Week 8 – to 27/02/2011

Not a good week for bird watching. The operation went worse than expected and I ended up being moved to the Heath in Cardiff for a 2nd operation. Finally got home on Saturday.
Bec has been watching the garden and there have been good numbers of goldfinches and siskins.
In the Heath I was near the window and there were lots of gulls and feral pigeons on the hospital roof. The gulls would sit on the air outlets, presumably warm. They were collecting nest material and displaying so I assume the roof will be full of babies.
The highlight though was seeing all the birds fly up and a peregrine come hammering through them. It didn’t catch anything but flew around for a while.
After 2 ops I am fairly low so I don’t think there will be much birdwatching this week either. Still hope to see interesting stuff though!

Week 7 – to 20/02/11

A quiet week this week. I’m going in for my operation on Monday so the weekend has just been relaxing.

The garden has been quite quiet too. A flock of 50 goldfinches turned up on Friday and then disappeared. I believe they are calling in on their migration back.

The walk by the river today produced great views of 2 treecreepers and we saw the first frog spawn of the year too.

Week 6 – to 13/02/11

A busy week in the garden. We’ve had a flock of 50 siskins, a greenfinch (the have vanished for ages) and our first Sparrow this year.

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere. blue tits are checking out the nestboxes, the hawthorn is breaking it’s buds and the grass is looking a little bit greener.

On Saturday we went to Gigrin Farm to see the Red Kite feed. We pre-booked the gateway hide and we had it to ourselves. The weather was perfect, sunny with a few clouds, we were lucky because on Friday and Sunday it rained a lot.  The feed was amazing. A couple of Red Kites were hanging around when we got there with some crows, ravens and rooks. As soon as the tractor turned up the Kites appeared from nowhere. The farmer shovelled the meat over the field and the corvids were in first, then the Kites swooped in and the corvids would get out of the way very quickly.There were about 300 Red Kites altogether, what a show. There seemed to be a “pecking” order and the kites would swoop down in waves. They would move off and then others would come in. All in all we stayed about 2 hours, well worth the money and I would definitely go back.

Between us we took about 1000 photos so that is going to take some sorting before I get some on flickr. A first look has shown some amazing shots so I am happy!

Week 5 – 06/02/2011

What a windy week. The garden had the usual suspects with the goldfinch and siskin flocks still large but numbers have dropped a bit in the last few days, could it be the wind.

On Saturday we went to Slimbridge to the Hide opening with James Lees. Unfortunately it was very windy.  He delayed the morning swan feed for us to see. Wow! Fantastic views of the Great and Lesser Scaups. Loads of ducks, swans and geese on the reserve. Good numbers of lapwing and Golden Plover too. On the South Lake James pointed out that one of the Cormorants was different and was the sinensis sub- species. Also a Great Crested Grebe was floating around.

On the way back we called in Wentwood to try and see the Great Grey Shrike. We couldn’t find the right place so headed home. We decided to take a different road out and drove down a narrow lane past the reservoir. Bec yelled stop it can’t be, leapt out of the car (a la the Gambia) and went “A Mandarin”. The ducks then flew. We drove down a bit further and managed to get the car in the entrance to the reservoir, off the road enough to let people past, and had a look. In front of us was a Goldeneye – a lifer. We then searched through the ducks on the far side of the reservoir and there was a male Mandarin – another lifer. What a lucky stop.

On Sunday we decided to go back and try to see the Great Grey Shrike. I had found out where it was meant to be on the web so we parked up and walked down to the felled area. It was blowing a gale and raining and no one was there, hmmm. The area was rather large and we started searching (hoping we were in the right place!). After about 5 minutes (beginning to think it was impossible) I noticed a grey speck in tree at the far end of the area. Getting the scope on it reveales… the Great Grey Shrike. Lifer! It flew out into the open and gave us some very good views. Some people turned up and we were able to show them it. It then flew over our heads and went into the trees behind us and disappeared. Time for home!

Count so far for the year now up to 88.

The Great Grey Shrike took us up to a UK life list of 140.

Week 4 – to 30/01/2011

Been a quiet birdwatching week, just the garden really. Been ill this weekend so not able to go out.

That being said we have added a few newbies to the year list. A grey Heron flew over the dual carriageway on the way back from the Dentist’s and the Bullfinches decided to call in the garden, 2 males and a female.

It was the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend and unlike last year when all the birds disappeared we were inundated. I went and got a new 20kg sack of sunflower hearts and filled the feeders and we sat back and waited:

Chaffinch – 12, Goldfinch – 26, Siskin – 21, Blue Tit – 7, Great Tit – 4 , Coal Tit – 2, Long Tailed Tit – 2, Blackbird – 7, Starling – 1 (an unusual visitpr for us), Nuthatch – 2, Bullfinch – 3, Wren – 1, Robin – 4 (I guess 2 males and 2 females), Magpie – 2, Jackdaw – 3, Dunnock – 3, Pied Wagtail – 1, Woodpigeon – 3, Collared Dove -3

Not bad eh!

