Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 29 Jan

A late afternoon trip with Tristan up the reservoir today and it was very cold. As a result we did not stay out very long. There was nothing at all of note from the hide so I concentrated my efforts on the reservoir from the northern causeway. The West Pool held a Little Grebe, a flock of fifty Wigeon and thirteen Tufted Ducks.
The gull numbers on the main reservoir were extremely high, with well over five hundred Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls being in to three figures also. At least twenty Common Gulls were also present. A calling Kingfisher alerted me to a Sparrowhawk as it drifted over the road and with the light failing I called it a day.

Aller Moor & Greylake RSPB - Sat 28 Jan

After lunch I had a bit of time to myself and popped up on to the Somerset Levels in an attempt to locate the reintroduced Common Cranes. Now I won't get on my soap box and start slating the whole reintroduction attempt, something I think is a waste of money...especially for a bird species that is not internationally threatened, but a little rant is par for the course with me! Anyway, I found the birds but it was really the genuine unringed Common Crane that I was after and I soon located it amongst the flock of thirty plus plastic birds.
I then drove up to the RSPB reserve at Greylake and walked out to a pretty busy hide. A couple of Peregrines were sat up eyeing the mass of wildfowl and a third bird was seen in the distance buzzing some Lapwings. I also picked up my first Stonechat of the year but there was not really much else of note so with time getting on and as I had promised to cook dinner, I headed back home.

Sutton Bingham - Sat 28 Jan

After dropping Ellie off in Yeovil so she could go shopping, Tristan and I spent a couple of hours up at the reservoir. Making straight for the hide I walked south along the reservoir and took a walk around the flooded area of woodland, flushing two Snipe along the way. There was not really much of note to be seen though I did see a Marsh Tit and a single drake Mandarin.
Returnign to the hide I counted forty-five Teal on the water and a Raven was calling from atop one of the pylons...so at least I had picked up a year tick.
On West Pool I noted another half a dozen Teal and a pair of Wigeon alongside seven Tufted Ducks. A larger flock of thirty-five Wigeon were grazing on the water's edge near the Sailing Club. Then it was time up and off to pick up mummy!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 22 Jan

Back in to a bit of routine today and Tristan's first birding trip with dad! I dropped Ellie off at church this morning and took Tristan with me to Sutton Bingham Reservoir, and he slept pretty much throughout the trip as I carried him in his papoose strapped to my front.
We walked alongside the water at the southern end of the reservoir, flushing a couple of Snipe and seeing a few Teal and three Mandarin (two drakes and a duck). There was a moment of activity and commotion amongst the duck as a Peregrine swept by over our heads, but it did not appear to catch anything.
When we returned to the car we saw a couple of Mistle Thrushes and a Goldcrest was seen singing away. We then hopped in to the car and drove up to West Pool and the northern end of the reservoir.
There were a few Common Gulls and a flock of twenty-two Canada Geese on the water off the Fishing Lodge, but the bird of the day was on West Pool...a Whooper Swan was present (seen feeding with a Mute Swan), a very uncommon bird at the reservoir in recent times. Despite the bird being in the far corner and the wind blowing a gale, I did manage to get one record shot:
Also on West Pool, a small group of thirteen Tufted Ducks and twenty or so Wigeon. Before I knew it our time was up and we had to head back and pick mummy up from church...but a great hour of father and son birding.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Longham Lakes - Sun 15 Jan

Our final stop of the morning, and it was a very brief one as it had become very windy and rather cold. We stopped off at Longham Lakes and walked out to the larger of the two lakes, seeing a Grey Wagtail along the way. Due to the conditions it was almost impossible to see anything much but I did pick out a redhead Smew amongst the commoner ducks. The other rarities we were after could not be located and as it was now midday we decided to call it a day and ensure we were home in time for lunch. A brilliant morning out and about and well worth the early start.
UK list for 2012 now at 105 species.

Harbridge & Blashford Lakes - Sun 15 Jan

A quick detour on our way home and when we arrived at Ringwood we headed north for a few miles and parked near the church in the village of Harbridge. We soon found the field of swans and started scanning through the Mute Swans and before long located five Bewick's Swans and eventually the single Whooper Swan. A nice and easy bit of birding and so we headed back south and stopped off at Blashford Lakes for a quick visit.
We walked down to Ivy Lake and the south hide, seeing more Siskins and a couple of Lesser Redpolls along the way, and a Nuthatch was heard calling above us. We could not find the elusive Ferruginous Duck from the hide, and according to other birders it had not been seen all day. However, I did pick up my first Kingfisher of the year and a Green Sandpiper was showing well on the opposite bank.
We then walked back to the car and again headed off towards home.

