Saturday, 22 December 2012

Queen Mother Reservoir - Sat 22 Dec

A spontaneous decision was made at 5.00am today when Tristan woke up and within half an hour I was heading east towards London to twitch an American Buff-bellied Pipit. The drive was pretty horrendous with heavy rain and a lot of standing water and on at least one occasion I seriously wondered what I was doing! I arrived at Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire (just off Junction 14 of the M25) just before 8.00am and duly signed in and paid for my day permit. It was just about light so I got on my waterproof coat, grabbed my optics and set off. I was the first on site today, but it didn't take long for other birders to arrive.
As I reached the path that follows the edge of the reservoir I soon located the Long-tailed Duck that was also present, and I was hopeful that this would prove to be a good omen. A couple of Pied Wagtails were on the water's edge and a couple of pipits were also seen, but the light was poor and before long one flew off strongly back towards the Sailing Club. Eventually the second pipit gave itself up to identification, and was disappointingly a Meadow Pipit!
This was not going to be as easy as I had hoped, though when a Waxwing flew south I again felt optimistic that this would be my day. A couple of Egyptian Geese were year ticks and provided a flicker of interest as the rare Yank continued to evade all the birders on site.
Time was against me as I had promised to be home by 12.30, so at just gone 10.00am I returned to the car, thoroughly fed up and soaked to the skin, and I had a rather unpleasant drive back home in wet clothes and in more poor weather. To rub salt in the wound, as I arrived back home the pager went off alerting me that the pipit was showing well...shame it wasn't doing that two hours earlier!
UK List for 2012 ended up at 242 species.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 9 Dec

A very quick half hour visit late morning to the northern part of the reservoir turned out to be surprisingly productive. West Pool at last hosted a few duck, with a single Tufted Duck and ten Teal present. On the main reservoir I was surprised to find an adult Mediterranean Gull and within ten minutes it had been joined by a second adult and a second-winter bird.
This is my highest count of Mediterranean Gulls ever at the reservoir as this occasional visitor normally turns up as single birds. I didn't have time to check out the southern end of the reservoir, but even so, it was worth the visit today.

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 8 Dec

A family trip out this afternoon, and the first opportunity for us to do so for several weeks. We decided on a trip to the Somerset Levels and a walk at Ham Wall RSPB reserve. It was about 3.30pm by the time we arrived and we had completely forgotten about the Starling roost and it was really busy. However, we parked, wrapped up warm, and got Tristan snuggled in to his push chair and off we set. We made straight for the second viewing platform as I was hoping to see at least one of the Water Pipits that had been frequenting this area for the past few days. Stupidly I had left my scope behind, but another birder kindly found me a Water Pipit and let me view it through his scope. I could also pick out a few others in with the numerous Pied Wagtails. A couple of Lesser Redpolls also flew over and landed in an alder tree next to the viewing platform.
We then retraced our steps back along the main path and stopped to view a very confiding Wood Mouse that was not phased by us at all as it foraged in the path-side vegetation. As we neared the first viewing platform the Starlings began to arrive (and there were plenty of people there to witness the spectacle). As we watched the swirling flock I decided to take a break and scan the water and before long located the redhead Smew in amongst the commoner duck species and how times have changed as I barely paid attention to the Great White Egret. A female Marsh Harrier also drifted across the reedbed causing some panic and we heard at least two Bearded Tits, though could not see them.
A small flock of nine Lapwing passed through at the back of the reserve and a tight-knit group of about twenty Snipe whizzed by.
We finished up our visit by enjoying the Starlings as they settled in to the reedbed right next to the path, affording wonderful close views as the reeds and trees turned black with birds. A great afternoon out.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Sutton Bingham - Wed 28 Nov

I've made a few brief trips to the reservoir over the last couple of weeks, but seen nothing of note. However, an late afternoon trip today did at least provide a few birds of interest. I walked from the car park to the hide along the water's edge and then back again, with Tristan tucked up in his carrier on my back.
There were a few birds flitting around before settling down to roost and a single Fieldfare was probably the most notable. As I neared the hide ten Mallards flew in and they were closely followed by a dozen Wigeon. All these duck landed at the extreme southern end and were soon lost to view.
At least two hundred Starlings flew north in various sized flocks and a Meadow Pipit also flew over. And that was pretty much it, and it brought about the end of a poor month on the bird front.
UK list for 2012 now at 234 species.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 4 Nov

A shorter than normal visit as Ellie took Tristan to the Family Service at her local church which typically does not last the full hour. That being said, I still managed to see a few bits and pieces at the reservoir, and the snow had melted by the time I arrived! The southern end was all but devoid of bird life, a small flock of six Long-tailed Tits being the only birds of note. So I spent the rest of my visit at the northern end of the reservoir where West Pool hosted three Wigeon and three Tufted Duck. A surprising November record in the form of a Little Egret flew over and headed west. A single Snipe was also seen flitting from one path of vegetation to another on the side of West Pool and that was that! A brief return visit at the end of the day produced a flock of one hundred Canada Geese and in the car park a few Goldcrests were calling and at least a dozen Pied Wagtails flew over.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Durlston CP & Studland - Tue 30 Oct

Another attempt (I've lost count of how many it is now) and another failure today as yet again I dipped out on Bee-eater in the UK. A juvenile had spent all day Monday at Swanage and was seen at 8.00am at Durlston, so as I had the day off work to look after Tristan whilst Ellie was at work I set off for the Isle of Purbeck. I must admit I did not have a good feeling, the skies were clear and it was a lovely warm day...no good for migrants hanging around, and sure enough this proved to be the case. I spent at least three hours wandering round Durlston Country Park and also made a visit to the site the Bee-eater was frequenting yesterday, but alas there was no sign of the bird. There were a few things to see at Durlston, with Goldcrests in particular being plentiful, and eventually my patience in checking every one I saw paid off as I found a Firecrest...some consolation for dipping my target, albeit a very small one! A pair of Stonechats were seen and a few Jays, Meadow Pipits, and Skylarks flew over, but I didn't see anything else to get me too excited.
After giving Tristan his lunch I decided that we might as well forget it, the bird had obviously moved on. So as we were in the area I drove on to Studland and parked in the South Car Park...costing me a pound for an hour, which was slightly less than the fiver I had to shell out at Durlston. At least three Ring-necked Parakeets could be heard calling from trees in the car park, and eventually one took flight. I then walked out to the cliff and scanned the sea, a total of six Black-necked Grebes were seen (though pager reports later in the day suggested many more). There was not much else about and other than seeing and hearing a couple more Ring-necked Parakeets and a Swallow flying south it was a quiet walk from the bird point of view so I decided to call it a day and head on home.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 28 Oct

Despite the dismal weather it actually turned out to be a pretty good hour long visit to the reservoir this morning. I started out in the lay-by at the southern end of the reservoir, and I didn't even bother getting out of the car. Scanning the field next to the road I noted around thirty Redwings keeping company with a Mistle Thrush and at least half a dozen Blackbirds. Then a real surprise as a male Brambling flew on to the fence and then dropped on to the ground to feed alongside the thrushes and a couple of Chaffinches.
Back then to the northern causeway, and a quick scan of West Pool produced six Tufted Duck and a little more searching located two Little Grebes. A sub-adult Mute Swan flew over heading west while a couple of Common Gulls were on the main reservoir amongst the more usual gull species.
Also on the main reservoir I saw four Shoveler, three ducks and a drake, and a pair of Wigeon. The morning was rounded off with a Meadow Pipit and Grey Wagtail ending a very productive visit today.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Portland - Thu 25 Oct

