Saturday, 30 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs

Only took me 20 years since my first failed twitch for a Greater Yellowlegs but today it finally happened. After last Saturday's no-show, just about the only day it has not appeared in the last two weeks we just had to try again, and there were a few decent back up birds in the area as well.
We travelled down to Pagham Harbour where one of (presumably) last years Black Winged Stilts could be seen on the Sidlesham Ferry pool by the road. On the way down I found out that a Red Necked Phalarope was also present, so two good birds in one spot.
When we arrived, the Phalarope was a little way away from the road, but was being continually harassed by Avocets and Gulls. Part of a small influx as several birds were reported today, this just happened to be the first one I have ever seen in breeding plumage. Seen quite a few on autumn passage, but we never managed to see any on the Outer Hebrides in May 1992, so it was a very nice start to the day. The Stilt was rather distant, at the back of the pool but flew a bit closer eventually. Seemed to be either a female or immature bird. A few Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Avocets two Ringed Plover and some Dunlin were also present. I did see what appeared to be a sandpiper, but having got the scope from the car it had disappeared so I don't know what it was.

With no news, we headed off along the sea wall to Church Norton, being serenaded by Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Buntings and Sedge Warblers. We had not gone far when Colin's pager went off so it was a quick return to the car and we were off to Titchfield Haven.
Parking was a bit of a problem by the time we arrived, with only a few spaces along the sea front. There was also a bit of a confusion about which hide the Yellowlegs was being seen from, largely due to the fact that it was a bit mobile and at one point was likely visible from three of them.
When i got to Spurgin Hide, it was the nearest bird, being maybe 30 feet away. Unfortunately the light was rather harsh, but it gradually moved around the small island in front of the hide and showed quite well feeding all the time. After maybe twenty minutes it moved to the back of the small island, being partly hidden by the yellow irises and appeared to fall asleep.

On the way back we stopped off to enjoy a lovely Curlew Sandpiper in full breeding plumage.

Last week we had intended to visit Bentley Wood but more or less ran out of time so we decided to call in on the way home.
It was rather busy as expected, and car  parking was a bit of a problem. There has been a lot of work over the last year, with more areas opened up around the eastern clearing, and it seems to be a bit drier than our last visit. Pearl Bordered Fritillaries were present in some numbers, but most were well past their best. They seemed to be very active as well, rarely stopping so getting the camera on them was impossible. Same with the many Brimstones. Managed to see singles of Common Blue, Holly Blue and a Broad Bodied Chaser and I headed north to try and locate the singing Tree Pipit-it was sitting half way up in a birch and very hard to see. Met up with someone who had pinned down a couple of fresh Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries and the remains of a bee swarm-dozens of bees in a Hawthorn collecting fragments of wax.

So the Yellowlegs is finally on my list. Tried for one in the mid 90's at Minsmere, but it had gone before I got there. One in Lincolnshire played hide and seek, I seem to remember heading up to Norfolk to be close should it re-appear. We failed to see the Cresswell  bird in 2011, having decided that Sharp Tailed Sandpiper, two Dowitchers, Spotted Sandpiper and a retrospectively ticked  Semipalmated Sandpier at Chew was more important, and when we did go, it vanished an hour before we got there. Add the two previous trips to Titchfield over the last month and the miles (and years) have really added up. Still got a few bogey birds though...........

Monday, 25 May 2015

Chelsea Flower Show Photos

Flickr album-

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bank Holiday Again

Bank Holiday weekend again, and this one started on Thursday when I went down to the Chelsea Flower Show. Bit of an expensive way to year tick Ring Necked Parakeet but there you go.
I did what I always do, and managed to get down there shortly after it opened. Rather lucky with the trains-six connections there and back from Stevenage and on five of them it was get down the steps to the platform and get on the train, and the only wait was no more than two minutes. Wish twitching was always like that.
I spent two hours going round the gardens-several were exceptional, in planting, design and construction, and there were only one or two I did not like. The TV coverage does not always do a garden justice, and a couple that I was expecting to dislike were much better when I got to see them, and one with a lot of slate in its construction turned out to be a favourite. I happen to agree with Monty Don that the best garden was the French Perfumers Garden by L'Occitane as soon as you got near to it the scent of Rosemary and Lavender really hit you. I also enjoyed Dan Pierson's Chatsworth Garden as it was one that really repaid study.
Another two hours was spent in the marquee looking at the displays there, chatting to one or two nursery owners that I enjoy meeting. Picked up a few Aeoniums and carnivorous plants now that they are allowed to sell plug plants. Hard to decide on the best display inside, the orchid stands were fantastic, one having a nice group of Ophris (Bee and Fly) types from allover Europe, as well as the more usual tropical hybridsand species.
As usual got home completely exhausted and spent all day Friday recovering. I will get round to putting some images up on Flickr soon.

