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Post Info TOPIC: Berkshire


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RE: Berkshire


Shaw House and St. Mary's Church, Newbury

27/03/18 Hawfinch 3

28/03/18 Hawfinch 1

29/03/18 Hawfinch 3

A proper turn of luck this week for me. I arranged a few days working in our HQ in Newbury with a view to getting out to a local site for early arriving Nightingales. This was before the daft March weather had made the idea seem ludicrous, but actually they aren't normally seen locally until the first week of April anyway, so it was poor research on my part. Plus the clocks changed and meant that my planned dawn raids weren't even practical. So a complete horlicks from a planning perspective.

However, a flock of Hawfinch has been frequenting the grounds of Shaw House and the church next door for the whole month. This is approximately 400m from the front door of our office. On previous visits I have often stopped to ponder the chances as the churchyard has some stunning yew trees and it had always looked tasty, although being in the middle of town always made it seem unlikely.

Anyway, I sneaked out at lunchtime on Tuesday and within 2 minutes was looking at a single bird high in a tree, before I accidentally disturbed 2 more feeding in a yew tree right by me. They flew out to trees about 20m away and then sat tight, so I drank in the views. Wednesday rained all day until teatime so I was expecting to see something as I left work, but actually only 1 bird showed, but I did get some nice views of it feeding deep inside one of their favourite yews. Finally this morning 3 showed well in the tops of a tree in the grounds of Shaw House.

The rain is battering down now so that will be it for this trip but you can't complain really. This morning especially was superb with a constant backdrop of birdsong from such as Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Goldfinch and Greenfinch. Also constant flyovers from Red Kites which apparently nest nearby.

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Lower Farm GP's Sunday 18th June 2017 Red-breasted Goose Red Kite Common Sandpiper Also 2 Garganey reported

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A trip to Greenham Common on Saturday produced firsts in Woodlark (2) and possibly 4+ Dartford Warblers as well as a smart Stonechat pair. All done by public transport from Manchester. I heard Green Woodpecker as well can on the first night of a mini heatwave. My good season continues!



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Chris Chandler and I have been down to Newbury to try and see the heathland birds on Greenham Common. We travelled down on Thursday 19th May, and spent Friday the 20th birding, before heading back today (21st)

On Thursday after arriving, we rushed up to the Common and managed to see Woodlark and a roding Woodcock pretty well, as well as hearing Nightingale and Nightjar, on a moody evening weather-wise. The Woodlark was a lifer for Chris, and we both enjoyed the gorgeous song delivered from fluttering display flight by a couple of birds.

Arriving at about 6am on the Friday, we headed for the area we'd heard the Nightingales the night before. Working our way over there, Chris picked up some calling, having done his homework, and we soon landed on a pair of Dartford Warblers, both bringing food into a nest. Superb views of these stunning birds. Second lifer for Chris! These were the best views I've ever had too, as it was bright and we were less than 50 yards away.

When we'd stopped grinning and high-fiving over the warblers, the next objective was a Nightingale. A singer was soon picked up and we settled down to an absorbing battle of wits with the bird. At least twice we narrowed it down to a tree and then realised that whereas we'd been listening to it a minute before, mingled with other songs, suddenly it was just a Song Thrush bashing on and the Nightingale had moved again. Finally, a flash of chestnut-brown passed across us and when it started up singing again we knew it was our bird. Chris's 3rd lifer and my best views too. Also really interesting behaviour as supposedly they should be paired up by now and so a male would be holding a territory, not doing a tour of the place. Presumably he was still flying solo...

Also in this area were singing Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Woodlark, Robin plus calling Green Woodpeckers! It was superb to listen to it all. We saw 3 Garden Warblers, which was good as they can be tricky birds. We went back for some more views of Dartford Warblers at this point, and found another male bird in a different spot, then it was time to have some breakfast. We also saw 2 Red Kites gliding over low and slow, supremely elegant birds.