After a morning in Exeter at a seminar I ended up being home from work earlier than normal so I took Ellie and Tristan down to Portland with the sole intention of twitching the Isabelline Shrike that had been found on Tuesday. We arrived at 4.00pm and hot-footed it up to the Top Fields, seeing a large flock of Linnets and several Meadow Pipits along the way. After chatting to a few birders we found ourselves facing the prospect that this was not going to be easy...the bird had not been seen for over two hours and time and the light were against us. We spent about an hour wandering around seeing a good number of Redwings and quite a few Stonechats but no sign of the shrike.
We had to head back towards the car as it was getting late, my time was up, and I was certain this was another dip...and this time it would have been a lifer. Then it all changed as we joined the path at the top of Culverwell we spotted a couple of birders and they were on the shrike. I rushed over, Tristan bouncing away on my back and Ellie struggling to keep up, and as soon as I reached the first birder asked to view it in his scope. What a wonderful bird, subtle colours and a real beauty and so Isabelline Shrike is added to my list at last (this bird is of the nominate race, sometimes called Daurian Shrike). As it happened it was a good job I looked through someone elses scope to see it as no sooner had I started to set my scope up the bird flew and we could not relocate it.
I also managed to add Siberian Stonechat to my Dorset list (this was also only the second I've seen in the UK) with a female-type bird seen really well in the next field...so two cracking birds in a few minutes. We also had a late Swallow pass overhead and then back to the car and home after a brilliant afternoon.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Radipole RSPB - Sun 21 Oct

A family trip out today and we headed down to Weymouth for a walk around Radipole RSPB Reserve. On arriving at the visitor centre we bumped in to Guy Campbell and John Rickards, local Yeovil birders, who had spent the morning on Portland...and had succeeded where I had failed with regard to the Subalpine Warbler! I had a chat with Guy and John whilst Ellie gave Tristan his bottle and then we set off for our walk, but not after checking the gulls in the car park and I soon located at least five adult Mediterranean Gulls...including this preening individual (with a Black-headed Gull in the foreground).
The long-staying and controversial Hooded Merganser was showing well near the small bridge that crosses on to the reserve but our walk out to the North Hide didn't really produce much other than a couple of calling Cetti's Warblers.
From the hide there were several duck species, but nothing unusual. However, a Kingfisher decided to fly in and land on the barbed-wire fence enabling us to get some wonderful views and making Ellie's day as this is her favourite bird.
We retraced our steps and then took the buddleia loop back to the car, a Chiffchaff and a couple of Goldcrests provided a bit of interest, but during our hour and a half long visit there was no sign of the Purple Heron that had been present for a week or so. My run of dipping rarities this October continues, with at least six decent birds now missed! Luckily they have only been year ticks.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Portland - Sat 20 Oct

An afternoon out with Tristan, and as I arrived on the Isle of Portland I should have guessed it was not going to be a successful afternoon as the final whistle went at White Hart Lane and Spurs suffered an agonising defeat to Chelski!
Once on Portland I drove to Weston and parked before taking a walk to the famous Avalanche Road "hump". There were a few birders about so I thought my chances of seeing the Subalpine Warbler would be quite good...but alas despite lots of searching I drew a blank (and by all accounts so did everyone else!). A Reed Warbler was a real surprise, and a couple of Chiffchaffs were also seen. A Kestrel surveyed the site from above!
On then to the Bill and after parking at the Bird Observatory I walked up to Culverwell to look for an extremely elusive Barred Warbler...and it was indeed elusive and failed to show. So two decent warblers dipped in less than an hour. Still, I was hopeful for Firecrest as "several" had been around. Despite working hard around the "Obs Garden" I could only locate Goldcrests and must have seen a dozen at least. A large flock of Linnets flew overhead as did a few Meadow Pipits and then some reward for the efforts put in today as a small flock of Skylarks flew over and in with them a single Woodlark! So a year tick at last, though not one I was expecting. A Raven also flew over croaking.
It was now 4.30pm, so I headed back home to make sure Tristan was back in time for his tea. Nice to get out on a lovely warm autumn day, but a poor return with regard to birds.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 14 Oct

An hour long visit was not overly productive due to thick mist covering the reservoir, so I concentrated my efforts on the area around the Water Treatment Works and outflow stream. There was a little bit of bird activity around here, the pick of which being a small flock of half a dozen Linnets that flew over heading south. At least one Grey Wagtail was hanging around and a couple of Jays also flew over.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 13 Oct

Another family trip up to the Levels and another walk around Ham Wall RSPB reserve. It was a lovely afternoon so with Tristan loaded in to his backpack, Ellie and set off and enjoyed a nice hour or so on the reserve. It was quite interesting to see how many more duck had arrived on site since our visit the week before with good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall. Waders were represented by at least one hundred Lapwing and around fifty Snipe. A single Bittern carried out a rather nice fly-past and a male Marsh Harrier glided over the reeds. A Great White Egret was also present, and a sign of how times change as I barely gave it a second glance! A Kingfisher was also seen my me, but much to her disappointment, missed by Ellie.
There were also a few insects on the wing and taking advantage of the Autumn sun, with a few Red Admirals and a Comma representing butterflies, and lots of Common Darters and a few Hawkers of some kind...I don't know enough about Odonata to identify species!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

North Moor - Fri 12 Oct

I had planned on taking Tristan down to Black Hole Marsh, near Seaton, this afternoon but the best laid plans and all that! I finally got out at 3.00pm and decided to try for the Lesser Yellowlegs that was on North Moor near Othery. I got the feeling that it was going to be one of those days when I got stuck in traffic in the small village of Ash of all places and so it was nearly 4.00pm by the time I arrived at the Beer Wall sluice just east of Othery on the A372.
I could only spend half an hour on site and there was no sign of the bird...or any waders for that matter. A Grey Wagtail was flitting around and out on the moor I saw three Kestrels and a Peregrine perched on various posts and gates. A lone Stonechat was also seen and provided the only other real interest. So back home after another dip in Somerset this year...and then to make things worse I found out the bird had relocated just up the road so I was looking in the wrong place all along!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 7 Oct

After my trip to Scotland we had a family excursion this afternoon and popped up to Ham Wall RSPB reserve for a nice walk (I was also hoping to see the Pectoral Sandpiper which was present but it failed to show during our time on site). There were good numbers of Wigeon present and numerous Snipe and Lapwing. A single Great White Egret dwarfed its Little Egret cousins. A foraging flock of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests contained at least one Chiffchaff. On the way back to the car I bumped in to an old friend from Wales who I'd not seen for years, so I good end to a nice afternoon out.

