Monthly Archives: November 2021

Where Are the Birds

This morning I did a circular walk from Axford which is on the River Kennet up to the northern side of Savernake Forest and back. There were plenty of House Sparrows in the village but not much else. Crossing the river there were a couple of Moorhen and three Mallard. In the surrounding trees were two Blackbirds, a few Redwing and a Great Spot. The ground rises sharply up to the forest and the path runs through a narrow section of woodland adjoining fields. Usually this section is good for birds but today the only bird seen or heard was a Pheasant. Reaching the top it opens out along a mature hedgerow that had a couple of Chaffinch, three Bullfinch and some more Redwing. Reaching the edge of the forest I stopped for a few minutes to eat my breakfast. In this time just a single Robin was seen. Moving on there were a couple more each of GS Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Chaffinch, a few Goldfinches and a small tit flock that was mainly Long-tailed with a couple of Marsh and one each of Great and Blue. There has been a lot of clearing and replanting going on in this area but the lack of birds was really noticeable. Coming out of the trees onto farmland it didn’t get much better with a couple of Red Kite and Buzzards the only new birds noted. Back down at the river a Nuthatch was calling and a Treecreeper seen. On the water were a couple more Mallard, a Grey Heron and another Grey Wagtail. Another Heron was on the bank and it appeared to be eating something, as I approached it flew off and I could see a good sized Trout on the grass. Presumably it was too big to swallow so it was trying to eat pieces of it.. Three more Kites were seen along with another Woodpecker. Back in Axford a small flock of Siskin were feeding silently in the riverside Alders. In all I saw thirty-four species but the total amount of birds was not good. Where have they all gone?

Later on in the day I had just finished my lunch when a message came through about a possible Little Auk on the Thames at Farmoor. However by the time it was confirmed it was a bit late to go. Maybe tomorrow if it stays. I had just started to do some clearing in the garden when another message came through. Gret Northern Diver on Pit 82 at the Water Park. This is at least the third year one has been on this Pit and with a good amount of Crayfish in it they tend to hang around for a while. But just in case I decided to go and thirty minutes or so later I was watching the diver. A nice year-tick. Also on the lake were a hundred-and- four Red Crested Pochard, several ordinary Pochard, Tufted Ducks, Wigeon, Teal and a single Goldeneye.

Sometimes I like the Snow

For the last few days I have been hoping that the Cleeve Hill Snow Bunting would hang around until I got a chance to go for it and today was the day. First of all I headed for Slimbridge for the sole reason of UK year ticking Bewicks Swan. I arrived at just gone nine and got the Swans straight away. I didn’t intend staying long but did visit the Martin Smith Hide to try for Jack Snipe. I managed to find a couple of Common but no Jack. A Crane flew past evoking recent memories of my trip to the Lac du Der.

Within an hour I was off and headed for Cleeve Hill. A new site for me and to be honest I hadn’t even known where it was until I checked it on the map. Pictures from yesterday had prepared me for the snow but the access road was pretty treacherous as the temperature had only just crept over zero degrees. The bushes along the track were busy with thrushes, several hundred were seen On reaching the car park it was a quick change into wellies and off across the common to the Dew Pond. The Bunting was obviously still there as I could, from the car see a small group of people watching it. Although I am not a massive fan of snow it was an enjoyable but short walk across. The bird was living up to its name moving around in the snow picking out food, totally at ease with the small group watching it. It was certainly less bothered by the staccato sound of a couple of cameras. I wouldn’t want to be sorting through the several thousand frames that must have been taken. After a few minutes it flew up onto a fence wire and then a post where it spent some time preening. The last time I saw one of these in the snow was when my son and I went up Ben McDui.

It was soon time to move on as I was due to be at Gloucester Airport for one o’clock to meet up for a drink with a friend. A couple of hours chatting and watching the planes with a nice pint finished the day of nicely.

Never Enough Time

Life has been pretty busy over the last few months and the blog has been one of the things that has fallen by the wayside. So this is an attempt to get things back on track. I shall try and do a catch up soon but in the meantime here is a look back at the last few days.

I was working on Saturday with a drive down to the New Forest to visit family when I finished. Fortunately I managed to finish at half-ten and as the rest of the family had driven down in the morning I had a bit of unexpected free-time. The Weymouth Little Auk sprang to mind as it was sort of on the way to Verwood from Swindon! I had a good drive down and parked at the Swannery car park. I gambled that two hours parking would be enough and headed for the harbour. There were plenty of birders around but all had the same thing to say, “it was very elusive” not what I wanted to hear. It was decision time, stay around where it was last seen or have a wander downstream to the lifeboat station. I chose the latter which turned out to be a mistake as it was seen again around the boats in the inner harbour. I spent another hour or so in that area and it was getting closer and closer to expiry of car park ticket time. I then spent some time trying to reactivate my Justpark app while keeping an eye on the harbour. I couldn’t sort the app but did manage to find the Little Auk as it broke cover and crossed an open channel. I managed three brief views totalling about ten seconds before it disappeared again. And unfortunately that was it but at least I had found it myself. To celebrate my thirteenth lifer of the year I treated myself to tea and cake at Craigs Farm Dairy in Osmington before heading to Verwood. Sunday was spent with the family and we walked a section of the South West Coast path. We started from Worth Matravers and did a circular walk to Chapmans Pool, St Aldhelms Head, Winspit Quarry and back. An absolutely stunning walk and makes me determiined to do some proper walking along this coast. There wasn’t a lot of birding done but a few Gannets, a couple of Ravens and plenty of Stonechats were seen.

On Monday morning I did a circular walk from home, along the railway path then up onto the Ridgeway to Liddington Castle and home again. About five miles and again it was more walking than birds. Meadow Pipits and Red Kites were all that I really noted. I was heading up to see my Mum and my Sister who was over from France in the afternoon and while I was eating my lunch I checked Birdguides to see if there was anything worth looking at on the way up. A drake long-tailed Duck at Staines had been reported so that was where I headed. On arrival I could see a small group of birders gathered at the top of the slope and a quick walk up and the usual is it still around? got the answer “yes and showing well”. The good thing at Staines is that there are plenty of Landmarks on the horizon and so I was soon able to get on the bird. I watched it for about five minutes before it flew, fortunately it came directly towards us and landed around a hundred metres away. It then drifted closer and ended up no more than thirty metres or so away giving superb views in the late afternoon light.

I stayed at Mums overnight and first thing my Sister and I set of for Bushy Park where we were hoping to get Dartford Warbler. We arrived just after the gates opened at eight and parked in the Pheasantry car park. It was a lovely morning with clear blue skies and quite a heavy frost. We headed for the bracken along Cobblers Walk but had no luck with the Dartford so then moved to the South East corner beyond the ponds. After several false alarms we eventually we got lucky and had brief but good views of a single Dartford. My first for the year and for the London area. A few Stonechat were seen along with twenty-three other species. The best of the rest was a Treecreeper which was the nice for my sister to add to her year list to go with her usual garden Short-toed version. We also saw plenty of deer including a striking white male.