Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Titchwell and the Brecklands (27th August)


Sh4rpy kindly offered me another lift for a bank-holiday Monday visit to north Norfolk.  This time in the company of my brother.  The drive to Titchwell was rather eventful with a flyover Hobby, Yellowhammer feeding on the hard shoulder, GREY PARTRIDGE on the winding country lanes approaching Titchwell and a Stoat, sprinting across the M11 only missing our tyres by inches!  Needless to say, the reserve at Titchwell was packed.  However, we arrived a little earlier than the large crowds and were soon enjoying good views of 30+ RUFF (still a year tick), wading in the shallows, 17+ SPOONBILL, 2 SPOTTED REDSHANK, numerous Avocet, Little Egrets, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover and 3 Egyptian Geese.  I also glimpsed a probable Bittern plummet into the reeds but it was to short a view to confirm.  Walking north along the path past three scrapes, we reached the sea and despite an offshore wind we managed to see 1 Common Scoter, Sandwich Terns, 1 Fulmar, Sanderling and 3 eclipse ♂ Eider.  The exposed rocky surface, in the tidal zone was also rather attractive to several waders including Turnstone, Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Oystercatcher.  Whilst scanning out to sea, I picked up our first Marsh Harrier for the day.  The highlight came soon after, when I found a second raptor hovering over the water at some distance out to sea.  It gradually flew closer in our direction before rising higher above the horizon and circling, it was an OSPREY!  It was heading directly for us and was on course to fly right over our heads.  However, just before it reached the beach, it turned back and flew back out to sea.

 RSPB Titchwell Marsh


 2 Spotted Redshank

Silver Y

 Bar-tailed Godwit resting on the marsh, waiting for the high tide to retreat

 East Sands

 Osprey in of the sea


Our second stop for the day, in search of Tree Pipit.  A fresh wind swaying the tree tops discoraged any from showing themselves so we contented ourselves with a flyover Hobby and a few more day ticks in the form of Goldcrest, Stock Dove, Swift and Nuthatch.  Also of note were 4+ Speckled Wood and 1 Red Admiral.


Our final stop for the day, at a large open heath in search for our last target bird for the day.  We got lucky again and managed 25+ STONE-CURLEW perched along the ridges and slopes all showing very well!  A big finale to "another good days birding".

 Stone-curlew at The Brecklands

 a scope-full of Stone-curlew

We also decided to keep a day list and managed a total of 75 species (78 including heard only birds)
  1. Hobby
  2. Yellowhammer
  3. Woodpigeon
  4. Collared Dove
  5. House Martin
  6. Swallow
  7. Robin
  8. Chaffinch
  9. Grey Partridge
  10. Red-legged Partridge
  11. Buzzard
  12. Moorhen
  13. Coot
  14. Greylag Goose
  15. Ruff
  16. Shelduck
  17. Tufted Duck
  18. Spoonbill
  19. Avocet
  20. Little Egret
  21. Teal
  22. Mallard
  23. Ringed Plover
  24. Black-headed Gull
  25. Golden Plover
  26. Lapwing
  27. Kestrel
  28. Meadow Pipit
  29. Shoveler
  30. Pied Wagtail
  31. Goldfinch
  32. Canada Goose
  33. Egyptian Goose
  34. Pheasant
  35. Redshank
  36. Grey Plover
  37. Herring Gull
  38. Starling
  39. Dunlin
  40. Oystercatcher
  41. Knot
  42. Turnstone
  43. Bar-tailed Godwit
  44. Gannet
  45. Great Crested Grebe
  46. Black-tailed Godwit
  47. Sandwich Tern
  48. Curlew
  49. Great Black-backed Gull
  50. Common Scoter
  51. Marsh Harrier
  52. Osprey
  53. Sanderling
  54. Cormorant
  55. Fulmar
  56. Eider
  57. Spotted Redshank
  58. Wigeon
  59. Reed Warbler
  60. Magpie
  61. Long-tailed Tit
  62. Blue Tit
  63. Great Tit
  64. House Sparrow
  65. Greenfinch
  66. Coal Tit
  67. Jackdaw
  68. Carrion Crow
  69. Goldcrest
  70. Nuthatch
  71. Stock Dove
  72. Swift
  73. Stone-curlew
  74. Rook
  75. Jay (Sh4rpy only)
  76. Green Woodpecker (heard)
  77. Wren (heard)
  78. Blackcap (heard)
Thank you once again for all the driving Sh4rpy I now owe you a total of 4 life ticks and 2 year ticks!

Fields behind the RSSKL (26th August)

My brother, the dog and I made a long trip through the fields behind the RSSKL.  Lots of raptors about including 1 Kestrel, 2+ Buzzards and 1 Red Kite.  A probable Crossbill also flew over, flying away from Berrybushes Wood calling whilst a Comma was at Langleybury Farm.

Wike Regis + Portland (25th August)


I joined Sh4rpy, Brendan Glynn and Paul Frost for a shared transport day trip down to Portland.  Our first port of call was the long-staying Woodchat Shrike at Wike Regis, a short walk from the Bridging Camp.  We arrived and almost instantly had the superb WOODCHAT SHRIKE in our scopes.  We remained glued for about fifteen mins before news came in that seabird passage past Portland Bill was hotting up.  I also noted 2 Yellow Wagtails before we left.

