Sunday, 29 December 2013

More Brunnichs

Awful migrane today. Here are some more Guillemot images.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Brunnichs Guillemot

News broke of a Brunnichs Guillemot in Portland Harbour on Boxing Day. Unlike the majority of records it had two things going for it a) it was not in the Shetlands and b) it was not dying. Around 100 got there that afternoon including Jay Ward who got some great images. Yesterday the weather was pretty bad with strong winds, though it showed all day, so naturally Colin and I had to get there today. Having not made any big trip since mid October it made a nice change to get out on a major twitch.
We arrived at Portland Castle around 0920 to find a large crowd strung along the quay. A quick scan of the moored boat opposite revealed the winter plumage Black Guillemot along with the usual hoards of Red Breasted Mergansers and Shags. The Brunnichs was further north swimming around the pier so I made my way there bumping into many familiar faces. Ended up watching the bird with Ron Cousins for quite a while. It was often distant, and rarely on the surface for more than a minute at a time but on occasion came very close and posed for us.

A scan from the quay produced a couple of Razorbills and single Great Northern  and Black Throated Divers. Eventually after an hour chasing the Brunnichs up and down the quayside we decided to leave just as the heavy rain arrived.
After a coffee, made our way to the Fleet where a large number of Mediterranean Gulls could be found among the Brents and Dunlin. The harbour was the main attraction. We never found the Red Necked Grebe, but a flock of 16 Black Necked Grebes, a single Slavonian and three or four Black Throated Divers was nice.
Around 1200 we made our way to the north end of Radipole (the RSPB vistors centre a sorry state after the floods) and a playing field where a Glossy Ibis was putting on a show in the sunshine.

We then headed of to West Bexington for a 2w Glaucous Gull. Luckily approaching the turning we found a car load scoping from a lay by on the main road. Although distant, the bird was fairly easy to locate and showed well, particularly when flushed by dog walkers.
Headed home after this-would have been good to get to Brixham and it's White Billed Diver but too far with the time available so we called in at Middlebere Heath near Wareham. Unfortunately it rained heavily and got rather cold and thus we were unable to locate any Dartford Warblers.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Amwell Parakeet

Forgot to post this one earlier. Blame the wine and brandy.


I was not holding out much hope for today. The windy weather had eased off (with more forecast tomorrow) but I woke up to very heavy rain. This did ease off and the sun came out so a trip to Amwell was on.
I arrived around 0930 to hear one or two Nuthatches in the woods by the lane. Got up to the watch point to find a very depleted Sunday crew-reputedly the weather may have put a few off. Also Bill had reportedly gone up to the Humber to see the Ivory Gull. When everyone started their walk, I went down to the Gladwyn hide and waited for the red head Smew to put in an appearance. Unfortunately when it did show it was a little way off for the 300mm even with the 1.7x converter.

I went back to the watchpoint and waited, but not much seemed to be happening. Checked the autofocus with a flyby 1w Lesser Black Backed. Also one or two Cetti's Warblers were seen flitting from one reed bed to another. Too far away and too quick for the camera.

Phil turned up as did one or two others. A few Greylags flew in, and then Phil spotted two Ring Necked Parakeets flying up the valley the other side of the pit. They circled round and were lost to view, but shortly after we heard them again. Barry has seen the odd one in recent years, and Jay saw one last week, and of course there was that big flock a few months ago that I saw fly over the A10 having been seen earlier at Amwell. Presume that they will be getting more regular.
Plenty of Buzzards up in the sunshine, and a nice Sparrowhawk put the Lapwing up. A big flock of Fieldfare flew over from the woods-small numbers of Redwing and Song Thrushes are present but Fieldfare have been pretty scarce here this winter.

Mick Cotton, Ron Cousins, Colin and his mate arrived and soon after Derek Ling and Sue-nice to see them as it has been quite a while since I last saw them. As if on cue a Peregrine was located above the woods (my one and only previous Amwell Peregrine was over 20 years ago in the company of Derek and Sue). This remained on view for a long time, coming over the pit chasing a Wigeon before flying to the north west end.

To add to the fun, an escaped Harris Hawk was seen hunting over the hill to the west. It remained on view for some time, and on a couple of occasions, the Peregrine took exception to it and we were treated to some amazing aerobatics.
The odd pale white rumped Buzzard then appeared over the fields. Those with scopes noted in the excellent light that it has some rufous tones on the upperparts suggesting it may be a Red Tailed Hawk (one of which used to be seen at Hunsdon some years ago and may have paired up with a Buzzard).

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Bird Pictures For A Change!

The weather men got it wrong. There was another deep low through Scotland yesterday, giving us a very windy night. This was supposed to continue today so I did not plan to go out. Woke up to find bright sunshine, mild and still.
Yesterday I heard a Coal Tit outside-as mentioned before they are not regular here as the nearest expanse of conifers are some way away. Today I spotted one coming down to the feeder and after a bit of a wait managed to get a single image. The regular Goldfinches were a bit easier.

