A chance to get away for a short break and escape the hot temperatures in Gloucestershire was welcome. A stay in a Shepherds Hut on a quiet farm near Ulgham was a good choice. Right out side the door wwas a gap in the hedge with feeders, at least 40 Tree Sparrow visited each morning and appeared to roost in the hawthorns. A Willow Tit called in and coveys of Grey Partridges were a daily sight be it gritting on the driveway and road mornings and evenings, a female brought four young to graze on the lawn early on our last morning. Roe Deer were regular with a few other commoner bird sightings including Common Whitethroat.
It’s a long drive from Gloucestershire but worth it for the coast and birding, I stopped at Redcar Beach on the way up, my family were visiting a nearby NT house (Ormesby) so I got to enjoy some beach birding with a male Greater Sandplover being the main attraction, what a great bird. We stopped in Barnard Castle before making it to Northumberland.
First morning out began at Widdrington Lake then to Newbiggin by the Sea, onto Druridge Bay and Cresswell Pond, Warkworth Castle, Boulmer, Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle. Day two Holy Island, Budle Bay, Stag Rocks, Bamburgh, Seahouses, Beadnell and Low Newton. The last day was extended when the car broke down on the A1, we spent the night in Newcastle whilst it was repaired and was back on the road on 1 September.
Highlights included the following
It was great to see a few seabirds, Manx Shearwaters, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Arctic Terns etc. The beaches held Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Golden and Grey Plover, Curlew and Whimbrel.
Red-necked Grebe- adult at Widdrington Lake. Arctic Skuas- off Newbiggin, Boulmer, Low Newton and Dunstanburgh. Long-tailed Skua off Dunstanburgh. Avocet- Cresswell Pond. Dotterel- a juvenile with the Golden Plovers at Boulmer. Roseate Terns- watched fishing adult birds with the other terns of Stag Rocks/Budle Bay mouth. Greenish Warbler- a calling and sometimes showy bird on Holy Island. Merlin- one on Holy Island. Ruff- one on a pool near Seahouses.
A trip to Shetland was mooted and kept in the background from late summer, decided to wait and see where we are at closer to the time but book a week off, follow the weather and birds. By the last few days of September the forecasts were showing occasional SE airflow toward Shetland and a few decent birds had already been logged. An extremely busy run up to this leave with a week of long working days at work preceded this trip, it was all a last minute blur but all was booked and in place in the 48hrs prior to travel.
I travelled up with my mate Rich Hearn, we were both a bit frazzled so decided to just get to Aberdeen and not worry about birds on the way up, this allowed a bit of a lay-in to recuperate. We made the ferry and settled down for the 12hr crossing, a few beers in the bar and to our ‘sleeping pods’ to get what sleep we could. A poor nights rest followed but breakfast and coffee perked us up, the thought of migrant birds helped to give us shot in the arm.
2 October Picking up the hire car we were soon on our way from Lerwick to Unst to try our luck with the Lanceolated Warbler that was seen the previous day, negative news came in but we continued to Unst regardless. We birded Yell checking a few gardens and woody patches including for Barred Warbler. Highlights were Spotted Flycatcher at Mid Yell and two Chiffchaff at Cullivoe.
Out first stop was at the small plantation on the housing estate at Baltasound, a couple of Olive-backed Pipits played hide and seek in the windy conditions but some decent views were attained, our first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn also showed up. We checked the Doctor’s Garden with Woodpigeon being the only birds present. We also visited Norwick, Valyie and Haroldswick before returning in the dark to Lerwick on the late ferries. Highlights- Olive-backed Pipits, 100+ Brambling, Twite, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Rock Dove, Black Guillemots. There had been Bluethroat, Common Rosefinch, Little Bunting and Citrine Wagtail on the island but I for one decided that I’d spent enough time standing and waiting for Bluethroat at WWT Slimbridge this year so I wasn’t going to wait for this one, we had a quick look for the Haroldswick Little Bunting at dusk but it was a little late in the day.
