Friday 31 May 2013

Blakeney Point - 30 May 2013

A second day of rain had us debating whether to stay and risk a good soaking or take an early drive home, but we thought we’d see whether the coastal weather differed to that 10 miles inland before giving up. We arrived at Cley beach car park to find that rain had given way to a thick mist and perhaps rashly opted to walk Blakeney Point in the damp and murk of the day.

Setting off

Sea Pink and a boat called Blue

As always the shingle made walking very hard work but we made our way along, taking in the wild flowers, Terns, nesting Oystercatchers and Avocets on the way. We made note of a colour ringed Avocet, Red over Black (left) & Yellow (right) and saw the female Red-backed Shrike at just a little over half way along. 

Shelducks in the dunes

Shoe find - odd and more than a bit creepy

In the dunes we came across some large groups of Shelduck, nesting in rabbit holes and a peculiar arrangement of footwear ( rubbish or art  – we weren’t really sure).
We continued to the point whereupon we suddenly found ourselves in school holiday land as several families with young children, newly disembarked from the boat, fractured the natural sounds with excited shouts and screams.

View from the point

 After a brief scan across the water we retreated the way we had come up and stopped to check out some mature tamarisks and the rather grandly named plantation, a collection of diverse bushes and small trees, finding a Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warbler.  

The plantation

 Spotted Flycatcher

On the walk back, we saw another Spot Fly and 4 more Willow Warblers. We later found out that we’d missed the male Red-backed Shrike and two Wrynecks from the previous day but really didn’t mind considering the poor visibility and strong wind that had affected conditions for much of the day. At least we didn't get wet!

Titchwell and Sculthorpe Moor - 28 May 2013

Another chilly, windy day! The water levels were high but we still enjoyed the sight of a few remaining winter waders including Bar-tailed Godwit among the Geese, Ducks and Gulls. We also watched Mediterranean and Little Gull and enjoyed seeing many Avocet including one pair with three young.

 Avocets on the saline pool

Wall Brown

Dragonfly pool

Water Vole

A mammal that we rarely see on our days out is the Water Vole so the chance to get some shots of this animal was most welcome. 

Titchwell beach 

Sculthorpe Moor

A pleasant sheltered walk under mature trees allowed us the chance to pin-point Marsh Tit in the canopy while listening to nest bound chicks cheeping from many of the nestboxes. There was brief amusement at orange life belts anchored to wooden benches - health and safety gone mad alongside the mud lined ditches.  

Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Greenfinch at feeding station

We watched a range of species taking advantage of a feeding table and enjoyed the comings and goings of a female Marsh Harrier, known to have seen more than 30 chicks to fledging since the reserve was first opened.  

Marsh Harrier at nest site

Lakenheath Fen - 27 May 2013

Lakenheath Fen
We’ve been visiting this location since before it was taken over by the RSPB. On arrival we found the car park absolutely heaving as a Red-footed Falcon and Savi’s Warbler were attracting more than the usual number of visitors.
We started off at the New fen view point with up to 9 Hobbies riding the wind and hawking for Dragonflies. We spent some time there but never saw the Red-foot.  Apparently it had been about earlier in the morning but received some rough treatment from a Sparrowhawk and  was last seen heading off the reserve, putting as much distance between it and the aggressor as possible.  

Moving via the track beside the poplar plantations, (no sign of the one and only Golden Oriole) we scoured the reed beds for Dragon and Damselflies but found few in the strong, chilly wind although the Swifts  seemed to be enjoying the wind and sunshine. Bittern could be heard booming off in the distance.

Later we spent some time trying to hear and see the Savi’s Warbler. It first began to reel just after 5pm but we only knew that we’d seen it for sure, and then the glimpse was only brief, some two hours later.

We spent a lot of time watching this bush and the surrounding reeds and eventually the Savi's Warbler showed itself.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Yoesden Bank - 26 May 2013

After the morning ringing session a quick afternoon visit was made to Yoesden Bank to see if any Adonis Blue had emerged, but despite spending a couple of hours on the bank, none were seen, though over 20 Dingy Skippers were seen, along with a single Common Blue, two Small Blues and Orange Tips, five Green Hairstreak, and over ten Small Heath and Brimstones. As well as the usual Red Kites and a single Buzzard, a family group of six Ravens were seen.

Dingy Skipper

Green Hairstreak

Small Blue

Common Blue


Bedfont Country Park - 26 May 2013

Today we joined DGH and DSB for CES 3 at Bedfont Country Park. As is usual for the site at this time of year, there were more retrapped than new birds. The birds kept us occupied throughout the morning with Reed Warbler being the leading species, including two birds bearing a V prefixed ring, used in 2007. A Stockdove provided DKL with a very much unexpected new species.

