Heading back to Swindon on the M4 this morning I had just been looking at the large amount of gulls in the fields around Callow Hill and the Landfill Site when, near to the Deer Farm I noticed a hovering raptor. It was quite large and I thought Buzzard. As I approached it dropped down, turning to the left to show its upperside. Immediately I noted the distinct white band on the upper side of the tail also the lighter patches on the upper wings. Although I haven’t seen one before I immediately thought Rough-legged Buzzard. Despite it being a fairly brief view I was happy with the features I had noted. Back at home I checked out the Collins Guide and then some videos and photos online. For me these have confirmed my initial identification. Other than that bit of excitement I stopped in at Wroughton on the way home. Nine Little Grebes, twenty-nine Gadwall and two female Bullfinches were seen. Later on, after a trip to Sumblers Butchers in Marlborough I drove home via Axford. Just the common stuff seen on the River and in the Meadows and a few Red Kites and Buzzards on the drive home through the country lanes.
From the M4 at Wroughton today a Little Egret was amongst a flock of gulls in an adjacent field. I made a brief stop at the Broome Manor Lane end of Coate Water while on my way home. I was hoping to see some Mandarins but didn’t. There were a good selection of birds on the water. Nine Goosander were drifting around, two Shoveler, A single Teal and a few Gadwall were amongst the Tufted Ducks and the gulls. Four species of gull included my first Common in Wiltshire this year. Twenty-one Swans, a couple of Great Crested Grebes and plenty of Coots made up the rest. A Heron flew over and was mobbed by five Black-headed gulls. In the woods I saw singles of Jay, Marsh Tit and Goldcrest. Later on I took the dog for a walk along the Chiseldon Railway Path. Apart from the common birds a Bullfinch was heard and a Kestrel was hunting. It dropped down into a field and then flew up and away carrying an unfortunate small mammal. A flock of Starlings passed low overhead heading in the direction of Barbury Castle and then I presume onwards to their roost.
I had some work to do at home today and having finished a little earlier than expected decided to head of to Salisbury Plain. On the way I stopped off at Marlborough STW where there were plenty of Wagtails. Many Pied and two each of White and Grey. Then it was a drive through Savernake making a couple of stops along the Grand Avenue. Two large flocks of Tits were seen in the leaf litter and another moving through the trees. Nuthatch and GS Woodpecker were heard but not seen. I spent a while in a favoured Hawfinch area, as usual with no sighting. On the way to the Plain, just outside Collingbourne Ducis a Grey Partridge was seen. A Chinook was seen at the Everleigh Drop Zone.
Near to here a juvenile Buzzard was seen. Initially I wondered what it was as it had so much white on it.
At Weather Hill Firs, under the Beech trees was a large (100+) flock of Chaffinches. A few minutes checking them out did not find a Brambling amongst them. Also here were a couple of Mistle Thrushes. Heading along the tracks I came across a few armoured vehicles.
Other birds seen were a flock of around fifty Golden Plover, a couple of Kestrels and the same of Stonechats.
I parked at a decent viewpoint and at just before half-four a single Short-eared Owl put in an appearance. It was covering quite a large area, at one stage it was mobbed by a Kestrel and a Peregrine. With no sign of any Hen harriers I headed off home at five o’clock.
Another early start for work today and quite productive on the wildlife front. Two Roe Deer on Redposts Drive were the first sighting. Then on the Fosse Way was a Little Owl, perched on a road sign at Fossebridge. Next, in quick succession, near to Farmington Quarry was what I think was a Weasel (rather than a Stoat) shot out of the verge in hot pursuit of a small mammal, then a Barn Owl which was perched in an ivy clad section of hedgerow and finally a Fox which was walking along the grass verge. Later on when it had got light and as I had moved a little further east from where I was yesterday the lack of Buzzards was quite obvious with only two seen all day on a journey to Leicester and back. In contast there were quite a few Red Kites seen. After work I had a few things to do around Swindon, B&Q, Waitrose and my Bank in Old Town. These were all completed by four o’clock so yet again I found myself driving home via Barbury Castle. A Buzzard was post perching in its usual area, two Kestrels were working the ridge and after a bit of a wait two Short-eared Owls appeared. Four good-sized and several small groups of Starlings were heading off from feeding on the downs to their roost site. It is surprising how much noise their wings make as they pass overhead.
