Wednesday, 7 March 2018

4th March 2018

Another look at Lyde Road this morning produced a couple of Common Snipe along the ditch, but no jacks. 3 Lesser Redpolls were new, and 3 Linnets, 3 Pheasant and 2 Stonechat were also present, but probably more surprising was a flyover Mistle Thrush at Larkhill.

Was in Weymouth this afternoon so had a look off Chesil Cove which gave good but distant views of the adult Little Gull, and a search of Weymouth Bay failed to produce the ross's gull, but did result in staggering numbers of Med Gulls.

Little Gull - Chesil Cove

Friday, 2 March 2018

1st/2nd March 2018

With snow building up, I decided to walk to work yesterday. This turned out to be profitable with 100+ Lapwing and 13 Golden Plovers overhead, both species I didn't get in Yeovil last year and good additions to the patch year list. However, after hearing how other people scored with large numbers of woodcocks, snipes, gulls and thrushes I felt that my sightings were somewhat average. I decided that if work and college were cancelled tomorrow, I would head down to Ninesprings lake on foot hoping that the water might attract some displaced birds.

With the news I was hoping for I began the trek down to Ninesprings, and on the way had a few Lapwing and a fairly large flock of Golden Plovers over. Most of the lake was frozen over with good numbers of gulls but nothing other than Black-Headed and Herring Gulls. The usual Mandarins were present along with the escaped blue-winged goose. Thankfully the SouthWest corner of the lake wasn't frozen, and a search of the area produced 2 Little Grebes and 3 Water Rails - not the hoped for snipe but still a good number for this site. A walk further up the stream produced little of note other than a Grey Wagtail, but the snow drifts echoing down the small valley were somewhat unnerving! I headed downriver producing virtually nothing of note until I reached Pen Mill, where I had a male Bullfinch, a single Chiffchaff and a few Goldcrests.


Pen Mill Sewage works was alive with gulls! However, I could, once again, only see Herring and Black-Headed Gulls. Continuing along the river, I had both Great-Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and heard (but didn't see) a redpoll pass overhead. Three Lapwings huddled around a tiny snowless patch in the field was a sorry sight. As I reached Lyde Road, I had a pair of Stock Dove and oddly, a Mute Swan pass overhead before heading east (the first I've seen away from Ninesprings). 6 Golden Plovers frequently pitched around the site as well and I heard a flyover Reed Bunting, but can't say for sure that I picked up the right bird in flight.

At last, I reached the field. 4 times I've visited here and every time I came away with a Yeovil tick, surely my luck had to run out? After the now routine mental deliberation on the footbridge, I stepped into the field and continued along the river. Within seconds, the 6 Golden Plovers flew up, and then a lone Lapwing with a smaller wader. I got it under the bins and it was a Snipe! Lyde Road produces yet another Yeovil tick! Wandering along the river towards where it landed, more snipe flew up until I noticed one with a short bill. All the snipe were frequenting a long ditch which hadn't frozen over. Walking along it flushed several more Common Snipe until the bird flew up again, it was indeed a Jack Snipe! Yet another patch tick, didn't expect to get both today! Amazingly, I also flushed a 2nd Jack Snipe from the ditch - Lyde Road really is the place to be! Heading back to the river, I picked out a female Stonechat. I noticed a number of ducks were occasionally flying back and forth along the river and the wing pattern looked good for Teal. Eventually they flew back and landed down on the river and I was able to nail the ID, another great Yeovil tick considering I've only ever seen mallard and mandarin in Yeovil. Shortly after, another two ducks passed overhead, heading south at fairly high altitude. I got them under the bins and it was a pair of Gadwall! 4 Yeovil ticks!? this is just getting ridiculous now!

Continuing along, I relocated the Mute Swan sat in the field, a bit of an unnusual sight. Presumably it's one of the Ninesprings birds as I didn't see any there earlier. Passerines also featured heavily with a Skylark and 2 Linnet overhead. Some bunting calls drawed me to a female Yellowhammer followed quickly by a male Reed Bunting. Heading back produced a male Yellowhammer overhead, a few Ravens, a Cormorant and the icing on the cake: an adult Common Gull flying through - I think this species must be commoner than I first throught (as with many of my recent Lyde Road ticks!). I had another check of the ditch on the way back and re-flushed both Jack Snipes. They were almost impossible to see when in the ditch, but I did get decent views of one stood out on the snow. Wish I'd brought my scope as I would have managed some pictures. As time was getting on I decided to head home which took another hour.

I put some apples out in the garden to no avail so I decided to shovel out a small square of snow to see if that helped. Didn't get any thrushes but almost instantly a Meadow Pipit dropped in! The square of grass couldn't have been more that 1.5x1.5 metres so it goes to show just how desperate birds are getting.

