AVON YEAR LISTING 2006
130 species seen by the end of February.......
An afternoon off work and another drive to the extreme South of the recording area. Some Bewick’s Swans had joined the large herd of Mute Swans on Bleadon Level. I saw and photographed 3 adults and 1 of 2 immature birds present. They were sometimes difficult to see when they were feeding or sleeping in one of the “dips”. The visiting Great Bustard was also present with the Swans.
An afternoon walk from my home in Severn Beach produced my first Short-eared Owl of the year hunting the salt marsh at Chittening Warth. I managed to take some distant pictures before it came closer and my camera battery went flat! It gave spectacular views, repeatedly dropping into the long grass for Voles.
A disappointing few days with a persistent strong North East wind, unpleasant conditions to be out in and very little of interest to look for. Hopefully the very high Spring tides on Wednesday and Thursday next week will liven things up on the coast.
I managed to see my first White-fronted Geese of the year without even leaving my home this morning. I watched a skein of 17 flying East with difficulty into a strong head wind over Severn Beach. This afternoon I gratefully received an email about 5 more “White-fronts” in a field between Thornbury Sailing Club and Oldbury Nuclear Power Station. It is always nice to see some wild geese on the ground so I made the short journey to see them albeit in a biting North East wind. They appeared quite settled and ignored the constant stream of dog walkers on the sea wall and have been in the area for 3 days.
A morning visit to the woods between Wickwar and Inglestone Common produced excellent views of 3 Marsh Tits, at least 4 Treecreepers, 2 Nuthatches and a pair of Grey Wagtails. After several failed attempts I finally saw the Bittern at Chew Valley Lake at dusk. It flew from the main lake and over Herriott’s Pool and dropped into the back reed bed. Earlier in the afternoon a female Scaup was seen from Woodford lodge while watching the Gull roost.
Another visit to the Whale Warth area of Littleton on Severn to search for Tree Sparrows failed but a flock of 40 Linnets were seen in Maize stubble, 2 Ravens flew over and 2 Chiffchaffs were found in a hedge near the brick pits.
This morning was my first chance to return to Weston super Mare. The male Black Redstart was heard almost immediately calling from the front of the Madeira Court car park (opposite the Marine Lake). After a few minutes it flicked up onto the wall and railings near the three small Palm trees. It was a camera shy bird, allowing pedestrians to walk within 10 feet but if it saw me watching it from 3 times that distance it would dive for cover under a parked car.
A morning visit to Weston super Mare sea front in search of a male Black Redstart was unsucessful. Things got worse when it was seen again later in the day after I had driven the 25 miles home!
A pleasant walk up the River Avon from Sea Mills produced the regular wintering Greenshank, now present for it’s 16th winter! Other waders seen here included 40 Lapwings, 20 Redshank and a Common Sandpiper.
An early morning walk along the River Frome from Snuff Mills failed to locate the hoped for Dippers but there were a number of woodland species including Coal Tits and Nuthatch. A Kingfisher was found below one of the weirs and provided a blast of colour on a very overcast and damp day. Things improved this afternoon when I received a call about 4 Mandarin Ducks on a pool near Falfield. A quick dash up the M5 and I had the amazing sight of 15 Mandarin including 9 stunning drakes. Several of them flew off but returned. The pool also held a reasonable flock of Canada Geese, 4 Shoveler, several Tufted Duck and 2 Little Grebes.
At long last, I managed to see 2 Jack Snipe this morning. They were flushed from the edge of the frozen “Grebe pond” on Northwick Warth.
A Great Bustard was found yesterday with a herd of Mute Swans on Bleadon Level. It is a wandering, wing tagged bird that was released in 2004 onto Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire as part of a reintroduction attempt. Although it is not “countable”, it was still an impressive beast. A search of the tidal inlets around Uphill failed to produce the hoped for Spotted Redshank that has been present recently.
Following sightings of Barn Owl at Aust Warth yesterday I went in search myself tonight. Just as I arrived at the Warth I received a call to say that one was sat on a post opposite the vineyard near the top of Aust Cliff. Two minutes later I was watching the bird at about 15 metres range in the beam of my car headlights. It eventually took off, hovered briefly above the hedge and then disappeared over the field. We later heard 2 birds calling at Old Passage. A search here for Short-eared Owls and later at Chittening Warth failed again even using an impressive, borrowed pair of infra red night vision optics.
An afternoon visit to the South of the recording area for Long-eared owl was partially successful. We failed to locate any roosting birds in the vast area of Hawthorn scrub but we heard a calling male and I managed to see one bird in flight. We also flushed 3 Woodcock. An impressive flock of at least 150 Jackdaws also flew over at dusk.
This afternoon I went on a search for two rare Avon species; Mandarin Duck in the Tortworth area and Tree Sparrow at Littleton-on-Severn, a site where I had a wintering flock of 40 birds back in 2002. I was unsuccessful with both species but I found a Little Egret on a large pond between Falfield and junction 14 of the M5 and had a flock of 45 Snipe fly over a stubble field at Littleton.
A visit to the Brimsham Park area of Yate was well worth it to witness the Hawfinch extravaganza. They have been seen in the area since December 2005. The stunning birds were easy to find, calling and flying between the trees in the small park near a pond. I saw a group of 6 birds together but there may have been more. The afternoon light was terrible for photography but I managed a few record shots of birds perched up in the tree tops.