Friday, 21 December 2007

A Christmas Break from Blogging

As of today, I'll only have intermittent access to the internet and therefore the Blog. I'll update it as and when I can, particularly with the NHU Christmas Bird Cup details.

For a few years now the BBC Natural History Unit staff have taken part in a birdwatch between midnight Christmas Eve and Midnight New Years Day. It's just for fun and a way to work off that festive excess. This year I've been "committee'd" along with Messers Moss, Westwood (who saw 123 species last year!) and Dilger, and as a result I seem to be sponsoring this category;

The Andrew Dawes Vase for the Best Intermediate Birder - for those who have entered before but consider themselves relative novices…

So I may have a chance of winning this !! I'll update my ramblings as I can to show a daily tally of the number of birds seen as the week progresses, both in the West Country and Northumberland. Though I'm particularly looking forward to the 28th and spending a day at Lindisfarne Nature Reserve, where many happy Easters have been spent.

And so, to just wish you a Merry Christmas

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Frozen at Sand Bay and a Peregrine

Needing to de-stress myself from the madness of Christmas I thought I'd have half an hour at Sand Bay before work, doing my usual stationary watch over the Reserve, even though the tides were not good. The sea was out there somewhere apparently.

An absolutely freezing day, so cold in fact the sand had frost on it. Quite quiet bird wise, 1 Long Tail Tit, 4 Magpie, 10+ Curlew, 20+ Shelduck, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Black Backed Gull, 2 Herring Gull, 1 Chaffinch, Female Stonechat, Male Blackbird, half a dozen Starlings, 1 Collard Dove, 1 female Kestrel. Just before I left a mixed finch flock rose out of the reeds and settled on the bushes. I was pleasantly suprised to see this was a Greenfinch, Siskin, Chaffinch and Linnet Flock, with about 10 of the birds being Siskin, which whilst not unusual, their preferred food is not readily available in Sand Bay. I need to spend more time on these finches as there are Brambling in the area, but I never see them.

And that wasn't the end of the story. Having driven to Bristol and whilst sitting in the queue to cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I saw a pigeon out of the corner of my eye flying at great speed, followed closely behind by one of the Gorge's Peregrines in classic "anchor" silhouette. It may have been a very brief view, but made my day.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Dorset Back Garden, messing about

After breakfast had 15 minutes watching the antics in the garden through the scope. It just goes to show how we can easily miss things through assuming we know what's there; while watching the feeders, a female Blackcap came into view. Would I have seen it if I hadn't been watching closely? and wonder how long she's been in the garden un-noticed?. And that's my first Blackcap of the winter.

Apart from that, the usual suspects, Greenfinch, Starling, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Robin, House Sparrow, Blackbird, interesting though that the Goldfinch have abandoned the niger seed for other seed in seedheads in the garden, with a liking for Evening Primrose. Also entertained for a while watching a Rook keeping 2 Jackdaw at bay on the bird table.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Blackmoor Vale - December 15th

Christmas shopping tends to get in the way of birding, but managed to divert myself to do a short birdwatch near Templecombe, Somerset, as a report this week of 2 Bewick Swans on a flooded field. Needless to say, on a dull, miserable and bitterly cold day, no swans were located, they'd obviously gone to the pub. After half an hour my fingers stopped working and I headed back to Sherborne to spend some more;

From the lane and a flooded grassland field I'd kindly been given the Grid Ref for; 150+ Winter thrushes, 30 ish Redwing, the rest Fieldfare, 3 Wren, Female Bullfinch, Jay, Male Kestrel plucking at a meal on a post, party of 3, then a seperate party of 5 Long Tail Tit, 2 Robin, dozen or so Blackbird, 6+ Carion Crow, 2 Greenfinch, Lesser Black Backed Gull, 3 juv gulls not ID'd, Magpie, and about 100+ Lapwing put up by male Sparrowhawk which I saw three times crossing over the field, each time lifting the lapwing.

