Friday, 28 October 2011

College Lake :: 28 October 2011

Normally the sight of redwing and fieldfare spell the arrival of winter but today we had views of both and the weather was far from winter, it was truly glorious! We were visiting College Lake near Tring, which was once a chalk quarry. This was our first visit to College Lake - the reserve is run by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust. It has a brand new visitor centre boasting a large hide overlooking the whole area; importantly it also has a café.

Arriving for an early lunch we sat in the sun at picnic tables reviewing the reserve map. We decided on a clockwise walk - somehow it always seems right! The reserve was easy to negotiate and was well provided for in numbers of hides. From high vantage points we were able to see kestrel and great crested grebe. Around the wooded area we were lucky enough to encounter the great spotted woodpecker.

Overall, a nice spot and beautiful walk on a glorious afternoon but a bit short of observable bird-life. The species count for our visit totalled 29, including: great tit, blue tit, mute swan, canada goose, coot, mallard, black headed gull, wigeon, kestrel, tufted duck, moorhen, blackbird, rook, fieldfare, College Lakecormorant, carrion crow, magpie, lesser black backed gull, great crested grebe, long tailed tit, woodpigeon, great spotted woodpecker, robin, buzzard, redwing, chaffinch, dunnock, greenfinch and green woodpecker.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Brandon Marshes :: 26 October 2011

What a jay day! On arrival at the reserve there was a substantial increase in the numbers of people there ... apparently a lot to do with the kids club which had just finished. JayLunch therefore had to wait and we decided to do a quick loop round the woodland and golf course before heading back for a sandwich. As with the rest of the afternoon we were luck enough to have constant companionship of jays: in flight; in trees and on the ground next to East Marsh Pool.

A flock (circ. 20) of what appeared at first to be linnet landed in the tops of some nearby trees. On later inspection of photos taken they turned out to be redpoll - a first for this autumn.

The species count for the day totalled 41, including: greenfinch, great tit, blue tit, robin, woodpigeon, feral pigeon, kestrel, carrion crow, gadwall, magpie, pheasant, raven, jay, wren, mallard, black headed gull, coot, shoveler, teal, tufted duck, moorhen, common gull, lapwing, cormorant, dunnock, nuthatch, long tailed tit, chaffinch, starling, redpoll, coal tit, bullfinch, great spotted woodpecker, grey heron, mute swan, pochard, snipe, canada goose, buzzard, blackbird and marsh tit.

Monday, 24 October 2011

RSPB Middleton Lakes :: 24 October 2011

First day of the School Half Term holidays and off we went to RSPB Middleton Lakes. A dry day but on arrival it was obvious that the wind was stronger than when we had left home. Talking to the volunteers at the POD, we were informed that it was quiet on the reserve Linnet flockdue to the elements. Undeterred, we set off down the Woodland Walk and onto the lakes. Step-by-step we came across groups of birds which edged up our species count for the day. It wasn't until we made the turn for home though that a large flock of linnet (circ. 200) raised the heart beat, alongside a pair of little egret on the wing. The flock also contained a number of goldfinches.

Other small birds flew around the edges of the display: a few meadow pipit; reed bunting. Nice to see some activity despite the wind. There was some late excitement from the kids when we passed the feeder near the heronry boardwalk. The arrival and departure of a great spotted woodpecker was a nice finish to the visit.

The species count for the day was 39, including: woodpigeon, carrion crow, rook, blue tit, great tit, greenfinch, house sparrow, robin, dunnock, buzzard, raven, canada goose, coot, mallard, wigeon, mute swan, tufted duck, lapwing, shoveler, magpie, teal, moorhen, gadwall, cormorant, great crested grebe, lesser black backed gull, linnet, meadow pipit, goldfinch, reed bunting, grey heron, little egret, black headed gull, starling, chaffinch, pheasant, fieldfare, wren and great spotted woodpecker.

Onto the "Wing Wah" Chinese Restaurant for dinner - I think we have eaten too much!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Brandon Marshes :: 15 October 2011

A beautiful afternoon so off we headed to Brandon Marshes. A prompt start after music lessons meant we started with lunch in the Badger Tearoom - Nuthatchwe got a first hand indication of the turning weather with repeated views of a nuthatch. We haven't seen this bird on our numerous summer visits but food supplies around the reserve must be changing.

