Monday, 28 February 2011

Hurcott Woods, Worcestershire....27/02/2011

Bird species seen Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Great Spotted Woodpecker, flocks of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Siskin around the pools, Redwing, Buzzard x3, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Coot and Canada Goose. Wild Honeysuckle in leaf, Bluebell shoots emerging also shoots of Cuckoo Pint Arum Maculatum.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Splish, splash, splosh!....26/02/2011

The rain had finally ceased so off I went to Bunkers Hill Wood to walk along the bridleway which is alongside part of the wood and ends at Roman Way, where the Waxwings had been sighted several times over the winter. I checked the Pine and Holly trees for Goldcrests, not a sausage, I mean a Goldcrest to be seen. The walk was muddy underfoot so care had to be taken, the trouble is you can miss a bird whilst looking down, never mind safety first! Plenty of Blue Tits seen and heard on the whole walk this morning and a few Great Tits occasionally seen. I hadn't walked far when the clouds came over, the wind picked up and the rain came down!! Joy of joys!!! A Yellowhammer flew on to the top of a hedgerow while I was sheltering under a tree, a lovely bright male looking as fed up as I was with the!! Chaffinch and 3 Hen Pheasants in a field were the only other birds seen while I sheltered from the wind and rain. The small wood gave a little shelter from the gale..well gusty wind...and a Nuthatch was seen briefly. I lurked in the wood for quite a while but the only other species seen was a Grey Squirrel which seemingly followed me around the wood though no doubt there was more than one Squirrel. In the hedgerows along the path at Roman Way were Blackbird, Starling, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, one each of Goldfinch and Greenfinch and a small flock of House Sparrows. I was particularly pleased with the House Sparrows sighting and watched them for a while as they perched in the hedgerow, delightful little birds that are sadly in great decline. On the return walk I sighted a Buzzard soaring probably the one that I had heard mewing earlier, Green Woodpecker was also heard several times but not seen today.

Overall an enjoyable couple of hours, just a pity the sun didn't shine as it did on Thursday. At least it proves that I am not just a 'fair weather'!!

My companion in the woods!


A Yellowhammer waiting for the sun to shine!

I wouldn't have been surprised to see a few Ducks in this pool of water!

Friday, 25 February 2011

A walk in the long awaited sunshine....24/02/2011

A gloriously sunny and mild morning was too nice to waste being indoors! So an early morning start....well 8.30am is fairly early....and I was off to Brake Lane for a peaceful walk and fresh air! I enjoy this walk as there is normally a few people about who are either walking dogs, horse riding, jogging, cycling or just enjoying a walk. I do not feel isolated when on my own here which makes the walk more enjoyable.

As I got out of my car to get kitted up with wellies etc Blue Tits which are normally in this area were calling and a Song Thrush was in full song in one of the large gardens. As I walked down the lane I heard a Skylark, I looked up and it was flying over, so my first sighting of the year as on the 12th February I could hear but not see the Skylark. The 'egg field' had been freshly ploughed and looked much neater than when strewn with! Rooks, Crows and Magpies where seen in surrounding fields.
Along the lane I saw Chaffinch, Blackbird and Long-tailed Tits. The bridleway was shall we say quite a quagmire, I walked carefully as I would have looked a sorry sight if I had! It will be good when walking on drier ground in the coming months, well hopefully it will be drier. As I squelched my way to the top of the bridleway I stopped periodically to look for Goldcrests but none today, however a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming the whole time as I walked up the hill. Once at the top of the hill I spotted 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers! One was at the very top of a tree and two were in a tree not far from it. I presume the single GSW was the one that had been drumming as the drumming had ceased, the two GSW's flew away after a short while and then the drumming could be heard again as I continued my walk. Blue & Great Tits were frequently encountered and Pied Wagtails were in the paddock along with 8 muddy looking ponies. I lingered several times in the hope of seeing Treecreeper and Nuthatch but none seen today.
As I arrived at the lake/pond a Mute Swan was looking very threatening towards the Canada Geese as it walked towards them with neck curved back and wings half raised, apparently this stance is known as 'busking', a threat display. I had seen and heard a flock of Canada Geese go over a few times on my walk, I presume they had been ushered off by the Swan several times. A Heron was enjoying the sun as it perched on a bank, Mallards, Coots, Moorhens and Gulls were on the water. Plenty of Corvids and Gulls in the fields that are on either side of the road beyond the railway bridge but not a Fieldfare or Redwing to be seen today. A Robin sang beautifully in a tree that was on the edge of a garden by the lake, the Robin looked and sounded a treat in the sunshine and with a rare blue sky as a backdrop I thought I would record the Robin as a lovely reminder of such a lovely Spring like day, the result however was not as lovely as I was hoping!!
A Sparrowhawk flew over the fields as I started on the walk back to my car and 2 Buzzards gave a great display of soaring! I could watch Buzzards all day, they seem so laid back when soaring giving a sense of freedom and at the same time power...flying high... magic!
After almost three hours walking and lingering it was time to head home as I was desperate for a .......................cuppa and a biccie! An enjoyable walk in sunshine in the main, it clouded over somewhat late morning!

