A Travellerspoint blog


Day 25: Cotswolds to Lacock

semi-overcast 73 °F

Sorry, but this will be another relatively short post, and without pictures because of yet ANOTHER untimely camera malfunction. Today my family, Uncle John, and I basically drove from a small town in the Cotswolds to another beautiful rural English town called Lacock. Pronounced "LAE-cock."

It was a beautiful day of 73 degrees and partly sunny skies. Apparently, the northern suburbs of Chicago had SNOW a few days ago, which would be the first time in at least ten years when snow has been recorded in May, and one of the few times on record!

On the other hand, Chicago is going through its peak bird migration. I am having a common birding symptom called "Warbler Withdrawal," which happens when a birder misses the bulk or all of warbler migration (me).

Tomorrow will be our last full day on this trip. It will be devoted to touring around the area, including seeing Stonehenge from afar. Tonight and tomorrow night will be spent here in this beautiful village, and then we drive the London airport on Sunday and fly home to Chicago!

I have mixed feelings about returning home. It will be concluding our travels for this winter, which I am unhappy about, however, I miss many of my friends back in Chicago, and also I miss the WARBLERS, so thankfully I will be back for the tail end of warbler migration!

Because I neglected to give birding summaries for Turkey, Italy, and France, here they are (I will do my England birding summary tomorrow):

24 life birds
Best bird: Yelkouan Shearwater (globally threatened species)

7 life birds
Best bird: Citril Finch

15 life birds
Best bird: European Robin


Good birding and stay tuned,

World Life List: 664 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 14:13 Archived in England Comments (1)

Day 24: A Big Day of Hiking, Little of Birding

semi-overcast 73 °F

Today was our family's only full day in the beautiful part of south-central England called the Cotswolds. I took two hikes, one with the entire family and Uncle John, and the other only with my father. It was a gorgeous, partly sunny day with temperatures topping out at a "sizzling hot" (for England) 73 degrees.

The first hike was about three miles of walking in gently rolling farmland.

COMMON BUZZARDS were, well, common, through the day:

This YELLOWHAMMER was also nice:

The high point of the hike was summiting a beautiful hill that afforded nice views of the surrounding lush English countryside:


Then, after lunch back at our beautiful B & B on the outskirts of our town called Chipping Campden, my dad and I started on our long, relatively bird-less, but nevertheless beautiful five-hour hike. Birds seen and/or heard but not photographed were more COMMON PHEASANT, BLUE and GREAT TITS, as well as my two life birds for today: COAL TIT and GOLDCREST.

Two high points of the hike were...

1) Summiting a large hill with a great view:

2) Seeing this ancient tower up close:

Two low points of the hike were...

1) Missing the beautiful Red Kites which are supposed to nest somewhere near the tower pictured above.

2) Both of us getting pooped on by an invasive Gray Squirrel (from America). Not only is it disgusting to be excreted upon by a squirrel, but it is made even more humiliating by being pooped on by a nonnative squirrel.

Altogether, it was a nice day. Bird-of-the-day to my life bird COAL TITS and runner-up to the YELLOWHAMMER, the only bird of which I managed a decent photograph. No awards to the missing Red Kites.

Tomorrow my family and Uncle John will drive to Bath, in the far southern (I think) end of the Cotswolds (I believe we will stay there for three nights).

Well, good birding, I suppose.

World Life List: 664 Species (2 life birds today: Coal Tit and Goldcrest)

At this point I am doubting that I will reach my goal for this year: reaching 700 species on my life list by the end of May. However, with the combination of snagging the tail end of spring migration when I arrive home in Chicago, as well as some AMAZING birding trips I have planned for this summer, I have high hopes that I will reach 700 by the end of the summer!

Posted by skwclar 13:22 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day 23: London to the Cotswolds

semi-overcast 60 °F

Today my family and Uncle John traveled from downtown London to the rural Cotswolds. It was a beautiful day of 60 degrees and partly sunny skies.

After another breakfast at our Premier Inn (make sure to say that name in your best Brooklyn accent) in London, my family and I walked to the nearby Waterloo Station, met my Uncle John, and we boarded a one-hour train to Oxford.

