Saturday 17 July 2021

Guiding in North Norfolk

Painted Lady near Kelling Water meadows.

 Last Tuesday (13th July) Wendy and I set off for a couple of nights staying at the Kings Arms, Blakeney, returning Thursday afternoon. A relatively early night as the following morning I was booked to pick up American birder Moez from his accommodation in Sheringham, so I was heading back up the M11 at 5.30am ready for a meet at 7.30.
Superb Yellowhammer at Blakeney Esker

I arrived a few minutes late courtesy of some farm traffic  and we set off for Sheringham Esplanade for a sea watch: gulls, terns and gannets got on to the day list before we headed towards Kelling Heath, hopefully for Dartford warbler. This, after a good search was neither seen nor heard but several warblers made the list as I pointed out several tree and plant species. Once back at the car park, time for a good wander down to Kelling Water Meadow and Kelling Quags where more warbler species were noted along with several finch species. A quick check on the sea before returning to Kelling Tea Rooms where the car was.

We popped into Weybourne beach car park and down Salthouse Beach Road but nothing of note so we moved along, stopping for coffee at Cley NWT Visitors' Centre and then another sea watch from Cley beach. Nothing to add and a check on the Eye field  gave up one sedge warbler so time for a longer walk.

Sedge warbler

Parked at Stiffkey campsite car park and headed east to Stiffkey Fen. This was a lovely walk with linnets everywhere. Spoonbills and Shelduck flew east whilst at Stiffkey Fen Black tailed godwits, gulls and wildfowl. I hadn't carried my scope due to the increasing heat, meaning Moez (from the Arizona desert) was taking off layers of clothing as he had felt the cold earlier when it was only 18C.

Time for a change of habitat so parking in an incredibly busy Lady Anne's Drive we walked to the lake in Holkham Woods. Goldcrests and coal tits along with a good array of the more common butterflies and a few dragonflies.

From here, a drive into Holkham Hall estate to view the deer herd before popping on to the car park at Brancaster Staithe for oystercatchers and then up to Choseley Barns, which are now not a patch on what they used to be so off for another wander at Holme NWT. As we drove over the narrow bridge before the car park 2 turtle doves upon wires. A 2nd record for Moez and the first of the year for me, indeed, first since 2019. Once parked we wandered towards the Visitors' Centre before dropping down on to the track and working our way back to the car park by the golf course. Stonechats everywhere.

Our final stop was Blakeney Esker where many years ago I recorded 3 nightingale. It was now gone 7pm but no nightingales. A splendid yellowhammer, a pair of bullfinches and several Purple hairstreak butterflies. A good conclusion to a super day.

Purple hairstreak at Blakeney Esker

Dropped Moez back in Sheringham, turned around, headed home, stopping for a meal on the way and, due to endless A14 and A11 roadworks meaning reduced speed, I eventually got home at 11.10pm. Covered over 300 miles in the car and walked 14 miles in total.

A brilliant day out. Glass of red wine and bed for a good night's sleep.

A selection of photos below with, unfortunately, heat haze being an issue and meaning birds that were a little more distant were not photographable. One or two pleasing ones in what became quite harsh light in the afternoon.

Moez had spent the previous day at both Cley NWT Reserve and then Titchwell RSPB Reserve, hence the reason we headed elsewhere. His combined list for the 2 days should make for a good list for North Norfolk in mid July. 

