Sunday, 30 January 2011

West Coker - Sun 30 Jan

After an enjoyable, but rather late night out, Ellie and I soon remembered why we hadn't been out for a drink for over five weeks! So despite it being a lovely day we couldn't get out and about due to our fragile states. Instead I enjoyed the birds in the garden.
For a small front garden we actually do pretty well for birds and our feeding station attracts quite a variety of species. Today, it somehow seemed right to look at what was on our doorstep as it was the RSPB Garden Birdwatch weekend.
We had at least six Goldfinches feeding on the nyjer seed and sunflower hearts. The constant chirping of the small flock of a dozen or so House Sparrows was a delightful sound. A pair of Blackbirds kept a Chaffinch and Dunnock company feeding below the feeders. A Coal Tit kept popping back and forth, collecting a sunflower seed and taking it off somewhere to enjoy at its leisure. I was also lucky enough to see a Song Thrush in the garden as well as the ever-present garden Robin. Finishing off the roll-call, a Woodpigeon and a couple of Starlings. So nothing rare, but an enjoyable time watching the garden birds.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Radipole RSPB and West Bexington - Sat 29 Jan

A bit of a lie-in today as I had the morning off work, so after a leisurely start to the day Ellie and I drove down to Weymouth for a walk around the RSPB reserve at Radipole before meeting a couple friends there for a coffee at midday.
We arrived shortly after 11.00am and walked out to North Hide. It was rather chilly and to be perfectly honest we saw little on the walk to the hide, only a few Black-tailed Godwits and several Teal from the hide, and nothing much on the way back to the car.
However, things changed slightly when we got back to the visitor centre. Meeting Laura and Paul we grabbed a coffee and sat outside on the picnic tables. As we talked a number of Mediterranean Gulls started dropping in and landing on the water, I took a quick count but gave up when I reached 150 individuals. A few more birds were gathered in the car park.
Also from the visitor center I saw at least twenty Snipe and a Water Rail was heard calling. Finishing our drinks we bid farewell to Laura and Paul and headed off west through Weymouth and on to the coast road towards Bridport, and then turning off to West Bexington where we sat and ate our lunch.
Whilst Ellie started tucking in to her sandwich I got out my 'scope and started scanning the sea, and within a minute had located four Velvet Scoters, and soon found a second group of four further west. Although they were not that distant, my record shots with my phone leave a lot to be desired, but at least you can see it's a black duck with a white wing panel!!

Also out to sea were three Great Crested Grebes and about a dozen Common Scoters. It was registering as zero degrees on the car thermometer, and standing outside with the wind blowing it felt much colder. We left the beach and drove back towards the main road, stopping halfway up and looking over the mere and I spent five minutes scanning the water with my scope. There were loads of duck on the water: Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, and Wigeon as well as smaller numbers of Tufted Duck and Pochard. Before long I could feel myself getting colder and colder, so decided to call it a day and off we headed towards home...but stopping off on the way to do the weekly grocery shop!!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sutton Bingham - Thu 27 Jan

I was fortunate enough to finish work slightly early today so took advantage of the slightly lighter evenings and made a visit to Sutton Bingham Reservoir, arriving at about 4.20pm.
I took a quick drive to the southern end to see if anything was about, but could see nothing from the car so decided against pulling over and taking a more thorough look, instead I returned to the northern causeway to scan over West Pool and the main reservoir.
A look over West Pool produced five Tufted Ducks, five Wigeon and two Little Grebes, all of which were tucked up in the vegetation roosting.
On the main reservoir, there were was a flock of another thirty-five Wigeon between the Sailing Club and the dam. A dozen Great Crested Grebes were also present.
Large numbers of gulls were coming in to bathe before heading off to roost, primarily Herring and Black-headed Gulls, but I did pick out single Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
An apparent Continental Cormorant of the Sinensis race flew over heading south.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Ham Wall RSPB and Shapwick Heath NNR - Sun 23 Jan

