Before I went to bed last night I had considered popping over to Farmoor to see the Slavonian Grebe that has been around for a few days. However, by the time I managed to drag myself out of bed it was getting on a bit ( as in nine o’clock) and with a few other things to do I decided on a stroll around Coate Water. I started down by the Diving Board where there was the usual collection of gull, pigeons and ducks being fed. Heading on past the pitch and putt I found Pied and Grey Wagtail. A mixed flock of tits was checked out and a Treecreeper was seen with them. The Broome Manor end of the lake was fairly sheltered and there was a large gathering of wildfowl and gulls. Close to three hundred bird in all which included Great-crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Shoveler, Canada Gesse and Black-headed Gulls. I had a quick look in at Hide One, a Nuthatch was feeding and there were over a hundred Tufted Duck in another sheltered spot. I spent a bit more time in Hide Two and was rewarded with three passes by a Kingfisher. Also from here were quite a few Wigeon. Completing the circuit back to the car via the flood water added Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Stonechat and Snipe to the list. I timed it well as it started raining just as I got back to the car.
So after twenty-two months I have managed to reach the milestone of 500 Posts on the blog. I certainly did not expect for it to carry on for this amount of time so a big thank you to everyone who has followed my ramblings over all these months. To celebrate reaching this figure I should have headed off for a mega-bird. Cape May Warbler on Shetland maybe. More practically the Semi-palmated Plover in Hampshire. In actual fact I headed for Twitchers hoping that yesterdays Black-tailed Godwit would 1) still be around and 2) be visible from Twitchers (it wasn’t). Having arranged to meet Pete I arrived at just gone half-twelve. A quick scan revealed two Shovelers on the scrape and a single Lapwing on the bank. Not a great start. There were loads of birds on the water and a check of these gave good numbers of Wigeon and Coot, a few Great-crested Grebes and a couple of Mallards. Pete had now arrived and joined in with the scanning. First one and then three Green Sandpipers were found on the scrape and a Kestrel was hunting in the same area. Next was an unexpected Clouded Yellow which was blown past us by the wind. Also a late Swallow was picked out in the distance. Green Woodpecker was heard and a small flock of Starlings flew over. What at first we thought was a Common Gull turned out to be a Black-headed and a count of the Cormorants came to thirty-four. Further scanning of the scrape added Teal to the list and upped the Green Sandpiper count to six. A Stonechat was also found. Then it was time to head off, a couple more stops were made on the way home. Lake 301 had an impressive number of LBB Gulls roosting, also some Lapwings. Eysey was quiet again other than around a hundred and twenty Mallard. Other birds seen here were a dozen Pied Wagtails, and a couple each of Mute Swan, Meadow Pipit and Linnet. A Kestrel decided it didn’t want its picture taken. Final sighting of the day was a Green Woodpecker in Liden.
This afternoon I headed for Liddington Hill. No dog today, this was a proper bird walk. It was fairly windy but warm and sunny so I was hoping for a few decent birds. I parked by Folly Farm and walked along the track towards the copse. It was pretty slow to start with. Just a flock of Black-headed Gulls, a few Crows and a Chaffinch. On reaching the gate at the end of the track it livened up a bit with a small flock of Starlings flying over and a Kestrel and a Raven appearing from over the ridge. The Raven was taking advantage of the updrafts, soaring and tumbling as he drifted along. Moving slowly along the bushes I flushed a Redwing and a female Ring Ouzel. The Ring Ouzel flew along in front of me before disappearing into a large Hawthorn. I reckon it then flew out from the back of this as I didn’t see it again. A Red Kite appeared overhead, circled a few times and then headed off. In the same area as last week I found first one, then two and then a third Wheatear. They were fairly mobile but I managed to get
Spot the Wheatear
A juicy Beetle
A juicy Beetle
some pictures. I then headed up to the Castle itself where I found another Wheatear and a few Meadow Pipits. There were a few groups of Fungi on the hillside including some that looked like Field Mushrooms.
That was about it until I got back near to the car. As I came out onto the lane a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew up from the verge. I think this is only the second time I have seen one at Liddington. On my way to work yesterday I noticed a couple of Lapwing flying around next to the Hodson Road so I had a quick drive out that way before going home. I found a flock of around a hundred and fifty Lapwing and probably fifty Starlings in a field just past the Hodson turning. I watched them for a few minutes before they all flew up and away. All except one which for some reason stayed in the field.
This afternoon I went to Exmouth for work and actually managed half-an-hours birding. As the tide was right out a lot of the birds were well out of range of my small travel binoculars. I still managed, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Little Egret, Heron, Wigeon and several hundred Brent Geese along with plenty of Gulls. A nice bit of bonus birding.
