Previously "Diary of a Birding Medic"

Previously "Rugby Birder"

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A period of respite

My birding & blog have entered a brief period of respite.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Draycote Water

Land Ahoy!

An early morning visit to Draycote Water this morning with continuing low water. Indeed, one of the normally submerged islands is beginning to show.

Starting at Thurlaston, I walked to the inlet and back, eventually meeting up with a "gaggle" of birders on Farborough Bank comprising Bob D; Bob H; Richard M; Colin P; Max S and Francoise F.

The morning started well with a Kingfisher on the small pond off the approach track from Thurlaston village. An adult Yellow Legged Gull loafed in Toft shallows with a second adult near the inlet. Farborough Bank and spit held the majority of waders, notably one Dunlin keeping company with a juvenile Sanderling, three juvenile Little Ringed Plovers, and juvenile Ringed Plover. At least seven Yellow Wagtails were seen at the fishing lodge and on the sailing club roof. Rainbow Corner looked good as I approached but my impression was shatted with the arrival of Captain Pugwash and Master Mate on the "Black Pig". They were heard to say "surprised no bank anglers" in a loud voice before grounding! Surprise, surprise all the birds had gone!

Captain Pugwash and Master Mate aboard the Black Pig in Rainbow Corner

One brave Greenshank remained briefly before taking flight towards Farborough Bank. The inlet Produced a juvenile Ruff, the long staying female Goosander, Yellow Legged Gull and a juvenile Shelduck which was later seen in flight over Toft. The only raptors seen by me today were over the field at the back of the inlet, namely, Buzzard, Kestrel and two Sparrowhawks. My walk back produced a Wheatear on Hensborough Bank with a second on Farborough Bank. From Farborough Spit, distant views were had of at least three Black Terns over the inlet and a Common Tern over the bank itself.


(I know the above two are far from"crisp" but I rather like them!)


Sanderling and Dunlin

Grey Heron

Todays Sightings:

Robin; Magpie; Wood Pigeon; Jackdaw; Collared Dove; House Sparrow; Black Headed Gull; Moorhen; Kingfisher; Carrion Crow; Dunnock; Goldcrest; Mallard; Coot; Great Crested Grebe; Tufted Duck; Wren; LBB Gull; Blue Tit; Mute Swan; Teal; Dabchick; Yellow Legged Gull; Great Tit; Swallow; Long Tailed Tit; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Gadwall; Pied Wagtail; Dunlin; GBB Gull; Common Sandpiper; Sanderling; Little Ringed Plover; House Martin; Yellow Wagtail; Canada Goose; Rook; Blackbird; Goldfinch; Chiffchaff; Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Grey Lag Goose; Greenshank; Willow Warbler; Lapwing; Ruff; Buzzard; Goosander; Ringed Plover; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Green Woodpecker; Sparrowhawk; Kestrel; Wheatear; Black Tern; Shelduck; Common Tern.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Woodchat Shrike Chipping Sodbury Common - 20th August 2011

A long staying juvenile female Woodchat Shrike has been reported at Chipping Sodbury Common for several weeks. Having dipped on the Brandon bird, I was keen to get this life tick, so on 18th August, after apalling weather all day, I found the common and set off to locate the Shrike. Directions on RBA were poor and misleading and I spent over an hour searching the wrong area. Seeing some distant birders, I headed in their direction. They had better directions as they were locals but the light was fading with more rain arriving, we were on to a loser. Another dip! As consolation, at least fifteen male & female Redstarts flitted through the hedgerows.

I had to go back! I negotiated Saturday morning to drop Heather off in Bath for retail therapy and with time out for good behaviour, I headed back to the common. Luckily, three birders had the bird in their scopes and it remained distant and mobile. It was now in my scope and my life tick was in the bag! I was soon left alone in the field that was mainly thistle and cow poo, and I watched as the Shrike navigated the distant hedgerows. Eventually it settled, and I was able to get within reasonable distance to obtain the images I offer below.

Again, supporting birds included male & female Redstarts, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. After a couple of hours, the rain returned so I headed into Bath, really chuffed!

Chew Valley Lake - 19th August 2011

The best day of the week for weather so it was back to Chew Valley Lake in the hope of some good birds and something closer to point the camera at. Well, the weather obliged, some good birds materialised, but close encounters were not to be.

Again, starting at Herriotts Bridge, it was the waders that kept us on our toes as they were very mobile! The juvenile Ruff was joined by a Greenshank and Black Tailed Godwit on the small pool. The low water on the main lake gave us Wood Sandpiper, Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers and Black Tailed Godwits. A Kingfisher flew briefly into the channel, which also held an adult and juvenile Water Rail. Raptor wise, a Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Buzzard and Peregrine entertained and a distant Marsh Harrier over towards the visitor centre.

Moving on to Heron's Green Bay produced a Spotted Sandpiper (good for Chew) with Green Sandpipers, Little Egrets and a Snipe on the small pool.

It was here that I was amazed to see a birder drive off, leaving his scope and tripod assembled by the roadside. Waving of arms failed to attract him, but he returned some half an hour later, hoping it was still in place. Of course it was, and it saved me going to the visitor centre to hand it in.

