Yellow Wagtail, Langford Lakes

This Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve is slowly coming into its own. For a start it’s a convenient hour or so out of Bristol on my regular way east. This makes it a perfect post-coffee stop from Frome or Warminster. In the reverse direction a while back it was also well placed for a little evening birding without great expectations.

Swallows, house martins and sand martins soon dispelled any boredom, as did calling Cetti’s warblers. But it was the scrapes at the far end of the site that I was aiming for and they seemed quiet at first. Until a bright yellow bird hove into view. Only one candidate for that on a stony foreshore – yellow wagtail. I haven’t seen one in summer plumage for three years.

I tried to turn some of the many pied wagtails into white wagtails but didn’t convince myself. No matter, a buzzard entertained me overhead, then another, paler one. Which wasn’t a buzzard at all. It was my first red kite of the year.

Blimey! I could have stayed all night but had to get cracking back to Bristol. This then put me in the right place to log a couple of red-legged partridges crossing the A36. Then that so-called trunk road was closed at Claverton, as part of the ongoing downgrading of our transport infrastructure, so I switched to my south Bath orbital through Midford and past the Hope and Anchor.

I’ve meant to stop at this pub for centuries with the obvious draw being the railway architecture (no, really). The old Somerset and Dorset viaduct above it is still in fine fettle at the point where it crosses the even more ancient colliery line to Camerton. That closed in 1951 so there’s less trace of it, except in the immortal realm of celluloid. Yes, the Titfield Thunderbolt used the track as a film set a couple of years after closure.

The pub of course displays some prints of local railway scenes and, despite being a bit foody, is OK for a swift pint. That made the remaining half hour back to Bristol and my next pint more palatable than the intervening urbanscape normally allows.

Snipe, Barrow Gurney

The tanks here are really too deep to attract waders, apart from regular common sandpipers. So, I got a surprise when a bird zigzagged away from my approach along one of the ditches round the site. Obviously I didn’t get a good look at it but the behaviour was all snipe and it helped me by calling once as it flew – that raspy little note.

This was the middle of March on an evening visit: I was killing time before Continue reading

The Ice Age

It’s fascinating to see resistance to an idea well beyond the stage when evidence for it is overwhelming. Especially with hindsight when other explanations now seem so outlandish. It’s also interesting to note the factions clinging to these weird hypotheses – the establishment, those who benefit from the status quo, those whose own standing depends on old ideas.

Thus it was with the new-fangled theory that Continue reading

Chaffinch, New Cut

New Cut, Bristol
King Tide, New Cut, Bristol

I know! A year of working my new patch in Bristol has only just unearthed this common species. Or not so common for the inner city? Yesterday morning a pair flew over the water near the Create Centre and onto my local list.

More amazement followed on the Floating Harbour opposite the SS Gurt Biggun. I caught a glimpse of a moorhen, which would have been unusual enough for that stretch, but it didn’t look quite right. Only closer views confirmed that the bird was in fact Continue reading

Waking the Giant, Bill McGuire

This is an author, whose Apocalypse: A Natural History of Global Disasters has lately prompted me with a path for resurrecting Flight of the Ark (working title now Scorpio Bound because some blighter has meanwhile nicked its former name). I had posited a northern hemisphere, at least, tipping back into an ice age because the Gulf Stream cut out. The intervening ten years have rendered this most unlikely.

However, one little appreciated by-product of global warming is an increase in Continue reading