As I work in the food supply chain and my wife and daughter both work in schools life is carrying on almost as normal for our household. I count myself as being very lucky spending most days out delivering to our shops all over the Midlands, the South and also the South of Wales. In fact, at the moment, due to the lack of traffic driving is way more pleasurable than usual. I count myself as beinWith a bit of planning for where I take my statutory breaks I can one day be watching Dippers on a Welsh river and the next scanning the sea somewhere along the South Coast. There are also the not so interesting days when I am plodding up the M5 to Birmingham or enduring the screeching Parakeets of West London. Also on my usually around 02:30 drive to work I get to see a good amount of wildlife including Barn and Tawny Owls along with plenty of mammals. Both Liddington Hill and Coate Water along with some good mixed habitat around Chiseldon are within easy walking distance of home giving me the opportunity of some varied bird walks. Last week was particularly good with Dipper and Purple Sandpiper added to the year-list along with Oystercatcher and Little ringed Plover in Wiltshire when I managed to take a driving break at the Cotswold Water Park. The previous week got me Sanderling and this week Sandwich Tern. The last few days have also added Wheatear, Ring Ouzel and Swallow to the notebook on local walks. A flyover Redshank was a nice surprise near to Liddington at the weekend. We also get regular low-flying Red kites over the garden while Skylarks can be heard displaying over the nearby farmland.
Lousy Phone Pictures from the work sightings.
I am ashamed to say that I haven’t yet visited the coast in the UK this year. This is mainly because I have been busy at home and have also had a couple of short breaks across the Channel. Today was a “close but not quite there day” with a work visit to Cornwall where at Truro I was able to spend a few minutes checking out the city end of the Truro River. Unfortunately with a 450 mile round trip and some work to do I didn’t have time to do anymore than that. With the tide well out there were plenty of birds on the mud, mainly gulls but also a few Blackwit and Redshank both of which were UK year ticks for me.
Today my sister went back to Les Renclotures and from the exact place that we had been watching for it on Friday had great views of the Black-winged Kite. A little frustrating but pleased that she managed to catch up with it. She also saw Goldcrest, Firecrest and Treecreeper here, three species that we missed on all three days.
After that she went to Le Hourdel which we were going to look in at but went to see the Wild Boar at Cap Hornu instead. Here she managed to find a flock of Snow Buntings which was another species that eluded us both on the previous days
My Mum is spending Christmas in the Jura region of France not that far from Geneva and the family decided the best way for her to get there was to fly and as she is eighty-six and partially sighted I found myself with the opportunity to accompany her on the flight which gave me the chance of a day sightseeing. We flew out on the Sunday afternoon and for the first time ever I used airbnb to find my accommodation. After a good flight over from Gatwick courtesy of Easyjet and a good nights sleep first light found me heading for the Lake Geneva via Lidl to pick up a Pain-au-Chocolat for breakfast. House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon were the first birds seen and then on the lake Goosander, Goldeneye and RC Pochard along with BH and YL Gulls. Walking along towards the City I soon added Tufted, Pochard and Great Crested and Little Grebe. There were good numbers of wildfowl but not in the numbers I had expected from looking at online reports. What was good though was how confiding the Goosander were. Unlike our local birds that move off quickly as soon as you get close these ones did the opposite and started to come closer. A Red-breasted Goose was a surprise but presumably not a wild bird. In all just twenty-two species were noted with only Crow and Blackbird added to the land bird list although to be honest I wasn’t looking that hard. Main disappointment was not finding any Ferruginous Ducks which was my target bird. However birds were only a small part of the day so most of it was spent just sightseeing and shopping. All in all a most enjoyable day was had despite no snow and many heavy bursts of rain. Another, as usual good flight with Easyjet I arrived home at half-ten all ready for Christmas.
On Monday I headed back up to visit my son in Shropshire. Having finished work at lunchtime I was going to have enough light left for a bit of birding. A Red-necked Grebe has been hanging around at the Venus Pools Nature Reserve. A look at the map showed that it wasn’t a great distance away from Wellington where my son lives so a no-brainer reallyas it would be a new site, a year-tick. After stopping at an excellent farm shop en-route I arrived at the reserve at a little gone three o’clock. With information from Twitter I knew that I needed to head for the Causeway and to view the adjacent fishing lake. I soon found the correct lake and with an elevated viewpoint I was able to see almost the whole of the lake. After a couple of minutes I realised that the Grebe was either nmot around or in the small area that was obscured by the bankside bushes. After walking down the hill I was able to see this area and it wasn’t long before the RNG was found. Although not particularly close it was nice to see one on a calm lake rather than bobbing around between the waves somewhere out at sea. I had forgotten to charge the camera so it packed up after a single shot was taken which was a bit annoying.Having watched the Grebe for a few minutes and being conscious of the rapidly fading light I made my way to one of the hides from where it was possible to scan the actual reserve. There were good numbers of a variety of wildfowl to be seen along with Lapwing and at least forty Snipe. A little more time here would have been nice but I was happy with having seen the target bird.
The evening consisted of a couple of pints and an Indian. The next day was to be spent waiting for someone to come and collect a car which was be returned from lease. Despite several phone calls I couldn’t pin them down to a time so only able to get out for a breakfast. Typically they didn’t turn up until almost three which left no light for any stops on my drive back home.
I spend a fair amount of time driving at night and this year , compared to previous years have seen very few Owls. In Wiltshire the tally is just two Tawny with no Barn Owls at all. So on to this morning, I left Swindon in the rain at around four o’clock but by about half past, just before I got onto the Fosse Way at Cirencester it had stopped. Just before Bourton-on-the-Water I saw a Little Owl atop a road sign, only my second one this year. The Owl that is, not the road sign. A little later and now in Warwickshire a Barn Owl was seen perched on a hedgerow. Finally as I was stopped at the traffic lights at the Longbridge Interchange a movement caught my eye. It was another Barn Owl that had alighted on the fence of the field margin. Fortunately there was very little traffic about so I was able to sit for a couple of changes of the lights to watch as the Owl made a couple of unsuccessful forays into the long grass below the fence. A pretty good result and I have another trip along the Fosse tomorrow so hopefully a repeat performance although on a Monday morning it will be a lot busier. What I am wondering though is that if Owls in general have had a bad year as this is certainly the least I have seen for many years.
Last weekend we had a family get together with eleven of us meeting up in Eastbourne. Although not a great distance from home the South Coast between Newhaven and Rye is an area that other than a couple of work trips I have never visited. We were pleasantly surprised with Eastbourne which has a not so good reputation, especially for the younger person (although i am not that young myself ). We initially met up in the lovely village of Alfriston for a very good cream tea before heding to our hotel. There were no plans for birding and with limited knowledge of the area we did happen to hit on a good place for a walk on the Saturday. This was Cuckmere Haven. Despite there being a lot of people around we managed twenty-three species whilst here. Back home and it seemed a good time of year to restart the after work visits to the Water Park. Yestarday I managed seven Green Sandpipers and a single Common while today got an impressive twelve Green, two Common and two LRP along with eighteen Common Tern, loads of Sand Martins and a Hobby. Nothing amazing but still worth seeing.