Thursday 31 March 2016

Dungeness Day

Setting off early and, after a coffee at Maidstone, I was in the sea watch hide by 7.15. Immediately it was fairly obvious that the channel was quiet, with just 3 sandwich terns, several small flocks of common scoter and a great skua through. After half an hour, more spent chatting than seriously watching, I left to check the area around the Observatory. On Monday there had been a fall of over 100 firecrests and I was eager to see if they remained. Didn't have to wait long as 3 were in the lighthouse garden. Moving constantly meant time wasted getting cracking photographs of branches and leaves. A chiffchaff was also present, flycatching. As I walked over to the obs it was clear that firecrests were everywhere. Every small low growing patch of broom appeared to have a resident bird but they remained tricky to get a good photo of and really, I needed better light so the shutter speed could be improved.
chiffchaff in the lighthouse garden

same chiffchaff


distant male wheatear

female wheatear outside the Obs

firecrest near the trapping area.

In the moat, at least 10 firecrests and the walk from the lighthouse to the obs gave up another 20 - 30 flitting and calling birds. I caught up with one near the moat at the same time a pair of wheatear flew in on to the mound near the Heligoland trap, where, there were another 4 firecrests!!
A wander back to the car by the power station gave distant views of a black redstart. I had already heard one earlier, but this was my first sighting of this bird for the year. Always a pleasing one to find. At the car, a further 3 chiffchaffs and 2 firecrests.

A quick check around the fishing boats gave up a single male wheatear but nothing noted in the gull flock so off to the RSPB Reserve for a coffee. From here, I headed off to Denge Marsh Gully where the resident ravens were seen in flight, another black redstart and plenty of linnets. A fox trotted along the gully with a dead rabbit, but nothing else of note so back to the ARC Pit.
skulking forecrest inside the power station fence

black redstart on the power station perimeter fence

chiffchaff at the car park

fox with rabbit at Denge Marsh Gully
Water levels were high, so just wildfowl and a marsh harrier, with reed buntings and chiffchaff calling before I returned to wander the reserve. Not before noting an inquisitive stoat checking rabbit holes in the sandbanks.
The return path is still flooded, so to Denge Marsh hide and back again. This gave views of barnacle geese, greylags, wildfowl, with a few oyestercatchers in a field but not too much else. Apart, from that is, a firecrest near the Christmas Dell hide.
A check on the gulls roosting and a quick glance on Boulder Wall Farm pool for a reported smew but nothing seen.
small part of the RSPB Resrve gull roost

reed bunting ARC pit

stoat along the path to the Hanson Hide, ARC Pit

Great crested grebes from Scott Hide

dozing pochard from the Scott Hide

little grebe from the Christmas Dell Hide

By now it was getting on and I wanted to be through the tunnel before 5.00pm otherwise it can be an endless return journey. As I headed towards Lydd a snipe flew across the road, last day tick of the trip.
A super day with several year listers:
snipe, great skua, black redstart, wheatear, firecrest, sandwich tern, ringed plover, and raven.

Species List:
little grebe, great crested grebe, gannet, cormorant, little egret, grey heron, mute swan, greylag goose, canada goose, barnacle goose, shelduck, mallard, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, pochard, tufted duck, common scoter, goldeney, marsh harrier, kestrel,moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, ringed plover, lapwing, dunlin, snipe, great skua, black headed gull, common gull, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, greater black backed gull, sandwich tern, wood pigeon, collared dove, skylark,. pied wagtail, wren, dunncok, robin, black redstart, wheatear, stonechat, blackbird, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, firecrest, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, raven, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, chaffinch, linnet

Sunday 27 March 2016

New moth record

After a very windy and wet night I wasn't too optimistic heading to empty the garden trap this morning and the first check of egg boxes proved me to be correct. Nothing except a Hebrew character on the fence next to the light trap.
As I removed the second half of egg boxes, I noted a tiny item on the side of the wooden box. A splinter, but no, a micro moth. Upon potting I gave it a cursory glance noting it was of the Caloptilia family and possibly Povolyna leucapennella, a seriously good moth for Herts. After visits to experts Graeme and Colin, it was confirmed and constitutes the 3rd record for Hertfordshire. Pleasing stuff.
2 photos by Graeme J Smith above and 1 of mine, below.

Saturday 26 March 2016

North Norfolk Day

Lapland Bunting: Blakeney Freshmarsh

Flyby brent geese at Titchwell
Setting out at 6, I picked up Gary in Egmere at 8 and we headed to Kelling Heath. We popped into Blakeney to see if the lapland buntings were about, but not being sure where they were and, having asked several other birders and still not knowing, we went to Kelling. A walk to the other side of the level crossing for woodlark and dartford warbler drew a blank. Common buzzards, tits and finches were all that were about. The also hoped for singing chiffchaff or willow warbler failed to materialise, too.
Off to Weybourne beach car park and Muckleborough Hill, but nothing here either: no stonechat or wheatear so after a quick sea check we moved on to Kelling Water Meadows. At last: birds!
On the water were a family of recently hatched egyptian geese, redshank, common and black headed gulls, 2 avocets and plenty of teal. Overhead, starlings, skylarks, linnets and chaffinches whilst a goldcrest was heard in the hedgerow.
Male linnet: Kelling Water Meadows

