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Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Saturday, January 26, 2013

JAN 26TH 2013 - NEW YEAR LIST

EAST BLEAN WOODS &  ISLE OF SHEPPY  -   BOTH PLACES ARE  IN KENT.

This was my last day of birding in the UK, for January,  at least. I had seen 135 species until yesterday when I saw 3  Red Kites flyover the M3 whilst we, dawn and I, were on our way to Kent to stay over at Dawn's daughters' house until Sunday morning, when we sail across the channel into France, before driving down to Spain.

My target was 140 species before I left and the Red Kite yesterday made it 136.

I set off at 7am in the dark, it was cold with some light rain. I made it to Blean Woods, just outside of Canterbury, in 45 minutes and spent the rest of the morning until 12:15 walking along the muddy, wet trails in the woods. Lots of common woodland birds appeared: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, GT Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Song Thrush and I heard a distant Green Woodpecker. In the fields on the edge of the wood I saw Fieldfare, Redwings, Jackdaw, Rook and Lapwing. I finished my first walk and drove to another car park where I met Dave a local birder, we joined forces and spent another 90 minutes on other trails. This was more successful as we flushed, not one, but two Woodcocks, I saw a Green Woodpecker (my first for the year) and we had lots of the species mentioned above as well as a Coal Tit.

So now I had reached 138 on my New Year List.

I spent the rest of the daylight hours on the Isle of Sheppy near Capel Creek along the Harty Trail. The weather improved dramatically I had clear blue sky overhea dfor most of the afternoon and it wasn't that chilly, even warm at times.

The whole area consisted of flat meadows with some arable farming, drainage ditches with reedbeds and some scattered bushes, everywhere you looked you could see Common Buzzards on posts, Commmon Kestrels on poles and Western Marsh Harriers drifting over the reeds and fields. Large flock of Lapwings were joined by Golden Plover, Common Starlings, Fliedfares, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Linnets and the odd Stonechat. It was whilst I was watching the harriers that I noticed a female Hen harrier being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows, I had distant but good views, the white rump was clearly visible.

I drove a little further and found a large flock of Corn Buntings, not my favourite bird but I was really glad to see them as they have been in fast decline in the UK. I also got a lot closer to the Common Cranes.

Next I drove the 'Ferry Inn' pub on the banks of the River Swale which is the body of water that separates the Isle of Sheppy from mainland Kent. I was very near the site where a Tufted Puffin was found a few years ago, what a find - a first for Britain!

The tide was just dropping as I spent a good hour watching waders and Brent Geese. I listed a good number of waders: Avocet, Grey Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Knot, Oystercatcher, Turnstone and my first of the year, Ringed Plover.

Back at the raptor watch point I located a perched female Merlin and 6 Bewick Swans with a larger flock of Mute Swan. As the light began to fade I added my last 'new' species of the year, Red-legged Partridge, I also saw a Black Pheasant (never seen a black one before). I drove back to Aylesford (near Maidstone) in the dark, well pleased with my last UK birding day of the year (so far).

ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

136. Red Kite
137. Green Woodpecker
138. Woodcock
139. Pink-footed Goose
140. Hen Harrier
141. Corn Bunting
142. Ringed Plover
143. Red-legged Partridge

here are some of the species I missed and those that I could have easily seen with a bit of luck:

Little Owl
Short-eared Owl
Tawny Owl
Black Redstart
Sparrowhawk
Firecrest
Dipper
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Greenshank
Common Sandpiper
Dartford Warbler
Cetti's Warbler
Blackcap
Crossbill
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Great grey Shrike
Rough-legged Buzzard

this would have made a list of over 160 .........which just goes to show how good winter birding is in southern Britain.

Hope you enjoyed the conquest my next blog will be a list of the species seen during my 19 hour drive through France and Spain back to our Spanish home in Andalucia. My target is 40 species.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

JAN 22ND 2013 - NEW YEAR LIST

TINCLETON WATER CRESS  BEDS (DORCHESTER), HOLES BAY AND UPTON COUNTRY PARK, POOLE, DORSET

This was probably my last day out birding whilst I am here in the UK. The weather was atrocious as usual, I got up at 6:30am and was on the road by 7. I drove south to Dorchester passing through thick cloud, fog, mist, rain, sleet and snow and it was pitch black.

