Saturday, 19 May 2018

Rye Meads

Cup final day usually means its a great day to be on the (quieter than usual) roads-in the past we would have a long day down in Devon, visit several sites and still be back home at a reasonable time. With a well publicised wedding as well today, it should have been great. Unfortunately I didn't have a good day yesterday so had to reluctantly call a halt to any plans, and hope that tomorrow would be ok.
I wasn't feeling too bad today so went to Tye Meads for a couple of hours. Since the Kingfishers have  fledged, it seems like everyone with a camera had the same idea and even by 9.30 the car park was filling up. We've had a couple of rather cold nights, but I was hoping to see some dragonflies and butterflies and maybe a migrant wader or two.
Draper scrape was very busy, Black headed Gulls everywhere, with a few Common Terns on the quieter patches of mud. Lots of Gadwall and Mallards of course, with a few Stock Doves in the barn owl box. There seem to be a few pairs of Lapwing here and elsewhere so hopefully they are nesting. Two Cuckoos were calling around the site.
The trail around the back of the reed bed and beside the Lea is open again, so its nice to have a wander around an area we don't usually get to see. A few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps here along with some Sedge and Reed Warblers-not as many as usual, which seems to be the case with many summer visitors this year.

I stopped at the Kingfisher hide for all of a minute-too crowded and noisy and carried on to the Meads where I sat in the warbler hide for a while. Took a bit of time but eventually one of the Hobbies put in an appearance though it kept it's distance. Outside I found a few Azure Damselflies and two male and one female Hairy Dragonflies.

The north lagoon has been filled somewhat presumably to aid nesting birds so there isn't much in the way of mud and rock for waders. However I did find a Common Sandpiper, and later two Hobbies appeared and were actively feeding on insects as several out of focus camera shots showed.

There weren't as many butterflies as expected. The commonest were Green Veined Whites-maybe ten, with a few Orange Tips, and singles of Brimstone, Holly Blue Peacock and Speckled Wood. Odontae were also scarce. Azure Damselflies were around in very small numbers, there was one Banded Demoiselle and one Large Red Damselfly. I would have thought that I would have seen a chaser of some kind and maybe a Blue Tail but it was still fairly cool by the time I left.

The other obvious things missing were hirundines-no Swallows, House or Sand Martins and no Swifts. The impression seems to be that large numbers failed to get out of Africa courtesy of bad weather in the Med and sand storms.
One curious sight was Alan Harris, a ringing bag and a rather large ladder. Thinking that maybe he shouldn't put the nets up so high in he reed beds, he explained  that they had been ringing Magpie chicks up a tree.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Bank Holiday pt2-Amwell

Still very warm and sunny on Sunday morning at Amwell. All the usual suspects were there of course.
Heard a Cuckoo on the way up to the crossing, and up to two were seen occasionally flying around. One seemed to do a circuit from the Bittern pool, flying over the view point down to the southern end of the lake and then (with a second bird) flying back up over the woods opposite. The only other new birds for me were five Common terns. One Redshank, one Little Ringed Plover and one Oystercatcher, plus the usual pair or two of Lapwings were the only waders present. Five Little Egrets were feeding around the lake edge. Raptors were a bit thin with singles of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Red Kite, and three Buzzards. Hobbies have been seen in the valley, so it was pity that none were present while I was there.
I spent a long time on the Hollycross boardwalk and managed to find three Large Red Damselflies (had one in the garden on Friday). Conditions looked good, but everything is still running late this year. Butterflies were a bit more noticeable, with a lot of Orange Tips and Green Veined Whites, several Large Whites, a few Peacocks and Speckled Woods, and one each of Brimstone and Comma.

Bank Holiday pt 1-Dorset

A long Bank Holiday weekend, and I kicked off with a trip to Dorset with Colin on Saturday.
Our first port of call was Longham lakes on the western side of Bournemouth. Having read up a bit on the site, parking and access turned out to be reasonably straightforward from the southern end. Got my first House Martins of the year here, over the gardens, and there were a few warblers singing in the hedges surrounding the fields. It didn't take long to pick out the sub-adult Bonaparte's Gull as it was the only small gull on the south lake. Unfortunately it stayed a fair way off, and despite the occasional flight it was hard to photograph due to the reed bed in the way. I spent a lot of time scanning the Tufted Ducks as  drake Scaup is also present but I couldn't find it.

I had hoped to visit Portland before now, as its had a pretty good spring, and we normally end up with a decent selection of migrants and residents. The sunny blue skies were not ideal though.
First stop as the car park a Cheyne Wears. Last year i discovered it was one of the few sites for Wall Lizards and the weather was ideal. Not many bird around, though we did hear a Garden warbler and a couple of Whitethroats. A few Swallows were flying over the cliff-hirundines were still coming in from the continent. I found a lizard on the cliff face used by the climbers, but it was a bit too far for the cameras, but luckily one was found in the car park itself. Lots of butterflies here as well-all Wall Browns.

Portland Bill was of course very busy with lots of day trippers and very few birders. West of Pulpit Rock, we found the usual assortment of Razorbills, Guillemots, Cormorants, Shags and Fulmars. No sign of any Puffins while we were there-assuming they still, exist here. A few Gannets were flying off-shore in the light winds. No Purple Sandpipers, but a lovely singing Rock Pipit was nice to see.

