AVON YEAR LISTING 2006
175 species seen by the end of April.......
Another quick look in the Marshfield area for Grey Partridges failed but at least 10 Red-legged Partridges and 6 Wheatears were found in the ploughed fields.
A dawn visit to woodland in the North East of the region failed to produce any Nightingales but usual the Marsh Tits and Nuthatches were seen along with 3 Roe Deer and a Muntjac.
The good run of local rarities continued when the first Whiskered Tern in Avon since 1983 was found at Chew Valley lake this afternoon. A drive through the holiday weekend traffic was worth it to watch this bird hawking insects over the lake. It eventually landed on some floating fish traps in Villice Bay. I managed a few distant record shots of what was a new bird for me in Avon. Several hundred Swifts were also present over the lake.
Whiskered Tern, Chew Valley Lake 28.4.6
A day in work today but an evening stroll along sea wall at Severn Beach produced my first Swift of the year, hawking insects low over the houses.
A thorough search of Chittening Warth this morning produced my second sighting of Grasshopper Warbler of the year but I still haven’t heard one reeling yet. There were also 5 singing Lesser Whitethroats here, plenty of Sedge Warblers and my first Reed Warbler of the year. I could not find a Cuckoo reported there earlier. News of another rarity reached me this afternoon and 40 minutes later I was in Warmley watching a Wryneck feeding on the front lawns of houses in a small cul-de-sac. This was the sixth Wryneck I have seen in Avon but my first spring bird.
Wryneck, Warmley 24.4.6
A dawn visit to Northwick Warth in search of migrants was quite productive with 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 20 Black-tailed Godwits being the highlights. On returning home in Severn Beach at 8 am I found another Lesser Whitethroat in my garden hedge. The rest of the day was spent away in Devon. This was always going to be risky with all the migrants around and while I was away I received calls about a Little Tern at Chew Valley Lake, some exotic wildfowl in the area and a Spoonbill heading South from Gloucestershire. The Spoonbill was eventually seen flying South over my house but not by me. Luckily the Egyptian Goose (possibly the ugliest goose in the UK) remained on pools between the M5 and Falfield this evening and (the best looking duck specie in the UK) a drake Garganey remained nearby on a lagoon at Oldbury Power Station.
Egyptian Goose, near Falfield 23.4.6
Garganey, Lagoon 1, Oldbury Power Station 23.4.6
Yet another day with some unexpected birds. Many migrants were flying overhead into the North East wind with hundreds of Swallows and Goldfinches, several Yellow Wagtails and Tree Pipits. I found a female Redstart behind the old Aust motorway service station and just after leaving here I received a call about a female Marsh Harrier near Oldbury on Severn power station and 30 minutes later we watched it being mobbed as it flew across fields. On returning to Severn Beach we saw 2 Arctic Terns and 6 Common Terns at distance, 2 Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit on the shore. I then received another call from Oldbury, this time about a Turtle Dove so another journey North and 30 minutes of searching it was eventually seen in a tree near the approach road.
Marsh Harrier, near Oldbury Power Station 22.4.6
A dawn visit to Northwick Warth produced my first Sedge Warbler of the year and lots of evidence of migration with several singing Whitethoats. I saw my first 3 Whinchats early afternoon at Severn Beach with a flock of at least 30 Wheatears. A female Pied Flycatcher showed well here along the Severn Way footpath and a short distance further on a Garden Warbler was seen with at least 5 Blackcaps near the Sea Bank power station. A return visit to Northwick Warth late this afternoon to look for a Lesser Whitethroat produced another shock in the form of a Long-eared Owl. I flushed it while climbing through the tall hedge behind the second sentry box. It settled for a minute before being chased across a field by a Magpie. This was my second Long-eared Owl of the year but the first April record for Severnside.
It was my turn tonight to have a slice of the current Avon luck. While walking up Northwick Warth with a fellow Avon year lister we found a party of 7 Whimbrel and a Little Ringed Plover on the flash. As we walked around the edge of the wet area, a brown wader flushed to my left at about 70 yard range, assuming it to be another Whimbrel I raised my binoculars and realised it was a Stone Curlew. Expletives followed and luckily it landed at about 120 yards range. We telephoned as many people we could get hold of to spread the news. By dark at least 10 others had arrived from as far away as Chew Valley and Weston see this Avon rarity. Rather than flush the bird by approaching too close, I had to settle with some distant record shots in near darkness. This was the second Stone Curlew for Severnside. I was the lucky single observer of the last one as it flew past me in July 1999, so it was nice to see another on the ground.
