Sunday 30 April 2017

Norfolk Day: Sedge warblers and wheatears

Another day trip to North Norfolk on Friday 28th April. I was hoping to find a few more migrants and with a light north easterly blowing I thought there may be a chance of something good.
My first stop was at Burnham Overy Staithe for a walk down the track, on to the sea path and boardwalk and then all over the dunes at Gun Hill. The track from the A149 can be superb for migrants and at 7.45 was full of singing birds. Sedge warblers proliferated, with a background chorus of whitethroat, blackcap, solitary willow warbler, chaffinch, wren and a single reed warbler. Along the path overlooking the harbour where it was high tide gave views of more sedgies, a reed bunting and the first of over 20 wheatear. Dunnocks, as usual, in the brambles by the apple tree along with the customary linnet flock.
On to the dunes where more of the same where noted, including in excess of 20 wheatear, including one particularly confiding male. A whimbrel was flushed from the water's edge where oystercatchers, a curlew and plenty of redshank were also noted.
After wandering here for a few hours I headed back to the car on the main road, having covered close to 5 miles by 10a.m. On the way back I noted a large fly on the sluice gates, a Mesembrina meridiana, a rare fly for Herts but not sure of its status in Norfolk.
Successful larvae hunting by this male chaffinch

1st of many sedge warblers

Sedge warbler

Reed bunting in Alexanders, a plant that is invading the whole of the coast here.

Meadow pipit



uick fire shot of a flushed whimbrel


another wheatear

Gunhill looking west towards Burnham Deepdale

Mesembrina meridiana: record sent to County Recorder
A short drive found me at the beach Car park near High Dunes Campsite at Stiffkey. The walk west to the metal gibbert can give up migrants but today just whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and another willow warbler. I was surprised to see so many brent geese still feeding on Warham Greens and, in the distance, 2 spoonbill. A kestrel was the first raptor of the day and in an adjacent field, 2 brown hare, whilst a stoat trundled along the path in front of me, causing much alarm with the resident blackbirds and whitethroats.
Brown hares

Brent geese

A distant spoonbill
Time for refreshment, so off to Cley NWT centre for a coffee. Very handily, it rained whilst I was driving and continued to do so as I sat in the centre. Upon finishing the drink, it stopped. A check on the board indicated not too much on the reserve, so off for a walk along the East Bank. More reed and sedge warblers and at Arnold's Marsh, a summer plumaged dunlin and a ruff. A sea watch gave up literally nothing so back through meadow pipits and linnets and off to Kelling Water Meadows.
Grey Heron from the East Bank

Dunlin from the Richie Richardson hide overlooking Arnold's Marsh. Great to see Richie being acknowledged here, a place he loved and could often, if not always, be found wandering the East Bank. Sadly, died far too young in 1977, a great ornithologist, artist and all round good bloke.
Kelling Water Meadows is a good site for passage wood sandpipers, but not today! Very little apart from my first lesser whitethroat of the year, more finches and warblers, avocet, teal, swallows and sand martins. A chiffchaff posed a while for the camera as I chatted to a fellow birder as we headed back up to the road, he for the bus, me off to Kelling Heath.

Same bird
As I arrived at Kelling Heath car park, I noticed a chap with a moth net.He had set a pheromone lure and was busy netting a male Emperor moth. I then wandered over to the level crossing with more warblers but no dartfords or woodlarks on this occasion, so back to the car, noting 2 calling willow warblers. Time was now running out and I wanted to finish the day at Titchwell as the light is best for photography later in the afternoon.
Just a walk as far as the Freshmarsh where 2 Mediterranean gulls were noted again and a red crested pochard got on to the day and year list. A check for redstarts and turtle doves around the extensive car parks was unsuccessful, so back in the car for the journey home. This took over 3 hours due to a crash on the A14 near Bury St Edmunds, which meant traffic was totally jammed at the Mildenhall roundabout.
In all, a wonderful day in good weather, totalling 77 species of birds. Most pleasing. Plan on returning again, maybe next Friday?
Spot the 2 med gulls

swimming avocet

Red crested pochard

Friday 14 April 2017

Dungeness Day 12.04.17

Aday with no work, so a relatively early start for a day's birding at Dungeness. I arrived about 8.15 at the sea watch hide where it was fairly obvious not too much was passing. Common tern, sandwich tern, fulmar, caspian gull and gannet were new for the year list, but apart from a few common scoter and regular movement of great crested grebes, nothing else was noted.
Juvenile Great Black Backed Gull

