My original plan today was to head out to the Rissingtons in Gloucestershire where one and sometimes two Great Grey Shrikes and a Hen Harrier have been regularly seen. However I was put off by the weather. If the visibility was as poor there as it has been in Chiseldon then it could well have been a waste of time. Especially as at around the two hundred metre mark the area is of a similar level to home. So instead I headed for the below a hundred metres Water Park. I started at Eysey where the usual large flock of Mallard was noted. Also here were Little Egret, Heron, Shelduck, Pochard and Tufted Duck. Then it was along to Marston Meysey for a look at the two Ruddy Shelduck which were sharing the
floods with a few Swans and Mallards. Also Great Spotted Woodpecker flew overhead. On to Castle Eaton where the fields along the Thames were host to hundreds of Black-headed Gulls. Then to Twitchers where I met a couple of birders from Corsham who were out on a Grand Wiltshire Tour. Highlight here was a flock of at least eight Bullfinches that were sat in a single Tree. Otherwise it was the usual fare with several hundred Wigeon still in residence. Today there were also a lot more Shoveler than on Tuesday, but only a handful of Teal. I drove round past Waterhay which was almost devoid of birds, two Greylags, a few Coot and a Moorhen was all that was seen. Final call was again the floods around Cricklade, where in the area that the Bewicks were in, was a very large flock of gulls. I spent a few minutes scanning them and managed to pick out a single Great Black-backed amongst the hundreds of Lesser and Herrings. Later on when I was back home I saw a Tweet reporting the Shrike and Hen Harrier had both been seen at Rissington. Maybe a drive out on Saturday afternoon if the weather is kind. Unless of course the Shrike that was seen near Warminster today hangs around.
I needed to go to Marlborough today so decided to make it part of a “beef up my Wilts year list” drive around. So with no real itinerary other than going into Marlborough I started off on the back road from Chiseldon to Ogbourne. On a flooded field at Draycot there were four species of Gulls, Pied Wagtail, Starling and Fieldfare along with three species of corvids. Next stop was Ogbourne St Andrew where I found a mixed flock of Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Linnet along with a Great-spotted Woodpecker. Also here, as usual was a flock of Feral
Pigeons. Also seen here were the first of many Buzzards. After Marlborough I headed into Savernake where I parked by the Column. Loads of Coal and Blue Tits around and Marsh Tit was heard but not seen. A pair of Bullfinches flew in and a flock of Chaffinches passed through. Interesting to see that the pond here has been cleared and the surrounding vegetation cut back. Four or five Jays were appeared and also a Goldcrest. Heading out along the Grand Avenue I had a golden moment when I found, at the southern end a mixed flock of Chaffinch and Brambling. These had been reported here last week so is a worthwhile area to check out. While I was watching them I also had another Woodpecker, two Nuthatch and a Treecreeper.
I had intended going to St Katherine’s next but gave it a miss and headed straight to Froxfield. Just a couple of Moorhen and three decoy ducks on the pond / lake. Not sure which it is really. However a little way along the stream were eight Little Egrets, a Heron, three Lapwing and half-a dozen Swans.
Unfortunately no Green Sandpipers which was a surprise as they have been regular here over the last couple of months. Then it was onto Chilton Foliat. First call was the footbridge over the Kennet where the water isn’t that far below the walkway. With the River running high and fast there were only a handful of birds on the water, two each of Coot and Mallard and a single Little Grebe. On a gravel bank downstream were a few Gadwall. Alarm calls from the small birds heralded the arrival of a Sparrowhawk that shot through the trees in hot pursuit of a small bird. They disappeared over the fence of a nearby house so not sure who won.
A couple more Nuthatches were also seen here along with the first Red Kite of the day. Moving on to the Wide Water by the road bridge and I was amazed to see absolutely no birds at all on the water. I have been stopping off here for years and this is the first time that I have seen it like this. After a couple of minutes watching I did see a Little Grebe moving along the edge of the reeds but that was it. A little further upstream, in another flooded field near Ramsbury Manor was a flock of Canada Geese along with a couple of Greylags. Heading back across Aldbourne Chase a Red-legged Partridge was the fiftieth and as it turned out the final species of the day. The Draycot Little Owl tree was checked out to no avail and along the Hodson Road I found about fifty Lapwings but no Golden Plover. So a very enjoyable drive around ended with three-year ticks and nine for Wilts.
Back out in the car today for the first time since my operation. I can’t remember the last time I went two weeks without driving. Anyway all went well on a trip out to the Water Park. A field along Wickwater Lane had good numbers of Starling and Fieldfare. Chris Walker was already at Twitchers and had not seen the Green-winged Teal. Together we spent the best part of an hour scanning for it to no avail. It seemed that most of the Teal were staying in amongst the reeds. A mass of Wigeon again with what must have been over a thousand birds. Only a couple of Goldeneye and single Pintail and Shoveler were found. Also here were a few Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Lapwing and Cormorant. Chris had moved on and I was getting cold and it had started to rain so I got back in the car and headed over to Marston Meysey to look for the two Ruddy Shelduck that have been on a flooded field in the area. They were still there along with a fair few Black-headed Gulls and three Mistle Thrush. Despite them flying around a couple of times they remained just a few yards inside Gloucestershire denying me another Wilts tick. No sign of the ordinary Shelduck that have been here. A quick stop was made at Eysey and another to check the flooded fields around Cricklade but nothing of interest was found. Back around Chiseldon and there was no sign of the mixed Plover flock. In the garden there was a bit more activity than of late with eight species seen including the first garden Long-tailed Tits of the year.