Monday, 26 February 2018

25th February 2018

I should really keep a closer eye on the reports! A late evening rush down to Sutton Bingham Reservoir gave me just enough time to connect with the Iceland Gull before Dusk. A nice local tick, well done to Tim for finding it.

Iceland Gull - Sutton Bingham Reservoir

24th February 2018

This Saturday, I finally found an opportuity to head down to Weymouth for the ross's gull, a species I've seen one before at Bowling Green Marsh in 2014. My views of that bird were distant, so a showy adult bird was a no brainer.

Lewis and I headed down to Ferrybridge this am, where the ross's gull had been seen for the previous 3 mornings. On arrival we met up with Brendan and found out that it hadn't been seen yet. Shortly after arrival, a report came in that the bird has flown west over Lodmoor (Followed by a breif panic by some who hadn't read the whole report). Hoping that the bird was heading for the fleet, we remained at Ferrybridge for another hour until a second report came in from Lodmoor, apparently flying north this time, so we headed over.

We were considering checking Radipole on the way over, but from the car window the place looked almost devoid of gulls, so we carried on (Brendan checked it on the way and didn't have any luck). On arrival at Lodmoor, it seems the report actually corresponded to the 8am sighting, and that the bird hadn't been seen since. West Scrape was again, nearly completely devoid of gulls; things weren't looking good. A further couple hours produced a couple sleeping Spoonbills, a few Ruffs and singles of Avocet, Marsh Harrier and a male Bullfinch.

With no sign, we decided to head over to such the Pavilion Pier. As soon as we parked up, the report came through the RBA, it was at Lodmoor! I pulled the car out and starting heading back through the traffic-packed Weymouth. Thankfully, Lewis found the tweet by the RSPB saying the bird was viewable from the Discovery Centre - which was at Radipole! Had the new services got it wrong? This seemed the logical explanation, and we were just 2 minutes away from Radipole so we headed there first. We got to the bridge and there on the Island was the ROSS'S GULL! It gave absolutely crippling views, and before long the bridge and visitor centre was packed! Had the parking officers showed up, they would've had a field day! One extra bonus was a Med Gull, finally my first of the day!

ROSS'S GULL - Radipole Lake

After 30 minutes or so, the bird took flight and headed down river back towards the pier. We headed to the Pier where the bird had apprently been seen breifly, but there was no sign by the time we arrived. It really is a fast-moving bird. Lewis and I headed to Lodmoor following a report of a glaucous gull on the east side. By the time we arrived, there were 2 Glaucous Gulls on West Scrape plus the two Spoonbills, now out feeding.

Glaucous Gulls - Lodmoor

Spoonbill - Lodmoor

Snipe - Lodmoor

Lapwing - Lodmoor

With all the day's targets achieved, we decided to head to Blashford to increase our gull total for the day. The THAYER'S GULL was showing on arrival though it was somewhat distant. A caspian gull was apparently present at the back of Isbley but I wasn't convinced with the views I had. Isbley also had the usual selection of wildfowl including Pintail, Goldeneye and Goosander, and eventually the Ring-Billed Gull was located, though a real pain to pick out. I was only able to pick out a single Yellow-Legged Gull on site, bringing the day total to 11 gull species - not bad!

THAYER'S GULL - Blashford Lakes

Ring-Billed Gull - Blashford Lakes

Monday, 19 February 2018

17th February 2018 (Scilly & Cornwall)

With reports of the snowy owl being seen regularly at the north end of Tresco, it was time to take a trip down to try and see my number one most wanted species! I decided that I probably wouldn't need more than a few hours, so I booked flights and risked a day trip. I called up the planes, boats and buses company and made sure that all the arangements were in place (though I had to call Tresco Boats back to find out I'd actually been booked on!).

I had another flyover Barn Owl over the A30 just after exeter on the way down, hopefully a foreshadow of the day to come! I got to Lands End around 7am and boarded the twin otter at 8:15. It was my first time flying, but I enjoyed it immensely!! I had a bus driver waiting at the St Mary's terminal who took me to the quey to meet the boat. A scan from here produced a single Glaucous Gull.

I must admit, I was surprised at the good organisation between the transport companies, and I was onto Tresco with an hour of landing. After running into Mark, I got some more Gen on the bird and  headed up to the north end seeing the 5 Pink-Footed Geese on the way.

Pink-Footed Goose - Tresco

The north end was covered in pale rocks which made search difficult. To my dismay, a search of the birds favoured area resulted in nothing. Another hour and a half and still no sign. Eventually, after continually scanning from multiple angles, I picked out the 1w female SNOWY OWL!!! What a bird! I must have walked right past it when I arrived.

