Monthly Archives: April 2015

An Unexpected Right Turn

Finishing work at a little before one and having been to Asda to fill the car up I was heading home. I got to junction 16 of the M4 where I turn left towards London, then it is off at the next junction and a mile to the house. Approaching the roundabout an absolute spur of the minute decision found me heading west for the Somerset Levels for another go at the Hudsonian Godwit. A crazy idea as I had two doors at home that needed painting. After a very good journey two tenty five saw me parked at the Ham Wall car park. There were plenty of birders around, some headed back and others hurrying out. The returnees informed us that the bird was still around. At the viewing area there were many more birders than on Sunday, well in excess of a hundred. Typically the Hudwit was asleep at the back of the flock of Blackwits. With a bit of moving along the line I managed to find a spot that gave a reasonable view. Then it was a case of waiting and hoping that the flock would take to the air. During the wait Dunlin, Ruff, Lapwing, Marsh Harrier and Hobby were all seen. After half-an-hour or so and following a preening session which gave a glimpse of the black underwing the birds took off. They made a few circuits before settling back down but it was enough to give good views of the star bird. Happy with the views I set off back to the car for the journey home to the paintbrushes.

Local Little Owls

This afternoon I headed out to see if the local Little Owls were about. I was in luck with one bird sat out enjoying the sunshine. Hopefully this means that the female is on the nest. I have heard of another pair in the Coate Water area but have not yet managed to find them.

A Good Weekend for Birds

Yesterday myself and my wife took the dog for a long walk from Severn Beach. e had intended walking all the way to Old Passage but in the end only made it as far as the Cake Pill Sluice which is about a mile before Old Passage. After stopping for lunch here which had been purchased from the highly recommended Downs Bakery we set off on the walk back to the car. Birds seen on the walk included my first House Martins and Ringed Plover of the year, Dunlin, Turnstone, Whimbrel, and Wheatear with at least six of the latter. Most of our walk was accompanied by the song of Skylarks and many Linnets and Meadow Pipits were also seen.

Just before we got back to Severn Beach we were passed by an interestingly dressed group of joggers. My wife realised that one of them was Sean Conway who is on a jog / run from John O’Groats to Lands End. #RunWithSean , We caught up with the group back at Downs Bakery and were able to have a chat with Sean and also get a couple of pictures.

Today (Sunday) four of us had arranged to go to the Somerset Levels hoping that the Hudsonian Godwit would have stayed into a second day. We left Swindon at just before six and arrived at Ashcott Corner at about half-seven. Parking in the spacious new RSPB car park we headed off along the path to Meare Heath. Before we got there we had ascertained that the bird hadn’t been seen. Slowing our pace Matt found a Bittern sat in full view in the reeds, a great find.

A Cuckoo was calling but couldn’t be seen. We soon arrived at the viewing spot and joined a good crowd of birders to scan the lake. A good few Blackwits were here along with a few Dunlin. A Wood Sandpiper was found, a great consolation bird. More Godwits arrived raising hopes, but to no avail. The first of several Marsh harriers was seen and Bitterns were heard Booming. Some saw a Water Rail as it dashed along the front of the reeds. We then decided to walk along to Ham Wall. A showy Garden Warbler was my fourth year-tick of the morning and from Ham Wall the first of several Great White Egrets became the fifth. At one stage at least fifteen Little and Great Egrets could be seen. A Cetti’s was found out in the open (again by Matt) giving us all good views. Back at Meare Heath not much was seen from the Hides. A Heron was very close to the path.

A single Common Tern and a mass of hirundines were over the water. On the water the Godwit had still not appeared but Yellow Wagtail and Knot made it eight year-ticks for the trip. A great result. At just gone eleven we called it a day and headed homewards and after a good journey arrived back in Swindon at just before one. Disappointing that the star bird had gone we nevertheless had a great mornings birding with around fifty species seen.

Missing Out

This afternoon after work I headed over to Twitchers Gate for an hour or so. There was one other birder there when I arrived, this was Tony who can usually be found at Coate Water. On asking him if there was much around he said ” there was an Osprey over about fifteen minutes ago”. Rather annoying missing it as I may have been there for it if I hadn’t stopped at Waterhay on the way over. Anyway a scan of the scrape area turned up Shelduck, Shovler, Teal, Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover. Overhead, my first Swift of the year was amongst a large flock of Swallows, In the scrub, Sedge and Cetti’s warbler were heard and my first Whitethroat of the year put in an appearance. While I was scanning the scrape again a raptor flew across my field of vision. I followed it and saw that it was a Hobby, another year tick. We saw it again a few minutes later as it flew low over the water again. The Nightingales weren’t heard while I was there but apparently were in good voice later on in the day. Also no Terns were seen but again a few appeared later on.

Along the Kennet

This afternoon I spent a couple of hours birding along the River Kennet. I started with a scan of the valley from the top of the hill above Stitchcombe. Not much seen, just a few Coots, a Mute Swan and a Heron. Moving on to Axford I added Chaffinch of which a couple were flycatching over the water, Wren, Swallow, Canada Goose and Moorhen. To the east of the village were a few more ducks including Gadwall, Tufted and a male Mandarin. Also here, sitting on the grass on the bank was a Black Swan. Final stop was at Knighton which turned into a bit of a Warbler Fest with seven species noted. Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were soon heard and then seen. A Cetti’s called from near to the first wooden bridge. Along the river were a couple of Sedge Warblers, Blackcap and my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year The trilling call of a Little Grebe could be heard. A couple each of Wren and Dunnock were also seen. In the distance a Cuckoo was calling  and as I was heading back towards the car I caught the sound of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Overhead were the usual Buzzards and Red Kite along with a few more Swallows which seem, all of a sudden to be everywhere.


