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Wildlife in and around the city of Bristol

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

Archive  2009



We went to Battery Point to see the Purple Sandpiper and there were four present at not very low/high tide and also to note we had a very obliging Turnstone feeding on worms. We decided to go to Chew Lake. On the way there as we were going through Clevedon, we saw a Bittern fly over the road chased by gulls. It dropped into a small reed bed. We stopped to look for it, but it had vanished into the vegetation. At Chew we tried again for the Water Rail but no luck. Loads of wildfowl and Gulls on the lake though and at Herriotts Bridge there was another Bittern flying around. We drove around to Heron's Green to see if we could see any Barn Owls and two were quartering the field and there was a Little Egret in the water. No pictures, I'm afraid - two reasons, 1] It was getting dark and 2] I was filming the Owls with my video camera.

Forest of Dean


We went to the Forest of Dean for my birthday and to start off, a visit to New Fancy to see what birds were about. A few suspects like Robin, Blackbird, Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Magpie and a Grey Squirrel. Also a couple of Bramblings were among the Chaffinch group. We went to the viewpoint where we saw a Raven flying over the woodland. There were some Fallow Deer below and two Goshawks displaying in the distance. We went to Speech House to look once again for Hawfinch - no sign, but various common garden birds feeding on the log plus a Nuthatch and Song Thrush. A Treecreeper was stuttering up the branches of different trees. A Jay was perched in a holly tree and flew down to the ground just behind the tree. Just before we were about to go a Stock Dove landed by the picnic table on the other side and flew over to our side and gave a wonderful view. We had a quick stop at Cannop Ponds where there were quite a few Long - tailed Tits feeding on the table amongst Blue and Great Tits. We had a get home because I wanted to see Mike Dilger from the One Show giving a talk for the BOC which was really good, and of course, I still had to pack for the Norfolk weekend.



We went to Norfolk this weekend for my birthday. We had a brief stop at Lakenheath to have lunch. We didn’t have time today to walk around, which was a shame because it was a lovely sunny day. I was keen to try and see Golden Pheasant, so we went to the Wolferton Triangle, near Sandringham. We were looking at some Redwings, Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush when two policemen in an unmarked Range Rover came over to us and asked us what we were doing. (What did they think we were doing?) I never saw my Pheasant as we thought we had better move on in case we got arrested. So we carried on to Snettisham where a massive flock of Pink - footed Geese were coming from the fields into the Wash to roost. Also two Egyptian Geese were in a field adjacent to the RSPB reserve car park. Finally at Titchwell, we had a fine view of a Barn Owl hunting over the marsh. We didn’t have time tonight to look for the Harriers coming in to roost as we had to get to our B&B at Cley.



We started at Cley marshes to look for Geese. Brent Geese breed in the High Arctic and are a common sight here. We had a good view of an American Wigeon in one of the dykes and it was a stunning male. We went to the beach car park at Salthouse and saw a flock of Snow Buntings and some Turnstones quite close. I had some great views of them. We parked at Holkham where there were hundreds of Geese, but decided not to walk to the Gap or woods because there were so many people around as the weather had got a bit better. (It was a good decision as we met some birders later and they said there was nothing about - except lots of people). We went on to Titchwell, but on the way saw a small group of Grey Partridges - now quite a rare bird in much of Norfolk. We stopped further up the road at Burnham Overy where a group of birders were looking for the Rough-legged Buzzard and saw a single Waxwing perched up in one of the trees. It didn’t seem to mind all the people and dogs walking past him. It was an interesting sight as last year in 2010 we had a hard time locating these very mobile birds around our local patch of Gloucestershire. But we were at Titchwell to look for a very special bird, an elusive cousin of Linnet - the Twite. (Which is also known as the Mountain Linnet.) We saw a little flock of them, but they were very mobile and when they did settle close to us, the grass kept getting in the way. I took some record shots anyway. Other birds here were Golden Plover, Avocet, Ruff (a couple with very white heads), lots of ducks and geese. Marsh Harrier and a special bonus bird which Bill Oddie went to New Jersey to see - the Northern Harrier, which was seen in it’s pre roosting tree. We didn’t see any other Harriers come in to roost, I think they must have come after it had got dark.


After breakfast we decided to go to Salthouse again to have a last look at the Snow Buntings. They were on the other side of the car park today. We didn’t walk round Cley as we wanted to get back to Titchwell. Which was a shame because somebody saw Shore Larks there. Never mind, we might have missed them anyway and if we had gone round Cley we would have missed the three Barn Owls we saw on our way. One was perched on a fence right by the roadside. We drove past a couple of times to have a good look at him. Further down the road we saw another Barn Owl quartering the fields. We pulled in at the gate and was able to watch him for quite a while. He flew over the road and started to hunt in another field, when we realised that there was an Owl already hunting in the field. We left them to it and carried on to Titchwell. It was getting near lunchtime now and the car park was full. We drove around a few times and then we saw somebody coming back to their car, so we waited for them to go. We didn’t walk down to the hides or beach today, but went around the meadow trail. No Bitterns or Bearded Tits as it was very windy. We did see some Siskins and a very obliging Water Rail. I had a good view of it and it made up for me keep missing it at Chew.We went to Thornham Marsh for a quick look and saw a Spotted Redshank but not much else and then another cruise around Wolferton, just in case the Golden Pheasants were around. Nothing! But at least the Police were gone. We even had a little drive around Sandringham. Still nothing! We gave up, they would have to wait for another day as we had to start to make our way home now. We decided not to go home via the M25 and M4, but through Cambridgeshire and down the M6 and M5. That way we could have a look at Welney Wildfowl Trust as I have never been there. The water level was really high and the Observation Hides were the only ones open. We were just in time for the Swan Feed. There was not many here, most of them were still in the fields. But we did see some Mute and Whooper Swans, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Greylag and a single Pink-footed Goose. Because the water was so deep, the warden had to put on a wet suit and the wheelbarrow had a car tyre on the bottom so that it floated. It looked really funny! By now, it was starting to get dark. As we drove along we could see a long strip of white in the fields. When we looked with our bins, we could see it was all the swans. There musthave been thousands! It was a good weekend despite not seeing all the birds I wanted to and the weather wasn’t that brilliant. I definately want to go again.

