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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

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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

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DSC07395Spur-winged goose

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Greater flamingos

DSC07361Cattle egret

DSC07794Hadeda ibis

DSC07496Flycatcher

Click below for gallery of photos.