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March 2013 blog and sightings

31 March 2013

Wheatear, possibly the latest..first of the year for me on the Severn.

Wheatear, 30 March 2013 MJMcGill

27-28 March 2013 An overnight visit to Dorset to cut reeds at Abbotsbury Swannery on the Fleet meant a stay at Portland Bird Observatory. Despite really only having snatched moments of birding I did see a few birds. On arriving Steve Groves pointed us in the direction of a party of nine Greater Scaup (five males, four females) among the diving duck plus the three Long-tailed Ducks. I managed to pick up the hybrid Scaup x Tufted? female but not the hybrid male. Images of this bird and all recent sightings can be found on Steves Swannery Sightings Blog.


Greater Scaup, Abbotsbury


Long-tailed Ducks, Abbotsbury Swannery, 27 Mar 13 MJMcGill

Waking up at the Obs

A short seawatch from the Obs patio over breakfast produced a fine ‘conveyer belt’ of auks floating by Portland Bill before flying back west, a Fulmar, 3 Red-throated Diver plus Shag and Cormorant. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were about the garden plus a couple of Siskin. As we were about to leave Martin Cade announced they had trapped a Bluethroat, we hung on had a quick close up view before it was released after being ringed. I reminisced about seeing my first Bluethroat at Portland, he reminded me when…almost the same day….25 years ago!

White spotted Bluethroat, Portland Bird Obs MJMcGill

White-spotted Bluethroat, female, Portland Bird Obs, MJMcGill

Visit the Observatory website for more video and images of the three recent Bluethroats and more.

Back for a days work at the Swannery

MARSH HARRIER male over the Abbotsbury tanktraps.

Marsh Harrier over tank traps, Chesil Beach, Abbotsbury, MJMcGill

CHIFFCHAFF Lots were about the swannery and Fleet, many on the ground.

Chiffchaff, MJMcGill

In the afternoon I did a double glance at an incoming white bird…not Mute Swan or Little Egret but a Spoonbill that was dropping in, I radioed Steve to tip him off who located it immediately on the shore of the swannery. See Steve’s blog for images.

25 March 2013 A male and three female Brambling on my home bird table. I saw four males together last week so I now wonder how many are visiting. Very important to keep feeding, cleaning feeders and providing water on frozen mornings.

I saw at least four Chiffchaff in one spot today feeding out in the open and on the ground. Not a pretty sight, poor things appear to be starving. A party of four Little ringed Plover were busy on the Tack Piece and Dumbles scrape.

The Spoonbill and Garganey were together on the Top New Piece and the 4 Cranes, 24 White-fronts, Tundra Bean and 7 Bewick’s Swans remained at WWT Slimbridge.

24 March 2013 At home on the bird table was a female and two male Blackcap plus female Siskin on the sunflower seeds. Nice to catch up with Spoonbill at WWT Slimbridge whilst on my rounds at work, even better was when the Goshawk flew over and flushed it. It created a stream of white excrement as it took flight, actually sh1**ing itself on seeing this fearsome predator. I was intrigued to hear of Bob Evans’s studies of this bird, he had observed it leaving the water to poo on a few occasions which is something the Bittern also does. It pays to keep your fishing grounds clear of pollutuon…something humans could do with learning too.

Whilst scanning over the Severn with my trusty Swarovski scope I added another new bird for me in 2013. It was a pair of Common Scoter that hung about for a few locals to catch up with them. I was happy with what they were but to confirm they both did a wing flap with head down neck snap.

SPOONBILL feeding and roosting with ‘hair’ blasting in the wind.

Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill Spoonbill-windblown hair-do MJMcGill

At least four CHIFFCHAFF struggled to feed on this cold day.

Chiffchaff, Goose House Ground, struggling in cold, MJMcGill

21 March 2013 My first LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS of 2013 from the Holden Tower.


Barn Owl hunting on the WWT reserve and foreshore of the Severn on 19 March 2013

Barn Owl and pollard MJMcGill Barn Owl-Severn MJMcGill

PINTAIL have been stunning at WWT Slimbridge.

Pintail drake, MJMcGill 14 March 2013 Pintail head study, MJMcGill


BEWICK’S SWANS have been migrating back to breeding grounds.

Bewick's Swans migrating at WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill

Seen wildfowl migrating in v-formation but these WIGEON are feeding in v-formation!

Wigeon grazing in v formation, Holden Tower, MJMcGill


15 March 2013 I had a day off wander about the Glos to Sharpness canal and WWT reserve to establish Redshank and Lapwing activity and search for migrants as they weather had changed and the tide was high. Only one Lapwing looked on territory on the Great Narls and 12 Redshank were seen among the Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. A pair of Pintail here was notable. 10 Little Egrets were in the 100 Acre and a Bittern flew the length of the reedbeds (not flushed and viewable from towpath). Other notable birds were 2 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Water Pipits, the latter flying around calling and landing briefly near me and scopable before flying high toward WWT wetland centre. Also I thought they had all gone but no…there were 28 E White-fronted Geese, they came in from the north and headed down channel like Brents often do at this time of year. Also of note was displaying Meadow Pipit.


