Monday, 30 July 2012

Whte Winged Black Tern Alton Water

Working up the A12 today so I decided to make an early run upto Alton Water in search of the reported White Winged Black Tern. The sat nav takes me up the A12 and into Stutton. From here I take the Holbrook Road toward Holbrook and find Alton Waters car park well sign posted from here.
Following the internal road to the very last car park I quickly find the dam area that the bird has been reported from and a small group of birders are in place. As I get out of the car I lift my binoculars and I'm on the bird before taking a step.
Despite seeing it frm he car I make the 50m walk from the car park to the bank and take a couple of record shots then watch the bird for a few minutes before rushing back down the A12 for a days work.
I wanted to stay much longer to admire this visitor and as I left the car park I couldn't help thinking how fitting the exit sign was.

251 birds seen now this year and 9 left to find by the end of August for my latest self inflicted target.

Alton Water
White Winged Black Tern
White Winged Black Tern
Hope the bird can read!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Eagle Owl Ashford

Well I know there will always be a debate about where this bird came from and we'll probably never know if it's escaped from a private collection of birds somewhere or maybe been released by it's keeper maybe because food can no longer be provided in these tough times we face? Or could it be from the breeding population established "up north" or dare I say could it have crossed the channel?
Anyway all this aside it was a bird I wanted to see so I set off with Jim this morning to check it out.
We found Charter House in the centre of Ashford Town and pulled into the Shell petrol station to find two locals with the bird in their scopes. Great huge bird sitting at the top of the building on a ledge quite relaxed just surveying the area before it closed it's eyes and took a rest.
The locals tell us that they have found pellets and it seems to be enjoying the local pigeon population and has been around for several weeks now.

After enjoying the Eagle Owl for a while we moved on to Dungeness and as usual we took in a short sea watch.
The sea was alive with Gannets fishing and several Porpoise showed as we walked along to the patch (the warm water outfall from the power station) Although the patch was quiet we saw several Sandwich and Common Tern and a pair of Scoters on the sea. Lot's of Gulls about but nothing of note.

On the walk back to the car we found several Common Blue butterflies along with several large and small Whites, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers.

Common Blue Dungeness

Common Blue Female

Common Blue
We spent a few minutes walking around the newly replaced trapping area at the observatory before rain had us rushing back to the car and making the short drive to ARC pit. We spent a couple of hours in Hanson Hide where we had good views of Marsh Harrier, Bar Tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe, Common Sandpiper and we also found five Garganey and a Green Sandpiper. It appeared the world population of Pochard had dropped in today and although on arrival no Hirundines were present they seemed to drop in from everywhere and before long we had hundreds of Swift, House and Sand Martins buzzing about.
An Egret flew off, an Oyster Catcher flew back and forth in typical noisy fashion and Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted and Shelduck completed the ducks on show. Greylag geese, GC Grebes and Wagtails added to the total as did Reed Warblers and Buntings. The trapping area held Dunnock, Blackbird and Whitethroat.

Dungeness Bird Observatory
View over ARC pit from Hanson Hide
From ARC pit we took a very quick drive through the reserve with little to report and then moved on to Folkestone Downs after a short drive along the coast. Our target here was butterfly again and we'd hoped for Blue Adonis but the second coming is not for a couple of weeks yet so we'll have to return later.
Along the path we find lot's of Skippers (large and small) lot's of Marbled White and I find one that appears to be laying eggs. There's also loads of Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large and Small Whites along with a couple of Small Heaths and another Small Blue.
We spotted several moths too including loads of Six Spot Burnets and the strange white one pictured below.

Vestal Rhodometra Sacraria
Common Blue Damsel
View across Folkestone Downs
Marbled White egg laying
Poppy Field Folkestone
A nice trip that the old fella missed as his backside is suffering from sofa itus at the moment which is forcing him to watch every televised second of the Olympics but do not alarm the doctor says it only lasts a couple of weeks every four years so he'll be joining us on our travels shortly.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Butterfly First for the garden

Meadow Brown
Had my first Meadow Brown visit the garden today....not uncommon but I don't normally see them in the garden.