Scotland - Tues 2 Oct to Sat 6 Oct

A short break to Scotland started off early Tuesday morning with a ten hour drive ending up at Loch Garten RSPB reserve at 4.00pm. An hour or so at the reserve before checking in to our hotel in Nethybridge produced just one Scottish speciality...Red Squirrel.
We did see some very obliging Coal Tits, a couple even brave enough to land on an out-stretched hand!
Three Goosanders flew over and we later relocated them and two others on the loch itself. As we drove in to Nethybridge I spotted a Dipper on the stream, a good end to a long day.
An early start on Wednesday and a short drive to Dorback Moor where we were treated to great views of Black Grouse. At first we thought there were just three birds present but when they took to the air and flew past we were surprised to count nine individuals. We also connected with our first (of many) Red Grouse of the trip, with a couple on the moor.
On to Abernethy Forest and the first of eight attempts to see Capercaille! No sign of this massive grouse but I did locate a couple of Crested Tits. Next stop the top of Straithcairn, also known as the Findhorn Valley and after dodging a couple of showers we finally got distant views of an adult Golden Eagle. Our final stop of the day was at Curr Wood where our patience paid off as we finally located a hand-full of Parrot Crossbills.
Day three was spent on the coast with various seawatches along the Moray Firth. Starting at Nairn we had a very smart looking Hooded Crow on the beach.
Out to sea a couple of Long-tailed Ducks and both Common and Velvet Scoters. As we moved round to Burghead and Hopeman we also added Eider and Black Guillemot to the growing trip list. A lone Blackcap was found in the scrub at Hopeman and was the only warbler of the trip. Two visits during the day to Findhorn produced a large flock of Pink-footed Geese and a small herd of Whooper Swans. Waders were represented by large numbers of Redshank and smaller numbers of Knot, Dunlin and Golden Plover amongst others and several Turnstone were seen in the various harbours we visited.
Our penultimate day started off with a pre-breakfast trip in to the forest to try again for Capercaille (and fail again!). Next stop the Cairngorms and a walk up to Corrie Cos, this was extremely hard work but our determination paid off with a very obliging Ptarmigan that I picked out amongst the rocks, though heavy mist was a bit of a problem!
A Snow Bunting was seen but missed by me, but I got lucky as I saw and heard three more fly overhead. We also saw a Mountain Hare as we walked up the path. Back down and off to the Findhorn Valley for a second visit. Along the way we disturbed a large covey of Grey Partridge and on reaching the top of the valley were treated to wonderful views of two sub-adult Golden Eagles. A Merlin also put in an appearance, as did a single male Common Crossbill (noticeably smaller and more delicate than the birds we had seen a couple of days earlier). Another couple of attempts at the end of the day looking for Capercaille were again unsuccessful.
The final day of our mini-break and after breakfast and checking out of the hotel we made one final attempt to get the one bird missing from our lists, and this time fortune was on our side as we drove down to Forest Lodge a female Capercaille was sat in the track in front of us. We watched this cracking bird for several minutes until a rather inconsiderate cyclist hammered past the car and flushed it. A brief stop at Loch Garten RSPB failed to add anything so we undertook the long drive home, getting back to Somerset by 7.00pm after a brilliant trip with a total of 100 species on the final list.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 30 Sep

An afternoon family trip out today and we decided to go up to Ham Wall RSPB reserve as we had not ventured that way for several weeks. There was a feeling of winter approaching, not in the weather (it was a lovely afternoon), but there were a number of returning wildfowl on the reserve. A flock of thirty-one Wigeon flew over and there was also a fair sized flock of Shoveler and Gadwall on the water. A single Great White Egret was the rarest bird seen this afternoon.
A buddleia played host to a couple of Red Admirals and a Comma and there were lots of dragonflies on the wing.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 30 Sep

Just an hour at the reservoir this morning, and it looked as if there was not going to be much happening, and indeed from the northern end there was nothing of note at all. So down to the south and a short walk around. A few Swallows passed through south and a couple of Meadow Pipits flew over calling, as did a Yellow Wagtail. On the water there were at least fifty Great Crested Grebes.
One slight surprise, a Comma was sunning itself on a bramble bush.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Portland & Ferrybridge - Sat 29 Sep

An afternoon out with Tristan and a jaunt down to the Isle of Portland to twitch a Red-backed Shrike! Arriving just after 3.30pm I parked in Southwell and walked towards the Bill and then up on to the fields. I bumped in to three other birders, none of which had seen the bird, so I left them to it and trusted my instincts and made for a vantage point where I thought I might have a chance. And sure enough my gut instinct proved correct as within minutes I was looking at a very smart female-type Red-backed Shrike. After a good look I managed to attract the attention of the other birders in the area and get them on the shrike also. So job done and good job too as there was little else about other than Meadow Pipits.
On the way back home I stopped off at Ferrybridge and walked along to view the assorted waders on the mud. I set up my 'scope and saw a nice lot of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin and a single Sanderling. Three Black-tailed Godwits were also present and I also got on two Curlew Sandpipers that had been present for a few days. But time was against us and we had to get back home for dinner, so no time to stop anywhere else but a lovely afternoon out.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Briantspuddle - Wed 19 Sep

Ellie had a meeting this afternoon and so I had the opportunity to take Tristan out for a couple of hours, so we headed south and paid another visit to the small heathland reserve just outside Briantspuddle. As we got out of the car a couple of Siskins were calling and flitting around in the top of the fir trees. We then walked out on to the heath where I was hoping to connect with Dartford Warbler having missed the species on my two previous visits to the site this year. As I waited and scanned the gorse a couple of small flocks of Meadow Pipits flew over, they really seem to be on the move at present. Eventually, I heard a Dartford Warbler calling from a patch of gorse behind us, but only saw a flick of a tail as it vanished into the undergrowth...and that was it! Time up as Tristan needed to get back for his tea, but another year tick...albeit a crap view! Oh yes, and I also saw my first Small Copper of the year, and it was a beauty.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Batcombe Hill - Sun 16 Sep

A quick jaunt to the south of Yeovil this afternoon and Tristan and I took a walk around Batcombe Hill. It was a route I'd never taken before and after an easy first couple of kilometres it soon changed in to an up hill slog and my lack of fitness really told by the time I got back to the high ground. What birds did I see for my efforts? Not many...one of the fields I passed through contained a jittery flock of around twenty Meadow Pipits and the only other birds of note were a couple of fly-over Stock Doves. A couple of Speckled Wood butterflies were also seen.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 16 Sep

Just an hour with Tristan at the reservoir this morning and gain it was pretty quiet. There was nothing of not on the water but two small mixed flocks of hirundines passed through heading south. The first Meadow Pipits of the Autumn also passed through, with three being seen. Whilst standing on the water's edge near the hide a couple of Jays flew over and a Nuthatch and a couple of Chiffchaffs could be heard calling from the trees on the far bank.

Greylake RSPB - Wed 12 & Sat 15 Sep

Two trips to Greylake RSPB this week to try and see the Spotted Crake that has been showing so well for just about everyone who has gone to see it. Wednesday's trip with the whole family was so uneventful (we dipped the bird) and saw nothing else worth writing about so I didn't bother with a blog entry. However, Saturday's trip was slightly different!
I say slightly different in so far as I saw a flock of forty Lapwing fly over the reserve during my visit with Tristan and at least ten Meadow Pipits also passed overhead, but with regard to the Spotted Crake it was déjà vu. Because of timings revolving around Tristan's dinner and nap times I just couldn't get to the site during the prime times for seeing the bird...and it cost me both times.
Now the big question is...do I try again?

