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.