Greylake on 31st, hoping for a hen harrier, but only finding a marsh harrier.
I went back to Chew on 25th hoping to get some better shots of the jack snipe in good light. At least 4 were present. I was lucky - within a few minutes of arriving a bird started feeding close to Stratford hide. This one doesn't look as orange behind the eye as yesterday's bird that I photographed. Otherwise similar birds to yesterday (but no gannet), with today's carnage provided by a peregrine that attached a wigeon on the pool in front of the hide. The regular scavenging carrion crows tried to get on the scene, and disturbed the falcon which flew off, leaving the wigeon in a state of shock and slightly ruffled. Eventually it flew away.
Chew Valley Lake had a wintery feel on the afternoon of 24th. A good variety of birds was present, including 2 jack snipe (pictures below), at least 2 water pipits, red-breasted merganser, a black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper and a ruff. In the late afternoon a juvenile gannet flew in and settled on the water at the dam end - presumably the bird that was at Cheddar in the morning, and which appears to be the same individual that was in the area last weekend. The starling roost contained several hundred birds, and one was captured by a sparrowhawk, and then poached by two carrion crows. A white phase gyr was seen by another birder in the Stratford car park - unfortunately it was wearing jesses!
The jack snipe are wonderfully camouflaged . It's only relatively easy to find the birds when they bob during feeding. Below is a typical view, with the cropped bird shown as a search image below it.
A quiet weekend on 17-18th. On 18th a walk on Brean Down produced 9 swallows and a chiffchaff. There was a little egret at Barrow Tanks.
I had the opportunity to see Britain's seventh or so BROWN SHRIKE at Staines Moor on 14th. It was usually pretty distant, but gave good views through the scope. It was a stunning bird, and appeared strongly marked when seen in direct sunlight. Some of the distinguishing features include the short primaries, ginger fringes to the dark tertials and coverts, and the strongly marked mask. A few record shots are posted below, together with some photos of a female ring-necked parakeet which gave me some of the best views I've had of this species. We also visted Staines reservoir, and saw a couple of rock pipits. As a student I often visted Staines Reservoir, the Moor and Wraysbury Gravel Pits, and it was great to visit again after almost 30 years.
I caught up with the drake ring-necked duck at Blagdon Lake on 11th. There was also an adult yellow-legged gull here. There were 11 green sandpipers in Heron's Green Bay at Chew at dusk. In the early evening a little owl was flying and calling over the Flax Bourton cycle track.
On 10th I visited Cheddar Reservoir to look for the ring-necked duck, but it didn't seem to be present - there was lots of boat activity disturbing the waterfowl. The adult female red-crested pochard was there however. Characteristically, it has a lot more pink on the bill than the juvenile bird at Chew, and a black nail appears in the pink when viewed front-on. The wing bar also looks considerably whiter (photos below, together with some of a great-crested grebe). I wonder if this is age-related, or where there may be some common pochard genes in the Chew bird? Ruff, green sandpiper and 4 black-tailed godwits in Heron's Green Bay at Chew on return journey.
I spent a couple of hours in Villice Bay hide at Chew on 4th. looking for muntjac. I didn't see any - only 4 roe deer and a red fox that was scent marking along the north shore. Birds included the red-crested pochard and a buzzard.
4 red kites between Swindon and Reading from the London train on 2nd.