Sunday, 30 March 2008

Evening garden watch

Spent half an hour counting the birds observed from the garden. I used the RSPB garden watch method of counting, whereby you only count the largest number of birds seen at any one time. This, therefore means the same bird is not counted more than once. However, it does give the lowest possible count and in this instance, probably an incorrect count for several species, especially jackdaw and wood pigeon. Results:
rook 1
jackdaw 7
great tit 3
collared dove 8
starling 7
house sparrow 3
blackbird 2
blue tit 4
dunnock 1
chaffinch 2
robin 1
greenfinch 1
wood pigeon 2
song thrush 1
pied wagtail 1
goldfinch 1
pheasant 1
17 species in half an hour (5.30 - 6.00pm)

Botany and butterfly walks

This morning I covered the north west patch. Birds were basically absent, with a buzzard over Queer Wood being the highlight. 21 species in all were seen, all regulars. However, managed to photo wood anemone( anemone nemerosa) and primrose (primula vulgaris). These were both found in Queer Wood. In the afternoon I headed off to the south east where the highlights were 3 kestrels and numerous green woodpeckers. However, by Ashford House at Hadham Ford I registered my first peacock butterfly for the year, adding a second later in the walk. As we headed up Acremore Street a fly by large white flew past. Unfortunately, too mobile to offer photo opportunities.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Albino corvid



Thank you to Ian and Lorraine Winney for forwarding me these two photos of an albino jackdaw. I have seen this particular bird on several occasions feeding on the ploughed field south of Hadham Ford but have never been able to manage a photo of it. It appears to have moved a short way north now, probably feeding with the flocks that move up and down the valley. I'd be interested to hear of any other reports of this as it will be an easy bird to track its movements. Very odd, as most birds with this condition normally fall easy prey due to their inability to be camouflaged. Probably just a tad too large for a sparrowhawk. However, this appears to be doing well as one of the photos depicts it gathering nesting material.
Interestingly enough, there is a bird identical to this (apart from the fact it's stuffed!) in the Natural History museum.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Over the golf course




A muddy tramp this afternoon over Ash Valley golf course. I had the whole course to myself so was able to utilise all the footpaths on the course. My intended target bird was the migratory wheatear which I thought may have been moved on by the southerly winds, but there were none to be seen. However, quantity was supplied by an excess of 1000 wood pigeons and over 240 fieldfares. Quality came in the sight of a 50+ flock of golden plover, heading north west at 4.30pm. Good views were afforded and a variety of plumages, from winter right through to full summer were noted.

Also, skylarks, green woodpeckers and 2 kestrels were observed. A marsh tit called from Alder Wood, as did at least 5 goldcrests. A squall necessitated a quick dash to the club house veranda, where I scoped the large fieldfare flock but only came up with 1 redwing and 50 starlings.

Today's photos, in order from the top, depict a view across the golf course, looking north west by the par 3 7th. Sky tells me to get a move on. In the second, a view from the 2nd green looking south east, shows a clearer sky after the squall. The third was taken looking west at the end of the walk near home. The bump on the horizon between the two trees is a hare that decided to run through at that particular moment. All 4 regular mammals were observed ( rabbit, grey squirrel, hare and muntjac)

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Hadham Ford to Tescos and back




Following a most successful day birding in Norfolk, where 92 species were observed (report can be viewed at http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=110323 ) I set out on a more mundane trip to Tescos. Following footpaths beyond Muggins Wood, through Green Street and Cradle End I emerged on the bypass by the A120 roundabout. A quick shop, soup and cash point and I was on my return. 3 new birds were added to the 2008 list. Firstly, a singing chiffchaff was heard in the hedgerow near Green Street. This was my first for the year anywhere. Shortly after a high silhouette attracted my attention: a gliding cormorant!! Finally I flushed 2 grey partridges from hedges near Muggins Wood bringing the year bird species total to 60. I also recorded my first butterfly of the year, near Muggins Wood. This was in the form of a small tortoiseshell, a common species but an early one for Hertfordshire.
Also of note, was a common buzzard soaring over East Wood, west of the shops, and a party of 56 linnets, obligingly lined up on wires, hence the accurate count. Yellowhammers remained a constant companion as a lesser black backed gull swooped over Green Street. Skylarks sang from various fields and Green woodpeckers called frequently. A solitary great spotted woodpecker drummed in East Wood. Fieldfares and redwings were still evident in trees along Hoecroft Lane, numbering in excess of 150 altogether.
1 hare basked in the late March sunshine and many rabbits, some newly born were recorded in the undergrowth alongside Hoecroft Lane.
New plants were photographed, namely common field speedwell (veronica persica) along with red and white dead nettle (lamium pupuruem and lamium album respectively) Wood anenomes (anenome nemorosa) were also observed in East Wood but not yet in full bloom.
A most successful wander, with a bird species count of 33. I suspect these daily totals to increase as the spring migrants arrive.
Top photo depicts common field speedwell, whereas the middle one shows the red dead nettle followed by the last being the white dead nettle.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Early morning wander




