Thursday 22 February 2018

Bramfield Cemetery

A few spare hours today, so off to Bramfield village near Hertford where hawfinches had been observed in the churchyard.Upon arrival there were 2 chaps in situ with cameras, firing away and, as I walked towards them, noted 6 hawfinches in a distant ash tree. They flew off before I got a photo.They continued to fly around and each time either landed in the ash, on the far side of it so no good for photos, or disappeared into the depths of a yew tree.
I passed the time noting all the birds in the churchyard and getting a few photos of greenfinch and one of the 4 nuthatches which all seemed to be prospecting for nest sites. One pair seemed interested in a tree hole whilst the other pair visited a newly placed nest box on several occasions.Goldcrests flitted around the conifers whilst great, blue, coal and long tailed tits flew around. A common buzzard overhead and also blackbirds, song thrush, chaffinch, female bullfinch were observed before I was just about to head off. At that point a splendid male hawfinch landed right at the top of a tree and gave the opportunity for a few pleasing shots of this rather elusive and shy bird.



another nuthatch

Tuesday 20 February 2018

February Moths

The last 3 weeks have been very poor for moths due to the night time temperatures frequently falling to zero or below. Consequently, there have been many blank nights and ones where I have not run the portable trap around the parish, just relying on the garden trap. Between 29th Jan and 7th Feb no moths were recorded, my longest barren spell since 2014,  but a warmer night on the 8th meant I carted all the gear into Stocking Wood. Upon returning later in the evening I had trapped 8 moths of 4 species

Dark chestnut

Pale brindled beauty

There were another 7 blank nights before the temperatures picked up enough for me to get out. I visited Millennium Wood with just my headtorch and net where Graeme Smith was running a single trap. Between the 2 methods we took 29 moths of 6 species. Dotted border, Early moth, Spring usher and March moth shown here. The other species as above.
Dotted border

Early moth

March moth

Spring usher
another blank night followed before a break in the weather as temperatures remained around 12C. Time to leave the portable trap at Pig's Green and run the garden one, too.
27 moths of 7 species taken to the portable trap. I also wandered a few woods with the headtorch and net, catching Agonopterix heracliana in good numbers. The garden trap realised 4 moths of 3 species, all taken already.
Small brindled beauty from Pigs Green

Common quaker, 1st of the year from Pigs Green

1 of 9 Agonopterix heracliana, this one from Millennium Wood
The temperatures dropped a little on the 19th but still worth running both traps. Alder Wood was the destination for the portable trap where I scored with a disappointing 8 moths of 6 species, but nothing new and the garden trap was empty this morning.
This leaves me on 142 moths recorded, made up of 14 species (11 macro species, 3 micro species)
Millennium Wood has given up the most so far this year, with 9 species, but it has had more trap nights than anywhere else. The next 7 - 10 days look fairly bleak and, I suspect, very little to record.

Sunday 18 February 2018

Another Norfolk Day

Due to a spare day and Wendy being on grand children duty, I grabbed the chance of another visit to North Norfolk. I contacted Gary in Stortford and he was up for his first birding trip of the year and he was duly picked up at 6.30am. We had a coffee at Wells before 8.30am and then off to Salthouse to check if the snow buntings were still present. I had seen these here 22nd Jan and once we got close it was interesting to note the amount of birds that were moulting into adult male plumage, compared to the brown/fawn birds of a month ago.
3 snow buntings: Salthouse beach

Male moulting into breeding plumage

Compare to the photo below taken on 22.01.18 at the same site.