Musical tones from a Robin..which were rudely!

Common Buzzard Buteo Buteo

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A goose and er...Kingfisher day!....20/02/2011

A short stop off at the Lickey Hills before heading to Bittell Reservoirs was fruitless! Plenty of families were out for walks on what was a misty, grey and cold day, good to see people taking in the air but no good for birdwatching. Maybe a week day visit would be more productive being quieter. Blue and Great Tits aplenty, a Raven perched in a tree was a nice sight to see and hear as it noisily took flight, Siskins were heard only! The coffee was good at the visitor centre so all was not lost.

The walk down the public footpath towards the reservoirs at Bittell was to be the highlight of the day. A Kingfisher flew along the first duck pond and landed in a Holly tree! It was motionless for a few minutes and then dived several times for fish, they were wonderful views of such a special bird! Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and Mute Swan where also on this pond.

The second pond was devoid of birds that is until reaching the end of the pond. A pair of Goosander where on the water looking stunning on the still water! A great photo opportunity of such a serene scene I thought but just as I was about to take a photo the Canada Geese that were in the field behind the pond let out such a racket then off went the Goosanders to the reservoir!! I noticed that one of the Canada Geese had a pretty neck, I think they should all look like this, it adds a bit of!!

The reservoir was busy with boats on the water and fisherman on and at the side of the water. The Goosanders seen earlier had joined several more at the far side of the water, Great Crested Grebe x10 and plenty of Gulls were on the water! No Slaty-backed Gull.....well as far as I could tell!!
Blue & Great Tits, Robin, Blackbird, Songthrush x2, Jay, Sparrowhawk, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Magpie and a great sight of 3 Buzzards soaring where the other species seen on this dull, damp and cold day! The Kingfisher and Goosander pair certainly brightened the day!

Friday, 18 February 2011

A Moth who came in from the cold....18/02/2011

I found my first Moth of 2011 in my kitchen this morning! It has been ID'd as being a Bright-line Brown-eye! I wonder if it is as bright this evening though as it is an early flyer, normally flying May-July, July- September! I now feel guilty having set it free in my garden this morning! A new Moth species for me and a delight to see close up.

Moors Pool, Upton Warren....18/02/2011

A quick visit late afternoon to the Moors and goodness me it was cold and it felt even colder looking at the birds on the water! Coot, Moorhen, G C Grebe, Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Gadwall, Curlew (1), Mute Swan, Canada Geese and an Oystercatcher on the water with the Oystercatcher being my first of the year. Smart looking Reed Buntings were seen on the feeders. A short and pleasing visit.

Wassell Grove Fisheries....17/02/2011

On my walk around the Fisheries Blue Tits where to be seen in every tree and shrub...well not quite every one but it did seem like it! Blackbird, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Nuthatch, Robin, Songthrush, Magpie, Carrion Crow and a Raven were other species seen and a Green Woodpecker heard only. Two Buzzards were mewing and soaring overhead probably like me enjoying the occasional glimpse of sunshine. The highlight today were the c150 flock of Redwings and Fieldfares which were feeding in the paddocks and perching in the trees, they took flight several times! I wonder if they are now grouping ready for their return to their breeding grounds? It was lovely to see such a good sized flock in flight! The Hazel trees looked a treat bedecked with catkins (male flower). Spring is starting to spring at last!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Egg mystery solved!....12/02/2011

An early morning return to Brake Lane this morning and I am pleased to report that the 'Egg' mystery is solved. Since my visit on Tuesday the field has been completely covered in eggs...boiled eggs...though the contents had been eaten by the Gulls and Corvids. I have never seen (or perhaps noticed) the spreading of eggs over a stubble field before. I would imagine that the calcium carbonate in the eggshell is good for the soil, yes soil not!! I found a couple of useful tips on the Internet re: Eggshells.

