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 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 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.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Exmoor - Sun 6 May

An early start today as it was my monthly trip out birding with the lads, and I picked up Steve Chorley at 5.00am to head up on to Exmoor. Our first stop was Chetsford Water, and we arrived on site at 6.15am. As we got out of the car and braced ourselves for the cold (it was just a few degrees above freezing) Steve caught the distant reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler, great start to the day. It took us quite a while to track the bird down in a clump of juncus and eventually we were lucky enough to get some really good views.
Also on the moor we saw at least a dozen Wheatears and three or so Whinchats. High above a few Skylarks were singing and we could also hear three Cuckoos. A couple of Tree Pipits were also seen. As we returned to the car we caught a glimpse of a male Redstart in the trees before it flitted down and landed on the fence for a moment before vanishing in to the trees.
Leaving Chetsford Water we headed north-east and stopped off to check out Nutscale Reservoir. However, other than another singing Cuckoo and a Mistle Thrush in full song we failed to see anything different. So on we went to our next stop, Pool Bridge.
As we crossed the river we saw a Dipper in the stream, and after parking the car we relocated it feeding two juveniles.
A walk up the road through the woodland produced the expected species such as Treecreeper and Nutchatch and a pair of Bullfinches. And after failing to track down the source of an unusal call we returned to car where we were met by two Wood Warblers chasing each other before they settled in the tree above the car.
On then to Horner where we met up with John and Andy. We all hopped in my car and drove up to Webber's Post and took a walk down the valley back to Horner. Whilst in the car park at Webber's Post we saw a couple of Siskin, including a male carrying out a couple of display flights. The walk through the valley was not overly productive though we did pick up a few Pied Flycatchers (and another Wood Warbler was heard singing). We got back to Horner and drove up to collect my car before parting company with Andy and John as Steve and I needed to be home for lunch. It was now 11.15am and we had enjoyed a brilliant morning on Exmoor.
On the way home we took a slight diversion and visited Thurlbear Quarrylands. As we got out of the car we could hear a Nightingale singing and a short walk produced at least three more singing birds, though we only got to see one of them. It rounded off a really enjoyable birding trip.
UK list for 2012 now at 186 species.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Lodmoor RSPB - Sat 5 May

Ellie had her one of her best friends visiting today so I took Tristan out for the afternoon and we set off for Weymouth and a visit to Lodmoor RSPB reserve. We were lucky enough to avoid all but a few odd drops of rain as I pushed Tristan around the reserve in his pram.
Several hundred Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were constantly feeding over the reedbeds and a steady chorus of Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Cetti's Warblers followed us.
A few waders were present, including a single Dunlin and a couple of Whimbrel.
 Four Bar-tailed Godwits were also seen (a 2012 year tick for me).
As we continued around the reserve we failed to see much else out of the ordinary, but as we neared the car a sub-adult Marsh Harrier soared overhead...a nice end to an enjoyable couple of hours out.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Meare Heath NR - Wed 2 May

A good start to the new month as I took Tristan out for a few hours on the Somerset Levels. We made the trip up to Meare Heath again and as it was a bright sunny afternoon I was hopeful that we would see a few more birds than we had in the rain at the weekend.
As I got out of the car the first thing I heard was a singing Cuckoo, so a year tick straightaway...good start. After getting Tristan in his pram we walked out on to the reserve and picked up our second year tick as a Garden Warbler burst in to song in a small bush next to the path. Luckily the bird was showing really well, usually I have to stand and wait for an age for one of these to pop out in to the open as it sings in the undergrowth!
Continuing along the path the drained lagoon was now almost completely mud, which did mean a few waders were present. I located five Ringed Plovers and a single Dunlin amongst the "usual" Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank.
Passing the bridge we looked out over Noah's Lake and soon picked up the third year tick of the day as half a dozen Hobbies whizzed around overhead amongst a large number of Swifts. Another two Cuckoos were heard calling as we returned to the car and another five Hobbies were also noted.
We stopped for a chat with fellow-birder and friend Julian Thomas and whilst catching up a pair of Bitterns flew up from the reeds. The male then landed in the open and started "booming" before doing another fly-by. A third Bittern was then seen in flight over the reeds further away. So a good end to our afternoon out!