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

Archive  2012

20/01/12 Martin Mere

Well let’s face it, today’s weather was wild, windy, wet and wintry. Not really the weather I would have liked for my birthday. We were on our way to the Solway coast for the weekend and decided to stop off at Martin Mere as it was so bad. Martin Mere has quite a number of hides so at least we could get out of the rain for a bit. The first hide we went to was the Raines Observatory Hide where there was plenty of Whooper Swans, Pintails, Wigeons, Teal and two Ruff who didn’t seem to care whether it’s wet above or wet below. We more or less had the same view from the Hale Hide. We went to the Ron Barker Hide where two Peregrines were sitting on   the bank behind the Shelduck on the small island. The Pink - footed Geese were flying in the distance from field to field but a couple of Pink -foots were close to the hide. On our way back to the Swan feed we managed to see some Tree Sparrows eventually, since we didn’t see any on the way down. Sadly, no pictures, as it was too wet. Whooper Swans, Shelducks and Pintails flooded the bank after the grain was chucked out by one of the wardens. The highlight of the day was 2 Marsh Harriers at 2 different Hides. It was getting dark now, so we made our way to the B&B in Carnforth.

Caerlaverock WWT 21/01/12

After breakfast we went to Leighton Moss. As we drove past the fields we saw a white goose with the Greylags and joked that it was a Snow Goose. When we read the sightings book at the reserve, it said that there were 3 Snow Geese with the Greylag so that must have been what we saw. We didn’t walk round all of the reserve just went in one hides at Lillian’s. This time of year the lakes are full of the calls of Teal displaying accompanied by the female’s weak quack. There was also a Snipe visible from the hide.   On the feeders were Grey Squirrels and Bullfinches and many more garden birds etc.
We went on to Caerlaverock to see more Whooper Swans at the Peter Scott Observatory Hide but this time in good sunshine and just passing showers.   At the Avenue Tower there were thousands of Barnacle Geese that winter here from Greenland and Spitsbergen all grazing and flying about the reserve. We then went to see the swans being fed at 2:15 - a little bit later than usual. There was a few Wigeon present as well as some Tufted Duck.   A couple of Mallard decided they didn’t like each other and were having a ding-dong of a fight. We went to Folly Pond where there were a few waders. A small flock of Pink-feet flew in from the solway. After meeting up with Dad for a cup of tea in the cafe, we looked at the feeding stations as I hadn’t seen a Tree Sparrow there yet. All the smaller birds were using the hedgerows as a roosting place for the night and we saw Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer and, yes, some Tree Sparrows. As the sun dipped towards the horizon we watched the Geese flying to their roost on the Solway Firth Estuary with a lovely sunset for a backdrop. We then made our way to our B&B at Cowan’s Farm, which is near Kirkgunzeon. We were in a log cabin   and it was very cosy there.

Mersehead RSPB/Loch Ryan and the Wig 22/01/12

We had breakfast this morning watching Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and lots of other birds out of the window. We started today at the RSPB Reserve at Mersehead with another flock of Barnacle Geese in the car park fields. On the feeders were House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinch, Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows. A Little Egret was fishing behind the feeders.
We went to Stranraer and stopped at Loch Ryan to scan across. There were some Ringed Plover on the beach and Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Scoter on the loch. Driving down the road to the Wig, we saw a huge flock of Scaup with some Slavonian and Great-crested Grebes in with them.
Further down we stopped again to look at Black Guillemot in winter plumage and also some Scoters. A couple of Red-throated Divers flew past. We went to the car park at the Wig to see if there were any birds on the beach and on the water.   There were more Red- breasted Mergansers, lots of Scaup, Eiders and Common Scoters   braving the elements of the rough waves out in the bay.
We saw a large Diver which must have been a Great Northern Diver, but it never really came very close. We walked along the shores of Loch Ryan in the hope of seeing some Twite in the fields. We got down to the end of the Wig without seeing any. However, there were lots of seabirds including Shag and more Black Guillemot -   some already moulted into Summer Plumage as well as those still in Winter Plumage.   We got caught in a sudden downpour, but we had good views of Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers, Grey Heron and a few Dunlin.
We then had a bit of a bonus with a handsome flock of Pale - bellied Brent Geese flying from the field to the loch . It was very cold and we were wet now, so we made our way back to the car before it rained again.   We would have got there but for the fact that in the muddy field at precisely the right moment a flock of Skylarks and Twite descended to feed.
The birds were sometimes difficult to pinpoint in the deep muddy holes.   It started to rain again and the birds all flew to the back of the field. Time to leave! We arrived at the car very cold and wet. We had a quick bite and left for the Harrier Roost. Driving along the shore of Loch Ryan, we saw a couple of Long-tailed Ducks quite close displaying with its yodelling call. Also a few female or juvenile Common Scoters. At the Hen Harrier Roost, we only saw two males flying in. Both roosted in different places and not together. Perhaps the females came in later.  

Leighton Moss RSPB 23/01/12

At our B&B this morning on and around the feeders were House Sparrows, Yellowhammers, Blue Tits, Tree Sparrows, Collared Doves, Great Tit, a Stock Dove and a Pheasant. We went to Lochmaben and saw Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander.
On to RSPB   Leighton Moss and we popped into Lillian’s Hide where the redhead Smew was giving only distant views. That made three species of Sawbills in a day.   We walked down the the public hide, looking for Bearded Tits on the grit trays, but sadly saw none. I think that autumn is probably better to see them there.   From the hide we saw a Sparrowhawk perched, 2 Goosanders and a Marsh Harrier. We went down to the Lower Hide, but only saw Marsh and Long-tailed Tits on the way there. There was not much from the hide. We had seen a sheep tangled up in the brambles and he was still there on the way back, so Dad climbed over to try and rescue him. Well, one look at Dad and that scared him enough to get himself out and he ran away trailing long bits of bramble bush. We were hoping to see a Starling roost but the presence of a Marsh Harrier perched on the reeds might have put them off and they all flew in behind us over the golf course for the night. But we did see 3 white geese flying towards Lillian’s. The Snow Geese circled around a bit, but they too flew off. Perhaps they decided not to roost there as well and went back to the estuary. There was a lovely sunset and it made a nice end to the weekend. We made our way home and my year list has had a very good start.  

Slimbridge 04.02.12
There was a two day Festival of Birds event at Slimbridge this weekend. We went to see Simon King reopen the Ziess Hide after renovation. He made a little speech and pulled the blue curtain back to reveal the new plaque. Then afterwards he spent some time in the hide trying point out the birds to people but disappointed that it was so icy there were no birds to be seen at all. Even the Bittern seemed to have gone. Meanwhile we went down to South Finger to see what was down there. There were not many birds on the feeders. We saw more birds in our garden! Then to look on the Rushy Pen for the Lesser Scaup, no sign that day, but loads of Bewick’s Swan, Pintail, Canada Geese and other wildfowl were present. We looked at all the stalls and then went to a talk by James Lees, who is one of the wardens. He did a talk about all the wildlife seen at Slimbridge that year. In the afternoon Simon King was doing book and card signing. Since we forgot to bring our book we asked for a card. That was my third autograph and I’m thrilled! A hour later he was giving a talk in the cinema which we went to. It was really interesting and entertaining. We had been inside a lot as there was so much to see and didn’t realise how much it had been snowing, Everything looked lovely in the snowy setting. We went to the Rushy to see the Swans, Geese and Ducks being fed by Dave Paynter. A lovely finish to the day.

Slimbridge 05.02.12
We went to the last day of the Slimbridge bird fair and started with a search for the Lesser Scaup - no luck first of all but we came back later. At Holden feeders we had a bit of luck to see a Water Rail walking secretly behind the feeders. The alarm call of a Blackbird scared it back into the reeds. A male Reed Bunting was also feeding, but on the floor. He usually feeds on a feeder or on a reed head. Back to the Rushy Pen and the search for the Lesser Scaup paid off, an adult female was swimming about with an Australian Shelduck Hybrid. There was also another hybrid - possibly part Pintail and Red-crested Pochard. The ‘Urban Birder’, David Lindo was there doing a spot of birdwatching. He was giving a talk later today. We went to watch the ringing at the Duck Hut. We saw the Ducks being ringed and weighed. The birds included a Male Pintail, 2 Mallard, 2 Gadwall and 2 Shelduck. That was the first time we saw Ducks being ringed. Now at South Lake we looked for Mandarin Duck. There were three present yesterday.   We saw a female on the right hand side of an island and then a male swam from the left side of the lake towards the island and joined her, before both birds got pushed off by a Herring Gull. We were going to Martin McGill’s talk, when we noticed in the sightings book that a Bittern had been seen at the Martin Smith hide and we went to have a look. Lots of other people had the same idea, as it was quite busy in there. The Bittern was stood at the back of the reeds, but then it walked out and posed for a little bit, before continuing to the other side. After a few minutes it slowly strutted across the gap again. We had missed Martin’s talk, so we rushed back to the centre to hear David Lindo’s talk. Afterwards we went back to the Martin Smith hide. The Bittern was still showing. He walked across the icy water a couple of times before settling at the back of the reeds. We saw two Water Rails dashing across the frozen lakes, one flew in from the Rushy Pen. It was all happening here! A Heron appeared and started to walk towards the reeds and we wondered what the Bittern might do if it saw him. Would they fight? We never found out. The Heron just flew away. Just then a Common Snipe flew in to feed, but the light was fading fast so we decided we had better start for home. We saw loads of Jackdaws all heading for the trees to roost, so stopped to watch them before leaving.   A perfect way to end the Weekend Wildlife Spectacle.                  

