SIGHTINGS JANUARY-MARCH 2011 

Wednesday 30th March
No sign of any Ring Ouzel up the hill this morning but a dog walker said she saw a male near Wontley farm on Saturday. A Wheatear was showing well very close to the car park and the 2 Stonechat were in their usual area.
 
Tuesday 29th March
An early morning visit to Cleeve common produced a single Wheatear, 2 Raven, 2 Stonechat and 39 Golden Plover. There was no sign of the Black Redstart.
 
Monday 28th March
This evening I went up to Cleeve Common. It was a beautiful evening and not a breath of wind!!! I was pleased to find the Black Redstart was still around. It was halfway between the pylons and the gate leading to west down car park and showed well. It did move a bit further down the hedgerow in the adjacent field but was still feeding when I left. Also seen around that area were 6 Wheatear. They were on the walls and then all started feeding in the field near the Black Redstart. The males really are stunning birds! Around 25 Meadow Pipit were also feeding and a flock of around 30 Fieldfare flew over.
 
Black Redstart
 
 
 
Friday 25th - Sunday 27th March - Family trip to Norfolk
We had a cracking trip to the North Norfolk coast with some great birds seen. I will write a full trip report soon. Highlights included thousands of Geese, Marsh Harriers, Snow Bunting, Black Redstart, Water Pipit, Bearded Tit and many more!
 
Friday 25th March
Before leaving for Folfolk a Willow Warbler was singing and and feeding up our field. My first of the spring. 
 
Wednesday 23rd March
We went early this morning to have a look over the sailing lake for the possible Ferruginous Duck but after a good scan couldn't see it. There were 8 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Pochard and around 30 Tufted Duck. Over on court lake there were 2 Mandarin and 6 Gadwall with around 20 Mute Swan.
After work I had a look again at Coombe Hill where 2 Little Ringed Plover were seen along with similar birds as yesterday. The 2 Egyptian Geese were displaying close in front of the hide.
 
Tuesday 22nd March
At Coombe Hill today, at least 3 Chiffchaff were along the canal with 4 Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting. From the hide there were around 12 Curlew with one colour ringed bird. The Shelduck and Oystercatcher were very vocal and 2 Little Egret and 4 Grey Heron were seen along with a single Redshank. The 2 Egyptian Geese that have been seen recently were also grazing to the left of the hide.
Egyptian Geese
 
Saturday 19th March
Today we went to try and see the Black Necked Grebe that was seen yesterday in Bourton-on-the-water but unfortunately the bird must have moved on. We did see 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Goosander, 8 Red Crested Pochard and an Aythya Hybrid maybe a Scaup x Tufted Duck.
 
Saturday 12th - Sunday 13th March - A spot of birding in Devon.
This weekend I was away in Devon with Stella, staying at a lovely B&B in Brixham. On Saturday we drove the short ditance to Berry head and spent a few hours here walking along the cliffs looking for wildlife. A Peregrine showed very well sat on the cliff edge and it was great to watch all the Guillemot sorting out thei nesting positions on the cliffs. 
Peregrine Falcon
Scanning out to see only produced a few Shag and rafts of Guillemot but a Harbour Porpoise close to the head was great to see. Fulmars were always giving a great display and many were paired up with 2 Rock Pipit also noted. I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year and near the car park 5 Cirl Bunting were showing well.
 
Showy Cirl Bunting
 
In the afternoon we had a walk around the harbour where many Turnstone were feeding around the boats and off the breakwater 2 Purple Sandpiper were feeding with them. Hundreds of gulls were seen following in a fishing boat with a Gannet joining them. The day was topped of by watching United seeing off Arsenal in the FA cup.
 
Purple Sandpiper
On Sunday after a cracking full English we headed along the coast stopping at various points. First up was broadsands and whilst walking along the coastal path I picked up a female Black Redstart flitting around on the rocks. It was constantly on the move but did stay still long enough for good scoped views. As we were watching the bird we were both surprised when another Harbour Porpoise surfaced just meters off shore! You just never know whats going to show up! It was again quiet on the sea with just a single Great Crested Grebe seen and after failing to see the Firecrest that had been seen around the car park we headed on our way.
 
We continued along the scenic coastal road stopping regularly to get some stunning views across the bay. We called in to Dawlish warren for a bit and were instantly on the second Black Redstart of the day near the visitor centre. This time a cracking male! It was very busy with the great weather, and with motor boats on the sea there was very little close in. I did pick up 2 Velvet Scoter with what I think was the female Surf Scoter close to them but they were at quite a range. A single Eider and 6 Red-breasted Merganser were a bit closer in. After a short walk we returned to the car noting 2 Stonechat and our 3rd Black Redstart of the day, with the female seen sat on the fence.
 
