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Wildlife in and around the city of Bristol

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October - November




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February 2





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April 2





Bristol and Avon Bird


2013 Achive

02/02/13   Lakenheath/Thetford/Cley

We went to Norfolk this weekend for a belated birthday treat. The weather had been too bad to go on my birthday. We stopped at RSPB Lakenheath Fen for the toilets and watched some of the birds on the feeders. Mum saw a Lesser Redpoll on one of them, but by the time I got back from the toilet it was gone. The Reed Buntings were feeding on the feeders as well as on the ground but the Redpoll didn't come back sadly. We then went to Thetford to look for a special bird, the Black - bellied Dipper which had been present since about November. This was a very easy bird to spot because some people were already watching the bird through their telescope. This is a race closely related to the Common Dipper but breeds in North West France and Northern Europe. In Britain we see them as a regular winter visitor chiefly in Norfolk.   The crown is also a little bit darker than the Common Dipper. As we were going through Fakenham, a Barn Owl flew over the road and into a field. We turned the car round and drove back to the field, but there was no sign of it, so it must have carried on. We then continued our journey to our B&B in Cley via the Chip Shop.   We dropped our cases off before going out for a quick look around before it got dark. At Cley we saw hundreds of Brent Geese but no Pink - footed Geese. Two Marsh Harriers were also quartering the reeds. We went to Salthouse to look for Snow Buntings but all we saw that evening was a couple of Turnstones.

03/02/13 Salthouse/Holkham/Titchwell

We went back to Salthouse   to look for the Snow Buntings but no sign. Loads of Turnstones and a flock of Black - headed Gulls. Also present with the Black - headed Gulls was a solitary Common Gull. Near Holkham we spotted two Red Kites flying around one of the fields. On the way to Titchwell we went to look at Choseley Barns to see if there were any Partridges. We saw loads of small birds such as Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings, Chaffinchs, Goldfinchs and a flock of Bramblings which I have never seen so many of in my life, so that was pretty special indeed.
We went to the RSPB   Titchwell Marsh to see what was about. In the new hide there was a Black   - tailed Godwit with a couple of Avocets behind and one was asleep nearby. One of the Avocets was feeding on other side of the hide sweeping the bill from side to side in search of crustaceans. Suddenly a Chinese Water Deer walked out of the reeds for short while   before disappearing back into the reeds. Then after a couple of minutes it walked back out into the open. It didn’t seem to like being out in the open so it ran quickly across to the reeds on other side. It was good prolonged view of a Chinese Water Deer because the last one I saw at Cley in 2008   was short and brief.   This Deer had a damaged ear and back but was feeding alright, perhaps it had been in a fight with another buck. This is the only member of the deer family that has tusks instead of antlers and uses them in the rutting season. It wasn’t just the Deer that was being very obliging, we noticed in front of us was a Spotted Redshank. We then went to the beach where there   were loads of birds including Gulls, Sanderlings, Ringed Plover, Knot, Mediterranean Gull and possibly Purple Sandpiper. A Peregrine flew past and not hunting for birds. A flock of Twite flew past twice but very moblie. We saw a Female Long - tailed Duck on one of the lakes on our way back to the visitor centre and it stood up to have quick stretch before flying out to sea. We went back to Choseley Barn to look for the Partridges again after we had tip off about some Grey Partridge being there. We saw a Red-legged and two Grey Partridges by the barn for quite a while feeding. It was getting quite dark now, so it was a bit tricky taking photos. Further down the road we saw some Brown Hares sitting and running. Shame we hadn’t them earlier in the day when the light was better. We stopped in Wells to have supper and then went back to our B&B, Cookes of Cley, for the evening.


04/02/13 Salthouse/Cley/Stubb Mill

We went back to Salthouse to look for the Snow Buntings. There were still Turnstones about but 4 Snow Buntings turned up, which was a very small number compared with 2011. However it was better than no Buntings at all.

We went to Cley to get our permit to walk around, but there were not many birds about. We saw some Brent Geese, which breed in the High Arctic. We saw only two Pink - footed Geese feeding by themselves in a field. We went to Bishop's Hide where we saw the Chinese Water Deer in 2008 but now, in Winter Golden Plovers were mixed in with the Lapwings in the stunning sunshine. We were just about to go when a female Marsh Harrier flew quite close past the hide. We also saw a male Marsh Harrier a couple of mintues later.

We were on our to Hickling when I spotted a pair of Egyptian Geese which are common in East Anglia, but these were the first we’d seen this weekend. At Hickling Green we saw another pair of Eygptian Geese. Hickling Broad was very quiet. We only saw one Redshank from the hides. We were walking to Stubb Mill, when we spotted a Kestrel on one of the trees. I could hear a Blue Tit in the bushes, so perhaps it was waiting for it to break cover. It didn’t like us looking at it, so it flew away. We went to Stubb Mill Raptor viewpoint to see whether the Common Cranes would come in to roost. There were lots of Marsh Harriers flying around with something like 40+ birds altogether. A couple of Hen Harriers were flying around and the male perched on the ground for a while before taking off.   A Merlin was perched in a tree near a Marsh Harrier.   We saw a Wren hopping in between   the grass stems near the watchpoint. As the evening grew darker a herd of Red Deer ventured into view and a Chinese Water Deer, the second for us this holiday, ran across and through the gap in the fence. When I first saw it I thought it was a Brown Hare by the way it was running. Sadly no Cranes flew in to roost that evening but there had been 12 reported the previous evening along with two Barn Owls. We didn’t see any Barn Owls tonight but saw a couple of Woodcock fly over. It was dark now and we were the only left at the watchpoint. The Cranes had been known to come in after dark, but we thought there was not much point if we couldn’t see them. We made our way back along the muddy path to the car. Luckily, we had our wellies on as there were a lot of deep puddles and you certainly need a torch!

05/02/13 Salthouse/Minsmere

Our last day in Norfolk begins at Salthouse with a final look at the Snow Buntings. This time there were 5 birds on the shingle and they brillantly camouflaged. A Skylark is an unusual bird to see on the beach but this one was present with the Turnstone flock.
We went to the   RSPB Reserve at   Minsmere in Suffolk to see what was there. Some hides were closed because of the recent flooding and some of the paths were impassable. We saw a Tree Creeper and a Siskin along with some small birds. We went to the Bittern Hide to see if the Bittern was on show. During the time we were there, two Bitterns flew past the hide, but disappeared from view into the reeds. We then went to Island Mere where an Otter had been showing up to about 12:00 but we missed it and it didn’t show while we were there. We saw more Marsh Harriers and two Bewick's Swans. On the way to the next hide we saw a Rabbit in some good winter light and a Jay briefly in a tree. We went to North Hide to see if the Smew was there. There were two Redhead females and one was quite close to the hide. It also rested on the island. We went back to the visitor centre and to the cafe for a cuppa and watched a cheeky Magpie feeding on the feeder and the others were doing hummingbird impressions.   The Grey Squirrels were chasing each other as well. Back in the Car Park we were packing our things away for the journey home, when I spotted some deer behind the fence. A herd of Red Deer started to walk out along the bank behind the Visitor Centre grazing on the grass and some fed on the Gorse. Near the village of Westleton there was a Muntjac buck in a field which seemed happy to pose in the fading light. We left it there as we had a four hour journey ahead of us. We hadn’t been going very long before it started to snow. The shower turned into a blizzard, and it was quite scary as we were not the main road yet and these roads hadn’t been gritted. Eventually we got to the A14 and the snow gradually turned to rain the further west we got. We got home quite late because of the weather, but it had been a great weekend. In total we saw 97 species which helped bump my year list up a bit.

Dorset Weekend
23rd - 25th February 2013

Weymouth and Portland 23.02.13

We went to Dorset for the weekend as it was Mum’s birthday and started at Radipole Lake to look for the resident Hooded Merganser that has been present for 5 years. He was feeding with a few Tufted Ducks and lots of Black - headed Gulls and one of them landed on its back. We walked to the North Hide which last time was inaccessible due to the floodwater.   There was a Grey Heron in front of the hide and another on the other side of the lake. A Little Egret was also fishing. We saw a pair of Marsh Harriers flying over the reeds. There was a   male Sparrowhawk perched in a tree near the hide. It certainly put all the ducks up when it flew off. A Male Marsh Harrier came and perched on a fence post for a long time. It was nice to see it sitting for a change. We went back to the Visitor Centre via the viewpoint. We saw a couple of Pochards and Tufted Ducks. There were also a few Cormorants and some more Black - headed Gulls. We did hear Bearded Tits calling on the other side of the lake but we didn't see them. Radipole Lake still has a small population of Brown Rats and we saw a few of these mammals around the reserve.

We decided to have a look in Ferrybridge to see was there. We saw some Waders in the distance that looked like Sanderlings. When we went to the Visitor Centre we saw that they were Ringed Plovers and also two Brent Geese on the water as well. Suddenly, as we went outside there was a unexpected bonus of seeing a Short - eared Owl flying around the dunes, it landed twice on the ground and was immediately seen off by a pair of Carrion Crows. We also saw more Ringed Plovers a bit closer near the car park and there was also a bit of displaying going on. A Little Egret dropped in to do a bit of fishing and one catch was successful.   We went to look in Portland Harbour to see if any Auks were present. We saw a pair of Red - breasted Mergansers quite close near the harbour car park. We also saw a couple of small Grebes very distant and I thought they were two Black - necked Grebes coming into breeding plumage with a winter plumage Slavonian Grebe. However as they were all swimming together it was very likely that they were all Slavonian Grebes. We made our way to the B&B at Hyde Cottage near Wareham.

Brownsea Island and Studland 24.02.13

We went to Studland to catch the chain ferry to Sandbanks. While we were waiting for the ferry we saw two more Red - breasted Mergansers quite close to the shore. We then had to wait for the boat to take us to Brownsea Island. We saw two Shags swimming and perched on a bouy with it's wings held out to dry. At Brownsea pier we saw a Continental Cormorant on a rock. Along the boardwalk on the way to the first hide we saw two Treecreepers very briefly. In the first hide looking over the Lagoon, there wasn’t loads of birds like in some years. We did see some waders, Redshank, Greenshank and a few Avocets but not in huge numbers like last time.

We went to the Macdonald Hide which had more or less the same birds as the last. We did see a couple of Turnstones on one of the islands and a Peregrine perched on the seawall. We went to have a look for Red Squirrels at the Villa and we had very brief views Squirrels as well. We went for a walk of the island near Rose Cottage where the Rhododendrons provide the right habitat for Golden Pheasant.   We didn't see any but saw two more Brent down below the viewpoint. We went to catch the boat back to Studland and in the bay we saw the Continental Cormorant was fishing by the pier. Waiting for the ferry at Sandbanks we saw a Carrion Crow keep dropping a mussel on the the sliproad and managed to break it open and finish his meal before the cars came off the ferry. When we got back to Studland we looked on the beach for Sanderlings. There were 7 birds all together feeding and walking up and down the beach. They were also quite obliging birds and we had an excellent view.   There were loads of Ringed Plovers on the beach as well foraging for food. We went to Middle Beach where there were 10 Mediterranean Gulls resting before going off to roost.   It was a mixed flock with a couple of Adults still in winter plumage and 3 starting to moult into summer plumage and 2 1st winters. Also on the beach was a big flock of Brent Geese.

Arne   25.02.13  

Our last day in Dorset and we headed to Arne. In the morning we walked to Shipstal Point, on the way we saw loads of Sika Deer. We saw a Sika Deer get up on it's hind legs and managed to get a big branch. Looking for Dartford Warbler we saw 2 Goldcrest moving through the heather and gorse.   There were also a large herd of Sikas in front of the hide but by the time we got there they'd gone. We saw even more Sika Deer on the way to the beach, these were mainly Stags accompanied by two Hinds. We also saw two Stags practising for the rut. At Shipstal Point there were lots of Mergansers swimming in the sea. A Great Crested Grebe was also fishing off the point. A Bar - tailed Godwit was with a few Oystercatchers for a while before flying off.   We went back to the carpark for lunch. In the afternoon we walked to Middlebere hoping to see a Dartford Warbler there, but it was not to be. At Middlebere Hide there was not much to see. We did see a female Green Woodpecker perched in the trees before it flew across the creek. Walking further along we saw a Female Hen Harrier over the reedbeds very distantly. We made our way home and despite not having seen any Spoonbills, Bearded Tits or Dartford Warblers, it was a pretty good weekend except that it was very cold. Still, its a good excuse to go back to Dorset when its a bit warmer.

