Monday 26 January 2015

A Weekend of Reccies

Over the weekend we managed to visit a couple of sites which we use for our tours.

First stop the The Cotswold Water Park. Now that winter is finally with us a look around the Lakes produce some of the rarer birds that we find at this time of year. Plenty of Wigeon and Teal around in good numbers - always nice to see and hear them, but target birds are Smew and Goosander. After a little searching we managed to find a group of three Goosander in the centre of one of the larger lakes. After moving on to a well known area for Smew we are soon rewarded with five Smew, three of them being the wonderful looking males (one of my favourite birds as they always make the day seem much brighter when you see them). Another duck to look out for is the Pintail, (again the male is a splendid looking bird), in total about 20 birds were seen around the lakes.

Lots of Fieldfare and Redwings around now feeding up on the berry bushes with a couple of pairs of Bullfinch. Other birds seen included both the Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker - always easier to see at this time of year when there are no leaves on the trees - also several Chiffchaffs busily feeding on the many tiny insects that are flying in the sunshine.

Next stop The Marlborough Downs. This is a very large area so I planned to only be out for a couple of hours. Beginning at around 14.00 I soon came across a small group of birds gliding on the wind above one of the hills. These turned out to be Red Kite, in total around 15 birds counted. With many Kestrels flying around hunting, this was turning out to be an afternoon watching birds of prey as the next bird seen was a Sparrowhawk gliding slowly over the trees to my right! On my way back I knew that I had a chance of seeing Short-Eared Owls as they often hunt on the Downs in the Winter months. In total 4-6 owls were seen making for a great end to the day, with Buzzard, Yellowhammer, Corn bunting and Skylark also spotted giving a wonderful couple of hours in the late afternoon sun. DT

Friday 9 January 2015

8th January - Marlbrough Downs

I managed to find a suitable window in the weather to check out a potential route for a winter or summer walk on the Marlborough Downs. The target species for this were farmland birds, notably corn bunting and yellowhammer, and roe deer.

The walk started well with a showy pair of stonechat, that moved along the fenceline with me.

As I carried on there were good views of fieldfare feeding in the fields as well as kestrel and buzzard hovering over the grasslands. A flock of linnet were kind enough to pose on a bush for me.

Further on the route I was lucky enough to find two more pairs of stonechat and good numbers of skylark and meadow pipit, as well a brief views of a disappearing yellowhammer.

As I walked by an area of rough grass, some movement caught my eye...

Fantastic!  A female roe deer, keeping half an eye on me. Now the important thing is not to face directly towards her, otherwise she will realise I have seen her and she will be away...

Success! this picture was taken under my left arm at right-angles to her.

As I continue my walk, my attention is drawn to a oil seed rape field with small brown birds flying around in groups and dropping in. As I get closer I can hear the calls of corn bunting - great stuff! After a while a number of them fly up into a nearly small tree.

A fair few of the males were starting to sing their jangling song - always great to hear. I slowly moved forward as the birds started to disperse, hopefully one or two might stay until I was quite close.

Well one stayed anyway! So all in all a pretty successful walk with the target species seen and more besides, another route ready to use in the future. (NA)

Saturday 3 January 2015

2nd January 2015 - Steart as you mean to go on...

Darren and I have started 2015 with a few changes to The Cotswold Birdwatching Company, one of these being a blog to follow recent trips and surveys we do, as well as to pick up hints on what wildlife to look for at certain times of the year when you are out experiencing wildlife on your own.

Today we visited a new site for us, Steart Marshes, in Bridgewater Bay. This wetland area was created by a partnership between the Environment Agency (EA) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), to help mitigate the impact on our wildlife due to the rising seas caused by Climate Change. EA create these managed mitigation sites across the country, this particular one is to replace coastal wetland habitats such as saltmarsh currently being eroded. Its flooded twice a day by the rising tide, but due to a raised entrance to the estuary the area drains slower than the surrounding wetlands giving sediment time to settle.

As the above photo shows the habitat is looking pretty good and the birds are already using it in large numbers, a closer photo of the birds shows there to be both golden plover and lapwing present.

The site comes alive as high tide approaches, the waders from Bridgewater Bay are pushed onto Steart Marshes by the rising tide, as this tide rises several thousand dunlin, knot, curlew, lapwing and golden plover can be present. Quite a site!

Its not all about waders though with birds like this stonechat also utilising the mosaic of habitats available.

Definitely one for the future!