Sunday, 28 March 2021

Glossy Ibis and LRP

9 Mar - A late evening visit to Twitcher's Gate as a Glossy Ibis had been discovered roosting on the scrape amongst the throngs of dabbling duck. My second record in CWP following the flock of a dozen or so that paid a brief visit several years ago and in fact flew over my garden! The first new rarity of the latest lockdown. On 7th, my earliest ever Little Ringed Plover, a passage bird arrived on the flood at Eysey.

Barn Owl.........

I made several evening visits in the first half of March to Shorncote, principally seeking views of one of the local Barn Owls. Late winter seems to be the best season to see these charismatic birds in daylight, and a bird has been appearing regularly up to an hour before sunset - on a couple of occasions giving excellent views in late afternoon/ evening sunlight. With patience, the Owl could be watched from the footpath, the setting sun being behind you, so giving excellent light. Twice I saw the bird catch a vole and carry into nearby trees to eat it, flying close to me on occasion. Always a special and exciting bird to watch in silent floating flight, and amazing when it looks straight at me. Reasonable photographic opportunities although a bit of a lottery as to exactly where it would appear. Also of note, a Peregrine has recently been perching on a local church tower, though surprisingly well camouflaged against the weathered and lichen-covered stone. Remains of prey were found during a recent inspection of the chancel roof at the church. I first saw it on 4 Mar, and again a week or two later.

February continued........

The second half of February continued in the same vein, lockdown meaning that birding was basically restricted to CWP area. From , mild weather returned and brought and end to the several weeks of freezing conditions and taste of proper, old-fashioned winter. CWP highlights included regular wintering Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers, especially in Clevaland Lakes area. Red Kites also seen regularly, and several flyby Sparrowhawks noted. Early signs of spring being around the corner were drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and singing Mistle Thrushes. Blakehill can be rather bleak in dull and/or windy weather, but the wintering pair of Stonechats could be relied on around the rough field area. Duck at Eysey and Clevaland Lakes included Pintail and Shoveler, and the stream at Shorncote was fairly reliable for Grey Wagtail. Up to 30 Snipe were roosting on the islands at Eysey. Throughout, Fieldfare and Redwing were seen in varying numbers but were very nomadic, having exhausted the local berry crop weeks before. Brambling numbers in Cirencester Park diminished steadily through February, and I last saw them on 23 Feb when 10-15 remained, the males by this time resplendent in developing summer plumage, black caps and napes and broad orange shoulders. Southwest winds and mild temperatures presumably encouraged the birds to start their spring movement NE.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

February freeze-up

The first half of February was notable for some very cold weather, a mini Beast from the East, here in the west we avoided significant snowfall but had persistent frost. The ornothological highlight was a very terrotorial Fieldfare that took up residence on the lawn and guarded the apple pieces that I put out - they are very striking birds close-up, a mix of chestnut and grey. The bird allowed close photos through the double-glazed glass from 9-13th. Long-tailed Tits also visited the feeders daily during the wintry weather, up to 8 birds being typically hyperactive. A Ruff was seen on the Thames floods near Kempsford on 1st, with the Goldies and Lapwings, and Water Rails were skidding on the ice in the open at Shorncote. A frozen, sunny sunrise here on 10th produced 2 hunting Barn Owls at dawn, and the Marsh Harrier early morning, maybe from its roost? A Smew search during the cold snap was sadly unsuccessful, but Goosander were seen in small numbers in both east and west CWP. Throughout, the Bramblings continued to both entertain, and occasionally frustrate at the Park. I became very familiar with their quiet nasal call notes as I tried to pick them out amongst the larger number of other finches.

January blues (and other colours)

The pattern of the month was of regular local birding. The Bramblings in Ciren Park were regular, in varying numbers, and also regularly elusive...... they like to perch up from time to time on rare sunny days, when the males looked stunning, but always very wary. Shorncote was quite flooded, and from mid-month cold weather led to icing up of the ditches and shallow flooded areas, which pushed birds such as Water Rail and Snipe into the open. On the 9th I flushed the amazing total of 86 Snipe from the wet fields, in groups of up to 20. Golden Plover were regular with the large Lapwing flocks around the Thames floods. 3 Dunlin were at Kempsford on 17th, and 2 Green Sandpipers flew over Shorncote on 18th. Several cold evenings at Blakehill produced a couple of distant Barn Owl sightings, and a flyover Peregrine there on 19th. A drake Mandarin provided a splash of exotic colour in the Abbey Grounds, Cirencester, on 23rd. A sunny afternoon at Cleveland Lakes on 25th gave nice views of Peregrine perched and in flight, and a couple of cruising Marsh Harriers, with calling Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails as backup.

Cirencester Park

4 Jan - Hearing news of a finch flock on a wild bird/ game crop in Ciren Park, I headed for the area and was greeted by a cloud of birds flying around and feeding in the crop and on the adjacent track, in between perching up in the adjacent beech trees and smaller bushes. A mix of species - good numbers of Linnets and Goldfinches,smaller numbers of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers, and, most exciting, Chaffinches mixed in with good numbers of Bramblings, I estimated 40-50 in total, including some fairly smart males. The flock as a whole was fairly wary and flighty, with the Bramblings as usual having the habit of hiding within the vegetation rather than perching in the open. Still, they afforded some good albeit fairly distant views, one of my favourite birds, I think the combination of orange/brown patterning, smart but understated (the males especially being stunning when going into breeding plumage), combined with their relative scarcity and nomadic occurrence, and the added romance of being a northern/Scandinavian breeder. The first of what would become a series of visits in search of both views and photographic opportunities........

Neartic visitor revisited

3 Jan - A visit to Pit 127 in the Water Park secured more views of the first-winter drake Ring-necked Duck, looking smarter as the winter progresses, dusky flanks and 2 obvious white lines on the bill. Kingfisher also seen on the River Churn in Cirencester, for the first time in a while.