On Saturday I was working all day but got up earlier that needed for an early (05:00) look in at West Swindon for a Grasshopper Warbler that has been heard at this time. Arriving on site I soon heard it singing and worked out that it was in a large bush towards the middle of the field. After listening to it for about fifteen minutes it started to move about. As it started to get light I managed to catch sight of it for about twenty seconds. I think this is the first early morning Gropper I have been for, usually I try for them late on or catch them on the Plain in the afternoon. Sunday was spent doing stuff at home followed by an afternoon BBQ so no birding at all apart from a garden flyover of four Tufted Ducks. A garden first.
Today was meant to be a trip to Bournemouth, this however was changed to tomorrow so instead I went to see my Mum in London. A stop off at an extremely chilly Staines Reservoir added Swift and Arctic Tern to the year-list. ALso seen where around twenty Little Gulls, thirty plus Common Tern, loads of hirundines and a couple of Green sandpipers. After a visit to a Garden Centre and my first meal out for quite a while it was time to head home. A look at Birdguides showed a couple of Wood Sandpipers not far off route at Sutton Courtney. This is an area that I am not familiar with but I found the location easily enough and soon had great views of the birds. Also here were three Redshank and an LRP. The Wood Sand were just to the left of the telegraph pol
It was then a choice of home or the Water Park, I decided on the latter and a pleasant hour at Twitchers got around forty species with Hobby and Greenshank added to the year-list and Swift and Common Tern to the Wiltshire one.
A combination of the evenings really drawing out and some later starts at work means that I have started to get out for a while after we have eaten. Last night was a chilly and breezy walk around Barbury Castle with just a handful of Meadow Pipits, a possible Ring Ouzel and a Blackbird the only birds seen other than corvids and pigeons. In contrast this evening was a lot more pleasant and I had initially intended to go to Coate to have a look for the 2 Fudge Ducks that were reported yesterday. However, following a report of three Glossy Ibis from Twitchers I made a quick change of destination. In contrast to yesterday it was a lovely evening, clear blue skies and little wind. After the double dip last weekend it was good to find the Ibis in sight almost straight away. They certainly are strange creatures. It seems possible that they are moving between the Water Park and Otmoor which is a fair distance to travel. A supporting cast of Little and Great White Egret, Heron, Blackwit, Redshank, Swallow and year ticks of Reed Warbler and a flyover Cuckoo made it even better value.
Saturday was spent with my Mum in London and most of Sunday was going to be taken with carrying on with the patio at my daughters house. However the report of a Glossy Ibis from Twitchers saw me making a pre patio trip to the Water Park. Unfortunately of the Ibis there was no sign, it was out of sight somewhere on the scrape as was the Garganey that has been popping up from time to time. However a Bittern was in full view across the lake in the reeds, the first actually seen this year rather than being heard booming. With Grey Heron, Little and Great White Egret, Bittern and Glossy Ibis this is turning into a pretty good place to birdwatch. A quick look at the field next to Lake 82 got me a year tick of Whimbrel. This is a reliable spring site for these. I didn’t have time to listen for the Gropper that had been reported here and didn’t hear the Cuckoo that was around earlier in the morning. The slab laying went well so I had time to visit Twitchers again in the evening and missed out on the Ibis by about fifteen seconds as it was seen to fly up from the scrape and high of to the north. there was some consolation when eventually the Garganey decided to show itself and a Redshank was a Wiltshire year tick.
As I have mentioned before our house looks out towards Liddington Hill and I have a scope set up in the bedroom so that I can spend a bit of time window birding. Over the last few days I have spent a couple of hours trying for the Ring Ouzels that have been there. Early evening is the best time as the sun lights the hill nicely which helps in picking out the white crescent on the males. This evening looking good and I finally succeeded with two birds seen. They were both feeding out on the north western side, flying in and out of the lone hawthorn in the gully that is visible from the road. This is the spot that I saw my first ever Ouzel many years ago.