Out into the reserve and immediately we saw the buzzards soaring along the edge of the reserve adjoining the golf course. They were soon joined by a very active kestrel. It was then quiet until we sat down in the hides and saw some of the returning ducks, especially the shoveler and wigeon. With very reduced water levels there was little around, even at the Carlton Hide, the highlight being the green sandpiper.

The species list for this visit totalled 35 including: magpie, woodpiegeon, nuthatch, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, feral pigeon, dunnock, bullfinch, robin, willow tit, buzzard, black headed gull, kestrel, cormorant, lapwing, snipe, gadwall, mute swan, teal, tufted duck, mallard, grey heron, coot, shoveler, carrion crow, wigeon, moorhen, starling, blackbird, pheasant, green sandpiper and blackcap.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Napton Reservoir & Draycote Water :: 14 October 2011

Having been off travelling with work for most of the last four weeks I thought I would finish early and have a look to see if I could see the black necked grebe in residence at Napton Reservoir, after all it was a beautiful afternoon. Although I got to see it, the grebe stayed at some distance during my visit. If I get time I might top off again to see if I can get a record shot of it.

SpoonbillLooking on Birdguides I noted that a spoonbill had dropped into Draycote Water and so I popped in there too and was luck enough to find it just a mile or so from the carpark, showing well.

The species count for the visit was 36, including: coot, moorhen, wigeon, black headed gull, tufted duck, mallard, great crested grebe, little grebe, black necked grebe, mute swan, buzzard, kestrel, spoonbill, canada goose, teal, lesser black backed gull, wren, house sparrow, blackbird, woodpigeon, carrion crow, raven, rook, robin, great black backed gull, blue tit, cormorant, great tit, lapwing, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, grey wagtail, goosander, peregrine, sparrowhawk and wheatear.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Draycote Water :: 24 September 2011

We thought that we should get out together for a walk as we hadn't managed that for a few weeks; the next few weekends are going to be impossible too. We plumped for Draycote Water, somewhere right on our doorstep but where we had never visited before. On arrival we met a chap called Ray who advised on the best location and what may be about. He turned out to be right about the whereabouts of the stoat but unfortunately it was only he who managed to see and photograph it. Nice chap.

We stayed on the one side of the "pond" looking along the fringes and had a relaxing time seeing an arctic tern and the first greenshank of the winter. Our species count totalled 26 this time, including: house martin, raven, rook, mute swan, Clouded Yellow Butterflycoot, black-headed gull, mallard, pied wagtail, little grebe, carrion crow, woodpigeon, yellow wagtail, ringed plover, dunlin, tufted duck, great-crested grebe, canada goose, long tailed tit, blue tit, great tit, chiffchaff, dunnock, meadow pipit, arctic tern, greenshank and moorhen.

We also happened upon a "Clouded Yellow" butterfly - not sure I've ever seen one of those before. Weird eyes!

Farmoor Reservoir :: 18 September 2011

With Eilidh needing to complete some homework and a wife playing tennis against North Oxford, it was left to Ailsa and I to go for a walk. It was decided that somewhere in the Oxford direction might be best and if possible we could drop in and watch some of the tennis later in the afternoon. Farmoor Reservoir got the nod ahead of Otmoor this time, mainly due to the reported sighting of Lapland Bunting over the preceding days. The weather was relatively kind and we only had one light shower.

Our species list for the day totalled 30, including: pied wagtail, white wagtail, mallard, coot, cormorant, great-crested grebe, black-headed gull, grey wagtail, yellow wagtail, linnet, yellow legged gull, Lapland Buntinghouse sparrow, robin, blue tit, great tit, starling, goldfinch, tufted duck, woodpigeon, common sandpiper, magpie, greenfinch, blackbird, greylag goose, mute swan, carrion crow, egyptian goose, shag, ringed plover and lapland bunting.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the spectacular views of the Lapland Bunting. Although diminutive, the colours and stripes make this the bird equivalent of a tiger!