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Chard Reservoir - Sun 9 Sep

A family trip out the afternoon and we all took a very pleasant, though a bit too long, walk around Chard Reservoir. The water levels here are much lower than at Sutton Bingham, but despite that I could not locate any passage waders. In fact, there were almost as few birds here as there were at SBR this morning. Both Nuthatches and Treecreepers were heard calling and probably the best bird of the trip was a Marsh Tit. But that was pretty much it!

Sutton Bingham - Sun 9 Sep

An hour long visit whilst Ellie was at church was pretty unproductive. There was nothing of note from the northern causeway so I took Tristan down to the hide. When I counted over twenty canoeists on the water I knew I'd be hard pressed to see any birds, and other than a Chiffchaff in one of the waterside willows that proved to be the case. However, I did finally see something a bit different as the adult Yellow-legged Gull dropped in and settled on the water at the southern end of the reservoir...so not a complete dead loss.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Gore Hill - Sat 8 Sep

I was at a real loss as to where to go this afternoon, I didn't have enough time to twitch the Monarch butterfly on Portland so I ended up just south of Yeovil and a walk around Gore Hill. Whilst I did not see an massive amount a huge flock of Linnets numbering at least two hundred birds were present on the large ploughed fields and they attracted the attention of a passing Hobby that made a rapid hunting sortie. A couple of Wheatears were also seen as were a pair of Red-legged Partridge, but that was pretty much all I saw...but it got Tristan and I out of the house and gave Ellie a break...so mission accomplished.

Lodmoor RSPB - Thu 6 Sep

After work today was my first chance to travel down to Lodmoor RSPB in Weymouth to twitch Britain's second confirmed Short-billed Dowitcher (it had been a nervous day or two of waiting since the bird had been re-identified having been put out as a Long-billed Dowitcher when first found at the weekend). Leaving work I made good time until getting stuck behind a tractor, a hold-up that cost me about five minutes and proved costly as when I joined the throng of birders I was told the bird had flown in to the centre of the reserve a minute before my arrival!
Over the next hour I waited patiently, seeing a couple of Water Rails, a few Mediterranean Gulls and a Green Sandpiper. Then, all the gathered birds took to the air, so I thought the Dowitcher would join them...it didn't! Around fifty or so Black-tailed Godwits, a dozen Dunlin and a Ringed Plover all wheeled around. A handful or Yellow Wagtails flew overhead but still no sign of the bird I was after.
Then a cry went out from behind, as one intuitive birder had walked round to the road and higher ground and he shouted down to the rest of us that the bird was showing...so a mad rush followed as we all had to walk best part of a mile to get to the higher ground which was only a few metres behind us! Luckily I was one of the first to get to this viewpoint and after a quick look through another's scope got the bird in mine before it again flew out of view. Some of the birders present missed it again, and I felt for them, but could not easily hide my elation at this mega rare transatlantic vagrant. So Short-billed Dowitcher adds itself to my UK list and pushes me ever closer to the magic 400 mark!
A quick walk back to the car produced a few more flocks of Yellow Wagtails, at least seventy or so birds must have passed through whilst I was on the reserve, and a few Bearded Tits could be heard calling from the reeds. My final sighting of the day was a Slow Worm which I nearly trod on.
Thinking it already dead I gave it a little prod, which soon woke it up and eventually it slid in to the grass and off the path. A fairly late night and I missed Tristan as he was fast asleep when I got home, but a cracking bird!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Abbotsbury & West Bexington - Sun 2 Sep

I had originally planned for an early start and full morning of birding as it was Family Service at church so Ellie usually takes Tristan along, however, we were all exhausted so I spent the first part of the morning entertaining Tristan whist Ellie caught up with some much needed sleep. Anyway, by 9.15am I was on the road and decided to head down to the Dorset coast as I only had a couple of hours to get in some birding due to the fact we were off to a wedding vow renewal service at 1.00pm.
So it was a bit of a rush and I headed straight for Abbotsbury in the hope that the juvenile Black Tern that had been present for a couple of days would still be about...it wasn't. In fact there was very little of note so I did not hang around long and simply drove further down the coast to West Bexington.
When I arrived I bumped in to Mike Morse, a West Bexington stalwart and fellow table tennis player, and he soon updated me on the Wryneck that was present (whether or not this is the same bird I tried to see a week or so ago with Ellie and Tristan, I do not know). As I neared the location a couple of other birders (including Somerset lads Cookie and Alick) were present and a glimpse through the reeds yielded this:
So target located and I then moved a little further down the beach to try and get a better angle, and I was lucky enough to be able to watch the Wryneck for five minutes as it sat on a fence post.
 
 
It eventually flew on to the path and vanished in to a small patch of vegetation, so I left it alone and walked back to the car. Other than a Wheatear and being attacked by a dog it was an uneventful return journey and a brief seawatch failed to produce anything.
So I retraced my steps and headed back to Abbotsbury to see if the tern had appeared...it hadn't. There was still nothing much of note so at 11.00am I drove back home (a slight detour to Sutton Bingham also failed to produce anything!).

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Whit Moor - Sun 26 Aug

Somewhere a bit different this afternoon as I took Tristan out for a walk (well I walk and he sits in his carrier on my back!) up on the Levels and out on to Whit Moor, just east of Long Load. This moor had been pretty productive during the floods earlier in August but the water levels had dropped off recently. Despite this I thought it would be worth a walk anyway. We followed the main track out over the moor and I had to watch my footing as I dodged mud and puddles in just my trainers!
A large flock of Little Egrets took to the air and I counted forty birds, plus a few others scattered about the moor, there were also a good number of Grey Herons. A Peregrine caused a bit of a stir as it passed over the moor. I also heard at least three Yellow Wagtails calling from the fields.
As I continued the outward journey a small flock of five Yellow Wagtails actually flew over my head from the west. A minute or two later another ten passed over and then amazingly another flock flew over...this time of thirty-one birds and with a few more stragglers later on I must have counted around fifty Yellow Wagtails this afternoon!
The walk back to the car was also pretty productive with a Wheatear being seen, a Reed Warbler finally pinned down as it "chacked" away in the sedges, and a Whinchat also present.
Another disturbance over the fields, this time caused by a Common Buzzard, flushed a couple of Ruff, and judging by the size difference they were presumably male and female birds. A single Snipe also took to the air and expressed its annoyance as it called loudly as it flew over us.
Before we knew it it was time to get home for tea, but it had been a very enjoyable afternoon.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 26 Aug

Not a lot happening at the reservoir today, and water levels are nearly up as high as they were earlier in the year, so no chance of any passage waders dropping in for sure. I started off at the hide where a Little Egret was feeding on the far bank before flying south. A pair of Teal were also seen again and two Stock Doves flew over.
I then drove up to the car park and had a quick scout about. The local hirundines suddenly got rather vocal and as a looked up an adult Hobby soared overhead befor flying off north-east. And that pretty much sums up the birds of interest at SBR this morning!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Wyke Regis - Fri 24 Aug

