Tuesday 29 September 2015

A new moth for Herts, a new one for me and others

Last Wednesday I took a moth with which I was not familiar, a well marked large micro. Investigations led me to believe it was Dioryctria sylvestrella but this would have been a county first record. Therefore, confirmation required, so off to Graeme J Smith who thought the same. As it was a female, gen det would prove inconclusive. We agreed that further confirmation was required, so off to County Recorder, Colin W Plant who today confirmed it to be D. sylvestrella. A most pleasing record and indeed, a county first.
Thanks to both Graeme and Colin for their endeavours to help with this identification. Well worth the effort
Dioryctria sylvestrella: a first for Hertfordshire
Following on, this morning a strange macro which I, under electric light, thought to be a ridiculously late Light Arches. This would have been the latest for Herts by 6 weeks. However, in better light it transpired that it was a new for my parish records, a pale pinion. My 301st macro for the parish since 2011 and 196th macro for the year.
Only other addition to the list over the last few days has been an expected beaded chestnut. Otherwise, now becoming quieter at the garden trap, averaging just 9 moths per night at present.
Beaded chestnut

Pale pinion (301st macro for parish records.

Friday 25 September 2015

More year listers

Just the one new year lister from last night; black rustic. This stunning moth is not a common visitor to the garden trap, with 3 records from 2012 and none since until last night. Numbers, due to clear/cold sky were seriously down on the previous night, with just 18 moths of 9 species: 8 setaceous hebrew character, 2 square spot rustics, 2 large yellow underwing and singles of common wainscot, lesser yellow underwing, lunar underwing, Acleris variegana, Vine's rustic and the black rustic, shown below.
poor camouflage

virtually disappears.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Good moth morning

After a sunny day yesterday (22.09.15) and a relatively warm night, I was optimistic for a good catch this morning. I arrived at the garden trap in pouring rain, but was not disappointed. A haul of 44 moths of 11 species. Numbers supplied by square spot rustic (12), setaceous hebrew character (11,) and 5 each of lesser yellow underwing and latticed heath, the latter good, late records. However, a dark coloured (suspected) common marbled carpet was of interest, as was a Dioryctria sp, which could possibly be D. sylvestrella. If so, a 1st for Herts but dissection needed to confirm, so presently awaiting this and with Graeme. Should hear later today.
Yesterday a new for year moth in the shape of Udea ferrugalis (rusty dot pearl) takes the total for the year to 372 species. Still a few to record.
On the outside of the trap last night, a Vespa crabro (hornet) that remained throughout the night.
Udea ferrugalis


close up of the hornet.

Dioryctria sp yet to be identified

a dark, suspected, common marbled carpet.

Monday 21 September 2015

Weekend moth round up

Several new moths found at the trap over the last few days. A white point was a new for parish records on the 18th, whilst a barred sallow was new for the year this morning. This takes the total to 193 macros for the year along with 177 micros. In total, I have now recorded 5475 moths this year, so may just get to 6000 if I have a few good night's in the next couple of weeks.
barred sallow

white point

Friday 18 September 2015

300th macro for my Little Hadham records

This morning was, as expected, better than average at the moth trap. A haul of 41 moths of 12 species included all the regulars: 10 setaceous hebrew characters, 11 square spot rustics, selection of lesser, large and broad bordered yellow underwing. However, 2 moths were unusual: a large wainscot that transpired to be my 300th macro record for the village, a Webb's wainscot and an interesting noctuid that looked like a pale mottled willow but was covered on both upper and underwing with orange dots. These, when the moth was potted, appeared to fall off and so I wondered if it was perhaps pollen. An inquiry to the county recorder gave me the answer: mites known as Cheletomorpha lepidopterorum. I was sent an interesting paper from the the Entomologist's Rec, J Var 127 (2015) written by Anne S Baker from the Dept.of Life Sciences, NHM and Roy Leverton from Banffshire, Scotland. I have now forwarded a photo to both of them, as shown below.
Apparently, not many records of this mite, which has been known for over 200 years, having first been noted in 1794 and pale mottled willow is the most common moth to be associated with infestations: 8 records, stretching from 1865 to present day. These records come from Scotland, Chester, Cheadle, County Durham, Penrith, Amsterdam, Tring (Herts 1970) and Ordiquhill, Scotland.
The motes also associate with Lesser yellow underwing, dark arches, smoky wainscot, Lempke's gold spot, dotted clay and large yellow underwing.
The mites are found in hay bales and old barns and it may well be that this is a favoured roost for pale mottled willow, hence their ability to become infested more than any other species.
All in all, an exciting morning after many days of the same moths.
Totals for 2015 now up to 191 macros and 177 micros; 368 species. Pushing it to get another 32 species by the end of December, but already my best year so far.
Webb's wainscot (I hope!!) If so: 300th macro for the parish

