Sunday, 20 May 2012


Friday, 11 May 2012

May 11th 2012

I have been hacked. If you receive or have received begging e-mails from me please ignore. In fact dump my e-mail address as I will now be off-line for a while sorting out a new identity.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

May 10th 2012

Mothing has been poor since Easter with only 12 individuals trapped in my garden compared to nearly 600 in the same period last year so hopefully we may be turning the corner with the last two nights bringing in 12 species from 24 moths with the best being Shoulder-stripe (3rd garden record)
A visit to the pond in blustery conditions with Bob produced 2000 Swift, 3 Wheatear, Goldeneye female and 3 Hobby worth mentioning.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

May 9th 2012

Dave found another 3 Wheatears in a different field down the Southam road then a look at the pond produced 5 male and 6 female Common Scoter out in the centre. Only other sighting of interest were 3 Common Tern, 3 Wheatear and a Cuckoo that was heard calling in biggen bay which then flew across the reservoir to land near the sewage farm.
Brandon Marsh had 2 Whinchat in top field plus Peregrine, 4 Buzzard, Red-crested Pochard pair and Kingfisher
Unfortunately the churchyard on Napton on the Hill was too noisy with continuing construction work and grass cutting so when the rain arrived we called it a day.

Monday, 7 May 2012

May 7th 2012

At least one Wheatear remaining along the Flecknoe road.
The pond's capacity is now up to 70% with both farborough bank ledge and spit nearly submerged when Colin and I walked to toft bay this morning. Only birds of note were 2 Hobby hunting the Swifts successfully catching one, 4 Wheatear, Greenshank over calling loudly, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Gadwall and 2 Lesser Whitethroat.
A Hobby dashed across the road near Stockton and Wheatear and Little Ringed Plover were on a recently demolished brownfield site.
Started raining just after we arrived at Brandon Marsh but at least the water levels had receded low enough to reach the carlton hide where the Nightingale was still singing but the hide looked like a sherman tank on steroids with all the big lens and scopes sticking out so did not bother entering.
From the east marsh hide managed a pair of Red-crested Pochard which were a site tick for me, Hobby, Kingfisher plus all the usual species.

May 6th 2012

Nene Wash flooded

May 5th 2012

Peregrine, Hobby and 4 Swift over the garden this morning while pottering about and other raptors reported to me on the move down the valley were Red Kite and Osprey. Dave rang wanting to know if I fancied lunch at the Just So which gave us opportunity to see 8 Buzzard and Common Sandpiper at Napton Reservoir, 2 Raven over Broadwell and 11 Wheatear, 3 Buzzard and Raven in the field next to Cym & Dave’s smallholding along Flecknoe Road. Another Raven was over Kites Hardwick

Friday, 4 May 2012

May 4th 2012

Gave the pond a miss today.
This afternoon 3 Ravens were over Napton Reservoir and a wing tagged Red Kite over A426 between Flecknoe Rd junction and Kites Hardwick at 15:40.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

May 3rd 2012

On our way to the pond for the Wood Warbler found by John Harris we called in on Cym and Dave’s smallholding managing 19 Wheatear 3 Yellow Wagtail and 6+ Tree Sparrow.
The blustery cold north east wind and damp conditions certainly kept the Swifts and hirundines low over the pond with thousands present and as we reached Paul and John on farborough spit they were watching a summer plumage Knot which had just arrived.

Knot by Bob and Dave Hutton

The Wood Warbler went quiet by the time we arrived at the end of toft bank but eventually managed a glimpse then joined by Dennis we had better views when it appeared for a short time in the oak tree.

Wood Warbler by Dave Hutton

Other sightings included fly by Turnstone, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, 2 Teal, female Goldeneye, Sedge Warbler, 4 Lesser Whitethroat, 14 Yellow Wagtail increasing to 30+ by the time we left, 3 White Wagtail, 4 Wheatear, 35 Arctic Tern and 7 Common Tern.

Tawny Owl seen on Lawford Heath on the way home from the pub at 11pm.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

May 2nd 2012

On our arrival at the pond there were two separate groups of Common Scoter with 5 female & 2 male in one group out in the centre and 3 female & one male off the inlet. Later they joined as one group and became mobile also present were 4 Black Tern but they did not stay long.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May 1st 2012

Another dose of heavy rain and easterly winds so spent the time at home till it stopped around 2pm then Bob and I raced down to the pond hoping something might have arrived. Over 50 terns were counted out in the centre when Paul Hyde reached us to tell us he had found a Roseate Tern from the south side and had legged it round to let us know. What a hero and our grateful thanks. The three of us spent ten minutes trying to locate it among the 54 Arctic and 12 Common Tern till I spotted it sitting on H buoy off farborough spit where it showed giving decent scope views before joining the terns again. Later a heads up from birders in the wind surfing area put us on to the bird resting on buoys in front of the sailing club and treated to more terrific views. A county and Draycote tick for me and far as I’m aware only the second record for Draycote with the first in May 1969 although there have been a few possibilities since then.
Rosy by Bob Hazell

April 30th 2012

O what a difference a day makes The day started with the rare opportunity since Easter to observe the night sky’s managing one meteorite or a piece of space junk burning up low across the north eastern horizon and having 3 Swifts over the garden as I waited for my lift. With a blustery east wind and plenty of sunshine at least 500 Swift were feeding over draycote bank while Wheatears were plentiful with 17 counted on farborough/toft bank and a further 5 seen by Bob elsewhere. Although only 10 were seen on my return a couple of hours later from toft shallows due to the numbers of joggers and walkers making up for yesterday the male to female ratio had changed so 22 has to be the minimum number present. One showed characteristics of Greenland Wheatear but I’m never 100% with this sub species. No sign of any Yellow Wagtail other observes had seen them but 6 White Wagtail present while on the wader front there was 2 Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. Out in the centre single Common, Arctic and Black Tern disappeared around the same time the majority of the Swifts did as it warmed up and this attracted at least 3 Hobby over toft shallows as the Swifts flew east. Whitethroat increased to 6 and I saw my first Garden Warbler here though I thought I heard one last week. Other sightings included Peregrine over the car park as we were due to leave, Sparrowhawk, 10 Buzzard, 2 Teal, the long staying female Goldeneye which could be injured preferring to swim away when disturbed and spending long periods out of the water although it looks healthy. Water levels have shot up with the island gone along with half of farborough bank ledge. A few butterflies on the wing with 6 Orange Tip and one Red Admiral seen.

April 29th 2012

Yesterday was another multi visit day to the pond as the place was battered by a bone chilling wind with gusts of up to 50mph making it extremely difficult to walk in along with long periods of torrential rain which soon had us drenched, eventually eased a little and the front cleared by early evening. At least one adult Kittiwake and 2 Common Tern, plus Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, 5 Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, 20 Yellow Wagtail, 8 White Wagtail and 2 Teal. What made the visit interesting if not already was finding 18 Wheatear due to large numbers arriving in the area since last Friday. On our arrival at 7am there were hundreds of Swallows along with tens of Sand Martin and a few House Martins trying to shelter from the conditions perched on the boulders and wall of farborough bank allowing close views of the various shades of chest colour. At least 2 showed a bright reddish wash so presumed to have some eastern influence in their parentage. Later on they were feeding by just skimming the surface, one or two got caught out by the waves and ditched, being shorter winged than Swifts they survived as did one that got blown through the branches of a tree.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

April 27th 2012

The path to the newly erected bird screen overlooking newlands at Brandon Marsh was underwater as the River Avon has risen well since our last visit. Between the showers there was plenty to see with 4 Common Tern, 2 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, 4 Oystercatcher, 3 Shelduck, Yellow Wagtail, 3 Linnet, 2 Buzzard, Nuthatch, 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker plus plenty of warblers and hirundines.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

April 25th 2012

A wet and windy day mainly from the south east bringing in a continuous movement of Arctic Terns and Little Gulls at the pond throughout the day with variable numbers recorded each visit. The wind gusted up to 35mph at times combined with prolonged periods of rain made for unpleasant conditions. Hard to put a true count on the Arctic numbers going through today but with just a single present first thing there were at least 122 counted early afternoon with small groups leaving. Among the Terns were at least 2 Black Tern and a single Little Tern plus 18 Little Gull but again this species were on the move as I never had the same count twice. Also seen were 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Shelduck, 100 Swallow, 50 Sand Martin, 5 Wheatear, 20 Linnet, 2 Meadow Pipit, 6 White Wagtail and 20 Yellow Wagtail.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

