for tracking purposes only.
The birds of
Cheltenham Diver 10th
RSPB Criuse, Exe 9th
Slimbridge 26th & 27th
Garden Sparrowhawk 8th
Portishead & Chew 7th
Cheltenham & Highnam 1st
Due to space limitations I have had to archive the older blogs and leave out the photos.
We went to Slimbridge again later in the year and we saw different birds this time we saw the Grey Wagtail down by the water's edge. If you are wondering why I haven't got photos on this one my fingers were cold. Once again we saw a Wood Pigeon walking on the ground and also a nice close up of a Moorhen originally known as a Waterhen showing off it's red and yellow bill. A similar close up of a Coot with a white bill to compare the difference to the bill of a Moorhen. There was only one problem no Bittern showing nor even a Cetti's Warbler when came out the Zeiss Hide we found a little Robin perched in the tree,on the ground,and on the post and also the Blackbird on the ground as well. The winter plumage Black-
We went to Shapwick Heath on the Somerset Levels in the hope of seeing a Bittern. There are usually one or two over-
Forest of Dean
We went to the raptor watch-
Brambling, Common Crossbill Treecreeper, and Song Thrush but no Hawfinches. Time to try and search for Britain's rarest and elusive Woodpecker, The Lesser-
including a Reed Bunting on one of the feeders. Quite a day!
And the weather was nice too!
We went to Slimbridge to find out about my Work Experience there. First of all we popped into one of the hides and saw Bewick's Swans, Pintails, Pochards, and Shelducks. After we went to look at the feeders on the way to the Holden Tower, where we usually see Grey Squirrel. There were Moorhen, originally known as Water Hen. But of course the pride of place goes to the Water Rail. This secretive bird normally spends much of it time in long tall reed beds. The wardens in Slimbridge have put some fat cakes on the ground and if you are lucky, you might see one with it's bright red bill. I managed to get sort of a picture but he didn't come out too far. We went to the Crane school to see how the young cranes are getting on. One or two of the youngsters are starting to get their adult feathers. Then we looked at the South Lake, lots of Geese and Swans. After Lunch in the restaurant, we went to South Finger to look for Kingfishers. We didn't see any today, but a saw a lovely little Wren and had a great view of a Cetti's Warbler.
The best ever! I didn't manage to get a picture unfortunately, as it was flitting about too quickly. We couldn't resist another look at the Water Rail and this time there were some Long-
Chew and Blagdon
We went on a little quest to find a Ruddy Duck, so we tried our luck at Blagdon in the hope of seeing one. We saw a male Scaup with four females. There were also some Wigeon there as well. My first close up Wigeon. The males look super with their golden crown. At last I saw some Ruddy Ducks a long way off, because they not that common nowadays. I wonder why? We moved along to Chew Valley Lake to see what was there. There were no Ruddy Ducks I can tell you that for nothing. But however we did see some Common Gulls amongst the very common Black -
We went to the Highlands of Scotland to stay at Dunalastair, Perthshire for a week. We stopped off at Vane Farm on the way up. We stayed in a cottage near an area where we saw Black Grouse one year.
We went to explore the area a bit and also we were on the look out for the Black Grouse, but so far nothing. We saw some Red Deer and Brown Hare. Not a lot you might say. There was a special train coming from Perth. The North Briton headed by 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier and 60009 Union of South Africa. We found a good place to watch it, but it was late and by the time it came it had got very misty. We saw it heading up the bank into the mist and off to Inverness. Back at the cottage Pheasants do a pretty good impression of a Black Grouse as they are dark green and a couple of Jays appear in the Garden.
We went to Loch of the Lowes at Dunkeld to see the Ospreys and other birds including Pheasants (normal colour ones) and various garden birds. On leaving Loch of the Lowes we saw Fallow Deer running free in the wild in Scotland! Seriously Fallow Deer, only common in England but very unusual in Scotland. We also saw Golden Plover, Lapwing and at last we saw some Black Grouse.
We headed to the RSPB Reserve at Loch Garten where we caught up again with the North Britain at Kincraig near Kingussie in glorious sunshine. The two steam trains complete with the Cairngorm mountains. At Loch Garten we saw the Osprey called EJ. We saw her on the webcam sat on the nest in the snow. EJ's new mate is Orange VS but the bad news is that Henry did not return. I saw a Crested Tit on the webcam, but by the time I got outside to take a picture, it had gone. Then we went up to Cairngorm and saw some Snow Buntings. There was still quite a bit of snow and we went on a quest to see if we can see the Ptarmigan, which is a member of the grouse family. It was hard walking in the snow and Mum and I kept putting our feet in holes, because we couldn't see them. We decided to turn back even though we hadn't gone that far. Then we heard Ptarmigan and a couple walked right past us. A lovely view in the snow.
