Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Small Ranunculus

Small Ranunculus Bedford

An unexected surprise from the garden moth trap. This species became extinct in Britain in the early part of the 20th centuary, but was re-discovered in kent in 2002, from where it has expanded its range northwards, as far as the English Midlands.

A visit to Willington (26th) produced a welcome selection of breeding species, with three young Ringed Plovers and at least 12 Common Terns on the largest island of the main lake, whilst the pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, had successfully reared three well grown young. The first time the species has bred on the main lake. A pair of Oystercatcher were on the remains of the pits opposite the river, along with two broods of Tufted Duck, hanging on in the one corner of the pit that hasnt yet been filled in...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Snettisham Tawnys

Spurred on by recent (largely unsuccessfull) Owling activities in NW Norfolk, I decided to set myself the target of finding as many broods of Tawny Owls as I could, within the area of the local patch (mainly Ken Hill wood, plus the various copses in the fields at the back of the RSPB reserve) After two nights of strong winds and heavy rain, conditions improved, allowing me to locate 12 broods of Tawnys (brood sizes between one and three) with an overall total of 20 young birds heard calling. After numerous unsuccessfull attempts, a Quail was eventually heard calling from the fields at the back of the reserve (21:30-22:10 one evening and 03:50-04:40 the following morning) along with a single brood of 5 young Marsh Harriers and a juvenile Cuckoo. Up to four Yellow-legged Gulls were seen bathing in the channel at the far end of the reserve, early mornings, whilst strong NNW winds on the 23rd produced at least 14 Manx Shearwater and 6 Arctic Skuas offshore from the Coastal Park, where a party of 16 Crossbill flew south early morning.

Sea Campion

Vipers Bugloss

Sea Rocket A selection of coastal plants all taken on the beach at the RSPB reserve

Wall Brown A Butterfly which appeared in good nummbers earlier on in the spring

Friday, 15 July 2011

Southern Hawker

Taken in the garden at home in Bedford

Gothic Trapped overnight at home. Check out the moth page for a selection of other pictures.

Local wanderings

Since returning back home to Bedford I have spend a lot more time birding at Willington (only a 30 minute walk from home to the main lake) which is currently looking the best that it has been since I first started birding there in the mid/late 90s. Since the spring floods of 1998, the islands in the main lake have remained submerged, with any suitable wader habitat being largely lost. Although the water levels on the settling lagoon remain very high (any shallow feeding areas having long since been covered over) the water level in the main lake has dropped considerably, returning the original islands, and creating an excellent lake margin for feeding waders. The largest island is allready home to breeding Ringed Plovers (two young chicks seen yesterday) whilst Common Terns have been present in reasonable numbers, and will no doubt attempt to settle down and breed next spring, assuming the water levels remain suitable.

Passage waders have so far been represented by a Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers and up to six Green Sandpipers, whilst Lapwing numbers have been steadily building to around 250 birds. It may not sound like a lot, but lets remember, this is Bedfordshire we are talking about (the county in which, I am still yet to see a Black tailed Godwit, Whimbrel or Ruff) A party of four Raven were a nice surpise the other day, playing about together in the sky over the main lake, but had allready been eclipsed in the morning by an adult Mediterranen Gull, flying low over the houses just a short distance down the road... a county tick! Elsewhere, the pair of Grey Wagtails are still busy along Bedford river, bringing in food to the nest, with another bird seen at Willington, feeding a juvenile on the footpath beside the main river.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Patch mega (x2!)

Since adopting the Snettisham area as my local patch, there are several things that I have always dreamt about finding... a Red backed Shrike on the hedges of Ken Hill Marsh, a Wood Warbler singing in Ken Hill Wood, a yankie wader feeding with flocks of Dunlin, or a rare Tern, resting on the mud at the south end of the reserve. High tide on July 9th saw large numbers of Sandwich Tern at the far end of the reserve, with a high proportion of juveniles amongst the adult birds. Part way through counting the assembled Sarnies, my attention was drawn to a strikingly pale tern, sat amongst a sizeable group of Commons. Red legs? Silvery grey primaries? Black bill? I had always thought about it (however slim the chances may have been) but here it was for real... a Roseate Tern!! (Patch tick no 222)

Roseate Tern front and back right

After watching it for about 30 minutes, I scanned back to the left to recount the number of Sandwich Terns, only to discover a 2nd Roseate Tern, beyond the original bird, amongst the far right hand flock! After a short wait, both birds came together, before flying out to the Wash after being on view for just over an hour. Thankfully, both returned to the mud, between the first and second hides, where they could be enjoyed by a small number of gathering admirers. A 2nd summer Yellow-legged Gull was also present on the mud, whilst on the pits, an adult Little Ringed Plover (a rare bird for the reserve) had tucked itself into the furthest corner, visible for a short time from the bottom hide, before dissapearing behind the shingle ridge.