Tristan and I braved the weather this afternoon and headed south to the coast and paid a visit to Wyke Regis, a site which has produced some real quality birds this year. Today ended up being no exception, though I thought our luck was going to be out due to the incessant wind and steady drizzle.
Upon arrival we were lucky enough to have a slight break in the rain and so after parking up took a walk towards the Bridging Camp, scanning the paddocks in the hope of locating the 1st-summer Woodchat Shrike that had been present all week. There was no sign but I did see a male Stonechat and the slightly scarcer Whinchat. A couple of Wheatears were hunkered down in one of the fields in an attempt to avoid the worst of the weather.
Time was against us as the traffic around Dorchester and Weymouth was dire so we had arrived later than planned, so we had to return to the car. On the way back I noticed the "Bull, No Entry" sign that had been mentioned on the pager, so stopped and had another look about. Fortunately, Tristan was pretty happy in his backpack, so when a saw a smallish black and white bird dart out of a bramble bush and then back again I was able to set up my 'scope feeling confident that I'd found what I was looking for. Sure enough over the next five minutes I was treated to several feeding sorties as the Woodchat Shrike searched for food. The only down side was that when it returned to its favourite bush it was out of site, so no chance for me to get one of my quality record shots! As we returned to the car a Common Tern flew overhead.
So despite the weather and traffic we had a great afternoon out.
UK list for 2012 now at 211 species.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Wayford Woods - Tue 21 Aug

Somewhere different this afternoon as Ellie, Tristan and I took a trip to a place I'd not been to for years, Wayford Woods, to the south of Crewkerne. We had a very enjoyable walk through the woodland and whilst we did not see much in the way of birdlife, there was plenty about that could be identified by voice alone with Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker amongst others all being rather vocal in the treetops.

Sutton Bingham - Tue 21 Aug

An hour long visit this morning was enjoyable for the number of birds present it not the quality, and I can only put this down to the fact that there were no canoeists, sailors, or anglers about so it made for a quiet and pleasant trip.
A female Tufted Duck and a couple of Mandarin were present from the northern causeway, and pretty much summed up the interest at this end of the reservoir.
 
A walk from the hide to the Canoe Club and back was pretty productive. On the water the adult Yellow-legged Gull was again present. There were several small passerines feeding in the small sallows and willows on the water's edge which some very smart and bright juvenile Willow Warblers feeding alongside one or two rather scruffy looking Chiffchaffs. A small family group of Whitethroats and a male Reed Bunting were also seen as well as a single Lesser Whitethroat.
So no major rarities or scarcities this morning but it's always good to get up close to the commoner species.

West Bexington - Mon 20 Aug

The first of a few days off work this week and we all headed down to the coast after lunch and visited West Bexington...a location chosen because of an elusive Wryneck that had been present for a couple of days. When we arrived Tristan had to have his bottle so whilst Ellie sorted out the hungry little man I did a quick scan of the sea, and amazingly connected with an Arctic Skua! It was pretty much the only bird out to sea.
Unfortunately, this proved to be the highlight of the afternoon on the birding front as despite a fair amount of searching we failed to locate the Wryneck. We did see a single Wheatear on the beach and that was the only bird we saw that was slightly out of the ordinary.
There were loads of butterflies on the wing though, and we saw a very smart Common Blue (only my second of the year believe it or not) and a Painted Lady amongst the more abundant Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods. So whilst our twitch proved unsuccessful it was an enjoyable family afternoon out.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 19 Aug

Slightly less than an hour at the reservoir this morning as we were running late getting Ellie to church. The was pretty much nothing to see on site, until a pair of Teal flew past me whilst I was standing by the hide. I've had my suspicions that a pair may have spent the summer at the reservoir, but this could have been a migrating couple.
Soon afterwards my attention was drawn to a falcon as it headed towards me from the far side of the reservoir, I soon realised it was a Hobby carrying prey and as it reached me it started calling. This call received an enthusiastic reply as a second bird came from behind me to join the first where they exchanged the prey in flight. Quite a spectacle and then both birds vanished as quickly as they had appeared.
A quick walk along the road from the hide to the southern causeway produced a single Mandarin as it swam from the near bank away from me.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Lodmoor RSPB - Sat 18 Aug

More father and son time this afternoon and a trip south to Weymouth and a walk around Lodmoor RSPB. I was after a couple of species that had been reported earlier in the day according to my pager and it did not take me too long to connect with my first target as I located the two Wood Sandpipers near "the Hump".
 
 
The first of three Common Sandpipers was seen in the same area with others near the tern islands and then near a flock of roosting gulls. I headed towards the gulls in the hope of finding the second target of the day and when I spotted another birder he saved me a bit of effort as he had the Little Gull I was after in his 'scope (note the size comparison of the roosting Little Gull alongside the Black-headed Gulls).
Excellent stuff...both birds safely ticked off and not a moment too soon as the gulls suddenly got spooked and took to the air, the Little Gull vanished from site as he headed towards the bay. I continued the circular walk but other than a single Swift and a pair of Snipe that whizzed around over the reserve I saw nothing of note.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 18 Aug

A quick hour long visit to the reservoir this morning with Tristan whilst Ellie went in to town to do some shopping. I took a walk down to the southern end of the reservoir, but it proved to be fruitless with the only bird of note being a Peregrine atop one of the pylons and three Sand Martins that flew through heading south.
The northern end proved equally unproductive with just two Little Egrets standing out from the commoner fair. Of interest, there were at least seventy Great Crested Grebes at the reservoir this morning and a Kingfisher was heard calling but we failed to see it.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Sutton Bingham - Thu 16 Aug

A family trip up to the reservoir this afternoon after work, and Ellie, Tristan and I parked by the hide and walked up to the northern causeway. It was pretty quiet on the bird front and the recent rain (I seem to have been saying that all "Summer") had meant water levels had crept up again. That being said we did see a single Common Sandpiper as we walked along. When we reached the northern causeway I located a Little Egret near the Sailing Club, but there was not much else of note at this end of the reservoir. Our return walk to the car failed to produce much more, though the adult Yellow-legged Gull did fly past us heading north, and Tristan decided it was time for his tea, so it was back home!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 12 Aug

My usual hour long mid-morning visit with Tristan whilst Ellie was at church and a few birds of note today. A quick stop at the northern causeway produced an adult Great Black-backed Gull sat on one of the pontoons off the Sailing Club and a Common Tern off the dam. Four Little Egrets flew from the shoreline next to the Sailing Club and headed south.
Down to the southern end of the reservoir and I soon relocated three of the Little Egrets as they fed on some of the exposed mud. Also present a single Green Sandpiper and two Common Sandpipers. Two Mandarin were skulking around on the fringes of the water. The adult Yellow-legged Gull was also present briefly on the water before taking flight. A Peregrine was perched on one of the pylons.
I did pick up a SBR mammal tick today as a Weasel ran across the road in front of us! On the butterfly front there was nothing different today, and I could not begin to identify a large dragonfly that buzzed in front of me very briefly!
All in all a good trip out and after bumping in to some old friends that I had not seen for years we ended up being a little late picking up Ellie from church!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Meare Heath NR - Sun 5 Aug

