Friday, 2 November 2012

Farmoor Reservoir :: 01 November 2012

We dropped into The Trout on the Godstow Road, Wolvercote for lunch. It was still dull outside and there was a persistent drizzle. After a lovely lunch, served by a rather dippy waitress, we set off for Farmoor Reservoir. The outside temperature reading on car suggested 9°C but with wind-chill it felt much lower. We felt sorry for the youngsters having sailing lessons on Farmoor II - one was even seen coming off the water just wearing flip-flops on his feet - brrr.

The water looked quiet and so we decided not to punish ourselves; just walk across the causeway and back. Stopping halfway along in the new hide we enjoyed some respite from the chill. Talking to a photographer headin in the opposite direction we discovered there really wasn't anything unusual on the water - glad we didn't push on with a circular walk.

With the sun on our back the walk back started well but an increasing density of dark clouds began chasing us, eventually swallowing the sun. Time for a sharp exit before a rain shower. Farmoor Reservoir (I)Our sightings were limited (15), but included: pied wagtail, mallard, coot, cormorant, tufted duck, great created grebe, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, magpie, carrion crow, rook, woodpigeon, grey wagtail, goldfinch and meadow pipit.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Brandon Marsh :: 30 October 2012

It had been some time since we managed to get up to Brandon Marshes. Just too much going on at work and at home. A beautiful day, school half term and the parents visiting, were all good reasons to make the short journey up. We started as usual at the Badger Tea Room; baguettes, paninis and coffees all round. Then boots on and off we went.

The paths around the reserve were remarkably dry with only ocassional muddy areas. In the sun the temperature was perfect although it could be cool in amongst the trees.

What was noticeable was the number of winter wildfowl that have returned the the pools. Unfortunately the Egyptian Goose seemed to have left and we didn't manage to see any pochard. We did have flyovers from what looked like redpoll but as weren't sure they didn't make it onto the sightings list. We also came across some sucks with rather sharp white markings around the bill - we wondered whether they might be scaup but consensus on Birdforum was that they were still most likely.

The day's sightings (33) included:magpie, wood pigeon, feral pigeon, great tit, dunnock, robin, blue tit, Brandon Marsheschaffinch, nuthatch, greenfinch, moorhen, kestrel, long tailed tit, fieldfare, blackbird, cormorant, redwing, jay, carrion crow, coot, mallard, mute swan, shoveler, greylag goose, lapwing, canada goose, wigeon, tufted duck, teal, black headed gull, common gull, gadwall, snipe.

Friday, 31 August 2012

West Kilbride and Seamill :: 30 August 2012

Started the day with a trip to Largs Yacht Haven to look around the boats for sale, visit the Chandlery, and decided to have lunch in the reopened Bosun's Table; a perfect way to start any day.

From here we proceeded down to Portencross Beach for a relaxing sit in the sun and a stroll along the waterfront.  On our stroll we spotted a few of the regular birds but also a couple not seen as regularly.  WheatearThe surprise to us this summer is the number of wheatear around the beach.  In the last few years I have maybe seen these once before, but this year they are here in numbers.  Maybe it is something to do with the quantity of seaweed left on the beach which is more than I can remember in previous years.  In addition, we were lucky enough to come across twite; a new addition to my sightings record.

The day's sightings included: housemartin, swallow, rook, carrion crow, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, black headed gull, sandwich tern, redshank, pied wagtail, white wagtail, cormorant, curlew, ringed plover, dunlin, meadow pipit, twite, wheatear, oystercatcher, gannet, jackdaw and starling.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

West Kilbride and Seamill :: 26 August 2012

Well, a late rain shower around lunchtime cleared to allow us down to Portencross Beach.  A nice walk from the castle to the beach allowed views across the various arable fields.  Once on the beach we were combing for interesting shells and then walked around to our usual rocks to sit and look across to Arran.

