Tuesday 19 December 2017

Somerset levels

Somerset levels tour bird list.

Todays visit to the Somerset levels produced the following sightings.

Several sightings of Marsh harrier along with a Peregrine falcon.

Many different heron species with Great white, little and Cattle egret all seen along with Grey heron and a single Glossy ibis.

A very close view of a splendid Firecrest out in the open almost certainly my best view of this tiny bird.

In the tree tops both Siskin and Redpoll could be seen feeding also a Chiffchaff moved through with various tits.

Out on the open water we found a Whopper swan in with the Mutes and several duck species with Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallard all seen.

A closer look over an area of cut reeds we saw a few Snipe and a fine Water pipit put in a brief appearance.

A few other birds seen included Raven, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Black tailed godwit.

We ended the day watching around 400,000 Starlings coming into roost, a great end to a wonderful day.DT

Sunday 10 December 2017

CWP Monthly Walk for December

Another day of rain for our 3rd winter tour, with the weather turning a bit colder we noticed that there are a lot more ducks around now with good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, and Shoveler all seen.

A few Lapwing flew over and a Kestrel patrolled the open ground.

Several groups of small birds could be seen feeding on the Rosebay willowherb plants which turned out to be mostly Goldfinches but we did find 3 Redpoll mixed in with them.

A few Redwing and Fieldfare flew over and a single Mistle Thrush landed in a near by tree.

All in all another pleasant couple of hours out with the wildlife.

The next walk is on Saturday 6th January  starting at 9am at the Waterhay car park at the Cotswold Water Park. Its only £10 per person.

Sunday 26 November 2017

CWP monthly walk for November

For the second month in a row the rain stopped on the stroke of 9 O'clock!

We headed out in the hope of seeing winter thrushes like fieldfare and redwing and we were not disappointed. They too were taking the opportunity to get out and about after the rain!

Amongst the water birds seen were 16 little egret positioned around the same lake, looking for chances to snaffle a late breakfast.

Duck were also present in good numbers with pochard, tufted duck, mallard, wigeon , teal, gadwall and shoveler seen well allowing us time to look at the males and in particular the females and talk about the different ways to identify them.

The hedgerows were also full of other species like chiffchaff, goldcrest, bullfinch and song thrush.

The next walk is on Saturday 2nd December, starting at 9am at the Waterhay car park at the Cotswold Water Park. Its only £10 per person.

We hope to see you there!h

Somerset Levels in November

As we planned to finish with the starling roost that has recently been on Ham Wall, we started on Shapwick Heath NNR.

We were soon hearing the first of many well-hidden cetti’s warblers. A sound we became very familiar with!

Many of the berries had already been eaten, but there were still a few blackbird  finishing off the last ones. Other species seen at the star included blue tit, great tit, robin, wren and dunnock.
As we reached the reeds we were soon watching a great white egret flying by on those massive wings.

A movement in the reeds betrayed the presence of a female stonechat, who put on a great show.
Female stonechat

A squealing noise from nearby was a water rail having spotted another nearby. We were next distracted we a fantastic male marsh harrier that lifted from the nearby reeds and headed off into the distance. This was quickly followed by the pinging of a couple of bearded tits, the male was good enough to land in full view for a brief period.

On the first pool there was a nice selection of waterfowl including: coot, gadwall, teal, wigeon, tufted duck, shoveler, mute swan and cormorant.

The next species of heron was soon flying by in the shape of a bittern which gave prolonged views, albeit from behind as is headed across the reedbed.

As we worked our way towards the next hide, we picked up goldcrest in the trees, along with chiffchaff, chaffinch and long-tailed tit. We heard a noise form the birch and alder across the river and detoured to look at siskin, lesser redpoll and goldfinch feeding on the seeds and cones.
As we headed to Noah’s hide, we had brilliant views of another great white egret.

great white egret

At Noah’s hide we saw a distant marsh harrier sat on a tree as well as a sleeping male pintail also black-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull and herring gull were new.

