Sunday 15 May 2016

Full day at the Cotswold Water Park

Today we were greeted by glorious sunshine for our tour.

With Spring well underway the trees are starting to become thick with leaves making it a little harder to see the birds, so today we used our ears to find them.

Several Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers could be heard along with Whitethroats, Garden Warblers and wrens, all giving fine views after a little searching through the branches.

Moving onto a different area we found 3 Black Tern hawking over one of the larger lakes always nice to find these birds on their migration passage.

Scanning the edges of the lake we found several waders which included Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Redshank, Lapwing, Black Tailed Godwit and a couple of Little Egrets.

Several birds of prey but in an appearance Common Buzzard soaring on the thermals also Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and up to 5 Hobbies.

Moving on we explored a scrubby area and found Reed Warbler on the lake edge along with Sedge Warbler and Cetti's Warbler, a Cuckoo called and flew passed.

Moving further around this area a Lesser Whitethroat called and we found the first of 3 Nightingales.

After lunch we moved onto a smaller nature reserve and found both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers along with Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest along with Song Thrush, Robin and Dunnock.

A final scan over the lake added Tufted Duck, Red Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Wigeon along with a Grey Heron fishing along the edge.

In Total 68 Species of bird seen and heard throughout the tour and the sun stayed out all day.DT

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Early May on the Somerset Levels - no snow!!

We started on Ham Wall RSPB reserve and were soon listening to warblers! The first ones we encountered were blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff, all of which we eventually heard and saw very well. The next warblers along the footpath were a splendid garden warbler and a showy whitethroat. We had also heard and seen robin, chaffinch, wren, blackbird, song thrush and great tit.

Great white egrets seem to be all over the place, sometimes we could see four or five in the air at the same time! As we reached the reedbeds there was a change in tempo as the relentless beat of the reed warbler and classical-style blast of the Cetti’s warbler were heard regularly. On the first few bits of open water we were lucky enough to see mute swan, coot, moorhen, mallard, tufted duck and pochard. Then came a funny noise from the drainage ditch – it turned out to be this little chap!

male Marsh Frog

We then walked down through the reed beds where we had a great view of a reed warbler.  At the first hide we were treated to a spectacular show of agility in a blustery wind by a male marsh harrier!

male marsh harrier

After that we headed onto the second viewing platform, on the way however we were distracted by the flying antics of several hobby over the reedbed, mixing in with the swifts. We could see them catching insects in their feet and passing them to their mouths – great stuff!
Accompanying the reed warbler now was the deep booming bass of the many male bittern calling from the reeds.

At the viewing platforms there were many more new birds for us! The mud was exposed here, so waders were plentiful with whimbrel, ruff, ringed plover, lapwing and wood sandpiper all being seen. There were also several new duck species for us – gadwall, wigeon, shoveler and three garganey. A glossy ibis was asleep with the mute swan, but he soon woke up and started flying round with all the other birds when a chinook helicopter flew low over us!

We carried on to a couple of viewing screens where we had closer views of the garganey and brilliant views of the glossy ibis! We were now also hearing cuckoo regularly and it wasn’t long before one flew across out path.

We walked down to the new Avalon hide, passing a sedge warbler who was hidden in the reeds, only his fast buzzing song giving him away.

At the hide we saw a great crested grebe, some distant buzzard as well as another male marsh harrier. Star bird however was the juvenile tawny owl sat in the owl box entrance in the wood!

On our way back to the track we saw a great spotted woodpecker briefly in a tree before it flew off.
At lunch a kestrel was hovering over the carpark.

Hovering kestrel

The afternoon was spent on Shapwick Heath. The top target was a kingfisher, which we saw well going in and out of his nesthole. There were lots more chances to listen to and compare various warblers and blackcap seemed to be everywhere!

We picked up a common sandpiper from Noah’s Hide, saw another fine male marsh harrier and had brief views of a male reed bunting before the rain set in. A memorable marsh harrier day!