A family trip out this afternoon and a pleasant walk up at Meare Heath. We failed to see that much in the way of birds, although the seemingly ever-present Great White Egrets were present with two adults and a juvenile bird being seen. A Raven flew over and then loitered in a tree for a while. A flock of thirty-seven Lapwing flew over heading west and were the only waders noted as the second lagoon which is usually so good for waders is full of water. A single Gatekeeper was on the wing and was the only other sighting of note whilst we were out.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 5 Aug

I was hoping for a chance to catch up with the guys I usually go birding with this morning as it was family service at Ellie's church to which she always takes Tristan. However, because I had left it late trying to organise anything no-one else could make it and instead I popped up to the reservoir after dropping the rest of the family off.
From the northern causeway I noted a Little Egret as it flew from the shoreline near the Sailing Club and headed south down the reservoir (I could not relocate it later so it may have kept going). Also on the water an adult and juvenile Great Black-backed Gull, both of which were being mobbed by the other large gulls present. West Pool held a small flock of Canada Geese which seemed to be new arrivals, and a male Reed Bunting was seen in the waterside vegetation.
I then headed down to the southern end and scanned from the hide. Water levels have dropped a little meaning there is a bit of exposed mud and this had attracted a few passage waders, with two Green Sandpipers and five Common Sandpipers present. A couple of Sand Martins passed through, only seeming to linger for a few minutes before heading south. On the water the number of moulting duck seem to have increased and amongst the Mallards was a single female Teal. Also present a family group of seven Mandarin, including several juvenile birds so it looks as if the species has successfully bred at SBR again this year.
Finally, on the butterfly front, at least two Gatekeepers were on the wing near the hide and a very fresh looking Meadow Brown was also seen.
All in all a pretty productive morning this morning, especially as I had originally planned to travel further afield.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Black Hole Marsh, Seaton - Sat 4 Aug

Ellie was out all day attending a friend's Hen Party, so I had the pleasure of looking after Tristan for the day. A quick trip to Sutton Bingham in the morning produced nothing at all of note, but in the afternoon we drove down to Seaton and took a walk around Black Hole Marsh.
There was a surprising number of waders present considering the time of year and before long I had seen five Common Sandpipers, single Green Sandpipers, Dunlin and Redshank, three Lapwings, seventeen Black-tailed Godwits, and two Greenshanks (unbelievably my first of 2012!).
Out on the estuary there were loads of gulls, but I could not find anything out of the ordinary amongst the commoner species.
Whilst on site I also saw a few Gatekeeper butterflies, and after about ninety minutes on site we headed back home so that Tristan could have his tea.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Sutton Bingham - Wed 1 Aug

I took the day off work today as Ellie had a few things she needed to sort out, so I was on Tristan duty all morning. We started off with a trip up to Sutton Bingham to see if anything was about. We stayed at the northern end of the reservoir and took a walk around the car park area where a mixed feeding flock contained several Chiffchaffs amongst the commoner tits. A Song Thrush was looking after two recently fledged juveniles, and a juvenile Goldcrest was also seen.
Out on the water I saw three Common Terns feeding off the dam, but there was nothing else out of the ordinary. Four Swifts flew over heading south-east and that rounded up the birding action for the morning as it was time to take Tristan home for his lunch.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Chard Reservoir - Sun 29 Jul

I took Tristan out this afternoon so that Ellie could have a bit of a rest and I decided to pop over to Chard Reservoir for a change of scenery. We had a lovely walk in the afternoon sunshine, but didn't see anything too unusual in the way of birds. A fairly large flock of Long-tailed Tits flew through the trees with a single Marsh Tit keeping them company.
Several House Martins were hawking over the water and just one Sand Martin was also seen. Unlike SBR, there were a good number of Tufted Ducks on the water, probably about two dozen birds. As I had to get Tristan home for 5pm for his tea (not to mention the fact the F1 highlights were also on TV) we headed back home just after 4.30pm.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 29 Jul

After dropping Ellie off at church I took Tristan up to Sutton Bingham for an hour. We spent nearly the entire duration of our trip at the northern causeway as this seemed to be the place where everything was happening for a change.
Amongst the gulls on the water and causeway bank there was a real surprise in the form of a juvenile Mediterranean Gull!
 
 
Also on the northern causeway a single returning Common Sandpiper (another or the same bird was seen later in flight from the southern causeway).
The other interest this morning was generated by a flock of fifteen Common Terns that flew in from the east and passed over the reservoir and West Pool (right over the top of our heads) and continued west until lost from sight. They were all adult birds.
Our hour was soon up and we needed to head off and pick up Ellie, but a pretty profitable morning this morning.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sat 28 Jul

A fairly brief afternoon visit to the reservoir with Tristan as Ellie needed to do some work at home. I popped Tristan in his pram and we spent some time next to the hide and as I scanned the area I discovered a Peregrine perched on top of one of the pylons.
The oddity of the day came in the form of an adult Common Tern that was feeding over the water, at one stage passing within a few metres of us. There was not a lot else going on so back home.

Ham Wall RSPB & Meare Heath NR - Sat 28 Jul

A fairly early start as we took a family trip up to the Somerset Levels and started off at Ham Wall RSPB reserve. The recent weather has obviously been good for the reedbeds as they had grown considerably since our last visit, and as a result we saw very few birds. In fact, a quick flight view of a Bittern was the only thing of note.
So we tried our luck at Meare Heath, but this proved to be even less productive! The second lagoon which is often drained was full of water. Rather surprising as wader migration is starting to get underway. We did see a Weasel run across the track in front of us and also my first Gatekeeper butterfly of the year.
So nothing really in the way of birds but a pleasant trip out with Ellie and Tristan.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 22 Jul

Back to routine this morning as I dropped Ellie off at church and took Tristan up to the reservoir for an hour. There was not really much of note in the way of birds, a couple of singing Reed Buntings and a fly-over Kestrel were the pick of a poor crop. However, the sun had brought out a lot of butterflies and in the meadows I located my first Marbled Whites of the year. There were hundreds of Meadow Browns and a couple of Ringlets and I also saw a Speckled Wood...so much more interest with regard to butterflies this morning.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Sutton Bingham - Fri 20 Jul

I raised my binoculars to my eyes for the first time in nearly four weeks today as the poor weather has meant no birding at all since mid-June! I took Tristan up to the reservoir after work and we spent about forty minutes on site. As I walked along to the hide a pair of Bullfinches flew across the road in front of me and from the hide I came across the adult Yellow-legged Gull that has spent several autumns at Sutton Bingham. It lingered on the water for a few minutes before flying south. Also around the hide a rather noisy Whitethroat, a singing Reed Bunting, a pair of Ravens and several butterflies, mostly Meadow Browns but I also saw my first Ringlets of the year and a Comma.
As I started to walk back to the car I bumped in to Ivan the SBR warden who told me that he had seen an Oystercatcher earlier in the day. So armed with that information I drove up to the northern causeway and 'scoped the bank of the reservoir on the far side of the Sailing Club, sure enough a single Oystercather was present...a real surprise considering the amount of water in the reservoir. Despite the fact it was miles away I managed some brilliant photos of it...seriously it is an Oystercatcher!
 
