Friday, 27 April 2012

The Canal & Powke Lane POS

Well I manged to get out for 30 minutes yesterday, work was doing my head in, so I managed to get outside whilst the sun was out (rare event these days!)
So I just walked down the end of the road and in to the trees behind the Powke Lane POS (Public Open Space) and hung around for 10 minutes in a clearing, there was lots of song about but difficult to spot now that the trees have leaves.
Anyway in the trees as you can imagine was the usual culprits, Gt/Blue Tit, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Magpie & Woodpigeon, but then picked out a couple of firsts for the year here, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, managed a shot of the Chiffchaff for the record:
Then a couple of Mallard went over the top:
So at this point came out the trees and walked around the edge of the POS and picked up a male Bullfinch. I carried on to the short stretch of canal back towards home, as you can guess, there were Canada Geese aplenty, Coot and Moorhen, with a fair few LBB Gulls swooping around. One Goose on its nest:
Then a very sad looking Goose indeed:
Anyway couldn't hang around, saw a couple of Goldfinches, Robin and loads of House Sparrows on the way back
Don't see may sparrows on blogs!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Show Me The Way to Go Home (Via Slimbridge) 20th April

Well all good things must come to an end, so its off home, after first getting breakfast in Weston for old times sake. Spent may a wet hour there when the children were little, then off up the M5 and to Slimbridge WWT for a few hours and lunch.
It's really not a great time for Slimbridge as its the lull after all the winter birds have left. But still enjoyable with a couple of surprises.
The solitary  Lesser Scaup is still there among the Tufties:
Note: This is the male captive, not the wintering female
And a happy Tuftie:
There were a huge amount of Shelduck about:
The South hide did produce a surprise, an Egyptian Goose, there happened to be a WWT Volunteer in the hide so I asked him about it apparently it turned up a few days ago and isn't one of theirs, no rings on it, so a tick! Otherwise from there it was BH Gulls, 

Lapwing, Oystercatcher, 

Canada Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Greylag and Redshank. Interestingly they have had a pair of Nene Goose escape and these are now outside the captive birds area and enjoying themselves, this one was putting is head in through the hide window!

We spent quite a bit of time in most hides, but nothing was showing, we were hoping for Water Rail again, but they were shy today, we did get some Avocet though, they have had a few pairs arrive and they are hoping that they are nesting. There was a distinct lack of small birds, the only ones seen were GT/Blue Tits, Robin and Reed Bunting
Later in the day a large flock of Black Tailed Godwits arrived, which were best seen from the Zeiss Hide, among them were a few Bar Tailed as well.

There were a few aaahh! moments:
Couple of Mallard Chicks
And a pair of Nene with goslings:

And I couldn't resist this Mandarin: (He came out the water and didn't have any rings, so not sure if he was visiting!)
So the list for 4 hours! at Slimbridge was a meagre:
Avocet (8), Bar-tailed Godwit (40), Black-headed Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Coot, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, 

Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Lesser Scaup, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Mallard, Mandarin Duck, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Pochard, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Rook, Sand Martin, Shelduck, Shoveler, Swallow, Teal, Tufted Duck and Woodpigeon.

Finally on the stretch of M5 between Bristol and Slimbridge, we had great showings of Buzzard and Kestrel, but they were topped by a Red Kite, so pleased, but surprised with that, I hadn't heard they were ranging along the M5 now as well as the M40!

Pastures New 19th April (Swell Wood , Greylake)

Well we thought we'd try somewhere new today and headed off to Swell Wood and Greylake, both RSPB to see what they are like.
Swell Wood:
What a wonderful little place, we parked up in the small car park which had a number of feeders and was really busy: Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tail Tit, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We then walked the 70m to the hide, which is in the woods directly underneath the Heronry, that currently has if I remember correctly 69 occupied nests!! That was pretty amazing:
Just one of the many!
In front of the hide was a small boggy pool, we were treated to a stream of visitors, the time just flew by. We clocked up here, all the tits again, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Chaffinch and for Tina at last a Goldcrest! so I can take the +1 off our stats!
Then the spot of the day, a Goshawk winging its way through the Heronry! A lifer! Sadly it didn't hang around and just passed through. So a few mediocre pics, I have to get a better lens!

In addition to the above we were also entertained by some very busy Voles and a cute tiny Dormouse scurrying in front of the hide.