A walk up to the Top Fields was a a bit strenuous as the heat was building. Lots of hirundines going through, and several pairs of Linnets and Stonechats. Three Wheatears was good, but the Whinchats were a lot harder and we only managed to find one which wasn't approachable.

With the lack of activity and news we called it a day and headed off for home, with a diversion to Bentley wood mid afternoon. It was hoped that the warm weather would have brought out the butterflies, and a couple of Duke of Burgundies had been  reported. Unfortunately we didn't see much at all apart from Brimstones, Peacocks and Green Veined Whites. The Fritillaries were still a few days off by the looks of things.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

County tick-Stone Curlew

A sore throat arrived Thursday night, and by Friday had developed into a bad cold, so after a phone call to Colin, the weekend was cancelled.
This morning I was just about well enough to take Mum shopping, but by the time I got back I was feeling pretty rough, so rested for a while. Woke up from a doze just before noon, so decided to browse Twitter and my hear sank with the news that a Stone Curlew had been showing well at Norton Green. This was the third record for the site-I missed the second by 24 hours as I had deliberately searched for one early one morning, failed only to hear that one was seen the next morning! Naturally it had gone by the time I got there.
Feeling kind of ok, I decided to get down there anyway and hope that it was still showing. I found one birder-Murray Orchard,  and no bird. We scanned the last reported position and then decided to search the whole area having been joined by one of the guys from London. We had no success until Mike Illet was phoned and he gave us specific directions. It was a hell of a long way on the edge of a ploughed field and only popping its head up occasionally. 
I managed to get a very poor record shot as a few others arrived. Unfortunately nothing like Mike's images.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Bluebells and Warblers

I went for a walk around Aston End and along the river Beane this morning. As with the last couple of days, it was blue skies, sunshine and hot, but with a southerly breeze. We had a bit of rain overnight but it remained fairly dry underfoot, and the river, while flowing has dropped in level quite a bit since my last visit at the start of the month. I have no doubt it will be dry in the summer (its usually dry by now so its better than usual).
Warblers were conspicuous with lots of singing birds-two Chiffchaffs, at least seven Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and two Lesser Whitethroat. There were around six or more Yellowhammers, 17+Skylarks, 5+Buzzards, a pair of Sparrowhawks, a pair of Kestrels and three singing Greenfinches. Butterflies were out in force, Small Tortoiseshells were everywhere as were Green Veined Whites, and there were two Speckled Woods, two Brimstones and a male Orange Tip.
The usual wooded bank was looking good, with a lovely show of Bluebells. They seem to be almost at their peak at the moment, obviously the warmth over the last few days has really brought them on.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Amwell and Butterflies.

Its been rather hot lately peaking in the high 20's yesterday-not the ideal time to be working in the garden, but it had to be done. Had my first Small White and Holly Blue for the year so things are picking up. Spent  bit of time looking around the pond, but no sign of any damselflies, though it is currently heaving with tadpoles and there are also a few Pond Skaters.
Woke up this morning to hear a Willow Warbler singing in the oak tree outside-not a common bird where I live now unfortunately. It was very warm and sunny even early on, but fortunately not as bad as yesterday and it turned out to be a pleasant morning. I went to Amwell for several hours.
William was there of course, they had had a fly through Little Ringed Plover and a couple of Med Gulls (which have been popping in and out erratically for a few days). Apart from one or two Lapwings, the only waders were the Oystercatchers-now back to a pair. Lots of Black Headed Gulls of course, dominating the rafts and the bare spots on the islands. Not holding out much hope for the Common Terns when they arrive.
I went for a rather long walk, visiting all the hides for a change. Several Chiffchaffs still singing, there are quite a lot of Sedge Warblers in, and I located four Reed Warblers, and one Whitethroat. Three Cetti's Warblers and several pairs of Blackcaps rounded off the warblers. There is supposed to be a Lesser Whitethroat in, and earlier in the week a Grasshopper Warbler was present for a few hours.
No hirundines, only singles of Red Kite and Buzzard which was disappointing considering the conditions, but I did pick up another Treecreeper. The herons and egrets are pretty active with several nests on the go, and there are still a few Shoveller and Teal present.
Butterflies were the highlight today. Had a couple of Speckled Woods, two male Orange Tips, maybe a dozen Green Veined Whites and singles of Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. The trees are looking fantastic, with a lot of cherries/plums in flower and the maples and willows are peaking.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Ashwell Dung Heaps

I finally managed to get up to Ashwell today. It hasn't been all that great this year-one or two Wheatear, a few Yellow and White Wagtails and and an odd Rock or Water Pipit (no-one seems sure and as far as I know its not been photographed).
Unfortunately I was expecting sunshine, but what I got was overcast and misty conditions with a cold southerly wind. Most of the old heaps have gone-there is nothing left of the one between Ashwell and Newnham, and the one east of Ashwell near the dairy farm is now grassed over, leaving one big one on the road further north. Its not very pleasant either, thanks to the rain there are an awful lot of brown puddles on the road and my car doesn't look particularly nice (out smell) at the moment.
Over the course of about 45 minutes, I had at least three singing Corn Buntings, a pair of Linnets, a pair of Reed Buntings, lots of Skylarks, one Buzzard and one male Yellow Wagtail. Two other cars loads were present-Aubrey and his wife and another non-local who I haven't met before.

When i got home I spent some time setting up a table top studio as my Arum Creticum (Kew Form) is looking quite nice at the moment.