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30th April 2018 – Stoke Park and Eastville Park

Another bitterly cold day but not too bad for a walk through the woods, especially as I soon warmed up climbing the hill in to the woods in Stoke Park.

There was a grey heron on the flooded fields at the bottom of the hill.

FP5A6702Grey heron

In the woods I saw a great spotted woodpecker, a jay, and three blue tits.

FP5A6720Blue tit

It was interesting to see the work they have been doing in the park; removing the brambles and planting new trees. The work has been quite controversial amongst locals but to me it seems as though it’s going to be much better.

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However, the wood carvings in the wood are a big hit.

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I followed the ridge along Purdown and had good views of Stapleton Church and Colston’s School (where I had spent all my working life and reflected that this month 50 years ago I had turned up for interview).

FP5A6731Holy Trinity Church, Stapleton where peregrines can be regularly seen

FP5A6749Colston’s School

FP5A6741Most people were clearly at work by now

I dropped down to Eastville Park and saw three robins and two wrens early on.

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There was no sign of the usuals (kingfisher, dipper, and grey wagtail) which was rather disappointing. However, I saw 2 coal tits singing very loudly and a tree creeper, which was a real bonus.

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The Canada geese had taken the perching spot of the grey heron on the lake and seemed to be showing a very strange way of showing affection. The mute swans were much more placid.

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Bluebells and ramsons were evident in both parks.

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A 5.2 mile walk  on a Monday morning was certainly better than being at work.

 

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29th April 2018 – WWT Slimbridge

I remember going to Slimbridge when I was a child and not being terribly impressed; how we change as we get old! Now I always enjoy a trip here and love the duality of it: the serious birdwatching opportunities from the excellent hides and the close-up opportunities of seeing wildfowl from all around the world in the pens. I also love seeing how much children enjoy being there.

We had less than two hours on a very cold morning but had lots to see and it was lots of fun. The best from the hides were common cranes looking to prepare a nest, avocets everywhere, my first sight of ducklings this year and some coot (or cute) chicks.

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DSC04340Common crane

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DSC04444Avocets

DSC04388First ducklings of the year

DSC04406Coot chicks

In the pens, despite the cold, the black-winged stilts were showing that spring is on the way.

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DSC04566Black-winged stilts

DSC04584Redshank

DSC04648Knot

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DSC04626Great close-up views of waders: redshank, knot and avocets

There are still Bewick swans to be seen.

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And some of my favourites:

DSC04702Goldeneye

DSC04708Eider

DSC04738Female smew

DSC04742Male smew

DSC04789Pochard

And lots of fun for children:

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Click below for gallery of today’s photos:

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27th April 2018 – Stoke Park, Bristol

It rained all day and mid afternoon I made a decision to go for a walk anyway. I was so lucky as it soon stopped raining and I had a really pleasant walk up through the woods at the top of Stoke Park.

At first, near Duchess Pond, there was a noisy song thrush calling to another one.

DSCF3018Song thrush calling

I saw two swallows flashing across Duchess Pond and as I moved across to the flooded area they followed me.

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The area to the side of Duchess Pond is really quite flooded at the moment and I saw a few mallard swimming in the field (so to speak). There was cuckoo flower everywhere – on a sunny day I would have hoped to see some orange tip butterflies.

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In the woods at the top of the park the bluebells looked wonderful even on such a gloomy day and I was also pleased to see the ramson in blossom.

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There was even some forget-me-knots in the wood.

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I saw (and heard) two chiffchaff and then had a distant view of a great spotted woodpecker. As I progressed through the wood I saw the woodpecker again.

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All through the wood I heard lots of robins but only saw four.

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DSCF3216I’m not sure about this plant but could be habernia peramoena.

DSCF3114There were also lots of these (anemones I think) in the bluebell woods but difficult to tell as they had their heads down due to the rain.

 

Click below for gallery of photos from this afternoon.

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22nd April 2018 – Chew Valley Lake

We spent the day at Chew Valley, renewing our birdwatching passes and visiting Villice Bay and Herriots Bridge.

