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.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


Not a lot happened over the weekend. As Colin was unavailable, I had considered visiting a garden, rather than do any birding, but it was dull, overcast, cool with an unpleasant northerly breeze so I didn't bother.
On Sunday I did my usual circuit around Aston End, but there was little to show for the effort. Blackcaps were singing everywhere, but apart from that warblers were a bit thin on the ground. Still a few Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats singing, but no Lesser Whitethroat, Garden or Willow Warblers. No Yellowhammers either, but I did locate a few Linnets and Chaffinches.
Although I took a few lenses out, I spent the entire walk on plants. The Cow Parsley is looking rather nice along the lanes.

Here is some more along the dried up bed of the Beane. The lack of rain over the winter has had a really serious effect on the water table and the boreholes along the valley are not helping matters. Supposedly they are at a very low level and I suspect it will take several years to recover, always assuming we get decent amounts of rain. Plans to expand Stevenage and surrounding towns still further will ensure that this is unlikely to happen. Sustainable resources don't seem to be part of the planning process.

One of the north facing wooded slopes still has a lot of bluebells though they are starting to go over.

Had my one good bird here-a flyover Yellow Wagtail.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend

Following the successful quick dash to see the Dotterels I had a day off on Saturday, and planned a trip with Colin on Sunday. We decided to keep it fairly low key and not travel too far by staying fairly local, starting at Part and seeing and taking it from there.
Unfortunately the weather wasn't all that great, being rather cool and breezy early on with the easterly wind increasing through the day.
Paxton didn't deliver a great deal. Plenty of warblers singing though we couldn't find any Lesser Whitethroats in the usual spots, and one of the Chiffchaff songs was a bit odd, with a Willow like finish. Reading up on this it seems like most of these mixed singers are actually Willows-I didn't see the bird well enough to confirm this.
Nightingales were a bit of a struggle, and we only managed to hear three birds on our circuit, and all of them remained hidden deep in the vegetation. No Turtle Doves, no Cuckoos and very few hirundines. checked the terns, but there was nothing unusual, so overall a bit disappointing.
We stopped off for a bit at Graffham where we finally got a Lesser Whitethroat in the Plummer car park. Three Black Terns were off the dam, but tended to stay well out, never coming close. Scanned through the Common Terns and eventually found three Arctics, but they were feeding well out near the opposite shore.
Our main target was to have been the three Black ringed Stilts which had been seen at Eldernell on Saturday. By the time we got there, the wind was getting really strong as we trudged east for about a mile to scan the few remaining pools over on the far side (a consequence of the very dry winter). Didn't see any Stilts, and hopes for a Garganey or two in the ditches or a passage wader on the grazed areas never materialised. Had a pair of Marsh Harriers which was nice, but that really was it. Back in the car, had a sandwich and luckily was looking out when seven Cranes flew in, dropped down about 800 yards away before flying off low east.
Our last destination was Fowlmere, which we reached early afternoon. The main target, Turtle Doves kept their heads down due to the weather, and we didn't really see much at all. In a sheltered spot, a pair of Orange Tips were mating and nearby I saw my first Azure Damselfly of the year. Over the main lake, low flying hirundines included my first House Martins of the year.

Overnight and long overdue rain promised much for Sunday, so I thought I,d get down to Amwell a bit earlier than usual. I had expected, based on early messages to see William, Phil and Beachy, but they had left. I later discovered they had gone off to Pitstone quarry for a Kentish Plover, which occasionally strayed over into Hertfordshire-the first for something like 40 years. I did think of going myself, but I was suffering a bit with the cold wind and decided against the hour plus trip-good job as I would have got there after it had flown off.
Got a few good year ticks, with Tony, Colin Wills and a few others appearing, but the only bird ticks were a distant Cuckoo over in the Ash Valley and a couple of Common Sandpipers. Lots of hirundines low over the water, but I missed three Hobbys that appeared later in the day. Best bird was the lingering Black Tern which I attempted to photograph alongside Jay on a flying visit. It stayed well out and I never got any good images.  I was watching it with Ade when it dropped down onto the exposed mud joining the Common Terns, and we were astounded to see it fly off alongside another one. No idea when the second one arrived but both stuck around all day.