Bird species:

  1. Gannet
  2. Cormorant
  3. Little egret
  4. Grey heron (over road at Egham on way home)
  5. Spoonbill
  6. Mute swan
  7. Greylag goose
  8. Shelduck
  9. Egyptian goose
  10. Mallard
  11. Teal
  12. Red kite
  13. Marsh harrier
  14. Common buzzard
  15. Sparrowhawk
  16. Kestrel
  17. Red legged partridge
  18. Pheasant
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Oystercatcher
  22. Avocet
  23. Golden plover
  24. Lapwing
  25. Sanderling
  26. Black tailed godwit
  27. Curlew
  28. Black headed gull
  29. Herring gull
  30. Lesser black backed gull
  31. Common gull
  32. Sandwich tern
  33. Common tern
  34. Stock dove
  35. Wood pigeon
  36. Turtle dove
  37. Collared dove
  38. Barn owl (over road near Castle Acre on way home)
  39. Swift
  40. Great spotted woodpecker
  41. Skylark
  42. Sand martin
  43. House martin
  44. Swallow
  45. Meadow pipit
  46. Pied wagtail
  47. Wren
  48. Dunnock
  49. Robin
  50. Stonechat
  51. Song thrush
  52. Blackbird
  53. Blackcap
  54. Whitethroat
  55. Sedge warbler
  56. Cetti's warbler
  57. Reed warbler
  58. Chiffchaff
  59. Goldcrest
  60. Great tit
  61. Blue tit
  62. Coal tit
  63. Magpie
  64. Jackdaw
  65. Jay
  66. Rook
  67. Carrion crow
  68. Starling
  69. House sparrow
  70. Chaffinch
  71. Linnet
  72. Goldfinch
  73. Greenfinch
  74. Bullfinch
  75. Reed bunting
  76. Yellowhammer
    Fine male yellowhammer having a doze.


  1. Painted Lady
  2. Small tortoiseshell
  3. Small white
  4. Red admiral
  5. Comma
  6. Speckled Wood
  7. Gatekeeper
  8. Meadow brown
  9. Purple haistreak
  10. Small skipper
  11. Large skipper
Common buzzard Kelling Heath

Same bird

Female linnet, Kelling Water Meadows

Male Linnet, Kelling Water Meadows

Reed bunting, male, Kelling Quags

Painted lady, Kelling Water Meadows

Comma, Kelling Water Meadows

Small tortoiseshell, Kelling Water Meadows

Common tern, Stiffkey Fen

Oystercatcher, Warham Greens

Non breeding plumage Black Headed gull, Stiffkey Greens

Black headed gull, breeding plumage, Stiffkey Greens

Stonechat, Stiffkey Greens

Male linnet, Stiffkey campsite

Distant and heat hazed wing tagged Marsh harrier

Red admiral, Holkham Pines

Turtle dove, one of a pair, Holme, just before car park

Stonechat, Holme dunes

Common buzzard being mobbed by Black headed gull, Holme NWT

Buzzard has had enough

Female House sparrow, Holme NWT

Male goldfinch, Holme NWT

Another Common buzzard overhead.

Friday 2 July 2021

Moth review of the 1st 6 months of 2021

 The first 6 months of 2021 will go down as one of the poorest mothing years in living memory. 22 nights of frost in April and a very wet May, interspersed with a few hot and dry days really meant several common and expected moth species were not seen. It is possible they didn't emerge due to the low temperatures and it will now be a wait and see game. Will they remain in pupation until next year or just perish? If the latter is the case then certain moths will be hard to come by for a few years to come. Wonder if those that are bivoltine will emerge at the correct time as 2nd generation? Not sure we will ever prove that apart from where 1st and 2nd generations differ in colouration or size. 

Moths such as Purple thorn and Early thorn, regular visitors to the 125 MV Skinner trap were not seen at all, whilst others were counted in very small numbers. No moths were trapped at all between 28.iv.21 and 02.v.21 whilst my latest ever date for an empty trap occured on 25.v.21, a particularly cold night for the end of May

By mid June things began to pick up with several warmer, overcast nights, with the being the best night for species, where 43 different species were recorded. The night that offered the most moths was where 91 moths were taken, made up of 40 species. This was a very wet night, where my MV bulb blew but still functioned. Presumably a brighter light without the shaded glass surround. According to Jon Clifton, it was also likely to be emitting more UV light, hence the good haul for that night.

