Monday, 30 December 2019

Cotswolds and CWP

30 Dec - The seemingly endless low cloud and murk of the last few days cleared to stunning low winter sunshine, too nice to be indoors afternoon trip to the Cotswolds, very good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings en route. Up to 6 Short-eared Owls seen hunting in the afternoon sun, with some quite close views at times, birds also seen perched. Always charismatic birds to watch (and photograph), I never tire of them. A quick stop off at CWP in the morning produced a flock of 9 Pintail at Eysey alongside good numbers of Teal, and ones and twos of Goosander on various pits. No Smew yet though, it's not been cold enough.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Farmoor Grebes

28 Dec - Farmoor reservoir has an excellent track record when it comes to rare Grebes, and I’ve seen the five regular Grebe species there. However, I’ve only seen one Slavonian Grebe there, which is probably rarest of the five inland. So a Farmoor beckoned as a winter-plumage Slavonian is currently in residence at Farmoor. I visited on a cloudy, fairly calm day, incidentally quite good conditions for this bird in its monochrome winter plumage. The bird was fairly close in on F2 but was keeping close to the floating bales giving a difficult background for photography. The ubiquitous Great Crested and Little Grebes present as always, also an Aythya hybrid which has features of both Greater and Lesser Scaup.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Festive Devon

23-27 Dec - A seasonal family visit to South Devon, with superb coastal views from the accommodation. Slapton Ley to the north and Start Point stretching away to the south with rolling yet dramatic coastal scenery. Highlights included the long-staying winter plumaged Black-necked Grebe on the Ley, with flyby Gannets along the tide edge. Waders were few and far between due to walkers and dogs but at high tide there was a flighty group of Dunlin and Grey Plover. The only real oddity was a Razorbill in the surf after a windy spell. Stonechats were fairly numerous in cliff-side scrub. Slightly further afield, a visit to Broadsands gave some views of half a dozen or so Cirl Buntings (a species restricted to Devon and Cornwall) with 2 males, one a 1st-year, and the rest females. They were fairly elusive in breezy conditions with intermittent sun, but allowed a few photographic opportunities. Also a couple of Great Northern Divers here, fairly close in.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Shorncote after a while........

22 Dec - My first visit to Shorncote for a while. Water level very high in places. Good numbers of Water Rails calling with 2 seen, and 6 Little Egrets feeding in flooded fields. A confiding pair of Stonechats along the hedgeline. Good numbers of Duck, especially dabbling ducks, present, Cetti’s Warblers and Chiffchaffs calling, and numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings dropping in at dusk to feed. At dusk, a Tawny Owl and then a Barn Owl seen in flight.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Siberian visitor........

17 Dec - Over the last few days, a fine male Black-throated Thrush has taken up winter residence at Whipsnade in Bedfordshire, frequenting the zoo grounds with a flock of Redwings. The bird has been mobile but tending to feed in the berry trees in the mornings before moving around the grounds later in the day. Unfortunately the day I was free to visit, the weather was misty and murky with rain on and off. Despite this, and the poor light for photography, I had good views of the bird, an impressive adult male with a striking black throat and upper chest, bright yellow bill, with contrasting grey/brown plumage, being about the size of a Fieldfare. In between brief forays the berry bushes, the bird also fed in the leaf litter in typical Thrush fashion. My third of this species in Britain, but the first for a few years. Well worth the trip, but the stunning pictures have been taken by others on sunny days.

Monday, 16 December 2019


16 Dec - A couple of afternoon visits in the current cold weather coincided with a bit of afternoon sunshine and also with Owls hunting before dark. Some good views of both Short-eared and Barn Owls in low winter light. I never tire of seeing them.

Friday, 13 December 2019

WWT Therapy

12 Dec - A reality check with nature required after staying up most of the night for the election results...... Good views of a Water Rail from the Willow hide, and then massed waders from Hogarth, especially Knot and Black-tailed Godwits. Finally a few Bewick's Swans flying in to the Rushy at dusk. Very therapeutic in the winter afternoon sunshine.