Monthly Archives: May 2021

Walking Back in Time

My intention this morning was to get up really early and head down to the south of the county. The alarm went off at four and I switched it off and went back to sleep. I woke again at just gone six so got up and decided to go out but to stay fairly local. In the end I did a six mile walk from Avebury to Windmill Hill and back. This walk in a World heritage Area takes you from prehistoric times through to the modern day. Starting with the Stones, then passing through the historic village, then up to the barrows of Windmill Hill with the sweeping views across the Downs to Silbury Hill, The Ridgeway and The Landsdowne Monument. you then drop back down to Avebury where having to cross the A361 brings you back to the modern day. The village was full of birdsong with four Swifts screaming overhead. Heading out of the village into the countryside the sound of Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings took over. It was quite noticeable though as to how few hirundines were about with just a handful of Swallows and House Martins just making double figures. Tree Sparrows are struggling with only a couple seen. Not so long ago a couple of dozen would have been the least you would have expected. Along with these a single Spotted Flycatcher gave me a couple more year ticks. Back home and working in the garden I was, for the second day running distracted by a pair of displaying Red Kites.

Finally made it to Portland

Normally by this time of year I would have made at least two visits to Portland so it was nice to finally get there. Leaving home at just gone half-four I was hoping for some Owl action on the way down but it wasn’t to be. First stop was at Martin Down, one of the few places in the area where Turtle Doves are still to be found, but for how much longer. On opening the car door there was one purring away fairly close by. It carried on doing so most of the time I was there but I didn’t manage to see it despite doing a complete three sixty walk around the area it was in. Apart from many Skylarks and a handful of Whitethroats it was relatively quiet here, maybe due to the continuing cold and windy conditions. Also noted here were a couple of Muntjac which were barking away in the woods and a Roe Deer.

Sunday Stop at Staines

On Sunday I went to my Mum’s and managed to get up early enough to have time for another look in at Staines Reservoir. It seemed quite pleasant when I got out of the car at the bottom but I wasn’t to be fooled and despite it being May put on a warm coat and took a hat and gloves. As is usually the case it was blowing well on the causeway and was pretty chilly. I had a chat with a couple of locals who told me that there were a few waders about and not much else. I headed off along the causeway following a Red Kite that was checking out the seemingly newly mown grass banks. Possibly not the best time to be doing it but maybe it needs to be kept down for operational reasons. I stopped for a couple of scans but other than Common Terns and many Swifts there wasn’t much of note. At the last seat towards the eastern end I started to check out the banks. Two Oystercatchers were on the north basin and on the south a Dunlin and a Sanderling which was a year tick. Heading back I stopped to take a picture of a DHL A300 departing the airport. Stopping to chat to the other birders another scan found a couple more Dunlin and then a Med Gull landed on the water right in front of us. A nice surprise before I left with a total of twenty-four species.

Windswept and Whiskered

Sunday evening, and with another trip to Bournemouth planned for tomorrow I did a quick check on Birdguides to see if there were any good birds in the area. A Whiskered Tern at Longham Lakes raised it to the extremely good level. Arriving at Kings Park for half-nine to pick-up the grandson I had a quick check on Birdguides. Yes the Tern was still there so it was get the car sorted and off to Longham. I’m sure many birders take a chance in the permit only car park but I had decided not to and we managed to get a space in the layby at the front of the Bridge House Hotel. After crossing the busy road a short walk along the pavement took us to the footpath to the lake. Setting up on the path around the lake the wind was doing its best to blow over the tripods. I moved along and managed to find a bit of shelter in the lee of a couple of large bushes. I then started to scan the lake. With many hundreds of birds battling the wind to feed I expected a hard task to find the Whiskered Tern. Surprisingly though, amongst the many Swifts and hirundines and quite a few assorted gulls I soon found a single Tern, which happily was the Whiskered. Quite strange that there were no Commons around. I settled down to watch as it patrolled up and down the lake. With just a quick glance it could have been easy to pass it by but the grey uppersides and belly and the tail shape were quite obvious when looked at properly. A few other birders passed by including a gentleman called Brian who many years ago was a Wiltshire birder who had moved down to Poole. Eventually the Tern settled down on what I had found out was its favoured perch, a depth marker that fortuitously was reasonably close to the shore which allowed some reasonable pictures to be obtained. Soon after the others caught up with me and we headed for a nearby bench for a blowy picnic. A precariously positioned umbrella provided a small amount of shelter from the wind as the grandson eat his sandwiches while I split my time between the birds and planes departing the nearby airport.

Birds, Planes and Clouds

Today was spent on a trip to the Bournemouth area with my son and grandson. We started at Mudeford and when we arrived it was low tide. On the main sandbar were nine Whimbrel, eleven Dunlin and three Ringed Plover along with the regular gulls. Several Swallows were passing through and three Gannets were seen out to sea.

From here we drove out to the airport for an hours plane spotting. We were really lucky and it was quite busy. Best sighting was an A340 arriving. This is an ex Virgin plane that is now making regular flights from Seoul bringing in consignments of PPE. Back home and we took the dog for an evening walk around Barbury Castle. In the wind it felt more like January than May. Birds seen were Corn bunting, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Buzzard with a couple of Red-legged Partridges heard. Also seen were some impressive cloud formations.