Friday, 30 November 2012

Lizzy saves the day

Forgot it was the last day of the fishing season at the pond and along with film crews insisting on doing interviews on the shore-line and boats chugging here and there it was a disappointing visit. Shoveler, 15 Red-legged Partridge and 20 Golden Plover was about the best we could find before clearing off to see Liz.
Don’t know what they were putting in her boiler but she flew around the Wormleighton curve like the devil was up her jacksee, pure bliss. She will be hauling THE WORCESTER ANNIVERSARY CHRISTMAS FAYRE from London Paddington to Worcester tomorrow. There were a few Tree Sparrows in the lane and Willow Tit, Great-spotted and Green Woodpecker by the railway crossing but very little on the reservoir.
Brandon Marsh had 13 Reed Bunting, 3 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, 2 Kingfisher, Coal Tit and Nuthatch while Lawford Heath was unfortunately covered in mist so nothing of interest.

LMS Princess Class 4-6-2 no 46201 Princess Elizabeth [6201] on her way south

cracking shot by Bob

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Hen party for scoters

Pre dawn visit to Lawford Heath produced a hunting Barn Owl and Tawny Owl perched while the Lawford Heath Lane finch flock were very active in the very cold conditions with some very smart looking male Brambling against a frosty background.
Thirty Two Common Scoter’s greeted our arrival at the pond which is one of our largest flocks we have had here for awhile and the largest group I have seen here that just contained females. Other duck included a long overdue Goosander with a male off draycote bank, 10 Gadwall, 90 Teal, 10 Pochard, 18 Gadwall, 17 Goldeneye and 7 Wigeon.
Lots of Goldcrest with 13 between toft shallows and sewage farm along with 29 Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll in the same areas.
The time spent on farborough bank searching the Grandborough valley paid off when a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by corvids came in from the east and appeared to go behind the country park, also noted were Peregrine and 2 Sparrowhawk.
A search of the country park produced a Nuthatch probably attracted to the area by the activity on the Rangers feeder station. Other sightings included 27 Long-tailed Tit, 10 Meadow Pipits and 5 Jay plus a Weasel.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Whooper and Scoter

Overnight arrivals at the pond included 4 Shelduck and a female Common Scoter and an increase in Teal with a 110 counted.
Mid morning 2 Whooper Swan flew over the west side of reservoir and appeared to go down in the leam valley. Other sightings included 18 Goldeneye, 4 Wigeon and 18 Gadwall. Colin reported the saddle bank Trees Sparrows still present.
Earlier we had 8 Tree Sparrow in the Grandborough valley while the finch flock in Lawford Heath Lane had an increase in Greenfinch numbers plus 3 Buzzards and a couple of Jays noted.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A few more duck

More rain overnight with a cool north easterly wind which brought in 6 Shoveler an increase in the Gadwall flock to 26 in toft shallows along with 60+ Teal, 4 Goldcrest, 8 Long-tailed Tit, 20 Siskin and 3 Lesser Redpoll. Between the weather fronts 120+ Golden Plover flew north and 300+ Lapwing appeared over the grandborough valley from farborough bank which had 15 Meadow Pipit. Two Ravens over the car park as we left.
Despite being cold and damp we had a look for the Lawford Heath Lane finch flock managing 25+ Brambling along with 20 Tree Sparrow and a single Lesser Redpoll amongst the Chaffinches.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Mega crap

After all the rain and wind over the last few days all we found at the pond were 8 Wigeon, 8 Pochard, 16 Goldeneye, 10 Meadow Pipit and 30 Siskin.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Blue Tornado

New build Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado photographed this morning slowly approaching Didcote East Junction behind Class 56 locomotive 56312 for access to the Great Western Society’s Didcote Railway Centre for a special event for Convenantors of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust to have a close-up view of her in BR blue livery for the first time.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


With a dry blustery morning it was a frustrating visit with fishermen and wildfowl wanting the same sheltered areas. The wildfowl lost so I will be glad to see the fishing season finish at the end of the month.
Bob managed to find a Chiffchaff in rainbow corner otherwise 4 Snipe, Tree Sparrow and 3 Raven were the only highlights.

