Friday, 31 December 2010

End of the Year

Due to the recent ice and snow I have not been birding, since the priority has been ensuring Mum can get out shopping, and with the state of the untreated minor roads it has been pretty difficult. Any trip to a birding hot spot was pretty much a non starter.
The last few days at work were interesting in that the large corvid flocks were still being seen going to roost, and on several days Meadow Pipits were heard flying west.
The thaw started just after Christmas, and as I managed to get my usual collection of illnesses I have been largely immobile. Got my bins stashed by the window waiting for something special to come down to the feeders or flying over. Has not happened yet.
Apart from the usual stuff mentioned recently, the only garden visitor has been a Wren in the ivy covered fence. The three Blackbirds have finally started on the Cotoneaster berries-not that there are many.
Managed to get out this morning to clean the feeders, and while I was doing that, a couple of Skylarks were heading north-presumably they were displaced by the cold weather.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Snow is Back

The Northern Harrier has been seen again in the Titchwell/Thornham area. Had hoped to get up there this weekend but the sub zero weather has returned.
Took Mum shopping on Friday as the ground was very icy, and while we were out there were a few snow flurries. Yesterday all I managed to get was get a paper and pick up a prescription. The overnight temperatures had dropped considerably and there was a lot of thick ice everywhere. Difficult to get the ice out of the birds drinking trays and I watched a few hardy souls try to extract their cars from a thick crust. Mid morning, the first snow flakes started to fall, but most arrived early afternoon. With the strong winds it looked to be very unpleasant outside and this has led to some drifting.
Woke up this morning to find the garden covered in several inches of the white stuff. Its grey and overcast so I don't feel like it's worth trying to get pretty landscape images-if it was sunny that would be different. Stayed in to see what the garden would produce. So far it's as follows-
3 Collared Doves
2 Wood Pigeons
2-3 Blackbirds fighting over three Pyracantha berries.
1 Robin
1 Dunnock
6 House Sparrow
2 Blue Tit.
1 Starling.
Outside there are a lot of gulls again-Black Headed, Common and Lesser Black Backs. Big flock of Starlings at one point, but no Waxwings among them. In view of the large number of thrushes in the area had hoped to see some fly over, and also expected to see a few more tits.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A bit warmer this weekend

Had a call from my sister that when she walks the dog, they keep encountering a small silent Snipe, so yesterday morning I popped down with my camera hoping to get decent images of jack Snipe.
Called in at Amwell for an hour or so. A large part of the water is still iced up, but it was quite pleasant in the sunshine. The singing Cetti's Warblers thought so too-they seem to have survived the recent freeze. A single Egyptian Goose was about the best of the bunch at first, until I noticed a pair of Mandarin hauled up on the island. More exotica then ensued when the Harris Hawk put in an appearance again, soaring over the woods. Was a bit of a struggle but we eventually got on to a single redhead Smew before I left. Shortly after, Jan picked up a Mealy Redpoll again.
Arrived at Sarah's and after feeding the animals, we took Molly for a walk in the fields behind their house. The low lying areas were flooded and looked promising, particularly the tussocky stream, but despite searching the area, no Snipe. Found a large flock of Redwing adjacent to the A10 and there were a few Woodpeckers flying around.
Bringing the camera was not a complete waste.

This morning went for a walk along the river Beane. Encountered small numbers of Redwing, and the occasional Mistle Thrush scattered all over the area. One flock of Fieldfare numbered 35. Not much in the fields-no larks, pipits and very few finches, not surprising as the ground is still largely frozen.
Three Green Woodpeckers together was interesting, and the usual three Bullfinch were seen in the horse paddocks. Have not seen the Little Owls here for quite while.
Got a call this afternoon, the Snipe was seen again.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Strange morning at Amwell today.
Arrived to find the usual crowd, and an Egyptian Goose which flew off soon after. Spent a while failing to see the red head Smew in one of the bays and got distracted when Tony saw a wing bar wader fly down behind the reeds. Turned out to be a Dunlin-only the third for the site this year, and as I don't live there, my first for many years. It was joined by a Snipe, Grey Wagtail and one of two female Pintail. We assumed that that was the days highlight.
A while later I saw a 'buzzard' fly down to the trees by the main hide and disappeared from view. It had a small white rump patch. As one had been seen recently Jan realised it was a Harris Hawk, and it entertained us for some time as it was being continually mobbed by Magpies and crows. A sudden commotion nearby saw everyone scoping an odd mammal in the water. As a Stoat was known to be hunting in the area hunting it was assumed to be that, but it looked wrong (and pale). Mink was dismissed as was Otter and then someone worked out that it was a Rabbit. It made it back to the shore, where the Stoat was waiting (as was the Harris Hawk). Nobody fancied it's chances but it's fate remained unclear.
Came home just after noon to hear that a Mealy Redpoll had been seen by Jan just after I left.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Big freeze

Have not heard of any Waxwings in Stevenage since Saturday. Not sure if anyone is going out looking for them though, due to the weather.
The freeze started last weekend, after several days of overnight frosts, and a continual easterly or northerly airflow has seen daytime temperatures barely getting above freezing on the warmest days. Nothing unusual has yet appeared in the garden, plenty of food is being put out and there is water available. The usual dozen or so House Sparrows, Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves are still around, as well as a pair of Dunnocks, up to five Blue Tits and one or two Robins. Have occasional visits by Goldfinches which had disappeared for a long time-they have been feeding on Salvia seed heads rather than the feeders. Not sure about thrushes like Blackbirds as I have not seen any for a few days now.

Coming home from work over the last few days I have noticed large numbers of Jackdaws-many hundreds, apparently coming in to roost in the southern part of Fairlands Valley in Monks Wood. I have occasionally seen large corvid movements from the garden on summer evenings and assumed they were heading for the Leisure Park mainly because I see big flocks (though mainly Carrion Crows) there when I get in to work early.

