30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 25

This evening I went with a friend to Bampton Cemetery in Oxfordshire.  They visited a grave while I had a look around the Cemetery.  Filling the watering can was a slow process, the tap produced no more than a dribble. While I was stood waiting for the can to fill, I noticed the ivy that is making its way up the tree by the tap, a robin briefly sat on the wall then quickly flew off once it had noticed me.  Walking back along to the grave I noticed that the horse-chestnut tree has leaf-mining moth damage (you can record this data via an app called Leaf watch where the results are submitted to the Conker Tree Science project).  I recorded this tree last year with roughly the same amount of damage.

I noticed that it also had conkers starting to form.  The squirrels that live there like the conker tree, however they also like that my friend leaves them a pile of hazelnuts when he visits.  They have in the winter traded conkers for hazelnuts! Leaving him the conker and running of with the hazelnut, they are quite friendly in winter! 

There are quite a few birds in the area.  The blackbirds were eating the fruit off of what I think is a Japanese Crab tree and I managed to get a single photo of the song thrush before a passer-by scared it off.  There were blue tits and chaffinches in the branches of the trees and woodpigeons grazing among the grave stones.  

30 Days Wild 2017 – Days 6 – 10

Day 6 – Birdwatching at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Whelford Pools. I visit Whelford Pools every now and then; I knew a Swan had nested and I wanted to go back as see how they had got on. I didn’t manage to get a photograph as they were across the other side of the lake but as far as I can tell it looks as though they have 5 Cygnets. There were quite a few birds with young, including Cormorants, Coots and Great Crested Grebes 🙂

My sightings were: 4 Coot, pair of Mute Swans with 5 cygnets, 25 Cormorants, 2 Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Grey Heron, 5 Great Crested Grebe and 4 chicks, Magpie, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, 3 Carrion Crows, 7 Black-headed Gulls, Egyptian Goose, Swallows

Day 7 – Exploring Bampton Cemetery for the nature within. As soon as I walked into the Cemetery I saw a Song Thrush sitting on one of the grave stones so I sat for a while letting the birds get used to me being there. The Song Thrush had moved to the other end of the site but slowly moved closer hopping from stone to stone using them as a vantage point looking down in search of food. The Robins were doing the same, hopping around the stones. Also present were Blackbirds, Goldfinch and Woodpigeon. I took a closer look around me and found Daisy’s and Herb robert growing in the grassed areas. I was pleased to spot a Ladybird larve, the first time I had actually seen any. 

Day 8 – Today Plantlife launched their Great British Wildflower Hunt. I really like the spotter sheets you can download from their website to identify the plants, they are super helpful. I took a walk down the track that runs alongside my patch, there are crops and trees on one side and a hedgerow on the other. I was surprised at the amount of Wildflowers I found – 9 in total (Cow Parsley, Oxeye Daisy, Common Poppy, Dandelion, Shepherd’s Purse, Creeping buttercup, Bramble, White Clover and Meadow buttercup). There was a mix of Country and Town species and some not listed on the spotter sheets. I’ve loaded my findings to the Plantlife website for a Country search – a score of 5. I really liked learning what was next to my patch, I need to do a proper survey on other areas of it now 🙂

Day 9 – I was watching the garden birds wondering what to do for 30 Days Wild when unusual movement in the flower bed caught my eye. I had my binoculars to hand and quickly realised it was a mouse. I ran off to grab my camera hoping that it would come back. Thankfully it did. It’s a Wood Mouse and was eating the grain that the birds drop on the floor from the feeders 🙂

Day 10 – I went out specifically looking for Dippers on By Brook; I didn’t find any this time but I did come across a very cute family of Mute Swans and a female Mallard with her 5 ducklings 🙂 Along my route I also saw Carrion Crows, Swallows, Magpie, Woodpigeon and a heard of Cows! Next time I am going to walk south along the brook in the hope I can find the Dippers. 

Isle of Portland – April 2017

For my last day at the coast I decided to go to the Isle of Portland. I knew there were a lot of migrants coming in so thought I’d go and see what was about. Now I knew I was probably going to struggle identifying some of them but it was worth having a go. 

It was a lovely sunny morning when I reached the car park and there was only a light wind. My first spot was in the car park, a Song Thrush. I then headed to the cliff edge, where a kind man pointed out 2 Purple Sandpipers. These were a first for me and I slowly managed to climb down some of the rocks to get on to a lower platform to get a little closer, although they were still a distance away. While watching the sea and cliffs I spotted, Gannet, Razorbills and Guillemots. Thankfully I spent a weekend at RSPB Bempton Cliffs last year so could easily identify them. 

After lunch I headed over to the grassland areas to look for Wheatears, I had never seen one and wanted to find them. I was sat watching some vegetation when a man asked me if I had seen the Little Owls. I didn’t even know there were any! He showed me where they had been seen in the morning and half an hour later we saw an Owl! This was the biggest surprise of the day. I had never seen a Little Owl before and I stayed watching for as long as it was around. It was a lovely experience 🙂

I watched many little birds flitting around at the time but was unsure of what they were; being able to identify them from my photos when I got home, I now know. I did get a little stuck with this one but now I realise it’s another Cetti’s Warbler 🙂

My full sightings list:
Birds: Song Thrush, Sand Martin, Purple Sandpiper, Gannet, Little Owl, Wheatear, Cetti’s Warbler, Dunnock, Fulmar, Guillemot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Razorbill

Boxing Day 2016 – Visit to WWT Slimbridge

For a change of scenery on Boxing Day I headed to WWT Slimbridge with my parents. We have visited Slimbridge a number of times before, although not in the colder months and my Mum wanted to see the Bewick’s Swans in particular. So taking the back roads to avoid the Boxing day sales traffic we headed towards Gloucester. 

Even as an adult I buy grain to feed the birds. The Nene Geese came to greet us asking nicely for food; I lost my packet of food to my Dad who took to feeding them and every Moorhen he saw! We took a slow walk towards the Zeiss hide stopping for lunch at the picnic benches on route.  My parents aren’t birders so don’t like sitting in hides for long but during the periods of time they managed to sit still, I saw Roe Deer, a Curlew, Bewick’s Swans in the distance, a couple of Mute Swan and hundreds of Lapwing and Wigeon.  

Warm drinks were needed after a walk around the site, the restaurant was packed but I managed to get us a table near the window which was very fortuitous as I saw my first Grey Wagtail, so of course I grabbed my camera and headed outside for a record shot! 

Towards the end of our visit we headed to the Peng observatory, knowing we wanted to be there for the 4pm feeding to have a closer look at the Bewick’s Swans.  It is a nice place to sit and watch the bird’s slowly growing in number as they head in for feeding time.  It was lovely to see the birds following the wheelbarrow of food, there were about 30 Bewick’s, a real treat to witness and something I highly recommend seeing if you have time to stay till closing.

My full list of sightings:
Birds: Curlew, Bewick’s Swan, Mute, Swan, Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Wigeon, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Reshank, Jackdaw, Rook, Teal, Pintail, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tit, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush
Mammals: Roe Deer