Forest of Dean
2nd March 2013

We went to Nagshead in the Forest of Dean for a walk with the BOC group which was led by Ed Drewitt. We walked around the reserve and heard and saw a few common woodland birds such as Blue Tits, Great Tits, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Robin, Blackbird and Great Spotted Woodpecker. We went to New Fancy to see if the Goshawks were displaying over the woodland. It was too murky and cold for them, so we popped to Speech House to look for the Hawfinches, but no sign. There were lots of Song Thrushes and Redwings feeding in a field and when we put some seed down in the carpark, the small birds flocked to it. We made our way to Cannop Ponds to look for Mandarin Ducks and they were quite a lot of them swimming together and I saw a Male fly across to join the others. There was also a Raven that flew down to the pond for a quick drink and then up into a tree. It took off after a couple of mintues and flew right over us.   As the sun had now come out we went back to New Fancy to if the Goshawks were out and there were three birds soaring overhead in the sky. After a quick look at Parkend church, we made our way home and stopped at Aust Warth to look for the Twite. We saw two perched in a tree briefly before they flew to the saltmarsh. It was nice to see them closer.

Quedgeley/Cotswold Water Park 3rd March 2013

We went to Quedgeley to look for Hawfinches around Dimore Playing Fields. We saw at least 5 birds flying away from us but we managed to see one feeding on the ground which was a Male. We then went to the Cotswold Water Park to look Red - crested Pochards, Goosander and Smew. On lake 29 we saw 3 Smew and a pair of Goosanders. We had a look on lake 44 where there were 3 Drake and 5 Redhead Smews. We went to Lower Moor Farm Nature Reserve near Oaksey to see if there were any Goosanders about like last time we went, but the lake was frozen and there were none. We finished up   at the Coke’s Pit hide on lake 34 where there was loads of Red - crested Pochards, three Goosander and a pair of Gadwall.

Portishead and Aust 4th March 2013

We went to Portishead to see the Scaup and the Eygptian Goose. We had good views of the Eygptian Goose swimming across the lake and walking past us to feed on the grass. The Scaup was also very obliging and being a coastal duck, they are not often seen on lakes like this. We then went to Portbury to look for the Little Owl but still no sign. This is one species of Owl that doesn’t want their picture taken.   We went to Avonmouth where a Little Gull had been reported but we didn't know how to get to the Square Pool. We carried on to Aust Warth to look for the Twite which we don't get enough of in South Gloucestershire and they were still feeding on the buds of the Hawthorn tree.

Slimbridge 11th March 2013

We went to Slimbridge to see what was about. We started at the Rushy Pen where the four Common Cranes from the Great Crane Project were at the back of the pen.   We went to the Robbie Garnett Hide and saw quite a few White - fronted Geese with one Tundra Bean Goose on Tack Piece. None of the Bewick's Swans have left for their breeding grounds yet and were also present on the Tack Piece. We went to the Willow Hide to see if the Water Rail was showing but no sign. We went to the Zeiss Hide to see if the Bittern was showing, but again no sign until the following day typically! We carried on to the Kingfisher Hide to look for Redpolls but there were only Chaffinches and Goldfinches. We saw a Female Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding on one of the feeders and a couple of Reed Buntings. We were on our way back home when decided to pop to Severn Beach to see the Snow Bunting. When we got there it was feeding some seed and we had some close views.

Portishead 18th March 2013

We went to Portishead to see the Purple Sandpipers before they head back north to their breeding grounds. There were at least three   birds left around at Battery Point. We also saw the Eygptian Goose still at the marine lake. The Scaup was still present on the island. We went to Portbury Warth after Portishead to look for the Little Owl but it has eluded us again.     On the way to Aust we spotted a Fox in one of the fields. We went to the Warth to look for Twite again, butthis time there was no sign.

Slimbridge 24th March 2013

We went to Slimbridge to see the Spoonbill which was on the Tack Piece feeding and resting. We saw a Male Garganey   fly in from the left of Martin Smith Hide and landed before disappearing behind the bank. We had look for it from Robbie Garnett but no sign. We went to the Willow Hide where we had excellent views of a Water Rail walking and swimming at close quarters, perhaps a bit too close sometimes for a picture. The Reed Buntings were feeding on the feeders along with Goldfinches, Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robin and Chaffinches. A Squirrel ran up and jumped on the bird table. We saw a Water Vole briefly swimming away from us into the reeds. We also saw another Vole which was a Bank Vole feeding on edge of the water.   We went to the Holden Tower where there were still a few White - fronted Geese with one Tundra Bean Goose. There was also a flock of Barnacle Geese with one Eygptian Goose. Some more Spring visitors were the three Little Ringed Plovers with some Dunlin and Redshank. It was really cold, not like Spring at all.

Blagdon, Chew and Oldbury 29th March 2013

We decided to visit Chew and Blagdon today to look for the Ospreys that had been showing most of the week. As this was the first visit of the year, we had to call in the Woodford Lodge to renew our permits. We went to Blagdon first and had a quick look in the hide and saw some Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Tufted Ducks and Shoveler. We went to the dam to see if any Osprey were around there and saw one of the birds had got stuck underneath the net and had to be rescued.   Nigel Milbourne from Blagdon Birds and Dave Hewitt, who is a ringer, were down at the pumping station with a Bristol Water worker fishing him out of the water. They gave him a quick check over and found he was a little thin, but otherwise okay and so they released him and he flew over us looking a bit wet and bedraggled.

We later found out   that the bird was a male ringed White YA born at Glaslyn in North Wales and fledged 2007. He is probably the male that has nested in Kielder. We went back to Chew, but it was very quiet there. The Eygptian Goose was still around and seems to have taken up residence. It was busy at the picnic site, so we decided to go back to Blagdon to have our lunch overlooking the lake.   We saw a lot of Gulls following a tractor ploughing a field and it had also attracted several Buzzards in search of worms. We made our way back to the dam.

At the dam an Osprey was giving very good views perched in the tree by the pumping station. This was Ochre Z|T, an adult female that was ringed in Perthshire in 1998/9 and had last been seen at a nest in Dundee in 2002. She had a large audience of admirers watching her. There was also a male Gadwall and female Goldeneye swimming on the lake as well. As I was filling up my memory card taking pictures of her, we left to go back to Chew. We drove back along the lake and saw a pair of Roe Deer sitting in the woods but they were a bit nervous as the tractor was in the next field. They wandered off into the thicket when it got too close. Further down the road, there was another pair of Roe Deer in a field. The Buck’s antlers were just losing its velvet covering and it looked a bit strange. We turned round a corner and were surprised to see an Osprey very close to the road. It could have been White YA but we couldn’t be certain. It flew back up to the dam. We stopped to look at some birds swimming in the reeds and were pleased to spot the second bird we wanted to see. The Black - necked Grebe which was now in full breeding plumage and gave us a good view before it swam around the corner. We went to Herriott's Bridge to have another look at what was there. There were lots of Sand Martins skimming over the lake. They are very tricky to try and get a picture of. We had heard that a Stone Curlew was seen today at Oldbury and didn’t know whether to go to see it or not. We made the decision to pop along to Oldbury on Severn as we thought it might be gone by the morning. We had a job finding the place, but eventually we did. It was starting to get late in the day by now and it was quite a walk to get there. We saw a Barn Owl out hunting. We eventually saw the Stone Curlew hunkered down in the one of the fields near the Power Station but it didn't look well to us. It kept closing his eyes. Perhaps it was just tired or maybe thats how they roost for the night. It was still a lovely bird nonetheless. The time was now 6pm and getting dark so we left it in peace and hoped it would be alright. Further along on the path we saw a Fox. It looked at us for a moment and then went into another field nearby. We wondered even more whether the Stone Curlew would be alright. There were no reports of it in the following morning   so I hope it flew off safely.


Marshfield 30th March 2013

We went to have a look around Marshfield to see what was about. We managed to see two Little Owls in a barn.   It was a bit dark for photos so it was only a record shot. One flew down to the ground and the other flew up onto the roof beams and disappeared from sight. Probably why we have never seen them there in the past.   I was really pleased to see some Little Owls again, I never saw any at all last year, despite looking in all the usual places for them. There was not much around except a few flocks of Fieldfares, a Corn Bunting singing on a bush and two fields that had a flocks of Golden Plovers. A Buzzard came and perched on the wall and all the Plovers ducked down. There were also quite a few Red - legged Partridges in the fields and by one of the barns. There had been a Red Kite seen in the valley earlier in the day, but we didn’t see it at all.

Blagdon 31st March 2013

We decided to go to Blagdon to look for the Ospreys again, so we went straight to the dam. On the way we saw a pair of Stonechats foraging on the ground in search of insects.   We scanned around by the dam looking for any Ospreys, but saw none today. (White YA was at the pumping station in the afternoon and had to be rescued again from under the net, but only after he scoffed a 2lb Trout. At least he was a bit fatter now!) We drove down the lake and saw   a pair of Great Crested Grebes starting their head shaking display but they didn’t go into the full routine. Further along the lake, we saw the Summer Plumage Black - necked Grebe again at very close range and in good sunlight.   The golden fan on the side of the head help to seperate it from the similar Slavonian Grebe with yellow horns on the head. It was very relaxed feeding and preening. We went to Herriott's Bridge at Chew Valley Lake where there were still a few Sand Martins flying through with a couple of Swallows.   We then drove to Morton Bay to see what was there. There were only 4 Goldeneyes visible from the hide. The male was present with 3 females so there was no need for him to display.   We started to walk up the track back to the car, when a Roe Deer Buck came out of the woods. As soon he saw us he ran off away from us.
When he saw Dad at the top, he got a little panicky and tried to push his way through the gap in the wire fence. Eventually, he jumped over it into the field of Elephant Grass.

While we were having a cup of tea we noticed a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly perched on the grass by a Primrose. When we were leaving Morton Bay, I spotted a Green Sandpiper in a muddy field by a fence post in stunning breeding plumage. On the way home we went to Aust Services to look for a Ring Ouzel that was present near the Travel Lodge. But we got there we were told it had moved two fields right. We saw it very distantly and I only managed to get this record shot of the adult male. I hoped it might appear the next day again, but there was no sign of it, unfortunately. Still, never mind, it least I saw it.   It was also nice to see lots of other thrushes in the same field. There were Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes all feeding together.

Forest of Dean 6th April 2013

We went to the Forest of Dean to see the Garganey which is a summer visitor from Africa. We started at Cannop Ponds where a few Chiffchaffs were flitting from branch to branch.   There was also a Goldcrest briefly as well. There were four Garganey present at Cannop, three Males and a Female.   There was also a bit of displaying from the Males. It was exellent to see the Garganeys up close and in good sunlight. The usual water birds at Cannop were there including a pair of Mandarin Ducks. We then went for walk at Nagshead but nothing much around.   We went to Woorgreens to look and listen for Willow Tit like last year but no sign. We saw more Garganey on the lake, this time two Females and one Male. This Male Garganey didn't need to display because there's no rival male.   We went to Speech House to see what was feeding on the log. There was a Blackbird, Dunnock, Blue Tit and two Nuthatches. We finshed with looking for Hawfinches at Parkend Church, but all we saw was a Robin, two more Nuthatches and a   Carrion Crow on the church spire.