The tennis turned out well too with a 4-0 win for Banbury Mixed A, celebrated with drinks from Starbucks on the Peartree roundabout.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

West Kilbride/Seamill/Portencross :: 15-30 August 2011

On our holidays with family in Scotland we took the opportunity to walk along the beaches at Seamill and Portencross looking for birds. Often little walking was needed as they just passed by us. A few different birds to our usual set with being at the coast and a first for sandwich tern. May have seen them before, but unknowingly! We managed to get our best ever view of peregrine falcon while playing golf - unfortunately the species count roughly totaled each of my 9 hole scores. Must try harder.

Our species count (46) for the visit included: swallow, goldfinch, housemartin, jackdaw, rook, blackbird, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, eider duck, black headed gull, oystercatcher, great black backed gull, yellow wagtail, curlew, sandwich tern, house sparrow, mute swan, rock dove, feral pigeon, Willow warblerstarling, cormorant, grey heron, carrion crow, collared dove, wood pigeon, willow warbler, common gull, greenfinch, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, white wagtail, robin, linnet, gannet, turnstone, ringed plover, redshank, stonechat, mallard, sand martin, buzzard, dipper, peregrine falcon, wren, wigeon and black guillemot.

Brandon Marshes :: 07 August 2011

Another visit to Brandon Marshes, again a threat of rain and a shower on the way up past Southam. As always, we started with coffee in the Badger Tea Room ... delicious. Still few changes and migration is not not yet obvious. Large numbers of whitethroat are still in evidence. No sign of the kingfisher this time but we still saw linnet, sandpipers and stock dove.

The total species count totaled 34 including: woodpigeon, feral pigeon, great tit, great-spotted woodpecker, blue tit, greenfinch, chaffinch, robin, magpie, carrion crow, collared dove, swallow, moorhen, mute swan, canada goose, mallard, Whitethroatcommon tern, lapwing, coot, cormorant, lesser black-backed gull, house martin, sand martin, grey heron, starling, common sandpiper, whitethroat, buzzard, stock dove, green sandpiper, sparrowhawk, linnet, pheasant and green woodpecker.

Our favourite was again a whitethroat, this one hiding in the brambles.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Brandon Marshes :: 10 July 2011

Starting with lunch in the "Badger Tea Room"; this time in addition to wife and two children we also had the youngest's best friend. It had been quite a few weeks since our last visit and the landscape had changed considerably with the many wild flowers dominating the vista. The profusion of baby rabbits had not changed though; the more trusting (stupid) ones letting us get within a few feet to watch at close quarters. The girls loved that.

The afternoon went along un-remarkably until we got to the Carlton Hide. There the crowds had gathered to watch the kingfisher parade around the various vantage points. Significant lens were pointed and triggers pulled with sharp repetitive bursts of shutter actuations filling the air. As a finale we watched a green sandpiper feed in the shallows right in front of the hide. On the right-hand edge of the pool significant numbers of reed warblers sped along the reeds, occasionally accompanied by the odd linnet.

Our species count for the afternoon totaled 40, including: blue tit, great tit, reed bunting, bullfinch, magpie, feral pigeon, chaffinch, collared dove, swallow, house martin, woodpigeon, carrion crow, robin, blackbird, greenfinch, buzzard, grey heron, mallard, lapwing, oystercatcher, greylag goose, common tern, coot, black headed gull, tufted duck, canada goose, cormorant, ringed plover, starling, Kingfisherlittle ringed plover, teal, great crested grebe, moorhen, lesser black backed gull, mute swan, whitethroat, linnet, kingfisher, green sandpiper and pheasant.

Our favourite of the day though has to be the kingfisher; from the numbers in the Carlton Hide, we were not alone.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 28 May 2011

A blustery day which was forecast to have rain showers throughout the afternoon. After an early lunch we set off for an afternoon on the reserve; rain on the journey up made us worry that we might end up just having a coffee in the tea room. We needn't have worried as the sun broke through the clouds as soon as we got onto the paths and didn't leave us all afternoon. In fact we got a bit hot in our waterproof tops.

There were significant numbers of juvenile great and blue tits at the reserve feeders being chased by two squirrels having their fill. A good number of rabbits also populated the paths.

Again, there were whitethroats everywhere. Every bush seemed to have some; their songs singing through the wind (reducing to breeze as the afternoon wore on). We came across one guy who had spent 2hrs in the same spot watching a pair of whitethroats who were showing well and had shots where you could virtually identify the insects in their beaks. Passing views of linnet were also good.