After getting the weekly grocery shop out of the way, Ellie and I had a quick lunch before heading up to the Somerset Levels. When we arrived at the Ashcott Corner car park we were surprised to find it full as people were already arriving to witness the daily Starling roost. Fortunately we found a safe place to park the car on the road and then took a walk around Ham Wall.
As we reached the first viewing platform a look over the exposed water produced lots of duck with good numbers of Pochard and Tufted Duck and a fair few Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon and Teal. In the reeds to the south at least three Great White Egrets were seen.
We continued to walk east and got as far as the second viewing platform before deciding to return to the car. On our way back we bumped in to a good friend of mine from Yeovil who had seen the Shapwick Heath Great Grey Shrike earlier in the afternoon. So Ellie and I decided to give it a go and picked up the pace back to the car, a Cetti's Warbler was heard singing as we walked along.
A ten minute drive later and we were parked at the entrance to Shapwich Heath NNR and we walked along the drove until we reached the second of the owl boxes. A quick scan over the reedbed to the south produced the Great Grey Shrike! So a week after missing the bird in pouring rain, today we got lucky as it sat on the top of a small bush:

Having connected with our target bird we decided to call it a day and head on home.
UK list for 2011 now at 125 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 23 Jan

My usual Sunday morning visit after dropping Ellie off at church and I decided to leave the car by the entrance to the car park (which is closed during the winter months). Walking through the car park there were severl small birds flitting around including a Treecreeper and about four Greenfinches.
I followed the path from the car park along the water's edge to the hide. I was surprised by the lack of birds on the water, in fact the only birds of note were three Tufted Ducks and two Pochard from the northern causeway and seven Wigeon off the dam.
A single Snipe flew up from the edge of the water as I walked along. A small flock of seven or eight Long-tailed Tits were feeding with a few Goldfinches and a single Goldcrest.
A steady passage of Black-headed Gulls flew north, with somewhere in the region of two hundred birds flying over.
As I returned to the car a large flock of Fieldfares and Redwings left the trees in the car park and flew east over the reservoir.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Cary Moor and Cheddar Reservoir - Wed 19 Jan

Having been faced with terrible weather during my last two half days I feared the worst today as freezing fog enveloped the area. However, fortunately it cleared as I left work so I drove down to Cary Moor and walked out along the Macmillan Way. After a ten minute walk I reached the set-aside field and there were birds everywhere. Chaffinches were by far the most numerous but there were also lots of Reed Buntings and a few Yellowhammers. However, the pick of the crop were at least ten Tree Sparrows.
A testiment to the healthy bird population was the presence of a couple of Sparrowhawks, both of which had prey. As I returned to the car, the trees along the path were full of Redwings and Fieldfares.
At 3.00pm I left Cary Moor and undertook the drive to Cheddar Reservoir. A diversion due to roadworks cost me about twenty minutes travelling time, so it was gone 4.00pm by the time I parked at the reservoir. I walked round to the southern side ensuring the light was behind me and I scanned across the water at the mass of birds. There were at least twenty Goosander present and I eventually tracked down a female Red-crested Pochard.

A pair of Raven flew overhead and several Pied Wagtails were feeding on the water's edge. Other notable species on the water included hundreds (if not thousands) of Coot and several Common Gulls flew in, presumably to roost. As the light started to fade the temperature dropped quite noticeably, so at 4.45pm I headed on home.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Shapwick Heath NNR and Burtle - Sun 16 Jan

After an early lunch Ellie and I decided to brave the weather and head up on to the Somerset Levels for an afternoon stroll. Rather than our usual walks starting at Ashcott Corner, we instead parked near the Peat Moors Centre and walked out to the Decoy Hide at Shapwick Heath. Due to the drizzle we did not see a lot in the way of birds, but a couple of Lesser Redpolls were feeding in an Alder and a Treecreeper was also seen.
We arrived at the hide and took a look out over the water. Very little in the way of birdlife could be seen, but six Tufted Duck were present and during the quarter of an hour that we were in the hide nearly two hundred Lapwings passed over head, in three flocks. It soon become evident that the rain was here to stay for the rest of the day, so we walked back to the car in what was now pretty heavy rain!
We then took a slight round-a-bout route back home, driving north and taking a look for the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen in the area earlier today, but we failed to see it. We then cut across to the village of Burtle and took the road towards Catcott, stopping on the edge of the village to check the swans. Almost immediately I found the family group of Whooper Swans, with six birds being present amongst Mute Swans.
We then drove on back home, stopping in Yeovil en route to grab a quick look at the small flock of Waxwings that I had seen yesterday, though only seven of the eight birds I saw the day before were present. But they typically showed well, much to Ellie's delight. A wonderful way to end a pleasant if somewhat damp afternoon.
UK list for 2011 now at 121 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 16 Jan