The next hide was quiet for birds, but insects were taking advantage of the late morning sun to warm up on the wood, this included a lovely make ruddy darter.

It was then back to the car park for lunch and a nice cup of coffee from the RSPB hut.
We were soon hearing more cetti’s warbler and water rail along the tracks in Ham Wall. At the first viewing point we had decent views of common snipe, little grebe teal and mallard.

 Another detour to look from the Taw view hide paid off when the shout ‘bittern’ went up from the other side of the hide, we were son getting great views of the bird hiding in the reeds.
Bittern in the bottom right corner

We headed next to the Avalon hide where we were lucky of see enough to see an adult male marsh harrier quartering the reed bed right in front of the hide with the sun on him – fantastic!
We headed for the final viewing platform, where we saw some splendid lapwing catching the afternoon sun. We also picked up Canada goose, and greylag goose  here.

It was then back to the car park to watch the starling come into roost, we picked the middle site which meant we saw the birds heading in large flocks of tens of thousands to the other roost as well as seeing many, many thousands whooshing down into the reeds near us.  A perfect end to a great day! (NA)

Monday 13 November 2017

Somerset Levels - always a pleasure!

We started off on Ham Wall RSPB Reserve.

We were soon hearing the first of many well-hidden Cetti's warbler. Also picked up around the car park area were blue tit, great tit, robin, wren and blackbird.

As we continued along the path we heard another elusive species the water rail, sounding like a squealing pig! Another nice we would hear regularly with no sightings.

We reached the first viewing area where we were able to compare little egret with the much bigger great white egret.

Little egret poised for the snatch

Other birds at this point included coot, moorhen, mallard, tufted duck, shoveler, mute swan, grey heron and cormorant.

As we worked our way towards the next viewing point, we picked up goldcrest in the trees, along with chiffchaff, coal tit, goldfinch, chaffinch and long-tailed tit. Also flying over the reeds was a marsh harrier. A cracking bird!

We then reached the next viewpoint where we added gadwall, teal, wigeon, Canada goose, and lapwing to our list from the pools. The next thing we picked up was a pinging noise from the reeds, this was the first of many bearded tits. We had all to brief views of the birds as they moved across the reeds.

Jays were much on evidence and we managed to see a couple trundling across the reeds, as well as magpie and carrion crows who were busy annoying a buzzard. At the back of one of the pools was a very stealthy little grebe who did a great job of hiding as we tried to get a good look at him.

We then worked our way along the bank of the Dyke. Insects were much in evidence with common darter, migrant hawker and loads of hornet present.

We had great views of a pair of stonechat who were feeding along the edge of the reeds.
Our next watchpoint was a hide with a panoramic view of the reedbed. Here we saw three marsh harrier and more views of the same duck as previously recorded. We headed back to the car park for a well earned lunch.

In the afternoon we soon picked up song thrush and redwing.
Redwing, hiding his redwings!

At the first hide we managed to pick up some common snipe hiding in the weedy cover.  A group of greylag goose flew in and we spotted some white dots in the distance that were a flock of cattle egret

We then headed to the new hides where despite the noise of the chipper, we managed to see a great crested grebe, black-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull and herring gull

A very pleasent day out and about on the Somerset Levels. (NA)

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Otmoor Trip

Today's trip to Otmoor

First birds seen today were six Redwings flying over good to see they have arrived for the winter.

Moving out to the first hide we could see a large flock of small birds feeding along the path these turned out to be Linnets feeding on the food put out for them, also mixed in were Reed buntings and Goldfinch.

At the first screen we looked through the various ducks in various stages of moult, Several Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, and Gadwell were found which proved a real education for our guests.

A couple of Tufted duck came past along with a few Wigeon.

Moving further around a Great spotted woodpecker sat at the top of a dead tree which was then joined by a second bird.

Moving on to the next screen we saw 4 small birds feeding on the rose bay willow herb seeds which turned out to be Redpoll.

