About Two Owls

Wednesday 8 February 2023

2022 come to an End & 2023 Begins Slowly

End of 2022 and Beginning of 2023

Jackie and I started the month with the hope of catching up on a few missing species, but and yes there is always a but Jackie and I picked up what is now known as the 'Not Covid Cough' virus which put us out of action for just over two weeks. Towards the end when we thought we were recovering Jackie had a coughing fit which ended with her going to hospital for an X-ray on her back and found she had fractured a vertebrae in her lower back so birding was out of the question until she recovered. Though at writing Jackie is improving and we managed to get a little birding on New Years Day to get 2023 off to start 

So over month (December) only 26 species and only two added to the Poole Harbour and 10Km list they were Jack Snipe and Woodcock thanks to Birds of Poole Harbour ringing project. 

Jack Snipe & Common Snipe © Nick Hull

Our next outing was on the 1st January where we birded locally and mainly from the van as Jackie couldn't walk much at all.  So not to test Jackie to much and the fact the weather wasn't good either, we did a couple of hours around Poole and Upton and ended with 44 species not bad for the time spent.  

Next day the weather was much better so we ventured to Portland and Reap Lane to see if we could seen the Cirl Bunting Which we did and had good views of but unfortunately for me I only managed a memory shot of it in the top of a Bramble Bush with its back to me before it flew off further away.  We left Weymouth and Portland area with just 36 species after visiting 6 locations adding just 16 species bringing us to a round 60 in 5 hours of  birding. So we continued birding locally until the 22nd January only doing an hour or two each time we went out not to put too much pressure on Jackie's back. We still hadn't broken the 100 species a figure we would usually get to in the first ten days of the year.  Though considering all the wet weather we were having and then the hard frosts started it didn't make birding a joy.  So with the weather forecast promising to be better from the 22nd we booked a couple of day away in Somerset to visit the levels and to see if we could catchup with a couple of long staying American ducks which were being seen regularly.  So on the 23rd we traveled down to Shapwick and Hamwall.  
Great White Egret - Shapwick Somerset © Nick Hull

We arrived just before lunch time and headed off to the Noah's Lake hide as this is where we were told both Lesser Scaup and the American Wigeon were to be found.  On route we saw Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret of note. Arriving at the hide we found it almost empty except two guys who had just refound the Lesser Scaup and kindly gave us rough direction of where to look.  After scanning for a few minutes I managed to pickup the scaup a female showing a well defined white saddle over the forehead busy feeding in the company of a few Tufted Duck.  So it was then I started to search for the American Wigeon through the many hundred of Shoveler, Teal and Eurasian Wigeon which were lining the edge of the ice around the only open water, whilst having our lunch.   The two guys left and we were joined by another couple who asked about where to look for the Lesser Scaup so I described to them the area and quickly located it in my scope and gave more precise instruction, then continued my search. It was then as I panned back to where I had stopped searching for the Wigeon a grey sided Tufted Duck like bird popped up. Increasing a scope magnification and zooming in on the bird it showed no crest on the head and the grey sides started at the breast side with a white check like mark.  It took a few minutes before I had a good look at the bill but when I did you could make out the whitish band at the edge of the bill base and the band across the tip of the bill.  I said to Jackie and the others I've got a Ring-necked Duck and directed them onto it so they could confirm I was correct.  The other couple said "oh yes we have it, that's our second, we had one at Blagdon Lake a couple of days ago".
They then left and we continued to scan through the many duck for the wigeon with no luck.  So we thought we would have a look around Hamwall so started our return to the car park.

I suppose we were two thirds the way back and the couple who had left us ten minutes or so earlier were scoping the wildfowl on the Meare Scrape as we joined them they said "we've got the American Wigeon". There it was in a scattered line of mixed duck all tucked up to keep warm in the afternoon sun, not bad, three yank ducks within an hour or so, not an every day occurrence.

American Wigeon with Eurasian Wigeon - Shapwick © Nick Hull

We decided to call it a day and head towards our accommodation at Meare have a restful evening and return in the morning and bird Hamwall.

Next morning we had a heavy frost and everything was white but the sun was coming up and the day had promise. By the time I had defrosted the van and got underway we didn't arrive at Hamwall until around 09:30hrs and joined three other cars in the car park. As soon as I'd unloaded Jackie's scooter we were off.  One of the first species seen was a Great White Egret stood at the edge of the reedbed in the haze socking up the morning sun.

Great White Egret - Hamwall © Nick Hull

Continuing our walk we slowly tick off the the species we had seen all common but all very nice to see.  Marsh Harrier, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon. Robin and Great Tit seemed to be everywhere some would come and beg for food almost landing on you.  We searched through the Alder for Redpoll and Siskin and eventually Jackie spotted a Siskin and looking for it I came across three Lesser Redpoll and at eye level give great views.

Lesser Redpoll - Hamwall © Nick Hull

A little way after I found a very nice approachable male Blackcap eating privet berries.

Blackcap - Hamwall © Nick Hull

We completed our morning at 12:30hrs back at the car park with 50 species under our belt. We headed off for lunch at the Avalon Craft Centre before moving to Catcott and then onto West Hay.  We added very little at Catcott the cold weather had blanketed the area in ice.  The same at West Hay but at least as we approached West Hay we added 11 Cattle Egret to our day list the only addition on the day.

The next morning we headed home via Lyme Regis not the most direct route but it enabled us to add a couple of species to our Dorset list Purple Sandpiper on the harbour Beach and Dipper on the River Lim.

Dipper - Lyme Regis © Nick Hull

Purple Sandpiper - Lyme Regis © Nick Hull

So we ended our trip to Somerset and quick visit to Lyme Regis brought our year list to 102 species with a few more addition to go before Spring is here and the summer migrants are arriving.

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