Arriving at the reservoir at 10.00am after dropping Ellie off at church I scanned across the water from the northern causeway. A small herd of six Mute Swans were on the main reservoir along with nineteen Coot. But other than a single Common Gull there was nothing else of interest so I drove down to the southern end of the reservoir.
A long walk in wet and muddy conditions produced a few birds of interest. Five Snipe were flushed from the water's edge and a mixed flock of twenty or so Redwings and Fieldfares were foraging for food. A single Great Spotted Woodpecker was being rather obliging by perching at the top of a small tree calling.
A Peregrine flew in and alighted on one of the pylons before heading off south. This obviously led to the wildfowl being rather flighty and sure enough the mixed flock of Teal, Wigeon and Mallard were not settled. A surprise find, a pair of Pintail, were in with the other duck and a single drake Pochard was present.
Before I knew it, it was 11.00am so I had to head off and collect Ellie. All in all a pretty good morning.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Yeovil - Sat 15 Jan

Third time lucky today as I finally connected with some wintering Waxwings, and they were just down the road in Yeovil. I had been hoping that the small flock that had been present for the past day or two would hang around for the weekend and fortunately they did, so I left work and headed straight for Coronation Road, arriving at about 12.45pm. There were a few birders present, most of which I knew and after parking the car I looked up and saw the flock of eight Waxwings:

These are always such delightful birds to see, and always so tame and obliging. So after having my fill I came on home for lunch!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Axminster and Chard Reservoir - Wed 12 Jan

For the second time in less than a week I missed some Waxwings today. It was my afternoon off and as the weather forecast was dire I didn't travel too far and drove down to Axminster to try and find the small flock of Waxwings that had been present for the last couple of days. Unfortunately the information I had on the location was pretty vague and whilst I thought I was in the right area there was no sign of the birds. I had a good walk around but despite there being loads of Starlings I could not make any of them in to Waxwings. So I gave up and headed off to Chard Reservoir.
As I arrived at the reservoir and walked out to the hide the rain had started to fall a bit more steadily. I then bumped in to the warden who had just locked up! Fortunately I knew the combination so was able to have the hide to myself for half an hour or so. An adult Goosander was the highlight, whilst other duck included three Tufted Ducks and a pair of Teal. By 4.00pm the light was really poor, the rain was coming down, and a mist was gathering on the water, so I headed back to the car. Along the way I passed through a feeding flock of Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, and Long-tailed Tits which also included a couple of Treecreepers and a Nuthatch. A flock of a dozen Redwings were on the top of a tree. A mixed bag this afternoon and more birds missed on the 2011 year list.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Bestwall RSPB and Arne RSPB - Sun 9 Jan

Picking Ellie up from church at 11.00am we drove straight down to Wareham and a quick look over the RSPB reserve at Bestwall. Whilst Ellie sat in the car and had a sandwich I walked down the small path to look over the water meadows. Fortunately, the small flock of Eurasion White-fronted Geese that had been present for the past few days were still showing and I picked out half a dozen birds. There were also a few Greylag Geese about and on a small pool at pair of Shovelers. As I walked back to the car a Siskin flew in to a small tree.
Leaving Wareham we then drove down to Arne and parked. We had our picnic lunch and then took a walk through the reserve and out to Shipstal Point. There were plenty of common woodland birds about and we had soon seen Marsh Tit and Lesser Redpoll amongst others. Out on the water there were several Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye and looking out over the salt marsh there were eight Spoonbills as well as several hundred Shelduck and Curlew and smaller numbers of Avocet and Redshank.
After completing the circular walk, seeing a couple of Mistle Thrushes in one of the large fields, we got back to the car and I left Ellie to read the paper whilst I took a walk around Coombe Heath. I was hoping to see the wintering Great Grey Shrike but after a forty minute search I gave up. There were loads of birds feeding in the Middlebeare channel (including a pair of Black Swans). A large flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese contained two Pale-bellied Brent Geese. On the heath there were a few Meadow Pipits flying about. So having missed a few good birds at Arne during the afternoon I was in a bit of a stroppy mood when I got back to the car, but we had a lovely afternoon out and about in some wonderful weather.
UK list for 2011 now at 118 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 9 Jan

