sorted all my gear out and headed off along the old railway line path to the viewing point. There were around twenty birders already there and the news was that it had been seen briefly at seven and not since. It eventually showed briefly at around half-eight and then disappeared back into the reeds. There were plenty of other birds to watch including Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Bittern and Little Egret. There were plenty of wildfowl moving around and Water Rail and Cetti’s Warblers calling. After another thirty minutes or so the Grebe reappeared and finally came out into open water, giving excellent views. It was diving frequently and was seen to catch a couple of fish. Although it was a fair distance out the vertical band on the bill and the white eye ring could easily be picked out. After watching it for a few minutes more I headed off back to the car. Great views were had of a hunting Marsh Harrier and also four Little Egrets as they flew over the reeds. Arriving back at the car park there were cars parked for a couple of hundred yards along the roadside making me glad I had arrived early. Having driven down on the motorway I decided on the cross-country route home via Glastonbury, Frome and Devizes. As I approached Beckhampton I could see three Buzzards soaring over the gallops and a large flock of birds wheeling around. Pulling off the road I watched a flock of at least two hundred and fifty Golden Plover flying, they were then joined by a similar amount of Lapwing that flew up from the flooded field by the road. They flew around for a few minutes before landing back in the field. Also here, in and around the water were a good number of four species of Gull. Unfortunately nothing unusual but good to see. Final sighting here were two Red kites in the distance. On arriving home there were two Red Kites over the village.
While waiting for the Grebe
It’s somewhere in the reeds!
A record shot
Some of the Little Grebes
For my bird fix this afternoon I headed for Fyfield Down. On the drive to Rockley from where it is just over a mile to walk. I saw four Buzzards soaring together and also a Kestrel. As I got out of the car at Rockley I heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker drumming, I worked out which tree it was in but couldn’t find it. Heading up the track to the downs I heard a Raven, didn’t see this one either. Approaching Fyfield I could hear a Song Thrush singing and actually managed to see it. A Mistle Thrush was also seen. Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge and Sparrowhawk were all added to the list as was the first of three or four heard only Green Woodpeckers. I walked through a very muddy Totterdown Wood and didn’t hear or see a single bird. There were however many drifts of Snowdrops. Back out in the open I found a largish mixed flock of corvids and another of Starlings. From a high point I scanned the gorse clumps and small trees in the vain hope of finding a Shrike. All I managed were a Dunnock and a Great Tit. Fyfield Down is internationally important for its archaeological interest and is part of a World Heritage Site. Many hundreds of Sarsen Stones are scattered across the area. Making use of one of the larger stones I sat and had some coffee. As I sat enjoying the views I realised that, other than a mere whisper of wind there was not another sound, a rare thing around here. This lasted for more than a minute before the silence was broken by a few Fieldfares chattering as they flew overhead. A Skylark was distantly heard as it rose into the air singing but apart from a few Jackdaws the birds seemed to have all gone. Following the tracks along past the old house I found another vantage point. I poured another coffee and started to scan the area. Three Buzzards and two Hares were seen on the ground and after about ten minutes, at around a quarter to four I caught a glimpse of a Barn Owl. A minute or so later it reappeared as it hunted low over the grass. I watched it for a few minutes before it flew into the trees that surround the old house. By now it was time to head back towards the car which was a good couple of miles away. I stopped to watch a Yellowhammer that was singing on the top of a Hawthorn bush. As I watched I caught a movement as a bird flew up. Getting it in the bins I realised that it was a Woodcock. Although I have seen one here before it still seems an unusual place to see one. A year tick and a great bird to finish off the walk.
I took the dog for an early morning walk along towards Liddington Hill and round through Badbury. There was a springlike feel to the morning, the sun was shining and Corn Buntings, Yellowhammer and a Skylark were singing. Then it was back home to spend the morning hedge trimming in the front garden.
I had to fit my birding in around a bit of shopping and an appointment at the opticians this afternoon. As this was in Marlborough I decided to start off with an hour or so in Savernake. For a change I went to Ashlade Firs which is on the eastern side of the forest. Parking near to the “Amity Oak” I just took a gentle stroll along towards Luton Lye Cottages and back. Apart from a small flock of Chaffinches the most numerous species was Goldcrest with at least six seen. A couple of Nuthatch were heard but could not be found. Two Buzzards were flying around calling loudly until drowned out by the sound of an Army Lynx helicopter which spent a few minutes in the area. Certainly an unfair contest. A Jay flew across one of the clearings and a Roe Deer ran across the track ahead of me. Best bird was a Marsh Tit which was eventually tracked down after I heard it calling. It was busily collecting moss, presumably preparing a nest. I then headed into Marlborough and as I was a few minutes early had a wander along the river. Only Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan and Mallards seen. On the way home I made a quick stop on the Downs. A flock of around thirty Chaffinches was checked for Brambling with no luck. Also seen were Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings plus singles of Buzzard and Kestrel. A quick walk with the dog as it was getting dark added a lone Redwing and a few Pied Wagtails on the local flood water.
This morning my wife and I took the dog for a walk from home up to and along the Ridgeway towards Ogbourne St George and then back along the railway path. It was wet windy and very muddy and to be honest I almost didn’t take my binoculars as I wasn’t expecting to see many birds. In the end we managed a total of twelve species including a couple of reasonable sized flocks of Yellowhammers a few Linnets and a group of four or five Bullfinches. There were plenty of Corvids, Gulls and Pigeons flying around and feeding in the fields. Also seen were seven Roe Deer. Back at home now, all showered and warm and watching about a dozen House Sparrows gorging themselves on the feeders.