Slimbridge 10.02.12
We went to Slimbridge to meet up with my friend Joe. We started at the Rushy Pen to look for the Lesser Scaup again but no luck. Mum and I went to the feeders at Robbie Garnett while Dad went to the Holden Tower. There were Chaffinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits also a unusual sight of a Bullfinch, but the star of the show was the shy and elusive Water Rail. It had regularly been seen in the open during the day. However a Buzzard appeared at the top of a tree alarming the birds, then it took off calling. It took a while before the Water Rail came back out of the reeds. On the floor below the feeders, a male Reed Bunting was still in it’s winter plumage - the dull crown in a few months will be jet black. We met up with Joe at the Kingfisher Hide while watching a Water Vole. This is the first time since 2009   I’ve seen a Water Vole and they are also Britain’s   fast declining mammal mainly because of the American Mink.   This Water Vole was feeding on the bank for a while before leaping into the water. There were two Grey Squirrels at the feeders and the usual garden birds. The Little Grebe had already moulted into breeding plumage. The Russian pink billed White - fronted Geese were in a field on the right hand side of the hide. A another male Bullfinch was by the feeders briefly on a twig. On one of the far right trees was a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on the dead trunk, and another Water Rail ran across the path and disappeared by the gate. Joe saw that Water Rail three times before it went deep into the reeds. We went to South Lake to see if the Mandarin Ducks were still there. All of us saw both ducks asleep on the island. Back to the Rushy Pen and Dave Paynter was doing the afternoon feed. Still no sign of the Lesser Scaup, but lots of Bewick’s Swans, Pintail and other wildfowl gathered in the spectacular flood lights. We finished the day by watching the Starlings and Jackdaws coming in to roost.   It would have been a great ending if the car had started   but no, and we had to wait for the breakdown truck.          

Westerleigh/ Kingsgate Park/ Marshfield 26/02/12

Mum was away in Wales for the weekend birdwatching with the BOC, so Dad and I had a day birding ourselves. We started at Westerleigh Common   looking for Jack Snipe but no sign. We then went to a local park to see what was there. A few common species - Mute Swan, Wigeon, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall. The most spectacular sight were hundreds of Common Frogs breeding in two of the main ponds. I have never seen that many Frogs before and they were all different colours. We then went to Marshfield   to look for Short - eared Owls. There were quite a lot of Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers   about. We saw three flying and hunting over the fields into the sunset.

Forest of Dean 11/03/12

We went to the Forest of Dean today. We started at Parkend Church in search of Hawfinches but no sign, then moved on to New Fancy Viewpoint to see Goshawks displaying. We saw one perched in the tree and two in flight. We were just about to leave when we met Gordon from the BOC who told us about some Willow Tits that they had seen at Woorgreens. We went to have a look for them as I hadn’t seen one at all. Mum had seen some in Wales.   We heard them singing and calling and then we caught a glimpse of them.   On the lake we saw about 14 Goosanders and a Grey Heron was perched on the log in the nice sunshine. There were lots of Common Toad crossing the path on their way back to the pond to breed. Some of the females had males on their backs already. One female had managed to hitch two males on her back and one was trying to push the   second male off. The female rolled on to her back and was having trouble walking with them both, so we picked them up and took them to the waters edge.   Once in the water, the male that was on top pushed the other one off and he swam off to find his own mate.

We stopped at Cannop to look at a couple of Mandarins. Back to Parkend Church we looked around the Beech Tree again but no still Hawfinches. While we were at the church we saw two Goshawks doing display flights with typical Hawk flight [flap flap and glide] motion. A Green Woodpecker flew over the church spire into a private garden.

The Dean Forest Railway runs into the northern terminus at Parkend below the church and we saw the auto train with 1450 sandwiched between two auto coaches.

Slimbridge 12/03/12

Dad dropped Mum and I at Slimbridge for the day to see what was there. We started at South Lake to see if there were any Kingfishers using the new perches that were put in front of the Observatory. However we didn’t see any, but saw an unusually coloured female Mallard which was a brighter orangey brown than normal. She was showing well until the male led her up the bank. There were a couple of Great Crested Grebes which were doing a bit of head shaking but annoyingly hiding behind the bushes. When they were visible and floated out into the open, they fell asleep. The Continental Cormorant was still present with the nomadic Cormorant flock on one the islands. The Lesser Scaup was on the Rushy Pen with other wildfowl like Tufted Duck andTeal. We went to Robbie Garnett feeders where we had a male Reed Bunting in stunning breeding plummage and the Water Rail kept coming out of the reeds, and on two occasions came right down to water’s edge. It also hopped on to a branch for the fat cake but it got chased off by Moorhens because they’re a bit bigger. Back at the South Lake still no Kingfishers on the perches, but the Woodpigeons thought it   was a good place to sit on. We popped to the Holden Tower where we saw two Bar - headed Geese on the Dumbles and   some continental Greylag Geese with pink bills compared with Western European birds with orange bills. Back on the Rushy, the only Bewick’s Swan was keeping company with the Dabbling and Diving Ducks. A final look at the feeding station, and there were three Pheasants - two females and a male come to scoff whatever’s   left on the floor. This time the male Reed Buntings were joined   by some females which were a nice. The final sighting of the day was the Water Rail in the   sunlight feeding on the fat cake.

Chew Valley Lake/Somerset Levels 25/03/12

We went to Somerset Levels to look for the Long - billed Dowitchers. On the way we stopped at Queen Charlton to see if the Great Grey Shrike was there but as soon as we walked up a few yards two motorbikes zoomed past and blew our chance of seeing it. In the middle of a scrubby field were three Roe Deer which looked somewhat out of place in front of the houses and they were still there when we came back through. We then stopped to look on Chew Valley Lake but nothing was on the main lake at Herriot’s Bridge so we looked on the pool. Unfortunately the Glaucous Gull that was seen yesterday had gone but we saw an Egyptian Goose and the small Canada Goose race which is known as Cackling Canada Goose. The Spotted Sandpiper that we first saw back in September has now been there for eight months but was still distant. We arrived at the Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve at about 12:00 and after lunch we went to the Meare Heath Lagoon where the waders were. There were some stunning breeding plummaged Black - tailed Godwits, Ruff, Redshank and loads of wildfowl. The Dowitchers however were typically enough asleep at the back of the Lagoon. We went to the hide overlooking Noah’s Lake and the Cormorant’s nests are now looking very precarious with not many strong branches to build on. A Great Crested Grebe was also diving in after the fish below the hide. There was a flash of blue as a Kingfisher flew past and away into the distance. When we got back to Meare Heath, the Dowitchers were feeding in the lagoon and we had good views of their   eye stripes.

However, dipping out on the Great White Egret was disappointing. We went to Ham Wall in search for Marsh Frogs but no luck. There was a Grey Heron flying into reeds and calling so who could blame them for keeping their heads down.   We did see Bearded Tits briefly before they flew over to the other side of the lake. I spotted the male on the reedhead on the left side of the path before it flew. We walked back along the railway path to see what the people were looking at as we saw a group of people from the lower path. When we got nearer it was a sight worth seeing - a Bittern standing on top the reeds in full view. The reed was completely bent over as the Bittern stood there almost posing for the birdwatchers. This was the first decent view of a Bittern at Ham Wall. Normally they fly over and brief views are often all you get. What a perfect way to end a perfect day.    

Slimbridge 26/03/12

We went to Slimbridge again, and this time Dad came too. At the feeders the Reed Bunting was still around . We left Mum having a cup of tea in the cafe and went to South Finger where I saw a Pheasant running across the field. We went to the Zeiss hide and Dad saw two Avocets, so we rang Mum to come and have a look. She made it just in time before they flew away. On the way back to the visitor centre, there was a Grey Heron by the flamingos. It looked a picture of grace and elegance but I wondered if there was any fish in the pool? No idea, but the Heron didn’t seem to be bothered by anybody and kept on walking along trying to catch fish. There are some stepping stones across the water here and a Woodpigeon was crossing them by jumping from one to the other. It was quite comical to see and he made it all the way to the other side. The first bird to cross the stepping stones! Back in the car park, a Goldfinch was singing in a nearby tree and looked lovely in the sunshine.

