22nd October 2020 – Stourhead

We picked today to go to the National Trust’s Stourhead in Wiltshire as the best weather of the week was forecast. We were very lucky as it stayed dry but unfortunately there was very little sun until after we had completed our walk around the gardens.

Why not?

Stourhead is claimed to be “one of the world’s finest landscape gardens and in autumn you can see vistas highlighted with burnished leaves and rusty colour palettes”. We really enjoyed our walk and I had lots of opportunities for photographs but the sky was so flat and dull that I had to crop it out of most of my photos.

We weren’t able to visit the house

On the way home we also visited Shearwater Lake where we saw a number of great crested grebes.

Great crested grebe

19th October 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

It’s that place again! We only had time for a local walk and made the most of the morning sunshine by having a walk around the park and up into the woods and along to Purdown with its comms tower.

We didn’t see any birds in the swampy area near to Duchess Pond – it’s usually been a good place for stonechats, whinchats, reed bunting, meadow pipits and even a kestrel.
As we climbed up past the “castle” (Dower House) we saw 4 buzzards overhead but only one came close to photograph
Very hazy and atmospheric looking back to the parish church in Stapleton
The sun shining through the trees made this part of our walk in the woods particularly attractive
We were drawn by the chatttering of a small flock of starlings in a tree
The sharp cheeping sound of goldfinches was also easy to pick out
The slope looks almost flat – the camera deceives
The motorway is hardly noticeable to the eye, unfortunately not to the ear
Duchess Pond at the bottom of the hill and the Dower House at the top
The obelisk above Duchess Pond
11 chicks now down to three
The cormorant was having a rest from diving and then drying itself
The graffiti beneath the motorway brings home the fact that the park is right on the edge of the urban sprawl

18th October 2020 – South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

The sun didn’t appear at all today. It’s a shame it’s so dull at the moment as we are not seeing the autumn colours at their best. We spent the morning and early afternoon in the countryside around Tormarton, Marshfield and Castle Combe (there would have been a few chocolate box photos of this pretty village but we couldn’t find anywhere to park) but we did have a walk through the woods.

We saw large flocks of starling but no fieldfare or redwings which we had hoped to see. There were a couple of raptors (a kestrel and a buzzard) and meadow pipits and a grey wagtail on the wire.

We have seen lots of fields in recent days where the farmers have left the stubble – very good for the birds
The trees would look so much better with a few rays of sunshine
Grey wagtail
Meadow pipits on the wire
Blue tit
A distant kestrel
The kestrel and this buzzard we saw really close up but I took a while to get a photo

We are not far from Badminton here and we saw plenty of horses on the lanes and in the fields – such beautiful animals.


17th October 2020 – Severn Estuary

It was a dull day, but not too cold, for our walk along the Severn Estuary near Arlingham.

All it needed was a few rays of sunshine to brighten up these autumn colours around this house in Newnham
Lots of interesting things to see along the banks of the River Severn

As well as lots of gulls on the estuary we came across a male and female stonechat. The female was then replaced by a meadow pipit who continued to “chat” up the male stonechat.

Male stonechat
Male and female stonechat
Female stonechat
Meadow pipit
Meadow pipit drawing the attention of the male stonechat

We came home via Gloucester and had a look at the river from the other bank at Newnham.

A silhouette of a grey heron
The light was fading fast when we arrived at Newnham

14th October 2020 – Severn Estuary

We had a pleasant walk from New Passage to Severn Beach (or more to the point to Shirley’s café where there is a nice garden to have a coffee) and back even though there was a sharp north easterly wind. We saw a variety of birds on the estuary along the way but were a bit late in the day to see the vis mig (visible migration) of redwings, mistle thrushes and siskins which were reported earlier.

The Prince of Wales bridge
Ruddy turnstones
Grey heron
Little egret
The two Severn Crossings in a different light

13th October 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

We only had an hour to get out for a stroll but we needed to “breathe” to get over a disappointment of a cancelled holiday in Norfolk next week as a consequence of Covid-19. I’m sure we would have been seeing many more birds in Norfolk than we did in Stoke Park but the few we did see were still a joy and lifted our morale.

Stoke Park does look lovely but you have to remember the motorway was thundering behind us.
Little – distant wren
Large – distant buzzard
Cormorant conducting a chorus of a charm of gold finches in nearby bushes
A very confused blackberry

11th October 2020 – WWT Slimbridge

As the British Trust for Ornithology says: “Migration is not so obvious in autumn as it is in in spring with summer visitors ‘disappearing’ gradually. Winter visitors tend to arrive over a longer time period and are not in such a rush as spring migrants; the urgency of the breeding season is not there.”

It certainly felt that way at Slimbridge today where there were not so many birds to see, especially as we only walked out to the Severn Estuary and back on our brief visit.

Lovely views of the estuary
Little egret
Distant views of common cranes
Lots of shelduck on the estuary
Shelduck close up
Greylag goose

9th October 2020 – Somerset Levels

We had hoped to see bearded tits at Westhay Moor as I have seen lots of recent reports (and photos) of them here but we were unlucky (in fact very unlucky as we got caught in a shower too). We abandoned our bird watching and went for lunch at the Sheppey Inn. After lunch we had a walk through RSPB Ham Wall but didn’t see much there either. Never mind, we enjoyed our day out.

RSPB Ham Wall
Flooding on the Somerset Levels
Glastonbury Tor across flooded fields

8th October 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

I read that the world this year has experienced its hottest September on record. The eleven recently born ducklings I saw on Duchess Pond this afternoon are probably another sign of global warning. It was 15 degrees Celsius and they all seemed very happy and so were we.

Predators rather than the weather are probably their biggest worry. The pair of kestrels we saw in the park didn’t seem very interested though. Perhaps they don’t like water.


1st October 2020 – Severn Estuary

With rain forecast for the next few days at least it was wonderful to take advantage of a sunny calm day along the Severn Estuary.

There are lots of speckled wood butterflies around at the moment

We started at New Passage and immediately saw a couple of little egrets flanked by dunlin fly out into the estuary.

Little egret flanked by dunlin
The wigeon were easy to pick out by their call

One egret continued its flight across the estuary whilst the other returned to “our” side. The dunlin settled further up the estuary. We then walked to Severn Beach where we saw 8 ringed plover and had a cup of coffee.

Ringed plover
A beautiful starling in the sun at Severn Beach
House sparrows in all the bushes around here
The Prince of Wales Bridge from Severn Beach
The Prince of Wales bridge from New Passage

When we returned to New Passage the tide had fallen a little too much but we could see a large number of waders on the shore line and enjoyed the beautiful views of the estuary.

Waders on the shore line with the first Severn Crossing in the background
Mixed group of waders
Mixed group of waders
Shelduck (mainly)
Northwick Warth and Aust Warth
Redshank chased by dunlin

I think that will be our last chance for a while.