Friday, 29 June 2012

Nightjar West Stow

It's Friday night, I have had another difficult week at work chasing numbers.....the market's really tough at the moment but I'm holding my own against the other guys. After a long hard week you'd think I'd be having a nice meal or night out but no,  how do I relax? I pick Jim up and we head for West Stow and the Kings Forest in search of Nightjar.
Leaving Essex at 7pm we're parked up in West Stow for 8pm and after a short walk through the trees we find ourselves in a forest clearing that looks ideal so we plot up and wait for dark to fall.
Sundown is 9.20pm but at 10pm it's still light, the temperature starts to fall from the 20 degrees it was when we arrived but there's only a slight breeze.
Hares are playing along the forest tracks and RL Partridge run for cover as we approach.
Lot's of Jay about, Crows and Gulls fly over going to roost and the Geese at Lackford can be heard.
Song Thrush and Whitethroat sing and both GS and Green Woodpecker are seen.
We see a Woodcock fly over calling while it's still light and shortly after another flies through.
The bats start to come out to play and the bugs get bigger and more obvious. Tawny Owls are now calling all around us and then a distant Nightjar starts churring....BINGO!
We move closer and hear more churring between 10.15 and 10.45 before we leave Thetford at 11pm for the hours run home. Another bird on the list for 2012 and now just three short of the target.
Jimmy's happy with his night of nightjars and can't wait to tell the old man what he missed out on.
(I'm sure he'll be gentle with the news.....not!)

East Blean Wood Butterflies

Heath Fritillary

East Blean Woods

Heath Fritillary
Meadow Brown
Heath Fritillary
Couple of photographs from a quick visit to East Blean Woods today.

Large Skipper East Blean Woods
Heath Fritillary

Heath Fritillary

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Crayford Quail

I'm blaming Kev Jarvis for getting me out of bed early this morning. He's posted Quail at Crayford again yesterday so what's a man to do. I'm trying to see off a touch of man flu but the thought of bagging Quail get's me out of the sack and making the drive to Moat Lane Crayford again this morning before work. I'm on site for 6am and once parked make the walk along the footpath at Crayford Marsh. I see Heron and Egret straight away and good numbers of Collared Dove. Ring Neck Parakeets call and show in the willows from the path and a Little Owl sits on the bow of the middle Willow low down away from the parakeets which must drive it nuts with their constant noise.

Lot's of Greenfinch and Whitethroat about, Shelduck and Mallard on the river and a Marsh Harrier over. Corn Bunting in the paddock along with Starling, Magpie and Crow. Gulls fly over the Thames and two Holly Blue butterfly are up early. A tiny baby frog (about the size of a house fly) jumps across the path in front of me and newly fledged Reed Warblers play at the top of the reed bed. All in all a very nice hour before work but again no Quail.

News that the Pacific Plover hasn't been seen at Cley today might spoil the weekends plans, we'll see.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bugs and Stuff

A few pictures taken today whilst waiting for birds to show (or not)
Longhorn Beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens

Common Scorpionfly
Green Nettle Weevil
Damsel Fly
Poppy Field

Pacific Golden Plover Cley Marshes

A Pacific Golden Plover was reported on North Scrape at Cley yesterday afternoon so I decided to give it a go this morning. By 7am I was sitting in the Swarovski Optik Hide with Jim and Dad.
View from Swarovski Hide

The reserve is full of breeding Avocet with plenty of chicks about. Shelduck also have plenty of young with them. There's a really smart summer plumage Spotted Redshank and equally impressive is a full summer plumage Ruff which Jimmy picked out in the scope for us. I picked up a Hooded Crow flying through chased by gulls and a Peregrine flashed through giving the Lapwings concern.
Sandwich Terns flew along the beach line. A nice visit but no sign of the Pacific bird we'd come for.
We moved on to try some local areas for Montagus Harrier but on route picked up a Red Kite over Burnham Thorpe. We found a pair of Marsh Harriers and whilst scoping Jim had a Turtle Dove fly past which we all managed to get on. (A year tick...246 now!) Further down the road we find more Marsh Harriers in good numbers but no sign of Monty. (I'm told we're down to only one bird in Norfolk this year)
We moved on and tried our luck for Honey Buzzard but despite seeing good numbers of Buzzard we couldn't pin any down to Honey. Two Hobby flew over along with Kestrel and Sprawk here. Three more Turtle Dove fly over these fields whilst we watch.
We encountered Fallow, Roe and Muntjac deer today and loads of Hare too but it'll go down as a frustrating day compounded by news that the Pacific Golden Plover landed back at Cley as I landed back in Essex at around 5pm.