Needing to use the facilities, we decided to go to the visitor centre, intending to park by the toilet block but not stay thus avoiding paying the £2.50 fee. Wrong! An attendant was at the gate and insisted on relieving us of the fee which proved to be an expensive "relief" for us! Next time its the bushes!

Juvenile Water Rail

Water Rail

Lesser Black Backed Gull

Lesser Black Backed Gull

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank

Ham Wall & Shapwick Heath 17th August 2011

Glastonbury Tor from Ham Wall

I had not been to the Somerset Levels before, so decided on a visit even though it was not the "best time to visit"! Local birders advised "come back in the autumn/winter when its most productive! However, we were nearby, so nothing to lose. The walk along the old railway line from the car park that forms Ham Wall gave good views across the marshes, but it was not long before the rain started. The rain, dullness and distance of the birds did not bode well for photography, so I apologise for the poor quality of these images.

The first channel produced a Bittern on the reed edges.

A second Bittern was seen in flight over the reeds near to the tea shop at the end of the track (great place to shelter from the rain and some superb wildlife photographs to admire!). My first Marsh Harriers of the year reluctantly hunted across the marshes and a female Merlin scattered the Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers.

A short walk from the car park in the opposite direction brought us to Shapwick Heath and Meare Pool. Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and Black Tailed Godwits fed in the low water levels. Eight Little Egrets stood as guards of honour to the Great White Egret on the far side of the pool.

Chew Valley Lake - 16th August 2011


One day i'll get a permit to visit some of the hides at Chew Valley Lake! Without one, viewing (although quite good) is restricted to Herriott's Bridge, Herons Green Bay and the visitor centre area. The problems I find watching large lakes is the distance that the birds are away from you and large amounts of vegetation obsuring that view (my excuses!). The day started at Herriotts Bridge, where the main lake can be viewed (in a fashion) plus a quiter, smaller pool. The small pool held most of the usual wildfowl and gulls, all keen to be fed by the obliging public! Under the overhanging branches, five female Red Crested Pochards were found. The small island had a juvenile Ruff and at least seven Black Tailed Godwits. Overhead, a Raven honked its presence. The almost obscured mudflats on the main lake produced several Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers and Greenshank. The channel between the pools gave brief views of a Kingfisher.

With rain threatening, we moved on to Heron's Green Bay where the low water levels were very obvious. Here again, a small pool on one side is separated by a very fast and busy road. It was here that the rain came, necessitating shelter in the car. Very little was found other than eight Little Egrets, five Green Sandpipers and a Greenshank.

On to the visitor centre to use the facilities and a chat with the Lakeside Optics chap who tried to sell me a new tripod (mines broken). A short walk along the bank enabled a few butterflies to be photographed, but bird wise, little of note.

Speckled Wood

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

The Bee

Small Tortoiseshell

Birds in the Bath Area

Lesser Black Backed Gull - Chew Lake

While staying in Bath, although not strictly a birding break, it was possible to visit Chew Valley Lakes, Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath on the Somerset Levels and Chipping Sodbury Common. An account of these visits will be made separately but I list below my weekly bird sightings for this area.

Total Sightings:

Great Crested Grebs; Dabchick; Cormorant; Bittern; Great White Egret; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Canada Goose; Egyptian Goose; Shelduck; Mallard; Gadwall; Shoveler; Teal; Pochard; Red Crested Pochard; Ruddy Duck; Tufted Duck; Marsh Harrier; Sparrowhawk; Buzzard; Hobby; Kestrel; Merlin; Peregrine; Pheasant; Water Rail; Coot; Moorhen; Ringed Plover; Little Ringed Plover; Common Sandpiper; Wood Sandpiper; Green Sandpiper; Greenshank; Spotted Redshank; Ruff; Black Tailed Godwit; Lapwing; Snipe; Black Headed Gull; Common Gull; Yellow Legged Gull; Herring Gull; GBB Gull; LBB Gull; Wood Pigeon; Collared Dove; Swift; Kingfisher; Green Woodpecker; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Sand Martin; Swallow; House Martin; Pied Wagtail; Dunnock; Wren; Robin; Redstart; Blackbird; Cettis Warbler; Reed Warbler; Song Thrush; Chiffchaff; Willow Warbler; Whitethroat; Lesser Whitethroat; Blackcap; Long Tailed Tit; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Woodchat Shrike; Starling; Magpie. Rook; Carrion Crow; Jackdaw; Raven; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Bullfinch; Goldfinch; Linnet; Reed Bunting.

Bath - a city break with some good birding!

Hoping for divine intervention (especially good birds!)

My daughter, Abigail, was attending a weeks course with the Royal School of  Choral Music in Bath, so a week in the area was a welcom & different break. It was not specifically planned as a birding holiday, but needs must...............!

Time was taken to explore the City of Bath (in between birding!). I had decided to try and take some "candid" images and general "touristy" images, BUT how hard that was. Give me fur and feather any day!

An unexpected pig outside the Abbey!

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Street Entertainment

RSCM Choir Procession

The RSCM Choir


Well, thats the non-birding parts of the week! Come back soon for my birding encounters.