Garden list now includes: Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small White, Large White, Speckled Wood, Comma and Painted Lady
Our Minature Rose finally blossomed today

Gatekeeper..another visitor today

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Reflecting on the sanity of chasing 250 this year

I'm sitting in the garden again tonight, it must be around 26 degrees this evening but yesterdays blue sky has more than a hint of cloud in it. It's that muggy feeling that precedes rain. With the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday I find myself praying for it to stay dry for all the people involved but I must admit it feels like rain is not far away again.
Anyway I'm sitting here reflecting on the why and the how of my challenge to see 250 birds this year now that the target has been reached.
The why is a lot harder to answer than the how so I'll start with the how.
Trips have included a flight to Glasgow followed by three days in Scotland taking in such highlights as Loch Ness, Loch Garton, Loch Lomond, The Cairngorms and Aviemore all those places you read about.
Two trips to Wales and a boat ride to Skomer Island. Here I've also taken in such places as Strumble Head and Dinas reserve along with Teiffi marshes.
I've been to Dungerness, Elmley, Stodmarsh, Capel Fleet & Oar Marsh in Kent.
Pagham Harbour, Rye Harbour , Hayling Island all had day trips too.

Cley and Titchwell reserves in Norfolk as well as a string of other venues such as Salthouse, Burnham, Thornham, Wolferton Triangle, Lynford,  Sherringham, Ranworth Broad and Brancaster and of course Strumpshaw Fen along with the neighbouring Buckenham Marsh.
Minsmere in Suffolk along with visits to Winterton, Horsey, Lowestoft, Dunwich, Walberswick along that East Coast and of course Lakenheath and West Stow in the Brecks.
I've travelled to Hampshire and spent time in the New Forest as well as twitching in Hordle, Worthing, Meare Heath , Oxford, Maldon, Chew Valley / Blagdon lakes and of course Rickmansworth Aquadrome for the Little Bittern.

In my home county of Essex I've visited Vange Marsh, Rainham Marsh, West Canvey Marsh, Abberton, Lea Valley, Chafford Hundred, East Tilbury, Fingringhoe and Tollesbury plus Old Hall Marshes and Roding Valley. I've popped across the water for a couple of days at Crayford Marsh too.

A day out in Yorkshire saw me visit Bempton Cliffs. Add the odd trip to Cambridgeshire and places like Welney and Wicken Fen along with Sandy and East Hyde in Beds followed by Whilstone/ Startops End reservoirs in Bucks. Throw in a little London in Walthamstow and Staines reservoirs, Hayes for the RB Shrike and of course Crossness for the Bonapartes Gull and I think that about covers the how.

Thousands of miles, lot's of hours and plenty of coffee.
So anybody thinking it's easy....think again it takes a lot of effort.

Along the way I've seen five species of Deer, Foxes, Rabbits, Hares, Stoats and Weasels, an Adder and a Basking Shark. We've seen Seals and Porpoise not to mention the countless butterlies. moths insects and amphibians. We've rescued a dog and we've been towed home too.

Now the why?
I can't answer it other than to say that it's my hobby, I enjoy it and the challenge of getting 250 made me do more of it. It's taken me to the places above which have been fantastic to see, It's got me out in fresh air filling my lungs with it which can't be a bad thing and it's given me some quality time with my brother Jim (oh and the old fella should get a mention here too for keeping me entertained on many of the above trips.)

The highlight would have to be the Sea Eagle and the general scenery of Scotland.

