Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 31 Jul

After a pretty entertaining Hungarian Grand Prix Ellie and I needed to pop in to town to drop off some DVDs we had hired for the weekend and took the long route home, making a fairly quick visit to Sutton Bingham.
From outside the hide I counted eight Common Sandpipers feeding along the water's edge and a summer-plumaged Dunlin. The adult Yellow-legged Gull flew past heading north and a Little Egret was also present. The hay fields had been cut so there were no butterflies about.
We then headed back and parked on the northern causeway. A further two Common Sandpipers were present on West Pool and a Redshank could be heard overhead, but it failed to show itself. I also heard a bird of prey calling and soon spotted a Hobby in flight as it flew away from me and landed in an old oak tree a couple of fields away. Also on West Pool, two Mandarin and a pair of Tufted Ducks.
A pretty productive trip was rounded off with another two Little Egrets on the shore of the main reservoir.

Alners Gorse - Sun 31 Jul

Due to a slight mix up with church times, I missed out on my Sunday morning trip to Sutton Bingham and instead Ellie and I drove out to Alners Gorse as it was such a lovely morning. We arrived at about 11.15am and spent an hour on site and were lucky enough to see four or so Brown Hairstreaks, and they were really smashing butterflies, and the views we had today more than made up for missing them earlier in the week.
We also saw a couple of Purple Hairstreaks and Silver-washed Fritillaries and a Holly Blue was also on the wing. Several other species of butterfly were also seen during our visit, in fact we saw over ten different species in just an hour.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Melbourn - Thu 28 Jul

An early start as my mate Andy and I left Somerset at 5.30am, picked up John en route, and drove up to Cambridgeshire to try and finally get Common Rosefinch as a singing first winter bird had been present for a couple of weeks. After a pretty uneventful drive we arrived at the site just outside of the village of Melbourn at 9.15am.
We then spent nearly five hours staking out the garden in which it had been singing and showing for the last fifteen or so days...and the final result is that I still need Common Rosefinch and have now dipped out on at least seven birds, it really is a bogey bird for me.
There were plenty of birds about despite us not connecting with the one we were after we did see a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, a few Linnets, and the usual garden bird species.
So a long day and I ended up driving nearly 400 miles, one day I'll see this species...I hope!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lodmoor RSPB - Tue 26 Jul

After a busy morning sorting out a few things around the house Ellie and I set off for Lodmoor RSPB reserve in Weymouth for a walk in the early afternoon. It was another really lovely day and we parked up and walked down Beachdown Way. We headed straight for the bank from which the Stilt Sandpiper had been regularly seen and bumped in to an old friend, Lee Evans. After catching up with Lee for a while I looked for the sandpiper but could only see a couple of Common Sandpipers and three Green Sandpipers. Four Black-tailed Godwits were also present. However, there was no sign of the Stilt Sandpiper (and it had not been seen for nearly four hours) so rather than hang around we said goodbye to Lee and headed back to the car.
We got back home at 5.00pm and as we reached the front door my phone rang and it was Lee telling me the bird was now showing again, so I called my mate Andy Grinter who had called me earlier and wanted to go and see the bird so I found myself back at Lodmoor just after 6.00pm!
This time we were successful, though we had to wait for thirty minutes for the Stilt Sandpiper to finally show itself, and when it did it was ofter obscured behind reeds, but it was a cracking summer-plumaged bird and well worth two trips in one day!
UK list for 2011 now at 244 species.

Alners Gorse - Mon 25 Jul

Ellie and I were celebrating our first Wedding Anniversay today and as it was a really warm and sunny day we popped out to Alners Gorse before lunch to look for butterflies. We were hoping to see some Brown Hairstreaks but couldn't find any, however there were still several Purple Hairstreaks on the wing and fortunately a few of them were at low level affording some good views.
The pick of the other butterflies included a couple of Holly Blues and a Silver-washed Fritillary. Several Gatekeepers were also whizzing about. After an hour in very strong and hot sun we decided to head back home for lunch and a cool down!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 24 Jul

After nearly three days stuck in the house I had to get out for a bit this evening and rather than rush down to Weymouth to twitch a Stilt Sandpiper (I don't need it for my UK list) I decided to spend an hour at Sutton Bingham instead.
I stopped off at the northern causeway and was surprised to find a summer plumaged Dunlin feeding. However, it did not linger that long and flew off shortly after I had seen it. On West Pool there was a single Green Sandpiper and a large flock of Canada Geese.
Heading down to the southern end of the reservoir I spend forty minutes outside the hide. The pool had attracted at least five Common Sandpipers and another four Green Sandpipers. The adult Yellow-legged Gull was again present and showed well for opposite the hide.
Three Mandarin were near the Canoe Club, and a further three were near the willows at the south. A family party of at least a dozen Long-tailed Tits were flitting through the bushes. As a bit of drizzle started to fall I decided to call it a day and headed on home.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Ferrybridge, Portland Bill & Radipole RSPB - Thu 21 Jul