Drove down to Amwell in bright sunshine to find a large crowd-the residents, the Sunday crew and a few others such as Richard Pople. The drake Pintail had to be pointed out to me-it was sleeping under the trees on the island. The Smew was also in the same area though later on returned to it's usual spot at the bottom of the pit.
Not long after the various groups started their circuits, John Bartlett arrived so we had a bit of a chat. The Water Rail put in an appearance again and I managed to get a few shots-had the D3S 300mm and 1.7x converter  this time. The Bittern also showed quite well in one of the newly cut bays near the White Hide. Did not try any shots as it was too far away-though I did post an attempt earlier this year.
Eventually John and I walked down to the Hollycross feeders where everyone else had gathered. Encountered a few Siskins, tits and a Treecreeper on the way.
Not much happening on the feeders while we were there-a few Chaffinch, Goldfinch, one Coal Tit and the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Jay was using a 7D on his Swarowski 95 and got some good shots of it). One or two Redwings here still.
The weather started to go a bit around 1030 with the breeze picking up a bit and the earlier sunshine now a memory so we went back to the watchpoint. Not much else to see-Jay had a Ring Necked Parakeet briefly so after a while I decided to leave, discovering on getting close to home that it was raining in Stevenage.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Aston End

Went for a walk around Aston End and the river Beane. It was a nice, mild and sunny morning and did not really feel like December.
Walking through the plantation produced a few tits and crests and one or two thrushes were heard as I approached Aston End. The most notable bird though was a very vocal Nuthatch. A small flock of House Sparrows was nice to see-mine seem to have all but gone though one or two visit the garden.
Looking down from the water tower to the river I saw a small flock of Fieldfares-maybe 12 birds with a few Redwings among them. One of the fields held a small flock of gulls-Black Heads and Common along with crows and Starlings.
A Red Kite was nice to see as I made my way up river, but there were few birds in the hedges apart from a few tits and two or three Yellowhammers. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were present in most of the fields but numbers were small-I never saw more than three or four at a time.
No sign of any Little Owls around the stables but there was a very loud pale Common Buzzard.

A few images from this weekend.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Water Rail clip

Wrote yesterday that the Baikal Teal had not been reported, and shortly after I published news arrived that it was back on the marsh at Southport. Colin had been busy working and did not fancy going out today, and I am not exactly enamoured of 'rare' ducks of unknown provenance so as usual I ended up at Amwell for the morning.
The Smew is still around near the Gladwyn hide and showing well at times. Two male Bullfinches were in the woods by the towpath. Also present were numerous Redwings, Blackbirds tits and crests. Heard a few Siskin here as well.
Wandered down to the Hollycross feeders-the Marsh Tit was calling but did not show, but there were as usual hoards of Goldfinch and Chaffinch with a few Greenfinches thrown in. The Bramblings have been reported again but as usual failed to appear for me.
Back at the watchpoint things had not changed much. However a Water Rail appeared from time to time so I tried filming it with the RX 100 through the scope.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Friday shopping

Have spent the morning watching the twitter feeds from the east coast. Cley is very bad and looks like most  of the reserves on the east coast have suffered in the storm surge. I was thinking of going up this weekend but there is not much point now. Other alternative was the Baikal Teal at Southport but that's been suffering too and there has not been any news.

Took Mum out to Letchworth today for a spot of Christmas shopping-mainly an excuse to visit a decent wine merchant. While at Harkness garden centre a flock of Redpolls flew over but I did not see anything else on the journey. However when I got home, avoiding the builders (we got a letter saying the paths would be relaid, taking ten days and finishing end November-they stared yesterday!) I looked up and saw a magnificent Red Kite over the garden.

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Did not go for the Western Orphean Warbler last Sunday as planned-a stomach bug took care of that. Reckon I've lost around a dozen lifers over the years by sudden illnesses-would be much higher but I have had second chances with some birds.
Very cold northerly wind today, and not much fun on the Amwell watch point. Went down to the Gladwin hide to get some shelter and hopefully the Smew. Met Barry on the way down and had a brief chat. After about fifteen minutes the 1w drake Smew appeared behind the willows at the extreme southern end. Not very good views. Maybe six Goldeneyes were down this end and around the main island.

While waiting I spent some time digiscoping the cormorants opposite. The very poor lighting not a great help.
Eventually made my way to the Hollycross feeders bumping into a returning Tony and being joined by Simon. Bill was already there. Spent a good 45 minutes but no sign of the Bramblings. Lots of Chaffinch and Goldfinches, several Great, Blue and Coal Tits and the two Marsh Tits appeared briefly. One Greenfinch and an over flying Redpoll as well.
Lot of noise from the hawthorns-a Stoat was trying to take a huge buck Rabbit and it was a long slow struggle. The Magpies and Tits seemed to take an interest.
Returned to the now milder watch point around 1130 meeting Stevenage Dave and Ron Cousins. The Smew was back in it's usual bay and showed well in the scope.  

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Things are slowly getting back to normal now.
Popped out for a couple of hours this morning and went to Amwell. The weather was a bit grotty-drizzle on the way and murky all morning, plus it was a bit colder than my last visit. The water levels are about as high as they get although the new  excavations in front of the viewpoint provided a lot of muddy edges.
Jay Tony Trevor and Phil were present when I arrived, and Colin and Richard Pole arrived much later. Surprised to discover that Jay did not go to Wales for the Orphean Warbler-but he did manage to get to last years one. Barry and Bill had gone for insurance purposes.
Reasonable duck numbers as expected, with my first Goldeneye of the winter. Snipe were around but hard to see, and Lapwing numbers a bit low. The usual selection of gulls with a nice 3w Yellow Legged showing well.
Phil has put some feeders up, viewable from the now closed Hollycross gate and this has been pulling in Marsh and Coal Tit. Despite a half hour wait they failed to appear for me though a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the fat was nice to see. Tit flocks all over the place, I missed a couple of Treecreepers in one of them, but I did encounter a large number of Goldcrests.
Despite the lateness, the autumn colour is still a bit hit and miss with many trees still remaining green, and one of the Hazels had catkins.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Glossy Ibis Rye Meads

