Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter part 2

Went to Amwell yesterday, in the hope of picking up some migrants. Weather looked promising-with some mist early on, but by the time I got there it was starting to heat up, though it took a long time for the sun to break through the clouds. Everyone seems to have gone on holiday, and hardly any regulars were present.
 The two Oystercatchers seemed settled and three or four Redshank were present, along with the pair of Little Ring Plovers. There were around a dozen Common Terns in, though our hopes for a Black Tern among them never materialised.
 There are at least two Grasshopper Warblers present-the one from the watchpoint is rather quiet, but another down near the James Hide is a lot louder, though John who was with me could not hear any of them. We wandered down to the bridge in the hope of picking up some damselflies, but none were seen, so we decided to have a look at the meadow where I managed to locate a single Large Red Damselfly. The orchids seem to be coming on quite well, with the hybrid Southern Marsh in bud and one with a few flowers.
 Back at the watchpoint, the only bird of interest was a distant large corvid which  appeared to be a Raven.
I left around noon, as my hay fever was starting to get quite bad.

Today, I first went down to Waterford Heath. Although it was sunny and fairly warm, there was a cool northerly breeze. As a result it took a while before I was able to locate a Grizzled Skipper, and it eluded my camera. I eventually managed to find another, and got a few images. Apart from that, one Peacock and a few Orange Tips were all I saw.
I eventually left and decided to head off to Graffridge Wood as it would probably be my last chance of getting some Bluebell images this year. Some bits looked quite good but the harsh noon sun made things difficult and results were a bit disappointing.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter in Norfolk

Had a very busy Good Friday, but with little birding, though I did get my first Lesser Whitethroat.
Decided to do Norfolk on Saturday, and started off quite early to avoid the traffic.
We arrived at Snettisham Coastal Park just after 0700, and went off in search of migrants. Lots of warblers in full song, including a couple of Grasshoppers, one of which posed for us.

Did not encounter a great deal else-a few Wheatear and a Grey Partridge that flew in and settled down until an presumably blind dog walker waddled over and almost trod on it.
 Stopped off briefly at Chosely barns, and had a quick scan of the fields-seems to be all wheat and no peas, so no Dotterel likely......
 Did get a nice pair of Corn Bunting though.

Arrived at Titchwell shortly after 0900, and it seemed pretty quiet thankfully. Got out onto the marsh and the heat started to build rapidly to rather uncomfortable levels. Ran into Ray Tipper who had got a message that the Wood Sandpiper was still showing from Parrinder hide. Tried to find it on the way up but without success. Eventually located it in a small reedy patch on one of the islands. Did not get good images due to the lighting.

 A pair of sleeping Garganey on the island was nice having struggled to find any on the Ouse Washes in recent weeks. Also got to see a pair of Little Terns and a female White Wagtail.
 Sea watching was rather poor due to the haze, but very nice thanks to the breeze. Found a few Scoter, single Eider and some Gannets and then two distant Grebes turned into a pair of breeding plumage Red Necks.
 Was surprised to see a Green Hairstreak settle down behind Penny Clark who was with us, but it soon flew off. Unfortunately it landed on my arm, and I had to stand immobile while Penny and Colin got images. This turned out to be a bit of a mega, as Ray turned up and informed us that he had only seen two in 40 years at Titchwell.
 On the way back we had another look at the Wood Sandpiper, recovered a bit of Colin's tripod and snapped a few waders.

We got a message-16 Dotterel at Chosely-in the field I had scanned earlier. Got there at Noon. Difficult to see well now the heat haze had built up, and they remained distant, but we managed to see at least six.
Also of interest were a large number of Large Red Damselflies in the hedgerow, a long way from water.
 With energy flagging we headed off inland, calling in at the wonderful Beers of the World warehouse and stocked up.
Our last destination was Paxton pits. The visitors centre pond held Great Crested and Common Newts. The Nightingales were very vocal of course but due to the abundant leaf growth, hard to see. Several Turtle Doves were heard along the river and I got to see one flying off.
There were Black Terns further north at Diddington but we were too tired to contemplate the walk.

Friday, 15 April 2011

More from Today

A few more images.

New Toys and a Friday Off

 Bought some new toys recently-a Nikon D3S body and a Zeiss 35mm f2 lens. Had the day off today to do some birding and things and see how they work-my initial tests last week were very promising.
 Last year, a White Spotted Bluethroat was on territory at Welney for most of the Spring, and it has come back. The reserve has been opening early to accommodate Bluethroat twitchers, and we arrived not long after 7am.
 Got down to Lyle hide to see one or two birders looking at a speck in a sallow, and I thought I heard a snatch of song before it dropped out of sight. About twenty minutes later, one or two got a glimpse of the Bluethroat low down in the bank vegetation, but I could not get on it. My first Reed Warbler, and a lot of singing Sedge Warblers was not much compensation. We spent a while in one of the hides overlooking the bank in the hope of picking it up with no joy. A few Avocets on the pools, and decent numbers of Black Tail Godwits, some Dunlin and frequent flyby and drumming Snipe helped pass the time.
 Around 1020 we made our way back to the Lyle path, and not long after, the Bluethroat flew over Colin's shoulder and down in front of one of the small fibreglass hides. It was elusive initially but eventually came out and started singing. We were rather pleased at the performance it put on for us.

