1-28 April 2012 sightings and blog

Most daily sightings are from WWT Slimbridge where I work unless stated. I do not really year list but am always interested in seeing a decent number of birds each year to keep sharp! All images mine unless stated.

28 April 2012 A shorter visit to the Severn foreshore resulted in 16 Whimbrel, c35 Ringed Plover, c75 Dunlin and a Knot.

27 April 2012 I ventured out for a visible migration watch session, to just sit and see what passes by on the foreshore and marsh between 0930-1230. Also some birds from the canal towpath, Splatt birdge and viewing platform at the WWT 100 Acre.

Whimbrel 11
Curlew 20
Grey Plover 1
Little ringed Plover 1 N
Mandarin male
Hobby 1 hunting over WWT 100 Acre, seen twice (1st of the year for me).
Kingfisher- saw the male, heard a nest swap take place
Whitethroat 2 males
Cetti’s Warbler 2 males
Willow Warbler 1
Chiffchaff 2
Blackcap 6
Sedge Warbler 8
Reed Warbler 4
Yellow Wagtail 3 N
Knot 1 N, 1N with 40 Dunlin,
Dunlin 100, 40, 1
Sanderling c10 with the Dunlin
Ringed Plover 1 with single Dunlin N
Arctic Tern 1 N
Great Skua 1 N higher above estuary, flew toward Newnham.
Osprey 1 crossed the estuary and headed NW
Wheatear 4 on foreshore, 8 in 100 Acre on the fences
Whinchat 2 males on 100 Acre fences (1st of the year for me).
Swift up to 30 over reedbed
Swallow-light passage total 120 birds
Sand Martin 10
Hosue Martin 6

At Splatt Bridge
Common Sandpiper 2 (1st of the year for me)
Siskin 2

Extra news…DBP had many Wheatears at Middle Point and TM texted with Black Tern on South Lake.

When I got home I picked up a weeny fledged Robin in the garden and moved it to a safe bush near the house…now to stay on Cat alert!

26 April 2012 Highlight was a female Red-breasted Merganser I scoped from Holden Tower-WWT,  flying in and joining two Great Crested Grebes on the estuary. It flew off upriver after ten minutes off gull hassle. Also the 2 DB Brents remained. A male Redstart and excellent selection on warbler including Whitethroat from the tower.

This Willow Warbler was singing it’s heart out despite the weather.

25 April 2012 I took time out at work to watch the tide, it looked good on the forecast and sure enough it was. I looked from 0815-1030. I saw a flock of c10 Little Gulls and c9 Arctic Tern go through N at 0820 then 6 ‘Barwits’. Many parties of Bar-tailed Godwit passed through N, 75 at least. A total of 300-400 Arctic Tern passed through with some large flocks of over 100, 80, 60. GY noted more Little Gulls, a Little Tern and 61 Arctic Terns after 1100hrs. The 2 DB Brents were still present. A Ruddy Shelduck flew S, I also saw it on the Tack Piece earlier. My first Swifts of the year passed thru…c14 in total. 6 Tufted Duck went N.

24 April 2012 A quick lunchtime search from Middle Point produced two Iceland Gulls, two Dark-bellied Brents, 2 Peregrine and Yellow Wagtail N. Pics of Brents and the two Iceland Gulls below.


20 April 2012 A day at London Wetland Centre, thanks to all who packed the theatre for Kate Humble and my Spoon-billed Sandpiper presentation. No birding save the amusement of invasive Ring-necked Parakeets. The centre was having a very birdy day though, Iceland Gull, Greenland Wheatear and Turtle Dove to name a few.

19 April 2012 I headed for the tower as a pale phase Arctic Skua had been seen by JSL, the reward was a dark phase and pale phase Arctic Skua heading N upriver, I also got a radio call from JSL and saw the Kittiwake going downriver before heading back to a partly office bound day.

