Showing posts from 2009

Otters and Birds at Chew

Thursday 30th December 2009

I spent the day at Chew Valley Lake in Somerset, with Mark, and despite the very gloomy and damp conditions, had an excellent time. The highlight was seeing Otters, a first for both of us (photos above an below). This was at Stratford Hide where we watched them give a full performance from 13:50 to 14:30, including, eating a fish, trying to eat a paper bag, synchronised swimming, synchronised leaping out of the water (Dolphin-like) and - fighting. First we saw two, then as they swam from the left-hand side of the hide to in front of us we could see there were three: an adult and two pups; they continued round to the right-hand side of the hide and eventually up on to the bank.

The pups were having quite a squabble which they continued for some time:

A fourth Otter, was then seen to emerge from the same place on the left-hand side of the hide and swam round to where the rest had gone up into the bank:

Other highlights were:
Main Dam
A drake Red-breasted Merganser …

Garden Birds

Monday 28th - Tuesday 29th December 2009

After a single on Sunday, a total of three Lesser Redpolls were at the garden feeders yesterday (above) competing with the Goldfinches(below) for Nyger seed.

Today a female Blackcap added to the variety (below), feeding on fat-balls.

Purple Sandpipers at Portishead

Saturday 19th December 2009

I took a trip to Portishead with Mark this morning, specifically to look for a particular wader which frequents the coast here in winter. We found four of them, Purple Sandpipers, on Battery Rocks over the high tide (photos above and below). It was nice to get such good views of these attractive birds. Other birds noted were nine Shelducks, three Redshanks, four Curlew, a Rock Pipit, a Meadow Pipit and c10 Knot.

Later we tried Dudbridge, Stroud, for Ring-necked Parakeets and despite hearing some calls could not locate the birds. Bonus bird of the day though was a female/immature Merlin which flew low over the M5 at junction 13 towards the A38, a welcome county year tick.

Great Northern Divers at Fairford

Saturday 12th December 2009

The two first-winter Great Northern Divers (photos above and below) reported yesterday were still showing well on pit 125 this morning, and feeding actively on crayfish. Other sightings at this pit, in the eastern section of the Cotswold Water Park near Fairford included nine Great Crested Grebes, 95 Coot, a Cormorant, two Little Grebes and a Grey Wagtail. At pit 114 (Dudgrove) at least one Tawny Owl was calling at 10:35am and other highlights here were nine Goldeneyes, a Red-crested Pochard, 51 Shoveler, five Teal, 130 Wigeon, 39 Pochard, nine Gadwall, 45 Tufted Ducks, 35 Mallard, 88 Coot, a Water Rail and a Buzzard; on pit 111 (Whelford Pools) 22 Teal, 22 Coot, nine Gadwall and two Pochard were seen.

Weekend Sightings

Saturday 5th - Sunday 6th December 2009

Yesterday I spent most of my birding time BTO Atlas tetradding at Redbrook in the Forest of Dean. Most of the square, SO51F, is in Monmouthshire and bisected by the River Wye; only 21 species were recorded, plus five Fallow Deer, but it should be an interesting area in spring. A drake Goosander was on the Wye at Lower Redbrook in the next tetrad south. I took in another look at the Pomarine Skua at Beachley on the way back (above), though it had started raining by then and the bird was loafing on a rock, no doubt digesting rotting sheep!
Today, the drake Green-winged Teal on the Tack Piece at WWT Slimbridge (above) was the highlight among a huge number of waterfowl and waders there at the moment, plus 1000's of Starlings producing an impressive display at dusk (below).

I also managed to see the first-winter Shag on the Frampton sailing lake (Townfield Lake) on the way, where it was present until 3:00pm at least, resting on the observation raf…

Pomarine Skua

Saturday 28th November 2009

It was a quiet morning at Saul Warth with a Jack Snipe providing some interest, and two Black Redstarts at Sharpness Docks (around gate 12) being the highlight there. These were both female/immatures types and therefore different from the one I saw last week indicating three birds at least are present in the docks at the moment. News of the Pomarine Skua at Beachley this afternoon was very welcome and I took no time in taking to the road. The bird is a cracker, and looked stunning despite the fading light, allowing good views as it fed on a sheep's carcass. The grid reference is ST550918, reached by taking the public footpath down to the estuary, off Loop Road. Photos above and below.