April 24th 2012

Ring Ousel briefly at 7am down the Grandborough valley while 20 minutes later we were watching 34 Arctic Tern attempting to settle on what’s left of the island before numbers eventually dwindled to 13 by the time we left at 10am. A walk to the sewage farm produced 2 Whitethroat, 6 White Wagtail, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, 5 Teal, 3 Gadwall, Goldeneye and a second pair of Graylags have raised 2 young.
Wheatear, Cinnabar Moth and Grey Squirrel by Bob Hazel. The "tree rat" included as I did not realise they liked Snails. Napton on the Hill was quiet with only 8 Buzzard and a single Raven while the Just So café had a Peregrine overhead before another look at the Ring Ousel produced 2 Tree Sparrow. After an early evening meal in Brandon village we walked around Brandon Marsh managing a brief view of the Nightingale as it sang its heart out near the carlton hide and close views of Barn Owl over newlands and ryton meadows. Other sightings included 3 Shelduck, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Redshank, 2 Oystercatcher, Great-spotted Woodpecker and many Cetties calling. Noctule and Pipistrelle bat near the visitors centre. Nothing of note seen trawling around Lawford Heath. Richard

Monday, 23 April 2012

April 23rd 2012

Enjoyed a cup of coffee down the valley waiting for the Ring Ousel to appear but it only popped in to view twice in the hour we were there. Also 2 young Robins and male Wheatear present.
No sign of the Blue-headed at Draycote and the only new arrival we had was a Dunlin on the island while chatting to Bob and Keith. The island should disappear this week if the water level continues to rise. At least 5 Wheatear and 6 White Wagtail noted plus Common Sandpiper.
Lawford Heath had 2 Yellow Wagtail and Brandon Marsh 2 Common Tern on east marsh plus 10 Buzzard and 2 Ravens over while the fly over Cuckoo high up was unusual.


April 22nd 2012

The day started with making sure Dave got views of the Flecknoe road Ring Ousel which eventually showed along side 2 Wheatear and 4 Tree Sparrow before disappearing back in to its favorite hedge.
Nearby the Wheatears at Draycote Water had increased to 6 with the male Blue-headed Wagtail still present alongside 10 White Wagtail, 4 Meadow Pipit and 10 Linnets. Also seen were first winter Little Gull, Shelduck and 3 Common Sandpiper.
Calls from Keith kept us up to date on Brandon Marsh Nightingale so had time to give Napton on the Hill a look but the chilly wind kept things down and very little noted so pushed on to Brandon but “gale” wasn’t playing ball and had stopped calling until we walked away. Amongst the usual fare we had Water Rail calling, Willow Tit, Sedge Warbler and 2 Cuckoo.
On our way home Terry woke me from my slumber regarding a Dotterel so a grab of the OS map at home then we were off south and after a few phone calls we found ourselves just over the border in to Oxfordshire at Balscote Quarry Nature Reserve and had prolonged scope views of it from the metal gate among 30 Golden Plover. A longed lifer for Dave and one of his bogey birds finally put to bed.


Friday, 20 April 2012

April 20th 2012

A busy day with visits to Draycote Water, Brandon Marsh, Daventry Country Park, Napton Reservoir, Calcutt and Draycote again. Bob came up trumps with a smart looking male Blue-headed Wagtail on farborough bank in lovely sunshine while Dave thought we should get another soaking at Brandon in case we are due a dry spell soon.
Highlights were:-
Draycote Water 1st visit
Blue-headed Wagtail male, 18 White Wagtail with some observers believing there to be 20 present.4 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Wheatear, 3 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Common Sandpiper, 7 Buzzard, 3 Gadwall and 2 Mistle Thrush

Wheatear and Blue-headed Wagtail by Bob Hazell

Brandon Marsh
3 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Redshank, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Snipe, 2 Shelduck, 6 calling Cetties Warbler, 3 Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warbler, Buzzard 4 and Kingfisher.
Daventry Country Park, Northamptonshire
1st summer Pied Flycatcher, female Redstart, Common Tern and 3 Buzzard
Napton Reservoir
White Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, 4 Long-tailed Tits and Gadwall
Cuckoo flew across road, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk
Draycote Water 2nd visit
additions to earlier visit were Whitethroat, Ringed Plover and Common Tern plus 2 Red-legged Partridge by the entrance road.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

April 19th 2012

Out with Bob and another soaking. Overnight arrivals at the pond included female Scaup in rainbow before she was pushed around by fishing boats, Wheatear increasing to 5 (3 female & 2 male), White Wagtail to 12, and Redshank 2.

Redshank by Bob Hazell

Also around were Arctic Tern, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, 7 Yellow Wagtail, Goldeneye, 3 Gadwall, 9 Teal, 4 Meadow Pipit, 500 Sand Martin, 300 Swallow, Treecreeper and 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

April 18th 2012

The shed showed well last night with the plough in the background and shadowed by another satellite as she headed east leaving our shores just south of Clacton on Sea before disappearing from view over Erfurt, Germany.
As forecasted the rain came in the early hours and Dave and I virtually waddled to toft bay wrapped in rain gear as the elements did everything but throw the kitchen sink at us. Worth the effort despite the poor visibility with 7 White Wagtail, 20 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipit, 12 Linnet, 3 Wheatear, 11 Arctic Tern in two groups of 6 and 5 passing through, 700 Sand Martin, 200 Swallow, 50 House Martin, 3 Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover and Common Sand piper. On the downside the passerines were scattered from farborough bank when the air ambulance came in low looking for a landing spot after yet another accident at Kites Hardwick had blocked the road briefly.
Dried out in the Long Itch Diner then it was out again for another 90 minute soaking on Avon Dassett hills but no luck so tried again at Draycote on our way home where more Swallows and Common Terns had arrived plus another Little Ringed Plover though we did not wander far as our third deluge of the day approached.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

April 17th 2012

A blustery showery day at the pond was responsible for bringing in my second earliest record of Swift and my earliest record of Little Tern when Bob found two out in the centre. Though some distance away for most of the time they occasionally came in close to draycote bank and the island (what’s left of it – reservoir now 60% full)
More Little Gulls and Common Terns arrived over night with 2 adult and 2 first winter Little Gull and 3 Common Tern out in the centre. The island had 2 Little Ringed Plover and Greenshank while 4 more LRPs were elsewhere and a Redshank in toft bay. Not surprisingly warblers were quiet in the windy conditions so apart from Blackcap I saw no other species and the only other birds of note were a pristine White Wagtail on farborough spit, 7 Yellow Wagtail on farborough bank along with 2 male Wheatear, 2 Meadow Pipit, 15 Graylag, 12 Teal, 2 Sparrowhawk, 14 Buzzard and female Goldeneye.


Monday, 16 April 2012

April 16th 2012

50 Fieldfare flew over the Southam road as we arrived at the pond while White and Grey Wagtail were by the fishing platform with 7 Yellow Wagtail 4 Meadow Pipit, Oystercatcher and male Wheatear on farborough bank. In the centre of reservoir adult and first summer Little Gull were among the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls present and a Shelduck loafing around.
Not a lot seen between farborough spit and toft shallows though the Graylag with 3 goslings are worth a mention while the sewage farm had the first Whitethroat of the year here with Bee-fly, Peacock and Orange-tip butterflies enjoying the sun bathed sheltered areas. The walk back to the visitors centre produced a Common Tern and Mallard with 11 young. Also noted were Raven, Treecreeper, 8 Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, 8 Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff, 4 Willow Warbler, 4 Gadwall, Wigeon, Goldeneye, Curlew and 4 Little Ringed Plover.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

April 15th 2012

Two Whitethroat down the Southam road then a look at the pond produced 20 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Wheatear, 2 Little Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Shoveler, 4 Gadwall, Goldeneye, Wigeon, 10 Teal and over 300 Sand Martin but very few Swallows or House Martins.
Napton Churchyard was tranquil and a delight to be out of the bitterly cold northerly wind but nothing showing so we shot out of there after a heads up from Richard regarding a Ring Ousel down the Flecknoe road but after an hour searching with just 5 Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail and Swallow for our efforts we gave up and headed for the warmth of the Just So café before visiting Napton Reservoir.
The reservoir had 15 Yellowhammer, Grey Wagtail 10 Swallow, 4 House Martin and Willow Warbler till we got to the pointy bit where a stunning male Redstart was in the right hand field feeding from the fence posts which we soon had Keith on to. Also of interest was a grayish olive chiffy with very pale under parts seen for a short while with the redstart and 2 Orange-tip. On our way back to the car park 6 Buzzard were soaring overhead and a Curlew flew through.

record shot Redstart by Kieth Yates


April 14th 2012

Morning spent down the station as 70000 Britannia made a scheduled 20 minute stop for water supplied by the fire brigade before heading north to Chester attracting a large appreciative crowd.

