Saturday, 28 June 2008

25th June: River Ash wander


This evening I ventured along the River Ash and then over the golf course back to the Ford. Little to record on the bird front, apart from the usuals and a common buzzard over Caley Wood. However, near the footbridge behind Lordship Farm a huge emergence of caterpillars was taking place from a web type nest. As yet, unidentified. An evening primrose (oenothera erythrosepala) was found in a rape field along with white bryony (bryonia cretica sub sp dioica) found in an adjacent hedgerow.Here also, 2 muntjacs were seen. In fields south of the village plenty of meadow brown butterflies were flushed as I walked through the tall grass. This looks to be a good field for butterflies later in the year. Disappointingly, still no damselflies or dragonflies were observed.

24th June Muggins Wood



An evening walk through Muggin's Wood to Millennium Wood gave several birds of note. Firstly, a treecreeper was heard although not observed in the hedgerow leading up Brick Kiln Hill. Reed buntings and blackcaps were witnessed at the pond at Millennium Wood and a moorhen called from the bullrushes. More ornithological life was seen on Little Hadham cricket pitch however, with a green woodpecker, 50+ starlings, 2 magpies, 6 mistle thrushes, a swallow, 2 pied wagtails and several rabbits were enjoying the insect filled short grass. A meadow brown butterfly was also recorded near Muggin's Wood whilst an, as yet unidentified spider, shown here was found in the hedgerow along Hoecroft Lane. In all 26 sp of birds were recorded, with a lone herring gull winging westwards being the last sighting as I walked down Acremore Street. Also on this path a field rose (rosa arvensis) was recorded. Photos depict this flower along with a meadow brown butterfly

Monday, 23 June 2008

Monday 23rd June




A brief walk in good light and sunshine this evening. Visited River Ash and then up to New Road on insect hunt. Several birds of note: kestrel male, sparrowhawk female and 4 territorial skylarks that appear to be nesting in the wheat field.

Yesterday's windy conditions meant no insects were able to fly whilst the breeze deposited my fine Panama hat in the River Ash. Jumped in to what was 6 inches of water, but 1 foot of mud to retrieve the hat. Doesn't appear to be too much the worse for its dunking. This evening a plethora of insects, with my first recorded white plume moth (pterophrus pentadactyla). An unmistakable moth which rolls its wings when at rest, giving the impression of feathers. After several attempts managed to shoot several reasonable photographs, as shown here. Other photos show a ladybird larva, probably harlequin ladybird as they are now everywhere, unfortunately, an, as yet unidentified insect, which I think is of the weevil family. Now identified as nettle weevil, not surprisingly as I photographed it on nettle. Latin name Phyllobius pomaceus. Finally, hedge parsley flower head with soldier beetles.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Saturday afternoon wander







In the now expected grey light I had a wander to and over the golf course to the bench next to the 2nd green. The highlight of the walk was discovering a bee orchid (ophrys apifera) growing on the golf course. A neighbour had alerted me to their presence and I thought a walk to photo the specimen was in order. However, I discovered one en route as shown here. A fascinating flower that resembles a bee to the extent that male bees try to mate with the flower, thereby pollinating the plant.


Two types of hover fly were recorded, the previously mentioned eupeodes nitens, but more interestingly, I managed a photo of the uncommon xanthagramma pedissequum. Shown here.


Also observed were good numbers of swifts (30+) with a few swallows mingled in. Common whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and yellowhammers sang throughout the walk. Skylarks sang over the G.C. as a kestrel hunted the rough. Another kestrel, the regular, was observed over Brick Kiln Hill. Green woodpeckers were evident all along the River Ash whilst 1 common blue damselfly was witnessed, but not stationary enough to be photographed.


A super cobweb, holding small raindrops glowed in the grey light, had there been sun it mat have been extremely photogenic. New plants in the shape of bladder campion (silene vulgaris subsp vulgaris) and field scabious (knautia arvensis) were both discovered in the ditch between the 6th and 7th hole on the G.C. The latter depicted with the feeding bumble bee.


The last 2 photos here show a 2 spot ladybird, found on hedge parsley and a soldier beetle of the species rhagonycha fulva.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Monday 16th wander to Ash Valley golf course




In grey light, I set off after work for a walk along the River Ash and then across the fields to the G.C. There, I checked the rough for plants and insects, discovering several some, as yet, unidentified. A new plant was photographed in the shape of hop trefoil,( trifolium campestre) a common plant with flowers not unlike small clovers. Plenty of this yellow flower can be witnessed all over the golf course rough.