We reluctantly left Swell Wood and headed the few miles up the road to Greylake. It's a short walk to the hide, as we approached the hide we called hear a Cetti's Warbler in the reeds but just couldn't find him even though he was only a couple of feet away.
Anyway we entered the large posh hide and saw nothing! Well that was the first impression, this was then compounded by a dodgy shelf on which Tina had place her bins, which then slid off and landed eye piece first badly damaging it, they are now out of alignment! Any one know of a repairer in the Halesowen/Cradley area? We need them again soon as we are off to Mull!
Then as I was trying to see if I could sort them 2 Peregrines swooped in after something in the short swampy grass just in front of us, they stayed around for a while and landed some distance away, by which time I had given up on Tina's bins and got the camera out:
Just for the record!
At least the Pergrines spooked some of the birds on the flats, so we saw Lapwing, Mute Swan, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Swallow, Sand Martin, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and Gadwall but that was about it.

We had our lunch and left, the Cetti's was still singing away in the reeds and finally we spotted him:
Obviously playing I Spy!
By the car we added a Buzzard and some Goldfinch and Chaffinch. So back in the car, I was just setting the Sat Nav to go by Ham Wall on the way back to the caravan when this landed next to us:
Only Sparrowhawk of the week
So after that we did drop by Ham Wall and added another couple of ticks for the week, a Great White Egret and a Kingfisher.

All Over the Place! 18th April

The Wednesday weather looked terrible, so we decided to have a drive around, possibly go to Dunster Castle and grab a pub lunch somewhere, but it didn't work out that way for various reasons!
We went to Brean Downs to have a look, when we got there the weather was lovely so we thought we might walk to the point after a wander on the beach (Tide was out as always!)

Nothing to exciting was seen, just Herring & LBB Gulls, Crows, Jackdaws, a Buzzard and 2 Shelducks waddling around in the mud!. Behind the cafe in the field were Linnet, Goldfinch & House Sparrows. We then thought we will walk up the point so went to the loo first, by the time we came out the sun had gone and the sky had turned black, shortly after the heavens opened and that was it for the day! So in the car and headed for Dunster. Anyway to cut a long story short by the time we found anywhere decent all the pubs had stopped serving so we grabbed the last 2 hot pasties from a village shop and drove to Kilve Beach and had a picnic in the car (Still belting down!) We decided to brave the weather and walk along the rocks and cliffs to see if anything was being blown in, but not a sausage, until we saw our first (Very brave) Rock Pipit of the year, but we enjoyed the walk.

We then drove to Minehead as it was now to late for Dunster Castle (picked up some hot chickens for our tea from Morrison's and used the facilities!) the drove to Dunster Beach and parked up for afternoon tea! Again we saw Shelducks (4), Linnet (30), Goldfinch and Mallard plus all the usual suspects.

We headed back stopping at Lilstock to see if any Sea Birds were about. Taking advantage of our Freelander we drove right to the shore line along some rough tracks, nothing to be seen though. Getting out the car was fun as the wind was so fierce we could hardly open the doors. On the way back we along the tracks we did see Pheasant and Buzzards.

That's it for this one!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Cheddar Reservoir, Shapwick Heath & Ham Wall 17th April

Day 3 was a non birding day, so on to day 4.
Doing some research on the interweb before going away we decided to look at:
Cheddar Reservoir as it was en route to Shapwick and Ham Wall. It was a very windy day and when we got there the heavens opened so we hung about in the car as there is no shelter and its a 3.5 mile walk to do the circuit.
We set out once the rain had stopped, but the although the views were nice the wind took the fun out of the walk, but we plodded on just in case.
At first it seemed a waste of time, but were treated to more Pied Wagtails then I have ever seen in one place before. We lost count! Initially on the water there was nothing much to see, just loads of Gulls (not a fan!) mainly LBBs and some Herring and a couple of Great Crested Grebes. There were some cute sheep about:
One we had got about two thirds of the way around it did pick up, with 3 Common Sandpiper picking there way around the edges. But the we got a year tick! A delightful female Wheatear who stayed with us for about 15 minutes as we walked on, teasing us by letting us get withing 15 feet or so then flying on and waiting for us to catch up then flying on again, here she is:
Just as she left us we came across some Canada Geese and about 10 more Great Crested Grebe, then the heavens opened and we were left with a 10 minute stride through torrential rain, hail and howling wind, at least it was on our back for the last bit. So time for coffee!