Shortly after noon we arrived in Oxford and started touring around the Christchurch College of Oxford University. First, we visited this graveyard:

There were actually a few birds out at that point, such as this DUNNOCK (a species I haven't seen since New Zealand!):

As well as this EURASIAN MAGPIE, which perched on a tombstone for its photograph:

Also nice was a beautiful fly-over BLACK-HEADED GULL, of which I sadly didn't manage a photo.

Then, we toured through the campus. Here are a few architecture photos:

This Great Hall inspired the Hogwarts Great Hall; indeed, some of the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was filmed on this campus.

The adjoining cathedral was beautiful, as well:

Can you spot the Summer Tanager?

Then, we walked back into the center of town, picked up our rental car, and the five of us drove the one hour drive in our cramped car that smells acutely of diesel fumes whenever "third gear" (whatever that is) is enacted.

In the mid afternoon, we arrived at our lovely B & B in a small town in the Cotswolds, and our family enjoyed a quiet afternoon and evening around town. After dinner and trumpet practice, my mom, dad, and I took a beautiful walk through the countryside while my Uncle John stayed back to make sure that Pearl was safe. Here are a few photos from the walk:

A classic Cotswolds countryside scene:

The last noteworthy bird of the day was this federally threatened MISTLE THRUSH, which is always a pleasant find:

Bird-of-the-day to the MISTLE THRUSH. Runner-up to the DUNNOCK. It was a nice day.

Stay tuned, because tomorrow will be a beautiful, more laid back day spent entirely in the serene classic English countryside of the Cotswolds.

Good birding,

World Life List: 662 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 13:24 Archived in England Tagged landscapes churches art buildings people trees animals birds Comments (0)

Day 22: Finally...Real Birding!

all seasons in one day 55 °F

Today, as you can see from the title, was a very good [make that fantastic] day, with regards to birding. First of all, before I get to the "good part" of today, I need to summarize the morning, of course. It was a dreary English day, with mostly cloudy to overcast skies, temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day, and rain off and on.

After a quick breakfast at our inn, we walked along the Thames River to the re-creation of the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. Along the way, I found this LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL:

Then, we toured the theatre. Plays are held regularly here from April to October (not in the wintertime since it is open-air, of course), and the theatre is kept as traditionally as possible (from Shakespeare's time). It is the only wood building within a radius of three miles, since it is located in the center of London! We took a lovely guided tour led by a passionate, exuberant women.

Then, we walked across the Millennium Bridge (which was featured in the 6th Harry Potter movie) towards St. Paul's Cathedral. Here is a view of the modern bridge with the historic cathedral in the background:

From the bridge, I glimpsed probably my only view of the famous Tower Bridge I will have this trip:

Then, we met my Uncle John at the St. Paul's Cathedral and we all together toured the massive, beautiful Anglican cathedral.

No, we didn't visit the US Capitol Building:

After that, we split forces. Uncle John, my mom, and my sister Pearl, kept sightseeing in the city while my dad and I traveled out to the famous London Wetlands Centre. It is claimed to be one of the premier birding spots in the entire country, and it certainly lived up to its name. The preserve is a mosaic of marshland, open water, and bush, with its main feature being a lake with marshy patches, which acts as a MAGNET for aquatic birds.

Upon arriving, the common birds were established as:




NORTHERN LAPWING (life bird!):


RING-NECKED PARAKEET (introduced species):

I found this mixed flock of GREAT and LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS:

From one of the smaller birding blinds, I spied this reclusive LITTLE GREBE:

I also heard my life bird REED WRENS singing somewhere in the preserve.

The London Heathrow Airport is close to this preserve, so a few interesting jets passed overhead, such as this Emirates A380, of which I managed a surprisingly good photo:

Then, my dad and I continued to the Peacock Blind, a three-story bird blind located in a central position in the preserve, which means that you could see anything and everything from the top! It was the largest bird blind I have ever been in!

First, the locals pointed out the cliff that holds a nesting colony of SAND MARTINS (called Bank Swallows in America):

Then, I spotted this "fancy pants" bird, a COMMON REDSHANK!

It only got better from there. The local birders informed me that there were two rare species currently in the preserve: Little Ringed Plover and Black-necked Grebe (called Eared Grebe in America). Both of these species would be lifers if I would see them.

The kind birders and I started scanning the preserve in a particularly thorough manner, and within twenty minutes, we had found both rare species!

LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, which turned up surprisingly close to the blind (check out that funky eye-ring!):

And finally, this BLACK-NECKED GREBE, which is an even rarer bird here, was just close enough for a quick identifiable, but not artistic, photo:

The walk from the Peacock Blind yielded my life bird LONG-TAILED TITS:

Inside joke for Chicago birders:

Then, we spent a quiet evening including a fine dinner out with my uncle and some family friends.

It was an AWESOME day of the BEST birding so far this trip! Bird-of-the-day will be shared by the BLACK-NECKED GREBE and the LITTLE RINGED PLOVER. Despite the BNGR being a rarer species, I obtained a better photo of the LRPL; otherwise BNGR would have been the clear winner. Runners-up to the "fancy pants" birds today: COMMON REDSHANK and LONG-TAILED TIT.

Stay tuned, because tomorrow we travel to the Oxford area in the English countryside with my Uncle John.

GREAT birding,

World Life List: 662 Species, 7 life birds today:

(not in taxonomic order):

Common Sandpiper
Great Black-backed Gull
Little Ringed Plover
Common Redshank
Black-necked Grebe
Long-tailed Tit
Little Grebe
Reed Bunting

Posted by skwclar 12:57 Archived in England Comments (1)

Day 21: A Beautiful Day in London

all seasons in one day 65 °F

Today my family and I had a better day touring around the beautiful city of London, England.

We started off the day at our hotel buffet and then walked to the Churchill War Rooms Museum, which was mildly interesting.

On the walk there, we had a great view of Big Ben and the Parliament Building:

I also saw a few birds, including these:

Female WHITETHROAT, life bird:

CETTI'S WARBLER, another lifer:

Then, while the rest of my family waited for the "Changing of the Guard" (we were ten minutes early), I went birding for ten minutes at a local park I had spotted on the way. In those ten minutes, I saw many, many species, including the following:

GREYLAG family:


Adult EURASIAN COOT feeding its chick:

EURASIAN MOORHEN, a relative of the coot:


Male HOODED MERGANSER, apparently rare here:

Them, we watched the spectacle of the "Changing of the Guard," where the equestrian guards of the Royal Family change in a very grand manner with much pomp and circumstance, including bugle calls!

Then, we walked back to our hotel lobby and met my Uncle John! It is so nice to have another familiar person accompanying our family, and Uncle Joh is a great travel partner. Cool fact: he has been on thirty-five cruises!

Then, we hopped on the local commuter train with him and rode out to the Hampton Court Museum, which was where the infamous Henry VIII dwelled for a good deal of his life. The great hall there was amazing:

Then, my mom allowed me to skip the second half of the tour (victory!), and let me go birding in the outside gardens instead (double victory!). I saw many great bird species, like the ones I photographed below:


EURASIAN JACKDAW, the most common bird in the park:


EURASIAN COOT on its nest:

I managed to snap a photo of this GREAT CRESTED GREBE, which only briefly poked its head up to look around between naps. I haven't seen this species since New Zealand!

I also saw an EURASIAN WREN, but sadly didn't photograph this frenetic little passerine.

There were many deer on the outskirts of the park, like this speckled fawn:

Then, I encountered the "Tale of the Heron and the Crow."

This GREY HERON was just minding its own business when--

--this evil CARRION CROW arrived.

The crow dove and attempted to fly into the heron, which always slightly raised its wings, gave a little leap, and honked, each time the crow got aggressively close:

Eventually, the heron succumbed to the crow's malevolent behavior and wearily took flight, only to have the crow right on its tail!

Then, we took the train back to our hotel and rested up a bit. After a nice dinner (although with obnoxiously loud, insipid pop music constantly blaring in the background), my mom and I rode The Tube to the local theatre to see the "new" version of the musical, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

It was a fantastic performance; although lacking a bit in the singing department; the special effects, acting skills, and new songs where very enjoyable and crowd pleasing. I was glad I attended.

Well, that ends the tale for today. Bird-of-the-day to my beautiful life bird Red-crested Pochard, with runners-up to my other life birds today:

Cetti's Warbler

It was a nice day. Stay tuned, because tomorrow will be our second and final full day in London, which will include a visit to the London Wetlands Centre, one of the premier birding areas in all of England! I am so excited!

Good birding,

World Life List: 653 Species (3 life birds today; see species above)

Posted by skwclar 15:42 Archived in England Comments (1)

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