Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dorset Delights

Six thirty saw myself, Pete and John heading south for Portland. After a good journey of just over two hours we headed straight off for some Seawatching.  As I have said before, this is a specialist area of birdwatching that I struggle with. To start with there were plenty of auks around, mainly Guillemots with just a few Razorbills. Small numbers of Gannets and Kittiwakes passed and there were several Fulmers and Shags, also a single Whimbrel. Three Red-throated Divers were easy to see, a Bonxie was not and none of us picked it up. I was pleased to find a Manx Shearwater for myself and also three Terns which we think were either Arctic or Common. Then what turned out to be the best birds of the day appeared, two Pomarine Skuas which were fairly close in, giving plenty of time to confirm their identity. A life tick for me, the fourth this year. As we were all getting fairly cold, (it is only the end of April after all) we headed back to the car for a coffee and then headed off for a walk inland. Half-a-dozen Wheatears were probably all of the Greenland Race. A pair of Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Linnets and a few Swallows were found. In the Top Fields were Chiffchaff and Whitethroat but we could not find the reported male Redstart. The regular Little Owl appeared in its usual place in the quarry near to the obs. and that was about it. We moved along to Ferrybridge for lunch, adding Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling and Sandwich Tern to the book. Little Terns had been seen at West Bexington yesterday so we decided to head there instead of Lodmoor. No Terns today but some wildfowl and a couple of Common Sandpipers were seen, as was a Sedge Warbler. It was now time to head for home. Another five species were added on the journey, including my first seen Cuckoo of the year. This brought the day-list up to sixty-five which included seven-year ticks and one lifer. A shame there were so few migrants at the Bill but we all agreed that it had been a great day .

Early Morning Birds

My only chance for birds today was early morning and I actually managed to get out of bed. I arrived at the Water Park at a bit gone seven with Waterhay the first port of call. I arrived at the same time as another local and together we saw a group of four Whimbrel flying off to the east. They joined up with another five and landed a little way away. Also seen from here were two Whinchats, a site tick for me. A bit of searching at Kent End got seven Little Ringed Plover and single Common Sandpiper and Redshank. Next was Twitchers where you were looking straight into the sun. I decided to scan the hedgerows instead and managed to see Bullfinch, Chiffchaff and Sedge and Willow Warbler. Cuckoo and Nightingale were heard. Moving on to Roundhouse Farm where you have the sun behind you in the morning. Five Shelduck, three LRP, two Common Sandpiper and a late Shoveler were the highlights here. Also loads of Swallows and a single Whitethroat. That was it for  today apart from the evening dog walk which was accompanied by many singing Corn Buntings and little else. Looking forward to a day on the South Coast tomorrow with Portland the planned start point.

Quiet in London

I have had a quiet couple of days in London with very little time for birds. Yesterday we went for a short walk in Bushey Park and then to the gardens at Hampton Court Palace. We were obviously in the wrong part of Bushey Park as quite a lot of migrants were reported there. All we saw were a few ducks and lots of Parakeets. A late afternoon stroll  in Osterley Park was pleasant, with a Whitethroat the best bird seen. Even less seen today with Pied Wagtail and Skylark the only species to go in the book. On the way home I came of the motorway at Newbury for a mini Owl hunt. Worthwhile with two Tawnies and a single Little Owl see. Also several Pheasants and a Mallard.

Expect the Unexpected

I am in London for a few days as my Mum was having an eye operation today. Leaving the house at a little past seven we were greeted by flyovers from three Canada Geese and thirteen Parakeets. When my Mum went off for her operation I headed off to Staines Reservoir which was conveniently just a five minute drive away. Unfortunately not much of interest, with a single Commic Tern amongst the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls. A couple of Shelduck were on the bank. Otherwise it was just the usual Tufted Ducks, Great-crested Grebes and Coots. Back at Mums there were plenty more Parakeets around and a couple of Magpies coming in and out of the garden. I just happened to turn and look out at the patio and was amazed to see a female Redstart just outside the glass doors. As I moved it flew down the garden, luckily it perched on a branch for a few seconds giving me a chance of a good look in the binoculars. A most unexpected sighting that in some way made up for missing the Osprey that flew low over east Swindon this morning.