Saturday was an easy decision. The Greater Yellowlegs has been showing every day now for the last eight days so we had to go down. We decided not to leave too early, and were just getting onto the east bound M27 when news came through from Titchfield Haven that it could not be found. We diverted to the New Forest in the hope that news would come through later.
We arrived at Beaulieu Road Station and parked at Shatterford. It's been a long time since we had been here so we were not sure on what to expect. A group of House Martins collecting mud from a puddle was nice to see and we spent a while with them.

The walk down to the railway bridge did not produce a great deal apart from Stonechats that seemed to be everywhere. Despite the sunshine, a bit of a breeze seemed to inhibit insects and we only saw a few Large Red and Azure Damselflies. A large dragonfly did not linger long enough to be identified. Green Tiger Beetles seemed to be abundant, and every footfall seemed to produce a brief metallic green meteor.
We carried on past the bridge to Denny Enclosure. Willow Warblers everywhere, and  a family of Siskin was a bit of a surprise. A female Redstart was pointed out to us-we eventually found at least two pairs here, but getting images was very tricky as they would not allow a close approach. Rather easier was the family of Treecreepers, one adult with perhaps five young ones in attendance.

We returned to the car, picking up even more Stonechats-there must have been at least ten birds in the mile or so down to Denny and back. At least one pair of Tree Pipits was also located, but the only Dartford Warbler was seen from the car-I set the scope up on a distant clump of Gorse while we had lunch.
Still no sign of the Yellowlegs so we gave up on the idea and went to Martin Down instead. Westbound holiday traffic was very slow but luckily we were able to navigate around it and it did not take too long to get there. Heat was building up and it proved to be a good butterfly afternoon.
The only problem was the report of Turtle Doves. We parked as usual west of Martin village and had intended to take the green lane westward, but the doves were reported to be along the track to the south west. This necessitated a detour of a couple of miles as we headed up hill to the south end of Bockerly Dyke, checking the scrub as we went. Met up with a couple of birders but despite them searching for some time, the doves were not located.
The walk down the dyke was nice with stunning views but little was seen apart from a single Twayblade and many Dingy Skippers, Mother Shiptons and Burnet Companions. At probably the lowest point of the dyke we found a couple of Marsh Fritillaries, and the first of several Adonis Blues. Getting to the end of the lane eventually, several Common Blues were seen and the first of hundred of Small Blues.
The main area of Burnt Orchis looked even better than in the past with 18 flowering spikes. Two other plants were found some distance away, suggesting a gradual spread.
The first of several Small Heaths were seen here, but no Green Hairstreaks unfortunately. Down in the valley bottom more Marsh Fritillaries, Dingy Skippers, Small Blues and one Grizzled Skipper were found, as well as Orange Tips, Brimstones and various whites. Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers were seen frequently here as well.
We had intended to go to Bentley Wood but time was getting on and I was very tired so we called it a day.

Its Sunday afternoon, and guess what sort of rare wader has been seen again today. Colin has threatened to go the next time it got reported. Have not heard yet if he has gone.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Hairy Dragonfly

Woke up on Sunday very tired and achy. If the phone app can be trusted, and I am not exactly sure how it does it, I walked over 10 miles on Saturday. Still it was a nice morning, looked to be warm and sunny so I went down to Amwell. Had a few problems getting there-the Car Boot meant that there were severe hold ups on the roundabout, I had hoped that by now something would have been done about it by now as it has been a problem for years now.
Arrived at the same time as William and spent a bit of time chatting as we walked up the lane. Bit surprised at the lack of insect activity, considering the sunshine, but there was a rather cool breeze at times and this seems to have affected things. The viewpoint was as usual for a Sunday rather busy, and I faced a bit of a grilling as I was unable to get down to the Roseate Tern earlier in the week- the second for Herts, the only other one was at Tring in 1969.
The other major discussion was the rather annoying Titchfield Yellowlegs which a few had managed to see. Yet again it appeared during the morning, and has been seen again today-four days on the trot now. Bet it vanishes next weekend.
Not much happening bird wise, lots of Black headed Gull and Common Tern activity, a few Redshank flying around and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers still. The Oystercatchers have been successful this year, though they are hidden away on the main island. Surprising lack of activity in the air apart from large numbers of Swifts, with only one Red Kite, a Sparrowhawk and a couple of Buzzards up. Once everyone had left to go bug hunting or the Sunday walkabout, there were only two of us chatting about butterflies when two Cuckoos flew past chased by a Black Headed Gull.
I eventually got round to a walk through the woods-quiet before getting to Hollycross. Very few butterfly seen, single Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell and Green Veined Whites and a couple of Orange Tips. The cool breeze seemed to be keeping the dragonflies down, but I eventually managed to see a few Blue Tails and Azures. Found a male Hairy Dragonfly hunting round the ash at the end of the board walk, and a female was eventually located on a reed stem in the pools.