3 October First port of call was to try our luck ‘down south’ for the Eastern Yellow Wagtail, a Jack Snipe and common passerines was our reward, next was high tide at Pool of Virkie for the Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Little Stint then Grutness were we caught up with one of the Shore Larks. We birded Levenwick then called in on the Bonelli’s Warbler species at Easter Quarff, (it was later heard and identified as Western). On to West Burra with Bramblings and an elusive pipit species- (Olive-backed or Tree) then East Burra where we had Pied Flycatcher, Siskins, juvenile Red-backed Shrike, seven Blackbirds and a few other passerines, a stop at Scalloway gave us another Yellow-browed Warbler to end up the day.
4 October Headed out West to where the mobile signal was dead but had a great morning and early afternoon carefully scanning gardens. The day started with a check of Wadbister Voe and Girlsta for the Red-breasted Flycatcher when news broke of another Western Bonelli’s Warbler so we joined the search for an hour, a Yellow-browed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler showed but not the WBW. West Burrafirth was a worthwhile stop, we turned up 4 Yellow-browed Warblers, Water Rail and 3 Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff, Blackcap as well as an elusive Sylvia species. A Redstart was noted en route. A brief stop to see the juvenile Woodchat Shrike was made at Aith nr Aith Voe with a shopping/Red-eyed Vireo stop at Brae, the purchases in COOP were more successful although Pied Flycacther, Blackcaps and Siskins were noted here.
5 October Birded Lunna, Mainland in warm sunshine and calm condtions with Yellow-browed Warbler being the highlight. Went on to Yell and Unst, birded Uyeasound, female Otter with two young in tow at the harbour, lots of passerines checked with a few Bramblings about the village and a Whinchat, two GardenWarbler and two Blackcap were seen in the roses. Also checked Muness and Easting and Westing beach. At Eastings-20 Great Northern Divers in all stages of moult were of note as were a couple of Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers. Four Wheatear were at Muness Castle. We briefly stopped on th eway back to take a look at the Ring-necked Duck on Sand Water, Yell.
6 October We stayed fairly local on Mainland with our first port of call being Kergord, we checked the upper plantation and tree belts, a Rustic Bunting had appeared again whilst we were there, careful behaviour led to great views and it was good to hear the call again. The almost full breeding plumage White-billed Diver at Brettabister was hard to locate when it was diving but eventually it stopped to preen and loaf giving good views. We called in again for the 3cy King Eider at Girlsta and located it in the Wadbister Voe with the Eider flock. All previous visits at we passed were something of a joke for us now, sunrise directly in the eyes or we left it to dusk when they had gone to roost. A final look around at Veensgarth gave us another Whinchat. We made it back to the ferry to settle in for the return crossing but had an hour or so on deck to look for seabirds.
7 October A wet day dawned in Aberdeen as we left the ferry, heading up the coast to RSPB Loch of Strathbeg gave us Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs shoulder to shoulder just a minute after getting out of the car, a Greenshank also accompanied them. Pink-footed Geese, Whooper Swans at least 7 Ruff, 25 Dunlin, 50 Golden Plover and a female Red-crested Pochard were also scoped. We also stopped at Rattray Head, the Ythan Estuary to go through Pink-footed Goose flocks, Cruden Bay and then Blackdog, Montrose and Lunan Bay. Seeing 70+ Velvet Scoter with the Common Scoters was as ever, a treat. More auks, Red-throated Divers and Gannets were logged before finding a place to stay in Dalkeith for the night.
8 October After breakfast we went straight to Musselburgh, a drake Surf Scoter was with the Common Scoters with more Velvets, Red-throated Divers, auks, Goosander and Red-breasted Mergansers, we had a good soaking and had scanned the shore for a long time so decided to head back home from here to round off a good week with some brilliant birds and enjoyable birding.
