March 2013 blog and sightings

31 March 2013

Wheatear, possibly the latest..first of the year for me on the Severn.

Wheatear, 30 March 2013 MJMcGill

27-28 March 2013 An overnight visit to Dorset to cut reeds at Abbotsbury Swannery on the Fleet meant a stay at Portland Bird Observatory. Despite really only having snatched moments of birding I did see a few birds. On arriving Steve Groves pointed us in the direction of a party of nine Greater Scaup (five males, four females) among the diving duck plus the three Long-tailed Ducks. I managed to pick up the hybrid Scaup x Tufted? female but not the hybrid male. Images of this bird and all recent sightings can be found on Steves Swannery Sightings Blog.


Greater Scaup, Abbotsbury


Long-tailed Ducks, Abbotsbury Swannery, 27 Mar 13 MJMcGill

Waking up at the Obs

A short seawatch from the Obs patio over breakfast produced a fine ‘conveyer belt’ of auks floating by Portland Bill before flying back west, a Fulmar, 3 Red-throated Diver plus Shag and Cormorant. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were about the garden plus a couple of Siskin. As we were about to leave Martin Cade announced they had trapped a Bluethroat, we hung on had a quick close up view before it was released after being ringed. I reminisced about seeing my first Bluethroat at Portland, he reminded me when…almost the same day….25 years ago!

White spotted Bluethroat, Portland Bird Obs MJMcGill

White-spotted Bluethroat, female, Portland Bird Obs, MJMcGill

Visit the Observatory website for more video and images of the three recent Bluethroats and more.

Back for a days work at the Swannery

MARSH HARRIER male over the Abbotsbury tanktraps.

Marsh Harrier over tank traps, Chesil Beach, Abbotsbury, MJMcGill

CHIFFCHAFF Lots were about the swannery and Fleet, many on the ground.

Chiffchaff, MJMcGill

In the afternoon I did a double glance at an incoming white bird…not Mute Swan or Little Egret but a Spoonbill that was dropping in, I radioed Steve to tip him off who located it immediately on the shore of the swannery. See Steve’s blog for images.

25 March 2013 A male and three female Brambling on my home bird table. I saw four males together last week so I now wonder how many are visiting. Very important to keep feeding, cleaning feeders and providing water on frozen mornings.

I saw at least four Chiffchaff in one spot today feeding out in the open and on the ground. Not a pretty sight, poor things appear to be starving. A party of four Little ringed Plover were busy on the Tack Piece and Dumbles scrape.

The Spoonbill and Garganey were together on the Top New Piece and the 4 Cranes, 24 White-fronts, Tundra Bean and 7 Bewick’s Swans remained at WWT Slimbridge.

24 March 2013 At home on the bird table was a female and two male Blackcap plus female Siskin on the sunflower seeds. Nice to catch up with Spoonbill at WWT Slimbridge whilst on my rounds at work, even better was when the Goshawk flew over and flushed it. It created a stream of white excrement as it took flight, actually sh1**ing itself on seeing this fearsome predator. I was intrigued to hear of Bob Evans’s studies of this bird, he had observed it leaving the water to poo on a few occasions which is something the Bittern also does. It pays to keep your fishing grounds clear of pollutuon…something humans could do with learning too.

Whilst scanning over the Severn with my trusty Swarovski scope I added another new bird for me in 2013. It was a pair of Common Scoter that hung about for a few locals to catch up with them. I was happy with what they were but to confirm they both did a wing flap with head down neck snap.

SPOONBILL feeding and roosting with ‘hair’ blasting in the wind.

Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill Spoonbill-windblown hair-do MJMcGill

At least four CHIFFCHAFF struggled to feed on this cold day.

Chiffchaff, Goose House Ground, struggling in cold, MJMcGill

21 March 2013 My first LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS of 2013 from the Holden Tower.


Barn Owl hunting on the WWT reserve and foreshore of the Severn on 19 March 2013

Barn Owl and pollard MJMcGill Barn Owl-Severn MJMcGill

PINTAIL have been stunning at WWT Slimbridge.

Pintail drake, MJMcGill 14 March 2013 Pintail head study, MJMcGill


BEWICK’S SWANS have been migrating back to breeding grounds.

Bewick's Swans migrating at WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill

Seen wildfowl migrating in v-formation but these WIGEON are feeding in v-formation!

Wigeon grazing in v formation, Holden Tower, MJMcGill


15 March 2013 I had a day off wander about the Glos to Sharpness canal and WWT reserve to establish Redshank and Lapwing activity and search for migrants as they weather had changed and the tide was high. Only one Lapwing looked on territory on the Great Narls and 12 Redshank were seen among the Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. A pair of Pintail here was notable. 10 Little Egrets were in the 100 Acre and a Bittern flew the length of the reedbeds (not flushed and viewable from towpath). Other notable birds were 2 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Water Pipits, the latter flying around calling and landing briefly near me and scopable before flying high toward WWT wetland centre. Also I thought they had all gone but no…there were 28 E White-fronted Geese, they came in from the north and headed down channel like Brents often do at this time of year. Also of note was displaying Meadow Pipit.


Lesser Redpoll, 15 March 2013, MJMcGill

14 March 2013 A very busy day at work. My mowing deck is out of action so we had a contractor in to do the job on the Top and Bottom New Piece. Basically preparing for breeding waders while we have got the levels down and it is a dry period. Whilst out there (ice and lack of birds made it easier as few birds around) I constructed some ‘Avocet or even stilt castles’. Will see what happens when they arrive back. On another note the Bittern showed very well at 4pm.


Reed Bunting male on feeder, MJMcGill

Snow storm heading for Cotswolds and Cam

Snow storm heading for Cam, 11 March 2012, MJMcGill

11 March 2013 Still one male Brambling in the garden.

5 March 2013 My first UK White Wagtail of the year dropped in next to me in the Bottom New Piece at WWT Slimbridge before skipping into the TNP, it was still moulting the black cap so was probably a 2cy bird.

2 March 2013 Day trip to Devon, see trip reports.




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