As forecast

Today I really hoped the weather forecast would be wrong but no they had it spot on, rain followed by more rain! We were tempted to lock the doors and stay in with the kettle and DVD player but we soon changed our minds. Some while ago whilst at Minsmere we met a young lady, who works at Radipole lake and said it was well worth a visit when we were nearby, so we thought we would find out for ourselves. We were greeted by a couple of ducks who are clearly used to visitors!IMG_1587

 It rained the whole time we were there so we didn’t see a great deal but we did see a Hooded merganser! It has been there for many years and there is a deal of controversy about how it got there one of the first people to report it said they saw it come in over the sea. Some say it can count others say no but for the purpose of our list this year we are claiming it!!!

We had expected our walk to be lakeside all the way but in fact for most of the time we couldn’t see the water, when we could it was alive with Swallows skimming the water. I was also surprised not to find hides but we did come upon this little shelter delightfully decorated and also our first bluebells of the year.

As well as being wet it was quite a breezy day so to be honest I hardly even kept an eye open for Bearded tits so I was very surprised when near the little visitors centre this fella was busy at the top of the reeds!

When we left we went to find some lunch and whilst waiting for our food I heard that a Great northern diver had been reported in Portland harbour, seen from the sailing club. After lunch we drove back to our accommodation, left the car there and thought we could walk there, big mistake! We walked through the rain up hill to find we could get through where we hoped so we changed our route and kept climbing. Again we hit a fence and we were forced to turn round and admit defeat, we could see what we assumed to be the sailing club at the opposite side of the bay.  We walked back to got the car and drive there instead. This is our holiday home from the coastal path and I also include a picture of a little snail we saw along the way!

We found the sailing club which was in full flow with some very little children having their first lessons, they were clearly having a good time. With permission we went through to look for a bird and they were very accommodating.IMG_1596

We searched the sea, a massive area but sadly we couldn’t find it.  Whether it was still there or not I don’t know but we certainly couldn’t see it, so sadly we had to admit defeat and head home. Well a day that began with us thinking we might stay home actually turned out to be quite full and although very wet it was fun! Tomorrow we leave our very comfortable place and if anyone want to stay near Weymouth harbour we can recommend staying here.

Birds 191

Devon here we come!

 

Meet Bill

Meet Bill, Portland Bill that is. It is a narrow strip of land reaching out into the sea and this lighthouse helps protect the shipping.

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Today we visited Portland Bill for the first time and I loved it, just my sort of place to stomp around! A few days ago they had lots of amazing birds through but today was a much quieter day with no rarities. Still we had a brilliant day and saw some good birds, some repeats some new for the year. A Raven flew right over our heads making its unique call as it went, what a bill they have! Also a couple of Linnets were flitting around the rocks.

 The area was all new to us, so much to explore but first we settled to some sea watching and we got a few year ticks. Firsts for the year were, Kittiwake, Gannet, Razorbill, Guillemot and a Manx shearwater all out to sea, so five year ticks we were happy with that! I loved the rugged coastline, I don’t think I would ever tire of it!

As we walked lots of Swallows were flying in off the sea, none stayed still long enough for me to get a picture though. Rock pipits were in plentiful and they were obviously starting to nest.

We were keen to walk to the observatory were they net birds and also moth trap, so walked along the coast and it was in fact when we were nearly there that the Raven flew over us. It had been a very poor night for moths, too cold and windy, they had nothing of interest at all. Also it had been a slow day for birds but that was not unexpected and at least it meant we hadn’t missed anything whilst we were there! We had a look around and are considering going back there in the autumn and possibly staying there for a few nights.IMG_1518

There are areas that are obviously dangerous to walk along and believe me we didn’t need telling twice!IMG_1436

Not surprisingly there were plenty of gulls there, Herring and Greater black-backed ones. As the day went on more seemed to be taking advantage of the rocks to rest on, as did the Cormorants.

Much to our delight we saw a grey seal out in the sea, we thought it was a tick as we were thinking it was a common seal we saw In January at Blakeney but will have to check that.  I can honestly say we had a brilliant day and I think you can see I am sporting a crazier hairstyle as our trip away goes!!!

IMG_1527 us

 

Birds now up to 190 I feel 200 is in our grasp before this trip is over…if our luck holds!

Great bustards!