Took a day’s holiday for a bit of a rest and enjoy some of this September sunshine, great to hear news of the Lesser Yellowlegs on the South Lake (top spotting by Scott P, only the second reserve record and probably 4th for Gloucestershire), hopefully it’ll stay around until I’m next back at work. The scrapes look really good at WWT Slimbridge so it should give it and other waders plenty of feeding and roosting options.
I went for a short walk locally to the Glos to Shaprness Canal, I logged my first 7 Lesser Redpoll of the autumn passage period, 4 Stonechats on the fences and hedges added to the autumnal birding. At least 5 Chiffchaff, 3 calling Cetti’s Warbler and 2 Kingfishers were of note with a single juvenile Greenshank and juvenile Ruff also logged.
Back at home I was really pleased to see a Hummingbird Hawk Moth visiting the potted flowers on the patio for a prolonged period.
Everything aligned! My booked annual leave actually coincided with great insect weather, I set off to meet up with my family in Dorset handily finding myself with a hire car and time to allow for search for a couple of target butterflies. I stopped off at Shipton Bellinger on the Wilts/Hants border and walked the mature rambling hedgerows, a few other folks were also out looking which included a familiar face or two.
Parties of Chaffinch and Bullfinch were in these old hedges and mature trees with Great spotted and Green Woodpecker to boot.
Plenty of butterflies were on the wing, it didn’t take too long to find a Brown Hairstreak resting on the Blackthorn scrub but I only had a couple of minutes with it before it flew off. I didn’t find it or another in the next ten minutes or so but a friendly couple came over to say they had been watching one for 15 minutes or so, I could see they were on to something but didn’t want to invade their space.
The chap kindly walked back with me to where he had been watching it, sure enough it was still feeding on the bramble flowers, good to have a close look at this smart butterfly in great light. I took a few pictures but spent more time having a good look through my ‘bins’.
I enjoyed pottering about this place for an hour or two but was feeling pretty thirsty in the heat so headed back to the car for a drink. I had plenty of time and wanted to try my luck for Lulworth Skipper so plumped for one of the hotspots, next stop was Durslton Country Park. Once again some thorough searching soon revealed the busy little skippers in the meadows along the clifftop. I’ve been to this area a number of times before, it won’t be too long before I visit again.
I headed back inland to meet up with the family but stopped off a heath along the way and waited and hour for dusk, four churring males, wing clapping, calling females and a few close flypasts in fairly good light made it worthwhile. All in all a good day out in very good weather.
The next day I managed a bit of time in the New Forest but it was a bit too hot for birding, a few Tree and Meadow Pipit, Stoenchats and calling Dartford Warblers were noted, best of all were mating Keeled Skimmers. It was too hot so I scarpered for the shade of my sister-in-law’s garden and met up with the rest of the family again.
Sipping cold bottles of lager we managed to add a brilliant Hobby which was after hirundines and a Peregrine chasing Starlings to the breakfast list of Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.
Annual leave at the tail end of the year and a clear week with no commitments paved the way to hook up with Jubs in Kinross, we had hastily put together a plan to head up to the Orkney Islands to have a look about and have a go at seeing the first winter male Steller’s Eider that had been around for a month or so.
Up and about for 4am and on the road by 5am made sure I reached the Northumberland coast for my first birding stop at Cheswick Sands. I wanted to have a look for the Black Scoter that had returned to this area. The first birds after leaving the car were two Snow Buntings that flew about over the dunes.
A good vantage point from the dunes allowed me to scan the numerous birds on the sea, it was pretty rough out there but scopework revealed many Red-throated Divers, a couple of Great Northern Diver, a Long-tailed Duck, Eiders, 700+ Common and 7 Velvet Scoter plus Slavonian Grebes, Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and a Great Crested Grebe. What appeared to be a scallop dredging boat came into the bay and drove the scoter flocks away so I didn’t have a chance to find the Black Scoter. I had a really good couple hours at this site, scanning a winter sea was exactly why I wanted to be here.