I met up with William again, and we both decided to call it a day shortly after 11. May have been a mistake as a little while before that, Colin on his way to Stevenage had seen a Crane flying south at Colliers End, apparently heading towards Amwell.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Dragonflies Exist!

The last month or so has been very frustrating for the odontophile, the rather cool April seemed to hold things back, and every weekend turned out dull, cool or wet and as a result I have not seen any. Reports from various parts of the country as well as local sites like Amwell suggested that I have been very unlucky with the weather. This weekend looked to be very promising, but with Colin unavailable on Sunday, it seemed like Saturday afternoon would be the best bet, sunny and warm. The Friday report of a brief sighting of the Titchfield Greater Yellowlegs was ignored-after all it has never turned up two days on the trot.
We called in at Broom Pits first thing, but the long staying Temminck's Stint had gone overnight so we continued on to Santon Downham in the brecks. Willow Tits and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are still holding on here based  on chatting to locals while searching for Goshawks a while back. A stroll along the river failed to produce either-not unexpected really as they can be hard to find. Garden Warblers and Blackcaps were very vocal, and a pair of Nuthatches was nice to see. We continued up to one of the forest clearings where we had seen Tree Pipits a few years ago, but the conifers had grown considerably and there was little to see. The news from Titchfield that the Yellowlegs was showing from one of the hides did not go down well either.
We decided to carry on with our plan and went to Weeting next. One of the Stone Curlews was running around the ridge from the West Hide but remained very distant. Plenty of Lapwing chicks for the Rooks and Jackdaws to harass, and Skylarks and Linnets were plentiful. Outside the hide, a Long Tailed Tit nest close to the path provided excellent views of the adults bringing in food. Above them, feeding in the canopy of the conifers, two or three Firecrests were a nice bonus.

There was no sign of the Spotted Flycatchers that nest here so we carried on to the Forest Trail over the road. Tree Pipit and Woodlarks were the targets, though one of the locals suggested it might be rather tough. Not done this bit before so it was a bit of a novelty. Orange Tips, Green Veined Whites and Holly Blues feeding among the bright Yellow Gorse and Broom was promising, now that the sun was shining and heating up. Saw one Bullfinch, a Mistle Thrush, lots of Whitethroats Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers but none of the special birds. With all the Gorse I thought a Stonechat would do the decent thing and pop up and perch. Turned out that doing the entire trail takes several hours, and we only managed to do a portion of it. Still, back on the reserve, the Spotted Flycatchers put in an appearance for us.
We finished the day at Lakenheath. With it being nice and warm, we hoped to see a lot, but the wind that always seems to be present here was a bit off putting. Still ten minutes in, and with the poplars providing some shelter I picked up many Blue Tailed, Large Red and Azure damselflies. One male Hairy Dragonfly was patrolling a clearing and several Four Spotted Chasers including a very nice fresh individual were found.

The Hobbys were the stars of the reserve as usual, and I managed to produce a huge number of out of focus images fit for the bin as well as some rather nice ones. Bitterns booming, bearded Tits pinging and Cuckoos cuckooing and bubbling added to the atmosphere.

