Saturday, 13 September 2014

13th September

The last few days have mostly been spent driving around Somerset from one meeting to the next, but I managed to squeeze in a fair bit of birding on the way too, mostly at my favoured haunts of the new WWT reserve at Steart and the Avalon Marshes, but also a couple of other sites I don't get to quite so frequently:

 A stop at Curry Moor was most pleasant, this area is a fine example of the 'working' part of the Somerset Levels, so different from the Avalon Marshes. There weren't many birds around apart from ridiculously abundant Grey Herons, but brief Whinchat and Hobby were nice. This area comes into its own when it floods in winter and becomes a haven for wildfowl.

At Steart I had a good early morning walk along the beach at Wall Common, hoping for some migrants in the bushes. There had definitely been an arrival overnight, with plenty of Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Sedge Warblers, a few Wheatears and Whinchats, and even a Goldcrest feeding amongst the Hawthorn berries, a very autumnal sight. Shortly before high tide, the waders that feed on the mud in Bridgwater Bay gather on the beach and can give great views. Amongst the many Dunlin and Ringed Plover were 5 Little Stint and 2 Curlew Sandpiper.
Curlew Sandpiper

Little Egrets

Kingfishers at a tidal pool, Sea Aster flowering below them
Little Stints

Dunlin and 2 Curlew Sandpipers

And finally on to Shapwick Heath NNR where the Meare Heath lagoon has been pulling in really good numbers of waders, one morning there I had 94 Knot, a great count for this inland site, and the Black-tailed Godwit flock had risen to 176, its only a matter of time before an american wader joins them....

The Great White Egrets were squabbling as usual...

...much to the consternation of the godwits!

Kingfisher posing nicely on Meare Heath bridge

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Migration on Portland

Yesterday I ventured out of Somerset for a day of birding on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset. Jutting out into the English Channel, Portland is one of the 'migration hotspots' of this part of country, and the Bird Observatory near The Bill is focal point of birding activity. At this time of year, as breeding birds and their offspring head South for the winter, large numbers can often be seen feeding up before  crossing the channel, and off-course rarities from Europe and further afield are frequently seen.
With light North-easterly winds, and low cloud, conditions were good for grounded birds and I saw a good variety of migrants, mostly common species like Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, but also a few less common like Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Tree Pipit Yellow Wagtail.

While checking the small quarry adjacent to the observatory I found a Nightingale skulking around the bushes, not a bird that gets seen on Portland very often. It stayed in the quarry for the rest of the day, giving frustratingly brief views to those who waited long enough.

Best bird of the day was an Ortolan Bunting which flew over my head as I walked back through the Top Fields towards my car, I had been hoping for one of these all day and finally scored right at the very last minute! 

Ortolan Bunting




Willow Warbler