With limited time available this morning i took the dog for a walk around Coate Water. The target was one hour to drive to Coate, walk around the main lake and then home again. In the end it took an hour and five, still pretty good. I had been hoping for some hirundines but none were seen. A count of forty-six Tufted Ducks was good and there were also a fair few Coot still. Other birds on the water were Gadwall, Mallard, GC Grebe, Canada Geese, Mute Swans and a single Cormorant. Two Song Thrushes and a single Starling were on the pitch and putt course. Nine Chiffchaffs were heard on the walk along with three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, one Green Woodpecker and a Marsh Tit.
Sunday morning and I met Pete at Folly Farm for a couple of hours birding around Liddington Hill. On the drive up the lane were a Buzzard and Wren, a Heron flew north over the hill and along the track to the Copse good numbers of Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings and a few Linnets. These birds were moving between the hedgerow and the adjacent ploughed field. A good scan of the field turned up a couple of Wheatears, my first of the year. The Copse was checked out but no sign of the Ring Ouzel from yesterday. Reaching the western slope of the downs we carried on south towards the Ridgeway. Passing through the next gate and up over the rise we stopped to scan the grass. Pete picked up one then two Wheatears moving in and out of some dips in the ground. I then found a female and eventually we found eight males and a female. We then headed back towards Liddington Hill. Not much was found along here. Another birder who had walked up from the road had seen three Wheatears. We then turned back towards the car checking out the hedgerows as we went. Near to the Copse we saw a bird fly into some Ivy. Either a Blackbird or an Ouzel. We split up and walked one each side of the hedge and the bird shot out low and fast. Pete thought it could well have been a female Ouzel but we couldn’t be sure. We then met up with Robin nelson who was out with his dog. After a brief chat he headed off to the hill and we later found out that he had found a male Ring Ouzel. Monday mid-morning found me back out at Folly Farm with the dog. The first of four other birders I met informed me that they had seen a few Wheatear were we had seen them yesterday. I decided to work back the other way towards the Castle. Completely different from yesterday with very few birds around. All that was seen was a few Meadow Pipits, three Yellowhammers and two flyover Fieldfare. On my way home I drove along to the base of the hill to check out the northern slopes. A few more Mipits and two each of Jackdaw and Magpie was my reward here.
No birding for me today as I was taking my daughter to a university open day at Hatfield in Hertfordshire. I was sitting in the restaurant at the uni eating a very nice Roast Turkey dinner when I received a text reporting a Ring Ouzel and three Wheatear in the Liddington Hill area. As I have been up there four times this week and seen very little I was to say the least a little bit peeved. However that is the way of birding and hopefully there will be some good birds around tomorrow morning when I head back up there. Report on the birds seen at Liddington this morning here; http://swindonbirder.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/a-change-of-plan.html
Today I managed to fit in a good bit of birding amongst all the essential duties. First off was taking the dog for a walk on Liddington Hill. Bracing would be a fair description of the conditions, it was nice and sunny but the wind was cutting. It seemed that the birds had taken the hint and were keeping out of sight. Just a few Meadow Pipits, a couple each of Buzzard, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting and single Blackbird and Chaffinch were seen. Surprisingly, considering the conditions, I saw about as many Small Tortoiseshell butterflies as I did birds. Early afternoon saw me dodging the showers at Twitchers. A worthwhile visit as I managed to catch up with the Black-tailed Godwits, ten being seen and also got my first Sand Martins of the year. When I arrived it was very overcast with rain showers. This had brought the Sand Martins down low and there were at least three hundred feeding over the lake,once the sky cleared and the sun was out they all moved on. Still a good number of wildfowl around with Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail and Teal all present in good numbers. Just a single female Goldeneye was found. On the wader fornt, eighteen Lapwing, a handful of Curlew and two Redshank were here in addition to the Godwits. The highlight for me was a Kingfisher which flew across in front of the screen carrying a small fish, presumably it has a mate on eggs. Also a bit of action on land with Long-tailed Tits chasing around, Dunnocks and Chiffchaff singing and a Green woodpecker heard from 95. Later on, after taking my daughter to work in Marlborough I grabbed a coffee and cake from Waitrose and headed for the Downs. Unfortunately my chosen location had a lot of tractor activity so it wasn’t worth staying. Heading back to the main road there was a Grey Wagtail on the Og and still a couple of Swans on the meadows. I finally stopped near to Draycott but it was pretty quiet other than a few Wood Pigeons and a Blue Tit. Not an issue really as it allowed me to concentrate on my Latte ad Butterscotch YumYum, stupid name but a great cake. Buy one and see.