Garden House Sparrows
Maybe it was the weather or maybe it is just that my garden is rubbish for birds but in the allowed hour I managed a total of two each of Great Tit, Blue Tit and Wood Pigeon and a single Wren. And it was not because I was also watching England throw away another ODI to the Aussies. As is always the way about ten minutes after I had finished the count a dozen House Sparrows and eight Great and Blue Tits appeared on the feeders.
Today we decided on a drive down to Mudeford. Fortuitously I had noticed that there was a Green-winged Teal on the Avon floods at Sopley. This just happened to be directly on our route. The floods could be viewed from the parking area
for the local cemetery and on our arrival there I was pleased to see that there were a couple of birders scanning the floods. The usual greeting of “is it showing” was met by the oft heard reply “not at the moment but it was a few minutes ago”. I got my scope from the car and suggested my wife and daughter played cards for a while. The amount of birds on the floods was quite impressive with constant movement from large numbers of Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwits, GreylagGeese, Canada Geese and ducks including Teal. Luckily the Teal were fairly active although there were plenty of places for them to disappear from view. After a few minutes of searching one of the others found a good candidate. Unfortunately asleep and behind a tangle of bushes. After a few minutes of moving around trying to get a better view the bird kindly woke up and moved into view. The light was excellent and we had a couple of minutes to admire the bird before it was lost from view amongst the vegetation. So on to Mudeford and we were pleased to be able to park for free, always a bonus. First stop was the beachside Avon Cafe (now renamed the Noisy Lobster) for lunch. Leek and Potato Soup, Belly Pork Sandwich and Chips went down nicely especially as it was accompanied by the sighting of a flock of Common Scoter. Birding while you eat is always good. We then walked along to the Quay adding Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Oystercatcher and three species of Gull to the daylist. As usual there were plenty of Starlings on and around the crab pots on the Quay. After giving the dog a few minutes in the sea and admiring a dead fish on the
car park wall we headed back to the car, another scan of the sea got a couple of distant divers and a small flock of Brent Geese. On a final look from the top of Friars Cliff I noted three more flocks of what I assumed were more Brent Geese. Instead of looking at them properly I decided to try a couple of photos. Back home when I checked the photos I realised that I should have looked more closely at the birds as I could see both Pintail and Wigeon.
We had intended driving home via Keyhaven but changed our minds and decided to go back on the normal route with a coffee stop on Salisbury Plain for a bit of Owl watching. We did make a brief stop at Kingfisher Lake Blashford were a Ferruginous Duck was residing. However a chat with the birders already there made me think it was unlikely that it would be found quickly so we moved on. As we drove through Salisbury the clouds were building up and a few drops of rain on the windscreen did not bode well for the Plain. A couple of hundred Lapwings were seen as we drove past the Old Sarum. By the time we got to Woodhenge the rain was hammering down but I could see a bright patch far to the west so we turned of at Netheravon and headed onto the Plain. By the time we got to the Owling area the skies had cleared and conditions seemed good. That was until I opened the window and realised how hard the wind was blowing. Anyway we settled down with our coffee and a piece of homemade Lemon Drizzle cake. First birds seen were three Buzzards followed by a flock of Starlings and a few corvids. I then spotted a bird flying low across the plain and was pleased to see that it was a Ringtail Hen Harrier the bird missed on a visit here last week. An excellent way to finish off another great day.