I had to make sure that title didn’t automatically get changed to a similar word that I believe is in more frequent use!

Today has been a good day for more than one reason, the first we checked out of our less than glamorous B & B, phew we breathed a sigh of relief at that. Next we went to the pre arranged meeting place to be collected and taken to a place most likely to see Great bustards, it was the car park of a village hall which I think would be the envy of many! We had expected to be part of a group but we were the only ones going out there today which was rather nice. Now one thing I like in a bird is that I know when I have seen one, no uncertainty and the Great bustard fits that bill. Our guide had popped out early to see if he could see any and we were told our luck was in, not only were there five males there but just this morning eleven females had arrived!

Sadly I have become a very nervous passenger and I can tell you the ride out was a test for me! We drove through Ministry of defence land where they practice live firing, we were deep into that area but they knew we were there so that didn’t worry me. The worrying part was that he never had more than one hand on the wheel and several times none as we drove off road up hills, hey ho we arrived safe and sound.

I quickly saw the males, well they are big enough even at a distance, but the females were much harder to spot. it was amazing how well they can hide themselves given that they are Britain’s largest bird!

At one point it looked as though the males may be about to ‘check out the ladies’ but they stopped short and after a while they all settled down apparently for a doze. It was an experience and we were both pleased to have gone, we also realised we were lucky to see so many, so well. He told us that it happens that people travel a long way and they cant find any bustards but that is birds for you!

Nearer the birds was a little hut and there was a team in there from Springwatch filming so we will be looking out for that, I think their pictures may be a tad better quality than mine! We also had a bonus of a pair of Stone curlews nesting in the same area

.When we had returned to our car we headed off to our next destination, another B & B this time at Weymouth harbour. I was slightly apprehensive after our last experience but thankfully it could not be more different. We have a very large, delightfully furnished room and a terrace where we enjoyed lunch which our host provided for us!

The garden is lovely too and our view is straight out to sea, no complaints here, thank goodness! We went out for a walk locally and are venturing out again very soon to try to find somewhere to eat!

Tomorrow we intend to go to Portland Bill and hope to pick up some ticks to add to our 185

What a smile!

If truth be told we are not very enamoured with our accommodation at the moment (we are moving on in the morning so no great problem) so we decided to go for another walk last evening and we were so pleased we did. We are on the route of the Avon valley path so we walked a little of it and enjoyed the evening light on the surrounding countryside. One of the first thing we saw was a buzzard perched up on a pylon, it was still there we when returned!

I am,  to say the least not very brave when it comes to encounters with four-legged creatures, but I found it easy to deal with these little sweeties!

 

Now any bravery I do have disappears if I have to walk through a field of horses  but fortunately this fella was behind a fence. First Ian said hello to him then…

 

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he said hello back, well either that or he was laughing at us, either way that is quite a smile don’t you think?

IMG_1184 he, he, he

Today we returned to Blashford Lakes and had a lovely day, this little Robin was helping to navigate us as we walked around most of the site and got an illusive Little gull which had been seen the last few days but not by us! We saw the fallow deer again but better views today. Blackcap were all in good voice, sitting up singing proudly.

Yesterday we were just looking at a Common sandpiper when the Red-rumped swallow showed and we were totally distracted so it was good to see it well today.

Talking about the swallow I forgot to tell you a funny story about it yesterday, when we were watching it a chap, obviously local and known to the other birders, came in to see it. He told us he had been in a local café with his wife having a cup of coffee when he had popped to the loo and his pager beeped. The message about the swallow caused him to rush out of the café unbeknown to his wife!!! As far as she knew he was still in the loo, she did phone him after a while causing laughter all around.

We are back in our rather basic room now but are checking out early in the morning as we are off in pursuit of a bird that will definitely be a life tick for us both,…watch this space!

 

Little gull takes us to 184

Plus we added a butterfly, a Speckled wood

The night I named a new born calf!

What a difference a day makes, this morning was the total opposite to the previous one. We drove to Acre Down and had an excellent walk and saw some lovely birds including my favourite, a Wheatear, always makes my day! Add to that not only hearing but seeing a Cuckoo (excuse the poor photo but I was pleased to get one at all!) followed by a beautifully calling Willow warbler! A little bronze beetle crossed my path, hopefully we will identify it when we get home. Not bad that was two more year ticks before coffee time, although I don’t think we ever did get coffee yesterday now I think about it!

