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.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Rye Meads

Went down to Rye Meads for a change today-turned out that the road to Amwell was shut so I wouldn't have got there anyway.
It was a bit dull, and rather breezy so butterflies and dragonflies were rather thin on the ground-a few Migrant Hawkers, one Southern Hawker and a few Common Blues and whites.
Three Sand Martins flew south as I arrived, and later on a single Swift did likewise. The Draper scrape was rather bare-the ringers were in the reed beds so everything was on the northern lagoon. Found six Green Sandpipers and a Greenshank. Despite a long search, and another on my return with Barnet Dave, Colin and his mate we never managed to locate the Garganey that has been present for a while now. There were two Wigeon, a few Teal and a lot of Shoveller though, and a few Common Terns were still around. No sign of the summering female Marsh Harrier.
Most frustrating was a family of Cetti's Warblers along one of the banks. They posed for one guy's camera but then proved very elusive for the rest of the morning.

Monday, 12 August 2013


Another quiet weekend due to commitments, so I decided to go down to Amwell yesterday. Not much was likely to be happening, but it's been some time since I had seen any of the Sunday regulars so it was likely to be more social than anything else.
Phil had a nice surprise in his pocket-his moth trapping had produced a Jersey Tiger, one of the target species for the weekends National Moth Night.
Birds were not really happening. All of the ducks were in eclipse and so not looking all that great and the warblers tits and so on were being rather quiet and skulking in the bushes and reeds. There were two Common Sandpipers present, and a very brief Green Sandpiper (all the summering waders bar lapwing had departed after successful breeding)  and although difficult to locate, the drake Wigeon was located. A couple of juvenile Little Egrets were also present.
Dragonflies were flying despite it being rather cloudy and breezy. my first Migrant hawkers of the year were patrolling the approach track,l Brown Hawkers were present all over the reserve, and I also saw my first Common Darters. Common Blue Red Eyed and Blue Tail Damsels were seen but numbers were low. I had hoped to find the Emeralds that had been seen earlier in the week-rare at Amwell but present further down the Lea Valley, but i did not find them.
The usual butterflies were seen, the various whites and browns, Peacocks in large numbers on the,
buddleas with some Commas and Red Admirals and Speckled Woods. John Bartlett mentioned that he had seen Small Copper and Brown Argus on Hollycross which was rather annoying as all I managed to see there was a Common Blue.
Tony suggested that while trying to find the Emeralds on the boardwalk to White Hide that I check the rotten stumps as there was a very active Hornets nest. I spent about twenty minutes watching the workers come and go from very close range and tried with little success to get a decent flight shot. The lighting was not ideal , and being so close with the 300mm depth of field was very limited, and as a result most of the images were out of focus or blurred.
Here are a couple of reasonable ones.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Butterfly World

A few of the exotics in the tropical house at Butterfly World.

Sunday, 4 August 2013


Called in a Norton Green/Watery Grove for half an hour this morning. Not exactly ideal conditions being cool and cloudy but I found a few butterflies-Large Small and Green Veined White, Comma, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper and a few Purple Hairstreaks. Also had a Southern Hawker.
A family of Marsh Tits and a calling Tawny Owl were notable.

August Butterflies

On Saturday, Colin and I were intending to head north and visit Arnside Knott for the late northern butterflies, but the weather forecast was basically wet so we changed our minds and did the Chilterns instead.
We went down to Warburg as I expected the Violet helleborines to be in flower. Rather unexpectedly, having arrived in the right part of the wood, the first thing we found was what seemed to be a Narrow Lipped in flower-I had assumed that they would be over. A lot of caged plants appeared to be blind and stunted, and some appeared to be White Helleborines with seed pods. Further on into the wood we eventually located a few Violets, far less than on our last visit and only one was flowering. A couple were in bud, but the rest looked like the buds had been burnt by the recent heat.

The other big problem in the area, which added to our confusion were plants that looked more like Broad Leaved Helleborines. Epipactis orchids are notoriously variable and it will take some time to study my images to be sure (maybe) of what we saw.
Few birds were encountered as it is still pretty quiet in our woodlands. We heard a couple of flyby Crossbills, one or two Nuthatches and there were also a pair of Ravens.
Butterflies were not numerous in quantity but we had 14 species in total-Essex and Small Skipper, Large Small and Green Veined White, Small Copper, Common Blue, Peacock, Silver washed Fritillary, Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Heat and Ringlet.
Our next stop was Aston Rowant. As usual it was rather breezy but at least it was warm and the sun often came out. We managed to locate 17 species of butterfly-all of the above bar the Fritillary, but there were huge numbers of Silver Spotted Skippers, a few Large Skippers, Chalkhill Blues everywhere
and a tatty Small Tortoiseshell.
One nice bonus was the Humming Bird Hawk Moth though getting images was difficult as it never stopped moving among the flowers and grasses.

With the weather looking rather wet we decided to visit Butterfly World where the many exotic butterflies and moths were entertaining.
A tour of the grounds and gardens produced the three whites, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper, Red Admirals, Peacocks and Tortoiseshells, my first Painted lady for a couple of years, a few Common Blues and a single Small Blue.

I will get round to posting some of the exotics later.