Sunday, 27 March 2011

Newport environs

 I started off this morning at Gayhurst Quarry. ( The fact that I haven't reported from here recently isn't due to a lack of visits, but down to there being little change in what's been present )
 Chiffchaffs seem to have arrived in force, with at least a dozen around the site. On Fishing Pit there are still over a hundred Wigeon present along with about 8 Teal and a pair of Gadwall. Mallards and Tufted Ducks are still quite numerous and there must be about 8 pairs of Great-crested Grebe.
 The regular pair of Oystercatchers were on Motorway Pit and an additional 3 flew over towards Linford. It was here that I spotted my first Swallow of the year - amazingly I've yet to see any Sand Martins yet !

 At Quarryhall 5 or 6 pairs of Lapwings were doing their superb display flights - just love the whistling calls they make !!, a few Skylarks were in full song and a couple of Meadow Pipits flew over. I could hear Tree Sparrows chatting away in the bushes, but only managed to spot one of them, 4 Red-legged Partridges were seen as well as a few Reed Buntings.

On the way home I decided to take a look in at the Willen Road Gravel Pits. This site looks superb for waders and it was no surprise to see 3 Little Ringed Plovers here chasing each other around, also 4 Lapwings and 4 Teal and a flyover Buzzard.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Half Child, Half Pigeon.

This sight fairly amused me as I walked through the badly vandalised Newport Pagnell Churchyard today.


 Sunday was our latest Bedford RSPB trip. This time to Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve in South Lincolnshire.
 On arrival, a quick nip into the North carpark, had us watching a group of 6 or 7 seven Crossbills that were feeding on the cones in the Pine trees. At least one stunning bright red male was seen before they all took off and out of sight.
 After parking up by the visitor centre, we took a walk down to the observatory, where there wasn't actually much to be seen other than a few Brent Geese, Shelduck and a young Common Seal that seemed to be stranded along one of the narrow creeks.
 Back at the visitor centre, we paused to look at the feeding station where a Great spotted Woodpecker and a Brambling stood out amongst the normal fare. From this vantage point we looked out over the grassland, where several Meadow Pipits, a male Stonechat and a flock of 18 Corn Buntings were seen.
 It was then up to Jacksons Marsh, where from the hide a good variety of ducks were on show, with Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted and Sheld. Also waders in the form of Curlew, Redshank, Avocet and Lapwing. The surrounding fields held a few Stock Doves and Pheasants, a lone Brent Goose and a good number of Hares.
 Tennyson Sands was fairly similar, with the addition of some Pintail, a female Goldeneye and a few Snipe.
  Next it was down to the beach, where the tide was well out, exposing the large sandbanks just offshore.
These temporary islands were covered in at least 40 Common seals, the majority of which were youngsters, with just a few mothers keeping an eye on them. A few Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls were also seen on these vast sand masses, while several Common Gulls and a drake Eider flew along the channel between them and the shore. On the shoreline itself were a single Grey Plover, 3 Ringed Plovers a few Redshank, Curlew and a Dunlin. There was also the freshly dead young Seal on the sand that the Gulls had started feasting upon. It's surprising how big these things are when you get up close.

 After a brief visit to the cafe we  set off towards home, but as a very high tide was forecast at 6 o'clock we called in at Frampton Marsh RSPB, to see what waders might have moved up onto the reserve.
 It wasn't quite the the spectacle we had hoped for, but around 50 Black-tailed Godwits, a dozen Ruff and 300 ish Knot were good to see. A Black Swan was a surprise here and a hunting and then perched Barn Owl was  a real treat on the walk back.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Av it !

Made a quick detour to Willen Lake last night, as Martin Kincaid had found an Avocet on the spit. I didn't have long so just did a scan from the Sewage Farm car-park. Paul arrived at the same time and we found our bird quite easily, happily feeding near the roots of the fallen down tree.
 A scan of the distant spit found a small wader crouched down low. I ID it as a Ringed Plover, but Rob Hill saw it later and said it was a Little Ringed. Think I'll have to have another look. My excuse it was a long way off and my scope isn't what it could be - what about you Paul ?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


Hettie the Calverton Hare was being extremely tolerant today ( I've called her Hettie, presuming she's female, as surely all the males will be off chasing females at this time of year.If you click on the picture you will see there is some fur missing on the top of her head, so it looks like she has been involved in some sort of 'boxing'/mating ritual so possibly pregnant. )
  Originally she sat and watched me working from a distance of about 5 yards, but then after realising I meant her no harm, she just ambled around totally ignoring me and at one point even walked towards me, getting to within about 10 feet. She's obviously no mug though as this is the third year of visiting the garden.                                                              

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Best Bird Table in Oxfordshire ?