Pale mottled willow with mites.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Moth Round Up

Many regular moths most mornings at present, with large yellow underwing, lesser yellow underwing, square spot rustic and setaceous hebrew character often into double figures. 18 square spot rustics on the 12th was a recent high mark.
However, several less regular visitors over the last few days, with a frosted orange being macro number 188 for the year. Latticed heath in small numbers and this morning, a 2nd generation willow beauty and small dusty wave as well as the migrant Plutella xylostella (diamond back moth.) Other micros have been a few Acleris variegana and Pleuropyta ruralis.
frosted orange

Acleris variegana
small dusty wave

Plutella xylostella

Tuesday 15 September 2015

North Norfolk Day.

Off to North Norfolk again, this time due to predicted weather forecast, ie south easterlies/easterlies Saturday night with some rain. Perfect. Left home after sorting out the moth trap and picked up Gary at his home in Egmere at 8.30 and off to Kelling water meadows. Jumper, trousers, with water proofs in the car boot. Brilliant, 20C, not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of air!
The water meadows, still full of water gave views of a curlew, 2 whinchat, plenty of linnets and goldfinches with a pair of bullfinches over. As we walked towards the pill box on the shingle a caspian gull, 1st year, flew past us, going east as 2 egyptian geese took flight.
Stonechats and reed buntings abounded as we returned to the car, having not connected with the redstart we were told upon arrival was showing near the pine tree.
stonechat at Kelling

mute swan: East Bank, Cley

From here, Gramborough Hill, but the lack of migrants at Kelling and the weather (getting hotter so off with my jumper and Gary's fleece) made us a little wise. Upon parking the car, we scanned the hill, noting several birders, plus a couple returning to the Beach Road. We asked what was about and nothing worthwhile was the reply, so off to Cley East Bank. Here, bearded tit showed well but not too much else. A solitary sandwich tern from the beach and regular waders on Arnold's. Time for a coffee. From the window of the VC  a hobby flew over, putting everything up. We headed for the hides where green sandpiper and snipe were noted whilst from Daukes Hide; spotted redshank, common sandpiper and green shank could be viewed, albeit at a distance towards Bishop's Hide. A wander back to the carpark and off to Burnham Overy track, via Blakeney shop for sustenance.
At BOS we wandered, in colder conditions, some way to the coastal footpath before turning back. Great tit and robin was about all we got although the amount of fruit for warblers and finches was incredible: elderberry, hawthorn, rose hip, honeysuckle berries etc. There is bound to be an excellent day along this track in the next 3 weeks, but Sunday was not it. Back to the car and off to Choseley.
A report of an osprey had come out at 9.30 am so there was a small chance it was still present. We arrived at the drying barns to find 3 car loads of birders sitting in cars with bins. Gary and I got out to scan around and in the far distance, looking east beyond Chalkpit Lane was a bird of prey in a dead tree. It appeared to have light shading on neck and head and looked thin in the neck. Back to the car for the scope. Indeed, an osprey, 1st year lister of the day. We then, in convoy, drove round to Chalkpit Lane for better views, but one of the followers managed to slam the car door and off the bird flew before Gary and I got a chance of even a record shot. Great bird to see and my first osprey for a few years. Very pleased with that.
bearded tit, Cley East Bank

