Saturday, 29 November 2014

Grey Day at Amwell

A midday visit to Amwell Reserve seemed like a good idea but the light quality was very poor.
From the vantage point, 3 goldeneye could be viewed on the opposite side of Great Hardmead Lake along with wigeon, shoveler, teal, mallard and gadwall. Good numbers of great crested grebe and lapwings along with a flyby snipe and kingfisher. 2 marsh tits were seen along the path to Hollycross Lake but no siskins and redpolls that I had hoped to photograph.
lapwings

mute swan overhead.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Good bird for the parish

Had a couple of hours spare midday yesterday, so off for a wander around Hadham Hall. A crow scaring gas gun firing meant nothing on the lagoon, but overhead, 2 ravens. Only the 2nd time I have seen ravens within the parish, the 1st being in April of this year, so a really good bird to see.
Back at the Hall, 10 siskins flew over and a tested my new camera lens in manual focus mode on a few greenfinches at the top of a tree. Had mixed results, to say the least!
Raven dwarfing a chasing jackdaw


greenfinch in manual mode. Not too bad.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Latest additions to year list

With December just around the corner, time to update the year list with latest additions from locally seen birds, a Norfolk trip and 2 days in Kent at Dungeness, Reculver and Chilham near Canterbury.

209 shore lark (Reculver, Kent)
210 whooper swan (Titchwell, Norfolk)
211 razorbill (West Runton, Norfolk)
212 black redstart (Sheringham, Norfolk)
213 great grey shrike (Chilham, Kent)
214 barnacle goose (Scotney Pits, Kent)
215 yellow legged gull (Dungeness, Kent)
216 siskin (Widford, Herts)
217 water pipit (Titchwell, Norfolk)
218 woodcock (Westland Green, Herts)
219 caspian gull (Amwell)
220 Goosander (Ashley Lake, Lea Valley, Herts)

With a few more trips planned over the next 2 weeks I would be happy with a year list of in excess of 225.
Archive photo: white stork over Tavira, The Algarve.

Filming on the River Ash

Today, I spent a few hours in and around the River Ash in Widford, just north of Ware. We were being filmed for the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, showing how we monitor the quality of the river by catching and counting certain invertebrates such as caddis fly larva, mayfly larva and freshwater shrimps.
After netting for 3 minutes we tipped the net contents into  a tray and sorted out each species by placing them in a compartment of a tray. We found plenty of shrimps, several caddis fly larvae and a good selection of mayfly larva. Also, but not in our count, several minnows and bullhead fish. All showing a good water quality of this chalk stream.
We were in a great habitat, siskins in the alders were a first for me this winter, along with plenty of corvids, a solitary little egret and great and blue tits. Looks a superb habitat for barn owls and there was an A frame nesting box present to attract this species. All in all, a most enjoyable 2 hours.
Janine and I identifying the invertebrates with Nigel filming and Jack on sound



Categorising the catch


The samples are placed into compartments so it's easier to count them.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Day in Kent

I was booked to offer a presentation on The birds of The Algarve and Baixo Alentejo regions of Portugal for Gravesend RSPB group, so off before 5.15a.m. for a morning around Dungeness. Over the bridge whilst it's still free is always a bonus and on the beach at Dunge for first light. Nothing, apart from a yellow legged gull near Prospect Cottage, a little gull towards the patch and a few gannets. Off to the ARC pit which was full of choppy water with one great white egret showing distantly.
Dungeness sunrise looking south east


Barnacle geese at Scotney Pits

Tufties in choppy water at The ARC pit
So little about, so I headed to the RSPB reserve, which had the VC closed, so no coffee. However, in the car park, as I wandered towards Dennis's hide, 3 tree sparrows. From the hide, 6 great white egrets on the far bank, close to the Long Pits.
3 of the 6 great white egrets

Joined by a fly in little egret

Posy tree sparrow, as below

Following my coffee disappointment, I headed off to Chilam near Canterbury. Within a minute of parking in the parish hall car park I noted a great grey shrike upon wires before it flew to various trees and posts around the small humped back bridge in Branch Lane. A good bird. In hawthorns were blackbirds, fieldfares and a solitary redwing whilst in the sedge in the field opposite the car park, a mistle thrush. A kestrel flew over and a grey wagtail moved on from near the bridge as I tried for a decent photo of the shrike. The light was poor, so I messed around with camera settings as I used my new lens for the first time. All tricky, but relatively pleased with these results.
Great grey shrike on a grey day!

