Monday, 28 October 2013

A Bit of a Gamble!

Monday morning and the day of the forecast storm, so, up early and off to Dungeness. Gamble no. 1 would I get there? Gamble no 2: would the M25 QE2 bridge be open and gamble no 3: would the M20 be functioning. Answers in order, yes, no, yes. So, off at 5.15 in breezy conditions on to a fairly empty M11 and M25. A short wait to get through the tunnel as the bridge was closed and on to the M20 by 6.15. Very windy conditions were knocking lorries about a little but, after a coffee at Maidstone, a non eventful journey to the sea at Dunge. I was greeted by an amazing roar and electricity arcing all around Dungeness power station B. The noise was deafening, the wind plus all pumps going full blast at the power station. I found it difficult to walk on to the shingle and shelter on the leeward side of the sea watch hide. Gulls shot by backwards, but cormorants were making steady progress into the head of the gale. Incredible to watch as I was finding it difficult to stand, never mind hold camera or telescope still. The radio 4 news reported the powercut at the power station stating wind gusts had peaked at 90mph. No wonder walking wasn't easy!
cormorants flying into the gale
adult great black backed gull (top) and juvenile lesser black backed gull

dodging the 8 foot breakers

hard work

amazing sight, using the waves to aid flying


The wind battered on unabated but my gamble no 4: birds would be everywhere due to the storm was not materialising. Very little on the sea and the fact that the warden, David Walker was not out at the sea watch hide was a good indication that it was not worth being there. By now, I was covered in salt spray, as were my optics, especially glasses that were caked in salt. The waves were certainly powerful.


spot the cormorant, centre.


By now, time for a little shelter, so off to the ARC pit near the RSPB reserve. Few birds, including my 204th species for the year, a glossy ibis, somewhat distant photos here, next to a cormorant resting after being bashed about in the turbulence.



A greenshank, plenty of pochard, tufties, shovelers and gadwalls present, but little else, so off to the reserve for a coffee. As I pulled into the car park, the only car!! the wind was still bashing about but the sun was out and I chanced upon a fox enjoying a little shelter and some warmth.


After another shot of coffee out onto the trail. Good birds were hard to come by and all small ones were settled, invisible at the bottom of the masses of willows. Marsh harriers, a kestrel (see below), a solitary and very brief male hen harrier were noted along with more wildfowl including  some splendid pintail drakes; always a stunning bird.

great crested grebe

kestrel

too windy for take off and holding on tightly

distant marsh harrier

pintail
Finally, back to HQ to give a brief report of sightings to the manager and a quick check of the hide next to the office. Great stuff, a great white egret, firstly skulking in reeds and then perched in a tree, being observed by a grey heron. Also, a rainbow appeared so all was great and the wind was slowly becoming less powerful; I could walk without difficulty.


great egret with  5 little egrets

trying to climb the vegetation

peaceful shot, with great egret in distance!


definitely a tufted duck!
By this time the storm had passed and so back to the bird obs and the sea watch hide. This time I got into the hide and observed more gulls, kittiwakes, grebes and common scoter heading into the strong breeze, but nothing unusual. After an hour I decided to beat the traffic and head home. So did everyone else and I joined a long queue for the tunnel, which was free to help alleviate congestion.
A worthwhile trip even if the gamble of hoping for some rarities didn't pay off. Glad I made the effort. Finally, a study of a passing juvenile great black backed gull





Thursday, 24 October 2013

Glorious weather wander

After a coffee at Tescos, I set off for a walk around the parish, via Cradle End, Green Street, Hoecroft Lane and down Brick kiln Hill to home. About a 4 mile wander in superb light and warmth. Birds were in short supply, but quality rather than quantity. Towards Cradle End the highlight, a flyover red kite. Reasonable shots here as it glided south, attracting the attention of a few corvids.



As I wandered along Green Street, bullfinches called from deep inside vegetation and pied wagtails, skylarks and redwings called overhead. In Millfield Lane another good sighting, a peacock butterfly, one of my latest. Yellowhammers, corvids and finches were in the hedgerows along the lane before I traipsed across the polo fields and into Hoecroft Lane.

noisy carrion crow

peacock butterfly

starlings
Into Hoecroft Lane and along with wonderful colour, a pair of great spotted woodpecker posed distantly for a photo. The female shown here.



All in all, a wonderful walk with green woodpeckers, magpies, jays and a distant common buzzard also recorded. Here, a selection of the colour on show.




