Throughout the various lockdowns I have been fortunate in that I have been able to travel around outside of the local area. Sometimes if I am in the truck it can be frustrating when I pass close to good birding sites that I am not able to stop at. However on occasions I do get out in a car. I currently have six car days out, either completed or planned. On these trips, with a little bit of planning I am usually able to take my statutory breaks somewhere that I can do a bit of birding. Yesterday I was able to have a brief stop at the Farlington Marshes car park where, typically the tide was right out. I did manage to add Med Gull to my year-list and had what could be a final sighting of Brent Geese until the autumn. Then it was onto Southsea where I had a stroll down to the Castle. It hurt a bit having to pay £1.80 for an hours parking but with the short time available it was unavoidable. Purple Sandpiper was the target bird and when the tide is out they are not always easy to find as a lot of the rocks are out of sight below the sea defences. I struck lucky though with six birds seen at reasonably close range. I was also hoping for Rock Pipit but these couldn’t be found.
For today I had a fairly long trip planned, starting in Redruth. I left Swindon at 03:30 and somewhere around Launceston was in need of a leg stretch and some food. I stopped in a layby for a few minutes and after a wander checked out Cornwall bird sightings. I notice Ring-necked Ducks reported at Dozmary Pool. I had no idea where this was so had a quick look on google maps. I was pretty chuffed to find that it was not far from where I was and even better only just off of the A30. So my first break was taken at around half six, overlooking the water, where from the car I soon found three RND along with some Pochard, Tufties, Shoveler and Goldeneye.
After Redruth I was headed for Plymouth, en-route I passed the premises of Castle Motors / Aviation where I was surprised to see a Lightning Jet displayed at the premises along with a live helicopter.
From Plymouth it was onto Exeter and the Exmouth. As most birders are aware this is where a Northern Mockingbird was found in early February and it was still around. I was lucky enough to be able to discover its location so was able to stop and have a look for it. The gods were obviously looking down on me as I had only been looking for a few minutes when it appeared in one of the trees that it has been favouring throughout the time it has been here. I have mentioned before that looking for birds in gardens is definitely It didn’t stay for long but I had a great view of it and even managed a reasonable picture. My final break was taken at Bowling Green Marsh but the hoped for waders were all out on the estuary mud as the tide was out. There were plenty of Wigeon and Teal around and I did manage to year tick Blackwit so not a wasted visit.
In all I covered 470 miles, did four site visits and got one lifer and two other year ticks so overall it was a good day.
With no call from my doctor I decided to book for my vaccination on the NHS website. For some reason there were no appointments available in Swindon so I had to go further afield. The options were Bath, Oxford or Salisbury. Straight away my birding head said Salisbury giving me the chance of stopping on the Plain on the way home. My appointment was at 14:00 and it was all very efficient. So much so that I was pulling out of the car park at twenty past after my fifteen minute wait. I started on the central perimeter road and the first birds seen were Kestrel and Corn Bunting. It wasn’t long before a bit of scanning found Great Bustard, a Drove of seventeen birds.This is the largest gathering that I have seen. A small flock of Golden Plover flew over and despite much searching the only other raptor found was a Red Kite. I then crossed over to the East side where I met an army convoy traveling in the opposite direction. I pulled off of the track to let them pass and for a couple of minutes was engulfed in a cloud of dust. I had no luck with Stone Curlew, Short-eared Owl or Hen Harrier but had great views of a Barn Owl hunting in the sunshine at around four o’clock. There were plenty of singing Skylark an Corn Buntings and Stonechats were perched up high. A couple of male Reed Buntings were noted, After hearing Curlew calling a search eventually found two birds , probably the best sighting from the twenty-three species seen.
I managed to get up early so was at Twitchers for seven this morning. First bird seen was a Great White Egret along with a couple of Heron. It was good to hear the news that the Great Whites had bred in the Water Park last year. Duck numbers have noticeably dropped over the last couple of weeks. A couple of Chiffchaff were singing and Great Spot and Green Woodpeckers were heard along with at least three Cetti’s. A Bittern boomed in the distance, another successful new breeder last year. I checked out a couple of other pits getting Great Black-backedGull onto the year, but not the Wiltshire list as it was over the border in Gloucestershire. I then headed for Eysey where I decided to try and count the Teal, I made it at least three hundred and sixty two. More impressive was a count of thirty-eight Snipe, all on one island. The only other waders were three Dunlin. Again there were over a hundred Pied Wagtails with at least a couple of White with them. I headed home via the airbase at Fairford which is currently hosting a detachment of KC135 tankers from Mildenhall. Amazing that some of these aircraft are well over fifty years old.
