Saturday 29 April 2017

Up early for the Nightingales

Today saw us meet at 04:30am for our Nightingale tour.

Getting on site before the light came up so that we were in place ready for the show.

We would not be disappointed as we could hear a least 4 Nightingales singing around us, with a little more light appearing we found a silhouette of a bird in the tree just in front of us and we watched it for the next ten minutes as it belted out its song a truly amazing sound.

We moved on to another point and soon found another Nightingale again sat out in the open at the top of a small tree giving some fantastic views as it sang.

Moving around the site bird song was being heard everywhere with Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Whitethroat, along with supporting cast of Robin, Wren, Dunnock, and Song Thrush. We also managed to find a flyover Kingfisher.

Next bird to give away its presence was a Cuckoo calling from a distant tree, and after a short time we saw him flying over always great to see the Cuckoo around.

Moving on further into the scrubby area we found a couple of Linnets carrying nesting material and a couple of Reed Buntings chasing each other around.

With the light know fully up we decided to do another circuit around the area and in total we heard at least 5 Nightingales along with 2 Cuckoo and several warblers all still in full song.

What a great 4 hours we had, which goes to show if you can get out early you will be rewarded with some fantastic wildlife displays.

With the show over we retired to the local fishermans cafe for a well earned cup of tea and a bacon roll. DT

Friday 28 April 2017

Stunning Somerset Levels

Before we had even left the car park at RSPB's Ham Wall we were listening to garden warbler and blackcap. Two species we got to know well and could tell the difference between. We also heard dunnock, wren, robin, chaffinch, blue tit, chiffchaff, song thrush and great tit

As we started down the track, we were finding new warbler species as well as more garden warbler and blackcap. We picked up willow warbler,  cetti’s warbler and whitethroat singing in the scrub reed-side habitat. 

We started to notice hirundines and had soon seen swift, swallow, house martin and sand martin.
Sedge and reed warbler were also quickly found.

In the sheltered spots it soon became obvious that dragonflies and damselflies were on the wing.
hairy-looking hairy dragonfly

On the water we watched a pair of great crested grebe, as well as pochard, coot, cormorant, shoveler, mallard, tufted duck, gadwall, teal and little grebe.We eventually started picking up the odd marsh harrier.

There were five species of heron seen during before lunch! Besides the great white and little egret, flying around there were a few booming bittern, we eventually saw a few flying around. We also saw one of the glossy ibis on the far side of the pool, not quite as good as last year! It was a struggle to see a grey heron and we eventually found just the one.

At the final viewing point we hit a purple patch with two hobby flying around catching insects, two cuckoo chasing each other and seven whimbrel sat quietly on an island – brilliant stuff!

As we worked our way back along the screens, we managed to find a male garganey who decided to get out of the water just in case we hadn’t seen what a dapper chap he was.

After lunch we headed out to look around Shapwick Heath.

We were soon picking up more garden warbler in the scrub and there was a very showy male whitethroat in the car park.

At the first pool we saw a lovely flock of black-tailed godwit, some of which were in their full summer finery. A cursory glance at a little egret showed that it was in fact a cattle egret, that was soon joined by ten of its friends – here’s nine of them and our sixth species of heron of the day!
nine cattle egret

We carried on to Noah’s hide where we saw a male wigeon and a very fast-passing kingfisher. Next to appear where at least five hobby who put on a great show until the rain arrived. The stars however where the mute swans with their wrestling antics and a little egret who had worked out his own special form of fish-tickling.  
Fish-tickling little egret

Next, we popped to the viewing point behind Noah’s hide and were treated to the male marsh harrier cruising around and beating up a buzzard who was deemed to be too close.

After a brief visit to the last hide we headed back to the car park – another great day! (NA)

Sunday 9 April 2017

Early Warblers at CWP

I had one day free in Gloucestershire and wanted to photograph a variety of birds.  A quick internet search turned up The Cotswold Birdwatching Company and Darren responded very quickly that evening offering to meet me off the train at Kemble on Sunday.  Tickets were booked and come Sunday morning I was rattling through the countryside from Cheltenham looking out on spring meadows.  Darren's bird and general wildlife knowledge was very extensive due to his many years in the region and experience in all seasons.  We had beautiful clear skies, bright sunshine and an abundance of small species, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinch, Little Egret, various duck and a fleeting glimpse of a Cetti's Warbler.  

We visited a number of lakes, walked about 10kms and I got a great feel for the region.  Darren dropped me back at the station where I adjourned to the nearby pub for a pint while awaiting the train.

Thanks again to Darren and The Cotswold Birdwatching Company for a great day and photography opportunity.

Mark Davidson, Western Australia.

Saturday 1 April 2017

Wildlife aplenty in Wiltshire!

Over the last couple of weeks, while out and about in Wiltshire. We have been noticing more and more wildlife starting to rise from the winter slumber.

Singing male firecrest
A species that is really starting to make inroads into Wiltshire is the firecrest. This chap was singing away, having just arrived back to breed. The same size as a goldcrest, with a strong white supercilium, they are a lovely addition to the woodland assemblage.

long-tailed tit
Some species are getting busy with nest building, this long-tailed tit had almost finished its nest! Others are still just enjoying the spring sun, like this female kestrel, although some are already paired up and searching out a nest site.

female kestrel

A number of insects are around also, we've seen holly blue, coma, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and peacock!

One of our favourite early invertebrates is the bee-fly, here's one sunning itself.

They look like like a bee, hovering as they move across the countryside looking for early flowers to feed from. Great stuff!

Mammals too are starting to think of things other than surviving.

Here is a leap of  four hares, most likely a female on the left feeding and an entourage of three males in attendance.

Finally, the amphibians are at it too! Here's a common toad relaxing after the strains and struggles of breeding.

There's lots going on out there, so please get out and enjoy it!