16 December, 2010

I Went Shopping

How's that for a blog post title? :)

Yesterday I went shopping. However, due to Various Entirely Genuine Circumstances I did so in Bath. Yea, freely and of my own will I did get up there early enough to get a space at the P&R, I did pay the horrific price [and I thought Exeter's was extortionate...] and did negotiate the incredibly busy and oddly-laid out streets [[Though the price to actually park in Bath is even worse, plus there's the years of your life you lose through stress trying to negotiate their Escherian one-way system....]] [[[I'm digressing]]]

But yes, I went to Bath. One of the good things about Bath is that to get to it you have to go past some very nice bits of zumerzet birding [or, if you're feeling really masochistic...Brizzle... Eek.]. Setting off before it got light was necessary anyway to get in the P&R, and also let me make a quick and minor detour to Cheddar Reservoir :D
I've not been there in the morning before, and the better light even counteracted the cold wind howling down off the Mendips [bringing unforecast rain, too]. Being the only largely unfrozen body of freshwater in the area [Chew and the Levels are still mostly solid] there were thousands of birds. Mostly Coot, of course - this is Cheddar in winter - but a whole lot of Tufty and Pochard too [plus Mallard and Mute Swans]. Present were Cormorant, GC Grebe, Little Grebe [4], Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye [8], Red-crested Pochard [17], Scaup [1] and RD [2] ['RD' being my way of avoiding the government Death Squad's search engines]. I'm quite pleased that this poor persecuted little duck was my 250th species of the year. I stayed there longer than I intended, not least due to a drake Scaup showing quite cripplingly well, but not only got into the P&R [even with a lightning stop at Chew in case of tarty Bittern at Herriot's {In one very quick bin scan there wasn't}] but managed to park next to a gorgeous white Aston DBS too.. :)

Stomping through Bath I quickly did what I went to do, stopping only long enough to have lunch at the french cafe version of my favourite coffee shop, before heading home. Via the Levels. :)

As I was driving from Bath to Wells it would have been rude not to stop off and see the Tree Sparrows, wouldn't it? I've not seen one for more years than I care to remember, and they were evidently offended by this as I only saw the one, and it flew off immediately.. Undaunted by their snub I pressed on, and still with an hour or so of good daylight left I arrived at Ashcott Corner and headed over to Noah's, where there was some open water. I met a few birders, all of whom had stories of ice-skating Otters, Bitterns, Water Rails etc.. I did see an ice-skating Cetti's; quite wonderfully, actually, but none of the above, alas.

From Noah's Hide the open water contained, yes you guessed it, a lot of birds! There were the multitude of local Cormorants; all hunched around the edge looking pretty disconsolate. As well as Mutes [including 2 ex- ones..] I counted 5 Bewick's Swans, upending in a line and still looking much prettier and cleaner than the bigger locals. I only saw 1 Goldeneye, but at least 8 Little Grebe and a single GC. Again lots of sheltering ducks; Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufty, Gadwall, Mallard, and 5 Pintail. Plus Coot. A Pink-footed Goose had been seen there, consorting with a fairly big Greylag flock, but no geese were present when I arrived. This changed after about 20 minutes, when much honking presaged the arrival of 77! My second sweep through them then revealed there were only 76 Greylag and one Pink-foot :) Having been seen, it then decided it might as well show properly and so climbed out onto the ice for a preen.

After a very brief period of umming and ahhing, I decided to stay for the Starling roost. The sunset was a very pretty one, and things looked quite promising. A Cetti's right in front of the hide spent several minutes in open sight, working along the reeds and even on the ice [with much flicking and spreading of tail to keep it's balance!] - I've never seen one for so long.. A female Sprawk that came haring past, and a Buzzard trying to do a Marsh Harrier [not as well as the Slapton one the other day, though] were the only raptors. Yeah, no Harriers either. Still, it was gorgeous and not too cold - especially as I had cunningly brought a flask [oh, you'd almost think I'd planned the whole thing, wouldn't you?]

As it turned out, the Starlings were naughty and came in quick, over at Ham Wall. I saw some nice flocks passing me, but was too late for the main display. [Having too much fun counting Li'l Grebes and watching for Marsh Harriers, that's my problem...] They were very close to the main track - just to the south of the first platforms - and clearly visible to the naked eye as a long black line in the reeds. You could easily hear them; the birds in the reeds chattering and the susurration of the later groups as they arrived.

So; the shopping is done, I've gotten [nicely past] 250 for the year and had a great day to boot. All I need now is a job... Every silver lining and all that.

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