Saturday, 27 April 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Fri 26 Apr & Sat 27 Apr

With the afternoon off work I headed up on to the Somerset Levels as there had been some good birds at Ham Wall reported earlier in the day...needless to say they had all but vanished by the time I arrived! That being said I did get some wonderful views of the Pied-billed Grebe at long last and what a cracker it is now that it's in full summer plumage.
Also from the second viewing platform a Redshank, Common Sandpiper and eventually I managed to see one of the Wood Sandpipers that had been found earlier in the day. A good number of Swifts were flying around overhead with at nearly a hundred present. the usual warblers were in good voice and another year presented itself in the form of a Garden Warbler singing from deep within the scrub, and try as I might I could not see it. And that was pretty much it with regard to the bird action, so a little disappointing considering what had been about in the morning.
A return visit on Saturday afternoon with the family enabled me to get some good views of the pair of Black-winged Stilts that had appeared that morning (they had spent the previous few days in south-Wales). The second viewing platform at Ham Wall seems to be the place to be at present and these two lanky waders put on a good show.
Several Swifts passed by overhead during a break in the cloudy, windy conditions and at least two Bitterns were heard booming away from deep in the reeds. There was nothing else unexpected though.
UK list for 2013 now at 174 species.

Sutton Bingham - Fri 26 Apr & Sat 27 Apr

A flying visit on my way home from work produced my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year with one singing from a hedge near the Canoe Club (though typically it failed to show itself). West Pool hosted six Mute Swans which were new arrivals and had gone by Saturday morning. A tern was feeding off the dam but was too distant to positively identify which was rather frustrating.
An equally brief stop on Saturday morning before work generated another SBR year tick in the form of a Swift feeding over the reservoir with loads of Swallows and Sand Martins. The pair of Wigeon were again's interesting that they have not yet departed and with a little luck they may attempt to breed.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Meare Heath NR & Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 21 Apr

A family trip out this afternoon and we headed up Ashcott Corner, parking the car and braving light drizzle for a walk out towards Noah's Lake. Reaching the hide we were afforded some excellent views of the two summer-plumaged Whiskered Terns as the hawked for insects with half a dozen or so Arctic Terns. There was little else of note on the water so we returned to the car, adding singing Reed Warbler and Sedge Warblers to the year list (though neither were seen as the skulked in the reed beds), and two Kingfishers were noted as they sped past us. The drained lagoon hosted good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of Redshank, but there were no other waders. A flock of twenty or so Lesser Redpoll were a surprise this late in year as they fed in alders near the car park before flying east and at least three Bitterns were booming away from deep within the reeds.
Upon reaching the car we decided to take a quick walk out to the first viewing platform at Ham Wall, and before we had even entered the reserve a male Marsh Harrier drifted over at quite some height. Again there were good numbers of warblers, especially Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, and amongst a large flock of hirundines I picked up my first Swift of 2013, rounding off what was a pleasant afternoon and we got back to the car just as it started raining again.

Sutton Bingham - Sun 21 Apr

I had longer than usual this morning so when news broke of a pair of Whiskered Terns on the Somerset Levels I started off in that direction, now I don't know why, but something made me change my mind and instead I ended up at Sutton Bingham Reservoir. Parking in the car park I took a walk down the length of the reservoir and back again.
Around the car park a few Blackcaps were present, I also saw a pair of Bullfinches, and a female Sparrowhawk soared high above the water. Continuing along the water's edge a Common Sandpiper took flight and then a bit of a surprise as three Greylag Geese flew in from the north and settled on the water opposite the hide, where they spent most of the time close to the vegetation.
There was not much else happening but on the walk back I heard and then saw my first Whitethroat of the year in roadside hedges near the hide. On returning to the car park I caught a glimpse of a warbler actively feeding in some trees behind the pay area. Reaching for my bins I couldn't believe it...a very smart male Wood Warbler! Knowing that the local SBR listers would be interested I had a frantic twenty minutes calling various birding friends and before long a couple had arrived...but the bird had gone missing. We eventually heard it sing and as I left it was still present. I have since found out that it is the only the third record of Wood Warbler for Sutton Bingham Reservoir.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Sixpenny Handley - Sat 20 Apr