 No sign of Cranes this time, and the Little Bittern reported first thing did not appear all day. Sitting at the west end, I counted 14 Hobbys among the huge number of Swifts feeding over the reeds, with a good five or more seen on our way up. A very inquisitive Stoat enlivened the return journey as did the close pair of Marsh Harriers, woodpeckers and many more Hobby encounters.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Disappointed Despite a Bonaparte's Gull

On Saturday, the Greater Yellowlegs reappeared at Titchfield Haven and showed all day. It's been a frustrating bird, appearing on the reserve on odd days since the beginning of the year. Where it goes in the mean time has been a mystery, but when it was reported on the floods at the north end, away from the reserve proper, where coverage may have been limited, it seemed reasonable to assume it might have been pinned down, so we thought it worth a trip down. I've had a bad time with Greater Yellowlegs, one at Minsemere went before I got there, another in Lincolnshire was hard to pin down, and more recently we went for the Druridge Bird a week late, having decided that a Sharp Tailed Sandpiper at Chew (with two Dowitchers, a Spotted Sandpiper and a belatedly identified Semi-Palmated Sandpiper) was more important.
The news on the way down was not good, so we diverted to Southampton's Riverside Park on the Itchen where the long staying Bonaparte's Gull was still present. After a bit of confusion with the various car parks we arrived at the right spot to see a couple of local birders that we have met before in attendance. The 1st Summer bird was sitting on the mud a bit of a long way off but flew a bit closer a few minutes later. I got a record shot with the 300mm lens, but as it was some way off went back to the car for the 500mm. Fatal mistake as it had flown down river, and despite waiting an hour it did not return.

We then drove down to the north end of Titchfield Haven, despite there still being no news. It was starting to warm up a bit and the walk down the old canal was pleasant, though with a distinct lack of dragonflies. Did see a small school of Trout and what appeared to be a Grayling in the water.
Got down to the floods to find a small group of quiet birders, including Ian Bennel. The devastating news of a Citril Finch in Norfolk had not gone down well. We had a chat for a while as there did not seem to be much happening-a reasonable flock of Icelandic Black Tailed Godwits, a few Shelduck, Lapwing and Common Terns, with Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers. Ian went down to check out areas to the south, and we followed, though all we saw was a Cuckoo, so we all returned to the floods, saw that there was no change and decided that a coffee in the car would be nice. Back at the car park, Dave from Royston and one of his mates had just arrived (Aubrey being in Scotland failing to see the irregular Harlequin Duck), so we had another long chat as its been a while since I last saw them.
There was no chance of getting to Norfolk for the Citril Finch and there were no other birds nearby so we returned home, calling in at Noar Hill for an hour. It is looking superb at the moment, carpeted in yellow Cowslips with contrasting spikes of Early Purple Orchids. Butterflies were a bit hit and miss as it was a bit overcast at times, and a bit breezy as well. Dingy Skippers were abundant, and there were a number of Orange Tips and a few Duke of Burgundys as well. Saw a blue of some kind-views were very brief but failed to find any Green Hairstreaks. Had hoped to hear Turtle Doves here, but luckily I saw one from the car on the way home.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Another Windy Day

Had a brief local mega on Thursday when a Wood Warbler was found in Fairlands Valley. I called in after work for a short time, but there was no sight or sound of the bird. It was reported to be singing very quietly later that evening, but was very elusive.
This morning for a change I went to Rye Meads. The weather is not great again, cloudy, showery and a blustery winds, so I thought it would be nice to sit in the hides for a bit. When I got there, Christine told me there had been 4-5 Hobbys over the  car park earlier , but there was no sign of any subsequently all morning.
Breeding is in full swing with much of the Draper Scrape occupied by Black Headed Gulls, wild fowl and terns. One Little Ringed Plover was found running round the back, and a Common Sandpiper was also present. Hoards of Swift feeding low over the water and the distant meads with a few Swallows thrown in, but strangely no martins.

Cetti's warblers very vocal all over the place, but remaining hidden, and it was also nice to hear a few Willow Warblers as they seem to be scarce again this year. I stopped off at the various pools just in case a dragon or damselfly was hiding in the vegetation-no chance of anything flying in this weather, but could not find any. The new seasonal trail along the river was a bit sheltered but even here, any insect life was hard to see. It made a nice change, offering a different view of the reed beds and the reserve as a whole.
I stopped at the Kingfisher Hide for a spell, but the only birds of note were three Stock Doves in one of the trees, and the hides overlooking the lagoons did not offer much. Most of the time was spent scanning the skies for raptors and hirundines, with the highlight being a harassed Buzzard.