After fuelling up we left Greenham and headed for a local gravel pit site called Lower Farm. This was really enjoyable. Best birds were a sprinkling of Reed Warblers, a pair of Egyptian Geese and a stunning adult Hobby that cruised over the place showing off its red trousers. The other notable sighting started with watching Common Terns sitting on a nest on a raft. 2 big adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls dropped onto the raft, surely looking at a light snack. The terns mercilessly mobbed them, non-stop, for about 5 minutes before they finally loafed off. The reality of what was at stake was very clear.

We took another break then headed up to the Common again to try and nail the final good sighting we wanted, the Nightjar. The weather held off long enough for us to hear a couple of churring birds, and then we got a decent view of a pair of birds, with the male wing-clapping before sliding away into the drizzle that had just started.

So the birding had run from 6am to 10pm with a day list for me of 69. It was a really brilliant haul in the end, we absolutely cleaned up, and it was particularly nice that Chris got to see all the birds he was hoping for. My feet need a rest now though!

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Greenham Common. Three hours at this fantastic site yesterday with directions thanks to Simon Gough.
Nightingale seen but not heard then later another heard but not seen.
Woodlark at least 3 singing sweetly out of view on the ground and one bird finally seen - not a lifer but my first for the UK.
19 other species included Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, many Linnets in breeding plumage, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. No Dartford Warblers but an enticement to visit again the next time I'm in south Oxfordshire.

-- Edited by Tim Wilcox on Tuesday 10th of May 2016 12:12:44 PM

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I am currently staying at a hotel on the M4 Services at Chieveley, and when I got into my room at dusk last night I could hear a substantial amount of bird noise, enough to make me wonder if they had left the window open, as it is double-glazed to try and mitigate the traffic roar. When I looked, imagine my surprise to discover well over 100 Pied Wagtails in a tree right outside my room! I have often seen a handful around the services, but this is clearly one of those urban roosts brought about by the security of the location etc. As I watched and listened for a few minutes they would fall silent, then the chirping would start up again, they would scatter, land in again, go quiet again and so on. Delightful. There has been a similar gathering at our office complex at times, I'm wondering if they are the same group or different now.

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3 Red Kites seen in the air from Platform 7 of Reading Station at around 2pm today. One was hunting over the railway yards west of the station and showed very well from my train, it was working along the line of a fence at a height of no more than 30 feet. They are now clearly very urbanised indeed in Reading.

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I've now been out 3 times in the last month hoping to see Great Grey Shrike around Newbury. This morning with a local colleague was another dip, but we persevere.

However, it wasn't all bad today; we got onsite at first light and the opening bird of the day was a Ringtail Hen Harrier! What a way to set you up for the rest of the day and possibly the week. The bird came up from the ground no more than 50 yards away and then ghosted off. Won't say where exactly...also too dark to try and age it.

Also seen:
Grey Partridge (heard calls then saw Partridges in the air, so I have made an assumption)
Kestrel
Red Kite
Buzzard
Corn Bunting
Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting
Fieldfare
Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls
Skylark

It was so nice out there, the mixed Bunting group with some Chaffinch and Goldfinch was around 50 birds, really nice. Up to 20 or so Fieldfares on hawthorns, also a nice flock of 50+ Starling. Great to be in the fresh air first thing like that watching these birds get going for the day. At least 2 singing Corn Buntings, no idea what for! No Redwings. Down here I've not really noticed many but I have seen plenty of Fieldfares in comparison

In the office just after nine, still buzzing now. Especially as it started persisting heavily at about 10am and hasn't really stopped since



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I have been staying at a hotel out of town this week and managed some great stuff around and about the grounds. On the way up to the hotel on Tuesday night a Muntjac jumped out of the road. 2 Red Kites were over the fields and the hotel grounds holds a significant rookery, and they were in great form.

Walking out of the front door on Wednesday morning (yesterday) I flushed a Green Woodpecker from the lawn. 2 Brown Hares could be seen in an adjoining field.

I went for a quick walk on Wednesday evening and picked up 3 Roe Deer, a Hare and 6 Red-legged Partridge in the field across the road. I managed to avoid scaring the Hare away for a few minutes, it was only about 20 yards away, lovely views. It actually looked truly ideal in the field for Stone Curlew, but it is a bit late in the summer now to expect them to show well, if they were even there. Book now for next May!