Crush and add to the Worm Composter: Real good for worm composting.

Eggshell Uses In the Garden
Composters like to add crushed eggshells to the compost to add calcium to the mix. Other ways to enrich your garden include sprinkling the crushed shells like a light layer of mulch over the garden beds, or putting a handful in the holes when you plant seedlings. This last method is particularly effective for plants which suffer from blossom end rot, a condition which causes tomatoes and other veggies to develop black patches on one end. Blossom end rot is caused by insufficient calcium or poor absorption, so a ready supply at root level is a good preventive.

Photo's of the 'infamous' egg strewn stubble field.

A Skylark was heard but no matter how hard I looked not seen, it must have been very high up in the blue sky! Lovely to hear once again. Highlights today were 2 Buzzards soaring and mewing and shortly afterwards joined by a 3rd Buzzard. Great spotted Woodpeckers, 3 individual males, were a delight to watch. Two of the GSW's were each pecking at an area on tree branches after insects and the third GSW was on the trunk of a Birch tree peeling the thin papery plates of the trunk in search of insects. A paddock held 11 Pied Wagtails and a Green Woodpecker. Chaffinch and Long-tailed Tits were in fewer numbers today than on my last couple of visits, no doubt now dispersing to their chosen breeding territories. A Song Thrush was in full voice but not visible in the Pine tree plantation and a couple of Goldcrests and a small flock of Siskins were a delight to see today. Rooks aplenty in the fields and a Raven was heard 'gronking' as it perched high in a tree, then it took flight, not good views of it but great to know they are in the area. Nuthatch x 3 were also seen, it has just come to me that 3 is a popular number today! The créme de la créme today was undoubtedly the Redpoll sp feeding in the Alders, my first of the year and a joy to see. Crocus, Cyclamen and Snowdrops in bloom and a couple of Ladybirds were sighted on the walk, so a bit of colour finally arriving and Insects awakening.

I was out for just under 4 hours walking and lingering on a wonderful sunny Saturday morning! With today's nonstop cold rain I am beginning to wonder if I dreamt yesterdays warm(ish) sunny!!

Friday, 11 February 2011


Nothing much to report today other than a pair of Coal Tits in my garden this morning and a Song Thrush in full voice nearby my house.

I just like today's date!!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Early Easter Eggs?....8/02/2011

A gloriously sunny day seemed a shame to waste so off I went in the afternoon for a walk down Brake Lane, Hagley. The usual Blue Tits were seen as I parked up. On my way down the lane I could see that two fields away there was a large flock of Gulls rising up and then settling down again a couple of times. On reaching the field I could see there were also about a dozen Carrion Crows feeding alongside the B H GUlls. They took flight again and as I scanned them with my bins for any sign of a Slaty-backed Gull (no luck) I noticed a Gull drop some food. The food looked very white, surely this wasn't bread they were eating in the field. The same happened again as another Gull later dropped a similiar looking item of food. I scanned the field to see if I could see what they were eating but with the furrows/ridges being horizontal to me it was impossible to get a clear view besides the Gulls were on the far side of the field from where I was standing. Scanning the field just ahead of me I found what appears to be a hard boiled egg!!! Now nobody surely had chucked it over into the field from the path so I can only assume that this is what the Gulls were eating and the one I spotted had been dropped by a Gull in flight, it did tie in with the food that I saw being dropped by a Gull. It was too white to be bread. Surprising what you can see on a walk. I will ask somebody from the farm if I see anyone around on one of my walks if they were indeed eating hard boiled eggs! I wonder if they were strewn on the field to deter slugs and snails.....there would need to be plenty of eggshells to do that job properly given the size of the!!
As I reached the end of the lane a large flock of Chaffinch alighted from the field and fled into the trees and hedgerow, a flock of Siskin and Long-tailed Tits were also in this area. I had hoped to see Redpoll but again no luck today. I started the walk up the bridleway scanning the pine trees as I walked looking for Goldcrests but unlucky today. A flock of LTT's were busy finding insects on the pines and conifers in a large garden alongside the bridleway. Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming in this garden last year so hopefully I will be hearing it again soon. Walking across the top path of the bridleway I spotted several Pied Wagtails feverishly searching for insects close by the ponies in the field alongside the path. I was hoping for Treecreeper and Nuthatch today but alas it wasn't to be. The Lake held several pairs of Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan and Canada Geese. The fields beyond the railway bridge were buzzing with B H Gulls and Corvids in one field and the field opposite held oodles of Fieldfares, Redwings and Starlings. On the return walk the sun was behind me making viewing much better, the sun is so low in the afternoon, roll on summer when it is hot and high in the sky! A Wren was seen flitting about on the path and the hedgerows and I was really chuffed to sight two pairs of Mistle Thrush, with each pair in seperate paddocks seemingly staking out territory, such lovely birds. I was almost at the end of my walk when I heard the soft piping of a Bullfinch! It didn't take long to locate the very dapper looking male Bullfinch, the first one I have seen or heard on this walk! I shall make this walk a regular one as I am sure it will have a lot to offer over the coming months and hopefully a Wheatear or two in the not too distant future. I aim to do this walk again early Saturday morning, that is if the weather is favourable and I wake up early!!