A Bits & Pieces Day

With a few things to be done at home and a visit to the dentist it was a fit the birds in whenever day. After dropping my wife at work I had a quick look in at Coate Water. Five Snipe, a Lapwing two Shelduck, plenty of Warblers  and a few Swallows were seen here. On my way home from the dentist I stopped in at Southleaze. The lake was full with no exposed mud so there were no waders around. Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Heron and more Warblers was the tally here. A quick stop at the new canal in Witchelstowe got me anothe Little Grebe as did Wroughton Reservoir. Also here were a few Tufties and Gadwall. After my evening meal it was off to London for a couple of days staying with my Mum. I needed to drop something off in Marlborough on the way which gave me the chance to stop in at Knighton in the Kennet Valley on the way to the M4. This is my regular site for Grasshopper Warbler. I usually go early morning so t made a change to be there at the other end of the day. First bird seen was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, then Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff along with a heard only Cetti’s. On reaching the river there were just a couple of Mallard to be seen. I then caught a  brief  snatch of reeling. It took a couple of minutes to get an idea of where to head for and gradually I managed to get closer. As is often the way it was quite hard to pinpoint exactly where the bird was from the brief snatches of song. A quick flicker of movement in a nearby bush caught my eye and there it was, in full view no more than a dozen feet away. I thought it would disappear into the scrub but instead it started to sing. Incredible to watch with its beak open and the whole body vibrating. I watched for the best part of a minute before the bird decided to drop down into the grass. It was back to the car and off to London for me, elated by my best ever Gropper sighting.

Make that Seventy Two

Went to Marlborough for a meal yesterday evening and went for a mini Owl drive on the way home. Just one Tawny seen on the edge of Savernake.  Seventy second species of the day and a Wilts year tick. With lots to do at home today the only time I got out was on the morning dog walk along the railway path. Plenty of birds around with two male Blackcaps competing for a females attention. Also seen, three GS Woodpeckers, not often seen along here.


After a couple of days with no opportunity for birdwatching I was determined to make up for it today. my initial thought had been to head for Portland but common sense prevailed and I decide that the Water Park was the place to go. Checking on the sightings page I noticed that Nightingales were back so CWP43 was to be my starting point. As soon as I opened the car door I could hear Chiffchaff, Sedge and Willow Warblers singing. and within a few seconds of climbing the style I heard a Nightingale. There were warblers all over with several Whitethroats also seen. Linnets and Goldfinches were around in good numbers as well. A second and then a third Nightingale was heard singing but as is often the case as I got nearer they all stopped. A Cetti’s Warbler called from close by and a brief glimpse was had. A Nightingale started to sing again, very near this time but I  couldn’t see it in the dense scrub. I did find a Garden Warbler though which was a bonus. After around twenty minutes of bush staring I did manage to find the Nightingale.P1180330 (1024x767) It is  there, honest. After another few minutes it came out into the open and started singing. It kept moving around but stayed in the open giving the the best ever views for me. P1180333 (1024x788)Not great pictures but reasonable record shots. Time to move on so I headed back into Wiltshire to Waterhay for a walk around Cleveland Lakes to the Reed Hide. As I was leaving the car park at Waterhay a Cuckoo was calling. Plenty of warblers here as well, with Willow Warbler the most numerous. On the Lake 68 a late Goldeneye was found and a Green Sandpiper flew across the water. Another Cetti’s called and then gave almost as good a view as the Nightingale. Singles of Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and Little Grebe were noted along with Cormorants and Herons carrying sticks to their nests. From the hide overlooking Lake 74, Greenshank, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Shelduck were visible on the scrape along with Canada, Greylag and Egyptian Geese.on the walk back to Waterhay along the Thames Path, Curlew and Water Rail were heard and three Sparrowhawks seen. Kent End Quarry added Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing to the list and an Arctic Tern was seen from Twitchers. Final stop of the day was Roundhouse Farm Quarry. Here there were another six Little Ringed Plover, Teal, Wigeon and more Shelduck. In total I managed sixty-eight species, somewhat surprisingly in almost six hours I didn’t see one hirundine. Very strange, where were they all? With Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Skylark seen on the afternoon dog walk that make seventy-one for the day. Also today I passed a hundred and fifty species for the year, a day earlier than last year. Incidentally this is my 400th post.