Forest of Dean


We went to the forest again to see if the Hawfinch was going to be there, but no luck. We took a peanut feeder to put up for Blue, Coal and Great Tits. It didn’t take them long to find it, even the the Nuthatch found it easily. We had a bit of a walk around Speech House area trying to locate Crossbills and Hawfinches, but nothing.



We went to Slimbridge for a few hours and walked down to the Holden Feeders and a Reed Bunting was on one of the them and a Brown Rat was helping himself to the seed which was on the ground. We stayed for the floodlit feed and saw the two first winter male Greater Scaup and first winter female Lesser Scaup moving through the mixture of other Widfowl.

Radipole/ Lodmoor


We went to Radipole to see a duck which has been there since 2008 and I saw in 2009. It was the Hooded Merganser feeding amongst the other duck right by the visitor centre. There was a lot more Brown Rats around the reserve on the paths which is not going to good for nesting birds. In the hide there was not much, apart from Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and Shoveler briefly. Little Egret and Grey Herons were also in front of the hide. Back at the Visitor Centre there were 3 Mediterranean Gull [ See Oct 09 blog for picture of one in the car park] in front of building. We went to Lodmoor to look for a rare wader which had been there for some time. After seeing some Black - tailed Godwit, we spotted it. A Long - billed Dowitcher - first I have ever seen and from North America.

Westerleigh/ Pucklechurch


We went to a local common on a quest for Jack Snipe. We checked out both ponds but were unsuccessful and we gave  up. After my dentist appointment we headed out to a site outside Pucklechurch to see the Tawny Owl in its nesthole. When we got there, we saw two, but the other one went in before I took my photo.



We went back to Slimbridge to see the Lesser Scaup and the two Greater Scaups on the Rushy again. We stayed to watch the feed. We had good views of them before they started feeding, and then they disappeared amongst the other wildfowl in the frenzy. Over the weekend, a Spoonbill turned up, but I never got a chance to go and see it because I had to get ready to go back to college.



A week later and we're back again. I came home for the weekend to see the Spoonbill, which is a size of a Grey Heron except with a spatula bill. The last time we tried to see Spoonbill here, we came a day after it had gone and we had to go to Brownsea Island[SEE ARCHIVE] where there was a group with one juvenile. This bird has been here all week and we saw it at the Lathby Hide. It has started moulting into breeding plumage with a bushy crest and yellow tip to the bill, all it needs now is the yellow on the chest. It flew further down, so we went to the Ziess Hide, but it wasn’t so close. We then went down to the Kingfisher Hide and there was a little Wren rignt in front under the feeders. We also saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and lots of small birds including a Brambling. The Lesser Scaup was on the Robbie Garnett Lake with a first winter female Greater Scaup and it was certainly good comparing them both and with Pochard and Tufted Ducks. We went to Tutshill to look for Black Redstart but we couldn’t find it at all. We did find some good places to explore more fully in the summer.   


We went up to Scotland for a weeks holiday and our first port of call was Carnforth. We started at Leighton Moss to see what was about. Lillian’s Hide was full of Black - headed Gulls and also one Mediterranean Gull in full summer plumage and trying to nest on the island. We went to the Public Hide where there were just as many Black - headed Gull as there were at Lillian’s. There was a Great Crested Grebe swimming about, like last time We were there, but this one was not having a look at other birds nests. The Marsh Harriers were still quartering the marshes and flew right in front of the hide. We went to Grisedale Hide where we see the herd of Red Deer on other side of lake. Suddenly I heard a distinctive sound of Garganey, we scanned around and there was both male and female Garganey. They took off and flew straight into the reedbeds. We drove around to another part of the reserve and walked to Allan’s Hide. There were at least 5 Avocets giving excellent views. Even a whole flock of Black - tailed Godwit and Wigeon. The weather had been lovely all day and there was a beautiful sunset. We then went on to our B&B for the night. There were lots of Swallows flying around the farm buildings.  


In the morning we saw some Linnets out of the window of the B&B, including this magnificent male. (see above) The Swallows were still zooming around. On our way up to the highlands we popped in to Loch of the Lowes and surprisingly Lady or Marge had made it all the back from Africa after the worrying illness last year and the Laird is also back as well. On the feeders were Siskins, Greenfinches and Yellowhammers. A Great Spotted Woodpecker kept appearing from behind a tree. There were also the usual Mallards and Pheasants. We went to the hide to have a look at the Loch and the nest to see if we could see the Laird. On the other side of loch there were some Fallow Deer, including a white one. They had a drink and after a while they all disappeared into the forest. It was quite a wet journey after all the nice weather we have been having, but by the time we got to Nethybridge it had started to get better.



We thought we would go to see the Osprey first. We were on our way to Loch Garten when we stopped in a lay-by and saw some Crossbills, but which ones I don’t know, possibly some Parrot and Common but not Scottish. Loch Garten now to see how EJ and Odin are getting on with nesting. Next stop, up to Cairngorm and we saw a male Red Grouse by the road. No Snow Bunting in the car park though today. They were probably up higher. We looked at the Ranger Station to see if Dotterel had arrived, but there was no mention. We went to Aviemore Station to see the last train of the day from Broomhill led by a diesel loco. The loco on other end was 46512 and named E.V. Cooper Engineer having returned to traffic from 5 year overhaul. We went to Boat of Garten to see the train return from Aviemore. D5862 took soul charge leaving the former steam engine at the sheds. We went to Broomhill to if the Dipper was still there. It was perched on a stick and the river was very high, probably from the snow melting on the mountains. They had quite a lot of snow again this winter. Back to the chalet for tea. The birds in the garden were very quiet. I expect a lot of them were sitting on  eggs, everything seems to be earlier this year.    


For the first time this year we saw Red Squirrels in the garden. We went to Strathdearn in the Findhorn Valley and saw quite a number of Wheatears. We were driving down the road when we stopped on the left hand side where there was not one nor two or three but four Brown Hares chasing each other and stopping and even a bit of boxing but not much. On the hill the Wild Goats were roaming free on the tops until some people came down sent them running, also on the tops of the mountains were Red Deer. We went over the moor where there were loads of Wheatears and Red Grouse in view and the car that was in front of us flushed out

a Mountain Hare! Only Dad saw it. We got to Loch Ruthven just after 2pm and we had great views of Willow Warbler and a Reed Bunting and the stars of the show - the Slavonian Grebes, actually displaying to keep the other pair away from their territory.  