I arrived at Tincleton cress-beds at 8am just as the rain eased off and the light improved a lot. There was quite a few birds on the water cress: Moorhen (2), Woodpigeon (4), Common Snipe (4), Lapwing (2), Pied Wagtail (11), Grey Wagtail (1), Green Sandpiper (1), Meadow Pipit (25), Water Pipit (1), Chiffchaff (2), Goldcrest (1), Wren (1) and lots of common birds in the hedgerows. It began to rain so I jumped into the car and drove to Poole.


I stopped on the east side of Holes Bay (by MacDonald's) and scanned the bay from a grassy bank, the tide was high, it was dull and misty with light rain. I clocked: Little Egret, Goldeneye, Teal, Wigeon, Avocet and some very distant flocks of waders. I then drove to west side where Upton Country Park forms part of the shoreline. A nice oak woodland covers the area and plenty of footpaths lead down to a couple of hides that overlook the bay.

some of the 15 Eurasian Spoonbiulls at holes bay and, of course, a Common Shelduck


It was much better from this side most of the birds were quite close now. I found my fourth target species of the day, Eurasian Spoonbill, I counted 15 of them huddled together on an island. Whilst I watching them some flew off to the left of me. Also close by were: Northern Pintail, Shoveler, Common Shelduck, a large flock of some 150 Avocets, Redshank (32), Dunlin in small flocks and a dozen or so of Eurasian Curlew. A Peregrine falcon flew over and put up all the waders whilst I was counting them, thanks matey!!

3 views of the Spotted Redshank at holes Bay today.




I walked to the northern shore of the bay and located a large number of waders feeding and roosting on the small reedy islands. Amongst the waders was a single Spotted Redshank another new species for the year list. I got closer views of the Spoonbills and the Dunlin but I couldn't find the expected Common Sandpiper or a Greenshank or a Ringed Plover!

The rain came back so i walked into the woods looking for Nuthatch and a couple of Woodlarks that had been reported yesterday. I also dipped on a Black Redstart and a Firecrest. But I did see thousands of Redwings and Fieldfares, Lapwings, a few Common Snipe and a small flock of Skylarks feeding in a meadow. Woodland birds included Jay, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, great Tit, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Wren and Dunnock.

I left at 12 noon as the rain started in earnest and my optics were getting wet. One quick stop at Maiden Newton produced a single Lesser Redpoll, it flew up from the ground as I peered over a bridge looking for Dipper, it gave wonderful views and quickly became my second bird of the day after the Spotted Redshank.

ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

131. Green Sandpiper
132. Water Pipit
133. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon
134. Eurasian Spoonbill
135. Spotted Redshank

I may wangle one more day before I leave for Spain on the 27th, I hope to see some of the following to bring my UK list for 2013 to 140 : Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Sparrowhawk, Little Owl, Black Redstart, Ringed Plover, Corn Bunting, Red-legged Partridge.

Monday, January 21, 2013

JAN 21ST 2013 - NEW YEAR LIST

LYME REGIS AND TRINITY HILL NATURE RESERVE, DEVON

After a shopping morning in Yeovil Dawn and I decided to drive to the coast at Lyme Regis for lunch. We set off at midday, it was fairly bright but still quite cold and frosty.

We stopped at Trinity Hill which is a piece of heathland found just west of Lyme Regis. It was covered in deep snow so it was just me that went for a short walk. The first bird I found was a Reed Bunting, unusual I know but it was there. I also saw a Goldcrest, a Wren and a single Waxwing which flew off as I approached it. I never had my scope with me so I tried to get close to digibin a photograph. Just after that a got a short glimpse of a small bird with a long tail, it quickly disappeared into the scrub underneath the snow and it wouldn't come out again. it was most probably a Dartford Warbler but I can't count it because I never fully identified it.