There was also a Willow Warbler type song I heard, which it could not have been being mid winter...but what was it. I'll probably never know.

I thought I'd add this photo of Goldfinches too. In the garden this morning they were all over the place feeding on seed heads. This photo was taken last week. Also in the garden today, 2 Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, 3 Jackdaw, Starling, Wren, Robin, Pied Wagtail, 2 or 3 Chaffinch, 3 Greenfinch. No Rooks today, but the weather looks sunny tomorrow, so I'll see if I can get some corvids on the blog, my favourite family of birds.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Chew Valley Lake 13th December

Today's Quiz : Spot the birdie - - Common Gull amongst Black Headed on jetty

Driving up from Dorset to Bristol this morning, I left in heavy frost, arrived in frost, and in the middle, it was frost free. Very strange. Anyway only time for a 10 minute quick scan on the way in as I passed Herriott's Pool, which was partially frozen; 50+ Black Backed Gull, 1 Common Gull, hogging the lifebouy, (see photo), 3 male, 1 female Teal, 4 Pochard, 2 Coot, 3 Lapwing, 1 Carrion Crow, female Blackbird, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, and usual Tufties, Gr Crested Grebes and Pochard across the way on the lake.

Other birds of note, a Raven flew over the car at Castle Cary, Somerset, and a Green Woodpecker flew across the car in Leigh Woods Bristol.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

December 12th - Frosty Morn

Overnight we had a very heavy frost in Dorset. On a drive over to Dorchester for Thelma's quarterly hospital check up, we passed Stock Gaylard Estate, at King Stag, home to a large Fallow Deer herd. Just time for quick photos, which don't really capture the frost or the deer, but I like them anyway. The only other piece of wildlife of note was a Brown Hare startled on the way home and ran in front of the car, near Milborne Port, Somerset.

The Deer were crossing this sunlit patch as I arrived, but had moved on by time I was ready!

To this tree....... that's them, the speckles under its branches

And finally in the other direction, the sun and a fieldgate.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

No birds today but quite a nice sunrise

I missed this rather spectacular sunrise being 40 miles further north, but Thelma took this from the house in North Dorset this morning. Such a glorious day, the frost over the Somerset Levels, plus low sun highlighting the reeds it was stunning. As ever didn't have my camera to hand to record it and now stuck at work until it's dark :-(

Monday, 10 December 2007

Daffs popping up - 10th December

I mentioned last week about the daffodils which are beginning to poke through near to Clifton Cathedral in Bristol. But it was only today I managed a photo. There you go, how exciting is that?? Mind you it's so mild, will they be in flower before Jan?

Stormy Weekend - Sunday 9th December (PM)

I'm still not entirely sure why after being buffeted and soaked on Sand Bay in the morning, I had a quick lunch and hopped 10 miles south to the Parrett Estuary off Burnham on Sea, Somerset. I think the wind pounding my head has finally had an effect. Anyway, by the time I got there, the rain had stopped, the sun was up, but the wind was increasing. At one point I nearly came a cropper walking around a corner of the seawall, to be hit by a gust. Using the telescope was entertaining but.......

From the Parrett Mouth to the Sewerage works on the Brue 13.00 to 14.25; Tide out.

Most noticable were the Redshank. I'd spotted 3 then 5, but then at one location 40-45 sheltering from the gale in the lee of a mud bank. At first I'd failed to see them with the bins, but a scope watch of the mud found them, huddled together. In all I'd guess 60 Redshank were in this half mile stretch of river. Close by them were about 10 Wigeon. Also lifted a flock of 100+ Lapwing, again sheltering from the wind in the lee of tussocky grass on the beach. I'd seen a couple but something lifted the whole flock and in the wind they cartwheeled expertly across the mud;

Other Species seen were 40 Oystercatcher on Steart Point (+ 3 on Burnham side), 3 Great Black Backed Gull, numerous Herring and Black Head gull, double figure of Carrion Crow, 3 Mallard, Cormorant, single curlew, 7 Meadow Pipit, 3 Starling, Linnet flock, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Grey Wagtail and Greenfinch.

