Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Last April walk



My last walk in April was, somewhat seasonal, in that I was caught in not one, but two April showers. The second producing a superb double rainbow, seen from fields near Winding Hill looking east. Marvellous sight as depicted in attached photos. Bird wise, a good species count. 2 Tawny owls called from south of the farm, whilst a Little owl sat on wires opposite the entrance to Ash Valley G.C. Common whitethroat, chiffchaffs and blackcaps called frequently, not more so just south of the club house, from dense scrub. Yellowhammers rasped from the hedgerow as did a couple of linnets. The resident grey heron headed south at 7.30pm whilst a solitary moorhen clacked from the free flowing River Ash behind Lordship Farm. A single swallow was recorded over the 18th hole. Here, I disturbed a female kestrel and more bedraggled yellowhammers made themselves known. The walk finished with good views of a splendid male pheasant and 2 red legged partridges in fields just south of the Ford. 32 species in all on an evening of variable light quality. Also of note, 2 broods of just hatched mallard ducklings floated along the Ash, accompanied by their mothers. In total I counted 13 offspring. Unfortunately, this number will rapidly decrease through predation and loss of contact with a parent bird. Rats, foxes, mink etc will help decimate the number. Photo below shows the superb carpet of bluebells found under trees south of the village. The second photo was taken from near the golf club house looking south west, with more showers threatening.

Brief evening wander

Monday 28th April found me having a brief evening walk around the Ford, Acremore Street and round the back of Brick Kiln Hill. A total of 20 species were recorded, with 2 drumming great spotted woodpeckers being heard, one from Muggins Wood whilst the other was over towards Acremore Street. A green woodpecker also called its "yaffle" as they refer to it in Lincolnshire. Blackcaps and chiffchaffs chuntered from hedgerows and scrub and several goldfinches called from Chapel Lane

Thursday, 24 April 2008

2 new species

A session working on the allotment last night proved most fruitful. Not only did I manage to get in onions, shallots, beetroot etc but also recorded 1st cuckoo and willow warbler. The former was heard calling before giving a fly past, heading west, whereas the latter called from hawthorn bushes surrounding my patch. Also heard were chiffchaff, common whitethroat, blackcap and green woodpecker and usual tits and finches. In all 22 species recorded, most just by their call. A peacock butterfly was busily defending its territory from invaders, especially a small white

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

New species' on a glorious spring morning




















A long walk today, combining all my routes began by heading up Chapel Lane and then over the golf course. Picnic and cider packed I was off by 9.00am. Weather was superb, leading me to believe I was in with a chance of adding to my bird list, hopefully seeing some spring migrants. I was not disappointed.
A herring gull headed north as I wandered west. Tits and usual finches were recorded in the hedgerow along the Lane. Skylarks and yellowhammers were heard before I turned south along the footpath at the top of Chapel Lane. Here, I heard a strange call, similar to a thrush but not the same. I hoped for a ring ouzel and after 5 minutes of scanning the trees all around I discovered the bird. Indeed, a superb male ring ouzel, calling and flapping its wings. Basically similar to a male blackbird, with a different call and a tell tale white horseshoe on its chest. Also, in good light, as this was, they show a silvery sheen to their dark wings. A super bird to observe and one that I had thought was a slight possibility. I think the 3rd or 4th recorded in Hertfordshire this year, so indeed a good bird. Buoyed by this I headed off in search of more migrants. I took a break adjacent to the 2nd green on the golf course, where there is a splendidly placed bench. Here much song emanated from Caley Wood with 2 pairs of blackcaps being observed. By now the species total for the walk had reached an impressive 30 and I soon added swallow, nuthatch, starling and goldfinch. I stopped to photograph the carpet of bluebells in the wood before heading off for my customary coffee at the club house.
Following this I took the path along the Ash and then up to Bush Wood where I had my picnic. A kestrel hovered overhead, and later, so did a police helicopter. Obviously, they were not looking for me as they moved off after surveying me for a minute or two. I waved merrily and proffered my bottle of Timothy Taylor's pale ale.
A common whitethroat sang as I lunched, my first of the year, before I headed off along the Ridge back to Acremore Street. Here, surprisingly, I flushed 7 fieldfares which I would have anticipated being further north, heading for their Scandinavian breeding grounds. Very late stayers, I think.
Butterflies kept me company all day, with over 12 peacocks being recorded, 3 brimstones and 2 small whites. However, the highlight was first orange tips of the year. Still too flighty for photos, but I include a reasonable one of a peacock. I hope to improve on this as the summer progresses. New plants in the shape of Field forget me not (myosoti arvensis) charlock (sinapis arensis) and red campion ((silene dioica) were all photographed and recorded. The latter in its first bloom in Bush Wood. Finally, colt's-foot (tussilagofarfara) was found in Acremore Street.
3 hares, grey squirrels and barking muntjac were also witnessed making this 38 bird species walk a most rounding success. The first ladybird of the year was also seen near Caley Woood
I doubt whether I shall record a rarer Hertfordshire bird than the ring ouzel all year and I include a photo here; not my own, one from the web. The first photo shows a pond skater, whilst the plants are red campion and the yellow colt's-foot