SNOWY OWL - Tresco

At a distance, it's somewhat understandable how I missed this at first!

I didn't want to risk disturbing the bird to get closer shots, so once I'd had my fill I went off for Lunch. We had great views from the north end of Tresco, and had flyby Kittiwake and Med Gull whilst eating. I walked south along the east side of the Island seeing at least 2 Great Northern Divers and a Raven.


I got the return boat and flight without issue (on board an Islander this time). I headed straight to Mousehole once back to the Mainland, however the weather had deteriorated, visibility had reduced and there were no birders on site. No only did I dip both white-billed and pacific divers, I didn't see a single diver, not sure if I was looking in the wrong place or if the birds were more distant than I thought. I did have great views of a flyby Iceland Gull, plus 2 Glaucous Gulls in the roost, which on any other day I'd  have been very happy with.

2 Glaucous Gulls - Mousehole

The forcast for the following day looked poor so I decided to head home instead of booking into a hotel. Both divers were seen the following morning, though I certainly can't complain after having great views of the owl!

14th February 2018 (North Wales & Gloucestershire)

With the week off work, I took the opportunity to head to North Wales for an overdue lifer. An early start was required to pick up Lewis from Cirencester and get up to World's End near Wrexham before sunrise (Always know its a proper twitch when you have to get up before midnight!).

The drive up was disrupted by a closure on the M5, and ice made the detour a bit perilous at times, but we had some decent nocturnal sightings on the way up including singles of Barn Owl and Red Fox, and a few Roe Deer in the road.

We ended up arriving only an hour before sunrise. Arriving at the site Elliot had directed me to, I was dismayed to find that the layby was the one spot of our journey so far that was completely covered in a sheet of solid ice! I parked tentatively and the wait began. I didn't expect the lek to come to much being only mid-February, but to my surprise another birder did pull up in front of us - a large 4x4 that dwarfed my car as it attempted to parallel park whilst skidding around on the ice!

About 30 minutes before sunrise, I noticed a dark blob outside the car, much closer that I thought we'd get the grouse. On closer inspection, there were several dark blobs moving around, and on opening the windows we could hear the lek in full swing! Once the sun came up, we counted at least 20 male Black Grouse! We had great views of the birds fighting just metres from the car! A big thanks to Elliot for the tip off, this spot was far more productive than I expected!

Black Grouse - World's End
Phonescoping through a car window wasn't the easiest, but I managed at least one passable shot.

After a long drive south to Ashleworth Ham in Gloucestershire, Lewis managed to pick out the Green-Winged Teal. Other than a decent variety of wildfowl, there wasn't much else of note here.

Green-Winged Teal - Ashleworth Ham

Our next target was Great Grey Shrike, so we tried for the Hawling bird on the way home. No sign, but we did have at least 20 Red-Legged Partridges. Next stop was Cotwold Water Park. First stop was pit 28 to search for smew. We eventually found a spot without a 'No Parking' sign, and climbed through a heavily overgrown public footpath to the lake. A few Goosanders were all of note, so we checked a few of the surrounding lakes producing a Red-Crested Pochard at best. Next stop was pit 16 to search through the gull roost for the Kumlien's Gull. We eventually found a residential street where we could get distant views of the roost producing 2 adult Yellow-Legged Gulls and a 1w Mediterranean Gull. Eventually the rain became a bit much and I gave up.

Red-Crested Pochard - Cotswold Water Park

A bit of a fustrating end to the day, but this mornings grouse lek was great to see!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

11 February 2018

Headed down to the Lyde Road patch hoping to get better views of firecrest than last months bird at Pen Mill. A walk along the railway line failed to produce much except a few Ravens and a Jay, so I headed back to the eastern field. It seems I find a new patch tick every time I set foot in this field, but my hopes weren't to high to get 4 in a row! I spent most of the time scanning the South side of the river, and I eventually found a few fieldfares in amongst the redwing, an overdue patch year tick. Whilst scanning, a yellow blob in the nearer bushes caught my eye - turned out to be a male Yellowhammer! Yet another patch lifer! On closer inspection, there were at least 2 female type birds also. Is this another overdue tick, or a genuine patch scarcity? This site's somewhat scrambled my ability to tell. Also of note was finally connecting with a Pheasant in one of the field margins south of the river and at least 2 Stonechat (potentially the first pair I had here last month). Another surprise was a flyover Little Egret, a species I've only seen twice on patch in the last two years so another good one for the year. My patch year list is now on 63, it's looking good for target of 100!

Yellowhammer - Lyde Road

Pheasant - Lyde Road