Friday, 31 October 2014

River Stort Wander

As the car was getting a thorough clean at Spellbrook, I took the opportunity to wander along the River Stort. This was my local area until Nov 2007 when we moved. Today, in unseasonally glorious weather I started with a superb, if too distant for a photo, grey wagtail . On the river were several moorhen, a few mallards and 2 little grebes, whilst in nearby trees a tit flock that also contained a calling nuthatch.
moorhen

mallard

little grebe

River Stort Navigation, looking north from Spellbrook Locks

little grebe

newly surfaced little grebe
A kingfisher shot past heading upstream as a kestrel flew overhead. Over the red bridge and a check on Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust reserve of Thorley Wash. A great spotted woodpecker and more tit flocks, with plenty of long tailed in with blue and great tits.
Looking north from the red bridge

Highland cattle on the reserve.

Overhead, a buzzard, magpie and jay along with stock dove, wood pigeon and carrion crow. No winter thrushes or finches that I have seen here in October's past, far too warm at present.
Wrens, chaffinches and robins called, as did a single coal tit, but nothing else was noted. A superb walk along a very peaceful and tranquil habitat. Great to have visited again.
tree reflections



Common darter

common darter head on, roosting on ivy.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Updated Year List

As we approach the business end of year listing, with no specific target in mind, I thought a quick update to include latest additions. Still quite a few winter birds to get, particularly geese and a few migrants, so not finished listing yet. This is my none twitching total and made up almost entirely from only a few venues: Little Hadham home patch, North Norfolk, Kent and a weekend at Portland Bird Obs and also a none birding weekend in the Lake District.

200: grey phalarope
201: snow bunting
202: whimbrel
203: surf scoter
204: merlin
205: rough legged buzzard
206: black brant
207: slavonian grebe
208: black necked grebe (omitted from 22nd August, juvenile at Amwell)


Target birds still to add should I come across them on future trips:
red necked grebe, cattle egret, whooper swan, bewick's swan, white fronted goose, bean goose, red breasted goose, barnacle goose, scaup, goosander, pectoral sandpiper, woodcock, glaucous gull, razorbill, long eared owl, water pipit, waxwing, black redstart, ring ouzel, shore lark, pallas's warbler, great grey shrike, lapland bunting. Now that would be an impressive one day list! 6 of these are definites, whilst a few others would be fairly easy to find.
Those in bold have since been observed.

Archive photo: silhouetted goldcrest in Little Hadham December 2009.

Moths over the last few days

An evening session (8.00 - 9.30pm) on Tuesday netting in Millennium Wood. A wonderfully warm evening gave up 14 moths: 2 November moths, 1 pale November moth (a new one for me) 6 feathered thorn, a dark chestnut, a brick, satellite and 2 green brindled crescents, 1 being of the form capucina.
The pale November moth was dissected to identify and it seems there is a thriving colony within this 14 year old wood. The trick is to trap underneath birch, where they will be found.
On Wednesday morning a quick check on the garden trap before setting off for a Norfolk day gave up 6 species, including a new for the year mottled umber. Also, a yellow line quaker, red-green carpet, 2 feathered thorn and a November moth. Also, an extremely worn individual, that, with a hand lens, shows a cross band as found on spruce carpet.
This morning, even though not cold or windy there was nothing.
mottled umber

A very worn specimen, probably a spruce carpet.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Norfolk again: good day with the birds, bad day with the camera

Having checked the moth trap at 5a.m. I set off for North Norfolk. My first site was Holkham beach and some half a mile east of Lady Anne's Drive. Here, I came across the reported surf scoter, showing reasonably well on the swell, but too distant and spasmodic for a photo. 20 snaps of waves were testament to the fact that, due to the sea conditions, it showed, along with wigeon and velvet scoter, for 1 second and then vanished for 4 seconds. It was drifting east at quite a rate, and when other birders arrived it appeared to have flown west to drift back again. I met a few later and they all found it. Also on the sea from the dunes here, 2 guillemot, 2+ slavonian grebes, 3+ red throated divers as well as 2 flying east, a few cormorants, various gulls, 1 arctic skua on the horizon and 3 gannets. Not bad before 9.30! Also, as I walked along the beach, a whimbrel following a curlew and 3 grey partridges.
From here, I spent a little time in the pines, but only got goldcrests.
goldcrest