A hoverfly feeding on cow parsley on the banks of the river was identified to the species eupeodes nitens
Birding was rather quiet, with 4 skylarks of note over the field between the golf course and the river. Swifts and swallows were also witnessed overhead whilst numbers were supplied by the jackdaws, with 150+ seen in the sheep field and adjoining hedgerow. Linnets were in trees on the G.C. and the green woodpecker family were feeding on the ant hills in the same field. I flushed an adult hare as I made my way towards the rough, where I recorded a new butterfly for the year in the form of a meadow brown. With some luck, I should record at least another 10sp of butterflies and goodness knows how many moths. The one depicted on the buttercup, seen by the river has yet to be confirmed as has the fly feeding on the cow parsley, also by the river. The flat heads of these plants are really good for attracting summer insects. Hopefully, some summer weather this weekend, summer solstice will offer the opportunity for more dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies.

The moth pictured resting on the buttercup is now confirmed as a Anthophila fabriciana, a small micro moth with no English name. Also seen on clover on the golf course was another moth, known as nettle tap moth. A small white moth, that wraps its wings around it to mimic a small stick or blade of dried grass. The fly depicted on the cow parsley has been confirmed as a dance fly species, close relatives of the carniverous robber flies. Dance flies, as can be seen are vegetarian nectar eaters, having an elongated probosis to suck the nectar from flowering plants.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Milennium Wood & Muggins Wood walk




Sunday afternoon and a wander up Brick Kiln Hill, past Muggins Wood and on to Millennium Wood. My camera batteries were flat so I anticipated something unusual offering superb photo opportunities and, typically, this was indeed the case. In the hedgerow before Muggins Wood I spotted a 4 spotted chaser dragonfly. A first for the area and even more infuriatingly It permitted me views down to 50 cm!! What superb photos I would have had. I include a couple here from the Internet to show the wonderful colours of this medium sized dragonfly. The specimen I observed was more orange than the 2 depicted here, showing it to be an immature insect, probably having only emerged from the pond or stream in the previous 48 hours.Also new for the insect list was a male large skipper. This was next to the "pond" at Millennium Wood. A check to identify a skipper species recorded near Queer Wood earlier in the week proved it was, as expected, a dingy skipper.
A blue tailed damselfly was also recorded at Millennium Wood. On the bird front, all the regulars were present, with a chiffchaff calling in Chapel Lane and several swallows feeding over the polo fields adjacent to Hoecroft Lane. A willow warbler sang in Millennium Wood. A pair of kestrels hunted along the flanks of Brick Kiln Hill, probably siblings from a successful breeding earlier in the year. In all 27 species of birds were recorded on this short walk. A potato leafhopper (eupteryx aurata) was also discovered on stinging nettles along Hoecroft Lane. An abundant little bug, it can cause damage to potato crops by puncturing their leaves and destroying the chlorophyll with its toxic saliva! I also include a poor photo of a peacock butterfly to show the amount of damage their wings can receive. This damage is normally inflicted by birds having a snap at them, but may also happen during territorial fights with other males. This particular specimen looks to have been around a while, probably emerging in late April.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Chapel Lane and Queer Wood walk





A wander up Chapel Lane last night in grey light produced a smattering of usual birds, with numbers of linnets being particularly high (15+) and a tawny owl calling from Brick Kiln Hill. A hare was photographed enjoying the maize seedlings put down for pheasant cover adjacent to Queer Wood. Along this stretch plenty of insect life was observed and some photographed. Depicted here is the difficultly named dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus. This species is found on or near oak trees and feeds on young leaves and catkins as well as small insects and their eggs. Easily identifiable with its black and creamy wing case.
Several new flowering plants were also recorded. Shown here, at the top, field bindweed (convolvulus arvensis) followed by flowering bramble (rubus fruticosus) and finally a tall example (2 metres!) of hogweed (heracleum sphondylium) A good plant to attract insects on hot summer days, especially soldier beetles.
Yet another invasive harlequin ladybird was seen along the hedgerow leading down to Pathway cottages, proving that they are now, unfortunately, well established locally.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Ladybird species

A little investigation has led me to believe that the ladybird recorded yesterday is what I suspected, the hugely invasive harlequin ladybird. First recorded in 2004 in the UK (in Sussex) it has spread incredibly quickly. Introduced to deal with aphids it has taken over local ladybird territories and will soon be the major ladybird species in England.
I have noticed that I have indeed recorded this before. The photo on 7th June is in fact another member of the harlequin family. Notice the cream eye spots. I had previously reported this erroneously as a 24 spot ladybird. As it happens a walk yesterday evening recorded another, showing, unfortunately, they are well established in East Herts

Monday, 9 June 2008

evening wander 09.06.08 plus garden pest





A wonderful short walk this evening , searching mainly for insects, came up trumps. A walk along the Ash to the footbridge by the pumping station and then checking the ditch up to New Road was sufficient for several new species.

