Thursday, 17 August 2017

First Bee-Eaters in Herts

A few days after we went up to see the Bee-eaters, we heard that the nesting attempt had failed and they departed the site, flying off south. However they were then seen in Leicestershire, and have been reported for the last ten days or so. It was a bit of a surprise when I got a tweet from Mike Illett that the (presumed same seven) flock had been seen in a garden in Bayford yesterday, and were still showing.
That was just after lunch when I went through the messages, so I hung on until three, when I could finish work and was down there just after 3.30. Unfortunately they had last been seen about an hour earlier flying north towards the station and Brickendon (which is actually east but never mind). I drove down to Brickendon checking where I was able to pull in and then returned to the small group outside the garden they were last seen in.
We spent a lot of time chatting and eventually most drifted off to search. I hung around for a bit and then walked up towards to top of the village for a bit, meeting up with Simon, Ian Bennell and one or two others. Apart from a lot of hirundines over the fields, plus the usual pigeons, crows etc there wasn't much around. After a couple of search parties returned around 5pm, with negative news, I decided to leave.
Maybe they will stick around the area for a few days, just hope they get refund as there are an awful lot of disappointed Herts birders at the moment (plus a few very lucky individuals able to get down in  time).

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Butterfly Day

Yesterday Colin and I spent a day out in the Chilterns mainly targeting butterflies which, for me at least have been in short supply recently.
We started off at RSPB Otmoor, which has become a bit of a favourite at this time of year. Seems like a lot of others had the same idea as the car park was a bit full by the time we arrived.
The RSPB had opened up a seasonal trail through the meadow adjacent to the car park and it was full of insect life. Lots of Common Blues and Small Coppers (my first of the year) and large numbers of Common and Ruddy Darters. We kept our eyes open for the Turtle Doves which were still around, having been seen earlier but we were out of luck.
Walking over to the Wetland Watchpoint hide, we scanned the fields for waders and migrant chats-none seen. The Cranes proved to be too elusive and the best birds turned out to be some feral Barnacle Geese. We encountered more darters, some Brown and Southern Hawkers, family parties of Reed Warblers and Whitethroats and a few geese and swans. Lots of distant raptors proved to be Red Kites and Buzzards, but perhaps we should have payed attention as there had been a summering Hen Harrier, and a flyover Osprey though I think the latter was seen after we left.
The Ash and Oaks along the Roman Road were reasonably productive with both Purple and Brown Hairstreaks, though unfortunately they all stayed up in the trees. We found at least two Browns, which the visiting group were pleased to see-if the stickers in the cars were anything to go by, some had come a long way to see them.





Our next stop was Aston Rowant and by now it was getting rather warm. Again a lot of visitors were butterfly hunting and it was very productive, probably the best we've had here. Purple Hairstreak in the car park, whites all over the place, large numbers of very fresh brimstones and we hadn't actually got to the hillside. Silver Spotted Skippers were very abundant (in fact they were the only skippers seen all day), and Chalkhill Blues, Common Blues and Brown Argus were all over the hillside. We bumped into someone I knew vaguely, formerly from Hitchin and now Chelmsford, and he mentioned that he had found Adonis Blues at the bottom of the slope. I didn't know they were here, and neither did a few others I talked to on the way down. Fortunately at least one was picked out and posed quite well.
I spent a bit of time failing to locate Autumn Ladies Tresses but I did find a lot of Autumn Gentians.