Further along I picked up a couple of Red Kites, a Kestrel and a Buzzard, and also something pretty unusual I think, a male Bullfinch feeding in a stubble field with a group of 10 or so Chaffinch and some Blackbirds. Also plenty of Stock Doves amongst the many Woodpigeons, a flock of 25 or so Linnet and a few Mistle Thrush. Next were 2 more Red Kites perched on fence posts, I rarely see them perched, but this was lovely. They did fly off of course, but one came back and I also glimpsed the other in a nearby tree. Some great views of them in the air above me, I had 4 in the air together briefly and then the Buzzard came over to inspect me too, probably the best views I've had in a long time, no more than 50 yards over my head I'd say. There were Hares and lots of Rabbits about, which were probably more interesting for them. I was trying to creep up on a couple of the Hares but they bolted and they can run! I guess they are tolerant to a point then rely on speed. Finally coming back into the hotel a Lapwing was on the ground in the same field as the Partridges and Deer.

This morning I crept out of reception mindful of the Woodpecker and to my surprise a female Green Woodpecker was there feeding in the identical spot to yesterday. Top views of it working over some obviously productive ground. I haven't seen one feeding well like that for a while so I was really pleased

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An enjoyable walk at Greenham last evening; with the warm, sunny day and still evening I thought Nightjar were more or less guaranteed to show well. After seeing a few Woodlarks and a couple of nice male Stonechat singing on perches I headed for the right scrubby area of the Common and waited for it to get dark. I got some more great views of a Woodlark perched quietly on the ground, with an insect of some kind in its beak, no doubt dinner for a little one. A Hobby flew over fairly close, and seemed about to stop and hunt as it banked up in flight as they do, but in the end it just zoomed off.

Happily some churring started at about 10pm and I soon saw a Nightjar slide past me, but there were no white marks on the wings so presumably a female, then I got onto another bird hawking. This was just below the treeline and it was hard to track in my bins, but suddenly it banked steeply up and I had this fantastic silhouetted view against the sky of a moth desperately flying and the Nightjar plucking it out of the air and swooping back down and around. Awesome to watch. This bird then flew over to the churring male, who flew up from his perch and did a wing clap or two, before settling down again to churr some more. So I think this was the 2nd and 3rd birds of the evening, a second female and a male, and I did see the white marks on the male bird as it flew around.

Then a second male bird started churring over where the first female had been heading for, so I'm sure there were 4 birds at least in the vicinity. Both males were going together briefly, but I didn't see any more in the gloom and the final action of the night was the enjoyably daft squeak of a roding Woodcock overhead.

I'm really falling in love with Nightjars, this was my best experience to date with them.




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had a little trip to newbury yesterday 21st may & this morning. I met up with simon gough & he showed me some of the areas he has been visiting of lately, I managed to bag myself 4 lifers....

woodlark
Dartford warbler
stone curlew
nightingale

other birds of note included...

nightjar
woodcock
red kite
stonechat
yellowhammer
yellow wagtail
corn bunting
grey partridge
green woodpecker
garden warbler
lesser whitethroat
reed warbler
little egret
plus all usual birds around

a very pleasant trip biggrin
thank you simon for showing me around, cheers mate wink

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Some more great birds in Newbury last evening after work.

