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Wildlife in and around the city of Bristol

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Bristol and Avon Bird


Archive  2008

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



We went to Slimbridge again later in the year and we saw different birds this time we saw the Grey Wagtail down by the water's edge. If you are wondering why I haven't got photos on this one my fingers were cold. Once again we saw a Wood Pigeon walking on the ground and also a nice close up of a Moorhen originally known as a Waterhen showing off it's red and yellow bill. A similar close up of a Coot with a white bill to compare the difference to the bill of a Moorhen. There was only one problem no Bittern showing nor even a Cetti's Warbler when came out the Zeiss Hide we found a little Robin perched in the tree,on the ground,and on the post and also the Blackbird on the ground as well. The winter plumage Black- Headed Gull was perched on a different perch. We heading back to the car when I stopped to photograph a pair of Jackdaws.

Shapwick Heath


We went to Shapwick Heath on the Somerset Levels   in the hope of seeing a Bittern. There are usually one or two over-wintering. We went to one of the hides overlooking the water. While we were there we heard a couple of Water Rails .These elusive birds spend much more time in the reeds, then they do in the open. If you want to see these shy birds you need to listen out for it's piglike squeal call. Meanwhile there were lots of Cormorants opposite the hide to entertain   the birdwatchers, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits flew through. The hide opposite is normally a good place to see   Marsh Harriers, but of course being busy when I came, there were none that day. We saw a Goldcrest there as well. We made our way to the Mere Hide to look for Otter and saw a male Marsh Harrier soaring above the reed beds. When we came out, there was a lovely sunset, a flock of Starlings flew over, and me and Dad got covered with their droppings. Yep this was the Starling's pooing night.   Just as well it was a smaller flock than usual!   Then they all plunged   into the reed beds. That was it. The sun has set.

Forest of Dean


We went to the raptor watch-point at New Fancy   in the     Forest of Dean to try and see the Goshawks displaying. Like a lot of   birds of prey they sit in the tops of trees doing nothing. Other birds there were Carrion crows and   a fly pass of Common Crossbill. Down in the valley, the quiet woodland provided an ideal site for one winter visitor to Britain, the   Great Grey Shrike.   There were also some Wild Boar there. A female and her striped humbug babies hiding in the grass thinking nobody could see her. I have never seen a sight like that before. What smashing view. Our first   Wild Boar in England. Too far away for a   photo, but great view in the scope. Not far from where the Wild Boar was snoozing, a   Buzzard was perched high on a post. Perhaps he had his evil eyes on the piglets.   He thought for minute then he took off. We moved on to see if we could see a Hawfinch. There were lots of   different birds including   Jay,

Brambling, Common Crossbill Treecreeper, and Song Thrush but no Hawfinches. Time to try and search for Britain's rarest and   elusive Woodpecker, The Lesser- Spotted. We knew it wasn't going to be easy to find they're about the same size as a sparrow. So to try to attract any woodpecker on   to the tree, so I can photograph and get on film, I did what Simon King did, by tapping on a dead tree trunk with a stone. Unfortunately, it didn't work yet again. That was it. Boy, I saw a lot of new birds,

including a Reed Bunting   on one of the feeders. Quite a day!

And the weather was nice too!



We went to Slimbridge to find out about my Work Experience there. First of all we popped into one of the hides and saw Bewick's Swans, Pintails, Pochards, and Shelducks. After we went to look at the feeders on the way to the Holden Tower, where we usually see Grey Squirrel.   There were Moorhen, originally known as Water Hen.   But of course the pride of place   goes to the Water Rail. This secretive bird normally spends much of it time in long tall reed beds. The wardens in Slimbridge have put some fat cakes on the ground   and if you are lucky, you might see one with it's bright red bill.   I managed to get sort of a picture but he didn't come out too far. We went to the Crane school to see how the young cranes are getting on.     One or two of the youngsters are starting to get their adult feathers. Then we looked at the South Lake, lots of Geese and Swans.   After Lunch in the restaurant, we went to South Finger to look for Kingfishers.   We didn't see any today, but a saw a lovely little Wren and had a great view of a   Cetti's Warbler.