We finished the day in a very hot and humid Warburg, another of our regular summer destinations. I knew from Bird Forum that we would be lucky to see any orchids as all the Narrow Lipped had been eaten. As it turned out so had the dozen or so Broad Leaved, and while we did see a few tiny plants in the cages where the Violet and Narrow Lipped occur it was rather disappointing. Yellow Birds Nest should have been there too but a search was fruitless.
Another failure were the Chiltern Gentians, though I found a few plants in bud that looked promising and compared to previous August visits, Autumn Gentians were scarce.
We encountered Marsh Tits in various spots, but otherwise birds were quiet, and butterflies were hard to find. Brimstones, Common Blues, Brown Argus and Peacocks were around, and the car park held Southern and Migrant Hawkers. A bonus was a single Silver Washed Fritillary bringing our day list up to a respectable 20 species of butterfly.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Bee-eaters and Waders

 After a long break, Colin and I had a birding day out on Sunday. There were quite a few options available to us-lots of sea-birds on the south coast over the last week or so, Stilts and a long staying Marsh Sandpiper in Kent for example but the breeding Bee-eaters  at East Leake near Loughborough were more tempting. I've seen a few over the years, but my only photographs were of the Durham birds back in 2004 , taking in heavy rain with my old D1x and to put it mildly were little more than coloured noise, so the chance to get some better ones have been on my mind over the last few weeks.
 We had a lot of rain overnight, but conditions improved and it was warm and sunny all morning, though a bit breezy it times. The AA sign posted car park was easy to find and it was only a short walk along a bridleway around the dis-used quarry to the view point. Two Bee-eaters were perched up on a distant tree, and another three to four were in a dead bush on the banks of a small lake. All the time we were there at least five birds were on view, either perched or flying around hawking for insects. To say the views were excellent would be an understatement and we had a very enjoyable time, spoilt only by one or two guys with big lenses who had to block others views. Well worth the fiver for the car parking.
 Cant really say how many birds are currently there-reports suggest seven, but there are supposed to be three nest holes (which are not viewable) and I di=ont know how successful they have been.






 After a very enjoyable morning we headed off to RSPB Frampton Marsh for the afternoon. Weather was a bit mixed with a lot more cloud and the occasional light shower but again very enjoyable.
 At first it didn't seem all that promising as a lot of the scraps seemed rather dry and empty apart from cows and Avocets with huge numbers of hirundines-mainly Sand Martins feeding over the reeds. We headed off down the road to the sea wall where a small crowd could be seen in the distance, and presumably where the good birds were.
 The large expanse of muddy pools inland from the wall was covered in waders-large flocks of Godwits, Redshank, Ruff and Dunlin, half a dozen Spotted Redshanks, some Curlew Sandpipers, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, two Little Stints and a rather elusive Pectoral Sandpiper tucked into a clump of sedge. On the salt marsh some Curlews and Whimbrels were hard to pick up.
 From the East Hide, many more godwits, shanks, stints, Common and Wood Sandpiper and four or five Knot. Among the hoards of Little Egrets were two Spoonbills.
 Walking back to the 360 hide a photographer had stopped-showed me the back of the camera and asked me to identify his photos-a juvenile Cuckoo. Unfortunately it had flown some way and although I got good scope views my photos were rather poor.




In the 360 hide we got better views of the egrets, the Knot, some flyover Snipe and a somewhat unexpected Whooper Swan that presumably injured had over summered. We had been seeing family parties of Yellow Wagtails from the sea walls and managed to get decent but distant views of some of the juveniles on one of the islands. Weirdly despite the large variety of waders present, Oystercatcher Turnstone and Sanderling, always expected around the Wash, seemed to be absent.




























Saturday, 22 July 2017

In to the Valley

I'm still not 100%, the chest infection seems to have cleared up but there are periods where I get very tired and achey, hay fever flares up now and again, and there are days where I don't really feel up to doing much at all.
Last Sunday I popped over the Sandon again for a few hours. About a dozen birders were lurking round the church and green, including Jay and Kevin from Amwell, and we were graced with the presence of Colin Wills as well, so it was an entertaining morning despite the non appearance of the Laughing Dove. Someone said he'd seen it briefly around 9am before flying over towards the barns, but an extended search of the area failed to locate it. We had a Hobby go over and eventually the two Spotted Flycatchers put in an appearance in one of the gardens.

