Off from paid work and decorating I had chosen the above as my destination for some birding today. Leaving home at half-five I almost changed my mind and headed for the Alpine Swift at Crawley. This would have been a lifer but with little else in that area I stayed true to my original plan. With the forecast for today of more strong wind I knew that it was likely that there wouldn’t be much in the way of migrants to be seen. Arriving at Portland before eight in bright sunshine it all looked good until I opened the car door. Wind was sure going to b the order of the day. In all spent just under three hours here and apart from some year-ticks from the expected birds, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag and Fulmar there wasn’t much around. Along with gulls and corvids a few Meadow Pipits, Stonechats in the fields, a Kestrel sheltering at the Pulpit Inn and a Blackcap in the Obs garden made up the numbers. The only migrants around were a Firecrest and a Wheatear and I saw neither. A couple of Manx Shearwaters had passed out to Sea but I missed those as well.
Moving on I made for Portland Castle where the regular Black Guillemot was nowhere to be seen. A few Merganser and the coastguard helicopter were the only things of interest. Ferrybridge was as quiet with just a few gulls (no Meds) and a Little Egret to be seen. Radiploe was next via B&Q where I needed to get a couple of samples of paint! While waiting at the mixing section I checked Twitter and was pleased to see that the Bonaparte’s Gull was still around. I parked by the Tennis Courts on Radipole Road and viewed from the fishing stand. I soon found the gull and spent a while watching as it flew around picking food from the surface of the water. On the couple of occasions it actually landed it was good to note the smaller size compared to the Black-headed it was with. Unfortunately it didn’t come close enough for a photo. Next stop was Lodmoor where as at Radipole there were several Cetti’s Warblers calling. Twenty or so more species added to the day-list here but nothing of note. Unusually, as at Ferrybridge there were no waders here. So a trip to the coast only managed one species, Oystercatcher at the Bill. Then it was off home with a brief stop on Salisbury Plain en-route. The highlight here was the Challenger tanks that were on the move. At one point I had to pull of of the track to let three of them past. A good move on my part. On the bird front just three Lapwing, Stonechat, Buzzard, Kestrel, corvids and pigeons were seen. In all fifty-four species which included seven year-ticks.
This afternoon, despite the rain and wind I decided to get out and see some birds. My initial plan was to go to Farmoor for the Red-necked Grebe. Soon after setting off I decided that it wouldn’t be that pleasant at Farmoor so changed my mind and headed off for a tour around the Water Park. Starting at Roundhouse Farm and despite having to look straight into the rain I managed two Little Egrets, two Red-crested Pochard along with a few Teal and Shoveler. Moving on to Eysey where as I arrived the rain stopped and the sky started to clear a little. More Shoveler, some Tufties and three species of gull were the initial sightings on the water. A Skylark started to sing and a Buzzard flew up from the field. Scanning around a Peregrine was found circling around. It flushed five Lapwing but didn’t seem interested in them. A Green Sandpiper flew up from a pool by the road and a flock of at least seventy Golden Plover flew over. Passing Latton I saw a Red Kite over the fields. Nothing of interest on 301 and 97 so the next stop was Twitchers. Six Shelduck and five Goldeneye were the highlights here with Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal over on the scrapes. A Green Woodpecker flew over calling loudly and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard. Nothing new was seen at Kent End with eleven Red-crested Pochard the best on the water.With forty-six species in the book I decided to try for fifty with a look at the feeders at the Gateway Centre. Maybe because of the wind there were no birds at all on the feeders so I headed off home with nothing else added. A shame to miss out on the grebe at Farmoor but I had an enjoyable couple of hours. I had been thinking of an early morning visit to Farmoor tomorrow but as the forecast looks even worse I may have to stay in bed.
This morning I had to go to Trowbridge. Afterwards I decided to go to Box to look for Dippers on the By Brook. I parked by the recreation ground and walked down to the river. I spent about half-an-hour along the river to the west of the village but didn’t manage to see one. There were plenty of Wrens around, also Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mallard and Moorhen.