Mum came out of hospital on Tuesday and I have taken a few days off to help her. The same day I learnt that a Glossy Ibis lurking in the Lea Valley had appeared at Rye Meads-Jason, Lee Evans and most of the locals connected that afternoon. Bit frustrating as it has been seen there on and off since.
Mum said she would be ok for a couple of hours today and told me to go for it so I did.
I arrived around 0940 (the reserve opened early today) and met Vicky and a few others in the Lapwing hide. Unfortunately she told me it had flown off earlier onto Draper scrape and was then flushed presumably onto the meads but had not been found. Also the Konik ponies were due to be rounded up shortly.
Anyway she left to work in the office and we waited. One Cetti's Warbler calling from the ditch and a few Teal, Shoveller and Mallard were flying around and there were Pheasants, Herons and Moorhen on view.
Some time after 10 someone found it. Dont know if it had flown in-I had a tweet saying Bill Last had it mid morning at Amwell briefly, but I saw it at the back of the flood meadow a long way off and in poor light. Managed to get some poor digiscoped images before I returned home.
Considering the number present in recent years it is surprising how few have made it into Herts-this may only be the third or fifth record. And my first.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Lodge Sandy

Today I took a bit of a break from the continual hospital visits and went out with Colin. We did not have a plan as such but were hoping to do some autumnal scenes. Colin had his new Pentax dslr so wanted to give it a whirl.
He arrived at 0930, and after a quick in car discussion decided to go to the Lodge at Sandy as we have had good results in the past. There had been a lot of overnight wind, though the day was largely sunny and breezy but many of the trees have yet to colour up, and others are almost bare.
I was a bit surprised when we got to the Lodge car park and spotted a couple of familiar faces-William from Amwell and Kathy from LDAS. I found out that they were taking part in a fungal foray and over the course of the morning bumped into them from time to time.
The feeders in the car park were attractive to a number of species-mainly tits and a vocal Nuthatch but a nice bonus was the male Brambling. Shame I did not have any birding lenses with me.
We made our way down to the ornamental gardens and spent some time there looking at the shrubs and herbaceous plants, before walking through the woods and onto the old heath. Apart from a few more tit flocks, crests  and a single calling Chiffchaff the only things I saw were a queen Hornet and a male Common Darter.
Despite the fungal foray, we did not see much of interest from a photogenic point of view (not that I know anything about fungi) , but some of the trees and shrubs were excellent, as was the landscape in general. The breeze was a bit of a problem at times and I was glad to have the flash available in the more shady parts of the grounds.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

End of the 'Holiday'

Well I am back to work tomorrow, and the two week break did not exactly go as expected, and effectively ended last Thursday. Thankfully things are a bit better now though there is a long way to go with Mum. Sarah and Jane have been staying which has been a big help.
I managed to get down to Amwell last Wednesday afternoon for an hour or so. The birding was not all that different to my last visit, but the autumn colours were really starting to get going. Jay Ward was present, and as I had not seen him for some time there was a lot of catching up to be done.

There were a lot of big gulls and as both Caspian and Yellow Legged had been present, I spent some time going through them without success. Surprisingly there were few raptors despite the fine conditions, but I did encounter two Red Kites at Wadesmill which was nice.

Yesterday I walked into town with Sarah and Jane, and went through Fairlands Valley. Nothing of note though again the trees were looking nice. The Pink Footed Goose has been seen in Stevenage and I was able to check the Canada flocks here and in the town, but it was not present.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Red Admiral

Just had a rather late Red Admiral in the garden-30 seconds of sunshine, which has been in short supply recently.

I have not had an opportunity to go out recently as my mother has been ill again, so the holiday plans have had to be been put on hold. Have missed a few good birds, though none are needed for the life list, but the most annoying thing has been the poor weather as the autumn colour has been looking really good over the last week or so. Could do with one calm sunny day soon.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tuesday in Norfolk

Having missed the east coast bonanza of the weekend, we decided to try and find any left overs in Norfolk. As Colin had to do a bit of work first thing, and what with the atrocious traffic around cambridge we did not get to the coast until shortly after ten.
The drive through Ringstead and Chosely produced small numbers of thrushes-mainly Redwing and Blackbirds, plus three Fieldfare-my first of the autumn. Chosely Barns did not have much at all so we did not stay long and went down to Titchwell.
The walk along the autumn trail produced a couple of Blackcaps, a Chiffchaff and lots of Blackbirds, but not unfortunately any Ring Ouzels. A Jack Snipe showed really well on the new pool.
The tide was rising but still a way out as we made our way along the main path. The fresh marsh had lots of Teal-no Green Winged, a few Avocets and a few Redshank, Ruff and Godwits. One presumed Reed Warbler was seen briefly near the first hide but never showed again, and a party of Bearded Tits in the same area was nice. Among the many gulls a juvenile gull looked pretty good for Yellow Legged.
Most of the waders were on the beach-shanks, godwits, Knot, Sanderling and so on.  The sea was rather quiet despite the onshore breeze. I picked up a few very distant scoter flocks, and a few Kittewakes and Fulmars were following a fishing boat. Scanning up towards Thornham I managed to see the three Snow Buntings flying away at a considerable distance.