This morning I went to Rye Meads. I haven't visited the Lee Valley much over the last few months, the combination of weather and health taking its toll. Added to which its been rather quiet at Amwell,  even by the usual mid-summer standard, but last week Colin mentioned that Rye was probably a better bet as it has been pulling in the odd thing or two. 
Lots od moulting ducks, with ducklings of course. Tufted Ducks and Gadwall seem to have been pretty successful, and there were a few Shoveller kicking around as well. There was supposed to be a pair of Teal and a summering Wigeon which I failed to locate. Most of the Tern rafts are occupied by Black Headed Gulls, and the Common Terns seem to have nested on the rocky islands on the lagoons.
I managed to find three Green Sandpipers, and one Common Sandpiper, but the Little Ringed Plover family eluded me.
The Kingfishers have had at least one brood and I wasn't expecting to see them, but both adults were hidden, sitting just above water in the big trees by the nest bank and only their constant calling gave them away. One did appear briefly, sat on a branch by the nest hole then vanished under the trees again.
When I got back to the Draper hide, it was full of binocular-less photographers firing away at anything that moved. They got very animated when everything went up but failed to notice the female Marsh Harrier that had caused all the disturbance.
Being rather dull, and maybe because of last nights heavy rain dragonflies were absent, bar a single Blue Tailed Damselfly, but there were a few butterflies. Speckled Woods and Gatekeepers were seen all over the reserve, with singles of Holly Blue, Common Blue, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. A very bright orange butterfly was very confusing. I thought Comma, saw a lot of black and white and assumed Painted Lady, but when it settled it turned out to be a Jersey Tiger moth. First one I've seen in Herts outside of the moth trappers test tubes.




Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Spotted Flycatcher

Had to go and see the doctor last week, the health problems throughout June were not going away, and I ended up being signed off for rest and recuperation. Unfortunately, its back to work tomorrow, and having spent the last week doing basically nothing I thought I'd better go out for an hour or so this morning.
At some point I would like to get up to Therfield as the Chalkhill Blues are out and there are also a lot of Dark Green Fritillaries around. It was still dull, cool and a bit drizzly when I left, and so I headed off to Sandon.
I spent around forty minutes in the churchyard surrounded by low flying House Martins, Swallows and Swifts. Not something that happens in Stevenage anymore. Nether was the family of Spotted Flycatchers. Once upon a time, I could go out anywhere in the Stevenage area, and expect to find them in any reasonably sized wooded area, and occasionally gardens, but like so many insectivores the population has plummeted and I am lucky to see more than a handful in England every year. They are hanging on in the more rural parts of north east Herts, and villages like Sandon and Wallington still hold breeding birds.
I only saw two flycatchers as they were rather elusive, sticking to the big Sycamores and Horse Chestnuts, only making the occasional foray out of the canopy.
Sandon also has a Laughing Dove-got to be an escape but a few have been to see it 'just in case', largely because it was found at the same time as the Cornwall Amur Falcon, and could conceivably have arrived on the same weather system. Its been rather hard to find and I never managed to locate it.


I then drove up the road to Deadmans Hill and stopped for a while. Several Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers were in the hedge by the gate, and eventually one distant Quail was heard calling from one of the wheat fields.
Since it was still cool and breezy I decided to forgo Therfield and returned home via a drive around Wymondly. The local Raven wasn't around and I couldn't figure out a good place to park and check out the Peregrines.

Edit. The Dove was seen about 30 minutes after I left the Church.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Even More Butterflies

Colin and I had a short day out yesterday, visiting a couple of sites new to us in Northamptonshire. It was supposed to be ok weather-wise, with warm sunny spells, but it started off dull and cool so we weren't expecting to see much.
We started off at Glapthorn Cow Pasture, not knowing that we were 20 minutes early for a guided walk of the reserve. This is a key Black Hairstreak site, which had actually peaked a few weeks earlier than usual but we were told that there were still a few tatty individuals around.
We went in on our own and I found a hairstreak almost immediately. I didn't get good views but obtained a distant photo and assumed from zooming in that it was a White Letter, but it turned out to be a Black with rather worn forewings missing the orange edging. We had lots of Silver Washed Fritillaries, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Commas, Tortoiseshells  and Skippers, plus several Brown Hawkers.
In the next ride we were joined by some of the walk leaders and soon after one of them picked up a Black Hairstreak that posed quite nicely.