goldcrest

pink footed geese.
After, the pines, I checked the fields adjacent to Lady Anne's Drive as the pink foots were coming in, but nothing else apart from wigeon and curlew.
Off to Cley for a coffee, check the board, but nothing to get excited about, so I thought that it was time for a bit of self finding. I headed off to Salthouse Heath which was virtually birdless. Jay, stonechat, dunnock and the highlight, a fly past female merlin heading for a flock of linnets. However, ruddy darter dragonfly still on the wing and a host of very tasty parasol mushrooms.
ruddy darter

parasol mushrooms

another large specimen: breakfast sorted!
From here, I wandered off to Kelling Heath, but work was being carried out, with gorse being grubbed up and some tree felling, so little chance of finding a dartford warbler. I left, having added magpie, red legged partridge and blackbird!
On to the Bishop's Hide for a quick scan over the reserve. Usual fare in increasingly poor light: avocet, black tailed godwit, teal, wigeon etc. A flyover marsh harrier put everything up.
drake pintails: always a cracking bird

descending marsh harrier

From Bishop's Hide

Marsh harrier in poor light

Marsh harrier effect: shoveler, black headed gulls, lapwings, wigeon, teal etc
As the light continued to fade, I set off for Burnham Overy Staithe. A rough legged buzzard, at the end of Holkham pines, showed briefly whilst, in the distance, a possible black brant. Not 100% sure on this, viewing from the A149, but tweets later confirmed it, 6th year lister of the day, (surf scoter, whimbrel, slavonian grebe, merlin, rough legged buzzard and black brant)
There was still time for one last stop en route home, so off to Sculthorpe Moor for a quick whizz to the Jarvis Hide. A tawny owl called and showed briefly and a marsh tit visited the feeder whilst a brambling was very unaccommodating, remaining well hidden for photos.
As shown here, a great day for bird watching, not a good day for bird photography.
Species list;
red throated diver, slavonian grebe, gannet, cormorant, little egret, grey heron, mute swan, pink footed goose, greylag goose, canada goose (10 sp) brent goose, black brant (just to get Stuart going on sub species and to see if he reads my report!!) shelduck, egyptian goose, mallard, pintail, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, teal (20 sp) tufted duck, common scoter, velvet scoter, surf scoter, marsh harrier, rough legged buzzard, common buzzard, kestrel, merlin, red legged partridge (30 sp) grey partridge, pheasant, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, avocet, golden plover, lapwing, sanderling, redshank (40 sp) black tailed godwit, curlew, whimbrel, arctic skua, black headed gull, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, guillemot, stock dove, wood pigeon (50 sp) collared dove, tawny owl, skylark, meadow pipit, wren, dunnock, robin, stonechat, redwing, blackbird (60 sp) cettis warbler, goldcrest, great tit, coal tit, blue tit, marsh tit, long tailed tit, bearded reedling, magpie, jay,( 70 sp) jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, brambling, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, (80 sp) reed bunting.

All in all, a cracking day. Next big day out: 15th Nov, with a few days birding around Rome next week. Up to Frascati, eagles and raptors in the hills above the eternal city. Could be good.

Monday, 27 October 2014

New macro for year and new micro for garden

A haul of 7 moths of 6 species this morning. Regulars were made up of 2 November moth sp, feathered thorn, yellow line quaker and Emmelina monodactyla. Also in the trap was my first Merveille du Jour of the year, always a stunningly marked autumnal moth. Suspect a few more before the really cold weather begins.
Edit: now thought that the yellow line quaker, very worn, is in fact a brick. Thanks to Ben and Graeme for their advice.
Also, of more interest, was a small micro, upside down on the perspex. Potted and immediately identified as an immigrant species Udea ferrugalis, the rusty dot pearl. A good moth for Herts.
Merveille du Jour

head on Merveille du Jour

brick, a very worn example

Suspect November moth but need to check for other 2 very similar species.

