On the 14th February:
Our day started with a drive to Cheddar Reservoir, where amongst the hundreds of commoner duck and Coots was a Slavonian Grebe and a male Smew. We continued south to the north levels, and found Tealham Moor covered in birds, with hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfares, around 5000 Lapwing, 500 Golden Plovers, 20 Bewick's Swans, about 70 Snipe and a large flock of Ruff, in fact there were so many we decided to count them accurately, there were 206 Ruff, at the time the highest number recorded in Somerset, and in the southwest, and maybe it still is? There was a larger flock of 220 reported from Radipole at the end of February, but that's not in the southwest.
From there we stopped at Catcott Burtle where there were around 20 Bramblings with 8 Chaffinches, at Shapwick the best we saw were 2 Treecreepers. On the way home we visited Blagdon Lake, where we saw lots of duck, 20 Bewick's Swans and a Merlin.
On a sunny, clear, crisp day we were on our way to Altrincham, to see Mark Beaman, one of the authors of the forthcoming 'The Handbook of Bird Identification'. Laurel was one of the six illustrators selected to work on this project and we were meeting to discuss details of how it was all going to work.
But, we decided on a small detour to our route, to visit Back Forest at Gradback in the Peak District to look for Bennett's Wallaby, a sub-species of Red-necked Wallaby, which were still being reported from this area, after their original escape/release in 1939/40.
Although we searched for a couple of hours, we did not see them, but did find tracks in the snow to show they were here. However, we did see 5 Red Grouse and 4 Hares.
We continued our way northwest unaware that, for various reasons, the book would take another 17 years to be published.
A trip to south Devon, starting at Plymouth where on the coast we saw 2 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Guillemots, 2 Red-necked Grebes,
4 Eiders and a Razorbill. We then drove to Aveton Gifford where, on the River Avon, was a Lesser Yellowlegs, we also saw 3 Snipe, a Redshank and a Green Sandpiper.
In Ethiopia in Bahar Dar, 5 new birds today.
Photo: Silvery-cheeked Hornbill.
In Kenya, at Lake Naivasha, then Hell's Gate and drive to Kisumu.
4 new birds seen today.
Photo: Augur Buzzard.
This afternoon I was in the hamlet of Egbury in Berkshire to record Wrens. In the local area I saw 2 Red-legged Partridges, lots of Pheasants, Fieldfares, a Nuthatch and a Barn Owl.
Most of the time was setting up the tiny microphones in the roof-space above the front door of the farmhouse. Then as it started to get dark, the first of the Wrens scrambled into the small space in the wall, beneath the upstairs floor boards, quickly followed by others until there was around 20 Wrens crammed into the roost. I could hear them moving around, wing-fluttering and making soft cheeping calls, but only for around 10 minutes.
In Fiji on Viti Levu, around Suva. 6 new birds seen today.
An overnight drive to Dungeness to arrive at first light at Hooker's Pit, it was windy and cold, and I had very bad views of the Penduline Tit, the bird I had come to see. But, I did have an excellent view of a Mink swimming, holding it's tail above the water. Also seen were Wigeon, Cormorants, a Yellowhammer, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.
As I was supposed to be working I couldn't spend a lot of time there. I drove back to Sidcup, to Foot's Cray Meadow, a suburban park which supported several nesting pairs of Ring-necked Parakeets. At this time of year they were pairing up and apart from their normal screaches made lots of softer calls, some almost musical, and it was these I had come to record. I watched them cleaning out holes in the older, mature trees, displaying and copulating. There were about 15 parakeets, also a Nuthatch, Mistle Thrushes and Redwings.
Later, I drove to Elmbridge Leisure Centre in Walton-on-Thames where the non-breeding Ring-necked Parakeets came to roost, there were around 600 birds, at that time the largest roost in England, and quite a spectacle. Also, there were 100's of gulls and around 50 Lapwings on the playing fields, in the trees 100+ Redwings and 20+ Fieldfares.
A local outing to Longney, by the River Severn, a place I hadn't been to before. From the small car park I saw 5 Whooper Swans and 2 Mute Swans in a field on the opposite side of the river. On the bank were c40 Canada Geese and a flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls. In the bushes by the car park there was a Blackcap calling. On the way back, at Frampton, saw the Tawny Owl in its usual tree.
Record photo of Whooper Swans.