Of course the New Forrest id famous for its ponies but it shares the space with cows (more about one of them later) and in places donkey too!

After our visit to Acre Down we moved on, to Blackwater arboretum, approached via what is laughingly called an ornamental drive, I could think of a different name for it I think! We had hoped to see Crossbills there but were not lucky with them, we did however see some super birds including a couple of Redstarts and a lovely Firecrest.

After lunch we decided to return to Blashford Lakes to check if they had caught any interesting moths and to see what birds were around. It had been an extremely cold night and they had caught but one moth and not a very interesting one at that, sounded like many nights back home! We had seen Common terns the previous day in flight but now they were perching, much easier to see! Of course the ever faithful Robin was present, it is easy to take such birds for granted but aren’t they beauties?

We returned to the cottage and had decided that we would go out for a walk behind ‘our home’ as a farewell as in the morning we are off to pastures new. What a treat we had and here we come to the reason for todays title. We came upon a cow that had just given birth, she was an English White and had a male calf. The farmers, a couple who had been farming for many years and had a herd of about 90 cows on the heath and this one had wondered away from the rest a couple of days ago looking for a peaceful place to calf. They loaded the Mum onto a vehicle to get her back to the farm for some attention and later picked up the calf to carry him off too. But first we had quite a long chat about meat rearing etc. and it sounds as though cows like theirs have a far better life than many and in fact the calf will have a longer life than many, they said they keep theirs for four years before the inevitable end whereas many farms keep them about 18 months. Next we got on to the topic of milk production…something else to give serious thought to!

Now meet Oliver as yes I was invited to name him! It needed to be an O name and that was the first that came to my mind, probably sounds daft but it was a real treat!

Off for a good walk and views of the usual, Stonechats and Meadow pipits. We heard a Cuckoo call and almost immediately two flew in front of us, turned out to be a pretty good evening! Last trip outside the garden and a last look at the house in which our cottage stood.

Lack of internet means I have another day to add, I will then be caught us as this is todays report. Not many pictures but a few ticks! We left our cottage and said farewell to Ringwood and Blashford Lakes as we drove by and headed off to the pretty town of Fordingbridge and walked along by the river.

We saw a Grey wagtail but as neither of us had binoculars with us we were lucky to spot it, not till I looked at my photos did we realise there were a pair of them! Something flew out from the bank and to our delight it was a Sandpiper, we saw it several times and could see it was a Wood sandpiper, excellent another tick for our year. We were just about to go in for coffee when the pager alerted us to a Red-rumped swallow being at Blashford lakes, it would be a good tick for us both so we were off (I will be getting caffeine withdrawal symptoms soon!) On our arrival we discovered a lone birder had seen it and it had flown, agghhh! But wait, it was not too long before someone called it and indeed there it was, perched way out into the water but with scopes it was confirmed and all present go to see it that time. The warden was quickly fetched so he too could see it, I felt relieved for the chap who had first seen it as he was beginning to doubt himself! At the same place we also saw a Common sandpiper, our first Swift of the year and a distant group of Fallow deer.

As we were heading in Salisbury direction we decided to pay a fleeting visit to Stonehenge before going to our next place to stay. I feel it fair to say we are not quite so delighted to our present accommodation as our last!!! Maybe it will improve but as we are only here for two nights we will cope.IMG_1113 henge

Bird count now stands at 183

 

A day of two halves!

After saying our farewells at Godalming we decided to visit another WWT site this time at Arundel. Another beautiful day with blue skies and very warm, we were getting used to those conditions!IMG_0835

Arundel seemed to be a fairly small site compared to other WWT places we had been to previously but it was still a lovely place and had something to offer that the others hadn’t; a boat ride and it was included in the entrance price! It was definitely the highlight of the day we both enjoyed it so much we went on it twice. We got a year tick from the boat, not a bird but a snake! We saw something swimming in front of us and it turned out to be a small grass snake, first reptile of the year!

 

 

From the boat we had good views of a Peregrine falcon flying overhead along with several Buzzards and a Red kite. We saw nesting ducks, swans and geese as the boat went silently through the water. It also provided us with good views of Arundel castle looming in the background.

We’d had a lovely day as we set off for our next stop in the New Forrest a place neither Ian nor I have ever visited.