A 7.00am start for an Easter Monday walk. Weather started off bright and clear but soon turned to grey, overcast and a cold north westerly. Snow flurries made several appearances, but nothing settled. In all, an impressive 35 species count, but nothing new to add to the 2008 list.

A garden singing yellowhammer was an unusual sight and a calling green woodpecker could be heard from the garden. Tits and finches were feeding on the nut feeder as I set off. Goldfinches called overhead at the Ford as 5 black headed gulls headed north. A kestrel over the golf course showed well and skylarks sang from high. In one tree towards the 3rd hole a mistle thrush was observed, close by a redwing called and these were soon joined by 1 green woodpecker, 2 blue tits, a great tit, and 2 green finches. A most productive tree. A walk through Caley Wood gave up a drumming great spotted woodpecker, with three others seen before the end of the walk. 14 lesser black backed gulls lazed their way west in the breeze. The resident River Ash grey heron was disturbed and headed further upstream as jays squabbled. 2 coal tits called along the river bank before I arrived at Bush Wood. This site was positively brimming with birds. A party of 30+ migratory redwings sat at the tops of the trees and were soon joined by 26 yellowhammers. Great and blue tits called alarms as jackdaws and rooks soared on the breeze. A great spotted woodpecker was disturbed and 3 herring gulls winged their way over north. Finally, before I left, a stock dove was registered, roosting in the trees. 2 golden plover in their usual field were seen, one now immaculate in summer plumage. Fieldfares called from the sheep field and back at the Ford 3 dunnocks and a house sparrow added to the total.
2 hares were witnessed in the brassica field behind Lordship Farm. Grey squirrel and several rabbits were also recorded
More sweet violets (viola odorata) were discovered and some lesser celandine (ranunculus ficaria) was found along the ditch edges. Top photo is a view looking west from the ridgeway above the Ash Valley. The golf course can be seen on the other side. The second is an ice pattern taken outside the club house whilst the third shows the lesser celandine

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Snowy morning



A walk to Ash Valley golf course in the snow gave good photo opportunities, but minimal birding. A green woodpecker braved the weather over the golf club house whilst corvids used the sheep food in the fields south of the village. A single yellowhammer called from the hedgerow and great tits were observed in several bushes and trees. The main birding appeared to be in the garden, where tits and finches squabbled over the feeders. Also, somewhat amusingly, jackdaws attempted to feed on the nut feeder, a blur of wings and failed balancing. A collared dove huddled in the tree while dunnocks flicked through the snowy flowerbeds. The first photo was taken looking north up New Road. The second, teasels, were found in the ditch alongside the footpath leading west towards the golf course, whereas the holly berries were discovered in the conifer woods west of the 6th. hole on the course.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Further afield




On an extremely cold and blustery afternoon I ventured to Amwell Nature Reserve, near Ware. Snow and hail squalls meant several trips to the hide for shelter. As can be seen from the photos, taken 4 minutes apart, the light was changing rapidly. The highlight was finding a little ringed plover, viewed from the vantage point. My first of the year, recently arrived from sub saharan Africa. Also there were small numbers of wigeon, tufted duck, a few pochard and 5 great crested grebe. A solitary grey heron hunched itself against the cold blast as cormorants fed. A water rail squealed from the reed beds, where reed buntings perched. Robins and wrens sang and blue, great and long tailed tits availed themselves of the food in the feeders.
The third photo, taken from the James hide, depicts a flyover cormorant, There are many of these birds using the tern platforms and a weeping willow tree on the island in front of the vantage point. Much development going on here at present, with 2 new hides and a wooden walkway to areas not previously open to the public.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Clear and blustery Saturday

