Thursday, 10 October 2019

Weekend tour to Somerset Levels

We started on Shapwick Heath NNR this time. Before we had left the car park ten cattle egret flew over heading east – a good start!  

As we started down the track, we soon heard several bearded tit calling from the nearby reedbed, despite a rapid detour we couldn’t find them. We soon added  Cetti’s warbler, blue tit, great tit and long-tailed tit. A quick look at the first reed bed gave us our first view of great white egret chugging over the reeds and marsh harrier were immediately evident too.

Male marsh harrier

We reached our first pool and were soon seeing a nice selection of waterfowl, including coot, mute swan, cormorant, shoveler, moorhen, mallard, gadwall, teal, grey heron and little grebe. A couple of  kingfisher were zooming around the pool and another great white egret was popping in and out of the reads.

Coot having a good wash

A few swallow were zooming over on their way of South Africa for the winter.

As we worked out way along the footpath, through the woods to the next hide we continued to pick up new species including, blackbird, wren, dunnock, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin, robin and an elusive goldcrest.

Onto the next pool where we saw a number of herring gull, black-headed gull, greylag goose and great crested grebe. Here we watched a young marsh harrier try to catch a wigeon on the water with almost disastrous consequences. Having plunged osprey-like into the lake it just managed to get free from the grip of the water and slink off to hide in a bit of cover in the middle of the lake. Lesson learnt hopefully.

After lunch we headed over onto Ham Wall RSPB.

We picked up a little egret at the first viewing point. As well as some great views of mixed flocks of waterfowl.

Great white egret

At the next viewing points we had great views of snipe and lapwing as well as more teal, wigeon, shoveler and gadwall.

At the final hide we a marsh harrier master class from a splendid adult male.

All-in-all a great day! (NA)

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Some of the highlights form our recent tours on the Somerset Levels.

We Normally run our tours at the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve, so on one fine morning, stopping at the rail bridge we scanned around and found a couple of Chiffchaff and heard Cetti's Warblers calling, we headed on down the path to the first viewing platform (VP1) where we had a brief view of a Kingfisher sat on a post, next we saw a Marsh Harrier and a Buzzard also Great White Egrets. Little Grebes and Water Rails were calling. Next we heard the pinging calls of Bearded tits coming from deep within the reedbed, so a bit of patience was required which soon paid off with a flock of 25 birds seen moving around the reedbeds some giving good scope views albeit brief ones. We have had a lots of success with the Bearded tits the last few tours and had some of the best sightings of this difficult to see bird.

With all the water around you always see a lot of duck species we have encountered Gadwall, Mallard, Shoverler, Teal and a few Wigeon and Pochard on our tours. also Marsh harriers are a common sight and if you sit tight in the main hide you get some very close views of them, we have seen a few food passes taking place this year always nice to see this taking place. Bitterns too are a lot easier to see here than other place and we have been very lucky in seeing several birds in the air together, with some coming very close to the hides at times.

On some of the wetter muddy area we found flocks of waders that consisted of Black tailed godwit, Knot, Wood and Green sandpipers also Lawping,Snipe and Redshank.

Butterflies are encountered all over Ham Wall with a good list of them seen on our tours, a couple of good places to look are around the flower beds in the car park and along the main track where there are a few buddliea bushes. On our last visit we saw Painted lady and a Clouded Yellow both of these are migrants that visit us over the summer months.

We sometimes come across Roe Deer when out early but as soon as more visitors arrive they seem to disappear and hide.

We did find some tiny baby Harvest Mice out on the path so cute but very vulnerable.

We also visit Shapwick Heath which  has a large body of water so you always get a few different birds here.

From Noah’s Hide we heard Water Rail calling, and saw over 100 Mute Swans, along with Little and Great White Egrets, Canada and Greylag Geese, and Great Crested Grebes, we also saw a Bittern fly in and land in the nearby reedbed all good sightings. Also we have seen a few Black Tern from here this summer.

An Osprey normally stops off here on route back to Africa and this year we were lucky to be around when one showed up, again some wonderful close views from the hide on Noah's lake. This lake has been a good place this year with a great sighting of over 50 Hobbies on one not so good spring morning a truly unforgettable experience.

We sometimes come across Otters when out and about but you do need to be out early for these, all though you do sometimes come across them in the middle of the day.

We sometimes visit a small reserve called Catcott lows, this year Cattle Egrets have been common here with over 100 birds around at different times. Over the summer months we have seen some wonderful wildlife experience on the Somerset levels, now looking forward to the approaching winter which will bring in many thousands of wildfowl..DT

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Today we visited the Cotswold Waterpark on a fine August morning.

With the weather still warm we encountered several different butterflies today with Red Admiral, Small and Large Whites, Speckled Woods and several of the beautiful Pained Ladies.

Moving on several small birds could be heard in the bushes which turned out to be Blue, Great and Long tailed tits, also Blackcaps and a single Chiffchaff could be heard singing at the top of a tall tree.

On our first lake we found Tufted duck, Great Crested Grebe, Red Crested Pochard, Shoveler, Teal along with a few Cormorant.

Next we saw the blue flash of a Kingfisher as it flew away up the lake always nice to see albeit a brief view.

Walking on we saw two Hobby fly over along with a Buzzard and several black headed gulls.

Both Grey heron and Little Egret seen feeding around the edge of the lake along with several Gadwall and Mallard.

On our return route we saw several small groups of House and Sand Martins along with a few Swallows hawking over the lake picking up the tiny insects just above the water.

