Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cotswold Water Park and beyond

Phil Hardwick and I travelled up to Cotswold Water Park yesterday, and were fortunate with the weather. We arrived at Swillbrook Lakes around 8:45am, and were soon onto a couple of singing garden warblers. Along the path may have been a nightingale singing very briefly but it was clear after a few minutes that nightingales were much more quiet than last year. Two weeks too late perhaps? Nevertheless, before too long I was on to a nightingale out in the open showing off its russet tail. Unfortunately, I couldn't put Phil onto it, but he wasn't too concerned as he'd had crippling views a couple of weeks earlier. We continued on to pit 57. Clouds of damselflies appeared as we walked along. I've never seen anything like it. Good numbers of common terns were feeding out on the water, but no hobbys. We moved on, and travelled down the lane by pit 44. Parking at the bottom, revealed we could actually view pit 57 from the opposite side from where we'd been. Within a minute or two we were watching a hobby hawking along the bank and perching on the fence posts. We watched for over twenty munutes before the bird was joined by another. This second was clearly the female, being much bulkier in size. They flew together for several minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a pale bird on the water in front if the newly erected houses. With the scopes up, we were watching a drake and duck red-crested pochards. Satisfied with ticking the three targets, we moved on to Avebury for tree sparrows. They were a little difficult to track down, but we finally managed three birds around the disused animal sheds at the end of of the farm. Several nestboxes are actually erected inside these sheds. Whitethroats were all over the place too. We rounded the day off with a visit to Goldcliff for high tide. A lone spoonbill was in front of the first platform along with a few avocets with young, little egrets, a flock of dunlin, knot and redshank. Ringed plovers and little ringed plovers were on the island. We battled against the wind to walk to the seawall for a quick seawatch. It was quiet, but a few 'commic' terns moved up channel and then we tracked a distant bird for over a minute. It was almost certainly a skua, and Phil saw glimpses of a pointed tail. Possibly an Arctic skua, but difficult to be sure given the distance. Another good trip, with 6 ticks taking me to 189 for the year. I've also heard cuckoo, grasshopper warbler and tawny owl. Last year's 202 is now in sight. I'm still to see crossbill, nightjar, puffin, kittiwake, ruff, green sandpiper, white-fronted goose, cuckoo, beared tit and bittern. All of which I should connect with later in the year. Add in a good Norfolk trip and some passage and autumn migrants and I should eventually post my best year total so far.

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