We were intending to go to Holme, but Colin had an injured toe so we decided to go to Wells instead, parking at the pitch and put course. A small group of birders told us where to go and on reaching them the Siberian Stonechat was pointed out. It was supposed to be showing well, but it was just visible above the reed heads using a distant fence as a perch from which to hunt. I tried phone scoping and digiscoping but even so the results were very poor.

We left after about half an hour and headed home, calling in at Lyndford Arboretum on the way. The Two Barred Crossbills had been seen again in the morning, though getting them is a bit hit and miss. We spent 45 minutes at the favoured Larches though the light was not all that good. Three Crossbills came down for a minute-they sounded interesting but my camera settings were way off and there was no visible detail in binoculars. Colin got a couple of badly exposed shots-no wing bars. Still expecting them to winter so may get to see them eventually.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Great White Egret

A Great White Egret was reported at Tyttenhanger last week, while I was with Sarah at Wisley. Unfortunately she did not want me to to detour on the way back. Luckily it has stuck around-presumably it is the bird that has wintered recently in the Chess valley.
I went down this morning, parking in Colney Heath by the waterworks for the first time.
The walk to the bridge through the scrubby bit did not produce anything of note-would have been nice to pick up a Yellow Browed but never mind. Not a great deal on the big pit, the usual selection of gulls, geese etc, but i did pick up a Green Sandpiper from the viewing shelter.
Got to the causeway and saw two birders there plus the Great White Egret. It never came particularly close but all my others have been at some distance. Watched it fishing now and again-Perch seemed to be favoured, and interacting with the Little Egret (did not get on!). Couple more Green Sandpipers arrived, and a few Redwings went over when I left.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Holiday Time

Started my main autumn holiday on Friday and it has been a bit slow.
News on Friday morning of a Pink Footed Goose at Amwell flying off at 0730 was bad enough, but to hear that Phil Ball had seven Whooper Swans mid morning (flying past an oblivious Bill Last) was worse. Both are county ticks for me (there are some dodgy Whoopers seen in the west of the county now and again). The Whoopers stayed until just after 1100-Jay Ward missed them by minutes and I was hoping to get down early afternoon after finishing work.
Colin did not fancy the potentially wet and very windy trip to the east coast yesterday-news from Jay and bloggers like Penny Clark later suggested it was pretty good, so I ended up at Amwell for a few hours.
The Pink Foot had been present again overnight but departed early, but unfortunately it later flew up river while everyone was looking out from the watch point. To me it sounds a bit suspect as it is associating with the Canadas-but so is the Barnacle so it must be a wild bird, right? Its on the Lea at Ware today so I guess I will catch up with it eventually.
Main feature of the morning was the Redwing movement. Hard to say how many I saw in the 3.5 hours I was there, but every few minutes a scan of the hills to the north west would produce birds, sometimes 20, sometimes well over 200. Phil reckoned a total in excess of 10000 would not be unreasonable. No other thrushes were in the flocks though one or two lone Mistles flew around, and Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were more evident in the bushes.
Other moving birds included a few Skylark and Meadow Pipits and a few finches. Three Pied Wagtails on the scrape was a bit unusual, presumably the locally bred birds. Three Cetti's are calling from the reeds and Snipe numbers seem to be building up, but otherwise it was just the usual assortment of gulls, ducks and raptors.
Drove back via Bennington, but no indication of thrushes in the fields and hedges.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Amwell Osprey

Another fine sunny autumnal day with the promise of not a lot, so I went to Amwell as per usual for the social scene.
There has been a lot of work over the last week, clearing out large areas of reedbeds, and new pools and scrapes created. As happened last year, the digger got into trouble and sank into the soft mud, creating a deep pool,much to the amusement of the onlookers.
I learnt that Barry had as expected gone up for the Thick Billed Warbler, and that 14 Parakeets had been present for a large part of Saturday. As not much was happening at the watchpoint I went for a stroll, picking up a few Migrant Hawkers, Commas and Red Admirals. There were also a few Common Darters on the bridge.

I walked back with the Sunday crew to the watchpoint meeting up with Simon-Phil and Bill had given up due to boredom, and most of the others left soon after.
Raptors were becoming more evident as the morning progressed and at one point I had nine Buzzards in one binocular view and there were more in other directions. One or two Kites were also flying but unusually no small raptors were seen and it looks like the Hobby may have departed.
Colin and his mate arrived, asking if we had seen the Osprey! Apparently they had met up with Trevor by the gas terminal and one had flown over their heads and carried on south. This no doubt explained why the Lapwings had been a bit jumpy. Wonder if it had been up at Tumbling Bay, as we had a lot of Pochard and Tufties fly in around 1000.
After a few choice words we were resigned to having missed the best bird of the day, but i scanned the distant southern end of the lake and picked up a large long winged raptor flying low. It looked very good in the bins and Simon confirmed that it was the Osprey. Unfortunately despite looking like it would fly back, it was soon lost to view and was later reported at Rye Meads.
On getting home, I also learnt that two Ravens had also been seen after I left.


