Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Blashford Lakes :: 13 October 2019

My eldest had a course to attend in Winchester so after dropping her off at 9.00am, I headed for Blashford Lakes. Not the nicest of days with rain most of the way there and flooding on the roads. Thankfully it had reduced to a light drizzle when I arrived. Nuthatch

I popped into the Tern Hide and in the gloom picked out only a few species but quite a number of Egyptian geese (I counted 10). Numbers of swallows and house martins quartered the lake, and I picked out a single sand martin. As we scanned with our scopes, one remaining chap picked out a very distant female scaup. At least the day would have some upside.

I walked round to a couple of the hides and saw nuthatches, three treecreepers, jays and the usual suspects but nothing else to tick for the year. The fungi was kicking off though.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, coot, cormorant, egyptian goose, gadwall, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, herring gull, house Martin, jay, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, nuthatch, robin, sand Martin, scaup, swallow, treecreeper, tufted duck, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Boddington Reservoir :: 26 September 2019

As the end to the working day approached I looked at my phone and saw that the little stint, found at Boddington Reservoir by Mike Pollard yesterday, was still present. I opted for a sharp exit from the office and turned left for the reservoir, rather than right for home.

I arrived at a little after 5.00pm and by 5.15pm I was on the shore scanning the mud flats on the waters edge. A wader feeding in a distant bay caught my attention, and as I got my bins on it, I could see it was a ruff. I scanned some more and spotted what looked like a candidate - small in size - but it turned out to be one of two green sandpipers. Soon I was passed by someone who stopped and came over to chat - turned out to be Mike Pollard, back for another look. As I'd just come from work I didn't have my scope, but Mike did. We had better views of the ruff through the scope but couldn't pick up the stint.

After just a couple of minutes another chap joined us - it turned out to be Mike Alibone - Mike A picked up best dressed birder (smart suit), and then the stint from a better vantage point. We all headed across and found it was just about as distant as it could manage. A juvenile yellow-legged gull on the wing was all that was worthy of additional mention.

Sightings (16) included: black-headed gull, buzzard, canada goose, cormorant, green sandpiper, grey heron, greylag goose, lesser black-backed gull, little stint, mallard, moorhen, pied wagtail, ruff, woodpigeon, wren and yellow-legged gull.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Draycote Water :: 18 September 2019

Not much of a birdwatching session as I just found time to dash up to Draycote Water to catch up with the long staying ruff. I've not had the occasion to see one this year and the opportunity was there for the taking. I left work and shot up to the reservoir, filling up the car on the way - reporting to me that it was running on vapour. Ruff

As I arrived the car was showing a balmy 19°C on the dial - just as well as I hadn't taken a coat or jumper when I left home after breakfast. I had contacted @Draycotebirding to establish where it was favouring - near the overflow and along Hensborough Bank - and so had no trouble locating it. I didn't really stop on the way to note other species, just ensured I didn't walk past it!

As I got to the Bank I could look back and there it was - a couple of photos and I managed to get close enough without being in full view. Happy with that.

I paid a bit more attention on the return but there was nothing worthy of special mention.

Species seen (15) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, goldfinch, little grebe, long-tailed tit, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, ruff, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Farmoor Reservoir :: 07 September 2019

The weather was overcast but due to improve, so I opted to try for a drop in species at Farmoor Reservoir. On the way I had a flyover jay as I passed the turn for Tackley. On arrival the car park was heaving with sailors and their boats - some sort of competition in the offing - Novice/ Casual racing day.

CormorantI headed straight for the causeway but before I could get there, I could see a spiralling column of swallows, house and sand martins climbing up into the sky. They rose and rose then headed off west, leaving only 10% of the original population.

Onto the causeway and ahead a female wheatear jumped onto the small wall to the left. It moved on ahead before I could get a photo and then out across the water and behind me. I started back only to find one of the sailors heading my way and driving the wheatear back at me - not for long though and it headed off across the water once more. Chiffchaff

On one of the buoys sat a yellow-legged gull and the only thing of interest for the remainder of the crossing. I dropped down onto the river and along to the Shrike Meadow hide. I sat for an hour but had no sighting of the kingfisher - as I left the chap I'd been in residence with spotted a family of reed warbler in the reeds behind. They moved around low in the reeds - frustrating in that the other chap had great line of sight when he first located them.

