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27th February 2019 – Sand Point, North Somerset

 

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With the last of the amazingly unseasonable weather forecast for today we decided to go to the seaside. Not the normal sort of seaside but the lovely peninsula of Sand Point on the Bristol Channel (only 30 miles from home).

The National Trust website describes it as follows:

The stunning stretch of coastline around Sand Point and Middle Hope sits north of Weston-Super-Mare. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of North Somerset, and it’s a wonderful place for a picnic, as the views are spectacular.

And so we took a picnic (or at least a few sandwiches and some fruit from the local  supermarket).

We were so confident of the weather that neither of us took a coat. And so good was the weather (sunny all day and at least 16 C – as high as the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain) that as I write this blog I can even feel the effects of sunburn on my face

DSC09145No coats needed today

I was surprised that I did not see much vegetation to reflect the lovely weather (as I had seen in our local urban park the day before) but I suppose this peninsula is generally very exposed to the elements and nature knows what’s best for itself. Nor were there many birds but fortunately we did see a pair of stone chats and 2 rock pipits and regularly heard skylarks. At sea there were a pair of herring gulls and a dozen or so black-headed gulls. The only thing to reflect the warm weather was a Red Admiral butterfly (much too quick for my photographic skills).

DSCF7715The sea looked like the Mediterranean

DSC09153Wonderful sunshine all day, but misty at sea; so we were deprived the views of South Wales

DSCF7733A herring gull was the first bird we saw

DSCF7745Mr Stonechat

DSCF7746Mrs Stonechat

DSCF7775One of two rock pipits

DSCF7762Rock pipit

DSCF7816Black-headed gull

Back at the (sheltered) car park there was a blue tit feeding off a tree which was beginning to blossom.

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DSCF7893Catkins at the car park

DSCF7852Gorse on the peninsula

 

 

 

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26th February 2019 – Stoke Park, Bristol

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Record temperatures for February were recorded in Britain today at over 20 degrees. I only had a brief walk across to the local park and there was lots of evidence of an early spring with the blackthorn looking really special.

I didn’t see many birds but I saw later in the day that lots had been spotted. I must have been idling in the sun.

IMG_5086It looks inviting, doesn’t it? You have to walk under a motorway though.

DSCF7626It’s hard to believe it is only February.

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DSCF7697The blackthorn blossom is beautiful

DSCF7680The bull rushes were spreading their seeds in the gentle breeze

DSCF7646The Canada Geese were enjoying the sun too although they were occasionally agressive to each other.

IMG_5085The trees know it’s only February – no signs of buds yet

 

 

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24th February 2019 – Wye Valley

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Rather excited by spotting a Sparrowhawk in our local park we decided, as it was such an amazing day for February (or indeed any month), that we would go further afield and try to see some other raptors. And so we went in search of peregrine falcons or goshawks at Symonds Yat on the edge of the Forest of Dean. (As I said in an earlier blog the removal of tolls on the Severn Bridge will entice us across the Severn Estuary more and more).

Even at 10 o’clock in the morning it was beautifully sunny and quite warm. However, as we descended towards the Severn Estuary we were suddenly shrouded in fog. It was very foggy as we crossed the bridge but as we drove up through the Wye Valley the fog started to lift and we stopped for a while at Tintern Abbey.

IMG_4991Tintern Abbey in the fog

DSCF7453The River Wye in the fog

IMG_5070The fog began to lift on the River Wye

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Yet when we got to Symonds Yat Rock, even at a higher altitude, the woods were totally enveloped in fog. We could see nothing other than very atmospheric woods.

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DSCF7468The woods at Symonds Yat Rock

Just as we were leaving Symonds Yat Rock the sun broke through for a moment and we were rewarded with the sight of a small number of coal tits.

DSCF7479Coal tit

Back down in the Wye Valley it was really sunny and we stopped again at Tintern Abbey (indeed it was warm enough to sit outside a café and have an ice cream!). There were a few birds around (robins, dunnock and blue tits) and much to my surprise I spotted a couple of Goosanders fishing in the River Wye.

DSCF7575The remains of Tintern Abbey

DSCF7451Robin

DSCF7521Dunnock

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DSCF7487Goosander

We stopped at Aust on the way back to see if we could see short-eared owls but there was nothing to be seen.

Not many birds, and certainly no raptors, but a wonderful day out.

 

 

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22nd February 2019 – Eastville Park

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It was a beautiful sunny day and there were lots of photographers in the park this afternoon but we all decided that it was not going to be our day (no kingfishers, no grey herons, no dippers, no grey wagtails). And then just as I was heading home I caught sight of a beautiful sparrowhawk in Fishponds Brook. It was quite happy to provide me with full and side profiles and I was quite happy to snap away.

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The best of the rest were a long-tailed tit and a pied wagtail.

DSCF7283Long-tailed tit

DSCF7311Pied wagtail

DSCF7272Blackbird

DSCF7299The black-headed gull has got its black head back

 

 

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18th February 2019 – Somerset Levels

It was good to get out into the country today and to one of my favourite birding spots at RSPB Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels. However, we got caught in a torrential downpour at the beginning of our walk and for most of the visit the light was poor. However, the weather brightened up enough for us to have a picnic al fresco and to enjoy watching passerines near the bird feeders close to the reception.

