Thursday, 8 December 2016

Magical moment!

I was recently on a Wiltshire farm leading a trip for the Wiltshire Ornithological Society (WOS), when the following happened.

I had just shut the gate having let the group in and was just heading along the track to catch them up when out of the corner of my eye I saw a kestrel hovering. On this farm this is by no means an unusual sight, but this was different.

This bird was only just the other side of the fence and at about two metres height, in total I couldn’t have been more than ten metres away.

In this one you can see the tiny whiskers around the face.

I turned out the engine and coasted alongside, undid the passenger window and managed to get a couple of pictures, I watched the bird for a while, wings twitching and tail twisting to keep it in the exact spot, the head and body stock still. For a moment it was just the kestrel and me…..ooops the group! I headed off without flushing her and met the group, I forgot about the pictures until I got home.

 
I love this one! The body absolutely still, but this the wings blurred to keep her still and the tail twisting.

 A truly magical moment! (NA)

Monday, 14 November 2016

Late Autumn at the Cotswold Water Park

We started in Neigh Bridge car park where we managed to get views of a grey wagtail and a blue tit. We then headed over to the edge of the first lake where a great crested grebe was resting and a moorhen was looking lost in the middle of the lake. In the bushes here we saw our first redwing, blackbird and an all too brief view of two mistle thrush. We also briefly saw robin, wren and goldcrest. We headed along the road and had the first of many very brief views of song thrush and bullfinch as they quickly disappeared!

On the next lake we saw a large flock of red-crested pochard, also present were cormorant, coot and mute swan. As we headed on down the lane we picked up dunnock, jackdaw, magpie and carrion crow. We also started bumping into mixed tit flocks and were lucky enough to see more goldcrest as well as great tit, long-tailed tit and chiffchaff. We also managed to see a great spotted woodpecker, woodpigeon, treecreeper, fieldfare, jay and an all too brief view of a goldfinch and chaffinch.
At the big lake with the housing at the back we managed to add teal, tufted duck, wigeon, pochard, black-headed gull and common gull to our fast growing list.

We moved on to the next lake seeing more robin and long-tailed tit as we did. At the next lake with the recently cleared viewing area we had views of little egret, grey heron, gadwall, mallard and shoveler and a kingfisher tried to slip by without us seeing it, it didn't quite manage it!

We headed over to a large lake with islands where we had great views of tufted duck, great crested grebe and cormorant in their day roost in the trees.We then worked through the scrub seeing more redwing, blackbird, song thrush and robin. Some careful searching gave us clear signs of otters in the are with spraints and food remains being found.

Then onto the next lakes where we saw a group of goosander as well as more gadwall, moorhen, coot and tufted duck.  We continued to see redwing flushing ahead of us, as well as song thrush and more elusive bullfinches. We worked our way back through the scrub to the road where we had great views of a great spotted woodpecker at the top of a tree.

A great walk with the bushes full of thrushes and the lakes starting to fill up with waterfowl of many species!

(NA)

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A day at Pagham Harbour

Today we were meet with lovely sunshine but a stiff easterly wind for our tour.

First stop the ferry pool several small groups of Lapwing along with a few Teal and about twenty Wigeon, a single Green Sandpiper also found on the muddy edge.

A Cetti's Warbler blasted out its call giving a very brief view as it dropped down into a thick bush.

Just as we were about to move off a large bird of prey shot over the top of the pool putting up some of the Lapwing this turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon looking for breakfast. We watched it for a few minutes as it dived at something out in the field but did not see if it had caught anything.

Moving down the footpath towards the estuary we encountered several different birds with Little Grebe calling on the small pool along with Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen, also several vocal Curlews rose up out off the marsh along with a few Redshank. A Water Rail called from within the reed bed but we could not locate it so moved on.

Moving a little further down we watched a Sparrowhawk fly out over the marsh but it did not seem to be hunting on this occasion. Checking the fields we found around 30 Skylark feeding along with Meadow Pipits, Pheasant and Red Legged Partridge also a group of a dozen Swallows flew past us on their way back south.

