Friday, 31 May 2013


Having the week off, but tied up with hospital visits and so on, I have not really done much. however if time permitted I wanted to go down to the RHS garden at Wisley if I could. The weather was good today, so I decided to go down, taking Sarah with me.
Not been before so it would be an interesting visit as expectations based on tv and magazine articles rarely coincide with reality. In fact it turned out to be far better than I had imagined and we had a great time even though it was extremely busy.
The Rhododendrons were superb, as were the other woodland shrubs, the various borders and gardens looked great and despite the late spring the plants were coming on well. As for the Alpine House and big glasshouse well I could have spent all day in them.

Sarah found a Green Hairstreak, and we had Large red Damsels, Large and Small Whites, a Peacock and a Speckled Wood.

Shame about the drive home-the M25 was well and truly stuffed and i have not had time to go through my images yet but i thought i'd post this one of a Beautiful Demoiselle-my first this year. Not taken with a tele or a macro, just the 35mm lens!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Waterford Heath

Being a warm sunny morning I spent a few hours at Waterford Heath for butterflies. Unfortunately there was also a cool breeze which proved to be a bit of a problem, and I ended up doing a spot of landscape photography. However I did get to see a small number of species.
The northern section was visited first, where there are large expanses of Wild Strawberry and other low growing plants suitable for the Grizzled Skippers. Despite a long search I could not locate any, even in the warm sheltered spots. One Holly Blue and a few Large red Damselflies were seen, as was a Large White.
The southern section tends to be more successful for me but it took a long time to locate one Skipper which was so flighty I never got the camera on it. Lots of Orange Tips, a few Green Veined and Small Whites, singles of Speckled Wood and Brimstone were also seen.
The big problem seems to be the ever increasing Goats Rue which appears to be swamping the low growing plants along with the brambles and scrub on the banks. Although the Wild Strawberry is probably at it's peak, large areas are being shaded out which is likely to be impacting on the sun loving Skippers and reported numbers seem to be low this year. One good plant though is Hounds Tongue which I have  seen on sand dunes in Norfolk and is quite abundant here. I noticed it on my first visit and thought no more of it until I bumped into Simon Knot who was very surprised when I told him-apparently it is rather rare.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Red Footed Falcon

It was a toss up between the Roller in Hampshire or the Red Footed Falcon at Lakenheath today and the lattter won out. Unfortunately it is a very popular bird, and the fact that a Savi's Warbler had been found yesterday meant that it was incredibly busy.
We arrived just after nine and slowly made our way westwards. Lots of Large red Damselflies, Azures and Common Blues around with a few Blue Tails as well-being warm and sunny I was finally getting started on Dragonflies. We also had Green Veined White Orange Tips and Peacocks on the wing.
Several Cuckoos flying around-missed a great fly by shot and several flocks of Hobbys maybe fifteen or more birds in total.
The male red Footed Falcon put on a great show for us-so many people with big lenses were regretting taking them because it was getting so close-reptedly one guy gave up and started taking pictures with his phone. I have seen lots of Red Foots over the years but this is only my second adult male.

A vocal Grasshopper Warbler put on a good show as well, unfortunately being a plain bird with a lower than usual song we initially assumed it to be the Savi's until we got clearer views. Sadly the Savi's had shut up just after eight and was not seen after that.
Met up with Tony Hukin along the footpath west of the reserve, hoping to pick up a Crane. He found two Spotted Flycatchers in a clump of Willows, and a Cetti's warbler showed well here as well.

Returning to the reserve we heard that a Crane had flown in-after ten minutes it flew off again but at a considerable distance.
On the way back we found a couple of female Hairy Dragonflies, unfortunately they eluded Tony. Back at the visitors centre i had a flyby Green Hairstreak and someone showed me images of his 'Migrant hawker' which was a superb male Hairy.

We decided not to stick to the area and headed off to Huntingdon and a small meadow containing Green Winged Orchid. Unfortunately we only found ten plants, a far cry from the many hundreds we had seen on a previous visit. Two Small Coppers were a nice bonus.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

First Damselfly

The plan for this weekend was to spend a few days in Scotland, arriving Friday morning and returning Tuesday. Based on recent years we were hoping to photograph Chequered Skippers and do the usual birding circuit. The first Skipper was reported on the 21st-well over a week later than last year, with 3 inches of snow the next day! Add the generally poor weather and we decided it would be a very costly trip with little to show so we called it off. The next day the Harlequin Duck was reported again at Balranald......
Still got the week off so will be doing a bit of travelling anyway, but this morning with it being rather cold and dull I decided to go down to Amwell and join the regular masochists. Turned out all right for once.
Two Common Sandpipers and a Dunlin were still present from yesterday as were the two pairs of Little Ringed Plovers and Redshanks. Swifts were abundant and there were also small numbers of swallows and House Martins.
Bill and Phil located Drinker Moth caterpillars and I managed to find a teneral Common Blue Damselfly-my first this year and two weeks later than my very late first sighting last year. A few Orange Tips were flying as was a single Small White.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Amwell and Orchids

Spent a few hours as usual at Amwell this morning.
Not much happening-the Oystercatchers appear to have given up incubating, but the Redshank and Little Rings are stil around. At least two Hobbys seen over the main island.
Apart from a single Holly Blue, the only butterflies were Orange Tips in reasonable numbers. Did not se any dragonflies, though a few have now been seen here.