We did consider trying to get a bite to eat at the Lakeside Café but, even though we did find one free parking slot, we baulked at the thought of competing with the hundreds of visitors (mainly there for the fish and chips). In comparison, we were the only customers at the new outdoor coffee kiosk next to Woodford Lodge.

At Villice we saw great crested grebe, tufted ducks, coots and barnacle geese, a passerine I couldn’t make out, a pair of mallards making their way through the undergrowth going about what mallards do at this time of year and a grey heron. However, the best was the orange-tip and peacock butterflies and the flowers in the meadow en route to the hide.

FP5A6535Male orange-tip

FP5A6540Peacock butterfly

FP5A6549Geranium molle, the Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill or Dovesfoot Geranium

FP5A6551Cardamine pratensis (cuckooflower, lady’s smock or milkmaids)

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FP5A6556Anacamptis morio, the green-winged orchid or green-veined orchid

FP5A6576Bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta)

FP5A6581Great crested grebe

FP5A6651Prunella vulgaris (known as common self-heal, heal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, brownwort and blue curls)

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FP5A6678Barnacle goose

FP5A6686Primula veris (cowslip, common cowslip, cowslip primrose). In French it is commonly known as cuckoo.

FP5A6690Mallards

FP5A6692Grey heron

At Herriots there were lovely displays of  male behaviour from the mute swans and the Canada geese. On the other hand, two more barnacle geese were behaving quite serenely.  There was a distant buzzard, some splendid great black-backed gulls (and other gulls too), more tufted duck, a few shelduck and shovelers and I heard a cuckoo (my first of the year).

MT1D5434Great back-backed gulls

MT1D5470Tufted duck

MT1D5490Canada geese

MT1D5516Barnacle goose

MT1D5523Buzzard

MT1D5563Mute swan

MT1D5574Canada geese

MT1D5579Shelduck

MT1D5586-2Tufted duck

Click below for gallery of photos from today at Chew plus a goldfinch in the garden before we left:

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21st April 2018 – Lower Woods, Gloucestershire

Lower Woods between Wickwar and Hawkesbury Upton off Inglestone Common in Gloucestershire is one of the largest ancient woodlands in the south-west of England and covers three square kilometres. The reserve has 23 woods and coppices whose boundaries have remained unchanged for several centuries. This is normally an excellent time to visit the woods to see the bluebells. However, the views would have benefited from some sunshine and the paths, which were still very muddy, could certainly have done with some drying out. Neil, the very helpful wood warden, advised us that walking boots and not wellies would be okay – fake news (I think he was confused by his excitement of seeing a beautiful old Landrover arrive as the same time as us).

We only covered 8 kilometres but our boots were so clogged up that the inclines seemed much more arduous than on our previous visits and we were quite weary at the end and glad to get back. Its my view that the woods are prettier when the bluebells are just dying back and the ransoms (which were about to flower) are in full bloom. Tempting to go back in a few weeks but I fear we are bound to get more rain and have to cope with even more muddy paths.

DSC04246Neil was confused by his excitement of seeing this old Landrover – he had three Landrovers of his own in the yard.

DSC04320Walking boot terrain – I think not especially when it started raining

DSC04287The bluebells would have looked better with sunlight filtering through

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DSC04286Wood anemones, violets, primroses and lesser celendine complemented the bluebells.

DSC04296The ramsons were so close to blooming

DSC04285The dandelions are certainly at their best at the moment

Click below for gallery of photos from today

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20th April 2018 – Clifton Down, Bristol

On a misty, murky morning before the sun burnt through I walked across Clifton Down. There wasn’t much bird life but I was interested in seeing the goats in The Gully. Originally there was a flock of 6 goats serving a useful purpose of nibbling away at the scrub (see full story); unfortunately there are only now 4 goats as 2 have been killed by dogs allowed into the enclosure. So sad.

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The only interesting bird – a wren.

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However, the blue (and white) bells, wood violets and yellow archangels cheered me up.

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18th April 2018 – Siston and Wick

All of a sudden spring arrived: Tuesday –  windy dull and showery with a maximum of 13 degrees; Wednesday – sunny with a pleasant breeze and 10 degrees warmer.

