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Wildlife in and around the city of Bristol

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February 2





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Scotland & North east

Scotland - Cairngorms

April 2





Bristol and Avon Bird


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

Archive  2009



We went to Slimbridge to see a new species of bird for me, the Glaucous Gull, although it wasn't an adult bird it was worth seeing.The first birds we saw when we got there were a flock of Lesser Redpolls feeding on the Alder by the boardwalk. The red crown stood out really well as I took this picture [see above] you can see how the bird gets it’s name, but be really careful that it’s not a Mealy Redpoll which can also show a similar pattern. The Glaucous Gull is regular winter visitor to Britain, the first one recorded at Slimbridge in 2007, but unfortunately several visitors noticed that the Glaucous Gull was unwell and it was taken into care at Slimbridge, but even with all the best attempts to save the bird, unfortunately it died a couple days after we saw it. Near the Holden Tower are some feeders that attract many birds including a very shy weary Water Rail which normally stick close to a reed bed. There were also Long - tailed Tits, Blue Tit & Great Tit at the feeders. Bye for now! Until next time Goodbye


We went to Devon to look for Cirl Buntings and the best place to find them was Broadsands near Paignton. There were four altogether two males and two females. Then we went to Berry Head to try to find a Black Redstart, but no luck. We saw some Rock Doves and Goats on the cliff and were surprised to see Guillemots and Razorbill on the water. We thought it was a bit early to be seeing them. There was also a Grey Seal present. I tried to photograph it but every time I tried, it dived. There was a pair of Fulmars on the cliff face below some Herring Gulls, who looked like they were thinking about breeding already. Then we went to where the Penduline Tit had been seen that day, but we had no luck at all. We did see three nice Buzzards and the three Tufted Duck were lovely as well. There were some Mute Swans too and very close views of a drake Shoveler and finally we went to Powderham to find the Cattle Egrets. I saw Cattle Egrets at Slimbridge during my work experience. This was the first I saw them in winter plumage. I’ m chuffed! On the way home we stopped at the services and saw flocks of Pied Wagtails going to roost in the trees. This is the first time time I have seen a winter roost. There were also some Starlings further over from the car park flying around. There was quite a big flock of them and they made some nice shapes before they too roosted in some trees out of sight. Not quite as good as Bill Oddie, but still nice!


On our way up to Scotland we stopped off at Leighton Moss.

We went to Leighton Moss in the evening. On the feeders when we first arrived were two Bullfinches, male and female. We went first to Lillan’s Hide where all we saw were mainly Black-headed Gulls. A Great Crested Grebe was also in front of hide. We went to the Public Hide and there was another Great Crested Grebe having a sneaky look at the Coot’s nest. There were also Marsh Harriers flying around. I apologise that I do not have a photo on the blog due to the bleached out sky. On the way up to the the hide we saw some lambs sucking on their mothers milk. We went to the Jackson Hide - it was high tide and the waders were in view. It was mixture of Black-tailed Godwits and Red shanks and an odd out of place Oystercatcher. There were also a couple of Teal dabbling on the surface of the water. A small white egret known as Little Egret was, in the early 80’s a rarity, but the first pair bred successfully at Northward Hill in Kent in 2000 and are now quite common all over Britain. I counted at least five present in front of the hide. We did not hear a single Bittern booming, even though this is the best time of year to hear it. They seem to have declined here, although they are doing okay in other places. They have started to breed close to home, in Somerset.


After breakfast we set out to Carnforth Steam town to see the fourth day of the Great Britain II being prepared for the run to Preston behind Royal Scot class 46115 Scots Guardsman. Then we went to Vane Farm just over the borders. Through the telescope I spotted a juvenile Whooper Swan on one of the lakes. We to Loch of the Lowes near Dunkeld then. We started by seeing what was on the feeders - there was a Pheasant displaying to the female who was completely not interested. There was a Great Spotted Woodpecker, it was a male with red nape at back of the head. Loads of Siskins and Chaffinches on one of nearest feeders, on the floor was a male Yellowhammer. But of course it’s the Ospreys we were there for, nesting on the far side of the loch too far for photos. Below the nest were some Goldeneye male and female diving. The Male is easy to recognise because of the white spots on each cheek, green crown ,and yellow eyes whichgives the bird it’s name. The female has to be identified by similar head shape, similar size bill and brown crown, it lacks the white spots on its cheeks. We continued to our B&B at Glenmore, stopping to have a look on Cairngorm. By the roadside on the way up we saw a female Black Grouse.