Some nine weeks since my last attempt I made another trip to Wyke Down near Sixpenny Handley this afternoon hoping that it would be a case of third time lucky with regard to the Great Grey Shrike and Short-eared Owls that were still lingering in the area. Arriving at 3.30pm it took half an hour of searching before I finally found the Great Grey Shrike, it had somehow managed to get in to a small tree not far from the road, though no-one saw it fly in, a very bright male Linnet was singing away. Over the next thirty minutes in some wonderful sunshine I was lucky enough to see a couple of Red Kites soaring distantly over fields and just as I was getting in to the car a Short-eared Owl took flight from cover and treated me and the other gathered birders to a wonderful fly-by, and a second bird was seen sat in the long grass...I must have scanned that area at least half a dozen times without seeing it earlier. So it turned out to be a very successful afternoon!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Sutton Bingham - Wed 17 Apr & Thu 18 Apr

A couple of flying visits over the past few days. I had to go to Bournemouth on Wednesday afternoon so that put pay to any birding, though I did decide to fly in to the reservoir (not literally) on the way home. A surprise greeted me in the form of an Egyptian Goose on the northern causeway!
A Little Egret was near the Sailing Club, but that was about it apart from a load of hirundines feeding over the water.
A last minute decision to drop in on Thursday after work proved to be a good call with six Arctic Terns present hawking over the water between the car park and the Canoe Club. I thought that there would be a good chance of some being present as there had been a constant stream of sightings on the pager all day. The Egyptian Goose was still on the northern causeway and was the only other bird of interest.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Sutton Bingham & East Coker WTW - Sun 14 Apr

A morning trip out again and it was a wonderful Spring day at last. I stayed local and made a flying visit to the reservoir where a single Common Sandpiper was on the northern causeway. Feeding over West Pool and the southern end of the reservoir, loads of Swallows and Sand Martins.
With nothing much else around I headed in to East Coker and visited the Water Treatment Works. There was no sign of the Siberian Chiffchaff but there had been a mini-fall of Willow Warblers with at least ten feeding on the sewage beds and another couple singing. There were only a couple of Chiffchaffs present today, but a Blackcap was a new arrival. In fields alongside the WTW I located a Wheatear and a Linnet was singing away. At least two Yellowhammers were seen as were at least three Skylarks.

Portland & Radipole RSPB - Sat 13 Apr

A morning out today and another trip down south to Portland, this time with a few birding mates. We arrived at Portland at 7.00am and after a brief and unsuccessful look at Barleycrates Lane made straight for the Bill. The next hour or so was a series of near misses. I managed to miss both Puffin and Whimbrel during the seawatch and on the land we all failed to see the Long-eared Owl which had been present all winter.
On the plus side, I did connect with Little Owl and the birds I managed to see out to sea included my first Fulmar and Kittiwake of the year. A small flock of five Common Scoter flew west and a Merlin flew in-off the sea and headed north up West Cliffs.
As the weather took a turn for the worse we left the Bill and stopped briefly at Pennsylvania Castle, but it was a waste of time. So it was off to Weymouth and we made straight for Lodmoor. Parking at Lodmoor I checked my pager...Iceland Gull at Radipole, so a rapid three-point turn and we were heading back in to the centre of Weymouth.
Five minutes later and we were parked in the Swannery Car Park only to be told the Iceland Gull had flown five minutes earlier, if only we had stopped here en route to Lodmoor, we would've seen the bird! We hung around at Radipole for nearly an hour. Lots of Swallows and Sand Martins were present and we managed some fairly good views of at least two Bearded Tits, oh yes, the resident Hooded Merganser was seen too.
As the rain started to fall again we called an end to a rather unsuccessful morning with regard to birds, but good company was a consolation!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Sutton Bingham - Fri 12 Apr