Another trip out with my mate John today and as it was his turn to drive he picked me up at 8.30am and we drove down to the coast. Our first port of call was Ferrybridge were we scanned the shoreline as the tide started to creep in. There were loads of Dunlin and a few Sanderlings present, whilst two adult Mediterranean Gulls were also seen. On one of the buoys there was a single Little Tern and a Common Tern flew through.
We then headed to Portland Bill and parked at the Bird Observatory before walking down to the Bill. In very calm and sunny conditions we were not expecting much in hte way of sea birds, but we did see several Gannets and a Manx Shearwater, the highlight was a fairly distant Balearic Shearwater.
Leaving Portland we drove back in to Weymouth and took a walk around Radipole RSPB reserve. As we strolled round the reserve we had some cracking views of a small party of Bearded Tits as they sat up in the tops of the reeds. As we reached the North Hide we were treated to some more amazing views, this time of three juvenile Marsh Harriers, a species which has successfully bred on the reserve this year.
After a good day out we headed back home, and a brief stop at Sutton Bingham en route yielded nothing of note apart from two Common Sandpipers.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Wed 20 Jul

A quick afternoon visit after a morning of rain and chores failed to provide much excitement. At the southern end two Little Egrets were present as was a single Common Sandpiper. A Peregrine was perched on one of the pylons and was a slightly unexpected visitor.
The only bird of note from the northern causeway was another Little Egret.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ham Hill Country Park - Sun 17 Jul

As I left Sutton Bingham I got a call from a bored Ellie who fancied getting out of the house for a walk, so I picked her up and we drove up to Ham Hill for a late afternoon stroll. As we crossed the meadows there were several Meadow Brown butterflies about and a couple of Common Blues, we were also treated to some splendid views of a Hobby as it flew past us several times. As we continued our walk the weather came in and for the second day in a row we got caught in a heavy rain shower. We decided as we got back to the car that it was time to get back home and enjoy a roast chicken dinner!

Sutton Bingham - Sun 17 Jul

Another day of showers but I dodged them for an hour after lunch and visited the reservoir. On West Pool a couple of Little Egrets were present but there was no sign of the Wood Sandpiper that had been seen on Friday and that I missed yesterday. A Mandarin was also present and unlike most of the birds present had plucked up enough courage to come to bread!
I then headed straight to the southern end and sat by the hide for about half an hour or so. At least four Common Sandpipers were feeding on the small pool that has been formed by dropping water levels, as were three Green Sandpipers. Three more Mandarin were seen and I finally connected with the adult Yellow-legged Gull that has returned for it's fifth or sixth year.
I first saw it opposite the hide as it caught and then devoured a Crayfish and it then sat opposite the hide for ten minutes or so. Interestingly enough I watch a Lesser Black-backed Gull attempt the same thing, but the Crayfish must have put up more of a fight and it scampered back in to the water.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sat 16 Jul

Heavy rain for most of the day finally let up for a while mid-afternoon so Ellie and I headed up to the reservoir for a walk and a breath of fresh air. As we walked from the hide towards the Canoe Club the heaven's opened and we got pretty much soaked, especially me as I was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt!
However, despite the rain I did see a couple of things of note, with a Common Tern being a somewhat pleasant surprise.
Two Common Sandpipers were also present and a Little Egret was seen flying north up the reservoir. A family party of Whitethroats were seen flitting between bushes.
We stopped briefly at the northern causeway where presumably the same Little Egret was feeding near the Sailing Club and another was on West Pool.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Lulworth Cove & East Holme - Fri 15 Jul

After spending the first part of the morning doing various chores around the house whilst Ellie was at work I decided at 11.00am that I needed to get out of the house as the weather was pretty fine. Having never seen a Lulworth Skipper I thought that today would be as good a day as any to try and rectify that, so I headed straight for Lulworth Cove logically thinking this would be my best bet to see this small butterfly.
I arrived just after midday and then had to walk up a very steep path to Bindon Hill, which left me feeling that I really must do something to shed some of the sixteen stone bulk I have amassed! Whilst there were several butterflies milling around, including my first Chalkhill Blues of the year and loads of Dark Green Fritillaries, I could not locate any areas of long grass. Fortunately I bumped in to a couple who had seen some Lulworth Skippers and they gave my directions, and ten minutes later after a steep descent I found two of these little beauties, though in strong winds they did not hang around long enough for me to get a photo of them.
With my target seen I set off back to the car, seeing a few Linnets and Stonechats along the way, and a Gannet passed by out to see.
I then set off for East Holme, a small village not that far from Lulworth in the direction of Wareham. There had been a report of a Ferruginous Duck on a pool just outside the village, and whilst I found the pool there was no sign of the duck! There were a couple of very flighty Tufted Ducks and half a dozen or so Siskins were flying between the conifers. I also saw a Woodlark and another new butterfly as I nearly trod on a Grayling. An amazing butterfly that allowed me to almost touch it before it flew as it was that confident in its camoflage. At one stage it flicked it's top wing to reveal a set of "eyes", quite something.
I then had to set off back home as I had an appointment at 4.30pm, so a mixed day, not that good for birds, but brilliant for butterflies.

