Sunday, 31 August 2014

Updated year list 31.08.14

Trips to North Norfolk, Amwell and a couple of days in Dungeness have boosted my year list as follows:
169: arctic skua
170: wood sandpiper
171: spotted crake
172: little stint
173: yellow wagtail
174: red necked phalarope
175: manx shearwater
176: balearic shearwater
177: fulmar
178: little gull
179: great skua
180: melodious warbler
181: redstart
182: whinchat
183: tree sparrow
184: ruddy duck
185: raven
186: curlew sandpiper
187: roseate tern
188: black tern
189: honey buzzard
190: white rumped sandpiper
Archive photo: Brown shrike, Rosyth, Kergalle Sri Lanka Jan 2014
A two day stay at Portland should help towards 200, but last year's total of 212 is looking a little distant at present. Need a good autumn fall and some numbers of winter geese on the Essex coast.

North Norfolk Day

Picking Gary up in Bishop's Stortford at 5am and a coffee near Ely meant we were at Titchwell soon after 7. Our first good bird were 2 whinchats by the island hide as we wandered to the sea as most of the freshmarsh birds were still silhouettes.
5 moulting eider were relatively close in as the tide was rising. Few sanderling and a flyover of 150+ golden plover as well as a solitary grey plover past. Terns were regular passers and after a while Gary got on to a black tern towards Brancaster. This was typically dipping for food rather than diving. Shortly after, a dark billed smaller tern headed past, going west. Longer and broader tail whilst also showing dark markings on the primaries, a roseate tern. 2 year listers in 10 minutes and the roseate being a lifer for Gary. Good start. Back on the path a peregrine was seen low over Thornham Marsh as black tailed godwits, little egrets and black headed gulls were noted. Into the parrinder hide where ruff, meadow pipits, pied wags and waders were noted, along with 9 spoonbill. One wader caught my eye, showing black tail, dark legs and a clear white supercillium. On this evidence, a curlew sandpiper, but with a bill like a ruff. Someone in the hide thought reeve, but their tail would be barred and no supercilium, plus lighter, redder legs. Maybe a very short billed curlew sandpiper? We eventually sorted this out to be a white rumped sandpiper, confirmed later from Titchwell. Another lifer for Gary and year lister for me.
Back on the path, a painted lady butterfly posed before our 2nd coffee of the day at the VC.
whinchat

meadow pipit

eider

sandwich tern

little egret

painted lady
Next stop: Burnham Overy Staithe for a wander along the track to the beach footpath and the dunes around Gun Hill. Disappointingly quiet due to a steady breeze, with a few whitethroats and chiffchaffs about but nothing unusual. A kestrel patrolled a field and a buzzard was noted towards Holkham. A greenshank flew over as we arrived at the beach path and a distant clouded yellow butterfly was observed as well as a wall brown. Very few birds in the dunes but we eventually came across several wheatear and plenty of linnets. After 45 minutes of searching it was obvious that there was nothing great to be seen so back to the path where a wood sandpiper was seen in a small muddy area of a field. Hawker dragonflies were flying along the track as we got back to the car for rolls and moreish pork pies. Shame they were sold as moreish, because they were, but we only had one each!
clouded yellow