18 April 2102 I welcomed back some more ‘new for 2012 migrants today. A pair of Common Scoter at 075o off Middle Point, flew up channel after being hassled on the water by a Herring Gull. These were probably seen last Saturday (14th) as a report of a pair were in the diary during high tide. Also  I heard first then saw Turnstone plus single Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot and Grey Plover. 10 Curlew, 5 Oystercatcher and 5 Ringed Plover by 0800 but it was time to go to work for the day. Coming back from fixing up barbed wire in the BNP I heard and saw a Grasshopper Warbler-another 1st of the year. At lunch I had a look on the river and saw two Whimbrel. A few migrants passed over me, Yellow Wagtails 2 and Swallows 10. Another first of the year included this Common Tern that was roosting on the shore and hanging around Middle Point until 0800 at least.


Common Scoter off WWT, they were a long way out!

17 April 2012 New for the year for me on the Severn were two Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the tide, floating and flying off Middle Point. A Swallow passage was on today, I noted c 400 with 40 Sand Martin and 30 House Martin. A male Wheatear was in the 100 Acre. Only 28 Curlew were on the estuary basin 0730-0800 but a flock of c50 were present off Middle Point at 1630, these appeared to be migrants. The Cackling Canada was on the spartina island and I saw it fly low with c30 Canada toward Frampton Pools at 0930.

Nice garden bird for Neil Smart-a Wryneck that showed for a short while on the path.

16 April 2012 A few more Reed and Willow Warblers, Sand Martins about today, a Greenshank and 2 Little-ringed Plovers. The undoubted highlight was the Curlew flock. I see a flock of 30-100 migrate from the estuary or over my home every year in early to mid April but today it was a swarm. A flock of 300-400 lifted from the sands as the tide came in and headed high into the sky. All were calling which made it even more spectacular. The majority of the flock formed up into waves and headed NNE a few returned to the estuary where 84 were still present on the sands. At least two Bar-tailed Godwit left too. About half a mile to the S another flock of 120 Curlew were resting on the sands with one Bar-tailed Godwit. One of the Curlews looked to be darvic ringed but the incoming flood pushed them off. I have been seeing c60 Curlew daily around the estuary all week and these are rather quiet, the increase are clearly migrants, perhaps from the Severn/Bristol channel catchment. The N winds have stalled migration so the change during the day to the S winds may well have opened up the opportunity to head off, hence the larger number. I was also very pleased to see the Avocets still very attentive to the S Lake nest and have added a lot of material to it.

15 April 2012 The Avocets have begun building a nest on the South Lake, male passing sticks and small stones over his shoulder to the female who throws it on the the nest. A Red Kite, 3 ringed Plover, two Redstarts, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 100 Swallows and a Grey Plover were all notable migrants and the Black-tailed Godwit flock increased to 142.

Three House Martins were back over the garden in Whitminster.

14 April 2012 A morning in the Cotswolds, see trip reports page.

13 April 2012 Mistle Thrush still singing daily near my home as well as Chiffchaffs. Spent a couple of hours with my daughter looking for the Hoopoe seen by one of the WWT gardeners flying along the foreshore and heading N.

12 April 2012 The Avocets are still looking good at WWT Slimbridge, some nest building and lots of copulating. We added a small island for Avocets to nest upon on the South Lake wader scrape.

11 April 2012 Saw the first Greenshank of the year for Glos and WWT.

9 April 2012 A wet and rainy day, much needed but difficult to do much in. My first House Martin of the year looked like it was having a bad time of it in the rain. A dark phase Arctic Skua was seen heading upriver at 0945, this would be the first of the year. Best of all the 4 Little-ringed Plovers on the Dumbles scrape, another 1st of the year for me. Six Avocets remain on the reserve and Bob Radford had a female Redstart on the summer walkway.

8 April 2012 Never ventured out much except for a look at the Common Scoter that Nick Goatman found at Townfield Lake, Frampton. Alway’s nice to see one close, this bird appears to be feeding happily and avoiding the sailing boats. They do not appear as much as they once did, the population is declining.

Common Scoter, female MJM

7 April 2012 Nice to see Great spotted Woodpecker in the garden again today.

4-5 April 2012 A few waders about the estuary, Ringed Plover, a Knot and Grey Plover. First Tree Pipit of the year  N over South Finger WWT Slimbridge.

