Sunday, 28 September 2014

No Masked Shrike for Me

News broke last Saturday of a Masked Shrike at Spurn-first I realised was when I got a tweet from Jay saying he was almost there. I was out with Sarah for the day at the RHS Hyde Hall gardens at the time. No chance for me to get up there, Colin is still pretty much out of action and its a bit much for me on my own. Not too sure about the car either, even though it's been repaired I still think there is something not quite right with it.
The Shrike is still there this weekend. I missed the Fife bird thanks to flu, but it stayed nearly three weeks so maybe we will get a chance next week.
Lots of migrants were strung along the east coast last weekend as well, but things have gradually quietened down and there is not much happening now. Decided to go down to Amwell yesterday which seemed like a mistake as there was no-one else there when I arrived, apart from Barry doing his regular circuit.
Did not see a great deal from the viewpoint and I went down to check the gulls at the south end, though the visibility through the hedge made it rather difficult. Heard a few Skylarks going through, and Meadow Pipits were frequently heading down the valley.
Back at the viewpoint Dave from Stevenage had arrived and Phil turned up soon after. He picked up a very late Sedge Warbler in the mint by the waters edge. A long way off and it stayed very low and hidden. The female type Stonechat that has been present a while now eventually appeared, posing distantly on the reeds and sallows, and a bit later a male also appeared. We have not had any wintering since 2011 so it would be nice if they stayed.

Still good numbers of Swallows moving south, with the occasional House Martin among them. Every now and then I was hearing Ring Necked Parakeets, and they were eventually seen on the far side, frequenting the Horse Chestnuts the other side of the road. Barry eventually arrived having counted about 15 and there is a good possibility that they have found a few holes there to nest.
Something like 8 Buzzards were in the air above the wood, along with 2-3 Red Kites. There were also a few Mistle Thrushes above the woods, and a big surprise was a lone Redwing that flew over us.
All in all a pretty good morning.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Amwell Two Days in a Row

Colin is still out of action so I am still sticking to local birding.
Saturday morning's weather forecast suggested that the only sunny spells would be mid day Saturday so I thought I'd best try for the Willow Emeralds at Amwell again.
It was quite pleasant when i arrived, cloudy, warm with some brighter spells, but with a northerly breeze. This seemed to be rather productive and there was a constant movement of birds along the valley. Predominantly hirundines-Phil recorded two hundred plus Swallows and fifty House Martins through the morning. Meadow Pipits were frequent, and there were plenty of Goldfinches and Jays flying around as well.
One Common Sandpiper was the only wader of note. At least two Hobby were present, and a very nice bonus was the peregrine that swept through the Lapwing flock before flying over to the woods-which upset one of the Hobbies that was perched at the top of one of the trees.
Eventually I went over to Hollycross with Phil and Dave, and searched the ditch at the start of the boardwalk. Unfortunately it was rather dull cool and breezy and despite a thorough search we failed to find any Emeralds.
Rather annoyingly, in the afternoon  it brightened up and three were seen ovipositing in the willows at the end of the boardwalk.

Today was supposed to be cloudy but there was hardly a cloud in the sky when I got up. So I went to Amwell again. There was far less in the way of movement, with only a few hirundines and Meadow Pipits. There was little to see from the viewpoint so I got down to Hollycross just after ten. Along with a number of other hopefuls I spent an hour and a half staking out the willows where ovipositing was seen, but without success. The conditions were not too bad, a bit too much cloud but it was a lot warmer than yesterday. We also tried to locate one of the Common Emeralds seen yesterday-Mick Cotton has been seeing one frequently. At his spot we did see something being chased off by one of the many Migrant Hawkers but it was all too brief.
A few Common Darters and Common Blues are still around.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Norton Green

