Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Martin Down and Sixpenny Handley - Tue 31 May

After a good morning I headed back towards home and stopped off at Martin Down, a reserve right on the Hampshire border. A decent walk around the site failed to produce any Turtle Doves, the main reason for my visit. However, there were a few birds about such as Yellowhammer, Linnet and Lesser Whitethroat...but nothing that unusual.
The strong wind and cloudy conditions meant that there were not as many butterflies on the wing as I was hoping. Loads of Small Heaths were flitting around and were by far the commonest butterfly. A couple of Common Blues were seen and a cracking Adonis Blue was also present. After spending well over an hour at Martin Down I drove south-west to Sixpenny Handley.
Parking by the water pumping station I was hoping to hear the Quail that had been in the area for a week or so, but again I drew a blank with the wind not helping. A Red-legged Partridge was feeding on the roadside and several Skylarks were singing and a pair of Lapwings were also present. A Small Blue was the only butterfly I saw so with nothing happening I took that as a sign to get on home so started back at 4.00pm. Just as I was leaving Sixpenny Handley a Red Kite flew over the car.

Acres Down and Bratley View - Tue 31 May

A fairly early start and I left Ellie in bed as I headed down to the New Forest. After a ninety minute drive I parked at the car park at Millyford Bridge. This meant a fairly long walk through the forest and up to Acres Down. Along the way a saw a Redstart and a Cuckoo, and eventually I reached the top of the hill and set up my scope ready for a bit of rapter watching. Before long I had located a couple of soaring Goshawks, and over the next hour I noted at least six birds. I was also fortunate enough to see a couple of displaying Honey Buzzards as well as sightings of three more birds. So all in all a good start to the day. Also at Acres Down I saw a Tree Pipit and a fly-over Siskin.
I then set off through the forest on a roundabout walk back to the car, and it was a good job I had a map with me as the various trails were not signposted. Along the way I saw three more Redstarts, including a brilliant male bird. An outbreak of noise in the canopy attracted my attention to a Hawfinch harassing a Jay. A couple of Wood Warblers were heard singing.
Eventually I found my way back to the car and drove back west. I parked at Bratley View and walked out across the heathland. I was hoping that there would be a couple of Dartford Warblers about, but the severe winter weather has really taken its toll on these birds. I did see a couple of Stonechats and a Meadow Pipit. But with not much else about I headed off and left the New Forest after a really good morning.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 29 May

Two visits today, a very brief and uneventful morning trip whilst Ellie was at choir was so unproductive I ended up popping home after just ten minutes and doing some chores!
However, a late afternoon visit with Ellie proved much more interesting as we headed for the meadow at the south of the reservoir. Despite a pretty strong wind and a fair amount of cloud when the sun did break through we were treated to a few butterflies on the wing. We soon picked out a good number of Common Blues as well as a couple of Small Tortoiseshells and our first Meadow Browns of the year.
We also noticed a few orchids, which I think are Spotted Orchids, but I'm not entirely sure.
On the bird front we coudl hear a Reed Warbler singing and a Reed Bunting was also in full song. At least four Grey Herons were present, one of which was seen in flight with a duckling in its beak! Opposite the hide an unexpected visitor in the form of a Little Egret was fishing, and three Mute Swans were on the water.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Exmoor - Sat 28 May

An early start as myself and three mates headed up to north Somerset for the day. Our first point of call was Hurlestone Point where we spent an hour or so sea-watching. It was pretty quiet out to see, with just a single Gannet, some twenty or so Manx Shearwaters, and just four Razerbills passing through. On the slopes there were a few Wheatears and both Rock Pipits and Meadow Pipits.
Leaving the coast we headed on to the moors and were met by low cloud and drizzle. A stop at Chetsford Water was brief but produced a Whinchat and a Cuckoo. But we didn't hang around too long instead carrying on to Cloutsham and another quick stop, this time at East Water where we saw both Dipper and Grey Wagtail.
Another quick drive and we parked up at Webber's Post and a walk down the valley to Horner. Along the way we saw a few Pied Flycatchers and Spotted Flycatchers as well as a Wood Warbler. Another Dipper was seen on the river. When we reached Horner we stopped for a quick cream tea to build up some strength before undertaking the hike back up to Webber's Post.
Our next stop was to be at Nutscale Reservoir, but I took us on one my infamous shortcuts, but it reaped rewards as we saw four Redstarts, including two smashing male birds. We also picked up another Pied Flycatcher and one more Wood Warbler. When we reached Nutscale we took a short walk in strong winds and other than having the car blocked in in the car park there was nothing else of note. With the weather closing in again it made the decision to head back home.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Ham Wall RSPB - Tue 24 May