Fuelled by jelly babies, we logged the various passing birds: carrion crow, rook, lesser blacked back gull, herring gull, black headed gull, oystercatcher, ringed plover, wheatear, linnet, redshank, starling, housemartin, swallow, house sparrow, wood pigeon, robin, curlew, pheasant, cormorant, gannet, pied and white wagtail.

Jelly babies not constituting a main meal, or even one of your five-a-day, we headed back to the castle then home for mediterranean chicken with orzo pasta; delicious!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

West Kilbride and Seamill :: 25 August 2012

Well it is good to get out again.  It has been months since we had a chance to have a walk together.  Coming up to Scotland for a weeks break is just the ticket, even if it was an 0500 alarm call.  The forecast for the week doesn't look good so we thought we would take the opportunity to pop down to the beach for a walk.

No rain, so straight away better than the forecast.  That is one of the great things about this coastline, the weather forecasts are almost useless as the weather can be just the opposite.

Tried out my new 10x42mm "spare" binoculars - absolutely amazing for the money!  Black rubberised body for extra durability and non-slip grip. Compact BK-7 roof prism design and powerful 10 times magnification is ideal (glass multi-coated) and provides incredibly bright and super-clear viewing for just £29.99; got hem here.

Straight away we spotted the seals bobbing out near the rocks.  Always a joy.  A few birds spotted too: pied wagtails, swallow, housemartin, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, yellow legged gull, black headed gull, oystercatcher, redshank, wigeon, starling, gannet, greenfinch, meadow pipit, cormorant, curlew, jackdaw, carrion crow, linnet and mute swan.

For the first time in a while we also saw a submarine, part submersed, cruising over towards the Arran coastline.

Lets hope that tomorrow's weather is as predicted and we get a dry day before the rain storm forecast for Monday arrives.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Brandon Marsh :: 17 June 2012

Given that I took Charlotte to an RSPB Reserve for Valentine's Day, it won't surprise anyone that for Fathers Day I decided to take the family birdwatching, to Brandon Marshes on this ocassion.

The weather forecast was significantly better than the previous day, no strong winds but still the potential for a odd rain shower.  Staring with our traditional lunch stop we set-off round the reserve on our normal route.  Straight off we caught sight of a jay - a good start to any visit. Continuing on to New Hare Covert we were caught in our first rain shower.  WhitethroatFortunately the high trees and leaves protected us from getting wet and we were able to stand an watch an array of blue and great tits around the top of the tree canopy.  As we passed the end of Swallow Pool we looked out over the Newlands Reedbed and began seeing the first of many whitethroats- there just seem to be so many of them again this year.  Soon after a group of willow warbler floated along the path with us.

The usual suspects were all to be found on the East Marsh Pool from the Wright Hide.  Other than an odd reed bunting there wasn't much else of note until we entered the East Marsh Hide.  So many small LBJs flying in amongst the reeds - it was hard to work out what they were for some time but it then became apparent, from photos and through binoculars, that they were all reed warblers.  After a few short showers and a brief visit to the Carlton Hide, we had eventually to make our way home.

The final treat was to come in the way of 6 buzzards wheeling in the sky at the reserve entrance as we left.

In total, today's sighting numbered 40 and included: pheasant, feral pigeon, blue tit, great tit, reed bunting, magpie, nuthatch, chaffinch, swallow, pied wagtail, carrion crow, common tern, tufted duck, robin, jay, blackbird, shelduck, lapwing, mute swan, cormorant, coot, house martin, dunnock, canada goose, whitethroat, gadwall, mallard, greylag goose, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, redshank, willow warbler, heron, bullfinch, reed warbler, chiffchaff, kestrel, woodpigeon, swift, and buzzard.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Brandon Marsh :: 12 May 2012

Having been out of the country for most the last three weeks it was about time we went out for a walk. Given we were going to start out after the kids music school we decided on Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Brandon Marsh; lunch at the Badger Tearoom.

During the lunch at the tearoom, a crowd gathered at the window as there was a grass snake curled outside the window, bathing in the sun. JayAfter we filled our bellies we set off. About halfway to the first hide, we spotted a colourful bird in the distance. As it flew closer we realised it was a jay and we stopped to take a few photos. Then suddenly we stopped and a sound was heard coming from a nearby tree. After taking pictures and narrowing down the possibilities, we concluded that it was a Garden Warbler - this needed checking as we have never knowing seen one before.