So in summary the why is more about giving me a reason to go than actually achieving any goal or satisfaction from the numbers.
August is approaching now and with it will come a host of migrants I'm sure so I'm bracing myself for a new challenge to find ten new birds before the end of August! now that'll give me another reason to get out some more I hope.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Horizontal listing

So the weathers great, the sky is blue and we're sitting out in lovely warm sunshine.
I'm testing out the new garden chairs and find myself horizontal before long.
In this position I can't help notice the sky traffic. In an hour this evening I've clocked up the following from my sky watch.
57 Aeroplanes, 2 Helicopters, 8 screaming Swifts, 147 Black Head Gulls, 64 Woodpigeons (all going in different directions) 3 Rooks, 8 Crows, 4 Jackdaws, 1 LBB Gull, 3 Herring Gulls, 3 Starling, 1 Collard Dove, 1 Magpie 1 Red Admiral, a Small White butterfly and a large unidentified dragon fly, Oh and zero clouds!

All this had me thinking .....where are they coming from and where are they going?
All the planes seem to be coming from Stansted, heading in southerly directions although some seem to bank east as they get over the house and others take a south western route. Only one plane came in from the south west in the hour or so I watched all others appeared to be leaving this glorious island of ours.
As for the birds well only the Gulls give any clue as they are all heading south west in the direction of the large reservoirs at Chingford/Walthamstow.
Now before posting this random blog about nothing I've checked the birding grape vine and noticed a White Rumped Sandpiper at Cley and a Temminck's Stint reported there too...will they wait for me?  (If only I didn't have to work to pay the bills)

PS...make that 3 Helicopters and 65 Woodpigeons!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

These boots were made for walking!

Today has been a day of rest....well rest from driving about looking for stuff to see anyway.
Up early as always..breakfast sorted my attention turned to the garden. Grass cut, edges trimmed, weeds pulled patio swept etc etc and I'm ready for some quiet time.
A two hour sit in the sun reading the latest copy of Birdwatch magazine followed by prawns and rice (very nice and spicy) with a little Pino to wash it down.

A little egret flies over , eight swifts scream by, a large group of over thirty Jackdaw fly over calling at each other all the way. The garden Robin keeps me company most of the day looking for anything to support it's second brood. (first brood only raised one baby)
Blue Tits come and go at the feeder and the local Squirrel pops in and out while the dogs cooling down indoors.

As for Butterfly action the Buddliea does it's job and attracts Red Admiral, Small & Large White and Gatekeeper to the garden.
A large red dragon fly comes to the pond which already has the resident red and blue damsels and a shell from the common Hawker that emerged yesterday.

Got some little wasp like insects around the Ivy today..not seem them before.
looked them up on line and believe them to be
ICHNEUMON STRAMENTARIUS easy for you to say!

I have counted at least ten different wasp/bee species in the garden today (not got a clue of their names I'm afraid)

As for birds and adding to the 250 seen to date well there's a White Rumped Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper within an hours drive but you know what it's going to have to wait for another day because although these boots are made for walking they're going nowhere today and the car is not leaving the drive!
I'll keep an eye out this week on theses two though and do my best to catch them somewhere.

Rest easy will be needed soon!

Just to finish the day well I'm sittiing sipping a nice cold beer when a Hobby flies over the garden and sticks around for a few minutes while I find my Binos and get some good views of it.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

White Admiral at Stour Wood Essex

Having checked the weather I decided to travel to Stour Wood this morning in search of White Admiral. Having never been to this site before It was nice to find it easily along Wrabness Road.
I pulled into the car park for 7am and followed the trails around the wood.
At 7am the butterflies were not flying but a pleasant walk through the woods revealed The Stour Estuary with lot's of Curlew seen feeding from the watch point.
The Stour Estuary

A Heron showed here too along with a couple of Oyster catchers and good numbers of gulls.
A short walk back across the bridge and I'm in the RSPB's reserve at Copperas Woods.

Copperas Wood

I started the walk back to the car park and by now there was much more activity from the butterflies. Ringlets were plentiful (but starting to show their age) along with a few Meadow Brown and several skippers. A gatekeeper posed and I found a Purple Hairstreak warming itself.
As I made my way back to the main clearing I spotted a White Admiral and was lucky when it settled close by giving me a nice photo opportunity.