linnets

wheatear

wood sandpiper
We then headed off to Cley, checked the board, had another coffee and, for once, didn't buy a book! Maybe Portland Bird Obs book shop in a couple of weeks will benefit from such frugality.
We then decided to head straight to Winterton dunes where the list of possibles was pretty neat: red backed shrike, wryneck, pied flycatcher, greenish warbler. We arrived at about 2, knowing the shrike was some 2 miles away. We headed for the totem pole where the wryneck had been reported. Plenty of folk standing around on phones and staring into bushes, but no bird, so we thought the shrike would be best and, with luck, we may turn up something good en route. A whinchat was the only bird we saw in the 2 miles. Eventually, our endeavours were rewarded by cracking views of a pristine adult male red backed shrike. 2nd lifer for Gary and the 1st time I had seen an adult male in the UK. Excellent stuff. We then trooped back totem pole, checking the wire fencing as we went. small heath, skipper and red admiral butterflies were noted and one of our last day listers, a yellowhammer. Back at the totem pole the same folk were......... on their phones, staring into wryneckless bushes. A corncrake had been reported so there were plenty of guys out trying to find this. We got directions to the greenish warbler but decided a brief sea watch and can of Tango would suffice as we both had to be back home by 7.15(ish) as I was out for an evening meal with a table reservation at 8.15.
Sea watch gave up a strangely plumaged common gull, with a blue/grey hood, great black backed gull, seal and plenty of cormorants. After several wrong turns through a busy Norwich we were back in East Herts by 7.30 and in time for a good Indian.
Very many thanks to Chris for the perfect directions to the shrike. Very accurate Chris, you just omitted to tell us that the bird would favour the lefthandside of the specific bramble bush! Excellent, very grateful.
whinchat (only bird in 2 miles of walking!)

unsociable red backed shrike. I make no excuses for overloading this entry with photos of this bird, it was superb.



taken lying behind long grass.

yellowhammer (only bird on 2 mile wander back again, apart from previous whinchat)

common gull with blue/grey hood

initial view of red backed shrike
A great day out, weather was warmer than anticipated and whilst not huge number of species (83 in total)  a day where you watch: red backed shrike, white rumped sandpiper, roseate tern, black tern, peregrine, wood sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, whinchat, wheatear and greenshank + painted lady and clouded yellow has to be memorable.

Friday, 29 August 2014

2 days Birding in Kent

I set off from home at 5.45a.m Wednesday 27th with a plan to visit and photograph some of the many reserves in Kent as I required a few habitat shots for an RSPB talk I am giving later in the year.
First stop was Cliffe, just less than an hour away so there at first light.

Looking towards the Thames estuary.
The light was not good here, but it was warm.. A pair of wood sandpipers called overhead before descending near the flamingo pool on the far side of the Reserve. On the many tanks and lagoons were numerous coot, great crested grebe, little egrets, pochards, tufted duck etc as well as an occasional common sandpiper. In the dense bramble and elder willow warblers, chiffchaff, and whitethroat  could be heard and seen.
A (to be confirmed later by photo, see below) honey buzzard overhead was being mobbed by a carrion crow along with cronking grey heron. A good start made better when I came across a solitary curlew sandpiper whilst trying to refind the woodies. A single black tailed godwit made its way over the path before my time was up and a return to the car to move on.

Species list for Cliffe RSPB:

cormorant, little grebe, great crested grebe, greenshank, redshank, wood sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, common sandpiper, lapwing, avocet, (10 sp) honey buzzard, whitethroat, chiffchaff, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, reed bunting, willow warbler. blackbird,(20 sp) robin, dunnock, house sparrow, pied wagtail, pochard, tufted duck, wigeon, teal, mallard, carrion crow,(30 sp) rook, jackdaw, magpie, black tailed godwit, little egret, sand martin, house martin, swallow, black headed gull, herring gull, (40 sp) lesser black backed gull, snipe, mute swan, blue tit, wood pigeon, collared dove, great tit, long tailed tit, starling. Trip list: 49 species by 10.45a.m.


pochard

flyby little egret

Juvenile Honey buzzard


From here I had originally planned to visit Northwood Hill and Elmley, but actually headed straight to Oare Marshes.
Oare is a favourite haunt of mine, easy to view many birds and always having the potential to give a cracking bird. Winter appears to be best with short eared owls and barn owls, but this particular morning, summer plumaged golden plovers were present, along with more curlew sandpipers, a single little stint, several dunlin and 100's of black tailed godwits. After walking around the eastern side, and enjoying the hide here, I drove off, having not tracked down the long staying bonapartes gull. I had grilled a good selection of the black headed gulls both on the reserve and on the Swale mud, as had other birders, but no joy.
However, just past Harty cottages, 14+ yellow wagtails rose from a stubble field as I drove by. A record shot of one that took to the trees, the rest remaining virtually invisible amongst the stubble.
View from the road


