27th - an afternoon visit to Ham Wall. I didn't see any of my target birds, and didn't feel like looking for them - the views from the screens were mesmerising. Spring sunshine interspersed with heavy hail showers created wonderful light. I only had the 100-400mm lens with me, and photographed a robin that would feed from the hand, and this adult kittiwake in winter plumage (there were two yesterday). Other birds included at least 4 great white egrets, and a bittern (two booming also).
The robin was something of an exhibitionist (taken by my wife Anna on her mobile phone).
26th - the first-winter male greater scaup in Heron's Green Bay, Chew, and 2 Cetti's warblers heard. A pair of ravens in Long Ashton during the past week, one of which landed on the roof of a house next to the main road through the village.
25th. First chance to see the first-winter RUFOUS TURTLE DOVE that has been at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire since mid-January at least. Steve and Sharon Akers allow access into their living room to view the bird table where the dove often comes to feed. It's a fiver a go, but the proceeds are going to a good cause - Bird Life Malta - to help protect European turtle doves from being massacred during their migration through the island. The crowds have died down now - I would have hated to be in the scrums when news of the bird's presence was first released. It was a question of being patient and waiting for the dove to come and feed, while others chased around outside looking for it. After an hour or so it showed wonderfully on the bird table. Up to 8 bullfinches, a brambling and a great-spotted woodpecker also graced the garden. Does the dove belong to the subspecies meena or an orientalis - who knows? The tail feathers and under tail coverts looked just off-white to me (see bottom photo where a contrast between the white tip to a central feather and the greyer outer feather in the tail is apparent), although the bird can appear quite pink underneath - perhaps not a classic orientalis feature. I'd be surprised if meena and orientalis were justifiable splits into species anyway. There's a photo of a Japanese orientalis I photographed in Kyoto here. Photos below taken with a 400mm lens at 800 ISO through a window, hand-held.
A stop to view the farmland next to the A436 near near Cold Aston the the way back produced a red-legged partridge, ca. 20 golden plover, 6 stock doves, a corn bunting (heard), about 80 chaffinches and a flock of about 300 brambling.
20th. A first-winter male greater scaup and a green sandpiper were at Stratford Bay, Chew Valley Lake, in the morning. The bird highlight of the day was on a family afternoon out in Bristol though, with a pair of peregrines displaying near the centre.
12th - Dropping things left, right and centre recently - since November my 500mm lens, 1D4 body, and telescope have all hit the ground hard. The scope is away being repaired right now, and today the 1D4, extender and 500mm lens tumbled (with tripod) down a grassy bank onto a rocky shore at Woodford Lodge. Remarkably, everything survived. This happened while trying to photograph the skittish male black redstart (below). 11 dunlin, 150 lapwing and an adult Mediterranean gull were also present at Chew. Cetti's warbler singing at Stratford Hide. There are now about 110 linnet in the fields N of Flax Bourton.
6th - Chew Valley Lake in the afternoon. The male black redstart was feeding on the shore in front of Woodford Lodge before flying into the sailing club. Large flocks of teal and gulls were in front of Stratford Hide. Other birds included 2 little egrets, red-breasted merganser, a barn owl (Heron's Green), 24 dunlin, 110 lapwing and a raven. I heard my first Cetti's warbler of the year.
A couple of dog walks around Flax Bourton on the weekend of 5-6th. On 5th there was a flock of 30-40 linnets in the crop fields N of the village - over 100 were present in early January, but without binoculars I was not able to identify them conclusively. 2 ravens overhead. Two goosander at Backwell Lake also. We walked up Bourton Combe on 6th in very mild weather. The Combe can sometimes seem devoid of birds, but the today it was alive with calls and songs. Birds included 3 goldcrests, 3 nuthatches, and a treecreeper. The marsh tit hotspot contained at least 6 birds, with some in full song. It's the first time I've really noticed this song - it's very variable and loud, and not what you would expect from a tit. Several birds were chasing each other too, presumably in territorial disputes.
4th - skylark singing over Long Ashton.