Our species for the day numbered 37 and included: great tit, feral pigeon, chaffinch, great-spotted woodpecker, reed bunting, bullfinch, blue tit, magpie, swallow, blackbird, woodpigeon, greylag goose, mallard, canada goose, Jaycarrion crow, linnet, swift, jay, whitethroat, tufted duck, grey heron, lapwing, coot, black-headed gull, cormorant, redshank, ringed plover, pied wagtail, common tern, sand martin, mute swan, stock dove, great-crested grebe, moorhen, robin, oystercatcher and willow warbler.

Our favourite of the day was the jay who seemed to have found rather a lot of new berries on a nearby tree.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

RSPB Middleton Lakes :: 22 May 2011

RSPB Middleton Lakes is the latest RSPB nature reserve to open to the public. Last weekend it opened officially and this weekend it was hosting a Bird Fair. Since the RSPB acquired the site in 2007, they have developed the lakes, reedbeds, meadows and woodlands make it one of the best birdwatching sites in the area. Still they need more funding to install hides, bridges and a visitor centre. Still a good place to visit, even as it is.

An hour up the M40/M42 saw us arrive at 10:20, doors having opened at 10:00; we took the last parking space in the Middleton Hall courtyard. After a quick look around we located the RSPB Marquee and booked ourselves onto the 11:00 guided walk.

Our walk was scheduled for 2 hrs and aimed to introduce all of the established habitats. Immediately beside the RSPB car park there is a "play" meadow where kids can run, crawl, climb in the tree, jump and paddle in the ponds. From here you progress along a 700m trail through an ancient woodland. From here you can then choose left ot right: to the right is the meadow trail, home to English Longhorn cattle and an abundance of wild flowers; to the left a wetland trail (the "wilderness") which meanders through reedbeds, lakes and at times alongside the River Tame.

As a large group we were rather conspicuous and not likey to see much before it saw (or heard) us. We did manage to see a few birds, particularly a huge Whitethroatnumber of swifts, swallow and martins. Our species total on the walk numbered 26, including: swallow, woodpigeon, jackdaw, grey heron, carrion crow, tufted duck, whitethroat, coot, black-headed gull, mallard, housemartin, mute swan, blue tit, oystercatcher, sandmartin, swift, pied wagtail, great-crested grebe, shelduck, canada goose, chaffinch, robin, gadwall, lapwing, blackbird, and cormorant.

A quick lunch in Middleton Hall (tasty sausage and egg bap!) and a tour round the various Bird Fair stalls and marquees took us to the end of our visit. It won't be long until we come back to tour at our own speed, without a large entourage in tow.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Somerford Keynes, Cotswold Water Park :: 01 May 2011

Not really a day out birdwatching but instead lunch with family. Great to be having lunch and looking out over the water just along from the Cotswold Water Park; watching the coots with their young, moorhen, housemartin, swallows, canada geese, mute swans, mallard, black headed gull, carrion crow, blue tit, goldfinch, blackbirds, starlings and song thrush. Sedge WarblerA pair of binocs and a camera to hand we relaxed and took in the view. Then onto the water landed rather an odd looking duck which on later review turned out to be red-crested pochard. In the skies we also spotted a pair of birds which from the photos turned out be hobby. Two new species in one day.

Out for a walk after a delicious lunch and we came across a mallard family, then tufted ducks, great crested grebe, common tern, wood pigeon, dunnock, sedge warbler and this time a pair of red-crested pochard.

Red-crested pochardA great way to spend the day and still get in a little birding.

Broad-bodied chaser

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 21 April 2011

Back to Brandon Marshes for what promised to be a stunning day. Forecasts for the Easter weekend looked more like mid-summer than mid-spring; I expect we will pay for it later.

With the family and parents we arrived in time for a spot of early lunch and then onto the trails. It was evident that there were significantly fewer ducks on the site than in any of our previous visits this year. However, the arrival of the common terns was a welcome sight, as was the common sandpiper. The numbers of ringed and little ringed plover had increased significantly and gave a fluid movement of birds from area to area (ably supported by the swallows feeding over the water).

