Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hilfield Hill NR, Gore Hill and Sutton Bingham - Wed 28 Apr

After a busy couple of weeks I felt pretty exhausted so I stayed a bit closer to home this afternoon and drove about ten miles south-west of Sherborne to the small local nature reserve at Hilfield Hill. The reserve itself consists of shrub-like vegetation and small trees, whilst to the south there are large arable fields. I parked up in the car park and decided to walk out across the fields on a circular walk of a couple of miles around Gore Hill.
As I walked along a noted a few Yellowhammers singing and there were loads of Pheasants around. As I reached one field I noticed a few birds feeding on the ground. I set up my 'scope and scanned across. Before long I had counted over twenty Linnets plus three Wheatears and several Skylarks. Continuing around in a loop back towards the car park I saw at least six pairs of Red-legged Partridges.
A quick walk around the reserve itself at Hilfield Hill failed to produce anything out of the ordinary so I headed back towards home and stopped off at Sutton Bingham for about an hour.
A scan over West Pool produced five Tufted Ducks, but nothing else. A single Sand Martin flew over and a mixed flock of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls numbered around fifty. A Kestrel was near the Canoe Club and a Skylark was in song over the southern end of the reservoir. With little else about I headed off home for a relaxing evening in front of the TV!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Meare Heath NR and Ham Wall RSPB - Tue 27 Apr

I met up this evening with the guys I'm heading off to Lesvos with in a little over a weeks time so that we could finalise a few plans. We had decided to meet up for a spot of birding beforehand, and met at Ashcott Corner car park at 6.30pm and walked out towards Noah's Lake at Meare Heath NR. The drained lagoon had a few waders on it, including eight Black-tailed Godwits and single Little Ringed Plover and Ringed Plover. A few Swifts were whizzing around overhead, and a Hobby was seen briefly. With nothing of note from the hide we returned to the car park and walked out to Ham Wall RSPB.
We marched straight out to the second viewing platform and scanned the reed beds seeing a Bittern in flight. I then got on to another heron flying towards us some distance away. I knew straight away that I was looking at a Purple Heron! I soon got everyone else on to the bird and it circled around showing really well in the evening sunlight, an adult bird in breeding plumage. It then landed in the top of a tree and looked as if it was looking for a roost site for the night.
Heading back to the car as it was now 8.30pm we saw another two Bitterns in flight, a great end to a wonderful evening. We ended up in The Ashcott Inn for a well deserved drink and a final run through of the plans for next weeks trip.
UK year list for 2010 now at 185 species.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Hengistbury Head - Sun 25 Apr

My soon to be in-laws are in the process of moving house, so Ellie and I were up early and headed down to Highcliffe to give them a hand moving furniture and picking carpets. After a few hours of heavy labour and a well deserved lunch we decided to pop along to Hengistbury Head for the rest of the afternoon rather than simply drive straight back home as it is one of Ellie's favourite places.
We parked at Mudeford Quay and took the ferry across to the Head, seeing a couple of Sandwich Terns and four Turnstones en route, and then cheated by taking the Land Train to the main car park and cafe. A couple of Wheatears were hopping about near the Land Train "Station" and a few Sand Martins were whizzing by.
When we reached the cafe, Ellie settled down for a cup of tea and gave me twenty minutes to find a Subalpine Warbler that had turned up the day before. So, having gotten instructions on its location from a fellow birder, I hot-footed across a field and then through some rather vicious thorns and brambles. I met up with a few other birders who had been waiting a while for the bird to show. After a couple of fleeting glimpses of a Sylvia warbler that could have been it, I finally spotted the bird, a splendid summer plumaged male. This was my third Subalpine Warbler in the UK, and all three have been seen in Dorset. I then rushed back to the cafe and arrived spot on 4pm, my deadline!
I decided to reward myself with a cup of tea and a cake before we walked back to the ferry. Along the way we noted a few Whitethroats and a Blackcap and on the small lagoon near the start of the beach huts we saw a couple of Whimbrel.
Despite the rather cold and strong wind we had an enjoyable few hours out and about, a nice end to a good weekend.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Tealham Moor and Meare Heath NR - Sat 24 Apr

