Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ring-billed Bonus

I was working today and was fortunate enough to be sent to Gosport. Walpole Road Gosport to be exact which for the last few years has been the favoured winter haunt of a Ring-billed Gull.  I arrived at around eight o’clock and could see a few gulls on and around the boating lake. However birding had to wait as work came first. After I had finished my delivery I strolled over the road to the boating lake. A scan of the gulls on the lake got only Black-headed as did a check of the birds on the grass. I then noticed a couple of gulls ahead of me on the path. A quick look with the bins confirmed one was the Ring-billed. Unsurprisingly as the gull has been visiting here for more than ten years it was quite confiding although it would only tolerate me getting so close. It would probably have been different if I’d had some food with me. I spent five minutes or so there and took a couple of record shots on my phone before I had to go. A life tick was certainly the last thing I was expecting when I left home at four fifteen this morning.RBG

A Last Minute Change of Mind

My original plan for today was either Longleat area and Langford Lakes for Firecrest and YL Gull or the Forest of Dean for the Two-barred Crossbills. Both of these would have entailed an early start and having had a few early starts for work over the last few days and needing to be home by four I decided that I couldn’t face another pre-dawn alarm call. So after a chat with Pete the plan was changed to Daglingworth for the Great Grey Shrike ad then onto Shorncote in the Water Park. Having picked Pete up en-route we soon arrived at the Old Quarry. There were some other birders here and a quick chat with Gary Chalker from Swindon gave the news that the Shrike had not yet put in an appearance. We were just getting back in the car to move a little further along the road when the other two birders called the Shrike. After a quick look from here we moved along and watched the bird for a few minutes as it moved around the quarry. Time to move on so we left Gary busily taking photos and headed off. Approaching the Park Farm junction a last-minute decision saw us turning right instead of left for the Water Park and heading for the Forest of Dean. In less than an hour, with no maps and only a vague idea of where to go we arrived at Woorgreen. A quick look at the lake gave us several Coots and a male Goosander. Then it was off along a muddy track in the general direction of the Crabtree Hill. Thanks to the excellent navigational skills of my companion we were soon in the right area along with several other birders. After chatting to some of them we found that neither the Two-barred Crossbills or the Great Grey Shrike had been seen today. We headed off for a circuit of the area, initially seeing very little. The Crossbills apparently favoured Western Hemlock trees which I am ashamed to say I had never heard of despite them being one of our commonest conifers. IMG_2798 (1024x768)Wrens were heard in the undergrowth and several Jays were noisily flying around, a Buzzard soared and three Ravens passed overhead. Another birder had seen a flock of Common Crossbills but we didn’t. Dropping down from the hill there were a few more birds around with Siskin, Goldcrest and various tits seen. Also a couple of larger finches briefly appeared above us. Initial thought was Grenfinch  but after they had gone Pete wondered that they may have been Hawfinches. Maybe the miss of the day! We then headed back off up the hill with the only sighting of interest being a Toad that crossed the path ahead of us.  IMG_2797 (1024x742) After just over three hours of wandering we arrived back at the car with the final sighting being three Bullfinches and another small flock of Siskins. It was now time to head off home having had an enjoyable but disappointing visit. We stopped off briefly near Cricklade to check the fields by the Thames for the Bewick Swans. We could see twenty-three Mute and two Egyptian Geese but some other swans that were behind some trees remained unidentified.

Look out for the Flocks

On a drive back from Salisbury today many flocks of birds were to be seen. Fields around Boscombe Down and Amesbury were liberally sprinkled with Lapwing, Golden Plover and Starlings. I would guess in total numbering at least two thousand birds. The pig farm at Old Sarum had many of the same plus plenty of Gulls. Also on the water here were a few Mallard and Teal. A flock of around three hundred Golden Plover were wheeling over the fields near to Bulford and the roadside  bushes were being plundered by numerous groups of Fieldfare and Redwing. On a late afternoon dog walk just on the edge of Chiseldon, another two hundred plus flock of Golden Plover passed over and best of all fifty or so Greenfinches were gathered in the trees at the back of the houses on Marlborough Road. Certainly the largest number of these I have seen together in Wiltshire for quite a while.