May visit to the Cotswold Water Park

We started our morning walk at the wets end of CWP West and were soon listening to and seeing a male blackcap as well as listening to a male willow warbler weeping away in the bushes. Next on the warbler list was a chiffchaff singing, quickly followed by the first of many garden warbler. Other species encountered at this early stage included blue tit, great tit, blackbird, robin and wren.

male blackcap

We reached our first lake and saw a pair of tufted duck busily feeding, indeed so busily it proved very difficult to get a good view of them in the telescope! A mute swan, a male mallard and a pair of coot were also seen.

As we carried on along the side of the lake we had perhaps the best view I had ever had of a garden warbler – what a stunning chap he was with his beautiful song! Next came a pair of long-tailed tits busily collecting food for their chicks. Common tern and black-headed gull were flying overhead regularly, as were swallow, house martin and our first swift of the year.

As we crossed the Thames we were blasted by a male cetti’s warbler singing from the nearby bushes, as well as a male song thrush.

Looking over the next lake we saw many common tern and black-headed gull on the rafts put out for them to breed. The same mix of waterbirds were present, plus some pairs of great crested grebe. We continued to compare garden warbler and blackcap along the river and tried in vain to see a couple of goldcrest that were singing. A kingfisher put in an all too brief appearance as it shot along the river Thames.

A great spotted woodpecker was the next bird heard and a stock dove flew out of a tree as we passed underneath, as we reached the next crossing point of the river Thanes we saw a number of sand martin busily catching insects near their nestholes. A better view of a pair of tufted duck was finally obtained at the same site.

We crossed the river and had great views of a pair of great crested grebe and a number of cormorant sat in nearby trees.We carried on and were soon listening to more garden warbler and blackcap! A pair of gadwall were found feeding on the next lake where we saw various bits of signal crayfish, courtesy of the local otters.

Next we reached a large area of scrub, which despite being the middle of the day was still fairly busy with warblers. Star of the show was a nightingale, who put on a brief show followed by some calls and growls! Other warbler present included chiffchaff, willow warbler, whitethroat and sedge warbler.

singing male whitethroat

After lunch, with the forecast not looking too great we headed to Lower Moor Wiltshire WT reserve where we sheltered for an hour or so from the rain. At this time we saw a fine male bullfinch and several male reed bunting. In between hides we had amazing views of two treecreeper, one in particular that was sat still for a minute or so – brilliant!

Having decided to risk the weather, we headed onto Clattinger Farm Wiltshire WT reserves where we spent a very pleasant 90 minutes wandering from field to field soaking up the colours and numbers of plants. Highlights included snake’s-head fritillary, cowslip, green-winged orchid, adder’s-tongue fern and primrose.

Green-winged orchid

Somerset Levels in late April

For this visit we started on Shapwick Heath NNR so the sun was behind us. We were soon watching and listening to blackcap, willow warbler, song thrush and bullfinch in the first few metres. A great start!

As we worked our way out into the reedbed we saw a pair of gadwall quietly feeding in a pool by the track-side. Next on our warbler list were reed warbler singing from the reed beds, with cetti’s warbler and whitethroat singing in the scrub reed-side habitat. One male whitethroat in particular was particularly showy.

A check on the muddy area produced a large flock of black-tailed godwit as well as teal, more gadwall, mute swan, lapwing, tufted duck and mallard.

Onto the hide looking over Noah’s lake where we saw a mix of swift, swallow, house martin and sand martin. On the water we watched two pairs of great crested grebe displaying in the same view and added pochard to our list of duck species.
Male pochard

Next was a look from the viewing screen by Noah’s hide where we had fantastic views of marsh harrier and the splendid male in particular. We also watched a couple of male reed bunting chasing around the area.

Male marsh harrier
While walking to the next hide we picked up treecreeper, long-tailed tit, blue tit and great tit in the bushes. Not to mention three species of butterfly: orange tip, brimstone and small tortoiseshell.

