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25 February 2018

Weekends Birding

I was owed sometime off from work so as the weather was good thought I would make the most of it with a visit to Somerset.

First stop after a difficult journey was to see my brother Tim and his wife Ann for some Tea and Toast, always good to catch up! The plan was to go to Bruton to see some Hawfinch then off to Shapwick, have seen Hawfinch in Somerset several times over the years and always in churchyards as the birds are after the Yew. This year birds in at least 5 Churchyards in Somerset that I know of, I think St Marys Church Bruton is a stunning place with 5 Yews. When I parked up I could immediately see the Hawfinch flying from one Yew to another, diving straight in giving no photo opportunities but luckily for me one bird decided to sit in a near bye Beech tree giving me a great view. Trouble about graveyards they are full of history and I love to read the stones and probably stayed at least a hour longer than I should have been. Instead of going to Shapwick I went to RSPB Greylake Reserve which looked just stunning!

Plenty of birds around, on the feeders in the carpark, joining fields and the marshland in front of the hide. Redwing, Blackbird, Starling, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Starling, Reed Bunting, Wren, Chaffinch, Lapwing, Mute Swan, Widgeon, Shelduck, Teal, Mallard, Coot, Little and Great White egret, Snipe, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk made it an enjoyable visit.

On Saturday after doing some domestic stuff I went off to Exminster Marshes that looked very quiet so decided to go to Topsham. Parked up at Darts Farm which was surprisingly busy, usual fare here with Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Black-headed Gulls, Blackbird and House Sparrows.

Along the Cycle track both down and back saw Jackdaws, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, House Sparrows, Robin, Song Thrush, Dunnock and 2 Buzzards loafing about above me. The tide was high but still abit of mud about so there was both Green and Redshanks here, Little Egret, Black-headed Gulls and Teal on the waters edge. At Goosemoor there was Red and Greenshanks, a lone Avocet, Little Egrets, Teal, Mallard, Black-headed and Herring Gulls.

Along the road and Reserve there was Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Great Tit, Wren, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Teal Shoveler, Mallard, Widgeon, Tufted Duck, Pintail, Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank. A lot of the bigger waders were still on the River and the news from in the hide was the Pink Footed Goose was over at Powderham by the bridge so off I went!

From the bridge you could see it distantly with some Canada Geese and the 2 Snow geese, a quick look out to the river and plenty of birds on the mud with Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank, Grey Plover and Black-headed Gulls on view.

Sunday saw me go on to Dartmoor which was very cold, but also very busy due to a few organised events which saw cars parked up everywhere! Corvides everywhere looking for food in the pastures, Chaffinch, House Sparrows, Blue Tits, Robins, Starling, Stonechat, Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare. One large field was covered in birds 500+ of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starlings all looking for food in the pasture.

Came back through Powderham to see if any of the Fallow Stags where close enough to take a picture of but as I was driving towards the church when a Cattle Egret flew over, so I parked up and found the bird in a stubble field with 4 other birds. It is the same field as they were seen in last year, today they were flying to and from the Estate grounds to the field and back again. Watched them for about an hour and lucky enough to get a few shots off.

Great to meet family and some other birders especially those in the hides at Greylake and Bowling Green.



16 February 2018

The Scotish Borders

Ive been through the borders many times on my way to the Highlands and Islands but never done any Bird Watching in the area. Had heard about Dumfries from others and the TV and also seen Musselburgh come up many times on Bird Guides with close sightings of Scoter, both Surf and Velvet Scoter so thought I would give it a try.

In the past I would get up at silly o'clock and rest up near the Lake District for a couple of hours before going on, those days are long gone and now I stay overnight at the Premier Inn at junction 42 on my way to Scotland. Just as well I did as the weather on the journey up on the M6 was getting worse and by the time I reached Carlisle the snow was coming down fast and was happy to be tucked up with a cuppa of char!

The following morning I went up the A7 towards Edinburgh, I have been on this route several times before but never in snow, the roads had been cleared by snow ploughs and the scenery was just stunning! Lots of Corvides about with the odd Buzzard, presume looking for carrion although anything black did stand out in the snow, I passed a small lake by the road which mostly frozen and to my surprise 2 Cormorants were sat by the bank, must have been 100 miles from any other water and it was quite high up. While parked up looking at these two other small birds came into view like Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great and Blue Tits, Robin, Starling, Pheasants and a Mute Swan appeared on the water from the field. Then the small birds all seem to dive for cover as a small falcon went over my parked car along the hedge, it looked like a Merlin but it was gone before I could ID it properly.

Managed to get to Musselburgh in good time, so parked up by the harbour and walked along the promenade to get my bearings and boy was it cold!

It was clear but the sea was rough and the wind was biting, you could see lots of birds on the water with gulls feeding further out on the Firth of Forth so it looked promising if the sea was calmer I would be in with a shout! I then went and bought a local map which proved to be an excellent buy as I couldn't understand the local ascent, must say that everybody tried to be helpful, I just couldn't understand anybody! hahaha

Pitched up again in the local Premier Inn and the following day was a lot clearer, still bloody cold and the sea was still abit lumpy, out to sea you could see plenty of Eider Duck, some large rafts of 20-30 birds, Common, Herring, Black-headed and Great-black Backed Gulls in good numbers, Oystercatchers, Turnstones Mute Swans and Cormorants doing fly-byes. Got to the mouth of the River Esk which was a bit more sheltered. Here there was at least 100 Redshank, Oystercatchers, Curlew, Turnstone, Mallard, Widgeon, all 4 Gull species and further out some very smart Golden Eyes, about 20 birds, with some birds in the river itself. Plenty of small birds with Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Starling and Robin all present. I caught up with some local Birders on the other side of the river where I managed to translate enough to understand the Surf Scoter was out there but difficult to find due to the waves so decided to give it a miss and walk up the coastal path to the "Ash Pits" or the Musselburgh Lagoons as they are described on Bird Guides. The coastal path is also called "The John Muir Wa"y and a nice walk it is too! Out to sea plenty of birds, more Eiders, Golden Eye and some Long-tailed Ducks plus the bonus of 2 Velvet Scooters bobbing about in the waves, Brilliant!