BR Britannia Class 4-6-2 no 70000 Britannia Rugby Station


Friday, 13 April 2012

April 13th 2012

Friday the 13th started badly when I found a painful way of getting down stairs, fog ruined my visit to the pond and on top of that I forgot my camera when I went to see 70013 Oliver Cromwell being moved from Carnforth to Southall ready for her Kings Cross to Scarborough the following day. Luckily I managed to retrieve something from the day with a Black-winged Stilt at Rutland Water before it flew off.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

April 12th 2012

Did not get out till late morning and got caught in a heavy rain shower which brought in a partial summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit and my first Common Tern of the year to the pond. Peppered by hail I gave up adding only 2 Little Ringed Plover, Yellow Wagtail and 2 Common Sandpiper


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

April 11th 2012

Narrowly missed 2 Red-legged Partridge down the Grandborough valley while some poor unfortunate further along hill road had not been so lucky while trying to avoid a deer and had made a right mess of his car. Checked he was ok then resumed birding with 34 Fieldfare over Grandborough Fields Farm.
We had the pond almost to ourselves for the first hour managing 3 Common Sandpiper, male Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail on farborough bank, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling on the island while toft bay had another Little Ringed Plover and male Wigeon. Toft shallows produced Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 3 Blackcap and 3 Chiffchaff. On our return we met up with Bob who put us on to yesterday’s Greenshank in biggen bay and had just left him when Dave spotted a Whimbrel coming in over farborough bank and we watched it cross the reservoir till lost to view. Willow Warbler calling in car park.
The visibility from Napton on the Hill was stunning with the 7 counties showing well while birds included 18 Buzzard, 6 Raven, 3 Sparrowhawk, 6 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap and our first Whitethroat of the year in the churchyard plus Green-veined White.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

April 10th 2012

After getting soaked for a winter plumage Knot on the island yesterday then Bob and I did just as well in today’s sunshine finding our first of the year Common Sandpiper on farborough spit and winter plumage Greenshank on the island.
Other sightings included Little Ringed Plover, 4 Yellow-legged Gull (3 adult and a first winter) over among a movement of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, adult Little Gull, 5 Goldeneye, 2 Wigeon, 20 Teal, 6 Gadwall, 2 White Wagtail and 12 Meadow Pipit, The warm weather also brought out the Buzzards with 30 seen along with a single Sparrowhawk but very few hirundines around.


April 8th 2012

Summer plumage Med Gull on island, Little Ringed Plover on farborough spit and 2 male Wheatear on farborough bank otherwise a quiet visit plus 70 Sand Martin a few Swallows and House Martin, 5 Goldeneye and 7 Shoveler. At least 4 Tree Sparrow down the Grandborough valley while Napton on the Hill had 700 + Fieldfare, 100+ Redwing near Chaple Green, Nuthatch, 13 Buzzard and 2 Raven but we couldn’t go to Napton Reservoir without calling in on the Just So café now open for the season where celebrated Colins birthday with lemon meringue cake - pure nector. The reservoir had 20 Reed Bunting and a Long-tailed Tit.


Saturday, 7 April 2012

April 7th 2012

This mornings damp overcast conditions were ideal for keeping yesterdays migrants down so I was out checking the high ground with Pete, Dave and Chris finding a male Ring Ousel at Stoneton and another between Burton Dassett and Avon Dassett with a female over Gredenton Hill where up to five still remain. Also seen were Wheatear, 4 Golden Plover and 3 Fieldfare while 2 Raven were over Marston Doles and another 3 seen from Napton on the Hill which was surprisingly quiet with only 2 Buzzard, Willow Warbler and a calling Yellow Wagtail.
A brief look at Napton Reservoir where there were Goldeneye, 2 Swallow and a Grey Wagtail but decided to give up on the pond due to too much disturbance though 2 male Wheatear, female Stonechat male Blackcap and 2 Yellow Wagtail seen from the car park.


Thursday, 5 April 2012

April 5th 2012

At least 4 Black-necked Grebes at the pond today but for some reason wherever they went so did the fishing boats so prone to disturbance and were very mobile resulting at one stage thinking there were 7 present, all in summer plumage. There were well over 400 hirundines present with 250 Swallow 150 Sand Martin and 2 House Martin. Also present were Snipe, Ruff, 2 Oystercatcher, 3 Shelduck, 8 Shoveler, 8 Gadwall, 11 Goldeneye, 15 Wigeon, 40 Teal, 60 Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Raven, 5 Buzzard, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker and 2 Jay.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

April 4th 2012

Dave and I managed a two hour visit to the pond in poring rain this morning but luckily the forecasted cold front with its increasing wind arrived just as we were leaving so we may have been soaked but at least we didn’t freeze our bits off. A male Yellow Wagtail and 2 Rock Pipit among 40+ Meadow Pipit on farborough bank with a Ruff on the island while Oystercatcher and Grey Plover flew over. Out in the centre over a 150 Swallow and 50 Sand Martin were hunting low over the water. Also noted were 6 Shoveler,10 Goldeneye, 4 Gadwall, 6 Wigeon, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 3 Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff.
Dried out in the Long Itchington diner then moved on to Brandon Marsh where it was bloody freezing with 8 House Martin, 10 Sand Martin and 6 Swallow looking for insects in the frequent rain, sleet and snow showers. Also seen were Nuthatch, 2 Redshank, 8 Snipe, 2 Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover.
On our way home we tried Lawford Heath and found adult and first winter Iceland Gull and first winter Glaucous Gull roosting near the corner of Lawford Heath and Ling lane before they commuted back to the landfill site.


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

April 3rd 2012

A female Wheatear and 5 Fieldfare were on farborough bank when we arrived with yesterdays Ruff on the island briefly and the ponds first Swallow of the year over toft shallows. Other sightings included 12 Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcaps and single Willow Warbler between toft shallows and the country park plus 18 Goldeneye, 18 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 6 Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, 16 Linnet, 10 Meadow Pipit and 20 Buzzard. Also seen today but not by me were 2 more Wheatear, 2 Little Ringed Plover and 2 Oystercatcher in the morning and a Gannet in the afternoon when the rain arrived (bugger).

Sunday, 25 March 2012

March 25th 2012

A social morning spent with the Dave, Colin and the Hall brothers on Napton on the Hill after earlier having hundreds of Fieldfare on Lawford Heath and hearing a "chipping" Lesser Spot elsewhere. The hill had 26 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, 6 Raven and 5 Brimstone while on the way home 8 more Buzzards were on show.
This afternoon sunshine encouraged more Buzzards to show with 9 seen from my garden plus my first 2 Swallows of the year and a Sparrowhawk.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

March 24th 2012

What a stunning day.
Started with a Colin and I hearing a distant Lesser-spotted Woodpecker drumming as we waited for 46201 Princess Elizabeth to appear out of the early morning mist at Wormleighton and she did not disappoint as she charged past a couple of minutes down to disappear back into the gloom. Also in the area were Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff and 6 Tree Sparrow.