Migrants on the Move

Quite an interesting day today on the birding front with, for me the first mass sightings of migrants. A look at the Chiseldon flood water turned up a Yellow Wagtail along with the Green Sandpiper and a Mallard. I followed this with a half-hour visit to Coate. This is where the migrants were found with a field full of Wagtails. Around fifty Pied, three White and ten Yellow were counted. Also here were a few dozen Swallows, a handful of Sand Martins, a single House Martin, Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Goldfinches. Around the water were Two Common and one Green Sandpiper, one each of Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing and two Shelduck. In the evening I headed back to Coate for the evening dog walk and was rewarded with an Arctic Tern, four Common Sandpipers and hundreds of Sand Martins and Swallows.

A Day in the Black Mountains

Today my son and I headed for a day of walking in the Black Mountains north of Abergavenny. Arriving at a car park in Mynydd Du Forest at around half-eight we got kitted up and headed up the track to Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. As we climbed the track  which was like a mini river the dam came into view. It looked impressive with plenty of water running through. IMG_1012 (1024x767) On arriving at the dam we were pleased to find that we could walk across the top. This gave us great views down the valley. An interesting plaque on the wall of a building on the causeway. IMG_1021 (1024x767)Seen here was my first Common Sandpiper of the year. Heading on up the Valley there were plenty of Meadow Pipits to be seen and a couple of Ravens flew over. On reaching the ridge the it was quite challenging with a strong wind blowing and the peat underfoot  was very wet and ridged. Amazingly many of the large puddles had large amounts of Frog Spawn in them. Totally unexpected. IMG_1023 (1024x768)Reaching an unnamed Trig Point at 713 metres we found some shelter from the wind behind a small bank of Heather where we stopped for some food. IMG_1032 (1024x768)Retracing our steps for around a mile we were walking straight into the wind making the going extremely hard. A while later the direction of the path changed as it rose towards Waun Fach, the highest point in the Black  at 811 metres. Birdwise it was more Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Ravens along with a steady flow of Swallows battling the wind. Also of interest were a couple of Gliders that were taking advantage of the uplift from the ridge. Watching them soaring made me realise that no Buzzards or Kites had been seen.  Waun Fach was reached and we were surprised to find that the summit was mainly a large peat bog in which, on a couple of occasions caught usIMG_1060 (1024x754) out, with or feet disappearing below the surface. Next summit was Pen y Gadair Fawr at 800 metres. More Mipits and Skylarks here as well as a Golden Plover. A breeding bird maybe? Despite the improvements in the weather recently, there was still plenty of  snow around. IMG_1055 (1024x766)Some of it quite deep although melting and adding to the amount of water. After walking to the edge of the ridge to view the reservoir below we carried on to the edge of the forest. Large areas had been cleared leaving a scene of devastation.IMG_1078 (1024x768) On the map a footpath was marked dropping down through the trees to the road and river several hundred feet below. However we were unable to find it so had to find our own route down through the trees. At a lower level we did find the path which was extremely overgrown and barely passable in places. We did eventually reach the road at the bottom of the valley. I was disappointed not to see a Dipper along here. We arrived back at the car at a little past three, having walked a little over fifteen miles. A fabulous walk and well worth the two hundred mile round trip. On the way home a brief stop was made at Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean. No Garganey were seen but Mandarin Duck was added to the year list.

I found some time for birds

Heading home from the wedding in Basingstoke I had the foresight to take the A4 route home from Newbury via Hungerford and Aldbourne. It seemed a shame not to make a quick stop at Chilton Foliat. Looking from the road bridge the wide water was almost devoid of birds, Just four Little Grebes and a couple of Tufted Ducks. A handful of Swallows were overhead along with a Buzzard. Some loud calls heralded the arrival of a couple of Kingfishers which shot under the bridge and headed off along the river. After arriving home and unloading the car I popped down to the farm shop to buy a Chicken for dinner. A quick look on the flood water found the Green Sandpiper still in residence. Later on I chose an hour on Liddington Hill over some tidying at home. As is often the way at this time of year there were several other birders around. Apparently there were still some Ring Ouzels around. Despite the presence of several Blackbirds and with help from my good friends Percy Verance and his wife Patience I managed to get reasonable views of a couple of female Ouzels. They weren’t keen to come out in the open and I had to stalk them along the hedgerows. Also seen today were three Swallows, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Kestrel.