Showing posts from April, 2007

Nesting Garden Birds

Monday 30th April 2007
As the Blue Tit pair continue to incubate their eggs in the box built just for them at the bottom of the garden, I noticed this evening Great Tits going in and out of the sparrow terrace I put up in the Autumn. I hadn't seen sparrows showing any interest, although they are nesting again in the corner of my neighbour's roof. Also, under one of their ridge tiles, the Starling pair have been feeding young for the past few days now. The lovingly crafted Sparrow terrace is mounted on the north-facing gable end at roughly eaves-level. In this position it is out of sight from most of the garden, so I hadn't noticed the Great Tit pair take up residence. Not only that, it became apparent that they were already feeding young! This picture shows one of the proud parents with a tasty morsel in it's beak about to enter the box (photo: © Paul Masters).

Fretherne and Slimbridge

Sunday 29th April 2007
At Fretherne this morning, following the high tide, there was a good selection of waders and other birds to boost my year list. 69 Bar-tailed Godwits were on the flashes with two Knot, a Greenshank, a Spotted Redshankand a Little Ringed Plover. On the river, an Avocet, 20 Ringed Plover, 44 Dunlin, two Little Stints. Later, another flock of 41 Bar-tailed Godwits and six Knot flew up-river and circled the basin before flying off north-east.This gives a total number of Barwits seen of 110. Two Wheatears, a male and a female, were on the shore near the sluice, and a Yellow Wagtail flew over. The Barwit flock from the flashes flew on to the mud with the Knot as the tide receded allowing better views. Returning to the road from the sluice I heard a Lesser Whitethroat and a Whimbrel.

I then made for Slimbridge and arrived there at 9.40am. After booking myself on the morning safari, I checked out some of the hides. At South Lake a Common Sandpiper was feeding around the e…

Local Patch Sightings

Saturday 28th April 2007
I had to travel to Oxford with the family today, but first I managed to fit in a little bicycle excursion along the canal south of The Pilot, towards Parkend Bridge. The highlights were a Garden Warbler, three Nightingales, a Lesser Whitethroat, seven Sedge Warblers, two Reed Warblers, the two resident Ravens and a Brown Hare (Raven photo: © Paul Masters). Oh - on the way to Oxford I saw a Swift over the A40 just after Burford.

Spoonbed Hill

Friday 27th April 2007

Spoonbed Hill is situated to the west of Painswick Beacon, near Cud Hill. I decided to have a good look around the area, because it looks good for Partridges, and I have seen Red-legs in the area before. However, I was really after Greys, which have eluded me so far this year. I soon found a pair of Grey Partridges near the pheasant pens in a field alongside the footpath between Spoonbed Farm and the B4037 below Painswick Beacon. Also in the area were eight Red-legged Partridges, a Lesser Whitethroat, a CommonWhitethroat, a Willow Warbler, a Kestrel, a Buzzard and a pair of Roe Deer(photos: © Paul Masters).


Thursday 26th April 2007
A quick visit down tothe river at Fretherne this evening produced eight Whimbrel and three Wheatears (2 males and a female). There was very little else to report in the cloudy, slightly rainy conditions, just one Little Egret on the flashes, and a single Curlew and 12+ Shelduck on the estuary. (Photo of Wheatear below: © Paul Masters).

For those who are wondering, no more punctures today!

Local Patch

Wednesday 25th April 2007

Highlights along the canal around Hardwicke and Quedgeley today: along the canal south of The Pilot this morning, a Common Sandpiper, three Nightingales (two calling, one singing) and a Reed Warbler heard singing (it seemed to be keeping down low near the water out of the breeze). Travelling north, between The Pilot and Sims Bridge, I saw a Common Whitethroat and heard a Sedge Warbler and two Lesser Whitethroats. On the canal, a pair of Mute Swans were courting. Carrying on towards Gloucester (by bicycle of course - see reference to bicycles later on) at Middle Rea, a male Blackcap conveniently landed and started singing just yards away from me, as I was just about to put my camera away! I switched it back on, lifted and shot away for about a minute.

Now that reference to bicycles. After planning a short escape from the rat-race, on the bike, over lunch, I soon found myself instead spending my well-earned lunch-hour purchasing a puncture repair kit, and fixing …


Sunday 22nd April 2007

A short visit to the RSPB Nagshead reserve in the Forest of Dean this morning with Andy produced five Pied Flycatchers active around the nest-boxes (3 males, 2 females), four Redstarts feeding on the ground and chasing each other about (2 males, 2 females), two Marsh Tits and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. On the way back as we were approaching Gloucester two Swifts flew overhead near Over bridge early afternoon (photos of Pied Flycatchers, male and female Redstarts: © Paul Masters).