Male Black Redstart
 
We decide to head to Topsham to get some food and on the way I had a quick look over the railway line at cockwood. This is a great place to view the estuary, requiring no walking and often producing the goods. There were loads of birds to look at in a loveley scene. Bar-tailed Godwits, loads of Oystercatcher, Dunlin, RedshankCurlew and two Little Egret were all busy feeding close by.  I scanned the water and with the many Red-breasted Merganser a female Goldeneye was seen and shortly after I found the long staying Long-tailed Duck feeding near the wreck. It was great to find this bird in such a short space of time and it showed fairly close in. A flock of around 30 Brent Geese were also seen flying towards the golf course.
 
Immature male Long-tailed Duck
 
We headed to Topsham before hitting the M5 and saw the female Smew from the hide and watched the Avocet on the river. We finished the weekend eating fish and chips to the sound of the Curlew as the sun went down. A great weekend!
 
Thursday 10th March - Superb Shrike!
This afternoon I went to see the GREAT GREY SHRIKE that has been seen near Charlton Abbots and the bird didn't disappoint. I had to wait a little while and then located the bird just up the hill past Waterhatch farm. I watched the bird for around 2.5 hours as it fed around the set-aside field. It spent some time on the fence line across the field, where it sat on the piles of brash and at one point was perched in one of the oak trees. Luckily for me it spent most time in the hawthorns lining the path working its way up and down giving some stunning views. It was great to watch the birds behaviour and it hovered far more than I expected often for quite some time. I watched it catch and eat 3 Bumblebees and 2 others were impaled on the hawthorn to save for another time. With a bit of sun over the last couple of days these bees must have just come out! 
I left when 2 dogs flushed the bird and it flew high heading over towards the other side of the farm. Once the bird had left I checked the bushes finding 4 Bumblebees spiked on the Hawthorns with one still moving! What a great bird and a privilege to watch it going about its business.
 
 
Tuesday 8th March - Stunning Brambling
There has been around 10 Brambling with other finches in the field behind the house so i put a feeder over there in the hope of getting some decent views and photos. They are feeding very confidently now.
 
Sunday 6th March
Up the field 2 Stock Dove were seen well and the female Kestrel was seen hunting over the rough ground. A Marsh Tit was noted with 2 Green Woodpecker also feeding. A nice Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the fat cake in the garden and in the field behind the house there are still at least 8 Brambling. I put up a feeder and one male that came down was almost in complete breeding plumage. Stunning finches!
 
Friday 4th March - Back to see the the dove from above!
This morning I was up early and went back to Chipping Norton to try and get some better views of the Rufous Turtle Dove. Now that he crowds have died down it was a far more enjoyable experience. There were only around 20 people there and 6-7 of us watched the dove for around 45 minutes in the garden. It was feeding on the raised beds and came to the table. We were able to set up scopes and get stunning views of the bird.It was brilliant to see the bird so close up! I managed a few decent digiscoped photos. Lots of other birds in the garden with Brambling, Bullfinch, a Reed Bunting and good numbers of Greenfinch. A Peregrine was also seen sat on the large chimney.Many thanks to Steve for welcoming us into his home. A short video of the bird feeding on the table can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgVm080vIyA
On the way home it was nice to see 5 different hovering Kestrel, with a flock of around 175 Linnet, 30 Yellowhammer, 20 Chaffinch and 3 Brambling feeding on the road side near Hawling.
 
 
Thursday 3rd March
At Slimbridge today I caught up with the Spoonbill that is touring the reserve. This shot was taken from the lathbury hide but it is very mobile
From the kingfisher hide there was a lovely flock of 12 Ruff with 2 Dunlin, a Redshank and 2 Snipe. The ruff were showing very close to the hide and it was really noticeable the difference in size between male and females and their leg colour was also strikingly different with some bright orange and others very dull. A Stock dove was also seen in a tree nearby.
On the Tack piece the Lesser Scaup was still present and also seen was the female Greater Scaup. Cracking birding once again.
2 Siskin were also feeding in the garden early morning before being flushed by a male Sparrowhawk.
 
Wednesday 2nd March
On the way to schools in Tewkesbury I had a scan at Bredons Hardwick. There was a redhead Goosander and an Oystercatcher as well as 15 Cormorant and 2 Great Crested Grebe. No sign of the juvenile Whooper Swan I saw a few weeks ago though. There was also 12 Stock Dove together in a tree top near the lake.
 