At Lyme there was an unbelievable change in the weather, it was warm and sunny and not a single snowflake in sight, how extraordinary! After a lovely lunch in our favourite pub  I walked to the Cobb and into the woodlands above the bay. I didn't see any Purple Sandpipers but listed the following birds: Dunlin, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Long-tailed Tit, coal Tit, Blue Tit, great Tit, Song Thr4ush, Fieldfare, Redwing and all the common garden Birds.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT THESE FOUR PICTURES WERE TAKEN ON THE SAME DAY AND JUST FIVE MILES APART!!! INCREDIBLE.





Saturday, January 19, 2013

JAN 19TH - NEW YEAR LIST UPDATE

NORTH PERROTT

After a very cold night the snow still lay deep and crisp and even. I had few chores in the morning so I didn't get out for a walk until about 3pm.

It was dull and overcast with a little sleet in the air, but there were plenty of birdies around. In the lane behind the cottage IO found a small flock of Siskin feeding in the alders. As I crossed the fields leading down to the apple orchards I saw Common Buzzard (with snow white underwings),  Wren, Fieldfare, Redwing and Goldfinch.



In the orchards I spent some time watch a large Chaffinch flock and eventually found 2 bramblings in with them. Also saw Great-spotted Woodpecker and lots more thrushes.

Just a record shot of Brambling - I still can't get a good picture of this species


This evening I decided to print off a checklist and transfer my NEW YEAR blog list onto paper. Due to the incompetence of yours truly I found 5 species missing from the list which I have seen and so..........


LATE ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST (DUE TO OMISSIONS)

126. Little Grebe
127. Red-breasted Merganser
128. Common Crane
129. Common Kingfisher
130. European Stonechat

Thursday, January 17, 2013

JAN 17TH 2013 - SOMERSET LEVELS DAY 6

CHEDDAR RESERVOIR - CHEW VALLEY LAKE - CATCOTT LOWS

This was the last day of the Somerset tours for 2103. Luckily it dry all day with a high cloud base, but it was very cold.

We set off for Cheddar at 8:30am and arrive at 8:50am. I expected a large wildfowl influx due to the freezing over of many pools on the levels but that wasn't the case, if anything, there were fewer birds than last week. In fact, the Smew had gone along with the Scaup and many other ducks had reduced in number. We did note: Goldeneye (3), Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Shoveler and lots of Common Coots. Four of the five common gulls species were present, Great-black Backed was missing. We saw Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails on the edge of the water.

Chew wasn't much better we had to search from a couple of places before we found a Ruddy Duck! There were plenty of the common ducks and quite a few Goldeneye. At Herriot's Bridge we added Great Black-backed Gull and Grey Wagtail to the trip list and then we drove round to the visitor's centre for lunch. Before we went in to eat we took a short walk along the nature trails where we found Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great-spotted Woodpecker and a Treecreeper. Out on the water we located 5 Goosanders and many more Goldeneye.

After lunch we drove back onto the 'Levels' where we sat in the hide at Catcott until darkness fell. It was bitterly cold but we enjoyed watching many ducks including several Pintails. there was also a Whooper Swan with a couple of Mute Swans, a Great White Egret fed out in the marsh and two Marsh Harriers hunted in the distance.

At 5pm we called it day and ended the birding for this tour. We had run up a total of 95 species with another heard but not seen (Water Rail & Cetti's Warbler). We had stayed dry and enjoyed some fabulous visits to the Starling roost, in fact the Starling roost was voted, unanimously, the best sighting of the trip despite seeing some rarer birds such as Temminck's Stint, Glaucous Gull, Waxing, Jack Snipe, Cattle Egret and Brambling.

ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

125. Treecreeper

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JAN 16TH 2013 - SOMERSET LEVELS DAY 5

CATCOTT LOWS  -  STEART POINT - APEX PARK HIGHBRDIGE  -  GREYLAKE RSPB

Another great day in Somerset, it wasn't as bright but also not dull. It stayed dry all day but remained very cold throughout.