Green sandpiper: Simmonds Scrape: Cley

Snipe; avocet hide: Cley

Gadwall; avocet hide, Cley

same snipe

So, Titchwell which was packed but offered up a chance of a few good birds. We needed to be at Holme before 5 as I had to head home and Gary's wife works there, so I could drop him off and he'd get a lift home.
A bittern, twice, low over the reeds was my 2nd year lister whilst 2 little stints in amongst dunlin were pleasing to see. We had time to check the Freshmarsh having wandered around the autumn trail in search of pied flycatchers and turtle dove, to no avail. Back to the car and Holme.
Upon arrival at the gate we were directed, immediately, to a turtle dove upon the roof of the nearest house. A good find and potential photo opportunities. We were also informed of the whereabouts of 2 redstarts and upon arriving at the konik pony field we found warden Gary. Here, the bird was flushed by a pony before Gary got on to it again, too quick for a photo but good flight views including a flash of red. 3rd year lister and an end to a cracking 88 species day. Traffic home was horrendous, taking over 3 hours to cover the 100 miles, but nevertheless, worth it. Work dictates that it maybe a while before I have another Norfolk day, a chance at the weekend if the weather is right. However, not going to pay too much attention to forecasts, just ring Gary early in the morning!!
common darter: meadow trail, Titchwell

2 dunlin and little stint: Freshmarsh, Titchwell

turtle dove: Holme

same bird

Species list;
little grebe (heard), cormorant, bittern, little egret, grey heron. mute swan, greylag goose, shelduck, egyptian goose, mallard, gadwall, pintail, shoveler, wigeon, teal, red crested pochard, pochard, tufted duck, marsh harrier, common buzzard, kestrel, hobby, osprey, red legged partridge, pheasant, water rail (h) moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, avocet, ringed plover, golden plover, lapwing, dunlin, little stint, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, redshank, greenshank, spotted redshank, black tailed godwit, curlew, snipe, ruff, black headed gull, herring gull, common gull, caspian gull, lesser black backed gull, sandwich tern, stock dove, wood pigeon, collared dove, turtle dove, swallow, house martin, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, redstart, wheatear, whinchat, stonechat, blackbird, blackcap, whitethroat, cetti's warbler (h) chiffchaff (h) goldcrest (h), great tit, coal tit, blue tit, bearded tit, magpie, jay, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch, bullfinch, linnet, reed bunting, yellowhammer

Monday 14 September 2015

Millennium Wood mothing

A hastily planned meet at Millennium Wood, Bury Green on Saturday evening with Graeme and Steve. Graeme had made up a litre of sugaring solution which was daubed on tree trunks, giving a Victorian flavour to the evening as well as running some black lights and sheets and head torches and nets. As anticipated, more was found roosting than was attracted to lights, with red green carpet being my 187th macro for the year within the parish, whilst Epinota nisella, Paraswammerdamia albicpaitlla and Acleris emargana were new for parish micro records. Not too much else of note, with, as expected, square spot rustic topping the list with 15 specimens.
A closed wing speckled wood was good to observe, not often you get a view of the underwing. These take the annual totals to 187 macros and 177 micros, total: 364 species for 2015. Still a long way to go to get 400 moths species in the parish in a single year.
red green carpet

angle shades

latticed heath

Thursday 10 September 2015

Town to Home wander

Having had a quick coffee, I set off home along footpaths to Bury Green, Green Street and down the hill into Little Hadham. Undoubted highlight was first hearing and then watching 2 hobbies, a juvenile and adult, I suspect. These roosted on pylons near Stocking Wood, Bury Green and were right at the top, hence poor quality photos. To begin with all I could see was the tops of 2 heads, but after 15 minutes they moved, one flying off to secure identification. Eventually they were both in the air, chasing each other and being most vociferous.
Other birds of prey were common buzzard, 2 kestrel and a sparrow hawk. Green woodpeckers (2) bullfinch, long tailed tits and at least 6 chiffchaffs made the day list along with regular sightings like great and blue tits.
Heavily cropped record shot of juvenile hobby (hobby 1)

Uncropped to show distance. Not something that could be improved!

