Saturday, 27 October 2012

Another County Tick

Over the last few days, a grebe at Wilstone which started out as Red Necked, then Black Necked was, when somebody actually looked properly became a Slavonian, the first in the county for some time.
Having had overnight snow and being rather cold and windy, I set out late and only got there just before 1100. Walked up the steps and ran into Mike Illet scoping the bird-rather difficult as it was only a few feet away. Expecting a bird in the middle of the reservoir, I took my scope rather than camera.
Me up with Joan Thompson and we walked over to the jetty hoping to pick up one of the Rock Pipits but  failed. Thought at one point that I heard one go over but it was very windy and I could not locate the bird. Took some time but I eventually located some of the Pintail among the hoards of duck in the middle. There is supposed to be a Black Tailed Godwit still, but I did not go over to the hide to check, instead I called in at Startops just in case any of the Pipits were there-they werent.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sunday in Norfolk

Having not been out for about a month, Colin was getting cabin fever, and with a hint of the beginning of an easterly airflow we decided to go to the Norfolk coast. Nothing on the pagers so we headed up to Titchwell. A bit of mist on the way up never materialised into any atmospheric sun rise landscapes.
Took the usual route and drove through Ringstead and the back roads to Chosely Barns. Having had a good Redwing movement at Amwell I was expecting some thrushes at least, but it was very quiet. The barns held a small flock of Greenfinches and a family of Pied Wagtails. A few Chaffinch as well but no buntings, geese or plovers.
We arrived at Titchwell and made our way to the sea-a fairly low high tide was due within the hour. A Short Eared Owl was watched taking on a Marsh Harrier over the Thornham block house. One of the Thornham Marsh pools was good-Redshank, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank in one scope view. A few Bearded Tits pinging in the reed beds and we were lucky to see two Water Rails having a fight. The sea was quiet despite a weak on shore breeze. Lots of Gannets as usual, and a few Common Scoter and two Eiders close in. On the horizon several flocks of Common Scoter, numbering perhaps 250 in total flew around, but there were no Velvets among them. Had a thought that maybe the off shore wind farm might be one of the reasons for the lack of Scoters here last winter.
Made our way back and stopped off at the Parrinder Hide for a while. Spent a bit of time looking at a female Pintail in among the Teal. Some Snipe were around too, but no-one could find any Jacks. A big flock of Golden Plover kept going up-we never saw any raptors though.

 Tried a few landscape shots with the 35mm lens and a polariser but lack of a focal point meant they didn't do much. However the plants were a bit better with this lens.

We went back to the car, had a bit of lunch and returned to the new trails expecting to see Scaup and Red Crested Pochard on the pool but neither seemed to be present. News of an Olive Backed Pipit at Burnham Overy was a bit more interesting.
The lack of cars and people at Burnham seemed a bit odd as we made our way out on the sea wall. A few Meadow Pipits, one flock of about a dozen redwing, several Starling flocks and a few Geese were all encountered by the time we got to Gun Hill. Met up with Julian Bahlero who told us the bad news. Apparently the Pipit was seen by a single observer late morning in the dunes with a flock of Meadow Pipits. Only the head was seen, but it was apparently heard.  Not the normal habitat, and they don/t normally associate with Meadows either. Had a search and saw one or two Meadows with an olive tint, which is pretty normal at this time of year-maybe the guy saw one of these? Did get a year tick out of it though-a Richard's Pipit flew over, presumably the bird reported in the morning at nearby Scolt Head.
Nice to get out, and saw a good selection of birds, and got some decent images. Of course on Monday the easterlies brought a flood of birds. Apparently birders were wading through flocks of thrushes on the way out to Gun Hill. Not much in the way of rares though, apart from a Bluetail at Stiffkey.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Last Visit to Amwell for a While

Paid my usual weekend visit to Amwell this morning. Got to the level crossing and saw that it would be closed next Saturday and would not be open until after the following weekend. Arrived at the watchpoint and Tony said that the whole line would be closed, not just this crossing. So the choice is very limited parking at the old gate, or a long walk in from Ware or Stansted St Margrets.
Better news was the juvenile Yellow Legged Gull at the south end. Walked down and bumped into Phil and Bill on the way. Spent a long time in the hide scanning the gulls as there was a continual turn over with birds arriving from the tip to wash. Found the Yellow Legged but did not get any good images as the light was poor and the bird too distant. Large numbers of Lesser Black Backs in particular with smaller numbers of Herring. About half a dozen Greater Black Backs also present.
Walked back to the watchpoint and joined the others. Seemed to be a lot of Redpoll movements with birds going over on a frequent basis. There were large flocks of thrushes over the woods. Phil and Barry reckoned in excess of 500 Redwings over the course of the morning. A few Song Thrush and Blackbirds were seen, but no Fieldfare. Usual movement of Skylark and Meadow Pipits.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

More Photos

Some more of the autumnal colour.

