Bird diary

Here's a list of recent notable bird-watching moments. It's the ultimate geekery but, then, I'm a geek so why resist? Many of the places mentioned are within easy distance of Bristol. In particular Willsbridge Mill is on the edge of Bristol, while Dolebury Warren, Ham Wall and Portbury Wharf are a bike ride away.

In addition to the birds seen below, we have seen loads in our garden in Easton since we moved in August 2010. These have included great tits, blue tits, long-tailed tits, dunnocks, blackcaps, magpies, wood pigeons, goldfinches, greenfinches, and a robin. And I've seen swifts, gulls, a sparrowhawk and a peregrine flying over the garden. I reckon it's worth recording this, as it reminds us that there's an amazing amount of natural beauty on our doorstep.
  • May 2013, Llantony. Camping in a field we were woken each morning at 5am by a cuckoo and about 1000 other birds all singing their little hearts out. Bleeding beautiful way to start the day. On the same trip we saw loads of swifts, swallows, sandmartins and housemartins over the river at Hay-on-Wye. Summer is nigh!
  • January 2013, Our house We've had a female blackcap on our bird feeders since Christmas. I was a bit weirded out at first as blackcaps are supposed to be a summer bird, but my guide said that more are over-wintering these days, and they will often spend the cold months around people's bird feeders. Well I'm glad she's chosen ours.
  • January 2013, Hardwick Estate, Pangbourne A willow tit.
  • December 2012, Shapwick Heath The annual pilgrimage to the starling murmuration took place today. It was too far to walk to the main murmuration with children but we saw tens of thousands  streaming in towards it - a marvellous sight. Also saw a marsh harrier (I think) and a beautiful view of a kingfisher.
  • December 2012, Newport wetlands Finally identified a gadwall. This, along with a garganey (which I've still not seen) look like the most innocuous of things in bird books, but I managed to pick it out for the first time in Newport. Also pochard, curlews and (I presume) a flock of dunlin.
  • December 2012, Oldbury-on-Severn A big flock of lapwings. Plus a bunch of redshanks
  • December 2012, Royate Hill allotments A sparrowhawk was being mobbed by crows as I worked at the Kebele community allotment. Great sight.
  • November 2012, the center of Milton Keynes. OK, this is speculative. But I thought I saw an osprey as I waited for the bus in the middle of MK. A massive white bird being mobbed by crows, there can't be many possibilities. I checked migration patterns and it is at least plausible - apparently Bedfordshire is very much on the route - although I think this one would have been a couple of weeks late.
  • November 2012, The Gower I said below that I might have seen a manx shearwater off Ramsey Island. Well I definitely saw one off the Worm's Head. And he was swimming near some seals! I also saw a fulmar, a bunch of oyster catchers, a rock pippit and lots of gulls. Someone told me there were choughs about but, once again, I failed to see them.
  • November 2012, Severn Beach Short-eared owl!! I was there with my boys doing a little bit of bike-riding at 3 in the afternoon when this fellow flew straight over our head. Brilliant! There were a load of teal, wigeon, dunlin and some redshanks too. More worryingly there was also a swallow - surely he should have headed for Africa by now? (Incidentally the day before I saw my first barn owl while driving from Milton Keynes to Bristol.)
  • July 2012, around St David's First, on Ramsey Island: Razorbills and guillemots galore; a family of peregrines screeching and zooming around;  a couple of gannets fishing and (possibly) a manx shearwater; a little owl sat on a wall; loads of linnets, wheatears, meadow and rock pippits; fulmars swooping around the cliffs; but one disappointment: no choughs. Off Ramsey Island we saw a load more of the same as well as an adder on Dinas Head.
  • April 2012, The Gower Fulmars and linnets at The Worm's Head. A reed bunting, oyster catchers and shelducks at Llandmadoc. I also heard a gold crest and LOADS of chiff chaffs.
  • March 2012, Limoges, France The first swallows and house martins of the season - loads of them swooping about the river. Several black redstarts.
  • January 2012, Castell Dinas, Black Mountains. A flock of fieldfares (my first of the winter), a sparrowhawk flying over on the prowl, and then a couple of goldcrests flitting about through some woods.
  • January 2012, base of Cadair Idris, Snowdonia. Loads of coal tits (amongst the usual great and blue tits), a nuthatch and a goldcrest. (At the top of Cadair Idris there was nothing but bitter wind and ravens.)
  • December 2011, Bristol. I've seen a couple of grey wagtails on walks around Bristol: one on the Frome at Oldbury Court, another by the lake in St George's Park. They're not rare but, still, I'm chuffed when I see one!
  • December 2011, Shapwick Heath. Our annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration near Glasto (initiated last year). Flipping right on. It was blowing a gale and we left the perfect viewing spot five minutes before they all arrived but we still got a decent look. Ace it were. Ace.
  • December 2011, Cheddar. I caught the train to Yatton, rode my bike on the Strawberry Line to Cheddar, walked up the top of the gorge and then rode back (in the pouring rain). On the Strawberry line I saw a couple of green woodpeckers, some redwings and a bullfinch (and loads of the usual); up the gorge I saw ravens, a peregrine, some long-tailed tits and a darling little goldcrest. Blooming great.
  • December 2011, Hyde Park. Given it's in the centre of the biggest conurbation in the land, this place is bleeding amazing. They had the usual exotics - mandarins, parakeets, Egyptian geese. But there were also pochards(!!) and we saw two voles. I'm not sure if they were water voles or bank voles (I guess the latter); they were just scurrying about ignoring the hordes.
  • November 2011, Slimbridge. I'm not counting all the tame birds, but the number of unusual wild birds was amazing. A load of barnacle geese, a pair of bewick swans, a pair of peregrines, a pair of pintails. Plus loads and loads of teal, wigeon, pochard. I also saw a bunch of cranes, ok, they're not wild but they're part of a program releasing them onto the Somerset levels - would love to see them there!
  • September 2011, Greenbank Cemetery. Walking past the cemetery one evening with the woman, I saw three badgers and a fox sat on a wall. I kid you not. They were eating crackerbreads that someone had left out for them. Bloody amazing.
  • Our garden: It's not a bird but.... we had a hedgehog in our back garden two evenings ago. When was the last time you saw a hedgehog? Brilliant!
  • June 2011, Gregynog Hall, Wales: A tawny owl sitting on a fence post FOR TWENTY MINUTES one evening. It came to the same place every evening, but it only stayed once. I also saw a load of green finches, a grey wagtail, some red kites and the like.
  • June 2011, Canoeing on the Wye near Hereford: A kingfisher showed a flash of colour, a family of goosanders, and numerous swifts and sandmartins made it a day to remember. A fisherman shouted at us but you can't have everything.
  • May 2011, Marloes, South-West Wales: Stone chats and lots of whitethroats walking along the cliff path. Cleverer people than me showed me choughs pootling about on a grassy flat. Someone also pointed out a gannet fishing; I saw several more the next day - amazing! Slightly dodgier sightings included a sedge warbler and a grasshopper warbler (the latter look very innocuous but apparently their song is incredible, and that certainly fits with what I heard).