Yet another warm and sunny day and after a morning at work and then an hour cutting the lawn I took Ellie up on to the Somerset Levels for the remainder of the afternoon. We drove straight up to Tealham Moor as the Yellow Wagtails I had missed ten days or so earlier were now back and holding territory. As we pulled up we saw a couple of other birders who had had no luck. However, after about ten minutes or so I located the birds we were after. The first was the "Channel" Wagtail, a hybrid of the UK Yellow Wagtail and Continental Blue-headed Wagtail which had been located a few days earlier. This was shortly joined by a female Yellow Wagtail. Also present were a couple of Redshank and several Lapwings. A few Linnets were flying about and a Skylark was singing overhead.
We then headed back to Ashcott Corner parking in the car park and heading along the path on to Meare Heath NR. We walked out to the end of Noah's Lake. Overhead there were at least five Hobbies hawking for insects on the wing. We could hear a Cuckoo calling, but could not pin it down, as was the case with a booming Bittern. We were fortunate enough, whilst watching a Hobby, to see a fly-over Whimbrel. There were also three Common Swifts whizzing around. As we returned to the car we saw six Black-tailed Godwits on the drained lagoon, but little else. However, it was a wonderful afternoon out and about in the sun.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Ferrybridge, Portland and Lodmoor RSPB - Wed 21 Apr

My half day and as the weather was pretty gorgeous I decided to head south and visit Portland. I drove straight down to Weymouth and on towards Portland, stopping for about ten minutes or so at Ferrybridge. As I scanned across the water there were four Sandwich Terns flying about and a single Little Tern was sat on a buoy.
I then drove straight up to Portland and parked in Weston and walked along Barleycrates Lane towards the West Cliffs. Within the first twenty yards or so I had found a female Redstart showing well on a fence post. I then scanned across the field that runs alongside the path and saw seven or so Wheatears and three Whinchats. I continued up the path until I reached the West Cliffs where a few Fulmars were soaring about and then retraced my steps back down Barleycrates Lane towards the car. As I neared the end of the path I saw a fleeting glimpse of a warbler, just the tail and under-tail coverts. I was pretty sure of what I had just seen, but spent another fifteen minutes trying to get better views and my patience eventually paid off as a cracking Grasshopper Warbler popped in to view. There were also several Linnets about and Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were in song.
I got back to the car and drove out to the Bill, parking at the Bird Observatory. Walking up to Top Fields I saw a couple of male Redstarts and another Wheatear. I continued across to West Cliffs and then walked down to the Bill proper. Looking out to sea I saw a few auks, primarily Razerbills but a couple of Guillemots too. A few Kittiwakes flew through, as did a Manx Shearwater. A Peregrine was perched up on the cliff near Pulpit Rock. With little else happening on the sea I walked back towards the Bird Obs via the Hut Fields. Here I saw several Rock Pipits and yet more Wheatears and a female Black Redstart. I got back to the car at about 5.30pm and decided to head to Lodmoor RSPB in Weymouth.
Arriving at Lodmoor I took the plunge and walked the whole route starting at the top of Beachdown Way. After about fifty yards I could hear a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the reeds and a Reed Warbler flitted by. There were also numerous Cetti's and Sedge Warblers singing. Two Black-tailed Godwits were present, along with three Common Sandpipers and a flock of about twenty-five Dunlin. By the time I completed the cicuit and got back to the car it was 7.30pm, so I left Weymouth and headed home after a great afternoon of birding.
UK year list for 2010 now at 178 species.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Tue 20 Apr

I made a flying visit before work to see if last nights Osprey was still about, and sure enough it was on the exact same branch as it had been when I left it yesterday. Two Common Sandpipers were also seen in flight as I drove across the northern causeway.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Mon 19 Apr

I decided to pop up to the reservoir after work instead of do a few chores at home! I drove straight down to the southern end and parked up, looked out at the tree where the Cormorants usually rest and thought "Why are there no Cormorants...oh! That's why!!" as an Osprey was perched up in the dead tree! I watched this splendid bird for a good thirty minutes, and it was still there when I left at 5.00pm.
Also present on the raptor front, a male Kestrel flew over a couple of times, a female Sparrowhawk was soaring overhead, and at least three Common Buzzards were circling overhead.
A couple of Ravens also flew through, and West Pool still held five Tufted Ducks. A couple of Common Sandpipers were on the southern causeway. A very profitable hour long visit.
UK year list for 2010 now at 170 species.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Ham Wall RSPB and Meare Heath NR - Sun 18 Apr