So it goes like this, if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. So I suggested to Ellie that we go for a walk up on the levels as soon as I finished work and so I picked her up from home and we were at Ham Wall just after 6.30pm.
We walked straight out to the first viewing platform where by pure chance I raised my bins to my eyes and saw the Red-footed Falcon dip behind some trees. We then walked on to the second viewing platform in order to get a bit of exercise and along the way had five seperate Bittern sightings as the birds flew low over the reedbeds. We also saw a Spotted Flycatcher, my first of the year, and as we returned to the car the female Red-footed Falcon put in another appearance, this time showing much better as it hawked for insects over the reeds.
So with the target safely ticked off and a pleasant evening stroll completed wwe were back at the car and heading back home.
UK list for 2011 now at 227 species.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 22 May

I was on call all weekend so it somewhat limits what I can do and where I can go, so imagine my frustration when I got a text message mid-afternoon telling me that a female Red-footed Falcon was showing really well at Ham Wall. I couldn't turn off the work phone until 6.00pm and it was then time for dinner and so I didn't get to leave the house until 6.45pm. A quick call to my mate Steve in Yeovil meant a slight diversion to pick him up and we arrived at the Ashcott Corner car park at around 7.30pm and were met by a couple of birders who had seen the falcon some fifteen minutes earlier.
We walked out to the first viewing platform at HamWall and were again told that the bird had been seen some twenty minutes ago, but despite giving it until 9.00pm we failed to relocate the Red-footed Falcon as it had presumably gone off to roost.
That being said we did have a pretty productive evening. At least six Bitterns were seen in flight, some affording prolonged flight views. A small party of six Shelduck flew over heading north and there were hundreds of Common Swifts overhead.
A drake Ring-necked Duck was some compensation for missing the Red-legged Falcon and it showed well on the pool behind the viewing platform with some Tufted Ducks. Despite the poor light and my somewhat limited photographic ability I still managed a record shot with my mobile phone:

Other birds of note included a drake Garganey, which spent most of its time asleep, a couple of Barn Owls hunting over the edge of the reedbeds in the distance, and a female Marsh Harrier. We did see a very brief Hobby which got us interested for a split second and all in all it was a pretty good evening, just a shame we missed the class act!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 22 May

I had to dodge a few showers during this mornings visit whilst Ellie was at church, but it was still nice to get out and about for an hour, especially as being on call over the weekend meant being somewhat limited with regard to where we could go.
A quick stop at West Pool produced just a singing Reed Bunting so I headed on down to the southern end of the reservoir where a further two Reed Buntings were in song. 
After a brief run in with a couple walking their dog, having obviously missed the numerous "No Dogs" signs, the sun broke through and a couple of Common Blues took advantage of the sun to spread their wings:
It was very quiet on the water, but there were over fifty Great Crested Grebes present, some of which were still in the throws of courtship dances:
Other birds of note included a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a brief flurry of House Martins and Swallows after the rain, a very vocal Whitethroat, and a couple of Grey Herons:
A few Common Buzzards were soaring high in the sky, and just as I was getting ready to head on back and pick up Ellie a rather unseasonal Peregrine.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Lodmoor RSPB - Wed 18 May

I headed south and spent my afternoon off in Weymouth at Lodmoor RSPB reserve. Arriving at 2.30pm there were loads of low-flying Swifts due to the encroaching dark clouds, and within an hour misty rain started falling, though fortunately only for half an hour or so.
I walked the circuit spending a while overlooking the ternery. A single Arctic Tern was amongst the Common Terns and it got some pretty harsh treatment from its cousins, being repeatedly chased off and harassed. There were at least forty Common Terns, many in courtship:
As I continued round the reserve I saw a few different waders including a single Bar-tailed Godwit, thirty-five Dunlin, two Ringed Plovers and a few Oystercatchers: 
It was about 4.00pm by the time I completed the walk and got back to the car and I was hoping to connect with a Savi's Warbler that had been at the reserve for a few days. I was feeling rather confident as I had seen some very confiding Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers whilst walking around.
However, it was not going to be easy as there was a lot of background noise but my patience paid off as at 4.30pm I heard the Savi's Warbler singing for about a minute before it went quiet again. I staked out the area until gone 5.00pm and despite seeing a warbler that seemed to tick all the boxes the view was too brief for me to nail it, however, a Bearded Tit flying across the reeds was a nice bonus. So I called it a day and set off home.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sand Point & Velvet Bottom - Sun 15 May

