Todat I finally got round to having a longish walk at the Water Park. I had a medical appointment in Moredon. After this I popped over to Redhouse to see if there was any sign of the Black Redstart from yesterday. There wasn’t. From there I headed out to the Waterhay car park. My route was along the Thames Path to the Reed hide where I would have my lunch and then to return on the path that runs alongside 68A and B. A couple each of Goldfinch and Redwing along with a singing Skylark from the car park started off the day list. Nineteen Mute Swans graced one of the fields adjacent to the Thames. In the reeds at 68C/D I heard at least four squealing Water Rails and a Cetti’s Warbler. From the old hide i managed a sighting of a Cetti’s. The first county year tick of the day.The best of this path is that for most of its length it has lakes on one side and a good hedgerow on the other giving a good mix of birds. Today the hedgerow was relatively quiet with a couple of Bullfinches the best birds seen. On the lakes were the usual mix of wildfowl along with a few Cormorants and grebes. At one point a Curlew was heard but although being able to track its flight from the calling I didn’t manage to see it. A pity as it would have been a county year tick. Three Little Egrets were seen and in the taller trees was a fair sized flock of Redwing. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker were heard but not seen. A Sparrowhawk was seen gliding along the path before it disappeared through the hedge. Reaching the reedbeds I first went into the Wickwater Hide which gives a good view along lake 74. Again all the expected species here with Goldeneye and Shelduck the best. I sat in the Reed Hide and had my sandwich and Pork Pie while watching and waiting for a Bittern to appear. Yeah dream on although this is probably one of the the most likely areas to find one. I did however get a brief view of a Water Rail as it flew across the lake to one of the reeded islands. Also on the water here were The second county year tick. The walk back alongside 68 was pretty quiet with very little on land or water. Next to be viewed was 82 which turned up a few gulls, five Red-crested Pochard and a Snipe on the muddy margins. Then it was back to the car and a drive round to Twitchers for a quick look over 74. Plenty of Pintail and Shoveler to be seen here. A couple of flocks of Lapwing flew in from the north and amongst them were three Golden Plover and best of all a Dunlin. County tick number three. My final stop was Eysey where yet again I failed to find the Oystercatchers.
Saturday morning started with some shopping in Marlborough followed by my wife and I taking the dog for a walk in Savernake. We followed the route that I took earlier in the week which was through the Arboretum to Thornhill and back to the car via Braydon Hook. It was even quieter than the other day with only nineteen species seen. Best was a Heron on the pond, the rest were the usual expected species. We didn’t hear a single Great Spot which again was a surprise. In one area the grass had been churned up by an animal. Probably Badgers but I did wonder if it could have been a Wild Boar. Also of interest was the part eaten remains of what looks to be an Adder that the dog found in the grass not far from the pond at Thornhill. Something had feasted well on it.
On the drive via the back roads home a Stonechat was seen in its usual area near to Axford. I managed a quick picture through the windscreen before it flew off. In the afternoon I headed over to the Water Park. Again looking for Oystercatchers and then to go to the gull roost at Lake 16. Oystercatchers weren’t seen at Eysey or Kent End although three Green Sandpipers were seen at Eysey. I checked out Minety Lane for the Great Grey Shrike but as it hadn’t been found throughout the day wasn’t surprised that I didn’t find it. Next was 28, 28A and 30 to look for the Smew. Again not seen but a Kingfisher on 28A was some consolation. Finally no sign of the Glaucous or Med Gulls at the roost. The plan for Sunday morning was a first light visit to Ashleworth Ham near Gloucester where a Green-winged Teal was in residence. This plan went out the window when I had to pay a late evening visit to the hospital with an issue with chemo side effects. I didn’t get home until a little after two in the morning. However I did still wake quite early so got up and headed out to Nightingale Wood. The visit started well with a large mixed flock of Thrushes and Finches on the access road. It got better when I managed to find the elusive Siskin flock along the first part of the path to Roves Farm. There were at least thirty quietly feeding in the Alders, so easy to miss if you don’t catch a movement from them. I searched in vain for a Lesser Redpoll amongst them. I then noticed a couple of birds drop down beneath the trees, a quick scan found a dozen or so Siskins and three Lesser Redpolls feeding on the ground.A great result as these were both county year ticks. Moving on there were plenty of birds to see with Bullfinch, Song Thrush, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker seen. On the lake were two Herons, two Mallard and a Little Grebe. Also of interest was a Cormorant that flew up from the River Cole. In all thirty-two species seen here.