At "The Patch" The warm water outflow from the power station

Mainly herring gulls roosting near The Patch Hide

As I wandered back to the car a black redstart popped up on to the power station wall, another new for year bird.
A check around the observatory and desert gave up very little, so off to the RSPB reserve. A surprise as I checked the pool near Boulderwall Farm: a ring necked duck which I knew had been there in December but had not seen any mention of for a few months. Only my 3rd ever. Managed these rather distant shots.
Ring necked duck: note the grey primaries and secondaries showing black tips 

RND showing grey flanks as opposed the white of a tufted duck

RND showing the "double crown" and no tuft
RND showing diagnostic white marks on bill

 Fairly quiet here as I enjoyed a coffee before setting off around the numerous hides. An avocet, couple of ringed plovers, female goldeneye and dunlin from the Makepeace and Firth Hide and next to nothing from the Dengemarsh Hide. A walk around the heathland gave up numerous sedge warblers, cetti's warbler and a single whitethroat and reed warbler, somewhat distantly singing from the reeds.
A check for the Long Eared owls near the dipping pool that has been present the previous day, but no sign.
I then headed for Scotney Pits but nothing noteworthy here, so I cut my loses and headed to Oare Marshes in the north. Here, good numbers of black tailed godwit and a fly past of 7 noisy redshank, but basically the same problem as the ARC pit at Dungeness, too much water and not enough mud for migratory waders.
The weather looks set to change in the next couple of weeks, so I shall be returning to both Dungemess and North Norfolk to try and catch a few more unusual UK  birds, plus check the local golf course for migrating wheatear and ring ouzel, the former an annual visitor, the latter a rarity only noted on 2 occasions in the last 10 years.
Avocet from Firth Hide


Skulking little egret from the Hansen Hide overlooking the ARC pit

Black tailed godwits at Oare Marshes

Pair of very smart black headed gulls sharing a joke on the slipway at Oare

More balck tailed godwits

Quiet moth nights

Not too much to report from the moth trap over the last few days. It has been very pleasant during the day, temperatures around 13 - 17C but as from dusk, the clouds disappear, a bright moon rises and the temps drop. Hopefully this will change during next week.
Consequently, the only new for year records have been a brimstone, 2 in the garden on the 10th and 11th whilst another was trapped to the portable 15W Heath trap in Valley Fields on the 11th and 2 muslin moths that also came to the garden Skinner 125W trap on the 10th.
Last night was showery and cold with just a Hebrew character in the garden trap. Basically, it has been so poor I have not set the portable trap over the last 2 nights. Will run it for a few hours tonight, but non too expectant.
Muslin moth

Muslin moth head on

Monday 10 April 2017

April moths

With the passing of the 1st week of April, a quick update. The temperatures, while high during the day, fall dramatically soon after sunset, consequently, important to have the trap running before dusk so that moths may be attracted to the light before the temperatures drop. On one occasion (7th April) there were no moths in the garden trap.
The 3rd new for parish records moth for 2017 was a micro: Epermenia chaerophyllela taken in the garden on the 6th.
New for year records have been: Least Black arches, Aphomia sociella and Agonopterix arenella, all taken last night (9th) at Pigs Green. Water carpets appear to be having a good year, with my 8th and 9th also taken in Pigs Green last night. An unusual moth for me, Lunar marbled brown was taken here also, only my 3rd record and the 2nd this year. In total, last night gave up 18 moths of 11 species from the heath trap.
This moves the totals along to 444 moths of 42 species, 30 macro and 12 micro.
Lunar marbled brown

Head on with a Lunar marbled brown

Aphomia sociella

Least Black arches 

Another water carpet.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Bird year list 2017: updated 05.05.17

With 2 weeks away in Sri Lanka and too much work, I have not been as active in birding as usual. Only last Friday was my 1st away day, to Rainham Marshes whilst yesterday was my first 2017 trip to North Norfolk. Consequently, many overwintering species are going to not be seen until the end of the year.
For what it is worth, my first list of the year is as follows. If no site recorded then local, i.e. Little Hadham parish, East Herts.
Little Hadham mandarin