White Admiral Stour Woods
Shortly after a couple of Silver Washed Fritillary were spotted and again settled for another photo opportunity. These really are large vibrant butterflies which are flying with a purpose as the defend their small patch of the forest.

Silver Washed Fritillary
Before leaving we also caught site of Small and Large White along with Red Admiral.

Heading back down the A12 we make a short detour to Canvey Island and West Canvey Marsh for another attempt at getting a few Marbled White pictures and we're not disappointed as the venue is alive with them still.
Skippers are also every where we look and good numbers of Meadow Brown, Ringlet and a few Gatekeeper and Whites are about. A single Small Heath showed too to bring the butterfly count to more than ten species for the morning.

A nice morning watching these guys go about their business.

New birds are thin on the ground so it's nice to have something else to get me up and out and the colours/patterns are really something when you get this close.
Home for lunchtime and the little matter of laying some flooring with my son in his kitchen.

Meadow Brown

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Celebrating Curlew Sandpiper at Cley

I had to decide on a venue for today's birding exploits so having checked the weather reports and yesterdays bird news I've made a late call and we're heading off to Cley at 5am this morning. 118miles from Essex but we're in the hide before 7am.
Strange Structures have appeared on the beach at Cley
In the name of art I guess
On the way to the hide we see a Marsh Harrier with what appears to be a baby Avocet which is always nasty to see as the parents chase the Harrier in an effort to rescue the chick but it's not going to help this poor thing as the Harrier clears the reserve with it's prey and the world has one less Avocet in it.
Cley Windmill from North Hide
The sunrise is impressive and as we take our seats amongst the early birders that have arrived before us (must be locals) we quickly find Spoonbills, some in flight and others around the scrape but a total count of seven is agreed.
North hide over looks the reserve and visitor centre and the Cley windmill and has the sun rising from behind so early morning views are good here.

More Harriers are noted, Lot's of Avocet, BT Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank, Shelduck and BH Gulls.
Good numbers of Sandwich Tern and a few Common Tern come in and out of the sea.

We find a Spotted Redshank and a summer plumage Knot (which causes me an ID crisis I'm ashamed to say) Cracking bird though.

A Green Sandpiper flies through and lands out of site but a quick shout got the old fella on it in time for a year tick....he seems to always miss this bird when we're out.

All the above are great to see but they're not helping me as I've seen them all at some point or other this year and I need one new bird unseen this year to reach my target of 250.

I think I've found a Curlew Sandpiper but it's a first summer Dunlin once scoped.....ouch!

Then as I'm scoping a Whimbrel a Curlew Sandpiper finds me.
It just appears in the scope and bingo the target is achieved. What I thought was a real stretch has been done and I say real stretch as I know how hard I worked last year for 242 as a total.
BIRD 250 (it's the small one second from the right)
I've seen 250 birds from 1st January to 15th July so I have a few months to spare but rest assured it's still going to be difficult to find birds I haven't seen already but I'll keep trying and see where the list ends come the end of December. (265 seems to be where the big money is being placed but I'm not so sure i can find another fifteen birds before the year end.)

We left Cley and after a good search in local "hot spots" for Montagu's Harrier we left North Norfolk and as we headed south we had a quick try for Honey Buzzard too but it wasn't to be.

A short stop at Devils Dyke Newmarket for the Jim's to catch up with the fresh Chalkhill Blue Butterflies and it's off to the Volunteer for a little of the Amber Nectar to celebrate the Curlew Sandpiper at Cley and the mission accomplished.
Chalkhill Blue
Chalkhill Blue

Thanks to the old fella for keeping me entertained on the trips (You would not believe some of the things he says!) and for Jim for the use of his equipment at every request along with the sense check on every ID I've made this year and of course my good lady who puts up with me and this rediculous hobby I find so compulsive.

