Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Spellbrook and Thorley Wash HMWT Reserve

A couple of hour's wander around this lovely, quiet reserve. At the lockgates at Spellbrook a willow warbler was calling and from the towpath, some 400 yards north of the locks a lesser spotted woodpecker was first heard and then very briefly glimpsed in and through thick vegetation. A bird that is recorded from this area every year or so, but suspected to be much more of a resident. Breeding attempts were made by a male in 2014, but no female was every noted and the excavated hole was abandoned.
A garden warbler and several chiffchaffs also called from the "swamp" before I crossed the red brick bridge and on to the reserve. A water vole dropped into a ditch, followed by another near the feeders. 8 small tortoiseshell butterflies in total as well as a pair of orange tips.
A distant pair of whitethroats were new for the year, as were sedge warblers: 1 on the opposite bank from the water voles and one in Wallbury.
3 year listers (LSW, whitethroat and sedge warbler) and a good list of birds made this a most successful wander whilst the car was cleaned nearby.
small tortoiseshell

long tailed tit

neat drake mallard

1st of the year: distant whitethroat

common buzzard overhead

same bird

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Unusual bug.

Emptying the moth trap after yet another cold night meant I was non too optimistic. No moths, as expected, but a small (6mm) colourful bug that I identified as Raglius alboacuminatus and this later confirmed by County Recorder, Joe Gray. A rarish bug for the county and certainly a first for me and parish records.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Final day photos

The last morning and time to wander the wetlands again. Wasn't expecting anything new, just good to be there, but a flyover woodchat shrike was a new trip lister. Few more photos and I was off for the airport. Arrived early so had a wander around and amazingly, 5 crag martins gliding under arches on the airport concrete. I tried in vain to get a shot that clinched it, showing white windows on the tail, but eventually managed. After this, 2 came to roost within a few metres of where I was, so shot off loads in good light. What a finish! In all 59 species and some birds that I won't be seeing in the UK this year, so all's good.
little stint

distant little stint under a black winged stilt

dark wings and dark tail with hint of white window clinches the crag martin



airport architecture


What a bird to finish the trip with and so obliging for a photo.

Day 3: Aveiro saltpans all day

Another reasonably early start, with black redstarts calling outside the room and yellow legged gulls making sure everyone was awake. Coffee and pastry and I was off. The saltpans can be confusing as you can follow a "path" along a mud pile between two muddy lagoons only to find it comes to another channel and you have to retrace your steps.
Different birds had arrived and I note that I omitted ruff from my trip list, making 59 species for the 3 days; 2 were noted from the road. Yellow wagtail, sub species iberiae were new to the list, with several seen and more heard with their plaintive call. Whimbrel were in good numbers and a curlew called. A gull billed tern evaded its photo whilst shelduck were too far away, as was a distant white stork. After 4 hours I headed back to town for a beer break before crossing the canal further north and wandering more lagoons. Much the same, with good numbers of most birds including at least 7 black kites before I finished the day with another pastry and beer before another good meal and wine in the evening.
As I headed back to town in the late afternoon, the black redstart shown below seemed to be most keen to have some photos taken. At one point running over my boots to chase its food, a ladybird.
Black redstart

Another black redstart sub species aterrimus, the default species for Iberia.

yet another black kite

yet another common sandpiper

the humble greenfinch, only one seen, so a trip rarity!