Then it was back home to do some work in the garden. While checking my phone during a drinks break I saw a Tweet saying that a Black Redstart had been seen on a building site at Redhouse in North Swindon. Obviously I had to go for a look. I found the site quite easily but unfortunately neither myself or Nigel ( who I had called with the news) managed to find the bird. Walking around housing estates isn’t my favourite kind of birding but sometimes just has to be done. Last time I birded in this area it was a successful visit for Waxwings. Today I managed Pied Wagtail, Starling, Crow, Jackdaw and LBB Gull. Thanks anyway to Elliot for getting news of the sighting out.
Another day at work and I was given a nice new truck to play with on todays trip to Portsmouth and Southampton. Just two post sitting Buzzards in the field by the M4 today. Several Red Kites seen along the A34 and at Langstone Harbour there was a single Little Grebe along the seawall and a lot of Brent Geese flying around . A good couple of hundred were seen. Southampton was mostly the same with just a couple of Pied Wagtails for variety. One flock of Feral Pigeons consisted of a good seventy or so birds. Only thing of interest on the way home was a low flying Great Spotted Woodpecker. Tomorrow will be a morning walk in Savernake and maybe a run out to the Water Park in the afternoon.
Working again today so just birds seen from the roads. Just past junction 15 there were six Buzzards standing around on rough grass adjacent to the motorway and a little further on three Skylarks in display flight.Langstone Harbour just had a Little Grebe and a few Teal. It is really frustrating that there is nowhere to stop along here. My final stop was Southampton Docks where a few gulls and pigeons were the only birds seen. The Oriana was getting ready to sail, it would have been so nice to be there waiting to embark rather than collecting a load of Canary island tomatoes.
Well the day had to come and that day was today. For the time being I shall be working three or four days every other week to fit in with my Chemotherapy Cycles. The upside being the getting back to some sort of normality, the downside will be a reduction in birding opportunities. It would have been annoying if I had been back yesterday and missed out on the Hooded Merganser. I did manage a bit of on the road birding with several Buzzards along the M4 and best of all a close to the seawall Slavonian Grebe at the Farlington end of Langstone Harbour. It is a little frustrating there as it isn’t possible to stop but if the traffic is slow you usually get to see something. Back to the Merganser and I see from various reports that the bird appears to be unringed. Maybe it is a real one.
Just after getting home from Savernake I received a Grapevine text with news of a Female Hooded Merganser having been seen at Corsham Lake. Decision time, most likely to be an escape but a nice bird to see anyway. So it was a quick bite to eat and back in the car. A good journey saw me arriving in the car park in under forty minutes. I arrived at the same time as a couple of other local birders and together we headed for the lake. We could see someone already looking at the lake and as we got closer I saw that it was Jenny, another local. Joining her we soon found the bird and had a good view of it before it drifted down behind the reeds. A five minute walk to the other side of the water got us some great views of the bird as it slowly moved around. It was keeping to itself and although not obviously alarmed did move away as we approached. It spent some time diving and we saw it catch and eat at least one small fish. Escape or vagrant? Maybe someone will see that it has a ring on its leg or maybe we will never know. There are plenty of articles regarding this subject on the net, some links here. http://cockoftherock.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-radipole-merganser.html http://uk400clubrarebirdalert.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/dorset-hooded-merganser-record-rejected. html http://www.birdingetc.com/2012/03/lophodyte-tendency.html . On the plus side are possibly the time of year it has arrived, its cautious behaviour and possibly the attraction of this particular lake for occasional appearances of Red-breasted Mergansers and Smew. However as mentioned in the above articles generally you will never know for sure so you will have to make up your own minds on whether to list it or not. Perhaps someone could catch it and take it down to Radipole to keep the long staying lonely ,male company. Also seen on the lake were five Goosanders, well down on the twenty or so that were here the other day. Another sign of genuine birds on the move. Anyway whatever the provenance of the bird it was well worth the journey to see it.