Nothing much to get excited about nationally, though a rumoured Hawk Owl somewhere near Swindon recently will tempt me out if genuine. The Norfolk Northern Harrier has not been reported for a few days now-hope it is still around somewhere. Otherwise it seems that there are now three Bittern and at least one Smew at Amwell.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Another Waxwing Image


Got a message this morning of 22 at the top of Sish Lane, off Grace Way.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Long Weekend

Using up some holiday at the moment. First really cold night of the winter, and this weekend is not going to get much above zero, so may not be going far.
Spent an hour or so driving around the Pin Green area of Stevenage. There have been six Waxwings present in and around Mildmay Road over the previous couple of days. Did not find any, and knowing they were a bit flighty I checked the more traditional areas around Canturbury Way, again with no success.
Lots of Starling flocks to confuse the issue.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Nice day in Norfolk

 After last weekends dire trip, it was great to have a good day out on Saturday. Decided to ignore the delights of Manchester and it's Pied Billed Grebe (seen loads-they were year listing padders in the 90's) and the American Robin at Exminster, and hit the Norfolk coast.
 Drove through Ringstead and on to Chosely in the hope of picking up some thrushes. Quite a lot of Fieldfare on the hawthorns-all on Colin's side of the car and too flighty for his camera, and we found flocks of Red Legged Partridge too-again on his side. Not much at Chosely Barns so we carried on to Titchwell.
 Had a chat with Ray Tipper in the car park about the new (unopened) Parrinder hide-shows well from the barns and the Pallas's warbler, which had been around for some time.
 Spent some time in the car park and woods, but in the event, no Pallas's and not much else either so carried on to the marsh. Water levels were a bit high-plenty of Pintail and Teal, and a few Avocets lingering. Suddenly I noticed a Bonxie flying around the fresh marsh and this had the effect of putting everything up. It eventually dropped onto the water before moving on to one of the islands, and after a while went up again which is when I discovered I had not got the camera set up for flight shots.

Too low a shutter speed and having the shutter set to focus lock is not a good idea when things are close and moving fast. Neither is the 1.7 converter.
 One of the benefits of the brute scattering everything was a small flock of Dunlin flew off with two Little Stints among them. Rather late birds for this location.
 On the brackish marsh we soon found the flock of Twite which have been a bit of an attraction. Getting hard to find at the traditional coastal spots these days. Only three were close enough for the camera. A lot of Skylark, a few Meadow Pipits and two Scandinavian Rock Pipits were with them.

  The sea seemed quiet, in part due to the off shore breeze. Took a long time for the Common Scoter flocks to show themselves. Had a few Eider, Goldeneye and Mergansers among them. Single very distant Slavonian Grebe and an adult Little Gull. Few waders on the beach apart from the Sanderling.

On the way back the Bonxie was still around-Ray said that in the many years he had been at the reserve, he had never seen one on the fresh marsh. Got back to the visitor centre and did not take long to find a flock of Goldfinch, Siskin and Redpolls. One or two pale birds, but nothing that could be called Mealy. A single Brambling was associating with the Chaffinches.

 Spent the early afternoon at Burnham Overy, parked by the main road. Lots of Barn Owls floating around, always nice to see. Several Buzzards, including an interesting pale bird, but I never saw a Rough Legged though others apparently did. One very distant bird on the ground was where one of the Rough Legs had been seen to land but it was too far to make anything out. Several Marsh Harriers too. The apparent Northern Hen Harrier (Marsh Hawk) had been seen earlier but presumably had flown through.
Lots of Pink Feet and a few Barnacles among the more usual wild fowl.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Crap Day Out

Had a long weekend.
 Went for a walk around Aston End and along the river Beane Friday morning. Despite the recent winds, some of the trees and hedges look quite nice, but hard to find any berries-as mentioned a while back, a lot of hedges have been badly cut this year. Tried desperately to get some good images, but could not get a good composition with my available lenses.
Wildlife seemed a bit scarce at times, as the ploughed fields are greening up. Surprised to see a Red Kite drift down river-first I've ever seen here. Big flock of Grey Partridge in the horse paddocks, and a few small groups of thrushes as well. Around 25 Yellowhammer is big for this area too.
 Saturdays plan was to  go to the Norfolk coast via Welney and try and get a few extra year ticks especially as there were a few good photogenic subjects around.
 I woke up in the early hours feeling a bit rough, Colin arrived 20 minutes late thanks to extra diversions on the way, and some way into our journey he realised he had left his jacket behind. Kind of went downhill after that.
 Arrived at Welney around 0830 to find the Glossy Ibis was no where to be seen. Couple of people had been here since daybreak. Gave it a couple of hours, and had a lot of flyby dabbling ducks, some Bewick's, and a distant Marsh Harrier putting everything up on the reserve scrapes a mile to the north. Big flocks of Lapwing held a lot of Golden Plover. Eventually decided the bird may have gone courtesy of the rain and cold night, so headed off to the Cattle Egret at Guyhirn.
 Arrived, having found big herds of Bewick's in a number of fields to be told that the Egret had been seen briefly when the farmer had been in the field, but had dropped into  ditch. With a lot of the ground hidden from view, it did not look good, but after a long wait, and the constant blast of car horns the cattle decided to start moving. Thought this might bring the Egret into view but no such luck. Worse still, the Ibis was back on the road side pool, so we went back for it.
 When we got there everyone was back by the bridge. Apparently it had flown in from a long way north, settled by the pool and was feeding. Bunch of birders then descended and made so much noise it flew again. Stuck it out for another couple of hours, and apart from a large black bird flying into a reedy hollow a good half mile to our north we saw nothing. Early afternoon both Colin and I were starting to feel a bit rough so decided to give up and come home. Had not gone far when we got the message that the Ibis had been seen again. No idea if it was a distant speck or if it had come back to the roadside as we had no further messages.
 Sunday morning spent three hours at Amwell. Got rather cold. Strange to see that a lot of the ducks had gone as had all the geese. Small numbers of Wigeon, a few Teal and the lone rather grotty Pintail remained.   Some Siskin flew over, as did some Redwing. May have had other thrushes too, but most were distant.
Barry Reed arrived, having come back from the Irish Northern Harrier twitch. Not sure what he would have made of the later messages of a probable in Norfolk for the last couple of weeks. Went for a walk with William to try and warm up and went to visit the Red Crested Pochards-down to three now, as per last winter. Still no Goldeneye, but we do have a Bittern now.

Monday, 1 November 2010

American Bittern

Well we did it.
 Left at midnight Saturday, and got down to Zennor and found a place to park just off the road near the pools. Had about an hours kip before it got light.
 Joined the growing throng around 6.30am and stood on the roadside overlooking the gorse, rush/sedge beds and pool. It was rather chilly. We had a few birds over the next couple of hours-one Buzzard walking among the cows, assorted crows and some flyover Golden Plovers. LIke most of the crowd, started to get a bit despondent when it failed to show around 8 ish which seemed to be about the time it usually left the roost. Some thought it had gone, perhaps down to Zennor where there seems to be better habitat.
 Had a scan of the crowd and spotted Jan and William-they got down too late on Saturday, missed bird, including an amazing the Peregrine attack and had to find a place to stay overnight. Had a chat with them for a bit and carried on with the vigil.
 At just after nine, I went back to them and we watched a group apparently investigating the farm track and got a bit worried that they might go in. Luckily that did not happen and soon after the cows came down to the pool and through the rushes. As the Bittern did not fly, we assumed it had definitely gone and one guy-with almost unanimous approval (someone said if it was flushed he would not even look despite having spent loads of money on the long journey) went to the back of the pool to investigate.
 He had not gone far when the Bittern suddenly flew out-he was quite a way from the bird at the time. We all managed to get good views in bins and scopes. Even to the naked eye it appeared a bit smaller and thin billed, and the upper-parts were a lot plainer, paler and the wing trailing edges were also pale buff.
 Got a few shots with the 300mm lens, but had to use a high iso in the poor light.