My next stop was at Fisherrow, near Edinburgh but it was getting dark as I arrived, Velvet Scoters, Eiders and a high tide wader roost were the highlights. An unwelome traffic obstructed drive across to the Forth bridge and then on to Milnathort where I met up with Jubs. We had a brew, a meal and decided to book a hostel room in Inverness to break up the journey. We set off so that we would arrive late evening allowing us to rest up from midnight and get going again at 0500am.
Our ferry was booked for 0845am, we arrived in Thurso with time to get some early morning bakes and tea from a supermarket before boarding the ferry in the car. With a daylight we stayed out on deck to scan the sea. Black Guillemots, Gannets and numerous Fulmars were logged as well as the Old Many of Hoy (sandstone rock stack). Conditions were not too good, very overcast and raining but we did appreciate the sunrise this far North.
Soon after docking we set off to explore Mainland Orkney with numerous stops on the East side of Scapa Flow especially scanning from the Churchill Barriers. It was great to see so many Red and Great Northern Divers, Razorbill and Guillemots, Black Guillemots, Slavonian Grebes, Eiders, Shags, Red-breasted Mergansers and especially the magnificent Long-tailed Ducks. One freshwater pool held a 1w male Greater Scaup along with Tufted Ducks and dabblers. A few Stonechats were also seen. Small flocks of Greylag Geese were regularly encountered.
We finished up at Scapa Pier prior to a short internal flight to Papa Westray (Papay) which turned out to be a rather scenic sunset flight. On arrival we were surprised to be met by one of the residents who ran the hostel, she kindly picked up our bags to drop off at the hostel and drove us the short distance to St Boniface Kirk where we had 30 minutes until darkness to have a stab at seeing the Steller’s.
We couldn’t locate it as the sun set but had good views of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls plus a few Eiders before giving up until the next day. A walk back to the hostel followed, our bags were waiting for us in the room and we had the whole hostel to ourselves. A couple of the islanders we re-stocking the adjacent community shop but they were expecting us and had already kindly arranged to open it so we could purchase provisions.
We settled in to watch a film, cook a meal and relax with a couple of beers. A comfortable night in the excellent hostel and next morning a good breakfast set us up for a full day on the island, we set off up the coast stopping at the the antiquities along the way. We turned up plenty of birds including Glaucous Gull, numerous Great Northern Divers and Purple Sandpipers. The Steller’s Eider gave itself up at around 2pm as it fed in the surf but took flight and flew close in past my sheltered vantage point. We followed it on a hunch thinking it must have joined the Wigeon flock on the sea. We relocated it settled on a small loch in the company of Tufted Ducks, we had good views of this rare Arctic visitor and whilst we were watching it a Hen Harrier dropped in to roost.
The school bus arrived to drop some kids off on the far side of the loch and this spooked the wildfowl, the ducks flew off onto the sea and we couldn’t relocate the little Eider, the conditions were pretty horrendous, strong winds and lashing hail and rain set in so we gave up, walking back in the dark torrential rain then set in. For the second time on this day an islander stopped to offer us lift back to the hostel despite us being dripping wet. Lovely people.
Another relaxing night at the hostel with a few beers and a bottle of prosecco to celebrate a good day out and up early the next day to pack up and catch our flight back to Mainland Orkney. We then had most of the day to continue birding with much of it spent looking for the local Orcas and visit the Ring of Brodgar and Stenness, a decent tea room for a shot of coffee and then a short drive to overlook a beach at high tide where we scanned the gull flocks finding a 1st winter Icleand and a good 1st winter Kumlien’s Gull candidate. With the light failing we headed off to catch the slightly delayed ferry back to the mainland.
A night drive back to Kinross where I stayed over at Jubs’s place then up and out early to Musselburgh the next morning to scan from the coast paths gave brilliant views of Velvet Scoters and many other sea duck species including a rather distant drake Surf Scoter. A drive further south back to Northumberland for another stop at Cheswick Sands resulted in more sea-duck, divers, auks and grebes including the Black Scoter but this was also distant. At 2pm I decided to wrap it up and set off for the long drive home.
