Monday, 16 May 2011

T.A.B.C.G. Wales Trip. 01/05/2011

Our first destination as always was Goldcliff, Gwent, where shortly after parking the cars we heard a singing Lesser Whitethroat followed by another rattling from the bushes next to the car park, it didn’t take long to see them as both flew from thickets with one showing briefly before disappearing in to the undergrowth. A Willow Warbler then commenced singing followed by a Chiffchaff from the same tree it has called from on each of our yearly visits, I'd still love to know if it’s the same bird or whether it’s just the best tree to sing from. Just before we set off in to the site a Wheatear appeared briefly. We made our way towards the viewing screens bypassing the first two and making our way to the third screen in the hope that the Spoonbill that had been present for the last few days would be still around. Unfortunately it wasn’t but the lagoons/pools held a good number of other species with the best being at least 14 Avocet and a flock of 40+ Black-tailed Godwits which just as we were searching through for Barwits were flushed by a incoming Peregrine. The Blackwits circled round and landed even further away from us and it wasn’t till i had got home that i noticed one of them was ringed, because of the distance I'm having a few problems noting the exact colours from the photograph. The birds left leg from top to bottom looks like Blue over Yellow and the birds right leg from top to bottom is Red Flag over Yellow over ????? A bit more dectective work is definately needed when i get time.

A Raven also put in a appearance as it drifted over the pools at low level.

Ringed Black-tailed Godwit.

Before we headed off to RSPB Newport Wetlands we drove a short distance and stopped at Saltmarsh Lane which was a site we had never visited before. I had prompted the visit on the day and was rather hoping that it would pay off, it didn’t disappointed and as we walked along the footpath we were serenaded by Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Sedge Warbler. Above a number of Swallows and House Martins were flying overhead and it wasn’t long before we saw our first Swifts. Continuing south west along the footpath we reached a marshy lagoon where we stopped to see what could be seen, Whimbrel, 2 Greenshank and a female Ruff or Reeve as it’s better known were present although elusive amongst the vegetation. We continued along the path and towards the sea where we stopped to view the shore line, on previous visits the sea had often been at low tide meaning that many of the waders were distant spots on the horizon but this time the tide was much higher which gave us a much better view of what was present although still some way off. The first bird i noticed was a male Grey Plover in breeding plumage which looked absolutely fantastic in his breeding attire, soon after followed a few Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and a single Knot.

Grey Plover.

By this point we had walked west and all the way along the sea footpath and reached the RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve, from here a few Reed Warblers could be heard along with Sedge Warbler and the odd Common Whitethroat. A Southern Marsh Orchid was a pleasant find. We made our way back along the footpath towards Saltmarsh Lane hearing Cetti’s Warbler and spotting a pair of Whinchat before getting back in the cars and heading off to RSPB Newport Wetlands.

Southern Marsh Orchid.

At Newport Wetlands we were greeted by singing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat as we made our way to the visitor centre, here we decided to warm up with a cup of coffee before venturing out in to the reserve. A familiar face soon appeared in the form of Mathew Meehan and we were soon chatting away, we got talking about the Oriental Turtle Dove at Chipping Norton and Mathew told me he had made the journey on the first day of the mega twitch and had seen me pass by No 41 The Leys as he waited on the doorstep, he had recognised me by my ever present pair of VANS that are attached to my feet most of the time, we both looked down and of course i was wearing them.

Once we’d warmed up and finished our beverages it was time to head out in to the reserve, It was a bit windy and not particularly good weather for one of a target species which was Bearded Tit or Titw Barfog in Welsh, we had seen them quite regularly on our previous trips here but today it didn’t look too promising. Sedge and Reed Warbler were present along with Common Whitethroat but there was no sign of any Bearded Tit, more unusual was the fact that we hadn’t heard a Cuckoo yet and having now visited 2 sites where we had seen them in the past it didn’t bode well. On the way out of the reserve a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away from the hedgerow next to the visitor centre.

No Titw Barfog This Time. 