 Paul and I had planned a twitch today. Hopefully to see the Arctic Redpoll near the Bedford Town Football Ground. Unfortunately this decided to disappear on Thursday, so we decided on a change of plan.
 The Rufous Turtle Dove that has been present on and off in a garden in Chipping Norton was still around, so we decided this was a good alternative as obviously neither of us had ever seen one before.
 Setting off from Milton Keynes at 6:30 our journey was pretty uneventful other than a brief stop to admire a herd of seven Roe Deer that were browsing in a roadside field.
 We arrived at the house whose garden had been playing host to the Dove at around 7:30 and were allowed into the kitchen of Steve, where amazingly there were another twenty odd birders already gathered, peering expectantly through the patio doors waiting for the bird to arrive.
 Steve's feeding station was brilliant. It was packed with birds, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, around half a dozen Bullfinches that actually sat on the feeders and a minimum of 6 smart Bramblings almost in full summer plumage. There was a Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blue and Great Tits, Jackdaws, Woodpigeons, Blackbirds and Starlings, but as yet no Dove not even the Collared variety.
 Well an hour and a half  passed and we were starting to think our bird was not going to turn up today, when someone whispered 'There ! up in the tree !, It's here'. I couldn't see, but some well organised moving around by Steve got us to the front and fair but not brilliant views were obtained of the dainty Dove preening next to it's 2 Woodpigeon buddies. While watching, a Sparrowhawk passed close behind the tree the birds were in and back again a couple of minutes later, but this time escorted away from the area by a small group of Crows, luckily our bird was unperturbed.
After a while the Dove decided to come down to visit the bird table and we all had amazingly close views of the fantastic garden visitor for a couple of minutes before it departed.
The feeding station, still had another surprise for us. While watching the Dove a male Blackcap pecked at one of the suspended fatballs. Could you ask for more ?
 Thanks have to be said to Steve and his family for allowing us into their home, as they have been doing for the past month and have now raised over 2,500 pounds for Bird Life Malta from donations which will go towards helping preserve the European Turtle Dove.
 A very enjoyable morning, despite the long wait, but how many times have you ever birded from a hide with underfloor heating !

Rufous Turtle Dove (Photo courtesy of Geoff Dawes whom we met there)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Grafham Water

I fancied doing something slightly different today, so I opted for the relatively short trip up to Grafham Water in Cambs.
 I took a route across rural Bedfordshire, bypassing Thurleigh Airfield. Here several Corn Buntings sang from roadside bushes, a large flock of Golden Plover stood on the  fields and Lapwings and Skylarks indulged in their display flights.
 Once at Grafham, I parked in Perry village and took a clock-wise walk around the reservoir.
Near to the Fishing Lodge a sole redhead Goosander stood on the pontoon, Great-crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks and several Goldeneye were seen offshore.
 In valley Creek a couple of Shelduck, lots of Teal, a single Wigeon and several Greylag gathered.
I made my way through the woods towards Dudney Creek and encountered a small flock of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches in one of the cleared areas. Also a close encounter with a Stoat that walked up the path towards me but running off before I could get the camera out.
 In Dudney Creek a small flock of Tufted Duck contained 4 male Scaup, an adult and 3 first winters, also another pair of Shelduck and 6 Redshanks. A flock of mixed Tits contained at least one Goldcrest.
 I carried on my walk deciding I would go as far as Savages Creek ( If I had realised it was that far I might have had second thoughts). Birds seen on the way were 3 Buzzards, a Little Egret and several Skylarks.
Eventually arriving at the hide, my efforts were not rewarded as there was very little to be seen, just around 20 Goldeneye, a Little Grebe and 3 Common Gull. There was certainly no sign of  a Red-necked Grebe that had been seen here recently (it typically came up on Cambirds as being present later in the day)
 The long walk back to the car was brightened up by a very low flying Red Kite that seemed to follow me part of the way back - perhaps I was flagging more than I realised.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The Battle of Reedy Pit

I started off this morning with a look around Caldecotte Lake, mainly with the thought of seeing Keith's Brambling that has been visiting his impressive feeding station near the small bridge at the top end of South Lake.
 I didn't see it but the crowd of visitors there included Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit, Reed Buntings, Robin, Blackbird and of course Keith who told me he'd had a flock of 40 Waxwings in the car park and the Brambling earlier.
 Best bits for me around  the site were a dozen Siskins, a female Goosander and a pair of Buzzard that came over low.

 At lunchtime I popped down to Gayhurst Quarry.
On Motorway Pit there were 2 Oystercatchers, a pair of Goosander, an influx of Pochard, and about 30 Teal although the Wigeon flock had diminished considerably.
 Spinney Pit held good numbers of Tufted Duck and Gadwall, also a Little Egret and singles of Great-crested and Little Grebe.
 Reedy Pit was where all the action was though, and I do mean action!
Two pairs of Mute Swans were having a real battle over ownership of this desirable nesting site. The two females locked together as well as the two males.
 The female set-to was impressive, but was over in about ten minutes, with the victor rushing back to encourage her man in the real battle.
 Now this really was a battle, with lots of wing-flapping, pushing and shoving, biting, pecking, necks enwrapped  and just sheer power. No-one seemed to be getting the upper-hand and there seemed no end in sight. In fact I when I left about an hour later they were still at it.

Motorway Pit was largely uneventful with just a small flock of Lapwings on 'Tern Island'

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Ferret or Polecat ?

Found this interesting 'roadkill' between Gayhurst and Tyringham. I think it looks more like a Ferret than a Polecat, but it was certainly big for a Ferret. Maybe a Hybrid between the two ?
 Interestingly this was only half a mile from where I found a similar animal about a year ago.