We were on our way to Rannoch Station when we stopped to see if there were Black -
We went to Glenshee and saw a Mountain Hare at close quarters, the last Mountain Hare we saw was in April 2006, very distant at Tomintoul running down the hill. Then we went to Loch of Kinnordy where there seemed to be a lot of Black -
The day after the car failed to climb to the mountains. It was taken to the garage at Blair Atoll. After lunch went into an exhibition with a webcam on a nest bringing live pictures of Golden Eagle. After we picked the car up we went to the Falls of Bruar where there are spectacular waterfalls and on the way up we saw a male Grey Wagtail. On the way back to the cottage, at last we saw them. A smashing Black Grouse lek. It wasn't as active as it would have been if there had been females there, also known as Greyhens. I nearly forgot to mention an appearance of a male Hen Harrier flying near the cottage.
That is all.
Finally on the way home we popped into Martin Mere to see what was about. There was a Ruff and a Redshank and also few Avocets and the true stars, Tree Sparrows. It was colder here than it had been all week in Scotland.
We went to West Sedgemoor to see what was about. We looked in the heronry hide first and saw some nests but only saw a few herons in flight and one Little Egret breeding there as well. On the way back from the hide we saw an Arum Lily, also called a Cuckoo Pint. We also saw other flowers including Herb Robert, Celandines, Primroses, Early Purple Orchids and lots and lots of Bluebells. We also saw a Green-
We went to Norfolk hoping to see a Turtle Dove which is a cousin of the Collared Dove, but no luck. We went to Lakenheath and saw Sedge and Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings, Whitethroats, and Bearded Tits. There are two special birds here that are hardly ever seen in any other part of Britain. These two species are the Golden Oriole, who are golden except for the black wing tips on the male, (females and juv are greenish), and the Common Crane. We heard the Orioles calling in the Poplars, but for such a brightly coloured bird, they are almost impossible to see. The Cranes were proving just as hard, but we did see a couple fly over the reed bed.
Then we went to Weeting Heath to see the Stone Curlew. We also saw a Little Owl sat in exactly the same place as we saw one last year. I wonder if it was the same one.
We went to Hickling Broad to try to see a Swallowtail butterfly but nothing. We had a good view of the Konik ponies that graze there. We went to the North Norfolk Railway and saw once again no. 90775 working a service train. After we watched the train go through Weybourne station, we went to Cley where saw some Egyptian Geese. We went into Avocet hide and saw some Marsh Harriers and when we came out there was a Redshank on a post posing nicely. Then we went to Bishop's Hide to see what was there. Everything was disturbed by the alarmed quack of a female Mallard, then out of the reeds came a deer, but which? It lacked the white tush of a Roe Deer, too big for a Muntjac and a bit small for a Red Deer. The only conclusion we came to was that it was a Chinese Water Deer. I have seen all the other three in Norfolk, but this was my first Chinese Water Deer. They have tusks instead of antlers and during the rutting season they fight with these. We also heard Bitterns booming and saw lots of Avocets,
some with chicks. In the evening we went for a walk near the B&B
and saw a lovely Barn Owl hunting in the fields. It flew right over our heads. Smashing!
The farm where we stayed is near the Bure Valley Railway, so we popped in and saw a new loco in service named Mark Timothy. We went to Minsmere before we started for home and there were loads of different birds, such as Lapwing, Avocet, Black -
There were at least 5 Bitterns there. We saw some flying and then two were fishing right in front of the hide! Oh, in the Bittern Hide there were some Red Deer. Maybe it should be called Red Deer Hide! Great weekend.
I heard from Minsmere that I had won the photo competition, so we all went up to Suffolk for the weekend for my presentation.
On the way up we called into Flatford Mill for a quick look around, this is where Constable painted his famous picture of the Haywain, there were lots of Swallows and House Martens on the telegraph wires.
We got to Minsmere late afternoon and we went to look at all the photos in the competition which were hanging on the cafe wall. We looked the the sightings for the day and saw that a Purple Heron was spotted at 2pm, so we went for a walk to look for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it, only Cormorants and a few Grebes at Island Mere Hide. We were on our way back to the visitor centre when all of a sudden a pair of Green Woodpeckers flew in and started feeding on the ground.Too far away for a photo, but then we came across a Muntjac. I took some photos but the light was getting bad by then.
More muntjacs rushed through the clearing and at the Bittern Hide we saw some Red Deer Hinds.