66 SPECIES RECORDED TODAY

We took and early breakfast and set off at 8am just at was getting light. The short trip to Catcott Low was uneventful but we could see that almost everywhere was frozen over. From the hide we could see very birds, most of the ducks had gone and those that were left huddled in the middle of the reserve where the water had not frozen. A few Mute swans and 3 Whooper Swans were making the most of it and it was very comical to see a Mute swan land on the ice. In the distance we could see a few Buzzards, Kestrel and a very unusual sighting of a Goshawk which commenced its flight courtship display, how extraordinary, the bird flapped about in circles and occasionally stoop dived. It also chased off a peregrine which looked tiny next to the Goshawk. A Barn Owl made a brief appearance as it flew into a nest box across the reserve from us.

frozen water meadow -  taken from Catcott Hide


From catcott we drove straight to Steart Point Reserve near Bridgewater. We set off from the car towards the banks of the river Parrott where a Temminck's Stint has been found wintering there, the bird has been very elusive and extremely hard to find. However, today it was easy, this was probably just to the heavy frost. the grass meadows were rock hard and so the bird had ventured into the open scrapes where the major work was being undertaken and the ground was softer with more invertebrate life. It feed happily in to open with 10 Redshanks, great result for us.

Along the river the muddy banks became exposed as the tide went out, many waders came to feed there. we saw Avocet, Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone and Curlew. back in the meadows we watched large numbers of Lapwing with fewer Golden plover and a nice flock of Stock Doves. There was a huge mixed flock of finches and the same number of linnets. A Merlin was found sitting on a post.

We walked back to the car park and then onto a path that led us along the coastal side of the reserve overlooking Bridgewater bay. During the walk we found Great Spotted Woodpecker and a hundreds of Shelduck and thousands of waders - they were all a bit distant but the light was very good. As we neared the hides a Jack Snipe flew up from the grass and quick dropped down again over a grassy bank, we clambered over the bank but failed to find the snipe again, nevertheless it was another great find. A few meadow Pipits flitted about and small flocks of Skylarks were seen throughout the morning.

From the hides we had good views of Grey Plover, Red Knot, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew. More distant views were had of Oystercatcher, Teal, Wigeon, Canada Goose, Grey heron and Little Egret.

We had walked a long way and it was very cold so we decided to jump back into the bus and drive to Highbridge to see another rarity. We quickly found Apex Park and as soon as we got out of the bus we found our target bird, the Glaucous Gull. A 1st winter bird which showed down to 1 meter, it was literally walking around our feet, a little food went a long way to encouraging the bird closer.

GLAUCOUS GULL AT HIGHBRIDGE TODAY

THIS BIRD LOOKED SLUGGISH AND OFTEN CLOSED ITS EYES, IT HAD A SLIGHT LIMP TOO! NOT WELL AND PROBABLY WON'T BE AROUND MUCH LONGER


We soon set off back to the Levels arriving back at Greylake at 3:30pm. The light was beginning to fade as we watched Reed Buntings in the car park so we quickly made our way to the hide. From there we watched Peregrine Falcons, many Buzzards, Common Snipe, hundreds of Teal and Wigeon and lots of Lapwing. Just before e left a flock 16 Common Cranes flew over the hide making a lot of racket.

We called it day after that and returned to our guest house tired but happy with our day.

ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

115. Goshawk
116. Temminck's Stint
117. Skylark
118. Stock Dove
119. Avocet
120. Grey Plover
121. Sanderling
122. Knot
123. Jack Snipe
124. Glaucous Gull


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

JAN 15TH 2013 - SOMERSET LEVELS DAY 4

HAM WALL - TEALHAM & TADHAM MOOR - WESTHAY MOOR - SHAPWICK HEATH - HAM WALL

59 species recorded today.

What an absolutely fantastic day!  A stunning sunrise, followed by a glorious bright day. We set off at 7:30am to see the Starling roost disperse, it was wonderful we had a great time.

Great cormorant at dawn

the dots in the sky are Starlings

Glastonbury Tor at 7:30am

After breakfast we drove the short distance to Tadham Moor which was devoid of birds so we continued onto Tealham Moor where a group of Whooper Swans had been seen recently. however it was egrets that caught our attention. A Great White was standing on the bank of a 'drain' and by its side was Grey heron (2), Little Egret (2), Mute Swan and a CATTLE EGRET. Never in a million years would expect to see all three of these egrets standing side by side in Somerset, England. We also found Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Lapwing and Fieldfare.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE A LARGER VERSION
They were very distant but if you carefully you can seen all 3 egrets



Westhay Moor was next, the 'droves' were very muddy but passable, we made our way to Seven Acre Lake where we found Goosander (6), Goldeneye (1 female) and many of the common ducks. A Kingfisher was nice and a flock of Long-tailed tits entertained us.