Draper was pretty much the same as earlier, and I spent the last fifteen minutes trying to photograph the Swifts as they were still feeding low down, often at head hight over the path. A challenge as usual, but a few successful images were obtained.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Bank Holiday Weekend

Another wonderful week as the cough, cold and throat problem decided to come back, and to cap it all the trees are in flower so hay fever kicked in the same time. Still by the end of the week things were starting to improve so Colin and I decided to go to Norfolk on Saturday.
The drive up was uneventful and by nine o clock we had arrived at the barns at Chosely. Not unexpectedly, there were a few cars parked as Dotterels have been present in varying numbers for over a week now. They were frequenting the field north of the track running east, but were very distant and I never managed to get a decent image, though a movie clip was reasonable. We saw eight birds, mostly bright females with a couple of drab males. Not much else in the area apart from Yellowhammers and a Pied Wagtail. Bumped into Tony Hukin on the way back.
Titchwell was next. After a chat in the centre we went up past the Fen Hide where a Grasshopper Warbler was singing. This proved to be very elusive and the song was very faint and much further back from the trail than expected-it was supposed to be in a Sallow viewable from the blinds overlooking the pool. The Lesser Whitethroat in the hedge was a bit easier, and it was not hard to miss the Red Crested Pochards on the pool. Being a bit closer to the nest sites, the Marsh harriers put on a good show. So four decent year ticks in the first hour was a good start.
The walk up to the sea was rather quiet. The easterly wind was rather nasty, and kept the temperature down. A flyover Spoonbill was a nice bonus, dropping into one of the channels on Thornham Marsh, and another was on the fresh marsh. Not much else was though. Very few waders apart from a few Black Tailed Godwits, a couple of Redshank, a single Little Ringed Plover and lots of Avocets. A few Common Terns were among the gulls and the usual wildfowl were loafing around. About the only other good birds were a few Swift, fresh in.
The sea was absolutely dire, where we bumped into Tony again. The tide was out, the shore was full of gulls-no waders at all, and a sea watch produced one Sandwich Tern, and a possible Little tern a long way out. Getting rather fed up with the wind we made our way back to the Parrinder Hide where we failed to see any Med Gulls-Tony did see one briefly. One or two Black headed Gulls caused some discussion having retained last years juvenile/1w plumage.
The regular  Chinese Water Deer appeared on Thornahm on the way back, looking rather tatty as it was moulting. A Whinchat seen earlier in the day failed to show for us so we headed back to the car for lunch

 Holme had a few reported migrants so we went there next. More Lesser Whitethroats in the scrub by the NOA car park, but no Grasshoppers. A nice surprise in the first NWT hide were some Barnacle Geese. Presumed feral, but some winter birds do pass through. A Whinchat in the filed behind was a bonus.

 Had a flyover Yellow Wagtail, a rather distant female Wheatear and a couple of Marsh Harriers. A walk along the dunes up to the forestry failed to produce the hoped for Ring Ouzel, but we did see a Whimbrel where it was supposed to be. Seems to have been a lot of work in the dunes, with some clearance and a lot of new pools excavated-presumably for Natterjack Toads which we failed to see.
 While it was not a bad day as such, with a few nice birds, the weather and the lack of migrants meant we called it a day and headed off home calling in at Paxton for an hour. Seem to be a lot of Willow Warblers singing at the moment, more than I have heard elsewhere, and a pair of Garden Warblers showed quite well although briefly. Not a great deal else seen, with only a few hirundines and terns on the main Heron lake. We stopped at the usual Stake out by the Kingfisher Hide and waited for a bit. After about five minutes the Nightingale started singing, right by the track but quickly moved along the ground and into some dense Sallows where it proved hard to see. I over round to the path and picked it up, though even so it was hard. Called Colin over but it decided to shut up, and then dropped down to the ground to feed where we managed to get some pretty good views at last.

 Sunday was rather cool at times, with heavy rain early and late. Sarah and Ed came over so I stayed in. Eight Black Terns were in the Lea Valley first thing, at Amwell, Rye Meads and then moved off to Nazing where a few managed to connect.

This morning was nice and sunny to start with and was very warm. As the Hollycross trail is now open i went down to Amwell. About the only new birds for me here were a big flock of Swifts. One Little Ringed Plover and a few Redshank were present. Seemed to be several garden Warblers singing, along with a few Whitethroat. After a while I walked down to Hollycross eventually meeting up with William. Nice to see reasonable numbers of butterflies after a rather cold April. Orange Tips were frequent, as were Small Tortoiseshells, with a few Peacock, Large Small and Green Veined Whites. No damsel or dragonflies unfortunately, despite the warm temperatures. Spent some time with William hunting for bugs, beetles etc but we did not see muck. A stake out for a diving beetle was not successful but we did find a lot of Caddis Fly larvae moving around in the ditch.
A nice bonus, but presumably an escape from the adjacent garden were several fine clumps of Monkshood-will have to keep an eye on the seed heads when they develop.