Saturday, 12 July 2014


Been mothing quite a lot recently, take a quick peek at my other blog for some equally cool stuff!

Winged it! (12th July)

Another stupid pun for a title *sigh*

Together with Sh4rpy, Paul and Ephraim we headed for the Norfolk coast with the hope that the Stilt Sand would produce an appearance, get reported and we'd have a good chance of seeing it but with still no news by the time we reached 2/3 of the way we decided on Lakenheath instead as our destination.  This was soon abandoned and we headed for Carlton Marshes instead.  After driving a fair share longer than we had anticipated, we finally arrived at the marsh to start birding.  We connected with all 5 Wood Sandpipers that had been reported earlier (albeit rather distantly and through some heat haze) but Sh4rpy managed to pick one up at a closer range providing decent views as it fed at the waters edge.  It took a little more searching but I did eventually pick out the adult Little Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull to boot.  My personal highlight was finding no few than 2 Norfolk Hawkers on site, one sitting nicely at the side of the path in a rather tattered state (a life tick!).

 Norfolk Hawker

Wood Sandpiper, an absolutely rubbish record shot (if I can even call it that)

Our second site tick for the day was Abberton Reservoir where we obtained decent views of the WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN, an absolute stunner performing well in front of the visitor centre alongside a adult Black Tern!  Quite a few Yellow Wagtails were also kicking about the area and a Hare put in an appearance.  In all, a nice day out with no dipping thankfully.

 an absolute stunner!!  White-winged Black Tern (centre) with Common Tern on the left and the adult Black Tern to its right

 White-winged Black Tern

Abberton Reservoir

Thanks again to Sh4rpy for the driving!

Kings Langley Patching (1st-11th July)

I've been covering the patch on a regular basis recently but still managed to miss the best bird (an Osprey over the fisheries on the 11th).  None the less locally nesting Buzzards and plenty of Red Kites have kept the ball rolling.  I'm still attempting to track down where/if the Kestrels are breeding but I have strong suspicion they are as I've seen pairs together carrying food.  A walk down to the canal produced my first Holly Blue of the year along with 3 Pruple Hairstreaks chasing each other around at the highest point in the canopy of Mercey's Wood.  Marbled White and Small Tortoiseshell seem to be having their best ever year on patch and there are good numbers of both Comma and Large Skipper on the wing, although the blues have yet to emerge.  I year ticked Gatekeeper on the 7th and have since seen them in good numbers all over patch.

Birds of interest have included the first returning Pochard on the KL Fisheries lake, a single Common Tern on the 9th and two on the 11th.

The KL School playing field has certainly reaped rewards in terms of quantity with a single warm afternoon noting a total 193+ birds using just the one field!  The majority constituting Starlings but there were families of Mistle Thrushes, Pied Wagtails, Greenfinches and Green Woodpeckers making use of the short grass to access the inverts below.  Farmland species still surviving in the area include Linnets, Yellowhammers and Kestrels although I'm not sure how much longer any of them will remain given recent population trends.

I also found the hollowed-out remains of a Signal Crayfish at the side of the canal, unfortunately confirming their presence in the local waterways.

 Signal Crayfish

Ivinghoe Hills (2nd July)

A trip to the north of the county and over the border into Bucks with my brother turned out to be a decent trip as we connected with no fewer than 40+ Dark Green Fritillaries scouting out the Incombe Hole area.  There was almost continuous sunshine which meant the butterflies refused to land, providing little opportunity for photography.  None the less, we did see a large number of other butterflies including Marbled Whites, a rather elusive prob. Brown Argus and a Chimney Sweeper Moth.  One Fragrant Orchid spike was also still in flower.

We also heard our first Quail of the year calling from the corn field south of the footpath leading between Steps Hill and the car park at Pitstone Hill (the first time I have heard one in this field).  We did continue to their favoured spot, the field south of Pitstone Hill, where we counted a total of at least 6+ Quails all singing from the dense vegetation giving no opportunity to seeing them.  A single Hobby also flew over and Corn Buntings were scattered about the site with more Dark Green Fritillaries spilling over from the hills onto the neighbouring farmland.