Thank you for checking back with Anser Birding. Please stay safe, follow the guidelines to look after others.
With regret, I haven’t any residential trips planned at present, apologies. The Covid 19 pandemic has made making planning of trips almost impossible as we all adhere to guidelines and changing rules.
Contact email is not currently operational.
Please note that a reply to email or text may not be until the evening or following day or so. I am in full time employment for WWT so will endeavour to reply to you after getting home. May I politely remind you that during my working hours at WWT I’m obliged to keep the two roles professionally separate as I’m very busy at Slimbridge, it won’t be possible to discuss Anser related matters. I do hope you understand as I wouldn’t wish to offend anyone while I’m rushing about. In anticipation, I thank you for your consideration and look forward to hearing from you after the ‘working day’ or weekends (Friday/Saturday for me). Whilst on the trips I can of course give you my full attention, help to spot plenty of birds and plan bird filled daily itineraries.
Next day/half day trip date
No meetings currently planned, sorry.
Typical Birding day/half days include some of the following Gloucestershire birding venues
These meetings usually fall on Fridays or Saturdays. Price guide and a selection of destinations follow
Forest of Dean-A variety of birds occur with Great spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Lesser Spotted (extremely elusive), Crossbill, Hawfinch (can be shy), Goshawk, Mandarin, Willow Tit (scarce), Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Redpoll, Siskin, Jay, Goosander and Dipper are all possible. In summer Nightjar and Woodcock can be seen and heard on nocturnal forays in good weather.
Upper Severn Estuary Includes migration of waders, wildfowl and passerines. Habitat, seasonal wetlands, intertidal estuary and freshwater pools and lakes.
Sharpness A good spot for ‘seawatching’ should we have gales or for watching visible migration. Black Redstarts (in winter), Peregrine and often Common Sandpiper or commoner waders.
Cotswolds Downland birds- Buzzard, Red Kite, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Grey Partridge (scarce) and Red legged Partridge (most, if not all are released birds) Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Marsh Tit, Linnet, Golden Plover (in winter), Lapwing and more. Habitat-upland hills, heath and some areas farmed with wildlife in mind.
Rarity reaction If anything special arrives nearby (or futher afield) a half or full day of quality birding can be built around the target bird or birds. This type of trip can be organised at late notice with a very early start. If this is of interest then keep a close eye on what birds are around, twitter feed and here on the news page.
Pricing and how to book a place
Prices based on a minimum of four participants- £20-25.00 for a half day (5 hours) and £40-50.00 for a full day (10 hours).
It is best to text or call 07733 363 905 to confirm a place or if you have any queries, alternatively send an email to Martin@anserbirding.com . See below (near bottom of page) for the typical meeting point details if not meeting at the destination.
Do you use Twitter? Anser Birding events are on@AnserNews
Watching Waterbirds with Kate Humble and me
The book I had been working on with Kate Humble, Think Publishing and A and C Black (now Bloomsbury) over the last couple of years is available in WWT shops, online, Amazon and all good book stores. It is intended as a bridge guide to introduce common wetland birds to those new to the hobby and also features the Great Waterbird Challenge for you to try out.
If you have bought it already, thank you very much, we do hope you enjoy using it. Link to bookshop.
Directions for events if you meet at Whitminster…. leave Junction 13of M5 and head to A38 Roundabout. On the A38 take exit for GLOUCESTER, WHITMINSTER heading North. Second exit if coming from A38 South or 3rd exit from A419. Head up the hill and take first left (after the Garden Centre) turning left at the village hall (opposite is the Old Forge Pub which is on the east side of the A38, School Lane is on the West side).
There is a layby (4+ cars) just past Whitminster School on the right. To reach here continue down school lane and straight over the mini roundabout, the layby is immediately after the school where the village ends. Alternative parking can be found nearby, we can direct you.