Shapwick Heath: 
Even though we had been to Ham Wall a few times we had never gone the other way from the car park into Shapwick Heath NR, so as we had heard there was a pair of Lon Billed Dowitchers around we gave it ago. We first went to the 3 hides not far down the path. Picking up this lovely Blackcap singing his heart out on the way:

We started with Meare Heath and settled in, but apart from a couple of Mallard and swooping Swallows, there was nothing to see, so we had a bite to eat as the weather looked decidedly inclement! Good job we did as two Bitterns flew across to our left! But that was all there. We left that hide and went across to the next 2 not far away. Nothing to set the world on fire, but we did get the best ever views of a Great Crested Grebe fishing in front of the hide as he dived the fish were jumping out of the water to get away. First time we have ever heard a Grebe fishing! This is the chap:
Some distance in front of this hide were a number of Cormorant nesting in dead trees, we hadn't seen this before:
So we left the hides and walked back towards the car park, this time we paid full attention to the scrape on the left as the sun was now out.
We scanned the 20 or so Black Tailed Godwits that were there, then found the Dowitchers our first lifers of the week, no decent photos though.. sorry!
Two Godwits and a Dowitcher

In addition to these there were also some Spotted Redshank a year tick.

We carried on through the car park and over to Ham Wall, just in case..
Here we manged to see the Cetti's Warbler again, plus our first Willow Warbler for the year, no more Bitterns though! The best here was a small stretch of path just past the Railway Bridge where there are a number of bushes and trees, the songbirds where in full voice, we just stood for about 15 minutes and listened it was magnificent.

The lists:
Cheddar Reservoir:
Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Common Sandpiper, Coot, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, House Sparrow, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Pied Wagtail, Swallow, Wheatear and Woodpigeon.
Shapwick Heath:
Bittern (2), Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-Tailed Godwit, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coot,
Cormorant, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Lapwing, Little Egret, Long-billed Dowitcher, Mallard, Mute Swan, Robin, Rook, Shoveler, Spotted Redshank, Swallow, Teal and Woodpigeon.
Ham Wall:
Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coot, Cormorant, Gadwall,
Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Little Egret,
Mallard, Pochard, Sand Martin, Shoveler, Swallow, Tufted Duck, Willow Warbler and Woodpigeon.

Ham Wall RSPB 15th April

So day 2. We decided that we would go to Ham Wall and stay most of the day. (I have to add that we are late starters, we like to have a lie in when we are on holiday) So we arrived at Ham Wall about 1pm, with our flasks of Coffee and snacks!

We stayed primarily at the first viewing platform, the wind blowing across was bitter and even though the sun was shining I had to go back to the car at one point and get an extra layer!

But what about the Birds, well our main objective was to see the Bitterns. We could hear that wonderful booming as we walked from the car park to the reserve and before long we weren't disappointed. Two bitterns appeared, I decided to watch rather than get the camera up, sometimes its just better to enjoy and not stress about getting a decent photo. These two were quickly followed by a third, marvelous!!

It was just after this that I went back to the car, as I was walking back a Bittern came low straight overhead, it would have been a fantastic photo, but I'd left the camera with Tina! Oh well never mind, the sighting was probably the best ever!

After the Bitterns we were treated to a Marsh Harrier, ranging over the fields another wonderful sight. We then retreated to the nearby hides just to get out of the wind and warm up a bit. Whilst in there I got chatting to a chap about cameras and lenses, then he said he got a good shot of a Garganey from the platform, which he showed us, then mentioned that he didn't think anyone else had noticed it and he hadn't told anyone! So we popped back duly found it and let everyone know! The distance though was to much for my lens.

So to keep it brief our full list for the day at Ham Wall:

Bittern (4), Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Cetti's Warbler (1), Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coot, Cormorant, Dunnock, Gadwall, Garganey (1m), Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Martin, Kestrel, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Pheasant, Pochard, Robin, Sand Martin, Shoveler, Starling, Swallow, Teal, Tufted Duck, Whitethroat (2) and Woodpigeon

No lifers, but the Bittern, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Garganey, Marsh Harrier and Whitethroat were all firsts for 2012.

So a few photos for the day:
Dunnock in Song



Hooray the Sun has come out!