On our arrival we found a lovely little cottage set in a beautiful garden and at the bottom of the garden a gate led straight out into the ‘forest’ itself. A somewhat dramatic change in weather saw for day one saw rain, rain and more rain until about 6 o’clock when we ventured out for a brief walk. Ponies all around and yet more signs of spring.

Today has been a very mixed day and most of the morning is best forgotten! We did at one point put our destination into the satnav and were surprised when it announce that in a quarter of a mile we were to ‘board the ferry’ of well it made a change from driving!

The afternoon was spent at Blashford Lakes a wildlife trust site and what a lovely afternoon they provided! We added three ticks there, one bird, one mammal and one moth an excellent variety! Our first tick followed a chat with the warden about moths and he was able to show us our first Emperor moth, what a stunner, hope we get one of them in the garden one day.IMG_0873 Emperor moth
We visited one hide which was surrounded by bird feeders so gave good views of all the typical feeder visitors including Siskin and one I was particularly pleased to get a picture of, a Redpoll.

We decided next to go for a good walk around the place as we seemed to have done an awful lot of sitting still today. We got back to the beginning quicker than anticipated so went down another track and into one more hide and we were pleased we did. We got a lovely sight of a Kingfisher, saw up to about 150 Swallows swooping over the water, got two Common terns (a year tick) and a little Bank vole another year tick.

IMG_0933 bank vole

 

I think it fair to say that our day did not begin perfectly but it certainly improved rapidly, I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

 

Family, friends and farewells

 

We left Norfolk in torrential rain and it continued like that until we reached Essex when the rain eased and by the time we reached London we were roasting as the sun was streaming through the car windows! Unfortunatly we had spoken too early about how easy the journey was as the North Circular became busier and busier and we were so near our first stop, The London Wetland Centre. This statue of Peter Scott greeted us on our first visit to the oasis in the midst of the bustle of London.

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If you have been travelling along with us this year it won’t surprise you to hear that coffee was the first stop then off to see what this WWT site had to offer. The first thing we saw was this rather unusual duck, I have a feeling it isn’t on the British list though so I had better not count it! A Little grebe was there, then in a flash or should I say splash, it was gone.

I was slightly amused by this sign in a hide and wondered if the pilots that fly overhead knew the rule.

We saw more Herons there than we have seen in Norfolk for weeks! At one point we were watching three around one piece of water and I was intrigued by the structure behind one of them. On investigation we discovered it to be a bat house! We also saw, at a distance, a Kingfisher and we hear that they are beginning to nest there.

The bird we were most pleased to see was the Ring-necked parakeet, one flew over us as were looking for warblers (we were pretty sure we heard a Willow warbler but haven’t counted it yet!) an excellent tick for the year. We later saw two sat in a tree, sadly partly obscured but never mind, we saw them!

I got my first butterfly picture of the year, a Peacock and also a spotless ladybird which I have never seen before. But no time linger it was to journey on to Surrey to spend a couple of nights with my brother Brian and his wife Margaret.

The journey was a pleasure after the North circular experience and we were soon being welcomed to their lovely home. It was great to catch up today we have been out and about having a smashing time. The day has included a trip around a pottery, a visit to my great niece Cariad, where I met her second son for the first time! Now Dylan has a brother Jesse and they seem to be every bit as gorgeous as each other!

We went to The devil’s punchbowl for lunch and a lovely walk, it really is a smashing place and amazing to think that until fairly recently the A3 ran through it! We had a very enjoyable walk with some birds thrown in for good measure.

We were a tad puzzled by this sign, were we not supposed to chat as we walked? At least the rabbits were quiet.

Back home and after an early meal we were out again this time in search of the place where many Parakeets roost, we saw lots but never quite connected with the tree they landed in. None the less it was a sight to see them fly over and we had an added bonus of seeing a fox which was a mammal tick for our year. Since moving to Norfolk they are a rare sight unlike whe  we lived in a town.

We have had a lovely stay, feeling very welcomed and enjoyed seeing samples of both of their art work, but tomorrow we must say farewell.

That does lead me to the one very sad part of our day, the news that a VERY dear friend has died. He has been unwell for a very long time and thankfully we saw him just a short while ago. He has lived a fantastic life, been loved by friends and family and was prepared for this day, God bless you Richard we will miss you.