I had a car trip out to Southampton for work today and managed to time it so I could have my break at Fishlake Meadows. Arriving at the viewpoint I had a scan for the hoped for Osprey but there was no sign of it in any of the dead trees. A couple of other people arrived, both uninterested in getting the Osprey as they had seen it previously, but were both hoping for the Purple Heron that I had managed to see last week. This time I only had to wait for about five minutes before the Osprey appeared flying left to right across the middle of the lake. That made two good yer-ticks here for a total of twenty-five minutes expended. A fair return in my opinion.
For the last few nights we have been sleeping in the back bedroom as the motorway has been closed meaning there has been a lot more overnight traffic going past the house. Tonight however, the church bells were ringing and neighbours dog decided to have a barking session. So it was what turned out to be a fortuitous decision to decamp back to the front bedroom. My first alarm went off at 03:50 and unusually I decided to doze until the second went off five minutes later. As I lay there I heard a bird calling but I just couldn’t place what it was. The second alarm went off and as I got dressed I was listening out for it to call again. The rest of the dawn chorus was starting up but I faintly heard it again. A calling Quail just across the road from the house was certainly not what I was expecting. As usual I had cut time to the bone for getting to work but managed to listen for five minutes or so during which time it called four more times, I even managed to get a recording of it before getting myself out of the house.
With Nightjar now hard to find in North Wiltshire a June evening visit to Greenham Common has been the default way to get them on the year-list. So having got home late afternoon on Monday from a weekend break in Broadway the evening found me heading east to Newbury and Greenham Common. I arrived a little late for the smaller birds but did manage Linnet and Stonechat along with several singing Song thrushes. As the light began to fade I headed for the regular Nightjar area, all the while keeping a lookout for Woodcock. The first bird seen was a hunting Barn Owl which made a brief appearance at about half-nine. At 21:42 a Nightjar started to churr but it was a fair way away over on the main airfield. I stood my ground another started but this time much closer. These two continued to churr but neither were seen. After about half-an-hour I started to head back to the car and on reaching the main track heard another bird further on into the main site. I decided to head towards it and was getting fairly close when it flew up a little way ahead of me. Despite it being almost dark I had fabulous views as it flew around me both calling and wing clapping. So another successful visit despite the lack of Woodcock for the second year running. Earlier on I had walked along the line of the fences around the cruise missile bunkers and I finally got around to finding some information on why the site is registered as an ancient monument. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1021040
Yesterday morning I was booked for my second jab in Salisbury. After dropping my wife at work I had an hour on the Plain before heading into Salisbury. As before it was very efficient at the vaccination centre, I was in and out in twenty minutes. From here I headed south to Franchises Wood which although being in the New Forest is in Wiltshire. I was hoping for Wood Lark and Wood Warbler and within yards of entering the woodland I heard a Wood Warbler. It took a few minutes to find it but once I had it was easy to follow it as it called and sung whilst moving around it’s territory. Despite the greenery I managed a couple of reasonable pictures. Heading further in a Cuckoo was calling, I stopped to look for it but it was too deep into the trees. A couple of Goldcrest were singing and while looking for them a Firecrest popped out right in front of me. I spent another hour or so here but didn’t manage to find the Wood Lark.
From here I drove to Romsey to visit a new site for me, Fishlake Meadows to try for a Purple Heron. It took me a while to find the roadside viewing platform mentioned on Birdguides, it was actually a small area of bare earth with the entrance concealed amongst the trees. I only found it as I saw a birder clambering out. I was informed that the Heron had done a flyby about fifteen minutes earlier but my luck was in as it did the same about twenty minutes later. I needed to pick my wife up from work but managed an hour or so on the Plain on the way. No Stone Curlew or Quail again but two Grey Partridge, a Hobby and thirteen Red Kites and five Buzzards circling a field that was being silaged made it a worthwhile visit. There was a lot of military activity and on a couple of occasions a quick return to the car and shutting of the windows was required to avoid being engulfed in a dust cloud.
I was at my Mum’s in London when a message came in, Rosy Starling in Swindon. I put it out of my mind for a while hoping that it would stay and be showing later on. Not long after I got home it was refound but I had to first pick up my wife from work. I had taken my camera into the house when I got back from London and had forgotten to bring it out again so chose to take wife home, collect camera then go for Starling. This I did and arrived at the Starling location to find that it had flown two minutes before. Camera collection was looking to be a bad Idea. As I have said before housing estate birding isn’t my favourite but it had to be done. Fortunately there were a couple of others to keep me company. it wasn’t looking promising after about thirty minutes of looking and then having been joined by another local we got lucky with it being refound. Heading for the new location I went to get the camera ready. Ironically it wouldn’t turn on, a flat battery following my week away. However, the important thing is that I did get to see the Rosy which was a county tick. And I do have a photo taken by Nigel who was standing next to me and has kindly shared it with me.
We have just had a family camping holiday in the Woolacombe area. Not much birding was done and I only noted forty-three species over the week. Friday was heading home day and I set of home earlier than the others who had decided to spend a bit more time on the beach. As I am not a fan of sitting in traffic if it can be avoided I took a back roads route across Exmoor and then across to Bridgewater. Driving through Bridgewater I was feeling a bit hungry so decided to stop at a Sainsburys for fuel for myself and the car. I checked my phone before leaving and saw that a River Warbler had been found at Ham Wall which was about two miles off of my M5 avoiding route home. I parked in the RSPB car park at around half two and reluctantly parted with £3 for the car park. Paying for car parking is another thing I don’t like to do. A brisk walk soon found me on the path to the Avalon Hide where there were a half-dozen other birders. The RW had been seen about twenty minutes earlier. While waiting I was working out how long I could stay, with a couple of hours still to drive, a car to unload, a dog to collect and starting work at 03:15 the next morning I decided on half four. I soon revised this to 16:15 and as the clock ticked by I was feeling less than positive. Another Wiltshire birder arrived and we were chatting whilst i was watching the clock tick down. At ten past I was preparing myself to leave and literally as I was saying my good byes to Mike a shout came, River Warbler showing. And there it was at bang on 16:15, showing well and singing just twenty-five or so metres away. I watched for a few minutes, tried a couple of pictures then headed off back to the car with another lifer in the book.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,