Took Sarah down to Wisley yesterday. Had to have the annual flu jab first and picked her up just after 0900.
She and Ed had been hearing a bird from the garden, presuming it to be some sort of raptor, and it was calling when I arrived-a Ring Necked Parakeet. She saw another down near Heathrow which I missed, but there were several at Wisley. Unbelievably, while coming home over the Lea at Hertford, another 14 flew over the car.
The gardens are just starting to colour up for autumn, with only a few trees and shrubs looking autumnal, though the berries and fruit are impressive. The late perennials and grasses are looking fantastic at the moment, lots of dahlias, asters and salvias in particular, and we enjoyed the big borders and meadow beds. Meadow saffron and Cyclamen everywhere, with many of the latter more unusual species in the alpine house among the late blooming bulbs.
Apart from the parakeets we saw a lot of tits and crests in the woods of Battlestone Hill, plus a couple of Treecreepers in the banana grove. Nuthatches were heard all the time and we found a large group of maybe seven or eight in trees near the alpine house.
Rather disappointingly only a few butterflies were flying-a few Small Whites and Speckled Woods, and despite the large amount of water, only a couple of Migrant Hawkers and a single Southern Hawker were seen.
On the way back home, a Peregrine near London Colney was a nice bonus.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Nothing Much

Have not written anything for a couple of weeks now, largely because not much has happened.
After the Snipe twitch, had a few things to do on my week off, luckily the bird news  meant I did not miss much. Hoped for something last weekend but it remained quiet so I ended up at Amwell on the Saturday watching not a lot. It was warm, still and dry and there was absolutely nothing happening at all. About the nearest thing to a good bird was the Barnacle Goose-my first this year.
Sunday was a bit more interesting as I went up to Coombe Road. Most of the fields have been harvested and were full of corvids. The odd thing was the number of Mistle Thrush-maybe 30 or more. Hard to say as the slope hid many birds and some were flying in and out of the trees, but a bit unexpected to see that many. Two Kites and a few Buzzards as usual and as i left two Fallow Deer emerged-one pure white individual.
Yesterday I went with Sarah and Ed to an apple event at Perry Green near Much Hadham at St Elizabeths School. Seemed to be poorly organised as we arrived to find no signs and no indication of anything happening. We left and tried another entrance-this one did have a sign so we parked and joined a couple of others looking rather lost. We eventually found someone who pointed us in the right direction and after walking through some of the buildings we got to the orchard. There were a few stalls selling local produce and a display of apple varieties from a local enthusiast but the main reason was being able to pick your own selection of around 30 varieties.
Unbelievably we had to have a health and safety briefing first and hard hats were supposed to be worn just in case an apple fell on us. Most did not bother of course. One Speckled Wood, one Comma, a few Migrant Hawkers and a late Southern Hawker were seen as we made our way round the trees. The only birds were a couple of singing Chiffchaffs.

Today went down to Amwell. With the constant easterlies over the last few days most were expecting the east coast to be heaving with migrants but it seemed to fizzle out yesterday with only Yellow Browed warblers and one or two other species being reported.
Birds were moving at Amwell-the first Redwings were seen and there was a trickle of pipits larks and Swallows all morning. The plastic Barnacle is still present as is a Hobby. One of the Cetti's warblers has started to sing in front of the watch point, and a couple of Chiffchaffs were also singing. One Comma, several Migrant Hawkers and a few Dark Bush Crickets were seen.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Great Snipe at Kilnsea

Well we made it. Left around 0730 and got there just before 1100, with the only real problem being the usual one crossing the Humber Bridge and no warning of the toll price until you get to pay at the booth. Parked outside the Bluebell and walked all of 20 yards to the gate where a very small crowd had gathered.
The local with the collection bucket greeted us and told us to look over the gate and under the tree about ten feet away where the Snipe was sleeping in full view. They are not supposed to do this, they are supposed to hide in long grass and remain all but invisible.
Most of the crowd were over the other side sitting alongside the drive, so we went round and waited, with the occasional House Martin and Swallow flying overhead.
It woke up a couple of times to preen and eventually started to feed, unfortunately the background of plastic bags and rubbish did not enhance the images as we fired away. It ended up behind the tree among the nettles but after a while came out and approached us giving superb views for around fifteen minutes or so. It then went back to the tree and fell asleep again.

We left around 1215 and headed up to a lane leading to Sammy's Point where a Red Backed Shrike had been seen. Unfortunately no-one had seen it for several hours so we went down to the point and scanned the mudflats for waders, though most were very distant and the light was poor. Lots of Redshanks, Curlews, Dunlin and Golden Plover, plus Shelducks and some flyby Meadow Pipits

We headed up to Hornsea Mere where a Great White Egret had been for some time. It did not show in the very strong westerlies, though the sky was full of hirundines-apparently one or two Swifts were present. Two Little Gulls were present at this regular site and posed well.
With nothing else in the area we came home-another good run, but nothing to detour for on the way back.

Sunday, 15 September 2013


I have a week off and the weather is interesting, with a good chance of something. Late Saturday a Great Snipe turned up at Spurn-not unexpected at this time of year but much harder to get than they used to be. Been for a few, and apart from a yes it is/no it isn't bird at Sherringham in the mid 90's which was only seen distantly in flight I have not been able to connect. Should have been there today since the bird showed really well, but yesterday was a bad day with the lingering virus flaring  up again and a really bad headache. Did not expect to be much better today so I decided not to go.
Went down to Amwell for the usual Sunday gathering. Head still bad, but tolerable and improving, but as the morning progressed, the increasing westerlies and showers left me feeling rather cold at the end.
Barry had a couple of Wheatears early on but they had gone by the time I arrived. Constant movements, in small numbers of Swallows, Sand and House Martins were a feature of the day, with the occasional Meadow Pipit going over as well. Two Hobbys still, on and off all morning, plus the usual Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Buzzards. An Osprey would have been nice, but it was seen at Hertingfordbury. One Common Sandpiper  was present, though elusive, and there were still a couple of Sedge Warblers and one Reed warbler in front of the watch point.
Off to Yorkshire tomorrow-but we may end up somewhere else instead.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