Pacific Diver at Fretherne

Sunday 22nd November 2009
The high tide at Sharpness this morning failed to produce anything of interest, but the morning was saved by a nice immature male Black Redstart around the Port Authority Office at midday. Mid afternoon I was alerted to a Pomerine Skua which had been seen at the trust, and was last seen heading towards Fretherne. I couldn't set off immediately as I had to do a bit of shopping in Tescos, but eventually headed for the river with Mark. Conditions at Fretherne were difficult, with a strong SW wind right in our faces, and an initial scan failed to turn up anything of interest. I then picked up a bird fishing on the river, clearly a Black-throated type diver. Further observation revealed the bird as the Pacific Diver seen earlier in the week. The strong wind and driving rain made viewing very difficult, and photography was not an option, but the bird definitely lacked the white flank patch of Black-throated. The bird was actively diving and feeding and after wal…

Wilson's Phalarope

Saturday 7th November 2009
I managed to get to Slimbridge WWT just in time to see a Wilson's Phalarope on the Top New Piece; in less than ten minutes after I arrived it took to the air, landed briefly and then took off again flying quite high over the centre, going east. It could not be relocated in a check of the other hides; I'm glad I made it in time for this excellent county tick.
I had spent the morning at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill with Mark, where highlights were as follows: Ashleworth Ham - Five Snipe, c60 Fieldfares, c15 Redwings, c1000 Starlings, a Reed Bunting and 12 Pied Wagtails. Coombe Hill Meadows - Six Teal, eight Meadow Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, c300 Fieldfares and c40 Redwings. Water levels are very low at both sites, but good numbers of winter thrushes are now evident, with Fieldfares in particular very numerous.

Glossy Ibises at Catcott

Thursday 5th November 2009

A business engagement at Bridgewater afforded me the opportunity of checking out nearby Catcott Lows N. R. afterwards for the Glossy Ibises reported earlier in the week. I was pleased to find three Glossy Ibises present, and quite near the first car park, giving great views and looking particularly 'glossy' in the late afternoon sunlight as they fed on the marsh(above and below).

One of the birds(below)is ringed, wearing a metal ring on the right leg and a plastic ring with the letters N4C on the left leg; I shall investigate this for more details.

There was a good supporting cast of birds with 330 Wigeon, 28 Shoveler, 35 Teal, two Pintail, 23 Mallard, 10 Gadwall, two Black-tailed Godwits, eight Mute Swans, a Greylag Goose, 30+ Fiedfares, with a Redwing, and other flocks also seen in the area, a Buzzard, a Great Tit, a Wren and 30 Starlings plus two Roe Deer. Around 3000 Starlings were seen in pre-roost display between Burtle and Westhay.

Gull-fest at Didcot

Saturday 31st October 2009

I spent an excellent day's 'gulling' with Richard and Andy at Appleford (near Didcot), Oxfordshire on Saturday. The target bird was the adult 'Azorean' Yellow-legged Gull, L. michahellis atlantis, which kept us waiting until mid-afternoon, long enough to become very familiar with the gulls on the pit just next to the level crossing. Gulls of particular interest noted were three Caspian Gulls, a first-winter and two third-winters (the third winters were very distinctive with their white head and, small dark eyes), seven Yellow-legged Gulls, an intermediusLesser Black-backed Gull (much darker mantle and smaller than the usual graellsii) and a few 'Scandinavian' Herring Gulls, L. argentatus arentatus (much larger than the other Herrings) . A count of other gulls on the produced 180 Black-headed Gulls, 560 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, eight great Black-backed Gulls, 160 Herring Gulls and a Common Gull. Other birds seen were 15 Red Kites,…


Friday 9th October to Saturday 17th October 2009

I have recently spent a great week's birding on the Isles of Scilly, with a host of fantastic memories and of course, photos.The weather was generally like Summer, with plenty of warm sun nearly every day and very little wind. OK, this did mean that the rarities were a bit thin on the ground, but I didn't mind at all. Being my first time on the islands I was wowed by the place, and whilst some Scilly birding may have been disappointed, I loved every minute. Thanks are due to to Richard, Geoff, Nigel, Stu and Paul T. for their great company and many laughs.
(photo above: St. Martin's from the B. N. Islander)

Friday 9th
After an early start, we arrived at Land's End in time for a search in Nanquidno Valley for a Wood chat Shrike which had been about. That was unsuccessful but we did see two Choughs, plus three Stonechats. After the short (15-minute) flight from the Land's End Aerodrome, we arrived on St. Mary's in the…