Green Street living up to its name

Muggin's Wood

Nag's Head, Little Hadham from Brick Kiln Hill

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Evening Wander

A dusk walk in threatening conditions didn't give the hoped for views of the local barn owls. Too late for most birds;  redwing were heard overhead along with a pied wagtail. On the ponds around Hadham Hall were 3 tufted duck and the resident pair of little grebes. A single chiffchaff called from the willows, now almost void of their leaves. A large party (25+) of lesser black backed gulls headed south over Cradle End, but that was about it.
However, the highlight was the rapid sunset, shown here through the trees around Hadham Hall. Very spectacular, but only lasting 10 minutes. The others show the tufted duck, the barn at Hadham Hall and the wonderful colour of some autumnal leaves. Hopefully I shall find time to photo these in really good light before the southerly breezes remove them all.






Saturday, 19 October 2013

New camera to North Norfolk

Having treated myself to a new camera body, a 2nd hand Nikon D2x, a monster of a machine, I was keen to get to Norfolk to begin learning how to use it successfully. Leaving at 5.45 I stopped off at Lyndford Arboretum to check for the 2 barred crossbills that are still reported as present. No sign, but good numbers of common crossbills, nuthatches and siskins. Then, off to Wells Woods, parking in the beach car park just past Pinewoods caravan site. To start with I took photos of any bird, beginning with this cormorant on the boating lake. A little later, a redwing, distant, drinking at a puddle. 2 female crossbills came down to drink, but a dog walker flushed them before I had the camera ready.
cormorant


redwing
There were quite a few birders checking the woods, but nothing was being reported. However, along with large numbers of redwings, there appeared to be blackcaps and blackbirds every 10 yards. A particularly pleasing female blackcap photo, taken through leaves from the footpath. With my previous D40 this would have been very difficult to get due to the focusing set up. However, the new camera permits very precise focus and so I could get on to the bird, rather than focusing on the nearer leaves.

female blackcap
Not too much else seen and I had missed the 4 flyover glossy ibis that headed west between Brancaster and Happisburgh so Off to Garden Drove just east of Wells.
Here, after a muddy drive down the track, I came across the first yearlister of the day; a male ring ouzel on the concrete at the end of the track. Unable to get a photo as I was still in the car. The bird flew off into the adjacent stubble field, not to be refound. A walk down to Warham Greens gave views of brambling, chaffinch, chiffchaff and more blackbirds and redwings but no rarities so I returned to the car. Another birder confirmed he, too had not seen anything out of the ordinary. I headed off to Cley, checking the hides first before a wander around to the beach carpark.
Not too much from the 3 centre hides, but a good opportunity to test the camera and adjust the settings. A selection of results here in what was becoming fading light.

lapwing/peewit/green plover.

lapwings and wigeon

take off

shelduck

female shoveler

3 shoveler and teal

pair of teal
At the beach carpark I noted 100+ brent geese in the Eye Field before I set up for a sea watch. Gannets and gulls were ever present but eventually I caught on a small bird on the water some way out. A grey phalarope. 2 others got on to it but it was difficult to describe its whereabouts as there were no lobster pot buoys etc to guide other sea watchers. Flocks of common scoter headed west. In one, flashes of white wingbars signalled my 3rd year lister of the day: velvet scoter, the 2nd being the phalarope. By this time the light was very poor, heavy overcast conditions. A marsh harrier ventured over the reserve and surprisingly everything went up so maybe a peregrine had made a move as birds were distracted by the harrier. I have noted this before, where a peregrine fires into a flock of rising birds concerned by the harrier. Watched a wigeon hit this way at Old Hall Marshes several years ago. Very spectacular.

brent geese

brent goose
A coffee and some bread buns filled with my standard fare for Norfolk: double gloucester and chorizio and I was good for a trip to Titchwell before the drive home. Here, bramblings were on the feeders, but too dark for a worthwhile shot along with usual daylisters like greenfinch, tits, thrushes etc. Several siskins called from the trees around the centre. The beach path was full of birders, but again, not too much on view. A stonechat on Thornham Marsh and, I suspect, in excess of 5000 golden plover on the Fresh Marsh. Usual waders: snipe, redshank, dunlin, ruff, and 100's pf teal and wigeon. I carried on for another beach watch where good waders were added to the list; black and bar tailed godwit, oystercatcher, curlew, sandering, a flyover grey plover + more scoter out to sea. 2 sandwich terns headed east. Several skua sp were called but all I saw were juvenile lesser black backed and herring gulls. Gannets were loafing around and a very distant shearwater remain unidentified.

Titchwell chiffchaff

chiffchaff

teal

wigeon

migrant hawkers

common darter

female migrant hawker

teal

wigeon

gadwall

little egret

moorhen
So, with the time approaching 6.30, I set off for home with over 170 photos. Once deleted they were reduced to 40, some of which I share here. Not great, but some pleasing clarity and with some, good sharpness. The ones at Titchwell had light compensation going on as it really was very poor conditions. The chiffchaff, as they are prone to do, would not stay still, so please to fire off a couple that captured the bird reasonably well.
The 3 year listers take my annual total to a respectable 203, still 15+ to get and with a day at Dungeness and then the following day at Sandwich bird obs, should be able to get these.

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