We had time to spare so checked out Avon Dassett and found 3 male Wheatears feeding on the eastern side of bonfire hill along with a few Chaffinch and Meadow Pipits heading north.
After breakfast we called in on the pond and had a winter plumage Sanderling on the island followed by a wader fest late morning when a partial summer plumage Grey Plover, 2 Curlew and a Redshank flew over farborough spit. The plover was just above our heads calling loudly. Also present were Oystercatcher, Sparrowhawk, 2 Shoveler, 43 Goldeneye, 18 Wigeon and 3 Yellow-legged Gulls (3rd year and 2 adults including one with no tail)

Sparrowhawk taken by Bob earlier in the week at the pond

The most intriguing bird of the day was a call we heard on farborough bank that sounded like a Tree Pipit going over but alas no bird seen and would have been mega early if it could have been confirmed.
Out again in the afternoon to Napton on the Hill with the unusual record of a Snipe flushed from the main common otherwise very similar to previous visits this week with 2 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, 4 Mistle Thrush, 3 Fieldfare, 6 Buzzard, 2 Raven and a Sparrowhawk. With the temperatures in the high teens butterflies were plentiful with 2 Comma, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral and 2 Brimstone plus a tatty Shoulder Stripe moth.
Napton Reservoir was quiet probably due to the Peregrine feeding on a Wood Pigeon and at Broadwell there was a Chiffchaff and Great-spotted Woodpecker in millbank spinney.
This evening a waxing crescent moon sits below Venus and Jupiter making for a fantastic sight.


March 23rd 2012

Called in on Lawford Heath after a heads up from JJ regarding an Iceland Gull on the tip but we missed it though we did find a second winter Med Gull among many Black-headed Gulls following a nearby plough.
A Brimstone butterfly was seen near Wolston but Brandon Marsh was very quiet with only 15 Snipe, 4 Oystercatcher, 2 Shelduck, 2 Redshank, Goldeneye and Chiffchaff plus a Comma worth mentioning. As we approached Church Lawford on our way home JJ rang again with 3 Iceland’s on the tip so diverted through Rookery Farm managing to see near adult bird with some black in its lower tertials on its left hand side which has been seen a few times in the Draycote roost.
Another call from JJ late afternoon had me searching for a Red Kite as it drifted over Rugby but I had no luck.


March 22nd 2012

I managed 2 Redwing going east over the garden while having poor view of the shed as it went over this morning due to developing mist.
I had arranged to meet up with Mark but we couldn’t find much at the pond with male Goosander, 28 Goldeneye and 8 Buzzard for our efforts while Bob did manage a Ruff by the inlet. The warm weather brought out the butterflies early with Peacock new for the year and single Brimstone.
On our way to Napton we had 2 Brimstone on the Southam Bypass while Napton on the Hill itself was similar to yesterday with Raven, 8 Buzzard, Nuthatch and 2 calling Chiffchaff plus Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and 2 Brimstone.
Woken from my afternoon kip with the offer to visit a local wood for day flying moths managing 4 Light Orange Underwing along with 4 Brimstone, 2 Comma and 2 Small Tortoiseshell plus 4 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Nuthatch, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Treecreeper, Raven and 6 Buzzard.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

March 21st 2012

35 Fieldfare flew north over my garden at 6:20am and 2 Snipe and 60 Linnets were in the grassy field down Southam road before a walk out to farborough spit with Dave and Colin meeting up with Bob on our return. The walk was uneventful with only 2 adult Yellow-legged Gull, 3 Shoveler, 47 Goldeneye, 10 Fieldfare, 2 Red-legged Partridge and a Wheatear in two hours.
Napton on the Hill was a little better with 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, Nuthatch, 7 Buzzard, 2 Raven, Sparrowhawk and 15 Lesser Redpoll heading north plus one Small Tortoiseshell.
Napton Reservoir had 7 Buzzard, male Pochard and 6 Great-crested Grebe and is another reservoir artificially filled to the top and brimming. Single Brimstone flew across the road as we were leaving.
Another afternoon in the garden produced a Golden Plover flying east and a distant Chiffchaff calling.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

March 20th 2012

Yesterdays visit to the pond produced 2 Wheatear, Sand Martin, 2 Oystercatcher, 4 Redwing, 15 Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk and a Raven.

Today was spent at home gardening with 3 Sparrowhawk displaying, Green Woodpecker calling, 2 Raven, 4 local Buzzard displaying and a further 3 heading north and 5 Sand Martins also heading north for company.

I just about put the kiss of death on viewing the shed the last time I published the times but it will start showing hopefully in the morning sky from the 22nd

And finally at long last we have a steam special going through my patch. On its return from Bristol it will take a different route home allowing it to tackle the Lickey Incline between Bromsgrove and Blackwell which is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in the UK. The climb is a gradient of 1-in-37.7 (2.65%) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km) and some trains will require the assistance of a banking locomotive to ensure that they reach the top. In this case they are putting two on. Well worth a look if your in the area and google youtube lickey incline steam for videos.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

March 18th 2012

Perseverance paid off when Dave and I plodded along to toft shallows this morning in poor visibility managing 2 Rock Pipit and two first for the year in 2 male Wheatear along farborough bank and a Chiffchaff in toft bay before reaching the board walk just as the fog started to lift. Having seen 2 Goldcrest we silently crossed the boardwalk hoping for Treecreeper but got eyeballed by a Woodcock that burst out from underneath and circled the bay before dropping back in to toft shallows. Other sightings included Fieldfare, Curlew, 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull and male Shoveler.
At least 30 Redwing were near Birdingbury Bridge on our way to the Long Itch Diner then after breakfast we gave Wormleighton Reservoir a check finding 2 Red-legged Partridge, Buzzard, Great-spotted Woodpecker and 20 Tree Sparrow. Unfortunately the authorities have decided to pump water from the canal back in to the reservoir and its full.
Back out to the pond in the afternoon finding 2 Sand Martin another first of the year for me, Dunlin and 2 Siskin in toft bay but unfortunately it threw it down so cleared off before the roost.


March 17th 2012

Although an elusive bugger I finally caught up with the Common Yellowthroat at as it crawled through a gap in the brambles at Rhiwderin, Gwent before moving on to Wardon, Worcestshire for the Yellow-browed Warbler on the cycle path between Berkeley Way and Skipton Cresent.


Friday, 16 March 2012

March 16th 2012

Brandon Marsh had 4 Shelduck, 4 Oystercatcher, male and female Goosander, 2 female and one male Goldeneye, 8 Snipe, Willow Tit, 2 Coal Tit and 5 Bullfinch. Among the 150+ Black-headed Gulls was one with a very noticeable salmon pink wash on chest and under parts while 2 adult summer plumage Med Gulls arrived. Arrived to late for the Bittern and Red Kite reported earlier in the day.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

March 15th 2012

After yesterdays disappointing visit in murky conditions only producing 2 Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker and 30 Meadow Pipit I did not expect much improvement in the weather this morning but it was still a kick in the teeth to wake up to thick freezing fog.
Dave and I trawled the valley waiting for the pond to open managing 3 Tree Sparrow before walking out to toft shallows and back with visibility down to 50 yards. We spent 15 minutes staring in to the gloom near the hide where a Curlew was constantly calling but could not see it on the deck and only managed poor flight views when it took off and again later when it flew over farborough bank after circling the reservoir calling. Only other birds of note were a Little Ringed Plover flying along farborough bank and a Willow Tit along the entrance road opposite the new car park.
After breakfast we searched Napton on the Hill but with the visibility still poor and a lot colder being higher up we could only find Coal Tit, 2 Goldcrest and Nuthatch though there were plenty of pairs of Blue and Great Tit doing what comes naturally.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

March 13th 2012

While photographing my moths this morning Bob tried to hide his disappointment when I mentioned I had seen an adult Iceland Gull fly through the gloom at 7:40am over Montague Road on my way back from Sainsbury’s but he lit up like an Christmas tree when it flew overhead at roof top level just after 9am. Once finished with my garden we moved on to Dave’s to check his trap out then gave the pond a 3 hour visit but the gloom remained with no signs of improving. Yesterdays waders had all decided to stay with Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover and Ringed Plover in the same locations with only another Oystercatcher on the island indicating any wader passage.
Also logged were 40+ Meadow Pipit, adult Yellow-legged Gull, 5 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, 44 Goldeneye, 2 Shoveler, Green Woodpecker, Reed Bunting, 70 Redwing and 40 Fieldfare.

