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October 2004

Saturday 2 October

Chew – first winter little gull, 2 black terns, greenshank, raven.


Sunday 3 October

A late afternoon visit to Weston sewage works, where a Richard’s pipit was seen. Didn’t see it in nasty weather (standing in the wrong place for 20 mins didn’t help). Saw 2 little egrets and about 5 brown hares.

Friday 8 October

Evening trip to Berrow, looking for a rose-coloured starling. No sign, but did hear bearded reedling, Cetti’s warbler, and saw little egret, stonechat and peregrine (which caught a small bird in flight).

Saturday 9 October

Flock of ca. 50 redwing over Flax Bourton in morning. Many redwing moving through this weekend.

Sunday 10 October

Quick trip to Barrow tanks in evening – very quiet except for about 20 shoveler.

Monday 11 October

Drove to Llandegfedd reservoir in the morning – met my old birdwatching friend from teenage years, Michael Bosley, and we looked for the red-necked grebe. Eventually found it at the north end of the reservoir. At the north end we also found a female velvet scoter (below), a goldeneye, and a juvenile plover that mystified me for a long time (below). It now turns out to be a KENTISH PLOVER, the first I have seen in the UK. It’s amazing to see 3 bird species in a day that we never saw in many years of birding at Llandegfedd. Large numbers of hornets flew around an oak tree, and had a nest in a hole at its base. A red fox was disturbed outside the hide by the pool at Green Pool. Why did these 3 rare birds appear around the same time? The BBC website states ‘The weather settled down as high pressure built across the area, giving 10 hours of sunshine at Hunstanton on the 10th. Low pressure, however, over Biscay started to drift northwards on the 8th, bringing rain into the far southwest on the 9th’. It was presumably this northward air movement that brought the birds in.


Friday 15 October

A day trip to St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, with Michael Pocock. Left at 04.45 to get the 08.45 flight from Newquay. A brisk NW wind blew today, and there were some heavy showers. There were only 4 people on the flight. We had great views of St Ives Bay and the patchwork fields at Zennor.


We arrived at St Mary’s at 9.15, and went straight to the golf course to see the CREAM-COLOURED COURSER, the first in Britain since 1984. The bird is a first-winter bird with weak head markings and a scaly back. At first, the bird rested in a bunker, but was disturbed by a worker. It then ran around in front of about 20 birders, coming within a few feet of some. It fed on worms, and one person apparently fed it some by hand! A selection of photos is below.


 We then walked to a weedy field at Trenoweth, seeing chiffchaffs, goldcrests, fieldfares and redwings en route. In a weedy field at Trenoweth we saw a juvenile COMMON ROSEFINCH, with well marked wing bars and a forked tail. In the same weeds there was a yellow-browed warbler. We walked along the coast between Watermill Cove and Toll’s island, but saw little – highlight was a greenshank. We cut across past Carn Vean to Carn Friars, where serin and Radde’s warbler had been seen recently, but saw only red-legged partridges, blackcap and 2 reed warblers, one of which had a deformed eye, and has been reckoned by some to be a Caspian reed warbler. We crossed Higher Moors, saw turnstone and ringed plovers on Porth Hellick beach, and walked along the coast to Old Town, and over to Peninnis, seeing wheatears, stonechats on the way. Here we watched a SHORT-TOED LARK (below) in a ploughed field.


 On our return to the airport for the 16.45 return flight, we saw a swallow, little egret and greenshank in Old Town Bay, and had nice views of a bobbing, feeding jack snipe and a greenshank at Lower Moors. In total, I saw 48 species, including 3 lifers in about 7 hours of birding.


Saturday 23 October

Chew Valley Lake in afternoon. Heavy rain all day. Saw 2 1st winter little gulls, 1 adult yellow-legged gull, 1 black-tailed godwit, 9 snipe, 14 pintail and a common sandpiper.

Monday 25 October

Kenfig Pool in afternoon to see drake redhead. Difficult to see, as most of the pochard flock were on the S shore of the lake, and could only be easily viewed from a little beach several hundred meters distant. First found a male hybrid ferruginous duck x pochard, with a white tail region but quite a rounded head. Had two brief views of the redhead before eventually locating it at about 16.30h. It was mostly asleep, but when awake the rounded head was obvious, and I noted the bill as blue-grey with a black tip (the white subterminal band was not very visible from a distance). Yellow iris when asleep, and flew briefly revealing  pale secondaries. Sides were much darker grey than pochard, and stern was black.

Had excellent views of a ringed adult Mediterranean gull in winter plumage (below).


Saturday 30 October

Porlock area with Dave Trump, Tony Robinson & Adrian Woodhall from the Euphrasian Natural History Society. Grey, misty and still. Saw stonechat, about 5 little egrets, peregrine carrying a pigeon, and a juvenile arctic tern (identified from short legs, pale secondaries with no dark bar, and white rump). Brief stop at Horner woods where we saw great spotted woodpecker and tree creeper.


November 2004

Monday 1 November

Meare Heath – Temminck’s stint on lagoon – distant, but saw yellow legs, breast band, and white outer tail areas when flying. Also 3 dunlin present for size comparison. Considerable numbers of starlings roosting north of small pool hide.

Saturday 6 November

An excellent afternoon at Chew. A first-winter grey phalarope was very mobile, initially feeding in Woodford Bay before flying into the middle of the lake.