Kennet Valley Again

On what was a pretty grotty morning it was another trip to the tip and builders merchants in Marlborough and another visit to Froxfield and Chilton Foliat. Froxfield gave me two Green Sandpipers, both initially asleep on a floating island of weed. After a few minutes they both woke and flew off calling noisily. Also seen was a single Teal, three each of Moorhen and Mute Swan and a Heron. Onto Chilton Foliat. Along the footpath I flushed a Snipe and a Goldcrest was heard in the trees  Approaching the footbridge I disturbed a Little Egret and a Green Sandpiper. On the water were half-a-dozen each of Mallard and Gadwall and three Mute Swans. A Water Rail was squealing away and after a bit of searching I managed a reasonable view of it on the bank, also found tucked away here was a Little Grebe. Two Green Sandpipers then flew along the river and a Grey Wagtail landed on the bank. A fairly large flock of Fieldfare and Redwing flew over and a Mistle Thrush was seen in an adjoining field.

Nothing of great interest on the Widewater, just Mallard and Gadwall and a single Tufted Duck. Unusually no Little Grebes here. Just beyond Aldbourne on the drive home, was a large flock of Rooks and Jackdaw. I didn’t attempt a count but there were several hundred.

Another London Day

I was in London again today to accompany my Mum on another appointment at St Thomas Hospital. It was a wet and miserable morning, not good for much at all. Cormorants, Black-headed Gulls and Pigeons were the only birds seen as we crossed Westminster Bridge. It was almost one o’clock  when we came out of the hospital and as the weather had improved we decided to stop off at Kew Gardens for a couple of hours on the way back to Mum’s house. Arriving there after a look around a fabulous organic shop next to Kew Gardens Station. By now the cloud had cleared and we walked around the gardens in lovely sunshine. There were loads of birds around. Parakeets as usual along with three Green Woodpeckers, a Mistle Thrush, five Linnets and plenty of the common stuff. On the grass around the lake there were a lot of Canada Geese, Mallards, Coots and a couple of Peacocks. On the water, Tufties, Red Crested Pochard and a single Shoveler. There was still a lot of autumn colour to be seen and along with a look in at the Palm House and the shop it all added up to an enjoyable afternoon’s visit.          All the pictures are from Kew and were taken on my phone

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Another Lovely Day

I needed to go to Marlborough today so got up at seven and after scraping the car headed off for an hour or so in Savernake. I chose the Savernake Lodge area as it is fairly open and I thought it would be quite pleasant in the early morning sunshine. Almost straight away I found a mixed flock of tits, finches and crests. Mainly Coal Tits and only Goldcrest unfortunately. A couple of Jays were heard but not seen and I eventually managed to find a calling Nuthatch. There were plenty of Wrens calling but only one was seen. I’m not sure who was most startled when I almost trod on a Woodcock, it certainly made me jump as it shot away from me. An incredible amount of Sweet Chestnuts on the ground in some areas. In one spot they were laying like a carpet. I then moved on to Froxfield where I saw two Teal, four Green Sandpipers, A Little Egret, several Fieldfare and Lapwing and what was probably the palest Buzzard I have ever seen. It was mainly grey above and didn’t appear to have much brown colouring at all. Then it was a few stops in Marlborough and back home to carry on putting up a new fence in the garden. By late lunchtime it was pleasantly warm and the large Ivy was swarming with various flies and Hoverflies. Also two Red Admirals and a single large Bee. The local House Sparrows were constantly up and down to the pond and a few Goldfinches were moving around. Highlight was a Great-spotted Woodpecker atop a tree in the next road. A rare sighting at my end of the village.