Salisbury Plain - Thu 14 Jul

Leaving Winterbourne Downs we returned to Amesbury and headed north on to the area of Salisbury Plain between the A345 and A358. Finding anything in this massive expanse of land is always difficult and we were hoping that we may see some of the downland specialities. However, we did not really see an awful lot in the way of birds, but we did hear at least one Quail singing. As we parked up at another site a Red Kite drifted over the car, and we also heard a few more Yellowhammers and Skylarks but despite our best efforts we failed to see much more so we decided to call it day and headed back home after a good day out.

Winterbourne Downs RSPB - Thu 14 Jul

The first day in a four-day weekend as I struggle to use up holiday before the end of the month and an fairly early start as I had arranged to pick up my mate John en route at 9.00am. We drove east and made straight for the RSPB reserve at Winterbourne Downs just to the south-east of Amesbury, and as we left the A303 and took to the minor roads that led to the reserve saw at least half a dozen Corn Buntings along the way, perched on various posts and bushing, most in full song, and one or two allowing us to park alongside them.
Once we reached the reserve we decided to take the long walk and saw a few things of note along the way, the pick being a Stone Curlew which John managed to pick out somehow in a field! We also saw three Red-legged Partridge and several Skylarks and Yellowhammers were singing. Both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were present near the car park, three pairs of Bullfinches were seen and a flock of twenty-two Lapwings flew over.
But whilst we saw some good birds it was really the butterflies that stole the show and we managed to see fifteen different species, including my first Gatekeepers of the year. Other butterflies of note included a couple of Small Coppers, several Large Whites, and at least one Brimstone. We got back to the car just after midday and drove off to our next site.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 10 Jul

After a busy weekend I finally managed to get out in to the fresh air for a hour or so this afternoon. As dinenr was planned for 6.00pm I didn't travel far and simply made for Sutton Bingham and drove straight down to the southern end and sat down in front of the hide to see what was about.
The dropping water levels have certainly tempted in a few passage waders and with a bit of the luck the management guys will keep dropping the water level well in to the autumn. Today four Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were present. Two Little Egrets were working their way along the shoreline and at least ten Mandarin were seen. A small flock of thirty or so Sand Martins flew in from the north and kept heading south without lingering. A male Kestrel was perched on one of the pylons, less effort than hovering I guess.
Cloudy skies meant my butterfly expectations were not high, but saying that a few Ringlets and Meadow Browns were still on the wing, and a single Marbled White really showed well:

On the mammal front, a hind Roe Deer brought her foal to the water's edge and two Red Foxes were also seen.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Fri 8 Jul

Another pretty uninspiring day weather wise but I did drag myself out of the house mid-afternoon and popped up to the reservoir for an hour where I bumped in to a fellow birder and Sutton Bingham patcher. My first stop was the northern causeway where a drake Tufted Duck was an unusual visitor for the time of year. Four Common Sandpipers were seen flying across the water from the Sailing Club before alighting on to the far bank.
I then drove on down to the southern end and sat by the hide for half an hour or so. On the exposed mud there was another Common Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers, and a single Greenshank was also present. Three juvenile Mandarin were seen and were not at all phased as a Red Fox ran on to the mud and past them.The only other bird of note that I saw during my visit was a Kingfisher, a colourful end to a refreshing trip out.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Abbotsbury & Lodmoor RSPB - Thu 7 Jul

The first day of a four day weekend as I struggle to use up my annual leave entitlement before the end of July. After a relaxing start to the day I headed down to the coast as an adult Long-tailed Skua had been seen at Abbotsbury earlier in the morning. After a steady drive I pulled in to the beach car park and was about to fork out £3.50 to park when I saw Martin Cade, warden of Portland Bird Observatory, who told me to save my money as the bird had not been seen since early morning. So I turned round and drove towards Weymouth, stopping briefly to look over the Swannery. As I 'scoped the pool I saw my first Green Sandpiper of the year and a few Black-tailed Godwits, but little else.
After another quick drive I was in Weymouth and made straight for Lodmoor RSPB Reserve, parking on Beachdown Way before walking round the reserve. Almost the first birds I saw were a couple of Bearded Tits perched up in the reeds and as I continued my walk I saw three recently fledged Cetti's Warblers which looked ridiculously cure as they hoped along the top of a bramble bush before somewhat clumsily flying off.
Continuing on I stopped at the viewpoint ot look over the tern colony and in amongst the Common Terns I located one of the adult Roseate Terns that had been seen earlier in the day. Unfortunately it spent most of its time roosting or in flight so I was only able to get a couple of really dodgy record shots with my mobile.
I then completed the circular walk back to the car, the only other birds of note being a couple of Common Sandpipers, before driving home for lunch.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Trinity Hill - Tue 6 Jul