It flew north, then circled round and headed back, and then dropped into a belt of short pines. Assuming it had dropped down in the filed we went to investigate, but saw nothing. With cows moving through the trees we assumed it had made it's way back to the pools, but just as we were leaving someone spotted it sitting in a tree. It moved back quickly and few got on it.
 Left just after eleven, and being a bit tired, decided not to call in elsewhere and headed home.
 Having just posted my images to Bird Forum, Lee Evans etc, I hear it has been found today on the Camel Estuary where some gripping images have been obtained.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

End of October

Never did get round to any updates over the last couple of weeks. Not that I did much with family up for half term and so on.
Last Saturday, had a report of 15 Waxwings Stevenage. No other details. Anyway got out for a couple of hours and explored the favoured spots, but no birds and no birders, so I headed off to Deadman's Hill as it looked good for raptors. Drove out to Coombe Road from Kelshall, and a Peregrine took off from a tree just in front of the car, but I lost it behind a hedge. Discovered hikers crossing the fields at Coombe Road so went to Deadman's Hill and joined a small group. We had a couple of Red Kites, Buzzards and Kestrels, but the Hen Harrier failed to show (mainly because it was two miles east of us at the time). With another Waxwing report with more detail-opposite Durham Road, I went back for another look. Bumped into William Bishop who had been there for a couple of hours, and we met up with most of the Stevenage locals. No-one had seen a thing all afternoon. Eventually we called it a day.
Sunday morning at Amwell was a bit quiet and I was not able to stay long anyway. Had a Marsh Tit and five Red Crested Pochards.

Today the plan was to be at Zennor Cornwall and see the American Bittern. With all the alleged flushing/chasing the bird on Friday over the moors etc and no sign after 10 am I decided to wait. Just about to leave for Amwell and it came on this morning but decided to carry  on with my journey. Heard that William and Jan reacted to the message and went from Amwell. Unfortunately no sign again from after mid morning.
When I got to Amwell, assumed that everyone else had gone as well, with no one in sight. Usual assortment of ducks and gulls, but still no Goldeneye or Bittern  for the winter. Was about to stretch my legs when I got a pager report of three Bearded Tits from the James Hide. Tony was just leaving and showed me a photo of a male. Found Barry and Dave upstairs and not long afterwards, three Bearded Tits (two males) put on a very good show. They remained for about fifteen minutes before flying to a distant part of the reed bed. Heard them occasionally but very faintly for a while, but I decided to go back to the watchpoint. Met up with Phil Ball recently back from an extended India/Sri Lanka trip and we were joined by Colin. Had two Kingfishers flying around for a while and just after noon, I heard pings again, and one of the males flew into the reeds just in front of us where it remained for some time.

Off to Cornwall tonight. Hopefully the Bittern will leave the roost at the usual time. Not much else down there though.

Friday, 15 October 2010


After a couple of damp days, decided it would be good to try and get images of fungi. Don't know many suitable woods in the area, but though that Broxbourn would be a safe bet.
Only in the woods a few minutes when I came across several fine bodies of Fly Agaric-one toadstool I can identify.

 Under the birches were many other kinds, but some were well past their best. I had hoped the bracken would be colouring up, but much of it has been cleared. The trees are still largely green, and though the birches and hornbeams were raining leaves they were not outstanding.
Called in at Danemead and got some of what appeared to be Field Mushrooms. Tried to get images of some of the tree stumps but none came out as well as I would like-still learning to get the best out of the flash.

On the way back, took a few images of Ermine Street which seems to be colourful enough.

Called in at Rye Meads for a few hours. Scanned the Draper scrape for one of the Garganeys that had been around, but no sign, so headed off to the north lagoon. Its been drained since my last visit and looks quite good.There were at least four Green Sandpipers and four plus Snipe. A pale distant sleeping duck caught my eye and once it woke up I could see it was a male Garganey yet to attain breeding plumage. Well known photographer Paul Hacket was around and had a chat and showed him the bird which was now swimming around.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Midweek Update

After a cracking end to Sunday, its back down to earth with a bump.
Spent Monday sorting out the images and trying to fight off a chesty cough that has been coming and going for the past week.
Tuesday looked quite nice for a raptor watch so headed off to Sandon/Kelshall. Took a very long winded route, avoiding closed roads and diversions everywhere. The countryside is looking very nice in the autumn sunshine. Eventually got to Coombe Road and stopped for a bit. Large herd of Fallow Deer in the lower scrubby fields, a couple of Buzzards but nothing else. Peregrine, Hen Harrier and Ravens have been seen recently.
Drove back along to Kelshall and found that Deadman's Hill road was shut, so came back via another diversion and drove down one of the supposedly closed roads I'd avoided earlier.
Wednesday was cool and dull. Went down to Fairlands Valley in the middle of the town. Used to visit regularly but it's only really worth doing on quiet weekdays. One Cormorant, and one Great Crested Grebe on the lakes. Not much in Monks Wood which is getting a bit overgrown-no coppicing taking place any more. Plenty of tits and crests, and Jays everywhere. Got another Nuthatch on the way back.
Down to Amwell in the afternoon. Bill was leaving and mentioned a few Tree Sparrows had been seen in set aside fields. Met up with the photographer Brian and a regular couple and as the watchpoint was not doing anything for us, headed up the old railway line, across the road and into the fields. No sign of the Sparrows, just a huge flock of Pheasant. A few corvids and Blackbirds were around, but even thought the hedge and woods seemed full of berries and seed we did not see any thrushes or warblers. Came back, and while Brian was shooting the hop vines over the Ash bridge, we watched a tandem pair of Migrant Hawkers.
Today is very cold, dull and drizzly. The chest is playing up again, but decided to try and clear things with a walk through Aston End and back up along the Beane. Six Redwings at Aston End. Most of the fields have been ploughed and rolled so plenty of bare earth for larks, gulls and pigeons. One portion of a very large field had eleven alba Wagtails feeding. Got the impression there was many more in the bits I could not see. Rest of the walk was a bit quiet but there are still a couple of Bullfinch down by the river.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Nice end to the day

