Monday 25 January 2016

First micro of the year

A visit to the garden trap this morning offered 2 more moths, an early moth again as yesterday and my 1st micro of the year. Either Acleris ferrugana or notana. Difficult to separate just by visual check and requiring a gen det to be sure. Strangely, checking in my 2 books, this looks to be Ac ferrugana judging by the illustration in Sterling and Parsons whilst in Manley's photographic guide looks much more like Ac notana! The straight edge of the termen hints at notana whilst the darker areas on the costa hint at ferrugana! 
2 photos here in slightly different light conditions.
Now with GJS so will be sure later today, I suspect.
Acleris sp?

Acleris sp?

Sunday 24 January 2016

First moths to garden trap

As it looked like being a mild night I ran the trap and was rewarded with 2 species this morning. Both expected moths for January, an early moth and a pale brindled beauty, both shown here. These represent my 3rd and 4th species for the year.
Early moth

Pale Brindled Beauty

Dungeness Day

Set off at 5.15 only to discover the slip road on to the M11 was shut until 6, so had a coffee at the services.
Arrived and went sea watching. It was blowing a gale and heavy showers were forecast, so wanted to get in as much as possible before the rain. From outside the sea watch hide there were 1000's of razorbills heading west and 100's gannets milling about in the strong wind. This made scope viewing difficult.
After 45 minutes I headed off to the ARC pit but plenty of water meant usual suspects, mainly wild fowl, so off to the RSPB Reserve in heavy drizzle. Coffee in the VC before heading to the nearby Dennis Hide. From here, great views of slavonian grebe and a drake smew, but much too wet to get the camera out. It was at this point I realised I had brought a batteryless camera, so was expecting superb views of something good.


I then headed off in full waterproofs around the hides, scoring with a female smew, several goldeneye, field full of curlews and not much else of note. Too windy for most birds to be about and, by now, horizontal rain meant viewing anywhere but from hides was very difficult. By the time I got back to the car I was just beginning to get damp and cold, so cut my losses and headed home before the rush hour through the tunnel. Not before popping round to Scotney Pits where barnacle geese were listed.
Species list: year listers in bold
slavonian grebe, great crested grebe, gannet, cormorant, mute swan, greylag goose, canada goose, barnacle goose, mallard, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, teal, pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye, smew, marsh harrier, kestrel, pheasant (20 sp) moorhen, coot, lapwing, curlew, black headed gull, herring gull, common gull, lesser black backed gull, greater black backed gull, guillemot, razorbill, wood pigeon, collared dove, green woodpecker, skylark, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, stonechat,(40 sp) blackbird, cetti's warbler, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, long tailed tit, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, reed bunting
57 species.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

2016 year list: 05.01.16

Only 2 sessions of birding, on the 3rd a brief walk around the parish and then yesterday, North Norfolk. As usual, I have no targets for a year list, but always happy to pass 200 species in a year. Last year 204 and in 2014 223, both lists contained good birds such as glossy ibis, little bittern, osprey and spectacled warbler. Whilst not a twitcher in my terms, I do visit rare birds if I happen to be in the area for a day's birding e.g. a day in Norfolk and the spectacled warbler was still present after a week or so, therefore shame to miss out. I had planned a Norfolk day anyway on that occasion and not too fussed if the bird had left, as it did 3 days later.
Red Backed shrike: Winterton dunes 2014