Other birds seen included Whitethroat, Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers along with a couple of Jays and Kestrel.

With winter on its way we should start to see lots more wildfowl returning to the park soon which is always an enjoyable time to visit here

A pleasant morning in the autumn sunshine.DT

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Farmoor Reservoir

Today we visited Farmoor Reservoir.

A bright sunny morning greated us at this large body of inland water.

First birds seen flying over were a small group of Swift and House martins along with a few Swallows.

Checking the edges of the reservoir we found a few waders which included a Redshank, Common sandpiper, Dunlin and Oystercatcher.

Scanning over the water we found several common tern then we spotted three smaller darker birds with them these were black tern so nice to see them hawking over the reservoir, we had great views of the black terns all day has we wondered around the site.

Scanning the water several groups of Cormorant, Great crested Grebes were found all diving and fishing in the sunshine.

Walking along the middle of the two basins several Pied wagtails were found along with a couple of Grey Wagtails and three Yellow Wagtail great to see three different types all close together showing their different plumages.

A little further on two Meadow Pipits were found.

Around the small nature reserve at the end of the reservoir several Long tailed Tits were calling along with both Blue and Great Tits. Also seen or heard here were Goldcrest, Green Woodpecker, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Bunting, Linnet,Wren, Robin along with Grey Heron, Moorhen and Coot.

Moving onto another area several warbler speices were found with Reed, Sedge, Cetti's, Garden, along with Whitethroat and Blackcap.

After taking lunch at the car we headed back along the middle of the reservoir picking up several Buzzards riding the thermals along with two Red Kites, out on the water were several groups of Mallard a few Greylag Geese, and we counted 80 Great Crested Grebes resting on the water an impressive sight.

Heading back to the car park we heard a Cuckoo calling so heading in its direction and soon saw it flying out of a near by tree. We also spotted a Peregrine flying over in the distance.

Scanning the small gull flock we found Black headed, Herring, Lesser Black Backed and a single Great Black Backed gull.

A very enjoyable day in the warm sunshine. DT.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Durlston Country Park

Today saw us on the Dorset coast looking for migrants and sea birds.

Several Razorbills and Guillemots out on the water giving some close views for comparison, also a couple of Gannets flew past.

Along the path a Raven flew past with a few Fulmars riding the wind, sat out on the rooks were Great black-backed gulls along with Herring gulls. Out over the sea several Shags flew low over the water.

Small birds were found in the scrubby areas which included Whitethroat, Lesser whitethroat, Blackcap, Linnet, Mistle thrush, Meadow pipits, along with several Stonechats perched on top of the bushes.

Further on both Chiffchaff and Willow warbler were calling enabling us to remember the different calls they have.

Sitting in one of the many fields we watched a Skylark rise up calling as it went until it was just a tiny dot in the clear blue sky.

Most of the field have a few orchids pushing up but the buttercups were the stars today make the fields stand out bright yellow in the sunshine.

Several butterflies seen today also with a stunning view of an Adonis blue sat out in the open giving very close views.

Other birds seen as we moved on down the path were  Rock pipits,Skylarks, Dunnocks and Wrens.

A long day but some good quality birds seen at very close range. DT

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

April in The Cotswold Water Park

April has turned out to be full of fine weather enabling us to run several tours around The Cotswold Water Park. 

Several warblers are with us for the summer which have included Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Cettis warbler, Reed warbler, Sedge warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, and Lesser whitethroat.

A good number of Sand martins arrived early in the month along with a few Swallows and House Martins in toe.

Lots of common birds around with Blackbirds, Blue tit, Great tit, Long tailed tit along with song thrush, Mistle thrush, we still had a few winter visitors with us up to 10 Goldeneye still out on the lake and a few Brambling seen in the treetops.

Some of the less common birds seen have included Nightingale, Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, Hobby along with Green woodpecker and Great spotted woodpeckers.

Several butterflies are now on the wing seen so far are Brimstone, Orange tip, Speckled wood, Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Small White and Large white, Holy blue and a single Green Hairstreak.

Out in the field large numbers of Snakes head fritillary are in flower along with the yellow Cowslips and a few Orchids are starting to shot up.

A great time to be out looking for wildlife. DT

Friday, 22 February 2019

Somerset Levels

Early spring visit to the Somerset Levels

Today saw us at the RSPB Ham Wall reserve.

After a little early fog the sun came through to provide us with some wonderful wildlife.

Kingfisher and Great white Egret were among the first birds seen along the path to our first stop.

Several duck species are still around with Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted duck all seen.

Both little and Great Crested Grebes were seen with the little Grebes being very vocal all day.

Several sightings of Marsh Harrier hunting out over the reedbeds with Buzzards soaring on the thermals. We had some very brief views of Water rail as they move between the reedbeds always hard to see these birds.

Before leaving our view point we had a fly by Bittern which gave very good views as it flew over the reedbeds. On our way back to the car park for lunch we saw several Lapwing and a small group of Golden Plover along with 80+ Snipe flying around.

After lunch a quick look around the feeders found Reed Bunting, Chaffinch a single Chiffchaff and several blue and great tits.

Returning to watch the Starlings coming into roost we saw a Sparrowhawk fly across and as the large groups of Starlings arrived a Peregrine falcon could be seen chasing them around.

On our walk back to the car park a single ringtail Hen Harrier flew past and a Tawny owl hooted from the wood.

All in all a good day to be out and about with Bittern starting to boom spring is on the way.DT