Sunday 20.04.08


A brief walk up Chapel Lane produced several good sights without anything new to record. Highlight were 2 pairs of superb bullfinches along the footpath at the top of the Lane. Also recorded were 2 swallows and a particularly large mistle thrush. The hedgerow gave up yellow archangel (lamiastrum galeobdolon) along with several previously recorded species, especially greater stitchwort. Several skylarks and yellowhammers were heard and witnessed over the northern side of the golf course. A single, singing male blackcap was also observed in the hedgerow just up from Lodge Farm. A most pleasant hour's wander. Photo today show a colourful shot, looking down Chapel Lane towards the Ford.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Dawn chorus walk

5 of us met at the village hall car park at 5.30am for a walk along the ridge to Winding Hill and then over the River Ash to the golf course. From here, back to the Ford and the car park. Grey weather throughout probably prevented some birds from singing and all in all, a quiet wander. A song thrush greeted us at the car park, along with chaffinches, blackbirds and robins. Great and blue tits were heard on Brick Kiln Hill, with a wheezing greenfinch and a noisy wren. A solitary bullfinch was heard as we approached Bush Wood whilst goldcrests called near Winding Hill. A blackcap called from the young hazels as we took a break to check the pond in Bush Wood. This also gave up calling great spotted and

green woodpeckers whilst yellowhammers, reed buntings and linnets called and flew overhead. A welcome break at Ash Valley golf club for coffee, bacon sandwiches and sloe gin helped proceedings no end. A little owl called near Caley Wood as did dunnock, piedwagtail and long tailed tit. More goldcrests were heard in Alder Wood before a walk done the 6th fairway gave us out only kestrel of the morning. Earlier a female sparrowhawk had been flushed, sending collared doves and wood pigeons to all points of the compass. A great tit announced its presence as the hawk flew northwards. Red legged partridges were noted on the bean field before a drake mallard completed the list on the Ash near the Ford. 36 species for the morning was acceptable, with at least 6 chiffchaffs being recorded. A particularly loud individual was heard from the bridge behind Lordship Farm.

Still missing the majority of the warblers and hirundines, perhaps they will be singing on the 2nd dawn chorus walk on Sunday May 4th, again meeting at the village hall car park, at 5.30am; all welcome.

Photo depicts the merry throng engrossed in botanical photography. A pleasant and peaceful walk in good company, finishing back at the car park at 9.30am.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Evening wander 16.04.08




Lovely walk in good light last night, wandering along the ridge walk to Bush Wood and then back along the River Ash to the Ford. New species recorded for the year was a swallow, heading north over the bean field. Also seen here were 2 red legged partridges. Green woodpeckers called and over 25 yellowhammers, accompanied by chaffinches made use of several sheep feeders. A lone stock dove headed over Bush Wood, where bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta) are now blooming. First photographs were taken of cowslips (primula veris)., in drainage ditches. The first signs of spring life were recorded in the small pond in this wood, with 2 pond skaters and a common newt observed. Still no frogs, toads or spawn to be seen. At least 4 chiffchaffs called as I headed south along the ridge. Several pairs of linnets flew over and a superbly plumaged male kestrel sat in an oak tree, watching the horses. A little owl was heard but not seen. My return to the Ford coincided with a flyover pair of goldfinches. The hedgerow opposite Chapel Lane on the river bank is now beginning to fill with birds. Dunnock, blue and great tit, blackbird, chaffinch and house sparrow can all be recorded here. 1 fox and 3 hares were noted in a single field simultaneously and another hare seen opposite South cottages. First photo is of cowslips, whereas the second was taken near Bush Wood, looking south west. Final shot is of an ivy laden oak found in Acremore Street. The moon can just be seen through the branches.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Snowy walk