Saturday 26th February
We headed to Slimbridge today and had stunning views of the Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup from the Robbie Garnett hide. It was a fantastic scene with so many birds on show and so close! The White-fronted Geese were grazing in the field with Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank also noted.
One of the male Scaup was always very close to the Lesser Scaup and was chasing her around the pool at one stage. They really seemed to have paired up. It was great to appreciate not only the more unusual ducks but also to be so close to the Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler and Tuffties. It's amazing how many birds these fields support!
Walking to the south lake the Pink-footed Goose was with the Greylags near the path and 2 Meditteranean Gulls were picked out. It would be great if they did breed this year.
We finished by watching the Scaup again before heading for home.
All in all a top day. Great birding, great win for united and England did the French!
The look of love! One of the drake Scaup wouldn't let the Lesser out of its sight
his Bewick's swan will soon be taking the long journey home to Russia!
Friday 25th February
Up the field today were 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Stock Dove and 2 Nuthatch showed very well with one coming to the nut holder. More boxes have been put up ready for the breeding season! 
 
Wednesday 23rd February - A birthday present in the garden
It was a nice surprise today to see a MEALY REDPOLL in the garden again was with 6 Lesser Redpoll. A Mealy was seen at the end of the year but we have just had lessers in since then. When seen side by side the Mealy really does stand out. Also seen was a cracking male Brambling and 2 Bullfinch.
Mealy Redpoll
 
Monday 21st February
In the garden today was a lovely fluffy Lesser Redpoll at the bird bath and a pair of Bullfinch were on the sunflowers. We have never Bullfinch visiting the feeders before. Great birds.
 
Saturday 19th February
Whilst visiting friends in London i had the chance for a walk around Tooting Common. I saw a few small flocks of Ring necked Parakeet flying over and watched 2 preening eachother in a tree and going into a nest hole. On the lake were around 8 Tufted Duck with 2 Egyptian Geese and many Coot and Moorhen. The football pitches were covered in Black Headed Gull with a few Common Gull and 2 SongThrush, 12 Chaffinch and a Goldcrest were also seen.
 
Thursday 17th February - Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove
Today I went back to Chipping Norton for the dove. When I arrived the news was that the bird had been seen behind 41 again but had been missing for around an hour. I  started walking around looking in all the trees and after an hour or so I found myself scanning through the large row of trees the other side of the field from infront of number 50. My scope passed over Woodpigeon, Woodpigeon and more Woodpigeon and then bingo! There it was, a RUFOUS TURTLE DOVE preening happily high in the tree. After making sure it was definatley it I shouted to the others up the road. Soon everyone there was on the bird. It was a great feeling and the bird sat there for around 25 minutes preening and stretching before flying. The bird was relocated shortly after just a few trees along and we watched it again from Lord's Piece Road. This road gets you a bit closer. A guy came out and was saying how the bird had been down on seed in his garden earlier in the day. The Dove was with a flock of around 15 Woodpigeon and they all flew off back towards the leys at around 1.30.
The view I got when my scope landed on the bird.
On the way home, I went through Hawling. Around the triangle there was a huge flock of finches with at least 15 Corn Bunting, lots of Yellowhammer, Chaffinch and a single Brambling was seen. On the way home a flock of 30 Linnet were feeding and a Peregrine flew low across a field and landed, giving good views.
Corn Bunting
 
Monday 14th February
An early walk around Cox's meadow today didn't produce any drumming Woodpeckers as hoped but there was a lovely flock of around 25 Siskin in the alders. I spent some time watching them and checking through the many other tits and finches. A Reed Bunting was also seen in the bull rushes. Up the field there were 6 Bullfinches and the Kestrel was seen again, perched quite near the Box
 
Sunday 13th February
It was awful weather today but Greg and I decided to go down to Slimbridge anyway for a look around. The two Greater Scaup were on show on the rushy and along the tack piece it was a great sight with hundreds of birds to be seen. Ruff, Redshank and Dunlin were seen with Golden Plover, Curlew and Lapwing. It was quite a spectacle when a Peregrine drifted overhead putting them all up. A female Brambling was seen under the feeders along with a Reed Bunting. On the way home we had a look over court lake to see if the Lesser Scaup was there but there were very few birds. The rain was still coming down so we headed for home.
 
Tuesday 8th February
I had the chance for a quick look at Coobme Hill today and saw 12 Teal, 2 Snipe, a single Curlewand 4 Shelduck. A smart Peregrine drifted low infront of the hide after being mobbed by a Grey Heron. In the garden there was a female Brambling and the first Marsh Tit for a long time.
 