Leam valley starting to flood, viewed from hensborough bank as the next weather front moves in over Napton and Shugborough which brought more heavy rain early evening.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Flooded out with Snipe

With almost 24 hours of rain, especially heavy and prolonged over night it was not surprising that many areas of the valley are starting to flood, even brooks and road side ditches that I hardly ever see any water in were brimming over.
Dave and I planned a lazy breakfast over a game of scrabble till it ceased but alas that wasn’t to be so after a hard fought draw we decided not to out stay our welcome and moved on to Napton Reservoir.
With the deluge continuing water was pouring in to the reservoir at hell of a rate and many of the Snipe had taken to the adjacent boggy fields or were flying around in large numbers and we ended up with a minimum count of a 110 almost doubling the record set on Sunday. Also present were 30 Golden Plover over, male Pochard, Cormorant and Kingfisher while the entrance road was full of winter thrushes and finches.
Moved on to the Baseley smallholding where we were treated to 3 more Snipe, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 30 Yellowhammer and 20 Tree Sparrow.
Our last stop was the pond but with poor visibility, rain becoming heavier and squelching boots we gave up for the comfort of a hot toddy and a chance to dry out. Dave thought he had the Black-necked Grebe briefly but I saw nowt due to fogged up lenses.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Birdy at last

Lordy lordy someone’s listening.
I have been ranting off blog that the pond is crap and predictable poor, well it certainly wasn’t when Bob and I visited today.
Our visit started off so badly that we turned back at farborough spit after only recording a Jay and 30+ Meadow Pipit. Luckily as we approached the visitor centre a mixed flock of finches feeding between the farborough bank perimeter road and the pay and display car park contained 30+ Lesser Redpolls and could have included a couple of juvenile flammea. Views were limited due to the constant disturbance from cyclist and walkers and not helped when the road around the visitor centre was closed for cable laying.
Now buoyed up a little we decided to look for the Brambling flock Bob had on Friday and as we passed the sailing club a Short-eared Owl flew over the reservoir heading towards us then veered right and observed heading towards the sewage farm before returning via biggen bay. While watching the owl a Curlew flew past it heading east. Despite harassment from corvids and gulls it finally flew over the picnic area near hensborough bank and lost out of sight. Bob checked the country park and rewarded with a male Brambling while I stayed by the windsurfing car park and had 6 Siskin. By the time we reached rainbow corner the wind had freshened and the finch flock was tucked up against the hedgerow and did not show well. On our way back we gave the country park another search just in case and had 80 Golden Plover over.
Our final count for the day was:-
Lesser Redpoll 30+
Siskin 6
Bullfinch 6
Meadow Pipit 40+
Yellowhammer 10
Tree Sparrow
Jay 6
Great-spotted Woodpecker 3
Short-eared Owl
Golden Plover 80+
Goldeneye 16
Pochard 5
Wigeon 13
Fieldfare 300
Redwing 600
but we could not locate the Black-necked Grebe.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


We were freezing our bits off down the valley at Calcutt long before sunrise enjoying views of Jupiter and its four moons, the polar cap of Venus, a meteorite, Orion and Sirus with the company of a Fox, 2 Tawny Owls and hundreds of winter thrushes leaving their roost. The space shed passed over on time giving very prolonged views.
The conditions had pushed the Snipe out on to the remaining exposed mud at Napton Reservoir as the water levels rise again with a record count of 56. Other sightings included a white Rabbit, 2 Water Rail, mega numbers of thrushes, 4 Wigeon, 10 Mute Swan, 3 Raven and 3000+ Starling leaving there nearby roost on a broad front.
With time to kill before breakfast we took a look at the Baseley Tree Sparrows with 8 on the feeders and 50+ around the brick barn along with 70 Yellowhammer and many finches.
After breakfast Wormleighton Reservoir had 10 Tree Sparrow and single Marsh Tit but a noticeable lack of finches and Yellowhammer. The hedgerows along the railway line were full of winter thrushes but the reservoir was void of birds.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Shed, Steam and Waxwings

The International Space Station is currently on view but predictably poor weather has stopped me reporting her but with a clear sky’s for tonight and a chilly frosty Sunday morning then it could be worth getting up for, its predicted to show really well as she passes over southern England heading east. Both Venus and Jupiter will also be on show.
Date, time
11/18 07:00

The day started grotty but had brightened a little by the time Dave dropped me off at The Great Central Railway in Loughborough who were holding a Steam Enthusiast Event over the weekend with at least 3 steam engines in operation.
While I played train spotter he went off to umpire a couple of games of hockey. In between bouts of steam bliss I managed 15 Long-tailed Tits and Mute Swan over. 
47406 quenching its thirst

