Sunday, 19 February 2017

Harbourside Park, Poole :: 15 February 2017

After a delicious lunch at Rick Steins place in Sandbanks Female stonechatwe went for a stroll along the promenade. Parking was running out so we decided to pop down to Poole to park up and have a look out at the water. As we got into the car park I noted a bird on the barbed wire ahead, flitting back and forth across the train line, so took out the camera and went to investigate.

Turned out to be a female stonechat, new for this year. Nothing too exciting spotted when we tried to add to Charlotte's daily steps but made my day to see the little stonechat.

RSPB Arne :: 14 February 2017

A two night break in Bournemouth visiting Eilidh. As usual we started with brunch down in the Harvester at the foot of the Durley Chine. Amazing value breakfast! Filled up we thought about a walk along the promenade but the wind was a little strong. We decided to stop down at the promenade along Sandbanks instead. The usual gulls were active along the eaters edge and on the various land reclaimed follwing the low tide. As we appraoched an area hosting piles of decaying seaweed we saw a small flock of 13 turnstone working furiously on turning the seaweed to expose their own lunch. AvocetSoon after we came to an area of sand where we could see redshank, more gulls including common, and finally a group of 7 bar-tailed godwit.

The next day we decided to travel over to RSPB Arne, particularly to try out the new reserve cafe! Arrived in dull and mizzle weather conditions so decided to have some lunch before embarking on a walk. Delious soup devoured we decided to try the heathland trail where we were reliably informed that we would see very large numbers of avocet. Brent geeseQuite quiet on the way down to the estuary but when we got there we were greeted by more thand 500 avocet and the same in brent geese. There were large numbers of lapwing, redshank, dunlin and shelduck too. We continued round to the hide and spent some time scanning the birds and talking with a couple weilding a scope each. This helped us locate a pair on pintail ducks.

From here we continued round the heathland and away from the waters edge. I was listening, hoping to hear the tones of a datrford warber and as I lost the family over the brow of a hill I thought I headr one. To check I opened my phone app and played the sounds. Sure enough the warbler called back. I found it through binoculars but was only able to get a blurred mass when attempting a photo. The family turned to come and retrieve me and we continued back towards the carpark. Before we got there I suggested the girls all went to have a coffee and cake at the cafe while \i quickly followed the 'seasonal raptor trail'. No raptors but I did come across a green woodpecket and then heard another dartford warbler. I used my app again and this time the warbler came into view long enough to get off a photo. I then met a couple who listened to the darford in the bushes but he was not showing for them. They said that they hadn't seen anything of note ahead so I turned and made for the cafe - cream tea with scone!Dartford Warbler

Sightings (35) included: avocet, blackbird, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blue tit, brent goose, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, curlew, dartford warbler, dunlin, dunnock, goldfinch, great tit, green woodpecker, house sparrow, lapwing, little egret, long-tailed tit, mallard, nuthatch, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, pintail, raven, redshank, robin, shelduck, siskin, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

At home, Banbury :: 12 February 2017

What a way to spend Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch - sparrowhawkWe were sitting there tucking into our roast beef when Charlotte spotted a sparrowhawk on the back fence. Not the first time we've had one there but we haven't had one since last summer. It hung around until the end of the course so I ran upstairs to take a photo. I saw why it was staying around; it had a group of sparrow, dunnock and blackbird trapped in a forsythia bush. The sprawk grew tired of waiting and climed into the bush. At this point a couple of sparrows and a blackbird made a break for it and briefly the sparrowhawk made chase but soon realising how difficult it had been to Sunday lunch - sparrowhawkextract itself from the bush.

It then started circling the bush from the ground trying to spook the remaining quarry. After quite some time a dunnock was foolish enough to break out and was dispatched with ease. The sprawk then sat on the fence and post plucking and devouring its catch - amazing. Posted some photos on Twitter and managed to get a retweet and comment from @ChrisGPackham.

Apple pie to finish!Sunday lunch - sparrowhawk

Saturday, 11 February 2017

WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 04 February 2017

Charlotte has been trying to get out for a walk each day recently but was getting tired for the same old routes. I suggested that we head for Brandon Marsh, have a coffee and have a walk out in the reserve. Having coffee we could see that work parties had been busy clearing bushes and small trees from behind the feeders. Great spotted woodpecker made a brief appearance but no sign of nuthatch or bullfinch. Onto the reserve and down to the East Marsh hide. Good numbers of gulls but few lapwing. Good numbers of cormorant too. Just the usual collection of regulars so tried Carlton. Reports that the bittern had dropped into the reeds to the right of the hide gave us hope that we would see it when it left but after 30+ minutes we had to get back ... the bittern had been quite mobile but as usual we were just too late to catch up.

A nice afternoon to follow Draycote with, and a roaring fire after dinner.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, common gull, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldeneye, goosander, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greenfinch, greylag goose, herring gull, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, moorhen, reed bunting, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, shoveler, teal, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Draycote Water :: 04 February 2017

An early breakfast and off to Draycote Water for my first real birdwatch of the year. A cold start and needed to scrape the car before getting off the drive. There were already a good number of runners and cyclists in the carpark on arrival. As ever the tricky question was whether to do the circuit clockwise or anticlockwise. Not knowing where the target birds would be I decided on anticlockwise - Scaupseems wrong the other way anyway, and last time I saw a smew at Draycote it was in Toft Bay.

As I got onto the footpath and looked down towards the pontoon I was taken by the large number of little grebe, at least 12 diving. Joining them were some of the scaup that had been noted by others in recent weeks. No sign of the smew at Toft though.

Just before reaching Biggin Bay a blackbird was disturbed in the hedgerow to my right. It turned out to be the result of a weasel working it's way along the hedge - I followed for around 20 metres with some good views but a poor photo. Eventually it disappeared and I continued on my way.

Past the valve tower and at last came across the first target bird, a red-necked grebe. Redhead smewVisible with the ducks but too far offshore for a decent photo. Chatted briefly to another birder who had spent some time with the tree sparrows. Soon after I bumped into him again taking photos of scaup that I presume had moved round from the pontoon area. Fortunately he pointed out that I'd just walked past the redhead smew - must have been diving when I looked. By the time I got back she had decided enough was enough and had climbed onto the rocks at the side for a bit of shuteye.

Nothing extra from there so headed back home for lunch.

Today's sightings (42) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldeneye, goosander, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, herring gull, jackdaw, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, red-necked grebe, reed bunting, robin, rook, scaup, smew, starling, teal, tree sparrow, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.