A few new records for Little Hadham were made during this period, as follows:

01.iii.21: Calybites phasianpennella

31.iii.21: Lead coloured drab Dichroampha acumintana Aethes beatricella Epinotia bilunana Netted pug Miller

By the last day of June, the totals were 133 species of macro moth and 65 micro species. Overall, 1515 moths were trapped.

The most numerous moths were: 

Large nutmeg: 134 

Treble lines: 115

Heart and dart: 86

Small quaker: 85

Common swift: 48

Common wainscot: 42

The most common micro was Celypha striana with a count of 22 specimens. Appears to be having a good year.

Not too many suprises in emergence times apart from a brief spell between and 18. vi.21 where 7 Common rustic aggs were taken. Not unheard of but a tad early. None since the final date. 

By the overall records for Little Hadham parish, including the garden at TL435218 stand at 378 macro species and 416 micro species, giving a total of 794 species since I began recording in June 2011, exactly 10 years ago. There are still many gaps and hopefully, it will be possible to pass 800 species by the end of this year.

Moths with particulary low numbers this period, ones that I normally expect to make 3 figures were Hebrew character (32) and Common quaker (38) whilst others are typically seen on more than 30 occasions were Double striped pug (4,) Nut tree tussock (1,) Green carpet (19) and Oak tree pug (1.)

Hopefully, July through to mid September should see a better haul and possibly a few more new records for my parish list.

Epinotia bilunana


Netted pug, female that started egg laying in the tube so immediately released.

A very worn Lead coloured drab that was gen detted to confirm

Small elephant hawkmoth continues to increase in number locally. None between 2011 and 2018, 1 in 2019, 4 in 2020 and already 6 for 2021.

Thursday 1 July 2021

Norfolk: Grey, Nippy, Drizzly and July!

 Set off to North Norfolk after several changes of mind. Yesterday afternoon I had decided on Norfolk, then checked the weather and changed to a Dungeness trip and then at 6 this morning weather forecast had changed and showed Norfolk to be reasonable, if grey.

I decided to go straight to Cley beach for a sea watch as there was a decent breeze. Glad I did: Gannet, Herring gull, Black headed gull, Little Gull, Common gull, Teal, Tufted duck, Whimbrel, Curlew, Bar tailed godwit, Arctic skua, Sandwich tern, Common tern, Little tern, Cormorant, Fulmar and Common scoter were all noted. Many far out and with the infuriatingly poor light, photos were virtually impossible. It began to drizzle, the type that gets everything wet very quickly so I thought I would head West. 

Checked a few places en route before arriving at Titchwell. Temps much improved but not so the light. Walked to the beach and back with Whimbrel, Spotted redshank and first ruff of the summer noted. Huge numbers of avocet on the Freshmarsh.

Headed back to the car and thought I would pop in on the Roller as it was only a few miles from 5 Wentways roundabout that is my usual route. It was very distant and then made itself even more distant by dropping down on to a fence post some 600 metres away. 

All photos through 600mm lens at full extension and invariable large crops. Silly ISO numbers to try and keep the shutter speed up for birds out to sea. 

Herring gull

Very distant and misty gannets

Sandwich tern

Sandwich tern with sand eel

Yet another Sandwich tern

A very distant Arctic skua

Same bird

Common tern riding the surf

Little gull

Sandwich tern

Had me guessing with dark legs but looked to just be a Herring gull

Same gull with what threw me: dark legs, but just mucky

Black tailed godwit in breeding plumage, but not off to breeding grounds. Adolescent bird.

Showing black tail


Splendid reed bunting on Thornham Marsh

Same bird

Pair of Great egrets, right hand one still showing breeding beak colouration

Busy oystercatcher

Thgis redshank was in post breeding moult and had lost tail feathers.

Chinese Water Deer on Thornham Marsh

My first view of my 2nd UK Roller. Stunning views!

It then moved further away!

But did pose a bit. These from 600 metres.

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