Sunday, 29 June 2014

Norfolk Birding Day

An early start for a day in North Norfolk, picking up Gary in Bishop's Stortford at 4.30a.m. After a coffee break near Ely, we arrived at Titchwell at 6.30, ready to check the reserve moth trap. Nothing startling was noted here, with a large number of clouded borders present.
Off on to the reserve with red crested pochards observed, mainly in a huge state of disrepair through post breeding moult. A summer plumaged spotted redshank is always a good bird to see, with first one and then seven being seen. A flyover spoonbill, heading to Thornham was also put into the book and later, good numbers of this impressive bird were seen, both at Titchwell and later, at Cley. A singing sedge warbler showed well along the path to the beach as did the regular birds such as teal, black headed gulls, little egrets, linnets, reed buntings and avocets.
avocet
kestrel hovering over beach path


sedge warbler in fine voice

spotted redshank

lapwing on Freshmarsh
Upon arrival at the beach, high tide was evident, so no waders. However, on the horizon were literally 1000's of scoter species. Too far off, even with a scope to make out any plumage details to check for velvet scoter etc. Also present were a handful of gannets east, all full adults, several fulmars and Gary had a solitary manx shearwater that I didn't get on to. We then headed to the Parrinder hide for more spoonbill, spotted redshank, godwits etc. Amusingly, a family party of greylags had strayed too close to an avocet family and the intrepid avocets made short work of beating up the goslings and terrifying the adult geese.
Greylag gosling ducks and heads for cover


An adult greylag speedily moves on.......


........but not fast enough for the avocet!
A few more buntings and warblers were observed before great, if distant views of two barn owls over the fields to the west of the Vistors' Centre. One bird headed off towards Patsy's whilst the other, possible juvenile, took to roosting upon a post. A little too far away for any pleasing photos, but included here nevertheless.
avocets and 2 drake red crested pochard

hunting barn owl



little grebe

moulting drake teal
We then headed off to Choseley to check for turtle doves, but all we got were grey partridge, whitethroats, yellowhammers, stock doves and pheasant, Another coffee break at Burnham Deepdale. Here, at the optic shop I wanted a small moth identifying hand lens, but the shop wasn't opening until 10a.m., so we moved on to Stiffkey Fen. Few birds, including black tailed godwits were present but not too much else. It was the end of June so we decided to head straight to Cley rather than check other sites we would normally visit. The number of birds present was an indication that this, as expected, was not going to be a record breaking day. At Cley I bought a pair of Nikon binoculars in the sale to replace my very hazy Vikings bought many years ago. A great pair of Nikons, extremely sharp and bright so I was eager to give them a test run. Off to the hides at Cley where we added house martin, plenty more spoonbills etc and I, through the scope, got on to 2 bearded tits, very distant and gone before Gary could find them following my pretty dire directions.
This was from Daukes. The other 2 hides gave up shelduck, lesser black backed gull, grey heron, marsh harrier and 4 extremely tatty ruff as well as a pair of little ringed plover.
posing avocet

little ringed plover


some of the Cley spoonbills

3 ruff in moult with an lrp behind.


redshank
We then thought a change of scenery would be good, so we set off for Horsey Mere. Swallowtail butterfly was on the agenda, an insect not seen in the UK  by either of us. After a wander around the trail, where we scored with blackcap, marsh tit, grey wagtail, whitethroat, garden warbler, chiffchaff, marsh harrier and willow warbler, the rain ceased and for a few minutes the sun shone. Pleasingly, 2 swallowtails took to the wing and gave great flyby views. Sadly, each time they alighted it was either distant or out of sight. A couple of record shots here.


As we enjoyed another coffee at Horsey tea shop a note came on the phone about a possible female red backed shrike at nearby Winterton dunes. So we paid our £1 for the car park and looked over the enormity that is this patch. Many little terns nesting along the beach but having scanned each likely piece of vegetation for the shrike, one look at the rapidly darkening skies had us heading back to the car for the journey home.
A great day of 78 species, a UK lifer butterfly, a new pair of binoculars and a couple of year listers for me meant a thoroughly successful day was had.
Thanks to Paul at Titchwell for leaving the moth trap for me to have a rummage through.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Amazing moth weekend

Midsummer weekend and the mothing was incredible. In all, 88 macro moths of 44 species with plenty of new for year examples, taking the running total for the garden to over 120 species. Plenty of micro moths, too. Some I managed to id, two with Graeme Smith for dissection and others I just was so mothed out, I couldn't find the time.
On Sunday I was leading a summer butterfly walk and wanted to keep a good selection of moths to show, hence my main aim on Saturday night/Sunday morning was to pot and fridge colourful examples. This I did with:
common emerald, clouded border, yellow barred, common white wave, poplar hawkmoth, Eudonia mercurella, dot moth, buff ermine, green pug, small yellow wave, beautiful hooktip, lilac beauty, brimstone and buff tip.
When introducing folk to moths for the first time, I always try to show that they are not all dull brown insects, that in fact they are, at least, as colourful as butterflies. Consequently, I stayed at the trap until 2a.m on the Sunday morning and then returned at 5a.m. to take what was actually in the trap before the local robin intervened and scoffed the lot.
barred yellow

buff tip

engrailed keen to read the field guide.