The constant easterlies over the last few days brought in a lot of good birds all along the east coast, and megas seemed to be  coming up on the pagers all the time. Decided to do Norfolk on Sunday, as there would be plenty for us to go for.
Clear skies overnight said otherwise.
The Radde's Warbler had gone from Warham greens by the time we got to the coast and with the tide preventing access to the Stiffky Olive Backed Pipit (I did not twig what that meant..) so we stopped off at the beach road Cley. A scan from the bank produced the expected wildfowl, egrets and a hunting juvenile Marsh Harrier. No sign of the very elusive Hooded Crow.
Wit Shorelarks from the East Bank we headed there. Lots of people-no larks. Ran into an old friend who said they were very mobile. Sat down to do a bit of sea watching-couple of Gannets, Red Throated Divers and a late Sandwich Tern. Two Wheatear were nice to see. Best bird on Arnold's Marsh was the pretty close juvenile Spoonbill, and it's Little Egret companion.

With no news, very light winds and clear blue skies, we decided to call in at Walsey Hills. Seemed to be full of Goldcrests-obviously new arrivals, and a few Chiffchaffs. Couple of Siskin and Redwings went over, and a series of buzzy zews alerted us to fifteen Brambling dropping in. Tried to get photos but not successful.
Left at noon, and was heading to Holme when news of the Olive Backed Pipit came in, so managed to park at Stiffky. Assumed it would be along the coastal path in the trees-did not realise it was half mile out on the salt marsh. Tide was low, plenty of slippery creeks to jump, lot of mud to fall in, which I did, landing on my now very muddy camera. No harm luckily.
Managed to get very good views as the pipit crawled through the long grass and the gorse-have not seen one for years. Unfortunately the long grass hampered photography for me and I never got anything worthwhile. Colin did and left. I stayed for a bit, picking up a couple of Redstart, more Goldcrests and Brambling, and then got paged about a possible Isabelline Wheatear in Lowestoft. Returned eventually to the car, and it was now definite.
Took us 90 minutes, and the small crowd included Barry and Bill from Amwell, as well as Joan Thompson and Lee Evans. Royston Dave, and William arrived soon after us.
Spent over an hour watching the lifer feed among the old net poles on the North Denes, getting very good views. Another bird that has eluded me for years is now safely ticked.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Cold Amwell

The forecast today of cool with early mist was correct, but where was the warm sunshine we were promised? With the easterly wind, it made for a rather colder than expected visit to Amwell.
Did not seem very promising at first, though there were large numbers of duck and gulls on the water. Two Little Egrets were present all morning. I missed Yellowhammer and a Black Tailed Godwit that were present earlier.
Noticed that Snipe were very active, with one or two flying around all the time, and more coming in from the north. While Barry and Jan were on walkabout, William and I noticed several flocks of Redwing coming over from the east, and this was to feature for the rest of the time I was there. I would imagine that well over a hundred birds went through, and with the low cloud, we probably missed many more. A few Song Thrush were heard, but no Fieldfare or Mistle.
A few more Siskin flying around still, and one or two Grey Wagtails, some Skylark Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails went through as well.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Autunm Walk

Another fine sunny day, following a cool night and days of rain. Hoped the conditions might be good for autumnal colour and or fungi, so decided to go down to Aston End and the river Beane.
Only thong that seemed to be happening as I set off was a westward movement of Skylarks. Hit the conifer plantation and found a few tit/crest flocks, a singing Nuthatch and at the southern end a couple of heads of what I presume to be shaggy ink cap.

Should have moved the obscuring leaf.
Out in the lanes and fields it was pretty boring at first, but things picked up as I went down to the ford. A distant ploughed field had a fair number of Black head and Lesser Black Back Gulls. A loud hoeet at the river sounded Redstart like at first, but turned into another Chiffchaff.
Not much sign of colour-a few of the Field Maples and Dogwoods are starting to turn, but it looks like a lot of the hedges have been cut recently, so berries and Spindle look to be in short supply.
Crossing the fields down to the footpath bridge I encountered a large flock of Meadow Pipits along with more Skylark. A bit of a surprise, since it was late morning was a calling Tawny Owl, and this was followed by another singing Nuthatch. Two or three Bullfinch in the area as well. No sign of the local Little Owl though.
In the longer grass of the set aside and field edges Roesel's Bush Crickets seemed to be abundant, and very visible for a change. Too far away for the macro lens and I never managed to net one either.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Holiday starts

My autumn holiday started today. With the prospect of heavy rain in the morning, I decided not to go out, and waited in for a new pair of waterproof trousers (Stealth Gear and very nice they are too). Would have been handy on the Blakeney twitch but better late than never. Signs are warm, dry easterlies for the next week so they wont get much use yet.
While waiting, the damp morning was very productive in the garden, with two Coal Tits coming to the feeders for several hours. Nearest conifers some way off, so we don't see them all that often. Was blown away when one came down to the feeder and was chased off by a Chiffchaff. Hear them occasionally in spring, and most common warblers have been seen in the garden but they are very rare. Does make me wonder what passes through when I am at work.
Lay in wait with the camera, and got a reasonable sequence of the Coal Tits through the window, but the Chiffchaff never came back to the feeders, preferring the Rowan and Purple Elder at the end of the garden.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Amwell Saturday

Spent a very nice morning at Amwell. Started off a bit misty, but that lifted and we had one of those pleasant sunny autumnal days.
Arrived to find a large flock of Swallows over the horse paddocks, and ticking Robins along the path. Met up with Jan and Bill, with Barry arriving later. Over the next three hours we had a lot of Skylark and Meadow Pipits go over, along with a few Linnets, wagtails plus my first autumnal Siskin and Redpoll. Plenty of Jays gathering acorns, a lingering juvenile Hobby, one or two Kingfisher and great views of a Cetti's Warbler added to the day.
Someone found a late Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes which we tracked for a while-I also got a few butterflies eg Comma, Red Admiral, Small White  and dragonflies like Migrant Hawker and Common Darter. Bill and I also saw a large Hawker-presumably a very late Southern.
In between the visible migration, and watching the ducks and gulls we swapped horror stories of the Blakeney twitch and the putative Baikal Teal in Essex.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Blakeney Point