30.08.08 Saturday. The prize presentation was going be at 3pm so we wandered around and saw something I wasn't expecting to see. A Grayling butterfly, the first one I have ever seen, so perfectly camouflaged it looked like ground. Then off to the East Hide and I saw a pair of Spotted Redshank. There were even some Dunlin still in breeding plumage and among the group of Dunlin was a rather lonely Ringed Plover. Suddenly a flash of blue flew past the hide window. It was a Kingfisher, and all a sudden something put all birds up. No one could see what could have caused it. The Dunlin vanished from in front of the hide, but the Spotted Redshank walked back to where they were. At 3pm I met wildlife photographer and author David Tipling when I went to receive my prize, which was a book called “Digital Photography “. After the presentation I went on a quest find a Painted Lady Butterfly. I saw one here back in 2007, but this year I have not seen one at all. A Grey Squirrel decided to have a snooze on a branch. On the way to Island Mere Hide we came across a Beetle Larva, very weird. We haven’t got a clue what it was.
31.08.08 On Sunday we went on a land rover safari with the warden, Paul Green, which was part of my prize. We drove down to the beach and saw quite a rarity, a Wasp Spider with yellow/black stripes on its back. He then showed us the Konik ponies used to help maintain the habitat of the reserve. The ponies were very friendly and came over to see us, but we had to make a swift exit when a bull decided to come over to see us as well. I asked Paul where the bridge was that Bill Oddie saw some Cranes fly over a few years ago and he took us there. Dad saw a Water Vole, but I just missed it. I could hear it eating the grass, but just couldn’t see it. He then took us on to the heath land where he knew there were Red Deer. We saw them almost straight away, but they all ran away. We went to to look at the Exmoor Ponies, spotting several Green
Woodpeckers on the way. The ponies were not as friendly as the Konicks. We saw a Whinchat on a perch , which was a bird I was most keen to photograph. We found the Red Deer at a pond rolling around in the mud getting themselves covered in it. Finally we finished by seeing a young Whinchat perched on a tree with a little Goldfinch below. It was a very enjoyable morning and the weather for the whole weekend had been glorious, which was unusual considering all the rain we have had.
Thank you to David Tipling, Paul Green and all the staff at Minsmere that arranged the competition, for a wonderful weekend.
You can visit David Tipling at
We went to Llanelli in South Wales to have a look around to see what it was like. It was pretty well as I imagined, but let’s get on with what birds and mammals were there.
On our way to one of the hides we saw a Redwing, a wintering thrush from Scandinavia. This bird has a bold eye stripe above each eye. Also on the bird table were a pair of Bullfinches, both male and female. At the Michael Powell Hide there was not a lot about except a Little Egret in the distance too far away for a photo. However I was prepared for a close in counter with a Grey Heron. We then went to the British Steel Hide where a Water Pipit had been seen, but as far as I could see, all the pipits that were there were Meadow Pipits. While I was looking for this pipit, Dad spotted a Common Snipe feeding on the grassy bank. This, to be honest, is better than a Water Pipit as this is a bird that normally sticks close to cover. The only one I have taken a photo of was in flight during a drumming display over Rannoch Moor. But never in my life, have I photographed one on the ground. We also saw a couple of Goldfinches perched in the tree on our way back to the Visitor Centre for lunch. After we had had something to eat, we walked around the Millennium Wetlands, which is a more wild area. There is a super hide which overlooks Deep Water Lake called Heron’s Wing Hide. Lots of Duck such as Shelduck, Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal. Also Cormorants and quite a few snipe, but all too far away for photos. We didn’t see much walking around the wetland area. I think Spring would be a better time to visit here when all the migrants appear. We went back to the Grounds and on to the next hide, the Board walk Hide. We saw some Long-
We went to the River Exe in Devon -
themselves! Must be mad! They kept flying back and forth over the railway line. We then moved to Powderham Deer Park where Fallow Deer were grazing. Just after we arrived the flipping train made me jump with its horn blasting and we thought we heard Bearded Tits pinging, but we’re not sure. At Cockwood Harbour we saw a delightful bird -
I took a few of the Shetland Ponies that are there to maintain the habitat. The dunes were in quite a bad state because of the bad weather eroding them and in several places they had collapsed. We did not get to the bird hide as it was getting quite dark, so we made our way back. The sea was very rough and we didn’t see any sea ducks unfortunately! On the whole though, it was a good day out even though the weather was cold and dreary. I bought myself a dvd at RSPB Darts Farm on Waders of Europe, Asia and North America. So if any unusual waders turn up in the future, I will be able to identify them. Some hope!!!!