The best of the birds were a marsh harrier and great crested grebes, although it was too early in the year to see the grebes’ famous courting rituals. We obviously need to come back in a few weeks time.

DSCF6681Tufted ducks

DSCF6774Little grebe

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DSCF6839Great crested grebe

DSCF6787Grey heron hiding in the reeds

DSCF6856Gadwall

DSCF6917Great white egret

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DSCF6960Male marsh harrier

DSCF7169Female reed bunting

DSCF7183Male chaffinch

DSCF7202Great tit

DSCF7041Blue tit

DSCF7039Robin

Click below for gallery of photos from today

 

 

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15th February 2019 – Eastville Park

We only had time for a very brief walk around the park – so brief we didn’t even catch sight of a kingfisher. However, we were lucky to see a dipper on the River Frome opposite Fishponds Brook. It’s amazing to see this little chunky stout bird in the city when it normally inhabits the banks of fast-moving upland rivers. They are unique among passerines for their ability to dive and swim underwater and they have a characteristic bobbing motion when perched beside the water, giving them their name. This one did plenty of bobbing but only occasionally submerged its head below the water and never once foraged in the water – it must have considered that the water was flowing too strongly.

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All around we could hear robins and caught sight of them regularly. I even saw two feeding close together on the ground. These two weren’t so fiercely territorial.

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On the lake there was just one grey heron and, as I said, not a single kingfisher to be seen. There were plenty of cormorants in the trees above the lake and a great spotted woodpecker could be heard drumming nearby.

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On Tawny Lake there was the tawny owl but, as usual, it was difficult to get a full view of it.

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The snowdrops looked great in the sunshine and there were some lovely rusty reflections in the lake.

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Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

 

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13th February 2019 – Forest of Dean

A pleasant day was forecast and we fancied a walk in the country. However, we weren’t  sure how muddy it would be after recent rain and so opted for a walk through the woods at RSPB Nagshead in the Forest of Dean, along tracks which we knew would not be too onerous. The recent removal of tolls from the Severn Bridges is certainly going to entice us across the Severn Estuary more often.

The Forest of Dean is one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England with more than 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland and lots of fairly rare birds (such as hawfinch and crossbills)  often reported there. However today at RSPB Nagshead we saw very few birds at all. The woodland, though, held plenty of charm.

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I did, however, have plenty of opportunities to photograph birds when we stopped a little further on at Cannop Ponds where there were a variety of ducks.

Mallards are looking very attractive at this time of year but nowhere near as attractive as the mandarin ducks, which I hardly ever see other than here where they appear in fairly large numbers. There were also tufted ducks and a couple of little grebe which, busy diving, were quite a challenge to photograph.

DSC08442Male mandarin duck

DSC08743Female mandarin duck

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DSC08686Successful dive for this little grebe

DSC08621Little grebe

DSC08554Diving little grebe

DSC08711Male tufted duck

DSC08602Female tufted duck

DSC08561Male mallard

DSC08476The mute swans are always beautiful

DSC08460Coot

Click below for gallery of photos from today:

 

 

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10th February 2019 – Eastville Park

It’s always nice to come home. However, this time it has been challenging as the weather has been very wet and windy and it’s been difficult to get out and about. We did manage to dodge the showers this morning and even saw a little sunshine when we went for a walk in our local park.

It was reassuring to see some of the regulars, especially as we had several views of a kingfisher (on the newly named Kingfisher Island) and a tawny owl (on the newly named Tawny Island). But there were lots of birds about and we saw great tits, long-tailed tits, over 100 black-headed gulls, 2 mute swans, a robin, a great-spotted woodpecker, a few Canada geese, some coots, a grey heron (who had some success fishing) and a magpie (whose feathers looked very iridescent in the sunshine). There were even mallards mating which suggested (along with the daffodils, wild chives and catkins) that spring is nor so far away.

DSC08277Robin

DSC08303Tawny owl

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DSC08341Female kingfisher

DSC08369Grey heron

DSC08393Wood pigeons

DSC08296Canada goose

DSC08313Mute swans

DSC08318Black-headed gull

DSC08379Mallard

DSC08386Grey heron

DSC08402Magpie

Click below for gallery of photos from this morning:

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1st February 2019 – Strandfontein birding area

 

Our last few days in and around Cape Town were spent visiting friends and doing tourist activities. However, we did manage to pack in one more trip to the birding area at Strandfontein. It was a last minute decision and we didn’t even have binoculars with us (although I did have a camera!) but once again we had lovely close-up views of the birds. The best were barn swallows, African black oyster catchers and African sacred ibis.

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DSC07611Barn swallows

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DSC07713African black oystercatchers

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DSC07424African Sacred Ibis

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DSC07388Black-winged stilts

DSC07371Pied avocet

DSC07557Great white pelican

DSC07514Southern Masked Weaver

DSC07395Spur-winged goose

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DSC07744Greater flamingos

DSC07361Cattle egret

DSC07794Hadeda ibis

DSC07496Cape Wagtail

Click below for gallery of photos.