Not a very helpful yellow wagtail

dunlin and lapwing from the road.
New species added at Oare:
shelduck (50 sp) dunlin, ringed plover, golden plover, gadwall, shoveler, little stint, kestrel, coot, moorhen, yellow wagtail (60sp)

From here I headed off through Faversham to Canterbury and on to Stodmarsh, parking at Grove Ferry. Some of the reserve was closed due to repairs following the high water of the winter. The tower hide and adjoining area were all closed, so just a brief trip for a few photos from the hides etc. Not too on much going on here but a good kingfisher and little egret photo opportunity.


male kingfisher

little egret

New species added at Stodmarsh:

pheasant, kingfisher, cetti's warbler, blackcap, wren. Trip list 65sp.

From here I drove south, arriving at Dungeness RSPB for a coffee and check the board for what was about. The ARC pit looked good, so I set off for a walk around to the viewing screen and after 10 minutes of searching found my target, a red necked phalarope in with the lapwings and frequently hidden behind them. A good bird to see and only my 3rd year lister of the trip (after little stint and yellow wagtail) I then headed back to the Hanson Hide where 4 garganey could be noted on the far side of the pit. A green woodpecker flew over the path as I headed back to the car and off to the bird observatory.

New species added at the ARC Pit:

greylag goose, great black backed gull, red necked phalarope, green woodpecker, canada goose, garganey 71 species.

distant red necked phalarope

from the Hanson Hide
By now it was late afternoon, so off to the obs, dropped off my stuff, and down to the sea watch hide. Not much going up or down channel, as would be expected at such a late time in the day but 4 more species made the list, taking the day's total to a reasonable 75species.

Species added to the trip list from Seat watch:

sandwich tern, gannet, common tern, oystercatcher (75 species)

oystercatcher past the buoy

general view of the old lighthouse.
Following this, I returned to the obs, quick chat with David and then off for something to eat, a drink at The Pilot and a relatively early night. Tomorrow, I was planning on an dawn sea watch from the hide, so awoke at 5.30, dressed and out into a stiff breeze and horizontal drizzle. This drizzle was coming through the slats in the hide, making everything damp, but it eventually ceased and the optics dried out. A watch from 6.15 - 9.00a..m realised over 100 gannets, many common scoter and terns as well as pleasing views of arctic skuas. A manx shearwater and 3 balearic shearwaters were more distant as were 2 great skuas sitting on the water. A good time and when I left, the breeze had dropped, rain stopped and the temperature was rising. Back to the obs to pack stuff in the car, give in my list and then have a coffee at the cafe before heading off to Dengemarsh Gully.
Species added to the list from 2nd sea watch:
manx shearwater, balearic shearwater, fulmar, grey plover, little gull, great skua, arctic skua, common scoter (83 sp)

The main bird at Dengemarsh Gully was a melodious warbler that had been present the day before. I arrived and it showed almost immediately. A female/first year redstart also popped up, making it 2 year listers in 10 minutes. The day was coming on well.

melodious warbler

same bird

redstart
Species added from Dengemarsh Gully:
melodious warbler, redstart (85 sp)

It was now time for another coffee, so off to the RSPB reserve and their complicated coffee machine. A trip around the reserve seemed a good idea and off, firstly to the Firth Hide before eventually entering the Christmas Dell hide. I don't often get many birds from this point, but today added marsh harrier and flyby bittern. A stock dove flew over the path near the Dengemarsh Hide where a great white egret flew over. I then walked along the path toward the viewing ramp.  A hobby shot over, my attention drawn to it by the alarm calls of the 1000's of hirundines. A whinchat dived for cover as I rounded a corner and heard a short squeaking call with occasional warbleresque ticking. I noted a long, slim grey warbler, slight supercillium and slightly darker grey/buff sides but a predominantly get and white bird with a clearly white chin. It was eating a blackberry and darted for cover within 3 seconds of me seeing it. A wait for over an hour and half ensued where I noted it flicking around in deep bramble and elder undergrowth, but it didn't show again. My initial thought was Upcher's but upon checking at the visitor's centre I didn't note a dark tail. The one that got away. I mentioned my sighting to staff, David whom I bumped into later and one or two folk said they'd go and check. 
As I arrived back at the car park 14+ yellow wagtails rose from the shingle.
black tailed godwit and black headed gulls