We had two really pleasant walks in South Gloucestershire either side of having a repair on the damaged bodywork of our car to which nobody owned up. The first along Siston Brook in the Willsbridge Valley local nature reserve and the second along the River Boyd in the Golden Valley local nature reserve.

We heard plenty of birds but only had glimpses of a dipper and a grey wagtail and a full view of a robin singing  the joys of spring.

DSC04070Robin proclaiming his territory

DSC04095Grey wagtail which was very shy of my camera

However, the spring plants and blossom were a shear delight and compensated somewhat for the invoice for the car repair.

There were lots of butterflies but the peacocks, orange tips and brimstones were too fast for my camera skills yet I did capture this large white.

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DSC03938Proper English bluebells

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Anemone nemorosa is an early-spring flowering plant in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to Europe. Common names include wood anemone, windflower, thimbleweed, and smell fox, an allusion to the musky smell of the leaves. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing 5–15 centimetres (2–6 in) tall.

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Click below for gallery of today’s photos:

 

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16th April 2018 – Northwick Warth, Severn Estuary

I must admit it was yesterday’s reports of a stone curlew and an ashy-head yellow wagtail that attracted me to Northwick Warth. When I arrived everyone I met had seen them yesterday and a ringed ouzel too only moments before; but not for me.

Nonetheless, I was quite happy to see a whimbrel, pied/white wagtails (I’m going to have to brush up on these), wheatears, distant views of a large flock of curlew and oystercatchers, plenty of shelduck and redshank and dunlin on the coastline.

Warm weather is promised but there wasn’t much sign of it on the Severn Estuary this morning, although I have known it a lot colder.

MT1D5257Shelduck

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MT1D5277White or pied wagtail?

MT1D5280Whimbrel

MT1D5293Curlew and oystercatchers

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MT1D5349Wheater

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MT1D5366White or pied wagtail?

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MT1D5421Redshank and dunlin

As I don’t get much opportunity to photograph garden birds I thought it was worth taking these of house sparrows.

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Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

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10th April 2018 – RSPB Arne

We weren’t sure if we could do justice to RSPB Arne on an afternoon’s visit on our way home from our “non-birding” visit to the New Forest (if I’m honest we would have made it 3 birding trips in the three days if the weather hadn’t been so bad and we hadn’t opted instead for a visit to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu) but we thought the walk would be good for us anyway.

We were very lucky as the sun made a brief appearance and a spoonbill flew in briefly and flew out again with its little egret friend.

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It was very strange indeed how the spoonbill flew in to Shipstal Beach, seemed to go and find the little egret in one of the pools, flew together to another pool, fed together for a while and then flew off together across the bay.

We made our way round to the hide and enjoyed watching a curlew having a wash and brush up.

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There were oystercatchers, whimbrel, and Brent geese and shelduck on the spit where we had seen large flocks of spoonbills last year.

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Along the (quite often very muddy) paths we saw chaffinch, dunnock , great tits, robins and blackbirds.

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When the sun came out the gorse looked splendid.

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8th April 2018 – Blashford Lakes, Hampshire

We stopped off at Blashford Lakes in Hampshire on our way to a non-birding short break in the New Forest (that must be an oxymoron). We enjoyed the walk around the lakes on a very damp and murky afternoon even though the photographic opportunities were limited. The best came right at the beginning in the Tern Hide where we had close-up views of a little ringed plover, a redshank and a lapwing.

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FP5A6104Little ringed plover

FP5A6115Redshank

FP5A6135Lapwing

We could also see a pair of great crested grebe, lots of shovelers, tufted ducks and indeed (to give credence to the name of the hide) a common tern.

FP5A6146Great crested grebe

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FP5A6254Common tern

As we made our way round to the Goosander and Lapwing Hides we saw little grebe, garganey and wigeon but at some distance and in very poor light (i.e. excuse for poor photos).

FP5A6188Little grebe

FP5A6193Wigeon

FP5A6168Garganey in the middle 

FP5A6170Not sure about this little chap but probably a chiffchaff

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Despite the conditions there were some signs of spring