Friday 22 November 2019

Somerset Levels Starlings.

Starlings galore today!!

An early start to see the Starlings lift off which did not disappoint, getting on for 100,000 birds coming out in quick succession is a wonderful sight and sound and all to myself too.

The main path itself can provide lots of interest. 3 bullfinch, treecreeper, 7 goldcrest, 10 chiffchaff, 50+ goldfinch and 6 reed buntings (from the old rail bridge) all recorded. Stop off at the 1st viewing platform (VP1) to see the lovely groups of black tailed godwits and Lapwings using the area. 

A Bittern dropped into the reeds in front of VP1 Also in Loxtons,kingfishers spotted from the screen, plenty of little grebes both here and around the reserve, a great crested grebe also seen from the screen and the usual group of cormorants sitting on the raft.
Great white egrets are usually fairly easy to spot around the Avalon Marshes. we found several fishing in front of the Avalon hide giving close views. You may also see the odd little egret. Bizarrely, unlike most sites, these are harder to come by at Ham Wall than great white or cattle egret and perhaps even bittern these days.
Wildfowl numbers are building slowly but as many as 270 teal were counted in front of VP1 and VP2. Look out also for wigeon, shoveler, mallard, gadwall, tufted duck, pochard and shoveler. 
Other winter visitors include the Redwing and Fieldfare. As many as 100 redwing were seen in the car park trees and we had numerous sightings of both redwing and fieldfare throughout the reserve. 
We found Stonechats in front of VP1, Grey wagtail, Sparrowhawk seen from the car park and the Avalon Hide, kestrel seen hovering beyond the bottom of the car park.
Marsh harriers have been really easy to spot today up to 5 have been seen using all parts of the reserve. They are particularly evident after the starling roost has left. They quarter over the roost site looking for any dead starlings for a nice easy meal.
On Shapwick Heath 2 Whopper swans on Noah's lake along with a group on 20 Pintail and several water rail calling, duck numbers are starting to build up also.
We finished off watching the Starlings coming back into roost for the evening, this is a great way to end a goods days Birdwatching on the Somerset levels. No doubt we will be back a few more times before the winter ends.DT.f

Monday 11 November 2019

Otmoor visits in November

The leaves on all the trees and in the hedgerows are flaring with last blaze of autumn colour making for a lovely sight on a clear morning.

Once again the moor is a proper wetland. The rain of the last few weeks has transformed many fields into lakes with just hedgerows, bunds and banks standing clear and they are attracting huge numbers of birds. 

We estimated that there were in excess of one thousand Lapwings in several different flocks that erupted from separate parts of the moor when flushed by one or other of the attendant raptors. The Lapwings were accompanied by flocks of Starlings that were not feeding far from their reedbed roost site. There were also large numbers of Golden Plovers that were more difficult to count, but certainly their numbers are in excess of 500.

As is to be expected with such a high biomass present on and around the moor we have been seeing lots of raptors and seeing them more frequently. Where initially the Starling roost was their prime attraction, in addition it is also the flocks of larger prey species feeding out on the floods. There were four different Buzzards around the reedbed and there are still two Ring-tailed Hen Harriers roaming across the moor. 

The resident Marsh Harriers are also likely to be seen as well as Kestrels and Sparrowhawks. Peregrines are now being seen regularly. We also had the bonus of seeing a Short eared Owl from the bridleway today.

Duck numbers across the moor have gone up very significantly but they are not being seen on the lagoon in front of the first or second screens. They have plenty of other places to be at the moment and undoubtedly the continuing presence of a family of three Otters in the reedbed is keeping them away for now. 

The Otters are being seen almost every day and seem quite used to being watched from the screen. Sometimes the youngsters can be seen rolling and tumbling in the water, at other times hunting and feeding and once today out on the edge of the bank. 

A few smaller birds are staring to come onto the reserve now so hopefully the winter feeding program will start soon which should attract several different species.

There is a substantial Starling roost taking place but as yet there have been no spectacular displays. The birds have been arriving and going straight down to roost without producing a shape shifting spectacle. This roost has been attended by Marsh Harriers and by at least two Barn Owls.

Over the coming months I think that this could be a very exciting place to visit which should provide a great days wildlife watching. Just get out and enjoy it DT.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Cotswold Water Park in November

Today we visited the Cotswold Water Park.

With winter arriving duck numbers are on the rise, several species encountered today on our short visit.

Wigeon numbers are going up all the time with Shoveler, Gadwall and teal rising too.

We have a few Goosander back with us also a small number of Goldeneye were found.

Several small flocks of tits are building up now, we did find a couple of tiny Goldcrest mixed in with them.

Both Green and Great spotted Woodpecker were seem along with Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.

Over the coming months the number of birds should increase which should make a visit to the park worthwhile.

A total of 56 species encountered today in around three hours.DT.