I had an appointment in Devizes today for my knee and had planned to fit some birding in on the way. However the weather put paid to that idea. Two Greenfinches were on the garden feeders this afternoon and I thought that would be it for birds today. Late afternoon saw me driving to Marlborough to take my daughter to work. As I left Marlborough on the way home the skies cleared and the sun came out so I decided to use the back road through Draycott for the journey. Ten Mute Swans were counted on the flooded fields near to Ogbourne St Andrew. The flood water at Draycott was devoid of birds, possibly a bit late in the day for gulls. The Little Owls were nowhere to be seen but there was a congregation of nine Magpies in one of the fields. So nothing of great note but nice all the same.
My third Barn Owl of the year was seen tonight along the Fosse Way near Northleach. Also today the first Rape in flower and the first Daffodils as well.
This morning I headed off for a walk on Lammy Downs which is just south of the Ridgeway near Bishopstone. Getting out of the car I was greeted by the sound of singing Skylarks. Despite being heard throughout the walk but I didn’t manage to see one. A Robin was perched on the fence and Linnets< Chaffinches and Goldfinch were seen. Heading up the track onto the Downs a Kestrel flew across and a Buzzard was circling overhead. Corn Bunting was heard and then seen and then the hoped for Stonechat was found. It was a smart male moving along the fenceline ahead of me. It would perch on a post then fly down onto the grass before returning to the fence. Eventually it flew back round behind me where I managed a quick picture. After a mile or so I turned back down towards the Ridgeway and was trying for another picture of the Stonechat and a couple of Corn Buntings when a group of walkers from the Highworth and Swindon Walking Group appeared and sent all the birds off across the field. Also seen along here were several Yellowhammers. I crossed back over the Ridgeway and walked down the Combe towards Bishopstone. Here I found a female Stonechat, another Kestrel, two flocks of a hundred or more Linnets and fifty or so Chaffinches. Then it was back to the car and on the way home a check of the pig farm which added Pied Wagtail and Starling to the list. Then a quick drive into Oxfordshire to see if the Idstone Little Owl was out, it wasn’t. The village pond in Bishopstone held a single Moorhen and a Red-legged Partridge was on the verge at the base of Liddington Hill.
Driving home from Hungerford in the early hours I saw my second Barn Owl of the year just outside of Whittonditch . First time I have seen one around there. I then drove through Aldbourne and hadn’t realised how much water is around there. The main road was sandbagged and water was running off of the fields all along the road out towards Swindon.
Today I headed for Savernake with Pete. Crossbill and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker being top of the wish-list. We started off at Draycott where the flooded field held just three gulls. As we pulled away a flock of around fifty Lapwing flew in. At Savernake we parked at the Eight Walks. Along the first track we walked the main bird activity was Great and Blue Tits with a few Chaffinches and Robins around and several Buzzards overhead. Nuthatches were quite vocal but none were seen. After an hour or so we headed back to the car to collect our lunch before walking along to Thornhill. Plenty more Blue and Great Tits seen and Nuthatches heard. I thought I had found a female Brambling but it turned out to be a Chaffinch. A couple of Mistle Thrushes flew up from a field into the trees and I got a brief glimpse of a Bullfinch. The pond at Thornhill had been cleaned out but there were no birds around it. It didn’t improve during our lunch stop with just a couple of Wrens chattering away. Moving on a couple of Jays were heard and Marsh Tit and Song Thrush seen. We finally managed to see a Nuthatch but not very well. Giving up on the forest we moved onto Froxfield. Nine Little Egrets and single Pied and Grey Wagtails on the flooded field and Redwing, Fieldfare and Starlings on the top fields. Around Ramsbury Manor Greylag and Canada Geese, Mute and Black Swan and several Gadwall were on the flooded fields by the river. The lake in front of the house had more swans, Gadwall and some Mallard whilst on the lawns were Swans and Guinea Fowl. The drive home added Red Kite, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Partridge and Red-legged Partridge to the daylist and we had a good view of a male Bullfinch in a hedgerow by the roadside. Stopping again at Draycott and this time there were a lot more birds. Over two hundred Lapwing, fifteen Golden Plover and the total of four species of gull was over a hundred. We ended the trip with forty species, a little disappointing considering I managed fifty on a similar route a couple of weeks ago.
