27/02/2015

Green-wined Teal and other Stuff

Saturday 7th February - Sunday 22nd February 2015
Last Sunday I spent nearly three hours in the hide at Ashleworth, watching the GREEN-WINGED TEAL and other birds, and getting quite cold by the end of it. The Teal made a few appearances, but most of the time was out of site. During its active moments it was displaying often among the Eurasian Teal which was quite fascinating to watch.

The Green-winged Teal was always rather distant
The previous morning I carried out a survey for the Winter Random Square Survey project at Mallards Pike. It's a while since I've been to this site and getting there early I beat the crowds and spend a pleasant couple of hours counting every bird in sight, and sound. Nothing exceptional but 23 Mandarin were a year tick and I found some very unusual 'hair ice' on some decaying Beech branches.
Mandarin, Mallards Pike
Hair Ice, Mallards Pike
Mist rising off the lake at Mallards Pike
A couple of weeks back I caught up with a female Red-breasted Merganser in the Water PArk - I've seen a small number before in Glos on the Severn, but this was the first photographable one.
This female Red-breasted Merganser was at CWP pit 58 on 15th
After the Merg I also caught up with Smew for Glos this year on pit 44.
Smew at Cotswold Water Park pit 44 on 15th
Some further recent bird photos below:
Goosander, Chew Vally Lake, 7th
Goldeneye, Chew Vally Lake, 7th
Grey Heron, WWT Slimbridge, 8th
A garden Song Thrush in the bird bath, on 13th
Pied Wagtail at Bewdley, Worcs, on 14th

01/02/2015

Siberian Chiffchaff

Saturday 31st January 2015
Siberian Chiffchaff, Shorncote
Heading for Shorncote, conditions weren't promising on a cold, dull, windy, rainy Saturday morning. However, the Siberian Chiffchaff seemed unperturbed and I found it quite quickly after sifting through the other Chiffchaffs present (I counted 10 common in all). The Sibe really stands out and is a text book example.
A classic Sibe, and very different from the other Chiffys present
Also here were three Cetti's Warblers showing occasionally, and two Water Rails were calling.
Shorncote
I went to WWT Slimbridge later for Mya-Rose Craig's talk, which was fascinating. The furthest I had been by the age of 12 was Bigbury-on-Sea. Mike Dilger's talk on Sunday was also excellent. I still haven't caught up with the Pink-foot, but the two Water Rails were showing very well at the Willow Hide, and the Bank Voles are still providing entertainment near the tunnel entrance.
This Water Rail posed nicely at the Willow Hide, WWT
A pair of Oystercatchers at South Lake were my first of the year.
Oystercatcher, WWT Slimbridge
View over the Tack Piece towards the river and May Hill, from the WWT Sloane Tower

30/01/2015

January Birding

Friday 16th - Sunday 25th January 2015
Dipper, Painswick
Friday 16th I took the afternoon off work to bird, on a lovely sunny, and cold, day. I stopped first at the Horsbere Flood Storage Area just off the Barnwood by-pass/Elmbridge Court roundabout link road. This was my first visit here, which was prompted by the chance to see a Red-crested Pochard relatively close to the city. Besides the drake RCP there was a good range of other birds, including a Kingfisher, eight Wigeon and five Snipe. It's a fabulous habitat, and I shall be returning in the not too distant future. I have a fondness for Horsbere Brook, having grown up quite near it further upstream at Brockworth, and spent many hours trying to dam it!
Red-crested Pochard, Horsbere (what is that in its bill though?)
Horsbere Flood Storage Area - perhaps one day a more glamorous name: Horsbere Nature Reserve?
After Horsbere I headed for Hawling for owls. Three Short-eared Owls were showing well when I got there at 3pm, and a Barn Owl also showed before too long. Two Red Kites and the usual Kestrel added to the interest. A nice end to the day, and my toes had almost thawed out by the time I got home.
Red Kite, Hawling
One of three Short-eared Owls at Hawling
In the orange glow of the late afternoon sun
On Sunday 18th I went with Mark to the Cotswold Water Park to look for winter ducks. We also stopped at Driffield, spending too long unsuccessfully looking for Grey Partridge, but we did note 36 Golden Plover. There were no Smew on pit 44, but we did count 73 Red-crested Pochards here. Zero Smew on 65/43 too, but three Goldeneyes and 10 Goosanders present. Crossing the border, we moved on to the Wiltshire 28-30 pits, and eventually got a male Smew on 30.
Drake Smew, Cotswold Water Park (Wilts)
 An afternoon walk around Painswick with Linda and Tansy produced a Dipper along Painswick Stream - it's a good spot for them here (top photo).

