Monday, 27 June 2011


Have not done much over the last week or so for various reasons.
Went out yesterday afternoon up to Sandon and Kelshall, to search for Quail-none have been reported in the area yet. There have also been a few raptor reports to follow up on as well.
Turned out to be very hot, but with a bit of a breeze. No sign (sound) of any Quail in any of the usual areas. Around four Buzzards in the Deadmans Hill area, as well as a couple of Kestrel.  A family party of two Kestrels with two young along Coombe Road. Lots of Yellowhammer, Skylark and Swallows, but no Corn Buntings which is a bit unusual. Also encountered a Yellow Wagtail, and one or more Lapwing in a ploughed field.
Lots of Meadow Browns, and Whites flying. A few Skippers and while driving, I encountered a few Marbled Whites.
Nice sight of several fields full of poppies. Conditions not ideal, with the high sun but I got a few images.

Monday, 13 June 2011

More Orchids, Butterflies and Rain

Had a fairly quiet weekend-well after the hectic twitch we needed it.
Saturday morning we called in at Thrift Wood near Maldon. The weather was looking a bit iffy-cool and cloudy, but it did not take long to find a Heath Fritillary. It looked a bit tatty, but eventually a couple of fresh ones were found.

 The small pond did not have any damsel or dragonflies, but we did see a few Meadow Browns and Large Skippers in the more open areas.
 Had not heard about Lizard Orchids at Newmarket, but knowing that they were out elsewhere (though at some sites they had aborted) but we went anyway. The wind had picked up, but it was rather sunny and warm in the lee of the dike.
 We found around a dozen flower spikes in various stages-some looked pretty good but one or two looked like they would not flower this year.
 Large numbers of Large Skippers were flying, along with Meadow Browns and a few Common Blues.

With it being a short day, after I left Colin's I called in at Hopleys Plants in Much Hadham-an old favorite and splurged on a few choice plants which apart from looking good should be ideal for bees an butterflies.

 Sunday's forecast for rain in the afternoon was welcome, so I thought I'd call in at Amwell and do a spot of gardening after dinner.
 The rain started just after I arrived at 0930. Had a chat with Bill and Jan about the Robin twitch, and as I had not seen them for a while we exchanged orchid and insect sightings of the last few weeks.
 Not much happening regarding birds-most of the waders had gone leaving a pair of sitting Little Ring Plovers and a few Lapwing. Most of the ducks had young, and the drakes were starting to go into eclipse so did not look all that great. Plenty of hirundines and Swifts and eventually a very welcome Kingfisher flew through-not many sightings at Amwell this year.
 Gave up after a couple of hours being rather soggy, and got the gardening done before lunch.

Friday, 10 June 2011

White Throated Robin 2

News broke of this mega rarity on Monday-and with only two untwitchable birds previously it quickly generated lots of interest and the crowds soon built up - and the crowd scenes and movie clips made the news the next day.
I was hoping to hold out until Friday, but caved in and called Colin on Tuesday to make arrangements to travel overnight.
We arrived at Hartlepool some time around 0330-the Sun had yet to appear but Blackbirds were singing a nd feeding, and the local Herring gulls were already leaving roosts. We had a wander around for an hour or so, around the two bowling greens and were gradually joined by more birders as they woke from their slumbers. Some time just after 0500, the Robin appeared by the inner bowling green and over the course of the next hour or so put on a fantastic show for us. it tended to feed under the shrubs, but often came out and fed under cars in the road. Twice it flew into the doctors garden (scene of the ladder and van siege on Monday) but rapidly returned flying low over our heads. At one point it perched in a tree directly overhead, but my best view were when I sat down on the kerb and watched it hopping around the fence opposite.

 Plenty of Linnets, Swifts and Sparrows were flying around all the time, but we did not locate any migrants. Before we left w walked round to a chapel where there were several Kittiwake nests.

