Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Ham Wall RSPB & Sharpham - Wed 27 Feb

A return visit to Ham Wall this afternoon and today I parked at the Sharpham end of the reserve as news had broken just before I left work of a drake Ferruginous Duck showing east of the second viewing platform.
There were a few birders present when we arrived, but the bird had gone AWOL...what a surprise! It appeared that my run of dipping birds had not stopped...that is until I got a call as I was walking away that the bird had reappeared, and after a few seconds I managed to get some cracking views of a very smart drake Ferruginous Duck. A small flock of twenty or so Lapwing flew west whilst we were on site and a female Sparrowhawk buzzed over the reeds as we neared the car.
Instead of driving straight home we took a little detour around Sharpham to check out the fields where I had seen a herd of Whooper Swans back in January. A total of ten Whooper Swans were still present and in the field opposite a single Eurasian White-fronted Goose grazing with a couple of Greylag and Canada Geese, so my second year tick in twenty minutes and I managed to see both target birds without dipping either! Result!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 24 Feb

An afternoon trip out with the family and we again made for Ham Wall for obvious reasons. On reaching the second viewing platform it was a completely different picture than last weekend, with just a single birder present...but some things don't change...the grebe was not showing. A Marsh Harrier flew over and spooked the gathered birds and this actually has a positive result as the Pied-billed Grebe finally gave itself up! Four attempts and at last I got this mega Somerset tick...and get these for classic photos (in my defence it was miles away and the light was fading!):
We didn't hang around too long as we needed to get home in time for Tristan's dinner and we barely paid note to the Great White Egret feeding on the reed fringe from the first viewing platform. So all good things come to those who wait, and let's hope my run of bad results with birds is at an end...just in time for Spring migration!
UK list for 2013 now at 128 species.

Butleigh - Sun 24 Feb

I didn't have long to spend out and about this morning so I travelled up to the village of Butleigh in an attempt to connect with a wintering Firecrest that had been found a week or so earlier. When we got to the village I had little idea where I was going, but somehow managed to end up parking by the playing fields and when getting rugged up against the cold weather I stopped a passing dog-walking to check the location. To my great surprise it was my old primary school teacher who I'd not seen for nearly thirty years, so we had a good chat and then I headed off to try and see the bird. A quick chat with "The Somerset Birder" James Packer gave me the rest of information I needed and within twenty minutes I heard the Firecrest calling in some ivy before getting some terrible views. It then flew over the road in front of me and vanished without a trace! I also saw a Chiffchaff amongst the commoner "garden birds" on show.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Arne RSPB - Mon 18 Feb

After the failure on the Somerset Levels we had a family trip out to Arne RSPB this afternoon. Arriving just in time for a picnic lunch I had a quick walk around Combe Heath whilst Tristan had a nap. It was really windy so it was not surprising that I failed to find any Dartford Warblers. In fact the heath itself seemed devoid of bird life completely. The channel contained a host of waders, but the light was poor and I couldn't pick out anything extraordinary. A large flock of a couple of hundred Dark-bellied Brent Geese were grazing in one of the fields. I didn't waste any more time and headed back to the car, by which time Tristan was awake.
We all set off for a walk out to Shipstal Point. A quick rest at the small beach produced Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit and an opportunity for us to have a play in the sand! On we went and a total of sixteen Spoonbills were present on the saltmarsh...all of them were asleep (Spoonbills always seem to spend a lot of time sleeping). Commoner waders and wildfowl were also present but a walk back via the church failed to produce any Firecrests. All in all a really enjoyable afternoon out enjoying some lovely weather and quality time with the family.

Ham Wall RSPB - Mon 18 Feb

Waking early I decided on a morning trip out in a third attempt to try and see the Pied-billed Grebe at Ham Wall. I arrived at around 8.00am and the sound of singing Cetti's Warblers, booming Bittern and screeching Water Rails made for a pleasant walk in lovely sunshine. Upon reaching the second viewing platform I was told that the grebe had swam in to the reeds. De ja vu! During the next ninety minutes it failed ot show, though a Little Grebe got a few hearts racing (so much so that one or two of the birders present were convinced it was the bird they were looking for!). A rather forlorn walk back to the car did produce some wonderful views of a male and female Marsh Harrier hunting over the reedbeds. Now the big question is...should I even bother trying for this bloody bird again?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Sixpenny Handley - Sun 17 Feb

A return trip to Wyke Down in an attempt to locate the Great Grey Shrike, and my recent run of form continued as I dipped out again! This time I did manage to find a ringtail Hen Harrier so it was not a completely wasted trip. A small flock of Linnets added another year tick, but they were pretty distant as they flew over the fields.