Several Red kite were seen over the Reedbed along with a couple of Kestrels hunting the marsh.

Some of our more interesting sightings turned up in the afternoon on our second trip around, which included  a fine Marsh Harrier which flew directly overhead along with a fly by Bittern again flying right over us.

A quick look at the second screen produced several Snipe that we looked at through the scope to obtain some wonderful views of their cryptic plumage.

Again a few butterflies were on the wing with both Red Admiral and Small copper.

Out in the fields both Roe and Fallow deer were seen.

Again another wonderful area for wildlife with some great close views obtained. DT.

Saturday 14 October 2017

Pagham Trip

Today saw us at Pagham Harbour nature reserve in West Sussex.

A quick check on the ferry pool produced 1 Avocet,1 Snipe and a couple of Teal.

Moving on down towards the estuary we found a group of 6 Grey partridge tucked in at the edge of the field, 2 Kestrels were out hunting in the sunshine as we moved on.

Further down the track the landscape opens out to look across farmland and here we saw and heard Skylark and Meadow pipits giving fantastic views through the telescope, further on we found a couple of Goldcrsts and a Dartford warbler showed up in the Gorse, always nice to see these hear. 

A few Swallows and Martns were still on the move overhead.

We decided to stop for lunch at the hide watching the waders out on the mud, we could see Curlew,Turnstone and a small group of Dunlin along with five species of Gull (Black headed, Lesser black backed, Great black backed, Herring and some very smart looking Mediterranean Gulls). As we we're looking out the back of the hide towards the busy area we had a brief view of the Ring ouzel that had been around for a few days a nice surprise to see it.

After lunch we saw a couple of Sandwich tern fishing in the estuary.

A walk along the shingle beach produced a good range of Butterflies with Small copper, Speckled wood, Painted lady and around 25 Red admiral all enjoying the sunshine.

With time fast moving on we headed back to the car park finding a few more of the common birds species on the way, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbid all seen.

We then decided to try the North wall area which is about 15 mns drive around the bay, this turned out to be a good move as a lot of the birds were using this as their feeding area.We saw good numbers of Redshank, Black tailed Godwit with a couple of Bar tailed Godwit mixed in, also several smart Pintail along with a single male Eider.

 Further on a small group of Brent geese flew overhead as we watched a Greenshank feeding out on the mud with a group of Golden plover and some Grey plover also. 

Mixed in with the many gulls that were using the shingle bank as a roost point we found a single Spoonbill which seemed to be fast asleep in typical spoonbill pose, it did stick its head up once just so we could confirm its identity. 

Moving back we found a Kingfisher and a couple of vocal Cetti's Warblers in the bushes.

A very pleasant and relaxing day with a total of 50+ species of birds seen. DT.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Autumn/Winter walks around CWP

We have now started our Autumn/Winter walks program. These tours run on the first Saturday of the month from October through to March with the next walk taking place on Saturday 4th November meeting at Waterhay car park for a 09:00 start. Price £10 per person.

On our first outing we were greated with drizzle but the wildlife still put on a good display with several points of interest.

Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin, Bullfnch, Goldfinch, with both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers all seen within the first area we explored.

A great view of a Kestrel hovering over an area of rough ground as it searched for breakfast.

With the weather still very mild the number of ducks are still very low but we did find a few groups of Wigeon around along with several Tufted Duck and around 30 Great Crested Grebes fishing as a group. As winter moves on the number of Duck will increase to well over 4000.

There are some obvious signs that Otters have been using the lakes we found a couple of spraints (Otter Poo) left behind on some rocks on the waters edge.

A small group of six Snipe flew over along with six Curlew with plenty of Black headed Gulls around to.

Our two best sightings came a bit later with a juvenile female Marsh Harrier seen hunting over the edge of the reed bed and a close view of a juvenile Kingfisher that gave a good fly past as well.

