Friday, 27 March 2015

Norton Green

Paid my first visit of the year to Norton Green this morning before work-rather late as I usually start much earlier in March. Tony Hukin had a Wheatear a week or so back but despite regular coverage there has been little else of note.
Although bright and sunny there was a brisk northerly breeze, and I only had time for one quick circuit. One or two Song Thrushes singing in the lane, a few Linnets and Yellowhammers went over and I flushed two Red Legged Partridge as I reached the raised bank. Three Redwings went north, and I found a couple more in a small flock of 25 Fieldfare, so maybe five in total. At least one was singing in a willow bush. No Meadow Pipits, which was a bit odd, but several Skylarks a usual.
On the way back along the eastern edge, two Grey Partridge went up but I found nothing else.

Sitting in the car and lunchtime, a falcon went over the car park at work. Rather long winged and tailed, it came back low over the car. A Kestrel, rather than the hoped for Peregrine, but nice to see, and rather unusual for the industrial area of Stevenage.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Woodcock and Sand Martins

Following on from the rather disappointing eclipse on Friday, I took Mum up to see Sarah and Ed's new place. After the chaos of the move they have made a good start on sorting things out so we spent a bit of time looking over the garden. Constant visits by Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Robins plus a variety of tits were nice. Took molly for a walk in the fields just up the lane, with wildlife conservation edges, encountering Red Kite, Buzzard, Yellowhammer and Meadow Pipits. They have also seen Barn and Tawny Owl, Grey Partridge, Woodpeckers plus a few brown jobs.
Saturday was rather cloudy chilly, and I spent part of the morning working in the garden. Not much in the way of birds while I was out there, but the frogs are still very active in the pond. Noticed a few Pond Skaters-have not really been looking too closely recently.
Sunday morning was yet another visit to Amwell. Seemed to be very busy with most of the regulars putting in an appearance all hoping for a few migrants dropping in. Wheatear and Little Ring Plovers have turned up in the county, and Redshank and Oystercatcher have been seen at Amwell, but the rather cold northeasterly is still making things a bit unpleasant and seems to be holding things up. Still reasonable numbers of Shoveller and Teal, and at least one pair of Goldeneye remain. A Grey Wagtail was flying around for a bit, and a Pied Wagtail dropped in briefly. A mustelid seen by a few running under the bridge railings caused some discussion. I only got a very brief glimpse and it seemed a bit too small to be the regular Stoat, and one or two others thought it was a Weasel .
A few Redwings flew out over from the walkway as I made my way down to the Bittern Pool with one of the photographers. A yell from Trevor et al alerted us to a Woodcock which flew past in front of us and up towards the level crossing. Apparently flushed by a dog (?) near the Buddleja patch, it may be one that has been seen occasionally near the railway line.
Had a Bullfinch, some Long Tailed Tits and a rather tame Robin on the bridge, but there was very little to see on the Hollycross feeders.

Walked back with Richard Pople and Tony Hukin in the hope of picking up Treecreeper, Redpoll or Siskin before arriving at the viewpoint again. Everyone was looking intently south-six Sand Martins were at the south end of the lake. They stuck around for a while, with a few of them moving up to the north end. Bill picked up a very distant flock of Golden Plovers-Simon reckoned on around 400, which remained on view for some time just milling around in the sky.
Only heard two singing Chiffchaffs this morning, and there was no sign of the Blackcap I heard last week.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Eclipse of the Sun

This post won't take long.........
Dusted of the 4.5 inch refractor yesterday, cleaned the solar filters and set up the equatorial mount in readiness for todays eclipse. Woke up to solid cloud and the BBC forecast did not look good at all. Running for about two hours, with maximum at 0930 I hoped that there would be a few breaks from time to time, but it seemed to get worse as the morning progressed. There was a noticeable drop in light levels about twenty minutes before maximum with an interesting ominous feeling-something I last experienced at the total eclipse in Penzance in 1999. Spent most of the time watching the tv coverage, popping out from time to time into the garden, and just after 0930, I was sitting there and noticed it brighten a bit outside-the cloud had thinned sufficiently to see the narrow crescent. Grabbed the camera gear and got a few shots before the cloud thickened up again.

