This afternoon I headed south hoping to see a couple of species that are pretty rare. Usually this trip is done a few weeks earlier and of an evening so I wasn’t sure how I would fare. I arrived at my usual viewing place and got myself sorted for a pleasant scanning session, flask, sarnies and scope were all unpacked. Success after around twenty minutes with a good but brief view of a female Montagu’s Harrier as it flew low over the fields before being lost from sight behind some trees. I then decided to move to a different viewpoint where I was joined by three birders from Hampshire. They had already seen two males and at least one female. Over the next couple of hours we were treated to some great views of at least three Harriers hunting, displaying and it appeared, just flying around. Also seen here were Hobby, Buzzard, Red Kite, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Swallow and House Martin. I then left the others and headed off to Salisbury Plain where I was hoping to see Stone Curlew. Again I went to a favoured spot and after some careful searching found one bird sat on a patch of bare earth. In the fifteen minutes or so I was watching, it hardly moved at all making it very hard to see. Curlew and Lapwing were heard here and there were many dozens of Skylarks around. Also a few more Corn Buntings, some Meadow Pipits, Whitethroat and a single Reed Bunting. For the first time ever here I didn’t see a Stonechat, certainly a species that has suffered greatly with the conditions over the last few years. There was plenty of other activity around with Gliders and Parachutists overhead and Quad and Mountain bikes on the ground. So we are now halfway through the year and heading for the quietest time for birds. This was the first month this year with no life tick, my own fault as I really haven’t been out much. More effort is required over the next six months.
It is my daughter’s prom tonight so it had been a busy day. Into town to the hairdressers and so on. It was just after eight o’clock before I got out with the dog. A pretty miserable evening, grey and not that warm. Along the road from Bush House to Folly Lane there were six Corn Buntings singing and another two along Folly Lane itself. A handful of Yellowhammers were seen or heard and small groups of Linnets and Goldfinches flew over. On the way back I heard a Yellow Wagtail calling and eventually managed to find it, a fine male, bright yellow and easy to see even though he was in amongst the flowering Rape. I then found the female close by. A Whitethroat was singing as was a lone Skylark. Overhead were just single Swallow and Lesser Black-backed Gull.
As it was such a nice morning I decided to get a bit of motorbike birding done. So, where to go? I got up a bit late to go to the south of the county so it was either Greenham Common or the By Brook at Box. The chance of a Wiltshire Year Tick won the day so it was off to Box. I parked in the playing field car park and as I was changing into my walking gear I heard an ominous hissing sound. Great, a puncture, just what I need! However birding comes first so it was off along the river for me. A short walk west took me to the most likely spot and I settled down to wait. Nuthatch was heard and Bullfinch heard and then seen. A bird flew onto the rocks in the river, is it? No, but a very smart Grey Wagtail, quickly joined by another. A lady came past with her dogs and asked if I was birdwatching and looking for the Dipper. When I answered in the positive she informed me that she saw it here every day. This was good news and made the waiting a bit easier. After ten minutes or so a Dipper appeared and gave great views. It was picking food from both on and under the water. It didn’t come particularly close but stayed for a good amount of time. On the walk back to the bike I saw three Beautiful Demoiselle Damselflies. This is the third year running I have seen them here and is also the only place I have seen them. I even managed a reasonable picture. Then it was back to the puncture. With a can of repair goo and some help from the RAC (followed me for fifteen miles to re-inflate the tyre) and stops at three garages I managed to get home. Finally, a trip to the tyre place relieved my wallet of just over a hundred pounds for a new tyre. The worst of it was the damaged one had also been new. I had only done a hundred and fifty miles since having it fitted. Certainly not quite the day I had planned.
Grey Wagtail, By Brook
Dipper, By Brook
Dipper, By Brook
Box Rock Circus
Box Rock Circus
An hour-long dog walk from home to Folly Farm and back this evening got me twenty-two species. I was hoping for Quail as there was one here last year but as on Monday evening not a sound. However two Yellow Wagtails were a good find. As usual I was accompanied most of the way by the jangling of Corn Buntings with accompaniment from Skylarks and Yellowhammers. Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Wren were all in good voice while Swallow, Swift and House Martin were seen overhead. Several Linnets and Goldfinches also flew over. Pheasant was seen and Red-legged Partridge heard.
Another nice evening so I went out hoping to hear my first Quail of the year. I started on the Ridgeway near to Hackpen Hill. I actually managed to see a Quail here two years ago. No luck today, just a couple of Blackbirds singing. I then moved along the road towards Rockley, again nothing. My third location was the western end of Barbury Castle where one was heard a week or so ago. No such luck this evening. As consolation a Grey Partridge was heard and a single bat flew past, there were a good number of moths around so I doubt that the bat went hungry.