We ate lunch outside in the sunshine at the Avalon Centre where we logged a Raven flying over and a Coal tit coming to the bird feeders.


The rest of the afternoon was spent walking onto Shapwick heath where we visited Noah's Lake. From the raised hide there were many, many ducks. We also saw another Kingfisher and Whooper Swan (10)

The best part of the day was approaching, a clear sky clouded over somewhat but it was very still and fairly light as we walked to Ham Wall. The Starling Murmuration was superb, this time they really performed, making all kinds of shapes and patterns in the sky. What a great show we really enjoyed it as about a million birds descended into the reeds.
One of the patterns seen tonight - taken by John Sutherland tonight


Well that concluded another tremendous day in the wonderful Somerset levels.

ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

114. Cattle Egret


Monday, January 14, 2013

JAN 14TH 2013 - SOMERSET LEVELS DAY 3

GREYLAKE - TAUNTON - HAM WALL

52 species recorded this afternoon

This was the first day with my second group tour of the 'Levels'. We all arrived at various times during the morning but met up as a group at 12 noon for our first birding excursion.

It was dull, misty, raining and cold - what did you expect....it is winter!!!   However we could see lighter patches of grey in the sky and by 2pm it had stopped raining and blue sky appeared.

We drove straight to Greylake RSPB Reserve because we intended to carry on into Taunton to try to see a flock of Waxwings which had been reported there, more on that later.

Brambling hidden in the scrub with a Chaffinch


At Greylake RSPB reserve we spent  a little time in the car park watching the feeders where we saw Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Great Tit and Chaffinch. From the hide we watch Common Snipe (about 20 birds), Teal, several hundred of them, Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler, Lapwing, Little Egret and a couple of Common Buzzards. On the way back to the car park we stopped to look into some willow bushes and at the base of them we found a small flock of finches feeding on seed. There were several Chaffinches and 4 Brambling and 1 Reed Bunting, we all got good views of the Brambling before we moved on. Back at the car park we bumped into a Common Chiffchaff which was fly catching from the bushes.

Next we drove 12 miles into the suburbs of Taunton to look for the Waxwings, we found them straight away, about 10 were present and gave us prolonged views. When they eventually flew off we realised that there were at least 19 of them. During this time we also saw: Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Robin.




Back on the 'Levels' we turned onto the road to staith to look for the 'introduced'  Common Cranes without success, there is too much water around and many fields are flooded.

So we finished up at Ham Wall where we took a leisurely walk from the car park to the viewing platforms which overlook the vast reed beds and pools. We saw many of the common ducks and added Canada Goose, Siskin, Goldcrest (3), Marsh Harrier, Great Crested Grebe and Great White Egret to our list.

The starling roost was terrific, the sky had cleared and the wind had dropped, the reeds were perfectly still. The birds began to arrive but much to our dismay they started to gather to the far left of us, near the first viewing platform. So after a while we set off back towards the first platform and just before we got the Starlings changed their minds and set off back to the where we had come from. So we didn't get to see any 'murmurations' really. One plus point was a couple of brief viewings of Great Bittern. We now know where both the Starlings and the Bittern are roosting so we planned to visit in the morning to see
 them leave.

Some of the group on the second viewing platform at Ham Wall


ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

112. Waxwing
113. Great Bittern

Sunday, January 13, 2013

JAN 13TH 2013 - UK SOMERSET LEVELS DAY 2

Cheddar reservoir, Blagdon & Chew valley lakes, Mendip Hills (woodlands & farmland walks)

What a glorious sunny day, it was very cold but remained dry and sunny from dawn till dusk. We set off from Meare at 8:30am having checked out of the hotel.

We drove 10 mile to Cheddar Reservoir which was flat as mill pond but there was a very cold breeze once were we on the embankment around the water. This did deter us, we quickly found an unexpected Redhead - Smew, it was not far out and associating with a bunch of Tufted Ducks. Other species new for our weekend list were Goldeneye, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Raven. We walked a quarter of the way around the circular reservoir looking for Scaup but couldn't any, there were plenty of Wigeon, Common Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall and about 2000 Eurasian Coots!