The clouds finally started to break up about half an hour later, though by then the Moon had pretty much cleared the Sun, but it looked nice in the special eclipse glasses.
Took Mum up to Sarah's new place for lunch and it was bright sunshine for the rest of the day......

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Singing Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap

Popped down to Amwell this morning. Very cold and no sign of Sun so rather unpleasant at the viewpoint. The water levels have been lowered, leaving lots of edges for passage waders-Redshank has been seen but today all i had were the usual Lapwing and a few Snipe. Still good numbers of Teal, Shoveller and Goldeneye but otherwise it looks like duck numbers are decreasing.
Had a walk round to the White Hide, stopping off around the James Hide feeders. Apart from the expected tits and Reed Buntings there was a frustratingly quiet and elusive Blackcap in sub-song. Spent a bit of time in the White Hide. A Kingfisher is using the large branch over towards the main island as a perch, a bit too distant for the 300mm lens.

Also photographed a 1w gull flying through. I can't make my mind up, I thought it was Yellow Legged, checked a few books called it Herring, then checked a few gull blogs and now I can't make my mind up.

Walked down to Hollycross but the feeders were quiet, however got decent views of a Chiffchaff-at least three singing birds and another two at least were calling. Everyone but me managed to see a Treecreeper either here or in the woods and I also failed to see an oddly plumaged Redwing that has been present most of the winter.
Bumped into Simon as I was leaving-another year tick. Saw some images later of his Mistletoe flowering on Hawthorn-rather unusual.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Brent Goose

Yesterday was a lovely Spring day. Birds were singing, bees were flying etc. Unfortunately I spent the day helping Sarah and Ed move, so I did not get much chance to enjoy it. However their new place had some nice birds in and around the garden, and being in the country has a lot of potential. Best bird was a calling Tawny Owl around 1pm-hearing them during the daytime seems tocomming more common.
Having been busy over the last few days, I missed the news of a Brent Goose in Fairlands Valley, so despite the aches and pains I popped down this morning. Its on the main lake and just about the closest bird to the car park. Spent a lot of time on the water, courtesy of the dog walkers, but ventured out to graze from time to time.  Couple of Cormorants, a small flock of Common and Black headed Gulls, and calling Great and Green Woodpeckers in the 15 minutes I was there. Did not take my camera gear, but this image was with the RX100 point and shoot.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015


After a week of amorous activity, the frogs have been extremely busy today with the first patches of spawn appearing this afternoon in the pond. Perhaps a bit late this year-in milder winters like this one they have started in mid February. Just hope we don't have a late cold snap.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sunday Butterflies.

A nice warm spring morning, with much lighter winds, so it was rather pleasant walking around Aston End and up the river Beane.
Lots of birdsong in the plantation and hedges again, with several Greenfinch a nice surprise-three or four birds were heard. Also a lot of Skylarks in the air. Three Buzzards over High Wood, with a Red Kite, and more Buzzards and Kites seen up towards Walkern. No sign of the Little Owls this time, and there were no winter thrushes anywhere, just one singing Song Thrush and the usual Blackbirds.
One rather tatty Red Admiral flew past near the river, and a bit later on I found a Small Tortoiseshell, bringing the butterfly year list up to four.

Fens and Brecks

Yesterday I went out on a trip with Colin, touring the fens and Brecks. There were a few winter birds still around, and with the promise of Spring sunshine it was nice to get out.
We first went to Holme Fen, where the Rough Legged Buzzard was still in residence. Encountered a lot of Red Kites in the area, and it was nice to see that (most) of the road had recently been resurfaced, though some bits were still very rough. We scanned from several points, picking up a few Skylarks, Linnets, several Kestrels and Reed Buntings before stopping at a pull in close to the woods, directly south of the hide. The wind was pretty bad, but after a short period two Buzzards were seen over the fen in front of the hide (quite a way off) and one banked nicely to reveal it's white tail. Unfortunately the bird kept low and soon dropped down below the bank. Not the best Rough Legged views and way too far for the camera.
Next stop was Eldernell on the Nene Washes. Seems to be a lot of work on the banks at the moment so quite a bit fenced off. We headed west into a strong wind to the large wash about half a mile away. Several Marsh Harriers, and more Kestrels were seen, all of the swans were Mute, and there were still lots of wildfowl-mainly Wigeon Shoveller and Teal, with a few Shelduck and Pintail as well. 