Heading back up to the reservoir I stopped at the trees on the brow of the hill. They were alive with chiffchaff - dozens of them. I hoped for a spotted flycatcher as they were all feeding on insects around the trees but none showed - a family of 5 had been noted recently. I stopped at the gate and watched as dunnock, tits, wren and robins flitted between the trees. Then a single goldcrest climbed the branches directly in front of me.

More chiffchaff as I walked to the causeway and back across. Off home for lunch.

Sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldcrest, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, house Martin, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, reed warbler, robin, sand martin, starling, swallow, tufted duck, wheatear, woodpigeon, wren and yellow-legged gull.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Upton Warren :: 31 August 2019

This was my first visit to Upton Warren, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust - I was due to pick up my daughter from a friend's house in Worcester and this was a perfect opportunity to detour.

Curlew sandpiperOn arrival the car park was full and so I parked across the road in the Webbs, Wychbold garden centre car park. I passed the throng of children queuing to play on the inflatable structures on the boating lake. The entrance was through a gate on the right and walking along I found all hides to be empty, until I reached the Avocet Hide. This hide was full and obviously where all the action was to be found.

The first order of business was to locate the curlew sandpiper - this was easy to do as people were having it pointed out as they entered. Common and green sandpipers were also showing well. As AvocetI started to look around I had initially missed the avocet feeding in various spots - a well named hide.

I was then scanning the site to see if I could add the wood sandpiper to my year list and as I did so, I encountered an adult and single juvenile little ringed plover. Eventually I resorted to looking on the far bank of the Flash and sure enough, there it was.

It makes a change for Saturday morning outings to work out! I then relaxed and watched as the c12 curlews departed in three separate groups. The snipe then decided to entertain and were oddly in display mode - late in the year? Fun to watch.


Another reserve to add to those I can think of visiting, and I'm sure I'll be back.

Sightings (26) included: avocet, black-headed gull, canada goose, carrion crow, common sandpiper, coot, curlew, curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper, grey heron, house Martin, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, little ringed plover, mallard, moorhen, pied wagtail, robin, rook, shoveler, snipe, swallow, teal, wood sandpiper and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Farmoor Reservoir & Bicester Wetlands :: 24 August 2019

All through the week, kingfishers have been showing achingly well from the hide on Shrike Meadow. Some friends have taken some great photos and this was my first chance to have a go. Charlotte joined me, with the offer of lunch - a reward for the early start :-)

We parked in the main visitors car park and headed across the causeway. Quite a few black tern were showing - Dai Johns counting c.30. Managed a couple of photos but at a distance as usual - a few adults but many juveniles. The total rose to c.60 by mid-morning.

Black ternBlack tern
Black ternBlack tern

We arrived at the Shrike Meadow hide having seen a single common sandpiper and two little egrets on the reservoir perimeter. There were three people in residence - included my work colleague and his wife (Dan and Trish Miller). Migrant hawkerThe other was a chap who had been there from first light and we were informed that the kingfisher hadn't shown all morning - this was 9.10am. Some noisy reed warblers showed well and a single sedge warbler dropped in. Throughout our time there the kingfisher stayed away and it was left to the dragonflies to entertain - many brown and migrant hawkers.

We sat and waited and as we did, a long-tailed tit flew amazing close passed the hide - it took us a minute to realise that it had in fact entered through the window and was now trapped at the far end. I opened a window and guided it out. Migrant hawker

Back on the edge of the reservoir, I saw what I thought might be some birds acting as if they were spotted flycatchers - when I got to the trees I had seen movement, there was nothing to see. A family group of chiffchaff were in the bushes at the end of the causeway.

Walking back across the causeway we bumped into Mr and Mrs @old_caley. They had been at RSPB Otmoor and had been enticed to visit when Nick had heard there were black terns - he can't get enough of them.

