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January 2006

118 species seen by the end of January.......

January 31st
A long walk through the salt marsh between Severn Beach and the southern end of Chittening Warth failed again to produce any Jack Snipe or Short-eared Owls. A Water Rail gave typical views as it ran out in front of me, leaped into the air and then crashed into the cover of  a reed bed.

January 30th
I finally managed to visit the Wain’s Hill area of Clevedon to find a Ring-necked Parakeet, one of two that have been seen here for over 2 months. It was quite easy to locate by it’s loud call. It seemed to frequent the garden of a bungalow opposite the Cemetery allotments. A Raven flew South over here as well.

January 29th
A redhead Smew was found on Severnside this morning and I was fortunate to see it drifting down river off New Passage with a female Goldeneye. I made another trek out to Chew Valley Lake late afternoon hoping to see one of the rarer gulls seen in recent days. I had to settle for another view of the Slavonian Grebe, a female Scaup, a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull and my first Tawny Owl of the year, calling from trees behind the Nunnery Point hide.

January 27th
A brief after work visit to Chew Valley Lake failed to produce the expected Bittern and Barn Owl that have been seen on most recent evenings. Bonus birds included the drake Red-breasted Merganser seen off the southern end of Denny Island and a very approachable 1st winter Little Gull at Herriott’s Pool.

January 26th
With a busy week at work and no other birding opportunities for the last 4 days, it was nice to receive a call about 7 Grey Plover on the foreshore at Severn Beach. They were still there when I arrived at 4.15, always nice to see just a hundred yards from my home although the freezing cold North West wind made me glad I am working again tomorrow.

January 22nd
A cold and foggy morning but I still managed to find 2 Golden Plovers on Severn Beach with the roosting flock of Oystercatchers. Yet another search of the salt marsh failed to provide any Jack Snipe but there were 3 Stonechats and at least 10 Rock Pipits here. The afternoon involved another trek South to Chew Valley Lake, expecting to see the drake Smew that was seen at Herons Green yesterday and hoping to also catch up with the Red-breasted Merganser. Well I failed again but had the consolation of yet another sighting of the Slavonian Grebe and another Green Sandpiper at Stratford Bay. The weather Forecast for the week ahead is night frosts and an East wind so some good birds should reach the area soon.

January 19th
Today was my first opportunity to get out for a few days. A thorough search of the Severn Beach salt marsh for Jack Snipe failed again but at least 4 Stonechats and 6 Rock Pipits were seen and I found my first Kingfisher of the year in New Pill at Chittening Warth.

January 15th
The morning got off to an unpleasant start. While passing Chew Valley Lake at Villice Bay early this morning I stopped to help one of  the lakes regular birdwatchers rescue a number of Gulls from the road that had been hit by a passing vehicle. It was carnage with at least 20 dead or injured Black-headed and Common Gulls. I dread to think what sort of speed the the driver had been doing. A visit to Blagdon Lake in search of a male Smew seen the day before was unsuccessful  but a flock of at least 20 Siskins in one of the Top End copses was a nice sight and 2 Treecreepers  showed well  near the Ubley hatchery. I have given up on“ the lakes” now until February unless something special is found or the Smew get easier to see.

January 14th
A Ruff was found mid morning off New Passage amongst the Lapwing flock. This is a good record for this time of year with most  sightings occurring in the autumn. Yet another search of Aust Warth failed to produce the expected Jack Snipe and Short-eared Owls but a Little Owl was found here at dusk.

January 12th
Another sunny day following an icy start. A stroll around the Orchard Pools at Severn Beach was quite productive this morning with my first 2 Stock Doves of the year and another 2 Woodcock.  A fine male Merlin on Northwick Warth this afternoon was also my first of the year.

January 11th
Yet another visit to Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes where I managed to see some new birds for the year, a drake Scaup, Barnacle Geese, feral Greylags  and Coal Tits at Chew and a Nuthatch  feeding at Ubley Hatchery, Blagdon. Other birds of note at Chew included the long staying Slavonian Grebe, at least one Water Pipit, a Green Sandpiper and at least 4 singing Cetti’s Warblers.  At least I missed the best birds; Smew and Red-breasted Merganser in sunshine.

January 10th
Just to prove you never know when a good bird is going to present itself, a Woodcock flew out of the railway scrub opposite the Astra Zeneca works right in front of my car on the Severn Beach coast road and proceeded to fly off towards the Orchard Pools. Two others were seen to do the same thing back in December so were are obviously looking in the wrong place for them.

January 9th
With very little happening locally on the estuary, I decided to visit arable farmland in the Marshfield area, in the extreme East of the recording area. I was disappointed on my arrival to find dense fog. By early afternoon the fog "thinned" a little and I saw totals of 50+ Red-legged Partridge (in 6 coveys), 180+ Yellowhammers, 30 Corn Buntings, 70 Linnet, 40 Pied Wagtails, 40 Skylark, 3 Buzzards and 2 Ravens. Species that I hoped to see, Grey Partridge and Tree Sparrow could not be found but there are still plenty of days for a return visit. I received a message about a drake Scaup at Chew Valley Lake. I hope it stays until my next chance to visit in a few days time.