Took the dog out for an hour or so this morning. It was wet and windy so I wasn’t expecting to see much. There were a few birds around, mainly corvids, gulls and pigeons. Having noticed the comment on the Swindon Birds website from Martin about an increase in the amount of Starlings about I noted a couple of small flocks flying about. Also a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits heading south. The most surprising sighting was that of two Skylarks in song flight, not what I was expecting at this time of year.
Original plan today was for my wife and I to drop my daughter at work in Marlborough, buy some cakes from Waitrose and then take the dog for a long walk on the Downs around Milk and Tan Hill. Due to the torrential rain that was sweeping across Marlborough we changed our minds and went to Savernake instead. Just as wet but much less exposed. Although it wasn’t a birdy walk a fair number of birds were seen. Nothing unexpected but good to see quite a few Marsh Tits. Plenty of Funghi to be seen despite the group of Eastern Europeans wandering around with buckets and people heading there in search of Magic Mushrooms. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-24573820 . There were also masses of Sweet Chestnuts and Acorns on the ground. We managed seven and a half miles, passed through areas of the forest that were new to me, a picnic in pleasant sunshine, and a return to the car with a tired and dirty dog in the pouring rain.
This afternoon I took the dog for a walk at Liddington Hill. With the strong wind and after the wet morning I was expecting much on the bird front. Initially there were, other than two each of Crow and Magpie no birds at all. Then two Buzzards started to soar over the Hill and four Ravens appeared over the ridge. A scan of the hillside found five Starlings. A Yellowhammer was heard. It was found sharing a Hawthorn with my first Fieldfare of the autumn. Next a Kestrel appeared and as I was watching it hunting a female Peregrine shot through. The Kestrel then shot off after the Peregrine and they proceeded to have an aerial battle which amazingly was then joined by a Raven. This carried on for a minute or two before the participants all drifted off. I made another scan of the grass, concentrating on an area around a badger sett, an area which is favoured by Wheatear. To my surprise, considering the lack of Wheatear this year I found two birds which were flitting around the sett. I managed a couple of pictures which considering the wind and the fact that the dog was trying to get down into the badger sett came out okay.
Checking back on my notes from last year, it was also on the 16th that I saw the first autumn Fieldfare on Liddington. There was also the first Ring Ouzel as well.
A good forecast, sandwiches made, bag packed and the alarm set for 05.20. I wake before the alarm at ten past five and am seriously tempted to turn it off and stay in bed. I force myself to get up and I am on the road at a quarter to six. Just before Tidworth I see a Barn Owl, hopefully a good omen. I arrive at Milford-on-Sea at just before half seven and head for Sturt Pond. A quick scan of the few birds here gave a couple of Black-tailed Godwits, some Redshank and Lapwing, a few gulls and a Spoonbill. A great start. Then it along to the Cut Bridge to admire the sunrise before going to park at the usual place for the walk along the shore. It was high tide so the only waders around were a few Turnstone roosting on the boats. A couple of Snipe flew over, the first of many. All of the expected birds were on the salt-marsh including quite a few Brent Geese. I scanned through them for the Red-breasted Goose that was seen yesterday with no luck. Plenty of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails around, also a Willow Warbler and a few Reed Buntings. Reaching the lagoons I quickly added A few waders to the list including several Greenshank, a Little Stint and a Curlew Sandpiper. Plenty of Redshank but I couldn’t see any of the reported Spotted variety. Four House Martins appeared followed by a few Swallows. On the Butts Lagoon a Water Rail was seen flying and the Long-billed Dowitcher was eventually found It did give good views although it spent most of the time I was there asleep. It was good to see it next to some Snipe. A large flock of Greenfinches flew in, well over a hundred birds and four Eider, several Great-crested Grebe and a Seal were seen out to Sea. A mass of birds flew up from the marshes and a Peregrine was soon found. Arriving back at Fishtail Lagoon I was having a casual scan when a Glossy Ibis flew in. It stayed for a couple of minutes before heading off to
the Butts. Apparently it soon moved on from here and it or another was later seen at Portsmouth and on the I.O.W. Certainly the bird of the day and number 199 on my year-list. Three Stonechat and a single Wheatear were around but I didn’t manage a Dartford Warbler. Back at the car I grabbed a bite to eat before heading back to the Cut Bridge to look for the flock of Brent Geese. GBB Gull and Barwit were added to the list here and there were large numbers of Pipits, including a few Rock. The Brent Geese were here and the Red-breasted Goose was with them. A good bird to bring up 200 for the year.
Next it was a bag of chips before heading off to Black Gutter Bottom hoping for Great-grey Shrike. Despite spending well over an hour of searching it wasn’t found. It had been seen earlier but had maybe been disturbed by a couple of Army Lynx helicopters that were flying around. I did get a good view of a Dartford Warbler, a Sparrowhawk and a herd of fifty or so Fallow Deer so it was a worthwhile stop. Also good to explore a new area. A quick diversion over SPTA East was made on the way home but nothing much was seen. Just a couple of Kestrels and a Buzzard. So another great day of birding. That makes two in two weeks.