Chew Valley Lake 31/03/12

We went to Chew for the bird fair and were surprised to find a female Long-tailed Duck with Tufted Ducks quite close to the shore. She has a shorter tail than the male. We also saw a Great Crested Grebe and a flock of about 100 Sand Martins flew over. We moved on to Heron’s Green to have lunch, where we saw a smashing adult Little Ringed Plover on the embankment on the edge of the lake. I did see a juvenile LRP last summer but this was my first adult. We went to the hide at Stratford, but there was not a lot there. A Garganey had been seen from here recently, but not today. (Two were seen the following day - aagh!) Lastly we looked at Herriott’s Bridge for the Spotted Sandpiper, but it was very distant along with a Green Sandpiper. We did see our first Swallow of the year though.

Slimbridge 01/04/12

We went to Slimbridge to look for the Snow Geese, so we went straight to   Robbie Garnett hide. They were still on the Tack Piece and the best view was from the Stephen Kirk Hide.   We went along the Summer Walkway to Middle Point and there were two Roe Deer in the distant field. Not a lot at the point because   the tide was out, only Shelduck and Curlew, and a distant Peregrine on some rocks. On the way back to the Holden Tower, an Orange Tip Butterfly flew past. We went up to the top of the Tower where   we saw a Brown Hare crouched in the grass. Suddenly I noticed all the Snow Geese were swimming in the water, so we quickly headed back to Stephen Kirk. However although there were a few still swimming most had got out. The very last one had a bit of bath and preen before it too got out. Along the walkway was a Speckled Wood Butterfly sitting in the sunshine. Finally to South Lake where the two Avocets were displaying and may even think of nesting here, fingers crossed. Loads of Black - tailed Godwits and four Redshanks and the other usual species in the glorious sunlight.


Chew Valley Lake 06/04/12

We went to Chew to see what was there. The Long - tailed Duck that we saw last week was over the far side of the lake. We went to Heron’s Green to see if the Little Ringed Plover was there, no sign of it but we did locate a Common Sandpiper. We went to Stratford Hide to see if the Garganey were going to   show themselves today.   A pair were sleeping on the bank. After a while they woke and swam off.   The male is easily recognised by the white stripe on the side of the head and when he flapped his   wings it was clear that it was pale grey. We went to look at Herriot’s Bridge where a male Goldeneye was displaying to the Tufted Ducks.   One particular female seemed to take quite a shine to him and followed him around. We went back via Marshfield in search of Corn Buntings. We spotted one with a Linnet. We also saw a pair of Red - legged Partridges in one of the fields.                          

Slimbridge 09/04/12

We went early to Slimbridge for the land rover safari but it was a very rainy day. However we heard a few birds such as Cetti’s Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Despite the downpours we saw a lot of birds.

We managed to see a Brown Hare running about on the reserve. Under a piece of corregated iron there was Water Shrew - that’s a first for us! Wheatears were seen near Middle Point and   quite a few Meadow Pipits flew over. After the land rover safari we went to South Lake to see the Avocets. When we were on the land rover we drove to the back of the lake and just in time to see the Avocets mating.   When we were in the observatory we saw them mate again.   Hopefully they will be the first Avocets to breed in Gloucestershire. There was also a pair of Common Sandpipers and at the back of the lake an Egyptian Goose fast asleep. A Kingfisher flew past the hide with a flash of blue.

We went to the Rushy Pen to look for the Lesser Scaup but no sign. There was a Coot that made a nest on one of the islands using Daffodils and the male was bringing more nesting material. The Greylag chicks were down to two now.

Cleeve Hill/ North Meadow 15/04/12

We started at Cleeve Hill to look for Ring Ouzel which is a upland cousin of the Blackbird except with a white crescent on the chest. But with loads of people and a bike race on no chance whatsoever. It was really cold up there even though the sun was out. We continued to Cricklade and North Meadow in search of Snake’s Head Fritillary which is a rare   flower and Cricklade is one of the best places in Britain for this rarity.   There was a few Cuckooflower out as well and is an important food plant for the caterpillars of the Orange Tip Butterfly. Also in flower was Marsh Marigold which grows anywhere where it is damp. We heard a Skylark singing above our heads and saw him fly high in the sky, and a Heron flew over. We went to the Cotswold Water Park to have something to eat, but there was not a lot there to see at the moment. We will have to come back when the Hobbies and Terns arrive.

Blagdon and Chew Valley Lakes 12/05/12

We first went to Blagdon Lake to see the Squacco Heron and it was very easy to spot as it was perched in the tree for a few minutes before flying a few yards right. We managed to get a closer view of it walking and posing in front of the lake before flying off further back down the road. We went down the road to park up by the lake for lunch and saw two Great Crested Grebes displaying head shaking and collecting weeds and both birds rose up as they performed the Penguin Dance, the first time I seen the Grebes dance. We had a tip-off about a young Owl so we walked down the road a few yards and it was a Tawny Owl Chick - that was my first one as well. We went to the hide at Chew, but the water was really high, so there was nothing about. We went Herriot’s Bridge then where there was at least six Reed Warblers singing, flitting about and perching in the reeds. At Heron’s Green we were looking at a Roe Deer Doe in front by the trees and we didn’t notice there was Barn Owl posing in the tree outside the owl box until somebody pointed it out to us. The weather had been very good today after all the rain we’ve had lately and the Barn Owl had been out in the day looking for food. I wondered if they had chicks in the box.   As we had been doing so well seeing Owls, we decided to go to Portbury Wharf to look for the Little Owl to make it a hat-trick. We’ve never seen it there so far even though lots of other people have. WE STILL HAVEN’T!!!!!!!

Slimbridge 13.05.12

We went to Slimbridge to see what was about, in the sightings book it said 4 Common Cranes at the Holden Tower. These Cranes were born at Slimbridge and taken to the Somerset Levels for release as part of the Great Crane Project. Two of them have satellite transmitters on them. It was good to think that they managed to find their way back home. We saw the Cranes flying over from the left hand side of the hide and flew almost straight past. It was great to hear them calling. They were gaining height pretty much every time they soared.   We went to the Martin Smith hide and saw a Little Egret fishing - then the Cranes flew around and landed in front of us and began to feed.   We left them to it and went back to the car for something to eat ourselves and while we were there they started flying around over the car park. We were going to go to 100 acres to look for Cuckoo, but we couldn’t get in the car park there so decided to go to Breakheart Quarry to try and find Grizzled Skipper.   They are really small and hard to spot but we saw one flying and perching briefly. There were probably more, but we didn’t see many. The Dingy Skipper was also present in small numbers but it didn’t keep still enough for a photo.

Wales 26th - 27th May 2012

Dyfi and Ynys-Hir RSPB

The weather forecast for hot and sunny so we went up to Wales for the weekend and our first stop was the Dyfi Osprey Project to see how Monty and Nora are getting on with this year’s brood. Monty was on the nest first thing when we arrived, then Nora came in and took over, while he went fishing. While Nora and Monty took turns of incubating the eggs, there were a pair of Siskins on the feeders and afterwards the pair flew off. The male returned alone to feed on the feeders. No sign of the eggs hatching, so we make our way to the Ynys-Hir RSPB reserve which was home to Springwatch lastyear and this year they’re back in the Welsh landscape. We came to see three specialists only seen in the spring: Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler. The Pied Flycatcher was the easier of the three to find because they are one of the birds that use nest boxes. The pair we watched were using box 36, the male taking food to the youngsters before coming out again. The female also put a brief appearance at the box before staying to brood the youngsters. The male’s favourite perch was a tree branch a few yards from the box. We went   along to the reedbed area to listen out for the reeling of a special Warbler: Grasshopper Warbler. No sign but a nice Willow Warbler was singing very well from one of the trees. Further up was a male Stonechat on a perch by the Saltings Hide. The birds in view from the hide were Mallard   and Canada Geese.   The sheep were wandering down to the ditch for a cooling bath and then climbed back up again. Along the shore by the Dyfi Estuary were more Geese with Canada X White Goose Hybrid feeding along the edge. We went further along where we saw another Stonechat this time it was a female. We went to Marian Mawr Hide where a Grey Heron was giving excellent views. More Canada Geese with some Goslings. The first pair we saw had one, the second pair had two and a third pair had 5 Goslings! They must been good parents to have kept that high number of youngsters. We decided to go back and look for Redstarts having not seen them yet. No sign of them at all but a Blackbird was hopping along the woodland floor. Nearby a cock Pheasant ran to the top of the woodland mound to defend his territory.   Back at Dyfi Nora had given up egg incubating for a bit   of a break leaving Monty to do it and he looked very hot and bothered.   We were also feeling hot and tired by now and so made our way to the B&B stopping off for something to eat on the way.