ruff

distant whimbrel

very distant and high white stork

yellow legged gull juvenile

yellow wagtail sub species iberiae

Day 2: Sao Jacinto Nature Reserve

A bus and then ferry over to Sao Jacinto, whilst not an island, a long road trip to arrive at the reserve from Aveiro. Weather was hugely changeable and I got soaked on 2 occasions, before being dried out with 20C temperatures and clear blue skies.
The reserve is a superb, natural habitat with plenty of bird life. However, a bit like rain forest birding as the trees and other vegetation are tightly packed and so spotting the birds is, at the best, tricky. Many were identified by song only, with 19 new species added to the trip list, the last being a crested lark at the quayside where I waited for the ferry to return to the town. Although there was a timetable, the ferry appeared to go when it felt like it and after an hour and half of waiting, I boarded and the ferry left immediately, regardless of the timetable!
The highlight was a nightjar species that I flushed from a tree right next to me. Their camouflage is amazing and it just flew off from about 2 metres away. Either nightjar or red necked nightjar, both are found in Portugal.It showed white patches on wings and tail, but both species have these. However, more likely, given habitat, to be red necked, but just another one that got away.
Black Kite

Another black kite

Boardwalk . The most open part of the reserve, with the Atlantic over the other side.

wall brown butterfly

Presumed emperor dragonfly or similar.

crested lark at Sao Jacinto ferry terminal

The entrance

yet to be identified

Green hairstreak: a 1st for me anywhere.

Iberian water frog. Note yellow line down the spine. Diagnostic feature.

white wagtail

Day 1 Aviero saltpan photos

Upon arriving in Aveiro, I dropped off the rucksack at the hotel and was off to the local saltpans and fishing pools. Greeted with plenty of waders, mainly dunlin, kentish plovers, ringed plovers and black winged stilts.
By Thursday morning the numbers of most migratory waders, not the stilts, had decreased and the ringed plovers had disappeared. A few little stints were still about and an occasional curlew sandpiper.
Overhead, 1 black kite on the Monday, at least 7 by Thursday. The group of 8 black tailed godwits were very mobile but were still present on Thursday. Not much sign of them moulting into summer plumage so maybe non breeding 1st year birds that will hang around here all summer, or possibly move northwards as far as the UK.
Please note: most of these shown here are 2nds as I keep the best for talks and also, Portuguese Tourist Board has requested some for their brochure and website which highlights the fantastic nature to be found throughout Portugal. It really is a great place to bird watch for those who just enjoy wandering about and seeing birds, regardless of their rarity. For me, huge flocks of dunlins, with a black kite overhead and black winged stilts in the background, accompanied by the sounds of calling little tern and fan tailed warblers is magical.

Black tailed godwit

2 suspected pairs of black winged stilt. Presumed males on mud, females wading

black winged stilt flyby

black winged stilt, probable female

common sandpiper

dunlin (foreground) and kentish plover

Just a few of the 100's of dunlin present on Monday

summer plumaged dunlin

fan tailed warbler

distant fan tailed warbler

Kentish plover

fishing little tern

ringed plover and dunlin

More dunlin

Final Day: Aveiro

Up early to make the most of the time left. Train from the station to Porto at 12.19 so a few hours to have another wander around the splendid saltpans and mud flats west of the town centre. Usual fare, still pleasing to see. Dunlin numbers had decreased considerably and the black winged stilts appeared to have the place to themselves, apart from the occasional curlew sandpiper and little stint.
A walk around the back of some old buildings gave up the expected black redstarts and fan tailed warblers before a bird shot past overhead, briefly alighting on the wires: a woodchat shrike, bird species 57. No photos and a search for it for half an hour failed to relocate it. A bird I had expected to find.
Finally, back to the hotel to pick up rucksack and off to the airport. I arrived with time to spare so a wander around the airport and a binocular search to the hills in the distance. A few raptors remained unidentified but several crag martins flew by. This gave me the challenge: photograph these quick moving birds in flight to get the white windows on the tail. I set up in a corner of the pavement and continued to get blurred images of airport buildings etc. After 45 minutes, however, I had a couple that although not of any value to publish did show the windows. At this point 2 birds landed on the concrete right next to me and posed for some really pleasing photos. A great finish to the trip.
Black redstart
Although 58 species is not a great list, basically one habitat in late April was not going to give up too much else, with most of the waders having moved north and maybe some of the later summer migrants not arrived. However, for a first trip, I was pleased with the 3 days.

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