After the washout yesterday and a day doing stuff indoors today I just needed to get out somewhere. It was pouring down again but I decided to go to Coate Water for a walk to the second hide and back. With no expectation of seeing much due to the conditions a Great-spotted Woodpecker and Grey Wagtail was a nice start. Even better when I heard young birds calling and realised the Woodpecker had a nest nearby. I managed to find the nest-hole and watched the bird come and go a few times. It was a pretty tatty individual and I reckon it is the same one that was photographed by Tony Martin on the 25th. Photo by Tony Martin. Low over the lake were masses of Hirundines, mainly House Martins along with a fair few Swallows and one or two Swifts. Also here were four Common Terns and a dozen Mute Swans. A couple of Chiffchaffs were singing but not a single Song Thrush was heard. It has to be bad for them to give up, From the second hide there were loads more House Martins and Swallows. On the water were Tufted Ducks, Mallards, two Gadwall, Great-crested Grebes, Coot and Moorhen. A bad-tempered Swan seemed to be on a mission to see off all of the Canada Geese with at least three being chased off while I was watching. On the walk back a lot more Swifts appeared over the main lake as did a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I got a fair soaking but it was nice to get out.
Had a non-birding day out in the Cotswolds today. My Mum and I went to visit Hidcote Manor Garden. What a fantastic place, probably the best garden I have visited. As always there were a few birds to be seen with Buzzard and several Red Kites on the way. At Hidcote there were plenty of birds flitting around the garden with a Song thrush very vocal the whole time we were there. Loads of very tame House Sparrows around the Cafe. After the garden we went into nearby Chipping Camden for a look around and a light lunch. Then it was a slow drive back along the Cotswold lanes. An unexpected sighting was a Wheatear that flew up from the road in front of us and posed nicely on the roadside stone wall. The camera was in the boot unfortunately.
This evening we decided to head up to Liddington Hill to watch the sunset. It was a gorgeous evening, calm and clear. Corn Buntings, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were singing as we sat by at Trig Point watching the sun sink below the Cotswold Scarp. As we walked back to the car a Buzzard and a Kestrel flew over.
This morning I was driving to London to bring my Mum back to Swindon for a few days. Normal routine would be a quick stop at Staines Reservoir on the way. Today the lure of a Roller reported at Brockhurst Common near the Hampshire/ Surrey border was more of a draw. So six o’clock saw me heading off along the M4. Routing via Newbury and Basingstoke it wasn’t long before I was picking my way along the B Roads from Alton towards the Common. Not an area I know at all so I was relying on finding a stretch of road littered with abandoned cars to guide me to the right area. Rounding a bend on the B3004 and pretty well where expected I found a lay by full of empty cars. As I was getting my stuff together a birder appeared and he confirmed that the Roller was still around. After a walk of around a hundred metres I joined a group of birders who were all watching the Roller. After a quick look through another scope I set up and soon found the bird myself. It was perched a fair distance away, on top of a dead Silver Birch and looked resplendent in the morning sun. It was facing away from us and the contrast of blue on the head and brown on the back gave it a really exotic look. Definitely a bird of warmer climes. Fortunately for us it had managed to overshoot its Mediterranean breeding grounds. I watched it for about ten minutes as it occasionally turned its head, before it dropped down out of sight. It was then seen to fly off and across the common. I had been quite lucky with my timing as it moved on and later on in the day reappeared at Thursley Common just a few miles away. Also seen here was a Woodlark, a year tick, Cuckoo, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Leaving the common I headed up to London making a quick stop at Staines Reservoir on the way. Nothing rare here with no sign of either Black-necked Grebe or Black Tern. A few Common Terns and hundreds of Swifts along with a raft full of Black-headed Gulls were the main interest. So far this year I have managed a new bird every month although the Roller was just new for the UK as I have seen on e previously in Majorca.
Domestic issues again interfered with the birding plans so the trip to Franchises Wood will have to wait until another day. Instead it was an hour in Savernake this morning and a dog walk this afternoon. Savernake was cold with a bit of rain and very few birds, a couple of heard only Great Spots and a Marsh Tit the only birds worth a mention. A herd of around thirty Fallow Deer was of note though. This is the largest group I have seen in the Forest. A nice visitor to the garden this afternoon in the shape of a female Bullfinch. Only the third record of this species. Interestingly she seemed to be collecting nest material. I cannot imagine where they would nest near to here but will have to keep a look out.
The dog walk took me to Folly Farm and then across the fields to Badbury. A flyover Shelduck was a surprise. It appeared to be heading for Coate and had maybe come from somewhere along the Kennet. A few Corn Buntings and Goldfinch, single Whitethroat and Yellowhammer were seen along with a Buzzard and a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On the walk across to Badbury I put up eight or nine Skylarks that seemed to be sheltering from the wind in the longish grass. Work tomorrow and Saturday so roll on Sunday.
