Saturday, 29 June 2013

Painted Lady Patch First! (29th June)

Another patch day walking Theo.  I've been visiting the farmland around the Berrybushes Wood and Langley Lodge area quite regularly now as it's generally more productive than the arable farmland behind the RSSKL.  The highlight by far was a butterfly first for the patch, a stunning PAINTED LADY which I stumble across on the path!  Unfortunately, I couldn't appreciate it as long as I would have liked as a herd of cows were getting a bit close and given that I had Theo it was best to leave them in peace.

Painted Lady

At least 7 Yellowhammers were also dotted around the area and on my return to Langley Lodge a flock of 15 Lapwing flew in.  Unfortunately they landed directly in the middle of the footpath so I had to make a large detour around the neighbouring field to avoid flushing them.  However, despite my efforts they still saw me and sadly flew off west.

Lapwing flock over Langley Lodge

Friday, 28 June 2013

Morning at Staines (28th June)

I spent the cloudy and slightly rainy morning at Staines today.  I was on the scene a couple hours earlier than last week, arriving around 6ish in time for the large gulls on the gantry.  Bob Warden arrived only a couple minutes before me and was already on a Yellow-legged.  A short while later we were treated to 2 ad. Yellow-legged Gulls perched on the blue railing of the gantry and they both remained there even after I had left at 9:15.  I only got a very brief open wing view and was rather lucky to get it on camera.  It was only then that I realised it was moulting primaries 4-5!

Other birds of note included the usual drake Scaup, 1 sum. plum. Black-necked Grebe and a couple Common Terns passing through, carrying their catch back to Bedfont Lakes were they are currently nesting.

Yellow-legged Gull on the Gantry

showing moulting primaries 4-5 (and the second YLG on the far left)

Monday, 24 June 2013

Fun Patching! (24th June)

Local patching is usually a tedious process in Kings Langley with generally far fewer good birds about compared to my patch down in Cornwall but once in a while the commoner species put on a good show for me.

Today's prize goes to the 20+ Swallows which I enjoyed photographing and watching for at least an hour!


A single House Martin and half a dozen Swifts also moved through when suddenly a big racket escalated as the Swallows rose upwards and sure enough a Hobby shot into the camera viewfinder!  This was a rather pleasing sight as this represents my first returning bird of the year for the KL patch!

Hobby mobbed by Swallows

To boost the day a little more, I also located a singing Lesser Whitethroat rattling away in the hedge near Langley Lodge, 1+ Red Kite was also in the area and 3 Buzzards.  Good/Bad news was my first record of a calling Ring-necked Parakeet north of Berrybushes Wood.  Who knows, they may well become a regular feature on patch in the years to come.  Inverts of note included a Small White and a Silver-ground Carpet.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Sunday at Staines (23rd June)

Spent an entire morning and part of the early afternoon down at Staines Reservoir.  Not much about but the lift down was much appreciated so I took full advantage of it.  The drake Scaup was nice to see as were 2 Black-necked Grebes (nice sum plum birds) but other than that it was rather quiet.  Unfortunately, I had arrived a little too late to see the larger gulls on the gantry but nice views of a  fly-through Hobby provided a degree of conciliation.  In fact, I spent the remaining 4 hours scanning through the masses of Swifts, in the vein hope of finding something out of the ordinary.  Smaller numbers of House Martins, Swallows and even the odd Sand Martin were hawking over the south basin whilst the north basin only hosted a small Black-headed Gull colony with several juvenile birds.  A couple Common Terns were also hanging around but as far as that, not much else to report so I'll leave it there...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Norf Norfolk (22nd June)

Quite a car load up to Norfolk today with Sh4rpy, Brendan, Paul, Tony, Dave my brother and I.  With little on the pager we opted for a quick stab at the stunning Rosy before planning the day from there.

On arrival, the ROSE-COLOURED STARLING showed fairly well for the small crowd of twitchers.  This was certainly a stunning adult male in its breeding plumage finery, a shame I only bothered to take one photo.  In fact most of my attention was on the salt-marsh where I was pleased to find a SPOONBILL casually walking across the marsh.  A single LITTLE TERN was the only year tick I had on site but was a pleasing find after such a long absence from my year list!

male Rose-coloured Starling

Our next plan of action was to visit a site were Chris and Brendan had connected with Monti's before and after an hours diligent scanning we were treated to excellent views of a pair of MONTAGU'S HARRIERS!  The female appeared only briefly in flight but the male quartered the field for at least 40mins as we watched this magnificent bird in awe!  Also in the area were 2 Marsh Harriers at least 1 Red Kite and to round the stay off on a high, the male Monti did a spectacular aerial chase in pursuit of a Skylark!!

male Montagu's Harrier

Titchwell was next on the menu and with little else to go for, we settle for scanning through the large flock of Knot and Avocet that had accumulated on the marsh.  6 sum plum Spotted Redshanks were an excellent bonus as were 6 LITTLE GULLS (a year tick and all 2nd CY birds).  A Cetti's Warbler also burst into song near the path and a male Red Crested Pochard was on one of the pools.

Avocet at Titchwell

Many thanks once again to Sh4rpy for the lift!

Lizard Yet Again! (13th June)

Long time since my last update so here's one from my bike trip down the Lizard.

Lizard Point

It took a total of over 40 miles strenuous bike riding through head wind and I was only partially rewarded for my efforts but Cornwall in the spring isn't usually that productive in terms of birds so I couldn't set my hopes too highly.  As it happens I was actually there for the fritillaries but even the chances of connecting with those seemed slim due to the strong winds.  2 singing Yellowhammers on the bike ride down were probably the highlight (given the fact they are an uncommon bird for this part of Cornwall).