Mega Sightings

Saturday 21st April 2007

The day started off with an early call with Andy to Frampton to see the Glossy Ibises on the WWT 100-acre which turned up yesterday evening. Good work John Overfield in finding them . After being told on the way they had flown north 10 minuted before I thought bugger! A Cuckoo near the canal and a Kingfisher flying toward the canal from the direction of Green Lane helped ease the panic. At Green Lane we had news that they had in fact landed not far away, but out of sight. Andy made out he wasn't bothered having seen a Glossy Ibis up north recently. We were eventually allowed on to the 100-acre and watched them for some time, mainly just heads bobbing up, but occasionally they would take to the air briefly before settling back down. A Cetti's Warbler in song nearby seemed to add to the celebration! Thanks to Martin, James, Dave and other WWT staff for allowing us to get views of these wonderful birds. I'd only seen one before, and that was in Florida…

Lesser Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers

Wednesday and Thursday 18-19th April 2007

As I continue to cycle to work, taking advantage of the fine weather, I am tending to add a few miles with detours along the canal. Yesterday morning I cycled down to Parkend Bridge, Moreton Valence and passed four Sedge Warblers and two Lesser Whitethroats before reaching the bridge. I headed back towards Gloucester by road via Epney and Longney and back through Hardwicke. Swallows are now everywhere and I saw several perched on wires and hawking over Rape fields. Today I took my camera with me, and got some photos of one of two Sedge Warblers south of The Pilot. A Nightingale was also heard singing from the opposite bank. I then headed back along the canal towards Gloucester and came back along the stretch between Sims Bridge and The Pilot on the way home. Altogether, Lesser Whitethroats were heard and/or seen at five distinct locations, mainly along the canal with one in Sims Lane. I also saw a Speckled Wood and several Orange-tip butterflie…

More Migrants Arrive

Monday 16th April 2007
Cycling along the Gloucester-Sharpness canal to work this morning I found a Common Sandpiper near Rea Bridge, which flew about 50m back towards The Pilot and disappeared into the cover on the opposite bank. Also three Lesser Whitethroats along this stretch of the canal towpath between the two bridges. I heard the first one singing just after The Pilot (Sellars Bridge) and also saw it in song-flight, then I heard two more singing on the opposite side of the canal between here and Rea Bridge. The day was rounded off with a trip to Frampton this evening with Andy to see a Spoonbill on the 100-acre (photo: Paul Masters).

Sunny Sunday

Sunday 15th April 2007
I headed for Frampton failry early this morning, there was a lot of thick patchy fog around, but along the lanes I saw a Brown Hare and a Fox. At Frampton I met up with Mike and later Jake. From the viewing platform in Green Lane, Mike eventually found the drake Garganey asleepon the WWT 100-Acre at 9am, also the Temminck's Stint still with four Little Stints, ten Dunlin, three Little Egrets, two Cetti's Warbler calling, a Little Grebe, a Kingfisher (and another seen earlier on the canal) and at least four Reed Buntings. We also heard one or two Whimbrel but couldn't locate them. A pale Buzzard was perched on a fence seen from Splatt Bridge. Back home in the garden on a very warm afternoon again (at least 24oc again) Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff could all be heard singing. Also an Orange-tip butterfly in the garden. Linda and I took a walk along the canal later. South of The Pilot there was a Raven and I photographed one of the many singing…

Nightingale, Fritillaries and Deer

Saturday 14th April 2007

At Hardwicke, the first Nightingale of the year was singing 200m south of The Pilot this morning. Mike joined me soon afterwards and it eventually showed, with a Robin keeping it under close scrutiny. Also two Willow Warblers and numerous Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in song, while a Swallow flew north. Mike then got a call about a Marsh Harrier seen near Severn Bridge heading up river so we made for Fretherne. No sign of Marsh Harrier, it was very misty over the river, bur the drake Marbled Duck was showing well. I was just relaxing with my tea and toast in the garden later, at about 10.00am, when I heard a familiar chattering call, and looked up to see a House Martin over the garden heading north. The local Chiffchaff and Blackcap were also in fine voice. With Linda, I spent a somewhat botanical afternoon in summer temperatures reaching 24oc at North Meadow, Cricklade, where the Snake's Head Fritillary are in full bloom and an impressive sight. They should b…

Local Gropper

Friday 13th April 2007
At dusk, a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling from the canal-side scrub, from 8.20-8.35pm at least, between The Pilot and Parkend bridges at SO782118 on the opposite bank to the towpath (roughly in line with Hardwicke Court in the background). It was getting quite dark by this time, and it stayed low so I couldn't see it. I've now had Gropper two years running on the local patch (last year's was six days later, also along the canal).