Later on in the day I had a go at photographing a B747 passing over at 35,000 feet. Not great but some of the graphics on it are legible.
So once again I have failed to get back to doing regular post but yet again I have had a busy week.
Saturday saw my first trip of the year to Aberdare where a walk along the river during my break got me my first Kingfisher of the year but no sign of a Dipper.
Last Sunday a quick look in at Eysey got the first Little-ringed Plover of the year, it was in a field with a hundred or more Pied Wagtail. Also here was a flock of thirteen Dunlin, only seen when they and a flock of Lapwing took to the air.
The highlight of a Monday morning walk in Savernake was a Reeves Pheasant, the first I have seen for quite a while. The previous sighting was in Totterdown Woods on Fyfield Down. There were plenty of Woodpweckers around but unfortunately no Lesser seen or heard.
On Wednesday it was another trip to Aberdare and this time, despite heavu=y rain and a fast running river Dipper made it onto the year-list.
Yesterday I had an ill-timed afternoon walk to Lydiard Park with my daughter. We arrived at the same time as a squall and got blasted by the wind but fortunately it didn’t rain. Little Grebe and a few Wigeon were the best birds seen.
This morning I decided on a walk from home along the Old Railway Path then past Pinckcombe Wood towards Hodson. This used to be a regular walk for me but I haven’t done it for at least a year. It turned out to be a bit of a Peckerfest with at least eight Great Spots, 2 Greens and the big surprise a single Lesser which drummed twice and called once. Certainly an unexpected bonus. Another highlight was the first Greenfinch that I have seen in the village this year.
With some more beef to collect from Waterhay on Saturday morning I took the opportunity to combine a nice walk with some birding.I walked from the old railway bridge near to Cerney Wick to the Reed Hide and viewing screen at the end of Lake 74 It was a lovely morning, a clear blue sky and very little wind.There were plenty of birds singing with several Chiffchaff amongst them. A greater Spotted Woodpecker was drumming and a Green Woodpecker was yaffling. An overflying Curlew was good to see near to 68 and there were good numbers of Reed Buntings singing. From the viewing screen several hundred wildfowl were seen. Too many for me to attempt to count but a quick try with the Pintail got into three figures before I gave up. A Marsh Harrier appeared over the reedbed putting up a mass of Shoveler and Teal as it quartered the area.
Sunday was split between gardening and a longish dog walk from Barbury Castle towards Rockley. The highlight was a Raven along with several Red Kite and Buzzards.
On Monday I was heading up to London for my regular support visit to my Mum. I decided to leave early and by making a short diversion finally get to Thursley Common to try for the long staying Rustic and Little Buntings. I arrived at just gone eight and although I had worked out the paths I needed to take was pleased to meet a local birder in the car park. He kindly confirmed the way for me and fifteen minutes or so later I was watching one of the Little Buntings along with several of the Reed variety. After another few minutes the Rustic put in what was to be it’s only appearance. Staying only a couple of minutes before flying off.Both Littles showed together briefly with one of them staying for quite a while. With the target birds seen it was time to have a bit of a walk and to enjoy the area. Several Woodlark were displaying along with some Stonechats. A single Siskin was seen as were a small flyover flock of Crossbills. Definitely a site to revisit when more time can be spent exploring and enjoying.
In the afternoon I took my Mum to Kew Gardens for a gentle stroll before doing some shopping at M&S in the Kew Retail Park. As usual it was wall to wall Parakeets outnumbering the rest of the birds. At the lake one of the local Herons was hanging around the Sackler Bridge. When a couple started to feed the ducks it flew over and started to eat the bread. Certainly something that I haven’t seen before. It is actually a really good place to get close up views of species that are usually more wary of humans with Coot and Moorhens often coming within inches of people.
New Year Woodcock at Coate Water, Whooper Swans at Castle Eaton, first Brambing Nightingale Wood, big Golden Plover flock along the Ridgeway, Goshawk along Smeathes Ridge, Glossy Ibis from Twitchers, Rosy Starling at Moredon, Wood Warbler and Firecrest Franchises Wood,
2021 UK Highlights
03-01 1st Waders of the year, 1st Parakeets of the year (not), Dusky Warbler Siddington, Northern Mockingbird at Exmouth, Rustic & Little Bunting Thursley Common, Whiskered Tern Longham Lakes, River Warbler Ham Wall, Purple Heron Fishlake Meadows,