Cetti's Warbler 2 - both dodgy sightings of birds flying away after singing close by, one on the K and A canal, one at Lower Farm
Reed Warbler 2 - heard singing only - at the same places as the Cetti's, probably being territorial
Green Woodpecker 2 - heard only - 1 at Lower Farm, 1 on Greenham Common. Could not find the little swine, it was really close by from the calls
Linnet 30 plus - on territories in the gorse on Greenham Common, every bush seemed to have a couple of birds perched up, the singing was beautiful. Some small feeding flocks about too
Woodlark 2 - at Greenham Common feeding on the ground at around 30ft range. Superb little birds.
Hobby 2 - Over Greenham at a fair distance. First of the year
Kestrel 1 - Agitated by the Hobbies I imagine, it flew right past me to start hunting a different part of the Common
Stonechat 2 - Males on patrol amongst the Linnets in the gorse
Nightingale 2 - 4-5 heard singing and 2 finally seen after a ridiculous and thorny exercise of trying to pin down where they were! My first experience of this iconic species. The views were not at all satisfactory but enough to tick them. The singing was amazing though. I will be back, we all deserve better.
Blackbird 1 - A male singing after I'd just retreated from the Nightingales and their brambly protection. The family resemblance of the song was noticeable.
Snipe 2
Woodcock 1 - these 2 species were flushed as I walked off the Common more or less in the dark



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A pretty cool couple of hours birding last night after work in Newbury. I walked from the town centre along the Kennet and Avon Canal to a place called Lower Farm which has a flooded gravel pit, through a nice deciduous wood then onto Greenham Common.

Before I had even left the town centre I heard a Cetti's Warbler loudly sing from a patch of bushes and trees at the canalside. Fully expecting the usual difficulty in seeing one, I was delighted to see it fly up to a bush in front of me and smash out another song burst. It was loud! Best views ever, no more than 10ft away in plain view. Then it flew off and it was as if it had never been there...

Not much on Lower Farm, some noisy Little Grebes and common waterfowl. It can be good for waders according to some but I've never been there when the water levels are obliging.

Walking on through Bowdown Wood I had great views of a pair of Green Woodpeckers calling and flying about together.

Finally on the Common itself, not many singing larks so I didn't really look for Woodlarks, but star turn amidst lots of Linnets in the Gorse were 3 Dartford Warblers. 1 Male was singing from a high perch, the other 2 were a pair, bustling around in beautiful evening sunshine.

Not a bad way to pass some time away from home.

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As I waited for a bus this afternoon outside our office, I heard a flurry of Pied Wagtail calls; looking up 5 Pied Wags were mobbing a Red Kite right above us! Nobody else even noticed...great to watch though.

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As a Chrimbo present to myself I took a day off work on the 19th of December and stayed down in Newbury to allow a birding excursion with a colleague based locally. We headed up to the Ridgeway on the Berkshire Downs in the hope of seeing some of the classic farmland birds found up there. The main target bird was Short-eared Owl, which has a few known haunts up on the Downs. I won't name the location we went to directly as the local birders try and keep it quiet.

Within the first 2 minutes of walking up to the Ridgeway the first Red Kite of the day was seen, and we got to 6 birds within 20 minutes, all gliding around, working the wind looking for dinner. One was hunting below us in a dip away down the hillside. Also of interest seen well, a pair of Stonechats, 3 Corn Buntings perched up on a fence, Fieldfare, Kestrel, Skylarks and a covey of partridges of some description flying off. However, no owls.

We covered a good mile or so tracking around and by now it was mid afternoon. We'd seen at least 20 Skylark by now, and a flock of about 75 Linnets and 30 Goldfinch buzzing around together. Also notable 3 Roe Deer and a Stoat. Also lovely was a Red Kite that hung in the wind right above us for a minute, no more than 100 yards high. While we sat in my colleague's car having a sandwich, overlooking a field of stubble, 10 Grey Partridge dropped onto the ground 50 yards away from us. This would have been the covey we saw before. They fussed about for a few minutes in front of us, these were the best views by far I've had of this species. They are lovely birds, I was delighted with it.

At this point we headed back to the most promising area we'd seen hoping something might happen. The sun was falling and the sky was a clear light blue, as we walked up the path suddenly a long pair of sandy brown wings flapped up and there circling about 100 yards in front of us was a rather lovely Short-eared Owl. I can't tell you how delighted I was. When I started birding one of the first species to stand out was the Shortie. Every birder I've met loves them too, you can't help it really.