Eventually we carried on picking up a few Purple Hairstreaks, a female Common Darter and a Southern Hawker. For some reason I had a lot of trouble getting the camera on this Purple Hairstreak and Colin managed to capture the purple in the wing really well.




We spent the next couple of hours in Fermyn Wood which has over the last week or so been very popular for very good reasons. I saw more Purple Emperors in two hours than I had done in the last ten years, and we never got to to bit where they are most abundant.
Our first two were seen outside the gate by the road which were in constant danger of being run over by cars being parked. A chat with a regular sent us a short distance down the ride where there was a birch which was the location of White Letter Hairstreaks, but by now the cloud had built up and we never managed to locate any here or anywhere else (and everyone else seemed to be unsuccessful as well). Joining a guy from Norfolk we followed him westward to a large open ride with lots of brambles roses and honeysuckle in flower. Several more Purple Emperors here and a number of White Admirals provided a good size and shape comparison. Silver Washed Fritillaries of course, plus all the usual butterflies enlarge numbers.
Colin and I eventually returned to the ride and headed south to an elm and bramble patch where the White Letters are usually seen, and we then carried on to the outskirts of Lady Wood with a couple of others, which is supposed to be a good spot, but of course failed. Did get to see even more Emperors, White Admirals and Fritillaries though. Returning to the birch, a Hairstreak finally appeared, but it settled high up and largely hidden and only two of us managed to get on it-unfortunately the other guy realised it was a Purple which my two poor images confirmed.
I reckon we saw  at least 15 Emperors, a similar number of White Admirals, and perhaps 30 Silver Washed over the course of the day. Not a bad haul considering the rather poor weather conditions.















Saturday, 24 June 2017

Some Butterflies

Today has been rather cloudy and breezy. We were supposed to get a few showers, but they seem to have missed this area. It was still rather warm though, but at least the excessive heat of the last few days has gone, so I thought I'd try for a few local butterflies.
I wasn't expecting to see or hear many birds at this time of year-adults moulting  and juveniles in hiding of course, and I only managed 26 species. A few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats are still singing, but otherwise it was anonymous cheeps and chirps from deep in the undergrowth. A few Swallows were feeding around the fields near the water tower in Aston End, and there was one or two House Martins with them (my first locally this year). Never saw any Swifts, but one over the garden this afternoon (now a garden rarity) was a surprise.
I had a couple of Speckled Woods around the plantation, and a few browns in the lanes, but nothing else until I reached a few patches of sheltered thistles along the river. They were teeming with Meadow Browns and Ringlets, a few Tortoiseshells and a Marbled White. Lots of hoverflies, bugs and ladybirds here as well.
Further on I found many more Marbled Whites, a few Small Skippers and a single Essex Skipper, plus one or two Small Heaths.No brassicas in the fields around here this year, so the one Small White seemed a bit lonely.





Sunday, 18 June 2017

Norfolk Hawkers at Amwell

This weekend has been a real scorcher, and its been a real effort to get out and about, even in the mornings, so I haven't achieved a great deal.
I did get down to Amwell yesterday for a while but a couple of hours in the blazing sun was enough for me. I was hoping to get down last weekend as the rarer Dragonflies had been showing really well, but the Elegant Tern was a bit more important, but they were still being reported during the week.
I got there reasonably early and for a while at least the heat was tolerable. Barry and Phil were the only ones present so naturally we talked about the tern.
There wasn't much of note on the bird front. One Little Ringed Plover is still around, there is a family of Egyptian Geese again, and Swallows were collecting mud so presumably nest building is still taking place. One Ring Necked Parakeet flew over, but raptors were in short supply-I saw a couple of Buzzards and one Sparrowhawk.
I called in at Tumbling Bay for a while. The Norfolk Hawkers proved surprisingly easy with two or three patrolling the narrow section leading to the southern arm. The big problem was the dominant Emperors that kept driving them off, but i got a few decent images of one perched.