To put it mildly, I have never had such good views of a Spring Bluethroat. A nice start with my new camera.
 On the way back, we encountered several Green Veined White butterflies, my first House Martins from the observatory, and several Yellow Wagtails.
 The Ouse Washes Blue Winged Teal was back on the pagers last night and was reported again today, so we headed off to see it.
 On arrival at Welches Dam hide we were rather disappointed to discover that it was sleeping with some Shoveller. However, from time to time it did lift its head. I had to use the 500mm lens with both 1.4 and 2x converters to get an image.

  There were hardly any duck left, compared to two weeks ago, and no waders apart from a few Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatchers, and the pair of Little Ring Plovers.
 Just outside the hide a hunting Kestrel payed us no attention. This is with the manual focus 500mm and both converters!

Our final destination was Haley Wood in Cambridgeshire. We were there last year for the Bluebells and Early Purple Orchids. This year the spring is slightly more advanced, and some of the orchids were in flower though the Bluebells are not quite at their best yet. We also saw a lot of Cowslips, and what I presume to be Oxlips.
 Photos will follow later.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Norton Green

Woke up to the sound of a Willow Warbler outside this morning.
Called in at Norton Green before I got to work. The very low sun was a bit of a problem at times. Around six Red Legged Partridges were scattered over the site, and Linnets seemed to be everywhere.
Found a single male Wheatear, and another Willow Warbler.

The spring garden is starting to look nice now. Because of the very dry weather, the Dogs Tooth Violets have not been damaged by slugs and snails this year.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Amwell Sunday

A nice pleasant morning again with a refreshing cool breeze.
I got down to Amwell a bit earlier than usual and was pleased to see and hear a number of Blackcaps singing. On crossing the bridge I also heard a Willow Warbler. What I did not get to hear was the Sedge Warbler that had been heard earlier.
I had barley got to start scanning the waters when Bill had a call from Jan in the main hide-he was listening to a rather early Reed Warbler. Unfortunately by the time we got there it had shut up. Not much to see from the hide, until the Oystercatchers flew in.
Back at the viewpoint it seemed that the big influx of migrants reported nationally yesterday just was not happening to us and it proved to be rather quiet until a couple of parties of Swallows went through. After a couple of hours, my hay fever was starting to get a bit much and so I decided to leave, but just as I was going, someone found a Sand Martin over the water.

Brecks and and Washes

Following a really crappy week with some sort of flu thing, it was great to get out in the Spring air this weekend and I am starting to feel much better.
On Saturday we decided to do a fairly short run around the Brecks and finish up in Cambridgeshire hopefully with migrant ducks and terns.
8am saw us getting a bit cold at Foxholes Heath where we soon heard Stone Curlews and a couple of singing Woodlarks. Finding either proved rather tricky as we assumed the Curlews were beyond the ridge. However, after about twenty minutes, six flew up out of a hollow and dropped down in plain sight and shortly after, I located a further four birds.

We never did find the Woodlarks, and in fact just about the only other birds on the heath were a few Linnets.
Next stop was Santon Downham. We parked in the main forestry car park and walked up to the river. A small cherry bush in a garden held a number of Siskin and Redpoll, with more higher up in the big trees along the river. Also present were a large flock of Crossbills.

Along the river, we encountered a pair of Nuthatch, and also one or two Kingfishers.

Green Woodpecker was heard, and a distant Great Spotted Woodpecker caused a bit of confusion as our main target and hence mindset was on Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I eventually located a pair flying above the trees and calling, but never got satisfactory views. Another confusion bird was a tit we found gathering nesting material. The call as it flew over the river and landed by us sounded rather Marsh like but it looked much like a Willow. I found it again soon after, and the identification was confirmed when I heard the distinctive Willow calls.
 Grimes Graves just to the north is a good raptor viewpoint, being high and open. It also held a Great Grey Shrike. The dull windy conditions were not conducive to raptors, though three low soaring Buzzards were seen, as well as Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Despite a long search by several birders, the Shrike could not be located.
 We went next to Lyndford Arboretum in the hope of picking up one of the Hawfinches-apparently heard singing, but no-one was able to find one. I did get my first Swallow of the year and we did encounter several elusive Firecrests managing to get good views of one. Also and seemingly abundant were more Nuthatch. We were shown the location of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nest site, but the birds were not obliging, though they had been seen earlier in the day. We did find a singing Marsh Tit in the area. There seemed to be plenty of Brimstone flying in the area, and I also got to see my first Orange Tip of the year.
 RSPB Ouse Washes was the last site of the day as both Colin and I were feeling a bit tired-we had hoped to get to Graffham in the evening. As it was it was a pretty good couple of hours. The Tree Sparrows were showing quite well on the feeders and as we went down to Welches Dam hide one or two Sand Martins went through.
The large expanse of mud and shallow marsh held an enormous number of Black Tailed Godwits, many in full breeding plumage, several Ruff and surprisingly four Knot. Vast numbers of Wigeon and Teal are still present, but despite a long search we failed to find any Garganey- nor did we see the drake Blue Winged Teal that had been reported the previous evening.