Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Winter in The Cotswold Water Park

Winter tours.

Our first tours this year have seen us at The Cotswold Water Park, with all the recent rain the rivers and lakes are at bursting point with some areas under water and impassable even with wellies.

Two contrasting days one with strong winds and rain the other beautiful sunshine all day, but still several good sightings of all the species on offer. A few fly by Kingfishers with one sat in a small bush just above the Thames waiting for a fish. Large number of duck are around the park at the moment with Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted duck, Shoveler, Pintail, Goldeneye, Goosander and Red Crested Pochard all seen in good numbers. Smaller birds are harder to find but several sightings of Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Firecrest make scanning the tit flocks worthwhile.

Several birds of prey are about with Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Red kite and Marsh Harrier all seen along with groups of Lapwing.

Woodpeckers can be heard calling and drumming always nice to hear them, along with groups of Redwing and Fieldfare feeding on the berry trees.

There are a few rarer species about with a Black necked Grebe and Scaup out on the Lakes.

With the large number of birds around the winter can be one of the best times to visit the Water Park there can be over 25,000 birds out on the Lakes!.

A good start to the year and looking forward to the coming seasons, just get out there and enjoy our countryside. DT.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Somerset Levels Starlings.

Starlings galore today!!

An early start to see the Starlings lift off which did not disappoint, getting on for 100,000 birds coming out in quick succession is a wonderful sight and sound and all to myself too.

The main path itself can provide lots of interest. 3 bullfinch, treecreeper, 7 goldcrest, 10 chiffchaff, 50+ goldfinch and 6 reed buntings (from the old rail bridge) all recorded. Stop off at the 1st viewing platform (VP1) to see the lovely groups of black tailed godwits and Lapwings using the area. 

A Bittern dropped into the reeds in front of VP1 Also in Loxtons,kingfishers spotted from the screen, plenty of little grebes both here and around the reserve, a great crested grebe also seen from the screen and the usual group of cormorants sitting on the raft.
Great white egrets are usually fairly easy to spot around the Avalon Marshes. we found several fishing in front of the Avalon hide giving close views. You may also see the odd little egret. Bizarrely, unlike most sites, these are harder to come by at Ham Wall than great white or cattle egret and perhaps even bittern these days.
Wildfowl numbers are building slowly but as many as 270 teal were counted in front of VP1 and VP2. Look out also for wigeon, shoveler, mallard, gadwall, tufted duck, pochard and shoveler. 
Other winter visitors include the Redwing and Fieldfare. As many as 100 redwing were seen in the car park trees and we had numerous sightings of both redwing and fieldfare throughout the reserve. 
We found Stonechats in front of VP1, Grey wagtail, Sparrowhawk seen from the car park and the Avalon Hide, kestrel seen hovering beyond the bottom of the car park.
Marsh harriers have been really easy to spot today up to 5 have been seen using all parts of the reserve. They are particularly evident after the starling roost has left. They quarter over the roost site looking for any dead starlings for a nice easy meal.
On Shapwick Heath 2 Whopper swans on Noah's lake along with a group on 20 Pintail and several water rail calling, duck numbers are starting to build up also.
We finished off watching the Starlings coming back into roost for the evening, this is a great way to end a goods days Birdwatching on the Somerset levels. No doubt we will be back a few more times before the winter ends.DT.f

Monday, 11 November 2019

Otmoor visits in November

The leaves on all the trees and in the hedgerows are flaring with last blaze of autumn colour making for a lovely sight on a clear morning.

Once again the moor is a proper wetland. The rain of the last few weeks has transformed many fields into lakes with just hedgerows, bunds and banks standing clear and they are attracting huge numbers of birds. 

We estimated that there were in excess of one thousand Lapwings in several different flocks that erupted from separate parts of the moor when flushed by one or other of the attendant raptors. The Lapwings were accompanied by flocks of Starlings that were not feeding far from their reedbed roost site. There were also large numbers of Golden Plovers that were more difficult to count, but certainly their numbers are in excess of 500.

As is to be expected with such a high biomass present on and around the moor we have been seeing lots of raptors and seeing them more frequently. Where initially the Starling roost was their prime attraction, in addition it is also the flocks of larger prey species feeding out on the floods. There were four different Buzzards around the reedbed and there are still two Ring-tailed Hen Harriers roaming across the moor. 

The resident Marsh Harriers are also likely to be seen as well as Kestrels and Sparrowhawks. Peregrines are now being seen regularly. We also had the bonus of seeing a Short eared Owl from the bridleway today.

Duck numbers across the moor have gone up very significantly but they are not being seen on the lagoon in front of the first or second screens. They have plenty of other places to be at the moment and undoubtedly the continuing presence of a family of three Otters in the reedbed is keeping them away for now. 

The Otters are being seen almost every day and seem quite used to being watched from the screen. Sometimes the youngsters can be seen rolling and tumbling in the water, at other times hunting and feeding and once today out on the edge of the bank. 

A few smaller birds are staring to come onto the reserve now so hopefully the winter feeding program will start soon which should attract several different species.

There is a substantial Starling roost taking place but as yet there have been no spectacular displays. The birds have been arriving and going straight down to roost without producing a shape shifting spectacle. This roost has been attended by Marsh Harriers and by at least two Barn Owls.

Over the coming months I think that this could be a very exciting place to visit which should provide a great days wildlife watching. Just get out and enjoy it DT.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Cotswold Water Park in November

Today we visited the Cotswold Water Park.

With winter arriving duck numbers are on the rise, several species encountered today on our short visit.

Wigeon numbers are going up all the time with Shoveler, Gadwall and teal rising too.

We have a few Goosander back with us also a small number of Goldeneye were found.

Several small flocks of tits are building up now, we did find a couple of tiny Goldcrest mixed in with them.

Both Green and Great spotted Woodpecker were seem along with Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.

Over the coming months the number of birds should increase which should make a visit to the park worthwhile.

A total of 56 species encountered today in around three hours.DT.

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