After a pretty good trip we returned home so that Tristan could have his tea!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 24 Jun

After dropping Ellie off at church I took Tristan up to the reservoir in the hope of another look at the Osprey that we had seen briefly on a flying visit late yesterday afternoon. Parking by the hide we walked halfway to the canoe club but there was no sign of the bird. Several Meadow Browns were on the wing and I did see my first Large Skipper of the year, a few damselflies were also seen, and I think they were Common Blue Damselflies.
I set my 'scope up and scanned the skies to the south of the reservoir where I could see a few raptors. A couple of Sparrowhawks and Buzzards and a single Kestrel and then I got on the Osprey as it drifted slowly away from me heading south. Serveal Swifts were also feeding up high but there was not much else about. Before we knew it our hour was up and it was time to go and collect Ellie.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Briantspuddle - Sun 17 Jun

My second visit of the year to a site of heathland and wood near Briantspuddle and this time it was a family excursion. We set off after lunch and had an enjoyable walk around the heath and also managed to see a few birds of note, though the weather was such we failed to see any butterflies. On the heath itself I noted a pair of Stonechats and a couple of Yellowhammers and Linnets, but we drew a blank with regard to Dartford Warblers which was a disappointment. We did get lucky when a pair of Turtle Doves flew low over our heads and vanished in to some trees. We could hear the distinctive purring of the birds even though we could not relocate them in the foliage. As we returned to the car a few Siskins were flying around overhead and I also saw a Tree Pipit perched up. What would have been a lovely afternoon out was somewhat dampened by a flat tyre, so after a delay of about twenty minutes or so whilst I changed it we headed back home for dinner.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Tealham Moor - Sat 9 Jun

Ellie had a hair appointment this afternoon so I took Tristan out for a couple of hours and we headed up to Tealham Moor. When we arrived I saw a small posse of Somerset birders that I knew, so I parked alongside them to find out what they were looking for. As it happens the elusive sub-adult Red-footed Falcon was still around but despite lots of searching it could not be relocated. However, it was not a wasted trip as I did manage to add Yellow Wagtail to my year list...albeit a brief view of a single bird. There was not really much else of note about and as I needed to get the boy back home by 5.00pm we set off back for home.

Chesil Cove, Portland Bill & Ferrybridge - Sat 9 Jun

I set off south early this morning, arriving at Chesil Cove on the Isle of Portland at 8.40am. I spent a little under an hour seawatching and during that period connected with a few good birds. Two Pomarine Skuas and a single Arctic Skua flew west and a single Storm Petrel entertained me for the duration of my stay (at one point I thought it may have been joined by a second bird). By 9.30am it had goen very quiet so I drove down to Portland Bill.
I made straight for the obelisk and did another seawatch, but other than some distant Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes it was really just auk passage. Eventually I did manage to pick out a Manx Shearwater as it flew rapidly west. On the walk back to the car I stopped off at the Obs Quarry where I located a Little Owl (I'd not seen one here for quite some time, so nice to know they are still about).
I then set off for home but made a very brief stop at Ferrybridge on the way through where I counted at least ten Little Terns over the colony on Chesil Beach. So a good end to a very productive couple of hours out.
UK list for 2012 now at 205 species.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Acres Down - Fri 8 Jun

I had the day booked off work so I drove down to Mudeford with Ellie and Tristan and dropped them off with Ellie's folks before driving up to the New Forest. I arrived at Acre's Down soon atfer 10.30am and walked out to the usual viewpoint in the hope that there would be some raptors around. I was not feeling overly confident as it was rather grey and cloudy and the wind was blowing a gale. However, I struck lucky and within quarter of an hour managed to pick out a Goshawk as it dipped below the skyline. A few Common Buzzards kept me on my toes and three Hobbies and a Sparrowhawk also passed through. Finally I picked out my other target as a Honey Buzzard made a quick and distant flight over the trees before dropping out of view. There was not much else to see due to the weather conditions but a few Tree Pipits were in constant song whilst I was on site. I had promised to be back in Mudeford in time for lunch with the family so after a successful visit set off.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Trinity Hill - Wed 6 Jun

Another spot of birding this evening, only this time it was a pre-arranged trip to Trinity Hill near Axminster with Andy and Crimper and a couple of Crimper's friends (Paul & Aiden). We arrived on site at around 8.30pm and with a bit of mist creeping over the plantation I was hopeful that our quarry might show itself sooner rather than later. It didn't! We were hoping to see some Nightjar's but in the first hour on site we only managed a Sparrowhawk and a couple of Yellowhammers.
Paul wandered off and as we were just making out some distant churring he returned saying he had heard some birds calling much closer. So we hot-footed it onwards to another clearing and as we cleared the trees I stopped everyone as a Nightjar was sat in a small tree right in front of us. Before long a second bird actually flew in to a tree above our heads and starting singing. Over the next twenty minutes or so we were treated to some smashing views. At 9.45pm I bid my farewells and hiked back to the car and on home to bed.
UK list for 2012 now at 197 species.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Ibsley & Martin Down NR - Wed 6 Jun

I started work early today so that I could zoom off at lunchtime and drive down to the small village of Ibsley, just north of Ringwood in Hants. I arrived on site at about 1.15pm and as I got out of the car I could hear the bird I was after singing away in a clump of brambles right next to the road. I joined the ten or so other birders that were on site and after just a five minute wait I got really lucky as the Marsh Warbler that had been found last night popped out in to the open to chase off a Sedge Warbler before darting back in to the undergrowth. Result, a lifer and a bird off my dip-list! In the next half hour I saw the bird just once more as it flew in to some dense vegetation further from the road...so I didn't linger and instead headed back towards home.
I stopped off at Martin Down NR on the way home in the hope to find Turtle Doves, but I faield to see any. However, I did hear a Quail singing away in the grass but although it was not that far away I had no chance of seeing it! A Cuckoo was heard, a Red-legged Partridge put in a brief appearance and there were countless Skylarks and Yellowhammers around, I also managed to see my first Small Heath butterflies of the year. At 3.00pm I called it a day and drove home after a very successful trip.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Meare Heath NR & Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 3 Jun

Family Service at Ellie's local church today and as Tristan was up and awake at 6.00am I made the last minute decision to pop up on to the Somerset Levels for a couple of hours. We had lots planned for later in the day with Jubilee Celebrations taking place in our village, so I knew I could not be out for long.
Parking at Ashcott Corner I walked out to Meare Heath, but only so far as the drained lagoon. I was hoping to finally catch up with a Garganey having missed several already this year. Luck was with me this time as I found a drake feeding on the fringe of the reeds.
Also on the lagoon, the normal flock of Black-tailed Godwits...some twenty-one birds, and a couple of Shelduck. A Great White Egret (one of the breeding pair) flew in and fed for a while and a Bittern did a prolonged fly past. As I was watching the assorted birdlife I could hear the distinctive pinging of Bearded Tits and before long a small flock popped in to view in front of me. I counted thirteen birds, all juveniles and females. As I was getting ready to move on a friend of mine and fellow SBR birder, John Rickards, I heard the Bearded Tits call again and the flock reappeared, only this time there were eighteen birds present!
 