The usual Red Eyed, Azure and Common Blue damsels were around.
I spent a good 90 minutes on Hollycoss trying to find the Scarce Chasers. Like the Norfolks, they were initially seen two years ago and both were expected to emerge this year, which we presume they did-the first successful breeding in Hertfordshire.
Plenty of Four Spotted Chasers and the belligerent Emperors, more damsels including Large Red, Blue Tail and Banded Demoiselles. I found at least one Black Tailed Skimmer and a rather early Brown Hawker, and out on the water a few Broad Bodied Chasers were seen. I was joined briefly by Barry and Phil, and when they had departed, Tony Hukin turned up.
We tried hard but apart from a very brief flyby of a large male blue Skimmer (seemingly too 'clean' for Black Tailed Skimmer and too big for a Broad Bodied) we never conclusively found a Scarce Chaser. We had a few Butterflies though, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and a Red Admiral, but best of all a fly through Silver Washed Fritillary. By about 1130 the heat was getting intolerable so I left Tony to it and headed home. I later learned that a male Scarce Chaser was seen in the afternoon.


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Elegant Tern Video

As usual, Blogger has screwed things up and the video doesn't appear in some browsers. Don't know why it does this so

https://youtu.be/kGEOrdwzixw

Elegant Tern at Pagham

Way back in 2002, Colin and I made several trips down to Dawlish Warren where a large orange billed tern had been seen on and off. We went on the off days. It was presumed to be an Elegant Tern, and was later seen in Wales, but there seemed at the time to be a lot of confusion, since the photos of the Welsh bird looked rather different to some of those taken at Dawlish.
Adding to the problems were that Lesser Crested Tern can look very similar, both species have been known to hybridise, so identification of large orange/yellow billed terns has for a long time been a bit of a minefield. I believe that one or two Irish records have been accepted, but all of the British records are still work in progress.
On 7th June, a ringed bird was seen fishing off Hayling Island, and photos allowed the bird to be identified as one of three (bird C) ringed in a Sandwich Tern colony on the Banc d'Arguin in France in 2003, where it has been seen on a regular basis since then. It has also been seen in wintering in South Africa on one occasion. DNA samples were taken at the time, and proved conclusively that all three birds were pure Elegant Terns so this bird was the first British and Irish record which cannot be doubted.
Problem was it wasn't seen again over subsequent days , and checks of the accessible Sandwich Tern colonies came up negative as well, but luckily on the 10th it was pinned down to Pagham Harbour where it was seen to be paired with a Sandwich tern, and showed fairly well for those who could get there in the afternoon.
Despite having had a couple of bad days and nights I was up for the trip and Colin and I went down on Sunday morning, getting there around 10am. Didn't expect to park at Church Norton, and the RSPB car park was full too, but luckily the lay by down to road had been overlooked, so we pulled in and set off on the 1.5 mile walk along the sea wall, and reached the massive crowd in a reasonable time. I scanned the masses and found Phil Ball, having come down with Ian Kendall his usual chauffeur. Tony Hukin was with him, as was Darryl and I soon realised that most of Amwell was here too. They had missed the early sighting when the bird flew out to sea around 7.30am and was presumably out fishing somewhere.
Lots of gulls on the island, Black Heads of course also but around 100 Mediterranean Gulls-never seen so many in breeding plumage in one place before. Terns coming and going all the time, sometimes dropping down onto the closer mud for a rest. Red billed (Common), black billed (Sandwich) and yellow billed (Little) standing side by side was lovely to see, but nothing with an orange bill. Every now and again the birds would go up thanks to the Peregrines flying over but we had to wait over an hour in the building heat before rumours started to filter through the crowd that it was on the island somewhere.
Directions eventually arrived in our group but as usual with Chinese whispers there was a lot of confusion and contradiction but it eventually transpired that it was with a couple of Sandwich Terns at the back end of the island and obscured by vegetation. A couple of times I glimpsed a bird preening,flapping its wings and saw a yellowish bill so was reasonably sure I was on the bird. Luckily it flew on two occasions, if only for a few seconds each time, and most of us got very good scope views despite the range (300+ yards).
I noticed Barry and Bill move off with a few others and assumed that they were leaving but they stopped near the hide and set up their scopes. Some of us realised that views of the terns were likely to be better there and soon joined them. It only took a few moments of scanning with the scope to pick up the Elegant Tern, on the deck and despite the heat haze the views weer pretty good. My scope was commandeered for a while as the building crowd needed directions and it was simpler for them to have a quick peek than try to describe the location. I eventually got it back, and then decided to get some photos. I had the GX8 with me along with the 100-400 lens (for hoped for fly bys) but expecting distant views  also had the 500mm F4 Nikkor, and stacked 1.4 and 2x converters so thats what I used. The results were awful thanks to the heat. Heres the best still.