27.05.12   Ynys Hir RSPB, Dyfi and Dinas RSPB

We woke up this morning to the sound of Red Kites calling and there were at least two flying around outside the window. They came really close at times. We went back to Ynys Hir again for the Springwatch tour, but as we were early we went for a walk and we saw the second of the three specialist birds -   the Wood Warbler. This little Warbler rather likes to sing way up in the Canopy but this was a obliging male and we had a cracking view. We had a tip off about a Treecreeper nest site and had a look but they had possibly fledged as there was no sign. Nearby a Jay was showing well a tree. A Grey Squirrel was running up the path towards us and didn’t see us at first. We saw two other Squirrels chasing each other round a tree and they stopped to have a drink. Back at the Redstart site we watched a Nuthatch climbing up one of the trees. We returned to see how the Pied Flycatcher were doing. The male was still bringing in food to feed the chicks.   We went back to the centre for the Springwatch Tour   which was really a guided walk, I thought it was   going to be seeing behind the scenes , but it wasn’t. We saw loads of Foxgloves around the reserve, but the birds were being elusive. We went down the road to look at the waterfall by Furness and had lunch in the car park. While we were there we saw Michaela Strachan.   Last look at Dyfi and Monty was still incubating the eggs, bless him. On the way to Dinas and Llyn Brianne we stopped when we saw another first for this year - a Tree Pipit.   We saw a Dove which look like a Rock Dove but thought this one must be a Racing Pigeon having a rest. When we arrived at Dinas the car park was quite full. We were just going to get out when it started to rain so decided to wait. Luckily! It poured down, which got rid of all the people and picnickers and the car park was soon clear. It stopped raining and we had the place to ourselves. (Except for the midges which had come out).The Redstarts were   about but elusive and we only had a couple of brief views. We also saw a Spotted Flycatcher.   Down by the river there were two Dippers, an adult and   juvenile. After being fed the juvenile flew to cover and the adult was collecting and foraging for the food. A Red Kite soared over the hill behind the river. When we were our way back we saw a distant Cuckoo flying and landed in   a far tree.   It was getting late now so made our way home. The weather had been glorious and we saw all the birds we had gone for.  


We headed up today once again to the highlands of Scotland.

Before we got to Nethybridge, we stopped at Dalwhinnie to see the Aviemore and Inverness steam tour train on the   return journey to Glenrothes hauled by 46115 Scots Guardsman leaving Newtonmore behind and starting its climb through Drumochter Pass.


We arrived late at Loch Garten because we had a lie in after a long journey from Bristol. The two Osprey chicks were ringed and tagged last Friday by Roy Dennis and were named Alba and Caledonia, the Gaelic and Roman names for Scotland. The other wildlife there included Siskin, Greenfinch, Red Squirrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Bank Vole on and around the feeders.

There was also a Wood Mouse under the feeders by the entrance.

We then went to Aviemore to see what was at the Farmer’s Market this year and to do a bit of shopping as the weather was a bit rainy. I was waiting for the train from Broomhill to arrive. From where we parked behind Aviemore Signal Box, opposite the Strathsprey Railway sheds, I could just see Class 27 D5394   which returned in 2009 after a major overhaul from Bo’ness. In the shed was Caley 812 and No 828, which has just been relieved from service this year. The Loco which was in service today was the one that failed last year on more or less the first day we came up, No. 46512 E.V. Cooper Engineer.

We stayed to watch it depart from Aviemore for Broomhill.

We went to up to Tullochgrue Black Park to see three special Orchids: Fragrant, Small White and Lesser Butterfly. There were loads of Fragrant Orchids all over the place and a few Small White Orchids but no Lesser Butterfly, so we went to another site,   where we saw lots of the   Lesser Butterfly Orchid.  

In the chalet garden there was: Red Squirrel on the feeder and on the antlers outside the window which contain calcium, a few Siskins, a juvenile Robin bathing in the grass, a pair of Yellowhammers, pair of Greenfinches and Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldfinch as well as Blue and Great Tits. The Pine Marten has been seen quite regularly and so we are hoping for Pine Marten this evening - fingers crossed!


We went to Loch Garten and saw a Common Sandpiper walking along the loch. It started to flap its wings and call while looking at something in the water and we think it might have been a small Pike.
The forecast was not very good for the end of the week so we decided to go up Cairngorm to search for Dotterel today, but due to very misty conditions we didn’t hear or see any again. It was a long walk and there was not much about except for a few Meadow Pipits calling here and there. However on the way back down we had a pair of Ptarmigan on the misty ridge and another female being chased by the dominant female. Further down we encountered the second Grouse member: Red Grouse - a hen, a cock and some very small chicks right by the mountain path. There was no way back down except for the path we came up and we had to get past the Grouse Family. The female hunkered down in the heather trying to blend in. We could just see her eye watching us and the wind blowing her feathers as we walked quickly past her. We went to Loch Morlich to see if there was any Divers but there was   nothing. We had a second Common Sandpiper walking by the loch side.   On the way home we passed Loch Garten and saw a female Goldeneye with four well grown youngsters.


Today was supposed to be the best weather of the week so we thought that we would try looking for Mountain Ringlet on Creag Meagaidh. As we were passing, we went to look at the dragonfly pond at Loch Garten, but only saw Large Red and Northern Damselflies. We stopped at Loch Insh to look at the Ospreys. We show an adult, but couldn’t see any chicks. Maybe they were still quite small. We got to Creag Meagaidh and it was very cloudy. Mountain Ringlets only fly if it’s sunny, so we decided not to bother to look and left. We then thought we would go up Corrieyairack Pass in search of Red Deer. We stopped to look at the Sand Martins in their nest bank. It looked like some were just fledging. There were a few showers of rain, so maybe we made they right decision. Another Common Sandpiper was in the pass - they are   certainly doing well this year! Back at Loch Garten we found a new brood of Goldeneye with three chicks. The other brood of four seemed to be on their own, I hope nothing happened to the female. Maybe she just left them to it if they are big enough to survive on their own. On the nearby branch was, what else? Yes, another Common Sandpiper, they just keeping popping up all over the Highlands and no doubt I be seeing more tomorrow. When we got to the chalet, we saw Stewart back from Edinburgh after collecting his MBE from the Queen.


We went to Loch Garten to have a look at behind the scenes of what happens in the forward hide. John, one of the wardens, took us down and the man on duty today was Andy. They showed me what they have to do looking after the nest and keeping records. After looking around the forward hide for a while, there was no sign of Odin bringing back a fish to the nest. Never mind, can’t win them all. Back at the car park we managed to get good views of the resident Bank Vole feeding under the bird feeders. We went to Lochindorb to look for Black - throated Divers but sadly none on the way down or the way up. In fact there was nothing much at all except a distant Red Grouse and two more Common Sandpiper, and a Roe Deer Doe in the wrong sort of habitat.   We then carried on to Broomhill Bridge to see one of my favourite water birds: The Dipper. We saw the adult perched on the stump underneath the bridge. Dad and I walked along the Spey to get a closer look at the Dipper, a fantastic bird it is too! There were a few Sand Martins flying in and out of the sand bank on the other side.   On the river was a couple of Oystercatchers, a Curlew and another Common Sandpiper. On the edge was another Dipper, this one was a juvenile which is a lot greener than the adults. This is my second juvenile this year and the second I’ve seen on that stretch of river. In the garden of the chalet this evening was a Wood Mouse feeding under the feeder tray, fantastic! Stewart took us to see the Twinflower this evening and there was quite a clump of them by the tree trunk and it was so nice to see them again in flower. There was also some Common Wintergreen in flower as well nearby.   We saw a Roe Deer walking away near Nethybridge Village. It looked quite young. We then saw two more Does in a field near Broomhill in lovely summer coats. That’s it for today.

Thanks to Richard Thaxton   and all the staff at Loch Garten for showing us inside the forward hide.


We went to a boggy pond near Loch Garten to look for White - faced Darter. As it was the first week of July we thought they probably finished, but there was one adult still in flight. We also saw Four -spotted Chaser and lots of Raft Spiders. We went back to look at the Twinflowers as the weather was nice. We then drove to Chanory Point to search for Bottle - nosed Dolphins which we saw well in 2008 with extreme close views with calves. Today the views were foggy and distant but we saw a few adults.   Other wildlife around were Black - headed and Herring Gulls, Common Terns and Gannets flying over the Moray Firth and a Grey Seal popped it’s head up a couple of times. Mum and Daw saw a Guillemot, but I missed it.