An Eggciting find!

The path alongside the wood is what I call the 'top' of the bridleway.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Resident Waterbirds at WWT Slimbridge....27/01/2011

It was good to see the Eiders and Goosanders at close quarters. The Eiders appear to be breeding well here, I remember on my last visit to Slimbridge that there were good numbers of juveniles.

WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire....27/01/2011

Slimbridge is a delight to visit as there are always some pretty Ducks to see and of course at this time of year the Bewick's Swans! Swan Lake was surprisingly quiet of birds, with just a handful of Pintails and Bewick's Swans on the water along with Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Pochard, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and numbers of Shelduck. New walkways have been erected since my last visit that seem to criss cross over the pools opposite the Big Pen pools. A lot of gates to open on close on the way through, almost like a! The various Ducks in the pools were a pleasure to see and it seemed strange to see a Golden Eye being hand fed by the side of a pool by one of the staff. White-fronted Geese, Bewick's Swan's, a single Barnacle Goose, CanadaGeese, Greylag Geese, Lapwings and Dunlin where seen from the Zeiss and Kingfisher hides. Other species seen today were B H Gull, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue & Great Tit, Blackbird, Jackdaw and Rook. Only a short visit today as Glastonbury awaited.

The long weekend in Somerset was brill. I would like to revisit the reserves of Ham Wall, Shapwick Heath and Greylake sometime in the future and in warmer weather. A pity it was so raw cold as Shapwick Heath in particular would have been good to have stayed at longer but the openness of the reserve made the cold air feel even!. I have read that the Starlings have relocated their roost to Shapwick Heath so anyone thinking of visiting would be advised to ring the 'The recorded message Starling Hotline on 07866 554142' for up to date information on the roost. Glastonbury is a delightful little town with quaint shops and nearly every other shop selling Gothic books, jewellery clothes etc, quite mind boggling! A visit to Clark's Village is a must too, I got myself a nice pair of trainers for the warmer!!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

RSPB Greylake....29/01/2011

A friend who had given me information on RSPB Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath had told me about RSPB Greylake saying that there is a good all weather hide there if the need for some shelter was needed. After yesterdays raw temperatures it certainly was needed. It was an easy walk along the boardwalk to the hide with good views of the many ditches and scrapes. Once in the hide it was good to be out of the cold of which it was again today. As with RSPB Ham Wall, Greylake used to be arable farmland and is now managed for wetland birds and other wildlife. The frozen flooded field in front of the hide held numerous Teal, Mallard and Wigeon and a few Shoveler. I spotted a Peregrine that was stood motionless on a grassy bank on the far side of the iced water, it was soon to be joined by three Carrion Crows that tried to mob the Peregrine but the Peregrine was having none of it and stood it's ground, turning at times towards the Crows as if to say "come on then".lol! Good scope views were had of the activity. A second Peregrine was soon spotted a few yards away. A local gentleman told me he thought they may well be last years young and were sticking together. A Common Buzzard later flew in and the Crows decided to mob the Buzzard. I was hoping to see a Water Rail today but no luck. Three Common Snipe flew over the water and dropped down into the reeds, nice to see. Other bird species seen at Greylake were Jackdaw, Rook, Starling, Magpie and a Pied Wagtail and Robin seen on the carpark, I left some seed on the fence posts and ground for the two latter birds. I have added a photo of the sightings board at Greylake for January, an impressive species list and good to see the information is updated, a well watched reserve.! How I would love to have seen a Spotted Crake and Merlin amongst a few other species, one day maybe. A great reserve with easy access and a warm..well in comparism to a viewing point...hide!!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Somerset Starling spectacle! .... 27-30th January 2011

