A busy week followed by a busy weekend hasn’t allowed much time for birds. On a quick visit to the Water Park after work yesterday I again couldn’t find the Garganey from Twitchers but did get my first Sand Martins of the year. It was a family trip to visit my Mum in London today with an afternoon walk in Osterley Park. Not much of interest but a count of fifteen Eygptian Geese was the most I have seen in one place.
My first visit to Liddington for a fair while was most enjoyable. First bird seen was a Raven drifting overhead. Walking along the path from Folly Farm there were Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers singing. From the trig point several Skylark could be heard singing and eventually a couple were picked out high above. A couple of Red Kites and Buzzards along were also around. A noisy flock of about thirty Linnets flew up from the grass as did a couple of Meadow Pipits. I saw that a Ring Ouzel was seen in Gloucestershire today, lets hope that a few turn up here in the coming weeks.
Matt and I arrived at the Water Park about eight o’clock this morning for a few hours birding. Starting at Kent End, the first of many singing Chiffchaff was the first bird heard. Out on the pit were a few Teal, 2 Green Sandpipers, a single Redshank and amongst a few Pied a White Wagtail. We then headed for Cleveland Lakes were we walked the length of lake 68 to the Reed Hide. Cetti,s Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap were all often heard and a pair of Goldeneye were still around. Along with fifteen or so Little Egrets was a single Great White. It was very quiet at the reed bed with very little seen from the hide. Cormorants, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Coot and a single Wigeon were seen from the screen on lake 74. We walked back via the Thames Path, again it was pretty quiet with the highlight being twenty-three Little Egrets in the trees on the island on lake 72. A Curlew was heard and Sparrowhawk, Jay and Bullfinch added to the list. From here we were heading for Twitchers but looked in again at Kent End on the way. Two more Redshank had arrived and we watched them displaying and then mating. The quiet theme carried on at Twitchers with a few Lapwing and Shovelers on the scrape along with a Shelduck, Curlew and some Teal. It seems that our hoped for year-tick the four Garganey have moved on. Another Sparrowhawk drifted over lazily circling in the thermals. 201a had the most gulls that we had seen all day with four species noted along with a couple of Egyptian Geese. On the way to our final stop at the Eysey complex two Oystercatchers were on Lake 9. At Eysey were a couple more Goldeneye, some Lapwing, a Snipe and a couple more Redshank. Skylark and Linnet were heard here taking our day total up to a reasonable sixty-nine species. No year ticks unfortunately but a couple of new additions (Curlew and Eygptian Goose) for the Wiltshire list.
After just a nine hour door to door journey we arrived home from our week in Lanzarote at 01.15 this morning. The great journey allowed me to be in bed by 02.00 but a lie-in was not to be as unfortunately I had to be in work at 10.00. However, having woken at just past 07.30 so decided to get up and have a short session at the Water Park before I went in. Early morning birding is not great from Twitchers due to the sun and I wasn’t able to find the Garganey on the scrape. A Great White Egret was seen along with Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler. At least three Chiffchaffs were singing as was my first of the year Blackcap. These two took my Wiltshire year total to a hundred. Moving onto pit 200 where viewing conditions were perfect I got my first 2019 LRP and five Green Sandpipers. With my available forty minutes birding time used up it was time t head off to work. THe plan is to get my Lanzarote sightings up in the next couple of days.
While driving back to Swindon on the M4 on Wednesday, the last thing on my mind was my 150th year tick. However I reached that figure courtesy of a near miss with a low flying Grey Partridge. A second later and it would have been an ex Partridge. Always expect the unexpected with this hobby. Today I headed over to Fairford to hopefully see one of the B52s that was due to fly in. With a little time to spare before the midday arrival time I went via Kent End. Unfortunately a windswept pit was almost totally devoid of birds with just a single Cormorant and a couple each of Mallard and Coot to be seen. Over at Fairford they have dug a new pit just across the road from the runway. A seemingly poor choice of location considering birds and planes don’t really mix. However for the second time of looking there wasn’t a single bird to be found. Possibly the result of the use of what is I think a Harris Hawk in the area. There were a few Skylarks managing to display despite the wind, a couple of Fieldfare passed overhead and a single Pied Wagtail was the only other bird noted. Unfortunately the information regarding arrival time for the B52 was incorrect and as I didn’t fancy hanging around until the new time of 16.00 it was off home for me.