recent moths have included

Twin-spotted Quaker

Common Quaker

Amblyptilia punctidactyla

Agonopterix heracliana

Monday, 12 March 2012

March 12th 2012

A misty start to the day so hung back at home photographing moths before venturing down to the pond. The place had a feel of emptiness after yesterdays heavy disturbance from the 200+ runners on a 10 mile race and the usual weekend fishing and sailing activity so we were kicked sideways when we were asked if there was any sign of the Glossy Ibis. Met with a chorus of what glossy ibis. Apparently one had turned up in dunns bay yesterday afternoon before flying off towards toft bay. If anyone has any further info on this bird John Judge or myself would appreciate details as this would be a first for the pond.
Having seen our first Little Ringed Plover of the year Bob and I were walking back from toft shallows and ended up absorbed in watching some “official” doing plant survey work in the “scrape” below farborough bank when they flushed a Jack Snipe. They must have nearly stood on it before it burst from cover and was watched flying off before coming down near pool by the entrance road to Foxely Farm. My first at the pond since October 2009.
Also present today was a Ringed Plover on the island, Oystercatcher toft shallows, adult and 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull out in the centre, 20+ Goldeneye, male and 2 female Goosander, 6 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, single Pochard, 40 Teal, 70 Fieldfare, 400 Starling, 10 Redwing, 40 Meadow Pipit, 2 Reed Bunting, Green Woodpecker and a lone Buzzard.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

March 11th 2012

3 Shoveler, 20 Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare and a 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull was all we could manage from the pond in a 90 minute visit while the spring sunshine produced Brimstone in Marton village, 2 more Brimstones and 2 Comma butterfly’s in Wappenbury Wood along with a unidentified white species, also Muntjac Deer, 8 Buzzard, 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit and 10+ Nuthatch.
Mid afternoon a Red Kite drifted over the garden heading east mobbed by 2 Sparrowhawk while both Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone made brief appearances.


March 10th 2012

Last night was mild so my moth trap had 3 Hebrew Character, 2 Common Quaker, Pale Brindle Beauty, Satellite, 3 Grey Shouldered-knot and my earliest Brindled Pug while Dave managed 3 Agonopterix scopariella, 4 Amblyptilia punctidactyla, 2 Dotted Border, 2 Common Quaker and a Hebrew Character.

Draycote Water and the valley were shrouded in fog this morning so continued on to Napton on the Hill where conditions were a little better. Highlight of a thorough search was my first Chiffchaff of the year in the churchyard and 4 Raven. On my return a Little Owl was at Shuckburgh and a very high Peregrine heading east between Calcutt and Broadwell. Also seen were 2 Tree Sparrows, 8 Bullfinch, 14 Long-tailed Tit, 9 Buzzard and 3 Sparrowhawk.
Called in on the pond but it was heaving with fishermen and runners so did not stay long, just 25 Goldeneye out in the centre and 2 Siskin in toft shallows worth noting.


Friday, 9 March 2012

March 9th 2012

A disastrous day out photographically when I travelled up to Stafford to watch 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and 46201 Princess Elizabeth steam through as a double header with two supporting coaches on there way north to Carnforth from Tyseley only for a passenger to stand in front of me just as I clicked a 11 shot burst so too late to get another shot off. I returned disgruntled to Rugby to await the passing of 44932 on its way south but unfortunately just as she arrived an over enthusiastic bunch of Vikings on a Hen party jumped me so another shot ruined. Only bird worth noting was a Little Egret on the river near Shugborough tunnel between Rugeley and Stafford.
This evening’s sky was more rewarding with Venus and Jupiter close together and you can just make out the smudge of Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd with the aid of bins as she passes Ursa Minor at 7th magnitude though don’t blame me if you strain your neck. Venus and Jupiter become even closer over the weekend.


March 8th 2012

We had a peregrine fest this morning at the pond. The first a small individual flew north over toft bay flushing all the duck and 10 minutes later as some of the duck tried to return a large female took out a male Pochard in mid-air. She struggled to keep alight with her bounty and just managed to make the shoreline of grays barn with the duck still alive though after a couple of hard pecks she finished it off and started feeding. A couple of Buzzards successfully flushed her off a couple of times but she remained close and eventually saw them off. Later from farnborough bank 2 more Peregrine (differences in plumages with one having a primary feather missing from left wing) were hunting over the valley.
The only other highlight of our visit was the dramatic increase in Goldeneye numbers with 88 counted (32 male) though once the peregrines and fishermen appeared they dispersed.
Also noted were 14 Goosander, 36 Pochard, 26 Wigeon, 40 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 40 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing, 18, Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk and 30 Meadow Pipit.

Dave and I had a Barn Owl perched on Lawford Heath on our way back from the pub this evening.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

March 7th 2012

Draycote Water was wet and yuk so failed to find anything of note so moved on even before the fishermen arrived to Brandon Marsh where we had a male and female Goosander arrive along with 65 Golden Plover in the pouring rain which were part of a flock of over 300 GPs circling in the distance. Also present were 4 Shelduck, 4 Oystercatcher, Kingfisher, 2 Snipe, 2 Goldeneye and 5 Cettie’s Warblers calling.


March 6th 2012

The beautiful sunshine and clear sky’s disappeared as Bob and I arrived at the pond too thick fog which took well over an hour to clear. There were 8 Siskin and 30 Redwing in toft shallows along with 5 Long-tailed Tits while my slow walk back produced a Snipe flushed by the 30 or so fishermen clearing scrub out of toft bay ready for the start of the fishing season tomorrow.
Also of interest were 26 Buzzard with 14 acting as if they were local birds while the rest were heading north in ones and twos. Very few duck around with 46 Teal, 26 Wigeon, 20 Goldeneye and 10 Gadwall worth a mention. Six Golden Plover (some in summer plumage)flew over the new car park heading north as we were leaving. Water levels rising slowly


March 5th 2012

I forgot what dipping felt like – a long over due trip to Rhiwderin, Gwent for the long staying first winter male Common Yellowthroat but the bird failed to appear after five hours . Managed to salvage something out of the day with a detour on the way home producing Merlin, Short-eared Owl, 2 Dipper, 4 Red Grouse and 3 Stonechat. Bloody throat appeared 15 minutes after we left – bugger


Sunday, 4 March 2012

March 4th 2012

A wet start to the day and after our recent illnesses we had no intention of getting soaked so spent an hour at the pond sheltering by the visitor centre and were lucky enough find a Rock Pipit feeding with 30 Meadow Pipit by the fishing pontoon before clearing off for breakfast
Unfortunately by the time we arrived at Brandon the temperature had dropped dramatically when the wind changed to the north making conditions uncomfortable, still we managed 2 Shelduck, 2 Oystercatcher, Dunlin, 190 Golden Plover 45 Snipe and the male Pintail.
On the way home the 100+ Mute Swan were still near Bretford and a look at Limestone Hall and Rookery Farm produced 2 Grey Partridge and 3 Corn Bunting.


Saturday, 3 March 2012

March 3rd 2012

I trawled the Grandborough valley managing 2 Short-eared Owls, 8 Buzzard and 2 Red-legged partridge before popping in to town where there was a Nuthatch in Caldecot Park. I had intended to join the regulars to do the roost but couldn’t refuse the invitation from friends in the sailing club so managed Iceland, Glaucous and Med Gull from the comfort of an armchair with a beer in hand – magic.


Friday, 2 March 2012

2nd March 2012

Went over to focus optics to collect my rebuilt bins before meeting up with Colin at Brandon Marsh where we had 20 Snipe, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Buzzard, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Shelduck and 2 Pintail.

Bob didn't have much this morning at the pond but managed this nice image of Teal


Thursday, 1 March 2012

1st March 2012

We delayed our visit to the pond but still had to wait till mid-day before the visibility improved when gorgeous sunshine finally broke through and burnt off the morning fog. Unfortunately all we could find was a male Shoveler, 23 Gadwall, 30+ Goldeneye, 2 Buzzard, 10 Meadow Pipit, 100 Fieldfare and 30 Redwing. Tried our luck on Lawford Heath for white winged gulls but though we eventually had good views of the larger gulls resting nothing could be found apart from a Yellow-legged Gull adult and 4 Buzzard going over and a brief view of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly.