So in total for the weekend from birdwatching hell, it turned out I'd seen 57 Species, but the redshank had the vote for me. they may be commoner than other waders, but seeing that many was a joy.

Stormy Weekend - Sunday 9th December

Today gale force winds were predicted for the South West, with 80mph winds. So what did the boy Dawes decide to do, a Sand Bay stationary watch at the usual spot for an hour, and then for some reason headed off in the afternoon to walk the mouth of the River Parrett. And well I have to say, it was a bit lively in the weather department. So much so, whilst the birding was fun, it wasn't hugely productive....... but enjoyed every minute of it.

Sand Bay - 09.30 to 10.40 - Weather; Gales, with short sharp showers

11 Magpie, 7 Woodpigeon, 3 Carrion Crow, Skylark, 200 + Shelduck, one huge flock of 150 on mud, plus another 50 or so stragglers across the bay, 10 Curlew, 5 Herring Gull, 1 Juv Common Gull giving stunning ariel displays in the wind, 3 then 10 Linnet, 1 Redshank, 1 male Stonechat bravely clinging to some driftwood to "chat", 1 Raven overhead.

Walk Sand Bay to National Trust Carpark 10.40 to 11.20 - Slightly more sheltered here in the lee of the hedge and sea wall; Species in farmland;

Wren, Dunnock, 200 Starling feeding in field, 4 male, 3 female Blackbirds, 3 Carrion Crow, 6 Magpie, 1 male Kestrel, precariously perched on a phone wire, 1 Curlew, 1 Redwing, 20+ mixed finch flock I was unable to ID.

Flooded Field adjacent to Sand Road near Kewstoke. 11.30 to 11.40 - This field had a few Curlew in last week, today was better; 31 Curlew, 7 Pied Wagtail, 15+ Meadow Pipit, Blackbird, Grey Heron and Pheasant.

Stormy Weekend - Saturday 8th December

In a moment of madness (and to again replace my scope eye piece for the second time), I spent a day at Slimbridge with mate Rob. Given the fact we had strong winds and driving rain in the morning, what promised to be a dreadful day actually ended up being a good "twitch". As the photo shows, these shelduck and lapwing are a bit damp ( I must get a digi-scope)

Birds seen in rough order, 11.00 to 16.00
Pochard, Pintail, 20+ Bewick Swan, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Black Headed Gull, Coot, Moorhen, 9 Redshank, numerous Shelduck, Rook, Jackdaw (more on these below), Curlew, Teal, Lapwing, Mallard, Canada Goose, Dunlin, Greylag Goose, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Grey Plover, Juv Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, 2 European White Fronted Goose, Woodpigeon, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Buzzard, Cetti's Warbler (heard only as ever) Shoveler, very wet and miserable male Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Fieldfare, Little Grebe, roosting Pheasant, Dunnock, Robin, Pied Wagtail, Starling (seen by Rob only but I'll pretend). By 4pm it was almost dark, but the spectacle of over 1000 Jackdaws coming into roost put us a real heartlifting end to what had become a great day.

And to cap it all, in the morning, while talking to Rob "about should we bother" on the phone, 2 Coal Tit, 7 Goldfinch, 5 or 6 House Sparrow, Blackbird and Starling in the garden.

Which makes it 45 species today - oh and a Rabbit and a Grey Squirrel, the latter having a battle of wills on the peanut feeder at Slimbridge with the Woodpecker.

Interestingly, no Grey Heron, Magpie or Long Tail Tit's, and Snipe may have been there but didn't see any either, even though the notice board said "lots"

Friday, 7 December 2007

Sand Bay 08.15 to 08.50

After a day of driving rain yesterday, this morning was fine, but with a driving gale in off the sea. Made watching birds through a scope almost impossible as I had to cling on to the telescope to stop it blowing over. However I managed to do half an hour before heading back up the M5 to work.