Hobby 1

Being watched! (hobby 2)

Hobby 1

Hobby 2

Wednesday 9 September 2015

5000th moth record for the year

A copper underwing was both my 186th macro of the year and 5000th moth record for the year. Good moth weather last night meant a haul of 83 moths of 23 species, with 2nd or 3rd generation garden carpet, green carpet and light emerald as well as 20 square spot rustic, 10 large yellow underwing and 8 each of lesser yellow underwing and setaceous hebrew character.
Only 3 micros: Catoptria falsella,  Pandemis corylana and Acleris variegana but pleased with such a number for a September evening. Consequently, hoping the weather will hold and tonight planning a netting session in Millennium Wood as from 8.00pm. Be interesting to see what is on the wing and feeding on the abundant fruit in the wood.
Running total for the year is now 186 macros and 174 micro species, total of 360 moth species for 2015. Another 20 or so still possible but don't think I'll reach 400 for the year.
Catoptria falsella

copper underwing

garden carpet

centre barred sallow

Sunday 6 September 2015

Few Days in The Camargue: 01.09.15 - 05.09.15

Day 1:
Tuesday morning found me arising at the unearthly hour of 3a.m., ready for the drive to Luton airport for a 6.20 flight to Nimes. All went well, arriving in Nimes at 9.20 local time where I caught the airport bus to the city centre. From here, time for a coffee and beer before the 11.20 bus to Arles some 40 minutes away. As luck would have it, I got straight on to the Saintes Maries de la Mer bus at Arles and was in the capital of The Camargue by 12.30. Once checked into my hotel room, changed into clothes more appropriate to 30C, I was off for the first of many wanders. This was my 6th Camargue visit in 10 years, a place I always thoroughly enjoy being in for birds, animals, insects, food, wine and scenery.
The afternoon saw me wandering along the road out of Saintes Maries in a north easterly direction to Cacherel and Pioch Badet. Either side of the road are lagoons and mudflats. However, heavy rain early on the Tuesday had filled these. There was more water than I wanted to see, but this meant gulls and terns rather than waders were to be seen. Within 400 yards of leaving the town: greater flamingo, gull billed, whiskered, sandwich and common tern, black headed gull, hobby, house sparrow and starling had been registered. Overhead, high, several unidentifiable raptors, probably black kites. A side track on to mud gave views of summer plumaged dunlin, several curlew sandpipers, plenty of avocet and little ringed plovers. In the tamarisk trees as I approached Cacherel, some 4km from town, melodious warblers and plenty of sardinian and fan tailed warblers. Little egrets and grey herons everywhere with cattle egrets in with the horse and bull  fields. A quick check around the cattle gave views of yellow wagtails, too.
I wandered on up the road, taking time to check fields and the huge expanse of sky adding more common birds as I went. One aim was to find the correct settings for the camera as, with a bright sun and clear blue sky, over exposure was a regular problem. Certainly gulls, terns and egrets were tricky as their white plumage reflected so much light. A few practice shots here to start off with. Photos shown here are my seconds as I keep the "best" ones for my talks as some of the groups I give presentations to advertise this site and it wouldn't be fair for people to turn up for a talk already having seen many of the photos.
greater flamingoes from the road from Saintes Maries de la Mer. Heat haze an issue.

Scarlet darter: seen everywhere in their 1000's!

Pony treks: regular activity

Little egret

little tern
grey heron

house sparrow.
All these shots were taken trying to accommodate different light and shades of the birds as well as having the camera fast enough to freeze any flight shots. Not too successful with the little tern and better with the egret.
I headed back to town and, after a doze, went out for an evening meal and a few cognacs with a pleasant Irish couple I met in the restaurant. It had been a long day and the following day promised to be equally tiring, if not quite so long.
Day 2:
A change of plan as the weather looked like it could turn damp and I didn't want to be caught out, miles from cover if a thunder storm broke. I got caught in one of these back in 2007 and it nearly wrecked my camera. So, off for a walk along Le Digue which follows the beaches of the town, past a large campsite and out on to endless mudflats and salt marsh. Unfortunately, after about 3 miles of good birding, the mosquitoes were becoming unbearable and were finding places that I hadn't sprayed with repellent. I was standing next to lots of brackish water, so what did I expect! By now I had registered crested lark, more waders including a party of 150 avocet, 250 dunlin and curlew sandpipers as well as more of what I had observed yesterday. It became very overcast with a few raindrops, but nothing more. It was clear that most of the summer breeding birds such as bee eater and hoopoe had already moved south, but still plenty to see. A red kite lazed overhead and in the distance, slender billed gulls could be picked out amongst many black headed gulls by there apparently darker bill and longer neck when feeding. An elegant gull, but too far for a worthwhile shot. Huge flock of starlings were checked for anything else, but nothing as little egrets constantly called and argued. Eventually, the mosquitoes got the better of me, so back I went, noting several common sandpipers and a turnstone on the beach with 2 ringed plover. Back at my room, I applied a huge amount of Jungle Formula and headed off to get the 11.05 bus to Pont du Gau and the Parc Ornithologique, a bus ride of 15 minutes.
I first checked the many lagoons along the side of the road and, as usual, a few remaining black winged stilts and wood sandpipers before I paid to get into the parc. This is a good spot and, once beyond the caged birds found injured in the area and rehabilitated here, mainly raptors, you enter a 4 mile route around a scrape with many hides and viewing screens. At first, it looked deserted, but after a while, birds became apparent.
white stork study

