Monthly Archives: April 2019

After My Lie-in

After a long day of driving yesterday (for family not work) the plan to get up early to go for Nightingale was never going to work. It was gone ten before I even got to the water park. The meadow by Waterhay held a few geese and swans and a single Oystercatcher Kent End was very quiet with just a couple of Teal and a Redshank. Arriving at Twitchers another birder had been watching a Marsh Harrier just a few minutes earlier. However it didn’t show while I was there. Best birds here were first for year Swift and Hobby with plenty of Warblers singing along with Green Woodpecker and Cuckoo. At Eysey a fair time was spent looking for an elusive Greenshank which after over thirty minutes finally came into view when it flew out from the hidden pools at the back to landing full-view. It only stayed for a couple of minutes before heading back into cover. So yet another worthwhile short visit.

A Five Wagtail Twitch

Yesterday a Citrine Wagtail was found at Pilning which is on the Severn Estuary between the Severn Bridges. I had no time to go yesterday  and had it in mind to maybe go today if it was showing and if I finished work in time. The bird was reported as being seen at a little past two and I finished work at a quarter to three so the decision was made to go. I had a good journey down apart from coming off the M5 at junction seventeen instead of eighteen. What was worse is that I didn’t realise until I had travelled almost four miles in the wrong direction. So much for being a professional driver. A quick U-turn and I was soon back on track. Having had a bit of sun on the way down the rain started just before I arrived so it was on with the waterproofs, gear out of the car and head on out to the Grebe Pond. There were only a handful of birders looking and the bird hadn’t been seen for a while. Still there was plenty of other stuff to see with Pied, White, Yellow and Blue-headed Wagtails, Wheatear and Stonechat along with hirundines swooping overhead and various warblers singing away. The area the Citrine was last seen in was a roughly ploughed field with many furrows and lumps of earth for the birds to disappear amongst so it was a case of scan and hope then repeat. With no sign after twenty minutes or so the sound of an approaching helicopter was to me an possible opportunity. And so it was as a Royal Navy Wildcat flew low over the field a good number of birds flew up and around. Fortuitously the Citrine was one of them and even more so it landed in full view and not that far away. We were then treated to good views as it wandered around, regularly disappearing from view and then reappearing as it flew up flycatching. I gave it a fair amount of time before getting myself back to the car and off home. Another good journey saw me home at around six-twenty with a lifer in the bag.P1000707

Don’t Forget the Common Stuff

Having a couple of things to do in Swindon after work there was no time for a drive to the Water Park so instead I had a quick walk around  Liden Lagoon and a stroll down to the first hide at Coate Water. There was nothing of note at either and migrant wise just a few Blackcap and Chiffchaff at both and a couple of Swallows at Coate. However it was an opportunity to admire some of the common birds on the water, the stuff that most of us probably don’t even notice when we are busy hunting for that rarity or first for the year.

A Lazy Day

The intended early morning visit to the Water Park didn’t happen as staying in bed seemed more appealing. When I did eventually drag myself up I had a fair bit to do at home as my Wife and Daughter were back home after a trip to New York. Have to say that I have enjoyed my few days of being home alone. Garden birding for me isn’t great as we just don’t get many visitors. Feeding is not an option as the local rat population always seem to turn up. A few things were seen though with the regular House Sparrows visiting the pond along with a couple of Starlings. The highlight was at least three and probably five Holly Blue butterflies along with an Orange tip and some Small Tortoiseshells. Buzzards were as usual over and a single Raven spent some time soaring above the house. Also of interest were a number of gliders using nearby thermals with at least five seen together.

Another Quick Decision

Following an early start and a return trip to Worthing it was finish work, go shopping then home to get a few jobs done. Things didn’t start well as after sitting out in the garden for a few minutes I managed to doze off for an hour. I then made the mistake of looking on Twitter where I saw that there was a large flock of Arctic Terns at the Water Park. A quick phone call confirmed that they were still there so against my better judgement I headed off along the A419 again. This time however, my luck wasn’t in as by the time I arrived they had all moved on. There were however a couple of consolation ticks, Common Tern for Wiltshire and a heard but not seen 2019 UK tick of Whimbrel.

