Friday, 16 March 2018

Whoopers on Decoy Lake, Shapwick 12/3

A grim overcast and rainy day was forecast but we just had to get out. We started at Ham Wall and arrived at around 10 am to rain.  We had coffee whilst waiting for the rain to stop and checked out Birdguides on our phone to see if anything interesting had been spotted nearby.  To our surprise two Whooper Swans had been spotted that morning over at Decoy hide on the Shapwick side. So after coffee it was wheels up and a short drive around to Shapwick.
The rain thankfully had now stopped so it was a pleasant walk to the Decoy hide and hopefully the Whooper Swans would still be there. As we got closer to the first viewing area of the 'lake' we looked across at various ducks and then we saw the two Whoopers in the reeds very near the hide. So it was a quick pace to the hide to try and get a good view of the swans.  
Once we settled in the hide the Whoopers ventured out of the reeds and we had some fantastic views of this beautiful Swan.  They will probably only stay a day or two before heading back north for the summer, the swans already showing the 'rusty' stain that is their summer colour. Interesting to note that the Whoopers were often chased out of the reeds by a pair of Mute swans.
A couple of Marsh Harriers both a male and female hunted over the reeds several times, I wonder if they are nesting nearby?  A small group of very noisy Canada Geese flew in Squabling and threatening each other on the water.  There seems to be two pairs of Great Crested Grebes on the lake but just one pair showed signs of displaying with a bit of head flicking.  Plenty of Coots, Shoveler, Tufted Ducks and some Pochard also seen.
Leaving the Whoopers and hide behind we took a more leisurely stroll back through the tree lined path.  Here we had a lovely view of a Treecreeper in full song plus Coal, Blue and Great Tits.  Not a bad couple of hours birding between the heavy rain showers!

    The two Whoopers emerge from the reeds 


                   Territorial Mute Swan chasing the Whooper away 




   Highlighting the 'staining' the Whoopers summer colour





    Canada Geese scrapping and pairing up


   Canada Goose

                   Great Crested Grebes bonding

                   Grebe territorial stance 


    Warning off another male


                   Almost completely flat to the water

   Singing Treecreeper 

Symonds Yat & Aust 13/3 Goshawks & Short Eared Owls

A very early start to beat the traffic leaving Weston saw us on the road at 06:20 to reach the Forest of Dean.  After crossing the first Severn crossing we headed for New Fancy in the Forest of Dean in the hope of seeing Goshawks.  New Fancy is supposed to be one of the best areas for seeing Goshawks a bird that we have never seen. 
After a short climb to the top we settled ourselves in and took in the amazing view and vista across the forest scanning and searching the skies for a Goshawk. A Great spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Coal Tits came and went but alas we saw no Goshawks.
After about an hour or so and after looking at Google ref Goshawks we decided to chance our luck at Symonds Yat which was only a 20 minute drive away. 
We have never been to Symonds Yat and wow what a stunning, beautiful place. Set in a Forest environment a short walk takes you to the top of the rock which looks down onto the twisting River Wye and the forest and fields beyond.  Quite honestly the view took our breath away. 
A group of birders were already there and at once they made us welcome by telling us what could be seen. A couple of Peregrines were sitting in a tree nearby and would probably nest in the cliff side.
It wasn't long before someone shouted Goshawk and there it was gliding across the valley our first ever Goshawk. What struck us was the size of the bird, like a "Sparrowhawk on steroids" someone mentioned.  We saw another 3 Goshawks during the time we were at Symonds Yat, other birds of note were  Canada Geese, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch and a couple of Stock Doves another new bird for us. 
We left Symonds Yat with a promise to return. Our next stop would be back over the bridge and a visit to Aust Warth in the hope with catching up with the Short Eared Owls.  We arrived at Aust at 1:30 for our lunch and already a few people had gathered to see the owls. It wasn't until 4pm that the Owls showed but wow it was well worth the wait. 4 owls made an appearance and at times they seemed to come so close you could almost touch them. What a privilege to see such a beautiful bird and watch it hunt across the grassland, almost jaw dropping! What a perfect end to a brilliant day.

   Marsh Tit


    Marsh Tit taking advantage of the bird seed


   Bank Vole

                    So cute!

   Feeling a little braver to get that seed

                   Distant Goshawks hopefully a little closer on our next visit

   So warm a Red Admiral made a brief appearance 

                   Coal Tit

                   Blue Tit

   Buzzard gliding below the rock


   Stock Dove, one of two seen amongst the branches

Aust Warth 

                   Short eared Owl, wow the closest we have seen them 


                   Quartering along the coastal grasses

                    Beautiful tones and colours


                   Those eyes!





    Prey has been spotted and the Owl takes a dive


    Resting up 







                   Stealthily hunting low across the grasses