Sunday, 31 July 2011

Rye Meads

Getting over a very crappy week or so. Put my back out last weekend, and a lingering throat irritation turned into a full blown infection, so I have been out of action for some time.
Been a bit active over the last day or so and decided to go out this morning for a few hours. Rye Meads seemed a good place-not too far, an easy walk and plenty of resting spots. There have also been a couple of good birds there.
Arrived not long after ten, and met up with an assortment of Tony's. The walk to Draper Hide was interrupted as we watched one of the Water Voles from the boardwalk-they are slowly making a comeback here after a long decline. I remember them being pretty common here in the late 80's.
 We spent  quite a while in the Draper hide, but could not locate the Wood Sandpiper that had been present for a few days. Maximum count of Green Sands was six-and I saw two or three more elsewhere. Had a good flyby Kingfisher which returned and posed for a while. 
We then went up to the Tern Hide-water a bit high so no waders. The adult  Black Necked Grebe was distant but a superb sight. Another Kingfisher fly by several times and sat on a branch for a bit. Watched the juvenile Reed Warblers low down in some willows, and also saw one Sedge Warbler.
Expecting the Kingfisher Hide to be packed, I was surprised to only find one birder. One of the young Kingfishers seemed to be permanently attached to one of the posts. An adult kept flying in and out of the hole before flying off.
I slowly made my way back, calling in at Draper where I found Simon scanning for the Wood Sand-it seems to have gone for good, but no doubt another will be along soon.
So far this year, Kingfishers have been hard to get-only one at Amwell so far and two in the brecks, yet today I saw a minimum of four-according to the warden Vicky, they survived the winter quite well at Rye, no doubt due to the sewage works.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Back to Birding

Colin and I were hoping to head up to northern England this weekend for butterflies and orchids, but the weather is pretty bad up there so there is no pint going.
 As I had Friday off, and as it was still sunny down here, I thought I'd drive up to Melbourne, which is not all that far for the Rosefinch which has been singing for a week or so.
 I arrived and the departing birders told me I'd just missed it on the roadside wires. Half an hour later, while chatting to the local postman I heard it singing in one of the gardens and got pretty poor views in a conifer. More birders gradually arrived and we were treated to it's loud song, but seeing it proved tricky. Occasionally it sat in a Eucalyptus above the gate  and though some of us got pretty close up views getting images was very tricky. Associating with Greenfinch, Goldfinch and House Sparrows, it was mobile and at one point flew out into an oat field. We kept watch and it never flew back (so we thought) and were on the point of leaving when it started singing back in a garden-this time pretty close.

 As usual for me, a first summer male, with no hint of pink on it at all.
 The only other birds I got images of were some young Yellow Wagtails.

 A quick stop at Therfield Heath produced numerous Chalk Hill Blue butterflies without the need to walk more than a few feet from the car.

 They were very mobile while the sun was out, but the cloud and wind were starting to build up and I was not able to get any decent open wing shots.

 A final brief stop at Deadmans Hill produced a calling Quail.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sunday in the Chilterns.

 Having chatted to Bill on Saturday about orchids currently flowering,  a couple of posts in Bird Forum suggested a few sites that would be worth visiting.
 We started off at Warburg, as it is always interesting and there would be a host of plants and insects to photograph. Unfortunately the visitor centre was closed when we arrived so it was a case of do a circuit and see what we could find. The first good item, a blue haze up one of the side tracks turned out to be Salvia Pratensis though it seemed to be much bluer than the forms I have grown in the garden. Made a nice contrast with the various yellow plants such as Agrimony.

 Among the hoards of Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites we were lucky to find a Silver Washed Fritillary.

 Brambles were the favoured nectar source though the Pyramidal Orchids were also visited-the pink ones at least. There were also a few white flowered forms.

 Another nice sight was a small Slow Worm under a piece of iron.

 We eventually arrived at the beech woods and on climbing up a track I found a number of orchids in cages. Unfortunately all but one were in bud, but luckily the single flowering spike had two open flowers and we were able to confirm they were as expected  Narrow Lipped Orchids. Also in the same area, a number of bamboo markers drew our attention to several flowers of Yellow Birds Nest.

 At this time of year birds are a bit quiet-young birds are a bit shy and the adults are either back on the nest or hiding away moulting. Apart from a singing Chiffchaff and a couple of Blackcaps, the only visible birds were Red Kites-cant really miss them in this area and a family of Marsh Tits.

 Leaving Warburg we headed north east, encountering many more Kites and arrived at College Lake early in the afternoon. Now this is a site that gets a lot of mentions in the local blogs, Yahoo groups and so on, but for me it is a bit inconvenient to get to, and my last visit was the 1994 Chiltern Bird Fair, not long after the quarry had finished and been passed over to the local Wildlife trust. Its changed quite a bit over the years and has matured into a superb reserve.
 Enquiring at the centre regarding orchids we got a few pointers but had been told that the local expert had just gone. Luckily one of the staff who was leaving found them and returned to give us specific directions to the Green Flowered Helleborines. We were told there were four or five plants at the bottom of one of the tracks.
 Colin and I searched the area thoroughly and of the 17 plants found, about half were in flower, though unfortunately the biggest and best was buried so deeply under brambles we could not get images. Also in the area were many White Helleborines bearing large seed pods.

