Monthly Archives: December 2013

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to all of you who follow my coming and goings on here. Thanks to you all for taking the time to follow me. Let us see if I can keep it going for another twelve months.


So another year over and for me it has been a bit of a strange one. Certainly this time a year ago I had no idea that I would be leaving Honda and returning to my driving roots. I certainly haven’t had the amount of “me” time I was expecting. From a birding point of view it has been a fairly good year. Well down on overall totals compared to 2012 but no complaints with eight life / UK ticks and I think two new birds for Wiltshire. I missed a few of the commoner birds as I didn’t manage to get to the right place at the right time. Bird of the year had to be the Roller closely followed by Wryneck. Most frustrating sighting of the year was what could well have been a Greenish Warbler near to Folly Farm and the biggest miss was the Spoonbill at the Water Park that went five minutes before I arrived. Away from the more unusual birds there were the regular Ring Ouzel hunts and a couple of evenings in Savernake on the trail of Nightjar. The one thing I haven’t done so much of was my after dark Owl drives. Not conducive with starting work before five in the morning.

On the Road Again

On what was a lovely day for the WOS walk on Salisbury Plain I was off on a visit to see my uncle in Burgess Hill. I had hoped to go early to try for the Parrot Crossbills in Ashdown Forest but due to having to meet up with an old colleague from Honda en-route it was not to be. I did manage a half hour stop at Staines Reservoir, arriving just before sunrise. This was a worthwhile visit, a drake Smew was the best bird seen with distant fleeting views of a constantly diving male Scaup in runner-up position. Also here were several Goldeneye, Shovelers and Great Crested Grebes amongst the rafts of Tufted Ducks. I was told there were three Black-necked Grebes around but I didn’t have time to look for them.IMG_2901 (1024x768)

The Same but Different

After doing a bit of shopping in Marlborough this morning I followed the same birding route as yesterday. Where I saw the finch flock yesterday was very quiet with just a few Blue tits and a single Chaffinch seen. A walk along the track towards Savernake Lodge was more rewarding with three Nuthatch, several Coal Tits and Goldcrests amongst the commoner birds. One particular conifer has a lot of movement and some strange noises emanating from it. Initially I thought it was a couple of Jays but it turned out to be four Squirrels that seemed to be fighting. I don’t recall hearing Squirrels vocalising before.

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I then headed off to Froxfield again. As I approached on the A4 I could see the Decoy Ducks were still out, also some Little Egrets were bright in the sunshine. There were five in total, the most I have seen here. Also noted were, two possibly four Green Sandpipers, Little Grebe, eleven Moorhens, two Mute Swans, A Reed Bunting, two Yellowhammers and a Red Kite. As expected there was no sighting of the Bittern.

Back home I took the dog for a walk up to Folly Farm. Sightings included, a few Corn Buntings, Yellowhammer, Red Kite and two Buzzards.

Treetops and Reedbeds

With the car filled with another load of rubbish I once again headed to the recycling centre at Marlborough. As the weather had calmed down I then went off for a bit of birding. The eastern end of Savernake was my first call and there were quite a few small birds flitting around. From the car, Blue and Great Tit, Robin and Chaffinch were seen and a Nuthatch was heard. As I got out of the car a Buzzard flew from a nearby tree, weaving its way through the branches and out of sight. There was a fair-sized flock of Chaffinches around and checking through them I found a female Brambling. Definately a Wilts year tick and maybe a UK one as well. Further searching found a smart male perched in the sunlight at the top of a tree. Moving on to Froxfield I parked on the verge to check out the lake. There were some unusual looking ducks here, five plastic decoys, a bit of holiday time duck shooting going on. On the real bird side there were just a few Moorhens, a couple of Swans and a Little Grebe to be seen on the water. Fieldfares were passing through as were a few Wood Pigeons. I decided to stay a few minutes and have my coffee. Noticing a couple of small birds flying in and out of the reeds I started to scan them. A small movement caught my eye and after watching for a couple of minutes I was amazed to see a Bittern moving slowly through the reeds. I only managed a couple of brief glimpses but enough to confirm the sighting. I watched for another few minutes but didn’t see it again. Certainly an unexpected bird. As I was running out of time the final stop was a brief look at the widewater at Chilton Foliat. Kingfisher, Little Egret and a few Gadwall were the only birds of note here before I headed off home.

