On the 9th February:
In the period before keeping birdwatching records, Laurel and I used to visit Brean Down regularly.
Not only to watch the birds on the down, but to visit friends Reg and Jo who owned the Bird Garden at the base of the down.
Reg and Jo lived at the farm just along the track from the Bird Garden, and today they had something to show us, a Little Auk, which had been storm blown a few days earlier and had been brought in to the Bird Garden, they had been feeding it up hoping to release it.
The auk appeared fit and healthy in a large cardboard box, flapping its wings and seemed ready to fly.
We took it to the beach behind the farmhouse at the mouth of the River Axe and threw it into the air, the bird flew and landed in the water just offshore and then paddled out into the Bristol Channel and was finally lost from view.
I like to think it made it.
A days birding with Roy Smith and Tim Cleeves, firstly calling in at Cheddar Reservoir where the Black-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers were still there. From there we drove to Shapwick Heath, in those days they had only just started peat extraction in the area where the nature reserve is today, and there was still thick woodland of willow, hazel and birch along the tracks leading in from the road. In places there was still quaking bog, with narrow paths through tall mossy and grassy hummocks which moved beneath your feet as you walked. Here we saw a Willow Tit and in the more open areas a Barn Owl, 2 Sparrowhawks, a Green Woodpecker and a Fox.
We continued to Kings Sedge Moor where there were 38 Mute Swans, at Dunwear we saw a Chiffchaff, then at Huntworth we saw a Snipe, a Kingfisher, a Kestrel and heard 2 Water Rails, but failed to see the Bittern again.
The rest of the day was spent at Steart were we saw a Merlin, 200+ Lapwing, 42 Curlew, Oystercatchers, Redshank, 10 Wigeon, 12+ Shelducks, 2 Stonechats, 70 Linnets, Skylarks, Goldfinches and 2 Grey Partridges.
In The Gambia at Tendaba Camp before taking the boat further up river to Yelitenda. 14 new birds seen today.
Photo: Bearded Barbet.
In Kenya, in the Masai Mara, only 1 new bird and 1 new mammal today.
Photo: Grey Crowned Crane.
At home in Bristol, in the garden the snow was about 5 inches deep. There were lots of birds visiting the feeders, House Sparrows, Chaffinches and Greenfinches were the commonest, also Blue Tits, a Coal Tit which was not a common bird here, a Goldcrest and a male Blackcap.
I had put out fruit, apples and grapes, which the larger birds were feeding on, Collared Doves, Starlings, several Blackbirds, 2 Mistle Thrushes and a Song Thrush were joined by 6 Redwing and 32 Fieldfare.
After the first wave of Fieldfares had fed most of them sat in the trees above, with only 3 or 4 left on the ground, these appeared to be dominent birds as they defended the remaining food from any bird which tried to land too close. They stood their ground or chased off the other Fieldfares, with breast feathers raised, wings drooped and fanned tails raised above the level of the body. With persistant intruders they wagged their tails slowly, fanning their tail feathers over their back.
Also, I watched a Starling bathing in the snow, much as it would have done in water, flicking it's wings and ruffling it's feathers into the snow, also flicking snow over it's back.
Later, I saw a Kestrel fly over, a rare bird for the garden and probably for this part of the city.
In North Island New Zealand on Little Barrier Island. 1 new bird seen today.
A drive across town to Victoria Park, Windmill Hill in Bristol to see a Black-throated Thrush, reported as a female, on closer views it was probably a poorly marked 1st winter male. Also, there was a flock of around 25 Redwings.
A visit to Shapwick marshes with Keith Vinicombe to look for a Booted Eagle which had been reported, unfortunately there was no sign of it. We did see 12+ Buzzards, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Little Grebe, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, heard lots of calling Water Rails, Song Thrush singing, Robin, Siskin, Redpoll, Goldfinch, a Water Pipit, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Lapwing, 2 Sparrowhawks, a Peregrine, Mistle Thrush and heard several Cetti's Warblers.
At Ham Wall we saw a female Ferruginous Duck and on the way back to Bristol saw another Peregrine circling over the Gordano Valley.
A very early start, leaving Snettisham village in the dark and driving to the coast. I had permission to drive alongside the pools, at the top of the beach, to reach the hides overlooking the furthest pool. This gave me enough time to plug in the recorders to the cables, which I had laid the previous day, and test the microphones.
It was getting light and it wasn't long before the first flocks of Knot and Oystercatchers began arriving, then flock after flock arrived, until there was 30,000+ Knot and 5,000+ Oystercatchers roosting, in a tight bunch, on the side of the pool. Shortly after the last flocks arrived the birds went silent, with most of them sleeping, there was the occasional call, but nothing like the sounds on arrival.
Other birds seen here were around 10,000 Golden Plover, 500+ Curlew, a few Dunlin, 60+ Redshank, 60+ Brent Geese, 500+ Shelduck, 2,000+ Pink-footed Geese and a Kingfisher.
I spent the rest of the day visiting places along the coast, first was Thornham Harbour where there was a flock of around 50 Twite. Then I went to Choseley Barns, seeing Skylarks, Corn Buntings, about 100 Snow Buntings, 2 Lapland Buntings and 200+ Golden Plovers.
Continuing along the coast road I stopped to view fields at Holkham seeing 3,000+ Pink-footed Geese and an immature Snow Goose. At Holkham Gap, on the beach, there were around 70 Snow Buntings and 28 Shore Larks.
At Titchwell, in the car park, there was a Coues's Arctic Redpoll, which eventually gave excellent views. I returned to Snettisham and in the area by the car park saw 200+ Wigeon, about 100 Canada Geese and 7 White-fronted Geese.
Above, recording of the Knot flock landing in high-tide roost, with a few calls from Oystercatchers and Greylag Geese, before the Oystercatcher flock drowned out the calls of the Knots.
Video of Twite at Thornham Harbour.
Also see here.
Video of immature Snow Goose with Pink-footed Geese at Holkham.
Also see here.