Out around 9am today. Weather very deceptive as indoors the sky was clear and bright, whilst once outside the wind had a cold bite to it. Wandered along the ridge to the east of the Ash valley. Birding was very slow to start with as the wind kept most small birds in the hedgerows. Several lesser black backed, herring and black headed gulls wandered northwards up the valley whilst skylarks sang over the field bean field. At this moment a large flock of golden plovers flew over, before settling in the field. A rough count showed that there were in excess of 300. Could be the Allens Green group, or just a migratory party heading north. They were still on the ground as I left them. A hare jogged across the same field as I headed to Bush Wood. Here I photographed what I presume to be Sweet violet (viola odorata). The small pond was full after last nights downpour. I continued southwards to Winding Hill, registering a male kestrel at close quarters by the River Ash. Greenfinches wheezed in the hedgerow and a moorhen took cover as I passed.
Yellowhammers called from the bushes and over 2000 wood pigeons were registered in trees along the river bank. Usual suspects of tits and finches were also recorded, along with flyovers of pied wagtail and stock dove. In all 27 sp for the short walk. First photo of Sweet violet whilst the second is the view looking north up the River Ash from near Winding Hill, Much Hadham.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Wet and windy Sunday


Spent an hour out in the squalls, with occasional sheets of drizzle blowing over Brick Kiln Hill. I walked to Millennium Wood, recording a few species but not too much of note. Several lesser black backed gulls headed east as an occasional yellowhammer called from the hedgerow. 4 mallards had left the fast flowing river and taken shelter on the large puddles in the field opposite the pub. Terriorial display was noted as one male ran across the field, chasing the two upstarts away. They took flight and were seen off south for at least half a mile before the vigilant male returned. My arrival at the wood was greeted by a "yaffling" green woodpecker and several calling great tits. I photographed the drilled out nestboxes. Usual vandal here is the great spotted woodpecker, but greens are also guilty. They do this both to make a nest site for themselves, but more frequently to eat the eggs and young of the unlucky incumbent.
Once damaged like the box shown, no smaller birds will use them box. Perhaps some new ones could be put up, employing metal gauze around the nest hole. The top photo depicts the swollen River Ash, looking north at the bottom of Brick Kiln Hill. The final photo is of the pond in Millennium Grove Wood. This looks like a super habitat for summer and early autumn dragon and damselflies. Here, the wild flowers and other vegetation should attract a good number of butterflies on warm summer afternoons. Hopefully some good photos of the insects will be taken here.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Early morning listening

In the garden on bright, mild morning at 6.30. Song thrush singing from Chapel Lane and good movement of jackdaw population. 3 goldfinches in the euclypt tree at number 3, 1 lesser black backed gull over east. Several chirpy house sparrows in the hedgerow at the end of the garden. Suddenly, complete silence and all birds flew south over the garden, including 4 collared doves, 5 goldfinches, 3 chaffinches, 2 wrens, a selection of great, coal and blue tits. Even all the jackdaws (20+) scarpered. No sign of what caused this but presume sparrowhawk was about. However, thought it may be a little early for them.
At the bus stop 2 carrion crows called from the wood, blackbirds jousted for territory by the Ford and 3 greenfinches went over. Wrens, song thrush, great tit and chaffinches were singing. All very peaceful and made me wish I had the day off.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Sunday: 2 walks



A 9.30 start for my south east walk, good early spring weather, clear and calm.Highlight were watching 2 common buzzards soaring on thermals towards Bush Wood and Winding Hill. A new bird for the year, expected and surprisingly late to discover were two linnets in trees opposite Bridgefoot Farm. They showed well for a few minutes before heading off east. A single song thrush was singing in the garden of Ashford House as the usual suspects for the Ford were registered. Yellowhammers appeared to be constantly singing along the hedgerow as I headed south towards Bush Wood and skylarks sang above me over the ploughed fields, now containing field beans. Green woodpeckers called (3) and a solitary great spotted was heard drumming in Bush Wood. No sign of any frog or toad migration at the small pond in this particular wood. Apparently they are late all over the UK this year, maybe they are expecting a big freeze!
2 moorhens called from the undergrowth along the River Ash as a party of 10 redwings winged their way north.
Later on (2.00 - 3.30pm) I ventured out again, on my south west walk. New birds for the day included 3 bullfinches opposite Bridgefoot Farm, 144 fieldfares on the par 3 short course at Ash Valley golf club. Here we sheltered from the driving drizzle before blue skies prevailed once again. Calling jays on the golf course and plenty of magpies along the road heading back the village were seen and heard. A refreshing pint of Abbot did the job in the Nags Head followed by a session of trying to photograph garden birds. I need to get hold of a 300mm lens, as at present I only have a 55mm on my Nikon D40.
Also of note were several clumps of wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus) which can be differentiated from the garden species by its lack of leaves on the stem. Lesser celeandine ( ranunulus ficaria) was also noted in ditches adjacent to the 1st hole on the golf course, but yet to come into full bloom. The photos attached show the male River Ash mallard near the Ford, whilst the lower one depicts the blackthorn blossom west and downhill from Bush Wood.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Birding and golf