My usual Sunday morning visit to the reservoir after dropping Ellie at church, and I drove straight down to the southern end and took a walk around.
There were loads of duck on the water, including over 115 Teal and more than thirty-five Wigeon. A Peregrine caused rather a stir as it whizzed over the water in an attempt to flush the wildfowl. A couple of Skylarks were calling as they passed overhead and a small flock of six Fieldfares flew south. A male Reed Bunting was seen in the waterside vegetation.
Returning to the car I drove back to the northern causeway where I saw fifteen more Wigeon on West Pool but nothing else of note.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Meare Heath NR and Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 8 Jan

After being in at work all morning, Ellie and I took advantage of the unseasonal sunshine and headed up on to the Somerset Levels for an afternoon stroll. Parking at Ashcott Corner we walked out to the hide overlooking Noah's Lake. There were plenty of birds on the water, but the only thing of real interest (in other words a 2011 year tick) was a single Bewick's Swan.
We had fortunately dodged a shower whilst in the hide and when we returned to the main drove saw a mixed flock of Goldfinches, Lesser Redpolls, and Siskins feeding in the top of some alders.
We then headed straight out to Ham Wall and from the first viewing platform saw a Great White Egret. Several Lapwings passed overhead and a Cetti's Warbler could be heard singing from the reeds. Before long it got very busy as all the locals arrived for the Starling roost, so we took this as a sign to come on home after a nice afternoon out.
UK list for 2011 now at 111 species.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Portland and Abbotsbury - Mon 3 Jan

We left Radipole and drove out to Sandsfoot Castle overlooking Portland Harbour. There was a bit of drizzle in the air but nothing that hampered our views out over the water and before long Steve had found a Great Northern Diver, and I quickly got my eye in and located a couple of Black-necked Grebes. Also in the harbour we saw several Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers, but no other divers unfortunately, so we headed off again.
We drove straight out to Portland Bird Observatory and parked and then walked down to The Bill. We spent about quarter of an hour sea-watching, seeing numerous Gannets and Kittiwakes and countless Guillemots and Razerbills. With our fingers getting cold in the wind we packed up our scopes and started searching for the wintering Purple Sandpipers. It took us a while, but eventually we tracked down the small flock of seven or eight Purple Sandpipers feeding on the surf-sprayed rocks. It was now getting on a bit, so I phoned Ellie to tell her that I would not be back home by 1.00pm! Fortunately, she was fine with this so I did not need to rush back home. As a result we decided to drive along the coast to Abbotsbury.
Before too long we had arrived at Abbotsbury and parked up overlooking the Swannery. We were hoping to see the flock of eighty or so Barnacle Geese that had been in the area for a few weeks, but there was no sign of the birds...but we got lucky as John spotted a superb male Hen Harrier hunting over the reeds before it flew out over the fields and was lost to view.
It was now getting rather cold and damp, so we set off for home with a brief and unsuccessful stop at West Bexington where we were hoping to see a couple of Velvet Scoter. So after a pretty productive day out and about in Dorset we got back at 3.30pm.
UK list for 2011 now at 106 species.