Saturday 5th February
While sorting out the birdboxes up the field we flushed a Woodcock today.
 
Thursday 3rd February
I had a drive up to Cleeve Hill early and on the approach road to Westdown there were at least 300 Linnet with around 30 Brambling in with them along with a few Chaffinch and Yellowhammer. Also seen was a singing Nuthatch and around 6 Grey Partridge.
In the evening i had a look over Bentham Landfill site and saw 10 Common Snipe with 2 Jack Snipe. No matter how slowly you walk looking just infront of you they always flush from under your feet! There were also 3 Green Woodpecker here. There are still plenty of Lesser Redpoll in the garden.
 
Wednesday 2nd February
I haven't been able to do much birding at all recently but still good numbers of Lesser Redpoll in the garden today with 3 Blackcap still. 
 
Monday 24th January
There were 2 female Brambling in the garden today with a crcking male coming in last week. Still around 8-10 Lesser Redpoll and 3 Blackcap.
 
Tuesday 18th January
On Dowdeswell Reservoir 2 Redhead Goosander. They have been there for a few days now. Very little else just a Tufted Duck and a few Mallard. 2 Dipper again seen behind the Cheltenham Park Hotel, one sat for a long period of time on the stones before the waterfall and was singing. This is viewable from the car park just look right directly behind the function room. A walk around pittville lakes produced 15 Tufted Duck with a Sparrowhawk displaying.
 
Wednesday 12th January
Jack spotted 2 Dipper whilst at work yesterday on the river behind the Cheltenham park hotel. We went back today in the awful weather and had excellent views of one bird feeding in the rapids. They really are great birds to watch. There appears to be lots of suitable spots for nesting so i will be keeping my eye on them over the coming months. A quick look at the reservoir produced just 2 Tufted Duck and 12 Mallard but a flock of around 80-100 Greenfinch was good to see.
 
Tuesday 11th January
This afternoon Stella and I went to the Cotswold Water Park. On pit 30 we saw 7 Smew (2male) and 5 Goosander (2 male). They were a little distant but it was a great scene with them all together at one point. Other birds seen were Little EgretGoldeneye and Wigeon grazing. 
Smew
 
Monday 10th January
Again the garden full of Lesser Redpoll. 14 counted this morning along with the 3 Blackcap(2m,1f). Many of the Redpoll appear to rest in the bushes in the middle of the field behind the house. There are lots of birds in this small area and on closer inspection revealed 4 Brambling (2m,2f) with around 10 Chaffinch, 6 Greenfinch, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting and 1 Siskin which landed briefly before flying off. Im hoping the Brambling will follow the Redpoll and feed in the garden regularly.
Male Brambling
 
Wednesday 5th January
Loads of birds in the garden today. I counted 25 Lesser Redpoll in at the same time. On every feeder, the table on the floor and in the tree. They are everywhere! Unfortunatley no sign of the Mealy though. There were maximum counts of 8 Goldfinch, 6 Chaffinch, 10 Blue Tit and 3 Blackcap in.
 
Tuesday 4th January
The MEALY REDPOLL again this morning briefly on the feeders now with 20 Lesser Redpoll! Also a female Brambling,6 Goldfinch, 3 Greenfinch and 8 Chaffinch. It seems the more Nijer feeders you put up the more Redpoll you get!
Stella and I then went to Slimbridge and after initially struggling looking through the birds on the big pen the LESSER SCAUP showed extremely well right infront of the Peng Observatory. It was first asleep then fed for a while flew off and then returned just as I was about to leave.
Lesser Scaup
Also seen were the two Greater Scaup also out on the rushy.
The two Greater Scaup
The carpet of Wigeon is very impessive and a Snipe was also seen well.
 
Sunday 2nd January 2011
Today I recieved the news that the rarities committees, after analysing the photos, are happy that it was indeed a MEALY REDPOLL that was in the garden! It returned on the 31st seen by Greg but was not seen on new years day. The maximum count for Lesser Redpoll is now up to 9.We will be keeping a close eye on the feeders! Thanks to Mike King "The Gloster Birder" for helping to confirm the identification. Lets hope it stays around!
 
Greg also went to Slimbridge for a brief visit, the highlight being the showy pair of Greater Scaup on the rushy.
1st Winter male Scaup
 
Saturday 1st January
Happy New Year!
Lets hope 2011 brings lots of great birds and wildlife!