At Nunnery Point. A very tame red-necked grebe was very photogenic. Finally, a bittern flew out of the reedbed at Herriot’s Pool at dusk. A Daubenton’s bat emerged in daylight at about 16.30, and was harassed by gulls. It survived, and was still flying at dusk.


Sunday 7 November

Yeo estuary near Kingston Seymour – 3 snow buntings. Also a short-eared owl, little egret, and a kingfisher flying along a rhyne back towards the village. Returned on Tuesday 9th to get the photos below. The bird in the first photo showed more buff than the others. When I arrived the 3 birds were flying, and were joined by another 3 in flight.


 I also saw a short-eared owl, 2 stonechats, and a twite flew overhead giving its characteristic call.


Saturday 13-Sunday 14 November 

Gower for Anna’s birthday. Highlights around Rhossili were ca. 30 common scoter, many auks (probably mainly razorbills) flying W, shags, 2 ravens and 2 choughs, one heard and one seen – colour ringed with green on left, red on right legs.


Sunday 21 November

Quick visit to Barrow tanks. About 190 pochard on tank no 1. Also here are 2 scaup-like birds. A female has a large white blaze and a round head. A male has a light grey back. Both birds seem to be hybrids however, having too much black on their bill tips for scaup.

Sunday 28 November

Cheddar reservoir in the afternoon to photograph the first winter great northern diver that has been there for some weeks now. It was quite confiding, and at one stage captured a large fish.

 December 2004

Saturday 4 December

Catcott lows in the afternoon, with the hope of seeing pink-footed geese reported there. Instead, there were 10 tundra bean geese – a mixture of adults and immatures. The birds took flight at 14.30, and returned overhead twice more, last seen flying low W at 16.00h. With them was one barnacle goose, behaving like a wild bird. Also saw a female/immature merlin and a stonechat – lots of duck and lapwings.


Sunday 5 December

A morning trip to Hellenge Hill AWT reserve near Bleadon in thick mist. I hadn’t visited the site before, and couldn’t really se where I was going in conditions of very restricted visibility. The area is reputed to be good for wintering woodcock. I saw lots of fieldfares and redwings, and a roe deer, and eventually had nice though brief views of a woodcock flushed from a steep path through a wooded area.

Saturday 11 December

Late afternoon visit to Chew – 1 goosander, sparrowhawk and peregrine seen from Herriot’s Bridge.

Sunday 12 December

Late afternoon visit to Barrow tanks. 41 shoveler (mainly males), ca. 60 lapwing, 5 goldeneye, 11 goosander, and most interestingly a velvet scoter on tank 3, the second I’ve found inland this autumn. The bird was observed at reasonable range in murky conditions. It had a uniform greyish bill, 2 well-defined facial patches, and a darker cap than the brown body. The white secondaries are just about visible when the bird was resting, and showed clearly in flight. In flight, a lightish patch was noted (almost like a broad V shape) around the belly. The bird was either an immature or an adult female.  It is the first one in Avon since 1996.

Sunday 19 December

Drove to Monmouth in the morning to look for waxwings reported early in the morning – it turns out they were there yesterday (and the following day), and not present today. Photographed blackcap and song thrush in the hawthorn tree that they frequented.


 Then visited Slimbridge – usual Bewick’s swans and white-fronted geese, but there seem to be more feral geese (Canada and barnacle) than wild ones now. Also saw peregrine, merlin. Golden plover, little stint. Highlight was a female lesser spotted woodpecker in the spinney behind the Zeiss hide. Took the photographs below as it fed in the outer branches of the canopy. As I left a ringed kingfisher was feeding at the entrance pool at dusk.


Tuesday 21 DecemberThe lure of a flock of waxwings at Brecon was just what would be needed to brighten up the shortest day. About 20 birds were reported from a school opposite the busy Brecon Health Centre yesterday. I arrived at 10.45, only to here that the birds had been present earlier, and flew away once a road resurfacing lorry had arrived. I watched a Sorbus bush for an hour with a feeling of déjà vu, and then drove to the nearby barracks where other waxwings had been reported. No sign of waxwings here, so back to the school for one last try. Managed to get some nice shots of bullfinch, starling, blackbird and mistle thrush feeding on the berries.


Then, at about midday the sun came out, and 4 waxwings arrived. I watched them for about an hour, including one first-winter bird feeding another of the same age.


Sunday 26 December

Chew Valley Lake, late morning. 4+ goosanders, 20+ goldeneye, tufted x pochard hybrid (male, lesser scaup type), raven, 2 dunlin, 3 water pipits, and a reed bunting (male, ringed). First large flocks of ruddy duck that I’ve seen for a while. It’s interesting how pinkish the legs of these water pipits can sometimes look.


Tuesday 28 December

A walk in Wentwood produced some nice woodland birds  - one woodcock flushed (possibly a second heard but not seen), ca. 20 siskin, marsh tit, willow tit (heard), and just as I was about to leave, a crossbill calling from the larches at Cadira Beeches.

Thursday 30 December

Brief afternoon visit to Chew – water rail in Heron’s Green bay, water pipit, meadow pipit, and 23 snipe at Stratford.

So the year ended with 236 species, my best year total yet. 16 of these were new for me in the UK.