Wednesday, 31 October 2018

RSPB Minsmere :: 26-28 October 2018

A few days away in Suffolk and so it would be rude not to visit RSPB Minsmere. It had been a bit wet as we set off but by the time we arrived the sun was out, although it was cold. We had a spot of lunch and then set out onto the reserve.

BitternAt the crossroads Charlotte convinced me that we should go over to the Bittern and Island Mere hides to see if we could see a bittern; there might also be an outside chance of a bearded tit. The Bittern hide showed very little and the reeds in the pool were in need of a trim. A young family entered and noisily discussed looking for unicorns. After some time we decided that we would retreat to Island Mere. As we passed the hill on our right we saw a jay fly past, but nothing else caught our eye.

No sign of bearded tit from the boardwalk into Island Mere but the hide was bustling with people. This was for a good reason - a bittern (#144) was Bitternstanding fishing in some thinly spaced reeds not far from the hide. It was difficult to get much of a photo from where it sat but we watched as it caught a total of four fish (3 x roach, 1 x perch). We sat / stood for a good while - as we waited we had views of great white egret and marsh harriers as they passed by.

Eventually after two hours the bittern walked a circle round open ground, in failing light, and back into the reeds once more. A great choice by Charlotte! It was getting late and so we headed to our hotel to check in.

The next morning the forecast was for better weather but gradually deteriorating through the day. After a full BitternEnglish breakfast we returned to the reserve, heading for the sea and the South hide. It was much colder and the wind stronger too. Out to sea we could sea great black-backed gulls and 200+ common scoter. From the South hide we found 5 avocet and an array of ducks. Quite large numbers of great black-backed gull were resting here too.

There had been reports of three Dartford warblers along the dunes but they refused to show. While looking around likely habitat a few stonechat spun around in the air catching flies in the more sheltered spots. We saw kestrel and then a muntjac deer as we headed back to the Visitor Centre for lunch.Bittern

Charlotte popped to the toilet before we went to Island Mere to try our luck with the bittern again. As I waited I had a goldcrest in the trees overhead. Back to the Island Mere hide and we had a repeat performance from the bittern. It was getting on so we decided to leave and had a wander around Snape Maltings and a cream tea.

The next morning we checked out and decided to have another stroll around the reserve. On the entrance road you could see how much rain had fallen overnight. The reserve was damp but not really we or muddy. We headed for the sea again - we saw common scoter again and a gannet far out to sea. Nothing extra at the South hide but we stopped on our way onwards to talk with three guys watching the passage of birds with scopes and bins. They had noted a single velvet scoter and two red-throated divers - unfortunately earlier and not visible now.

As we approached the sluice we came across the stonechats again. As I was trying to get a photo I noticed one of the birds was in fact a Dartford warbler [#145].

It was getting on to lunchtime and we decided to make a last detour to Dartford warblerIsland Mere for one last bittern encounter. Another great show from the bittern plus the appearance of a single male goosander.

Sunday lunch at the Bell, Middleton finished off our stay. We must try and arrange more of these long weekends - great fun.

Sightings (53) were: avocet, bittern, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, common gull, common scoter, cormorant, dartford warbler, dunnock, fieldfare, gadwall, gannet, goldcrest, goldfinch, goosander, great black-backed gull, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, great white egret, green woodpecker, greenfinch, grey heron, greylag goose, herring gull, jay, kestrel, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, rook, shelduck, shoveler, snipe, starling, stonechat, teal, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

BOS Bicester Wetlands :: 24 October 2018

Another day off work for the school half term so I talked Charlotte into a visit to the BOS Bicester Wetland Reserve, a first for her. The sun was out again and so regardless of what we saw, it would be a relaxing day out.

We decided to take our lunch up into the main hide so as to not spook the birds unnecessarily. From here we looked across the water and noted teal (18), moorhen (6) and black-headed gulls (19). Blue and great tits joined goldfinches, greenfinches and chaffinches at the feeders, only interrupted by a visiting great spotted woodpecker.

When thinking about eating our sandwiches we saw three jays fly from right to left over the entrance road but into the far trees. We waited for further views but none were forthcoming. While waiting though, a magpie chased out a sparrowhawk from the trees and began a dogfight ... first the magpie chasing the sparrowhawk, and then they swapped places. At one point I couldn't believe that the magpie escaped the sparrowhawk's clutches. Just minutes later this event was repeated but in addition to the magpie a crow decided to have a go. Again, how the crow escaped a lunge from the sparrowhawk we will never know.

As we were deciding to head down to the other end of the reserve, a wren decided to land on the ledge of the window - I'm not sure who got the biggest fright! As I looked down the fence below I could see the wren hopping left and right, recovering it's composure. Shortly after both red kite and buzzard flew over, the buzzard landing in a distant tree, to the annoyance of the magpies.

On the works pool two little grebe dived around the groups of mallard and gadwall.

Green sandpiperAs we approach the new hide the teal on the water were disturbed and every single one took to the air - 28 of them. From the hide all we had was a solitary green sandpiper. Over we had woodpigeon (65) and starling (45).

On our return to the car I looked over to the water treatment facility and counted 49 carrion crows. I also spotted a single grey wagtail.

