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.