Diary – January to March 2018


31st March 2018 – We returned to Gloucestershire from Strontian today. 72 species noted on the trip.


30th March 2018 – This was to be the final full day in the area.  At dawn, the stag was back but it had shed its antlers, the wounds showing wet.  There was no other animal in the area and we were sure that this was the same animal we had seen earlier in the week because the various body markings and face markings were the same.

          We went to Glen Moidart and then, Castle Tioram where we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the woodland behind the beach. 

          As we returned to Strontian, we called in at the hide which was our first stop of the trip.  This kind of completed the circle and surprisingly there was a Little Grebe on the sea in front of the hide which we could not turn into any other species of grebe!


29th March 2018 – Before dawn, we found a Hooded Crow nest in one of the trees near the beach below our cabin.  We heard the bird fly in in the darkness, noted the tree and when it became light, found the nest.

          Today, we went to Mallaig.  First stop was a layby at Drynie Hill just to the south of Ardmolich.  We were looking up the glens in the area of Glen Moidart.  Behind us was a dark conifer forest.  We found our 5th Golden Eagle of the trip. This bird was quite low and being harried by a Common Buzzard and it gradually drifted away and out of sight behind the rising ground of the forest.

          Another stop at another layby to the west of Kinlochmoidary produced a Black-throated Diver.  This is quite a rare bird because of the low population of the area in recent years.

           Our next stop was the village of Arisaig on the old coast road to Mallaig.  Here we found our 6th Golden Eagle soaring over the village.

          There was no sign of the stag at the cabin when we returned in the early evening.


28th March 2018 – At dawn, we found a Red Deer stag in the wild area near the cabin and viewable from the cabin porch.  It had a broken antler but the other was in fine condition. 

          Today we drove to Ardanmurchan which is the most westerly point on the mainland.  We stopped en route at the natural history centre and were surprised to find a Yellowhammer feeding on grain outside of the café.  It was a dry day with not much wind and at the lighthouse there was no movement of seabirds off the coast.  It was also quiet at Sanna beach with the odd shower looming.  When we were nearly back to the natural history centre, near a major viewpoint, we found a Sea Eagle which flew across some way in front of us and then it proceeded to circle and soar over the rising land to the north of us.  It was joined by an immature bird.  The estate ranger informed us that the adult was a female which had just come off the nest and the male had taken over from her. 

          We stopped to check the sea just before we arrived at Salen and found a Common Guillemot on the water. 


27th March 2018 – It was a wet day today with constant steady rain.  We walked around the nature reserve at Ariundle which is a beautiful oak forest with nearby moorland and a stream flowing through it.  The area was generally quiet but there were a pair of Dippers mating on a rock in the stream.  We found a potential nest site under a footbridge. 


26th March 2018 – We went to Iona today by driving to Lochaline and then taking a ferry to Fishnish on Mull.  We drove across the island where we added Shelduck and Red-breasted Merganser to the list.  From Fionaphort, we took the ferry to Iona.  At this latter ferry we noted Great Northern Diver and Eider Duck.  On Iona we found a small flock of Rock Dove, their white rumps shining like a beacon on this fine day.

          When we returned to Mull from Iona, we had a walk on the beach and added Rock Pipit and Raven to the list and then spotted our 4th Golden Eagle of the trip high over the beach being harried by a Common Buzzard.  This bird was younger than the juvenile seen at the hide.  There was much white in the underwings and I estimate this one to be a 2016 bird.


25th March 2018 – This was the first full day at Strontian and the surrounding area.  The first trip was to the bird hide at Garbh Eilean to the west of Strontian.  As we approached the hide, we found a Golden Eagle perched on a small island to the west of the main island and then, when we entered the hide, we found another perched on another rock nearby.  Both were adults and one sported a darvic ring which was just too far away to read with the telescope.  While we watched them, they started to look skyward and then we found a third bird which was circling above up.  This descended and perched on another small island.  It would appear that this bird was an offspring of this pair since not only was it tolerated but one of the adults flew over and perched near to it.  We were given very close views of one of the birds circling not very high above us.  This was the closest that I have been to a Golden Eagle.  I would estimate from the plumage that the immature was a bird born in 2015. While this activity was going on the local heronry on the island to the west was quite agitated as expected. 

