Friday, 31 May 2013

Ham Wall RSPB - Thu 30 May

An evening visit with one of my birding mates to Ham Wall RSPB reserve today. Arriving at about 7.10pm we enjoyed a good couple of hours on the reserve. A Great White Egret was showing well from the first viewing platform and a sub-adult male Marsh Harrier was hunting over the reed beds. At least three Bitterns were still booming away and there seemed to be a glut of Cuckoos with at least five seen and another couple heard. A good number of Swifts were hawking above us almost constantly and we also saw a couple of Hobbies (one perched up and a second whizzing past at a rate of knots). All in all an enjoyable evening out.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Acres Down - Sun 26 May

I had arranged a free morning with the sole intention of twitching a Roller in Hampshire, but just as I was setting off the bird flew north and failed to show again. So instead I spent the time at Acres Down in the hope of picking up some decent raptors. During the three or so hours I was on site I was treated to some pretty good views of at least six Goshawk, but I only saw Common sign today of any Honey Buzzards.
A male Whinchat was a nice surprise and two Hawfinch flew through. A Tree Pipit seemed to be in almost constant song whilst I was present and a couple of Hobbies also passed overhead. So I managed to add a couple more species to the year list, but I would have rather the Roller had stayed put!
Year list for 2013 now at 190 species.

Isles of Scilly - Thu 16 May to Thu 23 May

Our first family holiday and we spent a week on the Isles of Scilly. Sailing on board the Scillonian III from Penzance we had a really good crossing, though there was little action on the bird front, with a few Manx Shearwaters being the pick and four Bottle-nosed Dolphins providing some entertainment. We stayed on St Mary's and spent most of our time exploring this island.
Highlights on the bird front included a Bee-eater which was fairly vocal but failed to show itself over Porth Hellick. I found a male Hen Harrier one evening on Peninnis Head which was a bit of an unexpected find and the same area also held a few Whimbrel. A Common Sandpiper on rocks near Old Town was the only other wader that provided a little interest. A Cuckoo showed very well on Peninnis Head and was also heard a couple of times whilst we sat in a café in old Town. But despite the time of year there was little else out of the ordinary on the bird front on St Mary's.
We took two day trips, one to Tresco and another to St Agnes.
The Tresco day was lovely with cloudless skies and warm sun for the bulk of the day. A Roseate Tern was an unexpected find whilst we sat having a drink in Old Grimsby, but two small waders that flew over proved impossible to identify and a Golden Pheasant at the Abbey Gardens was hardly tick-able!
St Agnes was very quiet but we did enjoy a very tasty pasty at The Turk's Head! A very smart White Wagtail was the pick of the birds on this island.
I took an evening boat trip on the Monday night and this produced three Great Northern Divers, including two in summer plumage, and eventually a total of nine Puffins, though we had to cover a lot of water to finally find them.
So despite the lack of quality vagrants on the bird front we had a relaxing and enjoyable week away and I'm already looking forward to a return visit sooner rather than later!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Lodmoor RSPB & Briantspuddle - Sun 12 May

A morning out today and I headed to the coast and took a walk around the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor (though I did take a little diversion to Ferrybridge to add Little Tern to the year list!). I took the circular path around Lodmoor and spent around a hour or so on site. It was pretty quiet on the bird front with regards to variety. A Cuckoo showed well if distantly and loads of Swifts were feeding over the reserve. The reedbeds held lots of singing Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, whilst the muddy areas produced just six Dunlin and seven Black-tailed Godwits. The Common Tern colony seemed to be doing well though with a conservative estimate of sixty or so birds present.
When I got back to the car I realised that there was still some time before I needed to be back at home, so I set off for Briantspuddle and another walk around the area of heathland near the village. I had a lot more joy today as a Tree Pipit showed well and as I continued along the path I could hear the distinctive purring of a Turtle Dove. Eventually I found the bird in question as it showed really well out in the open...and I had left my 'scope in the car! I did attempt a couple of record shots with my phone help against my binoculars!
Another Cuckoo was heard, though this one failed to show itself, and a male Yellowhammer looked very smart as it called from the top of a tree. As seems to be the case every time I visit this site there were a couple of singing Siskins in the pines. So a good morning out and four new birds on the year list.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Meare Heath NR & Ham Wall RSPB - Mon 6 May

An afternoon out and the sun was still shining! A walk out towards Noah's Lake produced a fly-by Great White Egret and a Wood Sandpiper on the drained lagoon but little else, which was hardly surprising given the clear blue skies, so we headed out to Ham Wall instead, seeing a Cuckoo as we neared the car park.
The "usual" warblers were singing away and we heard a couple of Bitterns booming. From the second viewing platform we had great views of a second Cuckoo singing from the top of a tree but were disappointed to hear that an Osprey had just passed over heading west so presumably flew over our heads as we were walking along...and apparently we missed a flock of Common Cranes too! So another nice trip out despite not seeing much in the way of birds, but several Brimstones, Peacocks and Orange Tips were on the wing.

Sutton Bingham - Mon 6 May

A sunny Bank Holiday Monday and I spent a little over an hour at the reservoir. I had missed a couple of Oystercatchers that were present on Sunday as I was attending a family christening in Berkshire (my second trip to that county in eight days...which yielded Grey and Red-legged Partridge, Corn Bunting and countless Red Kites), so I was hoping something interesting might be at the reservoir this morning. Probably the pick of a rather bird-less visit was a singing male Linnet, a bird that is by no means guaranteed at the reservoir nowadays.
Around a hundred Swallows passed through heading north in a twenty minute flurry of migration activity, but that was pretty much it apart from a singing Sedge Warbler near the Canoe Club.
Apart from the birds I saw my first Orange Tip of the year and a pair of Brown Hares were enjoying the sunshine and were a delight to see.

Briantspuddle - Sat 4 May

What with it being a lovely sunny afternoon I set off to a site near Briantspuddle which has been productive for me over the past couple of it wasn't! I did hear my first Cuckoo of the year but that was the only highlight during a hour or so walking the heathland. A pair of Stonechats were typically obliging which is more than can be said about a Yellowhammer that was calling constantly but couldn't be found! A few Siskins were seen, including one very bright male singing from the top of a tree next to the car (until I got my scope out to try and get a which it promptly flew off!). So nothing much for the year list, but a nice bit of sun.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Wet Moor - Wed 1 May

A lovely afternoon, blue skies, and over 20 degrees according to the thermometer in the car, and I took a trip up to Wet Moor and enjoyed an hour or so walking around. As I got out of the car a Lesser Whitethroat was singing away and eventually gave itself up enabling me to have some wonderful views of what I usually find to be a rather skulking warbler.
Out on to the moor proper I eventually managed to see a couple of Yellow Wagtails as they flew up from the track. At least three others were heard calling, but they all decided to stay hidden in the undergrowth. I did manage to get good views of one though as it sheltered, and I was pleased to find that it was a Blue-headed Wagtail, see the terrible photo below: 
With a bit of a gusty wind there was not much else showing, though I did see a single Wheatear and a few Skylarks. Retracing my steps (having walked a couple of miles) I located a smashing male Yellow Wagtail in the field right next to the car!
A Linnet then flew in and sang away for a while and a Sedge Warbler gave a half-hearted warble from within a clump of brambles, and that was pretty much it for the afternoon.