  1. red throated diver (Titchwell)
  2. slavonian grebe (Dungeness)
  3. little grebe (Wells Next the Sea)
  4. great crested grebe (Dungeness)
  5. gannet (West Runton)
  6. cormorant (Titchwell)
  7. little egret (Titchwell)
  8. grey heron (Titchwell)
  9. mute swan (Titchwell)
  10. bean goose tundra (Salthouse)
  11. pink footed goose (Holkham)
  12. greylag goose (Titchwell)
  13. canada goose (Burnham Overy Staithe)
  14. barnacle goose (Dungeness)
  15. brent goose (Titchwell)
  16. shelduck (Titchwell)
  17. mallard (Titchwell)
  18. gadwall (Titchwell)
  19. pintail (Oare Marshes)
  20. shoveler
  21. wigeon
  22. teal (All above: Titchwell)
  23. pochard (Dungeness)
  24. red crested pochard (Lackford Lakes)
  25. common scoter (Titchwell)
  26. goldeneye ( Titchwell)
  27. smew (Dungeness)
  28. red breasted merganser (Titchwell)
  29. red kite (Well Next the Sea harbour)
  30. marsh harrier (Titchwell)
  31. common buzzard (Little Hadham)
  32. kestrel (Little Hadham)
  33. sparrowhawk (Bishop's Stortford)
  34. peregrine falcon (Titchwell)
  35. red legged partridge (Choseley)
  36. grey partridge (Holkham)
  37. pheasant (Little Hadham)
  38. moorhen (Titchwell)
  39. coot (Dungeness)
  40. oystercatcher
  41. avocet
  42. grey plover
  43. golden plover 
  44. lapwing
  45. sanderling (All above: Titchwell)
  46. purple sandpiper (Sheringham)
  47. turnstone (Titchwell)
  48. dunlin (Titchwell)
  49. green sandpiper (Lemsford HMWT Reserve)
  50. redshank
  51. black tailed godwit
  52. bar tailed godwit
  53. curlew (All above: Titchwell)
  54. whimbrel (Kelling Water Meadows)
  55. woodcock (Little Hadham)
  56. ruff
  57. black headed gull
  58. common gull
  59. herring gull
  60. lesser black backed gull
  61. great black backed gull (All above: Titchwell)
  62. glaucous gull (Salthouse)
  63. guillemot (West Runton)
  64. razorbill (Dungeness)
  65. wood pigeon (Little Hadham)
  66. Stock dove (Burnham Overy Staithe)
  67. collared dove (Little Hadham)
  68. tawny owl (Little Hadham)
  69. barn owl (Titchwell)
  70. Little owl (Little Hadham)
  71. kingfisher (Titchwell)
  72. green woodpecker (Little Hadham)
  73. Great spotted woodpecker (Little Hadham)
  74. skylark (Choseley)
  75. water pipit
  76. meadow pipit
  77. pied wagtail (All above: Titchwell)
  78. grey wagtail 
  79. wren
  80. dunnock 
  81. robin
  82. stonechat
  83. redwing
  84. fieldfare (All above: Little Hadham)
  85. song thrush
  86. mistle thrush (Both Titchwell)
  87. blackbird (Little Hadham)
  88. blackcap (Little Hadham)
  89. Dartford warbler (Kelling Water meadows)
  90. chiffchaff (Titchwell)
  91. cetti's warbler (Titchwell)
  92. goldcrest 
  93. great tit
  94. blue tit
  95. coal tit (All Little Hadham)
  96. marsh tit (Titchwell)
  97. long tailed tit 
  98. nuthatch 
  99. treecreeper 
  100. magpie
  101. jay
  102. jackdaw
  103. carrion crow
  104. rook
  105. starling
  106. house sparrow (All above: Little Hadham)
  107. tree sparrow (Dungeness)
  108. chaffinch  Little Hadham)
  109. brambling (Titchwell)
  110. linnet (Titchwell)
  111. goldfinch (Little Hadham)
  112. greenfinch (Little Hadham)
  113. siskin (North Creake)
  114. bullfinch (Little Hadham)
  115. reed bunting (Titchwell)
  116. lapland bunting (Blakeney Freshmarsh)
  117. yellowhammer (Choseley)
  118. corn bunting (Choseley)
updated: 14.03.16

Monday 4 January 2016

North Norfolk in a few hours.

Setting off at 5a.m. meant, having stopped for coffee near Downham Market, I was in Titchwell carpark way before 1st light, as planned. My idea was to be on the beach for sunrise and spot as many birds on the Freshmarsh in the pre dawn grey light as possible. With only a few hours of decent light, I wanted to get the year list off to a good start by paying visits to all the Norfolk Coastal hotspots.
I was greeted with both song thrush and mistle thrush singing, before I checked the feeders, but too early. This photo of the regular barn owl is testimony to the light levels!
I scanned the freshmarsh, picking out many of the usual suspects: godwits, avocets, brents, teal, shoveler, lapwings etc before arriving at the beach just as the colour was changing, promising a bright day.
Barn owl, out of the darkenss of Thornham Marsh

Hint of colour on the beach

Early morning brents at low tide

Another shot of the ghost owl
From the beach the waders at the low tide mark were easily visible as the light improved rapidly: grey plover, sanderling, turnstone, dunlin, bar tailed and black tailed godwit along with gulls and geese. 2 mute swans headed west but only a few goldeneye, 7 common scoter and 2 red throated divers were noted on the sea.
Sunrise over the wet sand: Titchwell

Early morning brent geese flypast

Black tailed godwit in early morning light

same bird
A few poor light shots were taken at ISO 2000 but not many worth bothering with. A quick scan from the Parrinder Hide and then a check on Thornham Pool. The latter gave views of 2 water pipits with 5 meadow pipits before I checked the feeders again, a chiffchaff on the path to the car park and I was heading off to Choseley.
Greylag from Parrinder Hide
Better light for this drake teal