Horrible day today, doing the three mile each way trudge up Blakeney point. Was not bad at first, just a bit windy, but not long after I got to the plantation, right at the end, drizzle turned to horizontal rain, the wind picked up and eventually spray and sand added to the mix.
All for something we cannot identify.
Yesterday, and Empidonax Flycatcher was found. Initially Alder/Willow/Least, then the latter was dropped and Acadian added to the mix before it was decided that it looked yellowish, so it was definitely Yellow Bellied. American comments on the photos suggested otherwise and by this morning we were back to the Trail's pair Alder and Willow. Having seen the Cornish bird two years ago which was almost certainly Alder (but the record is now being assessed) there was a bit less urgency but we had to go just in case.
Did not see many birds on the way up-various large gulls and Kittiwakes, Reed Buntings and a few flyby waders. Got to the plantation not long after 1130, and got a few glimpses of the bird moving around the sallows and sycamores. Set the camera up and waited. A Little Bunting dropped in, sat on top of a tall bush and then vanished. Did not see it myself. Did see a warbler, which may have been Yellow Browed, but only for a moment.
The Flycatcher proved elusive as the conditions deteriorated, but I did get a very good view before the rain got too heavy.No sign of any yellow to me, and it did look very much like the Cornish bird.
One or two Blackbirds and thrushes were seen on the way back, but conditions were so bad I could hardly see a thing.
Everything is wet-shoes clothes, camera you name it. Not a fun day.
Could not face going to Wells Woods for a Bonnelli's Warbler-supposed to be Western which I've seen anyway.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Colins Arctic Warbler

Colin managed to get a couple of decent images on Saturday

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Unblocked at Last

Have been watching the reports from Norfolk over the last few days, mainly because the NOA ringed an Arctic warbler recently, and it has been seen daily since. I've dipped three times over the last fifteen years.....
Arrived at Holme at nine and the pagers said no sign, but luckily a report soon came in. Parked in the NOA car park and had a quick chat with Jed before heading off to the pines and joined the small crowd. Viewing turned out to be very tricky, with the birds staying high up in the pine trees, and a rather strong wind. Managed to get a glimpse of the bird before it flew off-something which we became accustomed to over the next hour or so. The best view I got early on was of the rear end of the bird directly overhead and then it got rather frustrating with shadows deep in the trees from the top of the dunes by the old sea watching hide. Some people got cracking views and others only a few feet away got nothing.
Things went quiet for a bit, with the bird apparently skulking high in a dense pine for a long time, so I was rather shocked to see it appear in an open bush only a few feet from me-I got all the features, supercilium, wing bars, pale feet the lot. It remained in view for a few minutes, working its way through before flying off again. Never did get a picture though.
Called in at Redwell Marsh on the way back, and spent a pleasant half hour in and around the hide. Plenty of hirundines feeding over the pool, including several Swift. The main reason for visiting was the Red Necked Phalarope which, like the Arctic Warbler has been here for a few days. It stayed rather distant, and for a spell was pushed to the back of the pool by some geese, but eventually flew fairly close to us.

Spent a lot of time with the other photographers trying to get the hirundines and duck flying through.

We eventually left and went to Titchwell. The main path has just been opened as far as the island hide. Lots of waders on the lagoon, mainly Ruff and Black Tail Godwits. Single Knot and Greenshank were present, but the main target was the small flock of Little Stints associating with the Dunlin and Ringed Plovers. Every now and again they would come quite close to the hide.

By far the rarest bird of the day was something we have seen lots of over the years, but this one was rather special. A flock of Spoonbills had been present early on, but departed leaving a single juvenile bird. This bird was almost certainly one of the ten fledged at Holkham in the summer, and therefor British bred.

Will be interesting to see how they will do over the next few years (and whether Glossy Ibis will be next on the list).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Its September

Its September at last, the East Coast (well a bit of Yorkshire) has had some excellent rarities, and I stay at home and stick to my local patches. Actually, as Colin is busy all weekend, and as I have seen Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (plus loads of Booted, Barred Warblers etc) there is no real desperate need to go anyway.
Had Friday off again, and spent an hour in the morning at Norton Green. Met up with a couple of more regular visitors, but we did not see much. A Red Kite over the gypsy camp was about the best bird, and there are still a few warblers such as Whitethroat and Blackcap around. Swallows were moving south and lingering over the tip-I had a total of 30 while I was there.
Decided to go to Telegraph Hill for some vis mig, but the lay-bys were full so I just drove round for a bit, encountering more Red Kites up near Shillington.

Saturday morning was spent at Amwell. Did quite well in terms of species counted, as a few Teal and Wigeon were in, and there are now a lot more Shoveller, Pochard and Tufties. Large Gulls are also appearing, with Herring and Great Black Back present.  Went for a walk across the Hollycross Dragonfly trail, encountering a few Migrant Hawkers, Common Blues and Common Darters. Marsh and Coal Tit were heard as well.
At the watchpoint, spent much of the time chatting to Jan and William, and we had a surprise bird in the calling Nuthatch which eventually flew out of a tree and over the water. We also had flyby Grey Wagtail, juvenile Hobby and Common Sandpiper.

This morning I thought I'd try Aston End and the river Beane in the hope of finding a Redstart again. Did not see one, in fact did not see much at all. It was a bit windy, and very cloudy, and all I saw in the way of possible migrants was single juvenile Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. The only unusual sight was a flock of 30+ Linnet.
Took the camera with me, and the flash with a view to trying it out on autumnal leaves, berries and so on. Did not see anything worth taking until I got to the old willow where I had found it encrusted with Sulpher Polyphore. This year is not as good, as the best bit was high up and obscured, but a small patch looked nice. The flash was a bit of a disaster, with the 'fill in' totally wiping the subject out. Eventually found a setting of around 1/64th that seemed to work by enhancing the texture without compromising the overall look.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

BankHoliday Part2

Over the weekend, the wind forecast was beginning to look rather promising, with strong north westerlies in the north sea through Sunday evening and into Monday. This prompted some discussion on the forums, and on that basis, I decided that as we had not had a decent sea watch all year, that Sherringham would be a good idea.  While at Amwell  I had also talked it up sufficiently and  Jan and William also made plans.
Colin and I arrived at 8 am, and it looked pretty good with a fairly strong onshore wind. The main shelter was full, and most of the other places were packed too. I managed to find a spot with another guy on the sea front itself, which, while standing was completely out of the wind, but rather low down.
Initially it seemed to be predominantly Gannets and Kittiwakes , and most seemed to be rather more distant than anticipated. Now and again, terns were flying by, both Commic and more frequently Sandwich. At least two definite Arctics were seen early on. It took a while, but eventually a few Bonxies put in an appearance-usually in small groups, though I did at one point have seven in view. Arctic Skuas appeared later in the morning, and often lingered on the sea waiting to harry the terns. One of four looked rather pale and grey, but although two Long Tails were claimed, I don't think it was one.
Three Storm Petrels were seen, but not by me, and by the time I was able to get a higher vantage point and scan specifically for them, the action started to die down. Most of the (few) shearwaters I saw were very far out, and only two or three Manx could be safely identified. Similarly Auks were very distant. Ducks and waders were more obliging with parties of Eider, Common Scoter, Wigeon, Teal, Dunlin, Sanderling and Oystercatchers passing by.
Not the best Bank Holiday sea watch (and we have had quite a few in Norfolk over the years) but a pretty good three and a half hours.