Displaying winter plumage

Inevitable turnstones at the end of Beach Road, Salthouse
A pair of stonechat and numerous linnets were also noted around Gramborough Hill before we did a quick sea watch but nothing at all, so to the car and off for another coffee at the NWT Visitors' Centre. There seemed to be little of note on the reserve at Cley so we drove around to the beach carpark for a check on the Eye Field and sea but not too much so off west. We dropped in at Blakeney and Morston where there were Brent geese and regular waders, so on to Holkham for a check on the sea and to see if the shore larks were still present as this is a species Gary has only seen on a few occasions. A buzzard, west towards Burnham Overy Staithe attracted our attention. Although distant, in good light, as it circled, a clear white rump denoting rough legged buzzard. A new for year sp. No sign of the larks even though an enthusiastic birder told us they were there and that he could actually see them as we were chatting. Others confirmed they were not present in their usual area. Interestingly, we decided to do a little searching and every time were stopped to scan the low vegetation we appeared to attract other birders hoping we were watching them.
Then, off for a sea watch. A Black throated diver was new for the year along with numerous  red throated, both on the water and flying into The Wash. Great crested grebes, cormorants and gulls were also noted.
Back in Lady Anne's Drive, huge numbers of pink footed geese, wigeon and 10 snipe altogether.
Black headed gull

Pink footed goose

Stonechat, Holkham beach

A wisp (or walk) of snipe

Snipe, Lady Anne's Drive.
From here we continued west, checking Brancaster harbour but nothing too unusual before grabbing some sustenance at Burnham Deepdale and a quick trip to Choseley Drying Barns. Nothing here at all so off to a very crowded Titchwell RSPB Reserve. A coffee and one of their excellent Bakewell Tarts and we were off.
First to the dragonfly pond where bramblings could be seen but were too far into vegetation for a photo. Siskins fed in the alders before we were off to the beach, having scanned the Volunteer Marsh for reported water and rock pipits. Weather remained fine as we set up our Scopes on the beach. Wigeon a plenty, great crested grebe, flyby red throated divers, goldeneye and a few scoter before a few red breasted mergansers were seen. A good session where I had a chat to Terry and Anne, birders now living in Hunstanton that I have known for many years. Good to see them.

Siskins feeding in alder

Drake teal

Muddy redshank

Little Grebe

Dunlin in late afternoon light

Ringed plover in poor light
We checked the Freshmarsh and Salt Marsh for waders, adding grey plover and avocet to the day list before returning to the car park and a last trip of the day, to Thornham. Here, we were checking for twite, not seen and a 2nd year Iceland Gull that may have goon into roost some way off Thornham Point. A scope scan through the several 1000 gulls present didn't give up a white winger, so back to the car and home just before 6.00pm.
Great day and good to catch up with Gary. Last time we were birding together was last May in The Camargue.
Species list for the day. (year listers in red)

  1. Red throated diver
  2. Black throated diver 
  3. Little grebe
  4. Great crested grebe
  5. Cormorant
  6. Little egret
  7. Whooper swan
  8. Mute swan
  9. Pink footed goose
  10. Greylag goose
  11. Brent goose
  12. Shelduck
  13. Egyptian goose
  14. Canada goose
  15. Mallard
  16. Gadwall
  17. pintail
  18. shoveler
  19. wigeon
  20. Teal
  21. Pochard
  22. Tufted duck
  23. Common scoter
  24. Goldeneye
  25. Red breasted merganser
  26. Marsh harrier
  27. Rough legged buzzard 
  28. Common buzzard
  29. Kestrel
  30. Red legged partridge
  31. Pheasant
  32. Moorhen
  33. Coot
  34. Oystercatcher
  35. Avocet
  36. Ringed plover
  37. Grey plover
  38. Golden plover
  39. Lapwing
  40. Knot
  41. Sanderling
  42. Turnstone
  43. Dunlin
  44. Redshank
  45. Black tailed godwit
  46. Bar tailed godwit
  47. Curlew
  48. Snipe
  49. Ruff
  50. Black headed gull
  51. Common gull
  52. Herring gull
  53. Lesser black backed gull
  54. Greater black backed gull
  55. Wood pigeon
  56. Collared dove
  57. Skylark
  58. Meadow pipit
  59. Pied wagtail
  60. Wren
  61. Dunnock
  62. Robin
  63. Stonechat
  64. Fieldfare
  65. Blackbird
  66. Great tit
  67. Coal tit
  68. Blue tit
  69. Magpie
  70. Jackdaw
  71. Carrion crow
  72. Rook
  73. Starling
  74. Chaffinch
  75. Brambling
  76. Linnet
  77. Lesser redpoll
  78. Siskin
  79. Goldfinch
  80. Reed bunting
  81. Snow bunting