Redhead - Smew and with Tufted Duck below



Next we visited the Lake at Blagdon where both Lesser and Greater Scaup have been seen in recent weeks. But alas we couldn't find any, again there were plenty of the common ducks and Great Black-backed Gull which was new for us.

We stopped at several places at Chew Valley lake, the first was Heron's Green Bay where we added Ruddy Duck and Common Shelduck to the tally, then we drove round to Herriot's Bridge and found a Grey Wagtail and two Chiffchaffs, both new species for us.

The group at heron's green bay, Chew Valley lake




We spent a couple of hours at the visitor's centre where we ate lunch. We found a superb male Goosander there and lots of Goldeneye. Our penultimate walk was taken after we drove up over the mendip hills where a covering of snow lay everywhere. We took a short walk into a wood but only found Coal Tit, Common Buzzard and a Magpie.


snow on the mendips




 Lastly we followed a bridle-way across some arable fields where we hoped to find a few 'farmland' species. We saw a good number of birds, mainly Common Starling, Rooks, Jackdaws, Carrion Crows and Magpies but also quite a few Fieldfares, Robins, Chaffinches and Redwings. We were delighted to find a small flock of Tree Sparrows as well as Song Thrush, a perched Common Buzzard and a perched Raven. Our last birds of the walk were a bunch of Greenfinches which looked great in the late afternoon sunlight.

We boarded the bus for the last time and set off for Gillingham where the group had to catch their train back to London, along the way we saw huge flocks of Northern Lapwing and afield full of Common Gulls, very impressive numbers.

After I had dropped the group off and was approaching home in North Perrott a barn Owl flew alongside the bus for a short while - a great bird to finish off the weekend.

ADDITIONS TO NEW YEAR LIST

104. Smew
105. Goldeneye
106. Ruddy Duck

107. Goosander
108. Eurasian Chiffchaff
109. Coal Tit
110. Tree Sparrow
111. Barn Owl

Saturday, January 12, 2013

JAN 12TH 2013 - UK SOMERSET LEVELS DAY 1

HAM WALL RSPB RESERVE - CATCOTT LOW - WESTHAY MOOR - GREYLAKE RSPB - SHAPWICK HEATH

A dull miserable, wet day with a biting easterly wind which got colder and colder as the day went on - perfect you might say for a good old English birding day out.

I collected my group from their hotel in Meare at 7:30am it was dark and it was raining. We drove the short distance to ham Wall and walked along the old railway track to view the reedbeds. As it got light the reedbeds erupted as thousand upon thousands of Common Starlings left their roost. It was truly spectacular, most of the birds came over the top of us and the noise was deafening. A couple of Marsh Harriers swooped into the masses of birds but we didn't see a 'hit'.

After the Starling fest we walked back to the car park noting many species in the clear light of day: Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and on the water and marshes we saw Common Snipe, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal & Mallard, Pied Wagtail, Little & Great White Egret (3), Great Cormorant, Mute Swan & Grey heron. We also heard several Water rails and cetti's Warblers.

Back at the hotel we ate a lovely breakfast before setting off for Westhay Moor - this trip was very short lived as the rain came down much heavier, the pathways were flooded and not many birds were in view, so we abandoned Westhay and drove to Catcott Low.

The large hide at Catcott looks over a huge flooded meadow which is managed for breeding waders, today it was full of ducks and quite a few Common Snipe. Hundreds of Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Mallards were joined by lesser numbers of Northern Pintail. We also saw Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon and a Common Kestrel.

Next we stopped off in Ashcot to buy our lunch before driving down to Greylake RSPB reserve. In the car park there we found Reed Buntings using the feeders and from the hide where we ate our lunch we were bowled over by the number birds present. Common Snipe numbers must have exceeded 100 whilst Teal , Wigeon, Shoveler and Gadwall numbered in their hundreds, as did Lapwing. We saw half a dozen Little Egrets too and a pair of Peregrine falcons sitting on a fence. A raptor flashed across the water scattering the wildfowl and then it perched on a fence post, a fine female Merlin had graced us with its presence. Fantastic really for all the group to get in-scope-views of such an elusive species.

female Merlin at Greylake today


On the boardwalk two or three of the group found Brambling (3) and as we set off to search for Cranes we saw a large flock of Fieldfares. We spent an hour or so searching in vain for the Cranes and eventually gave up. Our last stop was back at Greylake which produced a Ruff which was feeding in amongst a large flock of Lapwings.



