An hour spent walking from Folly Farm up to the Ridgeway this afternoon put 15 species in the book. Nothing unusual, a flock of around fifteen Skylark was the most interesting. Plenty of Yellowhammers around and a couple of lots of Red-legged Partridge. A Buzzard dropped down into some long grass ahead of me and then flew up with prey in its Talon.
Another quick after visit to Barbury Castle was worthwhile with two each of SEO, Buzzard and Red Kite being seen. The owls again showed well with both quartering the hillside in the late afternoon sunshine. Also seen were a small mixed flock of Starlings and Fieldfare. Annoyingly I missed seeing a Sparrowhawk that one of my photographer friends showed me a picture of. Somehow I have managed to get almost to the end of January without seeing one. Off to London this evening so tomorrow no doubt, will be filled with the oh so wonderful screeching of Parakeets.
On my way home from work this afternoon I decided to have a quick drive around the Barbury Loop. Heading towards the Castle I spotted a smart male Stonechat perched on a post. A little way further on two Buzzard flew up from the adjacent field. On reaching the Castle I was about to turn along the lower track when I noticed a small group of photographers aiming there long lenses to my right. A quick stop and out of the car in time to see a Short-eared Owl fly across the road I had just driven along. I watched as it started to hunt along the lower slopes of the Castle. As it reached the ridge another flew up to join it. They had a brief skirmish before moving off in different directions. I spent the next few minutes watching them hunting, with both, occasionally dropping down into the grass only to fly up again without prey. Eventually both disappearing from view over the ridge I scanned around ad found a Buzzard and Red Kite drifting overhead. Talking to a couple of the photographers that I knew it was clear that my timing was impeccable as they had both been watching the area for some time before the owls appeared. Heading of homewards I passed a hovering Kestrel adding to the days good tally of raptors.
The last of my few days off today and I had plenty to do at home. The plan had been to spend an hour or so at the Water Park late afternoon and then move onto Somerford Common to try for Woodcock. With the jobs at home running behind I had decided just to go to The Common. However I got a call from Ian saying he was on his way to Twitchers for the Ring-necked Duck that had recently been reported via Twitter. Within ten minutes I was in the car on the A419, all jobs at home forgotten. Arriving at Lake 74 and joining Ian the RND was eventually found, which initially quite hard as it was constantly diving but fortunately usually coming up close to where it went over. Ian, who had been scanning through the gulls found a Yellow-legged. The duck finder Graham then arrived for another look. We decided to head off to Kent End and as we were leaving two Great White Egrets flew over, another county year tick. There were good numbers of birds at Kent End. Apart from gulls these included Lapwing, a single Shoveler and one possibly two Green Sandpipers. From here we headed off to Somerford Common, a site that I have only visited briefly once before. To be honest the Braydon Forest area is one that I have certainly neglected over the years. As the light eventually started to fade Tawny Owls started to call and finally, just as we were beginning to think that we would miss out at least two Woodcock started to fly around. So ended another successful trip out with another two year ticks and four for Wiltshire. Back at work tomorrow and with only one more day off this month which will be spent in London there probably won’t be much more seen in January.
A trip to Screwfix this morning gave me the chance for a couple of hours birding in the Marlborough area. Savernake Forest was the first stop and it was only a few hundred yards in on the Grand Avenue that I came across a large flock of finches feeding amongst the leaf litter. Mainly Chaffinches with a few Brambling and tits amongst them. Carrying onto the arboretum, there was another finch flock, again mainly Chaffinch with a few Brambling. Walking through the arboretum there were plenty of birds to be seen. Blue, Great and Coal Tits with a few Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock and Wren. A couple of Jays flew noisily across and a Nuthatch was calling. At Thornhill I disturbed a group of around half-a-dozen Bullfinch and a Treecreeper landed on a tree just ahead of me, proceeding to slowly make its way upwards, stopping every now and then to probe around under the bark. The pond was partly frozen and there was still a good amount of frost around. Heading back to the car I found a single Goldcrest and then a couple of Nuthatches amongst the leaf litter. On my way home I made a short stop on the Downs. Here was a large mixed flock of birds, around four hundred strong, consisting mainly of Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Chaffinch. I also picked out a couple of Tree Sparrows and some Pied Wagtails. The final sightings were three raptors, one each of Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kite.