We went to the Caper watch early this morning. When we were down by the loch we heard some Black Grouse and we didn’t know which to do. We decided to carry on with the Caper watch. There was a beautiful sunrise over  he Osprey nest, but no Capers. There was a couple of Bank Voles outside the window under the feeders. We went on to Tulloch Moor to look for the Black Grouse. There is a watchpoint there with screening, so the Grouse are not disturbed. On the way we saw some Red Deer on the moor. Black Grouse were there fighting in amongst the heather and also a Whinchat was perched on a bush. After breakfast, I decided I wanted to walk to Rynettin. We saw some Crested Tits briefly [except for Mum sadly]. We also saw a Tree Pipit singing on a wire and in song flight. All along the path there were loads of Green Hairstreaks flying past. At Rynettin we looked in the woods for any Redstarts but none. A Wheatear was perched on two piles of stones. Back at Broomhill the Dipper was still showing well on the other side of the river. Two Common Sandpipers gave us some close views. We went to Lochindorb and we saw a Golden Plover and more Wheatears and Red Grouse. It is even a regular fishing ground for Ospreys, we saw two Osprey flying around. There was a pair of Black - throated Diver but they were distant and they flew  back up the loch and disappeared.   


The weather was still good. Wednesday and still sunny. We started at Broomhill and Strathsprey Railway the loco in service is 828 which returned to steam in the summer 2010. At fisherman’s crossing we saw 828 on the return journey to Aviemore. We went to Loch Insh to see the Ospreys there and they were flying around. We saw the leg ring on the male and it said Green DY. We also saw some Goldeneye on the loch. We stopped at Inshriach Garden Centre for a cup of tea and to watch the Squirrels and Birds on the feeders outside the window. It was such a nice day, that most people were sitting in the gardens for their tea. We went to see if we could see ant Red-throated Divers at Loch Morlich. There were a pair of Goosander swimming around but no Divers. Mum went to the Wildlife hide at Loch an Eilean to see Pine Martens that evening so we came back to the chalet early. After we dropped Mum at the meeting point, Dad saw a Pine Marten run across the road when we were on our way back. We also saw some deer. Mum saw Red and Roe Deer, Badgers, Wood Mouse, Woodcock and of course, Pine Martens.   


We were now sure what to do today. We started once again at Broomhill to see if 46512 was in service but it fell down to 828 again - 2 days in a row. We went to Loch Garten to see how EJ and Odin were getting on with incubating eggs. The warden was showing some footage they recorded of the webcam a few days back of a Male Capercaillie that came on this occasion quite close to the camera, but if we came on Monday would we have seen it that good? As Bill would say, not a flipping chance! We went into Glenmore and stopped for a cup of tea at the cafe there to watch the wildlife out of the window. Not a lot though, as they were painting the balcony. We went to Glen Feshie and took a look at Insh Forest but there was not a lot of wildlife there. We went back at Loch Insh to see the Ospreys again and there was a Heron and some Greylag Geese flying over. There were still some Primroses out in flower. Back at Broomhill we had quite a good view of the Dipper. There were also Common Sandpipers and some Red - breasted Mergansers on the River as well as Goldeneye. Beside the River Spey there was a huge Sand Martin nest bank along with loads of Sand Martins flying around. On the River Nethy there was an Oystercatcher with a nest nearby. We didn’t know there was a nest there until the adult returned and we had a brief  view of the eggs.  


We started off by going to Loch Garten to see the Ospreys and also Red Squirrel and Bank Voles. We went for a walk by Loch Morlich in the hope of seeing a Red-throated Diver, but no luck this year. The weather was glorious and it was a lovely walk. We hadn’t walked around that part of the Loch before. We heard a Crested Tit and had the briefest of views, but at least Mum had a glimpse of one. We couldn’t make up our minds about walking up Cairngorm. We wanted to, but none of us felt really fit enough to do it and it is a long way to walk and probably not see anything. Had there been Dotterel on the top, it would have been worth the effort, but there were still no reports of any. We decided to do it the lazy way and catch the train up. At the Ptarmigan Station we got the telescope out and scanned around from the balcony and we saw two Ptarmigan very distant. They were quite near the Windy Ridge footpath and as we were drinking our hot chocolate, we saw them both fly off. I like this kind of birdwatching! When we got back to the chalet, Janet said that the next guests had cancelled,

and we could stay on longer if we wanted. We all would have liked to have stayed all week, but after thinking it over, we realised that I did not have enough medicine for the week, so could only stay an extra couple of days. As we did not have to pack that night after all, we went to Loch Mallachie for a walk. Not much there, except for a couple of Roe Deer. But, on the way home, we caught sight of a female Capercaillie in the headlights. We stopped and watched her for a couple of minutes. We saw her call and then she wandered back into the forest.


The Strathsprey Railway again today, this time to Boat of Garten, the station gets it’s name from a chain operating ferry on the River Spey but now replaced by a road bridge. Unfortunately it was flipping 828 again! They never seem to give her a minute’s rest. We return to Strathdearn and on an estate was a herd of Red Deer. Wild or not wild? That is the question. Well to be honest I really don’t know. Further down the valley a lot more Deer on the hills. We went for a walk along the valley as its something that we never really do. Dad and I went a little way down one year when we saw the Mountain Hare, but Mum has never been down there. The weather was glorious. An unexpected visitor to these parts was an Osprey that flew up the valley. Although we have seen them there occasionally. There were quite a lot of Ring Ouzels in the valley amongst the boulders. Mum heard one from the car as we drove down the road, but we never saw that one. But we certainly saw a lot on our walk. Mum and Dad went on a bit further than me and saw Golden Eagle and Peregrine. On the way back to the car we spotted a Hare but if was a Brown Hare not Mountain. There was also a Ring Ouzel flying around and it landed in the garden of one of the houses there. I wish I could get that as a garden tick. Up on the hills were herds of Wild Goats and lots more Red Deer. We drove back through Lochindorb, but it was very busy. There were lots of people camping as it was a Bank Holiday weekend and with the weather being so good. No wildlife at all. As we came back through the village at Nethybridge, we followed some pipers. We stopped in the village for a while to listen to them.