Now for a nice curry and the opening of that Bubbly that's been chilling for seven months!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Dipping Quail again

I got up early this morning (bad back giving me some pain) so thought I'd see if Jimmy fancied a quick run over to Hayes to see if we could get the RB Shrike I'd seen on Thursday.
Of course he did so at 6.30am (ish) we're in the car park at Lake Farm Hayes again. Within ten minutes we're on the Shrike and the Jim's have a life tick.
Aside the RB we had RN Parakeets, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine here, add to that a couple of Common Buzzard and Kestrel on route and not a bad raptor count.
I arrived home by 9am and after a short family visit I decided to visit Elmley and the better half came along for the ride. It rained heavy all the way there and back and pretty much the whole time I was there which made for some pretty bad birding and did away with any chance I had of finding a singing Quail.
Did get good views of Marsh Harrier to add yet another Raptor for the day though.
Lot's of Hare about along with a few Lapwing, Oyster Catchers, Curlew, Green Sandpipers, Egrets and lot's of Skylark and Yellow Wags.
A strange site was a good few Meadow Brown Butterflies on the wing in the rain.

Still looking for bird 250 for the year.....maybe tomorrow?


Friday, 13 July 2012

Marbled White Butterflies at Canvey Island

In ten minutes today on the sea wall near Canvey Island Football ground I managed to see 20+ Marbled White Butterflies. Also on the wing here were Large and Small Whites, Meadow Brown, Small Heath and lot's of Skippers.

Marbled White at Canvey Island
So in 48 years I hadn't noticed a single Marbled White and now in three days I've seen loads in two venues.......mad how that happens!

Looking forward to getting out at the weekend to find that 250th bird of the year....what will it be?

Well I still have the Quail at Elmley on the radar.
Two Balearic Shearwaters flew past Dungeness this morning and a Serin has been spending some time in the moat there over the last couple of days.
Cattle Egrets have been seen around Bucks today and Curlew Sandpipers seem to be starting to drop in.

I'll have to sleep on it but here's hoping that I make the right decision and head to the right place, arrive at the right time and find at least one new bird for the year over the next couple of days.

Watch this space!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Red Backed Shrike Lake Farm Hayes

I woke early this morning and decided to set off early in search of the Red Backed Shrike that's been reported at Hayes. I did the 50 miles round the M25 car park and arrived in Hayes before 7am.
Parked in the car park at Lake Farm Country Park and started to walk around the shingle paths of the park. Just the one birder in the park looking for the target with me.
I spent the next hour searching for the target bird. Ring Necked Parakeets are calling form the trees around the edge of the park. and there's lots of juvenile Whitethroat, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Robin about which occasionally give false alarm as they perch at the top of the hawthorns. There's a Song Thrush repeating it's call the whole time I'm there and then finally after 70 mins I find the target bird sitting deep in a Hawthorn bush. A blackbird flushes it and I get great views of this splendid male bird. As I reach the car park several more birders are arriving, "Any Luck?" they ask and they're pleased to have the bonus of me giving  them directions.

I have now seen 249 different species this year!
This weekend could see bird 250! and my target achieved. The Champagne is on ice!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Marbled White at Vange Marsh Essex

I worked three miles from Vange today so thought it worth a look on the way home for Marbled White Butterfly. Lot's about including the target pictured which included Meadow Brown, Large and Small White, Comma, Small Heath, Small Skippers and a Ringlet. I had several sightings of Marbled White but they were mostly on the wing and rarely settled for a picture hence the grab shots below.  A Cetti's warbler showed well too whilst there.
Well worth the trip and pleased to have finally seen these Marbled butterflies after several trips to these Marshes for them.

Marbled White
Marbled White at Vange Marsh Essex
Small Skipper

Grabbed a shot of this Small Skipper
(Identified by the orange tips to the antenna as apposed to black tips on the Essex Skipper)

Again.......where's all the new birds? I need two more from somewhere!.....Red Backed Shrike at Hayes can I get there for it? Quail at Elmley? Serin at Dungeness...they are out there but will they wait for the weekend so I can catch up with them?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Adder at Minsmere

As you'll know if you've read any of my previous blogs I have set out my stall this year to break a year list of 250 and I sit at 248 at the moment. Now Minsmere has seen Honey Buzzard, Roseate Tern and Caspian Tern in the last few days and it's one of those places where anything can show so having checked the weather reports to find Suffolk looks good for today I've decided that's the direction to head.