          We moved on to Polloch and the viewpoint overlooking the south western end of Loch Shiel.  There, in the distance, we found 15 Whooper Swans.  These would be on migration very soon to Iceland.

          A Tawny Owl was calling after dark at the cabin in Strontian.


24th March 2018 – Drove from Carlisle to Strontian, to the west of Fort William. Several Whooper Swans were noted on a loch between Crianlarich and Tyndrum. A Black Guillemot was noted from the Corran Ferry and when we arrived at Strontian, we found plenty of birds around our cabin.  There were many Chaffinch and also a flock of House Sparrows which are always nice to see as they are a declining species.


23rd March 2018 – Drove to Carlisle for an overnight stop on a journey to the south west highlands of Scotland.  19 species were seen en route.


22nd March 2018 – A female Sparrowhawk was overhead of my abode again this morning.


20th March 2018 – There was a female Sparrowhawk overhead where I live today. 

          At Cannop Ponds, there were no Goosanders present in the late afternoon unlike 14th March.       

19th March 2018 – A pair of Mandarin Duck were on the river near the Hope and Anchor public house in Ross-on-Wye which was an unusual sight.  There were feeding with the resident Mallards.

          Two Buzzards were overhead of where I live and another was over Penyard Hill with a Sparrowhawk in attendance.


18th March 2018 – There was a lot of snow overnight and it was very cold.  The snow fell most of the morning and while it did there were flocks of mainly Fieldfare with an occasion Redwing flying south-east in groups of about 50 bird every 5 to 7 minutes.  The total number must have been into four figures.  Undoubtedly, this was a cold weather movement.  An occasion flock of smaller passerines would fly by too.  One Coal Tit and one of the passing Fieldfares dropped into the garden for a few moments.


17th March 2018 – The river in Ross-on-Wye is quite high which is not to be unexpected after the recent snow and rain. But, it is very red which is a product of run off I presume.


16th March 2018 – A Pheasant in Ross-on-Wye town was a first for me in this location.


14th March 2018 – 2 Goosander were on the southern pond at Cannop, Forest of Dean late today with 2 Little Grebe.


13th March 2018 – I spent about an hour at Wilton Bridge in the afternoon in beautiful, sunny and mild weather again looking for Sand Martins but none were seen.  Some of the local corvids are carrying twigs and starting to build nests in nearby trees.


12th March 2108 – There have been reports of a very few numbers of Sand Martins in the country, so I went down to the breeding site at Wilton Bridge to check if any had turned up there but I didn’t see any.


11th March 2018 – Today, I logged three raptors from my lounge window.  A Buzzard was trying to drive off a Red Kite over the town and not long afterwards, a Sparrowhawk, almost certainly a female from the size, was chasing some of the town’s Feral Pigeons.  I didn’t see her catch anything.  The snow has gone now except for the odd tiny pile where extensive drifts had built up.  In a couple of days, all will be gone. It is very mild and I went out 1830 in near darkness and there seemed to be quite a number of birds singing.  What a difference a week makes.


2nd March 2018 – There was more snow overnight and more drifting.  Another, larger, Lapwing flock flew over to the west in the morning.  Also, several flocks of thrush species containing Fieldfare also were passing.  All of this behaviour over the past couple of days is undoubtedly the result of the bad weather causing birds to move some distance.


1st March 2018 – It was very cold again today with some snow.  I noted a new species for my home when 2 Lapwing flew high to the west.  There was also a steady movement of thrush species in the same direction. By the afternoon the wind had got up and the snow was beginning to drift.  There has been Black-headed Gulls flying around nearly all day and a Lesser Black-backed Gull actually landed in the garden a walked around for a few minutes before departing.  That event was a first also.


28th February 2018 – A very cold day with some light snow showers.


25th February 2018 – A walk through the woods near Sling/Milkwall proved interesting.  In a field with horses in the middle of the woods were a number of thrush species.  They included quite a number of Mistle Thrushes and a few Song Thrushes.  It is always good to see the latter as they appear to be nationally in decline.  Some Bullfinches were singing in the corner of the field where I have seen them in previous years. 


16th February 2018 – I have been out of action with cold/flu like symptoms but today I walked down the river and found a Goldcrest near the canoe launch and a Kingfisher just upstream from Wilton Bridge.


