Red Squirrels and a Shag

Thursday 12th - Sunday 22nd November 2015
Shag, Sharpness
Saturday felt very cold in the biting wind as I carried out a Winter Random Square Survey at Brand Green, near Upleadon. Only 25 species in two hours, mainly counting Wood Pigeons and Carrion Crows, but there was a nice flock of 50 Linnets in a stubble field. The square included part of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Collin Park Wood nature reserve, which I've never been to before. This a beautiful wood, with Small-leaved Lime, Sessile Oak and Wild Service Tree, although not many birds on my visit, I must go back in the spring.
Shag, Sharpness
In the afternoon, news of a Shag at Sharpness found by Andy Jordan provided motivation to venture back out into the cold. I've seen a few Shags in the county, but they are always nice to see. It was still present on Sunday when I went back with Andy and Mark, where other highlights included a Rock Pipit, a Kingfisher, a pair of Stonechats, and at the NedWest building the first-winter Black Redstart provided further entertainment; also a Grey Wagtail and a Chiffchaff here.
Black Redstart, Sharpness
I recently spent several days based in Basel, Switzerland, with excursions to Colmar in Alsace, France, and to Freiburg in Germany. It was a fantastic break, visiting my eldest daughter who is living there for a few months. I wasn't birding (as such!), just enjoying the sights in these beautiful cities, plus a trip into the Jura Mountains at Reigoldswil. I saw several Red Squirrels around Basel, in the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo grounds. I saw my first ever Red Squirrels in Switzerland in the 1980's near Zermatt, and I can't get enough of them - much cuter than Greys:
Red Squirrel, Botanical Gardens, Basel
The Botanical Gardens were a couple of minutes from our hotel. Attached to the university they are free to visit, including the tropical glasshouses, and really interesting. The visit to Freiburg produced a lifer in the shape of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker at Schlossberg, a wooded hill on the edge of the Black Forest overlooking the city.
View from Schlossberg over the city of Freiburg, Germany
The views from Passwang in the Jura Mountains was fantastic, with the Bernese Alps visible some 55 miles to the south:
Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau
View from Passwang, Switzerland


Richard's Pipit at Selsley Common

Sunday 1st November 2015
Richard's Pipit, Selsley Common
After getting the county tick in the bag in a quick visit on Saturday with Mark, we returned for a longer look at the RICHARD'S PIPIT on Sunday. It took longer to locate on the return visit, but we had good views on and off as it foraged in the long grass, before being flushed by walkers and perching briefly in a tree.
Dix Pips typically prefer feeding in long grass
The long hind-claws can be made out in this shot
This Skylark was less shy
The north end of the common where the Dix Pipit was feeding
Fog cloaked the vale all day
On 17th October I went south of the border with Mark to see the Red-necked Grebes at Waterhay in Wiltshire, and got some good views.


Gibraltar Point #2 - the one that got away

Further to my last post I wanted to share a great photo by Andy Hartley of the Gibraltar Point Rustic Bunting  from 11th October. I missed it by minutes - I wish I'd seen it!

Many thanks to Andy for his permission to use the photo.


Gibraltar Point

Sunday 11th October 2015
One of many Goldcrests seen
I visited Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire, on Sunday with the Birmingham branch of the West Midlands Bird Club. This was a new site for me and I was keen to explore the reserve.
The new visitor centre under construction
Arty shot looking towards the east dunes
The saltmarsh and the North Sea beyond
Sea Buckthorn is a feature of the local coastal flora
News on arrival of a Rustic Bunting created much excitement. For me and many others, however, the hoped for tick remained out of reach. After showing to several lucky birders late morning I spent a lot of time hoping it would reappear. It didn't. The cycle track it had been seen on, adjacent to Jackson's Marsh, was too regularly disturbed. The end result was a frustrating dip leaving not enough time to explore other parts of the reserve - but that's birding!
Smart male Brambling
There are worse ways of spending a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I was pleased to see my first Redwings (40), Fieldfares (2) and Bramblings (m & f) of the autumn, all fresh in from the continent. There had been also been a large fall of Goldcrests in the morning - over 200 we were told - and they were everywhere. Fifty-odd Pink-footed Geese dropped in to Jackson's Marsh and a visit to the hide overlooking Tennyson's Sands produced two Spotted Redshanks, two Greenshanks, two Snipe, a Little Grebe, a Little Egret, and a good range of duck.
Pink-feet coming in to land
Spotted Redshank with a fish
And posing nicely
Tennyson's Sands
Insect interest was provided by a Speckled Wood, and several Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers.
Common Darter
Migrant Hawker


Rose-coloured Starling at Tewkesbury

Saturday 10th October 2015
I caught up with the juvenile ROSE-COLOURED STARLING in Tewksbury this morning, at the second attempt. It showed well, but briefly at 9.57am preening on a TV aerial in Wenlock Road opposite the junction with Despenser Road. After a few minutes it flew off with a group of c20 Starlings and 2 Jackdaws. This was my third one, but my first for Gloucestershire.


Recent Travels in Andalucia

Friday 18th to Friday 25th September 2015
White Storks, Doñana National Park
A few photos from my recent week in Spain, based in Aznalcázar near Seville. I put up a fuller wildlife account when I get round to it.
Lesser Kestrel, Seville Cathedral

Moorish Gecko, Dehesa de Abajo

Iberian Magpie, Pines of Aznalcázar

Melodious Warbler, El Rocio

Spotless Starling, El Rocio

Chough, Ronda

Yellow-legged Gull, Cádiz

Black Stork, Dehesa de Abajo

Geller's Skipper, Dehesa de Abajo

Seville Cathedral


Alfred Russel Wallace

Saturday 1st to Saturday 22nd August 2015
Wallace memorial at Llanbadoc church
I took a wrong turning on my trip to the Brecon Beacons a couple of weeks ago (where the A40 stealthily becomes the A449 at Raglan) and ended up going through the lovely little town of Usk in order to get back on track. So I returned to explore Usk further with Linda on Saturday, and also visited the nearby hamlet of Llanbadoc. Llanbadcoc is the birthplace of Alfred Russel Wallace, who lived here until the age of five. He was born in Kensington House in 1823, and although the house itself is largely hidden by trees, there is a memorial to Wallace at the nearby church to the "Co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the process of evolution by natural selection".
Kensington House
 I spotted a couple of Orthopteroids near the church:
Speckled Bush-cricket at Llanbadoc near Usk 22/8/15
Meadow Grasshopper at Llanbadoc near Usk 22/8/15
And a Southern Hawker in Usk town:
Southern Hawker at Usk 22/8/15
And I didn't know there were any windmills in Wales:
The nineteenth century Llancayo Windmill, near Usk
I spotted this Harvestman in the garden on Saturday, I think it is of the species Opilio canestrinii (Red Harvestman) - so far one agreement on iSpot.
Harvestman sp. in garden 22/8/15

On a recent day out in Avebury, Wiltshire, I still couldn't find any Tree Sparrows where I used to, but this juvenile Spotted Flycatcher in the churchyard was nice:
Spotted Flycatcher juvenile at Avebury church 15/8/15
Spotted Flycatcher juvenile at Avebury church 15/8/15
Spotted Flycatcher juvenile at Avebury church 15/8/15
As was this Painted Lady between Windmill Hill and the village:
Painted Lady, Avebury, 15/8/15

I spent a great few days camping in the Brecon Beacons recently with Mr M. senior. I love the scenery here and saw a few nice birds too, including several Whinchats and Redstarts including this one:
Redstart - first-winter male near Pencelli, Powys 6/8/15
 And a couple of photos taken from the top of Pen y Fan
Crybyn from Pen y Van
Corn Du from Pen y Van

And some photos from 1st August:
Male Ruff at WWT Slimbridge 1/8/15
A different male Ruff at WWT 1/8/15
Essex Skipper - seen on a butterfly survey at Clarke's Farm, Hardwicke 1/8/15