We woke up to a wonderful view of the Cairngorms from our B&B. The Great Britain II was coming through Aviemore later that day, but first we went to Loch Garten to see the Ospreys. One of which is called EJ and her new mate is called Odin. When we first arrived they were both up in the camera tree until Odin did a fly past collecting twigs for the nest which is where he landed afterwards. The other attractions included Red Squirrel , Chaffinches and the odd Siskin, but no Crested Tits this time. When leaving the Osprey Centre there was a little Bank Vole which kept popping up and running down into his hole. After having a cup of tea at Inshriach Nursery and watching the feeders there we went to Feshiebridge and walked around the Sculpture Trail. It was soon time for the Great Britain II, and we stopped just outside Aviemore to see it go past. The train is headed by a pair of Black 5s, 45231 ‘The Sherwood Forester’ and 45407 ‘The Lancashire Fusilier’ for the Glasgow - Inverness leg. We caught up with the train again at Aviemore Station. During a short stop over, the double header greeted Strathspey Railway resident No 17 Brearich. It departed Aviemore in style heading for the majestic Findhorn Viaduct and then on to Inverness. We went into Grantown on Spey for tea and on the way back I couldn’t believe what we were seeing - Mad March Hares in April. Two Brown Hares were chasing and boxing in a field near Dulnain Bridge. We to Tulloch Moor to see if there was any Black Grouse but the was nothing. On the way back from the moor we saw a Roe Doe, it looked at us for a moment then ran up the road.


When we were having breakfast in our B&B we saw a cheeky Red Squirrel on the feeder outside the window. We went to Insh Marsh today, but there was not a lot there and then on to Uath Lochan. We now headed to the River Spey and saw more Goldeneye. The Goldeneye seem to be doing really now.


Our first port of call this morning was to Aviemore to see the Great Marquess on its way back home. It had done a special tour on Saturday from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. Afterwards we went to Lochindorb to look for Red Grouse, but first we went to Milton Loch to see the Grey Herons. We saw quite a few Red Grouse on the moors. By the loch itself was a Common Sandpiper and Black - throated Diver and finally we  finished at Loch Garten with a male Goldeneye.


In the garden at Nethybridge was a female Common Pheasant with a local male who was trying to make himself popular. One special bird we saw on Loch Morlich was one of the Sawbill family, the Goosander, a real special occasion. Mum and I walked the entire Ryvoan Pass from Glenmore to Forest Lodge. Dad walked with us as far as the bothy and then he went back to get the car to meet us at the other end. We met up with him at Rynettin. Just before we got to Forest Lodge, a female Capercaillie flew out of the tree in front of us. Mum missed it as she wanted to sit down because she was tired. We bought some chips for supper and went to Broomhill to eat them as we watched a pair of Dippers.


We went to Culbin Forest today. We walked around it but there was not much to see except Sand Wasps. We did see a very nice Golden Plover on the moors on the way up. After we looked for Dolphins at Spey Bay. We saw a couple, but they were quite distant. I was sitting in the car and did not see the Osprey fishing on the river Spey. (Mum did this time). On the way back through Tomintoul we saw some more Brown Hare, not boxing unfortunately. We were driving along towards Lecht Ski Centre when we saw male Black Grouse or Cock.


We went to Loch Garten to check up on EJ and Odin and then we went to Cairngorm. We took the funicular up and there was still some snow and people sledging. This year we had no luck with Ptarmigan and Mountain Hares, mind you, we have never seen a Mountain Hare on Cairngorm anyway. We had a walk around and we saw Mountain Hare poo, but that was all.  There were Reindeer being fed on the mountain though and a Meadow Pipit, but no Ring Ouzel this year either. On Loch Morlich there was a Goldeneye trying to impress a female. (I’m not sure she was!)


We went to Milton Loch for the Herons who were a bit late nesting, don’t know why, but they were flying about the loch. We to the Heather Centre and I managed a couple of snaps of Siskins at the bird feeding station. There was some Chaffinches as well feeding away. Once again more Goldeneye on the River Spey, just can’t get away from this duck.

On the way back to our chalet we saw a Roe Deer Buck patrolling his local woodland, after looking back at us he jumped the fence and disappeared up the bank. I also saw a Buzzard perched on top of and old castle called Castle Roy, I took a quick picture of him but he flew away before Mum could video him.


We went to Chanory Point to look for Dolphins, but they were not as close as we saw them last year in July. After lunch we went to Loch Ruthven. Just as we got there, we passed a Roe Deer Doe and a young Roe Deer. While in the hide we saw some interesting birds including Treecreeper, Willow Warbler and real special bonus Golden Eagle being mobbed by Common Buzzards. Sorry no photo. It’s just what I saw through my binoculars. However there were Red - throated Divers displaying and that was the first for us. But the true stars were Slavonian Grebes swimming a few feet in front of the hide. The RSPB warden was in the hide and lots of other people and they were all very friendly and chatty. We went back over the Grouse Moors and don’t laugh too much but this Red Grouse was pausing for a picture to go on this year’s Whiskey label, Gaelic name for that is Ousa Bacha which means ‘the water of life’. We went to Strathdearn to see if we can find any Red Deer but only on the mountain tops, typical! A rare visitor to this part was a Common Gull in the car park at the end of the road. We met some other people who were in the hide at Loch Ruthven and told us they had just seen some Hares. Okay! One final quest to find a Mountain Hare, but this one was moulting into his summer coat and there were also a Brown Hare to compare the difference. I think Mountain Hares must moult from their heads first, because his head was much darker than his body. Dad thought he would try to get another close photo of the Mountain Hare and it bolted straight up the mountain.