Slimbridge 7th April 2013
We went to Slimbridge to look for the Mediterranean Gulls that were seen the previous day displaying on the Rushy. There was no sign of them when we looked. We went to Martin Smith hide where the Coots were having a bit of a fight. The Cranes from the Great Crane Project were still putting on a show in the front of the hide. A Jackdaw was collecting a bit of nesting material in it's beak and looked like it had moustache. We went   to the Willow Hide where the Water Rail was still giving good close views and this time in brillant sunshine.   We saw the Cranes from the Robbie Garnett hide having   a little bit of a fight as one pair are trying to chase the other Female off. They flew to the Martin Smith so we went down to see them from there again.   There was a Common Snipe showing quite well feeding out in the open. We went to   the Ziess   Hide to see the Avocets. There were five birds on Bottom New Piece showing well, but very distant. We went to Kingfisher Hide where a Reed Bunting was feeding on the ground and two Stock Doves looking in holes for suitable nesting sites. We saw a Water Rail from the boardwalk. This one was behaving   like a wild Water   Rail and was very wary.   We went back to Martin Smith where the Cranes were at the nest site and one of the birds sat on the nest. When the Crane got off, a Coot would come over to pinch the nest. There were nine Cranes altogether from the Great Crane Project and after a good prolonged view they all flew away. Not long after we left Slimbridge there was a report on Twitter of a 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull at South Lake. Drat!

Somerset Levels 15th April 2013

We went to the Somerset Levels to see if the Pied - billed Grebe showed any closer than last time and if the Hoopoe that was reported from Westhay the previous day was still about. We started at Catcott Lows to see what was there. Nothing much because flooded water on the field was nearly empty. There was a Little Egret, Teal, five Roe Deer and a Male Garganey asleep on the island, which never woke up during our visit. We went to Westhay near Honeygar Farm where the Hoopoe had been seen but by the time we got there unfortunately, it was gone. We only missed it by a few minutes and people were still looking for it but it was not relocated later in the day when we went back.   We went to Ham Wall RSPB Reserve first after we had a tip off   that the Pied - billed Grebe was showing well at the 2nd viewing platform, but by the time we got it there it had disappeared back into the reeds. We thought we might lose out again so we sat down to wait a while. After waiting for about an hour the Grebe reappeared and swam left and then swam back quite close to the bank. I spent a few minutes looking at the Grebe through my bins and I nearly forgot to photograph it at close range, then it disappeared back into the reedbed. There was also a brief view of a Bittern flying over the reeds (which I missed), and the Male Marsh Harrier made regular flight passes. We went to Shapwick to have a look at Noah’s Lake and saw huge flocks of Swallows and Sand Martins, and we were amazed to see a Swift amongst them. It seems early for a Swift, especially when lots of other migrants have been arriving late. There were a few Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing. We also heard Cetti’s, but didn’t see them. On the way back in the car, we saw a Buzzard perched near the road. We stopped to try to take a picture through the window, but he flew away. Lovely bird though.

Slimbridge 20th April 2013

We were going to go to Devon today, but Mum didn’t feel well and so we decided to go to Slimbridge instead as we knew that the Kingfishers were nest building at South Finger. The pair took it in turn digging inside the nest hole. It’s good to see that the Kingfishers seem to be trying to breed   here again. We saw them mating and the male bringing fish for the female. Hopefully, they will succeed and in a few weeks time there might be chicks. There were also Reed and Sedge Warbler along with Reed Bunting in the reedbeds. When we left South Finger we saw a Water Vole in the Dragonfly Pond. It kept collecting   bits of green reed and swimming back into the reedbed to eat them. We could just see him nibbling them, but he was keeping under cover. After a little while he swam away through the reeds. We went next to South Lake where there were loads of Arctic Terns flying around over the lake. A Great Crested Grebe swam past the hide in full Summer plumage.

We went to the Rushy Pen where we saw a 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull present with loads of Black - headed Gulls. 2nd Summer Med Gulls are very similar to full breeding adults except for the black wing tips which the adults lack. It was a very nice bird to see. There were a couple of Common Sandpipers wandering along the edge of the water close to the hide. We went   to Martin Smith Hide to see what the Cranes were doing. They were not sitting on the nest today as they were bathing behind the reeds. It looks like they have moved their nest out of sight now as the nest we saw them sat on last time didn’t appear to being used now. At the Willow feeders there was a male Reed Bunting and a few Goldfinches but no Water Rail. At Robbie Garnett Hide there was a small flock of Black - tailed Godwits including a stunning Summer male which had a bad leg sadly. One of Cranes waded out into the water a couple of times for feeding and bathing. Rather annoyingly when we were in Robbie Garnett we heard the GCP Cranes calling but couldn't see them very well. Wrong place wrong time!   We went to look in the Knott Hide to see what Warblers were on view. There had been Reed, Willow, Sedge, Cetti's Warbler all singing in the reeds. We only saw a Sedge Warbler pottering along the fence line at the bottom. At the Holden Tower we saw another migrant Warbler species -   two Whitethroats flitting through the bushes. There were also a few more Arctic Terns flying around and perched on the bank and three more Cranes feeding on the Dumbles. We also saw a Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. We checked the Rushy Pen out again and there was loads of Black - headed Gulls but no sign of the 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull. We saw a Gull sitting down on the grass which I think was a 1st Summer Med Gull.   We decided to   head   back   to South Finger to see the Kingfishers again. A Sparrowhawk flew though and the reaction of the Kingfisher was very strange. It kept an eye on it, but looked like it was ready to dive into the water if necessary. There was a Mallard drake sat on top of one of the Willow trees - very unusual. Meanwhile back on the Rushy Pen there were still plenty of Black - headed Gulls but no sign of any Med Gulls at all. A Geylag Goose pair with 5 Goslings swam across the pen to one of the islands. It had been a really good day and I saw lots of new migrants.

Chew and Salisbury 23rd April 2013

We were on our way to Salisbury to see the Great Bustards. We went to look for the Woodchat Shrike at North Widcombe near Chew Valley Lake. This 1st Summer Female was hunting bees near one of the headges and gave excellent views on one of the bramble branches.
We went via Westbury Hill to see the White Horse. We also went to look at Stonehenge from the road as it was on our way.In the Afternoon we went to look at the Great Bustards with the Bustard Group on Salisbury Plain. The birds were in release pen when we saw them from the hide but they do go further afield.
The male started to display first of all but not much. The male Great Bustards show bright white feathers around the front of their face and tail feathers fanned out like a Capercaillie and Peacock when they go into full display. In the enclosure were a pair of Stone Curlews that were probably nesting there as there were no predators. On our way back across the plain we spotted two more Great Bustards which were both males. These two birds had tag numbers on them which said Purple 5 and Pink 2.

On the way home we stopped at Caen Hill Locks at Devises.

Scotland Friday 03.05.13

We went up to Scotland for a week. We stopped off at Leighton Moss to see what was there. The resident population of Black - headed Gulls have taken over the reserve from Lillian's Hide and started to take over the lake at Tim Jackson Hide where we saw a couple of Red Deer sitting on the edge of the reedbed. On the way to the hide we saw two Pheasants about to have a fight but never really got going. Also saw a Blue Tit with a yellow face. At the Grizedale Hide there was a Coot which kept chasing a Moorhen and at one time had a go at one of the Gadwall. There was a few more Gadwalls, Teal and Black - headed Gulls including one bird on the back of another Gull. Saw a pair of   Greylag Geese were defending their Goslings in aggressive displays towards a pair of Canada Geese. There were loads of Wood Anemone in full flower around the reserve and a few fungi such as this Scarlet Elf Cup. There was not many birds on the feeders as they are in the middle of building the new garden. The birds of note were Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Mallard, Blue, Great, Coal and Marsh Tit but no Bullfinch this time. We went to look at the new Allen's and Eric Morecambe Hides. At the Allen's Hide were quite a number of Black - headed Gulls and a few Avocets. We moved on to Eric Morecambe Hide to see more Avocets very close to the hide. The Oystercatchers were nesting on a small island and far side of the lake. The male was chasing the Gulls in defence. There were loads of Godwits which were mainly Black - tailed and a few Bar - tailed were mixed in with Dunlin, Knot, Ruff and a solitary Curlew Sandpiper. One of the Black - tailed Godwits in breeding plumage was present near the colony of Black - headed Gulls. We went to Walton Crag to look for Peregrine Falcons and we saw two birds flying and perched on the rocks. On a small nest not far from the Peregrines were two Juvenile Ravens.   We headed off to our B&B north of Carnforth.

We continued our journey into Scotland, stopping off at the RSPB Loch Leven Reserve to look on the feeders. There was a few bird feeding from Siskins to House Sparrows. There was a bright red Male Lesser Redpoll feeding with the other Finches but disappeared when somebody walked past and was not seen again.

We went to Loch of Lowes to see Lady the female Osprey. We saw another Male Lesser Redpoll on the feeder which   wasn't as bright red as the last one. Lady was hunkered on the nest most of the time and we couldn't see her from the hide until Laddie   swapped places so that she could go and feed. Even he hunkered down in the nest out of view. There was plenty of Swallows, Sand and House Martins flying over the loch. Two Reed Buntings were   flitting below in front of the Hide. There was also   Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff   flitting about in the reeds. We saw the Lesser Redpoll on and around the feeders but was very mobile.

When   we arrived at Nethybridge in the evening Stewart and Janet told us that the Pine Marten came at 20:00 the previous evening. At 19.30 while we were unpacking the Pine Marten made an appearance on the shelf with the raisins before making it's way towards the peanut feeder. We opened the door and it didn’t seem to worry about us and it stayed there for a few minutes before disappearing back into the forest.

Sunday 05.05.13

In the morning we were greeted by the Red Squirrel on the peanut feeder which seemed to be able to smell that the Pine Marten was using it's   feeder and was checking for unusual scent. We had a Male Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding close to the window for a few minutes unfortunately doing a annoying trick of hiding round the back. We went to the RSPB   Loch Garten to see EJ and Odin. In the car park was a very shy Mistle Thrush bathing in a puddle but sadly didn't stay long. On the feeders near the Osprey Centre were Siskins and Chaffinches and other common birds including another Great Spotted Woodpecker. Like at Loch of the Lowes the Ospreys were hunkered down in the nest until Odin came in with a fish and EJ flew of to eat it out of sight. Back in the car park a Willow Warbler was singing high the tree. On the shores of Loch Garten a Common Sandpiper bravely braced the waves of the choppy waters whipped up by the wind. Then up to Cairngorm to view the Reindeer herd from the layby. It was even more windy up there, so we didn’t stay long. We went to Broomhill Station on the Strathspey Railway to see two trains passing through. The first one was hauled by 17 Brearaich which we saw departing   first for Aviemore. We followed it down to Boat of Garten where another train crossed with 46512 EV Cooper Engineer arriving from Aviemore. The engine was heading tender first to Broomhill. We saw it depart southwards from the station. We went to Grantown to get some chips and ate them by the Spey where there was a Common Sandpiper as well as Pied Wagtail and Black - headed Gull. A Oystercatcher was on a stone briefly before flying up river. We went for a drive around some moorland near Nethybridge where we saw some Curlew, Mountain Hare and a Short - eared Owl   hunting before it started to rain. A pair of Male Pheasants were fighting in the road back to Nethybridge until we came along and they had to move to the side.

That broke the fight up!

