Chew Valley Birding

Away from the pressure of year listing, Sunday provided a nice relaxing session round the lake and even some warmth out of the wind and in the sun. Of course my inner twitcher didn’t desert me entirely and my first stop was for the great northern diver off Woodford Lodge. I also gave myself time to admire a nearby goldeneye and chat to Ian Stapp – another face finally put to a name.

Then it was off to Herriotts for a kingfisher, two in-flight snipe and a raft of common gulls. I caught up with Ian again at Moreton and learned that the great white egret had been showing but had flown to Villice. No matter, a while taken over a line of goosanders brought me the wintering female red-breasted merganser, a couple of pintail and the one ruddy duck. A water rail squealed once but didn’t show since the lake is rather full and not given much to any muddy margins.

I had to check Villice though, and Nunnery Point for tawny owls that have been regular. Didn’t get either, merely several chiffchaffs and bullfinches and the first outpouring from a song thrush, but what’s not to love about that?

A fine little haul all the same to nudge 2015 along.

Windy Wiltshire

Shearwater Woods
Shearwater Woods, Wiltshire

Last year was the warmest on record, not just for the UK, but worldwide – such a contrast to the winter of 2009/10 and the end of 2010. Indeed the four years since have seen a mere 2 months clearly below the recent historic average and a staggering 29 a good way above. I’m using 1961-1990 as this average, i.e. about 40 years ago, and in itself hotter than pre-industrial temperatures.

This year has started warm and energetic. Gales swept in from the Atlantic by a jet stream that’s Continue reading

The Year List Fizzles Out

Gaol Ferry Bridge
Gaol Ferry Bridge, Bristol

When you score zero out of a possible four species, you know the game is about up. So it was just before Christmas on the saltmarsh between Brean Down and the Axe Estuary, where not a single Lapland bunting, snow bunting or twite showed. The black redstart in nearby Brean Cove was also absent. About the only ever-present there was the wind, which seemed to have settled in for the rump of 2014.

That ended the year at 211 species. It took my British list over three years to reach that number from ground zero.

The last thing I wanted on January 1st was Continue reading

Watery Birding

Ellesmere, Shropshire
Ellesmere, Shropshire

It’s the last lap of the year list and additions are drying up. A trip to Cotswold Water Park was supposed to net me three more but only supplied one – the absolute banker of red-crested pochard. What an attractive duck that is though, sporting its bright red bill with a tiny yellow tip. No matter that it’s basically one more feral species in this country. I assume they’re breeding at CWP: they’ve been ever-present in goodly numbers since I started visiting 16 years ago.

All the same I wasn’t expecting them at Continue reading

Chew Valley on Fire in the Fog

At the beginning of the month my Avon list raced on to 200 (so many milestones!) with two “great” birds, i.e. an egret and a diver. Both had been at Chew Valley Lake for several days and, being large as well as great, should have been easy to spot.

The drive down from Dundry Hill hinted at possible difficulties. Spread below me, a mist blanketed the landscape, as far as the Mendips. It didn’t bode well despite Continue reading