River Beane

Bright and sunny this morning, but with a bit of a cool breeze now and again. It has been a while, but I thought that a walk around Aston End and up the river would make a change.  I must admit the weather did not look good for birding but occasionally something drops in so it was worth a punt.
Initially it did look to be very quiet, with very little in the conifer plantation and nothing of note as I walked through Aston End and down to the ford. Rather than walk up to the Walkern road, I stuck to the river and headed north. Rather surprisingly there is water in the river-ok its not flowing but it is there.
Migrants started to appear soon after leaving the ford-two Swallows heading south, and then a few Chiffchaffs were found. More Chiffchaffs and some Blackcaps were seen around the horse fields, plus a few finches and Yellowhammers. No sign of the Little Owls in the trees by the stables, but a calling Bullfinch was nice.
Entering the recently cut wheat fields below the radio mast a nice adult Yellow Wagtail flew over and there were  many Swallows feeding over the bales.
Back into Stevenage, and walking through the plantation again, a few Goldcrests and Coal Tits were heard, and a female Bullfinch flew up from the path in front of me.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Distinctly Autumnal

Felt moderately well this morning, so I decided to go out for a while and see how things would pan out.
Drove down to Amwell in light rain, and it was fairly cool compared to recent weeks. With the berries colouring up in the hedgerows it really felt like the first day of autumn.
With light drizzle still falling as i left the car, I hung around the old orchard on the approach track for a while. Two Song Thrushes, a lot of tits and lots of Blackcaps were feeding on the elder berries. As the drizzle eased off I went up to the watch point and as expected no-one else was there-Tony was sheltering in the White Hide.
The Kingfisher performed again, seeming to prefer the area in front of the scrape viewing platform where there is a nice post for it to perch. Duck numbers building up, with large numbers of Shoveller and Gadwall and some Wigeon and Teal. Snipe are more prominent on the now cleared main island-the ditches in front of the watch point have been cleared though the only thing that was revealed was a rather late Sedge warbler.
Phil arrived and soon after Barry and Simon turned up. Phil thought it would be a raptor day, and we soon had Sparrowhawk, one or two Kestrels and frequent views of up to three Hobbys. As usual Buzzards were numerous, but Kite was elusive and I only saw one late morning. The best bird was not the hoped for Osprey, but an adult male Marsh Harrier I picked up heading slowly south over the woods.
I eventually went off for a walk picking up many Chiffchaffs, a few Willow Warblers and more Blackcaps, but no other warblers. Spent some time watching a very confiding Treecreeper among the tit flock. A few butterflies and Dragonflies were picked up on the Hollycross circuit-the usual Migrant Hawkers were abundant with a few Common Blue and Common Darters. Apart from whites, and Speckled Woods, I found one Meadow brown, one Red Admiral and several Commas.
Back at the watch point things had gone rather quiet so I left , bumping into old Ron who I had not seen for a few years. Good to see he is still active.
Turned out to be a good day, with 56 species seen-and I missed a good dozen, at least half of which are seen on almost any visit.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Speckled Woods

I have been off over the last few days-some sort of virus according to the doctor, which might have got going over the bank holiday, but got worse on Monday. As a result I have spent a lot of time keeping an eye on the garden to little effect.
Juvenile Goldfinches have been appearing again-must be the third brood this year, but there is a distinct lack of anything else apart from the Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves. When I have been outside, I have occasionally heard hirundines overhead, unfortunately its been many years now since House Martins and Swallows could be expected throughout the summer and they are now predominantly autumnal birds.
Butterflies have also been a bit scarce, considering the numbers I have been seeing recently when out and about. The large number of nectar producing plants has not attracted much at all, and the Small Whites are only visiting to lay eggs on the nasturtiums. The one odd visitor has been Speckled Woods, which seem to be present all the time at the moment, maybe half a mile from the nearest bit of wood. Mind you, the bottom of the garden is looking more woodland edge every year so maybe one or two passing individuals have decided to stop over..
Not he first time they have visited the garden, but its not a species I expect to see.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Local Wryneck

I was checking the pager yesterday afternoon and was surprised to see a message about a Wryneck on the old landfill east of Stapleford-just down the road. Although I knew the area I did not know of a landfill and it was getting a bit late. A search of satellite images  did not help, but eventually a grid ref was posted-but by then the light was starting to go.
I decided to head down there after breakfast, and found the farm track with two parked cars, so I went up the track and into the field. I saw a couple of people in the scrubby area and realised it was Simon, William and Julie. William had been down late last night and had come up again with Julie. Simon had been present since 7am. There was no sign of the Wryneck, but we saw four Whinchat-they were present all morning but proved to be very elusive and were only seen on a couple of occasions. There was also a huge flock of Goldfinches and Linnets in the filed to the north, Swallows and House Martins were feeding overhead and the usual Buzzards and Kites were also around.
Just after 10am I noticed a bird fly low and into one of the many small rose bushes from the far right. It looked interesting and Simon got his scope on it and suspected it was the Wryneck-as it proved when it popped up on top of the bush. It dropped onto the ground and was then perched up again before flying down into a thistle filled hollow. Tony Hukin arrived moments later as did a number of others. We waited for a while and then Tony and I went over to investigate the thistles. The bird remained out of view and surprised us by flying up a good hundred yards away from where we were searching. It headed north and down, by which time Mike Illet had arrived. Another walk and it luckily flew back to the main scrubby area and posed for on and off for the next twenty minutes or so to the appreciation of the gathering crowd-including John Bartlett and Mick-the first of the Amwell Sunday crew. 
I eventually made my way back, having had a chat with the farm manager and bumping into many friends on the way. From what the manager told me, the site  is managed for conservation, with breeding Grey Partridge and Lapwings, and Barn and Little Owls present. Simon though was pleased to see the feral flock of Helmeted Guinea Fowl which breed here.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Local Stuff