We headed off to Cley (as did Jan and William) and we met up on Blakeny Point some way west of the car park and joined the small crowd which was hoping to see the Short Toed Lark. It had been seen earlier in the day, but had gone missing some hours previously. Despite waiting, and an organised flush it did not put in an appearance until long after we had left.
Colin and I headed off to the North Hide to see some of the Spoonbills, but we had only got to the Eye Pool when I saw one flying off west over Cley village. We got decent views-Colin got a photo of it flying over the church tower so decided to head to Pats Pool instead.
We spent some time on the waders-a large flock of Dunlin and Curlew Sandpipers were constantly flying around. Also one or two Spotshanks and Whimbrel flew over, and Godwits and duck were present in some numbers.

Just before we left aSnipe dropped in.

A juvenile Red Backed Shrike up the road just east of Walsey Hills was tempting and we joined the small throng. It proved to be rather distant in the bottom of a hedge but the views were good. Reports of Redstart at Walsey Hills was a good enough reason to visit, yet the first person I met claimed to have only seen a Pied Flycatcher. All we could manage were squeaking juvenile Chiffchaffs, two Whitethroat, a Blackcap and a few tits.
Called in at Weeting on the way back home, on the last day the centre was open. Unfortunately it has been one of those periodic years when Ragwort has been abundant, and the last three Stone Curlew remained hidden from view.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Bank Holiday Part1

Took the car in for its M.O.T and service on Friday. In the evening heard of five Whinchats and two Wheatear at Norton Green.
Decided to go down first thing Saturday, but the northerly breeze and the clear blue sky suggested it would be unsuccessful, and as it turned out, I was right, everything had cleared out. The only compensation was seeing about a dozen Buzzards in the air, with three coming very close at times. For once, I had my camera.
 A few warblers were found-several ticking Blackcaps and two or three juvenile Whitethroat, and a single House Martin went over.
Decided to drive over to Sandon since I had the camera, but the Red Kites proved elusive. Did not see any Harriers.

Today I went down to Amwell. The pits were alive with martins and it seemed the composition varied through the morning. House Martins predominated over the paddocks, while Sand were abundant over the main water, but every now and again a cluster of House joined them. Seemed to suggest that small parties were continually moving through. Strangely, only a few Swallows were seen all morning.
Bonus bird of the day was seeing two Swifts-probably my latest Herts records as my local birds went three weeks back. One had a deep forked tail, prompting Phil Ball to suggest a 'probable melanistic Pacific Swift'.
The local Hohby's were taking full advantage of the feast and were frequently coming close to us. Only one Buzzard and a few Sparrowhawk were seen as conditions were not ideal for soaring.
A few interesting ducks again. Jan mentioned seeing a Mandarin, but it was out of view all morning. Not a problem as a male and two females flew in around eleven. Diving duck tend to be scarce in summer with only a few Tufties, but three Pochard flew through at noon.
Apart from Lapwing, there were only two Common Sandpipers to add to the day's wader list.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bird Fair Hangover

Did not plan on doing anything on Saturday-after a long tiring day out I sometimes need a bit of time to recover, and there is the usual lack of anything on the pager to tempt us out.
I did go down to Amwell in the morning-the regulars were out in force today. William had been for the Northumberland Sykes so that provoked some discussion, as did his cancelled Scillonian Pelagic. A number had also been for the Kelling Lesser Grey Shrike and this of course prompted one or two recollections from the old timers about dim and distant twitches-like mine from 1994.
Despite the vast expanse of mud, few waders seem to be present-a couple of Common and Green Sandpipers seemed to be it until two Snipe popped up. There had been a Greenshank in the week. Duck numbers seem to be on the slow increase, though the only new birds seemed to be Shoveller. There have been up to four Mandarin, which is pretty unusual for the reserve, and one sleeping female remained. A few terns remain, and also Black Headed Gull-among them was a first summer Yellow Legged Gull. Hirundines are still around-I missed a large flock of House Martin, though I did see a few Sand Martins go through, and Swallows still remain.
Big problem for me is that just after I got there my back went, even though I was just leaning against the fence. Had to call a halt to the visit after a couple of hours as it was getting too uncomfortable. Spent the rest of the day reading the new books and trying to work out how to use a flash gun-32 years of photography and I have never had one before. Turned out to be bolt it on the camera and press the shutter. Worked even with my all manual, no cpu Zeiss.

Today the back is a bit better. Had a potter round the garden and finally managed to net one of the grasshoppers that have been so hard to capture. Apparently I have Field Grasshoppers.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Bird Fair

Just back from a day at the Rutland Bird Fair, and as usual had a great time.
Weather forecast over the last few days did not look good, but in the end it was generally warm, with cloudy spells and a few brief showers. Did get rather warm and humid in the marquees though, especially towards the end of the afternoon.
Spent a fair bit of time early on checking out the optics-I am looking out for a pair of close focussing lightweight bins. Used the Leica Ultravids as a basis, in particular the 8x32, though I quite liked the 7x42 and 10x50's even though neither would be called compact, but they both felt good in the hands and suited my eyes. The most interesting though was the Swarovski 8.5x42 Swarovisions. They have had a mixed reception, with a lot of people complaining about motion sickness. Did not experience that in my brief test, but I was extremely impressed with the handling and the performance. I think they are currently my favourites. Would have liked to have tried the new Nikons but they were in a cabinet and not available for testing.
Picked up the usual selection of leaflets and brochures offering all sorts of trips, holidays and so on. Ended up with two new books-the latest Lewington Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, and Duivendijk's Advanced Bird ID Guide (not exactly light reading, but looks to be useful). Bird Life were actually giving away some of their publications and I got Raptor Watch-gave them a fiver as I was almost out of money by then.
Stopped off for the usual laugh of Just a Linnet in the lecture Marquee, but everything was over running so there were a few technical problems. Did not like the way the marquee was shaking in the wind.

One new toy-I finally have a flash gun, a week too late but there you go. Took advantage of the show prices to pick up an SB900 with almost £100 pounds off.