Next a total of 10 miles on foot around the western side of the headland.  This was equally unproductive except for 2 male Wheatear and some Common Spotted Orchids.  Seabird passage was also what one might expect for June but the strong SW winds did blow numerous Manx Shearwaters closer to the point, making it possible to appreciate them at a closer range.

Common Spotted Orchid

As a last resort, I tried Windmill Farm but the winds were still far too strong for most butterflies.  Only small numbers of Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, the odd Common Darter a Black-tailed Skimmer and a Keeled Skimmer.  My personal highlight was in fact a Slow Worm which I uncovered from under one of the metal sheets strewn around the sight.  It didn't hang around long enough for a pic unfortunately but was a lifer none the less!

male Black-tailed Skimmer

immature male Keeled Skimmer (thanks for the ID Bob)

Common Blue Damselfly

Scalloped Hazel (I think)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

BioBlitz 2013! (8th June)

BIOBLITZ!!!  A 24 hour event that EcoSoc students (including me) have been planning for months.  The day involved a full list compilation of all living species seen in the period of one day on campus and at the two local res's, College and Argal.  My first visit to the res's was at 1-2am to check on the moth traps to make sure they were working.  A brief check on the outside of one of the traps yielded a Brimstone moth and a very active Cockchafer.  Other species of note included 4 Tawny Owls (3 of which I only heard), also a couple of squeaking noises from a shrew species in the undergrowth and a couple unIDed bats flying about.

An hour and a halves sleep later, I was up again for some bird ringing!  As it happened this was interrupted with torrential rain and only a couple minutes into the ringing, we had to abandon it.  Before the downpour, we did catch a Nuthatch, male Bullfinch, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Robin and a single Chaffinch.

male Chaffinch


It was as the rain began to bucket down that we remembered about the moth traps still being out, so in a mad rush we pelted around the reservoir attempting to salvage what might have been left inside them.  Thankfully we didn't come across any drowned moths but we did bring the feeble results back to the toilet block at Argal where we kept them dry and IDed them before releasing them later in the day when the rain eased up.  As it happens, despite IDing the lot, the rain water had fully saturated our heads and I could no longer soaked in any more of the names.  In short, I can't remember the name of a single moth that we caught other than this decent IDable pic of a Grey Dagger which I photographed later in the day.

Grey Dagger

Thankfully, after the initial setback we rearranged and arrived back on site, following a quick trip back to campus, to start the day in ernest.  Thankfully, this time in significantly drier conditions and bright sun!  The entire day comprised of IDing the remaining moths, walking the west bank of College and checking the pitfall traps.  2 Four-spotted Chasers on the west bank of the reservoir were my first for the year and butterflies of note included Speckled Wood , Common Blue and Large White.  A singing Reed Warbler was a surprise to hear, given the absence of reeds and the mammal traps caught a rather soggy but well fed Bank Vole.  On a bief excursion back to campus, I noted the following, 1 mico moth sp. and 1 Small Phoenix.

unIDed mico moth

Small Phoenix, on campus

Common Blue

The evening mothing was by far the most productive and rounded the day of nicely from about 9pm-0:30ish the next morning.  My species list for that evening comprised:

1. Common Marbled Carpet
2. Flame Shoulder
3. Green Carpet
4. Lychnis
5. Small-square Spot
6. Red Twin-spot Carpet
7. Square Spot
8. Common Wave
9. Buff-tip
10. Pale Tussock
11. Small Angle Shades
12. Brown Silver-line
13. Small Rivulet
14. Clouded Border
15. Peach Blossom
16. Pale Prominent
17. Square Spot
18. Devon Carpet
19. White Ermine
20. Peppered Moth

Buff-tip, almost everybodies highlight of the evening!

Small Rivulet

Flame Shoulder


forms 1/3: Common Marbled Carpet

forms 2/3: Common Marbled Carpet

forms 3/3: Common Marbled Carpet

Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet

Pale Tussock

Small Angle Shades

Peach Blossom

Brown Silver-line

Common Wave

Clouded Border

Peppered Moth

Square Spot

Pale Prominent

Devon Carpet

Plenty of Cockchafers also inturupting the mothing session and just after midnight, I found this young Palmated Newt scuttling across the path.

Palmate Newt


Caddisfly species

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Mothing at the Lizard (6-7th June)

Anyone who'd have seen Greg, Jess and I bumping down the road to Windmill Farm on the Lizard at dusk and carrying some large contraptions through cows fields and bogs would have thought we were crazy, and I don't blame them, we certainly looked an odd bunch.  However, mothing was our excuse for this unusual behaviour and by 9:30ish we had set up two of the portable traps and heard the brief reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler.

To pass the time, we decided to travel a short distance up the road were we visited an area of heathland.  Since the news already seems to have been put out on Cornwall Birding, I might as well mention we connected with 3+ NIGHTJARS, including churring from the males and some wing clapping.  Some birds were rather confident in their song and were very nearby but still eluded our eyes as it was simply too dark to see them.  As well as their usual monotonous song we also heard a rather unusual phrase in which the churring slowed and ascended in tone in a space of a couple seconds before going silent for some time (much like a dying engine).

Other species of note included a calling Cuckoo at about 10pm and a calling Tawny Owl before we returned to Windmill Farm to check the moth traps.

Back at Windmill, we were rather disappointed to see one of the traps had failed to turn on.  However, one nudge and the light came on!  We left it for an hour or so before checking the second trap.  This one had thankfully worked and attracted several good species, including Puss Moth, Angle Shades, Flame Shoulder, Pebble Prominent and Fox Moth!

Puss Moth, a stunner!

Fox Moth

Pebble Prominent 

Angle Shades

On returning to our second trap we were pleased to find yet another Puss Moth, White Ermine and a Drinker moth caterpillar resting on the boardwalk.

White Ermine
Dinker moth caterpillar resting on the boardwalk