I drove down Mill Lane and parked near to the Real World Music Studios I headed off along the path to what I guess used to be the mill pond.
A Heron was perched on a branch above the water and a pair of Mallards were also here. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard as was an extremely vocal Nuthatch. Of Dippers again there was no sign. I soon saw the Nuthatch and then another which was taking food into a nest hole in a nearby tree. A dogwalker came along and asked if I had seen the Kingfisher that had just flown under the bridge that I was standing on. I hadn’t as I had become engrossed in the coming and goings of the Nuthatches. Another half hour passed before it was time to move on. No Dipper and the Kingfisher did not return. However I had enjoyed watching the Nuthatches so not a wasted journey.
Today I finally managed to find time for a drive over to Cow Down which is alongside the Ridgeway in West Berkshire to look for a Great Grey Shrike that has been there for a while. I have been there once before, also looking for a Shrike. On that occasion it wasn’t found. As on most of my recent trips Pete came as well. We took a cross-country route so as to avoid the pleasures of the A34 looking in at Great Shefford on the way. Just a couple of Little Egrets and a few Swans were seen on the River Lambourn. Arriving at the car park after seeing singing Corn Buntings on the climb up from West Ilsey village we were greeted with the sound of singing Skylarks. Several Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits were seen and heard and Pete found a Reed Bunting in the adjacent field. After admiring the view over the vale towards After admiring the view over the vale towards Harwell and Didcot we set of west along the Ridgeway where we saw several Red Kites, the first of at least four Kestrels, a couple of Red-legged Partridges and a flock of Yellowhammers. Approaching the scrub at Cow Down we were pleasantly surprised when a Short-eared Owl flew out of the rough grass. A very light coloured bird which gave great views as it hunted the gallops.The best part of the next hour was spent, unsuccessfully scanning the bushes for the Shrike. Along with more Corn buntings, Yellowhammers and Mipits we had plenty more views of the Owl, Pete found a Wheatear and a few Linnets while I managed two Chaffinches and a Blackbird. As is often the way we had drifted away from each other, I was a hundred or so yards ahead when I picked up the Shrike in flight on the far side of the bushes. Of course Pete didn’t see it. Fortunately, and after another twenty minutes or so I picked it up again and this time it started perching on the Hawthorns before dropping down for prey. We saw it catch and eat a worm before it moved off again.
A second SEO appeared and we watched them both hunting. One also spent some time perched fairly close to where we were standing.
We also saw one Buzzard and two Grey Partridges. Calling time we headed back to the car adding Lapwing, Herring and Black-headed Gulls to the species total. This had now reached the heady total of twenty-two. Quality not Quantity.
I should really have been staying at home to get on with the decorating but instead six-thirty this morning saw myself and Pete heading of to the Forest of Dean for a day of hopefully quality birding. An hour later we arrived at a cold, breezy and dull Woorgreens car park. First birds seen were a couple of Mistle Thrushes and some Redwing feeding in the leaf litter. It was quite amusing seeing leaves being flicked up from the ground apparently of their own accord as the foraging birds were often hidden from view. There were good numbers of Blue Tits around a Nuthatch was heard and a Treecreeper, (the first of four for the day) was seen. Making our way through the mud to the lake we counted eighteen Goosander and a couple of Little Grebes along with various geese and ducks. Back amongst the trees four Siskins and a Goldcrest were good birds to see. We then moved on to Cannop Ponds and Stoneworks with a brief stop at Speech House to check out the large grass field behind the hotel. On the rutted up grass (from the wild boar) there was a large flock of Redwings and a couple each of Mistle thrush and Pied Wagtail. Cannop was productive with, amongst others, Siskin, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail and Mandarin all added to the day list. The feeders by the Stoneworks were great to watch with a constant stream of birds visiting them.
