Saturday 31 October 2015

Autumn tour on The Somerset Levels

An early morning start on the somerset levels to watch the starlings leaving their roost site.

The birds left the roost site in five different waves each containing about twenty thousand birds, total estimated birds in excess of one hundred thousand. With winter drawing in this number can expand ten fold to well over one million birds making a fantastic winter spectacle.

The morning exodus can be better than watching them come back into the reedbeds for the evening roost.
After the starlings leave a couple of Marsh harrier's normally patrol the area looking for any dead or injured birds that make an easy meal.

Also perched in a nearby tree a lone Peregrine falcon always a good bird to catch up with.

Heading back along the track a couple of Bittern flew over the reedbeds on their way to feed in the nearby pools these turned out to be the only sightings of the day.

After a quick break we ventured out along the main track back into the main reserve area checking the top of the reeds as we went, after a little time we could see a couple of small birds perched at the top of the reeds which turned out to be two Bearded tits a superb male and a female always good to see these lovely little birds. Further along the track overlooking one of the pools a Kingfisher was found which soon flew out and hoovered above the water looking for small fish, no luck on this occasion.

Three species of owl seen and heard on the day included a Barn owl sat sunning its self outside a nest box, a Short eared owl passing through high being chased by a couple of crows and a Tawny owl calling from inside the wooded area.

With autumn well underway a few flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare could be seen flying over head.

After lunch we spent more time looking for Marsh harrier's so sat at a good viewpoint and waited for the birds to pass, it was not long before two birds could be seen quartering the reed beds just to our left giving fantastic views in the afternoon sunlight, a total of five different birds were seen throughout the day.

Other birds seen included Little and Great white egret, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Little grebe, Reed bunting, various duck species.

With the days shorter now we stayed on to watch the Starlings come back into the roost a truly wonderful end to another glorious day in Somerset. DT

Friday 30 October 2015

A funny old Autumn...

Mind you , it seems like they all are now!

At this time last year I hadn't seen any fieldfare and very few redwing. This year I have seen 1,000's of each passing over. Initially they were heading north, now they have reverted to what is the usual direction of southwest.

The run of north-easterly winds seemed to be to the redwing's liking and they left Scandinavia in big numbers, but they ended up too far south, so have been working their way back to northern UK to where they usually start their winter visit. The Fieldfare seemed to miss this and have mostly been heading south.

Chaffinch and Brambling have started to arrive in decent numbers from the Continent as well. They are heading southwest as well, hunting out beech woodlands to feed on the beech mast, once this is gone they will start to appear in gardens and fields looking for other food.

Keep an eye on your bird feeders for siskin this winter. There have been good numbers heading south from Scotland where they seemed to have a great breeding season. There's nothing like a male siskin to bring a bit of colour to a winter garden. He still looks great in this picture from a rainy day in June this year! (NA)

Monday 5 October 2015

2nd October - Cotswold Water Park

Having left home to go to the Water Park for this trip in thick fog and thinking to myself, 'the fog is usually a lot thick there than elsewhere' I was pleasantly surprised to find that it cleared as I reached the first lake.

That has to be a good sign and so it turned out to be.

We started off with a look at some hedgerows laden with fruit, hoping to see some migrants and the first thing we saw was exactly that, a migrant hawker dragonfly.  We saw a number of birds busily hunting food, including chiffchaff, blackcap, chaffinch, long-tailed tit and bullfinch. Overhead grey wagtail, meadow pipit and pied wagtails were migrating south.

As we reached the lakes we saw a variety of waterfowl including great-crested grebe, cormorant, lesser black-backed gull, coot and tufted duck. We then noticed a smaller grebe with some coot, it was a juvenile red-necked grebe. An unusual site at an inland site!

a distant juvenile red-necked grebe

We carried on and had great views of a flock of shoveler as well as teal, gadwall, pochard, mallard, moorhen and a little egret.

As we continued back to the car park we picked more birds feeding in the hedges including song thrush, blackbird and treecreeper. A great morning's walk! (NA)