78019 reversing towards the water tower

777 Sir Lamiel enjoying the public's appreciation
48624 resting in siding

Met up with Dave 4 hours later and he was cock a hoop that he had seen 10 Waxwing in the car park of the Soar Valley Leisure Center in Mountsorrell as he was leaving so celebrated with a coffee. As the “mount” was on our way home we called in at 4pm but there was no sign so Dave suggested a walk to the adjacent housing estate which had a few rowan trees. No sooner had the footpath from the car park reached Otter Lane there were 9 Waxwing perched above the footpath opposite. Managed a record shot in fading light.
record shot of Waxwings at Mountsorrell

Friday, 16 November 2012

Brandon Marsh

The Brandon Marsh female Smew was a little more co-operative though distant from east marsh hide where there were 26 Snipe showing and the only other bird of note was a flock of 30 Lesser Redpoll that flew over. Corn Bunting seen on the way home at Cawston.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fog stops play

A dull foggy day so Bob and I knocked our visit to the pond on the head and stayed in. Siskin and Coal Tit was the best of my garden feeders.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


An afternoon’s walk along the Hereward Way at Eldernell, Cambridgeshire over looking the Nene Wash was very atmospheric as the sun went down with plenty of activity as many species came in to roost. Although 3 Common Crane, 4 Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Sparrowhawk, 200 Whooper Swan, 2 Bewick’s Swan, 3000 Golden Plover and endless numbers of Starling, Lapwing and Wood Pigeon are worth mentioning the star of the show was the setting sun. As it turned red and lost its brightness scope views revealed the sunspot activity. Dave and I were chuffed that we could see at least six with some looking very large but on checking the internet ( they were reporting over a 100 though many of theses are only detectable via some very sophisticated telescopes. Missed a Greater Horseshoe Bat that other birders had over the car park

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Another morning has broken

We had an early morning look at Napton Reservoir to see what yesterdays workmen had been up to and appears they are scraping out the overflow channel at the narrow end of reservoir. Luckily they don’t seem to be affecting the majority of the reservoir at the moment as there were 21 Snipe, 3 Water Rail, 2 Shoveler, 7 Wigeon and 10 Teal present. As dawn broke 1500 Starling, 400 Fieldfare and 300 Redwing flew south west and single Raven and 2 Buzzard also noted.
The pond had the Black-necked Grebe between K and M buoys eventually drifting towards hensborough bank and showing reasonably well. Plenty of passerines around with 9 Lesser Redpoll and 3 Goldcrest in the wind surfing area, 1500 Redwing and 800 Fieldfare moving south over Draycote village, 12 Siskin west over rainbow corner, 2 Tree Sparrow on the new feeder below saddle bank with 3 Jay and 30 Yellowhammer in the same area.. There were 2 large finch flocks a couple of fields away which could have contained more Tree Sparrows and the odd Brambling plus 200 Lapwing were over the leam valley which also held more Redwing and Fieldfare.
Finally ended up at Brandon Marsh but dipped on the Smew and Waxwing, just 2 Snipe, Nuthatch and Chiffchaff for our efforts.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Morning has broken (sing along) like the ...

We were down the Grandborough valley before dawn searching suitable owl habitat but did not find any though we were treated to a stunning sunrise with plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing leaving their roost plus 3 Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff. The baseley smallholding had 15 Tree Sparrow, Coal Tit and Snipe.
Moved on to Napton Reservoir as it started to cloud over which was full of workmen awaiting the arrival of heavy plant so we had a quick look before the disturbance started and surprisingly had 2 Water Rail out in the open, Jack Snipe at the base of the exposed reed bed, 25+ Snipe, 2 Shoveler, 10 Teal, Grey Wagtail and 3 Reed Bunting. Once the class 5 mark 4, turbo boosted JCB thingy arrived we scarpered and as we passed Napton on the Hill there were 7 Raven over the quarry.
With the arrival of low cloud and persistent rain our look at the pond was brief and damp. Visibility poor so only had the Black-necked Grebe and 50+ Meadow Pipit.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Having spent the evening observing Jupiter and her moons near the Hyades open cluster I woke to the delightful sight of Venus very close to a slender crescent moon.
Unfortunately as is typical of this time of year visibility in the Grandborough valley was the opposite of my garden being down to 30 meters in places so Dave and I failed to find any owls. The pond was shrouded in mist which was burning off pretty quickly in places but by the time we had reached toft bay and had seen sweet FA we were thinking of giving up when a Black-throated Diver flew in and headed for biggen bay. Just our luck it decided at the last minute to continue further on and landed near the valve tower and become shrouded in the last slow clearing fog bank. Had to wait nearly an hour for visibility to improve and despite extensive searching we failed to re-locate it.
Bob Hazel had a BTD briefly on the 2nd November which I presume was the one that appeared at Stanford Reservoir on the 3rd and 4th but no reports since so it could be circulating the area.
The only other birds of note was the Black-necked Grebe near M buoy, 50 Meadow Pipits and the unusual sight of a Great-crested Grebe on the grassy side of farborough bank when we first arrived.
Although we arrived at the Long Itch Diner later than usual the prompt service soon had us back out in the field in record time though all we found was 15 Raven, 2 Buzzard and a Peregrine on Napton on the Hill before the news of a Little Bunting in the county buggered up many a birders Sunday roast.
Great-crested Grebe pitched up on farborough bank

