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Winter trip - Cirl bunting, Bewick swan, firecrest?

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Old Tuesday 18th September 2018, 20:23   #1
Moadib
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Winter trip - Cirl bunting, Bewick swan, firecrest?

Hello, hoping for some advice from birders in the south-west.

My wife and I were planning a weekend trip during winter (a Friday through Monday trip?), with the plan to see cirl bunting, a bird neither of us have seen, but also to enjoy some species we don't get or rarely get in Scotland. Bewick swan being one, firecrest another.

Are there any birds or birding sites people would specifically recommend given those ideas? Or any suggestions of good places to stay (pubs with rooms, good beer, and near to birds would be ideal! )

If we're missing anything that we should be looking for, would also be delighted to hear. Always love getting to other regions, and have thoroughly enjoyed long weekends in Suffolk, Manchester, around Wakefield, Wales etc. They're long trips, but fabulous to see species we don't often get (as I'm sure it must be for visitors to Scotland, getting eagles, crested tit etc).

Many thanks for any suggestions and advice
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 12:45   #2
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I'm not a local but from my experiences from visiting the South West, Labrador Bay near Torquay is a great place to see Cirl Bunting. I've visited in the winter and seen large flocks of them feeding on the stubble fields. For Bewick's, Slimbridge is the place to go, though not technically in the South West it's just off the M5 and a good place to visit on the way/way back from the South West. You should also see White-Fronted Geese, Cranes and vast numbers of waders amongst others..
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 13:09   #3
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I'd stop in Slimbridge on the way down for Bewicks as Huwgo mentioned.

Rich
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 13:13   #4
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We also saw Cirl Buntings and a Firecrest at Broadsands. Not sure how regular the Firecrest are though.

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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 13:21   #5
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That's quite a long journey even just for the driving, let alone time for comfort breaks and settling in to your overnight accommodation. Certainly the Bewicks and Cirl Bunting are the "easiest" of the 3 species you'd like to see at the locations but Firecrest can be tricky outside of the breeding season even at known migration or wintering locations. I would certainly visit the 2 sites mentioned and see what else turns up on the day.
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 13:22   #6
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Working on the assumption that Dartford Warblers are thin on the ground up your way Aylesbeare RSPB might be worth a look in. Just east of Exeter, so basing yourself in the Exeter area puts you in easy striking distance of that and Labrador Bay too. Worth researching birding on the Exe Estuary, places like Bowling Green Marsh, Powderham etc. Usually a few Bewick's Swans available in the Somerset Levels, with good birding to be had at Shapwick & Ham Walls. Not sure about Firecrest, might just be a case of keeping an eye on the info services.

Good luck!
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 07:04   #7
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HUGE thanks to everyone, that's incredibly helpful.
Firecrest seems to be like that everywhere! We had one in Glasgow last winter, but was incredibly difficult to see (not to mention walking around the centre of Glasgow pointing binoculars at apartment buildings....).
Are there any areas strongholds of firecrest, or is it a case of them just popping up anywhere?

Looking forward to seeing the area already :-)
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 07:52   #8
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The trees around the car park at Broadsands are as reliable as anywhere for Firecrest (and Sibe Chiffchaff) and have the added bonus of the car park being seeded in Winter for the Cirl Buntings. The bay there usually has an array of grebes and divers so plenty to be going at. Ham Wall would be worth a look on the way past as there will be plenty of Great White Egrets and it seems likely there will be Cattle Egrets knocking about plus the enormous Starling roost and associated Bitterns and bird of prey.
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 07:58   #9
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There are lots of Firecrest in Hampshire, especially around the New Forest and Southampton. I have seen them in my urban Southampton garden, and there are quite a few which winter on Southampton Common and the Old Cemetery... unfortunately they don't always appear, and they move around a bit. Holly under Oak seems to be their favoured habitat.
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 20:11   #10
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Many thanks again - sounds like a lot to enjoy. I might have to think about staying a bit longer.

Are there any places recommended for wintering bittern? This may be a loaded question, as it's No.1 bogey bird for my wife - wherever she goes it's almost guaranteed no bittern will be seen! Tried Minsmere, Leighton Moss, even wintering ones up here. I've seen plenty - but only on my own. It's like she and the bitterns are the same two poles of a magnet, and can't occupy the same space! So I'd like to try and find a place she can see them...but that might guarantee there are none for anyone else to see :-)
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Old Tuesday 25th September 2018, 09:34   #11
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Originally Posted by Moadib View Post
Are there any places recommended for wintering bittern?
You could try Ham Wall RSPB in Somerset.
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Old Tuesday 22nd January 2019, 19:20   #12
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Just wanted to update the thread, as we're back yesterday. Had a fantastic trip thanks to all the wonderful advice on the thread.
Friday: No cirl bunting at Broadsands, but drove up to Labrador Bay, and after braving a few squalls finally managed to identify that the flocking birds were indeed cirl bunting, and actually had very good views. Enjoyed Sand Point also on the way down, hadn't expected to see raven there, but two put on a great display.
Saturday: Tried our luck at Yarner Wood and enjoyed lesser-spotted woodpecker, but also excellent views of marsh tit. which are not that common up here.
Sunday: Visited Slimbridge and enjoying Bewick, as well as of course many other species.
Monday: Driving home, stopped en-route to see the wintering firecrest at Barton Lane

So huge thanks to everyone for advice, managed to see cirl bunting, bewick swan and firecrest as three main hopes, plus lots of other great locations and birds as well.
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Old Tuesday 22nd January 2019, 20:13   #13
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Excellent, sounds like a tidy trip! Thanks for updating too, it's always nice to hear back to see how things panned out.
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