Heading towards the hide we could see several groups of waders out on the mud flats so decided to head into the hide to get a little shelter from the wind and check out the groups.

Scanning through them we found Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover, Black tailed Godwit, Turnstone and several Little Egrets. We also found the Peregrines again sat out on one of the islands giving some great views through the telescope really showing the size difference between the larger female and the very much smaller male.

Taking lunch in the hide we had a brief view of a Kingfisher as it shot past also a late Red Admiral Butterfly flew by.

After lunch we heading back checking the more tree lined areas and found Great spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, and a very close view of a male Kestrel sat in the tree tops. Smaller birds were harder to find today maybe they were hiding out of the strong wind.

Checking one of the small channels on the way back we found a single Greenshank giving a nice close up view and a single Reed Bunting dropped into the reed bed also a couple of Snipe were seen flying over.

Other birds seen included Pintail, Buzzard, Greenfinch, Stock Dove, Goldfinch and Greenfinch in total a list of 62 birds seen or heard on the day.

Again we struck lucky with the weather no rain but a little windy but still a very enjoyable day at this fantastic bird reserve on the coast. DT.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Half day at The Cotswold Water Park

Today we were greeted with lovely sunshine for our tour around Cleeveland Lakes.

From the car park we could still hear Chiffchaff calling and overhead four Skylarks flew by along with a couple of Meadow Pipits.

Scanning the lakes we found around 50 Cormorants along with over 30 Little Egrets and a good number of Great Crested Grebes.

Numbers of Wigeon are starting to rise now as the winter is on the way also a few more Shoveller are around.

Looking out from the hide we had very good views of both Goldeneye and Black Necked Grebe also a few little grebes.

Moving on to the other hide a good selection of duck could be seen which included the following,
Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon and best of all two juvenile Pintail.

A couple of Grey Wagtail feed along the muddy edge along with a single Snipe. We heard a Water Rail call but it did not come out from its hiding place, also hearing Cetti's Warbler here too.

Moving on back around the lake we saw both Sparrowhawk and Kingfisher and two tiny Goldcrest were found in the thick hedgerow.

A quick look from the new footpath around lake 83 produced two Stonechat and a couple more Meadow Pipits.

With the warm weather still around we counted four Red Admiral butterflies all around the Ivy bushes along with a few larger Dragonflies.

All in all a very enjoyable walk in the Autumn sunshine.DT

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A day at Farmoor Reservoir Oxford

Today we visited Farmoor Reservoir.

A bright sunny morning greated us at this large body of inland water.

First birds seen flying over were a small group of House Martins making their long journey back to Africa.

Scanning the water several groups of Cormorant, Great crested Grebes and Little grebes were found all diving and fishing in the sunshine.

Walking along the middle of the two basins several Pied wagtails were found along with a couple of Grey Wagtails and a single Yellow Wagtail great to see three different types all close together showing their different plumages.

A little further on two Meadow Pipits were found along with two Wheatears.

Around the small nature reserve at the end of the reservoir several Long tailed Tits were calling along with both Blue and Great Tits. Also seen or heard here were Goldcrest, Green Woodpecker, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Bunting, Wren, Robin along with Grey Heron,Moorhen and Coot.

Moving onto another hide we had a very brief view of a Kingfisher diving into the water and a fly past Kestrel also a couple of Chiffchaffs were heard.

After taking lunch in the hide we headed back along the middle of the reservoir picking up several Buzzards riding the thermals along with two Red Kites, out on the water were several groups of Tufted duck and Mallard a few Greylag Geese and a single male Pochard.

Scanning the gull flock we found Black headed, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and a single Great Black Backed gull.

Surprising for this time of year no waders were seen but still a very enjoyable day in the warm sunshine. DT.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A summery half day at The Cotswold Water Park

We headed to the Waterhay car park.

Before we had really started a kestrel flew across the car park, not the only one of the day – I think they must be having a good year!

As we headed along the first footpath, we encountered a mix of small birds including chiffchaff, blue tit, great tit, wren, an elusive goldcrest and robin.