My daughter’s birthday present to my wife was Tea at the Ritz and my mum was invited as well. I wasn’t going as it was meant as a girlie trip out. So as they all headed off on the Tube to London I was on my way to Bushey Park with the dog. On the way I stopped to buy Saveloy and Chips which was eaten in the Bushey Park car park to the sound of Ring-necked Parakeets. Who needs the Ritz!
Having eaten I headed off into the park on the trail of the Lesser Spot. The Canal Plantation here is a good place for them but today they weren’t showing. Green and Great Spotted were seen along with plenty of Tits and Finches. On the western side there were a couple of Egyptian Geese and a good number of Fallow and Red Deer. These were given a wide berth, they aren’t keen on dogs.
Walking out across the park I flushed a few Skylarks and there were a lot of Black-headed
Gulls on the wetter patches. At the Woodland Gardens were plenty more Parakeets, mostly in pairs. Not my favourite birds but I have to admit they are very photogenic. I even decided to put one up as my feature picture for a few
days. Passing through another area of rough grass I put up seven or eight Green
Woodpeckers (in all I saw fifteen) and three Jays. A couple of Buzzards were thermalling overhead. Quite a common sight over London now. I arrived back at the Canal Plantation for another scan, but again with no sign. Final act was to find some clean water to chuck the dog in as he was covered in mud. This task accomplished, it was off to the car and back to my mums house.
The sun put in a good appearance and with planes and helicopters to watch as well as the birds and deer it was a good afternoon out. At my mums I indulged in a bit of plane spotting to pass time before the ladies returned.
After sampling the very nice birthday cake from the Ritz it was load the car for the drive home. Unfortunately due to lorry fires and accidents this took just over two and a half hours, about double the usual time. Not so much fun.
With my wife and daughter due home this evening, after a few days at Euro Disney and it being the wife’s birthday tomorrow, I had quite a few things to do today . As always I managed to find some time for birds as well. First off was a trip to Marlborough for cake and cards. Routing via the back road to Ogbourne I was pleased to get my first Little Owl sighting of the year with two birds sat in their usual tree. I was getting a bit worried that they may have gone as I have visited the site at least six times recently without seeing them. Next was a stop at one of the flooded fields. Two hundred and forty-eight Lapwing, fifteen Golden Plover and four species of gull made it a worthwhile stop. On the way home a diversion through Ogbourne St Andrew was to check out the River Og. As with many of the rivers it was running fast and there were no birds to be seen.
Plaque on bridge at Og St A.
Only one Swan in the fields beyond here, at the weekend there were ten. The flood water at Chiseldon held a few gulls and nothing else.
I then needed to go into Swindon and a look at Wroughton Reservoir on the way got nine Little Grebes along with Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Then came dog walking time with Barbury Castle the chosen place. With Stonechats seen earlier in the week I was hoping for the second year-tick of the day. Unfortunately there was no sign of them to the west of the castle which is the area they were previously seen. Rather than walk here I decided to go to Smeathes Ridge which is part of the Ridgeway east of the castle. Conditions were great with hardly any wind, sunshine and good visibility. A few birds around with Yellowhammer, Meadow Pipit, Corn Bunting, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Collared Dove, Buzzard and Raven all recorded. Also seen were some impressive cloud formations.
Back home and the first Moth I have had in the house for a while was flying around in the kitchen.