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

February 29th 2012

At long last there’s light at the end of whats been a shitty tunnel thanks to blood posioning.
Bob came round to find out what to write on my headstone and while chatting we were entertained by the feeding antics of my Yellow-necked Mouse which has been active since this mild spell started.
Not surprisingly the moths have benefited from the weather with 14 species recorded since the 21st bringing my total year count for the garden to nineteen.

Grey Shouldered-Knot

Amblyptilia punctidactyla

Hebrew Character

I needed some fresh air so persuaded Bob that if he wasn’t going to walk around the pond I could manage a short walk so arrived just before 11am and the first bird he found was a partial summer plumage Med Gull in biggen bay that moved later to toft bay where he managed a record shot before it left at mid-day to the east and proberbly settled with other gulls on toft farm near Toft Hill.

Med Gull by Bob Hazel and though it looks like the same bird that was a Brandon Marsh yesterday apprently that was seen again today at the same time as this bird.
While watching the gull the first of 2 Rock Pipits appeared followed by the appearance of 25 Meadow Pipits with 20 Gadwall off farborough bank. From farborough spit we watched 2 Curlew circle the reservoir a number of times before flying off east and in toft bay there were 20+ Goldeneye, 40 Pochard, 3 Shoveler while our walk back produced Oystercatcher, adult Yellow-legged Gull 10 Fieldfare, Redwing and 2 Buzzard but no sign of any pipits.

Arrived home toatlly buggered just as a Peregrine flew over the garden mobbed by the local corvids.

I only caught up with the space shed once when it appeared over the crescent moon flanked by Venus and Jupiter last week - these two planets should dominate the month ahead along with Mars so keep um peeled.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

22nd February 2012

Not birding for awhile.

Have updated the last part of my Gambian Holiday and three of Paul Cashmore vids below

Giant Kingfisher

Blue-bellied Roller

Greyish Eagle Owl


Sunday, 19 February 2012

February 19th 2012

A light snow shower had cleared overnight and the temperature dropped as we trawled around Lawford Heath at first light hoping for owls but all we could find were 200 Fieldfare, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Buzzard, 3 Corn Bunting and 600+ Rooks.
Pushed on to Bretford and checked the swan flock out – all 100 were Mute but not an easy viewing location then it was on to Draycote Water.
Why bother I hear you ask and after 22 runners, 16 walkers, 8 bikers in 30 minutes and just 10 Gadwall and 20 Goldeneye to show for our effort we should have asked that question ourselves.
A text from Keith regarding a Bittern at Brandon showing NOW just as we arrived at the Long Itch Diner meant we had to make an executive decision and the breakfast won so it was a couple of contented stomachs that arrived 40 minutes later and it was still showing. Smug or what.
Not brilliant views but later on we saw it from the opposite hide where it could be seen preening perched on a platform of reeds. Met up with Keith, Jeff and Max and our visit turned out to be the best of the year with Fridays Pintail male joined by a female, Cetties Warbler, 2 Water Rail, 2 Snipe, Kingfisher, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Shelduck, Siskin, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

February 18th 2012

African Thrush by Colin Potter

Finally started to update my Gambian blog see January 24th.

Here comes that shed again


February 17th 2012

Out briefly with Dave but he was suffering from a cold so did not stay out long. A look at the Pintail at Brandon Marsh, 60+ Swans at Bretford and 2 Corn Bunting on the heath.


February 16th 2012

Draycote has become a war zone - construction work taking place in three seperate areas, the Fishing Garage home to our House Martin Coloney has been demolished and yesterday every man and his dog from the BBC, ST and the Eviromental Agency were wandering around filming for local TV re-garding the potential drought we may face this summer resulting in very poor duck numbers today. Luckily 110 Pochard still remain while 7 Shoveler were passing through. Toft shallows had 8 Siskin and the island a 3rd year Yellow-legged Gull.


February 15th 2011

Decided to give the pond a miss and chose to walk to onley Fields managing a Tawny Owl near Gorse Farm and a distant Little Owl down Onley Lane near the southern entrance to Ashlawh Cutting. Unfortunately very few passerines around.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

February 14th 2012

Early Moth joined the Spring Usher in the trap and at long last we had decent visibility for today’s visit to the pond while the continuing thaw encouraged some passerine movement.
Counting duck is becoming a headache as they are getting hammered by the disturbance on draycote bank, not helped by the purification and construction plant re-routed via toft bay so are flighty as the traffic trundles pass.
Certainly looks as if Teal and Wigeon numbers are still improving, Pochard about the same and Goldeneye may be well over 60 with at least 45 in toft bay while a few others were dotted around the reservoir, there were 2 male Shoveler and at least 12 Goosander. No sign of yesterdays Pintail.
Over 500 Fieldfare and a 100 Redwing were feeding in the fields between toft bank and the Southam Road while between toft shallows and the M45 embankment there were 11 Siskin, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Treecreeper, Great-spotted Woodpecker and many Blue Tit while on my way back 8 Golden Plover flew west, 35 Meadow Pipit on farborough bank and a smart looking male Peregrine flew over.


Monday, 13 February 2012

February 13th 2012

A male Pintail surprisingly walked out of toft bay, Draycote Water to feed past the hide with a group of Mallard otherwise Bob and I struggled though there was an overnight increase in Teal and Wigeon. A Yellow-legged Gull adult on the island, 14 Goosander and 6 Siskin was the best we could manage.

I was bored so took this and very few birds on the feeder.

Meanwhile I have received enquiry’s about the progress of my picture, the Space Shed and Steam Trains. Unfortunately I have not had time to paint since I arrived back from my holiday as my Gambian Diary is taking longer than anticipated so here’s how it looks at the moment.

No Steam Excursions due through the patch at the moment and the “shed” is just starting to perform its evening fly over’s but good viewing passes not until the 20th so will post times later in week.

My first moth for nearly a month has just appeared – Spring Usher.


Sunday, 12 February 2012

February 12th 2012

This morning was a balmy -2c and climbing compared to yesterdays numbing -13c on the Nene Washes as Dave and I trawled the Grandborough Valley this morning. The highlights were a brock Badger caught in the car headlights at Woolscott for 2 minutes, Tawny Owl near Willoughby, 8 Buzzard loafing on telegraph poles, 6 Tree Sparrow on the Basaely smallholding (no sign of Thursdays Jack Snipe) and 6 Kestrels.
Visibility at the pond wasn’t brilliant while we walked out to farborough spit though there was an obvious increase in Gadwll (35), Pochard (130) and Goldeneye (45) numbers since my last visit. Other birds of note included a Buzzard feeding on a dead gull on the island, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gull among the many gulls post roosting on the frozen surface of toft and parts of biggen bay, 20 + Linnet and 10+ Goosander.
Biggest surprise of the day was at Brandon Marsh where a Red Admiral fluttered past us chased by Dunnocks just after we had missed a Bittern by seconds (many thanks for the heads up Conservation Team) while a wander around the west and east marsh produced 5 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Marsh Tit, 2 Goldcrest, Green Sandpiper and at least 8 Jays. The feeding station by the visitors centre produced 2 Coal Tit and 2 Nuthatch.
On our way home there were at least 80 + swans in two groups at Bretford but traffic flow did not allow us a closer inspection and afternoon visitors to my garden included Rook, Yellowhammer and Common Gull.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

February 8th 2012

Today's visit was very disappointing - freezing me nuts off for only a Sparrowhawk carrying a recently caught dove, 70 Pochard, 7 Goosander, 10 Linnets, 2 Shoveler, Dunlin, 2 Graylag and and a Fox worth noting. Signs are up in country park warning visitors to obey all on site instructions in regards to the construction work along Draycote Bank.
The garden has fared better with visits from Reed Bunting, Willow Tit and Treecreeper.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

February 5th 2012

Flecknoe Road, Grandborough Valley

A week ago I was on a canoe going up the Gambian River with friends sweating buckets while today was the total opposite with 3 inches of overnight snow bringing tranquility to the patch accept for the chattering of teeth.
Despite the effort we put into the Grandborough Valley at first light we only managed 7 Buzzards and 11 Tree Sparrow with no sign of any owls though we did have a Fox, 6 Hare and 4 distant deer species.
Brandon Marsh was iced up with a small amount of open water. The best here was 4 Goldcrest and 5 Snipe while Lawford Heath had 3 Tree Sparrow.

