A thank you to the sharp-eyed readers of this blog who pointed out that yesterday I managed to turn a Siskin into a Serin. This small error has now been corrected. My apologies to the hordes of birders who raced down to Blashford this morning to see the aforementioned bird. I hope you had a great time looking for it!!
Yesterday I had to go to Swanage but had little time for birding. Also I wasn’t able to take my scope so just had binoculars. The only birds of any interest identified on the sea were a few Gannets and a couple of GBB Gulls. On the way home I made a brief stop at Blashford Lakes. The Woodland Hide was as usual great with the feeders busy. A smart male Siskin was best here. Ivy South didn’t have a Bittern waiting for me and a couple of minutes in the Tern Hide was long enough to get my first Goosanders of the year. There was enough light left for a bit of a drive around on Salisbury Plain which was worthwhile with three Short-eared Owls being seen. Also a couple of large flocks of Starlings passed over and I got my first Linnets of 2017. Today was spent at my Mums in London. A walk in Osterley Park found a single Egyptian Goose amongst loads of gulls, a few Shoveler and a single Teal loafing about on the ice on the still almost completely frozen lakes. As usual plenty of Parakeets were flying around but little else was noted.
Another trip to Worthing today and it was a lot nicer driving now that the fog has finally gone. For various reasons I wasn’t able to have my normal walk on the pier but despite the biting wind I did manage a ten minute walk along the front. Only birds seen were a few gulls and a couple of Cormorants. Driving back I was just about to join the A27 near to Patching when I noticed a few gulls milling around. Obviously it isn’t always easy to look in detail while driving but one of the birds looked a bit different and it appeared that it was being mobbed. As I got a bit closer I realised that it was a Bittern. Slowing right down I managed to get a reasonable view of it before it dropped down behind some trees. Checking on a satellite view of the area this evening there is a lake behind those trees so I guess that was where it was headed. Quite a surprise sighting. Further along the road and with the tide right in there was nothing to see as I passed Langstone Harbour but in the water alongside the road to Portchester was a flock of around forty Brent Geese. Back in Wiltshire on my way home I looked in on Wroughton Reservoir where the numbers had dropped back to normal with just a couple of Little Grebe and a few Tufted and Gadwall.
Yesterday afternoon I took the dog for a walk along the railway path. There were a lot of birds around, mainly the commoner stuff with five Bullfinches being the highlight. Today I was going to do the same walk but at the last minute decided to drive up to Folly Farm and walk along towards the Ridgeway. In contrast to the walk yesterday it was very quiet on the bird front. In the first half-hour I only saw Buzzard, Red Kite, Robin, Blackbird and a few pigeons and corvids. I then turned back towards Liddington Hill and saw a covey of twelve Red-legged Partridge flying across the top field. A female Stonechat popped up on the fence and a couple of Wrens were flitting about. Another Partridge flew off from the grass and from the call it was another Red-legged. A bit further on it flushed again and flew off ahead off me. Further still and a movement caught my eye, expecting it to be the Partridge again I was pretty surprised when four Short-eared Owls flew up from the grass. Two headed in one direction and the others singly went different ways. I got reasonable views before they all disappeared from sight. A fabulous sighting. A small flock of fourteen Meadow Pipits were the only other birds seen.
On my way home from work yesterday I had a look at Wroughton Reservoir guessing that there may be more birds here than usual as it stays clear of ice longer than other local waters. I was right as there were over eighty Tufties and more than thirty Gadwall along with Mallard, Coot, gulls and just four Little Grebe. Later on in the afternoon I took the dog for a walk at Coate Water. I was expecting most of the lake to be frozen but what was a surprise was that the water level on the main lake is very low. I assume it has been drained down for some maintenance work to be carried out. There was one good area of clear water and this had a lot of birds on it. There was a good mix of ducks, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted, Teal and Pochard. plenty of Coot, a few Moorhens on the margins, thirty-six Mute Swans, Great Crested Grebe and Cormorant made up the rest. The water on both sides of the causeway was frozen apart from a small patch from which two swans were trying to climb out onto the ice from. From here I could hear but not see Teal so decided to walk along to the far hide. From here I could see that almost all of this lake was also iced over with one small open area to the left and a larger one along the far bank. The first had around fifty Coot and a few Wigeon whilst the one along the far edge was full of Teal. I estimated well in excess of three hundred.There were also a handful of Herons. Today after a bit of a lie-in and breakfast in bed the wife, myself and the dog headed off for Bradford-On-Avon for a walk along the canal. We had a quick look at the Mill Pond at Box hoping for a Dipper but with no luck. At Bradford we set off along the canal which was well frozen in places. Have to say that living on a canal boat seemed even less appealing in these conditions. As we were walking a Kingfisher came through the trees from the river and landed in a tree just across the canal giving us great views. We stopped at the Avoncliff Aqueduct to eat our lunch, it was quite noisy due to some major tracklaying work on the railway but this gave an additional point of interest. We walked all the way to the road bridge near to Freshford, admiring some lovely canalside properties on the way. Here we turned back and retraced our steps to Avoncliff where we dropped down to the riverside path before returning to Bradford. By now we were hungry so went to Poppies Tea Rooms where, as we had muddy boots, we sat outside and enjoyed a great cream tea. Then it was a quick wander around the town before walking back to the car and heading home. Other than the Kingfisher the best bird was an overflying Raven, other than that it was a mix of tits, Robins, Wrens and finches.
