Monthly Archives: March 2020

A Quiet Period

With loads to do at home and being busy at work there hasn’t been much birding done over the last couple of weeks. I did manage an Owl drive on one of the rare dry evenings recently. It was quite successful with three Barn Owls seen and two Tawny. I tried again for a Little Owl but no sight or sound of it. I have also had some Barn Owl sightings either on my way into work or whilst driving. First thing yesterday morning I went to the Water Park and had good views of the Cattle Egret alonside a Little Egretat Ashton Keynes but had no luck with the Pink-footed Goose  but did get a good soaking for my troubles. Later on the Goose was refound at Eysey.

Waxwing and Smew

The weekend was a bit frustrating as I was working Saturday and then had a family meal Saturday night followed by a family Sunday. All very nice but I so wanted to get out to Gloucestershire and Worcestershire to catch up with the Waxwing, Glaucous Gull and Smew. Monday morning  found me out the house at 02.15 heading for work. I was pretty surprised to see a Barn Owl on a fence post in the rain. That shows how desperate for food they must be. Finishing at 12.00 and with the weather much improved I decided to head off to try for the Waxwing. It was just over an hours drive to Blackminster , I headed for the level crossing which is where the Waxwing tree was. As I drove past I could see the bird in said tree. I found somewhere to park close by and was soon enjoying great views of the Waxwing. It was totally unconcerned by the birders and toggers surrounding the tree. It spent most of the time either looking around and occasionally eating a few berries. It once flew to the top of a nearby tree but soon returned. The assembled throng gave motorists waiting at the level crossing something to look at while waiting for the trains to pass. I spent about an hour here enjoying fantastic views of what is one of the most charismatic birds around. The Glaucous Gull had been refound but I didn’t have enough time to go for that and the Smew so a decision had to be made. The Smew won so I headed off to another new site for me at Bredon Hardwick back in Gloucestershire. With directions from a birding friend I soon found the footpath to the Lake where I started to scan for the Smew. Conditions were challenging as I was looking straight towards the sun and the glare from the water was pretty strong. I checked out the whole Lake with no joy. I then started to scan the flooded areas but with the same result. One final scan of the Lake was started and I was well pleased to eventually find the Smew. It must have been hidden behind the Island when I had looked before. Also noted here were a Chiff Chaff and several Fieldfare. I was extremely pleased with the afternoon trip as these were two birds that I had not expected to catch up with this winter.

Hunt the Hoopoe

With my sister over and a couple of days off I went up to my mums in London. On Thursday we fancied a trip to the coast and picked on Calshot at the mouth of Southampton Water. The location was chosen so we could go for the fairly long-staying Hoopoe at Badminston. We arrived onsite at a little past nine and with no-one else around started to scan the horse paddock that it has been frequenting. A few Pied Wagtails and Linnets but no Hoopoe. Some other birders appeared and it transpired that we had missed the Hoopoe by about fifteen minutes when it flew off after showing well from first light. We had a bit of a wander but there was no sign of it. Our plan was to have breakfast at Calshot so we headed off for that planning to return later on. After a nice breakfast in the cafe at the activity centre we had a stroll around the spit. It was sunny but the wind was pretty strong. Birdwise we found Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank, Ringed Plover Brent Geese, Shelduck and plenty of gulls.

We couldn’t find anything of interest on a pretty rough sea. A Wooden Owl was enjoying the view out to sea and a photo I took of a Tug was photo bombed by a Brent Goose.

Back at Badminston there was still no sign of the Hoopoe despite several people looking for it. With my mum with us we didn’t want to hang around so drove down to Lepe and then back to Calshot for a drink and cake before a final look for the Hoopoe before heading home. We got nice cake but no Hoopoe. Checking on Hampshire Birding it hasn’t been reported since Thursday morning so we were pretty unlucky in missing it by just a few minutes. Possibly with the wind swinging around to the noth-west it had decided it was time to head for warmer climes. After a good journey home my sister and I had a wander over to Osterly Park to look for a Little Owl. Another miss unfortunately but plenty of Parakeets were flying around and there was a very nice sunset.