At Heath Meare we were lucky enough to see a male kingfisher heading into his nesthole. There were further marsh harrier as well as great white and little egret flying around. As we made our way back to the car park for lunch we stopped to listen to a booming bittern, he was so close you could feel the booms resonate in your chest – amazing!

Having failed to see a bittern before lunch, two decided to fly over the car park while we were eating! It was obviously the time to be there as a great white egret and marsh harrier also flew low over us.

After lunch we headed onto Ham Wall RSPB reserves where we were soon listening to garden warbler and more whitethroats. A swiftish trip down to a hide to avoid what can only be described a slush storm with spectacular lightning produced great views of pochard and little grebe, as well as further views of marsh harrier.

We quickly carried onto the next viewpoint where we had an all too brief encounter with bearded tit, but this was compensated for by a flyby of four bittern! From the viewing platform we managed to see some new species, amongst the ducks there were shoveler, wigeon and a fine pair of pintail. There were also some waders with more black-tailed godwit, snipe, dunlin and more lapwing.

We worked our way along the drainage ditch and were rewarded with brilliant views of the glossy ibis that had been tucked away.
We then headed to the new hide, hearing more cetti’s, reed and our first sedge warbler. From the new hide we had more great views of marsh harrier as well as a flyby bittern and a confiding great white egret.
Great white egret in breeding plumage

We then headed back to the carpark – all in all a great day on the Somerset Levels! (NA)

Sunday 1 May 2016

Pagham and Medmerry

This weekend saw us at the RSPB Pagham harbour and Medmerry reserves.

On leaving the car park at Pagham a quick check on the well positioned nest box we found a Tawny owl peering out a good start to the day.

On our walk down towards the harbour hide we found several warblers with Sedge, Reed, Willow, Cetti's, Chiffchaff along with Blackcap and Linnet all calling from the bushes some giving good views. Further along both Common and Lesser Whitethroats were seen.

Several Reed bunting were sat at the tops of the smaller trees both male and female could be seen. Just before we moved on a Cuckoo called from over the estuary and a quick scan found it sitting at the  top of a dead tree.

Out on the water both Little and Great crested Grebes were seen along with Coot , Moorhen, Mallard and Gadwall.

Out in the fields Lapwing, Pheasant and Red legged Partridge are feeding along with Woodpigeon and a couple of Stock Doves.

Further along a more tree lined area Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue tit and Great tit were found along with a singing Song Thrush.

Moving down to the hide we stopped for a rest and a coffee and spent a little time looking out over the estuary more species were found which included 20 whimbrel, a group of 30 Dunlin also Greenshank, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercather, Shelduck, Cormorant, Curlew and Mute Swan.

On the way back to the car park other birds of note seen included Buzzard, Red Kite, Swift, Swallow, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Skylark, Blackbird and a couple of Little Egrets.

A quick scan out into one of the channels found us a splendid summer plumage Spotted Redshank a nice bonus to end the morning.

After lunch we headed off to the RSPB Medmerry reserve.

This is a relatively new site which is a very large area so we decided to head towards the sea wall with  its shallow pools to see what we could find.

Out in the fields the tractors were busy cultivating the land which resulted in a large group of gulls following looking for food on closer inspection both Black headed and Lesser black backed Gulls were found along with a group of around 30 Mediterranean Gulls always a joy to see this lovely gull at such close range which makes them easy to pick out from the other gulls as their wings look transparent in the sunshine.

Moving on down to the pools both Syklarks and Yellowhammer were seen along with several Meadow Pipits and a Fox hunted in the meadow.

Scanning out over the pools several Avocets were sat on their nest's on the main island with Little ringed Plovers running around in front of them.

About 10 Little Terns could be seen flying in and out from their fishing trips out over the sea, these birds also nest out on the island, checking the water out in front of us a small gull was sat on the water this turned out to be an Adult Little Gull in summer plumage another good find.

Other birds seen here include Starling, Pied Wagtail, Herring and Great black backed Gulls.

With the weather starting to close in we headed off back to the car after a very rewarding day with a species list of over 70 birds. DT.