Udea ferrugalis

Udea ferrugalis showing camouflage skills

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The White Hart

After a breakfast at the local Farmers' Market I had a quick wander around the north of the parish. Not much about at all:  7 lesser black backed gulls over, 7 tufted duck on the lagoon and plenty of pheasant over the fields. No hoped for winter thrushes, but a few skylarks heading east and over 150 wood pigeon.
However, a white deer, presumably fallow, sprinted across a field some distance away, so just record shots here.
Presumed to be birds recently released for a shoot

6 of the 7 tufted duck


First white deer I have seen locally.




At the moth trap an extremely late straw dot, along with 2 red-green carpets, a feathered thorn and a common marbled carpet.
straw dot

Usual colouration for a feathered thorn

Yesterday's thorn, showing an almost lack of cross band and overall, much darker colouration.



Friday, 24 October 2014

Unusual insect

On the staircase last night, the kitten, Colin, came across a hemiptera species crawling up the wall. A large shield bug type thing that promptly sprayed something at the cat which he certainly didn't like! A quick drink and wash and he was fine, but suspect he'll think twice about investigating a western conifer seed bug again.
This is a non native species and a first for Little Hadham according to the website logging every sighting. Originally from the States it was brought over to Italy and has spread as far as Scotland now.
western conifer seed bug
At the trap, a fair selection, with 3 green brindled crescents, a satellite and a red line quaker. However, the final moth was confusing as it had some features that made me think scarce umber whilst retaining all the features of a thorn. Indeed, a very dark feathered thorn. Only my 2nd of the year. A carpet species from a few days ago has now been confirmed as a spruce carpet; a new for the year moth.
feathered thorn

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Moth round up

Mothing has, not surprisingly, tailed off recently, but still some new for year species coming to the trap. This morning a red-green carpet and a yellow line quaker were the 203rd and 204th macro species for the garden this year.
Otherwise, much the same, with November moths, barred sallows, beaded chestnuts and common marbled carpets being taken. A silver y and a Blair's shoulder knot were found on the 19th.
Still some moths that I have taken each autumn over the last few years that have not arrived yet. Most obvious is the lack of any merveille de jour and black rustic.
In all, I have now trapped 3570 moths of 326 species in the garden this year, making it the best yet. Certainly not going to get to the target of 4000 moths of 350 species.
red-green carpet

underwing of red-green carpet

beaded chestnut and yellow line quaker


A worn yellow line quaker

Sunday, 19 October 2014

North Norfolk Day

A trip to North Norfolk yesterday, Saturday 18th. The whole of the coast had been over run with excellent birds on Tuesday and Wednesday, but as the week progressed it became apparent that the majority of migrants were moving on in calm weather conditions. However, a check on the reports from Friday indicated that the Isabelline shrike was still at Stiffkey Green so, having picked Gary up at 5.00a.m. we headed there, via the new Co Op in Wells for coffee as it was still dark as we arrived. Having given a talk to the Marylebone Birdwatching Society the previous night and had a messed up journey home, meaning I got home at well gone midnight, I was a tad tired after less than 4 hours sleep. Coffee was going to feature heavily.
Parking by the campsite and walking along the path in first light, we were aware of the amount of birders present. In all, well in excess of 40 were all around the whirlygig roundabout (gibbet roundabout as it used to be called.) It was also apparent, after a very short while, that the bird was no longer present at the spot it had been for a few days so, after 40 minutes of wasting time, we headed back to the car and off for our next target, grey phalarope at Cley. Over the marshes at Stiffkey plenty of brents, curlews, little egrets but no raptors.
At Cley we parked at the beach and walked to the Eye Pool, where, after a few minutes, the phalarope emerged from the vegetation. Good views of a bird not often seen and a lifer for Gary. The bird showed orange tinges on the neck, giving the overall impression of a 1st year bird. We took far too many photos and then spent time sea watching. Heading west, 6 long tailed duck, 2 grey plovers, and 5 gadwall east + usual assortment of Norfolkian gulls.
By now it was getting on for 10a.m. so off to NWT Visitors' Centre for a coffee and to formulate a plan for the rest of the day.
grey phalarope