I did my garden birdwatch for the RSPB on Saturday 23rd. Thirteen species in all during the hour including a male Blackcap - an almost constant presence at the moment, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, also a frequent visitor, 12 Greenfinches and 21 Chaffinches. Later I also saw a female Blackcap and a Starling, which is not a frequent species in my garden.
Male Blackcap, Quedgeley
Great Spotted Woodpecker- this male seems to have replaced a female which was a regular going back a couple of months
Starling - mmm - peanut!
Blue Tit - they all love the peanut cake
On Sunday, 25th, it was a bit of a dull and cold morning, but I tried Sharpness anyway first thing, and eventually the male Black Redstart showed on the Ned West building roof. After about 20 seconds it dropped down out of sight on the flat roof and didn't re-appear after a further wait so I moved on.
Male Black Redstart, Sharpness Docks
The disused Ned West building, not pretty, but pretty good for Black Redstart over the years
After a bit more of a bird at SARA and the picnic site area, I headed for WWT. A Little Stint was on the Tack Piece and a Cetti's Warbler called and showed briefly by the Robbie Garnett hide. The other highlight was two Bank Voles showing well just near the tunnel entrance.
Little Stint, WWT Slimbridge
Bank Vole, WWT Slimbridge

11/01/2015

Forest Birds

Saturday 10th January 2015
Hawfinch, Forest of Dean
A trip out to the Forest of Dean this morning with Andy and Mark was very productive, despite the initially unpromising weather. Early rain gave way to sunny conditions, although the NW wind kept temperatures down. The highlights were a Dipper at Wenchford, 12 Hawfinches at another site, the Great Grey Shrike, a pair of Stonechats and a Goshawk at Crabtree Hill, and seven Goosanders at Woorgreens.
Great Grey Shrike, Crabtree Hill
Drake Goosander, Woorgreens
Early on around Quedgeley near the canal / Clearwater Drive area I saw two Little Egrets, a Chiffchaff and a Grey Wagtail.
Little Egret, Quedgeley
A Coal Tit on the garden feeders is the first I've seen in the garden for some time. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker has replaced usual female this weekend; the male Blackcap continues to be almost ever-present at the feeders.
Coal Tit, garden
After making the most of the day with a 3-mile walk around the National Trust's Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire with Linda, we got back in time for me to pop down to Court Lake to see the Scaup I dipped last weekend; the Tawny Owl was in its usual tree and a Kingfisher was another highlight in the fading light.
Scaup on Court Lake, Frampton-onSevern (left)

Tawny Owl, Frampton-onSevern

03/01/2015

WWT and Dartford

Saturday 3rd January 2015
Dartford Warbler, Pittville Park, Cheltenham
With Andy this morning at WWT we had some good birds for the New Year, despite the damp and gloomy conditions,  including a male Merlin hunting on The Dumbles (thanks Jake for the shout on that one - I didn't see one all last year), a Little Stint on the edge of the Holden scrape, a Whooper Swan in fields to the NE of the centre viewed from the Sloane Tower, a Marsh Harrier on a kill on the Tack Piece, and the Ferruginous Duck still in the Asia Pen.
Distant view of the Merlin at the Dumbles edge
Marsh Harrier on kill, with attendant corvids
Ferruginous Duck - photo taken yesterday morning in brighter conditions
Another pic from yesterday
A Water Rail was showing very well from the Holden Walkway through the viewing-gaps in the wall.

I returned to Cheltenham this afternoon for the Dartford Warbler at Pittville Park where it is still keeping company with a pair of Stonechats in the wildflower-seeded area east of Tommy Taylor's Lane (top photo).

31/12/2014

WWT Fudge Duck

Wednesday 31st December 2014
Another good find by Martin and another county tick for me yesterday in the form of a female FERRUGINOUS DUCK. I returned today for a second look and experiment further with my new Nikon P600. It was on the Asia Pen again, but less cautious than yesterday, asleep at first, but later actively feeding down to a few feet.
The fully-winged RUDDY SHELDUCK was there too, skating on the ice.