Today I was honoured to be Chauffeur-driven by Pete to the Forest of Dean. Leaving home at around nine we picked John up at the Gateway Centre and headed initially, to Park Corner to have a look for the Great Grey Shrike. We stayed for around half-an-hour but it did not show. Two or three Skylarks were singing overhead and eventually one was seen.The first of may year-ticks. Then it was onto the Forest for a second attempt at the elusive Two-barred Crossbill flock. Serridge Ridge near Brierley is where most recent sightings have been. We parked the car and grabbed a quick snack before walking on. Blue Tit and Song Thrush were seen here. It was fairly quiet when we arrived at what we hoped was the correct location with just a few Chaffinches, Blue and Coal Tits seen. Marsh Tit and Brambling were soon added and a raptor was calling in the background. Suddenly a small flock of what to me sounded like Common Crossbills appeared, they flew around noisily but failed to settle. A Sparrowhawk gliding over explained why. As lunchtime was a favoured time for sightings, more birders were arriving including Lee Evans. Nice to meet a birding legend. The calling raptor was identified as a Goshawk which was then seen by a few people but unfortunately not by me. The Goshawk was quickly forgotten when some more Crossbills appeared. Pandemonium ensued when they were confirmed to be the Two-barred. It was auspicious for all present that they settled, contentedly feeding on cones near the top of a Larch in full sun. This allowed all present superb views of their glowing red plumage and prominent wingbars. In all there were fourteen birds, twelve males and two females. Despite the distance and jumble of branches around the birds I managed some (to me) half-decent record shots. Then it was time to move-on with Cannop Ponds the next stop. No sign of Mandarin here but another half-dozen species were added to the list including a somewhat out-of-place House Sparrow. Due to a road closure we couldn’t get to the Stoneworks from here so instead headed for Parkend, where a bit of time by the church failed to provide the hoped for Hawfinch. However the back-up site of the Parkend triangle came up trumps with two Hawfinch flying-in and giving good views. With the river running high and fast we dipped on Dipper at the usually reliable spot by the Fountain Inn http://www.fountaininnandlodge.co.uk/index.html. With no time for a consolation Pint we moved on to the Cannop Stoneworks, approaching from the opposite direction. There were loads of Blue Tits on the feeders here along with Coal Tit, Great, Tit, Nuthatch and a few Siskins. No Mandarins on or around the water here either, but Greylag, LBB Gull and Kingfisher were. Pied Wagtail and Raven were also seen. By now it was time to head home with brief stops made in the car park at New Fancy View and the lay by at Speech House adding Mistle Thrush. Despite a fairly small species total of thirty-three I managed one lifer and eleven year-ticks which has taken my 2014 total to an excellent hundred-and-one. Many thanks to Pete for taking me and to John for his company.
After another lie-in I spent a bit of time birding from the house. Quiet again with just Blue Tits, Great Tits and House Sparrows in the garden. In the field over the road were corvids, a few Black-headed and Herring Gulls, a worm hunting Buzzard and two Mistle Thrush. This afternoon I went for a short walk along the railway path. A quick check of the flood water found a handful of gulls and three Pied Wagtails. A typical mid-afternoon along the railway with just Blackbird, Blue Tit, Wren and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits seen. So not much in the way of birds but good to be out and about.
A combination of my knee operation, my son home for the weekend with his girlfriend and my mum down from London meant no proper birding for me this weekend. However we did venture out for a couple of short walks. On Saturday to Coate Water where due to the presence of the local rowing club there were very few birds at the Dam end. The usual Feral Pigeons and Mallards were around the diving board and a Grey Wagtail was heard as it flew over. On the main lake were singles of Coot and Heron and a female Goosander flew in. I managed to walk as far as the Causeway hearing but not seeing Goldcrest and Coal Tit in the conifers on the way. From the Causeway there were a few Tufted Duck, a couple of Gadwall and a few Cormorants. Back at the Dam the Grey Wagtail was seen picking insects along the water’s edge. Seen in the garden were the usual mix of Great and Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Wren and Wood Pigeons. Also and it has taken them a week since I put the feeders out again the House Sparrows were around. Sunday early afternoon saw us on the Ridgeway by Charlbury Hill. A short walk here was very pleasant with fantastic views across the Vale of the White Horse. Unfortunately very few birds, two each of Crow, Rook and Buzzard along with heard only Blue Tit and Blackbird was the sum total. Aerial highlight was a C17 heading home to Brize Norton.
Today Pete took pity and took me out birding. Leaving Chiseldon we started with a drive up the Lane to Folly Farm. Other than a flock of Fieldfare and Starlings it was pretty quiet. We then headed through Aldbourne Chase towards the Kennet. A small flock of small birds were unfortunately all Chaffinches. A few Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges were seen. A couple each of Red Kite and Buzzard were seen ahead and as we got closer we realised that there were more birds around. In all there were seven Kites and four Buzzards. One of the Buzzards had prey, some sort of bird. It was dropped as it flew away and three Kites soon moved onto it. Two Ravens then joined in with the circling birds. Moving on we saw another Buzzard circling which was then joined by a Sparrowhawk. The Kennet was in full flow and because of this there were no
birds on the water. Three Mistle Thrushes were in a field and a Great Spot Woodpecker was heard but not seen. We then headed off to Salisbury Plain with a great view of a Corn Bunting on the way. We sat and had our lunch and then started scanning the grass. A Short-eared Owl was found on the ground and another briefly in the air. Over the next couple of hours we saw five Owls hunting. but chose the wrong time for a drive around, missing out on a couple of Hen Harriers and a Merlin that were seen by other birders. Also around were flocks of Starlings and Linnets. A pleasant and much-needed drive out with thirty-two species seen.
Typically as I was unable to go out today it was a lovely day. So it was a bit of window birding for me. A couple of Buzzards were wandering around in the field opposite the house, occasionally flying up into a tree and also being mobbed by corvids. A scan of the rest of the field got a couple of Mistle Thushes and a Hare. A scan of Liddington Hill was fruitless but a look out from the back of the house found the Hodson flock of Lapwings in the air. I watched them for a few minutes until they settled down out of sight a field. In the garden itself I managed House Sparrow, Robin, Great and Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Jackdaw and Wood Pigeon.