Here, red legged partridge, yellowhammers, greenfinches, chaffinches and goldfinches along with skylarks, pied wagtails and 2 corn buntings. Then, off to Chalk Pit Lane but no views of the hoped for rough legged buzzard, just more black headed and herring gulls and a large 35+ covey of more red legged partridges.
I stopped off at Brancaster Staithe but the tide was so low that no self respecting red necked grebe would be fishing in the few inches of water, so, after a scan at Burnham Overy Staithe and Lady Anne's Drive, I arrived at Wells. Here, a solitary little grebe made the list but good to see brent geese and lapwings on the football pitch.
I decided that a walk down Garden Drove would be far too muddy, likewise a wander to the Gibbert Roundabout at Stiffkey, so off to Cley beach, where the sea was very quiet. I then headed to the VC where very little had been reported so I carried on to Salthouse beach. Upon parking, I noted a large, light brown streaky gull with light primaries. Thought it maybe one of the Iceland gulls that have been around the area recently, but on closer inspection, no, a  2nd year glaucous gull. Back to the car for the camera just in time to see it fly off to the beach, where it then departed over Gramborough Hill with 2 great black backed gulls. It looked to go down in a field near Kelling Water Meadows.
I then began scanning all the gulls, coming across an interesting individual, very pale with large bill and dark eye. It wasn't until it flew that I noted a 2nd year great black backed gull, almost black mantle just emerging.
2nd year great black backed gull

Very dark markings

Wing pattern

Having checked all other gulls, I had seen a huge flock of 5000+ geese in fields near Kelling, so off to a layby where I could scan the whole lot. After half an hour, under darkening skies, I came across the target: 6 tundra bean geese. One that didn't make my year list last year, so pleased to find them. In an adjacent field, some 1000 brent geese before I headed off to Cliff Road car park at Sheringham and a quick march down the steps to check the purple sandpipers by the Funky Mackerel cafe. Sure enough, both were present, along with the very confiding 25 turnstone flock that appear to be fed seed every day.
Pink foots in beet field

Geese as far as you can see: Find the tundra beans!!

Turnstone; Sheringham

Purple sandpiper: Sheringham

I just had time for a quick trip to West Runton cliffs for a final sea watch where 2 guillemot and 3 gannets made the day list. As I made my way back to the car the first heavy drops of rain fell and so I headed off along the A148 to Fakenham and then home. A good day, with 86 species making the day list.

More of the purple sandpiper
Species List:
red throated diver, little grebe, gannet, cormorant, little egret, grey heron, mute swan, tudra bean goose, pink footed goose, greylag goose (10 sp) canada goose, brent goose, shelduck, mallard, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, teal, common scoter, goldeneye (20 sp) marsh harrier, common buzzard, kestrel, red legged partridge, grey partridge, pheasant, moorhen, oystercatcher, avocet, grey plover (30 sp) golden plover, lapwing, sanderling, purple sandpiper, turnstone, dunlin, redshank, black tailed godwit, bar tailed godwit, curlew (40 sp) ruff, black headed gull, herring gull, common gull, lesser black backed gull, great black backed gull, glaucous gull, guillemot, wood pigeon, stock dove (50 sp) collared dove, tawny owl, barn owl, kingfisher, skylark, water pipit, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock (60 sp) robin, stonechat, redwing, fieldfare, song thrush, mistle thrush, blackbird, chiffchaff, cetti's warbler, great tit (70 sp) blue tit, marsh tit, coal tit, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch (80 sp) linnet, greenfinch, goldfinch, reed bunting, yellowhammer, corn bunting.

A good day list to kick off the New Year.

Sunday 3 January 2016

Wander at first light

Set off in very light drizzle for a walk that was curtailed due to the rain increasing as I found myself on Ash Valley GC. In all, 26 species were noted, the highlight being a recently arrived pair of stonechat in the ditch and around the rough between the 6th, 7th and 13th hole. This is a regular overwintering haunt for this species, but good to see, nevertheless.
Bullfinches around Valley Fields along with a calling nuthatch and common buzzard. In the garden, coal tit and long tailed tit got the year list off to a reasonable start. Tomorrow, an early year sortie to North Norfolk, so the list should be up around 100 species fairly promptly this year. The last 2 years we have been away in early January and so may have missed out on several typical Norfolk species.
Ash Valley Golf Club stonechat at ISO 2000 due to exceptionally poor light

same bird

Moon on New Year's Eve from the garden.

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

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. 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. 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. 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

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