  • Mar 2011, New Passage at Severnside: Lots of wigeon, teal and shelduck. A grey blob miles away which I was assured was a barnacle goose. I also identified a skylark which I was rather proud of! (Incidentally, there is a brilliant website for birdwatchers at Severnside.)

  • Jan 2011, Lockleaze and Ashton Court: Yesterday I saw a goldcrest flitting about the place in Ashton Court. Today I wandered around the wood in Lockleaze up above the M32 and a saw a pair of the little blighters! Am hoping that I might see firecrests sometime in Bristol, as I've heard they have been seen at Ham Wall.

  • Jan 2011, Blagdon Lake and Churchill: A couple of pairs of bullfinches, and a treecreeper.

  • Dec 2010, Ham Wall: A gigantic murmuration of starlings (apparently there are occasionally flocks in this area containing one million birds); a bittern (these are normally very shy and hard to see but this one flew right over my head); a great white egret (one of only thirteen individuals in the country).

  • Dec 2010, Portbury Wharf: A couple of curlews, a merlin, and flocks of reed buntings. Also loads of redwings and the odd fieldfare.

  • Dec 2010, Westonbirt Arboretum: Marsh tits.

  • Nov 2010, Dolebury Warren: A green woodpecker. I know these are common but I'd never positively identified one before.

  • Sep 2010, Willsbridge Mill: A dipper just outside the mill; over the road we saw flocks of goldfinches. I've seen a dipper in the past near Netham Lock, Bristol.

  • Apr 2010, Bristol, A peregrine falcon sitting on the steeple of St Mary's, Redcliffe, central Bristol.

In addition to the above, honorouble mentions for a bullfinch at Severn Beach; nuthatches in various places including Bath; a treecreeper in Pere La Chaise cemetery, Paris; a flock of 40 000 pink footed geese in Snettisham, Norfolk; coal tits in Glastonbury; chiff chaffs on the Strawberry line near Cheddar; rock pipits at Lyme Regis; a whitewagtail in the Gower; all manner of ducks - tufted duck, pochard, black-tailed godwit, teal, wigeon - at various places including especially Ham Wall.