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.