A young wren

We briefly popped through the hedge to look at lake 82, where we had another view of a kestrel and on the lake there were tufted duck, great crested grebe feeding their young, mallard, coot and mute swan, also flying overhead were a number of Canada goose and cormorant as well as a single greylag goose.

As we passed the buddleia bushes for the first time we saw a couple of chiffchaff, but not many butterflies.

As we reached the long lake 68a/b we saw a number grey heron and little egret dotted along the edge of the lake.

There were also more mute swan and cormorant, a lot more cormorant in fact. We also saw some black-headed gull and lesser black-backed gull mixed in the throng.  Along the edge of the lake was a moorhen or two feeding then we were lucky enough to spot a kingfisher sitting quietly in a lake-edge bush – brilliant!

Kingfisher with a moorhen hiding below


Around the same time we picked up our first comma of the day as the sun started to warm the day up.

We worked our way along the edge of the lake picking up additional bird species like pochard and common tern on and over the water. In the hedgerows we picked up long-tailed tit,  blackbird, song thrush, cetti’s warbler, blackcap and some all to elusive reed warbler and whitethroat. Finally a couple of green woodpecker were seen making swift exits from the lake edge ahead of us!


Butterfly were much more showy as the sun continued to warm the day, several more comma were seen as well as a number of red admiral, a small tortoiseshell, a lovely painted lady and a fair few green-veined white

Comma


(NA)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A day on the Somerset Levels

A summer visit to Somerset

With the sun already out we know today would be a very hot one.

First stop at Shapwick Heath was Noah's lake where an Osprey had turned up a few days ago, the birds was soon found sat on its favourite perch.

After watching the bird for around ten minutes it took off and flew high over the lake then turned and flew back towards us stopped and hovered then dived for a fish, no fish this time but after two more dives you could see a fish in its talons and it was off to its favourite perch. Brilliant to see an Osprey fishing at such a close range.

Just before moving off we noticed a black mammal running down the path in front of us and as it got closer we could see that it was a large Mink, it soon crossed the canel to the disapproval of the Swans on the water but it soon disappeared into the vegetation on the far bank.

Next stop meare Heath hide to look for Marsh harriers, two birds could be seen hunting in the distance but soon dropped down into the reed beds.

Moving on to our next stop to look over a wetter area we found several ducks moulting out a mix of  both Gadwall and Mallard, a closer look found two Garganey mixed in with them before we moved on a Bittern flew out of the reeds given a close fly past.

Moving on to Ham Wall two Great white egrets were seen flying over the reeds along with Grey heron and Little egrets.

With the sun getting to us we headed for one of the hides to cool down. Here we had much closer views of Marsh harriers as they drifted over the reeds, also another Bittern landed in the reeds just in front of the hide. Before leaving a Hobby appeared hunting high over the marsh.

After we had cooled down we moved on this time looking over the wader scrape, a quick look found a Glossy ibis and a Common sandpiper moving down the path to obtain a better view we started scanning again.

This time we found two Glossy ibis along with both Green and Common sandpipers and several lapwing. A group of  Black tailed Godwits flew over but did not land.

Not many smaller birds around today due to the heat but we did hear a Cetti's warbler and both Willow warbler and Chiffchaff.

Later in the day a brief look back at Noah's saw the Osprey fishing again always returning to its favourite tree to eat its prize.

Another great day of wildlife all be a little hot!!DT.







Thursday, 11 August 2016

Morning at the Cotswold Water Park

Today started with a Badger crossing the road in front of me as I entered the water park a good start.

Small birds were hard to find today so we put all our efforts into scanning the lakes to look for water birds.

On the largest lake several groups of Great crested Grebes were seen and when counted up we managed a total of 35 birds, there was also a large group of Mute swans totalling 29 birds.

Moving on down the lake several Little Egrets flow over along with a couple of Grey Herons with about 20 Mallard on the water.

A small group of Red crested Pochard passed by along with several Tufted ducks.

On the path back two Jays flew along calling as they went giving away their location.

Several groups of both Sand and House Martins flew over the lake along with a few Swallows and just a single Swift.

On our route back to the car park our star bird turned up gliding slowly over the lake it was a fine Osprey.

Not everyday you see them in the water park just goes to show that anything can turn up if you are out there looking.

An enjoyable couple of hours spent in the morning sunshine. DT




Monday, 18 July 2016

Sunday afternoon at Cotswold Water Park

Initially we headed to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Lower Moor.

From the first hide dragonflies were very much the order of the day with Emperor, four-spotted chaser and brown hawker putting on an amazing aerial show. 

Four-spotted chaser

The lake was covered with blue damselflies, no doubt a mix of common blue and azure. It’s worth looking at the common blue link to see a pair properly forming the heart shape!

Birds were a bit thin on the grounds, but we were lucky enough to watch a common tern fishing and see a family of mute swan move effortlessly across the lake.

We then worked our way around the edge of the lake and saw signs that otter were active in the area.
The next lake had Canada goose, mallard and great crested grebe all nicely on show.

The next dragonfly species seen was a couple of cracking male black-tailed skimmers.

A male chiffchaff was singing from the top of a willow tree, but managed to stay hidden from us.
We then moved onto Clattinger Farm where we saw a number of butterfly species: meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, large white, large skipper and small skipper.

Male marbled white



On our way back to the picnic area, a brief stop at Twitcher’s Gate produced coot, greylag goose, cormorant, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull and more common tern. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Pewsey Downs and its farmland birds

We started off from the Small Grain car park, heading towards the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Morgan’s Hill.

We were soon picked up some linnet singing on and around the bushes and a lovely male yellowhammer sat singing his heart out from the top of a hawthorn bush.
Male linnet at Morgan's Hill

As we carried on along the old Roman Road, we saw common spotted, pyramidal and fragrant orchids just inside the reserve.


As we passed by the woodland and into the open farmland we started to pick up more yellowhammer and the first of several male corn bunting singing their jangly song.

Male corn bunting

We also picked up an increasing number of skylark and meadow pipit singing and collecting food for their chicks. We were also singing good numbers of whitethroat, a species that seems to have wintered well in the Sahel in Africa and returned to the Pewsey Downs in good numbers.

As we were watching another male corn bunting singing from a bush, he shot off to chase away a cuckoo who soon disappeared.

We continued on, really getting to grips with the songs and calls of the various farmland birds, virtually all of which are of high conservation concern. We picked up some butterflies as well, meadow brown, ringlet, large skipper and marbled white being the most numerous.

Marbled white at rest

We headed towards the main round along the side of a wood and were surprised by a hobby that was hunting for insects in the shelter of the trees – great stuff!


Next on the list was a male yellow wagtail who flew over us and landed on top of the crop where we had great views of him.  We heard and saw several more of these fantastic birds during the walk, but didn’t see one quite as well again.
Male yellow wagtail
The next sighting of note was a sheltered patch of flowers that had several butterfly species on them as well clusters of six-spot burnet moths.


The last bird of note was a male redstart flitting along the hedgerow, his red tail clearly evident as he flashed from bush to bush. 

A really nice morning's walk! (NA)

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Half day at CWP

A mid morning early afternoon walk in sunny conditions.

There are still a few warblers singing we heard Chiffchaff, Sedge warbler and Whitethroat on the first  footpath away from waterhay.

Over the man area of water a couple of Common tern were fishing with a Black headed gull for company.

Waterfowl numbers seem to be a little higher at the moment it seems things are moving around.

Several Buzzards were seen soaring on the thermals and a scan of the trees found three Little egrets.

Looking over the reed bed both Reed bunting and Reed warbler were found and on the water a few Red crested pochard floated around.

In the thick scrub a lot of young birds could be heard but impossible to see through the vegetation.

Heading back our highlights were a fantastic Grass snake moving across the path just in front of us and a small area of Orchids still in flower.

A lovely peaceful walk around one of my favourite areas in the water park. DT.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Somerset Levels in July

We started our trip on Ham Wall RSPB reserve and despite the lateness of the date we were soon listening to and watching a number of warbler species. The first ones we encountered were blackcap, willow warbler , whitethroat and chiffchaff, all of which we heard and mostly saw very well. We also watched a family of reed warbler in a hawthorn bush. Our next warbler along the footpath was a garden warbler not seen but heard well, allowing the song to be compared to the blackcap. We also got to grips with robin, chaffinch, bullfinch, goldfinch, wren, blackbird, song thrush , long-tailed tit, blue tit and great tit.

We then saw our first little egret and bittern of the day flying over the reeds, as well as a buzzard, quickly followed by a marsh harrier.

We reached the first hide and were greeted by a number of waterbird families. We had great views of young great crested grebe, pochard, coot and tufted duck.

 
Female tufted duck and ducklings

Soon afterwards we had great views of a reed bunting, little grebe and mallard.
After that we headed onto the second viewing platform, on the way we listened to many blackcap, with the odd chiffchaff and whitethroat in the mix also. Swift were present over the reeds in good numbers and we saw the first of a number of great white egret loafing across the reeds.

While at the lookout point, we spotted a hobby hunting over the reeds with the swift. on the way however we were distracted by the flying antics of several hobby over the reedbed, mixing in with the swifts. We could see it catching insects in their feet and passing them to their mouths – great stuff!

From the viewing platforms we picked up a few more birds: lapwing,  gadwall and black-tailed godwit.

We headed for the tower hide, on the way to which we saw a cuckoo fly by, having heard one calling just earlier.

From the hide we had more great views of ducklings, this time coot, pochard and great crested grebe, as well as some young marsh harrier getting to grips with that flying malarkey.

After lunch we headed out onto Shapwick Heath where we heard cetti’s warblers singing well, as well as more whitethroat.

Great crested grebe adult with a hungry chick


We picked up shoveler in with the gadwall on the first pool. On the opposite side we watched the antics of two recently fledged marsh harrier, practising food passes, that came in very useful when the male turned up with food.


We saw similar things from the other hides, more marsh harrier, great white egrets and bittern! (NA)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Warblers at the Water Park

With the trees in full leaf the birds are becoming a little harder to spot, so today we concentrated on finding them by their calls.

Several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were found along with both Common and Lesser Whitethroats.

In the reed beds both Sedge warbler and Reed warbler were heard and then seen along with the explosive Cetti's warblers.

In the trees both Blackcap and Garden warblers could be heard and after a few minutes searching we could see them, further along the path we heard a few brief notes from the Nightingale always nice to hear but a bit late in the year now to hear them in full song mode.

Wren, Robin and Dunnock could all be heard calling from inside the shrub.

All along our walk we had been hearing a Cuckoo calling and on our way back had a very close view as it flew overhead.

A most rewarding day showing that you do not have to see the birds to be able to find them.

Our guest went away with some new found knowledge and the belief that with a little more practise would be able to identify some of the calls when out on their own.DT

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Summer at Pagham Harbour

Today saw us at Pagham Harbour nature reserve in West Sussex.

A quick check on the ferry pool produced 2 Avocet 2 Shelduck 1 Redshank and a Lapwing.

Moving on down towards the estuary several Reed and Sedge Warblers showed well giving great comparison views as the flew in and out of the reed beds on feeding flights.

Both Reed Buntings and Linnets showed well sitting out on top of the small bushes.

On the small pools both Little and Great Crested Grebes were seen with the latter having two small chicks in attendance which kept jumping up onto the adults back showing off their stripy heads, other birds on the pool included Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Gadwall and a pair of Tufted duck.

A distant Cuckoo called and was then spotted flying across the estuary.

Further down the track the landscape opens out to look across farmland and here we saw and heard Skylark giving fantastic views through the telescope. Also out in the middle of a field an Oystercatcher sat tight on her nest with the male bird in close attendance.

Both Common and Lesser Whitethroat were seen along with a couple of Stock Doves and a fine female Roe Deer moved across a gap in the hedge line.

We decided to stop for lunch and sat out on the shingle watching the waders out on the mud, we could see Curlew, Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Turnstone and a small group of Dunlin.

After lunch we headed towards the shingle beach and sat looking out to sea watching Little, Common and Sandwick Tern fishing just off shore, some of them very close plunge diving for fish.

A walk along the shingle beach produced a good range of coastal plants including Sea Kale, Yellow Horned Poppy, Sea Campion and the lovely pink Thrift.

With time fast moving on we headed back to the car park finding a few more of the common birds species on the way, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbid all seen.

Our final experience was photographing the Bee Orchid that was growing just by the pathway.

A very pleasant and relaxing day with a total of 60+ species of birds seen. DT.




Sunday, 5 June 2016

Somerset Levels-Bitterns Everywhere

Today can only be described as Bittern day.

Everywhere we stopped we saw or heard them. At one view point we saw three birds chasing each other around two large male birds pursuing the smaller female.

Several food flights are now underway this being the females as the male birds play no part in rearing the young.

At one particular point there is a male bird that seems to call all day long and if you stand there you can feel the ground shaking with the tremendous noise coming from the bird this is known as booming.

Support cast came from the Marsh Harriers again showing very close to our viewing point, in total around eight birds were seen thoughout the day a splendid sight.

There are still a few warblers singing with Reed warbler, Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and the ever present Cetti's warblers all heard and seen.

After a fantastic morning we headed back for lunch.

Birds seen in the afternoon included both Little and Great White Egrets also Grey Heron along with four Hobbys catching the many dragon and damselflies that are now starting to emerge.

Further along the path we could hear two distant Cockoos calling with a brief sighting of one of them.

Out on the water pool we found several Black tailed Godwits some in their fine summer plumage of red chests, checking through the duck we found a single male Gargany and a female Pochard with six ducklings along with Tufted duck, Shoveller and  several Gadwall.

On our way back to the car park our guest found a female Adder basking out on a log a great find to finish off our tour.

Birds seen later in the day included a Barn Owl sat outside its nest box in the late afternoon sunshine, also Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting and Buzzard.

The RSPB have done a great job here in creating the correct habitats for the animals it always produces great days out.DT


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Wildlife trip at Cotswold Water Park


As soon as we started our walk we were listening to garden warbler, whitethroat and chiffchaff singing. 

A brief stop in the hide provided views of a pair of mute swan with their cygnets, greylag goose and a great crested grebe. On the feeders there were lots of blue tit and great tit, including the pair of blue tit nesting in the box right by the entrance to the hide.

As we headed along the walkway we saw a dragonfly exuviae which I think was from a downy emerald. We soon saw a number of damselflies including red-eyed, azure, large red and common blue.

Large Red damselfly


As we continued along the lake edge, we started to find more warbler species, with blackcap, cetti’s warbler and willow warbler all being heard but not always seen. Other birds singing included dunnock, wren, robin, bullfinch and song thrush.

After some more damselfly watching we found a showy whitethroat and a skulking reed warbler by the roundhouse-shaped cowshed.

Next we arrived in Clattinger farm – what a special place!


Marsh valerian




Finally, we saw a dapper reed bunting singing and heard a lesser whitethroat chuntering from the hedge!

A brilliant few hours watching and enjoying a variety of wildlife.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Full day at the Cotswold Water Park

Today we were greeted by glorious sunshine for our tour.

With Spring well underway the trees are starting to become thick with leaves making it a little harder to see the birds, so today we used our ears to find them.

Several Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers could be heard along with Whitethroats, Garden Warblers and wrens, all giving fine views after a little searching through the branches.

Moving onto a different area we found 3 Black Tern hawking over one of the larger lakes always nice to find these birds on their migration passage.

Scanning the edges of the lake we found several waders which included Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Redshank, Lapwing, Black Tailed Godwit and a couple of Little Egrets.

Several birds of prey but in an appearance Common Buzzard soaring on the thermals also Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and up to 5 Hobbies.

Moving on we explored a scrubby area and found Reed Warbler on the lake edge along with Sedge Warbler and Cetti's Warbler, a Cuckoo called and flew passed.

Moving further around this area a Lesser Whitethroat called and we found the first of 3 Nightingales.


After lunch we moved onto a smaller nature reserve and found both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers along with Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest along with Song Thrush, Robin and Dunnock.