A Quick Decision

With an early start in the morning I was just getting some food sorted. A quick look at Twitter and a message “six Black Terns from Twitchers” at 17.55. a quick time check, it was 18.08 and I was planning on being in bed by half-seven. The shall I shan’t I lasted about thirty seconds and about two minutes later I was on my way. Arriving at Twitchers initially there was no sign of any terns but a minute or so later two appeared from the northern end of the lake. They then moved back out of sight. A Cuckoo was calling and a couple of Little Egrets flew across towards lake 68. The two terns then reappeared and again moved back out of sight. This is a regular thing when these birds are here as they often favour the left hand end of the lake. They were soon back and this time I counted five as they flew along regularly dropping down to pick something from the surface of the lake. Then it was time to head home and with the A419 being nice and quiet I was back indoors at five to seven. Then it was a microwaved jacket potato and off to bed.

Another Wiltshire Ramble

Today myself and Matt spent some time birding around Wiltshire. We started reasonably early with a walk from Avebury to Fyfield Down and back. At Avebury despite the mist and a chill wind there were plenty of birds around. A Sparrow at the Church, a group of four Blackcaps and thirteen Tree Sparrows being the best. A Guinea Fowl was a surprise sighting. Heading up to the Ridgeway a female Wheatear and a first for year Whitethroat were seen along with several Corn Buntings. Crossing the Ridgeway onto Fyfield Down we were grateful to have worn our hats and gloves. Unfortunately the conditions obviously didn’t suit the birds as it was very quiet with just a few Yellowhammers and Fieldfare to be found. As we headed deeper into the sarsens just ones and twos of the common species were added. Eventually the sun started to burn through the mist and the temperature started to rise. This livened things up with plenty of Yellowhammers, Mipits and Linnets about. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard. Just before we headed back up to the Ridgeway in the last area of Gorse thing really picked up with more common stuff and a couple of Wheatear along with a single male Whinchat. Another year tick. A confiding Song Thrush was around the stones back in the village. Also noted were Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Swallow and House Martin. Our next destination was to be either Salisbury Plain or the Water Park. We chose the latter but again it was very quiet and was missing out on the influx of Little Gulls that were being reported in good numbers from various sites. NFY were Reed Warbler and Common Tern, the latter was seen on a brief foray to Lake 12 over the border in Gloucestershire. Wader numbers were low with a single Ringed Plover the best seen. Despite the bird numbers not living up to our expectations we had a most enjoyable time and ended with a total of seventy-one species.

Hunting the Gropper

An evening walk in the Kennet Valley turned up trumps with first for year Grasshopper Warbler and Cuckoo. I started off at Knighton and within a minute of getting out of the car had heard Blackcap, Cetti’s Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. A couple of Song Thrush were singing loudly and a Wren was chattering away. As I crossed the river bridge I disturbed Heron, Mandarin and Mallard. Heading east along the track towards Littlecote I added Jay and Sparrowhawk, a Sedge Warbler was singing in the same area as on Sunday morning. I then heard the distinctive song of a Gropper, it always amazes me how far this carries as it was a good one hundred yards away across the river. This one was a day earlier than my first of 2018. From here I moved west along the valley to Axford. I had just got out of the car when a Cuckoo started calling and it was fairly close by. It then went silent before starting to call again a little further away. I managed to find it sat in some riverside trees giving a good but distant view. Also seen were a few Roe Deer and a single Hare. Then it was onto Marlborough for a celebratory portion of chips which were eaten on a back road drive home where I was hoping for my first Barn Owl of the year. Yet again, despite passing a large amount of fence posts I failed to find one.