A very late start today as I headed out to a site near Axminster with some of the usual suspects for the evening. After being picked up at 8.30pm we drove off to Trinity Hill and took a walk out through the woodland to a nice clearing, and within seconds picked up our target bird as a male Nightjar was sat on a branch in full view...brilliant stuff!
Over the next hour or so we were treated to an aerial display of hawking Nightjars, with at least four different birds seen. We also witnessed one of the birds hovering, something I'd not seen before.
We could also hear at least one Tawny Owl calling and one bird actually gave a call behind us and as we spun round flew across the path.
On the walk back to the car we had to be careful to avoid a number of Toads that were hopping across the path.
All in all a good night out, but it was rather late by the time I got home!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sutton Bingham - Sun 3 Jul

After watching the Wimbledon mens final Ellie and I popped up to Sutton Bingham for a brief walk before dinner. We parked up by the hide and walked along the water's edge as far as the canoe club and then back again.
Four Little Egrets were opposite the hide and at six Mandarin were present at the far end of the reservoir. A single Common Sandpiper was also seen, presumably a failed breeder heading back south and a Kestrel was also seen.
Another Little Egret was on West Pool but there was little else of note at the northern end of the reservoir.
There were lots of butterflies flitting around, but nothing different from those I had seen earlier in the day.

Alners Gorse - Sun 3 Jul

After a fairly relaxing start to the day I headed off to the other side of Sherborne and arrived at the Butterfly Conservation Reserve of Alner's Gorse at about 11.00am. It was a lovely hot and sunny morning and as a result there were butterflies everywhere. As I walked down to the track and on to the reserve proper I noticed a lot of Ringlets and Meadow Browns and flyng around in the shorter grass a number of Small Skippers and one or two Common Blues.
I then walked over to the hedge that runs along the western side of the reserve where there were half a dozen or so people watchign butterflies. After a chat I soon got on to the two species that they were watching, White-letter Hairstreak and Purple Hairstreak:
Whilst both were fairly high up in the trees they were occasionally coming a bit lower down and afforded some brilliant views. Both these hairstreaks were new butterfly species for me.
I then wandered to the northern fringe and around the clearings in the larger trees there were several Silver-washed Fritillaries. Walking back to the car I also saw several Marbled Whites and with Peacock, Red Admiral, Green-veined White and Large Skipper added to list it meant for a cracking couple of hours watching butterflies.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Canada Farm & Shapwick Heath - Sat 2 Jul

Although the bright sunny skies had become slightly overcast I took Ellie out for an hour or so just after lunch and we drove up on to the Somerset Levels. We parked at the entrance to the Canada Farm part of the Shapwick reserve and walked west along the track. There were loads of Ringlets around as well as a few Red Admirals and one or two Green-veined Whites and Meadow Browns. We also saw a couple of White Admirals whizzing around the top of a couple of oak trees. However, the experience was spoilt somewhat by some really big and mean mosquitoes! I got bitten twice and Ellie, despite wearing jeans and a long-sleeved top, also got attacked. As a result we walked back to the car and drove up the road to the main Shapwick Heath reserve entrance.
We spent half an hour or so on the reserve and had some cracking views of a Kingfisher and at least one Hobby passed overhead. There were loads more Ringlets on the wing and also my first Small Skipper of the year. As the day progressed it got warmer and more humid and we soon felt pretty exhausted, so taking this as a sign to call it a day we returned to the car and came on home.

Somerton - Sat 2 Jul

I was up and out of the door by 5.30am this morning, leaving Ellie sound asleep, and drove up to Somerton to try and add Quail to my year list on the fourth attempt! I had received an email from a fellow birder late on Thursday night giving me a few more details on the best place to hear the birds singing, and I as I parked by the dead tree he had mentioned and got out of the car I could hear at least two Quails singing away, with the distinctive "wet-my-lips" call carrying across the fields.
So mission accomplished and it wasn't even 6.00am yet! There were loads of birds around and it was a lovely morning. Yellowhammers seemed to be everywhere and a flock of about forty Goldfinches flew over. A small family party of Linnets were perched up in a hedgerow and a couple of Stock Doves flew over and after a productive session in the field I headed back home and hopped back in to bed with Ellie....!