Sunday, 20 November 2011

Birdwatching across 2 weekends

I'm enjoying this. Having slightly, and I emphasise slightly, less on at work at the moment I have time now to go out watching wildlife, though I have to confess to having planned to post last Saturday's birdwatching all week, but completely failed to do so. But better late than never I suppose.

So two brief postings. First an afternoon spent last Saturday walking from East Grafton up onto Wexcombe Down in Wiltshire and back again. The glory of Julie's house being in the middle of nowhere is that the car isn't needed to head off into unspoilt countryside. This part of the Wiltshire / Hampshire / West Berkshire border lands is unspoilt and pretty much unknown, certainly in birding terms very few people venture here, so it is like having my own back garden. So after a lovely relaxing lunch at the Cross Keys in Great Bedwyn, Julie settled down to watch the racing at Cheltenham and I headed off into the hills. Don't get too excited by the photos to follow, you'll see what I mean soon.

First encounter was an obliging pale buzzard on a fence post (honestly there is one there, in the middle)

And the fields around here are covered in mushrooms this year, I think that's because they've been spreading mushroom compost recently.

This is a shooting area so always lots of pheasants and partridge

As well as brown hare.... okay the photos are getting silly, so I've added arrows to them to help spot what I'd seen. This was actually about a quarter of a mile away.

And as everyone knows this November is mild, so here's two hovers on an umbellifer, not sure of the species of hovers.

And this is how far I'd walked up onto the Downs, arrow denotes the hamlet of East Grafton.

But by the time I'd returned I'd seen;

Blue tit 10+, Red kite 1, Buzzard 3, Pheasant numerous, Linnet 20+, Raven 1 + 2 (1 heard), Wood pigeon 100+, Blackbird 6, Red Legged Partridge 3, brown hare 2, Chaffinch 200+, Wren 1, Great Tit 2, Fieldfare 150+ more flying in as dusk gathered, long tailed tit 5+, Skylark 20+, Carrion Crow 20+, Robin 1, Kestrel 1, Greenfinch 1, Golden plover 35-40 overhead, Jay 1 and finally 2 Greater Black Backed Gull overhead which is very unusual for this area.

So all in all a very good 2 hours on the chalk downs. Mind you when I got home, Molly wasn't impressed with the brown hare, she'd seen one anyway (one of my wire sculptures in case you are wondering).

Let us now cast ourselves forward 8 days. It is Sunday November 20th. Still mild and at 8am I found myself at RSPB Greylake in the misty gloom. Julie has put herself forward to be a BTO Wetland Birds Surveyor and was meeting a more experienced surveyor to get herself familiar with what to do. I was going along for the ride (well actually as we had to leave the house at 7am, I was chauffeur and breakfast maker, Julie is not by any means a morning person). So the two of them went off and I, with 3 hours to spare, pootled off on my own to see what was happening.

I've been coming to Greylake ever since it was bought by the RSPB and it's good to see it develop. This is the first time I've been around some of the new walks around the back of the reed beds, which was a good place to put up snipe.

I then ventured into the hide and joined 2 other chaps, who were amused by the strange fauna in the restricted area of the reserve, namely Julie (on right) and her BTO mentor. It was good they were wandering about the restricted area, as they put up a lot of waders for us to see. You can't beat a nice bit of disturbance to get a good birdcount.

But we were soon distracted by another exciting view, a great white egret emerged as if by magic right in front of the hide. No need for arrows with this photo or the one below.

But I definitely need 2 arrows for this next photo taken hand held through my scope... I know, I know, you are astonished at the technical accomplishment. Oh and incase you're wondering, it is 2 peregrines in a dead tree half a mile away. Maybe enlarge the photo for, just for fun and a better look.

And now you know, the enlarged view is just as bad! I But at least these shovler are recognisable.

Bad though these photos are the tally was good, and so as in all good competitions, in ascending order......

.... willow tit 1, great white egret 1, pied wagtail, 1, grey heron 1, male kestrel 1, sub adult male sparrowhawk 1, buzzard 1, cormorant 2, little egret 2, wren, 2, cetti's warbler 2, water rail 2, snipe 3, linnet 3, peregrine 3, chaffinch 10+, shovler 10+, mute swan 15+, golden plover 19 flying over (apparently there were about 500 in the restricted areas), carrion crow 20+, starling 50+, mallard 50+, wigeon and teal combined 1500 +, lapwing flying overhead 2000+

That last lapwing flock was astonishing. I'd seen drifting flocks of 20, 30 but we were back at the car and about to leave when this huge flock circled overhead. Despite the great white egret being scarce, I still love to see so many lapwings.

Ohh yes by the way sorry about not being able to leave comments, I keep being logged out when I post, think its because I'm on Explorer 9 or something, if anyone has any suggestions how to rectify this, let me know (and the blog formatting is double spacing too and doesn't seem to want to change)


  1. junk IE and use chrome!

    nice shots of the GWE.

  2. Very envious about two very good birdwatching weekends. Nice pictures even though the birds are playing "Wheres Wally!" Great to see that Egret, I have only ever seen one once and that was very distant!

  3. Oh, how beautiful. Even if you weren't looking for birds, it is just so incredible. The England of children's stories or Miss Read. I'm happy it is still there and really loved your pictures. And yes, I am impressed by those arrows!

  4. Love the pictures. I especially love the one of Molly looking out the window.