January 2006

A male bullfinch continued to eat the buds on our cherry tree.


A remarkably tame first-winter little gull was present at Chew on 29th. You can see more photographs of it by clicking on the image below.

little gull

For photographs of a day on the Somerset levels, click the godwit below.

black-tailed godwit

Another chance to photograph the goosanders at Backwell lake on the morning of 22nd while walking the dog. Reflections on the water produced some nice backgrounds to highlight the colours of a male bird. There was a little egret in a willow tree on the island.





The gull roost at Chew held the adult Kumlien's gull and an adult Mediterranean gull during the late afternoon.

There were 2 purple sandpipers roosting at Battery Point, Portishead during high tide on 21st. As ever, they were well camouflaged against the seaweed-covered rocks. You can see a strong purple sheen on the back on the left-hand bird in the lower photo.

purple sandpipers

purple sandpipers

Nearby, there was a winter plumaged adult Mediterranean gull on Portishead boating lake.

Mediterranean gull

A visit to Chew Valley Lake at dusk was rewarding: a bittern perched up on the edge of the SE reedbed at Herriot's Pool before flying into the reeds. It was just about light enough to see a drake smew at Heron's Green on my return, and soon afterwards a barn owl flew alongside the road.

Female greater scaup and male red-breasted merganser were present at Chew on 15th. 8 goosander (4 males) at Backwell Lake. On 14 January we had a family boat trip on the Exe estuary, travelling between Exmouth and Topsham on a sunny afternoon. A large flock of dark-bellied brent geese flew across the estuary.

brent geese over the Exe

A female grey seal (or is it in fact a harbour seal?) was hauled out on a sandbar, and another swam in the estuary.

grey seal

grey seal

Bird highlights included a red-throated diver, shag, little egrets, 2 eider, red-breasted merganser, avocets, sanderling, black- and bar-tailed godwits, guillemot, and kingfisher. I photographed a rock pipit at 1/20s at sundown, showing the value of vibration-reduction technology in telephoto lenses! A party of turnstones roosting on the RNLI lifeboat made a colourful photograph.

black-tailed godwits, knot and dunlin

rock pipit



Highlights in the week beginning 8 January included a marsh tit calling and a tawny owl hooting in Flax Bourton, and a peregrine over Woodland Road in Bristol. I saw a red kite E of Didcot, and a covey of 8 grey partridges W of Didcot on a train journey from London.

The weekend of 7/8th January was very grey and gloomy. Highlights included a finch flock in a sunflower field near Wrington containing at least 10 bramblings and a lesser redpoll, and 2 ravens in a field at Flax Bourton. Highlights from a visit to Slimbridge included a jack snipe, and a hybrid ferruginous duck x pochard that looked very much like the former. The head shape and bill pattern revealed its identity as a hybrid. The bird has a white rear end and a strong white wing bar like a ferruginous duck. The hybrid is on the left, the real thing (at the Slimbridge collection) on the right.

ferruginous duck x pochard ferruginous duck

There was an interesting selection of birds at Shapwick Heath on 6th. These included a male marsh harrier and 2 water pipits. Careful watching of the small birds in the wood on the north side of the bridge leading to Meare Heath hide revealed a firecrest, 4 siskins, 2+ lesser redpolls, 2 chiffchaffs and a brambling. I had super views of an otter from Meare Heath hide at around 12.15h.


Two black-necked grebes were on Barrow tank no. 3 on 3rd, as were 6 goosander. The grebes were very approachable and more photographs can be seen by clicking the image below. In photo below, one bird is just emerging from a dive while the second feeds on what looks like a caddis fly larva.

black-necked grebes

Garden birds this week have included a male blackcap, a male bullfinch feeding on buds on a cherry tree, and a female sparrowhawk carrying a male blackbird. There was a flock of about 25 siskins near Wraxall on 2nd.

The great northern diver remained at Barrow Tank no. 1 on Sunday 1st. Interesting birds at Chew Valley Lake included the slavonian grebe, a drake ring-necked duck and a yellow-legged gull. The gull is interesting because it has a black band on its bill.