Monday 06.05.13
In the morning we were greeted again by the delightful Red Squirrel on the feeder and also lots of birds were feeding on the feeders as well. We went to Lochindorb where we had our first Grouse encounter, which was Red Grouse and they were very territorial and calling from all points of the compass.   We saw a Red - throated Diver on the loch which normally would have Black - throated Divers but still it was nice to see.   We saw two Wheatears by the road including a smart male.   One Red Grouse showed well close to the road and ran across to the other side. We went to Strathdearn   but didn't see anything until we were on the Farr Road and couple of Roe Deer were in the woods which were very difficult to see. We went over the top through another moorland scene and saw more Red Grouse and Wheatear.   Further down the road we saw a pair of Red - legged Partridges in a field near Farr.   On the way to Loch Dantelchaig we saw some Hooded Crows   in a field overlooking Loch Ruthven. On the way down to Ruthven was a Curlew feeding in the field by the road. We went to RSPB Loch Ruthven to see the Slavonian Grebes but they too distant to photograph still a cracking bird though also saw a pair of Black - throated Divers briefly before flying down the loch.   We usually see Red-throated Divers here. They all seemed to have swapped lochs! We went to a talk by Roy Dennis this evening at Boat of Garten. Dad dropped us off and the Pine Marten must have come while he was gone as the raisins had been


Tuesday 07.05.13

As the weather forecast said it was going to be a nice sunny day we decided to go to Troup Head. RSPB Troup Head reserve is home to Scotland's only mainland Gannet colony. There were Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Razorbills, Guillemots and Herring Gulls nesting on the cliff as well. But the star bird we came to see was the Gannet. There was large colonies of Gannets which choose to nest on the edges of the cliff, just out of pecking reach of each other. A Great Skua or Bonxie as it's also known, seemed to be trying to take a fish from a Gannet but it was unsuccessful. There must a been a shoal of fish, as more Gannets started diving into the water and the Bonxie swam further away. There was a Skylark performing a song flight and Meadow Pipits were flying and perched on fence posts. Even one Sea Pink was in full flower on the cliff. We walked further along to look for Puffins, but could not see many nesting yet. On the way back to the car park we saw a Meadow Pipit and a female Wheatear. We went on a quest to look for Black Guillemot and we tried at Gardenstown where we saw three Common Eiders on the coast. Futher along we saw a Meadow Pipit drinking out of puddle but unfortunately when I got the camera ready it had finished.   Near Tomintoul we saw a Brown Hare and 6 Roe Deer but no Black Grouse lekking that evening, just one flying over the road.

The Pine Marten paid another visit tonight, but it was dark so no photo.

Wednesday 08.05.13

We went for an early morning bird at Tulloch Moor where there is a viewing screen to see Black Grouse. We didn’t see any lekking but did see one on a small tree. We walked down a track where we heard a cuckoo calling and managed to see it perched in a distant tree.   On the way back to the chalet for breakfast we stopped to see a Roe Deer Doe.   But breakfast had to wait because as we were heading back through the Abernethy Forest, we had a very good view of a Male Capercaillie displaying, at 10:00 in the morning!   If I have   a favourite highlight of this holiday and it would be the Capercaillie. There could have been a female somewhere around as he kept jumping and making a wonderful sound. Later, we went back   to Loch Garten to see EJ and Odin who just brought a fish for EJ. She took it and flew off to a hidden perch. It was up to Odin to look after the nest. Meanwhile back at the car park Dad was watching a Crested Tit at the feeder. Grr! Fortunately, after a few minutes waiting it came back very briefly before flying off again. We did see another one near Forest Lodge and Redstart which I missed.   It was 18:00 in the evening and the Capercaillie was still displaying   in the fading daylight. A bit worrying! We headed back to the chalet for the night.

Thursday 09.05.13

We didn’t see the Capercaillie any more, so hopefully he went deep into the forest. We went to Loch Garten to look for the Crested Tit again and it showed briefly at 10:30 but I just missed it. I was looking at an Osprey flying over the car park. The Osprey flew over the loch away from us. The usual Common Sandpiper by the shore. We went to Strathdearn to look for Golden Eagles but we had a rarity to the valley: a White - tailed Eagle being mobbed by Common Buzzards.   It had yellow wingtags on it. We also saw a Mountain Hare and a herd of Red Deer on the way. We always see a herd of Wild Goats in the Findhorn Valley. On our way back through the valley we spotted a 2nd Mountain Hare with a Brown Hare in the same place. We saw a Common Sandpiper briefly before flying off. Two Wild Goats were practising their rutting stands for the Autumn. We passed a Deer Park with a herd of Red Deer. These were captive Deer compared with two others we saw further up the road which no doubt were wild. On our to Grantown we stopped at Loch Pityoulish and saw a Osprey en route to the Fish Farm. It’s also home to a few Cormorants. On our way through Broomhill we spotted 3 Roe Deer all running in panic as soon as we stopped. We went back to look at the moors and saw some Black Grouse which were lekking a bit half-heartingly. Seconds later a Short - eared Owl came along and landed on a post. Then it took off flying over the moor. A few minutes after, the Black Grouse decided to call it a night and flew off.   On our way back to Nethybridge a Red - legged Partridge was calling quite loudly from a fence post.

Friday 10.05.13

In the morning the Red Squirrel was feeding on the peanuts. We went to Loch Garten to look for the Crested Tit but no sign this morning. We went up to Cairngorm and I wanted to walk up to see the last Grouse species on my bird list: the Ptarmigan. We saw a pair quite near to the summit of Cairn Gorm and had rather excellent views. Back at Loch Morlich we managed to see a couple of Goosanders swimming out of the river and into the loch. There was an unexpected bonus of seeing another pair of Black - throated Divers was much more of a shock, as we were expecting to see Red - throated Divers. In the evening we received another visit from the Pine Marten and of course it has been coming later in the evening. We had perfect beginning of the week. How was going to end?

Saturday 11.05.13

Well in the morning as we were getting ready to leave, we received visits from both the Pine Marten and a Roe Deer Buck at the same time. It was the first time we seen a Roe Deer near the Firwood Garden. Also near the garden a Starling had found a nesthole before flying. Not bad at all for our last morning in Nethybridge, but there was still more to come. We went back to Loch Garten for the last time to see if the Crested Tit was showing. I was not disappointed. Two birds were feeding on the peanuts until one flew off. The other one was seen off by a Chaffinch. We decided to go to look at the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick,   where we had a very good view of Bass Rock which is home to loads of Gannets. There were a few Common Eiders swimming close to the centre building. We also saw some Scoter and a shag. It was very windy and the boat was not going out to the island so we will have to do that another day. Still, the weather all week had been lovely so we couldn’t complain. We made our way to Linlithgow for the night.  

Sunday 12.05.13

We went to the Scottish Birdfair today at Hopetoun House. We saw birds being ringed and listened to some talks, including Roy Dennis. There were lots of stalls to look at as well. We didn’t look round the grounds as it had turned very wet, so we were a bit worried about our Boat Trip around the Firth of Forth this evening. Our luck was holding out. By the evening, it had stopped raining and the sun even made an appearance. We saw plenty of Fulmars flying around and a pair nesting on the island near the Forth Rail Bridge. Loads of Common Eiders in big numbers on the Forth. Some Eiders were also sitting on the rocks. There was some Common Terns flying up and down the Forth and only one Sandwich Tern flew down. There were plenty of Guillemots swimming around along with Razorbills and three were still in Winter plumage, unusual for this time of year. Kittiwakes were also flying past along the Forth. There were a few Shags on the Forth as well as a couple of Seals. The Altantic Grey Seal are bit more commoner in the Forth than Common Seals. The star bird of the Forth were the Puffins, there were quite at lot of them around the island of Inchkeith where they breed, but a lot of the time they were on the water. There were more Common Eiders here as well. This is a very common Sea Duck. Kittiwakes and Fulmars made regular flight passes on the Forth on the way back to Hawes Harbour. We saw a very good comparsion of Razorbills en route to Hawes. Two birds were in Summer plumage and one was still in Winter plumage. We had a couple of heavy showers during the trip, but it ended with some sun. And so our last day in Scotland ends with a sunset over the Forth Road Bridge and a quick look at the boat we went on, which no surprise was called ‘Maid of the Forth’. We went back to the B&B and the next day made our long journey home.

Slimbridge 3rd June 2013

We went to Slimbridge to see the Red - necked Phalarope at the Ziess Hide so we went straight there. The view was very distant and there also a few Avocets feeding and some Cranes in the buttercup field. A Grey Heron landed in the front of the hide and walked behind the reeds. A pair of Buzzards were also about the reserve and chased off a third bird. We went down to the South Finger to see if the Kingsfishers were visible but nothing. It looks like the nest failed for some reason. There was one Sedge Warbler showing well on a small tree close to the hide and singing. In the dragonfly pool we saw two Water Voles: first a juvenile then the adult swimming into the bank. We went into Van De Bovenkamp hide where we had good views of the Cranes displaying.  

On our way back from the South Finger we spotted a pair of Oystercatchers chasing off some Jackdaws. The reason for that was the pair were protecting their three chicks which emerged from the vegation. We stood by an old tree to watch them. We heard a noise coming from the tree, so we moved away and one of the Jackdaws flew into a hole and we could hear they had chicks in there. That’s probably why they were by the Oystercatchers. On the Rushy Pen we saw 3 pairs of Avocets incubating on nests so fingers crossed that they'll hatch in a few weeks time.   The pair of Cranes that nested at the back of the Rushy Pen had unfortunately lost their chick but hopefully Monty and Chris will try again next year. We saw both of them fly over the pen, so they are still around. On one of the islands two out of three of the Black - headed Gull chicks had hatched and the adult was foraging for food. The resident Greylag Geese family have successfully managed to protect all their 5 Goslings since we last saw them when they were like little balls of fluff. We went to the Holden Tower but on the way near the Martin Smith, another dramatic escape for the Mallard Duck and her brood of ducklings as they came under attack from one of the males. I wonder if it was the same female who lost all of her ten chicks from last time. Perhaps it was the male that killed them. He was attacking the last brood when we were there before.

At the Holden Tower we saw a Little Grebe feeding a chick on the Knott Pool. Walking back down the path, Mum saw a Robin who had a nest nearby as she could hear the chicks being fed. At least it was further back in the undergrowth this year. Last year it was a bit in the open, but we did have a good view of the chicks. Around the grounds there was quite a lot of Ragged Robin in flower. We had a quick look at the House Martins, but there were not many around so they might be on eggs.

Slimbridge 17th June 2013

We went to Slimbridge to see the Spoonbill. It had been reported at South Lake, so we went there first. The South Lake Discovery Hide had recently been reopened after a refurbishment. The Spoonbill was still present but was asleep when we first got there. It did wake up a couple of times for a quick preen and went back to sleep again. At one point it walked right behind the vegetation to have a snooze out of sight.   A little later on it walked back out in view for another snooze. However all the time we were there we did not see it feed. When the Spoonbill is feeding in water it normally has it's bill open and sways it from side to side which would have been good to see. Other birds on the South Lake were a family of Shelducks   and a couple of Oystercatchers. There were also 2 Avocets wading in the lake and they were feeding - swaying the bill from side to side as they fed. There was also a Common Tern perched on a post at the very back of the lake before being chased by some Jackdaws. It then landed on a perch in front of the hide but a Black - headed Gull made it unwelcome.   The Great Crested Grebe was swimming close in front of hide. A Lapwing on one of the islands was also showing nicely apart from the Jackdaw giving it a bit of aggro as it flew over.   In the same place was a stunning Male Black - tailed Godwit in breeding plumage which was quite close to the hide. As we spent a lot of the time at South Lake, we finished at the Rushy Pen where there was another Shelduck family group. The Oystercatchers were feeding their grown chick with a few worms. The Avocets are still on their nests incubating and one of the adults was foraging around the pen. Meanwhile the juvenile Oystercatcher was still waiting for the parents to find some more worms and when they found one, it rushed over to feed. And finally we saw a family of Tufted Ducks swimming past the hide.

Martin's Haven and Marloes Mere 25th June 2013

We went to Martin's Haven in Pembrokeshire, hoping to catch a boat over to Skomer Island but unfortunately all the boats for landing were full. There were boat trips sailing round the island but in the end we decided to have a walk around the Deer Park at Martin’s Haven. From the clifftops we had views of Skokholm and Skomer and quickly saw our first pair of Choughs. There was also a Skylark was performing a songflight. On the sea we saw Shags, Razorbills and Puffins in flight and on the water. Gannets were also flying past from the nearby breeding colony on the island of Grassholm.   A Fulmar was nesting on the cliff and another kept flying up and down to the nest. I kept hoping that it would land, but it never did. Two more Shags were perched on top of a rock. We then saw a Raven perched on another rock and it called briefly before taking off.