Did a little bit of birding. While on the Zeiss stand we picked up a distant raptor-grabbing a spare scope we had decent views of one of the Ospreys, which have tended to frequent the southern arm of the reservoir. Usual selection of ducks and geese-loads of loafing Egyptians soon to be as abundant as feral Canadas and Greylags I think. A few terns were Common-with Blacks turning up inland, I was hoping to pick one or two up. A Whinchat from the Anglian Water Centre, and a couple of Common Sandpipers were the only migrants I could find. Lots of hirundines still, mainly Swallow and Sand Martin from what I could see. The Tree Sparrow hide had, as usual no Tree Sparrows, but lots of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Pheasant. A Marsh Tit was a bonus and a nice surprise for many.Single flyby Hobby and Red Kite and Kestrel on the way back were the only other raptors noted.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Local Stuff

Another quiet weekend with northerly winds and cloudbursts to contend with.
Not too bothered by the latter as I have been doing more work in the garden, and despite the amount of rain we have had, the soil is still quite dry once you get down a few inches.
I appear to be feeding around twenty House Sparrows at any one time-they have had a very good breeding season it appears. Wood Pigeon is on a nest in the (last week) heavily pruned Bay tree still, and there are a couple of new juvenile Robins visiting. Not sure if the Goldfinches have had another brood, or wether I am seeing the young birds that first visited several months back. The Rowan is now full of berries so the Blackbirds and Starlings are tucking in.

On Saturday, the dilemma was wether to go travelling with Colin, get wet and probably not see much, or stay in the county and still get wet without seeing much. Chose the latter.
Violet Helleborines have been in flower for a while, with a site in Lincs being recommended. They are supposed to be in Box/Pryors Wood in Stevenage anyway, but we decided to go to Bricket Wood as this is the prime Herts site. Never been there before, and although it appears in the local birding books as a good site, I had a lot of trouble getting information on the orchids. As a result we turned up not knowing where to go.
Spent a couple of hours walking round-its a nice area of remnant heath and broad leaved woodland, but we never did find any orchids. Got a bit wet though.

With the forecast for the day of heavy rain from noon, plan B was implemented and we went to the nearby Butterfly World. At least we would be warm and dry.
Decided to wander round the various gardens that had been laid out by a number of designers. A few of the conceptual designs were a bit off the wall for what were meant to be wildlife friendly gardens, but some were entertaining. Gave me some ideas about plant associations that I might try. Not much insect activity though, as it was a bit cold and overcast. The big surprise was that wasps were very attracted to some of the Persicarias and also the purple heads of Angelica Gigas. Trying to get decent images hand held with the limited depth of filed of my Zeiss 100mm were very tricky as I did not have much light to play with. Got a few though.

With showers approaching we hit the tropical house and then had to spend five minutes waiting for steamed up glasses and cameras to acclimatise. The light inside was not good, and without flash it was a case of trying to keep to a decent shutter speed and aperture while using iso 400-800. Even so, 1/160 to 1/250 at F4 was not enough and many images were under exposed by a couple of stops-salvagable but not nice. I need a D3s. At least ten species were on display and it made change to see some of the exotics. Dont know what all of them were, as the display boards seemed a bit out of date but here is some sort of Swallowtail.

Over the course of the next year, a 100m biome is being built, which will house butterflies, Humming Birds and other tropical animals. Will definitely be going back.

We  dodged a number of very sharp torrential downpours on the M25 and called in at Danemead on the way home. A number of tit flocks were encountered, containing Blue Coal and Great, plus a few Treecreepers. Two or three Crossbills flew over and their calls appeared to cause a Nuthatch to respond which was confusing for a moment. On the north side of the reserve, by the stream, I found a small group of Broad Leaved Helleborines. Most had gone over, but one seedling had a single fresh flower, and another large spike was fading. A single Southern Hawker over the small pond, one Common Blue butterfly, one Meadow Brown and a couple of Speckled Woods were the only insects noted.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Quiet couple of weeks.

Have not posted for a bit.
Unable to go out last weekend due to other commitments.
Not much happening this weekend-autumn migration is under way, but as yet there is nothing worth spending a fortune in petrol. There have been one or two odd reports of Southern Emeralds and a Yellow Winged Darter at Winterton, but no follow up as I write. News on late flowering orchids is also limited, though the dry summer has had a big impact in some areas.
Had Friday off to get some tyres and work on the garden. While waiting in Stevenage Old Town, a few Swifts were feeding. The first few days of August sees the local birds heading south, so any later sightings are a bonus. Afterwards, I went up to the Sandon area. At Dead Mans Hill, there were a lot of big raptors, though most were a bit distant in the heat haze. Two Red Kite, one Marsh harrier and four Buzzards were identified. I had a drive around and went down the Kelshall road where the Kites were seen again-one came down in the road onto a dead pigeon. I got within 20 feet-no camera of course.  Four juvenile Marsh Harriers were seen from Coombe lane in one of the fields and I came across a family of Kestrels.
Working on the garden in the afternoon (having visited the local Pioneer Nursery-50% off everything and fatal for my wallet) I heard a number of Swifts go over the garden, and among them were several House Martins. Believe it or not the first House MartinsI have seen from my garden for two years. Used to be a common sight in summer too.
Saturday involved more work. This time it was a couple of parties of Swallows in the morning and a large northward movement of Black Headed Gulls late afternoon. One bonus was the two Holly Blues among the resident Gatekeeper and Small Whites.
Today I went down to Amwell in the morning. Pretty quiet still. Two Common Sandpipers were the only passage birds though I got the feeling that some of the Swallows were heading south. Two Sparrowhawks were the only raptors for some time until a pair of Kestrels went up, along with single Buzzard and Hobby.
Decided to go for a wander with  resident photographer Brian Hewitt and look for dragonflies. The usual stuff was seen, but numbers seemed a bit low. The only abundant species was Common Blue, and Common Darter was  a long way back in second place. Single Emperor and Banded Demoiselle, Brown and Migrant Hawker plus a few Blue tails and Red Eyes and only one Small Red Eye.
Lots of Buddlea  in flower but few butterflies feeding on them, in fact apart from Speckled Wood and Small Whites we only saw singles of Small Heath, Comma and Red Admiral. Got back to the watchpoint and the lack of excitement was obvious. Hopefully things will pick up soon.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Southern Migrant Hawkers

News broke late last week that a number of Southern Migrant (or Mediterranean) Hawkers in Essex on the 20th were in fact at Hadleigh Castle Country Park. Being in need of something to twitch, Colin and I made our way there yesterday.
Unfortunately we met a couple of guys in the car park who had maps of the site and knew exactly where to go, stating that the directions on the message boards were incomplete. As a result we had a very long walk along the estuary moorings, the wrong side of the railway line. Seeing that they had cocked up, a very pissed off Colin and I retraced our steps and eventually got onto the right path. (The dickheads turned up about an hour later, god knows where they ended up).
Nothing much happened for a while as it was rather cloudy-the temperature was ok though. I ended up in a ditch searching for Scarce Emeralds, and was just getting the camera set up when there was a shout from the main pool. Apparently a Southern Migrant had flown low over the grass and had dropped down into the reeds/sedge in front of us. It did not show again.
Meanwhile a number had gone off exploring-Colin returned with an interesting all blueish hawker on his camera screen so we went and had a look. Turned out to be a dull Migrant Hawker that the camera screen had rendered in such a way that the yellow triangle had gone a bit blue grey in the poor light.