I have been hoping to get to the Water Park after work all week but have been finishing a little too late to make it worthwhile. With no chance of going at the weekend I was determined to make it over there this afternoon. However it was almost a quarter-past two before I finished so normally wouldn’t have bothered. But as several Smew having been reported over the last couple of days I decided that a short visit was better than nothing. On the way there a good number of Lapwings were seen near to the Leigh crossroads. A look on 28 and 28a found just the regular ducks and a Snipe that flushed as I walked along, but I had a result on 29 with three redhead Smew showing well. After watching them for a few minutes I chose to miss going to 30 so I could look in at Twitchers. ( I later found out a male was on 30!). 74 turned up my first Goldeneye and Shelduck of the year and a real bonus was a Great Black-backed Gull, a bird I somehow managed to miss in Wiltshire last year. The new pits along WIckwater Lane had four more Shelguck and the aptly named Pochard Lake had a good few Red-crested Pochard on it.
Another trip to Worthing today and another fifteen minutes birding on the pier. I am a bit restricted on these occasions as I only carry a pair of travel binoculars with me in the lorry. As on my last visit the tide was out again but this time I didn’t manage to find any Turnstones on the beach around the pier. An Oystercatcher was a new species for me here (also a year tick) as was a Great-crested Grebe on the sea. Other than these it was the standard fare of pigeons, corvids and gulls. Additional interest was provided by an older gentleman who was, barefooted and in swimming trunks, picking his way across the stones to the sea. All year swimming I do not get to be honest but all credit to him. The strange thing was that when he reached the sea he immersed himself for about thirty seconds before getting out and heading back up the beach. It seemed a lot of effort for little reward. On the way back along the coast road I came off the A27 at the Farlington junction and a slow drive back up the slip road got me three waders on the mud, Curlew, Blackwit and Redshank. Also here were many gulls and a handful of Little Egrets. Back in Swindon I stopped off a Liden Lagoon where I failed to add Goosander, Pochard or Common Gull to my list for the year. Plenty of birds around although mainly a mix of gulls and the commoner waterfowl. Singles of Cormorant and Heron were the best birds seen.
Driving back from Coventry this morning it was again frustrating (third time this month) having to pass through Stow and not being able to stop to check out the Blue Rock Thrush. After work I had another look along the B4005 Wharf Road. I found three Little Egrets feeding amongst a flock of gulls in a wet field but again no sign of any Cattle Egrets. I did notice that there were no animals in any of the roadside fields so it would be interesting to try and find where they have been moved to. I then headed for Barbury Castle where a half-hour or so at Finch Corner turned up lots of Chaffinches , Blue and Great Tits but nothing rarer. It was enjoyable watching them coming out to the feed I had put out. Only problem here is the amount of passing traffic, mainly cyclists and joggers as whenever they pass all of the birds disappear into the bushes and don’t return in numbers for a few minutes. Heading home from here I saw a flock of around a couple of hundred Lapwing lazily wheeling around over Hodson.
This afternoon I had a walk along the railway path to Chiseldon Firs, then through Lower Upham to the Ridgeway, along to Liddington Castle and home. Overall it was pretty poor for birds with many parts of the route almost birdless apart from overflying pigeons and corvids. Highlight along the Railway Path was a group of four Bullfinches and on the higher ground a couple of Stonechats were the best. A couple of flocks of winter thrushes bumped up the quantity a bit as did fourteen Meadow Pipits on the ridge near to the Castle. Two Buzzards and a Kestrel were the only Raptors noted and no Owls were flying about. In five miles of walking over two hours of walking the species total was a paltry twenty-six.