Monday 18 July 2016

Sunday afternoon at Cotswold Water Park

Initially we headed to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Lower Moor.

From the first hide dragonflies were very much the order of the day with Emperor, four-spotted chaser and brown hawker putting on an amazing aerial show. 

Four-spotted chaser

The lake was covered with blue damselflies, no doubt a mix of common blue and azure. It’s worth looking at the common blue link to see a pair properly forming the heart shape!

Birds were a bit thin on the grounds, but we were lucky enough to watch a common tern fishing and see a family of mute swan move effortlessly across the lake.

We then worked our way around the edge of the lake and saw signs that otter were active in the area.
The next lake had Canada goose, mallard and great crested grebe all nicely on show.

The next dragonfly species seen was a couple of cracking male black-tailed skimmers.

A male chiffchaff was singing from the top of a willow tree, but managed to stay hidden from us.
We then moved onto Clattinger Farm where we saw a number of butterfly species: meadow brown, ringlet, marbled white, large white, large skipper and small skipper.

Male marbled white

On our way back to the picnic area, a brief stop at Twitcher’s Gate produced coot, greylag goose, cormorant, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull and more common tern. 

Monday 11 July 2016

Pewsey Downs and its farmland birds

We started off from the Small Grain car park, heading towards the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Morgan’s Hill.

We were soon picked up some linnet singing on and around the bushes and a lovely male yellowhammer sat singing his heart out from the top of a hawthorn bush.
Male linnet at Morgan's Hill

As we carried on along the old Roman Road, we saw common spotted, pyramidal and fragrant orchids just inside the reserve.

As we passed by the woodland and into the open farmland we started to pick up more yellowhammer and the first of several male corn bunting singing their jangly song.

Male corn bunting

We also picked up an increasing number of skylark and meadow pipit singing and collecting food for their chicks. We were also singing good numbers of whitethroat, a species that seems to have wintered well in the Sahel in Africa and returned to the Pewsey Downs in good numbers.

As we were watching another male corn bunting singing from a bush, he shot off to chase away a cuckoo who soon disappeared.

We continued on, really getting to grips with the songs and calls of the various farmland birds, virtually all of which are of high conservation concern. We picked up some butterflies as well, meadow brown, ringlet, large skipper and marbled white being the most numerous.

Marbled white at rest

We headed towards the main round along the side of a wood and were surprised by a hobby that was hunting for insects in the shelter of the trees – great stuff!

Next on the list was a male yellow wagtail who flew over us and landed on top of the crop where we had great views of him.  We heard and saw several more of these fantastic birds during the walk, but didn’t see one quite as well again.
Male yellow wagtail
The next sighting of note was a sheltered patch of flowers that had several butterfly species on them as well clusters of six-spot burnet moths.

The last bird of note was a male redstart flitting along the hedgerow, his red tail clearly evident as he flashed from bush to bush. 

A really nice morning's walk! (NA)

Saturday 9 July 2016

Half day at CWP

A mid morning early afternoon walk in sunny conditions.

There are still a few warblers singing we heard Chiffchaff, Sedge warbler and Whitethroat on the first  footpath away from waterhay.

Over the man area of water a couple of Common tern were fishing with a Black headed gull for company.

Waterfowl numbers seem to be a little higher at the moment it seems things are moving around.

Several Buzzards were seen soaring on the thermals and a scan of the trees found three Little egrets.

Looking over the reed bed both Reed bunting and Reed warbler were found and on the water a few Red crested pochard floated around.

In the thick scrub a lot of young birds could be heard but impossible to see through the vegetation.

Heading back our highlights were a fantastic Grass snake moving across the path just in front of us and a small area of Orchids still in flower.

A lovely peaceful walk around one of my favourite areas in the water park. DT.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Somerset Levels in July

We started our trip on Ham Wall RSPB reserve and despite the lateness of the date we were soon listening to and watching a number of warbler species. The first ones we encountered were blackcap, willow warbler , whitethroat and chiffchaff, all of which we heard and mostly saw very well. We also watched a family of reed warbler in a hawthorn bush. Our next warbler along the footpath was a garden warbler not seen but heard well, allowing the song to be compared to the blackcap. We also got to grips with robin, chaffinch, bullfinch, goldfinch, wren, blackbird, song thrush , long-tailed tit, blue tit and great tit.

We then saw our first little egret and bittern of the day flying over the reeds, as well as a buzzard, quickly followed by a marsh harrier.

We reached the first hide and were greeted by a number of waterbird families. We had great views of young great crested grebe, pochard, coot and tufted duck.

Female tufted duck and ducklings

Soon afterwards we had great views of a reed bunting, little grebe and mallard.
After that we headed onto the second viewing platform, on the way we listened to many blackcap, with the odd chiffchaff and whitethroat in the mix also. Swift were present over the reeds in good numbers and we saw the first of a number of great white egret loafing across the reeds.

While at the lookout point, we spotted a hobby hunting over the reeds with the swift. 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 it catching insects in their feet and passing them to their mouths – great stuff!

From the viewing platforms we picked up a few more birds: lapwing,  gadwall and black-tailed godwit.

We headed for the tower hide, on the way to which we saw a cuckoo fly by, having heard one calling just earlier.

From the hide we had more great views of ducklings, this time coot, pochard and great crested grebe, as well as some young marsh harrier getting to grips with that flying malarkey.

After lunch we headed out onto Shapwick Heath where we heard cetti’s warblers singing well, as well as more whitethroat.

Great crested grebe adult with a hungry chick

We picked up shoveler in with the gadwall on the first pool. On the opposite side we watched the antics of two recently fledged marsh harrier, practising food passes, that came in very useful when the male turned up with food.

We saw similar things from the other hides, more marsh harrier, great white egrets and bittern! (NA)