Calshot & Hawkhill Inclosure - Sun 15 Jan

I had arranged a morning away from fathering duties so that I could twitch the recently discovered Spanish Sparrow near Southampton, and was fortunate that a close friend of mine, Steve Crimp, could also make it (the other usual suspects had already been to see the bird). So we had left West Coker before 6.00am and drove down to the small village of Calshot in Hampshire, and when a Barn Owl flew over the road in front of the car as we neared Dorchester we were hoping it would be a good omen for the day!
We arrived at Calshot at 7.30am and walked from the car park back in to the vilalge and were directed to the best spot for the bird by a local birder (he also happened to have feeders in his back garden that the sparror regularly visited). By the time in was fully light and the resident sparrows were chirping away there must have been well over two hundred birders on site...but no sign of the bird we were all after. Eventually, I wandered off to the opposite side of the hedge to take a look and a few minutes later I was told that the bird was in this chaps back garden and access would be arranged in about half an hours time. Part of the garden was viewable from the road so there was soon a mad rush as everyone jockeyed for position. With the bird still proving to be elusive eventually the house was opened up and people started piling forward to get in, I didn't make the first bunch but as we were waiting outside I carefully scanned the hedgerows and struck gold! The male Spanish Sparrow was preening itself in the hedge behind us. I barked out directions and pretty soon everyone was on it, I even manged to get a 'scope on the bird so others could take a quick look before it flew off over the house and out of view. I then received many words of thanks, slaps on the back and handshakes!!
So with the bird safely ticked off Steve and I headed back west in to the New Forest and shortly arrived at Hawkhill Inclosure. As we wandered out to the clearing where another mega vagrant had been found we noted several Siskins in the trees above us and heard a Marsh Tit call. Reaching the clearing we only had a short wait before the first-winter Dark-eyed Junco popped out in the open and showed really well. I even managed to get a shot of the bird, though frustratingly it turned its head at just the wrong time!
A small flock of four Crossbills also flew in and showed really well in the trees above us. As we had promised to be back in time for lunch we returned to the car and headed back towards home.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sat 7 Jan

I managed to get out of the house for about an hour before lunch today whilst Ellie and Tristan were sleeping. A brief stop at the northern end of the reservoir produced two drake Tufted Ducks and a Little Grebe on West Pool, but little else of note. So I drove on down to the hide, this proved pointless as there were no birds and the sun was so bright off the water I couldn't see if any were hiding away in the vegetation.
Therefore I decided to take a walk along the water's edge and out to the area of flooded woodland at the extreme south of the site. This is not an area of public access, but I am fortunate enough to have arranged access with the warden. As I walked along a total of fifteen Common Snipe shot up from the vegetation. A male Sparrowhawk shot through the trees disturbing a number of Redwings amongst other species. A couple of Goldcrests flitted through but that was about that. As I returned to the car, I had a better view of the water and the sun was now behind me. A total of 176 Teal and 66 Wigeon were present, alongside a pair of Tufted Duck and a female Pochard. As I had promised to be back in time to get some lunch for Ellie I called it a day and headed on home.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Ham Wall RSPB - Mon 2 Jan

Not a birding outing today, but rather Tristan's first real trip out and about as Ellie and I took him up to the Somerset Levels this morning to take advantage of the sun. Despite pushing a pram I did manage to keep an eye out for any birds of note, but it was pretty quiet. I did manage to add Common Buzzard to my year list and a couple of Water Rails were heard calling, but that was it.
On our way home we took a slight diversion and drove across Aller Moor in the hope of finding the released Common Cranes as a genuine wild bird has been seen with them, but we drew a blank with this too. To sum up a poor morning for birds, I checked the pager when we got home and we had missed a Yellow-browed Warbler at Ham Wall! At least I've got 364 days left to add to the year list!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Forde Abbey - Sun 1 Jan

A slight detour on the way home and I stopped off at Forde Abbey to scan the main lake. Being tight-fisted I didn't want to pay to get in so 'scoped the lake from the road. As it happened, that was fine, and within about ten minutes I had seen two pairs of Mandarin, my only Gadwall of the day, and the two drake Ring-necked Ducks that had been around for a few days. I knew they were still present as the guys had seen them earlier this morning whilst I was at Dawlish Warren. A good end to the day and I was home in time for a late lunch.
UK list for 2012 now at 81 species.

Exminster Marshes RSPB - Sun 1 Jan

I arrived at Exminster Marshes and was lucky enough to find a car parking spot in the "middle" car park behind John's car, and following the instructions I had received over the phone, walked along a path where I met up with John, Steve, Andy and Dave and after exchanging New Year's greetings I took a look over the fields and picked up Glossy Ibis, it was showing really well. Wildfowl included the usual species such as Teal, Pintail and Shoveler and several Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits were also seen. At least one Cetti's Warbler was heard.
We then got a tip off on the location of a roosting Long-eared Owl so set off in the hope to find this elusive and well hidden bird. Eventually, and after another phone call to one of Dave's contacts we found the bird as it roosted. We deliberately did not hang about, not wishing to disturb the bird, but I did grab a quick record shot.
We then headed up to the cutting above Exminster and walked around the set-aside field. Here we added Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting to our list and before long also saw a few Cirl Buntings and a small flock of Skylarks. With the weather starting to close in I got a pager message stating the first winter Red-breasted Goose was back at Exminster Marshes, so we all headed back down the hill and back to the reserve.
Walking out along the canal path we found the flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and the Red-breasted Goose.
Also in the goose flock we located a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Barnacle Goose. As the rain started to fall more steadily we returned to the cars and I bid farewell to the guys as I had to get back to Ellie and Tristan.

Dawlish Warren - Sun 1 Jan

No birding for me during the past three weeks as Ellie and I got an early Christmas present in the form of a smashing baby boy, Tristan Michael, born on 17 December.
However, I did manage to get out today for the morning and got up early in order to get to Dawlish Warren for first light, which I managed, arriving at 7.30am. I spent about an hour and a quarter seawatching and managed to pick up the female Surf Scoter that had been present for a while. Also out to sea I saw three Eider and a Red-throated Diver fly past and a Great Northern Diver was on the sea.
I then took a walk around the pond near the visitor centre and also scanned across the estuary on the far side of the golf course. This in particular proved worthwhile as I located the long-staying drake American Wigeon in with the Eurasian Wigeon flock. Several common species were also seen and as I started walking back to the car I got a call from the lads I usually head out with, and we decided to meet up at Exminster Marshes, so that was where I headed off to.