Warbler numbers seem to be growing as we came across first sedge and then cetti's warbler. This was soon followed by a large number of whitethroat, spread right across the reserve and showing well.

Highlights for the kids though were the squirrel, rabbits out in the open and three friendly mice who seemed quite unconcerned even when granny took a call on her mobile!

Our sightings for the day totalled 41, reduced from our last visit due to the absence of ducks, snipe and buzzards. They included: great tit, mallard, great-spotted woodpecker, blue tit , chaffinch, bullfinch, swallow, reed bunting, robin, magpie, pied wagtail, greylag goose, carrion crow, canada goose, coot, mute swan, cormorant, great crested grebe, lapwing, common tern, teal, gadwall, wigeon, ringed plover, Whitethroattufted duck, black headed gull, common gull, oystercatcher, common sandpiper, little ringed plover, sedge warbler, cetti's warbler, blackbird, feral pigeon, greenfinch, goldfinch, whitethroat, moorhen.

Our birds of the day had to be the whitethroats who darted around and never stopped chattering.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 29 March 2011

Reports of the visiting spotted crake reached me while I was at work on Monday. "Damn" I thought - it first showed just 1½hrs after I left on Sunday. It was apparent that after a quiet day the crake had been active late in the day at around 1835. Up then at 0530 this morning to have a peek and hopefully add it to the list. A 40min drive and a short walk later I joined about 10 people in the East Marsh Pool hide. Eager to see the bird, I just joined the vigil. A few tens of minutes later it became apparent that a fox had paraded around the reeds and the front of the hide about 10-15mins before I arrived. So that is why it was so quiet for that next hour!Sunrise over Brandon Marsh

Unfortunately another 40mins drive home and I was ready for work, having missed this spot. Checking the boards the spotted crake did show later, at least on three occassions. Damn again.

Beautiful sunrise over the misty pool though.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 27 March 2011

Ailsa on the keyboard again!

To start today we got up early and left the house without even having breakfast. The clocks had changed and so it was even earlier than the clocks suggested. It was not as sunny as we would have expected for this time of year when the daffodils are starting to blossom. We had planned another visit to Brandon Marshes but first we went to Rugby to search for waxwings. We have been reading a man's blog (onemanandhispond) where he spoke of waxwings around Lawford Lane - I would love to see them but unfortunately they couldn't be found during the hour we wandered around. We did come across a bear - no it's not what you are thinking, it's just a pub on Bilton Lane!

As I said, we didn't get to see any waxwings, but we did see these birds which weren't repeated at Brandon Marshes: song thrush, green woodpecker, kestrel, yellowhammer, rook, starling and house sparrow.

After spending an unsuccessful hour in the cold morning air we arrived at the warm cosy Brandon Marsh visitor centre. By then it was half past ten and we were all starving. We snuggled up in the "Badgers Tea Room" and had three full cooked breakfasts and a ham and cheese panini, which we all enjoyed. The teas, hot chocolate and coffee weren't too bad either.

After the nice hot beverages, we went back out into the cold again and started our trek round the reserve. We visited every single hide on the way and found a new species of bird for our list in every hide.

We spotted our record number of birds in a single day at Brandon Marshes. Our highlight bird was a new bird we had never seen before, a Cetti's warbler which we only just got a picture of, through the reeds. You can only see it if you look really carefully. Even the sun came out before we packed up to leave - not before another drink and a slice of cake! To sum it up, a record breaking day.

We spotted 43 species on the reserve this time, including: greenfinch, reed bunting, feral pigeon, chaffinch, coal tit, great tit, blue tit, bullfinch, woodpigeon, dunnock, Cetti's Warblerrobin, great-spotted woodpecker, greylag goose, nuthatch, goldfinch, carrion crow, willow tit, canada goose, jay, buzzard, coot, tufted duck, sand martin, mallard, lapwing, mute swan, shoveler, teal, oystercatcher, snipe, ringed plover, moorhen, great-crested grebe, wigeon, black-headed gull, long tailed tit, wren, cetti's warbler, gadwall, goosander, shelduck, pheasant and blackbird.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 19 March 2011

This week Ailsa is the guest blogger!