After church we drove straight up to Weston-Super-Mare and made a visit to Sand Point in the hope of finding some Glanville Fritillaries. Unfortunately the bright sun we had experienced back home was missing and a strong wind was blowing off the Bristol Channel. We sat in the car and had our picnic and then I braved the elements and took a walk out on to the point whilst Ellie sat in the car and read her book. In the wind I was surprised to see a couple of Common Blues and a Small Copper but not the target species. Several House Martins were zooming around and a Common Whitethroat was also seen, but due to the very blustery conditions I soon returned to the car.
Ellie suggested we head inland in the hope of calmer conditions and she thought a walk down Velvet Bottom and Black Rock might be better. So after a pretty uneventful drive to Cheddar and up through the gorge we parked near Charterhouse and had an enjoyable walk down through Velvet Bottom to Black Rock. Along the way I nearly trod on an Adder:
A couple of Ravens were flying overhead and on our return to the car we saw a female Redstart and a Mistle Thrush flew over. So after a good walk we were back in the car and home before it got too late.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 15 May

Back to routine this morning and a hour long visit to the reservoir whilst Ellie was at church. Being such a lovely day there were a host of people enjoying the water and as a result I, like the birds, made straight for the southern end of the reservoir for some peace and quiet away from sailors, canoeists and model boat enthusiasts.
In the mid morning sun there were a few butterflies about and I saw several Common Blues and single of Green-veined White and Grizzled Skipper. I also saw my first Brown Argus butterflies of the year.
On the bird front, I could hear a Reed Warbler singing away and eventually he popped out in to the open. A Reed Bunting was also in song and a Tawny Owl was heard calling somewhere in the near distance.
As always seems to be the case when I only have an hour the time whizzed by and I had to get back to pick up Ellie.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 14 May

Work in the morning, followed by the FA Cup Final, meant that Ellie and I did not head out until 5.30pm and we set off for the Somerset Levels and enjoyed a walk around Ham Wall. It was rather windy and as a result we did not see a huge amount in the way of birds, though there were loads of Swifts overhead. Several Bitterns were booming but Ellie failed to tell me of the one she was watching in flight until it had vanished in to the reedbed! However, there was little else of note and as we wanted to get back to watch the Eurovision Song Contest we headed back home after a pleasant evening out.

Sutton Bingham - Fri 13 May

Same old, same old, this evening as Ellie and I enjoyed an evening stroll along the reservoir. About the only birds of note were a couple of Reed Buntings and that was about it. In fact it was that poor on the bird front it's hardly worth writing anything, but I have anyway!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Thurlbear Quarrylands - Wed 11 May

Last Wednesday I headed out to Thurlbear Quarrylands and as I arrived the sun vanished, today, pretty much the same thing happened! I parked up at about 2.30pm and took a walk around the reserve thinking that I'd probably not see a lot in the way of butterflies.
At least three Nightingales were still singing away. and despite being about six foot from one of them all I saw was a flick of a tail and a shaking branch! Several Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were also in full song, a Bullfinch was seen and a Raven flew over.
Eventually the sun broke through the clouds and it was enough to stir a couple of Small Heaths as well as a few Grizzled Skippers and several Common Blues:

I also saw single Green-veined Whites and Speckled Woods. A Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly was also seen:
After nearly two hours at the site I had all but given up on seeing the butterfly I was after when another break in the cloud meant another flurry of activity and a small brownish butterfly caught my eye. I managed to stay on it as it landed up in the top of a tree, a Duke of Burgundy! And not just one, but actually two sat up in this tree. This was my second new butterfly species in four days and it was a real beauty, though I was unable to get a decent photo of it due it being too high over my head. Seeing this as an omen that the best was saved to last, I decided to call it a day.

Sutton Bingham - Tue 10 May

After what felt like a very long day I made a flying visit to the reservoir after work. As has been the case over the last couple of weeks there was not really that much of note. A pair of Canada Geese have three young and were present just to the north of the hide, whilst a single Grey Heron was opposite the hide briefly before flying off north. A couple of  Common Buzzards were soaring high in the evening sky and I am still awaiting a decent spring migrant at the site this year!!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Lankham Bottom - Sun 8 May

After a late night as we had some friends staying over, Ellie and I had a relaxing morning and after watching the Turkish Grand Prix decided to head out for a bit of fresh air as it was a lovely afternoon. After parking the car we walked out on to the hillside and were surpised by the force of the wind, in fact Ellie decided it was too windy for her so she returned to the car whilst I went for a walk.
Despite the wind I was surprised to see loads of butterflies around. I walked to the bottom of the valley where there were a couple of Common Blues, several Small Heaths and one or two Small Coppers:

As I continued up the other side of the valley I noted lots of Grizzled Skippers:
And a few Dingy Skippers:
However, the real treat was the sight of several Marsh Fritillaries, a species of butterfly I had not seen before: 

I then retraced my steps and walked back to the car, a few Linnets were singing and I also heard a Yellowhammer, but there was little else about on the bird front.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Pen Wood Trail - Sat 7 May

I'm on call this weekend, so couldn't venture too far from home and as Ellie had gone off shopping with a girl friend I decided to head up to a site that I had not previously visited, Pen Wood near Pendomer. I arrived soon after 4.30pm and within seconds the heavens had opened! Despite the heavy rain I set off for a walk around the wood, opting for the shorter of the two trails which was about a mile in length.
A few "typical" woodland birds were still singing away despite the weather with a Song Thrush being most audible above the constant falling rain. Following the way-markers I walked down a path with thick conifers on the right making quite a tunnel of vegetation. I nearly had a heart-attack as a Roe Deer leapt out in front of me and bounded down the path, at the same moment a Tawny Owl flew straight towards me at eye level before veering off to the right above my head...what a sight!
As my heart rate returned to normal I rejoined the main trail and completed the circuit back to the car, seeing only a Jay and hearing a couple of Chiffchaffs. So not a lot seen but it was certainly worth visiting this site which looks like it could produce a few good birds in the right conditions.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 7 May

Ever the optimist I again tried my luck at the reservoir before work, hoping that the overnight rain would have brought something interesting in. It hadn't! Other than a Little Grebe in front of the hide and a Common Sandpiper on the edge of West Pool there was nothing of note. Whilst it's great having a local patch, it's frustrating when visit after visit fails to bring something different...oh well, there's always next time!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Sutton Bingham - Fri 6 May

More of the same today during an early morning visit before work. Three Common Sandpipers were on the northern causeway and from the hide another Common Sandpiper was seen in flight and a Lesser Whitethroat again heard singing. A couple of Swallows were also present, but again nothing out of the ordinary.
A return visit after work was equally unrewarding, with just two Common Sandpipers just north of the hide and a pair of Mandarin seen in flight.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Thurlbear Quarrylands - Wed 4 May

I decided to try for butterflies rather than birds during my afternoon off as it was another lovely sunny day. I set off to Thurlbear Quarrylands just to the south of Taunton only to arrive under overcast skies and somewhat cooler temperatures. This put pay to seeing any butterflies, I failed to see any during the hour I walked the site. However, I did hear at least four Nightingales blaring away from the undergrowth, so it was not a completely wasted trip and it did mean I was home earlier than normal!

Sutton Bingham - Wed 4 May

With some good passage over the past few days I thought it might be worth making a quick early morning visit to the reservoir before work. However, it failed to pay off with anything out of the ordinary.
A couple of Common Sandpipers were on the northern causeway and a pair of Stock Doves flew over.
Another Common Sandpiper was just to the north of the hide as were two Mute Swans. A Lesser Whitethroat could be heard singing opposite the hide and a Sedge Warbler was also in song in bushes next to the road.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Meare Heath NNR - Mon 2 May

Having worked most of the extended Bank Holiday weekend I was fortunate enough to have the day off today. We had spent Sunday up in Twyford in Berks where I had been given the honour of becoming Godfather to the daughter of some very close friends...and we were also lucky enough to see several dozen Red Kites and a Montagu's Harrier during the day!
So after a relaxing morning we popped up to Meare Heath for a late afternoon walk which ended up being rather productive with regard to birds. We walked out along the path and had a look over the drained lagoon where we saw single Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover as well as a couple of Redshank and several Black-tailed Godwits.
We then walked out to the hide and for once found it empty, so we settled down and spent an enjoyable half an hour or so in looking out over Noah's Lake. Several Swifts were whizzing around overhead, as were a few Hobbies. A Whimbrel flew up from a clump of vegetation and headed off north and a Bittern was seen in flight. The highlight was a small flock of six Black Terns that were hawking insects over the water and showed really well from our vantage point.
We then retraced our steps back to the car and managed to see a couple of Wood Sandpipers on the drained lagoon, we had missed them on the way out. A Marsh Harrier was seen briefly over the reed beds to the south of the path and we also saw another two Bitterns.
Before we realised it was gone 5.00pm and so it was time to come on home for dinner.
UK list for 2011 now at 220 species.