We left Scotland this morning to head down to Wales for the Steam Gala at Llangollen. We stopped at Carnforth in the evening to watch The Citadel Express from Carlisle to Crewe pass by headed by 6233 Duchess of Sutherland from Midland Railway Centre.


The final day of our holiday and we went to Llangollen for the Steel, Steam and Stars II Gala, the first one was in 2007 which we also went to. As we arrived No 5643 was waiting at Deeside loop with a train for Llangollen. Heading the other way was a double header No 1306 Mayflower and 44086 running as Scottish engine 44801 bound for Carrog. We also headed off to Carrog. Another Scottish engine 246 Morayshire from Bo’ness and Kinnel Railway was waiting at Carrog for the doubleheader to arrive before departing. After the waiting for the arrival of the B1 and Black 5 Morayshire

sets off with the goods train. Next arrival is a Duke dog class 9017 now painted black, this loco was known since 2003 as ‘ The Earl of Berkeley’ and the last time I saw this engine in steam was at Severn Valley. The Special visitor arrives. The last time that I saw it was on the M5 - broken down en route to West Somerset Railway. Seeing it on rails is much different! It was 6100 Royal Scot, only just returned a month before these pictures were taken. What a coincidence, because the first locomotive I saw preparing for Day 4 of The Great Britain II was 46115 Scots Guardsman, and boy was I chuffed to see the only two saviours of this strong Royal Scots Class this holiday. Next arrival is 5643 originally from Lakeside and Haverthwaite in the Lake District and it is due to leave Llangollen on 31st September this year.

Now this is a really special occasion, the famous 100 mph 3440 City of Truro passing the famous Royal Scot with a goods train. Irish Mail was running narrow gauge line next to standard gauge and was visiting from West Lancashire Light Railway. It was a great day and even the weather was good. On the way home we called at Lake Vyrnwy in the hope of seeing a Pied Flycatcher. But only Chaffinches, Siskins, Great Tit and Grey Squirrel, but then again they would come to the feeders. You would need to go into the woods to see the Flycatchers and we did not have time for that. They wouldhave to wait for another day.

We had a few days in Wales this week. We started in South Wales with Gwili Railway at Bronwydd Arms Station.

The loco in service was Hunslet 0-6-0ST loco Hulwen. We then went to Teifi Valley Railway but unfortunately the first train of the day wasn’t running until 1.30pm which was too late for us to wait to see. We carried on to Tefi Marshes

instead and we had smashing views of the Water Buffalosthat were there in front of one the hides. Mum and I went back to the car and Dad followed on. Dad got lucky on the way back - he saw a Purple Hairstreak butterfly. There was not a lot about except a Ringlet butterfly and a Meadow Brown but a nice Grey Heron at the Kingfisher Hide, and a bit further down we saw four Little Egrets, one of them in flight. We went then to New Quay but not the Newquay you’re thinking of, it is off the coast of Cardigan Bay and a good place to watch Bottle - nosed Dolphin but it doesn't beat the Moray Firth Dolphins I’m afraid. We saw some, but not as close. There were also some birds out on the water such as Guillemots, Razorbill, Gannets and the odd Manx Shearwater flying past the headlands. Mainly the birds that were on the rocks were Herring Gull and youngsters and a baby House Sparrow, newly fledged and constantly being disturbed by big bulky Herring Gulls. We spent the night at a B&B in Lampeter.

We went to the Vale ofRheidol Railway at Devil’s Bridge and while we are waiting for the train to arrive from Aberystwyth there was time to look at the waterfalls. Not a lot really to say about it as I was in the car at the time while Mum and Dad got wet in the rain looking at them. I was hoping the loco in service would be Prince of Wales No 9, but it was No 8 Llywelyn. Even though it was the same engine that I had seen before, it was well worth seeing again. We then to Nant-y- Arian where there is a Red Kite feeding station. I know because Johnny Kingdom met up Dee Doody in his television series of Johnny’s New Kingdom.