January 8th
A day of missing everything. Well if you are going to have a bad day it might as well be a cold one, with drizzle and almost  no daylight. A dawn raid into the South of the area in search of Long-eared Owls failed but we did manage to catch up with many Pheasants and several Roe Deer in the Gordano Valley, a Green Woodpecker near Weston super Mare. A large flock of mixed finches including many Brambling were seen in a large Sun Flower field near Wrington. A brief search of Chew Valley Lake failed to produce another “target” bird; Smew, but gave another view of the Slavonian Grebe and new birds for the year with Canada Geese and many Ruddy Ducks. A visit to the River Avon at Sea Mills on the way home for the regular wintering Greenshank also failed, but a partial summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull was a bonus.

January 7th
I got off to a good start this morning when 3 Ravens flew North, “kronking”, over my house in Severn Beach. Things went down hill after this despite a thorough search of the salt marsh at Aust Warth for Jack Snipe and Short-eared Owls, none could be found. Of interest I saw at least 4 different Short-tailed Voles so there must be a lot more for the owls to feed on if they arrive. A singing Mistle Thrush at Old Passage was my first of the year.

January 6th
Another cold, grim and grey day. A search on Northwick Warth failed to produce the wintering Merlin or little else so an excursion to Battery Point, Portishead was taken. Close scrutiny of the rocky point near the “lighthouse” soon produced 3 Purple Sandpipers. This has been one of the most reliable wintering sites for these easily overlooked rock hoppers having deserted the once favoured site at Severn Beach in recent years. A return visit to Severnside only produced one more year addition, a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the Orchard Pools.

January 4th
A grey and murky day with a cool North East wind. “Domestic” duties required me to take the afternoon off at short notice. Once these had been sorted I had a brief  search on Severnside finding seven firsts for the year; Skylarks, a single Knot and 14 Ringed Plovers at Severn Beach, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls at New Passage, 3 Yellowhammers (a scarce bird here), 15 Linnets and surprisingly hard to find, 4 Redwings at Aust Warth. There are very few berries in the hedgerows at the moment and the few Thrushes around are feeding on the ground.

January 2nd
A fine crisp morning and a search in the Severn Beach salt marsh produced a fine Water Pipit with 4 Rock Pipits, 3 Stonechats and 2 Common Snipe all being new birds for the year. A Peregrine flew over South towards the Sea Bank Power station. There were 2 male and a female Blackcap feeding in my garden this morning and were quite acrobatic feeding on peanut baskets and sliced apple. After receiving several text messages and an email (thanks to all concerned) I gave in and made yet another journey to Barrow Gurney Tanks. Shortly after arriving at number 3 tank, 4 Black-necked Grebes showed very well just beyond the slipway and close to shore. A wintering Common Sandpiper was a good bonus bird and I took the opportunity to cross the A38 back to number 1 tank for another look at the Great Northern Diver. It spent slightly longer on the surface today allowing me to get a distant picture. Back to work tomorrow so that should be it until next weekend and some predicted colder weather.

January 1st
A damp and grey start to the New Year. By 8.30 I had driven the short distance from my home in Severn Beach to Avonmouth Sewage Works hoping to see my first rarity of the year, the long staying / visiting  drake Ring-necked Duck. It seemed this was not the day, with no sign of it  amongst the small mixed flock of Tufted Duck, Pochard and Shoveler, but a wintering Chiffchaff, a flighty Green Sandpiper and a Cetti’s Warbler (a scarce bird here) calling from the behind the square pool were good birds for such a brief visit. A Little Egret and a Black-tailed Godwit were the best to be seen amongst the usual birds off New Passage. A telephone call had me dashing to Chittening Warth late morning to see my first unexpected bird, a Guillemot floating down river in calm conditions.
By early afternoon I had arrived at number one tank at Barrow Gurney to see the  juvenile Great Northern Diver that had been present here since early December 2005. It showed at close range but spent more time underwater than above! A short drive to Chew Valley Lake produced another good Avon bird, a Slavonian Grebe, that had been present for several weeks  in Herons Green Bay. A brief search around the lake produced other wildfowl that I would find difficult  to see back on the coast including Goosanders and Goldeneye. Having returned home late afternoon I received a telephone call to say that the “duck” had reappeared at Avonmouth Sewage Works and an adult Mediterranean Gull was also present. Ten minutes later I was watching the drake Ring-necked Duck that has been a regular visitor to this small pool since February 2000. Unfortunately the “Med” Gull had flown off but we managed to locate and see a calling Firecrest at dusk, an excellent end to a day  in which I had seen 69 species.