There are still some butterflies around we saw Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Comma, and Small Copper,  also several hornets were observed from two nests along with a wasp nest that was also found.

All great stuff considering the weather conditions.

So dont forget to come along next time no need to book just turn up on the day who knows what you might see.DT/NA

Monday 25 September 2017

CWP trip, pleasant as always!

We started off from the Gateway Centre with a look at the lake there. We’d soon seen black-headed gull, coot, great crested grebe, mute swan, tufted duck and a distant kingfisher. Three Egyptian geese flew over the lake, an unusual sight at CWP.
Winter plumaged black-headed gull

On the bird feeders we had great views of blue tit, great tit, dunnock and goldfinch.
After some very brief sightings of bacon butties and coffee, we headed off along the canal footpath.
The next bird seen was the first of what was to be many robin. Other species found along here were wren and woodpigeon.

One of many robins

We turned along the back of the lake and spent some time trying to see wren and goldcrest, both of which proved elusive.

As we worked our way along the footpath a grey heron flew over and we had great views of a juvenile buzzard, who was very vocal indeed. There were also a number of blackbird flying around the hedgerows at this point. As we walked through the village, we saw a lot of jackdaw, that were not always in pairs!

We made a slight detour to have a look at a very showy great spotted woodpecker.

We worked our way through the village and along the lane. We had a fair few birds in the hedgerows, not always showing themselves so well! We spent some time trying to see another goldcrest, but did see some cracking long-tailed tit, as well as more blue tit and great tit. We had ever so brief views of a chiffchaff and nuthatch at this point.

Chiffchaff enjoying the afternoon sun.

As we worked our way along the old railway line we seemed to be pushing a wave of birds ahead of us, new for us along here were chaffinch and a fly over cormorant. (NA)

Sunday 10 September 2017

Monthly Autumn/Winter walks programme

We are just about to start running our Autumn/Winter monthly walks at The Cotswold Water Park.

These walks will start at Waterhay car park and will run on the first Saturday of the month from October through to March.

The cost of these walks will be £10 per person and will last approximately 3 hours.

Meeting time 08:45 to start tour at 09:00 with no need to book just turn up on the day and enjoy.

Darren and Nick.

Monday 7 August 2017

Farmland birds put on a show!

We recently had a great trip to the Pewsey Downs to look at farmland birds and other downland wildlife, with a bit of human history thrown in for good measure.

We had not left the car park and had managed to see a number of the hoped for priority farmland birds with corn bunting, yellow wagtail, whitethroat, skylark and linnet all see well in the morning sunshine.

Male yellow wagtial
We'd had a discussion about whether everyone had seen a yellow wagtail. I'd said if you're not sure I'd think you hadn't. It turned out I was right, who wouldn't remember seeing one of these fellows!

As we carried on soon saw stonechat and tree sparrow, the latter again high on our list of hoped for species.

Female Stonechat
We moved on to spend some time contemplating the human usage of the wider landscape by looking at the line of a Roman Road by some round barrows. The road runs by the barrows and was built c1,800 years ago. The barrows were older than this when the road was built past them. Amazing stuff.

We stopped to enjoy the views to the north, in the distance was the Cotswolds and we could almost pick out where the guys were staying, c1 hour away by car.

There were decent numbers of butterfly on the wing also, with marbled white especially present in good numbers.

Marbled white
As we returned to the car park along the escarpment we watched the raptors there enjoying the updraft, buzzard, red kite, kestrel and sparrowhawk were all present. (NA)

Thursday 8 June 2017

Even more orchids at CWP!

As with most recent tours, we started at  Lower Moor Farm Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) reserve and were soon listening and watching a very showy whitethroat and an equally showy ‘plink, plink, fizz’ reed bunting

By the hide we heard garden warbler, blackcap, chaffinch and chiffchaff singing. After a brief stop in the hide where we mostly watched the four-spotted chasers, well chasing around, also red-eyed damselfly and common blue damselfly.  There was also what was most likely an emperor dragonfly exuviae on a stick – great stuff!