Further down was a Rock Pipit singing on the ground before it started a songflight. We sat and watched the boat going to Skomer. The ‘Dale Princess’ was soon arriving back at Martin's Haven for the next crossing. A Razorbill swam past with a beakful of Sand-eels. He was probably taking them back to Skomer for its chicks. Just then we had a family of Choughs fly past with 2 Adults and 2 Juveniles. We saw the Choughs feeding the Juveniles   from the cliff top and had good views. Also on the sea we saw two Seals swimming and touching noses which was quite touching! We had good views of them swimming around.

Meanwhile, one of the adult Choughs was foraging quite close to the cliff face, so we walked round for a closer look. The juvenile has a yellowish bill unlike the adult's bright red one and it’s a bit less curved. We could see the Chough foraging for insects. We saw another adult perched on a rock before they both flew down to feed the youngsters. We walked to the coast guard hut where we saw a handsome male Linnet perched and singing on the gorse brush. We sat by the hut and saw two more Linnets flying around.

I also saw a Large Skipper on the gorse near the same place. A Wall Brown Butterfly flew past and it perched with it’s wings open on a rock. We walked back down to Martin’s Haven. We saw a Peregrine flying over being mobbed by a Buzzard. There were Swallows nesting inside and outside of the toilets and we saw one of adults singing on the roof.   I had to be careful going into the Gents as there was one nest just over the door. Low flying Swallows! We went back to the Car for lunch and afterwards went for a walk on the other side of the Deer Park. As we got to the cliff, we could hear the sound of a Peregrine calling. We followed the noise and discovered it was a Juvenile in a nest screaming for food. We saw a couple of Peregrines around the cliff, and one had a dead Rock Dove. We thought it might fly up to feed the chick, so we sat down to watch. It flew over a rock and out of sight. The female flew up to the nest with a morsel of food for the youngster, but it obviously wasn’t enough as it kept calling. The male flew past a couple of times, but it never took the food up to the nest, so it must have ate it himself. A Rock Dove flew past the nest. He was taking his life in his hands! We were getting a bit fed up with listening to the Peregrine chick screaming, so decided to leave them to it. A Chough landed on the grass right in front of a couple of people further along the clifftop. The man took some pictures of it. It must have been really close views as he had a big lens. It didn’t seem to worry about him and we hoped it might stay until we got there. Unfortunately, the man just had to try and get closer to it and it flew off!   Down below the cliffs were three Atlantic Grey Seals hauled out on the rock until they got pushed off by the incoming tide. We also saw a Wheatear perched on top.

We then went to Marloes Mere to look for the Glossy Ibis that has been around for a while. We had directions to get there, but we missed the turning. We had a job finding the place as its not signposted at all, but we got there in the end. We walked down to the hide where the Glossy Ibis was showing distantly at the back of the furthest pool.   It's shame it was distant because the bird was in summer plumage of deep maroon/purple and green on the wings and it would have been a cracking bird to photograph. Still, at least we had good views of it. A juvenile Whithroat was perched briefly on some flowers just in front of the hide, before it disappeared from view into the vegetation.   Just then a Fox came trotting along before stopping dead and looking right at us. It had spotted us and it took off running into the Juncus. We couldn’t see much else from the hide apart from a Little Grebe and some Stonechats, and as the Ibis had gone out of view, we decided to leave. We walked down the track leading to the other hide and realised we could see over the hedge into the mere. We must have been quite close to where we last saw the Glossy Ibis. We couldn’t see it anywhere though. Just then we spotted the Fox again on the other side of the fence. This time it just sat and stared at us. We didn’t bother to go to the other hide as time was getting on and we had a long journey ahead of us. Well, we never got to Skomer, but I had a really good day. Pembrokeshire is a lovely area and we must come back again and stay a bit longer to explore it more.

Forest of Dean 1st July 2013

We went to the Forest of Dean to look for a special bird called a Firecrest which I have never seen. We started at Speech House where a bird had been seen and heard, but no sign. There were other birds on site including, Nuthatch, Juvenile Great Tit and Robin. There were Adult Great Tits as well as Blue Tits. We saw 4 Grey Squirrels on the fence. There was quite a lot of Stock Doves feeding on the stumps and on the ground. We also saw two Great Spotted Woodpeckers a Adult Male and a Juvenile. We had a close encounter with a Jay which was feeding in front of us but it was mostly chucking bits of seeds around. We went to Nagshead RSPB to look for three Summer migrants - Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler. We were on our way to the Lower Hide when we stopped to look under a piece of wood, and underneath was a Slow Worm which is a legless lizard. Further down we saw a Male Broad bodied Chaser perched on the bramble at the wrong angle which was annoying! We had a brief view of a female Redstart with a juvenile but I didn't see the male sadly. We walked back through a meadow where there were loads of Ringlets flying around and one perched nicely in the grass. In the woods we found a light coloured Moth which was a Light Emerald. A new Moth for me! Me and dad went on the Long Trail to look for Wood Warbler. We heard it before we had very brief views of this delightful Warbler. Further down we saw another Moth - this time it was a Red - necked Footman and there was another one nectoring on the flowers.   We didn’t see any Pied Flycatchers, so I wondered if they had left for Africa already. No Firecrests either. Hopefully will catch up with it one day!

Lizard Orchids 2nd July 2013

We stopped off on the way home from work to look at some Lizard Orchids which have been growing next to a main road.

Inglestone 8th July 2013

We went to Inglestone Woods to see if the White Admiral Butterfly   was out. There was a Comma flying around the hedgerow and I saw it perched with it's wings closed so the white C was visible. When we approached the bridge over the stream there were loads of Beautiful Demoiselles flying around, and a couple perched on the stones. We saw a nice Male perched quite close to our side of the bank. There was also a lot of Silver - washed Fritillaries on the wing but we did see two perched briefly, no females were seen. The others were all flighty as it was very hot. We also saw three Skippers as well - Small and Large Skipper and the third one we couldn't identify, but we thought it might have been an Essex Skipper.

Inglestone 13th July 2013

We went to Inglestone, Lower Woods to look for the White Admiral. We saw quite a number of Silver - washed Fritillaries flying and perched on thistles. We did eventually see a White Admiral flying and it settled briefly before being chased off by a Silver - washed Fritillary. It was perched on a high branch of a tree, not good for a decent picture. We walked around the woodland hoping to see another one. We saw a second one in a different part of the woods but it didn't hang around.   Loads of Silver - washed Fritillaries everywhere though.   We will have to give it another try next week.

Savernake 14th July 2013

We went to Savernake Forest in Wiltshire to look for the majestic Purple Emperor Butterfly. On our way to the forest we spotted a Red Kite soaring around one of the fields. Red Kites are my very favorite Bird of Prey and I haven't seen a lot them in Gloucestershire, although they have been reported quite often in recent months.  

We got to the monument in Savernake   where the Purple Emperors had been seen flying over the Beech Trees. After a while we saw nothing exept a couple of Red Kites. When we started to drive back down the road, we stopped suddenly. We saw a Purple Emperor feeding in the road. The underside is a lovely mix of brown and white. At the time we weren't sure whether it was a male or female. When it opened it's wings, the purple sheen was more noticeable and confirmed it as a Male. After feeding for a while, the Purple Emperor took off, flew down the road and disappeared into the forest.

Dyfi Ospreys and Ynys-Hir 15th July 2013

We went to Dyfi to see how Monty the Osprey was doing with his new mate this year. She is called Glesni, who is a Rutland born bird and the neice of Nora, Monty’s old mate of two years who failed to return this year. However the Ospreys were to far for a decent picture but I saw quite a number of Lesser Redpolls feeding on the feeders including a orange capped female, a few juveniles and two males. This time we managed to see the Water Buffalos that grazed on the reserve. Glesni did a distant fly past while Monty was out fishing. We went to Ynys - hir to look for Pied Flycatchers. We first saw a Song Thrush feeding on the path. Further on we saw a juvenile Robin foraging around looking for insects and it came and perched on a log. From the Canopy hide we had a distance view of a Osprey fishing. I wonder if it was Monty! We saw a family of Spotted Flycatchers near the hide. There were some young Frogs hopping along the path and a Red Damselfly was perched on a bit of bracken. At the Breakwater Hide we saw a flock of Canada Geese and a male Reed Bunting singing from a bush. On our way to the new boardwalk we had to be careful where put our feet because the path was covered with little Frogs. Near the boardwalk we saw a Pheasant feeding and there was also a sculpture of a Dragonfly and one of an Adder at the other end. There was not much from the new Ynys Feurig hide, and so we continued on the boardwalk where there were some lovely views out to the estuary. The trail passed by the farm that the Mallard was nesting by on Springwatch and where the baby Rabbits were. I even saw the rock that Chris Packham and Micheala Strachan sat on in the programme. Mum took a picture of me sat on it. It was a long walk and even though we didn’t see much birdlife, we really enjoyed it. It looks like the Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warblers have already left, unless they were high up in the canopy where we couldn’t see them. We were too tired and hot to walk to the other hides and we had forgotten to bring drinks, so we went back to the visitor centre. At the Feeders there were 3 Grey Squirrels, A juvenile Blackbird, a female Blackbird with no tail and another juvenile Robin foraging around.

We finished off at Borth Beach, where we saw loads of Manx Shearwaters and at least 3 Bottle - nosed Dolphins off the coast before making the three hour drive back home.

Heddon Valley and East Budleigh and Aylesbeare Commons 21st July 2013  

On our way   to the   Heddon Valley to look for High Brown Fritillaries we drove over Exmoor and saw two Red Deer sitting in a field quite distant, so I just got a record shot. In the Heddon Valley   there were quite a few Butterflies   on the wing   which included loads of Silver - washed Fritillaries, Red Admiral and Dark Green Fritillary.   We then walked to Heddon's Mouth and on the way we saw a Dipper which flew of a crevise, Juvenile Grey Wagtails and a Rock Pipit.   Far out at sea was a Gannet and a Fulmar flying past Heddon's Mouth. On our back we saw another Dark Green Fritillary which got blown of the grass by a big gust of wind. We caught up with the Dipper again, this time it was foraging in the river. Suddenly, some out of control dogs burst out of the bushes and belted into the river but didn't seem to bother the Dipper. When they started to run down the path   it flew off.   We continued walking down the valley but only saw Silver - washed Fritillaries and no High Browns. We did see some smaller Butterflies in the distance, but never close enough to identify.

We went to East Budleigh Common to look for Silver - studded Blues but none were present, although we did see a very out of season Small Pearl - bordered Fritillary which is normally on the wing May - June.

We saw two Stonechats perched on gorse with beakfuls of food. We also saw our first Grayling of the year resting on the path with it's wings closed. We heard two Dartford Warblers calling nearby and saw one in flight briefly. We saw no Silver - studded Blues there so we tried looking at Aylesbeare. A Small Heath Butterfly   was resting on the gorse bush and on the path was a Female Common Darter. Once again no Silver - studded Blues. Ah well! Maybe next time.  

PS When I got home and looked at the photo of the Common Darter, I started to wonder if it was one. I send the photo to the British Dragonfly Society and they confirmed that it was a Female Keeled Skimmer which was a new Dragonfly for me, so the day turned out quite good after all!

West Yatton Down 28th July 2013

We went to West Yatton Down to look for Essex Skipper. There were loads of Butterflies on the wing and resting   including Ringlets, Marbled White, Comma and Gatekeepers. There were also two Skippers that were resting in the grass. The first one we saw had black tips to the antennae which meant it was a Essex and the second one had orangey tips which meant it's a Small Skipper.