yellow legged gull

grey heron wading at the Parc Ornithologique


cattle egret

Last flamingo photo!! Perhaps!

cattle egret with skulking night heron

Camargue horses are everywhere

white stork and roosting flamingoes

View across the very full scrape.
Another photogenic little egret. One of 100's noted.
Over the bridge and around the scrape gave views of many birds, to begin with, rather distant. A kingfisher fly past and 2 spoonbills whilst a pied flycatcher and melodious warbler were in the tamarisk. One of the spoonbills was ringed and these details have been emailed to the ringing group at the Parc. Last year I sent off details of a white stork that had a large ring; it had been ringed as a nestling in The Camargue the previous year. A little further along, both praying mantis and clouded yellow butterfly were seen, the former being a first for me, a creature I didn't know was to be found here. Fascinating to watch with its superb camouflage. Also along here, scarlet darters in their hundreds and a few black tailed skimmers roosting on the warm stones.
As I approached the end of the scrape, where there are a few viewing screens, a black kite and common buzzard floated over and black tailed godwits could be heard. In the distance, a fair few waders just outside the 2 main hides. On the path, a splendid green lizard gave good photo opportunities and a coypu disappeared off the path and into the reeds. Little terns were feeding juveniles on a mud flat and from the first main hide, a group of spotted redshanks and some avocets, before I moved on to the main, 2 storey hide. Here, I spent a good 2 hours as waders kept appearing from behind islands and out of the tall vegetation; well worth the wait. In the time I recorded: common, green and marsh sandpiper, spotted redshank, black tailed godwits, little ringed plover, little, whiskered and gull billed tern, avocets, shoveler and mallard. Time well spent.
After this, I headed back to the cafe in the main area where a coffee was enjoyed with views of herons and egrets and a couple of red crested pochard. The bus was on time, giving me a chance to try a local speciality before boarding, a Camargue rice beer. Very refreshing after the wander of several miles in temperatures now over 30C. The warmest time of the whole trip.
Skipper sp, possibly small skipper?

winter plumaged spotted redshank

same bird

Praying mantis, a new creature for me.

Clouded yellow

black tailed skimmer

spoonbills, including ringed one

another scarlet darter
Back in Saintes Maries de la Mer I took a quick wander around the west side of the town, where there are several lagoons: coots, purple and grey heron, a short toed eagle over and plenty of mallards. This was close to my room, so I planned on returning at first light. In a canal a family of coypu fed on bread that had been thrown in for the large carp that frequently surfaced. Out to another local restaurant for some excellent food and wine before a final beer back at the hotel. Thursday promised to be another long day, with plenty of walking, so not too late to bed.
More photos from the Parc Ornithologique here.
swimming spotted redshank



black tailed godwit

2 black tailed godwit

mallards, black headed gull, black winged stilt (juvenile) 2 spotted redshank

size comparison: spotted redshank and black winged stilt

gull billed, little and whiskered terns


marsh sandpiper and 2 little ringed plover (one yellow flagged)