Great Ryburgh

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Large Skipper

Saw this little guy today so had to get the camera out
Large Skipper
Large Skipper

Monday, 18 June 2012

A good night for Nightjar

It's 22 degrees and there's no wind, I worked locally today and I'm local again tomorrow so I'm thinking it's perfect for a trip up to the Brecks in search of Nightjar. The journey's good and I cover the 60 miles in under an hour arriving at 8pm. On the way I spot a Little Owl sitting out on a hay stack which gives lovely views and pleases Jim senior most as he still needs it for a year tick. (The Lazy so and so won't drive a couple of miles from home for it) Next I spot a Stone Curlew before two more fly over calling. Two Hobby hawk the heath and give us superb views before being chased by a Merlin. A Cuckoo calls and continues to call past 10pm. We have a Tawny Owl calling for long periods over our two hour visit and it's joined by Little Owl and then a Barn Owl flies over and circles before taking rest on a fence post. We wait until dark hoping for Nightjar but no sign nor sound of any. Stone Curlew call the whole time as do Woodlark which sit out in the open for us.
And a couple of Stonechat also showed well before the light faded.
A very good couple of hours but still a little dissapointed not to bag the Nightjar.
We'll just have to go back for more!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Little Bittern Rickmansworth

I'm enjoying some shut eye when I hear the phone bleep at 7.30am this morning. It's Jim and he's in the hide on Cornmill Meadow looking at a sandpiper. He can't decide if it's Green or Wood so needs another pair of eyes on it. At 8am I'm in the hide and must admit what I thought was going to be a straight yes its Wood turned out to be a little more difficult. Slight eyeline, legs difficult to tell as it's in the muddy edge, does have tail bars and they're quite thick. Didn't give a single call or a any sign of underwing so we remain unsure.
Wood or Green ?

We took off for Rickmansworth Aquadrome along the M25 which was a joy for once. On arrival we headed along the footpath between the lakes and turned left (west) along the River Colne. The bird had just flown!
After a wait of around 30 minutes it flew from the reed bed and landed infront of the crowd of around 30 birders / twitchers / photgraphers / dog walkers and gave reasonable views although never really came right out from the reed bed. A great little bird thats reported to have been in the area for a month or so.

Whilst waiting we had nice views of Kingfisher and Hobby too and nice to see two local birders there when Barry & Harry turned up. All in all a very short but productive morning and I made it home in good time to keep the family happy on Fathers day.
That's 245 different species seen this year now and only five short of my 250 target.
Must say Rickmansworth Aquadrome is another new place visited as a result of the chase and it really was a cracking place to visit. I'll go back now It's been put on my radar by this twitch.

PS: we've settled on Green since getting back and doing some homework on bill length, leg colour, eye striping etc. which gives Jim his 100th patch tick of the year, congratulations Bro.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Double Dip Depression

5.30AM and I'm already on Crayford Marsh looking and listening for the reported Quail. After an hour of waiting Kev Jarvis arrives and confirms we're in the right spot and he should know as he found the bird four days ago and has posted several great photo's on both Birdguides and his blog.
We wait and while we're waiting a Peregrine stoops, then a Hobby floats over followed by a group of five noisy Ring Necked Parakeets. Add a Little Egret, a single Redsank some Corn Buntings, Whitethroat and Reed Warblers and you pretty much have the picture. After two hours I've had enough and make the return to the car. By 8.30am I'm on the beach at Dungeness looking for Roseatte Terns. Lot's of Gannet today feeding close in as the wind is c20mph straight off the sea. A little Gull shows well both in flight and resting on the beach. Common Terns feed constantly over the warm waters of the patch in front of the powerstation. The wind gives a good battering to all the birders gathered to see the reported adult Roseattes but again after two hours I have to admit defeat and the double dip depression hits home as I make the 90 mile journey back up the M20 having dipped on both todays target birds.
I'm now pondering ......Little Bittern Rickmansworth? Black winged Stilt Welney? or will the weekend be a washout?

Saturday, 9 June 2012


Just a few more pictures from todays trip.

Purple Heron Dungeness

Got the news in the week that a Purple Heron had been around Denge Marsh Dungeness for a couple of days so an early Saturday trip was planned. I've collected the Jim's and after a short delay due to the M25 being closed at Romford I've diverted down the M11, A13, M25 and M20 and we're in Denge Road for 6.30am. and already have Marsh Harriers around us, a Buzzard on the way in and a count of over 30 birds before we get to the bridge to view over the Marsh.
Denge Marsh
The temperature is around 14 degrees but the wind is a good 30 MPH so it feels much colder. Another two birders arrive but we decide to head off for a quick sea watch so leave them to it.
Luckily we get in the hide out of the wind but the sea is very quiet.
A few Gannets dive a long way out and good numbers of Terns fly past with Sandwich and Common seen. No sign of yesterdays Roseates or the Black Tern reported for the last couple of days.

Little Gulls are feeding close in with the Black Headed guls and whilst I tried to get a record shot all I managed was Black Headed Gull and I got a good soaking in the process as a freek wave caught me out.