Brent geese in the Eye Field

As we had our coffee a snow bunting was reported from the beach. We decided to check the central hides, too, as a little stint had been reported on Simmonds Scrape, but no sign when we were there. However, good views of a flyby kingfisher and 4 bearded tits, plus golden plovers, a ruff and wildfowl. Then, back to the beach. We wandered east past the old pill box and, along with several wheatear, an immaculate adult male snow bunting in winter plumage. A very confiding individual meant that some pleasing photos could be taken, whilst ensuring that the bird was not disturbed from eating. At about this time the grey phalarope, which had by now attracted a large crowd headed out to sea. Glad we saw it when we did.
lapwing from the boardwalk

female stonechat

Black tailed godwit

ruff

wheatear on the beach

snow bunting



Having, once again, taken too many bunting snaps we returned to the car and enjoyed some pork pie and baps prepared by Gary, consisting of what remnants he found lurking at the back of his fridge. Very welcome they were, too.
Next stop, Wells Woods and a search for small migrants. Nothing specific had been reported but with such a large area to cover there was the chance of yellow broweds and/or pallas's warbler. We checked The Dell, drinking pool and walked halfway to Lady Anne's Drive. Good numbers of crests called but it was too windy for them to show and all the birders we met had negative news so we headed back to the car and along to Holkham Pines. We had added to our list with jay, great spotted woodpecker, redwing etc.
I remortgaged the house to pay the car park fee in Lady Anne's Drive and we headed west. Soon we came across birders standing around who told us a pallas's  warbler had been seen in amongst a tit flock. After a short while, a flock of coal tits and long tailed tits could be heard so we headed further into the woods. Light was not good and the birds were constantly mobile but we got glimpses of both firecrest and yellow browed. Good birds but, again, after a short wait, we decided that we would rather be seeing birds than standing around in the optimistic hope that the pallas's would show. We both had a party to attend in the evening so we needed to be back home by 6 and it was now 2.30 so off to Holme. En route, near Burnham Overy Staithe we saw a bunch of birders scanning the fields. We stopped and joined them. A great white egret had been seen but was out of sight at that moment. 2 red kites lazed their way towards Holkham Pines, another day lister.
Another coffee in the new, smart cafe before a brief saunter around the pines. Again, tits and goldcrests along with a party of goldfinches. By now it was time to head home so we packed our gear in the boot and drove along the track from the HQ. A blackbird type bird was on the wires near the lane. Our binoculars were in the boot!! I reversed back and Gary leant out of the car to see a bird with white and silvery sheen fly off. We parked and wandered around the car park near the golf course but no further sign of what may have been a ring ouzel. Only thing I got on it was that it was markedly slimmer than most blackbirds, but as often the case, the one that got away. No reports from Holme have indicated a ring ouzel is or was present and there were enough birders about to have noticed it. Shame, as this, along with the phalarope, could have been a lifer for Gary.
jay

View from Holme Pines
All in all, a super day and we managed a 6pm return. 2 year listers for me: grey phalarope and snow bunting in a 74 species list. Considering we saw only a handful of waders and missed out Titchwell, a good total.
Species;
little grebe, cormorant, little egret,mute swan, pink footed goose, greylag goose, brent goose, shelduck, mallard, gadwall, (10 sp) shoveler, wigeon, teal, tufted duck, long tailed duck, red kite, marsh harrier, kestrel, red legged partridge (heard) pheasant, (20 sp) moorhen, coot, avocet, grey plover, golden plover, lapwing, redshank, black tailed godwit, grey phalarope, ruff, (30 sp) curlew, black headed gull, common gull, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, great black backed gull, kittiwake, wood pigeon, collared dove, kingfisher (40 sp) great spotted woodpecker, skylark, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, wheatear, stonechat, redwing (50 sp) mistle thrush, blackbird, cetti's warbler (heard) chiffchaff (heard), yellow browed warbler, goldcrest, firecrest, great tit, coal tit, blue tit (60 sp) long tailed tit, bearded reedling, magpie, jay, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch (70 sp) linnet, goldfinch,  greenfinch, snow bunting (74 species)

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