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.