Sunday 30 October 2016

Moth update

Few new moths on to the macro list: pale November moth, Feathered thorn and Sprawler take the macro list to 252 for the year.
Trap was left on Brick Kiln Hill on Saturday night and took nothing but a garden spider, male common earwig and a slug. Friday night I netted Westland Green and took a November moth agg and Millennium Wood gave up 2 Brick. Friday night the trap was left in the graveyard at the bottom of our garden and, again, empty. Tonight, it will be in a neglected wood for a few hours, being collected at 10.45 as I have a busy day tomorrow.
First Feathered thorn of the year

A male with antennae like this

First Sprawler of 2016. Still struggling with depth of field with my new macro lens.

Waxwing in Bishop's Stortford

Just as the father in law, sister in law and her parents in law arrived for a cup of afternoon tea, I received a phone call from Graeme. A waxwing had been seen near Bishop's Stortford Tescos, so I was off! My twitching rule is 1km to travel for each gram the bird ways and at only 3 km from home I was well inside my rule as a waxwing chips in on the scales at 55g.
The bird was showing well on a rowan tree next to Crozier Avenue just passed the roundabout where a left hand turn will take you into Tescos petrol station.
It didn't move when residents walked under the tree but when a few long tailed tits turned up, alarm calling, it headed over the road whereupon its presence upset a great tit. Maybe their feeding trees?
The light was fading rapidly so a few shots on a very high ISO number but reasonable record shots, nevertheless.

Friday 28 October 2016

4 days in Aviero

Near Aviero catherdral

One of many canals.

A four day birding and photography trip back to Aviero. I was here in late April and picked up some migrating birds, so thought late October would also be good for migration and I wasn't disappointed. Booked 3 nights in the Hotel Imperial in the town centre. Once a smart hotel, now a little tatty but perfectly acceptable, £68.00 for the 3 nights with breakfast at £4.00 was well within budget. Each evening I wandered to the Restaurante Aquario where a bowl of good soup, main course of meat, rice, chips and veg, 50cl of red wine and a coffee came to 6 Euros. Great value.
The flight, Stansted to Porto, was £76.00, booked several months ago and then train from the airport to the city station and train from Sao Bento station to Aviero cost less than a fiver, so all in all, a cheap break.
I mainly birded the area adjacent to the town where there are miles of saltpans and derelict buildings. This was a mile walk to reach them and then up to 8 miles wandering around. On one day I took the 7a.m. bus to Forte de Barra and then the ferry across to Sao Jacinto. This cost £6.00 return and then I had a walk of a couple of miles to the reserve. In April I only noted a few species of bird and got nothing on an Atlantic sea watch. This time there were birds everywhere and a great sea watch, so well worth the early start and, in total, a 15 mile walk as the reserve is huge.
Aviero main canal

Town centre

Monday 24th October:

Ryanair flight at 9.25 had me in Porto by 12.00 and then a 2 pm train to Aviero meant I was out on the saltpans by 3.30. The light was not great but I was pleased to see plenty of birds as I was a little unsure if they would be there. I headed back to the hotel about 5.30 as the light was fading and already had a list of 23 species, including crag martin seen at the airport, pallid swift over Aviero, flocks of serin and plenty of common sandpipers, black tailed godwits, fan tailed warblers and black redstarts
Serin, one in a flock of 50+

common sandpiper

singing male black redstart

Out for my evening meal and a few beers in a local bar before I finished the day in The Iron Duke pub next to the hotel. Great list of beers and a friendly relaxed atmosphere was just what I wanted as I went through the afternoon's photos, spending time deleting many.
Looking from the saltpans back to the town

