Somerset Birds in January

Apart from the great crested grebe, locally the highlight was finally catching up with one of the black redstarts that have been reported round Portishead Pier and the beach below the Royal Hotel. For me it was a brief glimpse of one of the males for my first sighting since about this time last year. The species is a bit of a town speciality: five of my seven UK records cram into the last two years.

Not on my 2011 list at all, three purple sandpipers showed at Battery Point despite bloody anglers now being a permanent fixture there. Bloody anglers also managed to kill off the great northern diver at Cheddar Reservoir but not before I’d added it to my county list. Also new for Somerset was an obliging ring-billed gull at Chew Valley Lake, near Woodford Lodge. According to my OpenOffice spreadsheet that makes 175 for the county and Birdstack agrees. Phew!

Further afield, last week Upton Warren played host to flying snipe; an unsuccessful search along the Salwarpe for a reported lesser spotted woodpecker did turn up a kingfisher. On the way up Slimbridge provided the usual Bewick’s swans, white-fronted geese and golden plovers but the lesser scaup was elusive.

At the beginning of the month I did something that has never occurred to me in nearly ten years of scope ownership. I turned it on the heavens and a unique clear night revealed Jupiter’s four moons and equatorial bands right from the backyard at Pokerbird WHQ. Definitely one of the 1,001 sights to see before you die.

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