Lakes and then the Hill

With a couple of hours to spare this morning I decided to drive down to the Water Park to check out Lake 30 for the Smew. As mentioned on the CWP Blog the parking pull-in has had some large rocks placed in it to stop parking. I notice that a few others have had the same treatment. Why? It seems quite petty to me. What harm was being done by cars parking here? Anyway on arriving at the lake a quick scan found three redhead Smew on the other side of the water. Plenty of Tufties, Coot and Great-crested Grebes as well. As I didn’t have a great deal of time, instead of doing the longer circular walk I just walked around the lake as I often do. Unbeknown to me the Smew had tucked themselves in under the bank and all flew to the other end of the lake as I approached. A quick look at Lake 29 added a male Goosander to the list. Green Woodpecker was heard a couple of times but not seen. A quick look-in at Lower Mill gave a count of thirty-four Red-Crested Pochard. Then it was back home with a quick look over the fields to the north of Cricklade when I diverted off the main road to get some milk. Just Mute Swans, Canada Geese and gulls on the mainly flooded fields. This afternoon I took the dog up to Liddington Hill. It was a lovely afternoon in the sunshine although a little windy at the top. Not much seen with a Raven being the best bird.  Small flocks of Fieldfare and Starlings flew over and there were a few Yellowhammers and Chaffinches in the bushes and the game cover along the edge of the fields. Checking out the CWP Blog when I got home I was rather embarrassed to see the note requesting people not to walk around Lake 30 so as not to disturb the Smew. I just hadn’t thought about that this morning.

Birds in the Wind and Rain

A cross-country drive home from Wootton Bassett this morning in the wind and rain still gave opportunities for seeing birds. In the very wet fields corvids and gulls were feeding apparently unaffected by the conditions. Pigeons were still flying around and a couple of Blackbirds flew across the road. On the pond at Uffcott the Mallards and Canada Geese were sheltering along the bank but there were plenty of Moorhens in the adjoining field. At a farm near to Barbury Castle I watched a flock of at least ninety Chaffinch and a single Goldfinch feeding on spilt grain. They appeared unconcerned by the conditions, the feast more important to them.  I watched them for a few minutes in the hope that a Brambling would appear but no such luck. A place to watch again though.           At Hodson the regular one hundred plus flock of Lapwing were wheeling over the fields, as I passed they were starting to settle on a newly ploughed field becoming almost impossible to see. Arriving home the resident flock of House Sparrows were heard but not seen as they sheltered deep inside some conifers.

Highway Birding

As with many of you I spend a fair bit of time travelling on the highways and byways of this fair land. From a birding point of view a good variety of species can be seen. Kestrels, although not as common as they used to be are still regular and Buzzards now seem to be everywhere. If you head east along the M4 and along the M40 corridor in Oxfordshire the numbers of Red Kites seen is amazing. The other day I saw more than a dozen within a mile. Corvids live well on roadkill Gulls, Lapwing, Golden Plover and winter thrushes are seen in the roadside fields as are Herons and Little Egrets. Jays and Woodpeckers fly across the carriageways as do suicidal Pheasants and Wood Pigeons. Where there are lakes Wildfowl can be added to the list. Less usual sightings have been a Kingfisher that flew low across the M5 where the King Sedgemoor Drain goes under the road, Egyptian Geese by the M4 at Maidenhead and in Scotland a stop in one particular layby on the A74 usually got a Dipper. However on Sunday I had what was probably my strangest sighting ever, a Muscovy Duck making its way, on foot along the verge of the A38 in Devon. It was in the middle of nowhere, no farm or any water to be seen. Where had it come from and where was it headed I shall never know.

The hill was alive with the sound of….

…. well all sorts actually. There were a couple of military jets, an Alpha Jet and a Hawk presumably heading for Boscombe Down, two Puma helicopters following the M4 to the west, big guns were being fired on Salisbury Plain and the sound of these was rolling over. On the bird front a flock of around thirty Fieldfare was moving noisily along the hedgerow as I walked towards the copse from the end of Folly Lane and I heard the first of several singing Corn Buntings. In all I heard seven birds singing and several more were seen perched prominently atop bushes. Quite a few other species were moving along with the Fieldfare including Blackbird, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Goldfinch,Meadow Pipit and at least two Reed Buntings. There were also a few each of Wren and Robin seen along with a single Dunnock. Raptors were represented by one each of Buzzard and Kestrel. Fifty or so Black-headed Gulls were moving around in the distance and Wood Pigeons were feeding amongst the sheep. Later on in the day I was driving down Blunsdon Hill and noted a couple of Little Grebe in the small pool that sits at the bottom next to the A419. I have previously seen only Moorhen and Coot here.

Damp and Dull Coate Water

Having a bit of time left after Christmas shopping I headed over to Coate Water this afternoon. My first visit for over a month. I decided on a quick look at the flood water and some time in the second hide. The flood water had a hundred or so Teal and a single Moorhen and in one of the adjoining fields I flushed half-a-dozen Snipe and a Jack Snipe. From the hide, the Great White Egret was on the island and there was a good selection of wildfowl. A pair of Red-crested Pochard being the best. Also seen were a Shelduck, seven Goosander, several Shoveler, a couple of Pochard and the usual Tufties. The Egret flew across the lake to stalk the margins but was soon being hassled by a couple of Herons. It then flew off out of sight returning a few minutes later.  Other stuff seen included Jay, Redwing and Great-spotted Woodpecker.

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