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.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Rutland Water :: 03 August 2019

We decided to do something a bit different for our annual osprey pilgrimage, booking on the Rutland Water Dawn Osprey Cruise. Rather than try and get up and aim for a 5.45am arrival, we booked into 'the noel' hotel, just 5 minutes from Whitwell Harbour. Arriving in the evening before the visit we checked in, had a drink and headed to a nearby pub restaurant, the "Fox and Hounds - Exton'. Having booked, we turned up at 8.00pm and were surprised when they instantly knew who we were - they have had good reviews and this is why we picked them out ... unfortunately they said that 'they had a bad night, the earliest they would be able to serve us was at 10.00pm', and that 'we would be better going somewhere else'. Slightly taken aback I asked why they hadn't called; they said that they hadn't known until now. All very strange ... easily solved by going back to our hotel, where we had no problems being served some great food.
Rutland BelleNormanton Church

We arrived at Whitwell Harbour, joining the queue for the Rutland Belle at 05.45am. It was very misty but we hoped that the sun, just rising above the horizon beyond the boat, would burn it off quickly. As we waited, an osprey cruised by offshore. We boarded at 06.00am and set off into the mist. We passed great black-backed gulls, common terns and large numbers of cormorants, but it wasn't until we reached Normanton that we saw any clearing of the mist. The organisers decided to hold-up at the bay beside Normanton Church to see if conditions would improve.

We listened to the history of the church; when the demands of a growing population had to be met at the end of the 1960s, consultation had taken place to decide on a suitable site for a much-needed new reservoir and the Gwash valley in Rutland was chosen. The valley had to be cleared and so Normanton Church was deconsecrated and scheduled for demolition, but the general public had other ideas and their protests were successful. When it came time to flood the area, it became obvious that the church would be partially submerged once the high-water level was reached. This would mean the gradual erosion of its lower walls and foundations. A hastily formed trust was organised with the aim of rescuing the building from a watery demise and various proposals were considered.
Mandarin duck

Finally, it was decided that the lower level of the church should be filled with rubble and topped with concrete to create a new floor. This would be approximately 60cm above the water level. The church would become a small island once the reservoir was filled, and so a causeway was built connecting it to the nearby shore of the lake and an embankment was constructed around the building. A layer of boulders was then put in place as a defensive breakwater.

We sat and spotted common sandpiper flitting along the shore, grey wagtail and then five mandarin duck. Little egretCalling ahead were wren and green woodpecker. Pied wagtails hopped along the parapets of the church and common tern fished around the bay.

Conditions seem to have improved and so we eventually took to the water again. Not too long into the journey one of the other passengers spotted an osprey running fishing circuits off towards the shore. We watched and sailed to try and get a closer look; unfortunately, after a few minutes the osprey turned and headed away into the mist without any actual diving for fish. The mist was still hanging on across most of the reservoir and so we made for the sailing club and then along to the dam. Willow warblerWe didn't see any other ospreys but it had been a magical cruise on an atmospheric reservoir.

We disembarked, jumped into the car and returned to our hotel for breakfast. Bizarrely, the couple we had been sitting beside on the boat were doing exactly the same! Full cooked breakfast ... get in.

We checked out and decided to head for the Lyndon Visitor Centre and to head for the Shallow Water hide in Manton Bay. As we pulled into the car park, there was the couple we had sat with on the boat, and who had stayed at the same hotel - stalking?

Great-crested grebeOn the trail to the hides I stopped to watch a mixed flock of blue and long-tailed tits - a couple of 'yellow' birds flash across. I left the path and headed for the tree/hedge-line to investigate. About halfway across the meadow a grass snake broke cover and shot off towards the hedge. It didn't half move - really good views. When I got to the edge of the meadow I found the birds and ID'd them as willow warbler.

We eventually reached the hide and set up the scope. The only ospreys we could find were roosting in a tree opposite. Those who had been there for while said they had been treated to a flyby not 30 minutes before, and that there were another couple of birds in the trees - just not visible. In front of the hide there was a great-crested grebe nest; the adults swapped over several times showing a couch of eggs - surprisingly large! Another pair on the water had already fledged their young but only had one visible - perhaps the others under the wings of the adult, or already predated?

From the trees one of the fledged youngsters flew onto the rest beside the nest. It called for a while and eventually another took to the pole to the left of that. After another five minutes or so, the adult arrived and at one point we had four osprey in the air and another two in the trees. One of the birds dropped into the water near the nest and rose again without a fish. We waited until it was late lunchtime and having watched an adult fly off towards the trout farm, we decided that it would like be a while before we saw much more action. We headed back for an ice cream and the journey home.

Sightings today (38) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, collared dove, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, egyptian goose, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, kestrel, lapwing, little egret, long-tailed tit, mallard, mandarin duck, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, osprey, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, rook, sand Martin, starling, swallow, swift, tufted duck, willow warbler and woodpigeon.