A final scan over the lake added Tufted Duck, Red Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Wigeon along with a Grey Heron fishing along the edge.

In Total 68 Species of bird seen and heard throughout the tour and the sun stayed out all day.DT

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Early May on the Somerset Levels - no snow!!

We started on Ham Wall RSPB reserve and were soon listening to warblers! The first ones we encountered were blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff, all of which we eventually heard and saw very well. The next warblers along the footpath were a splendid garden warbler and a showy whitethroat. We had also heard and seen robin, chaffinch, wren, blackbird, song thrush and great tit.

Great white egrets seem to be all over the place, sometimes we could see four or five in the air at the same time! As we reached the reedbeds there was a change in tempo as the relentless beat of the reed warbler and classical-style blast of the Cetti’s warbler were heard regularly. On the first few bits of open water we were lucky enough to see mute swan, coot, moorhen, mallard, tufted duck and pochard. Then came a funny noise from the drainage ditch – it turned out to be this little chap!

male Marsh Frog


We then walked down through the reed beds where we had a great view of a reed warbler.  At the first hide we were treated to a spectacular show of agility in a blustery wind by a male marsh harrier!

male marsh harrier

After that we headed onto the second viewing platform, on the way however we were distracted by the flying antics of several hobby over the reedbed, mixing in with the swifts. We could see them catching insects in their feet and passing them to their mouths – great stuff!
Accompanying the reed warbler now was the deep booming bass of the many male bittern calling from the reeds.

At the viewing platforms there were many more new birds for us! The mud was exposed here, so waders were plentiful with whimbrel, ruff, ringed plover, lapwing and wood sandpiper all being seen. There were also several new duck species for us – gadwall, wigeon, shoveler and three garganey. A glossy ibis was asleep with the mute swan, but he soon woke up and started flying round with all the other birds when a chinook helicopter flew low over us!

We carried on to a couple of viewing screens where we had closer views of the garganey and brilliant views of the glossy ibis! We were now also hearing cuckoo regularly and it wasn’t long before one flew across out path.

We walked down to the new Avalon hide, passing a sedge warbler who was hidden in the reeds, only his fast buzzing song giving him away.

At the hide we saw a great crested grebe, some distant buzzard as well as another male marsh harrier. Star bird however was the juvenile tawny owl sat in the owl box entrance in the wood!

On our way back to the track we saw a great spotted woodpecker briefly in a tree before it flew off.
At lunch a kestrel was hovering over the carpark.

Hovering kestrel

The afternoon was spent on Shapwick Heath. The top target was a kingfisher, which we saw well going in and out of his nesthole. There were lots more chances to listen to and compare various warblers and blackcap seemed to be everywhere!

We picked up a common sandpiper from Noah’s Hide, saw another fine male marsh harrier and had brief views of a male reed bunting before the rain set in. A memorable marsh harrier day!


May visit to the Cotswold Water Park

We started our morning walk at the wets end of CWP West and were soon listening to and seeing a male blackcap as well as listening to a male willow warbler weeping away in the bushes. Next on the warbler list was a chiffchaff singing, quickly followed by the first of many garden warbler. Other species encountered at this early stage included blue tit, great tit, blackbird, robin and wren.

male blackcap


We reached our first lake and saw a pair of tufted duck busily feeding, indeed so busily it proved very difficult to get a good view of them in the telescope! A mute swan, a male mallard and a pair of coot were also seen.

As we carried on along the side of the lake we had perhaps the best view I had ever had of a garden warbler – what a stunning chap he was with his beautiful song! Next came a pair of long-tailed tits busily collecting food for their chicks. Common tern and black-headed gull were flying overhead regularly, as were swallow, house martin and our first swift of the year.

As we crossed the Thames we were blasted by a male cetti’s warbler singing from the nearby bushes, as well as a male song thrush.

Looking over the next lake we saw many common tern and black-headed gull on the rafts put out for them to breed. The same mix of waterbirds were present, plus some pairs of great crested grebe. We continued to compare garden warbler and blackcap along the river and tried in vain to see a couple of goldcrest that were singing. A kingfisher put in an all too brief appearance as it shot along the river Thames.