Another really hot day, so Ellie and I took off for a visit to Ham Wall RSPB doing one of our favourite walks along the path to Sharpham Tea Rooms.
As we walked along there were loads of Blackcaps singing and we saw a couple of Common Whitethroats. At least one Bittern was booming and at least one Sedge Warbler was singing away deep in the reeds. As we returned from the Tea Rooms (as Ellie is on a diet I had to eat two pieces of cake!) we had a brief stop at the second viewing platform where I noted six Black-tailed Godwits, a Redshank and a Green Sandpiper.
When we got back to the car, Ellie decided to wait in the car and read the paper whilst I popped along to the drained lagoon on Meare Heath NR to take a quick look. There was a good variety of waders present, a couple of Black-tailed Godwits, five Ruff, eight Dunlin, seven Ringed Plover and two Little Ringed Plover. A single adult White Wagtail was also present.
A nice hour or so out and about, though not as many summer migrants as we were expecting.
On the butterfly front, there were an amazing number of Orange Tip butterflies on the wing.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 18 Apr

An hour long visit mid-morning in wonderful weather was, unfortunately, not that productive on the bird front. A Common Whitethroat was in song near the railway bridge, but stayed hidden in cover. Four Common Sandpipers were seen, two on the northern causeway and two on the southern causeway.
A total of nearly fifty Great Crested Grebes were counted and eight Tufted Ducks were still on West Pool.
A female Kestrel was on fence posts near the hide and a pair of Chiffchaffs were gathering nesting material.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Winterbourne Downs RSPB - Sat 17 Apr

We headed east today and after a brief stop in Amesbury arrived at the relatively new RSPB reserve at Winterbourne Downs. It was a lovely sunny day and the rolling fields of Salisbury Plain were a wonderful backdrop. We had our picnic lunch, utilising the picnic table in the small car park and before long had seen a Common Whitethroat and then a very showy Lesser Whitethroat as it sang from the bushes near us.
We then headed off on the longer of the two nature trails, a walk of about two kilometres across the fields. As we left the car park and crossed the first field we saw a couple of Red-legged Partridge. Continuing our walk we saw loads of Woodpigeons and several Stock Doves. A Linnet was in full song and a few others flew about. A couple of Yellowhammers were also seen.
As we started the return leg to the car, Ellie wanted to do a bit of painting to capture the wonderful scene. So I set up my 'scope and scanned the fields for half on hour or so whilst she was painting. There were several Lapwings present and another couple of Red-legged Partridge. I then managed to come across a couple of very distant Stone Curlews, a real surprise. As we got back to the car we saw a Mistle Thrush feeding.
We also saw loads of Hares, well in to double figures, and two Roe Deer were present. We also saw a Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, a couple of "Whites" and several Brimstone butterflies.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Tealham Moor, Catcott Lows and North Moor - Tue 13 Apr

I took a trip up on to the Somerset Levels after work, heading straight to Tealham Moor where I hoped there might be a few early Yellow Wagtails about. However, they were yet to arrive but there were several pairs of Lapwing present, a couple of Redshank and three Ruff. A Linnet flew over and a couple of Skylarks were in full song.
I then headed south and paid a visit to Catcott Lows. From the hide I could see a number of wildfowl, mainly Teal and Wigeon, but a couple of Pintail were still about. Another three Ruff were seen and there were also three Black-tailed Godwits. With time getting on I continued the journey south.
I parked up on North Moor a couple of miles to the west of Burrow Bridge and walked out along a drove on to the moor for about a kilometre. Setting up my 'scope on the bridge over the main drain alongside a couple of other birders, I managed to get some cracking views of two Short-eared Owls. It was nearly 8.00pm and as I had yet to have any dinner I left North Moor and headed on home.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Mon 12 Apr