Found the pools which is called the "Levenhall Links Bird Reserve". The site has been restored from ash lagoons from Cockenzie Power Station and was landscaped and returned to East Lothian Council to create a SSSI quality nature reserve, which now occupies 331 acres of land. There are 6 lagoons which you can observe from 3 hides which are a bit industrial and no roofs so dress well with 2 "Active" lagoons which you cant get near. Plenty of waders here with Bar-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers, Grey Plover, Redshank, Turnstone, Widgeon, Teal and Mallard on view, great little reserve!

Stayed another night in Musselburgh and off early to Dumfries, more snow falling and while the Pentland Hills looked spectacular in white the roads were becoming difficult to say the least! On to the M74 which was down to 2 lanes with the snow ploughs working overtime. By the time I reached Dumfries it had turned to rain and the sun was trying to come out, decided as I had time I would go to WWT Caerlaverock which is on the Solway coast and by the time I parked up it had stopped raining and the sun was out, never been here before but had heard lots about it. On seeing a Tree Sparrow, the first time in a couple of years was the start of a great visit. Watched the feeding of the Swans which was a mixture of Whooper and Mutes, with these there was Canada and Greylag geese, Tufted, Mallard Widgeon and Teal all scrapping for food.

Around the other pools plenty of other birds such a Pintail, Shovlers, Gadwalls,Curlew, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Lapwings, Little Egrets and the big spectacle of 1000+ fly over noisy Barnacale Geese who went over head to join the other Geese that were on the fields, must have been a total of 5000+ birds in the end.

Lots of birds on the feeders and on the floor such as House and Tree Sparrows, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock and Chaffinch. Also saw Grey Heron, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Stonechat and Reed Bunting.

As normal when I go to Scotland there is a day where the weather is too bad to go walking/bird watching and today is the day! So off in the car to have a look around, so off to the "Crook of Baldoon" which is a reserve on the coast and it was wild! I was sat in the car which was being buffeted about, could see Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin and Shelduck carrying on their business as if nothing was out of the ordinary, I couldn't stand up straight!

Then went to see the "Woods of Cree" which is a area of ancient woodland but with trees down on the road I didn't get anywhere near it so back for tea and cake!

Thursday it was very cold but clear and dry! So off to Ken-Dee Marshes to see what was there, its a RSPB reserve and was hoping to see some White-fronted Geese which are here, sadly for me not today! Plenty of birds on the feeders including some Willow Tits that got bullied of by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Plenty of Red Kites about, really special to see them glide over me while I walked down the path. I would get closer views of these as I went to the feeding station at "Belly Mack Hill Farm", it was very windy here and enjoyed the cuppa on offer here. Got some great views and a lot closer than other feeding stations I have visited.

I had a really good visit and will be back to Dumfries, I think February is the time to visit because of the winter Geese. I also meet a lot of great people, I couldn't understand half of you but pleased to meet you anyway!



09 February 2018

Off to Scotland

Iam off to Scotland in the morning, stop over at Carlisle then to Musselburgh for a couple of days, then off to Dumfries for the rest of the week to see whats about. Hopefully I will have some pics for you when I get back!



04 February 2018

Tundra Bean Goose

Thought I would go to North Devon today to see the Bean Goose which had appeared, I had seen both races of Bean Goose in Norfolk but they were always a long way away and no chance of a picture. This bird is a "Tundra" race and from pictures put up by Rob J on Devon Birds looked like it was close and was with a group of Mute Swans so it might stay.

I eventually got to Bruton which is just north of Barnstable. I found the bird more by luck than judgment as the field it was in was next to the road and the Mute Swans were clearly visible. So turned around and the next task was trying some where to park without going into the ditch! Well parked up and met up with Rob and another local birder, to my amazement it was walking towards me and the sun was out!! The birding gods were shinning on me!

Smart looking bird and clearly enjoyed the company of the swans as kept with them all the time. I left a happy bunny and went off to go to Fremington Quay to see what was there but the road was blocked off with a Police car, don't know what was going on probably nothing, but I decided to carry on towards home and ended up walking around Exminster Marshes.

It was quite windy, cold and grey. Not taking pics weather anyway. I did a circular walk from the RSPB carpark via Turf and back via the path.

Plenty of ducks about but still not as many as I've seen in the past, Widgeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Coot, Moorhen, Curlew, Ruff, Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Pied Wagtail, Pheasant, Stonechat, Woodpigeon and a Peregrine sat on the Pylon.

At Turf there was Curlew, Grey and Golden Plover, Avocet, Dunlin, Redshanks, Lapwing, Godwit, Red-breasted Mergansers, Great-black Backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls, Carrion Crows, Cormorants and Mallard on view across the mud flats.

Had a great day out and nice to meet Rob J and other birders, thanks for making me welcome.



© Simon Thurgood 2018
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