We then moved along to Parkend starting at the triangle where almost straight away we found a Hawfinch feeding on the ground below the trees. Feeding alongside it was a Chaffinch allowing us to appreciate how big Hawfinches are.
From here we walked across to the Fountain Inn to check out the stream for Dippers. On the way we saw a group of six Greenfinches. Initially ther was no sign of Dipper but typically after we had split up I had a good view of one as it flew along the stream. Fortunately we found it again a little further downstream where it posed for some fairly distant pictures.
Also seen here were Grey Wagtails and House Sparrows. After a hot drink in the Postage Stamp Cafe where we managed to resist the cakes we headed over to Parkend Church. It was pretty quiet here with two Buzzards the only new birds noted I did however find another Hawfinch high up in the trees. Final stop was New Fancy View. Again it was pretty quiet here. A Siskin gave good views as it perched on top of a nearby conifer. Two Ravens flew over a couple of times and after a good bit of scanning two Goshawks were found and we were able to watch them soaring and displaying for a good few minutes. At one stage they were flying alongside Buzzards and a Raven. Interesting for comparison purposes. We left the forest with a total of forty-two species. The only disappointment being that we hadn’t seen any Crossbills. On the way home we stopped at the Water Park for a look at the Lake 16 gull roost. We only stayed until four o’clock and just saw good numbers of the four common species. A quick look in at Lake 12 got our first Sand Martins of the year.
After a day decorating I managed an hour or so around Liddington Hill. On the drive over a small group of Fieldfare were seen. As I got out of the car I could hear a Corn Bunting singing. I soon found it atop a small tree. A nearby tree held a flock of around sixty more. Also with them were a few Yellowhammers. Heading off along the track I could see a few gulls and corvids in a newly worked field. A Sparrowhawk was spiralling upwards in a thermal, a Buzzard was soaring on the ridge and a Kestrel hovering along the hedgerow. Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch were along the track and another flock of Corn Buntings passed over. Up towards the Ridgeway a single Wheatear was on the grassy slope amongst the sheep. A Red Kite drifted into view and the Kestrel was seen again.
This morning I went for an early morning walk at Coate Water. I walked a loop from by the miniature railway along to the hides and back around by the floodwater to Dayhouse Lane. On the main lake were good numbers of gulls, mainly Black-headed with a couple each of Common and Herring. Tufted were the most numerous of the ducks. Five Chiffchaffs, presumably new migrant arrivals that probably were wishing that they had stayed in France were, unusually foraging on the grass rather than feeding in the trees. At least fifty Redwings were up in the trees making quite a lot of noise. Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen and Nuthatch was heard. Less common here were six Greylag Geese on the second lake. Also on here were a few Shoveler and Gadwall. On the flood water were Wigeon, Teal and some more Shoveler. The number of Pied Wagtails amongst the horses was down on last week sixty plus at around twenty-five. In all forty species noted in less than two hours.
With a day free for birding I was struggling to decide where to go. In the end I decided on starting at Staines Reservoir where there have been some good birds recently. This would give me the chance to drop by at my Mums house with some flowers for Mothers Day. I was then thinking of going on to Bushey Park and maybe even the Wetland Centre at Barnes. I rang Pete and he was happy to come with me. We left Swindon at seven and arrived at Staines in just over an hour. The first task was to check out the many pipits on the bank to hopefully find the Water Pipit that has been around for a while. Unfortunately they were all of the Meadow variety. We did however find a couple of Little Ringed Plovers, the first of the year for us both. With the northern basin now fully drained it was hoped
that there would be a few waders. None found. There were however good numbers of Shoveler and Teal and a handful of Shelduck. The chilly North-easterly wind was working its way into our bones as we scanned the southern basin. Here we found three of the regular Black-necked Grebes and the long staying Great Northern Diver. Also a few Goldeneye along with the Tufted Ducks. Several Wigeon were grazing along the top of the bank.
