Monday, 1 January 2018
Jan 1 - I managed to get out for part of the day to get my 2018 list off to a start, although the best bird of the day was on our regular walk in Cirencester Park - the 2 Hawfinches I saw in October surfaced again, this time they landed in view and I saw them perched at reasonable distance - alas, without the camera. Marsh Tit, Grey Wagtail and Jay also seen in the park. A quick look round CWP gave a lot of expected ticks for 2018 - Shorncote was productive as usual, highlights being 9 Little Egrets on the floods, 4 Water Rails and 3 Cetti's Warblers calling, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch and Meadow Pipit. Also a Fox carrying prey in broad daylight! Surprisingly, all the Shovelers present last week had vanished, probably as there is a lot more floodwater around at the moment. An Avocet at Eysey would be an excellent bird, but may be an escape from Bristol Zoo - I am awaiting a response from them as to the red ring on the birds right leg. Finally, late afternoon a few miles north in the Cotswolds produced 2 Red Kites, and views of Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl, but not til it was almost dark. 79 species logged in total.
Saturday, 30 December 2017
30 Dec - So ends another year. Ornithologically speaking, I've been fortunate to see some amazing things, both in the UK and overseas. Several highlights spring to mind - Puffins on the Farnes just feet away, beaks full of sandeels against a backdrop of a constant cacophany of Terns - being chased and pecked (hard!) by a "rogue" Capercaillie in a Swedish forest - being mesmerised by a Great Grey Owl on the same Swedish trip, on a beautiful fine (long) spring evening - and seeing my first (British) Elegant Tern appear in flight, after several hours vigil at Church Norton in West Sussex. Other varied memories include Rollers actually "rolling" in display in Extremadura in the morning sun - breeding Ptarmigan, Dunlin and Golden Plovers high in the Scottish mountains - and vast flocks of waders twisting in "seemingly) synchronised flight over wetlands such as Slimbridge (where I also had my best-ever view of a Jack Snipe, standing and bobbing in full view). I've also had some fantastic mammal encounters - the two most memorable both in Scotland - a fantastic Otter in Argyll on a photography day with Philip Price, the animal dozing then feeding just a few yards from us crouched in the seaweed - and the wonderful Pine Marten that suddenly appeared after a 7-hour wait on the Black Isle. It felt very special to be in the world of these 2 threatened mammals, albeit briefly. The year ended with a superb Great Northern Diver in the Water Park, that obliged for some close photos. Let's hope that 2018 gives more memorable encounters........
Thursday, 28 December 2017
28 Dec - A superb sunny winters day with a bit of lying snow. We had arranged a trip to Otmoor with Julie's friends to see the Starling murmuration - an amazing spectacle, 1000s of birds streaming in at sunset from all directions - not a lot of aerobatics as no wind, but a fantastic sight and 70-80 people there to see it. Also a pair of Marsh Harriers performing well, but surprisingly no other raptors at the roost. Kingfisher and Cetti's Warbler also present, with Water Rail and Snipe, and large flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing. In the morning a beautiful sunrise, I managed a brief walk at Shorncote - frozen pools meant there were Stonechats and Meadow Pipits standing and looking a little puzzled - also Reed Buntings and Bullfinches in good numbers. 4 Little Egrets on the unflooded Thames Water field, and the Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails in good voice and surviving the cold so far.
Tuesday, 26 December 2017
Thursday, 21 December 2017
21 Dec - I'm not sure what it is about Gloucester, maybe the proximity to the River Severn? but after the 2 Penduline Tits at Horsbere last winter, another has been found, this time a single bird at Plock Court wetland reserve, a tiny pool with a few reeds on the northern side of the city. I picked the bird up in flight low in the reeds after waiting for a few minutes, it then gave good views especially in the adjacent hedgerow before returning to the reedbed. Distinctive black face mask and chestnut back, very active, and loud callnote helped in locating it. No more than 4 observers at any one time, so all very civilised as the bird fed happily (after the reported hassling from photographers earlier in the week). A few photos taken, but the light fairly poor. A quick stop at Slimbridge was excellent as usual - a Peregrine hunting the massed waders, and the Little Stint very close to the Rushy hide, as well as the usual Snipe, Water Rail and Bewick's Swans. Mild and fairly bright, so not bad for the shortest day of the year ............
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
19 Dec - I tried once more for photos of the GND in the afternoon light, this time it did not come so close but reasonable views in the afternoon as the sun was filtered out by high cloud. The bird is not particularly wary, but has the ability to move quite a distance when it dives so can be difficult to track. Also Water Rail and Kingfisher heard, and a flyover Snipe, but no sign of the Bittern.
Monday, 18 December 2017
18 Dec - A quick stop at pit 125 en route to work and lovely low winter sunlight for the Great Northern Diver which is still present - this time very close to the southern bank, but no camera and no time! Excellent scope views of the red eye and impressive bill, and amazing slinky dive to fish leaving no wash. Water Rails heard again, but no sign of a Bittern flyby in the few minutes I was there (seen here 2 days ago). Very little time for birding this w/e, but late aft in the Cotswolds resulted in a dusk sighting of 3 Short-eared Owls, impressive as always, emerging too late for the camera though. And I'm still trying to photograph the Fieldfare that is appearing in the neighbour's apple tree, but it's rather wary. I love the low winter sunlight at this time of year, the colours are amazing. But the dull days are very dull and dark !