Glastonbury Tor Behind the Reeds

Little Egret on the Prowl
We decided to have a run into Cheddar after Ham Wall, to see if the Peregrines were about but no luck, we did stop in the village to see if the Water Voles were out and one did oblige for us:

Burnham on Sea 14th April

We were staying in a Haven Caravan Park by the River Brue (Other Caravan Parks are Available!) so decided to wander around the park as it has 2 lakes and then go for a walk out onto the beach and along the river.
The park grounds around the lakes are nice and quiet (apart from the Canada Geese, belting it out!) with lots of fishing going on. The bird life on the water is limited to Mallard, Canada Geese, Coots and quite a few pairs of nesting Great Crested Grebe,
Other park residents were the Gulls, (Common, Herring & Lesser Black Back) which particularly liked to run along the caravan roof in the morning, just in case we weren't already awake.

The park perimeter (trees and bushes) provided quite a range of small birds, Greenfinch, Blue & Great Tit, Blackcap, Goldfinch, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Magpie and of course Woodpigeon.

We then ventured out of the park onto the beach, of course the tide was way out as it always seems to be whenever we are on the coast down here, the only bird visible was a solitary Redshank, so we carried on along the river where we added a couple of Oystercatchers, before finding the Redshank's mates!
We carried on along the river, only adding some Pied Wagtail, so we diverted into Apex Park and picked up some Greylag, but the star of the show was a Hobby that flew straight over our heads as we were heading back.

So that was day 1, more walking than bird watching!

On the Level in Somerset!

Well my first post for what seems ages. We have been away down in a wet and windy Somerset for the week. Thankfully we dodged the rain most of the time but when we didn't we had all the gear on, so we kept mostly dry.

So where do I start? We traveled around a fair bit visiting various Reserves and places of Birding Interest, if I go through them all in detail in one post, it would be huge, and you will get bored and switch off! So I think I'll do a post for each day then you can pick and choose!

But in total we saw 89 species, 3 lifers and 15 year firsts

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Upton Warren - Avocets Galore

Well after a week without birding, we got out on Tuesday afternoon. (I had to work Good Friday, so had Tuesday off instead) As the weather was going to be unpredictable we decided on  a short trip with plenty of hides so that we could stay out the rain!
So we decided on Upton and what a great time we had! We parked in the pools car park and were immediately greeted by our first Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins, picking off all the insects that were up after the recent rain! 3 Firsts for 2012!

On the walk to the first hide we picked up a Chiffchaff in the tree over the path, then continued on to the end hide on the path.

The feeding station to the left of the hide gave us a good show:
Great Tit, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Pheasant (f), Canada Goose. Mallard and a Hobby that came in at speed across the front of the hide!

She just wouldn't turn around, too shy!
On the pool visible from this hide were:
Great Crested Grebe (at least 7), Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Coot, Moorhen (Nesting), Black Headed Gull, Mute Swan (Nesting) and some really cute farmyard ducks turned up! Then just in a bush a little way in front of the hide, our first Reed Warbler of the year!


Spot the Moorhen nest

I know its fuzzy but it was worth the shot!
We could see a fair amount of activity over the far side of the pool on the islands, so we decided to walk around to the Lapwing Hide, we just got in when the heavens opened, torrential rain and hail for about 10 minutes. Once that had cleared and we could see, we added:
Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Greylag (1), Teal (2 Pairs), Gadwall (1 pair), Shoveler, Shelduck, Cormorant and the best of the day (so far) a Kingfisher.
I do like BHGs in Summer Colours

A pair of the many Tufties on the Pool

Mrs Teal was just out of shot!

Not a great photo, but I think this Cormorant had taken on a bit to much!
We stayed in the Lapwing hide quite a while as there was so much going on, but we did head over to the scrapes to check out the new Avocet Hide and hopefully see some birds of the same name!

I have to say we are really impressed with the new double-decker hide. Well done WWT!! So impressed we have now joined! Well the cheques in the post! We also had a great chat with the volunteer on duty, he was most helpful and friendly (Thanks John)
So we finished off with half an hour here (we had to get back as we were going to the flicks with our daughter who is home from Edinburgh for Easter) and added:
Avocets (John told us there are 12 on the scrapes, I only managed to find 8!), Green Sandpiper (1), Little Ringed Plovers and a Linnet! All firsts (except the Linnet) for the year.

Our tally for the day was 45! A record for us at Upton, this included 7 firsts for the year. A few hours well spent. So a happy walk back to the car, with a rabbit to finish off!