Sunday, 27 May 2012

Weekend Off

I was expecting to have a good weekend, but I've been a bit under the weather, and the hot spell has not helped much.
I was able to get out for an hour this morning before it got too hot, and went down to Chiswell Green south of St Albans where a Wood Warbler or two had set up territory. They used to breed in Hertfordshire many years ago, but by the time I got into birding the small population had gone (ditto Redstart). Still get the odd bird from time to time, they are not all that frequent.
Arrived around 0930, and crossed the small river, seeing my first Banded demoiselles of the year. Not far along the track I heard the Wood Warbler singing and made my way round to the birch hollow where to put it mildly it performed extremely well. Spent about 45 minutes with the bird and it's attendant admirers before leaving. Unfortunately did not feel up to taking the heavy camera gear out today so no pictures.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Was expecting rain today, but the forecast changed and it turned out to be cold, windy and cloudy.
Usual assortment of Sunday birders at Amwell, so lots to talk about. Three Black terns were the highlight, along with two Dunlin, a Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper. The Oystercatchers have three  well grown chicks and there are a few Lapwing chicks still running around. Huge numbers of hirundines feeding over the water but nothing unusual among them.

At home, we have our first juvenile Goldfinches and Starlings on the feeders. One young Robin has been present for about a week now, and there are one or young two Blackbirds around too.


With the forecast of a fairly decent day in the south, Colin and I went down to Kent with the expectations of getting a few Orchids and maybe some butterflies too.
Heading down the M25, we decided to detour to Chafford Gorge before crossing the river. Colin had been there last year and had just missed Man Orchids-we have been visiting Barnack the national stronghold in recent years without success.
Heading into the old quarry it did not take long to pick up a few flowering spikes, along with a few Twayblades. Further on down the track, behind a birch copse we found well over a hundred Man orchids in full bloom.

 Crossed the Thames and headed off down the M2. Surprised to see a Mediterranean Gull fly over, but we were near the coast so maybe not unexpecetd these days.
 Yockletts Bank seemed to be a bit disappointing. The clearing we visited last year only held two Lady Orchid among the many Tawyblades, and a couple of Fly Orchids. No sign of any White Helleborine until I found one or two eaten stems and another not even in bud.
We had better luck in a different part that we had not been to before-two separate Lady colonies, a few Common Spotted just starting to develop and some Early Purple orchids. Met someone who mentioned that Herb Paris could be found, but try as I might I could not find any.

 Finally we called in at park Gate Down. Only four Monkey Orchids were found-does not look all that good this year, but the Early Purples looked good among the Cowslips.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


The weather has finally improved (for a bit) and today had lots of sunshine, albeit with a bit of a cool northerly breeze.
Spent the morning at Amwell. Having almost given up on seeing butterflies it was nice to see a male Orange Tip on the approach track, but it was some time before I got to see any more.
The birds from the watchpoint have pretty much settled down for the summer. The Oystercatchers have chicks, and there are a few more young Lapwings (watched a Fox being driven off by the adults and a variety of geese) getting too close to one. Plenty of hirundines, but virtually all Martins, and a few Swifts. Shame that Swallows were scarce as virtually everywhere else seems to have had a Red Rumped recently.

Barry is back from Morocco having seen Atlas Flycatchers-bad news today, the Flamborough bird's DNA results are back and it's a Pied ( I suppose Iberian being a form of Pied is still possible). A few raptors showing in the sun, Buzzards, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and my first Hobby of the year.
Went for a walk down to the now open Hollycross bumping into Tony on the way.
The corner by the gate is full of rape seed and it was very attractive to butterflies-several Orange Tips, a Large White or two and damselflies. Found a Large red and some fresh Common Blues.

 Not much on the board walk. Tony said that the water levels earlier had been a good foot higher earlier in the week and a Canada Goose nest had been washed away. The orchids in the pen are coming on nicely. Basically hybrid Early Marsh and Southern Marsh, most seem to be structurally closer to Southern.

Back at the watchpoint for a brief spell met a party looking for Hobbies, but did not see any. Rather ironic as two were over the paddocks as I got back to the car.