Yet again there hasn’t been any spare time for me to get out birding. Partly my fault again as I didn’t get out of bed until well after nine. A family walk up onto the Ridgeway was quiet on the bird front. Mainly because of the wind I would imagine. The usual Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers and Skylarks singing along with a few Linnets and Chaffinches. A lone young Great Tit was seen and that was about it. This evening I managed a half hour or so at the second hide at Coate. As expected it was quiet with nothing unusual seen, just nice to be out.
A double bonus on the early evening dog walk. I manged to dodge the showers and there were a good number of birds around. A singing Chiffchaff was first followed by a noisy flock of House Sparrows. Corn Bunting, Linnet and Goldfinch were next followed by Wren, Great and Blue Tit. Next came the highlight, two male and a female Bullfinch (a new species for me here) which were dropping down onto the path ahead of me. Then it was standard fare with Blackbird, Chaffinch, Magpie and Wood Pigeon. Two Swallows flew low and fast along the path and two Great-spotted Woodpeckers put in an appearance.
As it had turned into a pleasant evening I decided on a drive down to Savernake for another attempt at seeing Nightjar. I arrived at half past nine and chose a parking place that had a relatively good open view. Conditions were all but perfect, reasonably warm, clear skies and next to no wind. As it was still quite light I settled down for what I expected would be a bit of a wait before anything was heard. However within a minute or so the squeaking and grunting of a roding Woodcock was heard. This one wasn’t seen but a couple of minutes later another was heard and then seen. This was the first of half-a-dozen passes by Woodcock. Then, taking me completely by surprise a Nightjar flew low overhead. Success and it was only twenty to ten. Churring was then heard so I wandered along towards the sound. I was able to pick out the tree the sound was coming from but couldn’t see the bird. After a minute or so it flew from the back of the tree, wing clapping and calling as it went. I headed back to the car and managed to find the bird again, churring at the top of another tree. I watched it for a couple of minutes as it churred away and then it flew, wing clapping again, closely followed by a second bird. Only one bird was heard to churr so this may well be a pair. A few Tawny Owls were calling, bats were flying around and Roe and Fallow Deer were seen as was a single Hare. All in all a great evening.
Two butterflies in the garden would normally not be commented on but this year it is noteworthy. A male Orange Tip and a White of some sort were seen this afternoon. On the evening dog walk there were eight singing Corn Buntings along with three not singing. Three Skylarks and a single Yellowhammer were also heard. A few Swallows and House Martins were low over the fields and half-a-dozen LBB Gulls passed over.
After failing to get out of bed in good time this morning (again!) I decided to do some gardening up until lunchtime and then go to Greenham Common on the bike in the afternoon. The gardening went well but the weather took a turn for the worse so I decided to leave the bike in the garage and went for a walk instead. I parked the car at Hackpen Hill and waked along the Ridgeway to and around Fyfield Down. The weather was a bit frustrating as the rain was neither one thing or another so a waterproof was just about required. Fortunately it didn’t seem to bother the birds. There were several Meadow Pipits and Skylarks singing and displaying and good numbers of Whitethroats, a couple were seen carrying food while others were displaying. A Yellow Wagtail flew over and a flock of seventeen Lapwing rose from an adjoining field. They flew a couple of circuits and then headed away. A Little Owl and two Tree Sparrows were good sightings. Of interest was the recently constructed Dew Pond. Unfortunately despite their being a few insects over the water there were no dragonflies around. There were loads of wildflowers along the wayside, mainly Buttercups and I think Common Mallow. I accessed Fyfield through Totterdown Wood. The only bird I noted here was a Chiffchaff. Once on the Down I selected a suitable stone for my coffee break. Whilst I was sitting here a Raven flew over and then a Green Woodpecker flew right across in front of me. The first of three seen. A flock of Starlings was noisly moving around, I estimated it at around four hundred birds. At one point a large group of at least a hundred and fifty of them landed in a single tree. While I was walking across the grass I flushed several Pheasants and a single Grey Partridge. Just one butterfly was seen on the whole walk, a Small Heath. It seems that it is going to be a bad year again for them. A group of inquisitive cattle came over for a closer look at me before heading over to their water troughs. Back on the Ridgeway a small group of Swifts appeared, two Mallards flew over and two more Lapwings were standing motionless in a field. A Cardinal Beetle was the final new sighting. A total of twenty-seven species were seen, not bad considering the conditions. I made a quick stop at Wroughton Reservoir on the way home. Five Tufties, two Gadwall, a Moorhen and some Swallows were noted here.
Berwick Bassett Dew Pond
Common Mallow (i think)
So that’s where Starlings come from!