An NHS Day

With appointments at the doctors, dentists and GW hospital for an x-ray there was not much time for anything else today. I managed an hours walk along the railway path with the dog this morning and an hour walking from Folly Farm to the Ridgeway and back this afternoon. Good numbers of birds along the Railway Path with many Blackbirds being the most noticeable species. A minimum of fourteen were counted but I would say that there were probably nearer twenty seen. Three Song Thrushes and four Finch species were also amongst the twenty species seen. On the Liddington  area walk, two each of Buzzard and Red Kite, a Kestrel, probable Hen Harrier ( it was quite distant, flying low away from me and the light was poor), six Lapwing and at least sixty Fieldfares made it worthwhile.

Morning Walk

Just back from a walk with the dog from home up to Folly Farm and back. A lovely morning, surprisingly warm. There were a few Skylarks flying over and a Corn Bunting was singing. As I walked up Folly Lane six Lapwings flew up from a recently ploughed field.  A Buzzard was on the ground looking for worms and a couple of Pied Wagtails flew in. Not much at the top, a couple of Chaffinches and some Black-headed Gulls. Heading back down the Lane there were a group of six Corn Buntings in a tree another singing further on. Just before Bush Farm there was another group of five and a Yellowhammer. Back in the village were the usual House Sparrows and Starlings.                                                                                        This afternoon work took me back down to Exmouth. I managed twenty or so minutes of birding. This time the tide was right in so there were only a few waders. Turnstone, Redshank and Sanderling were noted. Some Pintail were a nice find amongst the Brent Geese and Wigeon and seven Little Egrets were feeding along the edge of the water.

Wild Swan Chase

As I was working yesterday I wasn’t able to go for the Bewick’s Swans at the Water Park so had decided to get out there early this morning. I managed to get to Eysey at not long gone eight o’clock to find the swans were not there. All there was on the pit were over two hundred Mallard and a dozen Lapwing on the adjacent flooded field. Guessing that the swans were probably feeding out in the fields i decided to have a little drive around. Round House had two Green Sandpipers and a Little Egret, Whelford Pools a Green Sandpiper and two Bullfinch, Lake 126 a calling Water Rail and the meadows at Lechlade, eight Mute Swans and around two hundred and sixty Canada Geese. So I headed home with no Bewick’s but having had a pleasant drive around. Later in the morning, almost inevitably I received a text from Pete saying that the swans were now at Eysey. At the time I was preparing a Boeuf Bourguignon so I put it in the oven three-quarters ready, got my bike gear on and headed out again. Just over twenty minutes from receiving the text I was back at Eysey and watching the five Bewicks, four adults and a juvenile. A UK and Wilts year tick. Also seen were a Peregrine and a Little Egret. Later on a Whooper Swan was found at Lake 132, good to have three  (four if the Black Swan is still around) Swan species in the park at the same time.Four of the five Bewick's swans

Four of the five Bewick’s Swans

A Local Morning

With only a couple of hours spare this morning I went to Nightingale Wood for a walk. It was pretty quiet to start with then a flock of five Bullfinch flew over. A Heron flew up from Brook Meadow as I approached and a Snipe was flushed from the path along the Brook. There were a few small birds in the trees along the River Cole including a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was preening at the top of the largest tree. A few more birds around the pond / scrape area including a small flock of Redwing. Also here were some more Bullfinches, a group of four and a few singles. I probably saw a dozen or more different birds which was nice. Heading back across the field I found a flock of around fifteen Collared Doves and some more Redwing. Six Roe Deer shot out in front of me and a single Muntjac was also seen. Then it was back to the car and off to do some shopping. On the way home later on I had a quick look in at the Broome Manor end of Coate. A few birds on the water including around fifteen Wigeon. Final stop was Wroughton Reservoir which was quiet with only five Little Grebes and three Moorhens on the water. Unusually there were no Mallards or Coots to be seen.

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