Fontmell Down and Alner's Gorse   10th August 2013

We went to Fontmell Down Nature Reserve to look for Sliver - spotted Skipper near Shaftesbury.   The first Butterfly we saw was a male Chalkhill Blue perched on the path and a Gatekeeper was perched on a gorse bush. A Yellowhammer was calling from a small tree. As the sun came out, other Butterflies emerged inlcuding Common Blues. One Common Blue was nectoring on it's foodplant: the Bird's foot Trefoil. The female is browner than the male and has a bit of blue sheen on the upperwing.   It too was on the Trefoil. We saw another female Butterfly resting, but this time it was a Chalkhill Blue. At long last we managed to get a first and brief view of a Silver - spotted Skipper. It perched on a yellow flower and I managed to get a photo of it. We saw a couple more and they were all males, they were waiting for the females to emerge. A male Chalkhill Blue was resting on the path with it's wings closed so the chalky blue upperwing was hidden.   A Clouded Yellow was nectoring   on the Red Clover and took off. There was another Clouded Yellow but it took off before we got there. Another Yellow Butterfly that we saw was a Brimstone, but it was   a female so it wasn't very yellow. The Skipper reappeared on another yellow flower, a quick jump and disappeared. On the way back to the car park there was a Comma in the Blackberry bush and a Small Copper was resting beside the path.   A Red Admiral was perched by the gate, annoyingly it had closed it's wings by the time we got there.  

We went to Alner's Gorse to look for Brown Hairstreak and amazingly when we walked into the reserve there was one showing really well feeding on the bramble bush flowers. Because this one had it's wings closed we weren't sure whether it was a male or female, but it didn't matter because it was fantastic   to see.   A new Butterfly for me. A Red Admiral was also feeding on the bramble bush and then we saw another species of Hairstreak in the same area - A Purple Hairstreak was flying around in the Ash trees. It did open it's wings while it was at rest and easy identified as a male because the upperwing is covered in a purple sheen. The orange spot at the base of the hind wing makes ID easy to seperate from the White Letter Hairstreak. The Brown Hairstreak was still   on the bramble but not with its wings opened. A Meadow Brown appeared alongside for a good comparsion.   We saw all these Butterflies and hadn’t even walked anywhere yet! We had a walk around the reserve which is manged by Butterfly Conservation. We saw a Clouded Yellow perched on the bank above a female Meadow Brown. We saw a very faded White Letter Hairstreak and lots of other more common Butterflies such as Small Tortoiseshell , Peacock, Red Admiral and Comma . The place seemed alive with Butterflies. Then we saw another special Butterfly, a Valezina Silver - washed Fritillary, which is darker and greener than normal Silver - washed Fritillaries.   I’ve never seen one like this before. We saw another Clouded Yellow perched on a yellow flower. There was   a Skipper perched on a leaf and at first we thought it might be Essex but on closer inspection saw it was a Small because it had only orange tips to its antennae, not black. Then we saw another White Letter Hairstreak. We had already seen one which was faded, but this one looked fresh and the white letter W was a bit more clearer.   A Small Copper basked in the sunshine with it's wings open. Further up the path was another Brown Hairstreak showing well still with its wings closed and right next to it was a White Letter Hairstreak. The Brown Hairstreak did open it's wings briefly to reveal the large orange patches on its upper wings and confirms it as a female. The male's upperwing patches are duller like a Meadow Brown's.   It was a fantastic reserve and it has obviously been managed well to have such a huge variety of Butterflies and we will certainly be coming again the next time we are in Dorset.

Slimbridge 11th August 2013

We went to Slimbridge hoping to go on the Land Rover Sarfari but unfortunately the 11am one fully booked so we decided to leave it for today. We started by going to South Lake to look for the long-staying Spoonbill. On the way we looked on the Buddlieas and saw a Painted Lady and a Red Admiral which had it's wings closed and was feeding on Rowan Berries. When it did open it's wings the red band across the centre of the upperwing is visible. At the South Lake we saw the Spoonbill on the Cormorant perch asleep and the only time it woke up was only to have a preen. In front of the hide was a Juvenile Shelduck and there was also an orangey coloured female Mallard. We saw two Kingfishers fly past and heard their high pitch calls. You can usually hear their call before you see them and its useful to know when they are near. We went to the Ziess Hide but not a lot about today. We then went to the Kingfisher Hide where we had brief view of another Kingfisher as it flew past the hide and up the river.   It was a shame that they didn’t nest here, but perhaps it got a bit noisy for them. There were 3 Buzzards flying and perched. The two Juveniles were on the hay stack and the Adult perched on the fence. When we first arrived one Juvenile was perched in the tree opposite the hide. There were 2 Grey Herons on a log and a Little Grebe swam past in the background with a chick. We went to Robbie Garnett where we saw a Juvenile Yellow Wagtail perched on a fence post. There was couple of Pied Wagtails and Green Sandpipers but no Wood Sandpiper. Finally we saw a Brimstone feeding on purple Loosestrife.      

Rutland Water 15th - 18th August 15.08.13


We went to Rutland Water for 4 days for the Birdfair. In the afternoon we quickly popped in to Lyndon to see the Tree Sparrows and the Osprey on the webcam. There were also some Butterflies including Peacock, Meadow Brown and Brimstone. We had to drive around to Whitwell Harbour ready for the evening boat cruise on the Rutland Belle with Simon King. We had managed to get the last two tickets for this event, so poor old Dad had to stay on the shore while Mum and I went on the boat. On leaving Whitwell we saw an Egyptian Goose. There was a couple of Common Terns flying around and one was perched on a post. Also three Great Black - backed Gulls and a big flock of Mute Swans moulting. We saw at least three Little Egrets. At last we saw our first Osprey just flying over but not fishing sadly.
On the horizon there was a glimpse of an ice rainbow which is formed in the clouds by the droplets of water or ice. It looked like the nice weather might be taking a change for the worse. I think we might have picked a good evening as the sun was still shining as we made our way back to Whitwell Harbour. It had been a very enjoyable evening with lots of waterbirds and the commentary by Simon King was excellent. We were nearly back at Whitwell when another Osprey was spotted hovering and flying over by the harbour, so luckily Dad was able to see it as well. It kept looking like it was going to fish but again it turned out not to be in fishing mode. We then made our way to the B&B at Fotheringhay.


The room was lovely at the B&B with views down to the river and after breakfast we made our way to the first day of the Birdfair. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and it kept raining. It was a bit muddy and we started to wonder if we should have brought our wellies. Fortunately at the Bird Fair there are loads of marguees to look in and lots of lectures to attend, so we could keep nipping in out of the showers. After a quick look at some of the stalls we went to the Events Marguee for the first talk, which was about the new BBC programme called Britain’s Big Wildlife Revival with Stephen Moss and Rob Lambert.   We stayed there for the next talk which was by Simon King. There are so many talks in different marguees that we couldn’t do all of them. There were others we wanted to go to, but there was so much to see in all the exhibitors marquees. We went to Anglian Birdwatching Centre and had a look for any Butterflies on the Buddleias as the sun kept trying to come out. There was only Peacock, Comma and Large White.

In the Evening we went around some of the hides. In the Plover Hide was some Green Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers. Common Terns made regular fly passes in front of the hide and a Juvenile Shelduck was foraging along the   sand spit. An Osprey flew over, but it didn’t sit on the perch this year like it did last year. In the Sandpiper Hide there was a few Common Terns, including some juveniles, mixed in with the Gull flock, which were mostly Black-headed and a very distant Greenshank.


The weather didn’t seem too bad and the sun kept coming out so we decided to go to the Lyndon Visitor Centre first this morning to look for the Ospreys at Manton Bay. We went to the Waderscape Hide but the views were just the same as last year so we went to the Shallow Water Hide which we hadn’t been to before and is the furthest down than the others. The nest site is slightly closer and one of this year's Juveniles was on the nest. The Adult Female kept flying down to the water’s edge to bathe. I've seen many Ospreys in my life but this is the first time I've seen one bathing!   Afterwards it took off and flew westwards. A Great Crested Grebe was sitting on a nest quite near the Gull colony. On the way back to the Visitor Centre we saw two Juvenile Blackcaps briefly. The Tree Sparrow flock were still on the feeders.   This is one of the few strongholds of this declining species, other sites I have seen it include Mersehead RSPB, Caerlaverock WWT and Martin Mere WWT.

We had to get back to the Birdfair quite early as James Lees from WWT Slimbridge was showing a film that he made about Iceland when he went birding there earlier this year. It was very good and I want to go there even more than ever now. We then went to see Bill Oddie host the Bird Brain event and stayed there to listen to Nick Baker talk about his new book ‘The Naturetrekkers Handbook’. As Bill Oddie was signing books at the same time as the Nick Baker talk, I asked dad to get me his new book called ‘Bill Oddie’s Introduction to Birdwatching’   and have it signed by Bill. Dad also asked him to sign my programme as well.   (Dad’s photo was on the Birdwatch   Facebook page of photos with Bill, which made me laugh!) I met Nick Baker later at the RSPB stand and asked him to sign my programme as I haven’t had his autograph before. As we were going to see ‘The Birdfair Effect’ chat show in the evening, we popped into Oakham for a chip supper and then made our way back to the showgrounds for the event which included Bill Oddie, Stephen Moss, Tim Appleton and many more.


The last day of the Birdfair was hot and sunny and we decided to go to more of the lectures. The first one was by Johnny Kingdom about the Bears of Alaska and also show some clips that he filmed in Exmoor.   He’s always very amusing with his talks. We went to the BTO Stand and saw a Treecreeper in the hand and close up. In the afternoon we went to a talk by Ed Drewitt about birds of the Somerset Levels. It was very hot in that small marquee.

The highlight for Mum was the final talk we went to in the Events Marquee, which was ‘A Celebration os Ospreys’ by Tim Mackrill and Roy Dennis on the success of the Ospreys all over the country and even about what its like for them in Africa. There were two songs by a choir called Global Harmony and Fiona Kennedy sang Fly Lady Fly’ with Ruriarh McDonald, which was a song she wrote about Loch of the Lowes most famous Osprey ‘Lady’. They sang a couple more songs including one called ‘Boy Blue’ about Lady’s chick of 2012. It was a very enjoyable event and something a little bit different. Tim Appleton, Tim Mackrill and Roy Dennis were signing the new book about the Rutland Ospreys outside the marquee, but Mum already has the book at home, so she was bit bit gutted that she couldn’t get one signed. I bought the CD of ‘Fly Lady Fly’ and got it signed by Fiona and Ruriarh. Roy Dennis was there as well, so Mum asked him to sign my programme. We went to the Simon King Marquee where he was talking about bird feeders and I asked David Lindo, ‘The Urban Birder’, to sign my programme as well. After a last walk around the marquees, we made our way back to the car for the long journey home. A very enjoyable weekend and the weather hadn’t even been that bad either!

Hawk Conservancy Trust 22nd August 2013

We went on a Coach trip to the Hawk Conservancy Trust to see some Birds of Prey. We got there at 11am in time for the Kite feeding. The only birds we saw were a couple of Common Buzzards and Grey Herons flying around but weren't really feeding. The Carrion Crows and a Magpie found the food easy enough though. Outside the hide, we had a close view of a captive Red Kite called Scarlet that one of the handlers was holding. A beautiful bird to see up close.

We made our way to the Lower Flying Grounds for the World of Birds demonstration.The first bird was Orphello the African Sea Eagle. He did a couple of fly passes before perching on a post. Orphello demonstrated how a wild bird will hunt by grabbing a fish from the water. Next was a Milky Eagle Owl which is a nocturnal species that lives in Africa. In order for it to hunt for food it has to wait until it's cooler at night, not in blazing hot sunshine. However this one was demonstrating it's hunting skills in daytime which gave us an excellent view to see one flying. Seeing a hunting Milky Eagle in the wild would fairly impossible in the dark!

Next was another bird from Africa called a Secretary Bird called Madeline which is not related to any other bird of prey here, but earns her place in the Trust's collection of Birds of Prey by demonstrating killing a rubber snake, just as her cousins would do in the wild. Sadly, this will be one of Madeline's final performances upon coming to her retirement. Hopefully in the next few years there will be a new Secretary Bird called Penny Pon, who is being trained up.