After a nice lie-in I was picked up at 06.15 for a trio down south. On a clear cold morning we hoped for some Owl sightings but it was not to be. After getting caught up in traffic hell in the Bournemouth area we eventually arrived at RSPB Lytchett Fields, the first of several new sites for me. A short walk took us to the viewing areas where, amongst the few birds present we got the first year-tick of the day, a Spotted Redshank. amongst the other birds seen here were Common Redshank, Blackwit, Green Sand, and Marsh Harrier. From here we moved onto Wareham Forest where we soon got our first target bird, Crossbill but unfortunately couldn’t find a Great Grey Shrike at a nearby area.By now the skies were clouding over and at our next stop it started to rain. We were unable to find the hoped for Wood Lark so carried on to look Cattle Egret. However despite there being several around and covering all of the areas that they had been seen we weren’t able to find any. Having double-dipped and with the not forecasted rain still falling we moved onto Arne. Yet another new site for me. After a check of the busy feeders we headed off to Shipstal Point from where we added Spoonbill and Avocet to the year-lists. In better conditions we may have stayed longer to scan the harbour but by now the thought of hot drinks took us back to the cafe. Here, two sausage baps, a scone with cream and jam along with mugs of tea soon set us up for the last bit of birding. This was what turned out to be another unsuccessful attempt at the Wood Lark and Cattle Egrets. This was followed by an uneventful and owless trip back home. In total around around seventy species went in the book with several year-ticks for each of us. Thanks as always for Ian driving and Matt doing the species list.
I had to meet my son in Gloucester this morning which gave me an opportunity to combine three of my favourite pastimes. We planned to meet at The Aviator cafe at Gloucester Airport which allowed for some plane spotting whilst enjoying a Full English.
After breakfast my Son headed north on the motorway to Edinburgh while I went south to the much nearer Slimbridge. First stop here was the Martin Smith Hide to try for the Jack Snipe. Great views of a Common Snipe and Water Rail but no Jack. From the Holden Tower I added WF and Barnacle Goose, Crane and Peregrine. Then it was back for another look for the Jack Snipe. My luck was in as it was showing, although well tucked into the reeds. Fortuitously at that moment a Pintail swam right into the patch of vegetation causing it to move briefly into view. Having got my target birds and with things to do at home I headed off via Kemble Airfield and the Water Park. A few interesting planes at the former while the Water Park gave me my first Green Sandpiper and my first Wiltshire Little Egret for 2019. That was it for today but looking forward top a full day out with Ian and Matt tomorrow.
Taking advantage of an early finish at work I headed for the Water Park. First stop was lake 74 where I was pleased to find a couple of GBB Gulls along with a Red Crested Pochard for my Wiltshire list. Wildfowl numbers were pretty low with Goldeneye the best. I couldn’t even find a Little Egret let alone a Great White. Moving on I gave a few more pits a quick scan before checking out Eysey and Roundhouse. Again very quiet with a hundred or so Lapwings the only birds of note, also seen here was my first Mistle Thrush of the year. Then it was over the border into Gloucestershire to look for the Chiffchaffs at Kempsford STW. On the way I noticed an open hanger door on the airbase with a U2 inside. Unfortunately it didn’t look as if it was going to be flying today so I moved on. At the Sewage works a Chiffchaff was seen straight away along with a couple of Goldcrests and a Treecreeper. Eventually the Siberian Chiffchaff appeared along with another regular one which had seemed to take exception to the Sibe, chasing it off on a couple of occasions. For some reason I have driven past this site many times without stopping to look. It will now be a regular stop when I am in the area. My final site was Stanton Park where, amongst the twenty-four species seen I finally caught up with a Wiltshire Collared Dove and my first Greenfinch of the year. It is really sad how this once common bird has so rapidly disappeared form the countryside. That will probably be my last birding this week as I have the luxury of not starting work until what for me is the late start time of 07.00. Not sure how the family will cope with me being up after half-seven in the evening.
After staying in bed until an almost unheard of ten o’clock I went out in the garden, cut the grass and hung out some washing! At just gone midday myself the wife and dog headed off to Hackpen Hill for a walk along the Ridgeway to Fyfield Down. Although not particularly cold there was a strong wind blowing which was keeping the small birds out of sight. Apart from corvids and pigeons just a Stonechat was seen along the track to Berwick Bassett pond where we stopped to eat our soup and sandwich. The path to Totterdown Wood was just as quiet and the wood gave just Blue and Great Tits and a lone Dunnock. Heading from the wood onto open ground a couple of Hares shot off from almost underfoot, amazingly the dog didn’t even see them go. A Red kite was on the ground and being hassled by a small group of Crows. A mixed flock of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starlings flew from some trees on our approach and then four Red Kites passed overhead making the most of the wind with an aerobatic display worthy of the Red Arrows. Small birds were again hard to find with just a Meadow Pipit, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer noted. Back on the Ridgeway a flock of at least a hundred Golden Plover flew up from an adjoining field, wheeled around a couple of time before settling back down. Checking out where they had landed I found a number of Lapwing huddled down against the wind. Two Buzzards were the only new species seen on the walk back along the Ridgeway to the car