Stone Curlew, Northwick Warth 20.4.6
Every year a surprise bird is found in Avon but a Chough on Sand Point this morning was a real shocker. Congratulations and thanks must go to the finder who searches the area almost every day. The bird showed well in damp weather. It was colour ringed and has been traced as coming from a nest in May 2004 on the Gower, South Wales. Recently it had been seen further east (near Ogmore-by-sea) along the Welsh coast in a flock of about 8 birds. This is the first record in the Avon area since 1941.
Chough, Sand Point 19.4.6
Good Avon birds came in a rush this morning but unfortunately I was in the wrong place for most of them. An adult Laughing Gull was seen in flight at Chew Valley Lake and there were reports of Osprey, Pomarine Skua and Shag in the Severn estuary. A good consolation bird was the sight of a Grasshopper Warbler behaving like a mouse, skulking beneath drift wood at the base of the sea wall on Northwick Warth.
Grasshopper Warbler, Northwick Warth 17.4.6
A much quieter day with most of yesterdays birds having moved off and my best sightings had been just 3 Little Ringed Plovers and 2 Common Whitethroats on Severnside. Things improved this evening when I received a message about a Red Kite in trees behind Chew Valley Lake. A quick 25 mile dash in my car and I was there in time to see it circling above Burledge Hill (famous for the Booted Eagle in 2000) at distance with Buzzards and being mobbed by corvids. This remains a real “Avon” rarity with few birds lingering although I have been fortunate to find two of these majestic birds in Avon. I managed to capture some record shots of the bird from over half a mile range.
Red Kite, near Chew Valley Lake 16.4.6
An early morning walk south of Severn Beach produced at least 2 fly over Yellow Wagtails and 20 Whimbrel heading East. This was the first day of reasonable spring migration with at least 30 Wheatears being seen on the coast here along with a steady passage of Swallows, at least 60 Sand Martins, 3 fly over Tree pipits. Five Common Terns were seen off shore, hopefully the first of many. I was lucky to have my car window open while driving along Aust Warth and was able to hear a Redstart calling from a hedge. I stopped and found a superb male bird that allowed a distant picture to be taken. Another stroll south of Severn Beach this evening produced a hunting Short-eared Owl, my first Bar-tailed Godwit of the year and another 58 Whimbrel. The only disappointment of the day was not finding a Grasshopper Warbler, at least 14 were present elsewhere on the Avon coast this morning.
Redstart, Aust Warth sheep fields 15.4.6
Today was my first opportunity for a week to go and see some spring migrants. A male Pied Flycatcher at brightened up a grey and damp afternoon at Blagdon Lake this afternoon. My first Common Whitethroat of the year eventually showed here as well. I stopped off at the picnic site at Chew Valley Lake on the way home and saw 3 Common Terns and at least 3 House Martins with the many Swallows hawking the lake surface in windy conditions.
Pied Flycatcher, Blagdon Lake 13.4.6
A pair of Little Ringed Plovers showed well on Severnside this morning. I saw very few other migrants other than 2 Pied Wagtails, a few more singing Chiffchaffs and a fly by Swallow.
Little Ringed Plover, Severnside 6.4.6
An early morning walk up Northwick Warth produced my first Tree Pipit of the year. A typical record of a calling bird, seen flying North into the wind. Other migrants seen here in a brief visit included single Wheatear, Swallow, Blackcap, 3 singing Chiffchaffs and a summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit.
Black-tailed Godwit, Northwick Warth 5.4.6
Yet another day with strong South West wind. A walk along the Severn Way footpath at Northwick Warth produced a Willow Warbler in the hedgerow, a male Wheatear on the salt marsh and 2 Sand Martins heading South. A sea watch from Severn Beach produced a Common Scoter, a Kittiwake, a Great Skua that flew close to the sea wall, eventually heading inland over the village. Apparently it was seen later up the estuary at Oldbury Power Station and finally at Slimbridge WWT. A Fulmar came close to shore in the “burger bar bay”, spending most of the time being chased by large Gulls. A dark phase Arctic Skua rounded the morning off nicely, flying up to the 2nd Severn Crossing and then flying back down the estuary low over the water.
Fulmar under attack, Severn Beach 2.4.6
This afternoon I received a telephone call informing me there was a Dartford Warbler in brambles south of Severn Beach, just a Kilometre from my home. A quick walk and 20 minutes of waiting and I saw the the skulking bird several times as it flew between the brambles. It behaved typically, cocking it’s tail and diving low into cover. Of note, these were the same bushes that the last individual occupied in November 2005. This bird compensated for missing Sandwich Tern, Arctic Skua and Willow Warbler on Severnside this morning but I am still disappointed about missing a male Bearded Tit seen in the south of Avon today.