On the way to Somerset a visit to Slimbridge for a couple of hours was made, more on that visit in the next post. The Starling roost at RSPB Ham Wall was the main reason for the visit to Somerset and also the Great White Egrets and hopefully a Great Grey Shrike at Shapwick Heath a National England Nature Reserve, though I was not optimistic with sighting the Shrike. A B&B had been booked in Glastonbury for the long weekend and very nice it was too with an added bonus of Starlings.....thousands of them in fact that flew over Glastonbury town on their way to and from the roost at Ham Wall. The weather over the weekend was breezy and cold, in fact bitterly cold!! Wrapped up in as many layers as was comfy a visit to Ham Wall was the first stop, actually the small car park is between Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath, very handy as long as there are spaces on the car park. It didn't take long to walk to the 3 viewing points and a treat was in store, 6 Great White Egrets in the reedbeds! They were very obliging and gave great views as they flew along the reedbeds settling for awhile and then taking off again! There were also 11 Little Egrets on view at one point. Later in the morning a walk was started along the path in Shapwick Heath but in all honestly it was so bitterly cold that after what seemed an age to get anywhere need the hides we gave up, the distance I believe from start to finish along the path at Shapwick Heath is approximately 3 miles! 6 miles all told in such cold conditions did not!! Instead a drive around to the site where the G G Shrike had taken up residence was a better option but after a long linger and long looks it was clear that an even longer wait would be needed and I wasn't that desperate to see a G G Shrike though it would have been good to see it.....the Starlings were the main event in my mind!
Around 3.30pm people started arriving at Ham Wall to see the roost. RSPB staff were also at the viewing area and one of them gave an interesting talk about Ham Wall how it had been turned from arable land to the wetlands that it is now, starting in 2003 if my memory serves me correctly. Every reed had been singly planted by volunteers, no mean feat! With such species as Bitterns, Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers, Hobby and Otters amongst many other species that can be seen at the the reserve it is a testament to their hard work over the years. It must be a great feeling to have been part of such dedicated and hard work and see it come to fruition! We were informed that over the Winter there has been approximately one and a quarter to three million Starlings coming to roost! With an average of 30 Starlings to a reed stem the heat they generate can raise the temperature up 5 degrees, no wonder they flock together!

The Starlings began to arrive, the vast flocks looking like huge clouds in the distance! What a sight...I cannot say sound as they roosted in reed beds that were distant from where we were viewing from. An almost continuous stream of Starlings flew across the tops of the reeds not far from where we stood, it looked like a fast flowing river, an amazing sight! A couple of G W Egrets were none too happy and alighted from the reeds from time to time! Everywhere you looked there were huge flocks arriving and in the main they were dropping down almost straight away into the reedbeds though a few flocks did make some amazing shapes which drew gasps from everyone! The cold air was beginning to take hold after standing for so long in the open but goodness me it was worth the goosebumps on top of goosebumps to see such a spectacular roost!

On Sunday morning I waited outside the B &B to see the Starlings go overhead as they dispersed to their chosen feeding sites for the day. In the early evenings they flew over the town to roost in huge almost circular flocks, yet I had noticed that in the mornings they dispersed in a long line, a line that looked endless. One huge flock flew low and I heard the incredible rushing sounds of their wings, this made me gasp and also gave me goosebumps!!!

I had added 13 ticks to my year list over the few days in Somerset, no G G Shrike but who needs one when there was something much more special to see which was the Starling roost and I also brought home with me a memory of them that will last with me for some time to come.

The photo's I have added do not do justice to the spectacle but nice to keep along with my memories. I took a couple of short videos and if I can get my head around Youtube I will hopefully add them to the post at some point.

My first attempts at videoing with my camera! Good fun!