Whinchats, Chipping Sodbury

Having walked half the perimeter of this Common in South Gloucestershire, I was getting a bit desperate. Reports lately have included whinchat, redstart and tree pipit, all of which my 2015 list is missing. It’s been a busy year at work!

So, I was nearing the site of 2011’s woodchat shrike and realised that’s where I should have begun. It’s rough grass dotted with shrubs and bordered by trees. Indeed a bird confirmed this by perching on a sapling; although I didn’t get on to it quickly enough, I followed its flight away and found the year’s first whinchat. Then another. Then three in one view. And another. They were flighty, so all these sightings may only have added up to five or so birds in total.

Only five! Blimey, it’s a good year when I see one.

Then a rarer individual dropped my way. I committed to a pint in the first pub on the way back to the M4 and this happened to be the The Bell at Old Sodbury. 6X was the brew with most appeal and I went hunting for a seat. The Bell though is a foody pub and only a sofa was left for the pint-quaffing likes of me, so I asked the couple in armchairs opposite if they would mind…

They didn’t and a minute later the bloke piped up, “I do know you: you’re Andy Gibb.”

I’m quick and realised this had to be one of the clan. “You must be Darren Pearce then,” I said.

And so he was, being the sole birdwatcher in the Yate area.

How likely was this meeting, given the events that led to it? Pretty unlikely I would say but the stuff that makes life worth living. Like the year’s first whinchats for instance.

That Was the Month That Was

Major life disruptions the past few weeks have kept this blog quiet. Lesser of these have been business trips to Milton Keynes, which have netted regular red kite sightings and bizarrely crossbills over the Stacey Bushes trading estate north of the town.

Then, I’m on the move again – this time back to North Somerset and Clevedon. I’ve had it with sharing for a while, so I’m forking out for Continue reading

The Drought Bird

Steven's Creek
Steven’s Creek in Cupertino © Gordon Shukwit

Being unable to identify California species didn’t stop me from having a stab, with embarrassing results sometimes. After a visit to Stevens Creek on April 26th, 2001 I posted:

“Near the start of the Lookout Trail this evening a very rich song came from within a tree. I can’t begin to describe it but it was way beyond anything I was expecting. I couldn’t trace the bird and then the song stopped. On starting to walk past, I noticed Continue reading

Southern Grey Shrike, Tenerife

Teide from El Fraile
Teide from El Fraile

In preparing for my Peru trip, I’ve discovered another lifer to take me up to 1,091, but not the American species you might think. It turns out that the shrike I saw at El Fraile in the Canary Islands was not great grey (Lanius excubitor) as my Collins suggested but at the very least L. meridionalis.

I say this because there’s doubt about whether the species is even this Iberian version of our northern bird. Some would split the complex further into Continue reading

Barn Swallow, New Cut

Not exactly the Bristol mega I’d previously posted but yesterday afternoon’s bird became my 50th species for the patch. It’s hard to imagine where swallows might be breeding around here and, given their propensity for two or three broods, they’re not likely to be migrating back yet: even the swifts are still present. Flying over the western end of the New Cut put this bird close to Ashton Court which I suppose may be the right habitat for bringing up youngsters.

Another highlight was an uncommon Continue reading