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.