Next up was a Griffon Vulture and he did have a name which I can't pronouce or know how to spell.   He was a young bird and hadn't quite have the ability to fly very well, but he did a couple of fly passes and didn't do too badly. As they say practice makes perfect.   Another bird that was on show at the same time was Frodo the Tawny Eagle named after one of the Lord of the Rings characters.   Another contestant was a Lanner Falcon which is simular to Hobby but with a brown head. This one was demonstrating it's hunting skills which is very quick and fast that it was over within seconds. After the Flying Demonstration was finished we went to look at some of the other birds.   In one of cages was a Long - eared Owl calling and surprisingly smaller than an Eagle Owl.   There were species of Falcons on perches: Lanner, Merlin and Peregrine.   In another cage was Troy the Male Tawny Owl that we will be seeing later on.   We went to Reg’s Wildflower meadow to have lunch and be ready for the Valley of the Eagles flying display. We didn’t sit on the stands, but stayed at the picnic table by the side of the meadow. We remembered what happened last time! The Black Kites started to fly around and the Pergrine demonstrated his fast hunting skills.   The Black Kites are different from our Red Kites in having a shallow fork tail and browny black plumage.   There were some Vultures flying around with the Kites these were both Hooded and White - headed species. The Vultures flew quite low over the audience from one side to the other and the people had to duck quite low to avoid the birds hitting them. Some of the Black Kites perched on the tree quite near to us. This is a lovely display with music and watching so many birds in the air. A pair of Bald Eagles were released in the far valley and they had to fly back into the arena. They were quite a distance away. One of Eagles flew back, landed on the glove and called to the other bird. This one must have been too busy exploring and didn’t want to come back and in the end we gave up waiting. We discovered later that they had found him in someone’s garden after the owner rang them up to tell them he was there! I bet that scared the Sparrows!   We continued looking around the site including seeing a White - tailed Eagle.   A White - headed Vulture was sun bathing with it's wings spread out. In a cage was Major Lewis, the Burrowing Owl who wasn't in any displays today.   It was time for the Woodland Owls and Hawks demonstrations. The first performance was by Troy the Tawny Owl, another moment to witness a Tawny Owl flying in daylight, which you don't with wild bird.   Next was a Harris Hawk   which is a bird that sometimes escapes from captivity. They are very fast in flight and I couldn't   get a decent photo.

Next was a Little Owl called Archimedes that walks well on a tight rope. Another Hawk, a Kite, but this is not related to the Black and Red Kite. This is a false Kite called Mindy. Mindy is a female Brahminy Kite which always flys during the demonstration here and never perches. Mindy also demonstrated how to catch a fish right out of the water. The last birds to fly around were the Great Grey Owls. The only time we got a good view of them was when they were perched on a tree stump as they were always flying between the trees.   I had a really good day and the weather stayed fine for all the Flying Displays.

Slimbridge and Pensile 26th August 2013

We went to Slimbridge to see if any waders were about. On the entrance bridge we saw a small flock of Goldfinches bathing in the small river. These were mostly Juveniles without the bright head markings and one adult was present. We went to have a look at South Lake where the Spoonbill was once again asleep. This was a new bird that had arrived recently and was different to the bird that was here couple of weeks ago.   This 2nd year bird only woke up to have quick preen and went back to sleep.   There was a female Shoveler that was swimming, preening and a bit of bathing in front of the observatory. We were looking also for two Juvenile Spotted Redshanks mixed in with a flock of Black - tailed Godwits but no sign.   There was a couple of Common Redshanks feeding in front of the hide. On our way to the Rushy Pen we had a quick look on buddliea and saw a Painted Lady which is a migrant from Africa.   From the Rushy were two Common Snipe visible on the island and one was having a bath in the water.   We went to check out the Martin Smith Hide where we had a rare opportunity of seeing another Common Snipe and Water Rail out in the open water together. On the way back   to the Rushy Pen and saw three Brimstones feeding on the buddleias. When we got back to Rushy Pen there was a group of 4 Juvenile Ruff wading in between the Greylag flock.   We saw couple of Yellow Wagtails bathing and one I thought might have been a Blue - headed Wagtail, but was a bit too distant to be sure. We went to Pensile Road in Nailsworth to look for Adonis Blue. On the hill were loads of males on the wing. There was also Brown Argus, Chalkhill, Common and Small Blues and some Small Coppers. There was only one Small Blue that I saw. The Clouded Yellows were just flying up and down the bank, they didn’t stop at all, so I couldn’t get a photo of them. It’s certainly a good place to look for Adonis Blue and there are usually lots of others to see as well.

Radipole Lake/Lodmoor/Arne 2nd September 2013

We went to Radipole Lake to look for Bearded Tits but only had a brief view of one flying. There were couple of Long - tailed Tits flying through the trees near the viewpoint. A few Butterflies on the wing including Speckled Wood and Red Admiral.   Near the visitor centre were 2 Juvenile Great Crested Grebes swimming on the lake. We went to Lodmoor to see if any Waders had started to migrate through. We saw a Chiffchaff foraging through the bushes in the car park. On the grass bank just outside the car park was a female Yellow Wagtail which had been ringed at Abbotsbury Swannery and also some Pied Wagtails.   Not many Waders at Lodmoor yet, except for a Common Sandpiper which is on migration.   A Hobby was hunting Dragonflies over the reserve. We went to Arne to see some of the more rarer Spiders in the country, the Wasp and Raft Spiders.   We soon spotted our first Wasp Spider in a web that is more typical of a Garden Spider. The usual Wasp Spider web has a zig - zag mark in it. There were lots of Dragonflies about and some had been caught by Spiders. The Raft Spiders were on the pond standing motionless waiting for any flies to come too close. Mum was by the side of the pond watching a Spotted Flycatcher when we were told about a Raft Spider with a web of Spiderlings. She was standing right by them! They were in the reeds on the edge of the pond. She quickly moved away. I wonder why! In the web was a very large female Raft Spider with two sacks that looked like the tufts of grass which were the Spiderlings.   We saw a few more Wasp Spiders with typical zig - zag marked webs.   We went to Middlebeare Creek to see if the Osprey was about but no sign.   We saw some Sika Deer from the hide and a Green Woodpecker flew past. When we went back to the Pond we were told that the Osprey had just flown over. The story of our lives! There were loads of Swallows and House Martins swooping down and drinking from the pond. No picture - too fast! There was a Willow Warbler that came down for a drink but it soon disappeared. On the way back to the car park we looked on the heath where there were Stonechats perched on the gorse bush. There was even a Dartford Warbler perched briefly but I missed it. Further along the path were 2 Spotted Flycatchers.   In the overflow car park was a herd of Sika Deer, some with collars and ear tags. We made our way back to the car to begin for journey home.

Devon 14th September 2013

As it was Dad’s Birthday we decided to go out for the day. We went to Exeter to look for the Lesser Yellowlegs that had been seen recently at Trew's Weir. While Dad was parking the car, Mum and I went to look for it. When we got there, we were told that the bird was hiding behind the concrete wall where the water looked deep, but there was a muddy patch where it was. We started to walk around to see if we could see it and as we did, it flew over the wall and landed in the shallow water of the weir right in front of us. We sat down and let it walk to us rather than trying to get nearer to it. When Dad arrived, it was feeding happily and wandering up and down in the water, not bothered by the people watching it or even the dogs running about. It was   lovely bird to see and even non birdwatching people were interested in it and amazed to think it is from North America and was there in the heart of Exeter. This was a first Lesser Yellowlegs I've seen.   It had scratch and a preen and the white rump was clearly visible. We left it to it’s admiring audience and went to Dart’s Farm for lunch.

We went to the hide at Bowling Green Marsh for high tide but the Waders were very distant and for some reason Dad forgot to bring the telescope. Perhaps he’s getting old!! (Sorry Dad!) Luckily there were lots of birders with scopes who let us have a look through.   We saw some Curlew Sandpipers and 6 Little Stints but no picture. Too far away. I was amazed at all the Little Egrets that were there, they must have had a good breeding year. There was no Osprey on the mast where we had had it before. It had been around for a few days, but it must have been somewhwere else at the moment.   We went on to Starcross to see what waders might be about as the tide went out, but it was still quite high and all I saw was some Turnstones. Dad thought he saw an Osprey flying in the distance up by Powderham. Of course, to an Osprey, Bowling Green and Powderham is only a short flight away. We finished at Powderham by watching the Fallow Deer Bucks and a Doe with newly born fawn. There was a Grey Heron sat on the bank in the fading sunshine but sadly we saw no Osprey - still you can't win them all! (We did find out that the Osprey turned up at Bowling Green on his mast in the afternoon when we were at Starcross.)

Blagdon 28th Sep 2013

We went to Blagdon Lake to see the Great White Egret at the Top End.   It kept hiding but when it came out, the Egret was still behind some reeds, so I couldn’t get very clear photos of it. There were some Little Egrets in the same pool and we had a really good comparison between the two until they got chased off by the much bigger Great White Egret.   There were also some Roe Deer visible from the hide, but they too were behind some grass.

Cruise to Bay of Biscay 24th-26th Sept 2013

We boarded the Brittany Ferry ‘Pont Aven’ in Portsmouth and set off to Santander, passing the famous ships ‘Victory’ and ‘Warrior’, and the Spinnaker Tower.   After we had settled into our cabin, we went to a presentation given by ORCA with special guest Chris Packham about the Whales and Dolphins that we might see in the Bay of Biscay. We had an early night, as we wanted to be up quite early the next morning.

Journey to Santander 25th September 2013

It had been difficult to sleep with the movement of the ship, but we managed a few hours. Having travelled through the hours of darkness, we woke up early in the Bay of Biscay. The first Dolphins we came across were Short - beaked Common Dolphins. We also saw some Pilot Whales of an unknown species. Another Whale we saw was a Cuvier's Beaked Whale with a goose-like face which we saw well when it surfaced briefly. It had scratch marks on its back which is caused by the males fighting each other with their small tusks. Further on we saw a pod of Striped Dolphins leaping out of the water and after we passed, they were playing in the wake.   The next Whale species to encounter was the Fin Whale, which is the 2nd largest Whale on earth. It is a close relative to the Humpback and Blue Whales.   We also saw some more Striped Dolphins jumping around. The Striped Dolphins are a common sight in the Bay of Biscay.   Another Large Whale was spotted which was thought to be another Fin Whale at first, but later it was confirmed to be a Northern Bottlenose Whale. Lots of Gannets were flying past the ferry as well as some Bonxies, (Great Skuas).   We also saw another Cuvier's Beaked Whale except this one didn't show it's face. We did see another Fin Whale swimming in the Bay. There was a strange sight of a large group of fish, probably mackerel, swimming away as if they were fleeing from a very large shadow. Was it a Sperm Whale? We'll never know as it kept itself underwater.Then the highlight of the day - a rare sighting of three Orcas also known as Killer Whales. Despite their name, they are not really related to Whales. They are in fact black and white Dolphins. This was the first time this year that they had been seen and it caused great excitement.

We got in to Santander at quarter past five in the evening. We had a drink in a little cafe by the quay and while we were having our drinks, we saw some moths hovering over flowers. I went to   have a closer look and they were Hummingbird Hawk Moths.

We boarded the ferry again back to Plymouth at 20:15PM (British Time). The journey overnight was across the Bay of Biscay and we wondered what cetaceans we were passing.

Journey from Santander to Plymouth 26th September

The next morning we got up to see what we missed. We did miss some Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters flying past the ferry, but Mum spotted a couple of Sootys later. Great Skuas were regularly flying past. Another member of the Skua family was trailing at the end of a line of Gannets. This was an Arctic Skua which also breeds in Northern Scotland. There were lots of plumage variation of the Gannets, from the brownish juveniles to white wing adults. A marvellous highlight we saw was a Balearic Shearwater, which was a lifer for me.   This wasn't the only Shearwater that was new for me. Great Shearwaters were also cruising past the Ferry. There were also a lot of Ocean Sunfish which seem to wave their fin as we pass. There were some more Short - beaked Common Dolphins, including a juvenile, leaping towards the ferry and about 5 Sabine Gulls flew up from the water. We were hoping to see lots more seabirds as we pass the Molene Islands, unfortunately a thick bank of fog descended and we could only just make out the lighthouses on them. It was a shame as Chris Packham said that they are quite spectacular. We arrived at Plymouth Quay at 16:15PM and the end of our excellent trip. Many thanks to all the guides from ORCA, Chris Packham and Brittany Ferries.