We set off at 5.30am and debated Andy Murrays Wimbledon triumph, Arsene Wengers transfer policy, Bruce Springsteens latest album, who'se got keys to the Queen Vic....(cos they let themselves in last night to see Cat Slater while Alfie was sleeping) and the best and worst presentors on Talk Sport before arriving at Minsmere at 7.00am after a 90minute drive. We take to the tracks in search of two ticks for the day. The reserve isn't even open but they now leave the gate open so you can get in. The sand bank behind the visitor centre is alive with Sand Martins flying in feeding young birds. Further on I check out North Hide to find lot's of BH Gull, Avocet and Egrets.
We take a short walk along the new wall and see Bearded Tits, Cettis Warbler etc before making our way to the beach.
View across Minsmere to Sizewell power plant
By now I've pointed out Ringlet and Skipper butterfly and Dads found himself a Red Admiral to photograph. On arrival at East Hide we find things a little more lively. A few Little Gulls show well in full adult plumage and a single Little Tern sits amongst the Common and Sandwich Terns. Three Spotted Redshank are sleeping in the reeds and a Common Sandpiper walks between the Dunlin and Ringed Plovers. Lot's of Avocet, Blacktailed Godwit, Lapwing, Shelduck, Barnacle Geese etc. A Common Buzzard flies high over and three Marsh Harriers join it. (Must admit we checked it for Honey Buzzard after Thursdays report but agreed it was only Common so no new year tick there.)

Moving on we find lot's of Swallow at the sluice as ever and Sedge & Reed Warbler entertain along the path. Gt C. Grebe and Little Grebe feed with the ducks and Geese and a Hobby shows well low across the reedbed feeding on the numerous dragon fly.
Ruddy Darter (Hobby Lunch)
We carry on and before long I've heard my first Bittern of the day and then get great views of it in flight across the reeds. Stopping at the hides on the way nothing else shows until as I'm walking towards the Bittern Hide I see an Adder basking on the path and manage a quick picture before it hurries back to cover. These guys can attack so I'm both dissapointed not to get more opportunity to snap away and glad on the other hand it's decided to back off. Great to see it though.

The suns shining and the bushes along the path are now alive with darters, chasers, hawkers damsel fly and Dragon fly. (I don't pretend to know too much about these yet but I'm learning slowly)
A large Orange hawkmoth flies by, too fast to snap a shot to my regret as I'd like to be able to ID it.

Cinnabar Caterpillars are on every flower head and we get a shot of one that's emerged and in it's full  red glory.

Cinnabar Moth
A nice day in Suffolk and although I'm dissapointed not to have bagged another year tick I'm also pleased to have seen so much and head off back to Essex trying to avoid the Olympic Torch route on the way and with the mission of finding 250 species of bird this year still alive and kicking even if the last two or proving a challenge.

Friday, 6 July 2012

White Admiral Broxbourne Wood

Went back to Broxbourne wood today after work. It had been raining for most of the day and quite heavy at times so as the sun broke through the trees I couldn't help but think my chances of either my first White Admiral or my first Purple Emperor.
On arrival there's a Red Admiral sunning itself on nettles and a lizard basking too. Ringlets are plentiful along with Meadow Brown and skippers. A couple of Speckled Wood and a Comma show too before my eye catches a White Admiral flying by high in the trees and then a little lower as it drops before flying off not to be seen again. My first of this species and I'm told the first for Broxbourne Woods this year so that's pleasing.
I'll be going back looking for a photograph and perhaps a view of PE's.

Hoverfly Volucella pellucens

Silver Washed Fritillary