Lesser Redpoll, 15 March 2013, MJMcGill

14 March 2013 A very busy day at work. My mowing deck is out of action so we had a contractor in to do the job on the Top and Bottom New Piece. Basically preparing for breeding waders while we have got the levels down and it is a dry period. Whilst out there (ice and lack of birds made it easier as few birds around) I constructed some ‘Avocet or even stilt castles’. Will see what happens when they arrive back. On another note the Bittern showed very well at 4pm.


Reed Bunting male on feeder, MJMcGill

Snow storm heading for Cotswolds and Cam

Snow storm heading for Cam, 11 March 2012, MJMcGill

11 March 2013 Still one male Brambling in the garden.

5 March 2013 My first UK White Wagtail of the year dropped in next to me in the Bottom New Piece at WWT Slimbridge before skipping into the TNP, it was still moulting the black cap so was probably a 2cy bird.

2 March 2013 Day trip to Devon, see trip reports.




Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 9:50 pm

Forest of Dean-16 March 2013

0700 departure from Whitminster and returned by 1410.

Highlights from Forest of Dean 16 March 2013

Wild Boar- 5 at Wenchford

Wild Boar, FoD

Dipper- a pair at Wenchford
Hawfinch-6 at Parkend Church and 3 at Brierley

(note, if looking for them, please be Hawfinch wise, they are shy and generally need a bit of space. Most great photos are taken from hides/cars with lots of preparation, usually it is not possible to get too close without the use of a scope or being patient with binoculars)

Brambling- 40 at Parkend Church.
Mandarin-pair at Wenchford, 12 at Cannop Ponds.
Little Grebe- 5 at Cannop Ponds and 2 at Woorgreens.
Marsh Tit- one at Cannop Ponds
Kingfisher- one along Cannop Brook.
Siskin- seen at New Fancy View (NFV), Woorgreens and Yew Tree Brake in full song.
Lesser Redpoll- one over NFV and c 12 at Woorgreens.
Raven- 2pairs at NFV, 5 at Woorgreens and 2 at Brierley.
Goshawk- a female displaying and showing well around 1030 at NFV.

Goshawk NFV
Crossbill- a flock of c45 flew over Crabtree Hill heading toward Cinderford
Goosander-one male and 4 females at Woorgreens
Stonechat-male at Crabtree Hill

Also noted…Buzzard, Green and Great spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Pied and Grey Wagtail, Coal, Blue and Great Tit, Cormorant, Greylag and Canada Goose, Tufted Duck, Coot, Mallard, Song, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Nuthatch, C Crow, Rook, Jackdaw and more.

We had a quick look for Whooper Swan at Walmore Common and for the Waxwings at Newnham on Severn but no success.

Thanks to Ruth, Morris and Colin for your company and humour.

Martin J McGill

Filed under: Trip Reports


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Hybrid Wildfowl

HYBRID WILDFOWL- all images taken by M.J.McGill unless stated

Pochard type
South Lake, WWT Slimbridge, 15 December 2013

Aythya female with Pochard female, South Lake, MJMcGill Aythya sp, South Lake, 13 Dec 13

Same bird on 9 December 2013, South Lake, WWT Slimbridge

Pochard type Pochard type, 001, 9 Dec 13, WWT South Lake

Pochard/Ferruginous Duck types

9 November 2013, Rushy, WWT Slimbridge, overwintering since October 2013, still present into December. Likley to be same as previous winter see below.

Ferruginous x Pochard male, Rushy, 9 Nov 13

This bird was at WWT in December 2012. Image taken on 16 December 2012

Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, 16 Dec 2012, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid male, WWT Slimbridge 16 Dec 12, MJMcGill

This bird seen at WWT Slimbridge, South Lake 11 March 2013.

Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid male, MJMcGill Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid male, MJMcGill 001

This bird (below) was on the Rushy on 21 March 2013.
Note that it displays a small white undertail (side) markings on the right side and a feint one on the left.


Hybrid aythya, Rushy, 21 March 2013, MJMcGill 001 Hybrid aythya, Rushy, 21 March 2013, MJMcGill 002 Hybrid aythya, Rushy, 21 March 2013, MJMcGill, 003

This bird (below) was on the Tack Piece on 21 March 2013 (same day as above)
It displays extensive white on undertail. Is it the same bird?


Hybrid aythya, Tack Piece, 21 March 2013, 004 Hybrid aythya, Tack Piece, 21 March 2013, MJMcGill 001 Hybrid aythya, Tack Piece, 21 March 2013, MJMcGill, 002

Tufted Duck types

This bird, a male displayed as a Pochard/Ferruginous, it was smaller than Tufted Duck. Note white on undertail sides.

