Friday, 31 August 2012

(Un)tickable Views

This turned up in Fairlands Valley yesterday, but it hit the pagers early afternoon today. Expected to see it on the lake so took the 300mm lens-would have been better off with a portrait lens as it was stood on the waters edge. Apparently people have been hand feeding it.
According to reports, it escaped from somewhere in Staffordshire and the owners are on their way.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Part 2 The good bit-Ouse washes

The weather looked good for Sunday and we spent the day in the cambridge Fens. Started off dull but warmed up as the day progressed.
Started off near St Neots where there had been a report of a Lesser Emperor a few days previously. The small reserve, adjacent to a new housing development looked ok, though it seemed more attractive to dog walkers. The small stream adjacent to the river Ouse held a few Banded Demoiselles and Common Darter. Walking back along the Ouse we found some migrant Hawkers but there was no sign of the Emperor.
Small flock of hirundines over the marina consisted of House and Sand Martins with a few Swallows.
A search of the Haddenham area for the elusive American Golden Plover proved fruitless, as we did not see any plovers. As it turned out, no one saw the bird all day.
Arrived at the RSPB Ouse Washes just before noon and headed for the Kingfisher Hide. A quick scan produced some Garganey among the Mallards and Gadwall. Some Wigeon were present too. having not seen any Garganey at all this year it seemed a bit strange when a thorough search produced a count of well over 30-birds seemed to be in every scope view.
Waders were a bit scarce-the floods earlier having had a big impact. In fact we only saw a couple of Black Tailed Godwits. Ruff numbers seemed a bit more respectable, and included a few juvenile birds. Some Dunlin were present and there were about 20 Greenshank-another species we had not yet seen.
The Grose Hide was popular largely because of the Glossy Ibis. It was sort of on view, feeding in a hollow in front of the hide. It spent a lot of time feeding on some Iris roots before being flushed and flying a bit closer where it gave excellent views.
For a while, when  juvenile Little Egret was nearby it had a habit of stretching one wing-not sure what that was about.

 While in Letchworth, I popped into David's Bookshop and among several second hand purchases was a copy of The Twitchers Diary, Richard Millingtons story of his epic 1980 year list. His Little Egret, then a major rarity took several visits to eventually connect (we saw around 40 from this hide alone), and his Glossy Ibis sighting was the resident Stodmarsh two, but otherwise a very rare vagrant. I missed those, and it was a long time before I ever saw one, yet we now expect small numbers all year round and some of us are expecting birds to breed soon.

Called in at Deadmans Hill on the way back. A Montagues Harrier had flown through early afternoon, Alan Reynolds had flushed some Quail and there were Winchat and Stonechat present. Met up with Tony Hulkin who had missed the Harrier and Quail earlier, but apart from the usual Kites and Buzzards did not see anything of note.

Returned to Deadmans Hill this morning, and Tony was there again. Rather windy. Walked round the field with him, locating 4-5 Winchat and 1-2 Stonechat. The birds wer feeding on top of the wheat stalks in the middle of the fields and remained elusive. Also had some Yellowhammer, Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. Joined by a number of others, but by 1100 the rain arrived.

Bank Holiday Part 1 the Dull Bit

Took the car in for an MOT on Friday, so spent a couple of hours wandering round Letchworth. Not much of interest on Norton Common, unlike some years. Found a small tit flock and a few Migrant hawkers.
Only interesting thing was the Grey Wagtail feeding in the road in front of the Broadway Hotel.
Saturday rain was forecast, though as it turned out it remained dry after a brief shower during breakfast. Went down to Amwell for a few hours and got rather warm wearing my wet weather gear.
Geese numbers increasing, lots of moulting Greylag and Canada Geese and there seems to be larger numbers of Mute Swans too. Ducks numbers about the same as they have been for a while, though Shovellers are starting to arrive. Still a few lingering Common Terns. Apart from the ever present Lapwing, there were four Common Sandpipers present.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Southern Migrant Hawker

After a bad year last year, the Hadleigh Southern Migrant Hawkers seem to be doing well at the moment, with numerous sightings in the area.
Based on recent reports, we went down to the new RSPB reserve of West Canvey. Arrived around 1000 about the same time as a group we knew from Norfolk. It was to put it mildly rather hot.
A search of the ditch and hedge running north of the car park produced a brief sighting of Southern Migrant, as well as many Common and Ruddy Darters. One or two Emperors around, but no Emeralds of any kind.
We split up and Colin and I headed north to the hide overlooking the lake. Just as the path turned towards the viewing platform, we found a small pool with a male Southern Hawker on territory. It put on a good show all morning and the Norfolk crew eventually arrived having seen we were busy with our cameras.