Decided to have a quick look round Norton Green before work today. Have not been down since late Spring, and though news has been quiet recently I thought that it would be worthwhile bearing in mind the number of common migrants passing through the region.
It was a bit dull and murky when I arrived and the bushes and hedges seemed rather quiet. In fact apart from a single Chiffchaff I failed to locate any warblers. Six Jays flying over was notable-they seem to be more noticeable and less shy these days. Scanning I picked up a Red Kite, and soon after a Raven-my first in the Stevenage area. Not exactly unexpected considering the resident birds are not all that far away, and perhaps the only surprise is that I had to wait so long for one to appear. Saw it again later, mobbing a female Kestrel.
Flushed a Red Legged Partridge and a young Green Woodpecker, three Meadow Pipits flew around for a bit and a large flock of maybe 30 Linnets toured the site. No sign of Skylark {!} Whinchat, Wheatear or other migrants, but plenty of Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Robins.

Monday, 8 September 2014

More Amwell Images

A few images I never got round to posting-taken over the last few weeks.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Quiet Weekend

Big news this week was the discovery of a Willow Emerald at Hollycross by Darren Bast, Hertfordshire's first record. Not exactly unexpected, and a species I and others have been looking for for a couple of years now. Darren's been down almost every evening, concentrating on the dragonflies this year, so a great reward for the time he's put in. Unfortunately subsequent searches failed to locate it.
With Colin currently out of action, it was natural that I would end up at Amwell on Saturday to try and fine one of my own. Weather was not exactly ideal-grey and murky all day but reasonably warm. Surprised ti see the huge amount of green algae on the main lake, but not surprised when Tony said there was not a great deal happening.
The Hobby is still around, often perching on a dead tree by the White hide, as it was when I arrived so I went round in ther hope of getting some images. Naturally it flew off before I got there. Sat in the hide for a while, but the only bird of note was a Water Rail in the far reed bed. Would have been better if it was a Crake.
I eventually got to Hollycross, joining Tony. As expected, we did not find a Willow Emerald, though there were plenty of Migrant Hawkers, Common Blues and a few darters flying in the dull conditions, along with a rather late Brown Hawker. I examined a number of trees in the hope of finding scarring from Willow Emerald eggs without success, suggesting it might have been a newly arrived migrant, though the habitat is ideal so they may have been in the area and gone un-noticed {rather unlikely given the amount of coverage}.
While searching, a Cetti's Warbler performed fairly well, as did a juvenile Reed Warbler.

The Migrant Hawkers proved too difficult sensing every camera movement, and nothing else was happening so I made my way back to the viewpoint, had another scan and left, bumping into Phil Ball by the Konik Pony field. He had just come back from two weeks in Mexico seeing some good birds and mammals. I told him that it was pretty quiet, discussed the Wryneck, the  Emerald and a few other things. Annoyed to see a tweet when i got home that he had found a Black Tail Godwit feeding in front of the viewpoint. No idea where that had been hiding, so I guess it had just dropped in.

Sunday started off rather dull and murky again, though by late morning the sun was out. With Whinchats, Wheatears and so on appearing all over the place I thought I'd go round Aston End and up the river. Not ideal for either species {i have only seen one Whinchat in the area, and Wheatear is more likely in spring} but Redstart does turn up now and again.
Distinctly autumnal in feel with Robins ticking in every bush, they turned out to be the only chats encountered. In fact early on it seemed as if there were no birds around at all, with very little seen. Things picked up just past the Aston End water tower when i heard a Little Owl calling. Not long after, a Hobby was seen flying around the tower-there were large  numbers of Swallows and House Martins here and over High Wood. Further down scanning the valley I picked up two Kestrels, two Sparrowhawks and several Buzzards.
Apart from a few Chiffchaffs the only other warbler was a nice juvenile Willow-unlike the last walk when sylvias seemed to be moving through. Another Little Owl was seen in the usual tree by the stable block and a very big noisy flock of Linnets was found in the large hedges near Gresley Way.
Few butterflies flying-just a few Small Whites and Speckled Woods.