We then went to Loch Ruthven RSPB Reserve to look for the Slavonian Grebe - the rarest breeding Grebe in Britain.

We saw at least four grebes swimming on the loch which were two adults and juveniles. We saw one on a nest just in front of the hide in the reeds. There was also a pair of Little Grebes around   as well. On the outskirts of   Loch Ruthven was a Roe Deer Doe which took off running as soon as we stopped. In the fields were loads of Oystercatchers and Redshanks with chicks showing not red but black on the bills.   In another field few yards up,   a Curlew and on the other side were two Brown Hares.   We went down to some nearby Lochans in search of Divers. We saw a couple of Black-throated Divers swimming towards the big loch. We then went to look for Red-throated Diver but it got too misty to see. On the way back the two Black - throated Divers were quite close to the edge but when we went down to the loch, they had drifted back out again. We finally drove back over the top at Strathdearn but it was still very misty and didn’t see anything. Not even the view! We managed to see another Brown Hare feeding in the grassy field. There had been heavy rain in Aviemore apparently, but we managed to miss that. It had got quite warm in the afternoon and I thought I could hear thunder in the distance. That was probably what it was.


The weather was still quite nice and not at all what we had been expecting so we went back to the pond to look again at the White - faced Darter as I was not happy with my photos. The Raft Spiders were still there and also a very reddish frog. We went on to Loch Garten. The Red Squirrel was on the feeder as usual and of course the Ospreys. EJ and the chicks, but still no view of Odin. We went to Strathdearn and the first bird we saw was a Red Kite! There were loads of Red Deer Hinds some with Fawns on the other side of the river in the field. At the end of the road there were more Red Deer up in the hills, which were mostly Stags building their energy up ready for this year’s rut. Also there were more Fragrant Orchids with a few Ragged Robins. The usual Wild Goats were by the river and were walking towards the old shed on the other side. I decided not to walk all the way to the first bridge so I went back to see what else was about. While Mum and Dad were watching a Golden Eagle on the hill, I was watching a   Kestrel. Wheatear and Red Deer from the car park. On our way back through the valley we spotted an Oystercatcher on a stone and we drove past slowly, it then flew down to the river. Further up the road we saw a Curlew but not an adult - it was a juvenile which didn’t have such a curved bill. On our way home we stopped at Tulloch Moor to look for Mountain Everlasting. Dad found a small patch of these flowers. There was also lots of Fragrant Orchids and you could smell them in the breeze. Lovely!


On our way back south to Carnforth we popped in to Loch of the Lowes to see how Lady Marge was doing. The chick is nearly as big as his Mum and has been satellite tagged. Marge’s new mate: Laddie was perched on a tree a couple of metres from the nest. We did not see the male at first until we went back to the centre and saw him on the webcam. Due to the bird disease in that area, some of the feeders were temporarily removed, which meant there was not a lot of birds to see there. However there were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers: a male and a juvenile. Also making good use of the peanut box was a juvenile Red Squirrel. We also went to what used to be called Vane Farm, but is now called RSPB Loch Leven to see if the Swallow was still nesting near the toilets. The building is now bit different but the Swallows were still nesting there flying in and out. The Swallows were also singing a bit near the nest site.

We had a cup of tea in the café and looked to see what was on the feeders. There were three different male Siskins on the trees and bushes. Onwards and southwards we headed over the Forth Bridge towards our B&B in   Carnforth, stopping at Biggar for our chip supper in the award-winning Fish & Chip shop there.


On the last day we popped into Leighton Moss RSPB to see what’s about.   We started at the feeders with a handsome male Bullfinch feeding and perching on the tree branch, this is the best place to see these shy Finches. We saw two males and female in total.

We went to Lillian’s Hide where there is a   Black - headed Gull colony. There was a Marsh Harrier quartering the reedbed.   We went then to the Grisedale Hide where we saw the Garganey last year, no chance of see one with ducklings I’m afraid. There were three Red Deer sitting down by the tree in the long grass, two hinds and a fawn. Also a special bonus of seeing a flyover Spoonbill coming from Eric Morecambe Hide.   On the path back we spotted young Greylag Goose with a pinkish bill not bright orange. He managed to get off the path into the flooded channel which I ‘ve never seen so high and must have flooded the path at some point.

There was nothing at the Tim Jackson Hide, maybe it was because they have recently rebuilt   it. We walked back towards Lillan’s, when we stopped in the wooded area and saw an adult Treecreeper feeding a fledgling juvenile. The first juvenile Treecreeper I’ve ever seen! Nearly back at Lillian’s and a female Mallard led some ducklings down the flooded marsh. Back at the feeders the Grey Squirrel was picking and eating bits that the birds drop on the floor so too was the Common Brown Rat. We went to the Public Hide because there was an Otter sighting yesterday, but not when we were there sadly. There was plenty of Marsh Harrier for a couple of minutes anyway.

The female has been satellite tagged like the Ospreys. There was another Black - headed Gull colony and their greatest enemy is the Great Black - backed Gull who was patrolling around his island. In the hide, safe out of reach of any Gulls, was a Shrew. It was probably a Common one but not sure, it looked too big for Pygmy. That is the second live Shrew this year. Perfect! A pair of Great Crested Grebes were swimming gracefully but sadly the chicks must have succumbed by the flood waters after the heavy rain. One of the other birdwatchers showed us the picture of the adult Grebes with the chicks on the back. What a tragedy!

A young Moorhen was standing on the top of the reeds making himself at risk from the Marsh Harriers. We saw a Cormorant with a very large Eel and eat it all in one go. On the way back to the visitor centre along the edges of the path were loads of Common Spotted Orchids. In the fields with the sheep were quite a few Rabbits. Back in the woods a Marsh Tit was giving fine but brief views.

We went to Allen’s and Eric Morecambe Hides which are next to be done up after the breeding season is over. At Allen’s Hide we had great views of Avocet Chicks which we missed seeing at Slimbridge. The two chicks were risking their lives getting close to the gulls on the island and the adult had to run after them. Fortunately no harm done. There were also a few juvenile Avocets just getting their Black and white markings.   At Eric Morecombe hide we saw loads of Redshank on the bank and one of them was definitely a Spotted one. A Sparrowhawk flashed through putting all the birds up and it caught a Starling. It flew past the hide window with it. On the way back there were some Peacock Caterpillars on the stinging nettles. We had a last look at Lillian’s where the Marsh Harrier was still flying around and then made our way back to Bristol. That’s all from this year in Scotland. Weather was not brilliant, but better than was forecasted!

Cheddar/ Priddy 23/07/12 We went to Cheddar to see if the Peregrine was in the area. We saw two Goats fighting each other when another one came along and got pushed of the cliff but survived amazingly! There were two Peregrines flying and one was perched on top of the gorge - it turned out to be a juvenile. The other bird carried on flying. We went to Priddy where there was a great amount of wildlife to see. We saw Marbled White, Small Heath, Skipper and Ringlet Butterflies on the heathland. There were a few Damselflies on the wing - mostly Common Blue and a Azure Blue. We also saw some Dragonflies as well, including Emperor, Four Spotted Chasers and the first time since 2007 in Suffolk, a Black - tailed Skimmer which is also a special Dragonfly of the heathland ponds.   In the pond were adult Smooth Newts - the last time I saw any Smooth Newts was at Slimbridge on the Landrover Safari, and they were juveniles. The pond was full of them, I’ve never seen so many Newts in one pond.

Coombe Hill Meadows 29/07/12 We decided to have another go of looking for the Purple Heron at Coombe Hill Meadows seeing as we didn't see it the previous day. At the Grundon Hide there was a few birds in view such as Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Little Ringed Plover and flying out of the reeds with a Grey Heron was the Purple Heron!   Even better view of the Heron was when it flew over the hide and landed out of sight on the right hand side of the hide. It flew   about a few more times until after 12:00PM   it vanished until 18:00PM but a fantastic bird nontheless.

Breakheart Quarry and Inglestone/ Lower Woods 11/08/12As it was only nice day of the weekend we decided   to go butterfly watching around Gloucestershire, we started at Breakheart Quarry where we saw quite a few butterflies including Chalkhill Blue. The Male is chalky blue and the Female is dark brown which has a bit of blue in the wing. There were loads of common butterflies such as Gatekeeper, Peacock, Red Admiral and Comma. We had also a good view of a Male Brimstone perched on a leaf on our way back to the car park. We went to a local nature reserve in Inglestone at Lower Woods. We saw a few speices that are quite common mainly the Sliver - washed Fritillares there was a female Common Darter which   was unusual in the woods. Seeing a White Admiral for the first time on a perch was a bit surprising   as it was coming to the end of it's flight period, unfortunately   every   butterfly we saw had their wings nibbled by a bird. We also saw a Small Skipper further up the old ride. There was also some Greater Willowherb in flower as well.