28th January 2018 – Highlight of the day during a walk to the river was of a Little Egret in Rudhall Brook.


27th January 2018 – The river level has fallen somewhat and today at Wilton Bridge, there were 3 Goosander of which 2 were female.


25th January 2018 – The river remains high and the highlight of the day was of a male Goosander on Rudhall Brook near the carpark at Homs Road.  I have never seen this species so far up this brook.


23rd January 2018 – The River Wye at Ross-on-Wye is over the banks and almost up to the seats of the benches by the river opposite the bandstand.


22nd January 2018 – The River Wye is very high today and just over the banks in parts.  It is running fast and, unsurprisingly, there are few waterfowl in the area of the town.


19th January 2018 – I called in briefly at Ashleworth Ham just before lunchtime today.  There were a lot of geese there including Canada Geese and Greylag Geese. There were good numbers of duck and a pair of Buzzards was soaring over Hasfield Ham.  In the copse there were many passerines and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming.


17th January 2018 – Some Goosanders were on the River Wye again.  They are a daily sight at this time of the year.  I found two Great White Egrets on the pool in the grounds of the Chase Hotel as viewed from Waterside.


16th January 2018 – 3 Goosander on the River Wye and Little Egrets and Grey Herons flying around when I walked along the river to the area around the Riverside Inn.


15th January 2018 – Little Egrets continue to be present around the rowing club at Ross-on-Wye and downstream towards Wilton Bridge.  I think that they may be breeding in the area soon?


13th January 2018 – Again there were at least two Goosanders on the River Wye not far from Wilton Bridge.


12th January 2018 – On the opposite bank to the Hope and Anchor public house today there were two Little Egrets perched up, one Grey Heron roaming the bank and two Goosanders were on the water and all of these were in one binocular view.


11th January 2018 – There was a Treecreeper on a tree near the canoe launch alongside the river at Ross-on-Wye.  This was a first for me within the town boundary.


10th January 2018 – There were small flocks of winter thrushes around the orchards opposite the church at Weston-under-Penyard when I walked over Penyard Hill this morning.


9th January 2018 – There were at least 2 male Goosander on the River Wye late this afternoon.


7th January 2018 – I was back at WWT Slimbridge on day two of an event.  There were more Bewick’s Swans arriving on migration and by dark there were about 100 swans on the Rushy Pen. 


6th January 2018 – I went to WWT Slimbridge to help at an event.  During the morning, one of the Bewick’s Swans carrying a satellite transmitter was shown to be in a field near WWT Welney.  At about 1430, this bird landed on the Rushy Pen!


4th January 2018 – I walked through the town and back up river at Ross-on-Wye and noted a Greenfinch by the rowing club, a species said to be on the decline and one which I have not noted recently.  Along Rudhall Brook there was a Little Egret and Great White Egret.


3rd January 2018 – I walked down the river again and this morning I found a Kingfisher along Rudhall Brook near where the Goosanders were seen yesterday.  I suspect it too was taking advantage of better water compared to the fast flowing and high River Wye.  2 Goosander were on the river and opposite the rowing club, sheltering under the river bank from a very strong wind were 7 Little Egret and 2 Great White Egrets. In the afternoon, I stopped at Cannop Ponds en route back from Coleford and found 17 Tufted Duck which is effectively the wintering flock at this site. Mandarin Duck and Grey Wagtail were birds of note.


2nd January 2018 – I went to WWT Slimbridge for and meeting and found a Little Stint on the Rushy Pen along with the newly arrived Bewick’s Swans.  Back at home, in the early morning, there were a Grey Heron, Little Egret and Great White Egret in the same binocular view from my kitchen window.  Later, I walked down the river and noted 6 Goosander along Rudhall Brook by the rowing club at Ross-on-Wye.  I have never seen them in this small brook but they are probably there as a result of the River Wye being very high and almost over its banks and it was flowing very fast.  Indeed, I saw another male Goosander being swept very fast downstream.


1st January 2018 – Happy New Year! The New Year at home started in spectacular fashion with first, a male Blackcap in a bush just outside my kitchen window.  But, it got better. Both Little Egret and Great White Egret were seen from the same window and the latter was a first for this site and was the 54th species noted here.  I walked down the river later and there were 2 Goosanders south of Wilton Bridge and a Buzzard was soaring over it.  



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