Anyway we couldn't stay till 3pm I’m afraid because we still had a long way to go to our next B&B. We went Ynis Hir Nature Reserve, but because of the rain it meant there was not going to be any Dragonflies,Damselflies and Butterflies. However a Grey Squirrel doesn't mind a bit of

rain and he enjoyed my peanut butter sandwich. We went for a walk and in one of the hides there was a Swallow that had made its nest in there. It looked like it was on eggs - how odd! Further along we saw two Buzzards flying over the reserve. The Cambrian Coast Line from Machynlleth to Dovey Junction runs right through the reserve while Pwllheli line runs on far side of the Reserve. We called in at Cors Dyfi as we heard there was a pair of Ospreys. They are hoping that they might breed there in the future. Then on to our B&B at Dolgellau.


The weather was no better the following day, in fact I think it got worse. The new Beddgelert Station opened in April and was in business as Garrett 87 waited to head on southwards. This was the fun part - chasing the train from Rhyd Ddu by road to Waunfawr station. But it was a fine loco to see in action, it was returned to steam last year at Boston Lodge on the Ffestiniog Railway. Hopefully the final extension through to Porthmadog will be reopened later this year and passengers will be able to travel from Caernarfon to Bleanau Ffestiniog

without changing trains at all. Speaking of Bleanau Ffestiniog I went there later in the day and saw a diesel hauled train by hydraulic diesel locomotive named Cricceith Castle. But

before that we went the RSPB reserve at Conwy. It was too wet to walk about but we had a

cup of tea in the cafe and watched the birds from there. We saw a Wood Sandpiper, but it was quite a long way away. We also went to the Glaslyn Osprey site but didn’t see any Ospreys

there, but we did see one later on in the day on our way back to the B&B in Beddgelert.


As it was the only sunny day that week we decided to go up to South Stack on Anglesey to see Britain’s rarest crow - the Chough. However we were not getting very close views of the Chough. We saw a Jackdaw up close showing off it’s grey crown and Mum said “Why can’t Choughs be that obliging?” and all of a sudden a Chough landed no more than 5 feet from where we were and I’m telling you I was choughed! The calls of Jackdaw and Chough sound very similar - there is a slight difference. For those of you who have never seen a wild Chough, try Cornwall, Skomer, Isle of Man or Islay. We saw loads of Linnets, males and new fledged juveniles and Dad filmed a Twite and never told us because he thought it was a Linnet. Loads of Razorbills and Guillemots on the cliffs and the odd Puffin and a Grey Seal kept peeping his head out of the water. I saw a Raven perched on the rock close up and he didn’t care two hoops that he was being watched . We now went along to Cemlyn Bay to see the Terns but unfortunately not the Roseate Tern. However there were Arctic Terns and juveniles on the beach - the last time I saw Arctic Terns was on the Farne Islands in Northumberland. The Sandwich Terns were flying over us after catching a fish and returning to the colony. We went to Fedw fawr to see the Black Guillemot and there was quite few of them. On the way back to the Menai Bridge and called in to the railway station at

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Phew!


On the last day we went to three railways in Mid Wales, starting with the Fairbourne and Barmouth Railway. The two locos in service that day were Yeo & Russell. Yeo is a replica of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway loco. Russell 2-6-2T engine is a replica of the famous Welsh Highland Railway. After watching Yeo pass through the only tunnel on the line, we moved to the Barmouth Ferry Station to see the engine run round the train. While we were waiting for Yeo to depart, a juvenile Wheatear appeared on one of the stones near the station. I also saw a Meadow Pipit perched on a post. Then we went to the Talyllyn Railway on the Cambrian Coast. The first loco to arrive at Tywyn Whaf is the one I've seen before in green livery - no. 2 Dolgoch named after the falls and station. At the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Hunslet 0-6-0ST is named Rough Pup which enjoys a static preservation. The second loco in service is one I hadn't seen before no. 7 Tom Rolt. We didn't exactly have the best view from the m useumbalcony. I think the best view was from the platform edge on the coaling stage. Finally on to

the Corris Railway in Machynellth where the newly restored no 7 was giving shuttle rides from

the station to the shed. Then home keeping a lookout for Red Kites on the way.


We went for quick spin around Marshfield and did we see the Little Owl this time? No because someone parked a Combine Harvester in the barn right where the Little Owl normally sits on the wall. Well, I suppose it is his barn. Anyway back to Marshfield - at this time of year everything has stopped singing except for the wet-me-lips wet-me-lips call of a Quail. We heard a few but because they are rare summer visitors to Britain and being smaller than a Partridge, you don't stand a chance of seeing one unless you happened to flush one by accident. We photographed some butterflies - these included Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Painted Lady, Large and Small White and Peacocks. I managed to get a shot of two Painted Ladys together. This year has seen a huge influx of these migratory butterflies.