Love is in the Air

Thursday 12th April 2007

I noticed the resident garden Blue Tits displaying this morning on the tree near the nest-box, followed by mating shortly after. Then, this evening, a pair of Starlings were mating (in the same tree) after the male had been singing in earnest from the neighbours roof - male photographed above, and below is the female in tail-lifting posture. Later I took a bike-ride along the canal south of The Pilot at Hardwicke. A male Mandarin flew up the canal past me and I saw it later perched in a large dead tree on the opposite bank. A Willow Warbler was in full song nearer The Pilot (Photos: Paul Masters).

Birding in the Sun

Tuesday 10th April 2007
A day of birding - ah bliss! And very warm and sunny too, it's easy to forget it's still only early April. First, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were at the back of the garden, the male came to the peanuts for a feed, meanwhile at the nesting box, the Blue Tit pair have been busy nest-building recently, I saw one going into the box carrying a feather in it's bill this morning. After taking Linda to work, I spent an hour at Highnam Wood where a male Sparrowhawk swept through the feeding area, around the trails there was a Willow Warbler, four singing Blackcaps, two Goldcrests, 3-4 Green Woodpeckers heard yaffling, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers both drumming, a pair of Stock Doves and two Jays. I spent the rest of the day with with Andy. Highlights were: Frampton, the (possibly wild) Marbled Duck still on the flashes and staying distant (record shot below), at Slimbridge, a Wheatear and six Linnets at mid point, then at Cleeve Hill in the afternoo…

Marbled Duck

Monday 9th April 2007
I went down to Frampton this evening to see the drake Marbled Duck on the flashes on Saul Warth. It was right at the back of the northernmost flash with Gadwall and Teal. Who knows whether it is a true vagrant, it is reported as being very wary of people, has both wings complete and is not ringed. Also there, a Little Ringed Plover and three Redshanks. More information on the Marbled Duck (or Marbled Teal) can be found here: Marbled Teal - BirdLife Species Factsheet


Sunday 8th April 2007

After nice day out with the family, this evening before dinner I went for a quick drive around Epney and Arlingham when I came across a Sparrowhawk tucking in to a Wood Pigeon in the middle of the road at Overton, near Fretherne (photo: Paul Masters).

Cleeve Hill

Saturday 7th April 2007

I bumped into Jake King and Andy Lodge on top of Cleeve Hill this morning so we teamed up to look for Ring Ouzels, after I had found no sign near the masts. We tried the wash pool and it was near there Jake noticed a deer behind some bushes. We all stood still as it emerged. It was a male Muntjac and as we stayed rooted to the spot it continued on the path below us before climbing up the hill opposite. It eventually spotted us and turned tail. Later Andy and I saw a Willow Warbler singing nearby after Jake had gone in a different direction. Andy then got a call from Jake to say he had found the Ouzels. We eventually caught up with him to see seven Ring Ouzels skulking somewhat amongst the gorse-scrub. They soon flew off in the direction of the wash-pool, and I could only get a fairly distant shot - at least you can tell what it is! Later Jake saw a group of five, so there may have been 12 in total. (photos of Ring Ouzel above and Muntjac below: Paul Masters).

Good Friday at Batsford

Friday 6th April 2007
On a gorgeous spring day we made for Batsford Park Arboretum, near Moreton-in-Marsh, an Easter favourite of ours over the years. The Magnolias and Cherries in particular at this time of year are stunning. To add to the day, I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling not far from the old dairy in the grounds. I may have glimpsed it as it left the top of a Pine, but couldn't get a proper look without bins. This Peacock butterfly below allowed very close approach as it sunbathed (photo:Paul Masters).

Hares and Deer, and a Woodpecker

Thursday 5th April 2007

I photographed these two Brown Hares this evening near the old Chedworth airfield. I was really looking for owls, but mammals were the main interst. In addition to the Hares, 22 Fallow Deer and a Fox were on the old airfield. Earlier, in the garden, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker was feeding on peanuts. This bird has been a regular visitor for the past few months, although I hadn't seen him for little while. The photo below was taken in January. The other photo is of two of the Fallow Deer taken in the fading light this evening (photos: Paul Masters)