Sitting down in the Carlton Hide we waited for a kingfisher or maybe even a bittern, but we were greeted with an otter. The click of the cameras were endless. Then after our afternoon's walk we started our journey back home to Eilidh who had been unable to join us due to her GCSE revision.

The sightings (41) on our walk included: carrion crow, magpie, goldfinch, great tit, reed bunting, feral pigeon, Garden warblergreenfinch, blue tit, swallow, swift, robin, blackbird, lesser whitethroat, long tailed tit, jay, canada goose, greylag goose, woodpigeon, linnet, whitethroat, dunnock, coot, tufted duck, oystercatcher, lapwing, gadwall, common tern, redshank, little ringed plover, shelduck, mallard, lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, arctic tern, mute swan, blackcap, garden warbler, cormorant, pheasant, moorhen and heron.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

West Kilbride and Seamill :: 07 April 2012

Who needs to go birdwatching when you can sit having lunch with black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, gannet, pied wagtail, carrion crow, jackdaw, starling, cormorant, redshank, ringed plover, house sparrow, turnstone, meadow pipit and eider duck all being seen from our chairs.

House sparrowOn the way back we also spotted: chaffinch, magpie, oystercatcher, collared dove, common gull, goldfinch, coal tit, blackbird, greenfinch, blue tit, great tit, great black backed gull, buzzard, kestrel, dunnock, rook, robin, woodpigeon, feral pigeon and shelduck.

Amazing how beautiful a bird that all people think of as an LBJ can be! Handsome.

Must sit and do nothing more often ...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Brandon Marsh :: 25 March 2012

With Charlotte out playing tennis for the second day running, it was time for a visit and walk around Brandon Marsh. With kids in tow, we arrived for a late lunch in the Badger tearoom. Views of bird from here was restricted by one of the staff filling up the various feeder and tables outside the window - no nuthatch or great spotted woodpeckers today.

With ice-creams in hand, we set off around the reserve. The weather was stunning again - you just can't believe we are not in the middle of summer and that there are still few leaves on the trees. Immediately we saw kestrel and buzzard overhead, then geese on the golf course before we got onto the water and the various ducks and gulls. Best of all was the sight of a grass snake swimming passed the front of the hide, not far from a beautiful great crested grebe.

The reserve still seems quiet, perhaps waiting for the changing of the guard as migration kicks in. The change was brought home with my first sighting of a swallow this year, not far from the East Marsh Pool hide.

Great crested grebeTodays sighting numbered 38 and included: carrion crow, blue tit, great tit, magpie, robin, greenfinch, reed bunting, dunnock, woodpigeon, chaffinch, mallard, blackbird, black headed gull, buzzard, greylag goose, canada goose, long tailed tit, mute swan, shoveler duck, lapwing, moorhen, teal, cormorant, tufted duck, coot, great crested grebe, lesser black backed gull, common gull, raven, snipe, oystercatcher, little ringed plover, redshank, grey heron, pheasant, wren, kestrel and swallow.

Perhaps the whitethroat, chiffchaff and cetti's warbler will be out in larger numbers when I get back again - missed them all on this visit.

Farmoor Reservoir :: 19 March 2012

Well, it had come to that time of year; the annual car service and MOT. Unfortunately the boot release was also playing up and so it would not be a short visit. The garage is in Botley and so it was an early start at work followed by a lunchtime exit. By 12:30 I had dropped off the car and was on on my way for a stroll round Farmoor Reservoir. Not only a relaxing way to spend the afternoon but it turned out to be stunning weather too.

On arrival there was the matter of having lunch (packed), sorting out the car insurance and finally the car breakdown cover. This out of the way, I could chillax.