Just as the weatherman promised, it was a stunning day. After our journey we popped into the "Badger Tea Room" to get refreshing hot chocolates and a latte to start off our day at Brandon Marshes. Surprisingly, looking out the window, there was no sight of the usual nuthatch which we were very disappointed about.

Whilst in the East Marsh Pool Hide, we noticed that the lapwings were using their warning call. We soon found a sparrowhawk dragging down a lapwing into the water; the sparrowhawk was too strong for the little lapwing and soon drowned and ate it.

Near the end of our long walk we found a Robin perched on an branch. I held out my hand not expecting the robin to fly towards me; I got a little bit scared and I took my hand away, so sadly it flew back on the branch. Only if I had been braver we could have got a beautiful picture of the robin on my hand, but we did get a stunning picture of the robin on a branch. I never knew how loud robins could sing. Well you do learn something new everyday.

Walking back to the centre we found a couple of rabbits and also some at the roadside when we were driving out of the car park. All in all a wonderful visit yet again to Brandon Marshes.

Our spots included: magpie, carrion crow, greylag goose, blue tit, robin, great tit, feral pigeon, chaffinch, dunnock, reed bunting, coal tit, woodpigeon, buzzard, canada geese, long-tailed tit, mute swan, mallard, coot, Chiffchaffkestrel, great-spotted woodpecker, tufted duck, teal, lapwing, shellduck, black headed gull, shoveler, wigeon, common gull, blackbird, great crested grebe, black backed gull, oystercatcher , snipe, sparrowhawk, redpoll and chiffchaff which came to 36 species. Our highlight bird was the redpoll and sadly no bittern, but we returned with a beautiful snapshot of a chiffchaff.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 05 March 2011

Our original plan was to make our first trip to Draycote Water, inspired through reports from a blog we have been following by Richard Mays; "One man and his pond". Music school, dropping off the wife for a tennis match and a poor forecast prevented us from following this plan though. A full circuit with impending drizzle didn't inspire the kids.

Instead, off we went to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust's Brandon Marshes in Coventry. As usual we had to make a pitstop on arrival, this time for hot chocolate with marshmallows - you've got to start somewhere! It did give us a view of the feeder fom the windows of the tearoom, and the opportunity to listen to some of the photographers discussing a pile of photos they were purusing - nice lenses in evidence!

Out we went before the weather drew in, into what turned out to be quite a nice walk. Taking our normal route, we quickly ended up in a hide with the aforementioned photographers who were stationed hoping for the pair of great-crested grebes to start dancing; while we were there they were disappointed, but it didn't deter them from knocking off a few shots.

On we went, missing out most of the hides but making sure we dropped into the East Marsh Pool hide where we spotted the bittern from on our last visit. Not this time though!

We again kept a list of our spots, which this time totalled 37, including: magpie, great tit, blue tit, reed bunting, woodpigeon, chaffinch, Nuthatchdunnock, feral pigeon, blackbird, nuthatch, goldfinch, long-tailed tit, tufted duck, mallard, robin, coot, black-headed gull, canada goose, great-crested grebe, mute swan, cormorant, pochard, shoveler, greylag goose, grey heron, lapwing, moorhen, common gull, wigeon, gadwall, snipe, shellduck, pheasant, teal, carrion crow, green woodpecker and wren.

The top birds of the day have to be the small group of snipe we found at the East Marsh Pool hide, but our favourite photo of the day was the cheeky nuthatch which we photographed through the visitor centre's tearoom window.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Boddington Reservoir & Ufton Fields :: 24 February 2011

Took a day off for half-term only to find everyone else had plans. One daughter pizza with primary school friends then shopping/chatting/playing all afternoon; the other had a friend round for the afternoon. So off I went to pastures new; Boddington Reservoir and WWT Ufton Fields.

Boddington Reservoir turned out to be a pleasant walk round an expansiive piece of water; the fishermen were very friendly and all willing to chat - it may have been that the fishing was slow of course. Not much there of any consequence though, but it was nice to see a significant number of goosander amongst the black-backed and herring gulls on the water. Unfortunately no display from the great crested grebes; I heard that they were a couple of days ago at RSPB Sandwell Valley from their tweet.

The visit was capped by a beautiful pair of bullfinches who hung around for a considerable time in the carpark while I packed my stuff back into the car.