We   went   to   Rutland Bird Fair for the three days   as we had only been once before and that was only for one day. On the first day   I met Johnny Kingdom on his stall with   his wife Julie and Mum bought me his latest DVD. He told us that he had been to Alaska filming a TV show going out at Christmas.
We went   to a talk   by Charlie Hamilton - James   about photography. We   then went   to the   Events Marquee   where Simon King did a talk   about Wild   Secrets and afterwards he went to the Zeiss stand   for book   signing. Mum got her book signed but I   didn't have a book so I   asked   him to   sign my programme instead.   We   heard the   annoucement that Bill Oddie was doing   book signing at the   BirdWatch Stand in Marquee 4, so we went there straight away. Having been doing   the book   signing   since 15:00, Bill looked tired. He also signed   my   programme, as   well as his Birds of Britain and Ireland book I bought. We went to Bill Oddie's talk in the   evening called   "Unplucked" with his ex Producer Stephen Moss - it was very interesting with some archive clips on the TV series they   made   in   1996.

We went to look   at some of the   hides   around Rutland Water starting   at Lyndon. We saw   a lot of Tree Sparrows   feeding   on   the feeders   and in the   bushes and on the ground. We   went to the furthest hide on   this   side   at Lyndon, the Wader Hide. From   here   there was a great view of the Osprey nest and   we saw three birds   a Male with a fish and   didn't share, a Female and   Juvenile. We never saw the other Juvenile. There were a couple of Common   Terns flying around and a few were mobbing the Osprey Male with the fish. We also   saw   some Terns diving for fish. We went   back to   the Bird Fair at Marquee 3 where One Show presenter Mike Dilger was doing a book signing, once again I didn't have a   book so I asked   him to sign my programme.   We   went to look   at   some   more hides   on the reserve.   The first one was the Snipe Hide. There were a   Pair of   Green Sandpipers feeding. Walking up to the Shelduck Hide, we saw 4 Egyptian Geese on a lake, but the light was very bad. On the way   back to the Bird Fair we spotted a Female Southern Hawker by the path. After lunch we went to a talk by Tim Mackrill on Return of the Osprey to Rutland. We happened to get to the BTO stand when they   were ringing   a   Garden Warbler. It was a Juvenile which will be making it's first journey to Africa soon.   We looked around more of the stalls and I collected the book that I won. It was very hot and we decided to go to some more hides. We went first to the Plover Hide where there were more Green Sandpipers   and the odd Common Sandpiper wading and   swimming in the water. The Little Egret population has remarkably inceased in this part of Britian because we saw 8 in the next hide. Outside the Sandpiper hide was a Emerald Damselfly and a Banded Demoiselle and it was a male. This species normally stops flying at the end of July so this one is a slightly late Female. In the Sandpiper hide was, yes a few Green Sandpipers but they were not the special birds. The star was a Little Stint, which is smaller than a Dunlin and has a stouter bill, but it was elusive at times. Another star was of course the Black Tern but it wasn't Adult, it was a Juvenile. Another bird we couldn't ignore was the Osprey which was perched by another Osprey nest. We walked round to some of the other hides and at the Lapwing Hide we saw another Osprey flying over the   hide with satellite transmitter.
Back   at the Dunlin Hide we saw the Osprey on the perch again against the setting sun. Another wader seen was a Snipe right out in the open and showing its white belly.   The Osprey was still on the perch until dusk fell then flew off to roost. Loads of Eygptian Geese made a sudden appearance in front of the hide coming in to roost. The setting sun made a lovely backdrop to all the birds that were also coming in to roost on the lagoon for the night.

We returned to Lyndon for   the last   view of Tree Sparrows on feeders   and one of them went over the top and actually landed on top of the feeder. There was also a male Pheasant here today, yeterday we saw a female. There was plenty of food for the local   Grey Squirrel. Our final view of the Ospreys   was of the Juvenile Male on the live nest cam. Back at Bird Fair and we went to Events Marquee for the Mike Dilger talk which   was called   "My Garden and Other Animals" which is also the name of his book.   We stayed for the other peformance which was "Bird Brain of Britiain" featuring the chairman   Stephen Moss and the contestants Rob Lambert, Dominic Couzens, Mike Dilger and Insect Expert Nick Baker. Next on   was Johnny Kingdom to give a talk about Exmoor where he has lived all his life. Simon King finshed   the Bird Fair with his last Wild Secrets talk. We are hoping to head back up there for 25th Bird Fair next year which should be a real special one.  

Dawlish   and Exe

2nd September   2012

We went to Dawlish to see the Torbay Express and the Royal Duchy come through from Bristol and to look for another Orchid called Autumn Ladies Tresses. Our first port of call was Bowling Green Marsh as the tide was high. There were lots of Little Egrets and Waders, mostly Curlews also a few Knot and Dunlins. Time to   move on to Dawlish Warren for the special train, the Torbay Express from Bristol to Kingswear which runs during the summer. The loco was 4464 Bittern in new LNER orignal Garter Blue livery storming through   non stop. Shortly afterwards another special train, the Royal Duchy from   Bristol to Par, who shared the same line with   the Torbay Express until Newton Abbot, where it headed on to the Devon banks.   This loco was 34067 Tangmere and it left Dawlish Warren station puffing slowly towards it's next stop. While at Dawlish we had good view of   a Jersey Tiger Moth that had landed on one of   the plants. We saw some Sandwich Terns flying around and diving for fish.   We also saw some Turnstones on the very   tip   of the breakwater and went to have a closer look. These Turnstones were very obliging and started walking towards us. They looked as though they wanted to come on to the beach so we moved   back a bit. Once they were confident, they   flew down. There were five birds altogether and when they were on the beach they seperated. They didn’t seem to mind us, one sat on a rock and looked like he was having a nap. A few were still   around when we came   back from looking at the   Gulls. We started to make our way towards the Visitor Centre. Mum walked along the top, Dad and I walked along the beach looking for a Rock Pipit that we had spotted from the top. It was a brief view of an adult which unfortunately had a bit of a limp but flew very   well. We went along the beach   to find it again, but no sign. We did however see a Red Knot. It was in Winter plumage so therefore not red. In breeding plumage they are indeed red and orange. Normally in winter Knots form big flocks, seeing a single bird like this is very unusual. This bird might have got seperated from it's flock and ended up here. It didn’t seem to mind all the people around. While I was trying to get a closer look at this attractive Wader, one of the small rocks that I stood on was very slippery and I fell into a rockpool and was absolutely soaked. Nevertheless, my screams of agony didn't seem to disturb the Knot because it was too busy foraging. Well, moving on now I think! We saw lots of Autumn Ladies Tresses near the   Visitor Centre, some were in flower and some just gone over. On the way back, there were six Common Lizards on the boardwalk basking   in   the   heat in different places. We went back along the beach to show Mum the Knot and   surprisingly it was still in the area but had moved onto a   different rock. We went back to Bowling Green Marsh where we had fine views of an Osprey on a post. We were told that before we got here, it had been flying around and had caught two fish. The unringed adult seemed satisfied for the moment as it sat on the post, so it didn't fly around sadly. Finally we went to Cullompton between Tiverton and Taunton to see the Torbay Express on it’s return journey to Bristol.  

Chew Valley Lake/ Somerset Levels   08/09/12We   went to Chew Valley Lake to see if the Red -necked Grebe was still about. We met up with the BOC group at Herroit's Bridge. We drove to the picnic site and had a walk around the lake. We saw a Great Crested Grebe with other wildfowl at the end of a pond. We didn't walk much further down the Bittern Trail because it was flooded. The group moved on to Heron’s Green, but we called into the In Focus shop at the tearoom   to get my bins sorted out after last week's accident. We parked our car in front of an Egyptian Goose which has been there for a long time. We met up the BOC again at Heron's Green where we saw the Red - necked Grebe in stunning breeding plumage. It was asleep at first, but became active for a little while before swimming further away. The BOC meeting finished at lunchtime so we continued to Shapwick Reserve which unfortunately proved a bit of a disappointment with hardly anything about, not even the Osprey which had been there earlier in the week. However, we did see a Red - eyed Damselfly which kept landing on different lilypads on the old canal. We only saw one Great White Egret during our visit which seemed to like perching on a tree at the back of the lake. On the way home we returned to Heron's Green to see if the Red - necked Grebe was closer but was right out in the middle of the lake.