  1. little grebe
  2. great crested grebe (Titchwell)
  3. fulmar (Dungeness)
  4. gannet (Dungeness)
  5. cormorant
  6. little egret (Rainham Marsh)
  7. grey heron
  8. spoonbill (Titchwell)
  9. mute swan (Kelling water meadows)
  10. greylag goose (Rainham)
  11. canada goose (Rainham)
  12. brent goose (Warham Greens)
  13. shelduck (Rainham)
  14. egyptian goose (Cley)
  15. mandarin
  16. mallard
  17. gadwall (Rainham)
  18. pintail (Rainham)
  19. shoveler (Rainham)
  20. wigeon (Rainham)
  21. teal (Rainham)
  22. pochard (Cley)
  23. redcrested pochard (Titchwell)
  24. tufted duck (Rainham)
  25. Ring necked duck (Dungeness)
  26. common scoter (Titchwell)
  27. Velvet scoter (Titchwell)
  28. long tailed duck (Titchwell)
  29. goldeneye (Dungeness)
  30. red breasted merganser (Titchwell)
  31. red kite
  32. marsh harrier (Cley)
  33. common buzzard
  34. sparrowhawk
  35. kestrel
  36. hobby (Wiveton)
  37. red legged partridge
  38. grey partridge
  39. pheasant
  40. moorhen
  41. coot
  42. oystercatcher (Cley)
  43. avocet (Kelling Water Meadows)
  44. little ringed plover (Titchwell)
  45. ringed plover (Rainham)
  46. grey plover (Titchwell)
  47. lapwing
  48. knot (Cley)
  49. turnstone (Burnham Overy Staithe)
  50. dunlin (Cley)
  51. common sandpiper (Kelling WM)
  52. redshank (Rainham)
  53. black tailed godwit (Cley)
  54. Bar tailed godwit (Titchwell)
  55. curlew (Warham Greens)
  56. whimbrel (Burnham Overy Staithe)
  57. woodcock
  58. snipe (Titchwell)
  59. jack snipe (Rainham)
  60. ruff (Cley)
  61. black headed gull
  62. common gull
  63. mediterranean gull (Titchwell)
  64. herring gull
  65. lesser black backed gull
  66. Great black backed gull (Kelling WM)
  67. Caspian gull (Dungeness)
  68. sandwich tern (Dungeness)
  69. Common tern (Dungeness)
  70. stock dove (Warham Greens)
  71. wood pigeon
  72. collared dove
  73. swift (Titchwell)
  74. tawny owl
  75. barn owl
  76. short eared owl (Cley)
  77. little owl
  78. green woodpecker
  79. great spotted woodpecker
  80. lesser spotted woodpecker
  81. skylark
  82. woodlark (Kelling Heath)
  83. sand martin (Rainham)
  84. house martin (Cley)
  85. swallow (Titchwell)
  86. meadow pipit (Cley)
  87. pied wagtail
  88. grey wagtail
  89. yellow wagtail (Rainham)
  90. wren
  91. dunnock
  92. robin
  93. Black redstart (Dungeness)
  94. wheatear (Kelling WM)
  95. stonechat (Kelling WM)
  96. song thrush
  97. redwing
  98. fieldfare
  99. mistle thrush
  100. blackbird
  101. blackcap 
  102. Lesser whitethroat (Kelling Water Meadows)
  103. whitethroat (Dungeness)
  104. sedge warbler (Rainham)
  105. cettis warbler (Rainham)
  106. reed warbler (Dungeness)
  107. willow warbler (Kelling Heath)
  108. chiffchaff
  109. goldcrest
  110. great tit
  111. blue tit
  112. coal tit
  113. long tailed tit
  114. bearded tit (Cley)
  115. nuthatch
  116. tree creeper
  117. magpie
  118. jay
  119. jackdaw
  120. rook
  121. carrion crow
  122. starling
  123. house sparrow
  124. chaffinch
  125. linnet
  126. goldfinch
  127. greenfinch
  128. siskin
  129. bullfinch
  130. reed bunting
  131. yellowhammer
  132. Corn Bunting (Choseley)
Norfolk turnstone

Busy Norfolk Day

Setting off at 7.15am for a day's birding along the North Norfolk Coast. I arrived in Wells for a coffee at 9.00 and then headed for Warham Greens between Wells and Stiffkey. A good migrant site, but not today and this area set the tone for the whole day. The fog was slowly clearing and the temperature was rising but still a sweater required. I wandered to the Metal Gibbert roundabout and back, noting regulars for this time of year. A hoped for ring ouzel didn't materialise but first chiffchaffs of the day were noted, along with curlew, redshank, brent geese, chaffinches etc. I planned on trying for photos that depicted birds in spring: a few worked but many didn't!
Black headed gull in early morning light

Brent goose

Linnet, they followed me throughout the day!

chiffchaff in hawthorn

Chiffchaff on Alexanders, a plant that is taking over the whole of North Norfolk!