Mum and I went to Weymouth by coach. We went to RSPB nature reserve at Radipole to try and see a bird called a Hooded Merganser that has been there for about a year. We missed it last year and because it was moulting it was hiding a lot more than usual and so we missed it again this year. My next challenge was to photograph a flying Swift. Not easy as they never keep still. Marsh Harriers bred at Radipole for the first time this year and the warden told us that there was still one

about. It was very pleasing to see my first Marsh Harrier here quartering the reedbeds in front of the hide. As soon as we left the hide it started pouring down, so we just rushed back to the visitor centre without looking at anything else. We sat by the window with a cup a hot chocolate to warm us up. We were soaked through. I did some birding out of the window and saw Great Crested Grebe, Cormorants, Tufted Duck, Mute Swans, Heron and possible Redshank. Lots of Sand and House Martins, Swallows and Swifts hawking over the water. The rain stopped for a bit and the warden told us that the Hooded Merganser had been seen further up by the bridge. We went up to have a look for it and as soon as we were a long way from the visitor centre, the heavens opened and it just chucked it down. We tried to shelter under a tree, but it was not much use. Soaked through again we gave up looking and I'm sorry to say still no Hooded Merganser. However if it stays around maybe I'll pop back down again.


With news of a Spoonbill at Slimbridge we had to pop down to the WWT to have a look around.We started at the Holden Tower where we saw a couple of young Sparrowhawk through the sceen, so I wasn't surprised that there were no birds on the feeders, because they would be an easy target for

the Sparrowhawks. We went to the South Finger and we had good views of a Kingfisher. I think probably a young male perched on a branch right in front of the hide. We went to the new Back from Brink which has got Harvest Mouse, Water Vole and Shrew, Otter (but not British one I'm afraid), Beaver and Common Crane. The Beavers were not out because they are nocturnal but the Otters and Cranes were quite active. And the Spoonbill? Of course not. We dipped out on that. It had been there for 3 days and it leaves the day we try  to see it. Such is life!

Chinnor and Otmoor

We went to Chinnor Station the southern terminus of the CPRR. First to arrive was Great Western Pannier tank 9682 who is going to be withdrawn for overhaul in two months time. Meanwhile 5542 draws forward onto the train that 9682 brought from Thame Junction and pulls it into Chinnor to pick up passengers. We watched the train depart. I was surprised to see lots of Red Kites flying over the station. We had seen a few on our way here. We went through Princes Risborough on our way out and there was even a Red Kite flying over Tesco's. We went to Otmoor Nature Reserve to see what's about. We saw a couple of Painted Ladys and quite a lot of Common Blues which seem to be doing well. We saw a Brimstone for about 10 seconds, but I couldn't get a photo of it. We also saw a Brown Argus but unfortunately, no Brown Hairstreak, which feed on the sloans that are on the blackthorns.There were also a few Red Kites flying over the reserve. On the way back to the car I  spotted a nice Ruddy Darter. We met another birder who said to us on the "Have you seen the Hen Harrier in the field over there?" When we looked at it through the binoculars we realised it was a Marsh Harrier not a Hen Harrier. We saw a mystery bird on a fence which looked like a Cuckoo but who knows? We called in at Uffington White Horse before going home, but you cannot get a good view of it from the road.

Coombe Hill

We started by looking for butterfiles - these were Common Blue, Large White, Small White, the meadows were full of them and the flowers looked a treat. We walked on to the Grundon Hide which looks over to a small island where there was a Curlew and also a juvenile Shelduck was feeding in the water. There had been a Wood Sandpiper that morning. We got a bit lost on our way to the other hide but by not walking on the reserve path, we saw a Spotted Flycatcher perched up in the tree. My first one of the year and first one since 2007 and also while we were looking at the Flycatcher a Hare suddenly ran out from beside us. We found our way to the other hide after asking somebody

where to go. It had lots more birds than the other one. Canada Geese, Hybrid White/Greylag

Goose, five Snipe Tufted Duck, Mallard, Heron Lapwing, Common and Green Sandpipers. We went to Strawberry Banks on the way home to look for Chalkhill Blue, but no sign, which isn't surprising because afterwards we found out you don't get them there. But we did try a hill in Nailsworth and we

saw Adonis Blue roosting in the grass. However we did catch up with the Chalkhill Blue another day, but that's another story.  