In Devon for Dennis

Before Christmas we booked a four day break booked at Dawlish Warren and it just happened to coincide with Storm Dennis. We travelled down on Friday morning planning to go to Mansands and Broadsands for a couple of short walks and some birding. Having left home a little later than intended we arrived at Mansands late morning. Having descended the steep slippery track to the coast I spent some time looking for the Blue-winged Teal while my wife sat and enjoyed the sight and sound of the sea. Although the wind hadn’t yet picked up strength it was still quite impressive. After a while, with no sign of the Teal I joined her for a walk before returning for another fruitless Teal hunt. Having decided to give up on it we then spent a pleasant twenty minutes or so in the hide enjoying the good number of birds using the well-stocked feeding station. Along with the many Blue and Great Tits there were also a couple of Coal Tits and a pair of Bullfinches.

We then headed for Broadsands  where we drove through to the hedgerow in the back car park. Straight away I saw a few birds feeding on the ground and a quick look revealed several Cirl Buntings along with House Sparrow, Dunnocks and Chaffinches. We watched them for several minutes before moving on. For some reason I couldn’t get a decent picture, the camera just didn’t want to focus properly. A walk up onto the headland gave reasonable views out to sea with a couple of Great Northern Divers the only decent sighting. Then it was tea and cake in the cafe followed by a walk along the beach.

The plan for Saturday was to get the train to Teignmouth, spend some time there and then walk back along the coast path to Dawlish Warren. With Storm Dennis living up to its forecast ferocity we set off for the station and after a ten minute journey along one of the most scenic and today dramatic lengths of railway we arrived in Teignmouth. Despite being fully waterproofed being outside wasn’t a great deal of fun so after a quick look at the sea ( a couple of GND and a Shag were noted) we set ourselves up in a cafe for an early lunch. Not knowing the coast path and being mindful of the conditions we decided to seek out some advice from some locals. This we did in the butchers while stocking up on sausages and bacon for Sunday breakfast. The considered opinion was that due to the wind direction and the state of the tide (going out) so after saying our goodbyes to my daughter and her boyfriend who were sensibly heading back on the train, we set off. Although pretty wild we had the wind on our backs so it wasn’t too bad. We made good progress along the coast until we reached the railway tunnel at Smugglers Lane Holcombe where we had to pass along a path under the railway. Unfortunately this was at the bottom of a steep road which was now a torrent of water. We had to climb up onto the lower rail of the fence and inch our way along to get through. A bit of a challenge but great fun. From here we carried on up to the main road before setting off cross country to pass over the first of two tunnels. This part was extremely wet, muddy and slippery with challenging steep ascents and descents. We did think that we could have stayed on the road and cut the whole section out. On the outskirts of Dawlish we briefly rejoined the main road before dropping back down to the coast. A Sparrowhawk which shot across the lane just ahead of us was an unexpected year tick. Finally arriving in the centre of Dawlish we struggled to find a cafe woth only one of about half-a-dozen actually open. They had no scones left so the much looked forward to cream tea had to be foregone. Some very nice cakes made up for it though. Putting our waterproofs back on we headed out into the deluge again for the final coastal section to the Warren. On arrival back at our Lodge it was a quick change and into the hot tub for a well deserved soak.

Sunday morning dawned grey, wet and windy but I dragged myself out for a walk to the Dawlish Warren Reserve where unsurprisingly I saw and heard very little before returning for breakfast. Then it was a local walk, some time in the amusements before having a very nice Sunday Dinner at the Mount Pleasant Inn where we had a window table that gave us fabulous views out across the estuary. amazingly the skies had cleared so we had a bonus post-dinner walk along the beach.

Monday was heading home day. The others had decided to visit Exeter but I wanted to do a bit of birding so and after driving back to Teignmouth to collect a couple of items we had purchased on Saturday I made my way along the coast road head for Bowling Green Marsh. A planned sop at Cockwood found twenty-seven Cattle Egrets feeding alongside the main road and on the playing fields at Starcross were quite a few Brent Geese, Curlew and Oystercatchers. Bowling Green Marsh was disappointingly quiet with just a small number of wildfowl on offer. A walk down to the river got me a handful of Avocet. From here it was a short visit to the fantastic Darts Farm ( before setting off for home.