The best ever! I didn't manage to get a picture unfortunately, as it was flitting about too quickly. We couldn't resist another look at the Water Rail and this time there were some Long-Tailed Tits as well. The Rail kept running back and forth into the vegetation.   Of course, a day trip to Slimbridge in the winter wouldn't be complete without seeing the floodlit feed. We watched the Swans and Geese flying in, along with one of my favourite ducks, the Teal. It was a lovely end to the day.

Chew and Blagdon


We went on a little quest to find a Ruddy Duck, so we tried our luck at Blagdon   in   the hope of seeing one.   We saw a male Scaup with four females. There were also some Wigeon there as well. My first close up Wigeon. The males look super with their golden crown. At last I saw some Ruddy Ducks a long way off, because they not that common nowadays.   I wonder why? We moved along to Chew Valley Lake to see what was there. There were no Ruddy Ducks I can tell you that for nothing. But however we did see some Common Gulls amongst the very common Black - Headed Gulls. We finished off with a rare sight in the winter indeed , two pairs of Great Crested Grebes in breeding Plumage. We also saw a lovely Water Rail and some Snipe in a little pond opposite Heron's Green.



We went to the Highlands of Scotland to stay at Dunalastair, Perthshire for a week. We stopped off at Vane Farm on the way up. We stayed in a cottage near an area   where we saw Black Grouse one year.

We went to explore the area a bit and also we were on the look out for the Black Grouse, but so far nothing.   We saw some Red Deer and Brown Hare. Not a lot you might say. There was a special train coming from Perth. The North Briton headed by 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier and 60009 Union of South Africa. We found a good place to watch it, but it was late and by the time it came it had got very misty. We saw it heading up the bank into the mist and   off to Inverness. Back at the cottage Pheasants do a pretty good impression of a Black Grouse as they are dark green and a couple of Jays appear in the Garden.

We went to Loch of the Lowes at Dunkeld to see the Ospreys and other birds including Pheasants (normal colour ones) and various garden birds. On leaving   Loch of the Lowes we saw Fallow Deer running free in the wild in Scotland! Seriously Fallow Deer, only common in England but very unusual in Scotland. We also saw Golden Plover, Lapwing and at last we saw some Black Grouse.

We headed to the RSPB Reserve at Loch Garten where we caught up again with the North Britain at Kincraig near Kingussie in glorious sunshine. The two steam trains complete with the Cairngorm mountains.   At Loch   Garten   we saw   the Osprey called EJ. We saw her on the webcam sat on the nest in   the snow. EJ's new mate is Orange VS but the bad news is that Henry did not return. I saw a Crested Tit on the webcam, but by the time I got outside to take a picture, it had gone.   Then we went up to Cairngorm and saw some Snow Buntings. There was still quite a bit of snow and   we went on a quest to see if we can see the Ptarmigan,   which is a member of the grouse family. It was hard walking in the snow and Mum and I kept putting our feet in holes, because we couldn't see them. We decided to turn back even though we hadn't gone that far. Then we heard Ptarmigan and a couple walked right past us.   A lovely view in the snow.

We were on our way to Rannoch Station when we stopped to see if there were Black - throated Diver and we saw some a long way off. Also flying overhead was a Snipe making a drumming sound. A female Stonechat was perched on a post along with a male. We also saw a female Hen Harrier flying over the moors. Not a lot at Rannoch Station except House Sparrows. We also to Queen's View and I was very lucky to photograph a male Bullfinch.   (Mum and Dad didn't see it). Finally at Tay Forest we saw a male Goosander but unfortunately it flew away before we turned our cameras on, so no photos. Oh dear! Sorry guys. I   will get a shot of him next time.   Never mind, back at the cottage there were a couple of Red-legged Partridges only too happy to have their photos taken.

We went to Glenshee and saw a Mountain Hare at close quarters, the last Mountain Hare we saw was in April 2006, very distant at Tomintoul running down the hill. Then we went to Loch of Kinnordy where there seemed to be a lot of Black - headed Gulls amongst a group of Oystercatchers and a few Lapwing also known as Green Plover.   We also saw an Osprey. On the tree was a   baby Red Squirrel and it shot off like a flash, but no Black- necked Grebe. The car started to play up, so we headed back to the cottage early.