Tufted Duck x Pochard or Ferruginous Duck hybrid male, 11 March 2013 MJMcGill 001 Tufted Duck x Pochard or Ferruginous Duck hybrid male, 11 March 13, MJMcGill

Note bronze colour on crown.

Tufted Duck c Pochard or Ferruginous Duck hybrid, male 11 March 2013, MJMcGill


This bird (below) was present on 13 March 2013, Big Pen, WWT Slimbridge.
Note complete lack of white on undertail sides. Compare with above.


Hybrid aythya 12 March 2013 MJMcGill WWT Slimbridge 003 Hybrid aythya 12 March 2013 MJMcGill WWT Slimbridge 004 Hybrid aythya 12 March 2013 WWT MJMcGill 001 Hybrid aythya 12 March 2013 WWT Slimbridge MJMcGill 002

Close up of rear end…no white.

Hybrid aythya, 12 March 2013 Big Pen Slimbridge, close up of undertail, MJMcGill

Tufted Duck or Tufted x with greyish flanks and short head tuft.

Tufted x  brown flanks, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill 12 March 2013

American Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon

This bird present from Feb 2013, taken on 11 March 2013.

American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid male, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill

Note extended mohican

American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid male, 002 WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid male 001 WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill


Filed under: Hybrid Wildfowl


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South Devon and a Somerset sunset, 2 March 2013

Avocet on the Exe Estuary mud off Topsham

Avocet on the Exe, MJMcGill

Cirl Bunting and Avocet

Cirl Bunting, male MJMcGill Avocet on estuary mud MJMcGill

Rose-coloured Starling-Exminster

Rose coloured Starling- Exminster 2 March 2013 MJMcGill

Starling roost-Ham Wall RSPB

Starlings over Ham Wall RSPB, MJMcGill

Five of us set off for a visit to South Devon with the question of target birds were raised en-route, it was clear that Cirl Bunting was a priority. I have made a few visits to S. Devon before and seen this species well at Exminster but I felt it best to try a site with a better chance of seeing them in numbers. A cruise along the N side of the Teign to check over the stubble for finch flocks produced none so I looked for Labrador Bay RSPB armed with directions from the friendly Teignmouth Railway Station staff. Soon after arriving at the cliff top car park and reserve we were watching a flock of these charming buntings in the hedges, about 30 were to be found in the area.

Having convincingly ticked that box and all having lovely views we went off through Dawlish to the Exe and adjacent wetlands. At Cockwood we stopped to look at Greenshank among the Redshank flocks, a single Turnstone and nearby a flock of close Dark-bellied Brent Geese with Curlew and Oystercatcher also feeding on the golf course turf. Many of these species have probably fed and roosted in this spot for thousands of years so the recent addition (relative to time) of a golf course has not put them off. I hope they are allowed to continue to do so.

The north side of Starcross offered a flood pool with Shelduck, Wigeon, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and another Greenshank with Redshank. A few Meadow Pipits fed on the grass. Returning to Cockwood, we crossed the bridge when Val spotted a Kingfisher perched on the bow of boat, the tide was dropping and it was trying its luck. A stop nearby to scan over the estuary and Shutterton Creek produced three distant Little Grebes, around 20 Red-breasted Merganser, a couple of Shag including one stood on the wreck alongside the Cormorants for comparison.

Heading back upriver we crossed to Topsham, parked and walked down to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB. First stop was at the viewing platform at the mouth of the Clyst. Avocets, Redshank and another comparison of Black and Bar-tailed Godwits could be made. At least seven Goldeneye were out on the main channel. A flock of Dark bellied Brent flew over and landed on the estuary mud. On the seawall at Topsham we enjoyed more views of sifting Avocet and the waders including Grey Plover. Five Red-breasted Merganser were in the creek.

A stop at the hide added Snipe, Pintail, Gadwall and Shoveler but the draw of Waxwings had a searching again. Soon after we were watching a flock of at least 38 as they raided berry trees in a back garden adjacent to the river Exe. We had great views above us and it was a treat listening to the calls of these smart birds for 20 minutes or so. Another short drive to look for the wintering Rose-coloured Starling at Exminster resulted in great views of it as well as a pair of Brambling.

It was time to make a decision, search for American Wigeon at Darts Farm or try our luck in sunny Somerset. Everyone was keen to head for the latter so we transferred to Ham Wall RSPB. A lovely sunny end to the day was on offer as we walked out along the wall. Lots of wildfowl were present and Great Crested Grebes were paired. Bitterns were booming, a pair of Marsh Harrier floated about over the reeds causing panic. Large flocks of Lapwing, five Little Egret, a single Curlew and a variety of wetland birds entertained while we waited for what turned out to be a spectacular Starling roost. Other birds present at this reserve during this weekend included Great White Egret, Pied billed Grebe, Ferruginous and Ring necked Duck. It would be worth a return visit at some time. Thanks to Bettie, Val, Anne and Keith for your company on a pleasant and bird-filled day out.



Filed under: Trip Reports


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