 Retracing our steps we found a couple of fairly fresh Bee Orchids, but the rather warm walk over to the other side of the lake where the majority of Bees are located proved fruitless mainly because I ended up following the wrong path. It was however interesting as this was the area the Bird Fair was held all those years ago and some bits were still just about recognisable.

Saturday, 9 July 2011


The weather has been a bit indifferent today. I had hoped to do some local butterfly sites this morning, but  the cloud and wind put me off so I went to Amwell instead.
Met Bill and Julie. Bill has only just come back from a few days in Scotland, and had a fairly good time getting most of the butterflies and dragonflies, but the birding was pretty poor. He was at Arnside Knot yesterday and had seen large numbers of Dark Green Fritillaries but only one or two High Browns-bad news as I was thinking of going for the latter soon.
 As usual not much was happening on the main lake-yesterdays Black Tail Godwits had gone, but both Redshank and Oystercatcher had had a successful breeding season-Julie and I joined Tony and Brian in the main hide and we spent a long time watching the chicks feeding. The only other bird of note is an Egyptian Goose that apparently pops in from time to time for a nap.
 Few hirundines this visit-a few Sand Martins joined the Swifts but most were too distant over the town. There seems to be a lack of Hobbies too-usually we can expect to see two or three at this time of year, but I have only had two sightings here all year. The only raptors were a female Sparrowhawk and a couple of Buzzards seen just before I parked the car.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Green and Blue

Last year we got our timings wrong and were unable to go down to Kent for some newly discovered damselfly colonies-Southern Emerald at Cliffe and Dainty Damselfly on Sheppy. This year the news has been pretty good, though in recent weeks the weather has been a bit hit and miss, but Saturday proved to be perfect.
 We first went to the RSPB reserve at Cliffe. Our last visit was some time in the late 90's when it was still a mix of private and public rights of way, so it was interesting to see what has changed and what has not. The lagoons seem to have been tidied up a bit and were full of water-not much mud for returning migrant waders, but like all RSPB reserves they were full of Avocets. Little Egrets everywhere of course-last time we actually had to make a special diversion to see one here!
Not much else around apart from a loafing first summer Yellow Legged Gull and on the return a purring Turtle Dove.
The trek from the car park to the ditches was a bit long and warm-shame really as we could have driven up.  We joined a couple and another guy who had already found a male Southern Emerald, but it had been lost a while before we arrived. Lots of Scarce Emeralds and Blue Tails, as well as vocal Marsh Frogs. Took a while but eventually we got a call and were directed to a female Southern Emerald low down in the reeds. Not easy to photograph. Luckily not long after some others arrived, a male flew out and posed quite well for us, though the breeze was annoying.

 The Dainty Damselflies found at a private site last year on Sheppy were the first seen in the Uk since they became extinct after the 1953 floods. Over the last few weeks a number have been reported from a public site, but many have had a frustrating time with long fruitless searches.
 We arrived in the early afternoon and met up with a couple I know from Amwell. They and others had found a number of males in the grass some way from the water, but it was not easy. It took us, and two others nearly an hour before we found a female, and over the subsequent hour or so, another two females were found-one male was glimpsed but flew before we got the cameras lined up.

Friday, 1 July 2011


Had the Friday off, and as everything got done fairly early, I decided to visit Broxbourne Woods. Called my sister as they live nearby and had hoped to visit with me now that they are back in the area.
Arrived just after 1000 to be told I had just missed a Purple Emperor in the car park. A flyover Southern Hawker and White Admiral was some recompense. I located a few Purple Hairstreaks in the oaks above the cars and got everyone on them, before going down the ride.
Met up with someone I vaguely knew and we chatted about recent dragonflies orchids and butterflies and then we searched the now open stream for a reported Silver Washed Fritillary. A few Commas, a Red Admiral, lots of Meadow Browns and Ringlets were seen. Sarah and Ed arrived and we joined the small group which had gathered on the path- a Purple Hairstreak was on the ground and showing exceptionally well, primarily because it was expiring.
 We eventually left and reached the top of the path when a shout went up-rushed round the corner to find the guy I knew pointing at A Purple Emperor on the path. It soon flew over to a large area of wood ash from the clearings and treated us to superb views. We managed to get everyone up and see it. Eventually it flew up into the trees and basked for a bit before flying off.
 The pond held a few hawkers and Emperors, as well as many Large Red and Common Blue Damselflies. The grassy heath;and area was quite nice as we found several White Admirals, Purple Hairstreaks and another Purple Emperor.
  Returning to the cars we had a very close encounter with another White Admiral.