Birds seen; 7 Curlew, small Linnet flock, 130+ Shelduck, 2 Juv Herring Gull, 7 Carrion Crow, Lesser Black Backed Gull, 2 Raven, 1 Redshank, 2 Starling, 3 Common Gull and numerous Black Headed Gull. On drive home saw, 23 Curlew in flooded field in Sand Road, plus 3 Pied Wagtail, a Carrion Crow and a Blue Tit. Raven flew over M5, 200+ Lapwing in same flooded field as earlier in the week, Grey Heron, small Mallard flock on a temporary pool and numerous gulls playing on the wind. Did I really have to come to work?????

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Wet Daffodils

Not much to say today, other than the weather is appauling. However, each year I look out for the early daffodils poking through the grass near the Clifton Cathedral I walk past each day. Today they're poking through at last, 2 weeks earlier than last year. Usually these are in flower by mid January.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Driving up the M5

Today, following on from torrential rain overnight, the fields each side of the M5 between Weston super Mare and Clevedon were waterlogged. Thus, as is usual in these fields to the left (seaward side), bird numbers were high. In one field 500+ Lapwing, another field had 300+ gull spp, mostly Black Headed. Can't be more specific as driving took priority, but also spotted a Buzzard, a few magpie, half a dozen Mallard on one of the temporary pools, and numerous winter thrushes.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Shapwick Heath NNR 26th November

Final posting to catch up with my birding and start off the blog, record.

Trip to Shapwick on a Sunday afternoon (12 noon to 14.30) is not for the feint hearted, as all the world and his wife are there to see the Starlings, or Bill Oddie, or both. I love it actually seeing people exploring the countryside, but it is sometimes like a busy station with everyone barging into everyone else. Anyway, 2 hour trawl, just with the binoculars, in a vein attempt to see any Otters. Management liked the walk out and being released from the kitchen sink. And so, in order seen......

Kingfisher, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Wigeon, 8 Grey Heron, Black Headed Gull, Coot, Teal, Cormorant, Lapwing, Cetti's Warbler (3 or 4 heard seperately over afternoon), Wren, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, male Stonechat, female Marsh Harrier, Little Grebe, Long Tailed Tit, Canada Goose, male Goosander, Robin, Great Tit, Buzzard, Mallard, Blackbird, Shovler, Chaffinch, Water Rail (heard only), Song Thrush.

Sand Bay 28th and 30th November

28th November - 09.30 -10.45 - Stationary watch
Tide incoming for High tide at 10.10. Weather bright, if not sunny, but keen wind off sea whipping up surf.
20 Oystercatcher, Sparrowhawk over grass again, again lifting small birds, 30+ Curlew, 20+ Shelduck, numerous Black Headed Gulls, couldn't be bothered to count them, 10+ Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Mallard, 2 Snipe lifted by incoming tide, lovely views. 150+ then another 200+ Dunlin

30th November - 08.30 - 09.30 - Stationary watch
Bright day, but very strong wind in off sea, tide incoming but 500m away
36 Oystercatcher, 20+ curlew, 120+ Shelduck, 2 seperate dunlin flocks 200+ lifted from mudflats, plus seperate 300+ feeding on wet sand half mile away. Woodpigeon, Lesser black Backed Gull, 30+ Black Headed Gull, Carrion Crow, and wonderful fly past by 2 Raven.

Sand Bay and Cheddar Resevoir - 27 November

Two seperate birding sessions today, one in sunshine, and another in sunshine turning to rain.

Sand Bay - 10.00 - 11.30 - Stationary watch with scope
Tide receding, weather warm, sunny but with stiff breeze.

Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Magpie, 150+Shelduck, 40+ Curlew, 500+ Dunlin, giving fabulous displays across the sea, 10+ Grey Plover, 7 Oystercatcher, 2 Redshank, 4 poss 5 Knot with Dunlin, usual Linnet flocks flying about, 3 Pied Wagtail, Raven overhead, 1 male and 2 female Stonechat, Kestrel, perched on post, 2 Greenfinch, 2 juv Mute Swans flew in from sea and over into fields, 10+Mallard, numerous Black Headed Gulls, Common Gull, 1 Skylark out of grass. On drive home, Carrion Crow, Redwing and Fieldfare.