Friday, 9 November 2012


Brief visit to Brandon Marsh this afternoon produced the female Smew though she was elusive at times, also seen were 25 Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher, 2 male Goldeneye, Snipe and 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker. Did not have time to do Lawford Heath justice but the maise harvest has been completed and some areas looked quite birdy.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bit more variety

There was a bit more variety at the pond today with 17 Golden Plover heading North West plus 100 Fieldfare and 60 Redwing on the move while 40 Fieldfare were in the field behind farnborough spit.
Between toft shallows and grays barn there were 17 Lesser Redpoll, 25 Siskin and Chiffchaff calling while on the water the Black-necked Grebe remained distant off hensborough bank eventually drifting towards toft bay. Also present were 10 Goldeneye, 2 Pochard 40 Meadow Pipit and a Raven flew over toft bay. Visibility was so good today another 10 Ravens could be scoped over Napton on the Hill from toft bank.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Vis mig peters out

A very similar morning to the 28th October with a heavy overnight movement of thrushes, pigeons and starlings petering out to virtually nothing by 9am. From our vantage point at Grandborough Fields just after dawn we had 3000 Wood Pigeon, 1500 Fieldfare, 1000 Starling, 800 Redwing going over in one hour along with smaller numbers of finches and larks. Further along the Flecknoe road there was a flock of 30 Yellowhammer at Woodbine Farm plus 800 Starling feeding on the deck while the Basely smallholding had 20 Tree Sparrow and a distant female Brambling.
The pond unfortunately was dire and we only managed 10 Long-tailed Tit, 40 Meadow Pipit, 7 Gadwall and 3 Goldeneye till we met Bob Hazel who pointed out the Black-necked Grebe for us some distance away.
Napton on the Hill was full of birds with 300 Fieldfare, 300 Redwing, Green Woodpecker, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and at least 30 Raven while Napton Reservoir had 8 Shoveler, 10 Teal, 17 Snipe, 6 Great-crested Grebe, 300 Fieldfare, Reed Bunting and single Raven.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Back on the patch

Bob managed a record shot of the Black-necked Grebe which was at least 300 yards off hensborough bank otherwise our visit to the pond was a bit quiet with female Brambling near the sewage farm entrance, 4 Goldcrest and 7 Siskin in the same area. Earlier we had 50+ Meadow Pipit on hensborough bank while the only duck of interest was 16 Goldeneye and 16 Wigeon. At least 5 Jays scattered around the site while 500 Starling flew over west in small groups plus one group of Skylark.
In the Grandborough valley the River Leam had broken its banks. There were 300 Fieldfare, 50 Redwing and a Grey Wagtail behind Kites Hardwick, 2 Brambling and 12 Tree Sparrow on the Baseley Smallholding, 60 House Sparrow and 3 Tree Sparrow Woodbine Farm, 24 Golden Plover over Grandborough Fields Farm and a day flying Barn Owl between Woolscott and the A45.
Black-necked Grebe by Bob Hazel

This evening while half of Rugby seemed to be burning their wage packets Jupiter was worth looking at before the mist and smog sets in. If you have a high mag scope its red spot is visible.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


After being ill with food poising for a week I was bitterly disappointed that today’s effort in Cambridgeshire was washed out by heavy rain. Oh well – at least I’m back in the land of the living and not tied to the big white telephone anymore.
Common Gull with fishing line taken by Bob Hazel in the week at the pond