East Marsh, Brandon Marsh

Friday, 3 February 2012

February 3rd 2012

Had to take my bins and Dave’s scope to the Focus Optics doctor and they have been hospitalized in Austria and Germany for life saving operations so it’s back to eye balling birding for me. On our way back we had a Coal Tit and Jay at Brandon while eating to keep warm and a Corn Bunting on the heath along with 2 Buzzards.


Thursday, 2 February 2012

February 2nd 2012

The biting easterly wind made Draycote Water bitterly cold this morning. The highlight was 2 Whooper Swan which arrived with 2 Mute Swan late morning while other sightings included 6 Shoveler, 34 Goosander, 26 Goldeneye 12 Reed Bunting, 20+ Yellowhammer, Jay, 10 Fieldfare and 4 Dunlin.

record shot of Whooper Swan by Bob Hazell

Unfortunately there will be a lot of disturbance over the next few days from the construction of a sailing club car park in the picnic area and the construction of a pipeline on, along and eventually through draycote bank as Severn Trent have been granted a license to extract water from Newbold Comyn connecting too an already present pipe line with the intention of raising the water level by at least a meter as soon as possible. Purification Works traffic today was being diverted along draycote bank while supplies were delivered.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

February 1st 2012

I arrived home at 2pm this morning after a weeks birding with Halcyon Gambia and it was a shock to the system hanging around for the airparks bus to arrive in -2c after sweating buckets in 30c 6 hours earlier and watching Dave scrape a heavy frost off the car windows before we could leave.
No way was I going out with Bob to the pond as planned and invited him round for coffee after his walk so we could play catch up and find out what I had missed.
As for the holiday it was stunning with a provisional count of 291 species seen adding 14 to my Gambia and world list which far exceed my expectations due to being well organized by Phil and Clare at Halcyon Gambia in the UK, Bob and Jane who ran the Halcyon Gambia Compound in Bijilo, Gambia plus being well guided by Mustapha and our ever smiling driver Aladdin. I will put a full report on the blog once I get my act together and receive a few pictures from the gang.


January 24th to January 28th 2012

January 24th 2012
Flew out of a very wet Birmingham Airport and eventually had clear sky’s over the Western Sahara and thankfully the boredom of a six hour flight was lifted when we enjoyed panoramic views of the sandstone plains of Mauritania before arriving at Gambia’s Yundum Airport on time. Being my third visit to Gambia and most of the groups second with Halcyon Gambia once I was through passport control I grabbed a porter who I knew would jumped the queue and put my luggage though the security checks in double quick time so I was soon heading for the exit to be met by our guide for the week Mustapha. While I went outside to enjoy the heat it did not take long for Mus to round everyone up and once our luggage was loaded on to our mini bus we made our way to the Halcyon compound in Bijilo noting the usual first birds on any visit to Gambia, Speckled Pigeon, Black-headed Plover, Hooded Vultures and Cattle Egret while enjoying the glorious sunshine and getting use to Mus talking again about his beloved Barnsley in his mock Yorkshire accent, even though he has never been to the UK.

Halycon Compond

At the compound we were cheerily greeted by Bob and Jane our hosts and the rest of the compound staff and allocated our rooms. Once we had freshened up the last couple of hours of daylight was spent chilling out by the pool, watching the feeders, drinking beers and chatting as if we had never been away.

Red-billed Fire-finch

African Mourning Dove, African Palm Swift, Beautiful Sunbird, Black Kite,
Black-headed Plover, Cattle Egret, Common Bulbul, Grey-headed Sparrow, Hooded Vulture, Laughing Dove,Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Little Swift, Village Weaver,Pied Crow, Red-billed Fire-finch, Long-tailed Glossy Starling, Shrika,
Speckled Pigeon, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, Squacco Heron, Village Indigobird, Vinaceous Dove, Western Grey Plantain-Eater.

January 25th 2012
Up early raring to go and after breakfast we boarded our minibus for the short journey to Koto Bridge which had hardly changed since our last visit except for a great hole in the bridge. Certainly no Health and Safety here – just a large stump jammed in to stop you splashing around 10 ft below. Loaded up with water we then went walk about revisiting Koto Creek, Casino Cycle Track, Lily Ponds and Koto Sewage Ponds before a welcome cold drink at the Gambian Birdwatching Association garden where they have a shelter to cool down. Once rested we returned to the minibus and moved on to Fajara Golf Course for a short walk before finally arriving at a beach bar at Cape Creek for Lunch. Birds were coming thick and fast so grateful for the peace and quiet the bar gave us – once the native dancing troop had stopped practicing – to my ears it was just a racket although I noticed a few of my group tapping along. Had to give the semi- naked bronzed wrinklies a wide berth while searching the beach then on to Brutfut for a stunning couple of hours. Mus had two party piece up his sleeve. The first was 2 roosting Verreaux's Eagle-Owls high in a palm tree – a longed for life tick for me and the second was taking us to a spot where he indicated there was a roosting Long-tailed Nightjar with in 6ft of us but it sure took 7 of us a while to locate this gem among the leaf litter. We arrived back at the compound hot, tired and 151 species under the belt.

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Brutfut. Colin Potter

Pygmy Kingfisher, Brutfut, Colin Potter

African Grey Hornbill, African Harrier-Hawk, African Jacana, African Pied-Hornbill, African Spoonbill, African Thrush, Bearded Barbet, Black Scimitar-bill, Black-billed Wood Dove, Blackcap Babbler, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black Egret Black-headed Gull, Black-headed Heron, Black-necked Weaver, Black-shouldered Kite, Black-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, Blue-bellied Roller, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater, Blue-headed Wagtail, Bronze Mannikin, Brown Babbler, Caspian Tern, Chiffchaff,Common Sandpiper, Crested Lark, Double-spurred Francolin, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Roller, Fork-tailed Drongo, Great White Egret, Green Sandpiper, Green Turaco, Green Wood Hoopoe, Green-backed Eremomela, Greenshank, Grey Heron, Grey Kestrel, Grey Plover, Grey Woodpecker, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Grey-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, House Sparrow, Intermediate Egret, Lavender Waxbill, Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Lesser Honeyguide, Little Bee-eater, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Little Ringed Plover, Little Weaver, Lizzard Buzzard, Long-tailed Cormorant,Long-tailed Nightjar, Malachite Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Mottled Spinetail, Namaqua Dove Northern Black Flycatcher, Northern Red Bishop, Olivacious Warbler, Orange-billed Waxbill, Osprey, Palm-nut Vulture, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Pygmy Kingfisher, Pink-backed Pelican,Pied Kingfisher, Plain-backed Pipit, Red-billed Hornbill, Red-billed Quelea, Red-chested Swallow, Redshank, Red-winged Warbler, Ringed Plover, Rosy Parakeet,Saced Ibis, Sand Martin, Senegal Coucal, Senegal Parrot, Senegal Thick-knee, Slender-billed Gull, Splendid Sunbird, Spur-winged Plover, Striped Kingfisher, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Variable Sunbird, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Violet Turaco, Wattled Plover, Western Reef Heron, Western Sub-Alpine Warbler, Whimbrel, White Wagtail, White-billed Buffalo Weaver,White-faced Whistling Duck, White-shouldered Black-Tit, Willow Warbler, Winding Cisticola Wire-tailed Swallow, Wood Sandpiper, Woodchat Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-billed Shrike, Yellow-breasted Apalils, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Zitting Cisticola

January 26th 2012
A beautiful Black-shouldered Kite sitting on a roadside telegraph pole greeted us as we drove out of Bijilo along with Lizzard Buzzard and Grey Kestrel on our way to the riverine forest reserve at Abuko where we had a leisurely walk finding a number of good species with the highlight for most being the Western Bluebill, Grey-headed Bristle Bill and 2 Buff-spotted Woodpecker before leaving which gave us chance to enjoy the attention of the stall holders and a cold drink chatting to the locals before moving on to Lamin Rice Fields.

