Another early morning visit to Liddington Hill today. The hedgerows were really busy with birds, Yellowhammers, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tits, Dunnocks and Blackbirs all seen in varying quantities. Past the first gate there was a flock of at least seventy Corn Buntings. Good numbers of Meadow Pipits were around as well. Surprisingly considering the amount of Wheatears around and about (one hundred and seven at Hengistbury yesterday) not a single one was seen. Maybe still a little early for Ring Ouzel, tenth of April was my first last year. Later in the morning we headed off to Bourton-on-the Water. Amazingly my first ever visit to the town. A really nice place although a massive tourist honeypot, unbearable in the summer I would imagine. Birdwise great if you like Mallards, there must have been at least thirty on the river that runs along the main street. Made a quick stop at Eysey on the way back and bagged just a Green Sandpiper along with the usual ducks etc. Final call was again the flood water at Chiseldon. The Ruddy Shelduck was again skulking amongst the vegetation and there were four LBB Gulls on the water. Green Sandpipers soon I hope.
I was awake early again this morning so got myself up and out to Folly Farm before seven.First birds seen were a flock of around a dozen Fieldfare, next a small flock of Linnets and a couple of Yellowhammers. At the copse were Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. More Linnets, Yellowhammers and a couple of Corn Buntings were in the bushes in the first field. Initially I headed through the second gate and along towards the Ridgeway, along here is one of the Wheatears favoured areas. But not today. After a few minutes scanning I turned back towards the car checking out the rough grass as I went. I paid particular attention to one of the Badger Setts as Wheatears seem to like these as well. Probably good for insects on the disturbed ground. This time I struck lucky with a single Wheatear perched up on a pile of chalk. A walk up to the top gave me reasonable views before flew off out of sight. On the way up I disturbed a couple of Meadow Pipits. On the way back the sun was just coming up over the hill and looking over to Wroughton Airfield I was surprised at how visible the new solar farm is. Another major change in the landscape.
In all I saw nineteen species, not bad for less than a hours birding.
I had intended going out first thing this morning but a look out of the window and I decided that staying in bed was a better option. This afternoon we had a family walk with the dog around Coate Water. Not much around with none of the hoped for hirundines. Reed Bunting, Goldcrest and Red Kite were the only birds of note.
I was taking my Mum back home to London today so took the opportunity to do some London birding. I invited Pete and John to join me. We were on our way before eight and made a stop en-route at Fobney Island, http://thamesriverstrust.org.uk/projects/fobney-wetland-nature-reserve-project/ a small nature reserve on the outskirts of Reading where, yesterday a Garganey had spent the day. Predictably we weren’t able to find it and due to the lack of reports we assume that it had left overnight. Still a pleasant half hour was spent at this nice little reserve. Then it was back on the M4 to London. After dropping my Mum home we headed off to the WWT London site at Barnes. Neither Pete or John had been here before. It was pretty quiet here with the best sighting being a showy Cetti’s Warbler. Also of note were copulating Parakeets, Kingfisher, a couple of Redshanks and some Sand Martins.
Next stop was the Pen Ponds at Richmond Park. A short walk here added close views of a Green Woodpecker, Great Crested Grebe and Egyptian Goose to the day list.
We then moved onto Richmond Lock where we had lunch by the River with Grey Wagtail being the only new species seen.
From here we went to Staines Reservoir. We arrived during a heavy downpour so had to wait around fifteen minutes in the car before it cleared. Plenty going on here although the strong wind made conditions a bit challenging. Here I got my only year tick of the day with four Little Ringed Plover seen. Despite extensive scanning we couldn’t find any Black-necked Grebes and had to be content with Shoveler, Wigeon and Goldeneye. As always there was the added attraction of the planes taking off from Heathrow and I even managed to get Pete to raise his binoculars at a couple of them.We ended the day on fifty-one species which included Buzzard and Red Kite seen along the M4.
I woke early again this morning and saw that the rain had not yet arrived. So it was up and out heading for Farmoor with the Red-necked Grebe my target bird. I knew that the car park doesn’t open until eight so parked outside and walked in along a path that comes out on the southern bank of F1. The plan was to scan from here and hopefully find the grebe and then to walk round to get a close view. On reaching the edge of the reservoir I was amazed to see the Red-necked right in front of me about twenty yards from the edge. Talk about luck. I watched it for a few minutes then had a scan of the rest of the reservoir. Plenty of Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants and gulls were seen. I was just wondering if a walk right round would be worthwhile when a Thames Water van that was doing the rounds stopped and informed me that I shouldn’t be on-site before eight o’clock. It was only twenty past seven, I had seen what I wanted and the weather was deteriorating so it was an easy choice to head back to the car. On the way home I stopped off at Sainsburys to do a bit of shopping and still managed to be home before half-eight.
Not the only reason for going to Hengistbury Head again but worth the drive is the Monster Breakfast at the Hikers Cafe. Sets one up for the day what! Obviously a good walk is then needed to work it off. On a beautiful morning birds were a little thin on the ground with just Linnets and Stonechats of note on the ascent. At the top I got sight of my first for the year Sand Martins and a little later on the Barn Field my first Wheatear. Again it wasn’t a birding day so not much else was noted.
Later on a walk all the way to Boscombe Pier only added Kestrel to the list. Before setting off for home a stop was made at Cowards Marsh, a site I had not heard of until I saw that there were three Garganey present. Having found the site quite easily the other birders there told me that they hadn’t been seen for a fair while. Having left the rest of the family in the car I couldn’t stay long but managed to see Pintail, Lapwing, Little Egret, Redshank and my first Common Sandpiper of the year. On the road back to Ringood a Swallow was seen perched on telegraph wires. My fourth year-tick of the day.
Another walk around the lake at Southleaze on a not so nice morning, this was reflected in the lack of small birds compared to yesterday. The species count was only down by four but the quantity of individuals was way lower. A few Dunnocks and a Chiffchaff were singing but the few others seen were all quiet. A few more birds on the water with ten Mallard. Also a Tuftie and two Mute Swans were additions to yesterday. I also managed to see the Little Grebe before it disappeared into the reeds. It is a shame that the water level is high as there are no muddy margins suitable for waders.
I am going to try to get back in the habit of morning birding, something I used to do a lot of. So this morning I stopped at at Southleaze on my way to work. I spent around thirty minutes wandering around the lake here. A small tit flock contained Blue, Great, Long-tailed and a single Coal Tit. A couple of Redwings flew over and in some nearby trees were a noisy flock of at least a hundred more. On the lake were five Mallard and four Shoveler. A Little Grebe was heard but not seen. Around the lake were plenty of Blackbirds and Dunnock, a couple of Robins and a male Reed Bunting. A few Chaffinches flew over and Goldfinch and Goldcrest were also seen. In all twenty-four species were seen, not bad in thirty minutes.
After a roast at the Toby Carvery this evening the drive home was via the country lanes. This time with some measure of success. Just outside Bishopstone a fleeting glimpse of a Barn Owl as it flew off from a roadside post. This was followed by a Badger that ran across the road in front of me. Finally just before I got home in Chiseldon there was a Hedgehog in the road. So two mammal firsts for the year.