 In the afternoon I spent about an hour at Waterford Heath. Lots of wild Strawberry patches in flower all over the south eastern corner, but only one Grizzled Skipper seen. Back at the car, the local butterfly group, including William were packing up. They had had a few more Skippers and several other species over the course of the day but the cloudy spells  and wind was not ideal for the site.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

More From Bempton

Some more images from the Bempton visit last weekend.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Amwell Ticks

Been a bit frustrating hearing all the goodies being reported from Amwell recently, but I heard from Bill yesterday that a few still remained so went down this morning. As per usual it was freezing, but the water levels were a lot higher (and Kingsmead had started to fill having been dry for months, not that it will do much).
 A scan of the fishing pit from the track failed to reveal the Red Breasted Merganser. Most of the usual Sunday crowd present so had a chat while scanning the main lake. The Black Tern was soon located over the tern rafts. Large numbers of hirundines and swifts feeding over the water. Waders a bit limited-the Oystercatcher on the nest, several Redshanks and at least one of the Lapwings had chicks.
 Simon arrived but did not stay long. When he left I went down to with him to search for the merganser and this time I found it, though the views through the trees was rather poor. Returning to the watchpoint things were a bit quiet so i went with Brian down to the Bittern Pool and Tumbling Bay for the Nightingale. We only heard a few brief snatches. Also a suspect Garden Warbler was heard (later confirmed by Phil) by the bridge. I stayed for a while by the Bittern Pool and then went up to the woods and scanned the fishing pit through the willows. Got better views of the Merganser this time-but not as good as Brian and a few others who were able to access the fishing pit and clear views.
 One Yellow wagtail dropped in, but the oddest feature of the day was the large movement of Wood Pigeons, all seeming to be heading eastwards.

Black and White

Like many others I have been following the Flamborough flycatcher saga since the first images were posted. It seems to look like an Atlas Flycatcher, but can Iberian be ruled out, or is it really just a very odd Pied Fly or hybrid. Had to see for myself.
 We headed up the A1 to find a lovely sunny Flamborough Head-quite unlike the cold damp Hertfordshire of recent weeks. A quick check while getting the car park ticket suggested we would not have to search much as the crowd was only a few yards down the road.
 Did not take long for the bird to appear and it perched on a branch for some time before flying off. Eventually it came back and spent a lot of time in and around a Sycamore in the valley. On a couple of occasions it interacted with Chiffchaffs and a pair of Spotted Flyctachers, but generally kept to itself. The large amount of white on the wings, the large forehead patch and the very black upperparts made it look very different to the normal Pied Flys. As to what it is eventually determined to be well I have no real idea. I am more in the Iberian/Atlas camp than hybrid but thats as far as my meagre knowledge goes.

 On the way back, bumped into Bill Last, Mike Illet and Darrel Bryant and had a quick chat.

 Decided to do a bit of dudey birding and visit the auk colony at Bempton. The Tree Sparrows in the car park were very vocal as we walked through. From the various viewpoints, the huge number of auks was great to see, and I managed to get close to filling up my 16 Gb cards. Big problem was I just had the manual focus 500mm, but the success rate was pretty good. The real challenge was to get the Gannets, but I found a spot where they were hanging in the wind and obtained some good results.

More to post later.

Heading back we called in again at Flamborough North Landing as I had directions to a pool where the Wood Sandpiper was showing. Views were distant. Large numbers of hirundines around the pool.

Drove down to Framton near Boston, narrowly avoiding several crashes involving very bad driving by other drivers seemingly incapable of negotiating junctions and roundabouts. On the way we hit heavy rain showers and finally arrived at a very cold wet Frampton Marsh.
 Two Black Winged Stilts could be observed from the visitors centre. The were hunkered down out of the cold wind and rain. we decided to try and get to them on our return, but they did not linger.
 We drove down to the sea wall and watched a Bonxie devour a coot.

 Large numbers of hirundines and swifts were flying low over every pool and the grazing fields held a few Whimbrel, some lingering Brents and various wildfowl. From the 360 hide we scanned for a Garganey without success but got a fine Yellow wagtail and both Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers. As we left, the Swallows and martins were starting to congregate on the fence wires.
 Got home fairly quickly along the new A47, and enjoyed a barn Owl in the process.