It’s Mayday and the Stathsprey Railway Clansman is approaching once again with 828. A last look at Loch Garten and then we popped up to Grantown on Spey where Janet had a stall at the Farmers Market selling her Harris Tweed handicrafts. We had a look around the market before taking a drive over to Deeside. We stopped at Glenshee. Dad and I went for a walk up to look for Mountain Hare and we saw at least 13 of them up in the hills. There were Red Grouse calling all around the heather moorland. Driving back though Deeside we saw more Red Deer near the road. There were lots of people camping around here as well, but they didn’t seem to worry the Deer. Nearby a pair of Common Gulls were nesting on a island in the middle of the stream. A pleasant drive back over the moor in the sunshine, but not much wildlife.


On the way back to Lancashire we popped in again to Loch of the Lowes near Dunkeld to see the Lady and The Laird - the two resident Ospreys. On the bird table was a male Yellowhammer and a Great Spotted Woodpecker came to the feeder in front of the window for his close up. Apart from the Ospreys, there were also some Fallow Deer, but sadly the white one didn’t appear on this occasion just normal dark - coloured ones crossing the shallow river at the end of the loch. Then back to our B&B at Carnforth for the night.


The last day includes one RSPB and one WWT Nature Reserve. We begin the last day here at Leighton Moss. We went down to Lillian’s Hide to look for Med Gull again but no sign and the light was awful. Next to Grisedale Hide for the Garganey. The male is a handsome duck with brown head, sliver scapulars on the feathers and big white line above the eye and when it flew off again blue and slivery grey upper wing. Outside the hide the Sedge Warbler that we saw on our down to the hide was still visible and still singing. After we went to the Public Hide to if we can see any Black Tern which had been seen the previous day, but there wasn’t any today. Two Marsh Harriers flew over and soared very high in the sky. We saw another summer migrant just arrived from Africa, the Swift, which definately sums up that Summer is here. We travelled on to Martin Mere and the Swallows are nesting in their usual place under the roof of the visitor centre. In the Observation Hide where the Swans are seen in the winter was a solitary Redshank and quite a number of Avocets. Further along the path to the Kingfisher Hide were flocks of Tree Sparrows, one of the only two major strongholds in the country and all were using nest boxes. Now to the Ron Barker Hide. There were three Stock Doves on the island along with Avocets and Godwits and one odd bird. Amongst the flock of Black-tailed Godwits was a Bar-tailed. Perched on fence posts were some more Swallows. We now take a look at Swan Lake but something not quite right. Why were two Pink-footed Goose and a lone Whooper Swan together? This is Spring not Winter. Because sometimes these migratory birds fly into power lines and one of the Pink-footed Geese and the Whooper Swan have bad wings which means they will not migrating this year. Also another surprising bonus was a Yellow Wagtail and the last I saw one of these was in Cambridgeshire. In the WWT garden there was Large White feeding on one of the flowers. There is a very nice cafe now with a veranda overlooking the lake and it is a pleasant way to finish the day with a cup of tea watching the birds in the sunshine before making the last part of the journey home.   



We went to the RSPB Dinas reserve today to see Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and Wood Warbler for this year as that we didn't see any in Scotland. Our first pair of Pied Flycatchers was in the usual nest box by the car park that they used last year. One Foxglove was in full flower and one needs a few more days to be fully flowered. There was another nest box which had a pair of Pied Flycatchers feeding their chick with insects. The female was there quite often and even posed nicely on a branch. The male, on the other hand didn't hang about for long periods. A pair of Redstarts were nesting in a hole at the top a dead tree. The male was very busy here because we saw him going in and out a few times. I was able to see the female Redstart this time which I didn't get to see last year, and she sat on a branch for me to take a photo of her. We went down by the river to see if there were any Dippers but none today. There was a juvenile Pied Wagtail being fed by the adult and then another juvenile came along. A male Redstart flew in and perched on the fence next to some overhanging sheep wool. When he went a female came and perched quite near to where he had been. We could hear Ravens calling over the hills but we were surprised that we did not see any Red Kites.   We walked further along and there was a juvenile Redstart up in the tree [which mum and dad didn't see] and then we realised the adults are nearby feeding the chicks, which must be almost fledged, but a few still on the ground which is not safe because of ground predators. This was my first Juvenile Redstart I've seen in my life. We heard at least three Wood Warblers and boy were they tricky for me to see this year. Most of the time I had to look through the video camera but I did see one eventually. A Tree Pipit was also to be found in the same place quite near to where the Wood Warbler was singing which is a series of repeated sweet accending trilling like a coin spinning to rest on a table. On our way back to the car the Redstarts were still hanging around, both male and female. It looked like the nest might have been in a log on the ground. They kept going in with food and it looked like the male removed a foetal sac. There was a female Pied Flycatcher sat out very nicely in the late afternoon sun and a Spotted Flycatcher also appeared on the top of one of the branches for a quick comparison before taking off. Dad took a few pictures of Pied Flycatchers near the car park and I've checked all the pictures he took and they were all bleached out because he had the setting wrong. Finally we popped along to Llyn Brianne where we saw House Martins collecting mud for their nests. There were also Sand Martins and Swallows and one Wheatear. Not sure where the Swallows or Martins were nesting. Not many buildings there. Perhaps they

were building them on the cliff, which they must have done before there were houses. On our way home we saw a few Red Kites as we were driving through the Brecon Beacons. I still think its odd that there were none at Dinas. It used to be the only place to see them a few years ago. We went over Blorenge near Abergavenny, but it was getting late so we didn’t have much time to look at anything. We saw

Yellowhammers and Linnets, but no Grouse or Dartford Warbler. But it is a place that we should look at in more detail another time.   

Elan Valley and Gigrin Farm


We went to Wales just for the day through the Elan Valley where we stopped and had lunch at the Visitor Centre. We saw a Grey and Pied Wagtail on the river and heard a Wood Warbler singing in the woods on the other side and a Pied Flycatcher [female] perched on a wire no pictures sorry. A Red Kite flew over with along with a Buzzard a few mintues before. After we got back on the coach and we

started to drive through the valley I spotted a Badger in broad daylight foraging on a roadside verge! We arrived at Gigrin in time for the 3PM feed there were lots of Kites flying about waiting and as soon the food was chucked on the ground they went straight down for it, briefly at the beginning of the feed some perched in the nearby trees. We eventually saw the White or Leucistic Red Kite but this one was whiter than normal! A Raven was perched calling in the tree. There was also Jackdaws, Rooks and of course Buzzards.