Chew, Cheddar and Clevedon

Mum and I went on a coach trip and our first stop was Chew Valley Lake. It was only a short

stop so we couldn't walk very far. There were lots of Mallards by the Car Park being fed by some children. We had a look at the lake and saw a Heron which soon flew off. There was a Pied Wagtail and a juvenile by the waters edge and lots of Blackheaded Gulls and more Mallard. The next stop we had was a lunch stop at Cheddar. After we had something to eat, we went to look for the Water Vole and saw at least two swimming about - the picture (right) was actually taken at Slimbridge earlier in the year but I wanted to show you what they are like. They were keeping themselves well hidden, but it was very busy in Cheddar. I've never seen so many people there, but then we usually go there out of season. Our last stop was Clevedon. The sun had come out and it got quite hot. We walked along the front and saw a couple of Rock Pipits flying around. One perched briefly on a rock and I managed to get a quick picture of it, but Mum didn't see it because she couldn't see over the wall. She'll have to grow a bit. We tried to find it again, but we couldn't. So we sat on a seat overlooking Clevedon Pier and watched a couple of conoodling feral pigeons on the grass. They were

preening each other and sat side by side. Really sweet!

Rodbourgh Common

When we went to Coombe Hill Meadows we popped into Nature in Art on the way home and Dad bought a book on Butterflies in Gloucestershire. This is where we found out that Strawberry Banks haven't got any Chalkhill Blues. However, Rodborough Common does. So Dad and I went for a walk there. The first blue Butterfly we saw was an Adonis Blue but the next one we saw was a female Chalkhill. Then we had a quest to find a male and we found one in the grass with its wings open. Success! I took some pictures of it. We saw other Butterflies such as Brown Argus and Common Blue and some Burnet Moths. A Kestrel flew over the common while we were there. We did look for Duke of Burgundy Fritillary as there was a second brood here, which is unusual. But there must only have been a few as we did not see any. Can't win them all. As it was a hot day, we treated ourselves to an ice-cream from the ice-cream factory. We went back to Pensile Hill in Nailsworth for another look for Adonis Blue, because last time they were roosting. I wanted to see them flying around.  

Greylake and Chew

We went to Greylake in Somerset to look for a rare rail called a Spotted Crake. Our first glimpse of the Crake was by the water's edge on a little island of reeds, but it was a bit weary being close to where we were. It swam across to the other side and it must have felt safer over there as it showed itself a lot better. It even sat preening out in the open for a bit. We watched it feeding and walking on top of the reeds before it swam on it's belly like Moorhens and Coots back into the undercover of reeds. It was a very windy day and although Dad managed to get quite a close up film of it on video, because of the wind it was a bit shaky in places. I had a job holding my camera steady and it was just that bit too far for my lens, but I at least got a record photo of it. We then went to Chew Valley Lake. There were many wildfowl, Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Pochard, Canada Geese, Greylags, Mute Swans, Great Crested and Little Grebes and even a White Wagtail. There had been a Ferruginus Duck a bit back but we did not see it today and there was also a first-winter Grey Phalarope in the middle of the lake too far away for us. Mum and Dad went into the new binocular shop in the picnic site, but I stayed in the car. Mum bought Dad a hide clamp for his birthday.  

Frampton  100 Acres/ Slimbridge

We went to Frampton-on-Severn to walk along the Gloucester - Sharpness Canal to the 100 Acres field. The WWT have built a viewing platform there so you can look into the ponds and also over the fields. We saw the Cattle Egret in one of the trees in the bull field and it flew round a couple of times. We were able to see it in the telescope, but it was too far away for photos and filming. The Land Rover safari from Slimbridge came by led by Dave Paynter, who very kindly stopped to check that we had spotted the Egret. I had met him before when I did my work experience at Slimbridge last year. They drove into the bull field on the way back to the centre, so they must have had good views of the Egret in there. We saw two Hobbys flying around the ponds and they flew so fast and close to us Dad had a job to keep filming them. I managed to get a couple of photos. One then perched on the fence post near the river Severn and the other perched right out in the open in the tree by the pond. We also saw at least two Buzzards, Kestrel, Heron and about five Curlew, which flew off when the Land Rover came along, giving us a lovely sight of them in flight. There were some Dragonflies

over the pond which was probably what the Hobbys were catching. Also on the pond were Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Mallard. Mum and I decided to walk on to Slimbridge while Dadwent back to get the car at Splatts Bridge. On the way down to the canal we saw quite a few Long-tailed Tits flitting about the blackberries. We would have liked to stay longer to look at them, but we were getting

hungry and Dad would be waiting for us at Slimbridge. Along the canal there were lots of Swallows and House Martins skimming across the water and a Jay and Buzzard flew over. When we got to the bridge at Slimbridge, Dad was just driving over, so we timed at just right. We went into the  WWT centre for lunch and after I showed Dad the new 'Back from the Brink' that had just recently opened with Otters, Beavers, small mammals and Cranes. The Otters were being really playful, swimming through a tube in the water and running about. We had a quick look at South Lake before we left but there was not a lot there.