On a drive from Swindon to Cwmbran, Evercreech in Somerset and back to Swindon I saw four species of Raptor. Buzzards as usual were very easy to see. In the air, on roadside perches and on the ground in the fields . A reckon I saw at least thirty. Near to the West of England Showground a Merlin flashed across the road at great speed. At Seend a male Sparrowhawk crossed ahead of me at a more leisurely speed and could be seen perched in a hedgerow. The fourth species was a Kestrel hovering along Wharf Road at Wroughton. A single Raven was also seen in Somerset.
Today I had an update on the woodland clearance by the Kennet at Chilton Foliat. Apparently the cleared wood was mainly Poplar and has gone to make match sticks. It is being replaced by Willow which has been pre-sold to be used to make Cricket Bats. All good use of the timber but in my opinion it was more valuable as good habitat for wildlife. However the world cannot stand still and a new and different habitat has now been created.
After a long morning at work followed by the weekly shop in Waitrose I felt that I deserved a bit of time out. So just for a change I headed for Barbury Castle. A post-perched Buzzard was silhouetted by the late afternoon sun.
Arriving at the western end I could see a Short-eared Owl up over the ridge. Another birder said that three had been seen. The parking area was full so I drove a little way along the road to park and then walked back to the entrance to the Castle. Just the one Owl still with a Kestrel up along the Ridgeway. A little while later a second Owl appeared but didn’t stay in sight for long. The single bird spent a few minutes hunting, dropping down onto the grass a few times with no apparent success. A few flocks of starlings passed over, heading off to roost. Also a few gulls were heading north. I headed off back to the car and saw that the Owl had perched on a fence-post directly across the road from my car. I waited until it flew off before walking on. It then perched on another post a hundred yards or so away. I could see it checking out the grass verge, presumably hoping for an easy meal. It then flew off and was lost from view.
Initially I was going to go to Salisbury Plain today, then changed my mind to Fyfield Down but eventually ended up on the Ridgeway at Hackpen Hill. I had a very pleasant walk with a reasonable amount of birds seen. Nothing spectacular, lots of Blackbirds, Dunnocks, corvids and game birds. I reckon that a lot must have been recently released. Best bird was my first Stonechat of the year, a female. Also a nice flock of Yellowhammers. Somehow I managed to end up at Barbury Castle again. Just the one SEO this time. I first saw it over the Castle and then found it perched on the information board. Other stuff seen, two each of Kestrel and Buzzard and three reasonable sized flocks of Starlings, again all heading north-west.
SEO on noticeboard
Kestrel through the windscreen
Slimbridge today for what I always hope will be my one visit of the year. For some reason I never really enjoy going there. No logical reason for feeling that way. Anyway after a pleasant cross country drive via Tetbury and Dursley I arrived at a little past eight. Entering through the members gate I headed straight for the Holden tower and was the first person there. There were an amazing amount of birds on the Tack Piece. Waders, ducks, geese and Swans
along with five Cranes. Lapwings and Wigeon were the most numerous and the best were a good amount of Pintail. there were plenty of Canada and Greylag Geese and a large flock of Barnacle were seen in the distance. Unfortunately the ones I really wanted, the White-fronted were nowhere to be seen. I then headed for the South Finger hoping that they would be there. No joy here either but nice to see plenty of small birds including a couple of Goldcrests. From the Kingfisher Hide the main interest were the six or seven rats that were on and around the feeders. After a few minutes in the Zeiss Hide with no sign of Bittern I headed back to the Holden Tower to look for the Little Stint. More luck this time when I found it feeding out on its own. Then it was a check of the Rushey for the Whooper Swan but that wasn’t around either. I needed to be home by two so headed off at just gone eleven. I routed home via Stroud for a quick look for Dipper. Checked out two sites with no luck. Then it was a look-in at Lakes 305 and 306 at the Water Park. Just a few Mallard and a lone Tufted at 305 but 306 was better with a male Pintail and my first Green Sandpiper of the year. At Castle Eaton there was nothing on the full and fast Thames. However in the trees were a large flock, maybe three hundred Linnets. In all nine year-ticks and a couple of misses so not a bad day. Back home the delivery I was expecting between two and nine arrived at five to nine so could have stayed out birding for longer.
I was on my way home from work and had just left Waitrose at Witchelstowe for home when realised that it was almost four o’clock. Well that is obviously Owl time so another drive out to Barbury was called for. Conditions didn’t look promising with a few spots of rain but still worth a look. There were a few Blackbirds along the road and at Barbury the first bird seen was a Kestrel. The second and third were SEO’s so a good start. Another Kestrel was carrying prey. Two more Owls were seen briefly and there was quite a large mixed flock of Fieldfare and Starling feeding in the long grass at the base of the hill. Finally a Buzzard flew from its perch on a roadside post as I drove home.