We went to Exmoor to search for Heath Fritillary so we started at Webber's Post to look for it but nothing except Speckled Wood and Green - veined White. The Grey Wagtails kept coming back and

forth feeding the chicks in the nest amongst the bracken. We went to the Coombe to look for the Fritillary as it was the best place to see them. One of the Linnets we saw was redder than the normal birds, but on looking at the photos at home decided it must have been a Redpoll. There were no Heath Fritillaries at all but the Redstarts were lovely to see again [first in Somerset for me]. We also saw the first Small Heath of the year. On the moor we located some Stonechats perched on the gorse bushes and Large Skipper in the long grass. For the first time on Exmoor we saw some Red Deer running across the moor and grunting as they went up the hill.



Having read on the new Twitter page that Martin Mcgill and James Lees write, that a Red Necked Phalarope was at theZiess Hide at 11.50. I wanted to at least see it for myself. I located the Phalarope on the far side of the Tack Piece too distance for picture. A Spoonbill that was present at South Lake flew into the front of the Lathbury Hide. It is now in complete breeding plumage with the crest,the yellow tipped bill and the yellow on the chest that it didn't have four months ago. The Ruddy Shelduck pair were showing also in front of the hide. The feral population of Barnacle Geese arrived this afternoon from the Holden Tower. The two Shelduck Hybrids that we saw at the end of last month had come back having been to Chew yesterday. The First -Summer Mediterranean Gull was present in stunning sunshine in the Rushy Pen. There are loads of baby birds at the moment baby Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Shelducks and the stars of the show were the Oystercatcher chicks. Very cute!



16th - 23rd July 2011

We went to Wales for a weeks holiday and we stayed in a Cottage outside Machynlleth. On the way up, we called in to Gilfach Farm where we saw three Lesser Redpolls feeding on the feeders - there was a female, a juvenile and a brightly coloured male. Swallows were also seen flying in and out of a derelict barn building and perched on a wire. A Red Kite soared overhead, followed by a family of Peregrine Falcons with their piercing cries over the woods. One of the adults was carrying prey. Siskins were also sharing the feeders with Great Tits. A Redstart was also seen briefly, it will be heading to Africa soon. Now to Dyfi Osprey Centre and most the time was spent waiting for Monty the Male to come back with a fish so that his mate can feed their three chicks. Eventually he comes back to the nest with a sea trout then takes off and lands in the tree close to the nest site. Nora then feeds the three chicks. They are getting quite big now and we are told that they are being ringed and tagged on Tuesday.


The weather had taken a turn for the worse. So what better for a wet day than a journey on the Talyllyn Railway. We started our journey at Abergynolwyn. The first train we boarded was no 4 Edward Thomas on the return journey from Nant Gwernol to Tywyn. The second major station is here at the Dolgoch Falls where there are spectacular waterfalls and the railway crosses the ravine on a high impressive viaduct. The next stop on our journey is Rhydyronen which was a request stop. In the shed at Pendre was No 7 Tom Rolt, who was in service last time. Also in the shed was No 3 Sir Hayden, outside in light steam was No 1 Talyllyn. We arrived at the Wharf station where we disembarked and watched Edward Thomas refuel ready for the next working. Another of the line’s stalwarts arrives with no 2 Dolgoch. We boarded Dolgoch for the journey to Nant Gwernol.  


We went to Dyfi Osprey Centre to see how the Ospreys were, the chicks were hunkered down in the nest and the female sat out the downpours. We went to Ynis Hir, but this time it is famous for BBC Springwatch where it was presented from this year and will be for the next two years. The feeders were busy with birds like Chaffinches to the big Grey Squirrel. We called in at Capel Bangor outside Aberystwyth and while we were waiting for the train we watched a flock of Sand Martins perched on the wire which you don’t often see. Well after the wait, I was rather disappointed to see Llewellyn once again taking sole charge heading to the Devil’s Bridge. We went to the Red Kite feeding station at Nant - Yr - Arian which was a bit of a disappointment too as it was surrounded by low clouds. A few Red Kites flew past but none swooped down and grabbed food from the ground with their talons like at Gigrin. They just sat out until the downpours stopped because if they flew very much in weather like this they would be waterlogged! The Kites and Buzzards have not got waterproof feathers.


We on our way to Anglesey when we broke down at Indigo Jones and after popping in to the exhaust place at Bangor, we eventually arrived at South Stack. We saw a juvenile Meadow Pipit perched on the gorse not long having fledged, I think it might have left today. At Ellins Tower a Gannet flew past the cliff. Kittiwakes were nesting on the with Herring Gulls by the edge. The Great Black - backed Gulls were also hanging around the cliff face. A Raven landed briefly before flying off again. On the water there were three species of Auks, Guillemots are the Commonest followed by the Razorbill, but of course everyone’s favourite bird the Puffin. The Shag was also perched on a rock with it’s wings held out to dry. The other star bird we wanted to catch up with again was the Chough and a single chick was being fed by the adults. After a cup of tea in the new RSPB cafe we rounded off the day by watching a few Linnets feeding in a nearby field.


We started off today at Dyfi Osprey Centre and walked round the boardwalk. We got off to a good start with a singing Sedge Warbler which was probably a non breeding bird. At last we saw Monty, the adult male Osprey perched on the new artificial nest near to the current nest of three chicks in with the female keeping a close watch for intruders. The chicks all sported smart new rings and satellite tags, fitted by Roy Dennis. A few Dragonflies and Damselflies on the wing with Four Spotted Chaser being one of them perched on a flower. Also two juvenile Whitethroats were moving amongst the wetland shrubs and perched frequently on fence posts and shrubs. A Common Lizard was basking in the sun on the boardwalk and when it was warm enough he scuttled away. What a difference a bit of sunshine makes at Ynis Hir and we had a tip off about a sighting of Grasshopper Warbler with chicks but by the time we got down there they’ve gone. The Grey Squirrels were still there though and also we saw some butterflies. Red Admiral and the first of sighting of a Gatekeeper this year. We decided to give Nant - yr - Arian another chance and so glad we did! Because not only we had better views of Red Kites perched in the tree but also frequently landing and feeding on the ground which you don’t see at all at Gigrin. Now on to Vale of Rheidol Railway’s Terminus at Aberystwyth and a change of loco was the order of the day arriving from Devil’s Bridge in the shape and colour of no 9 Prince of Wales.  