Autumn Colour

Last day of the fortnight off. Decided last night that there was nothing worth going for so had another lie in.
It was a cold night, the sky is nice clear blue so I thought I'd go over to Aston End and try for some landscapes.
Had a couple of good birds as soon as I set out-a flyover Redwing and a couple of Mistle Thrushes. The conifer plantation a bit quiet, though there were a few crests and Coal Tits calling. Should have searched through them as I only realised later that there was a Firecrest in there as well.
The stretch along the Walkern road was pretty colourful with the Spindle fruits and leaves lit up nicely by the sun, and the Dogwood and Field Maple looked good too.  Three Redpolls flew west out of High Wood, and now that it had warmed up, there were several Buzzards, a Kestrel and  Sparrowhawk in the air. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were going over as usual. Down by the horse paddocks, heard both Tawny and Little Owls but neither could be seen.
Only one butterfly seen-a Red Admiral on Ivy, though there were plenty of bees and flies taking advantage of the nectar.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Woodlark at Amwell

Popped into the docs and got my flu jab, then headed down to Amwell arriving at 0915. Thought I'd made a big mistake-it was cold, misty and I only had my thin fleece. Gradually warmed up as the morning progressed.
Discussed the recent site management with Tony. Alan had put a big trench in front of the viewpoint , taken out most of the small trees and widened the scrape considerably. Hopefully will help with Water rail and Snipe, and in spring it might pull in a few waders.
 Went down to the hide to check the large gulls-Greater and lesser Black Backs and a few Herring. One or two Yellow legs have been roosting recently. Returned as Phil arrived and Barry came back from his walkabout. A few Larks and Pipits going over as usual, plus a couple of Grey Wagtails. By the time Simon and a few others had arrived it was quite warm and raptors were starting to appear-two Red Kites, a good half dozen Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk. We had some passerines over the woods and what seemed to be a small flock of Redwings.
At 1150 Barry picked up a small short tailed lark heading north with a bounding flight and short tail. My first Woodlark for Herts and certainly bird of the week.
A few Red Admirals still taking advantage of the late sun, and a single Small White. Apparently one or two Small Coppers are still being seen in places.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Goldfinch Record

While having breakfast, large numbers of Goldfinches were on and around the feeder. A minimum of 20 on the feeder with at least five more in the garden waiting their turn.
Two Dunnocks and two Robins are also around, but House Sparrow numbers have plummeted now that the young have dispersed-I suspect that there may not be more than five or six at the moment.
Have been going around north east Herts on a few occasions from the autumnal landscape point of view. Some foliage is turning-mainly the dogwoods and Field Maples, but so far everything else remains green.

Lots of good birds turning up in far flung locations, but nothing to justify the travelling costs. Two weeks off and the furthest I have travelled is Wilstone!
Flu jab tomorrow, so it all rests on Sunday's northerly airflow and the east coast.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Amwell Again

Still nothing exciting to go for. Sunday was foggy, went out to get misty landscapes and failed. Yesterday ended up cold and wet, so took Mum shopping.
Today is bright and sunny, not much wind and so not much happening.
Went down to Amwell hoping for a repeat of Saturday, but a lot of the warblers and Siskins seem to have cleared out. Alan Reynolds was down hoping to get more flyby Jay shots but only a few distant birds seen. Large numbers have been coming inoff the North Sea so we were speculating about a possible Nutcracker Invasion. Well it passed the time. All the photographers went for a walk down to the Hollycross path, but we failed to find anything of note.
Back at the watchpoint Royston Dave and John Bartlett turned up. We tried to string a Caspian Gull, saw the hybrid Baikal Teal and watched a juvenile Kestrel get wet feeding on the waters edge.

Saturday, 6 October 2012


Great time at Amwell this morning. The bright sunny and still conditions did not exactly promise much but I ended up with 57 species in the three hours I was there.
 Jays going over all the time-and getting close to the camera for once.

 At least two Red Kites came up over the woods, with four Buzzards, one or two Sparrowhawks and a juvenile Hobby. Small numbers of hirundines going through all the time, and a couple of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks went through too.
Walk down to the Hollycross gate produces a big mixed tit flock which contained many Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and a pair of Blackcap. Pair of Treecreepers in the area as well. On the way back a stop off at the alders produced a large flock of Siskins with a few Redpolls as well. Also heard one or two Marsh Tits in the woods.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Greenfinch and Dunnock

The juvenile Greenfinch is still around-along with 13+Goldfinches. A Great Tit has turned up in the garden as well, first for a couple of months.
A Dunnock has also turned up today-the first in the garden since June 2011. They were regular visitors ever since I started recording in 1986.
Meanwhile an Eastern Kingbird in Galway (first for the Western Palearctic) and a Myrtle Warbler on Dursey Island are tempting birders who think that Ireland is part of Britain. Still waiting for something to turn up on the mainland.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Its Gone a bit Quiet

Have not exactly done much birding over the last couple of days-the constant westerlies have not produced much to get excited about this side of the country.
Did a bit of work in the garden, got rid of one or two plants and re-arranged a few others, creating more space for some of the recent purchases. Most will have to go in in spring as a few things have died back or been eaten by slugs and snails and I dont want to plant too closely to them (assuming they come back next year).
Still got good numbers of Goldfinches visiting every day, and the juvenile Greenfinch is still around. Had a dark Common Buzzard mobbed by a Crow just outside the garden, by far the nearest one has ever been.

 Today I had intended to go out and do a bit of landscape photography, with the bright blue sky and sunshine but decided instead to have a quiet walk around Rye Meads.
Arrived about a minute before the bus load of school kids and discovered that there was a lot of maintenance work going on on the board walks and shrubs. Managed to escape all of that. Four Green Sandpipers over the Draper Hide with one calling in later. Two Snipe and a few Lapwing also present.
 The water levels on the north lagoon are quite low, but this has not brought much in. Two Common Gulls and one or two Wigeon, but no sign of the long staying Garganey. The south lagoon is pretty poor, looking straight into the sun but the Cormorants and Herons on the nearer rafts were reasonably photogenic.

Several dragonflies still around, many Common Darters and several Migrant Hawkers. One of the latter was found in long grass covered in dew, and allowed me to pick it up. After warming up a bit it flew off. Another was found perched in brambles where it remained all morning.