An hour long early evening visit produced well over a hundred gulls, primarily Herring Gulls although six Common Gulls were mixed in with them. West Pool still played host to the pair of Pochard and five Tufted Ducks. A single Common Sandpiper was also present.
At the southern end a good number of House Martins were feeding with Swallows over the trees. Two Stock Doves flew through heading north. At least three Ravens were seen on the pylons and in flight. It appeared to be a pair which were being vocally received by another bird. The three Ravens were interacting with each other for well over twenty minutes.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Ham Wall RSPB and Meare Heath NR - Sun 11 Apr

Before the FA Cup Semi-Final I zoomed up to Ham Wall RSPB in the hope to see the Glossy Ibises that were seen yesterday and earlier in the morning. However, it was a wasted journey as they had flown by the time I arrived. Two Lapwings flew over, as did a Little Egret and a Bittern was booming.
A quick walk out to the partially drained lagoon at Meare Heath produced a Great White Egret showing extremely well. A further three Lapwings, two Redshank and half a dozen Black-tailed Godwits were also present.
I got home in time for the match, but after a disappointing result and some shocking referee decisions, I should have stayed out birding!

Sutton Bingham - Sun 11 Apr

My usual Sunday morning visit produced the first singing Blackcap of the Spring. At the southern end, a male Reed Bunting was in song near the location I had seen a female earlier in the month. Also at the southern end of the reservoir, six Teal were present and a pair of Mallard have successfully hatched about six or so ducklings. A Skylark could be heard singing distantly.
On West Pool the Tufted Duck were still present, with thirteen birds counted along with the pair of Pochard. Six Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also on West Pool. Three House Martins were feeding high above West Pool.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Chapman's Pool, Winspit and Middlebeare - Sat 10 Apr

Ellie's choice of location today and we were up early and set off for Worth Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck, arriving at 9.00am. We parked in the village car park (seeing two Hares in a field near the village) and headed off west, walking down to Chapman's Pool. Along the way we were surprised by the lack of migrants, but I guess the fine weather had meant any birds arriving on the south coast would have kept moving. Ellie was lucky enough to see an Adder sunning itself, but it had moved in to cover by the time I caught up.
At Chapman's Pool we saw a Little Egret fishing on the shore and a Sparrowhawk flew over. A Fulmar flew past out to see. As we climbed back up to the cliff top a pair of Peregrines passed overhead and a male Stonechat put on a bit of a show. We saw several Stonechats along the route, this particular individual showed a very pale rump leaving me thinking it might be of the Continental race.
We followed the coast path around St Aldhelm's Head and then on to Winspit. Several Skylarks were singing and we also saw a single Rock Pipit. Below us on the water and flying from the cliffs were a number of Razerbills and Guillemots. Two Ravens flew over calling and a further three were seen as we returned to the village and the car.
Leaving Worth Matravers we headed back home, taking a slight detour to Middlebeare where an Osprey had been seen earlier in the day. I left Ellie in the car, she had had enough of walking, and trapsed off to Avocet Hide. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Osprey, but I did see two Spoonbills. As I walked back to the car another Peregrine soared overhead. Nearing the car I saw a Tree Pipit feeding on the ground.
During the course of the morning we also saw a few butterflies on the wing, noticeably a couple of Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells and a single Red Admiral.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Wed 7 Apr

A flying visit prior to 8.00am produced two Common Sandpipers at the northern causeway and a good number of Sand Martins feeding over West Pool. A return visit late afternoon produced an additional two Common Sandpipers, one near the Sailing Club and another on the southern causeway.
The Tufted Ducks present on West Pool yesterday had been joined by a male Pochard.
In the afternoon a pair of Kestrels were seen near the unused Osprey Nesting Platform and a male Mandarin flew south past the hide.
The only bird of note at the southern end of the reservoir was a Jay. This claw, presumably from a Crayfish of some sort, was at the water's edge.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Tue 6 Apr

A late afternoon visit after work produced the first Common Sandpiper of the spring present on the northern causeway at 5pm. There were still thirteen Tufted Ducks on the West Pool.
On the main reservoir there were small numbers of both Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Collared Dove flew over, and a Green Woodpecker was seen.
At the southern end around fifty Sand Martins and twenty Swallows were feeding.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Dawlish Warren NNR - Mon 5 Apr