After a tour around West Swindon dropping off equipment and changing a couple of damaged slabs I headed over to the Water Park for a couple of hours. It was pretty quiet but a Garden Warbler was a year tick. Sunny mornings aren’t so good at Twitchers as you are looking into the sun so I visited a few of the smaller pits. A total of five Little Ringed Plover, three Green Sandpipers and two Oystercatchers wasn’t bad but I was again disappointed not to find a Redshank or Yellow Wagtail.
One of the reasons for reducing the days I work was to allow more time to get out birding. It isn’t working, I just seem to be busy doing other stuff. Most of this weekend has been spent doing a patio base for my daughter. Two Peregrines over her house in West Swindon yesterday afternoon were a welcome distraction from the hard work. This morning I got a message from a friend who said that he had found a Pied Flycatcher on a private site at the Water Park. With a bit of juggling I managed to get out there late morning but unfortunately it had moved on. A nice bonus was a couple of male Redstarts which gave brief but good views. There were at least nine reported in the area today. Seven Ring Ouzels were reported from an area of Liddington Hill that it easily viewed from my house so it was rather annoying that I wasn’t around to see if I could get them on my window list. I shall definitely be trying for them tomorrow,
Having had a busy day at work and a tour of the DIY sheds after I thought a short walk at Coate Water was in order. I was once again hoping for the elusive White Fronted Goose that has been reported a couple of times this month. Alas no goose but a couple of Snipe, a single male Mandarin and my first House Martins of the year made the visit worthwhile. Also seen and heard were a Green and Great Spot Woodpeckers.
On arriving home I had to load the car with some stuff for a job I am doing at my daughters house tomorrow. I felt my phone going off but didn’t check it. When I went back in the house dinner was ready but I decided to check the phone first. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see a report of a Buff-breasted at the Water Park. Fortunately I have an understanding wife so was very quickly on the A419 heading north. I managed top park at the closest point and a bit of a jog got me to the viewing spot on the Cleveland Lakes path. A couple of other birders offered me a look through their scopes but I couldn’t pick out the bird in the fading light. However I eventually got onto it thanks to some good directions from the others. Thanks, Nigel, Jon, Brian and the rest. I then finally managed to get in my own scope and watched for a few minutes as it stood almost motionless. It was pretty good watching it with a Booming Bittern in the background. I couldn’t remember if it was a lifer or a Wiltshire tick so had to wait until I got home to confirm. In the end it wasn’t a lifer but I can’t remember where I have seen one before. A massive record keeping lapse there. Thanks to Mark the finder for getting the news out so quickly.
I have had another busy few days with both work and home being pretty manic. On the birding front there have been three visits to Liddington with Ring Ouzels and Wheatear seen. It is that time of year when it gets busy with birders and photographers all hoping to get the Ouzels. The rest of the year blessed solitude.
Last Monday saw me headed for London and I got up early enough to be able to stop at Staines Reservoir. I was pleased to get a good view of Water Pipit, a bird I seem to struggle to catch up with. Just one BNG seen and it was pretty distant. The bird feeders at my Mum’s house provided plenty of entertainment with the usual Parakeets, a Coal Tit and a Goldcrest in a nearby Acer.
On Tuesday I went to Kent to meet up with Ian for some coastal birding. The day started well with an Iceland Gull in Dover Harbour along with several Fulmars. Despite a long walk through Langdon Hole to South Foreland the only migrants seen were four Sand Martins. The Undercliff at Kingsdown was more productive, four Black Redstarts were the highlight but Rock Pipit, Peregrine Gannet and an Osprey a good supporting cast. Unfortunately the Osprey was the aviation type rather than the preferred avian one. From here we moved on to Worth Marshes where first for year Ringed Plover and Sedge Warbler were seen. Also here was an interesting Wagtail that was probably either a Channel or a Sykes.
A trio of visits to the Water Park added Avocet, Little Gull and Common Sandpiper to the year list.
I was at work all day Friday and it was pretty frustrating sitting there with all of the sightings coming up on Whatsapp. This included Black-necked Grebe, Osprey, Garganey and Yellow Wagtail. The first two not hanging around until Saturday and the Garganey doing its regular not being seen again act.
A nice garden sighting was the local Sparrowhawk on my neighbours fence.
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,