World's worst Dartford Warbler shot!!

red crested pochard

smart BHG

westerly curlew

Several stonechat were knocking about as usual before we encountered a darker bird in the Alexanders: Just showing a hint of dark red breast with a grey head. A dartford warbler, a first for me at this site. Half an hour of following it, losing it and refinding but still not a chance of a photo, even though it showed well, if only for a few seconds.
A whimbrel flew in and landed on the far side of the water meadow. Second year lister in a few minutes so things were looking better. Wrens and more stonechat and finches as we walked back to the car, ready for a coffee at Cley Visitors' Centre. The reserve here was both busy with people and empty of birds, so, after pies at the Picnic Fayre, we headed to Lady Anne's Drive. The clear blue sky and warm temperatures meant it was packed solid here. A check for geese at the layby drew a blank so off along the A149 to see if the red necked grebe was still at Burnham Overy Staithe. Tide was out so, no, it wasn't. Godwits, turnstone, grey plover made the list before a trip up Chalk Pit Lane and around to Choseley drying barns. More common buzzards, dozens of red legged and English partridge as well as numerous hares. Yellowhammers at the barns but little else so down the hill and into a very busy Titchwell Reserve.
Avocets on the Freshmarsh

Oystercatcher heading west

distant group of common scoter and gulls

Black tailed godwit coming into breeding plumage

teal sifting through the mud.

Several pochard and a pair of red crested pochard were noted as we approached the island hide, but plenty of water meant no waders on mud so we continued to the Brackish Marsh. A scan of the sky gave distant views of a red kite, 6 common buzzards and a fast gliding peregrine falcon, high over heading north east. Here, black tailed godwits, teal, shoveler, shelduck etc and then to the beach.
Sea watching from this beach is a personal favourite of mine and we were not disappointed. Rafts of common scoter, several red breasted merganser, cormorant, goldeneye and a great crested grebe made the day list as did sanderling on the beach. Flyby brent geese, rather restless and so I expect them to be off to breeding grounds any day soon. Final good bird was a pair of bramblings on the feeders by the Visitors' Centre, which we enjoyed whilst having another coffee and one of the brilliant bakewell tarts available here.

pair of red crested pochard
We met several fellow birders I knew and we discovered the whereabouts of the laplands, so a return to Blakeney to finish the day. We walked to the gate and fence and there, sure enough, at least 4 lapland buntings, with 1 male in particular, in fine plumage. Very confiding birds meant one chap with a 600mm lens was too close to focus. Gary and I just shot off many snaps, each an improvement on the original record shots when the birds were feeding in the grass. Eventually, we reckoned we had one or two good ones, so back to Egmere to drop off Gary and then home to set the moth traps and a well deserved few pints.
All in all, a great day

one of the four lapland buntings at Blakeney Freshmarsh

splendid female marsh harrier over Blakeney Harbour

Species list:
little grebe, great crested grebe, cormorant, little egret, grey heron, mute swan, greylag goose, canada goose, brent goose, shelduck, (10 sp) egyptian goose mallard, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, teal, pochard, red crested pochard, tufted duck, common scoter, (20 sp) goldeneye, red breasted merganser, red kite, marsh harrier, common buzzard, kestrel, peregrine falcon, red legged partridge, grey partridge, pheasant, (30 sp) moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, avocet, ringed plover, grey plover, golden plover, lapwing, sanderling, black tailed godwit, (40 sp) turnstone, redshank, black tailed godwit, curlew, whimbrel, black headed gull, common gull, herring gull, lesser black backed gull, greater black backed gull, (50 sp)wood pigeon, collared dove, skylark, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, stonechat, song thrush, (60 sp) mistle thrush, blackbird, dartford warbler, cetti's warbler, goldcrest (heard)great tit, blue tit, coal tit, long tailed tit, bearded reedling (70 sp) magpie, jay, rook, jackdaw, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, brambling, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, siskin, reed bunting, lapland bunting, yellowhammer (86 species in total)
final shot of lapland bunting

Updated year list 30.03.16

After yesterday's Norfolk visit, a few more to the list: brambling, peregrine, whimbrel. dartford warbler, lapland bunting.
A few more visits to Kent and Norfolk over the next month should get the list on the move, with 150+ being possible by the end of May once the regular summer migrants have all arrived. Too late now, I suspect to add anymore winter visitors until late Autumn.
A trip to Dungeness on 30.03.16 added great skua, wheatear, black redstart, firecrest, sandwich tern, ringed plover, snipe and raven. The first four all before 8.30a.m.
Little Hadham goldrest.