We started this morning with the Ffestiniog Railway at Tan - y - bwlch, a halfway station on the line which means under the pass. Here the loco I haven’t seen for a while is Blanche an 0-4-0 ST built in 1898 and Sister engine Linda had of course been repainted in to green livery but was not quite yet ready to haul trains when we were there. Now to the Welsh Highland Railway and the last time we were here was when trains terminated at Aberglasn Pass Loop, now the full the link to Porthmadog is finally opened. Most train departures to Caernarfon are from Pont Croesor, the newest station on the line. Here 138 formally Millennium in original WHR green livery approaches the level crossing. The South African Garrett loco designed by Beryer Peacock runs around the train for the next working. From the Glaslyn Osprey Hide we watched the train depart over the bridge back up towards Beddgelert. There were no Ospreys on the nest as the chicks have fledged unlike the Dyfi Ospreys who have got another week before they fledge. However there were two flying about with one carrying a fish and a another high up above the skyline. We stopped for lunch in a car park overlooking Snowdon which is Wale’s highest mountain. We went to the RSPB Reserve at Conwy and if you look on the blog two years ago, I wrote about a sighting of a Wood Sandpiper in the rain. Well, the Wood Sandpiper has been replaced by a pair of Common Sandpipers and flock of about 60 Oystercatchers on the island. A Little Egret was also present wading and fishing, and it managed to catch something. The same people who told us about the Grasshopper Warbler also said they had seen some Stoats along the walkway, but again we didn’t see them. Apparently they had been here all this week but today they were seen on the boardwalk - typical! Anyway you can’t win them all. Back to the Welsh Highland Railway and to Rhyd Ddu which was terminus between 2003 - 2009 is now through station and we took the train down to Porthmadog behind Garrett 87 in new blue livery. We went through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Pont Croesor where most people got off. The last section to Porthmadog follows the short section of the other Welsh Highland Railway and a new road bridge being constructed as part of a new bypass. After crossing the Cambrian Coast Line, the Welsh Highland Railway entrance to Porthmadog Harbour station is rather odd, in the fact it actually crosses the street onto the Ffestiniog Line.


We went to Lake Vyrnwy to have a look around. We saw a flock of Chaffinches on the fence posts and after putting a bit of food down on the ground a Blackbird joined them. We saw the Three Leaping Dolphins which is a sculpture. It might be the last time we see it as it’s slowly rotting. However, as it seemed to be raining almost continually we went somewhere else. As we got away from the mountains, the weather was brighter. At Dyfi Osprey there two Grey Squirrels fighting on the feeders eventually one of them gave up and went off. Below the hide was a Rabbit, Dunnock and Blackbird feeding on the floor. We also went along the boardwalk again - no sign of the Sedge Warbler this time but the Whitethroats were still about foraging in the vegetation. There were lots of Common Lizards out basking in the sun the dark ones were youngsters and one big adult further up the path. There was a little frog which made an unwise move hopping along the boardwalk under where the Lizard was, fortunately it was not spotted and survived. This time! We returned to the RSPB Reserve of Ynis Hir but this time, as well as the Grey Squirrels, there was a Wood Mouse which lived in a hole under the feeders. He was a very shy animal and the squirrels kept scaring him. There were two young squirrels chasing each other around the tree.  


On our way home we popped into Ynis Hir for the last time to see if Woody was about. The Squirrels were still around by the feeders and various common birds from Robins to Blackbirds. We called in to Capel Bangor as the car start to play up again so we watched the train go through headed by Llewellyn again. We had time to see the arrival at Devil’s Bridge and watched it approach from the bridge. We quickly popped into Gigrin to see what was there, the usual suspects, Red Kite, Raven, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Rook. The White or Leucistic Red Kite flew past briefly. The Peahen also had some recently hatched chicks. We made our way home, but the car was still playing up as we approached the Newport roundabout. We managed to get across the Severn Bridge, but we got stuck behind a learner driver going at 20 miles an hour. The car didn’t like going so slow and started to buck like a kangeroo and eventually stopped at Tockington. We sat in the car and waited for about 15 minutes before starting it again and luckily it did start and we got home without any more mishaps. It was a good holiday, despite the car playing up and of course, the weather! But then, as Simon King says, it does rain a lot in Wales.

Hawk Conservancy Trust


We went to Hawk Conservancy Trust to see what Birds of Prey they had there. First of all we started off with the Heron and Kite feeding: these birds were introduced from Norway and we saw a few but they didn't come down.The Crows and Magpie were nicking all the food. A Grey Heron came down and just stood motionless and not doing much. The first of the flying displays was called the World of Birds of Prey. The first birds flying were the Barn Owls and one of which was called Avon named after the River Avon. Next was a Lanner Falcon which is a bit like our version of the Hobby. Next on the scene was Major Lewis the Burrowing Owl very much like our Little Owl - same size. Next was Madeline the Secretary Bird doing a perfect job of attacking a rubber snake. Next birds on were Vultures, first were the Turkey Vultures and then the White-headed Vultures, who demonstrated how they feed on carrion and one didn't want to go back in his cage. He was still flying around for the Duck Race. (Lucky for them that he only eats dead food). After the display we had a look around and saw three Bald Eagles called Cheyanne, Danebury and Orion. There was also a Merlin though sadly not a wild one. We had a little bit of luck with Goldcrest very hard to photograph mind. This is also a good place to see the newest bird in Britain, the Great Bustard. There is a wild population now on Salisbury Plain, but occasionally they are seen elsewhere. Now to the Valley of the Eagles for the next flying demonstration, accompanied by the music. A rider on horseback was flying some of the birds just like they did in the old days. One of the Bald Eagles was the first on the scene but not for long. We had a Lanner Falcon earlier, but this was a Peregrine and yes we do get these in Britain but nice to see one close up. Several Vultures came out next and we were all told to duck when they fly over our heads. That means duck our whole body, not just our heads. Actually, I don’t think the Hooded Vultures would harm anybody, but it was all good fun. Then the Black Kites are out to fly with the Vultures and one was called Little Bighorn and he wore Jesses. Apparently he didn't fly well but he seemed to fly pretty good to me. Then it was time for the Bald Eagles and two were in the valley but which ones? They were specks in the distance and they gradually came into view. The first came back and it was the female Cheyanne and calling to the male. The Male Danebury flew back in after a super performance. These are the first tame Bald Eagles I've seen flying in Britain! After sitting in the heat it was nice to go the Woodlands for the next flying display. First on the scene was a Eagle Owl and sorry no pictures with the big lens due to it being camera shy. We were asked not to use them for this Owl so I have got some on the small camera. Next was Archie the Little Owl which did a neat trick of walking the tightrope. Next came Mindy the Brahminy Kite super fast and impossible to get a good photo of. It was just a blur as she flew past. I didn't get a good picture of Mindy fishing either. Another species of Eagle Owl was after. This was a Milky Eagle Owl called by that name because it had something to do with the eyes. Finally was Troy, the male Tawny Owl, and wonderful to witness a Tawny Owl flying in broad daylight. Something even more special because you don't ever get to see that in the wild.    



