Monthly Archives: May 2014

Nightjar and Chips

With my daughter and a friend having a pizza and film night to celebrate the end of their exams my Wife and I decided to take the dog on a long walk to Ogbourne St George. To save ourselves a long walk home in the dark we took a car down to Ogbourne. On the walk we saw good numbers of Yellowhammer and Whitethroat, also Skylarks and Corn Buntings. Arriving in Ogbourne we went into the Inn With The well for a drink. As they had finished serving food we had our drink and then drove to Marlborough to get Chips. We ended up with Pie and Chips and Sausage and Chips which we took into Savernake to eat. Within five minutes of parking along the Grand Avenue at about ten to ten we heard a Nightjar churring. It carried on almost constantly for the twenty minutes or so that we were there. Also heard were Tawny Owl and Woodcock.

Quick Visit to Twitchers,

I spent a half-hour or so at Twitchers this morning. A fair bit going on with a couple of Eygptian Geese, the same of Oystercatcher and three Shelduck. Ten Common terns were counted on the rafts with a couple seen carrying food. The Kingfisher made a couple of passes and cuckoo and Cetti’s were heard.

Back to Savernake

I got home from work at half-seven and at a quarter-past eight myself and Pete were on our way to Savernake. After seeing half-a-dozen deer (Fallow I think) cross ahead of us we stopped along the Grand Avenue. Straight away we could hear a Cuckoo calling in the distance. We decided to drive along the track towards the column to see if we could get closer. It was a good call as we managed to get right underneath it. We both got brief but good views. Then it was back to the Grand Avenue to wait for Woodcock and hopefully Nightjar. Several young Tawny Owls were heard calling and as Pete needed to send a text I wandered off to see if i could catch sight of them. This I managed with a couple of glimpses as the young owls moved around above me. When I got back to the car I was gutted to hear that Pete had seen and heard a Nightjar which had clapped as it flew across the road. We both saw several passes by Woodcock and several bats were flitting around. At a minute before Ten we both heard a Nightjar churring in the distance. We headed off along the track and along a path in through the trees. We managed to get close to the bird but unfortunately didn’t manage to see it. It then moved and we heard it churring some distance away so decided to head back to the car. Just before we reached the A4 a Tawny Owl flew low across in front of us. A good end to a successful evening.

Thursday

Another day with my Mum and another trip to St Thomas Hospital. Walking across Westminster Bridge a line of five Cormorants flew underneath the bridge heading upriver. Other than that it was just pigeons, gulls and corvids. Back at Mums house it was more Magpies and Parakeets, a few Starlings and a couple of Buzzards drifting high overhead. Later on and heading back along the M4 there were the usual Red Kites and on the afternoon dog walk, Corn Bunting, Blackcap, Yellowhammer, Skylark and a heard only Yellow Wagtail.

Wednesday

And so the week continues. Today I have been in London accompanying my Mum to an eye appointment at St Thomas Hospital in Westminster. What a great location for a hospital, on the banks of the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament. After the hospital we walked along the embankment to the Garden museum in Lambeth which is in the restored church St Mary of Lambeth which adjoins Lambeth Palace for a spot of lunch. This was eaten in the walled garden which used to be the graveyard, a magical enclave near to the heart of a great city. Birdwise it was a few gull, Feral pigeons and a Robin but hey you can’t have it all. Back at my Mums house later on there were six Magpies squabbling in the neighbours ash tree along with a noisy Charm of Goldfinches. All were trying to drown out the sound of overflying aircraft and Parakeets. Also seen was my first Cinnabar Moth of the year. After our meal I headed out for a stroll along the Thames Path from Richmond Lock. At the lock were a number of Eygptian Geese who were noisily chasing each other around. A gull spent ages attacking a tennis ball, seemingly unable to realise that it wasn’t food. Walking along the Thames Path a number of Herons were seen, feeding on the river margins and in the wet ditch on the other side of the path. A bird alighted in a tree and I saw that it was a Mandarin which obligingly perched for pictures. Plenty of other things to see with rowers on the river and the planes passing overhead. The turning point of my walk was opposite one of my favourite pubs the London Apprentice at Isleworth, a great shame that I was on the wrong side of the river. However I stopped at an off-licence on my drive back and purchased a couple of bottles of Fullers Chiswick Bitter to drink whilst watching Masterchef.

Tuesday

Another early start today and a trip to Birmingham. No great for birds. On my way home I stopped at the pond at Uffcott, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard with young, a single Little Grebe and a few pond dipping Swallows were all that was seen.