The day after the car failed to climb to the mountains.   It was taken to the garage at Blair Atoll. After lunch went into an exhibition with a webcam on a nest bringing live pictures of Golden Eagle. After we picked the car up we went to the Falls of Bruar where there are spectacular   waterfalls and on the way up we saw a male Grey Wagtail.   On the way back to the cottage, at last we saw them.   A smashing Black Grouse lek. It   wasn't   as active as it would have been if there had been females there, also known as Greyhens.   I nearly forgot to mention   an appearance of a male Hen Harrier flying near the cottage.

That is all.  

Finally on the way home we popped into Martin Mere to see what was about. There was a Ruff and a Redshank and also few Avocets and the true stars, Tree Sparrows. It was colder here than it had been all week in Scotland.

West Sedgemoor


We went to West Sedgemoor to see what was about. We looked in the heronry hide first and saw some nests but only saw a few herons in flight and one Little Egret breeding there as well. On the way back from the hide we saw an Arum Lily, also called a Cuckoo Pint.   We also saw other flowers including Herb Robert, Celandines, Primroses, Early Purple Orchids and lots and lots of Bluebells.   We also saw a Green-veined White and a lovely black Beetle. It think it might have been a Bloody-nosed Beetle, but I haven't got a book on them. As we were having a cup of tea in the car park there was a Nuthatch on one of the feeders.



We went to Norfolk   hoping to see a Turtle Dove which is a cousin of the Collared Dove,   but no luck.   We went to Lakenheath and saw Sedge and Reed Warblers, Reed Buntings,   Whitethroats, and Bearded Tits. There are two special birds here that are hardly ever seen in any other part of Britain. These two species are the Golden Oriole,   who are golden except for the black wing tips on the male, (females and juv are greenish), and the Common Crane. We heard the Orioles calling in the Poplars, but for such a brightly coloured bird, they are almost impossible to see. The Cranes were proving just as hard, but we did see a couple fly over the reed bed.  

Then we went to Weeting Heath to see   the Stone Curlew. We also saw a Little Owl sat in exactly the same place as we saw one last year. I wonder if it was the same one.


We went to Hickling Broad to try to see a Swallowtail butterfly but nothing. We had a good view of the Konik ponies that graze there. We went to the North Norfolk Railway   and saw once again no. 90775 working a   service train. After we watched the train   go through Weybourne station, we went to Cley where saw some Egyptian Geese. We went into Avocet hide and saw some Marsh Harriers and when we came out there was a Redshank on a post posing nicely. Then we went to Bishop's Hide to see what was there.   Everything   was disturbed by the alarmed quack of a female Mallard, then out of the reeds came a deer, but which? It lacked the white tush of a Roe Deer, too big for a Muntjac and a bit small for a Red Deer. The only conclusion we came to was that it was a   Chinese Water Deer. I have seen all the other three in Norfolk, but this was my first Chinese Water Deer. They have tusks instead of antlers and during the rutting season they fight with these. We also heard Bitterns booming and saw lots of Avocets,

some with chicks. In the evening we went for a walk near the B&B

and saw a lovely Barn Owl hunting in the fields. It flew right over our heads. Smashing!


The farm where we stayed is near the Bure Valley Railway, so we popped in and saw a new loco in service named Mark Timothy. We went to Minsmere before we started for home and there were loads of different birds, such as Lapwing, Avocet, Black -headed Gulls, Heron, Little Egrets and an elusive Whitethroat.   We saw some Little Terns and Ringed Plovers nesting on the beach. In the scrub by a path a Nightingale had decided to build its nest. This is a very shy secretive bird that normally hides in dense   vegetation and the only way you know they around is by the loud   song. Funny that this one had chosen to nest by   the reserve path.   We walked through the woods to the hides but should we go into the Bittern Hide or the Island Mere Hide. We decided to go to Island Mere. So glad we did!

