Saturday, 20 February 2016

Ninesprings Country Park, Yeovil - 18/2/2016

I think it is fair to say that I have had worse days birding. It is also fair to say that I underestimated how much I would see today. Just mallard, gulls, moorhen, and mandarin I thought. Boy was I wrong!

It's a short walk from my house to my local park, Yeovil Country Park, or Ninesprings to the locals (for the park has 9 water springs). Ninesprings is an area of wooded terrain, surrounding the course of the River Yeo at the south side of Yeovil. There is a large pond and a vast array of streams and brooks which all contribute towards the River Yeo.

Most of the time the pond is populated by black headed and herring gulls, moorhen and mallard, with an escaped/released population of mandarin ducks. In the summer months, doves, pigeons and more gulls visit the park to feast on the vast amount of bread left by the human visitors to the park. Most of which is ignored by the already full ducks, pigeons and gulls to sink to the bottom of the pond. Heaven knows what in on the bed of that pond!!!

Observing the handful of ducks, I heard a small 'peep' coming from behind me. Spinning around I noticed what it was. "Oh, just a moorhen" I thought to myself. Hang on a sec, slightly different colouration, longer and different colour bill. "WATER RAIL!" I gasped. My friend Oli who joined me on this excursion rushed over. He was trying to photograph a distant gull. "Nice find!" Oli replied, hurrying to take a photo of it. I was very proud of my work.

A walk around the pond produced another water rail on the other side of the pond. Here, however, the path was muddy and the soles my shoes caked in mud. A wipe on some grass cleared the majority of the mud.
Elsewhere on my walk around Ninesprings produced the standard moorhen, mallard, black headed gull, herring gull, woodpigeon, carrion crow, blackbird, robin and wren, along with two little grebes, two lesser redpolls, two buzzards, great tits, coal tit, grey wagtail and a handful of mandarin from an originally captive group.

I returned the next day to check out my new scope, a Barr and Stroud Sahara 20-60x80 spotting scope. Didn't see the water rail again.

Here are a few photos from the two days:

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The things I do for a lifer!

This morning I joined my friend Oli and his Dad to twitch the Green-Winged Teal and the Glossy Ibis at Seaton in Devon. There was one small issue, the weather. It was chucking it down and very, very windy! It still is while I am writing this.

Arriving at Black Hole Marsh I grabbed my rucksack and headed to the reserve. Initially we visited the Island Hide. There were a few birds to be seen there. Then to the Tower Hide, and to the platform near the Field Studies Centre. Next, we drove to Seaton Marshes. A walk around there produced se more birds.  In all we saw Canada geese, teal, wigeon, shelduck, black headed gulls, herring gulls, common gulls, black backed gulls (including a 4th year), lapwing, redshank, curlew, crows, pheasants, Robin, blackbird, mallard, great tit, 3 bullfinches and a Glossy Ibis. No Green-Winged Teal for me today!

Returning home, I had a well deserved nap in the car

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

NGB in Norfolk - January 2016

At the end of January 2016 I was fortunate enough to visit Norfolk in a Trip with Next Generation Birders. This was set out to be an exciting weekend of twitching. I was expecting to see 100+ species of birds.

Friday (29th) was mainly spent travelling. Leaving my home town of Yeovil at 8am, I travelled to London Hammersmith on Berry's Superfast Coach (a double decker too!), caught the tube to Victoria and caught the 12 o'clock National Express Coach to Norwich. I narrowly caught this coach because I was late to the coach due to a combination of  delays and a lack of adequate signage between Victoria tube station and coach station. On board the coach I met two great naturalists, also on their way to Norfolk, Caleb and Gideon Knight ( (who, if you're wondering are cousins). The journey's birds consisted of kestrels, magpies, starlings, feral pigeons and pheasants (one was road kill). That evening we took the bus to the Best Western Brook Hotel where we would be staying. There we met the great naturalist that is Jonathan Scragg (@scraggybirder on Twitter). That night we visited the bar at the University of East Anglia where we met the rest of the NGB clan. We played pool over pizza and alcoholic beverages (ciders for me seeing as I'm from Somerset).

On Saturday, we went to Flitcham to find the pallid harrier, which we missed, Holkham for the Shore Larks (dipped that but saw twite for the first time), Titchwell where I saw a ringed robin, redshank, lapwing, black headed gull, little grebe, and ringed plover to name a few, Horsey for rough legged buzzard (which we missed), and finally to a hen harrier roost on the north coast. We had cracking views of hen harriers plus a pair of barn owls. On the way to Titchwell we flushed up a woodcock near the road. Roadside birds included crows, partridges (both grey and red legged) and pheasants. That night I watched telly and ordered in a Chinese takeaway to eat in the hotel room.

On Sunday we waited to see how many people weren't hung-over and fit to bird. Then we went about the day's birding, firstly in Great Yarmouth where we saw a humungous Glaucous Gull and a Mediterranean gull (both of which I have never seen before). Then we went to Breydon water to look for Lesser Yellowlegs. We didn't see it but did see a great pair of bearded tits and a lot of ducks, gulls, and waders, including knot, lapwing and some 25,000 teal and a whole island made of 35,000+ widgeon. I have never seen so many widgeon in my life. Finally we tried to go for
the pallid harrier but missed. Hen harrier, Egyptian goose and brambling were spotted however, along with hearing a very loud marsh tit. Sunday evening was spend travelling home on the train from Peterborough to London, tube through London and coach home. On the train home I felt scruffy and underdresses wearing my hiking clothes and boots whereas everyone else was wearing suits and on their laptops.

The total bird count for the weekend was 65 species and 17 new species for my life list.

So yeah, it was a great weekend. maybe even the best weekend in a long, long time.

Me birding in Bristol

Me birding in Bristol
Me birding in Bristol