Cheddar Resevoir - 13.00 - 15.30 - walk around the entire resevoir in a failed attempt to view the Red Necked Grebe. I've dipped. Weather started out lovely, but by 2.30, squally rain had set in, not pleasant at all.

Magpie, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3000+ Coot, Carrion Crow, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Rook, male Stonechat, 2 Wigeon (in one of the rhynes viewed from the walkway), party of 7 Long-Tailed Tit, Tufted Duck, Pochard, lovely male Goosander flew in and gave fabulous view, male Gadwall, 50+ Jackdaws overhead, Robin, Woodpigeon

The Sand Bay Story - November 2007

My local patch during the week is Sand Bay, just north of Weston Super Mare. in the last week I've been down there a few times in the morning, just scanning the mudflats of the Nature Reserve end. Each time I set up the scope at the same point and viewed for an hour.

November 14th - 07.30 - 08.15
Sunny, strong breeze off sea, cold
70+ Curlew
7 Shelduck
1 Collard Dove
Linnet flock (8+)
200+ Starling overhead heading to Sand Point
200 + Dunlin, lifted from marsh
1 Raven, on shoreline
Blackbird, Wood Pigeon in scrub
2 Redshank
25 Oystercatchers

November 20th - 08.30 -09.30 Stationary watch
Tide right out : weather light breeze, warm and sunny, lovely morning
100+ Dunlin
30+ Curlew
usual Linnet flock
20+ shelduck
Great Black Backed Gull

Quite a quiet day, mainly as tide was so far out. however did meet a dog walker who'd lifted 50 snipe from the marsh, he'd also heard a report of the Short Eared Owl being in the Bay, but not seen so far.

November 26th - 15.35 to 16.45
Birdwatching on a mild evening - so with the curlews warbling song on the wind, why would I wish to be anywhere else as the sun set?
2 Ravens fly past, then landed on beach just 200 foot away
7 Oystercatcher
11 Curlew
Great Black Backed Gull
Black Headed Gull
5 Stonechat
Kestrel, male
20+ Dunlin
Carrion Crow
1 rabbit silhouetted against setting sun on rock, wonderfully atmospheric

The Story So Far Autumn 2007

Well I guess to begin the process, I should retrospectively list what I've seen and when. Can't go back for years, so though best to just hightlight what i've seen this Autumn, and then from here on, can log what I've seen each day I manage to escape from work and do something nice.

October 14th - Puxton Moor NR, North Somerset
Weather warm and sunny, light breeze - 15 minutes from car
1st flock of Fieldfare of year (20+), Green Woodpecker, Buzzard, Blue tit, 7 Long-Tail tit

October 31st - Back Garden, Stalbridge, Dorset
17 Goldfinches on niger seed, some on ground, some on tree, some on feeder, Coal tit, Blue tit, Wren, Robin, Pied Wagtail

November 1st - Chew Valley Lake (Heron's Green Pool), North Somerset.
09.00 - 09.15 on way into work - weather warm and sunny

20+ Lapwing, 3+ Teal, 20 + Black Headed Gull, Little Grebe, Moorhen, 11 Mallard, 2 Carrion Crow, Mute Swan (Juv), Water Rail, Snipe, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Pied Wagtail, 3 Pochard, 4 Tufted Duck, Raven, flying overhead

November 7th - Shapwick Heath NR, Somerset
14.00 -16.30 - weather bright but windy, becoming overcast and cool

various Long-Tailed tit flocks, 3 Mute Swan, 50+ Fieldfare, Various 10+ chaffinch flock, Cetti's Warbler (3 seperate heard), Hawker Spp dragonfly - id impossible at distance, Carrion Crow, overhead, 3 Graylag, Coot, Various Woodpigeon (no Stock Dove), 3 Blue tit, Robin, 5 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, Gadwall, male, 3 Moorhen, Little Grebe, Mallard, Buzzard overhead, Wren, Reed Bunting, Kestrel, female hunting over peat cuttings, 3 Pheasant, Jay, Magpie

