27 February 2010

Highnam Woods.

I didn't want to go far today, so despite the attractions of the Green-winged Teal and Pink-footed Goose at Slimbridge, I went to Highnam Woods instead.

It was very muddy.

Fortunately, the mud and strong possibility of rain kept all but a handful of the bloody dog walkers away, and I felt like I had the reserve - and the new hide - to myself.

The new hide is very nice, with an open back to deny those who would do ill in the hide the privacy they would like. It offers great views of the two feeder stations and feeding tables and feels very solid. All the usual suspects were present - Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Long-tailed Tits, Dunnocks, Blackbirds. I held a slim hope for a Brambling (still none this year) but none showed up. I was, however, delighted to spot a Willow Tit on one of the feeders. Very distinct with it's bull neck. The pale wing panel was not so obvious, so I was - for a moment - doubtful. To clinch the ID though, it called briefly. To clinch the ID even more, I came across a small flock of Marsh Tits a few hundred yards along the trail - all calling and showing no trace of the bull neck. Great stuff, and I was certain of my Willow Tit.

A Sparrowhawk was hunting for breakfast at the feeders as I watched. From a viewable and very clear starting point across the clearing from the pond area it launched six attacks on the feeders. On the sixth, it took a meal. I was lucky enough to record its fifth pass on my little Canon Ixus camera. The video doesn't do it justice:

Also in the Woods were a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, a Raven (heard only), Crows, Woodpigeons, a couple of Robins, two Buzzards (one appeared to be in the middle of a display flight?) and a Nuthatch.

Got a bit fed up with the mud by the end, if I'm honest... but very pleased with the quick Willow Tit Marsh Tit one-two.

Fortunately, the rain held off for the duration of my visit. So I decided to push my luck and stop at Witcombe Reservoirs on the way home. Alas, my luck ran out and by the time I'd made it to the water (having negotiated a mega-bog) the rain set in. One shower followed by another shower. No good for birding. I sheltered under the tall hedges around the abandoned house (where the Wryneck showed last year). I took a brief survey of the birds, though:

Black-backed Gulls
Herring Gulls (none that struck me as a YLG or Caspain! - obviously!)
Common Gulls
Tufted Ducks
Great-crested Grebes (at least 12 of these)
Canada Geese
Couple of Mute Swans
Lots of Redwing
Pied Wagtail
Tufted Ducks

The aftermath of one of the showers produced a nice rainbow. I took a video of that, too:

So a semi-decent day, ruined slightly by the fact that my wonderful new tripod (190CXPRO3 - owned for less than a month) broke. One of the rubber feet fell off at some point during my walk around Highnam (impossible to recover) and then at Witcombe the lower leg section of the same leg came clean out! So, I'm going to get it replaced as quickly as I can. Fortunately I bought it from a shop and not online.

99 birds for the year now. I hope the 100th is something good!

21 February 2010

Newport Wetlands. (I disappoint myself)

A visit to Newport Wetlands today - again lovely weather despite the best efforts of the weatherman!

I walked all around the main reserve and inspected all three pools at Goldcliff - and walked a great deal. My limbs are exhausted this evening.

In the car park outside the visitors centre there were Greenfinch, an overflying Grey Heron, a number of Robins, Great Tits and a lone Kestrel.

Around the reserve I bagged:

Mute Swan
Blue Tit
Little Egret
Wood Pigeon
Song Thrush
Reed Bunting (first for the year)
Tufted Duck
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull (no sign of a Mediterranean Gull)
Knot (a first for the year)
Dunlin (probably Sanderling too, but I'm not confident enough to identify them at a distance)
Black-tailed Godwit
Great Crested Grebe
Long-tailed Tit

and heard about a hundred Cetti's Warblers - alas no sighting.

At Goldcliff pools / sea wall, the following:

Canada Goose
Avocet (seven of them, and first for the year)
All the regular Gulls.

Unfortunately, I think I timed my visit badly. I went straight to the main reserve in the morning and early afternoon. This was the time of high tide, and so by the time I got to Goldcliff pools many of the waders had flown out with the tide. So... I saw no Greenshank or Spotted Redshank on the pools mid-afternoon (but read on RBA that they were seen early-afternoon!).

By now the tide had receded significantly, and from the sea wall there was lots to see, but no Greenshank or Spotted Redshank that I could positively identify. The Sun caused a lot of silhouetting and I find this difficult when viewing birds on estuary. Although, I'm sure I would've picked out the distinctive features of the two in silhouette.

Argh. Two birds I should've seen today - but didn't. I'm a birder-in-progress. My confidence with waders - and my timing to get the best chance of spotting them - has a long way to go.

20 February 2010

Great Expectations.

All the working week, I wanted to see Goshawks. Alas, the weather for this morning in the Forest was - for the majority of Friday - forecast to be lousy. Rain and / or snow showers. I'd resigned myself to not going.