Monday

Started work at 04.15 and at just gone half-six was sat by the River Thames in Twickenham watching Red Crested Pochard on the water and Parakeets overhead. Back at home and early evening I noticed that it was quite pleasant out so I decided to drive down to Savernake for the last hour of light. I knew there was little chance of Nightjar, A bit early and not warm enough but I was hoping for Woodcock. On the way down i stopped by the Kennet at Minal. Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Mute Swan were seen. Heading into Savernake I was surprised to see a pair of Mallard wandering along the Grand Avenue. I parked up in the regular area and settled down to see what appeared. Several Song thrushes were singing, drowning out most of the other birdsong. However, Nuthatch, Willow Warbler, Robin, Blackbird and Pleasant were all heard. As it got dark a Hare appeared on the road, another less than usual sighting. A couple of bats flew past and then the  distinctive sound of the first Woodcock was heard. A brief glimpse was had as it passed behind the trees. A few minutes later and I heard another call, more a squeaking sound as two Woodcock passed over, it appeared that one was trying to see the other off of its territory. It was now gone nine-thirty and almost dark so I decided to head home. Movement in the vegetation next to the track caught my attention and I saw a Fox cub moving slowly along. I stopped the car and got out and it allowed me to get quite close before it ran off into the forest. From the picture I managed to get it didn’t look particularly healthy.

Not the Nine O’Clock WOS Walk

This morning, with the weather still in blustery but improving slowly mode I headed out to the Water Park. I had been hoping to join the WOS walk for the pre-lunch session out to the scrape but the timing of domestic duties meant that it wasn’t an option. I started at a chilly enough to put my gloves on Twitchers Gate where large numbers of Swifts and hirundines were feeding low over the lake along with at least a dozen Common Terns. On the scrape itself were a handful of Shelduck, a dozen or so Dunlin and a lone Redshank. Next stop was Lake 16 where a Little Gull had been seen the previous evening. As expected no sign of it but again many hirundines low over the water. Next it was a walk from the old railway bridge along to the Reed Hide. in the fields along the way were a number of gulls and Canada Geese and singles of Little Egret and Oystercatcher. Plenty of Sedge and Reed Warblers singing but they were mostly keeping low and out of sight, probably due to the wind. However I did manage brief views of my first for the year Reed Warbler. Again loads of low-flying Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. Back at Twitchers I was joined by Bob Philpott and together we scanned and scanned the lake and scrape. Whimbrel and the first of four flypasts by a food carrying Kingfisher were the best birds found. The WOS group appeared out on the far side of the scrape and we noticed that they were all looking intently at one spot. A quick phone call to Pete who after a struggle to get his phone out of his pocket happily informed us that they were watching a Male Garganey and that it was in a position that we would not be able to see from our side of the lake. So it was back into to scanning mode, hoping that the bird would be disturbed by the presence of the group and would come into view. Half-an-hour or so passed before Bob called that he had found it. Fortunately for me it was in view long enough to get a good view before it swam back out of sight. So thank you to the group and especially to Bob. Also seen were Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, two Bullfinches including a smart male who knowing that neither of us had our cameras with us posed beautifully atop a nearby bush. Also the Nightingale sang for  few minutes and a Green Woodpecker called. Then it was time to get off, only twenty or so minutes later than I should have gone. I ended up with forty-three species of which three were year-ticks.

A Quiet Week

Since the excitement of the Little Tern on Tuesday it has been fairly quiet on the bird front. Being back in full-time employment obviously limits birding time so it has just been a couple of dog walks and a walk around Coate this morning. The local walks gave the usual species with plenty of Warblers and on Thursday four Greenfinches which were the first I have seen around here for quite a while. A Barn Owl along the Fosse Way in Warwickshire was Wednesdays highlight. This morning I managed a walk at Coate Water.  Over the lake were good numbers of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. A Common Sandpiper was on the model boating jetty and both Reed and Sedge Warbler were heard but not seen. A pair of Swans have built a nest right next to the Causeway, hopefully they won’t be disturbed too much. a pair of earlier nesters were out on the lake with their six Cygnets. At the second hide a Cuckoo was calling, unfortunately I didn’t manage to see it. Surprisingly from checking my records this my first for Coate. Also here a couple of Stock Doves showed well. Around the flood water were a couple of Roe Deer, Gadwall, Mallard and Canada Geese. By the stables a calling Pied Wagtail was finally found atop a pile of bricks  To finish off,  along Day House Lane Whitethroat and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard.

Just in Time

A walk along the railway path this morning was reasonable for birds with Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Linnet and Great Spotted Woodpecker all seen in the hedgerow. Buzzard, Swallow and Skylark were all seen overhead. At 12.35 I received a Grapevine text reporting a Little Tern at CWP 74. I was starting work at 14.30 and had not yet had my lunch. So a mad rush ensued with food being prepared, cooked and eaten in short order allowing me to leave the house at a quarter past one. Arriving at Twitchers it was a repeat of the Spoonbill visit with three others there and a scope trained on the Little Tern which was sitting on the rail of one of the rafts. Also noted were Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Common Terns and Swifts. After a few minutes the Tern flew and started feeding with the Common Terns. Then it was time up for me and I headed off to work with an excellent bonus Wiltshire year tick.