I have not been up to Deadman's hill for a while, so I have missed the summer build up of raptors. I decided to go up this morning, though I was not expecting a great deal. As expected, on the way up I encountered the usual warnings of road closures, 'resurfacing' attempts and so on that seem so prevalent around here at this time of year.
I encountered the usual Buzzard and Kite on the way, plus a few Swallows and House Martins. At the green gate, I stopped for about half an hour. A large covey of Red Legged Partridge, maybe 15 were flushed from the hedge by the gate, and a smaller group of maybe 8 Grey Partridges could be seen on the eastern slopes. Raptors were rather thin-one female Kestrel was hunting the lower part of the eastern slope, and one or two distant Kites could be seen, and there were perhaps five or six Buzzards in the heat haze to the south east. Smaller birds were scarce too-in fact it was very quiet-a few Yellowhammers, and one Whitethroat. Two Swallows went south west.
I then went down to Norton Green in the hope of seeing a few butterflies. A local-Peter Clark had been reporting a few Silver Washed Fritillaries, Hairstreaks and so on so it looked promising. The area under the wires looked fantastic with a mixture of Angelica and yellow daises with small patches of Knapweed and mint. I saw a few Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Small Whites one tatty Common Blue and Speckled Woods. After bumping into Peter and having a chat as he was leaving I noticed a number of fairly bright brown butterflies above the Blackthorn. Half hoping that they might be Brown Hairstreaks I could not get a decent view until one came down and I realised that they were rather worn Purples. One posed for the RX100.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Quantity rather than Quality

 With the big influx of Scandinavian drift migrants along the east coast, Colin and I decided to spend Bank Holiday Monday in Norfolk-and because we had not been there since the beginning of the year.
 The mist on the way up soon cleared and we eventually had a fine sunny day, not exactly ideal for finding new migrants but it was pleasant. The drive in from Heacham to Ringstead did  not produce a great deal though a brief stop was interesting as I watched three Yellow Wagtails being harassed in flight by a Swallow, i guess they were all chasing the same flying insects.
 The usual stop at Chosely had a few birders. I missed a Wheatear, found a Corn Bunting, saw a small flock of House Sparrows-no Trees unfortunately. The ploughed field was full of Wagtails-mainly family parties of Pied, a few Yellows and a single Grey. I tried to turn one or two of the paler wing barred Pied into Citrines but it did not work. The other guys went off for the Booted Warbler at Burnham but we decided to try and bump the year lists up a bit and stay in the area.
 Titchwell was reached around 0930 and was still fairly quiet. The car park did not have any migrants and with high tide at 1030 we headed to the beach. On the way we picked up two Whinchats on Thornham grazing marsh, one Little Stint, around 25 Curlew Sands, 10 Spoonbills and huge numbers of Godwits, Knot and Plovers. Unfortunately the sea seemed to have gone a bit quiet by the time we arrived. I picked up a passing juvenile Black tern, lots of Sandwich Terns (my first of the year!) two Arctic Skuas and one Bonxie. A few sea duck and Gannets were also seen.
 The trudge up to Thornham Point  was quiet until we hit some Wheatear on the tide line. At least five were in the area. The wader roost on Thornham Channel held lots of Sanderling, Ringed Plovers and the usual assortment of gulls and so on. Had hoped for a Whimbrel but could not find any. Joined a couple of other birders and started to search the south west side of the buckthorn and soon picked up a Redstart-we saw maybe four or five eventually, and then one or two Pied Flycatchers appeared. Warblers unfortunately were scarce and apart from Willow and Chiffchaff I never saw anything else though some did locate a Locustella, presumed to be Grasshopper. I was unfortunately in a bit of a mess at the time. Basically a couple of guys at the eastern end had seen a Wryneck fly in, but by the time we had joined them it had gone. I figured on going round to the north side in case we were missing any warblers and decided to climb up onto the top. I found a Chiff, a female Redstart and as that flew off it put the Wryneck up. As I was up there, everyone thought it would be a good idea for me to walk (not the best verb to use in this case) through the dense Buckthorn and nettles while they waited outside for it to appear. Unfortunately it did not, and all I got was badly scratched and stung.
 With the lack of birds Colin and i departed, picking up more Wheatear and Whinchats on the way. Butterflies were abundant on the landward side of the dunes-Common Blues and Wall Browns in particular.
 The tide had dropped a bit, but we did not find any more interesting birds. However I had added ten new species to my poor year list so it wasn't a bad morning. A Black tern had been seen on the fresh marsh, but had gone by the time we got there so we went round the Fen Trail. Common and Ruddy Darters were expected, as were Migrant hawkers and Blue Tailed and Common Blue Damsels. No sign of Small Red Eyes which I was hoping for, but a disturbance in the reeds produced a very confiding Water Vole. It was initially feeding under the viewing platform only a few feet from me, but then swam out for a moment, though the reeds impeded my view.

