1-27 March 2012 blog and sightings

Lesser Snow Geese over the Tack Piece, WWT Slimbridge

27 March 2012 Highlights today were the seven Lesser Snow Geese at WWT Slimbridge. This flock is highly likely to be the same party of seven that were at the trust last summer. A map made from the stable isotope results taken from feathers from that group showed they originate from an area that included Britain, N France, N Belguim, Netherlands, Germany and S Scandinavia.

Black-tailed Godwit flock over the reserve.
Can you do a quick glance guesstimate? how many? Answer below.

Siskin– always so vocal, especially in Spring. This female hung above my head and called away whilst stripping seeds from the Alder cones.

26 March 2012 At work more Black-tailed Godwits were around with 95 counted together. A new Ruff, dark breeding plumaged bird was with the ‘local’ wintering Ruff. A light Herring Gull passage up the Severn the only vismig I could see. A party of Meadow Pipits and a male Wheatear on the foreshore at WWT Slimbridge another addition.A Chiffchaff was singing in the garden tonight.

25 March 2012 Due to being at work I missed out on the three Common Cranes that flew over Whitminster, my home, could have had them on the garden list, they ended up in Oxfordshire the next day.  Mid morning Neil Smart and I saw a large falcon near Middle Point, later at the 100 Acre. It was very large, long and brown, the broad moustachial marking more like a helmet and brown ‘trousers’ all very distinctive, it seemed to show features of both Gyr and Saker Falcon. It showed heavy wear in the primaries. The day was made very interesting due to the antics of copulating and nest scraping Avocets and a passage of Little Gulls. Reacting at lunchtime to Paul Bowerman’s tweet (thanks Paul) about 17 heading up from Severn Beach I had a look from the foreshore at WWT and picked up a flock heading off the estuary toward Frampton with a few Black-headed Gulls, at least one first winter bird was present, most adults but the ever overtaking group confused my count. 17 at least but I reckon more like 23. I checked out the 100 Acre pools and an adult was flycatching with BHG’s over the hedge. Lots of insects on th ewing as they emerge in the warm weather. Back at the centre I had one last check before hosting into the SBS presentation, 5 adult Little Gulls came overhead with BHG’s and circled, all the time snapping insects.

Falcon sp Gyr x Saker?

24 March 2012 Up at 0530 and off on an Anser morning outing for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. See trip reports section for details. Despite being only 15 minutes from the two displaying Long-billed Dowitchers at Meare Heath, I spent a smashing afternoon with family and friends in Wells. I cannot complain, a pint or two in the sun was most welcome plus the pub and town was the set from the film, Hot Fuzz.

20 March 2012 Got a call from Nige Warren at In Focus to say the small canada goose had arrived with 30 or so Canada Geese on the Rushy. I was near the office and collected my bins and scope rapidly and got to the hide phoning a few folk to tip them off. I think it is a Cackling Canada Goose  minima, excellent views were had in very good light as it bathed, preened and then flew off again after 20 minutes. Previous views were over a mile away in heat haze etc and it was quite a shock to see a white half collar and short neck whilst it was in a relaxed mood. On the estuary it was in the tall saltmarsh vegetation and in the creeks so the fact it was craning it’s neck to see over and was being bullied by the others (many views were when it was pecked and had just jumped up) made it look longer necked. If you want to see it it I would suggest making an effort this weekend as the tides are higher and should move it closer to hides. Here are some images.


18-19 March 2012 A few more Black-tailed Godwits at WWT Slimbridge made the flock up to 53. My first 10 Severn Red Knot of the year and six Avocets (2 and the 4 that were present all week). A Short-eared Owl was also about. John Budd had informed me of a Canada Goose type that was small last Thursday but I never saw it. It appeared again 19th and was feeding on the spartina island. I look forward to getting some good views as it looks interesting.

16-17 March 2012  Severe earache from the tailend of the week and for the weekend, I was completely deaf in one ear, not good when so many birds in song. I would have been useless at locating birds in the Forest of Dean. On Friday I went to my parents home in Bristol to conduct some tree surgery whilst harnessed/roped up in a tall sycamore. We had to lower each section to the ground by rope.

The Tree
This tree began it’s life as a self seeded sapling next to our coal bunker in the back garden. In 1978 I snapped off part of it and sharpened it to use as a spear in what was probably a dangerous game with my mates. The tree sprouted more shoots and my Dad eventually dug it up and moved it to the end of the garden. It had a lot to do with my birding youth as it dominated the garden and was used by most of the birds that visited. I tried artificial platforms for the Collared Doves and also got my first breeding Blue Tits in a box next to it.

Some highlights were Siberian Chiffchaff, Redstart, Reed Bunting, Siskin as well as many other species over the years until I left home at 16. It had become huge and despite previous thinning out and reducing in size needed to be a third the height. It still serves as a tree house, swings and climbing ropes for their 5 grandchildren. My daughter was ‘birdwatching’ with my Dad only last week looking into the tree for possible species. It is still there, more manageable for my Dad but should still offer a home and shelter to the local birds. Saturday afternoon was spent eating Nurofen and trying to ignore the earache whilst soaking up water during the torrential downpours in the terraces at Bristol Rovers.

15 March 2012 I was delighted to see my first Wheatear of the year, as always at the usual place for me, the Dumbles at WWT Slimbridge.

11-13 March 2012 Birds seen whilst at work have not really changed, the only migrants I have noted invlove gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls. The tides have been high this week on the Severn and clear nights followed by misty or foggy mornings. This gives some hope but the only new birds have been four Avocets that were seen on 10th and appear on the Top New Piece over the high tides.

10 March 2012 A day sorting out the garden at home, I found a Blackbird nest, fresh leaves and grasses, a Goldcrest, a pair of Raven low over a few times and a Brimstone and Peacock butterflies. A warm and sunny Spring day.

2-9 March 2012 Most of the birding has ben dominated by daily departures of wildfowl and waders but lots of Spring activity on the sunny days. White-fronted Geese and Bewick’s Swans being the most closely watched of all. Lapwing and Kingfisher are displaying and spring staging/wintering Black-tailed Godwits are increasing with 38 by 8th. I have missed a few other migrants such as the beautiful Mediterranean Gulls and three Light Bellied Brent Geese, very rare for Glos.

Russian White-fronted Geese


Water Rail

1 March 2012 Up early to meet Neil Smart and ‘Jubs’ Squire for a drive to West Sussex, our aim, the wintering Paddyfield Warbler then a days birding. Neil drove us, so nice to be a passenger. We arrived at 0730 after a coffee and sandwich. A foggy start to the day delayed activity but Cetti’s Warblers, Water Rails, Curlew, Wigeon, Heronry? and Reed Buntings made it atmospheric. When the sun burnt through a fellow birder located the PadWarb in the belt of reeds that was adjacent to the sea wall. It showed on and off for the next hour until we were all satisfied with the various views and heard the call.

It was flycatching, coming out onto the barbed wire fence and edge of reeds but always mobile hence not getting any reasonable images. I really enjoyed this bird but it did take a wait and patience. Well worth it. We left and decided to head for the New Forest as  JS had not seen a Dark-eyed Junco in the UK before and there were many other birds to be seen. At midday we arrived at Hawkhill and were soon watching Siskins, Crossbills (singing), Woodlarks displaying and the junco. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed, bees buzzed and a Red Admiral was active. A great day to be on the heath.

A few snatched shots of the Paddyfield Warbler that do no justice to the splendid binocular/scope views.


Black-tailed Godwit flock answer from 27 March 2012 =120

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