Some plants from yesterday.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Mega Thrush is number 450

Woken up by a phone call at 1130 last night-Colin wanted to know if we were going to Kent. Looked at the pager-female Dusky Thrush in Margate Cemetery! There has not been a really twitchable bird on the mainland since 1959 so it was going to be a biggy. Was not intending to go out this weekend but decided to try.
We got down there not long after 1000  to find not surprisingly a long line of parked cars. Met a birder at the main entrance and followed his directions which got us nowhere, but luckily met someone more reliable who pointed us in the right direction. Must have been around 500 people when we reached the right spot, including Bill Last and Julian Bahlero.
Big problem was that the thrush was spending all the time in a Sycamore and was very hard to see unless you chose the right spot. occasionally it would move and over the course of an hour or so I managed to get some good views and a number of reasonable images.

After a good hour with the bird we left and I was pleasantly surprised to run into John Bartlett just arriving.

We then headed off to Yocklets bank where we found an excellent display of Lady Orchids and Early Purple Orchids. One Fly was also flowering but the White helleborines and most of the Twayblades were not. After failing last year I managed to locate the Herb Paris.
Park Gate was a bit disappointing. The Early Purples among the Cowslips were nice and Colin located a few rosettes of Common Spotted Orchid but we could not see any sign of Monkey (we were a week earlier than last year and they had only just started then).

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Day in the Lea Valley

Ordered to go out today so I spent most of the day in the Lea Valley.
Arrived at Amwell just after 0900. The weather looked promising with the good chance of showers on and off so was hoping that something might drop in. Met up with Tony Jay and Dave at the watchpoint. Large numbers of hirundines and Swifts flying low over the water, the pair of Oystercatchers on the nest, The LRPs still around as were two pairs of Redshank. The injured drake Wigeon is still here and we also saw one Snipe.
A few Buzzards out in the warmer sunny spells-when Bill eventually arrived he pointed out one with a white rump-could catch someone out and calim a ring tail harrier. Wonder if it has any Harris/Red Tailed Hawk in it.
Decided to leave early and went down to Rye Meads, getting there around 1100. It was getting rather cold and breezy. A pair of Little Rings on the main scrape and still a couple of Teal around. Tern rafts are full of Black Headed Gulls (same with Amwell) so not sure how well the Common Terns will manage this year. One good thing is the large number of Cetti's Warblers present, with birds all over the reserve.
Spent a great deal of time getting images of the low flying Swifts. Hit rate poor but I got a few I'm happy with.

 The Kingfisher hide is full of photographers as usual, but the birds were proving to be very hard to get, with no sightings for two hours when I arrived. We did get a brief view of the male who came out to bath for a few minutes but rather a long way off.
One Orange Tip in a sheltered section of the paths was the only butterfly seen all day. There are still no reports of any dragonflies locally. Lots of Hedge Mustard flowering, as are Cowslips and Green Alkanet.

Called in at Sarah's and took Molly for a walk. Getting colder with light drizzle at times. Few birds seen.

Arrived back at Amwell after 1500 and discovered things had not changed. Saw one or two Hobbys and one of the Little Rings was close enough to get some images. Went over to Hollycross since the dragonfly walk is now open, the Marsh orchids are shooting up with two to four leaves showing but no buds yet.
Hirundine numbers still high, mainly House Martin and Swallows.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Quick Update

Have not done any birding for a bit-Mums been very ill and my own health problems have got on top of me. Luckily things seem to be improving somewhat.
Sarah has been up from Hoddesdon fro a few days, and I ran her back home today. Decided to call in briefly at Amwell basically to try and chill out a bit and get my stress levels down. I got there just after 6pm and ran into Jay who was leaving. As usual I missed the good bird-a Little Tern had gone through in the morning.
Not much seemed to be happening at the watchpoint. A few Common Terns loafing on the mud seemed to be the main item of interest until I noticed that the Little Ring Plovers were among them. Wether they will breed or not remains to be seen. The Oystercatchers are nesting again, but I am not sure about the Redshank. Warblers a bit quiet-a few Reed and Sedge, one Whitethroat a few Blackcaps and one Chiffchaff were singing.
I noticed a Hobby over the island to the south as Barry arrived. Its been coming and going for a day or two, but I suspect insect numbers are still a bit low-there were no hirundines or swifts. A few large gulls were arriving-I had seen one on a post, a 1st summer bird and briefly considered Caspian but dismissed the idea. Barry of course spotted it and realised it was the Yellow Legged Gull that had been around since the autumn which I have photographed on more than one occasion.

Hopefully will be able to get out and about a bit more once things improve-Dragonflies are flying and the first orchids are out and I am missing the bluebells which are peaking soon.