We returned to ham Wall and then walk across to Shapwick heath where we found another Great White Egret and to our great delight a flock of 10 Whooper Swans flew over us. Our return to the Starling roost was disappointing, it was very cold and windy which rain in the air. The Starling didn't like it and quickly dropped down into the reedbeds to roost, not a flying murmuration tonight.

At 5pm we were back at the hotel which gave us good time to get warm and ready for dinner.


ADDITIONS TO NEW YEAR LIST

98. Marsh Harrier.
99. Lesser Redpoll
100. Great White Egret
101. Gadwall
102. Whooper Swan
103. Merlin

JAN 11TH 2013 - UK NEW YEAR LIST

WEYMOUTH - PORTLAND HARBOUR - FERRY BRIDGE AND PORTLAND BILL

A glorious morning clear blue sky and a note a whiff of a breeze. It was like a May morning in Weymouth.

My first stop was at the southern end of the Harbour where I scanned from the Royal yatching Club, I got my target bird within minutes: Great Northern Diver in the bag, also seen Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatcher, Common Scoter, Razorbill, Shag and lots of Med Gulls.

At Portland Bill it was quite quiet but after a while I got onto a couple of species that I needed for the year: Guillemot & Kittiwake  in the bag: also seen Northern Gannet, Razorbill, Rock Pipit, Red-throated Diver (2) and many gulls. I popped into the Bird Observatory and met up with a few old chums, it was great to chat and reminisce.

Rock Pipit



I slowed down as I passed Ferrybirdge and looked over the ground where a few photographers were pointing their lens, would you believe I spotted a Snow Bunting whilst i was travelling at 30 miles an hour? Next stop was at Sandsfoot castle to look for Black Redstart, Firecrest and Chiffchaff, I missed them all but did see Slavonian Grebe fairly close and a flock of 23 Brent Geese.

Portland Bill

At 12 noon I arrived at Abottsbury Swannery where i parked at the beach and walked along Chesil Bank to view the pools with the sun behind me. There was many birds present including my target species: Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck both in the bag!!

At 1pm I was on my way home before I drove to Meare on the Levels to meet up with my weekend birding group.

ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST

92. Great Northern Diver
93. Guillemot
94. Kittiwake
95. Greater Scaup
96. Long-tailed Duck
97. Grey Wagtail (seen on the 9th at Musgrove Hospital grounds, Taunton).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

JAN 8TH 2013 - UK NEW YEAR LIST

Not a birding day I'm afraid but I managed to take an hour out and went to visit a nearby village.

It was dull and overcast again with fine rain in the air. It took 10 minutes to get to Norton Sub-Hamdon about 5 miles from North Perrott. My target bird was the Hawfinch, a flock of 10 had been seen over the last few days in the vicinity of the Rectory and the Church.

It took five minutes to locate four of these lovely beasts, but all were quite distant and they refused to come down from the canopy. I managed to snap off a few shots all quite bad but the best are shown below.

ADDITION TO MY YEAR LIST

90. Hawfinch






Monday, January 7, 2013

JAN 7TH 2013 - UK NEW YEAR LIST

WEYMOUTH, FERRYBRDIGE & PORTLAND HARBOUR, DORSET

NEW YEAR LIST NOW STANDS AT 89.

I took wifey shopping today to Weymouth - how convenient! I got 2 full hours watching birds in Portland Harbour - and wifey got to use my credit card for 3 hours!! Tough, I know, and it could have been a very expensive bird watching outing - time will tell.

It was another dull over cast day with fog and drizzle over the hills as we drove from North Perrott to Weymouth via Dorchester. I logged a new bird whilst circumnavigating a roundabout at Dorchester in the shape of a Mediterranean Gull. There were about 50 gulls near the roadside and several adult Med Gulls were clearly visible - I shouted "Med Gull" and wifey shouted "artic. lorry coming this way"! Oops!