I was fortunate enough to get some time off from work during the peak migration season and was looking forward to another visit to Shetland with friends to ‘bird’ all day, every day. Paul M kindly picked us up (Nige W, Rich H and myself) and then drove every mile to Aberdeen, a stay near to the airport gave us time for a beer and burger before bed and we flew to Sumburgh the next day. We departed and arrived with no bother, it was a tad chillier than we were used to so far this autumn. We headed to Grutness beach to have a look at the confiding Semi-palmated Sandpiper and other waders, Jeremy S who was already on Shetland arrived by bus and joined us for the trip.
We were to be based on the most Northerly island of Unst for seven days, our intention was to have at least a day on Fetlar but otherwise not leave Unst until we returned to mainland Shetland for the last two nights. Despite various scarce birds being present on mainland Shetland we stuck to this plan. Notes and images follow.
Highlights of this trip were as follows..
Flocks of Pink-footed Geese as we headed into Cumbria and as we travelled through Scotland to Aberdeen. On Shetland our highlights were…
Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Grutness, Mainland, Red-breasted Flycatcher at West Yell, Yell Whinchat, 2 Brambling and Mealy Redpoll at Norwick, Unst.
Wheatear, Redwing, Merlin and Willow Warbler at Haroldswick. 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Fieldfare, 3 Brambling, 2 Tree Sparrow, 3 Mealy Redpoll, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siskin, 5 Redwing, Redstart and Blackcap at Norwick. 12 Redwing, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Swallow, Pied Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Merlin at Baltasound.
Wheatear, Whinchat and Merlin. Lapland Bunting, 4 Snow Bunting and Purple Sandpiper at Lamba Ness. Dusky Warbler and Song Thrush at Haroldswick. Willow Warbler, Whinchat and Swallow at Westing. Scaup, 2 Goldeneye, Blackcap and Tree Pipit at Uyeasound. Song Thrush, Slavonian Grebe and Knot at Baltasound. 2 Song Thrush and 2 Fieldfare at Burrafirth. 13 Mealy Redpoll at Norwick.
Glaucous Gull and 2 Fieldfare at Burrafirth. Jack Snipe, 3 Mealy Redpoll, 2 Fieldfare and Redwing at Northdale. 3 Redwing, Yellow-browed Warbler and 10+ Mealy Redpoll at Baliasta. 4 Blackcap, 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 4 Robin, 6 Goldcrest, 15 Brambling, 2 Chiffchaff, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, 2 Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat and Redstart at Baltasound.
Otter at Baltasound. 25+ Long-tailed Duck, 5 Black Guillemot, and 3 Otter at Belmont. Fetlar- 7 Whooper Swan, Brambling, 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 15 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, Short-toed Lark. Lamba Ness, Unst- Barred Warbler and 6 Snow Bunting.
Wheatear, 4 Mealy Redpoll, c20 Redwing at Burrafirth. 2 Lapland Bunting, 10 Snow Bunting and 12 Mealy Redpoll at Lamba Ness. 2 Wheatear, 2 Mealy Redpoll, Blackcap, Redstart and Whinchat at Norwick. Wheatear, Tree Pipit, Brambling, Chiffchaff and Blackcap at Sandwick.
Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat and Merlin at Muness. 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, Merlin, Siberian Chiffchaff, Brambling and 10 Redwing at Baltasound.
3 Snow Bunting, 20 Mealy Redpoll, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siskin, Robin, c20 Redwing at Burrafirth. Ring Ouzel and Stejneger’s Stonechat at Westing.
Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat at Uyeasound. Waxwing and Linnet at Camb, Yell. Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Blackcap at Burn of Valayre, Brae. Waxwing at Ollaberry.
Reed Bunting at Brake. Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Mealy Redpoll, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Grey Wagtail at Quendale. Lapland Bunting at Sumburgh. Siberian Chiffchaff, Jack Snipe and Yellow-browed Warbler at Swinster Burn, Hoswick. Siskin at Sandwick.