Berkeley, Blagdon, Chew 7th October 2013

We went to Berkeley to see the Wryneck at the end of the sea wall. It was feeding near the gate at the end and kept going in and out of the grass. It then came down the path towards us slightly. When some dog walkers came past, it flew into the tree. It soon came back out to forage on the ground. The Wryneck was very obliging and was within a couple of metres from where we were standing. After a long while mooching in and out of the grass tussocks, it flew on to the fence   and then back to the tree. We decided that this would be a good time to leave, as Nan was in the car and we wanted to go to Chew. We just started to walk back to the car when suddenly the Wryneck flew in front of us and landed on the fence. Then it landed on the ground to start feeding blocking our path back to the car. The other people that had been watching the bird as well were still looking for it at the top of the path, so Dad went up to tell them that it was down here. Some more birdwatchers came down the path towards us and they could see us all looking at the Wryneck, so stopped to look from where they were. Of course, the problem now was, how do we get back to the car without disturbing the bird. We couldn’t go back along the path. We had to climb over the fence and walk along the field and get back on the path when we were past the Wryneck. Along the seawall we saw a Wheatear on migration back to Africa.

We went to Blagdon Lake to look for the Glossy Ibis which we didn't see last time.   We saw it feeding in one of bays and it walked past a Grey Heron which was a good comparison. The Ibis was a juvenile. After a while the bird took off and flew to roost at Top End.   The Black Swan that had been present for a couple of weeks was feeding with some Mute Swans. It is slightly smaller than a Mute Swan.   Finally we ended the day at Heron's Green Bay, Chew where the Grey Heron and some Little Egrets were looking in the water at something. There was a Grass Snake in between the Heron and the Egrets. We wondered if the birds would attack it, but they seemed slightly scared of it and just watched it as it swam very quickly across the lake and out of their reach. That was something I’d never seen!

Westonbirt 7th November 2013

I went to to Westonbirt with Organic Blooms on a work's outing to see all the Autumn colours on the trees. It was a lovely sunny day and we were very lucky as it had rained heavy the day before and it rained all day the next when I was at work. The colours were lovely! Many thanks to Organic Blooms.

Newport Wetlands 9th November 2013

We went to the Newport Wetlands to see the Penduline Tit which has been showing for a few days by the visitor centre. The Male Penduline Tit spent a few minutes feeding on the seedheads of the bullrushes, preening and posing on top of the rushes. After a while it flew a few feet away   and landed between the two   bridges, hopping about at the bottom of the bullrush stems. It appeared in view but only briefly before flying further afield to the bullrushes at very back.
We went to on a quest to see another special bird : Bearded Tits or Bearded Reedlings. We looked around and listened but no sign of them.   We hoped that the Starlings were going to perform their murmerations this evening but sadly they just flew straight into the reedbeds.

Slimbridge 10th November 2013

We went to Slimbridge to look for the Purple Sandpiper and see what else was about. We started at the Rushy Pen where there were loads of Pintail in stunning breeding plumage. The 1st Winter Purple Sandpiper spent most of it's time in front of the Peng Observatory. It was chased off by a Lapwing, but soon returned. Then a Jackdaw made it unwelcome by chasing it further to the other side of the pen. We went to look for the Siberian Chiffchaff on the Decoy Boardwalk but there were three Chiffchaffs flitting around in the bushes and we couldn’t make our minds up which one it was. We went to the Martin Smith to look for Common Snipe but the water was very high. Some Teal were asleep on the island and 2 Males were preening.
At the Knott Hide there were Fieldfare, Redwings and Blackcap feeding on the Hawthorn berries.
We went to the Holden Tower where a population of Barnacle Geese from Iceland were bathing. Also a few of the Russian White - fronted Geese. Back to   the Rushy Pen we saw some Lapwings in good a sunlight showing vivid colours.
We went for a cup of tea and something to eat and while we were there we looked at Twitter to see if anything was around. One of the tweets said that a Great Northern Diver had been reported on a pool at Sharpness. As it was on our way home it made sense to pop in to have a look at it.
This was Juvenile as the back is a scaly pattern. It is a very nice bird to see considering there's not very many in our region. It seemed very confiding swimming around and came quite close at times giving lovely views in the sunshine.

Chew 18th November 2013

We went to Chew Valley Lake to see the Black - throated Diver which was still present at Woodford Lodge. This Juvenile gave excellent views close to the bank. There was also Great Crested Grebes with the Diver.   We saw a Kingfisher fly past twice. We were just about to leave Woodford when a Drake Goldeneye flew in and bathed. This bird was still in the middle of it's moult.
At Heron's Green we saw two Female Goosanders. We to Moreton Hide to look for Bearded Tits but no sign. We then went to the dam to look for the Long - tailed Duck. The bird was a bit more distant than the last time I saw one here.   The Egyptian Geese pair and three Goslings were still around the picnic site.   There was also a Pied and a Grey Wagtail near the dam. The Pied kept chasing the Grey Wagtail off. Just like the Wagtails in our garden, they don’t seem to like each other.

Somerset Levels 2nd December 2013

As Dad had to go down to Wellington near Taunton, we decided to go to the Somerset Levels. Dad dropped us off at Shapwick and we walked up from the bottom. We went along the path to the Decoy hide to see what was there. We had a brief view of a Water Rail making an alarm call and a Green Woodpecker.   There was nothing special at the Decoy hide, just common birds including Mute Swan, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Ducks and 2 Kingfisher flying down at the back of the lake. We went to the Noah’s hide to see if any Otters were about, but none there. We haven’t seen any from here for a long time now, so maybe they’ve moved somewhere else on the reserve. There were of course, some Cormorants,   Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallards. We did however, see two special birds from this hide, the first was a Female Kingfisher which perched in a tree near the hide and another was a Female Marsh Harrier quartering over the reedbed. We met up with Dad in the Car Park at Ashcott Corner and had a bit of lunch. We saw a Chiff-chaff flitting about the bushes, but didn’t stay still for a photo. We went to Ham Wall RSPB   to see if the Bitterns were going to roost. There was a bonus of seeing a Great White Egret with a Little Egret. The Great White took off the same time as the Little and we had a good comparison. We stayed to watch the Starlings roost but there was no murmurations tonight. They all just flew straight in. There was quite a lot though!

Starling Roost at Science Park 3rd December 2013

On the way home from work, we stopped to see a Starling spectacular at the Bristol and Bath Science Park. Not as many birds as there were at the Levels, but there were lots of murmurations and when a Sparrowhawk rushed through the flock, all the birds had to bunch up for safety. The Sprrowhawk flew round and landed in the tree. When they thought it was safe they dived into the reedbeds like a waterfall. Wonderful performance!
A Water rail was also heard squealing from the reedbed.

Severn Beach, Slimbridge and Daglingworth 14th December 2013

We went to Severn Beach to see the Desert Wheatear that had been present since Wednesday evening. The 1st Winter Male was spending most of the day feeding on the saltmarsh by the flats. When we first saw it, the bird was foraging along the ridge. Then sombody walked two dogs along the path right by it and we were worried they might have scared it away, but it didn’t seem to worry too much. After the coast was clear it flew down to within a couple of metres of all the photographers. We hope that this lovely bird makes it back to Africa. As we were passing, we popped into Aust to look for the Twite. We saw two distant birds flying over with forked tails that might had been them, but didn't land unfortunately.

We went to Slimbridge for a walk round to see what was about. In the Rushy Pen were a couple of Bewick's Swans, loads of Pochard and Shelducks. We went to the Martin Smith hide where the Snipe were hiding in the reeds. There were also Pintails and Teals with a number of Greylag Geese close to the hide. Next was Robbie Garnett there was even more Pintails in big numbers and displaying males. There was also quite a few Curlews at the water's edge. Something was putting the birds off as a large number of Golden Plovers took off with Lapwings and Curlews. There were a few Pochards and Teals mixed in the Pintails. We went to the Stephen Kirk Hide where we had unexpected bonus of seeing a Water Rail feeding in front of the hide. We also had a better view of the Curlews with the Wigeon flock.   As we were leaving Slimbridge we heard that the Great Grey Shrike in Cirencester had been seen so thought we would have another look for it. When we got there the bird was perched on the furthest tree at Park Corner. It then flew left but we couldn't locate where it went. After a couple of minutes it flew back on to the same tree. Then it perched on the fence post and the barbed wire fence. Afterwards it went to roost in the nearby trees. A splendid beginning and splendid ending to splendid day.  

Portland and Radipole 27th December 2013

We went to Portland to see the Brünnich's Guillemot that was showing well the previous day. We first saw it swimming amongst the boats in the bay with a Common Guillemot for comparison. There was also a third Auk member which was a winter plumage Razorbill.   After a while both Guillemots went their seperate ways. Then the Brünnich's Guillemot seemed to wake up a bit and start feeding and began diving in. It emerged to within 3 feet of the slipway and flapped. After a few more dives it went around the corner. We walked back round to Osprey Quay where we saw a Black Guillemot, but sadly too far away for a photo. The Brünnich's Guillemot continued diving alongside the path   in search for fish. You never knew where it would pop back up. Sometimes it was very close to the shore and other times further back.There was also Cormorants and Red - breasted Mergansers in the harbour. Our last views of the Brünnich's Guillemot was when it headed up past the boats in the harbour and disappeared. It was way past lunchtime by now so we headed back to the car and had lunch at Ferrybridge watching the Dunlin and Brent Geese. We were going to look for the Black Brant amongst them, but it had started to rain heavily so we didn’t bother. Instead we popped into Radipole Lake to look for any Mediterranean Gulls. We found one present with the Black - headed Gull flock. Unfortunately they were easily disturbed and the Med Gull flew towards the main lake to roost. I had a quick look for the Hooded Merganser and it is still about. We went to see the Glossy Ibis that was present at Radipole Park. It was on the football pitch probing in the grass looking for invertebrates. It was a unusual place to see a Glossy. I took some pictures of it, but it was getting dark. Afterwards we headed back home along the A37 via Yeovil, which was lucky as there was a big holdup on on M5 northbound. It had been a good day.

Brixham and Broadsands
29th December 2013

We went to Brixham to look for the White - billed Diver. We saw Great Northern and Black - throated Divers. We also saw a Black Guillemot. There were quite a few Turnstones along the seawall and some Purple Sandpipers resting underneath the jetty. A Rock Pipit was foraging along the sea bank. The White - billed Diver was spending much of it's time in the middle channel of the outer harbour.   There was quite a few Cormorants and a Shag. Unfortunately the White - billed Diver didn't come very close for a decent photo. The Turnstones on the other hand were coming very close, especially when we were having our sandwiches. Mum was even feeding them bits of bread by hand! The weather was really nice and sunny and I wonder if this was why the White - billed Diver was not going into the inner harbour, which would have been better to   take a picture. There was a photographer out in a small dingy taking photos of the Diver and I think that was the only way to get a decent picture of it. Never mind, at least I saw it and got a record shot as it was a new bird for me to add to my life list bringing my total up to 258. There’s still quite a few birds I still need to see. It was starting to cloud over now so we thought we had better get to Broadsands to look for Cirl Buntings before it got too dark. While we were waiting I saw a possible Siberian Chiffchaff flitting through the tops of the tree. There were three seen around here in recent days. We put some seed down on the ground to encourage the birds down and also, of course it helps them. The male and female Cirl Buntings fed on the ground with Dunnock, Blackbird, Robin and some female Reed Bunting. In between feeding they all flew and satat up in the tree to digest the seed. It was surprising how similar the female Cirl Bunting was to the female Reed Bunting and was nice to have the comparison. The sun had gone by now and it was getting a bit dark for photos, so we decided that we would have a pay another visit in 2014.

Due to space limitations I have had to archive the older blogs and leave out the photos.