There were at least 5 Bitterns there. We saw some flying and then two were fishing right in front of the hide! Oh, in the Bittern Hide there were some Red Deer. Maybe it should be called Red Deer Hide! Great weekend.



I heard from Minsmere that I had won the photo competition, so we all went up to Suffolk for the weekend for my presentation.

On the way up we called into Flatford Mill for a quick look around, this is where Constable painted his famous picture of the Haywain, there were lots   of Swallows and House Martens   on the telegraph wires.

We got to Minsmere late afternoon and we went to look at all the photos in the competition which were hanging on the cafe wall. We looked the the sightings for the day and saw that a Purple Heron was spotted at 2pm, so we went for a walk to look for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it, only Cormorants and a few Grebes at Island Mere Hide. We were on our way back to the visitor centre when all of a sudden a pair of Green Woodpeckers flew in and started feeding on   the ground.Too far away for a photo, but then we came across a Muntjac. I took some photos but the light was getting bad by then.

More muntjacs rushed through the clearing and at the Bittern Hide we saw some Red Deer Hinds.

30.08.08 Saturday. The prize   presentation was going be at 3pm  so we wandered around   and saw something I wasn't expecting to see. A Grayling butterfly, the first   one I have ever seen, so perfectly camouflaged it looked like ground. Then off to the East Hide and I saw a pair of Spotted Redshank. There were even some Dunlin still in breeding plumage and among the group of Dunlin was a rather lonely Ringed Plover. Suddenly a flash of blue flew past the hide window. It was a Kingfisher, and all a sudden something   put all birds up. No one could see what could have caused it. The Dunlin vanished from in front   of the hide, but the Spotted Redshank walked back to where they were. At 3pm I met wildlife photographer and author David Tipling   when I went to receive my prize,   which was a book called “Digital Photography “. After the presentation   I went on a quest find a Painted Lady Butterfly.   I saw one here back in 2007, but this year I have not seen one at all. A Grey Squirrel   decided to have a snooze on a branch. On the way to Island Mere Hide we came across a Beetle Larva, very weird. We haven’t got a clue what it was.

31.08.08 On Sunday we went on a land rover safari with the warden, Paul Green, which was part of my prize.   We drove down to the beach and saw quite a rarity, a Wasp Spider with yellow/black stripes on its back. He then showed us the Konik ponies used to help maintain the habitat of the reserve. The ponies were very friendly and came over to see us, but we had to make a swift exit when a bull decided to come over to see us as well. I asked Paul where the bridge was that Bill Oddie saw some Cranes fly over a few years ago and he took us there. Dad saw a Water Vole, but I just missed it. I could hear it eating the grass, but just couldn’t see it. He then took us on to the heath land where he knew there were Red Deer.   We saw them almost straight away, but they all ran away. We went to to look at the Exmoor Ponies, spotting several Green
Woodpeckers on the way. The ponies were not as friendly as the Konicks. We saw a Whinchat   on a perch , which was a bird I was most keen to photograph. We found the Red Deer at a pond rolling around in the mud getting themselves covered in   it.   Finally we finished by seeing a young Whinchat perched on a tree with a little Goldfinch below. It was a very enjoyable morning and the weather for the whole weekend had been glorious, which was unusual considering all the rain we have had.

Thank you to David Tipling, Paul Green and all the staff at Minsmere that arranged the competition, for a wonderful weekend.

You can visit David Tipling at        




We   went to Llanelli in   South Wales to have a look around to see what   it was like.   It was pretty well as I imagined,   but let’s get on with   what birds and mammals were there.