An unexpected bird was recorded near the footbridge in the form of a singing sedge warbler. First for the year and not one that I had anticipated. Common along the River Stort Navigation, with up to 8 breeding pairs around Thorley Wash, it was a real surprise to hear one singing from the hedgerow. Usual birds were present, with yellowhammers calling, whitethroats and blackcaps scratching their tune from the bushes and corvids overhead.

A garden pest was discovered in the form of a lily beetle, (lilioceris lilii) feeding on the garden lilies. A bright red beetle that chews through buds of lilies. The larvae cover themselves in their own excrement to mimic slugs or bird excrement. Check your lilies and wash them off with soapy water or pick them off by hand; they won't fly if disturbed!

Also, I managed to improve on a photograph of a scorpion fly ( panorpa germanica). The photo here depicts a male, with its diagnostic "scorpion" end to its abdominal segments. Totally harmless, just basic scavengers.

Also shown today are photos of a strange ladybird that I have yet to identify. I suspect a young beetle, yet to emerge into its full colour, but very similar to the pine ladybird, ( exchomus 4-pustalatus) that I am sure it is not, due to habitat. I shall endeavour to name it to species. Also recorded for the first time this year was a brief glimpse of a blue tailed damselfly by the footbridge. A search for a considerable time gave no good photo opportunities, but in the process of crawling around the undergrowth I:
a) discovered a large population of wild majoram (origanum vulgare) a super herb with meat and basically a wild oregano. I shall be cropping a short selection soon.

b.) a newly emerged speckled wood butterfly. Again, patient attempts to record a good capture of this proved unsuccessful.
Also of note, I recorded 2 new mammals over the weekend. Firstly a weasel ran for cover whilst hunting on Brick Kiln Hill while I was having a smoke outside the Nags Head and then later in the garden, also partaking of the evil nicotine, a pipestrelle bat was feeding under the apple, plum and lilac trees. A borrow of a bat detector will determine whether it is a 55khz or 45khz species.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Sunday 08.06.08





After a grey start the weather turned for the better, with brilliant sunshine and clear skies by noon. A walk along the Ridge to Bush Wood and then returning along the Ash valley was the order of the day. Highlight were common buzzards, all soaring on the thermals. Firstly, one was recorded from the Ridge, being mobbed by a carrion crow (see photos), secondly another was observed whilst I sat on the bench at Bush Wood and then, remarkably, 3 were seen together from Chapel Lane, soaring over to the north west. Obviously, a successful breeding season.

Also, yellowhammers and chaffinches sang throughout the walk, whilst swallows and swifts fed continuously albeit at different altitudes. A hare was watched in its usual field and several species of butterfly were recorded; namely speckled wood, peacock and small white. There was a large emergence of spotted crane flies, all appearing from the ground near bush wood and making their maiden flight into the trees for safety and rest. The top photos depict the brilliant male and much dowdier female yellowhammer whilst the last 2 are distant shots of the mid air dog fight between common buzzard and carrion crow. In the second photo the buzzard is almost flying upside down, with talons pointing at the advancing crow. This skirmish lasted a few minutes before the crow returned to its territory.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Saturday wander 07.06.08







Grey morning, and a quick walk around the Ford. Spent most of the time searching ditches along the River Ash south of the Ford looking for insects and plants. Bittersweet (solanum dulcamara) was discovered along the footpath towards Ash Valley golf course as was common fumitory (fumaria officinalis). The latter has an acrid smell to the root and the sap can inflame eyes whilst the former is considerably less poisonous than deadly nightshade, it is related to both the tomato and potato. The flowers are similar to that of the potato blooms. A 1st record of harlequin ladybird was also discovered along this ditch. A green woodpecker made itself known as swifts and swallows flew overhead. Usual warblers called from the hedgerows along with yellowhammers and skylarks sang from the fairways of the adjacent golf course. Due to poor light, no dragon, damselflies or butterflies were on the wing.

The accompanying photographs show bittersweet (purple with yellow stamens) and the common fumitory along with the ladybird and dog rose (rosa canina). Also included here is a previously taken shot of moorhen with youngster. The final photo shows a coremacera marginata, a true fly of the diptera family. It feeds on small slugs and snails, so a welcome garden visitor.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

New butterfly sp


First sighting of a red admiral butterfly, moving up the hedgerow in Chapel Lane, Sunday
1st June. Too much rain for any long walks but a quick half hour on the allotment on Monday gave usual suspects whereas a few hours there on the Sunday gave a clue to a large bird of prey being present but unseen. 100's of starlings rose from an adjacent field along with rooks, wood pigeons and collared doves.
Also on the Saturday, photos taken of common blue butterfly feeding on buttercups.

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