Snow bunting on Leckhampton Hill

One of the reasons that birdwatching is addictive is that the lows and highs can follow in rapid succession. Yesterday I persuaded Dave Doughty and John Linney to join me on a trip to Lydney to see a cattle egret that has been hanging around the area for the last couple of weeks. We thought we were in luck when we arrived at the most accessible of the potential sites, and found a spry pensioner whose pager told him that the bird had been seen there that morning. Although he saw it fleetingly, it remained hidden from view – so we decided to look for a way to get to the other side of the lake for a better look.

While failing to find a route through a nearby industrial estate, we chatted with the elderly gentleman – and soon found ourselves listening to a remarkably intrepid character. It turns out that Edwin Shackleton holds the world record for flying in the most number of different types of aircraft as a passenger (241). This included a day trip to Cairo via Concorde (the cheapest way to fly on it): door-to-door from Filton, it took him 25 hours, with a trip to the Pyramids in the middle.

Dave and I eventually found a route to the far side of the lake – starting at the harbour, along a rather convoluted set of paths. A couple of locals directed us along the way; “follow the track to the buildings, take the path to the right, go across the marsh and you’ll get to the end of the lake”. We found the marsh – and it absolutely stank! But when we got to the lake, there was no sign of the egret. As we waited, a couple of men from the Wales & West Utilities company arrived, looking for a gas leak – so we directed them to the marsh.

Today I saw on the Gloster Birder forum that a couple of snow buntings had been seen on Leckhampton Hill this morning. As this was just a 40-minute walk away, I realised that I had to go – especially as the weather was good. I reached Hill Farm, and began to scan the area – seeing very little. I went round the outside of the farm buildings, hearing the occasional chirp and nothing else. A few skylarks flew up and trilled, and I told myself to be grateful to see their display.

Snow bunting on Leckhampton Hill

As I walked towards the car park, I was bemoaning my lack of luck in birdwatching over  the past ten days. I glanced down at the path and there, a few feet in front of me, was a snow bunting! It flitted off briefly when some dog walkers went past, but then for twenty minutes I watched it grazing along the side of the path. It was  untroubled by my lurking with a camera and allowed me to get some decent pictures. After the failed egret trip, this was a spectacularly good viewing of a lovely bird.

Snow bunting on Leckhampton Hill (2)

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