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 16 Feb & Sun 17 Feb

When news broke late on Friday night of a Pied-billed Grebe at Ham Wall RSPB reserve there was little doubt that I would end up going to look for it on Saturday afternoon. As I walked out to the second viewing platform we were treated to smashing views of two male Marsh Harriers closely followed by a fly-by Bittern. So two year ticks and hopefully a good wasn't! Despite plenty of searching the grebe had gone missing by the time we arrived, and needing to get home for tea I had to leave without seeing the bird.
Sunday morning and a second try. We all set out for a family walk and had a nice view of a Kingfisher as we walked along the track. Reaching the viewing platform there were loads more birders than had been present the night before...but the grebe was again playing hide and seek and time was against us yet again and we had to leave empty handed for the second time in less than twenty four hours. I'm just glad I had made the effort to drive up to Manchester in 2010 or else I'd have been totally pee-ed off!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Sixpenny Handley - Wed 6 Feb

An afternoon trip out to the Dorset/Hampshire border today and at around 3.30pm I arrived at Wyke Down, near the vilalge of Sixpenny Handley. I did not have a huge amount of time to spend on site but I was hoping to connect with the wintering Great Grey Shrike as well as Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl (both of which had been seen daily for the last week). After spending nearly an hour on site I dipped out on all three of my target birds!
I did manage to add a year tick in the form of Stock Dove, but nowhere near as exciting as those birds I had hoped to see. I'm sure the very strong and cold wind had something to do with it. In fact there were very few brids around, a flock of Fieldfares flew over and a dozen or so Lapwings were seen in flight. Some consolation was found in the form of a hunting Barn Owl seen as we drove through the village of Cashmoor on our way home!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Lyme Regis - Sun 3 Feb

An afternoon trip to the seaside today and a lovely stroll along the seafront complete with an ice cream. Tristan also had his first experience of sand and this was a great success! On the bird front a quick call to my mate Andy got me the best location to see Purple Sandpipers, and it did not take too long for me to find half a dozen of these smashing little waders. As we were walking back to the car a very interesting juvenile gull was seen on the beach. A nice uniform dark brown I cursed the fact I had left my scope in the car so no chance of getting any photos to aid with ID (by the time I had got to the car and back with my scope it had been flushed by walkers). I guess I'll never know but American Herring Gull just kept popping in to my mind...and so another one gets away. I also added Rock Pipit to my year list.

Hawkridge Reservoir, Shapwick Heath & Catcott Lows - Sun 3 Feb

A morning to myself today and I headed up to Bridgwater and Hawkridge Reservoir to see the long-staying Ring-Necked Duck that by all accounts was a simple tick...only it wasn't. Despite scouring every inch of this small reservoir I could only find fourteen Tufted Ducks. In fact there was not much else about at all, though five Bullfinches flew over. So I decided to pop in to Durleigh Reservoir in case the bird had relocated. As it turned out later in the day, it had relocated but not to Durleigh, instead just up the road to Ashford Reservoir...which I hadn't checked!
So with the day starting with a major failure I drove back down to Shapwick Heath NR and made the somewhat treacherous walk out to the Decoy Hide (the path was so muddy!). Getting to the hide a had a good scan over the water and was beginning to think this really wasn't my day until the pair of Smew flew in and landed on the water in front of me. Unfortunately they didn't hang around but simply swam quickly out of sight never to be seen again, or at least not by me!
A Cetti's Warbler put on a nice show just outside the hide window but again there was not much else about.
I walked back to the car and then followed the drove westwards until I reached the eastern end of Catcott Lows. From here I picked out a Great White Egret and Whooper Swan, both showing well, if a little distant.
A Kingfisher did a couple of fly-bys and several Fieldfare passed over heading north. Other birds of note included a Raven, a single Snipe and a female Stonechat...and that concluded the morning out as I returned home for lunch.