Thursday 15 February 2018

Frampton Marsh

After many years of planning a trip to this RSPB Reserve, I eventually got round to going there yesterday. A superb place and one I shall certainly be returning too soon as the whole habitat looks like a magnet for migrating waders.
Today, their was an icy breeze that made searching for distant birds difficult with frozen hands, hats disappearing over fences and the wind battering the binoculars. I had taken my scope with me, but didn't take it out of the car as it would have rattled around in the breeze and probably been more trouble carting it around than it was worth.
The Visitors' Centre opened shortly after my arrival, by which time I had noted regular species at the feeders. In the bushes were a few tree sparrows but in the time I was there, they refused to pose for a photo.
Having had a quick chat and gleaned a map, I was off to check the fields by the car park. Plenty of wigeon, redshanks and several ruff in fine plumage. Lapwings were everywhere and must, like the wigeon be excess of 10,000. Huge numbers of these birds rose as a merlin shot passed me, too fast for a photo.
I arrived at the 360 hide where I noted more of the same, so on to the reedbed hide. Shelduck, mallards, gadwall and large numbers of greylag and brent geese whilst out side, a superb male stonechat
female teal

wigeon in poor light conditions

Black tailed godwits

rather distant ruff

pair of ruff

Lapwing from the 360 hide

from the 360 hide looking towards the East hide

The East hide

Brent geese

Male stonechat

Fly past little egret
I continued on to the Wash Trail and into the East hide before wandering on to the Grassland trail. First surprise of the day was encountering 4 barnacle geese in with some brents and further along a solitary spotted redshank. In the far distance around 50 - 60 whooper swans before I checked the reservoir where a pair of goldeneye consorted with several tufted duck and a fair few drake pochard.
A coffee helped thaw me out back at the centre before I headed off back home. A thoroughly enjoyable morning despite the cold and what was now a stiff breeze and drizzle. The numbers of birds was amazing and I look forward to returning later in spring. Many thanks to Lisa at the centre for being so helpful. This is a reserve I highly recommend but I would advise warm clothes, gloves and a hat that remains on in a breeze.
1st year herring gull

Black tailed godwit

From the Wash trail, looking beyond the East hide

Barnacle and brent geese

drake pintail

winter plumaged spotted redshank

Redshank for comparison

Drake gadwall
Species list. Year listers in red taking running total for 2018 to 116 species

  1. Cormorant
  2. Little egret
  3. Grey heron
  4. Whooper swan 
  5. Mute swan
  6. Greylag goose
  7. Canada goose
  8. Barnacle goose
  9. Brent goose
  10. Shelduck
  11. Mallard
  12. Gadwall
  13. Pintail
  14. Shoveler
  15. Wigeon
  16. Teal
  17. Pochard
  18. Tufted duck
  19. Goldeneye
  20. Common buzzard
  21. Kestrel
  22. Merlin
  23. Pheasant
  24. Moorhen
  25. Coot
  26. Ringed plover
  27. Golden plover
  28. Lapwing
  29. Dunlin
  30. Redshank
  31. Spotted redshank
  32. Black tailed godwit
  33. Curlew
  34. Snipe
  35. Ruff
  36. Black headed gull
  37. Herring gull
  38. Great Black backed gull
  39. Wood pigeon
  40. Stock dove
  41. Collared dove
  42. Skylark
  43. Meadow pipit
  44. Pied wagtail
  45. Wren
  46. Dunnock
  47. Robin
  48. Stonechat
  49. Redwing
  50. Fieldfare
  51. Blackbird
  52. Great tit
  53. Blue tit
  54. Long tailed tit
  55. Magpie
  56. Jackdaw
  57. Carrion crow
  58. Rook
  59. Starlin
  60. House sparrow
  61. Tree sparrow
  62. Chaffinch
  63. Greenfinch
  64. Goldfinch
  65. Linnet
  66. Reed bunting
Brent geese

whooper swans with golden plover and lapwing

Distant goldeneye


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