Then onto Ufton Fields. In fact my expectations were not high - I expected the ground to be very muddy, there to be little formal paths and little facilities; how wrong could I be! It was a great little reserve although, having forgotten my walking boots, it was still muddy enough. Two hides, good paths, a nice circular walk and an hour of beautiful birdsong ... I'll will make this a regular on my list.

So to the list. This time a total of 21, including: blue tit, great tit, bullfinch, long-tailed tit, crow, rook, Bullfinchmagpie, mallard, goosander, black-headed gull, herring gull, blackbird, great crested grebe, woodpigeon, buzzard, coot, treecreeper, great spotted woodpecker, canada goose, little grebe, chaffinch and green woodpecker.

The photo of the day has to go to my visitor in the Boddington Reservoir carpark.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

RSPB Sandwell Valley :: 22 February 2011

A late start after our youngest had a music lesson first thing. This meant that we had to endure a sizzling lunch with chargrilled steak, chicken and ribs - all with chips - ho hum!

On arriving at "The Valley" we could see that it was quiet - not many cars in the car park. It was obvious too, the damage that had been sustained by the Visitor Centre, since we last visited. Fortunately we had no need of coffee before we set off.

Disappointingly the gate to the hide was locked, preventing us from starting off looking across the scrape. A once round the site was called for and soon the scope was out to check for unusual visitors amongst the hoards of black-headed gulls. None to be seen though.

Despite all this, a total of 33 species were noted, including: blue tit, heron, woodpigeon, feral pigeon, magpie, crow, moorhen, shoveler, lapwing, teal, wigeon, black-headed gull, oystercatcher, canada goose, lesser black-backed gull, mute swan, gadwall, goosander, great tit, tufted duck, long-tailed tit, mallard, starling, chaffinch, blackbird, robin, bullfinch, reed bunting, greenfinch, sparrow, willow tit, dunnock and jay.Goosander male

Our favourite had to be the rather odd, but stunning looking, male goosander.

Shame we didn't have time to head over to the Swan Pool. Next time.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

RSPB Otmoor :: 19 February 2011

After a pretty poor start to the day, the girls and I headed off to RSPB Otmoor to have a nosy around. We haven't been there for a few years but I suppose it is our local patch being about 35mins from the house. It turned out to be quiet on the bird front but still a fun day out. Our list for the day ran to 25, including: blackbird, crow, blue tit, robin, great tit, reed bunting, long-tailed tit, dunnock, marsh tit, chaffinch, magpie, goldfinch, mallard, coot, wigeon, canada goose, teal, mute swan, treecreeper, gadwall, little egret, rook, tufted duck, pochard and shoveler.

An elderly, we presume local, narrowly missed clubbing us with her tripod/scope as she entered the new hide which has been installed since our last visit. Her advice was to try again on a nice day, particularly one in which it hadn't rained most of the night and morning.

TreecreeperWe will be back soon.

Our bird of the day was this treecreeper; it darted along the brook by the main reserve path feeding on various trunks, and mixing with the flock of long-tailed tits that were spread out along it's path.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Brandon Marsh :: 23 January 2011

Got a new lens for Christmas and my birthday (combined), sourced from Ebay; a Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM.  It came with a Cokin UV filter on the front, there to protect the main lens.  Testing the filter in front of my birding scope it became obvious that the filter was affecting the performance. So yesterday, I received an 'extra' birthday present; a Hoya Pro1 Digital Lens Protection filter. What a family I have!

Today was my first chance to try it our so the family piled into the car and we headed off to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust's Brandon Marshes in Coventry.

We started with lunch but soon were hide hopping to see what was about - a reasonable amount as it turned out. In the end we observed 32 species: great tit, blue tit, dunnock, chaffinch, magpie, woodpigeon, bullfinch, robin, coal tit, greenfinch, moorhen, carrion crow, blackbird, coot, mute swan, canada goose, cormorant, pochard, shoveler, goldeneye, teal, tufted duck, gadwall, lapwing, mallard, black headed gull, common gull, pheasant, bittern, shelduck, buzzard, and heron.

BitternWe did however get a little stuck in the East Marsh Pool hide waiting for the return of our bird of the day.