A trip to the reservoir this afternoon and at last it would appear that Spring has arrived. Most of the action was at the southern end of the reservoir where four Chiffchaffs were singing as were two Willow Warblers, and a further Willow Warbler showed nicely in some willows!
Over the water a flock of hirundines was gathered and contained Swallows, Sand Martins and a couple of House Martins, the latter being a 2013 year tick and overhead a Raven passed by and a Jay put in an appearance.
On the southern causeway three Common Sandpipers were present whilst on the water, a pair of Wigeon and four pairs of Teal were loitering.
A walk as far as the Canoe Club only added Reed Bunting to the list, but it was certainly encouraging to see some migrants arriving at last.

Meare Heath NNR - Thu 11 Apr

This afternoon I headed up on to the Somerset Levels for a change as I had not been that way for a few weeks. Despite getting caught in a shower it ended up being a pleasant afternoon, though again the birds were thin on the ground. The drained lagoon held just one Redshank and eight Black-tailed Godwits on the wader front, though four Lapwing did fly over. Two Bitterns were heard booming and a single Great White Egret was also on the lagoon. A large flock of Sand Martins passed through after the rain and when I got back to the car I saw another Swallow. A gentle reminder that Spring has not sprung entirely came in the form of a small flock of a dozen Lesser Redpolls near the bridge over the drain.

Portland - Thu 11 Apr

A return trip to Portland today in the hope that a morning visit would produce some migrants. As it happened it was very quiet! I walked along Barleycrates Lane, up West Cliffs for a while, and then down Reap Lane and back to the car. Several Wheatears were seen, and there was a good number of Swallows heading north, my first of the year. The highlight was a very smart male Redstart, by far the pick of the limited number of birds. A female-type Black Redstart was also seen, but that was about it!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Portland - Wed 10 Apr

A trip to the Isle of Portland this afternoon, and it turned out to be a complete washout, literally! Just as I neared Weymouth it started raining, and by the time I got to Reap Lane on Portland it was raining steadily. Despite the weather I did spend half an hour or so working some of the paths around Reap Lane. My hope was that the Hoopoe that had been seen earlier in the day would put in an appearance...but needless to say it didn't!
There were good numbers of Chiffchaffs about, by far the commonest migrant, and a couple of Wheatears were also seen. A female Black Redstart was a nice find on the playing field of the local school, but there was nothing else of note to be seen and with the rain getting heavier I was forced back to the car for an early end to the day.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Black's Moor Hill - Tue 9 Apr

With the weather being pretty poor today I stayed fairly local and took a drive around the area known as Black's Moor Hill just to the south of Somerton. I had first come across this site a year or two ago when there had been a couple of singing Quail. Obviously it was too early in the year for these game birds but I thought I see if anything was about. There seemed to be Yellowhammers just about everywhere, which was wonderful to see, and I counted at least a dozen birds. Two flocks of Linnets were also encountered, one numbering some sixty birds, whilst the second was slightly small with around twenty birds together with a similar number of Chaffinches. A couple of Skylarks were heard singing and another was seen, and some Fieldfares were still about, with some thirty birds feeding in one of the fields. So nothing that unusual, but it was refreshing to see some good numbers of "traditional" farmland species.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Gore Hill & Sutton Bingham - Mon 8 Apr

A quick afternoon trip out today and I made for Gore Hill in the hope that there may be a few migrants on the high ground. It was terribly windy and the odd spot of rain meant that viewing conditions were not ideal. That being said, I did pick out a pair of very good-looking Golden Plover in the middle of one large field. A couple of Skylarks flew up from the edge of another field and a small flock of seven Linnet flew over. As I returned to the car two Red-legged Partridge were seen and a Raven flew over.
A quick stop at Sutton Bingham on the way home produced the first Common Sandpiper of the year for the site (and for me), as it bobbed it's way along the northern causeway. The southern end of the reservoir was really quiet, with a pair of Teal and a Little Grebe the only birds seen.