Red-eyed damselfly

We started to find more warbler species, as well hear more of the ones we had picked up earlier. with, cetti’s warbler and willow warbler being heard but not seen. Other birds singing included dunnock, wren, robin, blackbird and song thrush.

We added blue-tailed to our damselfly list and the roundhouse-shaped cowshed there was a reed warbler singing from the reeds, as he should be.  

Next, we arrived at Clattinger farm – I should have brought sun glasses for everyone!
Amongst the plants we saw were cowslip, green-winged orchid, early marsh-orchid, marsh valerian , bee orchid, burnt-tip orchid, common milkwort, bird’s-foot trefoil, southern marsh orchid and common spotted-orchid. We also sniffed and tasted pepper saxifrage and salad burnet.  

burnt-tip orchid

We also saw a few butterflies, including painted lady, common blue and small copper.

small copper

Sadly the grass snake had moved on, but still, what a cracking morning! (NA)

Sunday 4 June 2017

RSPB Ham Wall

Today saw us at the fantastic RSPB Ham Wall Reserve in Somerset.

It was very evident that a lot of the birds around today where busy feeding young, several Whitethroat, Blackcaps and Garden Warblers all seen with beaks full of insects around their nesting areas.

On the first viewing point a couple of Great White Egrets where feeding also Grey Heron and a few Cormorants sunning themselves on the wooded platforms.

Several duck species are around with a few groups of young which included Pochard and Mallard, other ducks included Shoveler, Gadwall and Tufted Duck.

Moving to the first hide we saw a couple of Marsh Harriers in the distance which turned out to be the male and female passing food items, we watched from the hide and saw 3-4 birds all hunting over the Reed beds. Two Bitterns flew around along with a few Hobbies hunting the many dragonflies now on the wing, these agile hunters are always great to see.

On the pool in front of the hide was a pair of Great Crested Grebes with two well grown young also a female Pochard with two young and a Mute Swan with seven grey balls of fluff that swam past at close range.

Several smaller birds could be seen in the reed beds which turned out to be a couple of Reed Buntings and several Bearded Tits.

Moving on towards the bottom end of the reserve we found a couple of Cattle Egrets along with a single Glossy Ibis feeding out on the marsh area. A nice fly by Cuckoo gave a close view.

On our return back, both Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers were still singing loudly along with Cetti's Warblers which seem to be everywhere. Other birds seen included Song Thrush, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Swallow, Swift, House Martin, Coot, Moorhen, Reed Warbler, Little Grebe and Buzzard.

A good mix of Dragon and Damselflies are around along with both Red Admiral and Specked Wood Butterflies.

A shorter visit today but still very productive with several wildlife highlights, this is a place I always look forward to leading tours.DT

Friday 26 May 2017

Otmoor - a great choice!

We recently had our first walk at Otmoor RSPB reserve in Oxfordshire.

It was well worth the wait!

This is an area of lowland moor that has survived, its now in the control of the the RSPB being managed for breeding and wintering waterbirds and waders, with a few surprises thrown in.

We started off with a bit of warbler ID, namely garden warbler, blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff and willow warbler. As we were listening to the garden warbler the unmistakable sound of a turtle dove purring drifted across our conscience. An all too rare sounds now, a joy wherever we are lucky enough to hear it. The bird decided it was only fair to give us a flyby view - brilliant!

We reached the wetland area to be greeted by a drumming snipe! This is the male's display flying were he spreads his tail to reveal two special, small, outer tail feathers that vibrate as he does a run of undulating flight - another special sound, especially in Southern England.

We next heard and then saw what was the first of many sightings of cuckoo. We reckon there were at least three males and a female present.

male cuckoo, well, cuckooing.
The warbler ID continued as we compared sedge and reed warbler. Here's one of the male reeds.

male reed warbler
We soon picked up a pair of crane feeding on the marsh as well as a number of hobby and marsh harrier busily chasing around.

