Saturday, 31 March 2012


Spent a couple of hours at Amwell this morning. Temperatures have dropped considerably over the last few days and the northerly airflow was particularly unpleasant at the watch point.
The two Redshank pairs were very visible and vocal, but there are still no plovers. Bill had a Little Ringed earlier in the week, and there was a report of one today-presumably very brief as no-one else saw it. There are still some wintering duck-a few Wigeon, and nine Goldeneye though the latter appear to be getting restless so they will be off any day now.
 A single Green Sandpiper spent the morning on the main island and was the only other bird of note.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Summer Time Starts

Clocks went forward today, and in order to get used to getting up early, I decided not to have a lie in this morning. Filling up the feeders at 0730 (still feeling like 0630) the sun was shining but there was a bit of a nip in the air.
Left for Amwell in the warmish sunshine and as soon as I hit the Lea at hertford I ran into a cold mist. It was only 3 degrees at Amwell and like many others I had not dressed for it.
 Got my first Blackcaps in the lane-two singing males. For some reason I missed getting any in the garden over winter. Also there were at least three Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and Chiffchaffs everywhere.
 The lake was full of mist, visibility was not all that great, but I could see that there were still a few Goldeneye, Teal and Wigeon lingering. Lots of Reed Buntings singing now, as well as a few Cetti's. Two or three Redshank were present, but the expected Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers had yet to arrive. A walk south down to the hide with Phil and Bill produced nothing of interest and when Simon arrived we moved down to the Water Vole pool where the Bittern has been seen frequently. Despite it being a bit warmer nothing showed so we spent a while chatting. Eventually we walked down to Hollycross where a supposed Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been reported but we had nothing.
 The picnic area is pretty quiet apart from Chiffchaffs-looks like the Siskin and Redpolls have departed though Simon heard a flyover Redpoll soon after. Bill and Phil left leaving Simon and myself at the watchpoint.
 Noted that three Egyptian Geese had flown in-another year tick. With the mist lifting it was starting to get warmer and I noted to raptors clashing overhead, expecting Buzzard I saw a Red Kite and another bird. Simon stayed on the kite and I realised that the other bird's long pale underwings  with large black hands and long tail suited male Marsh Harrier. Unfortunately both were still in light mist and  the harrier drifted east and out of view so Simon never got good views. He did point out that the interaction with the Kite was a good clue as its not normal for Buzzards to do that.
 Soon after, Simon saw a drake Mandarin fly in from the north and drop in behind the heron island. My third year tick out of the way we decided to quickly head down for another shot at Bittern now the sun was shining (no sign) before calling it a day.

Friday, 23 March 2012


Had today off with the intention of working in the garden, but a headache put me off doing much so I went for a walk around Aston End this morning instead.
Very warm, sunny and humid and not much bird life. Plenty of Skylarks  singing, and five Meadow Pipits flew north up the Beane valley. Pairs of Red Legged and Grey Partridge encountered.
Got a few butterflies on the walk, two Peacock, two Small Tortoiseshell and single Comma and Red Admiral. All I needed to complete the overwintering set would be Brimstone which I got in the garden when I arrived back home.

Monday, 19 March 2012

First Wheatear

Popped over to Norton Green after work. Conditions were pretty good, fine and sunny. Did not take all that long to locate the male Wheatear-birds have been passing through since Friday.
Unfortunately the two Black redstarts seen earlier in the day appear to have gone-I spent a while searching but bumped into an old acquaintance Stefan, from way back who had been up earlier and failed to find them.
Seem to be a lot of Green Woodpeckers at the moment, as well as Red Legged Partridge and Skylark. Seem to be a lot of Blackbirds too-unfortunately none with a white crescent!

Tuesday morning update-a pager message last night reported that both Black Redstarts were seen about ten minutes after I left in exactly the area we had been searching.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Damp, but Spring is Here

 The last few days, Amwell has had some decent birds-Gargany, Avocets, Dunlin plus a few Sand martins, but the roosting Caspian Gulls seem to have gone. Not been able to get down for any of these unfortunately. With the weekend promising to be a bit wet, and not wanting to spend much on a speculative trip we decided to have a quiet weekend, so I thought the rain might bring a migrant or two into Amwell. Maybe the Avocets might return, or even one of the many Glossy Ibis now turning up.
 Well the promised rain ended up being a bit of a damp squib-there was a bit when I left, some drizzle at Amwell and a couple of brief heavy showers when I got home. First decent bird was the Red Kite about 15 feet above the car at Watton at Stone, but Amwell seemed to be very quiet with only a couple of cars parked. Not much from the watchpoint, still a lot of Shoveller and Teal, and there are a few Wigeon lingering. The white headed Cormorants look smart collecting nesting material.
Noticed Bill and Tony in th main hide so went over to join them. Heard my first Chiffchaff singing from the picnic area and then another two from the feeding area-one showed very well in the trees above me. Ended up hearing maybe five or six in total.
From the hide, got a pretty good view of the Baikal type hybrid, saw a few Snipe, Shelduck and a Little Egret. Eventually the Oystercatchers flew in and there was a brief courtship display before they carried on feeding. At least three Cettis Warblers were singing from the reeds around the boardwalk, but little else was seen or heard before I left just after mid-day.

Monday, 12 March 2012


Yesterday was set to follow Saturday-warm and sunny. With few rare birds around, and despite a trickle of migrants onto the south coast we decided to go up to the Thetford area and then maybe head to the coast. Large counts of Hawfinch at Lyndford the previous week was a good hint.
 On the way up we called in at Foxholes just in case any Stone Curlew were in-it's about the right time. A large flock of Linnets, a couple of Curlew and lots of Skylarks  were all we had from the lay by end. Walking back to the car a car pulled up and someone asked what we were looking for. I didn't recognise the voice. Leaving we approached the car which had stopped and i realised it was Royston Dave and his mate so we pulled over. They were scanning the more open area without finding Stone Curlew, but a very nice Woodlark was singing just overhead.

Dave had missed most of the good birds so far this year by spending a lot of time in Spain (nice) and was hoping to get some of the basic stuff out of the way and head to the Norfolk coast.
 We next stopped off at Santon Downham. Met a guy I vaguely knew from Norwich on the bridge and had a chat. Large numbers of birders had gone west along the river hoping to get the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, but like us had seen them just east of the bridge last year.
 Colin and I decided to go west, and after spending time photographing the bridge Colin went on. I stayed to do some  more landscapes when a Willow tit appeared above my head in a tree. Fumbling with the wrong camera lens and bins, I could not get on to it until it had crossed the river where it was chased off by Blue Tits.
 I caught Colin up and we carried on for almost a mile. Lots of Nuthatch singing and calling, several Treecreepers and various tits and finches were encountered. News was that Lesser Spots had been heard calling a couple of times, but not seen. I spent a while with the small crowd while Colin went back to the bridge and on two occasions I heard the distinctive drumming and was shown the most recent nest hole, but the birds were not showing. What did concern me was one of the drumming sequences came from a long way off south of the river, and i suspect that maybe the birds might be a lot harder to get this year.
 Got back to the bridge, where a Kingfisher was showing well and a pair of Willow Tits flew over. Just north of the railway i got my first butterfly-a Brimstone.

 Arrived at Lyndford around noon, and saw several more Brimstones. Bad news was no Hawfinch at all for several days.
 We spent time photographing various Ladybirds sunning on ivy near the lake and moved up into the arboretum. A frustrating invisible singing Crossbill in very tall conifers kept us busy for some time, but the Siskins and Goldcrests were a bit easier.
 A lot of work has been done since our last visit-the overgrown holly and scrub near the wall by the road had been cleaned up (bad) but a feeding station had been set up along a closed off ride and was proving very attractive to finches and Marsh Tits. Apparently the hawfinch had been coming down too. We had been told that just before we got there a Firecrest had been showing.
 I mentioned this to the approaching birder-the owner of Wildsounds and he said there were singing birds in the conifers behind us. Went over and recognised Julian Bhalerao trying to photograph them.
 One showed reasonably well but was very flighty and was very hard to get in the camera viewfinder. I got one bad image of the bird singing, but the best views were when it was very high up in the trees.

 We wandered  around the trees hearing more crests but the hoped for early blossom and flowers were nowhere to be seen. I remember seeing a number of snakebark maples some years back, but they appear to have had gone and the eucalypts pines and firs were not very interesting bark-wise from a photogenic point of view, so we slowly meandered back to the car and called it a day.

Saturday, 10 March 2012


 Went for a walk today around Aston End and the river Beane. With the warm sun I had hoped to get a Chiffchaff singing and maybe a butterfly.
 Not long after leaving, the cloud came over and it cooled down, and I had thought that lugging the camera gear around would be a complete waste. In fact for much of the walk, I saw very little of note apart from a small flock of Linnets in the village.
 Things picked up when I hit the Walkern road and the two soaring Buzzards over high Wood drifted closer. By the time I got to the ex river (one puddle after the recent rain) they were overhead. Unfortunately as I was travelling light, the only long lens I had was my old 70-300 but the results were adequate.

 In the horse paddocks i came across the Little Owl. A big owl/Kestrel box had gone up on their favourite tree and I was concerned that it may have disturbed them as I had not seen any sign for some months. The 70-300 again with lots of lovely purple fringing.

 Finally up near the phone mast I encountered a lot of Skylark, and one came reasonably close as it sang.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Wet Sunday

Stayed in today due to the heavy rain. Don't expect it will do much to alleviate the drought situation around here, but every little helps.
The frogs in the pond enjoyed it until the temperature plummeted and the sleety snow arrived. I counted 25 in and around the pond at lunch time-which since last weekend has gradually been filling up with spawn.

Saturday, 3 March 2012


 Just got back from Amwell-I have not been for a few weeks. The level crossing appears to be finished so access is back to normal.
Had a long chat with Bill as we have not seen each other for a long time. Phil eventually turned up, as did Simon briefly.
 The female Ringed Teal was in front of the watchpoint. I assumed it was a resident, but this is only the second sighting this year. There are three Smew, including a drake which were rather hard to pick up in the cold drizzle but did get a bit closer eventually. There is also an odd hybrid Baikal Teal type which i managed to glimpse before losing it behind the big island. The female Red Crested Pochard was at the southern end of Tumbling Bay.
 For a brief period we had a couple of Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and kestrel up but the weather deteriorated rapidly.
 The only other birds of note were the Oystercatcher pair back for their fourth year.

 Back home and its warmer with sunny spells and no rain. Chaffinch and Greenfinch are singing outside.