I set off early on Sunday 06.04.08 in good snow flurries, with about an inch on the ground. I headed out towards Muggins Wood before taking the ridge path to Bush Wood and then returned via the golf course. Not too much to report on the birding front, with two red legged partridge being observed on the bean field adjacent to Acremore Street. Corvids of all types (rooks, crows, jackdaws, magpies and jays) were all evident as were the usual green woodpeckers. Again, no hoped for migrants were discovered sheltering from the weather, but the scenery was glorious, as depicted in the photos. Several plant species were also noted, particularly cowslip but yet to show at their best so no photo. Upon my return I was greeted with the sight of a brown rat on the bird table outside the kitchen window. Taking food from here, it disappeared under the shed. A minute later it returned for another mouthful, so may well have a nest locally. No more food on this table, although I suspect this will not stop them using such places for cover and breeding. A badger was also witnessed crossing the A120 near the Cradle End junction late on Monday afternoon. Two new mammals in 2 days. The top photo was taken early in Chapel Lane whilst the 2nd shows evidence of rabbits in the snow on Brick Kiln Hill. The large oak was also shot on the hill whilst the fourth is at the corner of Bush Wood looking north west. The final shot is from the bridge behind Lordship Farm heading towards the golf course. Shame the snow didn't last longer. A most peaceful and scenic walk.

Dawn Chorus Walk






As proposed in parish magazine nature notes, I have put together a plan for a dawn chorus walk. This will entail meeting at the Village Hall car park at 5.30am(!) and then heading south along the River Ash to Lordship Farm, across the road to the golf course, up to Caley Wood and then over the course before ending up wandering down Chapel Lane. Roughly 4 - 5 miles walk, probably taking 2.5 - 3 hours in all.

April 19th (Saturday) is the proposed day. All are welcome but to gauge numbers and not leave before some turn up it, would be helpful if you emailed me to let me know that you would like to participate. Experience not necessary, although a pair of binoculars would be useful for viewing the singing birds. I anticpate a 35 - 45 long species list, with recent arrivals being the highlight e.g. warblers and hirundines.

If the weather is appalling due to persistent rain then there is little value, or enjoyment in the walk. If this is the case I shall re-schedule. Just out of interest, May 4th is National Dawn Chorus Day, where I shall be out again.

Looking forward to meeting some villagers for the walk on the 19th. Keep me posted.

Useful site : http://www.rspb.org/wildlife/birdguide/name/a/index.asp Click on the following birds to become familiar with their song. Check chiffchaff, willow warbler, common whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap and the more common species of tits, finches and thrushes.
I have uploaded a few photos above, namely chiffchaff,willow warbler (can you spot the differences?) blackcap, common whitethroat, garden warbler to aid identification. Hope it helps.


Friday, 4 April 2008

Sunny morning for new species


A 9.00am start for a walk over Ash Valley golf course brought a variety of new species, in bird, plant and butterfly sections. Chiffchaffs called along the River Ash towards New Lane, 4 in total were recorded. This number will certainly rise as the month progresses. 2 linnets, consorting with sevral yellowhammers were observed in trees by the gate on to the course from New Lane. However, as I exited Alder Wood (behind the 6th tee) I heard and then tracked down a male blackcap. Singing well in trees over the pond by the large house opposite Alder Wood footpath. First new species for April. Green and great spotted woodpeckers were recorded in Caley Wood along with the first blooming bluebells (hyacinthoides non scripta). I suspect this to be a riot of colour over the next 2 weeks.
Alongside the hedgerow of the 1st and 2nd hole flowering greater stichwort (stellaria holostea) was photographed. This plant derives its name from a remedy. Mixed with powdered acorn it was used for stitches and other side pains. Further towards the club house germander speedwell ( veronica chamaedrys) was evident. On the golf course common dandelion (taraxacum officinale) and daisy ( bellis perennis) were also recorded.
A flock of fieldfares called from overhead and skylarks appeared to be filling the sky. Another highlight was a calling nuthatch in Caley Wood, behind the 2nd green. Dunnocks and long tailed tits were witnessed from the club house as I had a coffee and then at the end of the walk a male brimstone butterfly made itself known in gardens of Ford Cottages. Several peacock butterflies were also observed. The top photo is a view, looking East from towards Alder Wood on the golf course. The other three show the flowers mentioned, bluebell, greater stitchwort, the white flower and germander speedwell being the small blue flower.

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