I've only ever walked around the Farmoor I on previous visits and so when I got to the far end I decided to drop down and have a look at the Pinkhill Meadow and hide - beautiful. As soon as I left the reservoir the number of birdcalls increased substantially, led by a pair of Chiffchaffs - my first sighting for the year. Must do this again with the family.

I was informed that there was a little gull out on the water amongst the black headed gulls but if it was I couldn't identify it.

ChiffchaffA relaxing afternoon which yielded 29 sightings, including: coot, mallard, black headed gull, mute swan, cormorant, gadwall, tufted duck, pied wagtail, carrion crow, great crested grebe, chiffchaff, wren, reed bunting, chaffinch, robin, magpie, blue tit, canada goose, rook, woodpigeon, dunnock, long tailed tit, moorhen, redshank, grey heron, blackbird, great tit, bullfinch and whitethroat.

When I got back to the garage the news wasn't too bad. Boot fixed, car serviced and MOT done with no reported problems. Not cheap but no more than quoted. Phew!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Brandon Marsh :: 17 February 2012

With one of the girls out with friends, we decided to pop up to Brandon Marsh to have lunch and a quick walk around the reserve. Not too cold and no wind helped make the conditions feel quite spring-like. The hot lunch helped with that too.

Despite the number of cars in the car park, the reserve was actually quite quiet, especially for a half-term Friday. Heaven in the hides and quite a few birds around. Perhaps the species count is rising due to the rising water - a significant change since we were last there. Amazingly we saw yet another pintail; that is three in as many days - have I just not been paying attention before?

PintailToday's species count was 42 and included: coal tit, magpie, feral pigeon, great tit, blue tit, robin, black-headed gull, reed bunting, chaffinch, kestrel, woodpigeon, dunnock, carrion crow, great spotted woodpecker, blackbird, greenfinch, canada goose, mallard, tufted duck, cormorant, wren, green woodpecker, long tailed tit, mute swan, coot, shoveler, pochard, teal, lapwing, moorhen, lesser black-backed gull, common gull, greylag goose, pintail, wigeon, snipe, pheasant, goldeneye, heron, gadwall, shelduck and bullfinch.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

RSPB Otmoor :: 16 February 2012

With a couple of hours spare in Oxford, the kids and I decided to pop along to RSPB Otmoor and see what was about. As we went round the sun started to shine - always a plus. Talking to one of the guys manning his scope he mentioned that a brent goose had been spotted earlier and that a flock of canada geese had just left for the first screen with a much smaller goose in the group. Off we went to the first screen and fortunately there it was - another tick :-) In the distance another pintail - 40 years then two come along at once, or perhaps I am looking more now.

Brent gooseAlthough a quick visit, as we had to pick up mum, we noted 30 species, including: magpie, carrion crow, chaffinch, robin, kestrel, dunnock, lapwing, pheasant, blue tit, great tit, reed bunting, long tailed tit, canada goose, bullfinch, pintail, greylag goose, brent goose, tufted duck, wigeon, shoveler, teal, mallard, coot, heron, rook, woodpigeon, blackbird, red kite, starling and grey partridge.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

RSPB Sandwell Valley :: 14 February 2012

Valentines Day 2012 and a visit to RSPB Sandwell Valley. Do I know how to treat my wife or what!? Actually, we did stop off for some lunch at our favourite Chinese - Wing Wah in Nechells. From here we waddled off to RSPB Sandwell Valley where we were greeted by 8 magpies, 4 squirrels, 3 woodpigeons and 2 crows in the car park. A large welcoming committee.

Once we had moved our car outside the gates (expecting to leave after the 5pm curfew) we managed to sneak into the hide. The few people left there quickly pointed out the jack snipe showing well just to the side of the hide. Amazing, and a first for me - as was the pintail not a few minutes later.

The car temperature gauge had read 8C but the real-feel temperature was somewhat lower. Thanks to the family they still let me get as much around the site as was possible with the various works in progress. We were rewarded with an encounter with a pair of jays, unfortunately cut short by some cyclists.