A Red Kite overhead was a site first for me. A chat with some of the locals revealed that the Water Pipit had been seen and that there was a Black Redstart on the slopes of the KGV Reservoir across the road. Despite searching for the best part of an hour neither were found. Moving on we headed over to my Mums house to drop off the flowers. A quick stop as she wasn’t in. Because of the rugby at Twickenham I had decided to give Bushey and Barnes a miss so instead we had a stroll around Osterley Park. The wind was keeping the small birds down but Pete did get his first Ring-necked Parakeet of the year. After seeing a couple of Nuthatches a Little Owl was found in one of the big old trees. They are doing well here as I believe that there are around half-a-dozen in the park.
Where next. Well for some bizarre reason I thought Greenham Common would be a good bet. Wrong!! So following a Kite and buzzard filled drive back along the M4 we had a not very pleasant chilly walk around returning to the car with a grand total of seven species. Crow, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Red Kite and the star a single Stonechat. A cross-country drive to Hungerford got us three Blackbirds and Froxfield turned up four Little Egrets. A brief stop in Savernake to eat a sandwich turned up a Chaffinch and four Great Tits. It should now have been an easy decision to head home but instead I decided to have a look around the Avebury area. Finally we came up trumps with a couple of Brambling (year-tick) in a Chaffinch flock and a Tree Sparrow. So in what was actually an enjoyable day we totted up a meagre day-list of just forty-three species.
The last week and a bit has been pretty hectic with my daughters eighteenth birthday followed by her party at the house last weekend. Because of this birding activity has been even less than usual with just a short walk from Folly Farm and a couple of hours in Savernake. Best bird has been a Barn Owl at Chiseldon Firs late on Saturday night, seen while we were driving home from an escape the party night out in Marlborough. I also managed ten minutes at Walpole Park in Gosport on Wednesday while I was working. No Ring-billed Gull but plenty of Brent Geese. This afternoon I headed over to Folly Farm and walked up to the Ridgeway with the dog. Initially it was quiet but then a few Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings were seen. Two each of Red Kite and Buzzard along with a single Kestrel were next. Passing through the second gate I climbed up towards the Ridgeway. I stopped at the first crest and sat down to check the slope for Wheatear. This is one of their favourite areas. Almost straight away I found first one and then two males. Further scanning then found a third along with several Meadow Pipits. They were pretty flighty and I couldn’t get close enough fr a decent picture. After watching them for a few minutes I headed back towards the car. A flock of around thirty Corn Buntings settled on a group of Hawthorns and were joined by a few Yellowhammers. Two Long-tailed Tits and three Great Tits were also seen here. A few Blackbirds were noted along with the usual corvids, gulls and pigeons. No Starlings were seen today though.
This morning work took me to Treochy in the Rhondda. Stopping by the Rhondda River I had a quick look over the wall and there in the middle of the river was a Dipper. I watched it for a couple of minutes before it flew off upriver. Also seen here were a couple of Goosanders and a Grey Wagtail. On the drive back I was stopped at traffic lights by the river in Pontypridd. And there in the middle was another Dipper. Back at home this afternoon I took the dog for a walk from Folly Farm up to the Ridgeway. Despite a stiff breeze it was fairly warm and I had a very enjoyable walk. It was also fairly productive for birds. Highlights were seven Stonechats and at least six Red Kites. After a couple of poor years it seems that Stonechats have bounced back with a vengeance. I haven’t seen this many here before. This was also the most Kites I have seen in the area. There may well have been more but it was hard to tell if they were the same six birds circling around or more passing through. Two small groups of Fieldfare passed over as did the almost obligatory flock of Starlings heading in the direction of Wootton Bassett. As well as the usual corvids, gulls and tits I saw three Buzzards, a Kestrel, Corn Buntings, Yellowhammer, 3 Roe Deer and a Hare.