On our way to one of the hides we saw a Redwing, a wintering thrush from Scandinavia. This bird   has a bold eye stripe above each eye. Also on the bird table   were a pair of Bullfinches, both male and female. At the Michael Powell Hide there was not a lot about except a Little Egret in the distance too far away for a photo. However I was prepared   for a close in counter with a Grey Heron. We then went to the British Steel Hide where a   Water Pipit had been seen, but as far as I could see, all the pipits that were there were Meadow Pipits. While I was looking for this pipit, Dad spotted a Common Snipe feeding on the grassy bank. This, to be honest, is better than a Water Pipit as this is a bird that normally sticks close to cover. The only one I have taken a photo of was in flight during a drumming display over Rannoch Moor. But never in my life, have I photographed one on the ground. We also saw a couple of Goldfinches perched in the tree on our way back to the Visitor Centre for lunch. After we had had something to eat, we walked around the Millennium Wetlands, which is a more wild area. There is a super hide which overlooks Deep Water Lake called Heron’s Wing Hide. Lots of Duck such as Shelduck, Gadwall, Shoveler and   Teal. Also Cormorants and quite a few snipe, but all too far away for photos. We didn’t see much walking around the wetland area. I think Spring would be a better time to visit here when all the migrants appear. We went back to the Grounds and on to the next hide, the Board walk Hide. We saw some Long-tailed Tits at close range, and a little Goldcrest kept flitting around. We went the final hide that overlooks the Lagoon, the Observatory, where we saw Black-headed Gulls, a Buzzard soaring and Pochard in glorious sunlight, also a family of clipped winged Whopper Swans. We went back to look at the Marsh Scrapes from the British Steel Hide for the Water Pipit. A   Sparrow hawk flew along the coast and disappeared. We were watching a Little Egret standing in the water minding his own business, when all of a sudden a Fox came out of the turfs and nearly grabbed it but luckily for the Egret, it got away. The Fox went over the marshes looking   for other things to eat and gave us some lovely views. It posed nicely for the camera in the sun. Just after that fox, another one appeared on the other side. It too went all over the marsh looking for a meal. I took some shots of this fox in the sunset as this isn't something you see everyday. I hope to bring you another Llanelli blog very soon, when we visit again in the Spring, until then it just leaves one thing to say - goodbye.

River Exe


We went to the River Exe in Devon   - where to start? As soon as we arrived there was a huge flock of Brent Geese flying from the fields where they were feeding on the other side of the railway line. The First Great Western 125, Cross Country Voyagers, Little Sprinters and the new GNER HST kept disturbing them with their horns. Here’s   a question for you - who on earth would photograph a Pied Wagtail when you should looking for coastal birds like Grey Plover? Answer, Me! We also saw a Stonechat on our way to the Turf Lock pub to see what wildlife was there. We were looking for the wintering Avocet. I wonder if they are from Minsmere in Suffolk? We saw a Cormorant swimming on   icy cold water, some Avocet and a Redshank. On our way back we saw a Black-tailed   Godwit quite close, having a good old feed in the mud. We also kept seeing Little Egrets emerging from the little ditches and each time it flew it made an unusual call. We also spotted a pair of Red- breasted Mergansers which I mistook for Brent Geese at first. Easy mistake if they are a long way off   or if its dark - it was a bit of a gloomy day. Due to the poor lighting, no photo!   Well, look on the bright side, at least the Brent Geese were enjoying

themselves! Must be mad! They kept flying back and forth over the railway line. We then moved to Powderham Deer Park where     Fallow Deer were grazing. Just after we arrived the flipping train made me jump with its horn blasting and we thought we heard Bearded Tits pinging, but we’re not sure. At Cockwood Harbour we saw a delightful bird - a Kingfisher. Dad stopped the car on the bridge and I had to take a quick picture of it out of the window as we were holding up the traffic. So the photo was not as good as I would have like, but if I had walked back, it probably would have flown away! Finally our last port of call was Dawlish Warren but didn’t see anything special. The light by this time was very bad and not much good for taking photos.
I took a few of the Shetland   Ponies that are there to maintain the habitat. The dunes were in quite a bad state because of the bad weather eroding them and in several places they had collapsed. We did not get to the bird hide as it was getting quite dark, so we made our way back. The sea was very rough and we didn’t see any sea ducks unfortunately! On the whole though, it was a good day out even though the weather was cold and dreary. I bought myself a dvd at RSPB Darts Farm on Waders of Europe, Asia and North America. So if any unusual waders turn up in the future, I will be able to identify them. Some hope!!!!