Video was slightly more successful.

video

It was recorded in 4k but this had to be cropped severely to 520P. At least for a brief moment you get a clear view of the bill.
Unfortunately by midday I was starting to feel a bit rough again, and we decided to quit and headed back to the car. We did consider going for the Red Footed Falcon at Frensham, but thanks to the M3 junction closure traffic was a problem on all the main roads around the M25, so we took a slow but steady scenic route home instead.











Tuesday, 6 June 2017

New Forest and Martin Down

Colin and I went out on Saturday, hoping to catch up on some of the butterflies and dragonflies. The weather was supposed to be pretty good, but it turned out to be a bit windy, a bit cooler than hoped and occasionally rather cloudy. Not good, but we managed to see a fair bit, with one or two unexpected bonuses.
We started off at Reaulieu Road station, parking at Shatterford and walking down to Denny Enclosure. Siskins and Goldcrests in the car park conifers, Mistle Thrushes by the railway, and House Martins collecting mud from a track puddle started the walk off nicely.




There were several family parties of Stonechat as usual, and we picked up a couple of Tree Pipits as well as one or two Meadows. I found some Heath Spotted Orchids off the main path, but dragonflies were hard to find-all we managed in the breeze were a few Large Red and Azure Damsels. On reaching Denny, it didn't take long to find the Redstarts (in the same trees as our last visit a couple of years back) feeding young. Never really got a good camera angle but Ive never photographed a juvenile before.




We had hopes for Dartford Warbler and Woodlark, having seen them here in the past but we weren't successful.
Our next stop was at Crockford Bridge, which has seen a lot of maintenance since our last visit with a lot of scrub clearance. Don't know if that was the reason, but Southern Damsleflies were everywhere. We also had Large and Small Reds, a Four Spotted Chaser, a Broad Bodied Chaser, possibly Keeled Skimmer and Beautiful Demoiselles. No butterflies and no Golden Rings.




We have been meaning to visit Acres Down since the Black Eared Wheatear twitch two years ago, and conditions looked good for raptors, but we only saw multiple Common Buzzards. pity as a coach party had been watching several Hobbies and judging by a back of camera slide show, a male Honey Buzzard had been displaying at extremely close range mid morning. I did hear Tree Pipits, at least one Woodlark, but Dartford Warbler couldn't be found. We also Missed  Spotted Flycatcher and Hawfinch. The pond to the north gave us a Pair of Broad Bodied Chasers, several Emperors and Azure Damsleflies, as well as some of the ponies.
The decision to forgo a search for Scarce Blue Tailed damsels due to the increasing cloud and went to Martin Down instead. Due to traffic problems on the A31 and several road closures and diversions it seemed as if we wouldn't get there and with increasing wind and cloud it like we had wasted our time. However the sun finally broke through and it warmed up a bit.
Walking up the track from silent Lane, we kicked up a few day flying moths and one or two Small Heaths, and eventually a few Small Blues were found. The muddy puddles which had been so good in past visits had gone and we never saw anything else until we reached the Dyke. The Burnt Tip Orchids were looking good, and had been for a week or two. One clump had gone over but the other three were fine. Common Spotted, a lone Pyramidal and lots of Chalk Fragrant were also seen. More Small Heaths and Small Blues, one Painted Lady and three Adonis Blues were flying in the more sheltered environment. No Green Hairstreaks though, and apparently its been a poor year for Marsh Fritillaries-one guy I spoke to had only seen a couple in four visits.