Butterstreet Cove & Radipole RSPB - Sun 7 Apr

An afternoon in south Dorset and I made straight for The Fleet, parking at East Fleet and following the coastal path west for about a mile until I reached the field I was looking for, and within this field a total of five Stone Curlew! Now they were rather distant, with the exception of one bird which was in a slightly closer field, but the wind was such that I had no chance of even getting one of my infamous record shots...perhaps a good thing! I didn't hang around too long and instead headed in to Weymouth and to the RSPB reserve at Radipole.
I walked straight out to the North Hide, seeing very little along the way, and I was lucky enough to get my target bird without having to enter the hide. A very smart male Garganey was sat in plain view, and I'd left my scope in the car, so again there was no chance of getting a photo, which was a shame as I'm pretty sure I would have managed something half decent! So two year ticks in the space of about 45 minutes, but very little else around, and with time against me it was time to head on home.

East Coker WTW - Sun 7 Apr

A quick trip to the Water Treatment Works at East Coker, and I took advantage of the access I'd been granted to take a look and see what was about. It was quieter than my previous visits, but the Siberian Chiffchaff was still present, along with two Chiffchaff. Three Grey Wagtails and a Meadow Pipit were feeding on the sewage beds alongside commoner species. There were a surprising number of winter thrushes present, a mixed flock of around fifty Redwing and twenty Fieldfare were in the fields around the Works, and a single Yellowhammer was again seen.

Longham Lakes & Mudeford Quay - Sat 6 Apr

I was heading down towards Christchurch today, so took the opportunity to stop off at Longham Lakes en route. A quick walk round one of the lakes produced my first singing Willow Warbler of the year, though I failed to see it, and an Egyptian Goose was another year tick as it sat in a field alongside a couple of Canada Geese.
The lakes themselves held the usual diving and dabbling duck, nothing out of the ordinary...despite my scouring the various birds sat on the water. Around the fringes there were loads of Chiffchaffs and Robins, but again nothing more exotic.
On then to the coast and a walk around Mudeford Quay. After a lot of searching I finally managed to locate the long-staying Red-necked Grebe. Unfortunately it was rather distant so I was not really able to appreciate it in its splendid summer plumage. A few waders were present, including Turnstone and Grey Plover, and I picked out my first Sandwich Tern of the year as it flew in and settled on a sand bar. Out to sea there was nothing of fact, there was nothing! But it was a worthwhile trip and I ended the day with four year ticks.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Sutton Bingham - Mon 1 Apr

A pre-breakfast trip to the reservoir this morning. I had missed a couple of Ospreys that had been seen at the reservoir last night because my phone was on silent and the battery in my pager had run out, so I was on site at 6.30am in the hope that one of the birds would have roosted overnight and would still be present on site. In an hour long search, I drew a complete blank. However, what I did see more than made up for it as I was treated to some stunning views of a hunting Barn Owl between the hide and the canoe club. This was a Sutton Bingham tick for me so I was thrilled to bits!
Also this morning a Kingfisher flew past the hide and two Stock Doves passed overhead, but there was little in the way of migration and a singing Chiffchaff was the only real taste of Spring with a bitterly cold wind making it almost too cold for shorts this morning!
A return visit in the early evening on the off chance that I had simply missed any Ospreys first thing in the morning produced three pairs of Shoveler from the northern causeway and from the hide, a very smart Osprey!
The Osprey showed very well for about five minutes before flying north and circling the reservoir, eventually it settled again and so I went to look for it. I relocated the Osprey as it was perched in a dead tree about a hundred metres south of the car park...making some of the local Cormorants rather nervous. So a good end to what was a very profitable day at the reservoir.