Decided on a bit of local birding today. After taking load of stuff to the tip in Marlborough Pete and I headed south. We parked by the railway crossing at Crofton and walked along the canal to Wilton Water. I’m not sure how watched it is here but it is quite rare to see sightings reported. Nothing unusual was seen but there were good counts of the common species. A hundred and thirty-five Canada Geese, over a hundred Mallard, thirty or more Gadwall, At least fifty Moorhens and nine Little Grebe were noted. Also a few Tufties and Greylag, a couple of Teal and a Grey Heron. Red Kite, Buzzard and three Swallows were seen overhead and a single Comma butterfly was basking in a sheltered sunny spot. After a stop at the excellent bakers in Great Bedwyn we headed for Savernake. We found a sunny spot and spent around forty-five minutes around the Column Pool. There were plenty of Tits flitting about with Blue, Great, Marsh, Coal and Long-tailed seen, also single Bullfinch and Nuthatch. Three butterflies were seen. Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and a White. Froxfield Pond held a single Moorhen and two Stock Doves flew over. The Wide Water at Chilton Foliat had just the usual stuff. A brief stop overlooking Aldbourne Chase gave Buzzard, Red Kite and a flock of eighty or so Redwings, the first of the autumn for us both. On the way to our final call at Draycott where the Little Owl, unsurprisingly considering the cold wind, nowhere to be seen, we saw one each of Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge giving a total of forty species for the trip.
Maybe a hundred Canada Geese
Some of the fifty Moorhens
Plan for today was a trip to the Berkeley Shore on the River Severn in Gloucestershire to hopefully see the Wryneck that has been there for a couple of days. As I have mentioned previously I have had some problems recently in motivating myself when it comes to early starts for birding. No such problem with a Wryneck as the target bird as it is one of the top birds on my want list. A supporting cast of Baird’s Sandpiper, Crane and Little Stint at nearby Slimbridge also helped. I left home at a quarter to seven and made it to Seven House Farm in just over an hour. Not bad going considering I took the cross-country route rather than using the motorways. I was pleased to see a car already here and another birder arrived as I was turning the car around. He was stopping off on his way to work and headed off in front of me. I could see a lone figure standing on the path about a half-mile ahead so it was looking promising. When I reached the spot I started to scan the sea (river) wall but couldn’t see anything. I then realised that I was looking beyond the bird that was actually only a few yards in front of me. So there it was, my first and long overdue Wryneck. Over the next hour or so it gave us fantastic views, at one stage it was only ten feet or so away from us as it made its way along the wall searching for insects. There were plenty to be found as it was almost continually feeding. It was incredible to see that even when close, the bird just blended into the background, its cryptic plumage camouflaging it so well. The only downside was that the light was pretty poor for pictures.
Then it was off to Slimbridge via a very nice bakery in Berkeley. First call at Slimbridge was the In Focus shop where I finally got my new binoculars. Then it was off to the Zeiss Hide to wait for (hopefully) the Sandpiper to put in an appearance. The last couple of days it has flown in when high-tide has pushed the waders from the shore. One of the WWT wardens had located the bird on the river so it was wait and see time. A search through the waders already around found at least three Little Stints and then, amazingly, the unringed Crane wandered into sight in front of the hide. Three down and one to go. A call had been made from the river that the bird was on the move, now it was just a question of locating it amongst the many Dunlin. I had walked to the hide with another birder and we were both looking at a lone Little Stint when a second bird landed next to it. Initially we thought it was another Stint but then realised that it was slightly bigger with a different pattern on the back. Surely it wasn’t going to be that easy. Then the waders all flew up, but fortunately didn’t go far and with many scopes trained on the birds the Baird’s was soon found. It gave pretty good views and most of the identifying features could be picked out. Both myself and the other birder both agreed that the bird we had initially seen, had been it. Would I have been able to id it if I had noted it as something different in a flock of Dunlin if I had been out on my own. Certainly not, but maybe next time I could. After a few minutes the waders all went up again so I, along with quite a few others decided to head off. As there were five coachloads of schoolkids in the grounds I decided to head for home. I went via Stonehouse to look for Dipper with no joy. Two Direct Rail Class 37’s heading west were a good sighting as I drove through Chalford. Then it was lunch at Cotswold Airport for an aircraft fix before a quick look in at the Water Park. Very little was seen, Green Sandpiper and Little Egret at Round House and two Grey Wagtails and another Little Egret on the Thames at Castle Eaton were the only notable birds. No matter, with two life and four year ticks for the day I was a happy boy.