Good numbers of duck were present, hopefully breeding with shoveler, teal, pochard, tufted duck, mallard and gadwall all seen well.

I think the highlight for me was the shear number of waders breeding, we saw many, many pairs of lapwing and redshank, as well as the aforementioned snipe, and a few curlew and oystercatcher. The RSPB have spent a lot of time and money making great habitat and protecting these special areas from predators and fingers crossed it will be a bumper year!

Pair of redshank
What a great place! Roll on the next visit!! (NA)

Monday 15 May 2017

Orchids and nightingales at CWP

We started our walk at Lower Moor Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) reserve and were soon listening to garden warbler, blackcap, chaffinch and chiffchaff singing. 

After a brief stop in the hide we carried on around the walkway to see mute swan, greylag goose Canada goose and great crested grebe.

Further along the walkway we saw a damselfly exuviae on a sedge stem. As the season progresses the stems of many lakeside plants will be heaving with these, a stunning sight!

We started to find more warbler species, as well hear more of the ones we had picked up earlier. with, cetti’s warbler whitethroat and willow warbler all being heard but not always seen. Other birds singing included dunnock, wren, robin, and song thrush.

After some more damselfly watching we found a showy whitethroat and a skulking reed warbler by the roundhouse-shaped cowshed.

Male reed warbler doing his best to hide.

Next, we arrived at Clattinger farm – what a special place!

Amongst the plants we saw were cowslip, adder’s-tongue fern, green-winged orchid, early marsh-orchid, marsh valerian and common spotted-orchid. Then the ones sniffed were sweet vernal-grass, pepper saxifrage and salad burnet.  We even managed to track down a very late snake’s-head Fritillary!

Green-winged orchid

We finished with a quick visit to a site to listen to more warblers. We picked up a sedge warbler here as were as more garden warblers than you can shake a stick at. Finally, we were graced with a sustained burst of song from a nightingale – fantastic!

A sedge warbler giving it his all. 

Monday 1 May 2017

Cotswold Water Park morning walk

Today saw us again at the Cotswold Water Park for a morning walk.

Checking out our first lake we found a fine pair of Great Crested Grebes along with a pair of Mute Swan.

Moving down the pathway we could hear a Lesser Whitethroat calling and soon found it perched at the top of a bush on the other side of the road giving a fantastic view of this shy bird.

On our next lake we saw Tufted Duck along with more Great Crested Grebes.

Further along the path Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits were seen along with Crow, Jackdaw, Robin. Wren, and both House and Sand Martins.

A single Pied Wagtail flew overhead and landed on one of the house roofs.

Following the Thames path down we had a very brief view of a kingfisher as it flew downstream also a Chiffchaff could be heard at the top of a tall tree.

On our next lake two Common Tern were perched on the fence giving a very close view of these elegant birds also on the water were Mallard and Coot.

Moving on we found Little Egret, Gadwall,Grey Heron, Cormorants and a couple of Oystercatchers feeding on the grass bank.

Heading towards our next lake we picked up both Song and Mistle Thrush calling from the tree tops with several more Chiffchaffs also a fly past Cuckoo giving a good view as it went by.

Further down the path we saw a pair of Bullfinch along with a pair of Chaffinch.

At our last stop we could hear a Nightingale in the distant with a Willow Warbler calling from a low bush which we soon found, further on we found Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting but our best find was 5 Hobbies above us catching the tiny insects that were out on the wing today, higher up above the hobbies we could also see two Buzzards riding the thermals.

A very pleasant walk at CWP and the weather stayed good for us.DT.

Darren. Thank you for an excellent morning guiding us at the Cotswold Water Park. Your knowledge of the birds and their calls – and how they use the local habitats – made it easy to get the best out of the all-too-short time we had available. As one who had extensive research and administrative roles in conservation I certainly appreciated the skill and passion with which you guided us. My only wish is that we had done this at the beginning of our stay in the Cotswold!