 After lunch we went to Brancaster Golf Course for an hour. More Wall Browns were seen-I have never seen so many in one years, plus Common Blues, Whites and Tortoiseshells. One Whinchat  was seen briefly as we searched for tee number 14-though our target had actually moved to 12. Earlier in the day two Wrynecks were found here and one remained in the afternoon and it showed reasonably well one of the scrubby areas alongside the green, flying from bush to bush as it defended a feeding territory.
 On the way back to the car, two odd dusky butterflies flew around me-it took a moment to work out that they were Graylings. I've seen them occasionally here but had almost given up seeing them this year.

We had intended to visit Dersingham on the way home, for the dragonflies but the road was cordoned off as were the car parking bays-due to a Scarecrow competition in the village. We could only park in the village, paying for the privilege and walk a considerable distance back to the reserve entrance which we did not want to do so, disappointed we decided to carry on for home.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Bank Holiday

Its a long weekend, and things have started really well. Thursday night I started to develop a bit of a temperature as well as feeling tired, and Friday morning at work i enjoyed a nice sore throat. This was worse on Saturday-though with torrential rain at times I did not fancy going out. Bit of a shame as the east coast was getting a lot of migrants-the usual late August Scandinavian drift migrants, and a lot of stuff was also going through inland ahead of the rain fronts.
Felt a bit better today and went down to Amwell for a few hours. It was a bit showery as I left, but cleared to leave a bright and reasonably warm morning. Unfortunately there was not a great deal happening. There are four Common Sandpipers present, and one or two small flocks of Martins were going through. Duck numbers are starting to build up-there are a few Shoveller and Teal in now and it looks like the Common Terns have departed. A Kingfisher kept us entertained for a while flying around in front of the viewpoint now and again.
The usual Sunday gathering were present, and a nice bonus was William Bishop who I have not seen for a long time. Despite taking a bit of a birding break and concentrating on surveys and bio blitzes he has had a few good days-unfortunately one of them was at Pendeen last weekend where he was one of the many sea watchers who did not see the red Billed Tropicbird. Unlike most he was concentrating on the close birds so in theory might have been able to see it. Its a strange story best summarised on the Bird Forum thread, though Jono Lethbridge has a good account on his Wanstead Birder Blog

Butterflies were limited to Green Veined and Small Whites with a single Small Tortoiseshell and my first autumn Holly Blue. I saw one Emerald damselfly in front of the viewpoint, plus one or two Common Blues and Migrant Hawkers. Dark Bush Crickets seemed to be abundant.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Long Tailed Blues

I was going through the Bird Forum butterfly pages on Thursday and was surprised to see a thread on Long Tailed Blues in Kent (and elsewhere) had started on Monday. Not sure how that passed me by, but it changed our weekend plans. The weather looked best for Sunday, which is why I went to Rye Saturday and luckily they were still being reported though overnight rain looked to be a problem.
We parked at Bockhill farm at 0930 and headed north. The sun was nice but it was a bit breezy on the cliff tops. The first thing I spotted was my first (and still only) Brown Argus of the year. It was a bit of a skulker but showed fairly well for the camera.

All three whites were seen on the walk and Common Blues were abundant. One or two rather tatty Marbled Whites were also seen and a nice but expected bonus was a Clouded Yellow-my first for several years. We eventually encountered a few more as the morning progressed.

Eventually we met up with other enthusiasts and reached what we presumed to be the right area with abundant patches of Everlasting Pea. A search of the area proved fruitless and we were told by someone on his way back to move a few hundred yards further north. 
There were two areas of hedge with peas, one with a number of Stevenage birders including Tony Hukin. I was told that a fairly fresh female Long Tailed was showing well on the other area so I headed there but despite a long search we concluded that it must have flown off. Rather annoyingly Colin arrived to tell me he had been photographing Wall Browns and also a Long Tailed Blue where Tony had remained. I rushed back to find everyone surrounding what appeared to be an almost dead incredibly tatty Blue on a pea stem. After getting a few images it became apparent that a number of other individuals were starting to show and over the space of about an hour I reckoned we saw a minimum of three and perhaps five individuals. though all were very worn.

A nice distraction while we were there was the female Great Green Bush Cricket that preferred to remain in the grass but posed well briefly.

The long rather warm walk back provided views of Wall Browns, Essex and a lone Silver Spotted Skipper plus many more common butterflies-18 species in total.
I had hoped to see some migrant birds, or maybe something on the sea but the morning was largely birdless.
We returned home via Oare Marshes. A Temmincks Stint had been present for a while and the long staying Bonapartes Gull was still being reported now and then. The main pool was largely filled by Black Tailed Godwits, with a few Dunlin, Lapwing, Ruff and Redshanks. One Green Sandpiper and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover were also present. One flyover Yellow wagtail was nice. Very few gulls around, mainly because the tide was low and most were loafing on the Swale with a few Shelduck. Did not see the Bonapartes, and the Stint was not seen either. Getting into the car the ping of a Bearded Tit as another addition to my meagre bird year list.

On getting home and carting the gear into the garden was pleasantly surprised to hear hirundines above me-a few Swallows and House Martins were milling around. Suddenly I heard alarm calls and was stunned to see an adult Hobby chasing one of the martins not more than thirty feet away before the flock scattered and all the birds vanished.