This morning Pete and I headed off for a walk in Savenake. We started at the Arboretum walked through to Thornhill and then looped back to the car via Braydon Hook. As on the other morning it was calm with the cloud breaking up and we were hoping for a good lot of birds. Unfortunately it was the same again and very quiet.There was very little going on in the Arboretum but a bit more at Thornhill. A Green Woodpecker flew across a clearing and a Pheasant was wandering about. There were plenty of Blue and Great Tits and a couple of Dunnock were chasing about. A check of the sky picked up a distant raptor. It was almost into the sun but after watching it soaring for a minute or so before it disappeared into the distance we both agreed that it was most likely to have been a Goshawk. A Buzzard was seen low over the trees. We approached the pond with some level of stealth and were rewarded with a fine male Mandarin along with a couple of Mallard. There was a fair bit of frog activity with a large amount of frogspawn seen.
There were also half-a-dozen dead frogs and toads floating in the water. also seen here were sonf=g and Mistle Thrushes. Crossing back over the main track we headed towards Braydon Hook and managed to find a pair of what we are sure were Marsh Tits. Despite watching them for a good few minutes they didn’t make any sound at all. It was then very quiet again until almost back at the car on the Grand Avenue a sudden burst of activity got us two more silent probable Marsh Tits, two Nuthatch, a Treecreeper and at least three Goldcrests. On the drive home we saw three more Buzzards, a Red Kite and a single Red-legged Partridge. Last call was near to home where we found the local Little Owls both sat out enjoying the sunshine.
With a medical appointment on the western side of Swindon this morning and a flock of Golden Plover reported from the Cricklade area yesterday it made sense to combine the two things and spend a bit of time at the Water Park. Starting at North Meadow just outside Cricklade I soon found the Lapwing / Golden Plover flock. Well positioned to count I had done half of them when many of them decided to take to the air. I managed a reasonable picture of the aerial flock and counting from this and adding the ones left on the ground got a total of three hundred and fifty-nine. No chnce of counting the Lapwings but I guestimated at least three hundred. Also here were a good number of gulls. The majority being Black-headed but the three other common species were all represented. From here I moved onto Eysey hoping to catch up with Oystercatcher for my Wiltshire list. It was pretty quiet here with a couple of Shelduck the best birds seen. Roundhouse farm had lots of ducks and a couple of Little Egrets. I headed back to Twitchers where I had my luch whilst checking out the birds. Duck numbers although still quite high appear to be down on my last visit with a noticeable decrease in Wigeon and Pintail. Best here were a couple of Goldeneye, a Shelduck and a Goldcrest. It was then a choice of a look at Kent End or possibly the Smew at 30. I plumped for the Smew and dipped out, no sign at all. Checking the sightings website this evening a stop at Kent End would probably have got me my Oystercatchers as a pair were reported today. Maybe the same birds checking out all potential nesting sites.
Another trip to London today, this time to take my daughter back to uni at Roehampton. We were stopping in at my Mums for dinner so I knew birding time would be short but I did have a couple of things in mind. The first was Dartford Warblers in Richmond Park. A kind tweet from the London Bird Club @LondonBirdClub gave me a location but in the end the large amount of people about in the area on a mild Sunday afternoon put paid to this plan. Had a good view of a large (100+) herd of Fallow Deer at one point on our drive through the Park. I do fancy a whole day of birding here sometime. Seccond thought were the Firecrests that have been on Barnes Common http://barnescommon.org.uk/wildlife-of-barnes-common/for a while now. In the end it was gone four by the time I arrived in the area adjacent to Barnes Station. Twitter (what a great birding tool) was saying in the Hollies by the Station Loop. The trouble was, a lot of Holly, no other birders, not a good time of day and a bored wife in the car! I gave it a bit of a go managing to see a few Blue and Great Tits and inevitably a few Parakeets. There also didn’t appear to be any small flocks moving around either so I gave it up as as one for another day. So maybe I had got that close to a Firecrest today, or maybe I didn’t. I shall never know. Earlier on at my Mums I indulged in a little A380 spotting and managed an okay picture of a Magpie on the lawn so not exactly a successful day for birds.
This morning I had a walk in Savernake to the north of the A4 for a change. It was pretty windy and there wasn’t much about. Most noticeable were Coal Tits with at least a dozen seen. Otherwise it was just ones and twos of the common stuff. When it started to rain it was back on the A4 to Froxfield. Fifteen Little Egrets in the stream field today along with a small flock of Lapwing, a hundred and fifty or so Black-headed gulls, fifty plus Starlings and unusually for here four Red Kites feeding on the ground. I wonder if frogs are the main attraction along here although good for the Egrets I don’t know if a Red Kite would be eating them.