Convinced that the fields between Dersingham and the reserve, should be holding at least one singing Quail (Wheat fields, grass verges, what more do they need??) I took full advantage of the still calm evening, and set off accross the fields towards Dersingham, in the hope of securing another addition for the patch year list. At least 300 Swallows had gathered over the fields for a pre roost feed, but despite my best planning efforts (Quail being most vocal in the short window before dusk) any birds present remained stubbornly quiet. Having only just began the return journey home, my attention was drawn to a single bird, fluttering low and close, over the grass corner of the field beside the track. Its long slender wings and tail, combined with its distinctive flight, meant that it could only be one thing! Quite what a Nightjar was doing, feeding over
wheat fields, away from any heathland or open woodland is anyones guess!! I doubt I will ever witness this bizzare event again, but if I dont make the effort to look I shall never find out...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

June Highlights

The month kicked off with a Reed Warbler singing from our urban garden back home in Bedford, our 5th garden record, but the first to be heard singing. As it turned out, I should have spent the day traveling up north to Hartlepool for the White-throated Robin, but in the end decided to leave it till the next day (Thursday 9th) when, in theory, the doctors garden should have been open. Not leaving Bedford till 09:50 I had plenty of time to find out if the bird was still present, with the first report coming out just after 07:30. A straightforward journey through London, saw me arriving into Hartlepool at 14:20, with roughly 3 hours on site, before I had to leave for the train back at 17:50. Unfortunately, despite reports from the previous days appearing on Birdguides almost every hour, the bird was looking to have others ideas, with no further sightings since 11:30, when it had flown from the bowling green, back towards the doctors garden. As the hours slowly passed, things were starting to look ever more doubtful, with 17:00 approaching and the bowling green distinctly Robin free. Despite securing a lift back to Bedford, and gaining an extra couple of hours on site, the bird never showed again that day, but was back on the green again the following morning, departed just before the weekend on the Friday night.

After roosting at Thornham the previous night, where it was seen briefly the following morning, before moving west along the coast to Holme, the Caspian Tern finally gave itself up at Titchwell, where it gave excellent views, feeding over the open water on the west side of the path. My 2nd in the UK, it made a welcome change to see this bird fishing, albeit unsuccessfully, creating quite a splash in the process and completely submerging itself underwater! A Temminck's Stint, seen displaying to a nearby Dunlin, was an unexpected, and out of season, find at Titchwell on the 29th, whilst two groups of Crossbill at Snettisham (12 through the Coastal Park and 28 over the garden) and the first flocks of returning Sand Martin (37 birds on 25th) were clear signs that Autumn was on its way...

Friday, 8 July 2011

May selection

May started off at Holme Norfolk, with seven Wood Sandpipers giving excellent views, feeding close to the footpath on Redwell Marsh. My first Norfolk Wood Warbler, feeding in the Poplar and Sycamore trees, alongside the entrance track at the back of the marsh, became somewhat overshadowed, when I returned to the site at 15:30 and discovered Norfolks 4th Collared Flycatcher in the very same trees just 20 minutes later. The bird performed well to its group of admires all afternoon, but had departed by the following morning. A pair of Garganey sat on the sea off of the main Golf course track made for an unusual sight. For an full write up on the days events see Connor Rands excellent write up at Further rarity highlights were provided by the Northamptonshire Black Stork, which showed well in the fields surrounding the village of Weedon Beck, before giving excellent flights views at close range, whilst a Norfolk Marsh Warbler eventually gave itself up for viewing, following some initial brief appearances, and short bursts of song (Skylark, Whitehroat, and Bee Eater included!)

A pair of Spotted Flycatchers provided some local interest, nesting in the low branch of a large Sweet Chestnut tree just a few minutes from home, in a small stand of mature woodland opposite the nearby Tescos. The nest was constructed mainly from the flowers stems of the Sweet Chestnut, which the adults were seen collecting and bringing to the nest. Three young were seen in the nest, with at least one bird seen outside the nest being fed by the parents, after the young had cleared out.