Nothing out of the ordinary but a nice day out.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, dunnock, gadwall, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, green sandpiper, greenfinch, grey heron, grey wagtail, house sparrow, jackdaw, jay, little grebe, magpie, mallard, moorhen, pheasant, pied wagtail, red kite, robin, sparrowhawk, starling, teal, woodpigeon and wren.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Napton Reservoir & WkWT Brandon Marsh :: 22 October 2018

There have been reports that a pair of bearded tits have been seen at Napton Reservoir. So on my day off today, I thought I'd drag Charlotte over to see if we could find them. When we got onto the waters edge you could feel the wind was cold - even the bright sun didn't seem to protect and so by the time we were close to the reeds Charlotte was already feeling the chill. We passed @Cymbelinelister and @daco1600 coming the other way - they said the male showed briefly in the channel. We waited but it didn't show for us.

A sandwich in the car and off we set for WkWT Brandon Marsh, stopping for a cup of tea and coffee on arrival. We stopped at the Jon Baldwin Hide and noted the higher water level, the larger numbers of teal and wigeon, and watched the cormorants bask in the sun. A photographer in the hide said a jack snipe had been spotted from the Teal Pool Hide and so we made that our next stop. Even before we got there we had talked with a birder who had just come from the Teal Pool and said he hadn't been able to find it, neither could we.

JayNothing extra from the East Marsh Pool or on our arrival at the Carlton Hide. The water has been taken over by a weed which covered almost three quarters of the visible pool. Nothing doing here.

At the Ted Jury Hide there was only a grey heron in the distant water. However, on opening the side window we had a good look at a single jay ... enough to get Charlotte’s attention.

Sightings (22) at Brandon Marsh: black-headed gull, blue tit, chaffinch, coot, cormorant, gadwall, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jay, lapwing, little egret, moorhen, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, shoveler, teal, tufted duck, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Wybunbury Church :: 22 October 2018

Staying at the Red Lion in Wybunbury (pronounced Wimbry) to visit Ailsa at University. We had an early breakfast and decided on a stroll around the church opposite our pub/restaurant/hotel. Eilidh said the church bell had rung most of the night when she wasn't sleeping.

Numbers of great and blue tits fed in the trees around the church and as we rounded the corner we found that there was only a tower and the remainder of the church wasn't there ... The Domesday Book contains a reference to a priest in Wybunbury. Wybunbury ChurchThe church was broken into in 1464, the cross was broken and valuables were stolen. The thieves were caught and hung. The tower was built in the 15th century on the site of the earlier church. By 1750 its foundations were observed to be settling and the tower was beginning to lean. In the early 1790s the church was repaired or rebuilt. In 1833 the body of the church was demolished; James Trubshaw then straightened the tower by removing soil from the higher side and soaking the ground so that the tower settled back straight; this is the earliest known application of the technique later used on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He rebuilt the body of the church in a style loosely based on the previous building. This church was replaced in 1892–93 by a church designed by James Brooks, which in turn was demolished around 1976. The tower was saved from demolition by a group of villagers who formed the Wybunbury Tower Preservation Trust.

A handful of fieldfare were highly mobile on the tops of the trees and a single woodpecker drummed somewhere ahead. I dropped down to the graveyard lower down the slope. From here I could see over to Wybunbury Moss National Nature Reserve - I must schedule some time to visit when we come next. On a post to my right a jay sat in the shade of a tree. It was quite happy to sit as I watched and it was only when I walked a little closer that it took off and moved along a few posts, then onto a gravestone. Another jay appeared to the right. They soon moved on and were lost to sight. A promising little walk for the future.

Boddington Reservoir and Temple Pool :: 07 October 2018

The weather had been suspect and so I thought that there might be something worth seeing at Boddington Reservoir. Little egretI walked from the car and chatted to a birder coming the other way, asking if he had seen anything of note. Rather grumpily he said not. The water was very low and the island had actually joined onto the mainland. Not a wader in sight. Around 80 greylag geese rested on the left hand side, with 24 black-headed gulls. Behind were five grey herons fishing and behind them again were two little egrets.

Great crested grebes (8) swam above and dived below the water. Numbers of mallard (33) rested on the rocky edge. This was going to be hard going I thought.

One of the little egrets fished close by and allowed a couple of photos, Little egretso not a waste of time, but soon I was past the fishermen and their match and on the high slope to the right of the reservoir. I stopped and talked with a chap who volunteers at Brandon Marsh - nice guy. As we watched the far hedge we had bullfinch, chiffchaff, goldfinch and blackbirds. Turned out we had both been to see the grey phalarope at Napton almost at the same time but not met then. As we stood a small flock of what appeared to be golden plover passed over. There were reports of redwing over Grimsbury but none to be seen here.

Moving on I found 18 red-legged partridge (#143) near two pheasant - Marsh titthese had eluded me for the whole year. I'd like to find some greys but never seem to have the luck. Turning for home I passed the water sluice at the far end and entered the trees. A mixed flock of tits made some commotion and I luckily picked out a couple of marsh tit amongst them.

A pleasant visit but disappointing given the expanse of mud along the edge of the water.

After lunch, Charlotte agreed to a short walk down to Temple Pool. I was hoping to show her the mandarin ducks but they didn't show. We did though see three jays fly off ahead of us as we got to the entrance to the pool from the footpath. Then great-spotted woodpecker Red-legged partridgeand nuthatch showed but not close enough for a good photo. On the way back up the hill I saw what I first thought was a kestrel but turned out to be a sparrowhawk, being mobbed by a crow.

Sightings included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coal tit, dunnock, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, mallard, marsh tit, moorhen, mute swan, nuthatch, pheasant, red kite, red-legged partridge, reed bunting, robin, rook, sparrowhawk, woodpigeon and wren.