Lodmoor RSPB and Radipole RSPB - Mon 3 Jan

An early start again today as I had arranged a morning out with friends Steve and John and we arrived at Lodmoor at 8.45am. We walked down Beachdown Way and before long found the main target bird, a Long-billed Dowitcher as it showed well alongside some Dunlin and Lapwing.
We then continued around the reserve and saw a few other species as we walked along. An Avocet was feeding on the marsh and a Marsh Harrier flew over. A total of seven Scaup were on the water, and a pair of Bullfinches were seen. We then left Lodmoor and headed down the road to Radipole.
It was just before 10.00am when we arrived and after paying for an hours parking we walked straight out to North Hide, seeing a Water Rail along the way as it ran across the path in front of us. From the hide we saw a couple of Black-tailed Godwits and a Stonechat, but little else of note. With time ticking by, we walked back to the car, seeing a couple of Mediterranean Gulls on the water.
I had told Ellie that I would be back home in time for lunch, but before I knew it John and Steve had convinced me to stay out for a bit longer and we ended up having an afternoon of birding too!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Bracketts Copse NR and Sutton Bingham - Sun 2 Jan

After carrying out a few chores it was too late in the day to travel any distance, so I popped out to the small Dorset Wildlife Trust of Bracketts Copse, arriving soon after 2.30pm. I took a walk around the wood and managed to pick up a few of the expected woodland species, including Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker. However, there was not a huge amount of birdlife about, so at 3.30pm I left the copse and headed home, stopping at Sutton Bingham en route.
I parked the car on the northern causeway and took a walk along the water's edge. A Mistle Thrush was seen in the car park (which is currently closed for the winter), and a flock of thirty-three Lapwing flew over. I failed to see much more of note, so with the light fading fast, returned to the car and came on home.
UK list for 2011 now at 89 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 2 Jan

My first trip of the year to Sutton Bingham Reservoir and there were a few birds of note about. From the northern causeway there was nothing much of note, although Coot numbers were at a pretty high twenty-four birds.
I spent the next forty or so minutes taking a walk around the southern end of the reservoir. I flushed a Snipe from the water's edge and overhead a couple of Skylarks flew over. Wildfowl consisted of a flock of forty or so Wigeon, twenty Teal, four drake Pochard and two drake Tufted Ducks.
There were two Peregrines on one of the pylons and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also present. A single Common Gull flew north.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Dawlish Warren and Exminster - Sat 1 Jan

An early start to the new year as I was picked up from the village by John and Steve at 8.00am for a day out in Devon. After picking up Andy and Dave from Chard we headed straight for Dawlish Warren for our first spot of birding. Seawatching produced the long-staying female Surf Scoter and a few fly-by Red-throated Divers and a Great Skua. A flock of Eider and a couple of Slavonian Grebes were also out to sea. On the land we saw a few bits and pieces, the highlight being a superb male Black Redstart.
Leaving Dawlish Warren we headed back towards Exminster, stopping at Cockwood to look out over the estuary. The tide was not really in our favour, but we saw a few waders, including Greenshank and Turnstone. A couple of Goldeneye were on the estuary.
We then drove up to the fields at the back of Exminster village where after a bit of searching we found a handful of Cirl Buntings. With not a lot else of note we drove back down to Exminster Marshes where we were to spend the rest of the day.
After parking the car we walked out towards Topsham lock where a redhead Smew had been for the last few days, only it had been flushed by dog-walkers minutes before we got there. So we decided instead to walk back down the Exeter Canal to Turf where we had been told of a Red-breasted Goose...but like the Smew it too had vanished by the time we got there!
Thinking that our day was taking a turn for the worse we were even more frustrated when, after being told the Smew had returned, we got back to Topsham lock to find it had again just been flushed. However, after ten minutes we got lucky as the Smew had flown back on to the canal and gave some brilliant views:

After finally getting our target bird we then drove back down to the Swan's Nest pub and parked up before taking a walk out to the new RSPB reserve of Powderham Marshes. It was a fair walk out to the viewpoint, but we were rewarded with a mixed flock of Chaffinches and Bramblings, and a smashing male Merlin. We were hoping to connect with a small flock of Eurasion White-fronted Geese, but we could not locate them. By now it was starting to get dark, so we called it a day and walked back to the car. A pretty long and tiring day but well worth it.
UK list for 2011 now at 82 species.