Monday, 27 October 2014

Autumn at Amwell

Went down to Amwell on Saturday-at least one of the Yellow Brows was still being reported on Friday. There was a small rather disappointed crowd around the picnic area as I arrived at the same time as William. There had been no sight nor sound. William explained that the bird seemed to have a large feeding circuit when he last saw it on Monday, so we decided to wander through the woods just in case.
Apart from a large flock of Goldfinch, containing one Siskin, and lots of Chaffinch there was not much to see. Lots of fungi all over, including a nice spread of Inkcaps. The autumn colour over Hollycross was starting to look very nice.
Back at the viewpoint,  Phil and Simon  arrived, the latter bringing a 24 Spot Ladybird with him.
A small group of us headed over to the White hide as a Jack Snipe had been reported-it wasn't one unfortunately, though our departure was delayed when Phil picked up a distant Peregrine.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yellow Browed Warbler at Amwell

Last day of the holiday. Since Wednesday I have been working in the garden, so more back elbow and knee problems, had a flu jab with the usual reaction and Sunday would have been the only day for a trip out. As there was not a great deal happening, we decided not to bother and I needed the rest anyway. So I decided on a nice gentle unwinding at Amwell in the lovely warm autumn sunshine.
I got there fairly early for me, and met Barry, Trevor, Tony and the rest basically taking it easy. There had not been a great deal from the view point, but Barry and I noticed a gull fly off which looked a bit different to me. Barry had it in the scope and called it a 2w Caspian Gull-getting more frequent here now. Strangely I have not managed to pick up Yellow Legged Gull this year.
There were the usual passage of larks, pipits and distant thrushes but not long after Bill, Paul, Phil and John Bartlett arrived Barry decided to head off on his usual circuit and Phill went down to the Gladwyn hide. After a long moth convention Bill  suddenly perked up and was off-Barry had found a Yellow Browed Warbler at the south end. As we all made our way down to the bottom we could see Phil and the dogs running. Luckily Bill and Trevor knew the way and we eventually arrived to find Barry by some sallows.
The bird initially was very elusive, staying quite low and towards the back of the bushes, and views were very frustrating. After about ten minutes it started to show a bit better and I managed to get a few decent images, though often obscured by the foliage. It largely remained in the sallow so we all got very good views but it decided to fly out. I saw it briefly land in a bare hawthorn-would have been fantastic views had I been closer and then it flew into a very leafy alder, calling several times.
Rather happy but tired I made my way back with most of the others, "admiring" the new dragonfly pools and scrape-bomb crater and cock up is a better description.  Encountered Jay, Graham White Mike Illet and a few others rushing down.
Back at the viewpoint it was still a bit quiet, though the Stonechats put in an appearance.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Steppe Grey Shrike

Weather conditions for the East Coast were perfect early in the week, and we really should have gone up on Tuesday-multiple Shrikes, Raddes Warblers everywhere a Bluetail or two and large numbers of Yellow Browed Warblers. Plus  a few decent seabirds and waders.
Anyway we went up yesterday hoping that some of the birds were still around. Of course being a weekday, the traffic was horrendous particularly as we had to get past Cambridge and we did not get to the coast until 1000. We had driven up in grey murk, but at Kings Lynn the sun broke through and it turned out to be a rather nice day.
We started at Burnham Norton where the long staying Steppe Grey Shrike remained-there were also Great Grey and Red Back Shrikes reported yesterday.
As usual the Shrike was very confiding, coming very close to the path at times and posed extremely well. I seem to have got the digiscoping right this time for the head close up.

Lots of geese in the area-Brents and Pink Feet, plus a few egrets and a Marsh Harrier. The area can be good for Lapland Buntings but none were seen until after we left. I never saw the Great Grey Shrike here-I was chatting to some guys I knew from Tring while Colin was watching it, not to worry as another showed quite well later on on Thornham Marsh.
Titchwell had a Yellow Browed Warbler and hoards of Goldcrests. Despite a search we did not see the warbler. The tide was high, but a low one and so the fresh marsh was full of Golden Plovers, Godwits wildfowl and Gulls. I went through them hoping to find something unusual with no success. There seemed to be very little on the sea, one Red Throated Diver, a few Eider and Scoters and one Gannet. Just before I returned, I heard the distinctive call of  a Lapland Bunting heading west, and moments later a small flock of Twite flew east. Had I waited a bit longer I might have seen the two Shorelarks  found a few hundred yards to the west.
We finished the rather short day at Holme. A Pallas's Warbler had been reported by by the toilet block, an another had been ringed at the observatory and was apparently showing well. The crowd in the NWT car park suggested that there was a good bird here. I walked over and was treated to a wonderful view of a Pallas's Warbler low down in the Sycamore. Plenty of crests here too and it was not long before a Yellow Browed Warbler showed as well.
I had a wander round the NOA reserve hoping that no-one wanted my membership card which I had mislaid, but despite only a couple of visits in the last few years Sophie recognised me. They had been ringing Goldcrests pretty much all day, though the Pallas's was the highlight, and I don't know if it was meant to be tongue in cheek but the Chaffinch being processed was a 'rare' bird for the site.
Looks like the weather is settling down so there may not be much for the weekend.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Back on the road

Had a chat with Colin on Friday night and he was up for a trip. It would have been a gentle ramble round the Norfolk coast, though there would have to be one or two rest stops. However, the long staying Hoopoe just up the road at Willington was tempting, and when it was discovered that the Grey Shrike at Biggleswade on Friday evening was Lesser and not Greater well that sealed it.
In view of the need to take it easy we did not get to Willington until 0900-there had been no news from Biggleswade. it was a bit damp and drizzly but fairly mild. Unfortunately people on site since first light gave us the bad news that the Hoopoe had gone-the farm residents had been round a few times and could not locate it. We stayed for a bit. Colin picked up a large Golden Plover over the Cardington Airship Sheds which circled a few times. Apparently there is a large flock in the fields, but we also noted several flights going west in the hour we were there.
With no news from Biggleswade we headed up to  Graffham Water where a Black Necked Grebe was showing well from Mander car park.