terns and mallards

3 spotted redshank, little ringed plover and common sandpiper

4 spotted redshank, little ringed plover, common sandpiper


greenshank and spotted redshank
green sandpiper

marsh sandpiper

mallard and marsh sandpiper

common sandpiper

green lizard


Day 3:
I started with a first light check on the westerly lagoons and pleased I did, as an osprey was fishing on the far side, too distant for a photo. Another short toed eagle over and constant swallow and martin movement south west. In amongst these swarms were red rumped swallows and good numbers of crag martins. Latter difficult to get on with the binoculars but their white breast and no brown band, along with dark underwing coverts and obvious lighter marks on the tail. Then, again, a plan that changed due to the recent weather. I took the bus to Paty de la Trinitie where I know a good path that winds through cattle and rice fields. Had much birding success along here on previous visits. However, after a couple of miles, the track was so flooded from rain it became virtually impassable and this, plus very few notable birds, meant I headed back to the village. Huge numbers of starlings around the farm, yellow wagtails in the fields and several raptor species over (sparrowhawk, lesser kestrels (3) and both red and black kite) plus a few darting spectacled and fan tailed warblers in the tall bamboo like reeds, but very little else. Again, I was lucky and a bus arrived just as I put my tripod and kit down at the bus stop and back to town and another walk out of the town to the east. More of the same, with more turnstones noted on the beach, but I had decided to leave the scope and camera back at the hotel and just enjoy a binocular walk, taking time to look for insects. Plenty found as well as more birds, with good numbers of warblers and pied flycatchers. I wandered over the mudflats between the Cacherel road and Le Digue footpath, coming across a black redstart, egrets, herons and a flyover group of glossy ibis. A party of 5 black winged stilt flew over also and there were always waders to look for. Constantly seeing birds was excellent as more clouded yellows flew by. I was continually noting vagrant and lesser emperor dragonflies in their 100's and darter species in their 1000's. The place was alive with them. On the road, many dead ones having been struck by cars and cyclists. Small dragonflies, probably demoiselle species, Calopteryx virgo meridionalis and Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis. Also, a tiny, black damselfly.
The bird list was now over 70 for the trip. I finished the day with a quick walk out of town in a northerly direction to check roadside lagoons but just regular waders with the more common raptors overhead. I did disturb a roosting black kite, which, had it not flown off, would have been a good photo opportunity. So back into town and another meal before my final day and one that I needed to have a reasonable night's sleep for!

cattle egret

Synchronised feeding

ringed plover

popular tree

avocet flypast

Notre Dame, Saintes Maries de la Mer. Used as a reference point by sailors.

Fisherman at dawn

yellow wagtail

business end of greater flamingo

Little egret fishing along Le Digue
lesser emperor


Day 4:
Up at first light for a quick check around the local lagoons before the cycle rental shop opened. Passport handed over along with 15 euros and I cycled as far as the bus stop and put the bike in the boot of the bus for a drive to Albaron, some 20km north. Here I alighted and headed east with La Capeliere my planned destination, some 21 km away. The last time I had been on a bike was here last year and I am sure I vowed never to rent a bike again. However, the road is flat and I saw some great birds that I would have missed had I rented a car. There is no public transport along this road. A stop at a bridge gave views of kingfisher, cattle, little and great egrets in fields. These were also being quartered by gull billed terns. A little further along at Mas Neuf there is a look out tower but not too much noted: glossy ibis over, black kite, 20 short toed eagles heading south, more g b terns, 1st of 3 rollers,! Great place. I carried on, trying to get close to 2 more rollers but to no avail. Fan tailed and cetti's warbler calls accompanied me all along this road to Villeneuve where there is a bar. Beer time, I was parched. I saw in the distance a circling of raptors, all common buzzards. From here, I headed south down the eastern side of Etang de Vaccares, stopping to check the large lake which held 100's of great crested grebes, whilst gadwall, mallard, egrets and a few flyover stilts were also noted in various lagoons. At one stop, just before the reserve at La Capeliere I chatted with a bird watching English couple whom I bumped into again on the reserve. There are good hides at this site and having paid the few Euros entry I was out on the 2 - 3 km trail. From one hide another overhead short toed eagle, whilst at another, common sandpiper and kingfisher. In the trees a skulking juvenile night heron, pied flycatchers and a selection of already seen warblers. A water rail called but was not seen. After the trees the track takes you on to a heath type habitat where both kestrel and a hobby flew off as I appeared. Another melodious warbler near the reed bed hide and 1000's of dragonflies (and mosquitoes!) The butterflies here consisted of the continental form of speckled wood, a stunning swallowtail, several red admiral, clouded yellow and, as yet, an unidentified species, which appeared quite common. Edit: now identified as Great banded grayling, thanks Graeme. A great place for a wander and from the lookout vantage points you can scan the large Etang. Flamingoes shimmered in the heat haze and several early arriving black necked grebes were noted in with the great crested ones. By the end of autumn this lake will be holding 10,000's of coot and all manner of wildfowl, including pochards and grebes.
I bought a small guide to French dragonflies and got back on the bike. Back to the bar a matter of 5km away before the 16km from there to Albaron. Black kite, peregrine, glossy ibis were all noted as I cycled along, as was a drifting montagu's harrier in fields to the north. By the time I had stopped the bike it was gone. However, the highlight was 2 collared pratincoles flying low right in front of me, a bird I still haven't got a photo of.
I got to the bus stop a few minutes after the bus had gone, so nothing to do but visit an old haunt, L'Agachon bar in Albaron for coffee and Leffe before the bus came and I was back in Saintes Maries by 7.15. Worn out and ready for a shower and meal. Been a really good day. Finished with another steak and wine with coffee and cognac, paid my bill and said farewells before setting the alarm for 5.30 ready to catch the early bus to Arles to make the trip for the 10.20 plane back to Luton.
sand martins resting on shutter: Saintes Maries de la Mer

