Chew Valley Lake was interesting on the afternoon of 28th. Good numbers of swallows were present in the early afternoon, and a green sandpiper was in Heron's Green Bay. Two adult little gulls were in the middle of the lake, and the male lesser scaup is still associating with his favourite female tufted duck. It's exactly a year since the drake ferruginous duck had a tame day, displaying to tufted ducks on Herriot's Pool. Guess what - today he was doing the same off Stratford Hide. In the bottom shot his white eye has disappeared under the nictitating membrane.
Great crested grebes are displaying a lot now, including this pair doing the weed dance.
I left for Switzerland on 22nd, travelling to Bern via Geneva to do a PhD viva and give a seminar. Bern is a great city, with splendid architecture, a relaxed lifestyle and little traffic. The university buildings have nestboxes for Alpine swifts, and the first birds returned overnight on 23rd, coinciding with an arrival of overshooting migrants into Britain. A couple of male black redstarts also were new arrivals, and patches of trees in the city hold breeding nuthatches. I saw my first short-toed treecreepers here. From the train between Geneva and Bern I saw red and black kites, and red-crested pochards.
My return journey didn't go to plan - someone threw themselves onto the railway track between Bern and Geneva, and I got rerouted via Biel, missing my flight. An expensive night in Geneva meant I could spend some time around Lake Geneva. I saw about 50 black-necked grebes in summer plumage, a few red-crested pochards, yellow-legged gulls, and 2 black kites. The commonest ducks were goosander, and these are ridiculously tame and come to bread. Photos taken with a Canon S5.
I had another look for the ouzel on 21st and failed again. The spoonbills were at Greylake, with one flying overhead, the other mostly distant and asleep. A marsh harrier put everything up and got it moving eventually.
Teal are feeding close to the hide.
Then I stopped at Chew Valley Lake, saw my first sand martins of the year, and photographed the lesser scaup, which is now following a female tufted duck with a small white blaze everywhere.
and here's a record shot to show that the wing bar is OK for this species, with white on the secondaries, not on the primaries.
After spending a night on stage with a sword swallower and a physician who makes bras that can be converted into gas masks, I was too drained to venture far on 20th. I only got as far as Portbury Wharf in the late afternoon, missed the ring ouzel and had to make do with 2 stock doves, a chiffchaff and a reed bunting.
14 March. My annual March trip to the Forest of Dean. 3 distant goshawks and a few crossbills at New Fancy View, 2 marsh tits (no willow tits), a crossbill and a brambling at Brierley, at least 11 mandarin and 2 siskin at Cannop Ponds, and 2 hawfinches at Parkend. Highlight was 3 sunning adders at New Fancy.
13 March. Yellowhammer singing in Flax Bourton. I tried the 1D4 out at Chew on black headed gulls, common gulls, carrion crow, tufted duck and mallard.
12 March - first shots with the 1D4 (edited from small jpg files, so not best quality) - looks like a good balance between resolution and noise. Given the somewhat marginal improvements in DSLRs now, hopefully this camera will last for several years.
7th March. I visited Chew Valley Lake in the afternoon, hoping to see the otters that have been in the area recently. I found some spraints on the boardwalk to Stratford Hide (about 6cm long - below).
Best part of the afternoon was when I spotted a drake lesser scaup off Stratford Hide (second record for the Lake) . It was distant and dived a lot, but the bill nail, coloration and head shape were perfect - we didn't see the wing pattern though. The bird seemed very wary. I wonder if this is the bird that was in the area in 2007 and 2008. A drake has spent much of the last two winters in Cardiff (it could of course have been the original Somerset/Avon bird that relocated). However both the Cardiff and Chew birds were seen on 8th, proving they are different individuals.
6th March. I walked around Flax Bourton with the dog in the afternoon, looking for some of the local specialties - stonechats, marsh tits and yellowhammers. I saw none of these, but did see a nuthatch and 2 goldcrests (first of the year - they got hammered by the harsh winter) in Bourton Combe.