Our next stop saw us heading to our usual Dipper site, where after parking up we walked the short distance to see what we could find. Amazingly a Dipper was in full view on a rock on the river bed and is certainly the quickest i can recall us finding one. The Dipper remained in view for a couple of minutes bobbing up and down giving everybody good views, after awhile it flew off low across the river and out of sight. Whilst we looked for Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper it was clear to see the water levels were incredibly low and many of the rocks that adorn the river bed were visible. Whilst the group continued viewing the river from a high vantage point i made my way down to the rivers edge in the hope of finding something else, due to our hectic daily schedule we don’t always get a lot of time here so i decided to spend 10 minutes viewing from the river instead of my usual viewing spot.

I sat down and scanned across the river with my scope finding very little until i heard a Dipper calling as it flew past, it landed on some rocks just 30ft away giving me great views, in fact my best views to date of this fantastic species. I sat very still and began to take a few photos of it as it remained stood on the rocks, unfortunately i couldn’t see the image on the camera screen due to the sun and the first few shots didn’t do the bird any justice, by the time i had made a few adjustments the Dipper had flown off but returned again some minutes later. This time it started searching for aquatic insects and each time it returned to the waters surface it had collected a good amount of food, again it sat in view for a few minutes before departing. I soon cottoned on that it probably had young and was busy feeding them so not wanting to disturb it I grabbed my belongings and walked back to meet the group, watching as the Dipper whizzed past me and further down the river. After spotting Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail we embarked on our journey to the Elan Valley.


Nearly 2 hours later we arrived at the Elan Valley visitor centre where we parked up and had a spot to eat, there were a few blue skies which at times became shrouded with cloud but generally it was quite pleasant weather. Much like our previous stops again the water levels seemed very low. We then started our ascent towards Cnwch Wood finding Redstart and Wood Warbler singing at the bottom of the footpath followed further along the path by Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and then Pied Flycatcher, a distant Nuthatch called and small groups of both Siskin and Lesser Redpoll passed over back and forth.

Pied Flycatcher.

A pair of Ravens flew through the valley “Kronking” as they went and further along the path one of the resident Tawny Owls had a chick in one of the viewable nest boxes. Whilst we were viewing the nest box a Tree Pipit called from further up the path but despite searching it couldn’t be located. Finally our first Cuckoo was heard but sadly not seen as it called across the valley. By this point we were almost at the top and while a number of the group decided to turn round and take a slow walk back down the hill the remainder of us continued to the top in the hope that we might locate something special.

Pied Flycatcher.

The habitat around the Elan Valley is ideal for Ring Ouzel but surprisingly we never manage to find any on our travels, well up until now that is. As we looked across the hills and woodland from the footpath a Redstart appeared on a fence post, agonisingly it dropped out of sight almost instantly and whilst we waited for it to appear again we scanned the surrounding hills and thickets. The Redstart didn’t show but instead one of the group spotted a Ring Ouzel foraging on the hillside, although slightly distant we got good views as it hopped around the outcrops and it was certainly a welcome sighting which rounded off our visit to the Elan Valley.

We left Elan Valley visitor centre and made our way up in to the hills before we headed home stopping at a small reserve on the side of a lake. A quick walk through the woods to a dam brought with it a few singing Blackcap and a solitary singing Willow Warbler and a distant calling Cuckoo.

Our last stop found us high up in the hills with great views of a number of Meadow Pipits perched on fence posts as we drove to our final destination. Sadly it was very quiet with few birds to be seen, a single male Wheatear showed briefly as did a rather tatty House Sparrow that didn’t seem to have any tail feathers and looked rather out of place.

All in all a very enjoyable day.

Monday, 2 May 2011

BBOWT Warburg Nature Reserve - Bix, Oxon. 28/03/2011

A brief afternoon visit to BBOWT Warburg Nature Reserve brought the following sightings-

1x Chiffchaff
Marsh, Blue, Great, Coal & Long-tailed Tit
2x Great Spotted Woodpecker
2x Red Kite
2x Buzzard
2x Red-legged Partridge
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Carrion crow


Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) - Chipping Norton.