One Dunnock is extremely round. It doesn’t appear to want to fly too much and is happy to hop very quickly. The dog saw it on the patio and ran up to it, it didn’t fly, it hopped through his legs really quickly so Os didn’t know where it was and hopped into the borders out of the way.

The Blue Tits have started checking out the nest boxes too, so hopefully we will have a repeat of last years 7 hatchlings. Must get the camera in place soon.

Week 3 – To 23/01/11

A good week this week. Now up to 79!

On Saturday we combined practcing photography with birding at Newport Wetlands. On the way we nipped into Maesglas Industrial Estate to try and see the Waxwings. There was one in the trees by the snack van, as soon as we saw it it flew and we didn’t see it again. Lucky.

We then went to the Wetlands. We waited around a bit until we got hold of Tasha to wish her Happy 18th. The we set off. The birds were very thin on the ground to begin with but we did see some rabbits, and then a fox at the far west of the reserve near the power station. A lovely dark red male.

It then started to pick up. Lots of Reed Buntings were in the reeds and were showing beautifully. With the help of someone else we saw what we think was a Scaup, he was certain as he had been looking at one last week in London, having looked at the photos I’m now not so sure. I think it may be a Tuftie.

By the lighthouse and the tideline there were loads of waders. A load of dunlins flew in and then were joined by Grey Plovers (and British lifer), Redshank and Knot. Lots of Oystercatcher and Curlew further out too. Along the path the was a large flock of Linnet.

Back at the visitor centre a Reed Bunting landed on the feeders so got some nice (ish) shots.

Tried out some new binoculars, trying to decide if its worth getting a set for £500 or waiting to get my dream Zeiss’s! The Viking HDs they had were miles better than the ones I have at the moment, hmmmm?

Leaving the centre there was a Kestrel on a Lamp post. We stopped on the side of the road (it felt like being back in the Gambia). Amazing view. We followed it for a while trying to get a decent photo but did quite get it.

Week 2 – To 16/01/2011

Well we are upto 72 in total now.

The weather has been rubbish this week. We went up the Brecon Beacons yesterday to hunt for some photography spots and found some nice locations but it was so windy and raining so much we couldn’t take many photos.

Did see some birds however. At the Brecon Beacons visitor centre there was a bush stuffed full of House Sparrows. They were very sensible hiding out of the wind and rain! Also saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  A bit further along we stopped by one of the reservoirs and saw a lovely treecreeper.

Along the river today we managed to pick  up a nuthatch. We were alerted by a strange call and eventually found it. It fools us everytime. It sounds like a watery “huit”. Must remember that for next time.

The garden has been busy with upto 26 Siskins and 20 odd goldfinches. 2 robins have been having a sing off most of the week. They have been constantly at it, singing all through the night. It has been very odd listening to them at midnight.

Week 1 – Upto 9th January 2011

New Year’s day got off to a flying start. First bird of the year – a Robin in the garden.

We then set off to Slimbridge, should be a good place to get the list up and running. Loads of birds as you would expect and we got a lifer within 30 minutes of turning up. A Greater Scaup was on the Rushy. We missed the Lesser Scaup which had been hanging around but that is liveable with, it was apparantly very flighty and they weren’t sure where it was hiding. Lots of ducks and Bewick’s Swans too. At the Holden tower we saw a Peregrine! From the Zeiss hide on the Lake there was a female Smew, another lifer!A huge flock of Wigeon (6600) was absolutely amazing. By the end of Day 1 we had seen 54 species.

2/01/2011 we went for a walk along the river and pick up some more. The Dippers were out as usual, Grey Wagtails too. The surprise at the bend in the river where Osric goes in was a Water Rail – a first for the river.

This Weekend we kept it local and checked out some of the local spots. Saturday we went to Penylan just above Bassaleg. There were about 8 buzzards hunting over the fields. In the ploughed field there was a flock of about 50 Fieldfare and another 50 Starlings. They flew over us, what a sight. We also got an amazing view of a Raven.

Sunday we went to Ynysfro Reservoir. After searching all the Black Headed Gulls we eventually came up with a Med Gull, at last! Another lifer. There was a huge number of Coots. I have never seen so many in one place. The Reservoir was still frozen over about half of it and they all congregated in the open bits. It was quite a sight.

After 9 days we have now seen 69 species this year.

New Year 2011 – The Magic 200 and New Year resolutions.

We have an aim for this year. The target number of birds for the year is 200, I would love 250 but 200 seems more manageable.

I am going to get my act together and blog weekly, last year was a bit hit and miss.

We have the idea of going away for weekends this year, we have been very stay at home due to work/golf etc but we are determined to change this.

My lovely new camera (Canon 60d) is going to help me document it and all photos are going onn Flickr. I also plan to work on my landscape photography as well, the perfect opportunity to combine bird watching and photography.