Another linnet

Smart springtime chaffinch


Brent geese put up by Marsh harrier

From here, I headed to Kelling Water meadows where I met a couple that informed me that very little was about. Common sandpiper, stonechat, 4 avocet, wheatear, gadwall, shoveler, redshank, mallard, wigeon and shelduck seemed good to me, coming from landlocked Hertfordshire. As I returned to the car, small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies were an indication of the temperature increase (necessitating a sweater removal) and several blackcaps were singing, but not performing for the camera.
Male kestrel over Kelling Hard

Another linnet!

Small tortoiseshell
Shelduck with a wigeon pair on the water
Back to the car and up to Kelling Heath. I arrived at the car park and asked a birder if the wood lark were about. "Over there 20 minutes ago," he replied. I knew that a pair were near the metal gate at the car park and after 10 minutes one flew over, typically disappearing from view before a photo. However, several willow warblers could be heard and I tracked one down. It refused to emerge for a decent photo, this, sadly was the best I could manage.
male willow warbler
I then thought it was time for a shot of caffiene, so off to the Visitors' Centre at Cley. A double espresso and Bakewell flapjack fired me up again and even better! I searched through my wallet for my membership card to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and, in the process, came across some bank notes I had put away during our Sri Lankan trip. I had looked for these after we had landed at Heathrow and then forgotten. A most welcome £55.00!!
A wander to the hides gave views of a few new birds, black tailed godwits, knot, dunlin, but nothing too noteworthy.
Just great plumage

Lapwing that is very shy!

2 Black tailed godwits showing differences as they come into breeding plumage

Knot, not a frequent visitor to the scrape from Daukes Hide

Black tailed godwit

Following this excursion I drove to the beach car park for a sea watch but nothing was moving apart from a selection of the gulls, so off to Holkham and a drive down Lady Anne's Drive. Nothing here, so on to Burnham Norton for a wander to the coastal footpath and back. 2 distant garganey were pleasing, little egrets, tufted duck and another marsh harrier.
Meadow pipit, a pleasing shot

A very high overhead marsh harrier

Little egret

Pair of tufties
Time was beginning to run out, so off to Choseley Drying Barns, but not before a stop at Burnham Overy Staithe where I added turnstone to the list for the day.
At Choseley, yellowhammer and red legged partridge made the list  before I had got out of the car.  In the distance, another male marsh harrier, plenty of partridge, both rlp and grey along with 8 brown hares in one field.
Always good to see a brown hare
After this; Titchwell RSPB Reserve and just in time to catch the cafe for one of their brilliant Bakewell Tarts. On to the reserve as everyone was leaving. Now gone 5pm but plenty of light left. 2 Mediterranean gulls were the highlight on the Fresh Marsh whilst from the beach: 100's of common scoter, long tailed duck and 3 great crested grebe. As I scoped the horizon, 2 red breasted mergansers were heading into The Wash for the night. Grey plovers were noted on the salt marsh. Just a peaceful, relaxing place to be as the sun sank over Thornham Marsh.
As I wandered back to the now empty car park both a nuthatch and another blackcap sang due to my departure.
2 Med gulls a long way off the footpath.


Teal drake


feeding (very noisily) knot

Brent goose


Blackcap near Titchwell car park
A stop at Burnham Deepdale for petrol and drink and then the drive home, stopping for some food before arriving home 14 hours after leaving. A wonderful day, my first in Norfolk this year. Shame I didn't have time for Holme and Hunstanton cliffs to add to the 78 species noted. No cormorant, grey heron or Egyptian goose seen!
As always, I keep the best shots for my RSPB, Nat Hist and Bird Club presentations, so most of these are ones I am happy to share.

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