On a blustery Saturday morning I tackled Ash Valley Golf Course with other regulars from the Queens Head, Allens Green. My golf was poor but still managed to get some birding done. A lone female kestrel kept us company around the 7th and 8th holes, whilst skylarks sang above. A party of 4 were observed on the 12th. A yellowhammer was singing by the clubhouse and more were heard along the hedgerows of the 1st, 2nd, 13th and 14th. A green woodpecker flew over the 9th and another one called from the trees adjacent to the par 3 5th. A great spotted woodpecker drummed and called from the oak trees on the 11th and dunnocks were evident around the 18th. No sign of the female stonechat I observed last weekend but robins, great and blue tits flew over, as did a small party of goldfinches. The usual selection of jackdaws, rooks and carrion crows were frequently observed in the rough, which is where I appeared to spend most of my time!

There was a possibility that a lesser spotted woodpecker called from a distance. I heard it only once from the far side of the course, so a wander to Caley Wood for a thorough search of the canopy is in order. This is one of the best times to see these elusive birds as they are calling and drumming at the moment.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Sunday morning north west walk


This morning I ventured up Chapel Lane and on to the Queer Wood route. A total of 29 species being recorded, the highlight, 3 bullfinches. This trio consisted of 2 immaculately plumaged males and the dowdier female. A distant shot of 1 of the males is shown here.
Greenfinches wheezed their call along Chapel Lane and a single kestrel flew from the large oak. A pair of these were later observed over the golf course to the south of the Lane. On to the footpath, past the stables and towards Westland Green. Here the bullfinches were both heard and seen. 3 skylarks and a single yellowhammer (male) were also recorded near the golf course. A party of long tailed tits kept me company along the beech hedge before Queer Wood, where several female pheasants were flushed. Green woodpeckers (2) were heard "yaffling" and a little later, on the footpath down to Pathway cottages a single great spotted woodpecker was heard drumming. Redwings were in parties of 20+ heading north and several tens were found in a field near the road. Having stated that the fieldfares seem to have departed, I heard their familiar "chack chack" call and came across a field holding in excess of 100! A little early with my departing comment, I fear.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Mad March hares



First day of a new month and a wander north east and then to Millennium Grove Wood before returning along Hoecroft Lane to the war memorial and then along the River Ash. A stop on the bench at the Ford offered the usual suspects which I noted. A new call was heard and soon I had tracked down a grey wagtail, male, on the roof of Ashford House. Obviously camera shy as it disappeared along the river as soon as I focused on it. Good plumage with bright yellow underparts.

As I walked up to Muggin's Wood I became aware that all the birds appeared to be jumpy and nervous. After 5 minutes of watching it became apparent that the reason for their behaviour was a large female sparrowhawk perched in the hedge next to the wood. It eventually flew off south. Great, blue, coal and long tailed tits were heard and seen as yellowhammers and skylarks called from the hedgerows and sky, respectively. Plenty of pheasants were seen around the wood and a solitary jay had a disagreement with itself. On the field just before Millennium Wood 15 meadow pipits were consorting with a small flock of buntings, predominantly, yellowhammers.

A kestrel was seen from Hoecroft Lane before I headed south to join the footpath that heads back to the village. Here, 3 hares gave a great boxing display. First day of the month, so they were living up to their name. 100's of rooks and jackdaws were also registered on the same field. Several redwings were seen in trees around the war memorial; with the warm weather at present it won't be too long before they have moved northwards to Scandinavia to their breeding grounds. Fieldfares seem to have already migrated as the large flocks south of the village have now gone. 27 species in all, a most pleasant wander in glorious, if blustery conditions. Not a good day for my hat! The first photo is of the distant hares whilst the second one shows the date of the red brick wall in Chapel Lane. Similar brickwork on Ford cottages shows the date 1866.
An overview of February's highlights can be found at http://www.thehadhams.com/images/stories/lithadmag/08-03.pdf which is the online parish magazine.

This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. Further European destinations are planned and a bigger trip to The Crimea was planned for 2014 but now not possible. so 2014: Sri Lanka in January, Poland in April, Madeira in June and The Camargue in July. So far 2015 has been Sri Lanka in Jan, Poland in Feb, Sri Lanka in April and The Camargue coming up in 1st week of September.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer
08.06.08

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly
06.06.08

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine
29.05.08

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox
24.05.08

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells
22.04.08

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)

Reflections

Reflections
daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
http://www.britainsbirder.co.uk/
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander