Sunday, 29 April 2012

Another Wet One

 Its been raining all week-several inches so far, and the weekend forecast seemed to be more of the same (and cold). However, Saturday was supposed to be better, and not having travelled much for several weeks, we decided to go out.
 Colin arrived at 0730 and it was raining. We drove up the A1 to Little Paxton arriving to intermittent light rain and drizzle. Did not take long to hear the first Nightingale. Staked out a few of the territories but the birds proved rather elusive, and it was only the usual Kingfisher Hide spot that delivered.

 The rest of the walk was rather disappointing and we ended up getting a bit wet. Several swallows and my first swift went through, and there were a small number of Common Terns present.
 Felt sorry for the large coach party disembarking as we got back to the car-it was chucking it down with a cold northerly wind.

 We next went further up to Castor Hanglands where a probable Iberian Chiffchaff had been present for about a week. When we arrived at the right spot all I could hear was a Chiffchaff with a slightly odd song-throwing in extra chiffs, but it soon shut up. We met a birder who had heard and seen the bird so we hung around and eventually the classic Iberian song started up in a tall oak behind one of the ponds. It took a long time to locate the bird and it was only when another birder arrived that we saw it-the views were terrible.
 Turned out to be the bird we first heard-the typical iberian song seemed to dominate for a while, then it would break into the normal Chiffchaff song, and occasionally it was mixing the two together. The most interesting version started off with a swee swee followed by a long chiff chaff sequence.
 Now whether it is a typical Iberian, a mixed singer or a normal Chiff is debatable. My photos poor though they were showed a well marked bright bird with a prominent yellowish supercilium and throat. Were I to have not heard it singing I might have assumed it to be a Willow warbler.

 The woodland flora was interesting with large numbers of Cowslips, some patches of Bluebells and areas of wild Garlic.

 Initially the plan on leaving Castor was to go to the Ouse washes or maybe Graffham, but with it still raining and cold we decided to call it a day.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Amwell Firecrest

I was expecting today to be pretty much the same as the last week-wet and cool, but it turned out pretty nice. Not all that warm, but largely dry.
Arrived at Amwell the same time as Simon, and saw my first Speckled Woods as we crossed the railway line. We were surprised at the lack of faces at the viewpoint, but Tony mentioned two good birds-a Lesser Spotted had been seen by Graham, and Barry and Bill were watching a Firecrest at Hollycross.
Made our way rather swiftly to Hollycross meeting Phil and his two dogs. We found Bill and Barry and they pointed out the rather elusive but very vocal Firecrest. We watched it for around twenty minutes and I managed to get a couple of record shots.

 Eventually I returned to the watchpoint with Simon and Phil. Several Common Terns were present and I picked up a Cuckoo sitting in a bush across the lake.
The pair of Little Ring Plovers put in an appearance, with the male bird continually in flight.

The other waders were still present-four mobile Redshank and the Oystercatchers. No sign of any Lapwing chicks yet. One pair of Teal remaining.
Heard my first Reed Warbler, and saw several Sedge. Lots of Chiffs, Blackcap and cetti's but the Willows seem to have gone quiet.
Usual assortment of hirundines-Bill and Phil had a Yellow Wagtail among them, but though I heard it go over could not see the thing.
Raptors in abundance once the sun came out-seven buzzards and a kite in one group with a number of buzzards in view elsewhere. Also Kestrel and Sparrohawk. Expecting Hobby any day now.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Another Cold Weekend

The rather cold northerly airflow over the last week or so has been doing a good job at keeping migrants and rarities away, but a small number has been trickling through.
 Went to Amwell yesterday morning, expecting to see things like Common Tern, Little Ring Plovers, Common Sandpipers, maybe a Little gull  and perhaps a Cuckoo, so I brought the camera along. Unfortunately it was business as usual.
 A few summer migrants had been through over the week, but none lingered. I thought I'd heard a brief snatch of Sedge Warbler song near the railway line when I arrived but no-one else had noticed it. Luckily one started up in the reed-bed around mid day. The only other year tick was Swallow-several flew through over the course of the morning. The usual small flock of sand martin was also present. Up to four Redshank, six Little Egret were noteworthy, and it looks like the Oystercatchers are on the nest again.
 Up to three red kites were the only raptors seen until one Buzzard eventually put in an appearance. Managed to get one of the Kites on camera, and the Cormorant was fishing under the bridge.

 Today I spent the morning walking around Aston End and the Beane Valley. The cold wind was rather unpleasant and as a result the birds were not doing much. Most of the small wooded areas have Chiffchaffs singing, and I heard a few Blackcaps and one Willow Warbler. One Meadow Pipit flying north was the nearest thing to spring migration.
One Small Tortoiseshell braved the cold.

Monday, 9 April 2012


This Easter has been rather cold and a bit wet.
Friday I took Mum down to see Sarah and Ed at Hoddesdon. It started off sunny, but got very cloudy with a nasty cold northerly wind. Saw a couple of Kites on our journey, but walking Molly over the fields did not produce anything of note.

Saturday morning was spent at Amwell. Again cold and cloudy. An interesting rather pale yellow legged gull is believed to be a Lesser Black Back-it's been seen a few times. Large flock of Sand martins present with a few House martins going through. There were one or two Swallows too which I missed.

Sunday we decided to visit Norfolk-not having been out for quite some time. The Thayers Gull in Lincolnshire would have been a target  if there had been a reliable sighting on Saturday.
Titchwell started of cool and dull, and got a bit colder as the morning progressed. Headed to the sea as the tide was very high and dropping. Saw a single flyby Red Necked Grebe and not a lot else. Joined by a Lincoln birder we moved east to scan Brancaster Bay picking up a flock of about a dozen Long Tailed Ducks and three drake Velvet Scoter. Nothing else of note in our hour long sea watch. On the way back we called in to the Parrinder hide. Water levels were still high and there were not many waders. Two Spotted Redshanks were moulting into their black summer plumage.

The wintering Water Pipit was seen on top of the bank before dropping down onto the fresh marsh. Despite a lot of searching we never saw it again. One 1w-2s Little gull was found over the fresh marsh for a few minutes.
Lots of very active Cetti's warblers-we saw four and heard many more but non stayed still for the camera. Two Willow warblers in the fen were my first of the year.
Two Ring Ouzels near Heacham sewage works were worth going for, but by the time we arrived only one was definitely present and rather distant.

 We left Norfolk and went to Guyhirn. A scan from the lay by failed to produce any Cranes so we decided to go over the washes to Eldernell. It was getting rather cold, damp and windy. Some birders told us two were about a mile east of the car park so we headed off. Stopped after about half a mile and scanned the distant bank-picked up a total of seven Cranes in one field. A flyover Red Kite was a nice diversion.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Ring Ouzel

Pager message late last night of a Ring Ouzel at Norton.
Had to go to the opticians this morning and decided to go over afterwards. Arrived shortly before mid day to find a small crowd on the west bank including many familiar faces. The Ouzel had been feeding most of the morning on the bank, despite the occasional flushing by one of the motorbikes that infest the site. One male Wheatear showed quite well and a flyover (twenty feet!) Red Kite.
Met an old friend Nigel Agar who used to be a member of the astronomical society and an all round naturalist who used to cover the Watery Grove area as a Constant Effort Site and  still does regular surveys of the area.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Cool and Sunny

Went for a walk around Aston End and the Beane this morning. Nice and sunny, but with a bit of a nip in the air.
Lots of Chiffchaff singing now, in most of the woods, and I also heard my first local Blackcap and Bullfinch
First interesting sighting was while scanning High Wood across the valley. Several Buzzards of course, then i noticed a small falcon flying fairly high with a rapid wing beat. Did not look right for a Sparrowhawk (definitely falco sp) I assumed it was a Kestrel based on size at first, but the tail seemed to short then it banked showing the greyish upper-parts-only possibility would be a  Merlin.
Further on I got some images of the Buzzards and Kestrel.

The Little Owls in the horse paddocks were very active for a change, and I was able to get a bit closer than usual. Still using the light and crappy 70-300 lens though.

 Saw a few Small Tortoiseshells and a Comma. The Blackthorn is now blossoming nicely though a few bushes are still in bud, and the willows look fine. Also saw the first of the Bluebells.