There was every chance of a few birds being about and soon a second owl popped up. With our view of the area we had the background of the sky behind the birds and we got a stunning view of the 2 owls sparring in the air, it was sensational. Then one mobbed a Red Kite, the other was dicing with a couple of Carrion Crows. They both settled down to perch at times, we got some classic views of the cold yellow eyes and that somehow furious-looking face. When one of them flew off and started quartering a field, it broke away suddenly and then where it landed there was a 3rd bird. At one point I got all 3 in the bins in one view. Unreal...

As the owls dispersed a bit and started looking like perching up to roost, a fourth tracked in and we got some brilliant views of this bird fairly high up in the full setting sunlight. Magnificent. We had to get going at this point, not my call at all, but hey. By now there were some lovely mobile Yellowhammers and at least 30 Corn Buntings buzzing about in the sun from the various trees, and we'd seen around 100 Fieldfare. Walking back to the car the final gem was a view to around 50 yards of a Brown Hare sat in the path looking at an owl perched in the tree next to it looking back at it and then us in turn.

So I can't really complain with that can I? Standing up on that path with the Corn Buntings chirping and the Kites and Owls swooping and gliding around, looking out for miles over the heart of England was a total pleasure, and like with my Hen Harriers in Cambridgeshire recently the sense of time and place was incredible. What a great advert for birding.

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A colleague based near Reading has just texted me a picture of Wryneck in his back garden. Bah! This follows less than a month after the Hoopoe he also photographed in his back garden. I'm wondering if we shouldn't be heading for Reading rather than assuming all the action is at Spurn or Cley.

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Another midweek in Newbury for work, and a couple of excursions in the evenings. Tuesday 24th was a visit to another scrubby wooded heath habitat hoping for Nightjar. This time it was a spot called Newtown Common that is actually in Hampshire by a few hundred yards but is easier to report in the context of Newbury, which is only a mile or two away. This is a much smaller location than Greenham Common, and is a managed habitat run by the local council. It is basically some of the characteristic chalky soil heathland with plantation and some older deciduous woodland, where a large open clearing is maintained as a scrubby grassy area to encourage the birds. The clearing is only around 200-300m square so it is really easy to cover.

I was hoping for the same spread of birds as Greenham but it was a bit different on the day. Walking up at about 1900 I only saw House Martin and a couple of Bullfinch beyond the inevitable Woodpigeon. I heard a Song Thrush giving it some but then on walking out onto the Common itself I heard a much less familiar song. I wasn't sure what it was, I was thinking back to the lovely Woodlark song, but eventually I twigged it was singing from a high perch and then I saw the bird, a Tree Pipit. It did the characteristic display flight after a few minutes, which was damn civil. In the warm evening sunlight the lower body looked wholly beige but I got a nice set of views with the light at different angles and it obviously transformed the appearance. The wedge shaped bill was clear as day too.

At this point the Pipit was the only bird evident at all. Bit eerie! Then I heard a loud squawky call and thought, Woodpecker, and lo and behold a female Green Woodpecker was suddenly bombing round. It flew off into the wood to have a row with something that sounded crow-like, I presumed a Jay. Then it dawned on me that a second Tree Pipit had taken up station and the two birds started singing at each other. They were on trees about 50 yards apart and kept going for the whole evening in the end! Then a Hobby glided over. Didn't get a stunning view but it looked like the red underparts weren't really there yet it was clearly more slate-grey than brown so I guessed a second cy possibly, but I'm no expert. At least it was clearly a Hobby though, only the second I've ever seen. Great stuff. So my list for the site had 3 birds at this stage. Quality over quantity!

By about 2100 I was doing my usual impatient thing of thinking "sod this, I'm not going to see anymore, maybe I should go". As I'd been up since 5am to travel south that morning I was feeling knackered anyway. But I heard a bird rattling in some trees and suddenly it felt like I should stay. No idea what it was by the way, and didn't see it. Never mind...Within a few minutes a squeaky excuse for a war-cry could be heard and a Woodcock flew past. They are really good to watch, the sense of preoccupation the bird has is brilliant, it just seems so focused on bombing around making its odd noises and they seem to be making such a flappy effort to be up there too. So the period from 2100-2200 was basically spent scanning the sky and then literally whichever way I turned, the Woodcock would emerge apparently from the opposite direction! Two flew together at one point and I think there might have been 3 about in total. I would have seen a good dozen flybys in all though, in decent light. So, just the star of the show needed to make an appearance and I could walk back to my palatial accommodation on a roundabout on the A34.