Tuesday 25th October:
Early start even though it was still dark at 7.30a.m. Off to the saltpans so a stop for a coffee before a wander through the town and onto the Salinas as they are called locally. I took a new route and was immediately into good birds. A flock of 15 great white egrets in with 200+ little egrets, 50+ cormorants and plenty of grey herons. A flock of flamingoes could be seen in the distance whilst plenty of species noted the previous day were keeping me busy. Black redstarts were calling everywhere from the minute I left the hotel. The advantage of the saltpans being right next to the town is that it isn't far to walk back into town for a bite to eat and a drink, before heading off again in another direction. This I did on several occasions during my stay.
Flamingoes on the saltpans

waders roosting

2 spoonbills overhead made the trip list as did redshanks, shovelers (a new Portuguese bird for me) a yellow wagtail and waders. These were made up of large flocks of black tailed godwits and ringed plover, but in amongst these were curlew sandpipers, dunlin, little stints, sanderlings and 4 golden plover, another new Portuguese bird.
Golden plover

Black tailed godwits

Flyby cormorant

Little egrets


Distant early morning great white egret

Early morning spoonbill fly over


Little stint

One of 3 kingfishers shot passed me as I was photographing a wheatear. Two skylarks overhead were new for the trip and by the end of the day the trip list was up to a pleasing 46 species.
A return to the restaurant and the Iron Duke before a relatively early night. Wednesday was looking like being a long day.

Wednesday 26th October:
Sao Jacinto from the departing ferry

Up early for a coffee before the 7 o'clock bus to the ferry for the short crossing to Sao Jacinto. Another expresso ("Uma bica" in Portuguese) before I set off for the reserve. The entrance I wanted was a couple of miles further up the road from the official entrance as I wanted to check on a small lake in the middle of the woods. I arrived after a good walk in warm weather and found the hide. Looking out it was clear there were plenty of ducks about, mainly mallard but a few coot, plenty of teal and about 20 wigeon, another new bird for me. Little grebes called and in the reeds both grey heron and little egret but neither little bittern or bluethroat were noted. The latter is a bird that has eluded me wherever I have gone. Not rare in Portugal or Poland but I still await to see one anywhere. The Amwell one last year disappeared overnight so was not present when I turned up the following morning.
Grey heron as I walked to Sao Jacinto Reserve

Boardwalk to the sea watch vantage point

Sao Jacinto pool from the hide

The track through the woods winds its way through conifers and eucalyptus trees, with areas of scrubs clearance. Crested larks were found in the cleared areas, whilst the trees held good numbers of crested tits, long tailed tits, several chiffchaffs and 2 melodious warblers. I spent over half an hour trying for a crested tit photo without any success. I did get great binocular views of this constantly mobile bird, but I carried on, thinking I'd get a photo opportunity later on.
4 distant common scoter

Large raft of common scoter very distant.

Little grebe

Continental Speckled Wood

I came to the board walk that goes straight to a viewpoint for a sea watch. Last April I had just a flyby party of ringed plovers but this time was different. On the sea 1000's of common scoter whilst further out gannets heading south with an occasional sooty shearwater. Not so far out was a sandwich tern being chased by an arctic skua whilst overhead a large flock of serins and several meadow pipits.
Back on the trail in the woods and more crested tits but still no photo. In amongst these busy flocks were goldcrests and a single firecrest as well as coal, great and blue tits. It was difficult keeping track of the crested tits and on one occasion I thought I had a good record shot of one, but it had become a coal tit when I checked the back of the camera. Photography is always difficult in dark, densely packed conifers, so I thought I would just concentrate on watching the birds, so after all, no crested tit shots.
Back to Sao Jacinto ferry where a wait for an hour gave me time to grab something to eat and have a beer as the temperature was now approaching 28C.
Once back in Aviero, I headed back to the saltpans and, whilst not adding anything new to the trip list, spent a few hours seeing good birds. The list now stood at a more pleasing 67 species, more than my April visit.
Far away flamingoes

Fan tailed warbler

Yellow legged gull

Again, a meal and the Iron Duke before I headed off to get a few shots of the town centre, where a Scops owl was heard before returning to the hotel.

Thursday 27th October:
Black winged stilt, again.

2 ringed plover and a little stint

2 adult, 4 juvenile greater flamingoes

Ring numbers to be forwarded to appropriate ringing group. Suspect ringed as fledglings on the nest this summer.