With a birding day planned for the 9th for Matt and I it was just a case of where to go. Not fancying a really long day and with no real goodies reported we plumped for the New Forest and maybe a look at the coast close by. On Friday evening we both noticed a report of a Hooded Crow near to Cosham in Hampshire so a change of destination wa decided on. Picking Matt up at 05.00 we headed south on a cross country route hoping to see an Owl or two. On the edge of Salisbury Plain we caught a fleeting glimpse of what we think was a Short-eared Owl as it crossed the road ahead of us. Unfortunately right on the edge of headlight range so it will remain a maybe. A little further on another fleeting glimpse could perhaps have been a Woodcock. Arriving in the area in good time and with no early report of the crow we started with a walk at Farlington Marshes. As always plenty of interest here despite the tide being right out. Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank (1st year tick of the day), Avocet, Blackwit, and Lapwing were the waders seen and on the wildfowl front, along with the usual species were a good number of Brent Geese along with coming on a hundred Pintail. A Marsh Harrier was hunting in the distance making the most of the strong wind, several Cetti’s were heard as was a Chiff-chaff. A couple of Med Gulls were amongst the five species noted and a single Great White was around along with several Littles. With Matt needing Purple Sandpiper for the year Southsea Castle was the next stop. After paying £1.80 for parking six were soon found in the usual area below the Castle. Amazing how easy they are to overlook. Also seen here were Rock Pipit and two Shags on the wind-whipped sea. With the Hooded Crow having been reported we headed for Fort Widley which is on the hills overlooking Portsmouth. On arrival there were a good few birders around and the location of the bird was soon pinpointed although it wasn’t in view. After moving down to Pigeon House Farm Matt soon found the Crow feeding on its own in the middle of a large grassy field. Although distant had good views of what my first English Hoodie and a lifer for Matt. Where to go next? The New Forest was still an option but with the strong winds we decided against it. Instead heading along the coast from Lee-on-Solent, past Titchfield where we added Turnstone to the list and then to Weston Shore on what we hoped would be a sheltered Southampton Water. It wasn’t but we still managed to find the long-staying Long-tailed Duck amongst the waves. A good scan found some Great-crested Grebes but still no Cormorants, a surprise not to have seen one yet. Also of interest here were a good sized flock of Crows which were noisily moving around the car park and foreshore. From here we headed for Blashford Lakes where we knew would would be able to add to our already good day-list. After en-route sightings of Red kite and Buzzard we first had a look for the fudge duck on Kingfisher lake but despite there being a couple of holes in the fence covers we couldn’t see it. We headed straight for Ivy North hide where the Bittern has been showing well recently. It certainly was today with great views of it just a few yards in front of the hide. This gave us a chance to admire the incredible cryptic plumage. After raising its head almost vertically the Bittern moved into the dead reeds before reappearing again. We both agreed that it was our best ever views. Next the Woodland hide where, on the ever busy feeders we added Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Coal Tit, Brambling and Jay to the list. From the Goosander hide there were a few more species although the Black-necked Grebe ad Water Pipit couldn’t be found. Onwards again and we easily found the Bewicks Swan on Harbridge Meadows. Crossing the bridge over a small stream Matt saw a Kingfisher perched on an overhanging branch holding a small fish. With enough time left for a visit to Salisbury Plain on the way home a quick look at the Old Sarum pig farm showed there were no gulls to be looked at. Heading onto the tracks on the Plain, almost immediately we got a short but good view of a ringtail Hen Harrier. A good start. This was followed by Stonechat, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and then two more sightings of the same or another Harrier, this time more prolonged views were possible. We ended with great views of a hunting Short-eared Owl which we watched for a few minutes before it flew off out of sight. A fabulous end to a great day of birding which saw us with an excellent total of ninety-one species.
As the weather was relatively pleasant when I left work today I decided to spend a couple of hours at the Water Park. A quick stop at Twitchers while I eat my sandwiches was rewarded with very little . This was followed by a pleasant walk around the now almost drained Kent End (lake 200) Not that many birds to be seen with a few Teal, Tufted and Mallard on the water. On the islands were half-a-dozen Cormorants, and a single Redshank. In the distance I could hear a Green Woodpecker yaffling and the trilling of a couple of Little Grebes. A small pool further on held a couple of Oystercatchers and in the margins was a single Grey Heron. The large area of mud had plenty of Pied Wagtails, a couple of Mipits and a Reed Bunting. Tomorrow morning I have an early morning trip down to Poole but any hope of a Barn Owl was dashed after a look at the weather forecast gave a 90% chance of rain.
I was working at the depot in Swindon yesterday and while outside in the afternoon I was watching the many gulls that use the roof of the warehouse. As I was watching them I was surprised to see two Swallows pass overhead. They didn’t head straight over but spent the best part of a minute circling above the building. Maybe a few insects around up there. Certainly my earliest sighting.