A great spotted woodpecker was the next bird heard and a stock dove flew out of a tree as we passed underneath, as we reached the next crossing point of the river Thanes we saw a number of sand martin busily catching insects near their nestholes. A better view of a pair of tufted duck was finally obtained at the same site.

We crossed the river and had great views of a pair of great crested grebe and a number of cormorant sat in nearby trees.We carried on and were soon listening to more garden warbler and blackcap! A pair of gadwall were found feeding on the next lake where we saw various bits of signal crayfish, courtesy of the local otters.

Next we reached a large area of scrub, which despite being the middle of the day was still fairly busy with warblers. Star of the show was a nightingale, who put on a brief show followed by some calls and growls! Other warbler present included chiffchaff, willow warbler, whitethroat and sedge warbler.

singing male whitethroat


After lunch, with the forecast not looking too great we headed to Lower Moor Wiltshire WT reserve where we sheltered for an hour or so from the rain. At this time we saw a fine male bullfinch and several male reed bunting. In between hides we had amazing views of two treecreeper, one in particular that was sat still for a minute or so – brilliant!


Having decided to risk the weather, we headed onto Clattinger Farm Wiltshire WT reserves where we spent a very pleasant 90 minutes wandering from field to field soaking up the colours and numbers of plants. Highlights included snake’s-head fritillary, cowslip, green-winged orchid, adder’s-tongue fern and primrose.

Green-winged orchid

Somerset Levels in late April

For this visit we started on Shapwick Heath NNR so the sun was behind us. We were soon watching and listening to blackcap, willow warbler, song thrush and bullfinch in the first few metres. A great start!

As we worked our way out into the reedbed we saw a pair of gadwall quietly feeding in a pool by the track-side. Next on our warbler list were reed warbler singing from the reed beds, with cetti’s warbler and whitethroat singing in the scrub reed-side habitat. One male whitethroat in particular was particularly showy.

A check on the muddy area produced a large flock of black-tailed godwit as well as teal, more gadwall, mute swan, lapwing, tufted duck and mallard.

Onto the hide looking over Noah’s lake where we saw a mix of swift, swallow, house martin and sand martin. On the water we watched two pairs of great crested grebe displaying in the same view and added pochard to our list of duck species.
Male pochard

Next was a look from the viewing screen by Noah’s hide where we had fantastic views of marsh harrier and the splendid male in particular. We also watched a couple of male reed bunting chasing around the area.

Male marsh harrier
While walking to the next hide we picked up treecreeper, long-tailed tit, blue tit and great tit in the bushes. Not to mention three species of butterfly: orange tip, brimstone and small tortoiseshell.

At Heath Meare we were lucky enough to see a male kingfisher heading into his nesthole. There were further marsh harrier as well as great white and little egret flying around. As we made our way back to the car park for lunch we stopped to listen to a booming bittern, he was so close you could feel the booms resonate in your chest – amazing!

Having failed to see a bittern before lunch, two decided to fly over the car park while we were eating! It was obviously the time to be there as a great white egret and marsh harrier also flew low over us.

After lunch we headed onto Ham Wall RSPB reserves where we were soon listening to garden warbler and more whitethroats. A swiftish trip down to a hide to avoid what can only be described a slush storm with spectacular lightning produced great views of pochard and little grebe, as well as further views of marsh harrier.

We quickly carried onto the next viewpoint where we had an all too brief encounter with bearded tit, but this was compensated for by a flyby of four bittern! From the viewing platform we managed to see some new species, amongst the ducks there were shoveler, wigeon and a fine pair of pintail. There were also some waders with more black-tailed godwit, snipe, dunlin and more lapwing.

We worked our way along the drainage ditch and were rewarded with brilliant views of the glossy ibis that had been tucked away.
We then headed to the new hide, hearing more cetti’s, reed and our first sedge warbler. From the new hide we had more great views of marsh harrier as well as a flyby bittern and a confiding great white egret.
Great white egret in breeding plumage

We then headed back to the carpark – all in all a great day on the Somerset Levels! (NA)