Anyway, I almost cleaned up in the harbour, I stopped first at the yachting Club near Sandsfoot Castle where I logged Black-necked Grebe (14), Med Gull (11), Red-breasted Merganser (23), Shag, Cormorant, Common Scoter (3 -female), Great crested grebe and not much else.

Med Gulls at the Yachting Culb


At ferrybrdige I found the regular Snow Bunting on the roof of the visitor's centre! Another 356 Med Gulls were on the mud flat and not much else. From Portland castle I scoped a Black-throated Diver and saw two dark ducks out in the distance (I thought they were female Eider).

Snow Bunting at ferrybridge




I then went back to ferrybridge and walked across the main road to scope the harbour from there. I had a great 30 minutes: first I found two Velvet Scoters (my two dark ducks from earlier), then I got onto a Slavonian Grebe, then a single 1cy Eider Duck, another two Common Scoter, 65 Red-breasted Mergansers and lots of Med Gulls.


Back at Ferrybridge I scoped down the fleet towards Abbottsbury and found a small flock of Brent Geese, two Little Grebes and 4 Oystercatchers (the waders I saw today).

Shags and a Cormorant at Portland Harbour


Well, my 2 hours we up so I drove back into Weymouth making a quick stop at Radipole Lake which was pants, although I did take this picture shown below of a Med gull.




ADDITIONS TO THE YEAR LIST:

81. Black-necked Grebe
82. Mediterranean Gull
83. Common Scoter
84. Snow Bunting
85. Black-throated Diver
86. Slavonian Grebe
87. Velvet Scoter
88. Eider Duck
89. Brent Goose





Sunday, January 6, 2013

JAN 6TH 2013 - UK NEW YEAR LIST

AXMOUTH, SEATON (LYME BAY) & LYME REGIS, ALL IN DEVON

YEAR LIST NOW STANDS AT 80

Another dull overcast day with very fine drizzling rain (how nice), the good weather lasted only two days.

Nevertheless Dawn and I set off for Seaton to walk along the sea front before driving the short distance to Lyme Regis for lunch.

At the beach it stopped raining and the sea was very calm, but there were hardly any birds out there! It took quite a lot of searching before I found a solitary  Northern Gannet. We walked to the southern end of the bay and eventually found a number of birds out on the water. The best was Red-throated Diver (1), Razorbill (2), Shag (4) and Great crested Grebe (14).

 Along the river Axe on the way out of town we stopped to view the gull roost where we saw: Oystercatcher, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and all 5 of the common types of gull.

When we arrived at Lyme Regis the rain began again I walked along the breakwater called the 'Cob' where I found Rock Pipit (5), Pied Wagtail (2) and the lovely Purple Sandpiper (7).

Purple Sandpipers are a very reliable and an obliging species at Lyme Regis





We ate a light lunch before driving home through thick fog and drizzling rain.

ADDITIONS TO YEAR LIST

74. Shag
75. Razorbill
76. Northern Gannet
77. Bar-tailed Godwit
78. Rock Pipit
79. Purple Sandpiper
80. Red-throated Diver

Saturday, January 5, 2013

JAN 5TH 2013 - UK NEW YEAR LIST

UPTON WARREN NATURE RESERVE

NEW YEAR LIST NOW STANDS AT  73

The superb reserve at Upton Warren is a well maintained area full of birds. I made a short stop there this morning on my way back from mom's house in droitwich. I was here in December when I listed the Waxwings.

The first hide was surrounded by bird feeders which were well attended by Blue and Great tits, Robins, chaffinches, bullfinches, Reed Buntings and several Moorhens, Coots and 5 big Brown Rats!!

A Water Rail came right out into the open area near the feeders and on the main pool I saw: Great crested grebe, Common Pochard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Great cormorant, Grey heron and lots of Mallards.



From a second hide I saw 60+ Common Snipe but no sign of a reported Jack Snipe. 9 Eurasian Curlews dropped in as did a flock of Lapwings.


Reed Bunting - female


ADDITIONS TO THE NEW YEAR LIST:

70. Reed Bunting
71. Great-crested Grebe
72. Common Snipe
73. Water Rail