Newport Wetlands RSPB 09/09/12 We went to the Newport to look for a Buff - breasted Sandpiper. Last time I saw one was Slimbridge on the Dumbles on the edge of the Severn. But at   Goldcliff it was seen on the island with Ringed Plover and Dunlin. There were also Greenshanks and Godwits about wading. Most of the waders were too far away for photos. In the main wetlands centre it was a birdless zone, no Bearded Tits again, as usual. The Little Owls were not even showing in their tree. There certainly were a lot of Common and Ruddy Darters on the wing and they like the bits of wood in the sun. We gave up and went home deciding not to bother to go to the RSPB centre again. We only saw one other birdwatcher there. Most of the other visitors were families with young children using the playground and picnic areas.

Radipole Lake and Lodmoor RSPB 16/09/12

We went to Weymouth and Portland to see if the Monarch Butterfly and Short - billed Dowitcher were showing. We went to Radipole to search for an old pal which has been there since 2008. Hoody the male Hooded Merganser   was at the other end down by the bridge and never disappoints us. He came up close as people were feeding the ducks. We went to RSPB Lodmoor to see if the Dowitcher was viewable, which it wasn't. However while we were waiting   there was a group of waders foraging nearby. Most were Dunlins but there was a Curlew Sandpiper as well   but which one? I don't know.
There was quite a lot of Ringed Plovers about the reserve. Just when we were about to leave a pair of Sandwich Terns flew in and landed on the island. The birds turned out to be a Winter Adult and a Juvenile which kept pestering the adult for fish. On our way back to the car park I spotted a Common Snipe feeding on the edge of the tussochy grass. We then went to Easton near Portland to look for the Monarch and even though sun was out, the butterfly wasn't. We continued to Portland Bill and the wildlife there was also very quiet apart from the local Kestrel and Rock Pipit. Having been giving a tip off that the Dowitcher was showing at 2pm we headed back to Lodmoor. The Short - billed Dowitcher was feeding with Black - tailed Godwits at the back of the lake. Nearly two years following I've seen both species at Lodmoor sadly not at the same time. There were also a few Mediterranean Gulls in with the Black - headed Gulls and sometimes difficult to see amongst other gulls. I managed to pick out one of the Med Gulls by seeing a lone bird sitting down. In the evening the Sandwich Terns came in to roost, the pair we saw in the morning were joined by another pair hidden amongst the Gulls. That as they say, was that.   It was starting to get dark o we headed back to the car park and made our way home.

There was some sad news in September when Rutlands Satellite tagged Osprey 09 (98) was found dead in Morocco. He was probably predated by an Eagle Owl or Mammal as he roosted on a low bush waiting to cross the Sahara.
I saw him when we went to the Bird Fair in August and have fond memories of him (see my Bird Fair page). He was a magnificent Bird RIP 09 (98).

For more information on 09 and how he was found visit Rutland Ospreys at

Leighton Moss RSPB

We decided on the spur of the moment to go up to Lancashire for the weekend as the weather didn’t seem to be too bad up there. We went to Leighton Moss first as I wanted to see if the Bearded Tits were still feeding on the grit trays. As we entered the reserve we saw a Treecreeper climbing   up the trees   near Lillian's Hide in search of insects. On Lillian's Lake there were Coot, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal and 5 Goldeneye. Two males   were joined by three females and one of the males displayed once briefly to the females. We went to the   Public Hide to see what was there but sadly all that   was there was a Cormorant with fishing line stuck in it's beak and couldn't get it out. We didn't like watching that Cormorant anymore   and moved on to the next the hide. I just hope he managed to get it out. We looked on the grit trays but no Bearded Tits again. When we got back to the visitor centre there was a report in the sightings book that morning of some there, so we must have just missed them. There were groups of Long - tailed Tits flitting through the trees and reedbeds. On the feeders we saw a few birds including Robin, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit,Great Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and a Bullfinch briefly before the Chaffinch made it unwelcome. On our way to the Grisedale Hide we saw two more Treecreepers, they are definately doing well here.   There was some food on the logs and and the bench which drew birds such as Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin and Marsh Tit.

At the the Grisedale Hide we saw a Marsh Harrier flying over the reedbed away from the hide. There was also quite a number of Teal on the lake and one of them flapped it's wings and stretched it's back wing to show the green speculum.

We finished the day by watching flocks of Starlings coming in to roost in the reedbeds at Lillian's Lake. The last time we tried to watch the Starling at Leighton Moss was a bit disappointing as the whole flock flew over our heads and roosted somewhere behind us. I think the reason why they did was because a Marsh Harrier was sitting in the middle of the reeds. This time they displayed beautifully and most of them came down to roost in front of us. They then stayed down making a tremendous noise chattering away to each other. We spoke to some people who told us they saw an Otter at the Public Hide. I didn’t like to ask about the Cormorant.   We saw lots of Egrets flying past to roost, but I can’t say for sure if one was the Great White Egret that had been reported there. None of them really looked big enough, but they were quite distant. A Marsh Harrier came quartering the reed beds, but it seemed to be after the ducks and not the Starlings. It was getting quite dark now, so we made our way back to the car and went into Carnforth for supper then on to our B&B.

Martin Mere   WWT  
We went to Martin Mere today as there was a Bird Fair on. The first hide we went to was the Raines Observatory where there were masses of Shelduck amongst the Whooper Swans, Ducks and Geese. There was a solitary Ruff on the bank. We saw a ringing demonstration at the Kingfisher Hide. The first two birds ringed were a female Chaffinch and then a male which the ringer gave to Mum to release after it was ringed, measured and weighed. The other birds were a Great Tit, Greenfinch and Woodpigeon. From the hide we could see a flock of Pink - footed Geese flying around . We were on our way to the Ron Barker Hide when we stopped to see some Tree Sparrows on the feeders and few were perched on the trees. At the Ron Barker Hide there were more flocks of Pink - footed Geese in the fields and flying around. Mixed in with the Pink - footed Geese were a small flock of Barnacle Geese from Greenland which normally winter at Caerlaverock, another WWT centre and Islay. These birds might have got blown south to Lancashire.

On the posts by the mere, were three Peregrine Falcons which were resting after putting up the ducks. The Juvenile kept flying into the ducks to scare them. Perhaps it was learning to hunt. On route to our next hide we spotted a Nuthatch on a tree. At the Swanlink Hide, the Whooper Swans were swimming gracefully in the sunshine.There were other winter wildfowl including Pintail and Wigeon. There was a fly-pass   by a flock of Lapwing and more Whooper Swans flew in from the fields. One reason why the Swans were coming in was that they are fed at 3pm by one of the wardens. We watched the feed for a while and then went on to the Janet Kear Hide where there are some feeders. Most of the small birds had gone to roost, but a Sparrowhawk flew through in the hope of some still being there. We finished at United Utilities Hide where we had a much better view of the Peregrine Falcons on the posts and the Juvenile was feeding on a Teal that the adult had just caught.   Luckily, we missed the actual kill as by all accounts it was a bit gruesome. When the youngster had had enough, the adult went down to have some as well. The Pink - footed Geese kept getting disturbed and taking off with a spectacular display. Some more Whooper Swans flew in to roost on the lake. We could see it floodlit from the hide and it looked really lovely. The trouble with winter is that it gets dark very early, and although it was only 4.30 the moon was out. We went to the Harrier Hide and we saw a Marsh Harrier, but unfortunately we didn’t see the male Hen Harrier that had been around all weekend. Overall, the weather had been brilliant. Just some rain on Saturday night. Down in the South, they had a lot more rain and there had been more floods. As we made our way home, it started to rain again, so we had been really lucky.

Sand Point 03/11/12
We went to see if the Hoopoe was still at Sand Point just south of Weston - Super - Mare as we didn't go last Saturday. We first saw it feeding in the short grass by the puddle, it kept coming out in to   the open and then it raised it's crest up and streched out it's black and white wings. The Hoopoe started to be a bit flighty and at one point we lost sight of it altogether. We walked up a bit further to look where it landed but no sign. Suddenly it flew low across the beach and carried on flying up. It's floppy wingbeats make it look like a rather large black and white butterfly.   The Hoopoe was located again and it continued to feed very well. It didn’t seem too worried about people but was spooked by a dog and moved a bit further up.

Slimbridge   05/11/12
I went to Slimbridge with my friend Joe   to see if the Bewick's Swan numbers had increased. We started at the Ziess Hide looking for a Green - winged Teal, a vagant from Amercia. There was a lot of Teal in the distance but not the one we were looking for sadly. We then went to Back from the Brink where there was a lot of Water Voles feeding on carrots and apples. There were at least 5 individuals in different areas of the enclosure. We were on our way to South Lake when we spotted one of the North Amercian River Otters up in the tree! It certainly was a first for us! Soon it was joined by the other two Otters in the enclosure.