 Fragrant Orchid

Corn Bunting

I decided to continue to Startop's End and Marsorth Res's whilst my brother headed for home.  There wasn't a great deal to see as the day was wearing on so all that was on offer were Great Crested Grebes, Common Terns and the 2 Oystercatchers on the jetty at Wilstone Reservoir.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Short Excursion to Falmouth (28th-30th June)

Went down to Falmouth for three days to move my stuff into a new house, the megabus only brought me as far as Plymouth so had to change my mode of transport to train.  A couple hours at Tinside Lido for a scan around the large open harbour and sea (overlooking Drake's Island) revealed 2 Common Scoter, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns, a couple Manx Shearwaters going westwards and 27+ Little Egrets littering Drake's Island.

The Falmouth just the one Mediterranean Gull on my first day (although I was so tired on arrival I nearly fell off the bench a couple times whilst trying to seawatch).

By the 29th I was a little more awake and after a full day of moving, Dan and I squeezed in a visit to Porthgwarra for the Red-footed Falcon.  Unfortunately we dipped miserably, despite investing a considerable amount of effort, but with such a wide open expanse of moorland to cover it proved an unsuccessful task.  After several hours we diverted our attention to the sea and were almost instantly rewarded with pods of both Bottlenose Dolphins and Common Dolphins.  Manx Shearwaters were moving past in their hundreds but auks seemed to be far less obvious.  2 Choughs also eased the pain of dipping, as did another butterfly tick, Silver-studded Blue!!

Silver-studded Blue

My final day on the Falmouth patch produced a total of 1 Kittiwake, 2 Sandwich Terns and 8 Mediterranean Gulls (5 ad., 2 2nd sum. and a 1st sum.).

Friday, 27 June 2014

Chobham Churring (26th June)

Had a great evening visit to Chobham Common with Sh4rpy, Paul and Ephraim for our annual Nightjars.  The discussion of pessimism vs optimism was a hot topic for debate in the car journey there as the fact it was raining certainly decreased our chances of seeing or even hearing our target species.  Optimism won and we arrived on site just as the rain eased up.  It was only a short time after arriving (c.8:15) that we saw our first Woodcock working its way around its territory squeaking as it went.  At least four or five more followed before the churring started.


Ephraim soon picked out our first Nightjar of the evening, perched in a silver birch, before we obtained better and better views of at least a further four birds as the night progressed, finishing on a grand finale with a male encircling us at close range!  The night ended on another high with 2 Glowworms shining from the side of the path on our walk back to the car.  Yet another enjoyable evening with thanks to Sh4rpy for the driving.

 female Nightjar

 ...and the male

Chobham Common

Kings Langley Patching (20th-26th June)

I've been keeping a close eye on my Herts patch recently, visiting the fields behind the KL School and Barnes Lane about three times a day (mostly thanks to dog walks).  Red Kites have been even more evident than usual with a total of 7 circling over one single field and 3 landing on the KL School playing field on one visit alone.  Pied Wagtails have had a rather successful year with fledglings littering the short grassy playing field.  A juvenile Mistle Thrush on the same field also confirmed breeding and I located an active Green Woodpecker nest in Kings Langley Common Wood.

Green Woodpecker chick

Down at the canal I found a fledgling Grey Wagtail being attended closely by at least one parent bird and Moorhen chicks certainly aren't in short supply.  The local Mute Swan pair now have 3 fast growing cygnets and the long-staying Cetti's Warbler is still bursting into song every 10-15mins at the canal section opposite the Kings Langley Fishery.  I haven't seen any local Kingfishers in the past two visits so I assume they are breeding or have set up territory just outside patch limits, seems I'll have to venture a little further in future.  Other highlights from the 26th June included a flyover Peregrine heading northwards along the canal towards Hemel Hempstead for its evening roost, 2 Lapwing in the mown field near Hunton Bridge and a third heading south along the canal.  Foxes have been making regular appearances and I've scarcely gone a day without seeing them.  However, the mammal highlight goes to a stunning Badger which I saw on my walk back home through the farmland being the RSSKL as one trotted across the path directly in front of me (this represents my first ever patch record of one)!