 Woodchat Shrike, Wike Regis at the Bridging Camp


We arrived at the Bill in light stormy conditions, a strong onshore wind wobbling our scopes making the sea-watch even more difficult.  However, through the difficulty I managed to get brief views of my second lifer for the day, 3+ BALEARIC SHEARWATERS!  They were milling around, tending to stay as a loose group amongst Gannets, Fulmars and other gulls.  The rocky slopes also hosted a Rock Pipit braving the braking waves.  After an hours staring out to sea, the sun came out and sea-watching became more difficult, as the reflection of sunlight from the water made IDing even more difficult.  With this as our queue, we decided to do a short round walk at the southern end of the Isle.  Very few migrants unfortunately, 9+ Wheatear, 2 Ravens being the only highlights.  I did get one British butterfly year tick, Wall Brown.  The only other butterflies about included 1 Meadow Brown and a single Small Tortoiseshell.

 Sh4rpy, Brendan and Paul at the lighthouse at Portland Bill

 The Bill

 west coast of the Isle of Portland


Another short sea-watch from The Fleet yielded 1 Gannet.  Waders at the ferry Bridge included 6 Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plovers.

 Chesil Beach


Our last stop for the day.  Soon after getting out of the car, rain started to pour down, we sheltered ourselves in a nearby woodland, waited for it to pass before returning.  Unsurprisingly, no birds chose to show themselves in the torrent, only a few Stonechats and a small flock of Willow Warblers came out following the down-pour.  Needless to say we got drenched.

Acres Down

Thanks again to Sh4rpy for inviting me and Brendan Glynn for the driving.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Newtown NNR (21st August)

Our last day on the island.  First of all to quench my sisters thirst for old manor gardens, we visited Mottistone Manor Gardens, a little too busy for any birds liking so it came as no surprise that the only highlight was a Peacock.  However, my brother and I were both kindly dropped of for a few hours at Newtown NNR.  Despite timing our visit incorrectly to coincide with a high tide, we had to be content with distant views of several Whimbrel, Curlew, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Common Sandpiper and 9+ Turnstone.  The action highlight however was a Peregrine hunt as 2 Peregrines (a male and female) shot over the water, the female narrowly missing a Black-headed Gull as it plummeted into the water to avoid the talons of its attacker.

Headon Warren and Compton Bay (20th August)

Our highlight of the trip as my brother an I both connected with one of our key birds we had been hoping to see.  The heathland at Headon Warren was much the same as on other trips with migrant Willow Warblers hiding and calling from the scrubs, Buzzards overhead and a single Raven.  However, the highlight was found by my brother, a DARTFORD WARBLER.  We caught a brief fleeting glimpses of it as it moved around within a gorse bush feeding and occasionally bursting into short song and occasional calls.  The best view I got was as it perched at the top of a gorse bush for no longer than two seconds, all the same still an absolute stunner.  I also located a Redstart but was even more reluctant to show itself.  Our second trip for the day was a walk around Compton Bay.  As well as admiring the coastal landforms (which I blabbered on about to my siblings for some time to, thanks to a coasts module in Geography at school) we also saw 5 Ravens, 5 Weatears and a Garden Warbler lurking in some scrub at the base of the cliff.

 Compton Bay, cliff slump

Garden Warbler

St Catherines Point (19th August)

The day began earlier than I had wished as I was woken by three men sharing the same dorm as me, all snoring like horses having nightmares (it was seriously bad).  Today didn't yield many good birds, perhaps a combination of me only getting a few hours sleep and good weather (not so good for birding).  Anyway, our second day on the Isle of Wight was spent at the southern most tip.  This time highlights included a FULMAR past the headland (still a year tick for me), 2 Gannets, a Redstart in the vicinity of the Lighthouse, 2 Ravens and a Peacock.  The weather was very hot, perhaps the reason why most migrants were in deep cover for shade.  On our drive back a possible Pied Flycatcher flew up from near the road into some dense bush but it was all too brief to confirm it.

female Holly Blue

Sibling holiday to the Isle of Wight (18th August)

My sister, brother and I organised a holiday together to the Isle of Wight for four nights at the western end of the Island at Totland.  The YHA in which we were staying was ideally situated for some local birding.  However, with my sister not being a keen birder like my brother and I, it would have been unfair to focus just on birding.  Instead, we spent the time sleeping in late, playing cards and going out on walks literally every day.  However, I'll narrow the posts down to the birding experiences.  The first day started with a Black-tailed Godwit flying over the YHA before we left for a round-walk towards The Needles along the chalk cliffs.  Most of the day was mild but dense fog severely hindered the number of birds we could see as we could barely see more than 100 metres infront of us.  All the same the weather meant it had grounded dozens of Wheatears, preparing to make the jump across the channel along with a single Whinchat.  Despite the lack of sun, the butterflies seemed to be a lot more hardy and resilient of bad weather than their inland counterparts as Chalkhill Blues, Common Blues, 4 Red Admirals and a PAINTED LADY were all on the wing (the last being a British lifer!).  At least 3 Ravens appeared through the gloom whilst at The Needles a Peregrine made a close pass along the edge of the cliff line.  Other birds of note included 3 Stonechats and 4 Rock Pipits.

chalk cliffs near The Needles, almost entirely disguised by the fog

 Chalkhill Blue

 Painted Lady

 unIDed flower

 Common Blue

 view from Headon Warren over The Needles

Friday, 17 August 2012

Tree Sparrow

Drawing I did yesterday of a Tree Sparrow, hopefully it can be used for the next Herts Bird Report.