I returned to the car and thought about a drive up to Tealham Moor but as time was an issue I took a walk out to Ham Wall RSPB reserve and walked round the Loxton Heath section, something I'd not done for a while as it's not suitable for a pram! I heard a couple more Bitterns booming and saw yet another Bearded Tit this time a cracking male. As I neared the car park (having got pretty wet during a heavy shower) I saw a very obliging Spotted Flycatcher.
All in all an enjoyable couple of hours out and back home before Ellie and Tristan had returned from church.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Catcott Lows NR & Meare Heath NR - Sun 27 May

I set off with Tristan at about 8.20am and drove up to the Somerset Levels where our first stop was at Catcott. Although I didn't see anything of note from the hide, I did have some cracking views of a Cuckoo singing away as I approached the reserve.
I then drove round to Ashcott Corner (seeing my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year in Westhay village), parked up, and popped Tristan in his pram for a walk out on to Meare Heath. Overhead a female Marsh Harrier was harassing a Buzzard, whilst at least two Bitterns could be heard booming from deep within the reedbeds. The drained lagoon hosted the usual suspects, including a Great White Egret. Tristan then decided he had reached his limit of excitment for the morning so we drove home.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Meare Heath NR - Sun 20 May

An afternoon trip out to the Somerset Levels with Ellie and Tristan and we decided to take a walk at Meare Heath. Our hour long walk produced a few things of note with an Osprey (feeding on a rather large fish) presumably being the individual we had seen earlier in the week. A male Marsh Harrier passed overhead and at least ten Hobbies were seen. A single Great White Egret was on the partially drained lagoon with the usual small flock of Black-tailed Godwits. As we returned to the car a Bittern flew over the path in front of us and out over the reeds. So a pretty enjoyable hour or so this afternoon.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Weston-Super-Mate WTW - Sat 19 May

A busy morning sorting out a few things around the house and tidying up before taking a load of stuff to one of the local charity shops followed by a leisurely lunch...until I checked the pager and saw news of a singing Great Reed Warbler at Weston-Super-Mare at the Water Treatment Works. So I pretty much dropped everything (luckily I was not holding Tristan at the time) and jumped in the car to head north. It took less than an hour to reach the site and as soon as I got out of the car and climbed the bank I could hear the bird singing! After a walk of about 100 metres I joined the couple of dozen other birders and soon got on this massive warbler as it sang away in the reeds.
After about ten minutes it started getting harassed by a pair of Reed Warblers which were dwarfed by their larger cousin, and the unwelcome attention was enough to send the bird to a more distant patch of reeds. But it did not matter, I had connected with a UK tick. As I was about ot walk back to the car a raptor drifted overhead before dropping over the fields behind us, it was a female Marsh Harrier, a nice little bonus. I didn't hang around much longer, and after a quick chat with some of my Somerset birding mates I drove back home for dinner.
UK list for 2012 now at 191 species.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Chew Valley Lake & Blagdon Lake - Fri 18 May

The final day of my week off work and I had the morning to myself. I decided to head north and visit Chew Valley Lake and Blagdon Lake, arriving at Herriott's Bridge at about 9.45am. A quick look over the lake produced nothing of note so I drove up to Woodford Lodge to get my permit before stopping at Heron's Green...where again there was nothing worth reporting!
On then to Blagdon Lake to twitch the Squacco Heron that had been showing well at the top end of the lake for the past week. After two and a half hours nothing at all raised it head and I had promised to be home in time for lunch. So a complete waste of time and money this morning...so much so I don't even know why I'm bothering to write a blog entry about it!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Lodmoor RSPB - Thu 17 May

Another family jaunt today as we headed down to the coast and a walk around the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor in Weymouth. Unfortunately the weather was anything but fine, with a steady drizzle coming in off the sea as we were halfway through our walk. Despite the weather we still saw a few birds with three Bar-tailed Godwits and four Dunlin seen, and a single Black-tailed Godwit flew over. The tern islands were buzzing with Common Terns and a single Arctic Tern was also present, but we missed the Roseate Tern that had been seen earlier in the day. The rest of our walk failed to produce anything out of the ordinary and by the time we got back to the car we were pretty wet and ready to go home for a nice cup of tea!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Meare Heath NR & Ham Wall RSPB - Wed 16 May

A very productive morning at home followed by a trip with the family up to one of our favourite sites for a nice long walk. We started off on Meare Heath and noted a few birds of note, most unusual being a Osprey that soared over Noah's Lake whilst being mobbed by gulls. At least a dozen Hobbies were also seen hawking up high amongst countless Swifts. A single Cuckoo was heard calling.
We retraced our steps and took a walk out to Ham Wall RSPB reserve. A couple of Bitterns were heard booming and another Hobby was seen. A pretty quiet afternoon with regard to birds but it was lovely to get out with Ellie and Tristan.

West Moor - Tue 15 May

I made a fairly early start this morning with Tristan and we drove up to the other side of Creech St Michael near Taunton and a look over West Moor. I had some excellent directions posted by Brian Hill on the SOS website but as I was concerned about keeping Tristan out of the wind I actually managed to head north and not east so missed the target bird, a White Stork! However, the flooded fields contained several hundred gulls including an Iceland Gull. A small flock of waders consisted of some Dunlin and Ringed Plovers, though being distant I could not get exact numbers. So after about an hour on site we headed back to the car as Tristan started getting a bit grumpy. I drove back home "cross-country" for a bit of a change and as I stopped at a junction a Lesser Whitethroat was singing from a hedge alongside the road...so not a completely wasted trip.
After a busy day I decided to try again early evening and drove back up to West Moor to try again. This time I made sure I followed the directions to the letter and after a half mile walk I located the White Stork in a large field.
I then took the opportunity of checking the flooded fields again and this time the wader flock came much closer and I was able to count twenty-one Dunlin and five Ringed Plovers. At least three Wheatears were also seen and another surprise came in the form of a Barnacle Goose which flew in and bathed before flying off again.
So a very successful second visit to the Somerset Levels this evening and another year tick!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Meare Heath NR - Sat 12 May

A family trip up to Meare Heath this afternoon and despite the lovely weather there were very few birds around. We missed out on a Garganey and an Arctic Skua, both of which had been present earlier in the day, and the highlights came in the form of a couple of Hobbies and a booming Bittern. The trip out was somewhat rescued as a Barn Owl flew across the road in front of us as we drove through Littleton.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sutton Bingham - Mon 7 May

A fairly brief visit to the reservoir this morning with Tristan whilst Ellie caught up on a few bits and pieces. There was not really much to be seen and we had to sit in the car whilst a heavy rain shower passed overhead. When the rain cleared I drove up to the car park where I surprised to find four Shelduck on the water. A rather unusual and scarce visitor to the site.
A few other birds started singing as the weather cleared up including a Blackcap and a rather obliging Whitethroat.
A few House Martins were flying overhead but I failed to find anything else of note.