 We left some time before 0700 and headed south through Middlesborough, stopping off at Coatham Marsh. Did not take long to find a number of Northern Marsh Orchids, but although I searched for an hour, I did not find anything else of note, though the flora on the old slag heaps was quite interesting.

 Continuing south we called in at  an area I had wanted to visit for a long time, the Humber Peatlands around Thorne Moor. Conditions were not ideal, with it being rather cool and cloudy. One or two singing Tree Pipits were the only birds of note, and after a long search, a single Large Heath was located.

 Despite being rather tired by early afternoon, we called in at Barnack Hills for another orchid attempt. I had heard that a few Frogs were in flower but we were unable to locate them. Unfortunately the other photographers on site were either doing landscapes or butterflies so there was no local knowledge.
We did locate many Common Fragrant Orchids, and there were a few Common Blue butterflies, but yet again, the wind was a problem.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

White Throated Robin

Some images from Hartlepool today. More to follow when I wake up.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Hampshire Orchids

 This weekend, I had considered going down to Kent in the hope of seeing Dainty Damselflies and perhaps Late Spider Orchids. Decided not to as the damsels had not been showing in the recent windy conditions. As it turned out, two males were seen on Saturday, but hardly any of the orchids were flowering.
 We decided instead to go down to the New Forest and see what could be seen. A brief stop off at a wood near Noar Hill was interesting with a good selection of ferns and a few Common Spotted and Greater Butterfly orchids. Few birds of note though I did hear a Tawny Owl a couple of times.
 Did not really know what to expect at Noar Hill with the very dry Spring. I had heard that Musk Orchids were flowering in the south, and Frog Orchids in the Midlands, so we made them a priority. On arrival, the first thing of note was that the White Helleborines had completely gone over, and that Common Spotted, Twayblades and Common Fragrant were abundant. Pyramidal Orchids seemed to be doing well, but most were still in bud. The second thing was hearing Turtle Doves near the top of the hill-at least two were purring.
 Colin searched the Musk Orchid bank while I concentrated on a number of areas we usually don't go to in the hope of picking up Frogs. We were not successful.
 Butterflies started to appear eventually, mainly Small Heath and a single Common Blue. I found a number of Green Hairstreaks feeding on brambles and eventually a Dingy Skipper was seen.

  Our first site in the New Forest was Wilverly Enclosure. Not been here before and did not know what it would be like. Being a warm half term weekend it proved to be rather busy.
 Big problem was the wind had picked up and this was the feature the rest of the day. A walk along the north edge of the wood produced a single Lesser Butterfly Orchid which we duly photographed. A scan of the heathland a little to the north produced many hundreds more....

The orchids were very variable, some rather short, a few very tall and the number of flowers per spike varied quite a bit too. Did not encounter any other orchids here. Only birds of note were a couple of Mistle Thrush feeding on the heat and several Linnets. Had hoped to hear, if not see Redstart or Wood Warbler.
 Nearby Holmley Enclosure was an interesting place-we ended up in the south west corner at Stone Cross. The damp stream bed held several large colonies of Heath Spotted Orchids, most rather small in stature but a couple in the very boggy parts were quite tall and robust-I thought they may have been Southern Marsh. Our first dragonflies of the day appeared as it was quite a sheltered area-mainly Keeled Skimmers with a few Large Red Damsels. Single Brimstones and Dark Green Fritillary were the only butterflies apart from the ever present Small Heath.
 Our last site was Hatchet Pond. We do not have much luck at this place and again thanks to the wind we did not have a good time. Plenty of Keeled Skimmers, singles of  Black Tail Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser and Emperor were pretty much it. We did eventually locate two Blue Tail Damsels-again as per previous years no sign of any Scarce Blue Tails. I did find a single Southern Damselfly but that was it. A few Heath Spotted and Early Marsh Orchids were good to see as we usually visit this site a bit later and they have usually gone over. A single male Silver Studded Blue was the only butterfly here.
 I did locate several pairs of Redshank-rather they located me, and there were also Lapwing and Curlew in the area too.