Painted Snipe by Graeme Dunlop

Here our visit produced the hoped for Painted Snipe with at least 2 showing well amongst the mangroves while the small agricultural plots held many species new for our trip list.
Over a long lunch at Lamin Lodge the food went flying as we scrambled to see a flyby Goliath Heron go past our lofty position watched by a sharp eyed Green-eyed Velvet Monkey who despite our gallant efforts finally made off with the sugar bowl. As the heat of the day subsided we searched the surrounding fields and tracks behind Lamin Lodge village finding a delightful Western Violet-backed Sunbird but missed by seconds the White-crowned Robin-Chat.
Back early at the compound giving us chance to pack for tomorrows up country trip then enjoyed the sight and sounds of the compounds garden and feeders while downing a few very welcome cold Beer’s

Buff-spotted Woodpecker Common Wattle-Eye European Bee-eater Fanti Saw-wing Giant Kingfisher Goliath Heron Grey Headed Bristle Bill Grey Plantain-eater m, Hammerkop, Kestrel Lanner Falcon Little Greenbul Moorhen Painted Snipe Pied-winged Swallow Purple Heron Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher Red-eyed Dove Reed Warbler Sandwich Tern Scarlet-breasted Sunbird Sedge Warbler Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat Western Bluebill Western Violet-backed Sunbird Yellow-fronted Canary Yellow-throated Leaflove

January 27th 2012
Needing an early start to catch the ferry to Barra over the Gambian River for our journey to Georgetown we dragged poor old Bob and Jane out of bed at some ungodly hour for breakfast and were mightily impressed that our mini-bus had transformed into a coach when our new driver Aladdin and his renovated 22 seat “Skylark” arrived. By Gambian standards this was luxury and boy did we benefit from having plenty of spare room for our gear and a window seat each.
Once we were parked up inside the dock awaiting the ferry’s arrival we stood on the quayside adding a few tern and gull species before boarding and heading for the top deck which gave us panoramic views of our crossing. The highlights were a couple of Skua species, Royal Tern and 100s of African Palm Swift flying low so you could actually appreciate what they looked like as normally they are so high overhead.
Once Aladdin had eased past the disembarking traffic and passengers we left Barra be hind and headed east though we hadn’t gone far when a call for a comfort stop produced over 60+ roosting Bruce’s Green Pigeon.

Bruce's Green Pigeon by Colin Potter
Further on Mus spotted a helmet-shrike and as we charged off the coach we had excellent roadside views of 2 White Crested Helmet-shrike along with 2 African Golden Oriole and 2 African Green Pigeon. We continued our journey stopping at various wetlands which produced many new species for the trip and one or two lifers for the group. The best were Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Cut-throat, Southern Grey Shrike, Sudan Golden Sparrow and Yellow-billed Oxpecker at Kerewan, Pin-tailed Whydah at Batung Wetland and Kaur Wetland produced many species including Kentish Plover, Kittlitz's Plover, Knob-billed Duck and Spur-winged Goose. In between theses locations we also had from the coach Exclamatory Paradise-Whydah, 2 Northern Anteater-Chat, Lanner Falcon and 3 Ruppell's Vulture.
As the long journey continued we were soon jolted out of our fatigue and slumber by Mus announcing we are going to look for coursers and bustards. Having spread out and with Lamin on point duty and Mus using his knowledge of the area we managed to find 4 Temminck's Courser, Black-bellied Bustard, 2 White-bellied Bustard and a Savile's Bustard so it was a dusty sweaty, smiling gang that returned to the coach totally buggered but most experiencing 4 life ticks from one area - magic.

Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark by Colin Potter

The rest of the journey was a mixture of fortunes such as failing to find any Egyptian Plovers and seeing 3 more White-bellied Bustard before arriving just before dusk at Georgetown. We needed to be on the south bank and could see our accommodation but we were the 11th vehicle awaiting the ferry which could only take four at a time so while we waited we looked for Pearl-spotted Owlet finding two. Eventually we crossed in the dark allowing stunning view of the clear sky’s including a few constellations I had not seen before. Once we arrived at the Baobalong Camp we freshened up then it was out again for a look for nightjars and owls finding one unidentified nightjar species and hearing a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl.

African Golden Oriole ,African Green Pigeon, African Oriole, African Silverbill, Arctic Skua, Avocet, Black Rumped Waxbill, Black Tern, Black-bellied Bustard, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Bush Petronia, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Collared Pratincole, Common Redstart, Common Tern, Cormorant, Curlew Sandpiper, Cut-throat, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Exclamatory Paradise-Whydah, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Grasshopper Buzzard, House Martin, Kentish Plover, Kittlitz's Plover, Knob-billed Duck, Little Green Bee-Eater, Little Stint, Little Tern, Marsh Sandpiper, Med Gull Montagu’s Harrier, Northern Anteater-Chat, Northern Wheatear, Pygmy Sunbird, Pied Hornbill, Pin-tailed Whydah, Pomarine Skua, Purple Swamphen, Quail, Red-necked Falcon, Royal Tern, Ruff, Ruppell's Vulture, Sand Partridge, Savile's Bustard, Southern Grey Shrike, Spur-winged Goose, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Temminck's Courser, Western Bonelli's Warbler, White Crested Helmetshrike, White-backed Pelican, White-bellied Bustard, White-winged black Tern, Yellow-billed Oxpecker.

January 28h 2012
The intensity of dawn to dusk birding and long travel days can start to wear you down so it was very welcome just to walk 200 yards from our accommodation down to the rivers edge and board our motorized covered canoe for a trip along the north bank at first light.

We soon spread out but I was unfortunately not on the bank side when a shout of hippo had me racing to the other side but too late. Those on the ball were lucky enough to see its nostrils and ears and hear it snort before submerging –damn. New trip birds came thick and fast with plenty of activity in the river-side vegetation where we had at least 14 kingfishers of three species, 6 Swamp Flycatcher, 4 African fish Eagles and 2 Striated Heron amongst the many herons and egrets.

African Fish Eagle

The main highlights was the 10 Red-throated Bee-Eater a must see species when up river along with the 2 elusive African Fin-foot hiding amongst the mangrove roots, a close fly by Long-crested Eagle that flew over then perched allowing good views and the large amount of Turtle Dove’s we flushed as we chugged along at a leisurely pace. The icing on the cake was on our way back when I took an interest in a small clump of trees covered in vines and somehow managed to spot what I thought was an owl roosting. The canoe turned round and a closer look showed a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl just sitting quietly half way up – magic.

African Fin-foot by Colin Potter

Once back on dry land we finished packing, loaded the coach and left Georgetown for Bansang Quarry further up country where we had more Red-throated Bee-Eater plus Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and European Golden Oriole added to our trip list before heading back wast to Tendaba. Though a lot better since being re-graded there’s no luxury like the north road tarmac and this road is very dusty and a boneshaker but somehow you get use to it and a number of stops produced more children than birds at some locations.

Aladdin our superb driver who never stopped smiling and one of the nicest guys you can ever meet and was always a favourite with the children - not surprising since he has 11 of his own.

Highlight from the coach was Rufous Crowned Roller at the junction for Georgetown when we slowed for a military check point and at the village of Fula Bantang a Donkey carcass attracted 2 Ruppell's and 18 White-backed Vulture while overhead a Beaudouin's Snake-Eagle circled though out our short stay. Nearby a Marabou Stork colony had at least 40 of these big ugly beasties

Marabou Stork

Arrived at Tendaba where Dave and I had the local ladies in stitches as our room allocation meant we were expected to share a bed but that but was soon sorted out and we appreciated the running water to freshen up which was a lacking at Georgetown.
Once we had gathered ourselves we were out again to nearby Kiang West looking for Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill but we not quick enough when one was seen by Mus going back in to the forest undergrowth then we eventually made our way to an ideal spot for nightjars and waited for the sun to go down. After a short wait we managed at least 4 Standard-winged Nightjars but the there show was stolen by the 2 calling African Scops Owl with one appearing in adjacent tree.

African Fin-foot, African Fish-Eagle, African Scops Owl, Beaudouin's Snake-Eagle, Broad-billed Roller, Brown Snake Eagle, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, European Golden Oriole, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Greater Honeyguide, Grey Hornbill, Long-crested Eagle, Marabou Stork, Oriole Warbler, Purple Glossy Starling, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-throated Bee-eater, Ruddy Turnstone, Rufous-crowned Roller, Standard-winged Nightjar, Striated Heron, Swamp Flycatcher, Turtle Dove, White-backed Vulture,