Barn Owl Centre  

We went to the Barn Owl Centre in Gloucester where they had recently opened a new visitor centre. They have flying demonstrations and you can also learn how to fly the birds. There was a group being taught with a Harris Hawk and an Eagle Owl, and the nice thing is that they take them into the fields which gives a more natural appearance. We went for a walk around the nature trail and you could see the Hawk perched in a tree. The birds seem to attract wild birds of prey. We saw a Buzzard and a Kestrel while we were there and a noisy Heron flew over. The Kestrel didn't seem to bother the flocks of Goldfinches too much, but they did keep flying about. One of the fields on the trail was a mass of flowers, Cornflower, Corn Cockle, and Corn Marigold to name just a few. There some Butterflies still flying around as the weather was nice and we saw Comma and Small Copper. There was lots of Owls and Birds of Prey there, most of which had been rescued in one way or another. It was a really nice morning and I look forward to seeing it develop, as there are plans in place to expand. In the afternoon we popped in to Berkeley Deer Park to see the Red Deer and Fallow Deer. We found a nice group of both and hid ourselves by a tree trunk to watch them. Unfortunately, as it was such a nice day, lots of other people had decided to walk in the park as well and they were not as quiet and scared them off. They were very nervous considering they must see people all the time. I got a few pictures, but as you can see, most of them are running!  

Radipole and Portland

We went back to Radipole Lake in Weymouth in the hope that the Hooded Merganser that we tried to see in August would be about and in breeding plumage. The last time it was hiding away because it was in eclipse and it was also a really rainy day. Dad and I went down to the swannery bridge to see if it was there and Mum went round the reserve. We saw Dabchick and Gulls there, and also a very tired Cormorant. I caught him yawning. He looks more like a Pelican! We walked on round to where Mum was - she was sitting on the bridge in the reserve watching the HOODED MERGANSER! It was much more friendlier this time. It kept dozing in the reeds, but when some people came to feed the ducks, it came out to join them. There were some Tufted Ducks and the Merganser seemed to like being with them. (I'm not sure they liked him though!) We kept hearing Cetti's but didn't see them, and we didn't hear or see any Bearded Tits. Some Longtailed Tits flew over though, which were very nice. We went back to the car park and decided to have lunch at Portland. As Dad was putting everything in the car, he happened to notice that one of the Black-headed Gulls looked different. Bins out for a closer look. It was a Med Gull! I was really chuffed to see one of those. Then on to Portland, stopping on route to Ferrybridge where we had lunch. Not much about - too many dog walkers! There were some Brent Geese on the mud, but a dog ran out and they flew off, never to be seen (or photographed) again. Dad saw an LBJ on the grassy edge of the shingle and we just could not decide what it was. We tried everything from a Woodlark to a Lapland Bunting, but in the end

thought that it was probably only a Skylark. Oh well! Nice try. We went for a walk on the Bill to see if there was any unusual birds there. We only saw Gannets and some Rock Pipits. When I was taking a picture of the Pipit, somebody asked if we were watching the Grey Phalarope. Apparently there was one near the lighthouse. It hadbeen seen a few times that day, but we never saw it.  

Brownsea Island

Dad had a few days holiday, so we went down to Dorset to Brownsea Island to see if we could see any Spoonbills. We parked the car at Studland and caught the ferry across to Sandbanks.We saw some

Cormorants and Shags on the way over, and then boarded the yellow boat to the Island. It was quite busy as it was a nice day and half-term, and of course this was the last week before Brownsea closed for the winter. We made our way to the nature reserve and the lagoon. The first hide we went to gave

excellent views of some Avocets, Little Egrets, Greenshanks, Redshanks, and second year in a row for me to photograph - a Spotted Redshank. We had some close views of them until some noisy children came in and scared pretty much everything away. Time to leave! We had seen some Spoonbills resting on the far side of the lagoon, but when we got to the Mac Hide they all flew towards the island near to where we were, and we had some cracking views. We counted about 15 and they were quite mobile, playing with sticks and flapping about in the trees. We had the hide to ourselves. Bliss! After a bit of lunch, we went to the Villa to look for Red Squirrels. They put out feeders there so this is a good place to spot them if you are quiet. We saw one. This is such a magical place, we would have liked to stay longer, but we had to catch the ferry back to the mainland. Before we headed home, we popped into Arne to look for Sika Deer. They do have these on Brownsea, but they are not so easy to see there. Arne had a new visitor centre. Only small, but very nice. We could hear a peacock calling from a tree behind it. Very strange! Perhaps he was an escapee from Brownsea Island. We didn't have

time to walk around as it was getting dark, but we did see some Sika.  