  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. Egyptian goose (Holkham)
  18. mandarin (Little Hadham)
  19. mallard (Titchwell)
  20. gadwall (Titchwell)
  21. pintail (Oare Marshes)
  22. shoveler
  23. wigeon
  24. teal (All above: Titchwell)
  25. pochard (Dungeness)
  26. red crested pochard (Lackford Lakes)
  27. common scoter (Titchwell)
  28. goldeneye ( Titchwell)
  29. smew (Dungeness)
  30. red breasted merganser (Titchwell)
  31. red kite (Well Next the Sea harbour)
  32. marsh harrier (Titchwell)
  33. common buzzard (Little Hadham)
  34. kestrel (Little Hadham)
  35. sparrowhawk (Bishop's Stortford)
  36. peregrine falcon (Titchwell)
  37. red legged partridge (Choseley)
  38. grey partridge (Holkham)
  39. pheasant (Little Hadham)
  40. moorhen (Titchwell)
  41. coot (Dungeness)
  42. oystercatcher (Titchwell)
  43. avocet (Titchwell)
  44. ringed plover (Dungeness)
  45. grey plover
  46. golden plover 
  47. lapwing
  48. sanderling (All above: Titchwell)
  49. purple sandpiper (Sheringham)
  50. turnstone (Titchwell)
  51. dunlin (Titchwell)
  52. green sandpiper (Lemsford HMWT Reserve)
  53. redshank
  54. black tailed godwit
  55. bar tailed godwit
  56. curlew (All above: Titchwell)
  57. whimbrel (Kelling Water Meadows)
  58. snipe (Dungeness)
  59. woodcock (Little Hadham)
  60. ruff (Titchwell)
  61. Great Skua (Dungeness)
  62. black headed gull
  63. common gull
  64. herring gull
  65. lesser black backed gull
  66. great black backed gull (All above: Titchwell)
  67. glaucous gull (Salthouse)
  68. sandwich tern (Dungeness)
  69. guillemot (West Runton)
  70. razorbill (Dungeness)
  71. wood pigeon (Little Hadham)
  72. Stock dove (Burnham Overy Staithe)
  73. collared dove (Little Hadham)
  74. tawny owl (Little Hadham)
  75. barn owl (Titchwell)
  76. Little owl (Little Hadham)
  77. kingfisher (Titchwell)
  78. green woodpecker (Little Hadham)
  79. Great spotted woodpecker (Little Hadham)
  80. Lesser Spotted woodecker (Spellbrook)
  81. skylark (Choseley)
  82. swallow (Little Hadham)
  83. water pipit
  84. meadow pipit
  85. pied wagtail (All above: Titchwell)
  86. grey wagtail 
  87. wren
  88. dunnock 
  89. robin (All above: Little Hadham)
  90. black redstart (Dungeness)
  91. wheatear (Dungeness)
  92. stonechat
  93. redwing
  94. fieldfare (All above: Little Hadham)
  95. song thrush
  96. mistle thrush (Both Titchwell)
  97. blackbird (Little Hadham)
  98. garden warbler (Little Hadham)
  99. blackcap (Little Hadham)
  100. whitethroat (Thorley Wash)
  101. Dartford warbler (Kelling Water meadows)
  102. sedge warbler (Spellbrook)
  103. willow warbler (Little Hadham)
  104. chiffchaff (Titchwell)
  105. cetti's warbler (Titchwell)
  106. goldcrest (Little Hadham)
  107. firecrest (Dungeness)
  108. great tit
  109. blue tit
  110. coal tit (All Little Hadham)
  111. marsh tit (Titchwell)
  112. long tailed tit 
  113. nuthatch 
  114. treecreeper 
  115. magpie
  116. jay
  117. jackdaw
  118. carrion crow
  119. rook (All above: Little Hadham)
  120. raven (Dungeness)
  121. starling
  122. house sparrow (All above: Little Hadham)
  123. tree sparrow (Dungeness)
  124. chaffinch  Little Hadham)
  125. brambling (Titchwell)
  126. linnet (Titchwell)
  127. goldfinch (Little Hadham)
  128. greenfinch (Little Hadham)
  129. siskin (North Creake)
  130. bullfinch (Little Hadham)
  131. reed bunting (Titchwell)
  132. lapland bunting (Blakeney Freshmarsh)
  133. yellowhammer (Choseley)
  134. corn bunting (Choseley)
updated: 27.04.16

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Good moth numbers

Set the trap in neglected, overgrown woodland last night, in good early evening temperatures that hovered around 10C. As has been the case, clouds dispersed and it was 3C by 9pm.
Returned about 9.30 to find a common Quaker and Agonopterix heracliana on the sheet. Not promising. However, plenty in the trap: a further 9 common Quaker, 2 small Quaker and 2 clouded drabs, shown above.
This haul took me past 200 moths for the year, 18 macros and 6 micros. Pretty good so far.

Monday 21 March 2016

Busy moth night

Actinic trap set in neglected woodland at 6.30 and emptied at 10.30. A pleasing 14 moths of 9 species taken, including NFY a brindled pug. 5 Diurnea fagella, no two the same, 2 small Quaker, common Quaker, Spring usher, Hebrew character, chestnut, March moth and Agonopterix heracliana as well.
A Nicrophorous humator beetle was on the sheet.
Photos of 2 D fagella, brindled pug and the sexton beetle.

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