Male Pallid Harrier WWT Slimbridge 100 Acre 3 April 2012 MJMcGill

3 April 2012 It was a cold and showery day at work (WWT Slimbridge, 100 Acre ) with a bit of a duff job to get on with. The task was to smash up and remove a large block of concrete from around an old broken metal gatepost. My broken finger from the previous Sunday evening’s cricket net session made it even grimmer. It was only the fact that I had dragged JSL out with me to suffer the same fate and a party of 10 Sand Martins that offered any spring cheer, the hirundines were heading south!

We took it turns to smash the concrete and to scan the sky when resting for Ospreys and the mooted and hoped for Alpine Swift. A heavy downpour saw us running to the tractor cab to sit it out. After it cleared and around 1610hrs a Herring Gull began yelping, it was having a go at a raptor but we could not see it. JSL mentioned that an Osprey must be on the way and we looked around frantically in the sky..the gull appeared and then low over the Bull Ground a very pale male Harrier. It flew past us and lifted over the hedge holding the pose that showed me a full and very pointed black diamond shape on the primaries. It changed it’s wing shape as it passed showing both upper and underwing and still only showed the same feature, the inner part of the diamond protruding far into the inner hand and a very pointed wingtip (hand). It was also so pale and never had a dark trailing edge to the underwing, clean white only. I was expecting the ‘dipped in ink’ hand of a Hen Harrier. The bird was an adult, no brown or worn feathers were apparent only a hint of browner or ginger barring on the undertail, I never saw the uppertail too well but JSL did.  This all happened so fast but I called out the main features and said ‘Pallid’ whilst running for the camera. We watched it cruise over the 100 Acre and drop down near the seawall, I was trying to get a shot of it and asking JSL to keep a close eye on the bird, talk me in so I could get a pic under the electric 4WD roof cover keeping the camera dry. It went over the seawall and despite pressing the button knew the pics were no good. It came back over briefly and I got a few shots as it flipped back over the bank. We waited a minute expecting it to recover from the gull attention and despite the crows being agitated, it did not appear. We drove to the seawall in the electric 4WD and scanned the area, no sign of it at all in any direction despite having a reasonable view and it spotting with rain. We had good views for just over a minute. The light was not great but was ‘on’ the bird and behind left of us so all the detail could be seen, it was not hooded, just appeared fairly uniformly pale grey, reminiscent of a Black-winged Kite.

I recounted the features to JSL and mentioned Pallid again but he was just so pleased to have seen an adult male Harrier at WWT Slimbridge he was in ‘7th heaven’. He had already sent out the news of Hen Harrier via Twitter (I think it is commendable as it is probably better to have news out and incorrect than not at all, perhaps not for some,  if  it is wrong you get shot down for wasting peoples time, cannot win..catch 22) .We packed up and headed in. Back in the office I pointed out the features in the Collin’s Bird Guide for Pallid and really wanted to get my images on a screen, I looked at them in the car and rang JSL to say the features on the pics tallied with Pallid and then went home to have a look at what they were like. After downloading and having a good look at them I thought it best to just get a pic out for all to see so whoever can make their own minds up. I had rang Neil Smart to discuss the bird. I did not want to undermine JSL over the ID as it was a 50/50 observation but I thought it a Pallid so I Tweeted a pic of it with the main features on show, although it was grainy after blowing it up, it showed the bird. Rather than me trying to convince anyone best to just put it out there. Next step for me was to have a shower and meet a couple of cricketing friends from the village for a pint. My thoughts were now with making the 2nd 11, bowling, batting, banter and beer. After an hour JSL rang I guess he had recounted the features after the dust had settled and penny had dropped and rang me to say he could not believe he did not pick up on it when watching it in the field. He was a bit stressed but there were no worries it is only a passing bird and was not like the wader breeding season has failed for the year.

The Rare Bird Alert team had rung him saying they had seen my pic and thought it Pallid, he had been busy trying to raise opinion with local birders, all that replied went for Pallid despite the pic not being perfect. All good fun. It was a shame it did not stick for more to see. Male Hen, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers are very popular birds with many birding friends and colleagues, they are smart and brighten any day, certainly did on the 3rd April. I will submit the record to the County Records Commitee for review as it would be a county first.  JSL will of course have to add some notes.  MJM



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