Newport Wetlands

We decided to have yet another attempt at seeing Bearded Tits here. We were given a tip off that there were two Little Owls in the tree with broken branches coming down, and sure enough, there they were. There were also Redwings on the berries at the back. The woods were pretty quiet and not a lot to see on the estuary. However, walking along by the reedbeds, we could hear the pinging call of the Bearded Tit. Then a little flock of about 6 or 7 flew through so quickly that Dad couldn't video them, let alone me take a photo of them. Never mind! One day! Even though the views were brief, they were great. What do you want prettier than that? As Johnny Kingdom says. Not much else on the ponds, but for Dabchick and Mute Swans. I did see a Weasel run across the path, but again that was a very brief sighting. There is a very nice visitor centre here. It can get a bit busy though because they have a children's playground. Lovely for the kids, but not so good if you are looking for peace and quiet. We decided against having a cup of tea here and instead went to Goldcliff where they have screens to look at the birds in the lagoons. There were quite a few distant Snipe and a funny coloured Lapwing. It was very pale in colour. I wonder if it was the same leucistic bird that was seen at Slimbridge on 6th September? Not many birds here though, and there were even fewer when all the cows in in nearby field decided to stampede! It don't know what could have scared them, but I've never seen them move so fast. Mind you, they seemed very interested in Mum! When we were driving out over the little wooden bridge, I spotted a Kingfisher. It sat in a branch for a while so I managed to get a good look at it. Then home, stopping off at Aust Wharf to see if the Short-eared Owl was around. We didn't see him tonight, but there was one about recently. Mum and Dad saw one when I was still away at College.  Grrr!    


The weather had taken the turn for the worse. The snow was very deep so I stayed in Nethybridge watching the garden birds and mammals such as Red Squirrel, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock , Robin, a Blackbird which looked fed up, Coal Tit and a Pheasant hogging the food. The Yellowhammer was also a pleasant sight, usually accompanied by a female. We also saw Crested Tit on the feeders.

Something we have not seen in the garden before. We walked to Broomhill Station to see no 17 Breariach in the snow but due to the water column freezing up the engine ran out of the water at Boat of Garten! Still never mind, the Dipper was nice to see down by the bridge on the edge of the ice.

Scotland 28.12.09

Another snowy day. The usual garden visitors. Red Squirrel still feeding on peanuts as well as Robins, Dunnocks etc., including a return visit of the Crested Tit. We managed to get the car out and went a short way to Loch Garten. No Ospreys, of course, because they’re down in Africa, but to the feeding station where a good show is put on by Red Squirrel, Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Chaffinches and Siskins, sadly no Crested Tits at these feeders. The Loch was frozen solid and you could see the footprints where people hade been walking on it. We were going to go to Cairngorm, but it was too busy with skiers. There was nowhere to park so we went to the Reindeer Centre to see them in the snow. There were lots of birds hopping around their food including a cheeky Robin. This came to land on my head briefly before flying into a tree to have a Christmas card look photo (top).  


Once again another cold winter’s day and once again, three days in a row, the return of the Crested Tit. The usual garden birds were still hanging about. We went to the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie to see what the animals make of this weather. The Yaks looked totally fed up. It was also good to see the Snow Monkeys in the snow! New arrivals on the scene are the Bengal Tigers in a new enclosure recently built. The Arctic Fox was in its winter coat, three years ago I photographed it in it’s black summer coat. We couldn’t drive through the main part of the park due to the deep snow, we had to view Bison and Red Deer from where the Wild Boar enclosure [but not actually in it]. Some Greylag Geese flew overhead. Another recent arrival is a Polar Bear which has taken over the old Wolf enclosure. The Wolves have got a smaller one. There are Red Pandas there now and they look really cute. We stayed to watch them being fed and they didn’t look quite so cute anymore tucking into a rabbit leg. I thought they were vegetarians!


On our way to the coast to look for King Eider, we passed Lochindorb where we saw only one female Red Grouse in the snow by the roadside. A few miles up we passed a field with a flock of several Grey Partridge gathered together. We arrived at Burghead where we only saw Common Eiders in the harbour. A distant flock of Common Scoter were out at sea, also a couple of Long-tailed Duck. We looked for the King Eider but sadly no trace. We had luck with a Turnstone on top of the harbour wall. We then went to Culbin Sands (remember in my April blog we went to Culbin Forest and that treetop viewing platform that overlooks the Moray Firth). This location is quite near the forest. Anyway that’s enough of the details about the two locations, we were here to look for Snow Buntings and suddenly a snowstorm came from the east and we had to make a hasty retreat back to the car. We finished off the day at Nairn Harbour where a Grey Heron was looking for an easy meal. A flock of Yellowhammers flew into the dunes to roost.


Overnight snowfall made it more impossible to use the car, so we stayed around Nethybridge. The snow was so thick that there no Crested Tit that morning. Mum and Dad went for a walk and found a feeder in Dell Woods that had Crested Tit on it. I might go with them tomorrow.Lots of Hogmany parties had been cancelled because of the snow. There was one on in the village but I decided not to go as it was so cold. Dad wandered down to have a look though.