Fortunately the forecast just before I turned in was much better - with the poor weather staying further south. So at 8am this morning I set out.

The weather was glorious. I was first to arrive at New Fancy. Snow in the Forest was enough to make it pretty and sparkly, but not enough to cause any disruption. Just right! The gates were open no problem.

So... after enjoying good views of a Buzzard and a Bullfinch in the car park, I went up to begin my vigil. I only had until about 11am, as I had to get back to watch Everton play Manchester United (which finished 3-1 to the might Blues!!!)

There were no Goshawks on show until about 10.15am, when a male was displaying nicely and being hassled by a juvenille. The two of them engaged in a little airborn ballet (talons touching, I reckon) and then went their separate ways. Lovely views through the scope and I was delighted. Just in time, too!

The time between my arrival (about 8.45am) and the Goshawks showing wasn't wasted either. The birds on show from the viewpoint were overflying Ravens, a couple of Mistle Thrush, a perched Sparrowhawk, year ticks in the manner of Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker (and of course the Goshawks) a good number of Crossbills and - FINALLY, FINALLY - a Hawfinch. It was sat at the top of a nearby tree (Pine? Maybe...? I don't know about trees). A lifer for me.

All in all, a fine morning. Here's a photo of a female Crossbill as it sat at the top of one of the trees near to the viewpoint. It was the only bird that sat close enough, for long enough, to photograph through my scope:

(it's not two birds, it's the same bird)

Some black Sheep feeding at the car park as I departed:

A short video of the scene just before 9am:

94 birds for the year, now.

14 February 2010


I hadn't planned to go anywhere today, but when this afternoon rolled around and the weather was still rather lovely it seemed such a waste to stay at home. Thus, off to Sharpness in the hope of seeing the female Black Redstart. I'd not been to Sharpness before, so it was a very pleasant surprise with great opportunities to walk along the river and some great habitats. Once you break free of the docks, that is!

The Black Redstart obliged within ten minuntes of arriving, and showed extremely well for a further ten. It was darting between the end house and the second to last house. Didn't go across to the Ned West building.

Also had great views of a Grey Wagtail - which had a bit of a go at the Black Redstart at one point on the roof of the end house! Both birds retreated with their dignity intact.

One the mud along the shore were Black-headed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a solitary Curlew and Grey Heron and six Redshank. Glimpsed what looked like a flock of buntings in a grassy fields just behind the shore, but didn't get a second look and so couldn't be sure what they were.

90 birds on the list now!

Frustrated that the Ring-becked Duck was refound at Slimbridge today! Be gone / missing again by next weekend I imagine. I note also that a Short-eared Owl showed just north of Hawling today, when I'd spent all afternoon in the area yesterday for the Yellowhammers et al!

13 February 2010

Six for the list!

Had a good day today. Sunshine threatened all day, but only broke through in small portions. Still, grey cloud is better than rain.

I was up early for the Birdwatch morning at WWT Slimbridge with Dave Paynter (I'm pretty sure that was his name). Clearly a wealth of knowledge at his disposal. We checked out the entrance fields, and the hides up to the Holden Tower. All the usual suspects spotted, including my first Oystercatcher, Ruff (finally!) and Peregrine of the year.

To be honest, I doubt I would do the morning again for the bird spotting, as nothing was picked up that I wouldn't spot myself (which is quite reassuring!)... but the commentary about the reserve, and titbits about the birds and their habits were most welcome.

The demonstration of the ringing of a female Tufted Duck was excellent. I emerged further enthused about the beginner ringing course I have book for August in Devon (FSC, Slapton).

In the afternoon I pootled off to Hawling for the Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings that have been reported near the Dairy Farm recently. I'm pleased to report that all three showed well. Certainly my first Tree Sparrows and I can't recall an occasion when I've seen Corn Buntings - but since I've only been keeping logs for 18 months now I cannot say for certain. I've had many views of Yellowhammers, but none as satisfying as these. Some of the yellow was dazzling! What follows are three more lousy pictures taken without proper digiscoping equipment:

Year list up to 88, to be found here.

07 February 2010


I am.

Difficult to get round to updating this thing. Never mind, there are reasons to rejoice. I have a Cley Spy Mulepack, Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 tripod and 700RC2 head to use with my Swaro ATS65HD. The combo is a joy to use.

Since I last put anything down my year list has 'shot' up to 82. Additions such as Nuthatch, Common Crossbill, Siskin, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and European White-fronted Geese all make me happy.

I saw the Crossbills at Boys Grave and New Fancy View in the Forest. It was the first time I'd had a great look at them with decent optics at my disposal. The males are particularly gorgeous.

Today at Slimbridge I was privileged to have the most amazing view of a Sparrowhawk sat in a tree (from the Kingfisher Hide). I tried to take some photos through the eyepiece, but I really do need to get some proper digiscoping equipment (trouble is the tripod and head and mulepack all cost money too!)

I also tried to photogrpah a Siskin I saw today, but it's a bit awful!