Saturday, 27 February 2016

Westhay - Somerset Levels 24-2 , Redpoll & Barn Owl

Our first walk around Westhay for a few months and indeed all winter! A lovely cold and sunny frosty start to our walk all around the Westhay reserve. Not too much to see from the Virador hide but for some Snipe, Gadwall and Mallards. Walking to the 'tall' hide we had a lovely view of a male Bullfinch and plenty of squeals from the Water Rails hiding in the reeds. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was busy 'drumming' and later seen. The screen area was full of activity. Great & Little Egrets, Herons, Goosander & Tufted duck. A Kingfisher landed in a Willow right next to us for 2 seconds but what a view! Then a Bittern took flight from a reed area in front of us - is was all happening! 
Out on the track high up in the Alders we spotted both Siskin and Redpoll and got a sighting of a lovely Fieldfare. At the end of the track where it joins the road and Mudgley farm we met some other birders who had caught sight of the Cattle Egret amongst a group of Little Egrets and cows. Unfortunately the Cattle Egret was a little too distant for a shot, still we saw it that's the important thing.
On the drove road back we had a glimpse of a Barn Owl, now that really took us by surprise. We had always suspected that there would be Owls in the area but to see one was a jaw dropping moment.
No sign of a Marsh Harrier today though.  A superb walk in beautiful part of the Somerset Levels with stunning scenery and wildlife.
Birds of note for the day Bittern, Kingfisher, Goosander, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Redpoll, Siskin, Barn Owl, Reed Bunting, Great Crested Grebe, Chiffchaff and Snipe etc

    Little Egret, Great Egret & Heron - all in their own space!

                  Goosander - still a few present but never near for a good shot


                  Redpoll - a small flock seen high up in the Alder trees


                    Fieldfare - these will be heading back east soon

    Barn Owl just coming into land on the ledge

                   Barn Owl with catch

                   The face at the window!

   Reed Bunting

                  Reed Bunting - looking in the mirror

   Chiffchaff- overwintering in the reeds

                   Long tailed Tit - often seen climbing the reeds around the levels

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Shapwick & Ham Wall - Ibis, Egrets & nesting Herons 23/2

A mixture of sunny spells and cloud for our visit to the Levels today with still a hint of Spring in the air! We started our walk on the Shapwick side taking in both hides and nearly walking as far as the first Owl box. Duck species are decreasing now but there is still a few Wigeon, Shovelers and Teal to be seen plus a single Pintail on Noah's Lake. Most birds are now in fine colours looking more vibrant in the trees. Even the humble Chaffinch and Blue Tit look almost 'tropical' with their Spring coats.
The highlight of the visit had to be walking into the Tor Hide at Ham Wall and seeing a Glossy Ibis in front of us. Wow! What a view. We watched the Ibis for about 20 minutes before it flew away. At the same time we were also watching the nesting Herons bring in very large twigs to their nests. Fantastic to watch the sculptured shapes of the Herons as they glided into the reeds to their nests. Also fascinating to watch the Herons steal twigs from their neighbours nest. 
We stayed at Ham Wall to witness the Starling murmuration but although it was a beautiful clear sky evening the Starlings once again went straight into the reeds with no twisting and turning! I wonder why?
Once again a good number of birds seen including Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Gadwall, Pochard, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, G C Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Egret, Little Egret, Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Lapwing, Snipe, Glossy Ibis etc

Gadwall flight

                   Great Egret

   Great Egret - check out those claws!

                   Great Crested Grebe - fine colours of Spring plumage

   Great Crested Grebe

                   Glossy Ibis from the Tor hide - stunning!

    Preening Glossy - the beak reaching far places!

                   You put your right leg in! .......

   Glossy in flight
                   Heron with nesting material 


                   A gift for the 'wife'!

   Just dropping in....

                 A graceful spin!

    Buzzard on the hunt, this one very pale looking


    Pochard - female

                  Starlings in their thousands but no twisting shapes!

                 Huge flock of Starlings at the back of Ham Wall

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Uphill Short eared Owls - another local area 14th & 15/2

Two late afternoon visits to the Uphill area hopefully to get a view of the 3 Short eared Owls spending winter in the rough grassy fields.  The first visit resulted in waiting a good couple of hours in the company of some friendly birders and photographers with the showing of 1 Owl at around 15:30. This Owl however spent most of its time hunting over by the field by the houses often out of view. We did however get a nice view of the Owl hunkered down in the grass on our way back to the road.
Our second visit on a cloudier and windier afternoon saw 2 fantastic Owls hunt over the field quite close by. We had a jaw dropping view when one came and perched on a stump nearby. The Owls were still in flight when we left at 16:30. These Owls are beautiful and fantastic birds to watch and indeed can make you feel quite humble!
Other birds seen around the area whilst waiting for the Owls were 2 Peregrines chasing each other and a Buzzard. Robin, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Stonechat, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull & Blue Tit. 

   First visit - SEO in the grass

                On the hunt

    The fields are amazingly close to houses


    Stunning to watch in flight

                   Stunning eyes!

   Amazing feathered legs

                   Perched up next to the golf course

   Back in the field

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Sand Bay - our local patch 14/2/16 & 16/2/16

Sand Bay is only 10 minutes drive away from us and is a coastal area with tidal mud flats and a sandy beach that has been taken over by areas of vegetation which in turn provides a great haven for both flora and fauna. We had heard that a pair of Dartford Warblers were in residence so we decided to take a trip on a beautiful sunny morning. It did not take long for us to find the Dartfords feeding on the Sea Buckthorn - wow! What great little birds always on the move, occasionally chasing Stonechats and difficult to photo! 
Plenty of other birds to be seen and get great views of including Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff, Herring Gull, B H Gul, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Shelduck, House Sparrow, Linnet, Collard Dove, Starling & Pied Wagtail. 
Amazing to find so much in one area both wildlife and beautiful scenery. A superb place to visit if you can ignore the many dog walkers. The birds however seemed to have got use to both the dogs and their owners! 

   House Sparrow - good numbers along the beach vegetation

                  Dartford Warbler balancing in the Sea Buckthorn 

   Typical Dartford pose


          Eyeing up the berries!

    Often lurking in the undergrowth!


                 Occasionally the Dartfords would chase the Stonechats and ten sometimes perch                         
                 on the fence


Stonechat female 


    Not too often you see a Stonechat on the ground


   Linnet - good numbers along the shore

Reed Bunting