Just got lucky with this shot in really poor light



hungry blackbird
All in all, a right pleasant morning and, so off to Gravesend for the presentation and a wonderfully receptive audience before a drive home that saw me back in the village by 5.30. A lovely day and now preparing for a day filming for Herts and Middlesex WT on the River Ash tomorrow morning, catching and identifying invertebrates. Should be a great time. Where are my waders?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

210th macro for the garden 2014

A quick trip out to local woods last night seemed like a good idea as it was calm and 12C. However, after an hour with the headtorch and net I had one moth, a mottled umber, along with views of a tawny owl and a fox. Back home, the Skinner trap was on and had attracted a December moth, a new moth for the year.
As the evening wore on I took 2 more mottled umbers, taking my annual total for moths in the garden to a respectable 3621, with 210 macro species and 132 micro species in total this year.
mottled umber

December moth
Only a few species I would anticipate on taking in the remaining 5 weeks of the year; winter moth and sprawler. Anything else would be a most welcome bonus. A few Palpita vitrealis about at present, mainly on the south coast, but one taken in nearby Bishop's Stortford last night, so worth keeping the trap running.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Another Thorley Wash Visit

As I was having Wendy's car cleaned at Spellbrook, I took the opportunity to spend a few hours again wandering along the River Stort to Thorley Wash Herts and Middlesex Reserve.
All very quiet on the bird front, with 2 kingfishers seen flying upriver, a skein of 18 mute swans over as well as a common buzzard and a cormorant. Very few birds actually within the boundaries of the reserve, long tailed, blue and great tits, wrens and robins and a relatively large count of 21 mallards flushed from the sedge.
great tit

strange shot of long tailed tit

wren

dunnock

flyby drake mallard



teasels
On the River Stort Navigation, 3 little grebe, more mallard and several moorhens. A nuthatch called from Wallbury and 2 great spotted woodpeckers flew over as a green woodpecker was observed in a tree.
I spent time scanning the large oaks where lesser spotted woodpecker used to overwinter between 2005 - 2007 but no sign, just good numbers of long tailed tits.
moorhen

little grebe



I also spent time scanning the whole area from the red bridge but no stonechat, reed bunting or snipe were noted. Need a cold snap to bring these, and perhaps a water rail into the area.

River Stort Navigation, looking north

reflections

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Norfolk: Grey but good.

Another early pick up in Bishop's Stortford before setting off to North Norfolk. Gary and I had to stop at a petrol station near Ely as I was being interviewed by BBC 3 Counties radio about Little Hadham. Once this was completed we continued, refreshed by our first coffee of the day.
Our first destination was Titchwell Reserve as some good birds had been reported on the sea. We arrived in grey light, too poor for photography but after searching the water we found several red throated divers and a great northern diver (a lifer for Gary.)  A most confiding black headed gull joined us at the broken pill box. Regular waders were on the beach, with good numbers of grey plover, several spotted redshank and sanderling. Back on to the Reserve, a fine drake pintail was found, still in poor light. A single whooper swan flew over the reserve, my first year lister of the day.

flyby oystercatcher

drake pintail

From the parrinder hide, huge numbers of lapwing, golden plover and teal. A snipe was observed along with godwits, dunlin and redshank. As we trooped back to the VC a chiffchaff was seen in the reeds, associating with blue and great tits. No brambling or siskin so off round to Thornham Harbour where Twite had been reported.
drake teal

snipe

snipe

 As soon as we were out of the car we heard several overhead and after a few minutes, watched 10 in a nearby tree. As can be seen here, the light remained appalling. Twite were lifer number 2 for Gary
silhouettes of twite
We now decided a quick trip to Holkham Gap to find the surf scoter I saw a few weeks ago. However, we stopped at Burnham Overy Staithe and got distant views of the long staying rough legged buzzard, lifer number 3 for Gary! Here, we heard of a black redstart at Sheringham and that the surf scoter was now at the west end of Holkham Pines. This would involve a 6 mile walk which time didn't permit, so off we set for Sheringham.
 After about a 15 minute wander around by the boating lake we both saw a bird hovering by window sills and Gary was on to my 2nd year lister of the day. This bird spent much time moving about around the blocks of flats and showed on the roof. Disappointingly, the light had not improved.
black redstart, probably 1st year bird

We then thought we would complete our Norfolk Day with, first, a sea watch at West Runton and then, a trip to see the rough legged buzzard and short eared owl just 10 minutes from home near Braughing.
At West Runton several more red throated divers, plenty of gulls and 2 razorbills. The latter being year lister number 3 for me.
Another coffee, a drive home and we were in Braughing before last light. Distant views of the RLB but the SEO didn't show after three quarters of an hour and any slim chance of getting even a record shot had gone with the fading light, so off home.
A good 79 species recorded in the day, 3 lifers for Gary and 3 year listers taking my total to a reasonable 212. This was my total for 2013 and with several trips (Kent, Norfolk) still to come, I suspect I shall beat this total.

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