Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sharpham & Meare Heath NNR - Sun 27 Jan

An afternoon trip up to the Somerset Levels and a slight diversion on our way to the Ashcott Corner car park took us around Sharpham where we located the herd of eleven Whooper Swans (so at the third attempt I finally add this species to my 2013 list).
On then for a walk at Meare Heath and we set straight off for the hide overlooking Noah's Lake. Fortune was not with us this time as we missed both the pair of Smew and the White-fronted Goose that had been present earlier in the day. I did add Greylag Goose to the year list and also saw my first Pochard of 2013, so not an entirely wasted trip but it would have been nice to add a couple of quality birds to the list.
UK list for 2013 now at 115 species.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 27 Jan

A very fleeting visit this morning produced a dozen Teal at the southern end but nothing else of note in that area of the reservoir, so a stop at the northern causeway. A single Common Gull was seen, as was a Cormorant showing characteristics of the Continental Sinensis race. A flock of at least thirty-five Snipe suddenly took to the air from the vegetation on the edge of West Pool before settling back in to cover.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Sutton Bingham - Sun 20 Jan

I popped out this afternoon for an hour or so at the end of the day to get a bit of fresh air as we had been house-bound all day due to the weather. It was too late to travel that far, so I ended up at the reservoir and had a good walk around. Starting at the southern end I put up three Snipe from the water's edge and my first Peregrine of 2013 was sat on one of the pylons. About a dozen or so Teal were seen and generated a bit of interest from the Peregrine when they all took to the air!
A couple of Treecreepers were also new birds for the year as they fed with a Goldcrest and several Long-tailed Tits.
From the northern causeway I again noted the Little Egret near the Sailing Club and the flock of two dozen Wigeon were still off the dam. My third year tick came in the form of a female Sparrowhawk that drifted over the reservoir, upsetting many of the gathered Black-headed Gulls. The field alongside the Sailing Club held somewhere in the region of two hundred Fieldfare.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sutton Bingham - Sat 19 Jan

A late afternoon walk from the hide along the water's edge to the car park and back again. It was fairly quiet on the bird front but we did flush a single Snipe from the vegetation. As we neared the car park a Raven passed overhead and a Little Egret near the Sailing Club was a bit of a surprise for this time of year. A flock of twenty-four Wigeon were off the dam, the only wildfowl seen other than the plastic ducks that are always along the northern causeway. Two flyover Meadow Pipits produced the only other interest on a cold afternoon.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 13 Jan

A family trip out this afternoon and a jaunt up to the Somerset Levels and a visit to Ham Wall RSPB reserve. When we arrived soon after 3.30pm we couldn't get over the number of cars, we ended up parking about a mile down the road form the reserve entrance! So with a good walk under our belts before we even got to Ham Wall we certainly got a fair bit of exercise this afternoon.
Walking on past the massed ranks of Starling watchers and RSPB staff we headed straight to the second viewing platform. Once there I scanned the reedbeds whilst Ellie and Tristan had a rest (though I'm not sure Tristan needed a rest as I had been carrying him in his backpack!). I was pleasantly surprised when I located a Water Pipit feeding. A small flock of about half a dozen Lesser Redpoll flew over, a Stonechat was flitting between reeds, and on the water I saw my first Gadwall and Tufted Duck of 2013. A Great White Egret was seen from the first viewpoint as we walked back towards the car...oh yes, and several thousand Starlings wowed the crowds.
UK list for 2013 now at 107 species.

Ferrybridge & Portland Harbour - Sun 13 Jan

I managed to get out for a couple of hours this morning and we headed south and made for Ferrybridge. Parking at the visitor centre I braved the cold wind and spent an hour wandering around. There were at least one hundred Mediterranean Gulls on the water of varying plumages and ages and a fair-sized flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese. After a lot of searching I finally located the Snow Bunting that had been present for a few weeks...and I must have walked past it several times before finally seeing it.
I also saw a Meadow Pipit and a couple of Skylarks whilst at Ferrybridge but with time getting on I headed back in to Weymouth and drove up to Sandsfoot Castle where I spent a little bit of time scanning Portland Harbour.
Ten Great Crested Grebes were gathered in the north-east corner of the harbour whilst much further out a Great Northern Diver was seen. Eventually I located the two Velvet Scoters, one of which did a very obliging wing stretch to clinch identification! About six or so Black-necked Grebes were also seen as well as several Red-breasted Merganser.
And that was that, time was up and I headed back home for lunch.