We went to Slimbridge to get my book Watching Waterbirds signed. We had a look around while we were waiting for the time of the book-signing. At Robbie Garnett there was a few Green Sandpipers still around along with a Black - headed Gull. Some Yellow Wagtails were present amongst the cattle. We also popped into South Lake but there was nothing out of the ordinary there. In the afternoon I met Kate Humble the WWT Vice President and TV Presenter of Springwatch and Autumnwatch. She signed my book with Martin McGill who is one of wardens at Slimbridge.   

Somerset Levels


We headed to Shapwick because we had heard about a Osprey at Noah’s Lake which has been seen for a few days, but of course today it decides to fish somewhere else. We did see a Great White Egret on the scrape, but dipped out on the Spotted Crake and Pectoral Sandpiper that had been seen there previously. There were still a few Dragonflies about. The Cormorants at Noah’s where there as usual, and we had distant views of a Marsh Harrier and Hobby. A Little Grebe was on the lake as well as other water birds, such as Mallard, Tufted Duck, Teal and Mute Swan. We went to Chew on the way home and saw a Black Tern. At Heron’s Green there were two lovely Roe Deer.  



We went to Slimbridge to meet up my friend Adam McCabe, who I went to college with. There was a walk out to the Dumbles at 11.00 to see the waders. The person leading is one of wardens Dave Paynter, who managed to pick up the Buff - breasted Sandpiper.  This rare migrant from America is my first one. Dave also spotted an even rarer visitor to these parts of Gloucestershire - a juvenile Dotterel. Another first for me. The birders just forgot about the Buff - breasted Sandpiper, he was old news, and everybody turned their attention to the Dotterel. Then the Buff - breasted Sandpiper decided to walk alongside for good comparison. I got a record shot of the BB Sandpiper, but I only had my small lens. We also saw a Arctic Tern with the waders. I spent with rest of day with Adam looking at captive and wild birds including all hides except Kingfisher Hide.




We went to Chew to see the Spotted Sandpiper. While we were looking, Dad spotted a Water Rail on the other side so we dashed over and saw it foraging along the edge of the water.This is the first time I have seen the Water Rail in good sunlight, normally the views I've got are dull. There was also a Grey Wagtail there. A Common Sandpiper was along the bank on this occasion but the Spotted Sandpiper didn't like him being there and kept chasing him off, it's almost spotted plumage stood out a mile. However it was very elusive and often disappeared for long periods. We went to Heron's Green where there was two Red Knot on a little island. Despite the name they were not red but grey as they were winter plumage adult birds.  

West Somerset Railway


We went to the West Somerset Railway for two engines I haven't seen GNR N2 1744 from Great Central Railway and the return to service of 7828 Odney Manor which has renamed Norton Manor to mark the 40 Commando Royal Marines at Norton Fitzwarren. Williton is first location we started off as SDJR 7F no 88 departs tender first for Bishops Lydeard. Washford is next where we viewed our next loco. This time 5029 Nunney Castle running tender first also to Minehead. As we watched from the bridge we saw a party of Long-tailed Tits and a Red Admiral Butterfly on the bramble. At Blue Anchor we saw 34070 Manston from Swanage was running the right way and not what it said in the timetable and the other engine was Nunney Castle again for the second and last time for the gala. Due to a pipe problem on the front of the Nunney had to be withdrawn. The next loco was one of the ones I wanted to see. The sight of N2 crossing Ker Moor was wonderful, shame it was bunker first. Next train bound for Minehead had 'Mougal' 9351 at it's head. Another loco I wanted to see was also tender first - 7828 Norton Manor crossing the moor towards Blue Anchor. There were a couple of Wheatears on the line feeding on insects that have got knocked by the trains. Also a couple of Pheasants flew over the line and were an unusual sight on the beach. Also another unusual sight was a pair of Ruddy Darters mating on the beach. I think the nice weather had gone to their heads. We saw another little creature, a day flying moth called a Silver-Y, which kept hovering around some flowers. We moved back to Williton to witness the last few trains. The first was 1744 facing the right way so I saw better detail of it. Prairie No 5553 replaced the castle on this train to Bishops Lydeard. The N2 departs away northward to Minehead.Then suddenly it all goes wrong as 5553 ran out of water before it got to Crowcombe, so it was going to be a while before the last one I wanted see arrived. 3850 arrived but its passengers and crew had to wait a very long time. Eventually the Norton Manor appeared chimney first complete with headboard and as it was already an hour late, it departs straight away for Minehead to try and make up for lost time. 3850 also makes final departure for Bishops Lydeard. We finished off at Steart Point watching four Little Egrets by the pools, but it was getting a bit dark now, so we decided not to look for the Snow Bunting at Wall Common. We had hoped to look either for him or the Pallid Harrier atBlackdown, but time was againstus. Not helped by the fact that the trains were running late. The weather had been glorious all day, but you forget that it is September and the nights are drawing in.

