A Grand Wiltshire Tour

On Sunday myself Ian and Matt spent a day birding in our home county of Wiltshire.  As Wiltshire being an inland county it is not one that features anywhere near the top of any birders list of places to visit. However days like this highlight that with a bit of effort a great day can be had. The day started, in the dark at around a quarter past seven with my birding partners arriving at my house during a very heavy shower. It soon passed and we headed off. First stop was the River Kennet at Chilton Foliat. En-route we had a roadside Barn Owl. The Kennet was pretty quiet with just a few common species put on the list. Froxfield was very wet so again not much seen. Some time spent in Savernake was very productive with the target species of Willow Tit seen well. Best of the rest here were Siskin and Redpoll along with a Woodcock that was Ian flushed but only Matt saw. We had hoped for Hawfinch but had no luck. A quick diversion to the edge of the Downs near to Avebury added Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Redwing, Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk and a flock of at least three hundred Golden Plover. We then started to head south and a wetland site got us another target bird, Jack Snipe along with Common Snipe, Reed Bunting and a bonus Peregrine. The plan from here was to go to Westbury sewage works for a Sibe Chiffchaff but seeing reports of a Caspian Gull alongside the A36 at East Clyffe made us change our minds. Arriving at the layby overlooking the Wylye valley we started to scan the fairly large and scattered gull flock. It was made harder by having to look through trees for many of the birds. With mainly LBB and Black-headed in the flock it reasonably easy to find three Yellow-legged but the Caspian was eluding us. Eventually Ian found what he thought was it and after a frustrating few minutes of trying to get a clear view the identity was confirmed. A nice Wiltshire tick for me. Also here were at least fifteen Little Egrets. A quick stop in the next layby which overlooks the Langford Lake reserve got us the long-staying Ruddy Shelduck. Then it was a drive along the A303 past Stonehenge to Salisbury Plain. Here we found a flock of nine Great Bustards which were a life-tick for Matt. Along one track we put up our second Peregrine of the day before we set ourselves up at a good viewpoint and started to scan. Matt soon found a hunting Short-eared Owl, the first of two seen. A Sparrowhawk shot low across the grass putting up a few small birds. Unfortunately we didn’t see a Hen Harrier which was a shame and looking on the Wiltshire sightings page we later found that we had passed within a mile of a White Stork which although one of the introduced birds would have been nice to see. Despite not going near to the Water Park we racked up a respectable day total of sixty-nine species. Just a single Coot would have got us onto seventy!

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