I got my scope on it so everyone had a good look before going back to the main pool and ditch. Colin and I were directed to another pool full of Scarce Emeralds and we some time getting a few decent images-the light was still bad and there was a bit of a breeze at times.

I wandered off to start searching the nearby ditch when Colin gave a shout. A small, intensely blue Hawker had come down from the hillside trees and was flying over the pool. It did a couple of circuits, flying only a few feet from us before I lost it behind some Hawthorns. There was no trace of yellow on it and it could only be a Southern Migrant Hawker.
One thing is certain, it's flight over the water at or below head hight is very different to the normal high flying Migrant Hawker.
I managed to get everyone present over and told them the news. Not long after, and in quick succession an Emperor, a Migrant Hawker and the Southern Migrant Hawker appeared, but the latter did not linger. I believe most got pretty good views of it.
With noon approaching, and lacking food and drink we decided to make our way back to the car. There was a  quick diversion to what was suspected briefly to be a female Southern Migrant (it was not) and a search of the long grass for another all blue Hawker that had been seen briefly, but we were too tired to do much more.

After refreshment and rest, we came home via Hockley Wood and Thrift Wood. Both are Heath Fritillary sites which Colin visits, but I have never been to them. Too late for the Heath's (barring a very late flying individual), all we really saw were high numbers of Gatekeepers, some Common Darters, and a few Southern and Brown Hawkers. Migrant Hawkers were out in both woods, and at Thrift, the pond held some Ruddy Darters, one of which I caught in flight.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wood Sandpiper

A few days after my visit to Rye Meads, a Wood Sandpiper was reported. They are more or less annual in the Lea Valley, but except for those birders who virtually live there, it can be a tricky bird to see, and in 24 years I must be one of the few regulars not to have seen one. Solitary Sandpiper yes...Wood Sand no.
Even on autumn trips to Norfolk, I have a habit of not finding any, despite their frequency-last week ends trip being typical as several have been seen at Titchwell with the Buff Breast. In fact I have only managed to get one or two decent images over the years.
The Rye bird lingered through the working week, and as FRiday is a half day I kept hoping, and luckily it was reported again in the morning.
I got down at 1330 and discovered that it was a little way off in one of the small bays from Draper hide. Someone kindly pointed out that a few days previously it was seen very close...
The light was not all that great and I had to use the 2x converter to get decent sized images with the 500mm-later on the light did get better and I even stuck the 1.4x converter on too.

 There were several Green Sandpipers moving around-would have been nice to get both together but they did not oblige.
The juvenile Garganey is still present, but was a long way off.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Marsh Helleborine, Quail and a Monty's

Only just got round to sorting out Sundays trip images.
The plan was simple-hit Norfolk, pick up a few good birds and hopefully some insects and orchids too.
Titchwell has had a long staying adult Buff Breasted Sandpiper so it seemed a good place to start-before the heat haze got going, and also because it was the last weekend before they shut the main path.
Tide looked favourable, with lots of loafing gulls and waders to pick through. Large numbers of Ruff including some of the smaller Buff Breast lookalike females seemed to be the big problem, but it turned out to be a different wader that would cause most discussion. Small (ish) with a plain, fine, not at all 'scaly' feathering and a prominent pectoral band, realisation took a long time to sink in-only confirmed when another 100 or so similar Knot flew in. Bit out of practice.
Lots of Godwits, Avocet Oystercatcher and Redshanks of course, one Snipe and a few Green Sands. The gulls were not exciting, just Black Heads and a few Common and Herring.
No sign of the Buff Breast at all-we assumed it was hiding in the vegetation because of the rather strong offshore wind.
The sea was pretty dead of course, thanks to that wind, a few moulting Eider, three or four Little Tern, the occasional Sandwich and someone had a Gannet as well.
Not much happening on the Fen pools either, just a few Common Darters  and Blue Tailed Damsels.

We decided to go down and visit the 'secret' Montague's Harrier watchpoint that virtually everyone knows about. The RSPB signs and the warden sitting in the deckchair are useful clues.
Before we even got there, a slender rakish harrier flew over the car.
We managed to pull over and I got a few shots . Unfortunately when I got the images up on my computer, the lack of a white rump was a problem, so I counted the primaries-five. Damn. A fuzzy shot showed the dark brown body and cream head of a juvenile Marsh. One of those days I guess.
Still, we arrived at the watchpoint to hear that a female had been seen to the north, but had gone down. The vast flock of feeding Swifts proved entertaining, obviously feeding up over the fields before their departure in a couple of weeks. Lots of juveniles of course.

After about forty minutes and still thinking we had seen a Montague's we drove off, heading south west and after a mile or so an obvious ring tail flew over the car. Bit lucky there.

With Marsh Helleborine in flower on the coastal dunes, I had planned to visit Holme, or Holkham, but we headed off to Narborough Railway line instead. Did not take long to find several hundred spikes in the southern hollow.

Plenty of butterflies too, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Green Vein, Large and Small Whites, lots of Small and Essex Skippers, a few Comma's and Brimstone. Even one Small Copper and a Brown Argus. and there
were a few Common Darters and Brown Hawkers too.

Unfortunately the heat and humidity was building up to uncomfortable levels so we went back up to the old railway line to catch the breeze. Pyramidal Orchids were still fresh, and much of the special chalk flora looked wonderful. I spent some time in a sheltered area with the Harebells.

With time getting on we headed home, and called in at Deadman's Hill on the way. A quick scan revealed a large raptor but when I got the scope out, all I could see was a Kestrel. However not long after, a female Marsh Harrier popped up over the eastern ridge and then a Buzzard came up and mobbed it, before both dropped down again. Shortly after that excitement, I heard at least one Quail calling along the footpath in a filed of low Flax. I was able to get a lot closer, but despite the bird being no more than thirty feet away it never showed.  In all probability a second, more distant bird may have been calling as well.