Jack SnipeThe sightings for our visit were 37, including: magpie, woodpigeon, collard dove, redwing, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, carrion crow, lapwing, black-headed gull, canada goose, dunnock, robin, greenfinch, goldfinch, teal, wigeon, jack snipe, pintail, goosander, tufted duck, gadwall, mute swan, coot, moorhen, great-crested grebe, starling, greylag goose, blackbird, fieldfare, shoveler, mistle thrush, common gull, song thrush, jackdaw, jay, mallard and house sparrow.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Farmoor Reservoir :: 04 February 2012

Woke up to find a cold and crisp morning. On opening the curtains the fieldfare and redwings could be seen stripping the berry bushes and trees along the street - a flock of at least 30. They seemed to have their vantage points to rest between feeds and retreated there as cars and passers-by disturbed them. It was a shame I had to get up and out ... I could have watched them for hours.

After a swift breakfast it was off to drop the youngest daughter at Music School and onto Witney for a visit to a particular store - from the car there were many buzzard sightings (7) and one greater spotted woodpecker. The jobs out of the way and being only 10mins from Farmoor Reservoir - well I couldn't resist, especially as I'd heard there was a great northern diver visiting. I only had 45mins to spare and so it was a brisk walk around the eastern half (Farmoor I) of the reservoir.

RedwingUnfortunately the great northern diver (now two I'm told) eluded me. However I did spot a pair of red-crested pochard, mallard, pied wagtail, chaffinch, blue tit, goldfinch, tufted duck, magpie, buzzard, coot, pochard, carrion crow, mistle thrush, fieldfare, black-headed gull, goldeneye, great crested grebe, redshank and more cormorants than you could throw a stick at. But no diver - damn - maybe next time.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Draycote Water :: 29 January 2012

This morning I found time to take part in the 'Big Garden Birdwatch', organised by the RSPB. This year was the quietest yet with only: robin, chaffinch, house sparrow, blackbird, woodpigeon, dunnock, blue tit and starlings visiting in the allotted hour. Hopefully, as many suggest, this is as a consequence of the mild winter we are having; it seems to be the main topic on bird forums just how quiet some gardens are.

To cheer myself up I decided to drag the family off to Draycote Water. There have been consistent reports of smew on the water; photos of the male are stunning. On arrival we could see that it was going to be a cold walk but also that there were large numbers of birds on the water, predominantly gulls. Unfortunately we were unable to locate any smew, but talking to others they hadn't been able to locate them either. Goldeneye (female)The species could for the visit was 31, including: carrion crow, teal, black-headed gull, little grebe, mallard, great crested grebe, coot, gadwall, cormorant, lapwing, canada goose, starling, greylag goose, pied wagtail, goldeneye, tufted duck, pheasant, grey wagtail, goosander, red-breasted merganser, great tit, common gull, lesser black backed gull, woodpigeon, rook, magpie, linnet, robin, golden plover and buzzard.

On the way home we warmed up with a trip to Costa - caramel latte ... mmm!

Monday, 2 January 2012

West Kilbride & Seamill :: 02 January 2012

It has just not been the weather for being out while visiting West Kilbride, other than to coffee shops and the Sales. The rain and wind has been constant with full gale/storm force just before the New Year. In the storm we also repaired the garage from the damage inflicted during the storms at the beginning of December.

Today is the first day there has been time and no rain to have a walk on the beach. The wind however is strong - westerly or southwesterly, predominantly 5 to 7, increasing gale 8 to storm 10 at times - making the real-feel temperature closer to -5C than the balmy 5C forecast. The wind of course restricted the birds seen, as did the sea conditions. Still the species count was 28, including: greenfinch, meadow pipit, bullfinch, house sparrow, chaffinch, collard dove, rock dove, goldfinch, starling, rook, carrion crow, jackdaw, wood pigeon, magpie, sparrowhawk, kestrel, buzzard, oystercatcher, curlew, redshank, black-headed gull, herring gull, lesser and great black-backed gulls, gannet, mallard, great tit and blue tit. Hopefully the year will improve from here, weather-wise, and the bird count will increase.