Thursday morning and off to Savernake again. Same area, same time of day and similar weather conditions. However completely different on the bird front from my visit yesterday. The species count was down from twenty-five to eighteen and the quantity of birds seen was probably about half. So as yesterday I parked at Eight Walks but decided to go straight to Thornhill. The first thing I heard as I approached was the sound of dogs barking, and they sounded like big dogs. Which they were. Wiltshire Police were obviously having a doggy day out with four vans and an unknown number of canines in and around the old nursery. I wandered around here for almost an hour, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Goldcrestwere all singing and were all seen. The Toads were extremely vocal and active in and around the pond. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Wren and Chaffinch were seen. However in contrast to yesterday the only contact with Woodpecker was a brief yaffle from a distant Green. On the walk back to the car, single Coal Tit and Song Thrush were additions to the list. Driving back along the Grand Avenue some birds flew up from the ground. A quick stop and scan found a few Brambling and Chaffinches and a pair of Marsh Tits. These were the final birds on another enjoyable but very different visit from the one yesterday. Finally a selection of Savernake images with not a bird to be seen.
On my way home this evening I drove up to Barbury Castle and back. On the return drive, just before Alexandra Park a Barn Owl flew across the road. I was quite pleased with this one as it is the first I have seen in this area for a fair while.
If anyone decides to visit Wroughton Reservoir please be aware that there is no public access. The Reservoir can be viewed from the grass bank along Overtown Hill. From here you get a good view looking down to the water.
A good start to the morning with an unexpected garden year tick, a female Pheasant. Many years ago we had a male visit a few times but none since. Then it was off to Marlborough and then Savernake for another attempt at Lesser Spot. I parked at Eight Walks and headed off along Twelve O’Clock Drive to some trees that I have seen them in before. Green and Greater were both very vocal along here but no sight or sound of Lesser. A few other birds around, Nuthatch and Marsh Tit being the best. I gave it three-quarters of an hour before heading back to the car and then onto Thornhill. On the walk back two Mandarins flew noisily over and back at Eight Walks a small flock of Brambling passed through and a Chiffchaff was heard. Just before Thornhill I got on a mixed flock of Brambling, Chaffinch, Redpoll and Siskin. While I was watching them another birder came along saying he had just been watching a Lesser Spot less than a hundred yards down the track. It had of course now moved on. Moving onto Thornhill I spent a few minutes at the pond watching the large numbers of Toads. On some of the paths it wasn’t easy avoiding treading on them. Birds seen here included Goldcrest, Treecreeper, BramblingNuthatch, Marsh Tit and Red Kite and Buzzard overhead. After spending the best part of an hour here it was time to head home. Back along the Grand Avenue I came across anothe group of Brambling feeding in the leaf litter alongside the road. For me this year has been the most productive ever for Brambling. I drove home via Stitchcombe for a quick look at the Kennet. It is still flowing high and fast and all that was seen was a Grey Wagtail. Back at Chiseldon a quick look on the floodwater gave fifty or so LBB Gulls and a pair of Mallard. So another enjoyable visit to Savernake with three Wilts and two year ticks but still no Lesser Spot.
I had a lovely walk around Liddington Hill this morning. The whole walk was accompanied by singing Skylarks with plenty of other birds around. Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Robin were all singing and dispalying as were Meadow Pipits. A Raven drifed over and I flushed a couple of Red-legged Partridges. Also seen were a Chiffchaff, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Magpie, Crow and wood Pigeon. As I was leaving the first paraglider was flying. Looking from the house now there are eight in the air together.
Unfortunately most of it didn’t involve birds. Spent a fair bit of the day driving around Wiltshire for various reasons. It seemed everywhere I went there was a Chiffchaff singing. I did manage to get out to the Water Park later in the afternoon. I spent an enjoyable hour or so at Twitchers with a total of thirty-four species seen. It seems that the Ruff has moved on and I wasn’t able to locate the Black-tailed Godwit. I did manage to see four Redshank, ten Curlew an Oystercatcher and ten different types of duck including plenty of Pintail and a few Goldeneye. Lots of small birds around also with Long-tailed Tit being particulary noticeable. There were seventy Cormorants louging about on the main spit and a couple of Little Egrets flew over the lake.