As you might have known A level results came out yesterday.  After so much stress in the past few years I finally got the grades to study Environmental Science at Exeter University!  The campus itself is set in Cornwall and more precisely Falmouth.  Despite being an amazing university (in my opinion) it is also ideally situated from a birders point of view.  Hopefully within the next three years I will keep updating my blog with some Cornish sightings.  I am looking forward to some amazing sea-watching, American vagrants and plenty more good birds as well as the ES course itself.  Hopefully my aspirations come true.

Garden Wildlife + UnIDed insects (2nd August)

some insects, mostly bees I photographed in my back garden, any ID would be greatly appreciated as I am unfamiliar with most bee species, thanks in advance

Red Admiral

Back home and straight onto the local patch in the Fields behind the RSSKL (15th August)

Once agian I was bringing Theo for a walk around the local patch.  Some of the usual species were about, despite the strong wind and prospect of rain.  1 Red Kite and 1 Buzzard were all I could find.  However, whilst walking back through the field neighbouring the A41 bridge, I heard a "cheep" call I couldn't recognise.  I wondered down the side of the hedgerow expecting some sort of finch or bunting species but was surprised when I realised the calls were coming from the ground and more specifically from fledgling Yellowhammer!  This is certainly a late breeder.  It was sat in a field which had been freshly cut for silage.  I retreated quickly so as not to disturb it or frighten the adults away from it which would otherwise need to feed it.  Instead I stood back some distance and watched through my bins for the next 10-15mins.  Unfortunately I didn't see any adults attend it although I may be mistaken as it appeared to be a very recent fledgeling and it appeared in good health as it was calling repeatedly every few seconds and wandering around the field.

Aachen, our final day in Germany (14th August)

It was our final day in Germany and the opportunity to go birding didn't exist until we were on the ferry crossing the English Channel.  We stopped of at my aunts house in Aachen (also in Germany) for lunchtime and whilst kicking the football around outside with my cousins, a Brown Hairstreak came and perched on a bush next to the road.  Also whilst sat in the car traveling through Belgium and France, I saw 3 Hares and a flock of Lapwing in a stubble field.  They represented the first ones I had seen so far on my holiday abroad.  The crossing over the Channel was less productive than I had anticipated but it was only 20:40pm by the time we left the port and darkness did restrict the amount we could see.  All the same, a total of 3 Kittiwakes, 1 Gannet, 3 Swifts (migrating SE) and a butterfly or moth species (also flying across the channel) were all the species of note.  On the British side of the channel, only 1 Gannet was visible through the gloom.

sunset over the English Channel

the cliffs at Calais

Woodland again (13th August)

My grandma's garden once again played host to a stunning Black Redstart, later seen on the surrounding houses at lunchtime.  However, instead of staying at home, I was out again on my bike, this time to some locally famous ruined castles, via some well wooded valleys.  The route took me to the edge of a wood just west of Buchholz were I saw my first German Spotted Flycatcher and even better, 3 PIED FLYCATCHERS.  I was taking prolonged notes and sketches on them and only after about 45minutes did I continue towards the ruined castles.  Birds en-route included another Black Redstart, 1 Crested Tit, Marsh Tits, a juvenile Robin, 1 Red Fox and 1 Silver-washed Fritillary.  The stone walls of the castle were ideal for getting up close to some lizards.  I photographed two species but I am still unsure about their ID as I am still a total novice on them.

female Pied Flycatcher

a massive Grasshopper species (well camouflaged in the vegetation)

unIDed mouse or vole species

Wall Lizard

die Niederburg

Me at the top of Die Oberburg

Die Niederburg

Altenberghutte and probable Black Kites (12th August)

We had visitors for much of the morning so I was restricted to the house for much of the time.  However, as we were eating outside 2 probable BLACK KITES flew north over the house and took me totally by surprise.  I didn't have my binoculars directly at hand and by the time I got them from my room, they where too distant to ID properly.  Features I did get on them, did point strongly towards Black Kite as their tails were only slightly forked (when closed), their bodies were nearly entirely dark brown, except for their head which appeared paler (even more so due to the strong sunlight) and other markings were difficult to distinguish.  In the garden, another Map Butterfly came to feed on the flowers (a second brood).  I did however manage a late afternoon/early evening visit to the Altenberghutte.  Barely any raptors were showing, instead I watched 5 Purple Hairstreaks flying, landing, defending their territory, feeding and even some confrontation amongst two perched individuals.

Purple Hairstreak