Tealham & Tadham Moors - Sat 12 Jan

An afternoon out in dismal weather, so I took a drive around Tealham and Tadham Moors in a second attempt to locate the Whooper Swans and Cattle Egret that we missed out on last week....well we missed out again this week!!
Constantly stopping and scanning the moors I saw at least twenty Little Egrets and several hundred Lapwing were out in the fields, and thought the latter were often taking to the air I could not find any raptors harassing them. However, I did count a small flock of six Golden Plover and then another slightly larger flock of twenty birds. So a year tick and not a completely wasted afternoon out.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Catcott Lows NR - Sun 6 Jan

My afternoon out did not go to plan as I failed to locate any Whooper Swans or the Cattle Egret that were present at the start of the week to the north of Westhay. So I headed down to Catcott Lows NR and took Tristan for a walk. There were loads of duck around, predominately Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon and Teal. A Great White Egret was a welcome sight. Eleven Lapwings flew over and as the light started to go hundreds of Starlings and winter thrushes flew through. A dozen Pied Wagtails were feeding in front of the hide and a pair of Bullfinches were seen along the track to the car park. Finally, a Cetti's Warbler was blasting out it's song next to the car, but failed to show itself.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 6 Jan

My visit to the reservoir this year, and I skipped past the northern end as there was nothing about and instead took a walk along the water's edge at the south. A total of twenty-eight Snipe were present and there were a few duck present, with at least sixty Teal and three Wigeon in with a few Mallard. Overhead three Raven flew through and a Marsh Tit was heard calling.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Norton Sub Hamdon - Sat 5 Jan

I stayed local this morning and whilst Ellie went shopping I took Tristan out and we popped down the road to Norton Sub Hamdon. After parking the car and getting Tristan ready we set off and within a minute or two I found what I was after with an rather smart Hawfinch perched in the top of a tree near the church. Over the next hour or so I saw at least one more until eventually having walked round to the church, I counted ten Hawfinch in the tall trees that ran alongside the churchyard, including some really nice looking male birds. Unfortunately I was not able to get that close to any of the birds, but still got a couple of record shots with my phone!
As I wandered around the village I also saw my first Coal Tit and Goldcrest of the new year, and a flock of sixty or so Fieldfare flew over. So all in all a pretty good morning!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Axe Estuary - Tue 1 Jan

Our final stop of what had been a long but enjoyable day was the Axe Estuary. Opposite Axmouth Football Club we soon located a pair of Bewick's Swans and it was then down to the estuary to scan the gulls. An adult and 1st-winter Mediterranean Gull were present and a Grey Wagtail was also seen. After a bit of inside information from a local birder we decided to head down to the sea front at Seaton and see if we could locate a Black Redstart that was seen earlier in the day. Unfortunately, we missed this bird, but it had been a wonderful start to the year and we had seen some cracking birds.
UK list for 2013 now at 87 species.

Dawlish Warren & Starcross - Tue 1 Jan

Leaving Exminster we drove on to Dawlish Warren. A rather smart winter-plumaged Black-necked Grebe was on the pond next to the visitor centre, whilst out to sea we added Slavonian Grebe to the year list. There was not much else of note to be seen (and we missed a very brief Serin that had been reported earlier in the day...a very unusual winter record). The alder trees held Lesser Redpoll and Siskin and a small flock of Common Scoter flew west far out to sea.
Our penultimate stop of the day was at Starcross. Scanning the Exe Estuary we added Goldeneye and feeding on the exposed mud a rather smart Spotted Redshank and several Greenshank. A small number of Ringed Plover were also present.
I then parted company with everyone (except Dave as I was giving him a lift home) and headed back towards home.

Exminster - Tue 1 Jan

On to Exminster and parking up on Milbury Lane I walked up to the churchyard in the hope of locating the first-winter Rose-coloured Starling. After ten minutes there was no sign, and as I was the first of our group on site I called to see where the others were...and it so happened that as we were chatting they located the bird, so a quick sprint got me to them and we were afforded cracking views of the Rose-coloured Starling.
Off up the road to a favoured site of ours and a good walk round a set-aside field soon produced a pair of Cirl Buntings and several Yellowhammers. A large flock of finches yielded at least twenty Bramblings.
Another successful stop.

Exeter Services (M5) & Topsham - Tue 1 Jan

An fairly early start and a trip down to south Devon for some serious birding in an attempt to get the 2013 Year List off to a good start. My first port of call was the motorway service station at Exeter where a small party of Waxwings had been present, but when I arrived at 8.00am there was no sign. Before long the other guys I was meeting up with arrived, and after a brief chat we decided to set off for Topsham instead and return to the services later in the morning.
At Topsham we scanned the area in front of the hide and after much searching I located the long-staying Long-tailed Duck, though it was terribly mobile and elusive despite it being a small lake! Several waders were present, including good numbers of Avocet and both godwit species. The commoner duck species were also present and a Water Rail put on a good show.
We then headed back to the services where we soon located four Waxwings feeding on a berry-laden bush...result!
So with the target birds ticked off we headed off to the next site.