Lanzarote Part 4 (final part)

Our next trip was a day on the nearby island of La Graciosa where our intention was to have a good long walk. We headed off to Orzola which is where the boats leave from. The crossing takes around thirty minutes and for the first part is quite lively. I was hoping to see some Cory’s Shearwaters from the boat but all I got was YL Gulls and a couple of Sandwich Terns. Arriving on the island our first stop was the local bakery where the filled baguettes made us regret buying service station sandwiches. We got over it with a couple of nice doughnuts. We then set off across the island on what was to be ten mile (sixteen kilometre walk). It was fairly warm with the temperature being in the low twenties but the usual stiff breeze helped to keep us cool. It was as expected very quiet for birds, House Martins and Swallows were flying around Caleta del Sebo with the usual Pipits and Linnets, and a couple of Shrikes and Ravens. The path took us across the island to Playa De las Conchas and then on to Los Arcos where we had our lunch overlooking a pretty rough sea, and Playa Del Ambar which is covered with what must be millions of tiny shells, before following the coast to the small settlement of Casas De Pedro Barba from where a precarious cliff edge path took us back to the ferries. The small village here seemed to be where old four wheel drive vehicles end their days. A single was seen here picking food from the rocks. Part of the reason that we visited earlier in the year was to do some walking and this one did not disappoint. Back at the port we treated ourselves to another pastry from the bakery before embarking on the return journey.  The boat went fairly close to the impressive cliffs on the main island but some serious scanning didn’t manage to find any falcolns. However this time I did manage to get the Shearwaters with several dozen wheeling around fairly close in to shore. Also here were a couple of Redshank. Our final trip was to Cueva De Los Verdes where the lava has created a complex of tubes and caves. From the nearby coast more Shearwaters were seen. In the afternoon I had a look at the golf course just outside of Puerto Carmen but the wind had become even stronger and there were literally no birds to be seen. I drove back to the hotel on some quiet back roads but only found more PIpits, a few Egrets and a Kestrel. In all on the trip i managed forty-five species which included ten lifers, a total with which I was quite pleased with considering that in all I spent the equivalent of just a single day birding.

Lanzarote Part 3

The following day we had booked another trip with Eco-Insider. This time for a walk up to the volcano of Caldera Blanca. This turned out to be a fabulous walk which included a 1.1 km circuit of the crater rim. With fabulous views throughout another highly recommended trip. Not much going on the birding front with just Doves / Pigeons, Pipits, Linnets, Kestrel and Ravens and YL Gulls seen. A couple of the Ravens were loitering at the highest point which is where people sit and eat their food. Following the walk we chilled out at the hotel where amongst the sparrows and doves I was amazed to see a Great Grey Shrike taking chips from the area around the main pool. Amazing how birds adapt their behaviour to take advantage of our excesses. In all I saw it three times around the hotel. Also around the hotel today were a few Common Swifts, at least one Plain Swift and a few House Martins. For the next three days we had hired a car to start  headed for the other end of the island. Our first stop was a site recommended by Carmen and was called Bosquecillo. A walk here got Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Great Grey Shrike, Spectacled Warbler, Canary and African Blue Tit. There was an outside chance of Barbury Falcon here but we didn’t see one. The latter was heard several times but we got back to the car without seeing one. I said to my Wife that I would have another wander and hope to actually see one. After about five minutes wandering aimlessly around in the scrub my phone rang. Of course it was my Wife telling me that she was watching one atop a bush just a few yards from the car. Fortunately I managed to see it and eventually managed two more. We then headed into Haria where we visited the home of Cesar Manrique also had something to eat. From here we went to the Mirador Guinate and Mirador del Rio. The views were absolutely spectacular looking out across La Graciosa. Again though no sign of any falcons. I did however manage a picture of a Berthelot’s Pipit.P1000249From here we headed to the other end of the island for a look at the Janubio Salt Pans before watching the sunset into the sea at Los Hervideros. With only a short time available it was a case of scanning the Salt Pans from the road but I managed to add Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, Redshank, Black-necked Grebe, Ruddy Shelduck, Grey Heron and Cormorant to the list. A couple of hours walking the area would I am sure turn up a good many more. Unfortunately the sunset didn’t go to plan due to a line of cloud sitting along the horizon. In the other direction though we were treated to the sight of the full moon rising over the lava fields and volcanoes.20190320_191100