Monday, 2 June 2014

Short Toed Eagle

Saturday morning was spent as usual at Amwell. I met Phil on the bridge, watching a family party of Cetti's Warblers-there appeared to be at least three young flitting from one side of the bride to the other, and we were joined by William.
After Phil departed we spent some time scanning from the view point but little was on show so we decided to make our way to Hollycross checking insects on the way. By far the most noticeable were the Harlequin Ladybirds which were everywhere though there were some Two and seven Spots as well. William found various bugs and beetles as we made our way to the boardwalk where we lingered for some time.
The Herts and Middlesex Trust were running a Dragonfly and Orchid walk-rather unfortunate as with the generally dull and cloudy skies there were few things flying. The majority of damsels were Blue Tails, though some Azure and Common Blues were seen. Around noon, the cloud cleared for a bit, and some Large Red Damsels and Hairy Dragonflies came out. We saw a number of other insects at this time-some Scorpion Flies, and day flying moths including Mother Shiptons. The best find was the Water Ladybird which William potted to show the walkers.
While we were there news came of a Short Toed Eagle near at Morden Bog Wareham in Dorset. This was greeted with some scepticism until the images started to appear on Twitter. It disappeared but late afternoon and roosted in a tree. As this was potentially the first twitchable bird since the first on the Scillies in 1999 {the second a flyby along the Devon coast a few years back was seen by few} it was going to be a very busy and frantic Sunday morning.

I was expecting the bird to roost until mid morning at least so Colin and I decided not to get down for first light like the majority I knew and got down there just before 9am. Jay, William and Ron Cousins crew were leaving as we unpacked and a it was only a short but brisk walk to the hill where the roost tree could be seen in the distance. I needed help from some guys i knew from Essex to get the scope onto the right spot as the eagle was tucked in the middle of the pine. It was a nice view but in the heat haze rather poor and as the majority were on the main public footpath we made our way down, passing Barry Reed and Mike illet on the way. We were now only a couple of hundred yards away, the heat haze was still a problem but the views were rather stunning. The Eagle did not exactly do much apart from doze, ruffle it's feathers occasionally and poop from time to time. Around 10am it decided that it was warm enough to think of feeding and flew low and away from us, before reappearing soon after and gradually drifted off west. At one point a comparatively small Common Buzzard joined it in the thermal and as it got further away it was mobbed for a bit by 'small' corvid which turned out to be a Carrion Crow and then a Hobby which the Eagle dwarfed.
It was lost to view so most of us left, though it later returned but there was a late afternoon 'possible' report from Poole Harbour and then back at Morden Bog in the evening.

Other birds seen here included a couple of Mediterranean Gulls, some Tree Pipits and one or two Dartford Warblers. Did not see or hear Woodlarks, but while scanning I was surprised to pick up a Golden Ringed Dragonfly. Lots of Green Hairstreaks and Small Heaths were also seen.

Hoping to see more Dartford Warblers and maybe some reptiles we went the RSPB Arne, a reserve that we last visited some 20 years ago. Like most RSPB reserves it has been developed  with a small visitors centre and a much enlarged car park, as well as numerous trails. We walked to Shipstall Point along the designated trail which was very different to how i remembered it.
There was  little to be seen in the woods apart from some Hornets and Red Admirals feeding on Pine Sap and the estuary when we finally got there was rather quiet. Scanning the shoreline and Brownsea Island produced a few egrets, loafing gulls, Shelduck and Oystercatchers and a few Common Terns. Checking the heather and gorse was fruitless but a persistent search of a likely area produced two Sand Lizards. One lingered long enough to get a couple of images.

The herd of Sika deer in the meadow attracted attention from a number of visitors.

After a quck stop off at the car we walked onto the heath where there is a small pond which was supposed to be good for Raft Spiders. Never saw any, but there were lots of Four Spotted Chasers, Emperors and Large Red and Azure Damselflies.

Heading for home, we called in at Bentley Woods where a twenty minute stop off produced at least four Small Pearl Bordered Frittilaries and one probable Pearl Bordered. Being rather warm they were rather difficult to photograph as there were few plants in flower with available nectar.

A final stop late afternoon on the Thames at Cholsey was a bit of a waste of time. This is supposed to be a good site for Club Tailed Dragonflies which I knew had been seen recently, but a search up river along the river path failed to find any, though there were plenty of Banded demoiselles.

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