common emerald

Anyway, the new for year were:
Dot moth
small yellow wave
common emerald
riband wave
Anania stachydalis
beautiful hooktip
Agapeta hamana
barred yellow
red barred tortrix
bird cherry ermine
lilac beauty
short cloaked moth
double square spot
July highflier
pale shouldered brocade
Orthopygia glaucinatis
waved black
rustic
engrailled
Eudonia mercurella

Not too bad for a couple of nights.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

2 days of mothing

Upon returning home from Madeira I was keen to get the moth trap running. Seemed I had missed a good week locally, so was playing catch up. Both Monday and last night produced reasonable garden numbers with several new for year species, both macro and micro.
Nothing new for the garden record, but on Monday Green pug, Bright line brown eye, and fan foot were new for the year along with micros: Lozotaenia forsterana, small magpie, Eudonia lacustrata, Hedya nubiferana, Scoparia pyralella.
Bright line brown eye

Green pug

Fan foot
This morning was even better, with 27 species represented and a total of 37 moths. New for the year on the macro side were: mottled beauty, large yellow underwing, barred straw, dwarf cream wave, clay, Uncertain and rosy minor.
The large yellow underwing was my 100th macro species for the year whilst a micro, Celypha lacuana was the 600th moth of the year to visit the trap.
New micros were: Ephestia unicolorella, ssp woodiella along with several still awaiting identification. Presently potted and in the fridge.
All this activ ity took the running totals to 105 macro species and 34 micros. Far better than this time last year.
large yellow underwing

clay

rosy minor

mottled beauty

Week in Madeira

Robin in the Botanical Gardens.
Spent a week on the superb island of Madeira on what was, basically, a non birding holiday. Managed a few trips around Funchal as well as a trip all around the east of the island. Certainly spectacular scenery but very few birds to note and again, only several species of butterfly.
First birds I encountered were in the small garden of our hotel with a canary being a lifer for me. These were present in the conifer most days, but still not too easy to get a reasonable photo. A few of my efforts here.



juvenile canary
A bird that was seen in every park and many gardens, including the wonderful Botanical gardens, (accessed by 2 cable car rides) was the blackcap. These were heard singing everywhere.
male blackcap in hotel garden

female blackcap at the Botanical gardens

another male, singing in a park
One morning I headed down to The Lido for a spot of seawatching. Usual fare, i.e. yellow legged gulls and terns, mostly common, but after a short while, a roseate winged its way past.
yellow legged gull

common tern

suspected roseate tern

roseate tern
On further searches, I have been informed that roseate breed around the harbour at Funchal, so pleased to note these. They appeared to be on a rock just off the Lido, shown here.
Other common birds were blackbirds, chaffinches, kestrels, endless feral pigeons and on 2 occasions, grey wagtail. A common buzzard was seen in trees as we headed towards Santana, but no other birds of prey.

Disappointingly, my pelagic trip with Madeiran Wind birds was cancelled due to high winds out to sea to the east of the island. Consequently, no petrels or shearwaters to report.
Butterfly watching was dominated by the magnificent monarch. Only recorded this once before, at Portland by the doctors surgery in 2012. Everyday gave great flyby views but rarely settled and when one eventually did, in a park, it had to be the most worn specimen on the island!
Other butterflies were equally non camera cooperative but did manage to fire off a few poor quality shots to get these. Again, end of season, worn examples.
worn short tailed blue

Southern small white

long tailed blue.
These are only putative identifications and if anyone can offer other suggestions I would be grateful. Finally, the most common sight on the island, including the patio outside our room were the lizards. as yet, not identified to species. These were everywhere and on some warm walls in Funchal, present in large numbers. A selection of shades of colour were evident, ranging from green through blues to the regular brown colour.
Edit: surprise surprise: these lizards are called..................... guess.............................. yep: Madeiran lizards. Lacerta dugesii
on church wall at Camacha


Finally, at the top of Pico da Arrierio, the 3rd highest peak on the island at 1818m, there were small pipit like birds, another lifer as they were Bethelot's pipit, a common bird for the Canary Islands. Sadly, the only good sighting I got was of one on top of a telegraph pole and was keen to id it first and it rose before I could train the camera on it.
A brilliant place to visit and much more left to see so, I suspect, we shall be returning in the next few years.

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