yet another scarlet darter

distant and uncooperative juvenile roller
Swallowtail butterfly at La Capeliere. Stunning!

Speckled wood

very high soaring short toed eagle at La Caperliere

Great banded grayling

great egret from road near Villeneuve and La Capeliere
willow warbler at La Capeliere

Day 5:
The whole journey went well, but a word of warning for anyone flying from Nimes: presently no shops etc once you have gone through security, just uncomfortable wooden benches, so my advice is do not go through too early. I got there early, checked in my rucksack containing my tripod and headed off to an area round the side of the airport that usually holds good warblers, corn buntings and stonechats as well as snakes. Plenty of collared dove, a singing but unseen black redstart and 2 pied flycatchers seemed to be the only birds there. A check in trees where I had previously recorded scops owl drew a blank and just one snake scurrying away before I could get anything on it for id, so back to the airport and the 1 hour 35 minute flight home. Superb 3.5 days birding and several hundred photos to delete!!
My plan had been to get some new photos for my presentations, I have certainly achieved that with spotted redshank, greenshank and marsh sandpiper useful additions, plus several general views and improvements on birds I already include in the talks. All very worth while.

Species List:
black necked grebe, great crested grebe, cormorant, night heron, cattle egret, little egret, great egret, grey heron, purple heron, white stork, glossy ibis, flamingo, spoonbill, mute swan, mallard, gadwall, shoveler, teal, red crested pochard, osprey, short toed eagle, red kite, black kite, marsh harrier, montagu's harrier, common buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel, lesser kestrel, hobby, peregrine, water rail, moorhen, coot, avocet, black winged stilt, collared pratincole, little ringed plover, ringed plover, lapwing, turnstone, dunlin, curlew sandpiper,wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, greenshank, marsh sandpiper, black tailed godwit, black headed gull, slender billed gull, yellow legged gull, lesser black backed gull, little tern, sandwich tern, gull billed tern, common tern, whiskered tern, wood pigeon, collared dove, eagle owl, kingfisher, roller, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, crested lark, sand martin, crag martin, swallow, red rumped swallow, house martin, white wagtail, yellow wagtail, black redstart, blackbird, sardinian warbler, spectacled warbler, savi's warbler, cetti's warbler, melodious warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff, pied flycatcher, house sparrow, chaffinch, great tit, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, starling, goldfinch. 90 species in total.

This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird. September 2009

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. In 2016 I spent time at Portland Bird Obs and two trips to Aviero, Portugal. 2017 found me back in Sri Lanka in Feb/March, then July and back for New Year's Eve celebrations in December. Also returned to The Camargue in May for a 4 day trip. Few plans for 2018, but nothing yet booked apart from a trip to the IOW.

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


Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly

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

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox

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

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)


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.
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