With a couple of spare hours this afternoon I couldn’t resist popping over to Liddington Hill to have another look for Ring Ouzels. I did take the dog so it was an officially approved trip. Scanning from the metal gate I first saw a couple of Blackbirds and then a brief view of a female Ring Ouzel as it moved from one bush to another. I then headed off up track to the top of the ridge. There were good numbers of Butterflies around, Brimstones and Tortoiseshell mainly along with a couple of Whites. Skylarks were singing and Meadow Pipits seen in display flight. Swallows were passing over in small numbers. A few Linnets were flitting around at the top. Walking along the ridge it was more Pipits and a few Yellowhammers. No Wheatear here, I think the grass is getting a bit long for them. Dropping back down to the hedgerow there was no sign of any more Ouzels. I climbed back over the gate and walked along the field side of the hedgerow. I heard a couple of ouzels and it was then a case of trying to catch a glimpse as they moved along the other side of the bushes. Also seen were Chaffinch, Dunnock and Wren. A couple  of females flew up to the bushes higher up the hill disappearing into the depths. I returned to the gate and just stood for a while. One more flew up the hill along with a couple of Blackbirds and that was it. So how many were still there. I definitely saw two separate birds and I reckon that there were possibly another three or four but it was hard to be sure.

Brief Birding

When I left home for work this morning there were a couple of vocal Tawny Owls moving around the village. With no moon to give any light I wasn’t able to see them though. On my way home this afternoon I made a couple of stops for birds. The first was at Southleaze where I was hoping to find some wader friendly muddy margins by the lake. Too much water for that and very quiet all round with just a pair of Mallards and single Little Grebe and Moorhen. Greenfinch and Bullfinch were heard but not seen. Then it was over to the Coate flood water, quiet here as well with 3 Lapwing, a Shelduck, 11 Gadwall and a few Canada Geese. A small flock of Linnets were in with the horses and twenty or so Swallows were flying around the farm.

Good Views at Last

Although not out as early as planned I managed some pre brekky birding this morning. I started at Coate flood water where I saw six Snipe, a few Shoveler and a couple of Teal. No other waders and no wagtails in with the horses which was disappointing as I had hoped there might be some Yellows around. Three Bullfinches were feeding on the roadside on my way over to Liddington Hill where I was going to try again for some decent views of the Ring Ouzels. With everyone else seeing good numbers my brief views of ones and twos have been a bit frustrating. Walking along the field edge and the hedgerow to the west of the castle there were plenty of birds. Chaffinches, Yellowhammers, Corn Bunting and Dunnock were all seen. Asapproached the metal gate I could hear both Blackbirds and Ring Ouzels and soon got views of both. As before the Blackbirds were sitting out and the Ouzels were hiding themselves deep in the bushes. As I moved along the hedgerow they would fly out and along ahead of me. It was hard to be sure but I reckon there were between eight and twelve birds in all with an even mix of males and females.  Crossing to the hill side of the hedge I walked back along towards the road moving some way up the slope. From here I had some good views as the birds moved from bush to bush. One flew up high and headed of to the north. A couple perched briefly on the fence allowing me to get a couple of pictures. Then it was off home to cook Sunday breakfast before getting on with the final bits of painting.

Bonus Bird

I had no intention of going out again today but when I heard that an Avocet was on the Scrape at 74 I couldn’t put the paintbrush down fast enough. Fortunately it was still there and gave good views as it fed out in the middle of the water on the Scrape. While I was there a Whimbrel flew in and Green Sandpiper, two Shelduck and a Teal were seen.

Back on the Lifer Trail

Well behind the crowd but my trip out this morning was to Standlake to see if the four Ring-necked Ducks were still around. They hadn’t been reported yesterday and I was wondering if I had waited to long before going. I set off from home at six on what looked as if it was going to be another lovely day. Not long after turning off of the A420and approaching the Thames at Newbridge I was dismayed to see the area cloaked in fog. I parked up along the lane to the pits and walked along the path towards Lake 60. Visibility along the path was fine but across the water it was very poor. I was just hoping that as the sun rose it would start to burn off. Lots of activity in the hedgerows with Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcaps singing in good numbers. Song Thrush, Dunnock, Wren and Chaffinch added to the chorus and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard drumming. As expected the Hide was locked so I carried on along the path heading for the south side of the pit where apparently you could view the water. I have been here once before, a few years ago when a Black-winged Stilt was around. Bull and Goldfinch were added to the list but still the water was coverd in fog. Arriving at the far side I walked alongside the Thames for a while. This was fairly clear and I hoped for a passing Kingfisher. Stopping here to eat my breakfast, a cold sausage and bovril sarnie I could see the top of some electricity pylons across the lake. Over the next few minutes more and more of the pylon appeared until I could actually see the water.

Moving along to the end of the path I was now directly opposite the North Hide. Scanning through the Tufted Ducks I soon found two male Ring-necked and spent the next twenty minutes or so watching them as they constantly dived, only surfacing for a few seconds before going under again. Then the other male and the female flew in. With the fog now gone I had some great views and even managed some halfway decent photos. My third lifer of the year.

Heading back across the fields I was surprised to hear and see two Fieldfare pass over. Even more so when a couple of minutes later a male Ring Ouzel followed them. At the east end of the lake a small area clear from hedgerow allowed a view of the shoreline. Along here were Two Oystercatchers, two Common Sandpiper and a single Green Sandpiper. Also seen were a couple od Red-crested Pochards. I arrived back at the car having seen a total of thirty-seven species. A quick phone call to Dai of Farmoor fame found that there was nothing of great interest there so I headed homewards to get on with some more work at home.