Almost got back to the car when to our relief three Cranes flew along the far bank, heading east before dropping down into the reeds.
We left the fens and headed down into the Brecks aiming for Lyndford. Drove down the Oxborough to Lyndford road stopping off at a likely spot where I saw two distant Goshawks displaying, with one lingering for some time. Yet again more Red Kites were seen here.
Lyndford was packed-not unexpected as the feeding area was pulling in quite a selection of species. Nuthatch, Blue, Great, Coal and Marsh Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Blackbird, Yellowhammer, Dunnock, Robin, Brambling, and the stars a pair of Hawfinch. Spent some time trying to digiscope the more distant male bird, always in the shade deep in the leaf litter. Got one I'm happy with. Also had my first Brimstone in the car park.

We then went back to searching for Goshawk at one of the better known locations, and although we saw one or two distant birds, the wind was really getting up. This meant that we were not able to see or hear Woodlark in the area, so we headed off to Santon Downham and drove around for a bit, but was not successful here either.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Stevenage Peregrine at Last

Sat having my tea break at 1030 this morning-staring out of the window as usual, and a Peregrine went over the Airbus (formerly Astrium) building next door. Looked like it was chasing something but it was a rather brief view, the speed it was doing.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

March 1st at Amwell-Ravens!

Never got round to writing anything last week, so here is a summary.
Saturday morning I went to Rye Meads. Although bright and sunny at times, the northerly wind was rather cold to put it mildly. A nice male Bullfinch was showing just beyond the Water Vole bridge-Alan Harris and the ringing team were rebuilding one of their access bridges. There were three Green Sandpipers on the Draper scrape, and the first of several Water rails was encountered. In the distance, the birds on the lagoons kept going up-a Sparrowhawk went through every now and again. One or two Cetti's were seen, with one rather nice individual sunning itself but always out of view of the camera. The water being high on the lagoons held mainly the usual assortment of gulls and wildfowl including three Shelduck. Did not see a great deal anywhere else and I never got any images either.
Sunday was a bit milder so I went for a walk around Aston End and up the Beane valley. The tits and finches singing in the woods were  extremely loud, but it was pretty quiet elsewhere. A few Yellowhammer, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were seen in the valley, but thrush numbers were lower than in january, with around 50 Fieldfare, and a small group of Mistle, Song Thrush and Redwings. Heard a Little Owl again, but like last time did not see it.
With the recent strong winds and cold rain, I did not expect to go out this weekend, but this morning wasn't too bad, lots of Sun, but with a north westerly gradually increasing as the morning progressed. Saw several Red Kites and Kestrels on the way down, no doubt enjoying the conditions but I missed the Peregrine arriving moments too late, as the Sunday regulars joyfully greeted me. The Smew have not been seen for a few days now, but there are still several Goldeneye present, and for once a sizeable flock of Wigeon.
I walked through the woods, picking up some Redwing and one or two Siskin, but did not see the expected Treecreeper. I was joined by Richard Pole and we went down to the Hollycross feeders. Apart from the usual Great Tit, Blue Ti and Chaffinch it was quiet. However I noticed a Buzzard over Easeneye Wood being mobbed. Expecting a Rook or Carrion Crow until the size and the tail shape became apparent. The Raven was quickly joined by a second and we were treated to great but rather distant views before they dropped into the wood.
Walking back did not produce anything else of note though we both spent some time searching for the Treecreepers again.
Not a big image, but the tail is a giveaway!