Monday, 29 May 2017

Another Bank Holiday

Havent written anything here since the beginning of the month, largely because I haven't done much with a wildlife focus.
A couple of weekends ago, Colin and I decided to have a butterfly day out, heading down to Hampshire (Noar Hill, Bentley Wood etc) to try and catch up with a few early flying species. The weather forecast was a bit uncertain, but we expected to have reasonable conditions. Got down to Noar Hill around 9.30 to find it cool and rather windy. The Early Purple orchids looked ok, though some were past it, and a few Twayblades were emerging, the Common Spotted buds weer still to emerge. Thinking that the very dry winter may have had some impact. We didn't see any other species, but didn't go to the White Helleborine spot. Butterflies consisted of one species-a single Dingy Skipper roosting on a post, nothing else in nearly an hour, and the guy I met who had been here even longer hadn't seen anything else.
We gave up and I used my RHS membership to get into the Wisley Gardens where we spent the rest of the day photographing the plants.
Some time after this I had started to get vision affecting migraine spells which aggravated my endocrine problems so I didn't get round to doing much at all. Getting through a day at work was hard enough, and the best I could manage was twenty minutes or so pottering in the garden. Missed some good birds at Amwell and Rye Meads during this period.

This brings me up to this Bank Holiday weekend, which started as usual for me on the Thursday and a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show. I managed to get the earlier train and arrived ten minutes before the gates opened. The queue starched back onto the road, and thanks to the atrocity at Manchester earlier in the week, the security had been really stepped up.
Had a great time as usual despite the somewhat lower number of big show gardens, but the heat was really sapping. Even at 830, having looked at the artisan gardens in the shaded side I was cooking and it remained that way all day. Just imagine the humidity in the huge marquee...
I took over 360 photos over the course of the day, eventually a selection will appear on Flickr.
For now, the highlight for me and many others.


I spent Friday recuperating and working in the garden. Noticed a couple of Damselflies in and around the pond-at least one Large Red and a female Azure. The reworking of the pond last autumn is starting to pay dividends.
Saturday I took Mum over to Sarah and Ed's. Unfortunately I didn't check my emails before I left so the first thing they mentioned when we arrived was the Turtle Dove in the garden. This was at 6.30, and flew off never to be seen again, though naturally I spent a great deal of time staked out by the window in hope. They have a pair of visiting Bullfinches too. Also two Painted Ladies put in an appearance while I was in the garden, along with Brimstone, Holly Blue, Small and Green Veined White and a Red Admiral. Puts my singles of Holly Blue and Red Admiral over the previous week in the shade.

Today (Monday) I spent a few hours at Amwell. after some heavy rain overnight it was rather muggy, but we hardly saw the sun which was rather disappointing as I and one or two others had gone down specifically for the dragonflies. Blue Damsels were well represented, with large numbers of Blue Tails, Red Eyed, and some Azure and Common Blues. Had a couple of Banded Demoiselles, but the only larger species were three Hairy Dragonflies.
Only three butterflies in total-singles of Speckled Wood Red Admiral and Common Blue. Very little to say about the birds, its that time of year with breeding in full swing and everything is starting to get a bit quiet.
The orchids looked nice.