Following on from my walk to Liddington Hill on Wednesday I spent an hour or so at Coate yesterday and had a drive along the Kennet today. At a quiet Coate the best bird were Kingfisher, a Little Egret and three Wigeon. At around three a.m. this morning I was woken by a vocal Tawny Owl on the roof of the house, heard but not seen which was most annoying as I still haven’t actually seen one this year. This morning after a bit of shopping in Marlborough I stopped of at Froxfield where I was rewarded with five Snipe and singles of Green Sandpiper and Meadow Pipit. Chilton Foliat was very quiet with just a few Mallard and Gadwall on the wide water. There were at least fifteen trout beneath the road bridge. I then stopped at Axford for my lunch where again it was quiet. Grey Wagtail and Jay were seen along with six Swallows and a mixed flock of Sand and House Martins. Only a single bird of prey was seen on the whole drive, a Buzzard over Ogbourne St Andrew.
I have been a bit down for the last few weeks with little inclination to get out birding. Maybe the effects of all the medical crap over the past few months has finally caught up with me. However last Thursday I decided that I would get up early on Friday morning and head for Slimbridge for the Spotted Crake. I woke well before the alarm (about five) and managed to convince myself that it would have gone overnight and so decided to stay in bed. I didn’t wake again until eleven (yes really) and a quick look on Twitter showed that I had made the wrong decision. With people coming to stay for the weekend I had no chance of going until Monday so spent the whole weekend seeing how well it was showing. So on Monday morning I was up early and arrived at Slimbridge for opening time. Arriving at the hide I was informed that it hadn’t yet been seen. And it wasn’t seen again having done a bunk on Sunday night. Normally I wouldn’t have been that bothered but this time I was seriously pissed off and wasn’t far off chucking my binoculars and notebook into the pond. I couldn’t even work up the enthusiasm to check out any of the other birds on site. Not even Curlew Sand, Little Stint, Spoonbill and Marsh Harrier tempted me. So onto today when I forced myself to head up to Folly Farm from where I walked up to the Ridgeway and along to Liddington Hill. I have to say I enjoyed it and it was good to push myself a bit. On the bird front I managed twenty-one species with the highlights being Stonechat, Yellow Wagtail and Raven. At least six Buzzards, two Red Kites and three House Martins were the best of the rest. I have committed to going on the WOS trip to Portland on Sunday so hopefully things are on the up again.
Yesterday evening I was informed of pager report of a possible sighting of a Shag at Coate Water. As I was getting ready to go out for a meal I wasn’t able to get out for a look. This would be a county tick for me so reasonably early this morning saw me arriving at Coate for a mosey around. Coate Water is a fair size with a good number of areas out of sight so my expectations weren’t high. The main plus point was that I didn’t have my camera as last night I had forgotten to get it out from the guest room at home and had not wanted to disturb my son, his girlfriend and dog so early in the morning. A scan of the water around the diving board drew a blank so the next area to check was the small island near to the jetty as there are a couple of trees near the water that birds use. There were a number of gulls perched along with another bird that I instantly realised could well be the Shag. Although it had it’s head tucked away the colouring and size looked good. It had light fringed feathers on the side and the underside appeared to be mainly dark. After a good ten minutes of inactivity lifted it’s head and started to preen. Before I managed to get a a good view of the head it went back to sleep. Another few minutes passed before it moved again, this time it obliged with good views of the head allowing me to see the crown peaked at the front.I then put the news out and got a reply from Pete saying he was on his way over. I took a couple of pics through the scope with my phone but without an adaptor this isn’t particularly easy.The bird became more active and I was worried that it would fly of before anyone else arrived. A Cormorant flew in and landed close by giving a good size comparison. Eventually Pete arrived and after a few minutes of watching the bird suddenly flew. Fortunately it came towards us and then landed alongside the dam where it proceeded to fish. Each time it submerged it made a good leap into the air before going under, another good id. feature. It came within a few feet of the bank giving great views which made more more annoyed that I didn’t have my camera. All I managed were a few more lousy shots on my phone. However the important thing was I had seen it and had great views of my 215th Wiltshire bird. From Coate I needed to go to Waitrose so paid a brief visit to Southleaze where I got two Green and a Common Sandpiper. In the afternoon we had a familly walk up to Liddington Hill. Very quiet on the bird front with just three Kestrels and a Red Kite worthy of note.
After a few weeks with next to no birding I was finally tempted out by a report of a Black-necked Grebe that had been seen from Twitchers Gate. Having got home from work at six I didn’t arrive there until just before seven. With several other birders on site to point out where the Grebe was it was an easy county year-tick. Other birds noted were a vocal Cetti’s, fifteen Little Egrets, many Cormorants, two Green Sandpipers and a single Teal. Also a Tawny Owl could be heard calling in the distance.