Strange shaped ruff

bittern

great white egret
Species added from RSPB Reserve:
stock dove, bittern, great white egret, reed warbler, marsh harrier, tree sparrow, hobby, whinchat (93 sp)

From here, I thought I just had time to pop over to the Hanson Hide again and pleased I did. A spotted redshank came in soon after I arrived and a ruddy duck was noted not far out. The whole pit was alive with 1000's of sand and house martins + numerous swallows.
ruddy duck

Species added from 2nd ARC pit;

ruddy duck, spotted redshank (95 sp)

I now, having taken rather longer here, noted that if I left I would encounter the worst of the traffic on the M25, so, upon hearing that both wryneck and black necked grebe had been seen recently at Dengemarsh Gully, I returned there. Sadly, the black necked grebe had been eaten by a huge pike just minutes previously and the wryneck hadn't been seen for quite a while. However, the melodious warbler was still showing, so I managed a few more shots, before scoring a trip lister with 2 flyby ravens.
melodious warbler

raven.
Species added at 2nd Dengemarsh Gully visit:
Raven (96sp)

Whilst not directly on the way home, I thought a quick side trip to Scotney Pools and Rye Harbour would be a good way to finish a superb trip. Nothing notable at Scotney, just huge numbers of gulls, geese and plovers but at Rye, a quick walk to the sea and back, scored with turnstone, several in summer plumage and little ringed plover on the beach the other side of the river. More yellow wagtails and terns were noted along the walk to the sea, but not enough time to do the whole circuit, so back to the car park, where I met a chap I'd chatted to earlier at Dengemarsh, who also was avoiding the traffic before heading back to Tonbridge Wells

Species added at Rye Harbour:

turnstone, little ringed plover

This brought the trip total to an impressive 98 species in what had basically been 26 hours of birding. Easy to go through the list and note what could have been seen to take me over the century, such as song thrush, curlew, wheatear etc. but a superb time. I left Rye Harbour at 7pm and still got held up at the tunnel, arriving back in the village just before 9pm.

turnstone

common tern

view over Rye Harbour Reserve
Year listers from the trip;
little stint, yellow wagtail, honey buzzard red necked phalarope, manx shearwater, balearic shearwater, fulmar, little gull, great skua, melodious warbler, redstart, whinchat, tree sparrow, ruddy duck, raven, curlew sandpiper, taking my year list to a reasonable 186, with a day trip to Norfolk on Saturday and then a weekend at Portland should break the 200 species barrier. Not sure I can better last years 212.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Weekend round up

With the weather remaining changeable during the day and cold and clear at night a chance to catch up on some botany around the parish, finding several new plants for the records, taking my total to close on 100 species.
Most are common plants and expected, just haven't had time to check them and photo for identification.
These were all found on or close to Westland Green, along with good amount of bird's foot trefoil and knapweed.
Yellow loose-strife

Great mullien

Common fleabane

Hoary ragwort

Red bartsia

Silverweed


Yarrow
Marsh cudweed
Whilst messing about on all fours at Westland Green managed to come across plenty of common green grasshoppers and this lesser marsh grasshopper. In searching for these I flushed a large family of pheasants. Also, at the moth trap there was this splendid dark bush cricket. Also on The Green, plenty of grassmoths but all observed were either Agriphila straminella (below) or Agriphila tristella.
Lesser marsh grasshopper

dark bush cricket

Agriphila straminella
Whilst checking the moth trap on Friday night strange noises emanated from under the fruit trees. Further inspection led to finding a hedgehog enjoying the windfalls. Not a common mammal to see these days.
On the moth front, only new species for the year list were a spectacularly marked frosted orange and a spruce carpet. In all 22 moths of 13 species this morning, so the total garden list of moths now moves to 2987 individuals, with 182 macro species and 124 micros for the year.
frosted orange

spruce carpet

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