After lunch at the White Hart in Wytham we headed across to Bicester. We stopped and did some shopping at the garden centre and then opened up the gate to Bicester Wetlands, heading for the main hide. From here I could see green sandpipers (4) and two chiffchaff behind.

Sightings at Farmoor Reservoir (30) included: black tern, black-headed gull, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunnock, great crested grebe, grey wagtail, greylag goose, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed warbler, sedge warbler, snow goose, starling, swallow, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Seamill & West Kilbride :: 12-15 August 2019

Our summer visit to the family in West Kilbride. As usual this gives me the opportunity to do a bit of birdwatching between dawn and breakfast. So on the first morning I woke and left the hotel to change into walking shoes at the car - don't want sand everywhere! Rock pipitI then headed for the beach, only to find the gate from the hotel onto the beach locked ... I returned through the car park, along the road and down Sandy Lane. Overhead were flocks of greylag geese on the move, in v-formation.

Four species of gull were visible at the end of the burn, as it flowed into the sea. The sea was dead-calm. There were also oystercatchers and curlew. I stopped on the bridge over the burn but the water was deep and flowing fast - no chance to catch a dipper feeding as the rocks they feed from were submerged. Grey heronI continued along the paths through some bracken noting that it was still quite wet from the previous day's rain. I added rock pipit and linnet on the rocks and dunlin feeding in a distant pool. When I reached the Waterside Inn I had two distant fly-bys from a peregrine, spooking many of the birds resting on the rocks. There appeared to be good numbers of redshank and curlew all along the coast.

I turned for home and came across a few sedge warbler chatting away in the scrub beside the path. They were quite mobile but only once gave decent views. Unfortunately the photo I took had foliage right across the eye. To the right were reed bunting, showing better. There were also half a dozen stonechat (mostly juveniles) resting on the posts and fence to the fields on my right.

When almost back to the burn I spotted a greenshank feeding in a pool, but almost as soon as I did, it took off and landed far in the distance - I'd look again tomorrow. Sedge warbler

The following morning wasn't as still but it promised to be another nice day. Although the burn had slowed, there was still little chance that any dippers would show so I headed on quickly. I passed the spot where I had seen greenshank the day before and I soon picked it up - unfortunately already quite distant. Fortunately it was possible to navigate to a closer vantage point and get a couple of photos - after a few minutes it took to the air and headed left, and was joined by another that had been out of sight.

I had better views of the sedge warbler and as a result better photos. WhinchatThere were more rock pipit than you could shake a stick at. I reached the turn, at the Waterside Inn and spotted what might be a likely candidate for whimbrel on the sand. As I turned to get a better position I noticed a small bird on the fence behind - it turned out to be a female whinchat. I decided to cautiously make my way forward and was treated to decent views and photos of the whimbrel. Satisfied, I started off for the hotel when I saw a small flock of birds offshore. Luckily for me, they spun round and passed reasonably closely - around 45 knot!

I didn't go for a walk on the Wednesday due to rain and blustery winds. On the Thursday it started heavy grey and rain could be seen over towards Arran. I doubted that it was a good idea to head out, as I was likely to get a soaking. I decided to take the chance and was rewarded with the rain staying offshore until breakfast time, when there was a short shower. There wasn't anything to add and I could locate the greenshank. The blustery wind didn't help.

After breakfast we headed for the Ardrossan Ferry Terminal and boarded the ferry to Arran. I took a seat on the rail and watched for passing birds. On the way out I had several gannet and a couple of Manx shearwater. We had a great day on the island and enjoyed a lunch at the Auchrannie Resort. On the return journey we saw a couple more Manx shearwater, and around six or seven groups of guillemot, in groups of 2 to 5.
Manx shearwaterGuillemot

Sightings (47) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, carrion crow, chaffinch, collared dove, common gull, cormorant, curlew, dunlin, dunnock, eider, gannet, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, greenshank, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, guillemot, herring gull, house martin, house sparrow, jackdaw, knot, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, magpie, mallard, manx shearwater, mute swan, oystercatcher, peregrine, pied wagtail, redshank, reed bunting, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, rock pipit, sandwich tern, sedge warbler, song thrush, starling, stonechat, swallow, whimbrel, whinchat and woodpigeon.