Sizeable display of starlings 500k+, two seperate flocks, one over Catcott which came across to join another one over Mere Heath

14 Little Egrets - on way home by Peat factory

November 10th - Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire

11.00 - 13.30. Weather warm but breezy - lovely infact

(didn't count species or make too many notes as up at Slimbridge to buy a telescope, but species seen in order seen)

Moorhen, Coot, Teal, Mute Swan, Wren, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Greylag, Robin, Grey Herron, Redwing, Buzzard, Herring Gull, Gadwall, Starling, Goldfinch (flock of 20-30), Greenfinch, Shelduck, Shovler, Wigeon, black Headed Gull, Little Grebe, Pied Wagtail, Pochard, Stonechat, Lapwing, 2 Whooper Swan.

Also saw 2 Red Admiral's

November 11th - Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire
10.30-11.30 - popped back as eye piece of new scope was faulty, so only a very brief watch. weather was cool, wet after rain overnight, sunny later. Actually very quiet bird wise from the hides. Again in order of being seen;

Pintail, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Lapwing, Rook, Jackdaw, Mallard, Teal, Canada Goose, Pheasant, Wren, Wood Pigeon, buzzard.

November 13th - Greylake RSPB Reserve, Somerset Levels
08.00-08.20 - weather dull, overcast and dark
In a moment of madness, drove 30 miles in the wrong direction before driving back to Bristol for work to see Glossy Ibis which had been resident for a week. Managed to get some cracking views, but only poor photo with compact digi camera as weather was dull and overcast. Highlight though was definitely 2 very showy water rails, plus a single later, which may or may not have been one of the pair. Also Stonechat, Mute Swan and Moorhen.

Monday, 3 December 2007

New Blog

I've been thinking of a way to organise my wildlife watching. And well a blog seemed to be a sensible way. Nothing on here will be that exciting but over the years I hope to build up a small record of the wildlife I've seen in a small area of Somerset and Dorset.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Advent Already?

Can it really be the 1st December? What on earth happened to this year? Well to be honest it was like any other year in terms of actual numbers of days in it, but I guess filling my spare time with DIY at Chez Dorset, has made the Tempest Fugit beat just that bit quicker. Anyway, today has been getting my Christmas cards sorted out. I'd been faffing about with a new design in my head, but in the end used one of the paintings I sold in the summer, as Festive Fare in the card department. I guess it does have a sort of wintry feel to it. So any of you unlucky enough to receive a card from me in December, this is it, with Merry Christmas written over it.
Anyway the last few weeks have seen yours truly following his other hobby, that of bobble hatted twitcher, mainly as I blew a month salary to buy a new telescope. So had better justify using it. I tend to ignore birdwatching in the summer and take it up again in the autumn. Gives me an excellent excuse to wander about in damp places watching minute objects from a great distance. I'm not selling this hobby very well am I?
However this year, a Glossy Ibis gave stunning views from only a few feet away on the Somerset Levels, which was wonderful, but I'll not embarrass myself with posting the photo I took. It could have been anything from a sparrow to an eagle. It was taking this appalling photo that finally tipped the balance to obtain a new scope and take up digi-scoping. I have done the former, the latter awaits another day.
I have though been enjoying the goldfinches which seem to be increasingly coming to the feeders, as seen here from the new pole feeder only 3 feet from the conservatory, I erected during the week. Within 2 hours it was awash with these glorious birds, otherwise known as a charm of goldfinches.
Well it's about 9pm on Saturday night and a man about town should be out and about not blogging on his site. Tomorrow promises to be a stormy winters day, just perfect for Christmas shopping in Sherborne.