29th of March 2013.

RSPB Isley Marsh & River Taw Estuary.

Species seen 39.

After weeks of bad weather in the midlands, a holiday in the West Country is just what’s needed. Today started with sunshine that lasted nearly all day, it was a little on the cold side, however a beautiful spring day was enjoyed walking along the River Taw Estuary.

Starting at the RSPB Isley Marsh Reserve just off the Tarka Trail, my walk began checking out the sandbanks, as usual they held a great many Shelduck, more than 50, Oystercatchers numbers were over 200 and Curlew over 30. The Little Egret population grows from strength to strength with many birds seen at numerous locations along the estuary.

Taking time to scan the water’s edge, the first birds of note were Turnstone, Sanderling, Redshank and Black Tailed Godwit.  As I walked along the path above the rocky break waters, a single Rock Pipit was seen moving briskly around the main drain area. Looking out over the water, a male Red Breasted Merganser and two females were spotted off shore.

Spring visitors seen today were Wheatear in the grassed areas and a Chiffchaff within the trees lining the Tarka trail.

Stopping for a coffee by the small freshwater pool near to the Yelland quay, a single Water Rail was heard from the far side reeds, hiding within the reeds also stood the statue like figure of a Grey Heron which didn’t move an inch while I scanned the area for the Water Rail. Sadly it didn’t show. 

However, moving on, I spotted a very rapid moving bird, as it flew closer the bird was clearly a small falcon; a Merlin tick for North Devon is a first for me!

My complete list of sighting is as follows, 

Shelduck, Widgeon, Teal, Red Breasted Merganser, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Water Rail (heard), Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Sanderling, Black Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Herring Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, Magpie, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, Robin, Wheatear, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Rock Pipit and Turnstone.

On the way back, this is one of the reasons, I come to Devon often, it's not just the superb wildlife!

26th of March 2013.

Swift Valley Nature Reserve (WWT).

Species seen 27.

Taking a lunch break today I dropped in on my local reserve for a brief hour to (a) see what was around and (b) take a break

from work! There is nothing better than taking time out when things get a little too busy workwise?

Upon parking there were a number of people walking their dogs along the disused canal, so as usual my course was the opposite direction, so I headed for the river swift bridge to explore the river bank area. I quickly made contact with a handsome Buzzard, which has been sitting in the same tree during most visits. Back towards the copse and feeders area were Blue, Great, Willow and Long Tailed Tits. A Nuthatch dropped in on the feeders for a short while, but didn't stay long enough for any shots! There were also Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin and Song Thrush all enjoying the food falling from the feeders. The canal’s wooded area had numerous Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Magpie.

Out in the open meadow were Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow plus a small flock of Starlings went over. A single Kestrel flew over and hovered a short while before heading off towards the hotel.

Taking a short walk along the fence overlooking the pool area, I sighted the following, Mute Swan, Teal, Widgeon, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Grey Heron, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot and Canada Geese. The hedges had more Long Tailed Tit and a Wren was making quite a racket calling from within.

While walking along the hedgerow my eye caught sight of a small bird flitting in and out of the hedges, upon a closer look with my binoculars I ticked my first Chiffchaff for the reserve and a sure sign that it’s not long before more spring migrants will arrive?

2nd of March 2013.

Swift Valley Nature Reserve.

Species seen 30.

After a really busy week, I decided to stay local, so I visited Swift Valley Nature Reserve and took a leisurely walk around. Signs of spring are about with wild flowers such as Snowdrops covering the woodland floor. 

The copse area was busy with Blue, Great, Willow and Long Tailed Tits. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard drumming high in the trees and then found, both the male and female were later seen lower down checking out some of the shorter trees. Dunnock, Blackbird and Chaffinch were also seen foraging on the ground for food. The trees with Ivy had numerous Goldcrests showing well, albeit moving from branch to branch in a very rapid manner, which made it harder to follow them!

This Squirrel also joined in looking for food and was soon enjoying feeding on the feeders behind the screen hide.  

Also found were Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Buzzard, Blacked Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Bullfinch and Goldfinch.

High feeding on the Catkins were a few Redpoll and Siskin.

Later in the afternoon I went in to Rugby town centre the watch the huge Starlings murmuration. This occurs every evening before dusk at this time of year and I normally watch it from the comfort of my home, albeit from two miles away. 

My observation point today was very high which gave me fantastic close views; this was thanks to the permission of the high storey building’s manager. As the clouds of Starlings flew overhead and past, I could hear the whooshing sound made by thousands upon thousands of birds. The Ariel display continued until it was almost dark and during the course of an hour there must have been over ten thousand Starlings if not more performing their spectacular murmuration?

Also seen from this advantage point were the hundreds of gulls heading in the direction of Draycote Water. Having recently read David Lindo's book "The Urban Birder" and his birding experiences from similair locations, I think this kind of birding should and will be done again.

24th of February 2013.

An early start to the day was due to taking my better half to Heathrow for her flight to Houston – Texas as they have a problem and she was off to help out!

Returning, I decided to take the M40 back instead of the M1. Stopping off at the Watlington junction, I took the back roads to look for Red Kites, I wasn't disappointed as the morning showed up 22 of these graceful birds.

The weather conditions were dull, cold and the light was very dim! I managed few shots; however, the light didn't help!

After a few hours in the Oxfordshire countryside I headed north towards Coventry and eventually arrived at Brandon Marsh at midday.

Recent visits have been good with notables such as Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Bitterns, Barn Owls and this day didn't disappoint either with a Green Winged Teal dropping in to River Pool where it has remained for most of this week! 

This dabbling duck originates from North America and seemed to be quite content with whistling and dabbling along with its European counterparts on River Pool. The only downside for watching it was that it stayed searching for food at the far side of the pool, which meant viewing was restricted to binoculars and scopes!

Sadly again the weather put a damper on any record shots, however fellow local birder and blogger Kevin Groocock has a set worth looking at on his blog "Diary of a birding medic".

Other notables seen today were, Bittern, Shelduck, Gadwall, Pochard, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe, Water Rail, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Yellow Legged Gull, Kingfisher and a Cetti’s Warbler was seen as well as being heard.