Then on to South Lake where we had seen a Marsh Harrier flying around the last time we came, but the only birds that were there was the usual wildfowl. We finished up at Rushy Pen   to watch the birds being fed. The Swans and Geese all gather here for the evening feed.   Martin McGill, the senior reserve Warden was doing the feeding of the Wildfowl which included Pintails, Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Mallards but no Bewick's Swans yet. After the birds were fed a group of 4 Common Cranes from the Great Crane Project flew over the pen and we saw them again for the final time over South Lake.

Snow Buntings at Severn Beach 10/11/12 We went to Severn Beach to look for the six Snow Buntings which had been present for a while. We went onto the beach and saw all six of them foraging around on the pebbles looking for anything they could find that's edible. They did a couple of fly passes with the 2nd Severn Bridge providing a iconic backdrop.   The weather was not too great for photography, there were lots of heavy downpours and it was difficult to protect cameras, scopes and binoculars.   I think we should have taken a brolly! We were all soaked through and it was quite cold once you had got wet, but at least I had some good views of the Snow Bunting. On a negative note though, if anyone should read this that walks their dog there, please clear up their mess. The beach was covered and I’m afraid I was so intent on watching the birds that I not only walked in it, I put my camera bag in some as well. Not nice!

BOC Aylesbeare/Axe/Exe 11/11/12

We went to Aylesbeare Common to meet up with BOC Group. We went to the common to look for Dartford Warbler. We saw quite a few Stonechats and there were also a few Dartford Warblers on the heath but I missed them all by looking in the wrong place.

We then went to Seaton Marshes which is a local nature reserve. The hide overlooks the Axe estaury and is right by the Seaton Tramway.   No trams today unfortunately. In front of the hide were a few Waders such as Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin Oystercatcher and Lapwing. On the overhead tram wire was a Wagtail which then dropped down onto the tramway. There is always Little Egret present on the Axe all year around as they nest in a nearby Heronry. A Buzzard was being mobbed by local Carrion Crows and a Sparrowhawk across the field on the other side of the river. Near the car park there was a female Blackbird feeding on worms and a Grey Wagtail was foraging in a small pond.

We to the other side of the Axe for lunch and see what else was about.   As well as various Gulls, Godwits, Cormorant and Wigeon, we saw a Knot through the telescope.

After we left the BOC Group we continued to the RSPB Darts Farm in Topsham to have look at the new hide and for Brambling. Mike Dilger opened the new hide in early November, and the birds we saw   here were the Dark - bellied Brent Geese which were with the Canada Geese flock. Thousands of Black - tailed Godwits and Lapwings flew in to roost. We did see two male Brambling and what we thought were females moulting into winter plumage.

The star bird of the evening was the Kingfisher, which normally you just see flying past and disappear. We heard it first, and then it appeared and sat on a reed stem in front of us. This handsome male was using four different perches and did a bit of diving. It caught a couple of small fish and then rested in the glow of the setting sun.  

After it flew off, we decided to have a quick look at RSPB Bowling Green Marsh hide before it got too dark. There were hundreds of Avocets there that had come in to roost. Most were just floating around in the middle of the pool. There were also a great many Godwits and Redshanks. A Spotted Redshank was pointed out to us along with a couple of Greenshank. The light was fading fast, but it was a wonderful finish to a lovely day. The weather had been really sunny and warm for November.

Portishead/ Portbury 18/11/12
We went to Portishead to look for the Black Redstarts. We did see a Male which seemed to favour the rooftops and didn't land on the beach unfortunately. When the tide went out it gave a Rock Pipit a chance to feed on insects in the seaweed. The Black Redstart reappeared on top of the roof of an old railway station building.   There were also Curlews flying along the River Severn which was shortly followed by a Mute Swan with it's throbbing wingbeats.   We went to Portbury Wharf to look for the Little Owl again but still nothing.   We did see a first winter Female Scaup with Coots and other wildfowl such as Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwell and Tufted Duck on one of the lakes. There were also some Snipe and Lapwing on the island and some Dabchicks.   All the birds were a bit too far away for any photos. We decided to call in at Aust Warth on the way home to look for Short-eared Owls as we missed seeing the Little Owl, but they were elusive as well.

Waxwings at Yate
1st December 2012

We went out   to look for Waxwings and as we came out on to Shire Way we had a look to see if there was any in the Rowan tree. We could see a few birds feeding on the berries, then I spotted a Waxwing perched in the tall tree. We waited to see if it was going come down to feed on the berries. There were a few birds on them such as Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing and Starlings. The Waxwing did eventually land on the Rowan Tree. It was a bit nervous and kept flying up to the tall tree. There wasn't many berries on the tree so we had a drive around Yate to see if we could find more Rowan, but most we found didn't have berries on. When we went back to Shire Way the second Waxwing had appeared on top the tree. They flew down and started   to feed on the berries. In between feeding   the pair sat in the big tree to digest their meal. When we got home we looked out of the bedroom window and we could see them in the tall tree. Then we saw them fly off to roost somewhere for the night.

On Sunday 2nd December we went to look for them again, but they had already flown off by 8:10am towards the park. We went to have a look there. The pond was very frozen and the ducks and swans only had a small area to swim. We saw a Shoveler there amongst the varied coloured Mallards. On the way back home we found some more Rowan, but the only bird feeding on it was a Blackcap. When we got home, we kept checking out of the window to see if any Waxwings appeared in the tree, but only saw Starlings, Fieldfare and Redwings.
We decided to go to Marshfield to look for Owls. There were lots of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges, but every time we stopped to take a photo, they ran away at top speed. We pulled into a layby to look at a Woodpecker and some winter thrushes and noticed three Roe Deer at the back of the field. On the way to where we usually see the Owls, we saw two more Roe Deer. We did not see any Short-eared Owls today and only had the briefest glimpse of a Barn Owl. But then you can't win them all!

Waxwings at Bradley Stoke 9th December 2012 We went to Bradley Stoke to look for more Waxwings in the Tesco car park. While we were waiting for them we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker on top of one of the trees. A flock of birds flew over our heads and at first I thought they were Starlings, but when I heard them calling I realised that it was the Waxwings. Mum made the same mistake a couple of years ago when she was at Dumfries on a BOC trip. The flock of 30+ Waxwings   landed on the Rowans briefly and began gorging themselves in a feeding frenzy, ignoring all the shoppers and photographers just a few feet away. They then flew off to perch in a big tree to digest the berries. While they were away a Fieldfare flew in to feed on the berries as well and even he didn't worry about people walking past. He had a very strange bill, it seemed to cross over like a Crossbill's beak. He stayed for a while filling himself up on Rowan berries before the Waxwings came back. A Buzzard flew over and I wondered if the flock of Waxwings in the tree would fly off, but they didn't.
The Waxwings flew back and forth from the big tree to the Rowans a few times but they were also dropping down behind the houses for some reason.   The flock seemed to split up and go their separate ways. We couldn't see them perched anywhere, so decided to call it a day and come home. As we were leaving we saw a couple of Jays fly over the car park. I did some bird watching in the garden for the rest of the day and I took some pictures yesterday of some of our birds. Our regular visitors are Blackcap (at least 2 males and a female), Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, loads of Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Long-tailed and Blue Tits, and of course Starlings and House Sparrows.

Slimbridge 16/12/12
We went to Slimbridge to see if the Bittern was there on show at the Ziess Hide. Down by the entrance ramp were a small group of Long - tailed Tits in between the branches. We went went along to the Holden walkway to see what was on the Tack Piece. The water levels were quite high and flooded a bit of the field, but not as bad as the Somerset Levels. There were pelnty of Bewick's Swans on the Tack Piece greeting each other and even a bit of fighting, also huge flocks of Waders which were mostly Lapwings. A flock of White - fronted Geese flew past the hide twice. We went to look in the Ziess Hide but no sign of the Bittern. We went to South Finger to see if the White - fronted Geese were there but only a few ducks, two Little Grebes and a lovely Goldfinch on a teasel to the end the day with.

Slimbridge 26/12/12
We went to Slimbridge on Boxing Day to see if the Bittern was about today. We started by going   to the Ziess Hide where a Green - winged Teal was seen briefly early morning with loads of Common Teals but was not sighted again. There was no sign of the Bittern either despite the fact it was raining, which it seems to like.
We then went to the Robbie Garnett Hide to look to see what was on the Tack Piece and saw lots of waders which included Redshank, Ruff, Lapwing and Curlews. There were also quite a number of Pochards,Tufted Ducks and Wigeon. A huge of group of Pintails were seen on the flooded field. A Male Shoveler was swimming alongside the Pochard group. It was wet for most of the day and not much wildlife on show. The White -- fronted Geese remianed at the back of Tack Piece and then flew towards the Severn Estuary.