Along with hundreds of other birders, twitchers & ornithologists I made my way to Chipping Norton in the hope of seeing the Oriental Turtle Dove that had been found in Steve Akers garden at “The Leys”. With this mega rarity being some 3,000 miles off course it was obviously going to attract at lot of interest but I was surprised to see some 500+ people at The Leys when I arrived. The Dove had been and gone from it’s normal early morning feeding station and the queue outside No 41 stretched up the road, deciding that I would have little chance in seeing the bird if queued I decided to scan the surrounding areas in the hope that I might find it lurking somewhere. The local residents were extremely interested and friendly with many offering visiting birders their gardens to look from, after meeting up with a friend I took the opportunity to join him in a garden that we had almost to ourselves. Unfortunately the Dove couldn’t be relocated and I spent most of the day searching, viewing and wandering around without any luck as did the majority of birders that stayed the day. The only highlights being 3 Bullfinch at The Leys and a single Peregrine perched on a tower by Bliss Mill.

My next visit was much of the same, the Dove had been and gone in to hiding again and wasn’t seen throughout the day. Finally on my 3rd attempt, just as I arrived and was walking towards No 41 I watched as the OTD flew overhead from the garden and west towards the Ash trees behind the houses on the west side of the street. I quickened my pace which turned from hasty walk to jog and then run towards the bottom of The Leys where I finally found the a number of birders watching the OTD perched in the Ash trees preening. Even with few leaves on the trees the Dove was difficult to pick out amongst the branches and the backdrop of a cold grey sky but there it remained for 20 minutes with half-a-dozen observers watching it.

So after 3 attempts I finally got to see it, not great views by any means but I was still extremely pleased to have caught up with it in the end.

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) Marlow 30/01/11

My next Waxwing encounter was to be in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, with a mobile flock that was often seen around Globe Park Industrial Estate and some of the surrounding residential areas.

With no sign at any of the residential areas i continued on to Globe Park, driving south down “Parkway” i soon began to hear the familiar trilling calls and spotted a small group of Waxwings in tall trees adjacent to “The Chase”, as i stopped they departed! I continued along Parkway checking bushes, trees amongst the industrial estate but without any luck, there was still a number of berry laden bushes and after checking each one that was visible i soon met a group of people viewing one intently. I stopped, parked up and wandered over to them, unfortunately they hadn’t seen the Waxwings and were watching a few Redwings feeding on a berry bush so i headed off on foot for a look about.

I decided to walk north along the pavement/footpath alongside “parkway” scanning every bush and tree as i went, the constant drone of traffic from the A404 made it impossible to hear anything at distance but finally as i approached the footbridge which crosses the A404 i spotted and heard a flock of Waxwings overhead. They crossed the A404 and landed in trees on the west side of the dual carriageway and almost at bridge height where they perched. 

I crossed the bridge and found them in a tree next to the footpath and lake that leads to Westhorpe House. They were at the top of a tree and at the same height as i was standing on the A404 footbridge, here they spent 5 or so minutes preening. There seemed to be a lot of mutual preening and interaction between a number of birds, signs of early courtship or family groups? small numbers then began dropping down to feed on Rosehip and Hawthorn berries in and around bramble thickets at the bottom of the trees next to the bridge. It was great watching them, almost perfect blue skies and magical views of these stunning birds. Unfortunately this didn’t last long as 4 youngsters suddenly turned up on quad bikes and scramble bikes and literally tore the place up flushing everything everywhere, these little so & so’s continued to rev the n*ts off their bikes and the Waxwings took flight to the top of the trees where they grouped together before departing. Again i was thwarted by some little scrote-bags on motorbikes.

 I watched them fly back over the A404 eastwards towards the Industrial estate and “Forth Avenue” area where they perched up, numbers increased with what looked to be smaller parties of 3’s and 4’s arriving from different directions until they numbered somewhere in the 40-50’s, perhaps more, it was difficult to count exactly as some where obscured by branches. I watched them from Parkway feeding in the roadside hedges where again i witnessed some very friendly behaviour between a few of the birds, again there was a lot of mutual preening and at one point 3 birds lined up together on a branch and preened each other, one got less of a preen and flew to another bird which in turn preened it. Their feeding seemed a bit more relaxed than others i have seen perhaps a reflection of the slightly warmer weather and not the snow covered towns and villages that greeted them earlier in the year. There were also a number of birds feeding others at an almost leisurely pace, not the usual frenetic pluck the berry and down in one but a simple pick and pass which i had never witnessed before.

As the afternoon ebbed away there was one last chance of a few photos as the birds posed in the afternoon sun before departing east over the A404 and towards the popular trees on the A4155 opposite the Wyevale garden centre.