Forest of Dean


We went to the Forest of Dean to see what was about at New Fancy. The Goshawk are now hiding in the deepest woods waiting for next year’s breeding season. At Speech House we put some seed on the log to attract the birds to come down. We had a Robin, Blackbird, Coal Tits, Nuthatches and Grey Squirrels feeding, but not it was not cold enough for others. At Cannop Ponds there was not many birds on the feeders but in winter time the number of birds feeding here will increase. We didn’t see anything at all at Boy’s Grave except a female Southern Hawker Dragonfly on a trunk of a small tree [eating a possible small fly ugh!] We also saw some Fungi, the most common is the red one called the Fly Agaric. I first photographed one in the Scottish Highlands in Summer 2007 and it’s nice to photograph another. This is a poisonous Fungi, so whatever you do don’t touch it, if you do touch it you must wash your hands, if you eat it you will die - however it’s a very attractive Fungi. We continued on to the RSPB Nagshead and to the Campbell Hide where we hoped a Wild Boar or Fallow Deer would come to drink at the small pond. There was a problem though as there was not much water. A Grey Squirrel came down to drink and found it tricky. He ended up drinking a bit of water with duckweed on the surface so I imagined it was disgusting to drink. Some of the common birds were bathing in the pond Blackbird, Robin, Blue and Great Tits, Wren, Song Thrush and Goldcrest. Also, some Redwings, who have just arrived to spend the winter on our shores. Sadly no Hawfinches, no Crossbills and no Wild Boar, well never mind always next time. (We must have just missed the Wild Boar as somebody in the hide said that they had just seen some. I do wonder how many there are, as we’ve never seen any.)



We went to Slimbridge to see if the Bittern was visible from the Ziess Hide, no luck yet but a flock of Canada Geese flew from the Bottom New Piece to the water in front of the Lathbury Hide. The feeders at South Finger were being used by Greenfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Goldfinches - although we only saw one Goldfinch on a feeder. The Little Grebes we saw in September were still about on the small lake but as yet, no Kingfishers. On the way back we saw two Peregrine Falcons. The Rushy Pen had a male Pintail still in juvenile plumage. In the Martin Smith Hide there were six Snipe right at back in swampy area by the fence and in Robbie Garnett Hide an unusual Goose which turned out to be a hybrid between Canada and Greylag Goose. A wild population of White - fronted Geese from Sibera and Russia took off from the Tack Piece fields and headed towards the Dumbles. The Holden Tower feeders produced the usual birds and mammals from Robins to Grey Squirrels. We also saw a Weasel briefly on it's way up to the feeders but it seemed to disappear before it got there and ran across the path in front of the screen and into the reedbed and was gone. The Great Spotted Woodpecker was being elusive as well. We were on our way to the South Lake when saw filming lights were on for the Autumnwatch Live with Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham and Martin Hugh- Games practicing their lines with guest presenter Iolo Williams. It was interesting to see them rehearsing and all the gadgets they have to use to make the programme. I also got an autograph from Iolo Williams whilst the other presenters were in their studio, which was next to Toad Hall. We stayed for the floodlit feed - loads of Swans, Geese and Ducks all flocked together when Dave Paynter turned up with a wheelbarrow of grain to throw  to the birds.  



We arrived late at Slimbridge so we didn't know where to start, we decided to head for the Ziess and that's how we saw Bill Oddie doing his bit of filming for possibly Springwatch Christmas Special as it wasn't featured on Autumnwatch Live that evening. Meanwhile in the Ziess Hide we did see a Bittern perched on top of the reedbed. No picture sorry, too brief. We saw another on the opposite side of the small pond. On the way back to the visitor centre we met Osprey expert Roy Dennis heading to the Ziess. We asked him how the journey to Africa was and about Leri, Dyfi's only female Osprey on

her first migration to Africa whose transmitter has stopped working. He was also going to be in Autumnwatch Live that evening. There was a great bit he filmed in Africa of Einion, another of Dyfi’s Ospreys. Bill was also coming back from filming at South Finger and we saw him heading to the Rushy Pen. We didn’t see the other presenters today, but at least we saw Bill and Roy.   



We went back to Slimbridge again to try and see the Bittern but this time no chance of seeing it at all but however we had our first Water Rail from the Ziess and we also saw one from the Holden Walkway - in fact we had two different birds seen together here and we saw a female Reed Bunting on the feeder plus a male [which we didn't see] also a few Linnets, Redwings and Fieldfares gathering for Winter. Not much at South Finger, but I did get a little bit better shot of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It was still hiding a bit though.    

River Exe


For the first time since 2006 we went down to River Exe by boat. We started at Starcross with cracking close views of Black - tailed Godwits. When we got on the boat called My Queen we saw a Cormorant with an enormous fish and swallowed it whole in one go. Mallards are usually seen on ponds and lakes, it’s a bit different seeing them on a estuary. Shags are common coastal birds, one still had its crest which they develop in the breeding season. Little Egrets are fairly common here, in fact they are more common than Grey Herons at some point. On this journey I only saw one compared to four Little Egrets during the day. One of the species of birds that winters here is Brent Geese from the High Arctic. Dark - bellied Brents winter in Wales and Southern England, while Pale - bellied Brent Geese winter in Northumberland and Ireland. We actually saw both from the boat. Pale - bellied are unusual in the Exe, they were probably enroute to Ireland. We saw a Herring Gull dropping mussels from the air to break them open, before flying down to pick them up. Great Black - backed Gulls were on the lookout for any birds to catch on the island. A Curlew tried to have a fight with a Crow but gave up afterwards. Great Crested Grebes in flight is a rare sight as they only fly short distances between their feeding grounds. We also saw a few Bar - tailed Godwit which was what I wanted to see on the ground close up. Loads of Avocet on the Exe already this Autumn and Black - tailed Godwits.  There were also lots of Dunlin mixed in with Knot and Grey Plover. Quite a few Red - breasted Mergansers on river, we even saw one catch a fish.  At Topsham there were Teal dabbling on the bank. A very enjoyable journey, and the weather was perfect. It was starting to get a bit cold by the time we got back to Starcross and the last views were of a Little Egret and Brent Geese flying off to roost.