 Butterflies were abundant-mainly browns and Common Blues with a few whites. Juvenile Whitethroats and Dunnocks seemed to be in every bush but apart from an Egret, a single Black Tail Godwit and one or two Yellow Legged Gulls among the Herrings flying between the pools and the Pitsea tip we did not see many birds.
 Called in at another part of the marsh, soon to be another RSPB reserve. Hoped to locate Great Green Bush Cricket and was pointed in the right direction by the site manager but did not see any. Did find a Dark Bush Cricket and the ever present Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers.

Saturday, 18 August 2012


Went down to Rye Meads this morning. A cool breeze helped to offset the very high temperatures but on some of the sunnier parts it was hard going.
Despite the warmth, few butterflies seen-one Common Blue, one Comma, a few Small Whites. Only Speckled Wood and Peacock could be termed frequent.
 Dragonflies a bit better. Brown, Southern and Migrant Hawker everywhere. Black Tail Skimmers over the lagoons. Common Darter, Blue Tail, Common Blue and Red Eyed Damselflies  abundant. Surprisingly no Demoiselles or Emperors.
Duck numbers building up-several tens of Shoveller and Teal present now. Two juvenile Little Egrets, seven Green Sandpiper and two Snipe (lost as a breeding species and a bit unusual this early) the highlights.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Late Butterflies

With the weather continuing to be hot and sunny, we planned a trip to Oxfordshire on Saturday as it looked like a pretty good opportunity to get images of Brown Hairstreak. Research suggested they were flying in the area so we selected a few sites. Turned out to be just about the only butterfly we did not see.
 We arrived at Bernewood Meadows around 0930 to find the meadows had been cut and tractors were turning the hay and baling. One consequence of this was the constant presence of Kites scavenging the stubble. The other was the huge number of grasshoppers and crickets in the hedgerows.
 One area seemed to be pretty good as it was crawling with Roesel's Bush Crickets, but as I had obtained good images a few years ago I concentrated on some of the others, which appear to be Meadow Grasshoppers.

 Butterflies consisted of the usual browns and skippers that are to be expected, and several Silver Washed Fritillaries. One Purple Hairstreak was seen, and we also saw another hairstreak which might have been Brown, but it flew past so quickly we couldn't be sure. Lots of Migrant Hawkers and Darters too.

Leaving Bernewood, we stopped at Span Green, a wide track lined with Ash and a few clumps of Blackthorn. Saw some Blues-Common and maybe Holly, but a scan of the Ash Trees did not produce any Hairstreaks, so we did what everyone else was doing today and finished up at Whitecross Green.
 Teamed up with one of the Otmoor wardens and made our way down to the pond. Silver Washed were frequent, and we also had faded Marbled White, Purple Hairstreak and a couple of late White Admirals. The unexpected bonus though was a female Purple Emperor. With whites, Brimstone, Commas and the browns, skippers and so on we had 17 species in less than two hours.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Southern Hawker

Finished work very early this morning and was down at Amwell by ten. Very warm and sunny so i was expecting to see butterflies and dragonflies.
Birds are very quiet of course-the ducks and geese are in eclipse and looking tatty, a few Black Headed Gulls and Common terns remain on the rafts and thats about it. Three Common Sandpipers the only indication of migration, and according to Phil and Bill thats pretty much the highlight of recent weeks.

Down at the river and Hollycross the most common butterfly was Peacock-have not seen any for months and they all look very fresh. A few Meadow Browns, Red Admirals, Commas and Speckled Woods around, and Gatekeepers are starting to build up. All three whites, and Brimstones around and singles of Small Copper and Common Blue seen.
Dragonfly numbers variable-lots of Brown and Southern Hawker and a few Emperor. Small numbers of Common Darter, and only one Banded Demoiselle and Red Eyed-could not see any Small Red Eyed and no Migrant hawkers either.