It was just past 2200 by now, I decided to stand in a spot with a decent all round view, and it seemed sensible to keep the sunset behind me. Rather gratifyingly, within 2 minutes a Nightjar flew 20 yards in front of me, reared up as such while in flight, plopped onto a branch in a tree right there and started churring. It was brilliant. Same time of night as a fortnight ago, but with the light being better I had a great view. Well, I was thinking I might be able to get a nice view of it perched, but then an ungodly animal noise started up. Like a dog bark but wilder and in single calls rather than a sequence. A Badger. A bloody Badger scared my Nightjar away! That was it, the thing flew off when I looked round and then must have decided that it didn't fancy it for the foreseeable.

Still, I got a superb view and another tiny burst of a truly extraordinary sound, interrupted by another fairly extraordinary new one. And my list for Newtown Common on the night had swelled to 5 species! Tree Pipit, Green Woodpecker, Hobby, Woodcock, Nightjar. Not a Wren, Chaffinch, Blackbird even while I was on the Common itself. Even the Pigeons seemed reluctant to show themselves! Walking back down a country lane I heard a few birds squawking in some trees, which seemed likely to be young Tawny Owls. A first for me to have heard, couldn't see them sadly but a nice thing. Xeno-Canto confirmed my suspicions later. I could have rooted them out I'm sure but didn't want to disturb them. Might take a torch out next time though...

So that's my second experience of roding and churring in 2 weeks at different sites, and again I have to reflect on how lucky I am to have this great opportunity to see some nice birds that are that bit harder to track down up here. Won't stop me getting out on the mosses to find a GM Hobby though to be fair. Plus you'd like to think Nightjar will return.

A nice postscript is a quick account of a 90 minute walk on the Wednesday. I had shifted to a different hotel situated nearer central Newbury. This put me in reach of the Kennet and Avon canal which snakes right through the middle of the town. It takes no more than 15 minutes to get from there to some nice quiet water by the famous racecourse with some blinding habitat for warblers. Along with lots of Chiffys and Blackcap, you can hear and see Reed and Sedge Warbler in reeds by the towpath, I watched a couple of Reed Warblers from 3 feet. Awesome.

Other highlight was a probable Cetti's Warbler which I heard sing then I think I saw flying into the reeds, then another bird which sang from a tree but stayed hidden. I had to leave or I'd have stayed to try and eyeball it, but I'm happy to have got good field experience of the song, so I can loiter at Pennington with a slighter higher chance of success! Nightingales are found down there too, so my next mission is to try and crack them and the Cetti's in the next month before the nights get too short again. More Hobby are a possibility too.




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I'm chuffed you enjoyed reading my waffle Nick, thanks for the feedback. I was so giddy that I went to town a bit describing it. I enjoy reading the exploits of other forum members, and it did strike me that we frequently hear about some showpiece locations up in Scotland or Wales, but some of the southern England species like Dartfords and Woodlarks don't always get the focus. Until they make it up country as is happening now with Cetti's Warbler that is...

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Excellent report Simon. Really enjoyed reading that.

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I wanted to write a report on the evening's birding I enjoyed at Greenham Common in Newbury on Tuesday this week. Before you ask, yes, I do mean the Greenham Common that was a focal point for CND protests in the 1980's as the Common was used as a USAF base and did indeed house nuclear missiles. When the Americans redeployed elsewhere the land was opened up to public use and the combination of the size and nature of the space has left a large open heathland habitat, which was already surrounded by woods of different kinds, mature broadleaf to the north, younger lighter scrubby stuff to the south-west and south. You can't poke around the missile pens funnily enough, they are tightly secured, and none of the locals seem to have three heads so we hope the environment is clean enough!