We ventured out of the hide and tried the patch for terns but nothing but Common and Sandwich about with the usual gulls but again a couple of Little Gulls. The eyes are watering from the wind here.
Sea Watch
After a quick walk around the lighthouse we're back in the car and heading for Denge Road again. On arrival the two birders we left are leaving but say they had the Heron an hour ago (just after we left!)
So we plot up on the bridge and wait. An hour goes by and we're joined by a few more birders some on the bridge and some taking the soft option and sitting in their cars. A couple of Yellow Wagtails, lot's  of Swift and Common Tern, a couple more Harriers, a Cormorant lot's of Reed Buntings, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat....Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Greylag, Mute Swans, Mallards, Tufted, Gadwall, Pochard (and a female Red Crested Pochard)..Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Crows, Kestrel....are you getting the picture?...No sign of Purple Heron!
Another hour goes by and now I'm freezing...back to the car for coffee, back to the bridge back to the car...sit and wait but no Heron....what do you do you've got up early and driven 100 miles to the right place and given several hours of your time to the mission.
After a lenghty debate we decide to move so I take a detour around the military base looking for Turtle Dove in an effort to get something for the day. No joy but as I get back round onto Denge Marsh Road instead of turning left for home I turn right and tell the Jim's we'll give it another ten minutes from the car. BINGO! I'M ON THE TARGET BIRD WITHIN MINUTES.....It's flying in and as I shout it the boys get on it and we get 3 to 4 minutes of flight views.....probably best I've had..How's that for luck?
Now we can head off with a little more satisfaction.
I'm ticking Purple Heron for the third year running at Dungeness. 244 on the year list and 6 needed for the magical 250....blimey that was a slog for this one too, 200 miles and 6 hours but it's on the list and we move on looking for the final 6!
Dungeness National Nature Reserve

Monday, 4 June 2012

Little Tern Winterton on Sea

Decided to try for Swallowtail Butterfly at Strumpshaw today as it was forecast to be half decent weather. Before that though I drove 12 miles past the reserve to bag my first Little Tern of the year.
Little Tern

Being a guaranteed tick as I know of a large colony nesting at Winterton on Sea. Pulling into the car park we take the short (but calf straining) walk through the dunes to the fenced off nesting site. The terns here as all the other sites along this coastline are protected. Here at Winterton they are protected by electric fence and a warden watches almost 24/7.

We get really good views of the terns and watch for an hour or so before heading off to Strumpshaw.

Warning sign
Strumpshaw Fen is only 12 miles away and we arrive for about 10am. We make our way around the reserve stopping first at Fen Hide and then Tower Hide. Good views of several Marsh Harriers and Bearded Tits are heard but little else of note.

We check the Doctors House where Lupins are in full bloom but the weather has dissapointed and we don't get the Swallowtail today. A pheasant did show well outside Tower Hide and stopped on the path just long enough for a picture.
Pheasant at Strumpshaw
Back down the A11 and home for 2.30pm. Another year tick in the Little Tern at Winterton leaving me needing just seven now for my target.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Marsh Warbler Rainham

A mixed bag of a day! Watched yesterday while at work to see that a Marsh Warbler had been heard at Rainham but the trip to Rainham on a Friday night is not a pleasant one so I decided to leave it until today. Up early and away by 5.30am, collect the Jims and we're in the car park in Coldharbour Lane for 6am. It's grey, wet and surprisingly cold after the recent warm spell. Wennington mound (known locally as Serin mound) is a hundred yards or so from the car park and on arrival there's a single birder (Fool came by bike wearing shorts....he was shivering big time) Have you heard it? I ask "Yes it's been singing and I've seen it but it's elusive." After a couple of minutes I hear it and we manage to get a look as it sits up very briefly. By 8am with the cyclist long departed we have a small crowd of eight locals all meeting with the same "any luck?" greeting. All get good views ( including Les Harrison who's a nice guy and a regular on the patch at Rainham, he helped us with good views of the SEO's on occasion and Neville who we bump into on many a local twitch.)
Neville tells us he heard Grasshopper warbler on the way in so in a flash we're off to get another year tick. I quickly locate one but it's off before the Jim's get on it. A little delay and as we spread out along the path Jim hears it reeling again but it's quiet by the time I get there although I did get a very short reel earlier so I'm happy to tick it for the year at last (June seems really late to be adding this regular)
So I have bagged a lifer in the Marsh Warbler and a year tick on the Gropper, I'm pretty wet and cold so decide to head home by 8.30am and that's when the fun begins as my 61 plate Merc decides to lose all throttle. Three hours later! I'm on the back of a recovery van on the way to MB Loughton. Still I suppose you have to pay back good luck with a little bad now and again.
242 in the bag for 2012, broken even with last year and I'm left needing 8 now for target.
Onwards and upwards!