The last day of May, finally saw the addition of perhaps the most obvious gap in my Snettisham list, with an unexpected seawatch producing a total of 21 Manx Shearwater (a single bird followed by groups of 5, 8, and 7) moving south into The Wash. Having neglected the sea, in favour of Holme, during productive seawatching conditions, I am awaiting the autumn with much interest, and am keen to find out just how productive Snettisham can be, when the right conditions force seabirds into The Wash. The same morning produced an unusually high total of 52 Auk sp moving North, as well as 74 Gannet South.

Monday, 4 July 2011

2011 Highlights

The year began, as it did for many others, with the wintering Northern Harrier proving to be one of the most popular attractions of early 2011. Remaining faithful to its chosen area of saltmarsh, between Thornham Harbour and Titchwell RSPB reserve, its daily hunting routine, feeding over the marshes during the morning, before moving further east along the coast and then returning in the afternoon to roost, allowed it to be enjoyed by many. The two Rough-legged Buzzards showed well at Burnham Overy, whilst a seawatch off of Holme (Jan 9th) produced wonderfully close views of a fly past Black-throated Diver, as well as three Great Northern Divers, and both Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes. An excellent total of 74 Woodcock were observed at Snettisham (Jan 7th) flying out at dusk from behind Ken Hill marsh to feed on the grazing fields, with up to 40 seen to do the same at Holme. Doubtless just a fraction of a much larger total, one can only imagine the true numbers that must be out there feeding at night!

A maximum of 13 Pale-bellied Brent Geese at Holme, were part of a significant influx into the county, whilst a juvenile White-fronted Goose, mixed in with the Greylags and Canadas, at Priory Country Park, filled another gap in my (pitifully low) Bedfordshire list. The harsh weather conditions created further local exitement with a wintering Bittern offering excellent views at Priory, and a showy Coue's Arctic Redpoll just outside the boundaries of the park, feeding in the Silver Birches around the football pitch on Meadow Lane. My 1st since the Titchwell bird of 2001. Prized tick went to a local Tundra Bean Goose seen in the arable fields at the back of Ken Hill marsh with a small group of Pink feet. A long awaited patch tick that had to fall sooner or later.

Having missed it first time around, a return visit to Chipping Norton was rewarded with prolonged, if a little distant, views of the Oriental Turtle Dove, whilst back up in Norfolk, a flock of 40 Scaup together on the sea off of Holme, made for a personal Norfolk record, easily surpassing the group of about 15 birds, that I first saw on Snettisham pits back in the late 90s. Now a very rare sight in the county, a Willow Tit was watched singing in the Norfolk Brecks (also seen to excavate dead wood from the top of a standing Poplar tree) with the ever reliable Goshawks also putting on a fine display.

Visible migration at the end of March/beginning of April produced high numbers of Redpoll and Siskin with several small groups of Blue and Great Tits, two Lapland Buntings and a bonus Corn Bunting (only my 3rd Snettisham record) also passing through the Coastal Park. With higher than everage numbers of Hooded Crows present around the county (a return to winters of the 1980s) it came as little surprise to find two birds at Snettisham, flying south through the Coastal Park, with further individuals seen at Holme and Burnham Ovary dunes. A very early Grasshopper Warbler was singing in the Coastal Park on April 3rd, whilst a return visit to the Brecks produced excellent views of both Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Goshawk, along with Redstart, Crossbills and a chorus of singing Bramblings. A good passage of Wheatear mid month, began with 32 birds present within the Holme Observatory recording area on April 15th, followed by 59 birds between Old Hunstanton and Thornham channel on the 17th, and 52 present within the same area the folowing day. 29 birds were also recorded from Snettisham Coastal Park on the 19th.

A return vsit to Dungeness (April 21st-27th) proved dissapointingly quiet, thanks to strong N/NE winds bringing all migration to a virtual standstill, with two Pomarine Skuas, and the now resident Glaucous Gull being the pick of the highlights. A day trip accross the channel to the Somme Estuary (April 24th) produced Great White and Cattle Egrets, Black winged Stilts, Stone Curlews, Quail and Bluethroat, though there was no sign of any Savis Warbler, Montagu's Harriers or Golden Oriole, with several common summer migrants still present in very low numbers. Having missed out on Black Kite, Bee Eater and Vagrant Emperors, I managed to top of the week by leaving just days before the sea came alive, with a record breaking movement of Bar tailed Godwits, (a minimum of 7300 birds) high numbers of Pomarine Skuas, and an excellent support cast of other waders, terns and wildfowl. For full day totals see