With the sun out and the wind dropping it seemed a good opportunity for an evening stroll on the Marlborough Downs. First bird seen was a Red-legged Partridge and soon after a Pheasant. Several Swallows were flying low over the fields and a couple of Corn Buntings were jangling away on some overhead cables. Yellowhammer was heard and then seen and a Buzzard passed overhead seemingly unconcerned by a Crow that was repeatedly dive bombing it. One of my hoped for birds then appeared, a Barn Owl which was heading out from it’s nestbox, presumably to hunt. As I was watching the Owl a Mallard flew across my line of vision. In the distance a Curlew called, not a common sound hereabouts. Heading back down to the car I saw something moving in the adjoining field. It was a Badger that walked out onto the track ahead of me, it stopped briefly, looked at me and then headed off into the field of Rape on the other side of the track. It is always good to actually see a live Badger rather than a bloodied corpse at the roadside. Just as I got back to the car a couple more Mallard flew past and then dropped down in the middle of a crop field! I had hoped to hear Quail calling here as there were at least four birds in the area last year. Maybe a little early still.
A drive out to see the Turtle Dove at Buscot was the plan this morning with a look in at the eastern side of the Water Park after. I decided instead to start at Farmoor where there have been a couple of Black-necked Grebes. Arriving at a grey and windy Farmoor in good time I headed off along the causeway. There were hundreds of Swifts around with many zipping around me at less than head height in their pursuit of insects . Quite an experience, it is amazing how close they come sometimes. I like to think that they are actually looking where they are going. . Many of them appeared to be paired off as they seemed to be chasing each other about. Also quite a few House Martins around, along with a few Swallows and a solitary Sand Martin. I had been scanning the water for a couple of minutes when Dai (http://purplepartridge.blogspot.co.uk/) came along in his car. During a brief chat he informed me that the Grebes seemed to have gone. So I was left with the hirundines, several Great-crested Grebes and a few Mallards and Coot. Also a Red Kite that drifted over. On the walk back to the car I did manage to find a Ringed Plover that was feeding along the water’s edge. Next was a drive to Brize Norton for a bit of plane-spotting. This involved crossing the Eynsham Toll-bridge. It is a good few years since I last drove over here and I am sure it didn’t cost as much as five pence the last time I used it! Along with the aircraft seen at Brize I added Kestrel and Skylark to the trip list. Then it was on to Buscot where on opening my car door I could hear the Turtle Dove purring away in, what is for another year a probably fruitless search for a mate. I watched the Dove for twenty minutes or so and despite the awful light managed a couple of half decent pictures. Plenty of Swallows, House Sparrows and Goldfinches here as well. So then it was off home after another enjoyable trip out.
Ringed Plover Farmoor
Voyager, Brize Norton
Tristar, Brize Norton
Tristar, Brize Norton
Turtle Dove Buscot
Turtle Dove Buscot (punk style)
Turtle Dove Buscot
Turtle Dove Buscot
Following on from Steve deciding to close down his sightings site another local birder, Martin Adlam has decided to take up the mantle with the setting up of a new blog to report sightings of birds and other wildlife in Swindon and the surrounding area. Please give him as much support as you all did for Steve. http://swindonbirdsandwildlife.blogspot.co.uk/
A day in the garden was the plan for today but first of all I headed off for a walk around Coate Water. It was a lovely morning, quite warm and fairly calm. A couple of Whitethroats were chasing each other around next to the play area and a Sedge Warbler was singing. A few Swifts and House Martins were high overhead. The first of two Common Sandpipers flew across the lake, it is getting quite late for these to be around. Three Reed Warblers and two Common Tern were next. From the first hide a Kingfisher. There were plenty of Blackcap, Chiffchaffs and Song Thrushes singing although they are getting harder to see now that most trees and bushes are in full leaf. From the second hide it was just the regulars about with no appearance from the Cuckoo that had been around earlier on. Quiet on the flood water with just two each of Shelduck and Lapwing and a single Coot. A few Swallows were hawking over the horse fields and a Buzzard and a Kestrel drifted over Day House Lane. Forty-two species were seen, not bad for a walk of around an hour and a half..
Tonight I was out for my first Woodcock survey of the year. However and despite being told on good authority that there were Woodcock in this area, none were seen or heard. There was plenty of birdsong with one Song Thrush not giving up until a quarter to ten. Muntjac were seen and heard and a single bat was seen. Main consolation was a Tawny Owl that flew in from behind me and alighted in a nearby tree giving a great silhouetted view. Another started calling from nearby and they spent the next few minutes calling to each other. A little disappointing but roll on the second visit.