Last day and with a flight landing at 8.30pm I wasn't sure when I would get a chance to eat, so enjoyed a good breakfast in the dining room at the hotel. This is on the 6th floor and has great views all over the town and on to the saltpans. From the rooftop terrace, with a telescope you could easily bird the nearer saltpans. I hadn't brought my scope as on the last occasion I used it very rarely and it didn't merit the cost of having to have hold luggage at £30 per flight as I needed to put the tripod in a large rucksack. This time I had a small rucksack for clothes and a camera bag. I just had my Nikon D300 along with a 70mm macro lens and 70 - 400mm zoom. This was all I required.
Once packed, I left the rucksack at reception and was back on to the saltpans. Wasn't expecting any new species, so a pleasant surprise when the first 2 birds observed were new for the trip: kestrel and goldfinch. There seemed to have been a bit of overnight migration as I saw 15 or so chiffchaffs, a willow warbler was also new for the trip, another melodious warbler, with the final new bird being a calling corn bunting on the wires.
A beer in town, the 13.19 train to Porto, a wander to Trindade station for the metro meant I was at the airport in good time to grab some food before arriving home before 9pm.
A super trip with a total of 73 species observed. A good total for what was basically just 2 habitats.
meadow pipit


  1. Little grebe
  2. Sooty shearwater
  3. Gannet
  4. Cormorant
  5. Little egret
  6. Great white egret
  7. Grey heron
  8. Spoonbill
  9. Greater flamingo
  10. Mallard
  11. Shoveler
  12. Wigeon
  13. Teal
  14. Common scoter
  15. Common buzzard
  16. Kestrel
  17. Coot
  18. Black winged stilt
  19. Ringed plover
  20. Golden plover
  21. Sanderling
  22. Dunlin
  23. Curlew sandpiper
  24. Little stint
  25. Common sandpiper
  26. redshank
  27. Black tailed godwit
  28. Ruff
  29. Arctic skua
  30. Black headed gull
  31. Yellow legged gull
  32. Sandwich tern
  33. Wood pigeon
  34. Collared dove
  35. Scops owl (heard)
  36. Swift
  37. Pallid swift
  38. Kingfisher
  39. Great spotted woodpecker
  40. Skylark
  41. Crested lark
  42. Crag martin
  43. Meadow pipit
  44. White wagtail
  45. Yellow wagtail
  46. Wren
  47. Robin
  48. Black redstart
  49. Wheatear
  50. Stonechat
  51. Blackbird
  52. Blackcap
  53. Fan tailed warbler
  54. Cetti's warbler
  55. Melodious warbler
  56. Willow warbler
  57. Chiffchaff
  58. Goldcrest
  59. Firecrest
  60. Great tit
  61. Coal tit
  62. Blue tit
  63. Crested tit
  64. Long tailed tit
  65. Magpie
  66. Starling
  67. House sparrow
  68. Chaffinch
  69. Linnet
  70. Goldfinch
  71. Greenfinch
  72. Serin
  73. Corn Bunting
Ringed plover

Thursday 20 October 2016

Few more moths

Have spent a few away days running the Heath trap at Alder Wood, Pig's Green and Brick Kiln Hill opposite the village pub.
Not too much to report, but a November moth on BKH on the 16th was my 249th macro for the year. From Pig's Green on the 13th 2 Brick, 2 Chestnuts, a yellow line quaker and a green brindled crescent whilst at home Merveille du Jour on 17th and 19th. A small surprise last night too when I encountered a slightly late Lesser Yellow Underwing feeding on ivy at the bottom of the garden. At Alder Wood on the 18th just a Blastobasis lacticolella to head torch and an empty trap at 11pm.
Carpets have been red-green and grey pine over the last few days and another November moth agg for Graeme to identify to species.
I continue to practice with the new macro lens, still struggling with manual focus and depth of field, but slowly getting the hang of the new camera body.
Lesser yellow underwing

3 Green brindled crescents

Merveille du Jour

Emmelina monodactyla

Red green carpet

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