This was taken through the scope with the RX100 at close to maximum zoom. The home-made adapter is working reasonably well but images are not as sharp and as clear as I would like.
We carried n north up to Thrapston and Titchmarsh reserve where a Great White Egret has been for a while.  Did not know exactly where it would be as I was working from memory but after finding a derelict hide on the north west side we made our way to the north east corner and a raised hide. Unfortunately the sign on the door said hornets nesting inside! I had a lokk and yes there was a small nest above the door but decided to take a risk and sat down. Scanned both islands picking up the usual assortment of wildfowl, gulls herons and Cormorants but no Egret. One or two Cetti's Warblers and a Water Rail called from the reeds. The Egret appeared on the small muddy island in the north west corner in the early evening.
With nothing much else we headed south and called in at the Lodge for an hour or so. There was still a faint hope that the Shrike would be relocated. Birds were fairly elusive, one Nuthatch was heard, plus a few tits. Several Goldcrests were heard and one seemed a bit different, more Firecrest like but I could not locate the bird. Although it had been a dry September one or two fungi were out, and the gardens were looking quite nice as well.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ruff at Rye Meads

I am in the middle of my usual two week autumn holiday, but apart from the usual weekend visit to Amwell I have not done much. A lot of work has been planned for the garden, though the weather has not been ideal and have only done a few bits and pieces. Tuesday was a nice day so I decided to spend an hour or so cutting wood, but this ended up taking four strenuous hours. leaving me with severe pains in the knees and elbows, and two days of rest.
Today I felt like getting out even though I was still a bit stiff. Despite reports of Ruff and Greenshank at Amwell yesterday I decided on Rye Meads, as there would be plenty of opportunities to sit down.
I spent the first fifteen minutes in Lapwing hide overlooking the Meads. The recent juvenile Cuckoo seems to have departed but a nice Water Rail {the first of several today} showed well.

The Draper Hide scrape was reasonably full of wildfowl, but there were no waders-I would normally expect one or two Green Sandpipers here, apart from a couple of showy Snipe. One adult Dabchick was feeding a very mature juvenile in front of the hide.
Still a lot of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters enjoying the sunshine, and there were also two red Admirals on the Ivy blossoms.

The north lagoon Gadwall Hide had a wide variety of wildfowl, and with the water level so low there were plenty of other things to see. Several Pied Wagtails and one or two Grey Wagtails were flying around, and two Snipe were feeding right in front of the hide. Further out, three Common Gulls, my first of the autumn were roosting with the hoards of Black Heads.
More Snipe were found on some of the islands and my attention was drawn to a lanky buff wader running into the water before vanishing behind the reeds. Realising that it was a juvenile Ruff I tried to get the other birder in the hide onto it and after a few minutes it reappeared.
I tweeted Vicky in the visitors centre and she arrived, as did Sue. it took a bit of time to relocate as it was very mobile and flighty, and it blended in rather well with the stony islands. Hopefully it stuck around long enough for others to see it.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Amwell Raptorfest

Bit of an exaggeration as it wasn't quite like Falsterbo or the Bosphorus, but this morning was pretty good.
Following yesterdays heavy rain and cold front, today was very much the first autumnal day. There was an overnight frost in the countryside, and as I drove down through Hooks Cross and on towards Wadesmill in the bright sunshine, the low lying mist over the fields was stunning, just a shame that there was nowhere to stop for good photos. Temperature at 0830 on the road was a chilly 4C, a good 10 below what it has been recently.
Heavy dew on the cobweb strewn Hemlock stems along the Amwell track was very photogenic.

Very few people at the viewpoint when I arrived. Tony Hukin and Trevor were watching a Kingfisher fishing in front of the White Hide, and a latecomer found a Green Sandpiper. A few Swallows, Larks and Pipits were passing through from time to time. The Stonechats appear to have gone-Phil has had three or four up 'til yesterday but could not locate any today. The Parakeets seem to be well established in the woods opposite and were very vocal but hard to see.
A few Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters and singles of Red Admiral and Peacock were still flying.
Eventually quite a crowd built up but little was happening so most went for a stroll leaving me with Bill. Things remained quiet for some time-we had had a Kite being mobbed by four crows, and a pair of Kestrels were hunting up towards Tumbling Bay. Bill had gone down to the observing platform and as a few others turned up I heard him shout Marsh Harrier. He rushed back up saying a male had crossed the west end, circling. I went over to the bridge and picked it up as it slowly drifted over the railway-luckily many of those had returned from their walkabout and managed to see it. Unfortunately it was much too far away for the 300mm lens.

Colin and his mate arrived moments too late unfortunately.
As it was now fairly warm, Buzzard numbers were increasing with birds everywhere we looked, and later three Red Kites were seen over the fields to the north, and one or two Sparrowhawks were over the woods. Phil decided to leave, and had only got over the bridge when he rushed back as he had pretty convincing views of a female Marsh Harrier! Unfortunately no-one else saw it. The Hobby then put in a brief  appearance over the wood being chased off by a corvid which was a nice end to the day.
So in total, 3+ Kites, 1+ Marsh Harrier, 2 each of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, 1 Hobby and at a rough guess 10+ Buzzards. And more Kites and Buzzards on the drive home.