As the dog was going to get wet and muddy wherever I took him for afternoon walk I decided I might as well get some birding in at the same time. So I decided on a walk around the main lake at Coate Water. When I arrived it wasn’t actually raining but it wasn’t long before it started again, along with the wind this made checking the Lake fairly challenging. Along with good numbers of Tufted Duck were a handful of Pochard, a dozen or so Gadwall, twenty plus Great Crested Grebe and twenty-six Swans. There were two groups of Goosander, ten by the Causeway and another dozen down by the Dam. Only six of them were males. A couple of visiting birders ( they had stopped in while passing to look for the Great White Egret) saw a flock of thirty to forty Siskins by the first hide. Birds seen in the trees were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Robin, Great and Blue Tit and lots of Blackbirds. To clean the mud off of the dog before letting him back in the car I wandered onto the golf course where I chucked him in the pond. Despite the fact the rain was hammering down there was a flock of over two hundred Redwings feeding on the Fairways. Also a Mistle Thrush was sat up in one of the trees here.
After a bit of shopping in Marlborough I headed into Savernake intending to have gentle stroll around. I drove in on the track to Savernake Lodge and parked in the first pull-in. There were a good few birds flitting around and as it had just started snowing I decided to watch from the car. I opened the passenger side window which was on the lee side of the car and settled down to watch. A large number of birds were foraging in the carpet of leaves, sometimes all that could be seen was leaves being thrown up as the birds delved in. There were loads of Great and Blue Tits, a couple of Blackbirds and a Robin. Coal Tits were feeding in the trees and couple of Nuthatches were calling with one being seen. Adding to the activity a flock of Finches appeared and joined in on the ground. Mainly Chaffinches but at least three Bramblings were amongst them. Eventually the flock moved on as did I as far as the Amity Oak where a Wren was noisily moving around and three Buzzards flew through the trees. As I was driving out and just before rejoining the A4 I saw another large flock of birds feeding on the ground. Another lot of finches, this time with a greater number of Bramblings. Two lots within a few minutes was great. Then it was along the A4 to Froxfield. The main lake was empty apart from a couple of decoy ducks but the flooded field next to it came up trumps with twelve Little Egrets, two Heron, two Green Sandpipers, nine Lapwing and a flock of Fieldfare. Heading back on the top road towards Ramsbury there was another large flock of Fieldfare and a little further along in a hedgerow and area of game cover were a few Redwing, some Chaffinches and a couple more Redwing. Two Red Kites were displaying over Ramsbury and on the swollen River Kennet the only birds seen were a pair of Mallard and some Mute Swans. Along near Ramsbury Manor were Canada Geese and two Black Swans. Along the road up to the Ramsbury Brewery and along Aldbourne Chase which I have dubbed Raptor Alley there were three each of Red Kite and Buzzard, two Sparrowhawks and a Kestrel. Along with loads of Snowdrops along the verge were plenty of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges along with a couple of Hares. Final stop was a flooded field near Draycot which held four species of Gulls and a pair of Mallards. So again another good collection of birds without going more than a few feet from the car. Later on I needed to go to Wroughton and made a brief stop at Wroughton Reservoir. An initial count found nineteen Tufted Ducks, three Gadwall and four Little Grebes. All of a sudden another lot of Grebes just popped up from under the water giving a final tally of thirteen.
Finally and for no reason other than it looked nice in the sunshine, some pictures of Liddington Hill taken from the house.
I wasn’t happy with my probable sighting of the Red-breasted Merganser on Sunday and as it was seen yesterday decided on another trip out to the Water Park. Straight to Lake 30 where I was pleased to see five Smew, two of which were males. There were quite active, displaying and chasing each other around. I carried on checking other birds and eventually found the Merganser, fast asleep in amongst some Tufted Duck. Eventually it woke up allowing me a decent view. Less than a minute later it was back to sleep and that was how it stayed. I was disappointed that there weren’t any Goosanders on the lake as it would have been nice to see three species of Sawbill together. I moved into Gloucestershire to Lake 44 where there were six Goosanders and very little else. Back in Wiltshire I stopped for a quick scan of Lake 32 which is part of Keynes Country Park. Mainly Coot here but a nice bonus was a Mediterranean Gull which flew in and landed on the water. Then it was over to Twitchers where there were the usual large number of Wigeon. Just a handful of Teal found, all asleep on the bank and none looking anything like a Green-winged. Six Pintail, two Goldeneye and a few Lapwing were the other notables. In a field just along the road was a flock of fifty-four Greylag Geese.