The common is covered in large areas of gorse and also has some bare gravelly areas and lots of grass. Cattle graze over most of it too. The runway was nearly 2 miles long so it is a big site.

I've been a couple of times before around work visits and this sort of area would bring to mind a few species. On those previous visits I'd seen lots of Linnet and a few Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Skylark. This time in perfect evening sunlight I was initially seeing only the same, when I heard a different bird in song and looking up saw a Skylark looking thing with a short tail in a display flight. So a Woodlark! Brilliant. Lifer. The bird appeared to come down in the middle of the gorse. As I tried to home in on the spot where it was still singing a small dark bird with a long tail buzzed up in the gorse. Male Dartford Warbler. Lifer. 2 in 2 minutes! I stood and watched the Dartford for a good 10 minutes, clearly feeding a nest in the bushes. But the Woodlark song was constant now, there were at least 3 males singing at each other, from either their displays or the ground. I eventually latched onto one on the ground and managed to close in to about 50 yards away. Through my bins I was able to see the big head stripe and the fact that the bird was smaller than a Skylark and with the short tail. Just brilliant to catch the birds in the sunshine like that though. The singing was possibly the most beautiful collective birdsong I've heard yet. Almost mournful and joyous at the same time

Back onto the Dartford and the comic sight of the male, a pristine Stonechat male and a Meadow Pipit all bickering over a particular bush perch. They were taking it in turns to perch there. A second Dartford Male showed briefly too, didn't catch a female out though, although one was clearly calling to its partner

By now it was around 9pm and thoughts turned to dusktime birds. Heading round the south edge of the common to the wooded areas the first action was a bird over that I think was a Hobby, but I wouldn't call it that for sure. But with the attention now focussed in the air a bit, I picked up 3 birds a bit like pigeons and then realised they were Woodcock! Roding away they went. As it got dark I kept my ears flapping and after 2 Roe Deer had made me jump about a foot in the air the real reason for my trip started churring away. Nightjar. Tracking the sound in to a clump of trees I managed to catch a tiny glimpse of the bird flying off. Lifer number 3 on the night. Then another shock, 2 of the Woodcock back over me really low. The rapid wingbeats were really noticeable. Then another Nightjar flew past, calling with a kind of yelp which I believe is the alarm call, before settling and starting to churr. I just caught the shape and the white flashes on the bird in the gloom. There was time for one more heart attack as the 3rd Woodcock flushed up squeaking at me and flew off after the other 2.

I walked back to my hotel in a daze, and I'm still buzzing 2 days later! I can say that for a place that used to represent nothing but a threat to wildlife if you get a chance to visit Greenham in similar circumstances you've got to do it, its 15 minutes from the M4, and 2 minutes from the centre of Newbury but there was nothing false about the habitat and the birds were there perfectly naturally. I think the size really helps, it is so open that the birds must feel safe even though it is quite urban really. I just feel privileged to have seen 4 brilliant species in perfect conditions showing so well, doing the things Collins says they do! Brilliant.

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Well I must admit that Berkshire is generally one of those counties that I drive through without spending much time in, however, with a bit of annual leave left to take, I grabbed the opportunity to twitch a few birds at Queen Mother Reservoir today.

Though the Great Northern Diver didn't stick around for long this morning, it was great, at least, to catch up with a Long-tailed Duck and a lovely, very confiding Buff-bellied Pipit. Volunteers from Berks Birds have been making themselves available to issue temporary Permits to this normally Permit-only Reservoir (one of the biggest in this part of the world) and they have done a roaring trade, with almost 2 grand collected so far!

The Pipit has been becoming more mobile over the last few days, but it was back at its favoured area when I caught up with it at Lunch-time today. It was feeding almost at the water's edge and seemed oblivious to the aircraft noise (it is under the flight path into Heathrow) and the presence of birders. Even so, I'm not sure that I got any record shots that I'm particularly proud of.

Anyway, two lifers gets my holidayseason off to a good start!

http://www.berksbirds.co.uk/birdnews.asp

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