Exe Estuary on 27th. First stop was Dawlish Warren, where we saw the returning female surf scoter, a female common scoter, 14 eider, 2 red-breasted merganser, dark-bellied brent geese, and a peregrine. There were 4 bar-tailed godwit and 4 sanderling among the usual waders soon after high tide. The wader flock was spectacular on a bitingly cold day. After a wonderful seafood lunch in the Anchor Inn at Cockwood where a greenshank fed in the harbour, we saw about 50 avocets at Topsham. Photos with 400mm lens.
A quest for farmland birds on the morning of 14th. First stop was Caswell Lane, near Portbury, where a flock of grey partridge has been seen recently. I initially saw 2, and then a flock of 21 flew through and settled near a feeding hopper. Apparently an enclosure containing 22 was cut open by vandals recently, and that's where most of the birds came from. However, 2 pairs bred at the site last summer, and the farmer is great at encouraging wildlife. 15 stock dove and a yellowhammer also present. .
It was then on to Marshfield, where I used the car as a hide, and enjoyed some fantastic birding. Birds around the fields S of Rushmead Farm included a flock of 2-300 chaffinches including ca.10 brambling (female below right). Also present were 73 corn buntings (below left), 20 skylark, and <5 of both linnet and yellowhammer. 15 red-legged partridge too. The concentration of birds attracted some nice raptors - a ringtail hen harrier (probably a juvenile) put the passerine flock up from time to time, and settled once at the far end of the field. Later, a female-type merlin flew through.
I went to Cheddar Reservoir on 13th, and had good views of the red-necked grebe and the 2 whooper swans.
An adult little gull, a female common scoter and 50+ turnstones during a brief sea watch from Severn Beach on 12th.
Some good birds at Chew Valley Lake (Stratford Hide) on the morning of 7th - male and female ferruginous ducks, male ring-necked duck, male red-crested pochard, male red-breasted merganser, pair of goosander, 15 little egrets and 2 water pipits. Very cold in a northerly wind.
The AMERICAN BITTERN that arrived in west Cornwall in late October has been at Walmsley Sanctuary near Wadebridge since 1 November. I went to see it on 5th, not wanting to travel to see it when at Trewey Common where it was subjected to excessive disturbance. The bird appears settled at Walmsley (postscript - it left within the next 2 days!) and can give great views with patience. I watched from the public hide, away from the masses in the tower hide, and the bird approached within about 50m (though I had to wait two hours to first see it). Photos taken at ISO 1000 with 500mm and 2x converter. There are 37 previous British records, but this is the first live one for 11 years - the species has declined substantially in North America. A whooper swan was also present, and a sparrowhawk captured a common snipe.