The last day of the Easter weekend, and Ellie and I headed off for the coast and spent a few hours at Dawlish Warren. We took the long walk out along the sand dunes to the hide where we saw very little! A Great Northern Diver was in the channel, but the only waders around were Oystercatchers and Curlews.
As we wandered back to the car the only things of note were a male Stonechat and a singing Skylark.
Ellie then sat in the car and read the paper for fifteen minutes whilst I did a little bit of sea-watching. Out to sea I did see a single Fulmar and a Sandwich Tern, but the scoter flock was rather distant and I could not pick out the Velvet or Surf Scoter amongst the Common Scoters.
UK list for 2010 now at 162 species.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Sun 4 Apr

An hour long visit this morning did not yield that much. West Pool still held eleven Tufted Duck and a pair of Pochard.
The southern end of the reservoir produced a pair of Teal and a pair of Mandarin in the flooded wood where there were also good numbers of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Two Snipe were flushed from the water's edge.
About twenty Swallows were feeding and at least eight Buzzards were soaring overhead.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Beer, Greylake RSPB and Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 3 Apr

Sensing a break in the persistant rain, we headed off late morning to the Somerset Levels, making straight for the area north of the small village of Beer near Othery. It did not take us too long to locate a female Great Bustard, one of the Salisbury Plain reintroduction scheme birds that has been wintering in the area. Whilst there we also had a great view of a Peregrine, a single Swallow flew through, and a Skylark sang overhead.
We then drove on to Greylake RSPB reserve where a Short-eared Owl had been seen the day before. We had our picnic in the hide, but did not see the owl (it was found dead a couple of days later). In fact, it was rather quiet with just a few Little Egrets milling around and a Raven flying over in the distance.
Leaving Greylake we then headed up and took a walk at Ham Wall RSPB. As we walked along there were good numbers of Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs around. From the second viewing platform we found a Great White Egret which showed really well.
A Cetti's Warbler but on a bit of a show, and when we got back to the car we could just make out a booming Bittern.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Sutton Bingham - Fri 2 Apr

I dropped Ellie off at choir practice and took advantage of a pleasant evening to pop up to the reservoir. I drove straight down to the southern end and parked up. There were a good number of Swallows feeding with a few Sand Martins, and a single House Martin.
A pair of Mandarin flew from the vegetation up towards the north of the reservoir as a Grey Heron flew south. Three Buzzards were in the air, taking the opportunity to stretch their wings whilst the rain held off. Five Wigeon were also present, as was a Little Grebe.
Back at West Pool there were ten Tufted Ducks and a pair of Pochard. A Green Woodpecker also flew over. As time was limited I headed off after a pretty good three quarters of an hour.

Budleigh Salterton - Fri 2 Apr

The first of four days off work, and Ellie and I had hoped to take advantage and get out and about. However, we awoke to pouring rain which made for a bit of a dilemma. So we checked the weather forecast online and decided to head west and chose Budleigh Salterton and a walk along the River Otter.
We arrived in sunshine and after a packed lunch, seeing three Linnets from the car, we headed north along the river. There were several Herring Gulls milling around, but surprisingly no waders. As we neared the "White Bridge" we saw a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the river.
Further on there was little about, though a Raven flew over and a couple of Grey Wagtails were seen on the river bank. As we returned to the car we were treated to an extremely showy Cetti's Warbler and a few Little Egrets.
The rain kicked in again just as we got back to the car, but at least we got a bit of fresh air!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Meare Heath NNR - Thur 1 Apr

Ellie and I popped up to Meare Heath NNR for an hour long visit in the early evening. As we walked out to the hide at Noah's lake we stopped briefly to look over the partially drained second lagoon where we saw two Little Ringed Plovers feeding on the area of exposed mud.
We then carried on to the hide and had a quick look out over Noah's Lake. There were still a couple of Wigeon about, and the female Long-tailed Duck was showing well, still present after over two months.
There were several Swallows and Sand Martins flying about, and as we returned to the car we took another look at the sign of the Little Ringed Plovers that we had seen less than a hour earlier, but six Black-tailed Godwits had appeared!
Just as we neared the car park we were lucky enough to see a Barn Owl, a perfect end to a nice evening out.