 Stock Dove

 Willow Warbler

 Reed Warbler Age 5

Azure Damselfly

Totals: 14 (18)

Stock Dove - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Wren - 0 (2)
Robin - 1
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 1 (2)

Reed Warbler - 3 (8)
Blackcap - 0 (1)
Garden Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 1 Long-tailed Tit - 1

Great Tit - 0 (2)
Blue Tit - 0 (2)
Jay - 2
Greenfinch - 1

College Wood, Wicken Wood and Pitstone - 25 May 2013

Today was supposed to be the warmest and brightest of the weekend - the forecast was wrong, again, but we decided to go with our plans anyway and try out luck looking for butterflies.

First stop College Wood, hoping for Wood Whites. It seemed unlikely as it really wasn't very warm, and although a few brief spells of sunshine encouraged other species out, the Wood Whites remained elusive.

 Speckled Wood

 Female orange Tip

Green-veined White on Blue Bugle

Moving on to Wicken Wood there were even fewer butterflies to be found. We were moving on to the next site when, against all odds we found what appeared to be a single newly emerged individual.

 Wood White

Our final location, Pitstone produced plenty of Small Blues, that were our main target, with the bonus of Dingy and Grizzled Skippers. By now there was uninterrupted sunshine and the temperature was on the rise although the wind was still chilly.

 Small Blues

 Grizzled Skipper

Dingy Skipper

Friday 24 May 2013

Stanwell Moor - 23 May 2013

We have been avoiding disturbance around the pool in the meadow as Lapwings were on territory and from monitoring at a distance there were already had well grown chicks. We met PCD and Sophie Bell to spend some time looking for pulli. Chris took up position slightly above the pool and guided us in towards the location of chicks.

The larger chicks were already gone but this was no surprise since they were not far off adult size when last seen a week ago. Our first find was a bit of a surprise as no Redshank chicks had been seen up until tonight.

Redshank pullus

On searching further another single Lapwing chick was ringed and another group of three apparent siblings were also found.

Lapwing pullus

We also found a nest with four warm eggs and these were left, having made a mental note of the location, for a later visit. We left the site to the birds with a good 40 minutes before dark allowing plenty of time for the parents and chicks to settle back into their usual night time behaviour.

In total so far Lapwings have had at least four broods of fledged young. On a previous visit, one juvenile, at almost full size was seen, with another around 50% grown. None of these were seen this time but they may have been away from the pool. Two pairs of  fairly recent chicks were seen this time, making at least four sets of hatched chicks, together with one still active nest. We found one chick dead with head injuries, and one of those we rung, though healthy, had signs of head injury, which we suspect would have been caused by crow attacks on the birds. One reason for the absence of the older two chicks may be due to the fact that on one visit a Fox was seen right in the middle of the breeding area, and the den was found on our way back out in one of the earthen mounds.

Totals: - 5
Lapwing - 4
Redshank - 1

Cryptic Wood White - Northern Ireland - 22 May 2013

I decided about six weeks ago as flights from Luton to Belfast on Easy Jet where only about £50 return I would book a day trip to Northern Ireland for Cryptic Wood White. A bit of a gamble, but a bit of research on emergence times suggested that they often peaked around mid May, but in some years came out later, and the peak could be in early June. Not expecting another poor spring for sun, I went for a mid/late May date and booked the flight. As the day drew nearer with only two decent days of sun in May so far, on the 7th and 16th, a dull day loomed ahead. Research on Butterfly Conservation's Northern Ireland branch website identified three sites around Craigavon, with Craigavon Lakes appearing to be the main strong hold with counts into the 100s in previous years. I made contact with Ian Rippley to get more precise details to avoid plodding around in the wrong area. Ian was very helpful and had even offered to met me at the site but due to personal reasons was unable to do so on the day, but the offer was welcome. Wednesday morning at Luton was cold and overcast and I set off, in anticipation of having to make a repeat visit. Landing at Belfast the weather did not seem any better, and together with a brisk NW wind, suggested I would be very lucky to have any success. The hire car was from the Eire, the only downside was that the speedometer was in km - fortunately no speed cameras anywhere.

The roads were, compared to the SE, very easy going. They were not empty, but the traffic was moderate and flowed easily, a strange feeling, until on the main A26 we met.....

Which we followed for about 1/4 mile or so. It made a real change to drive somewhere with less traffic. Bliss, not even ruinned by following the herd of cows!

At Craigavon Lakes, which turned out to be only about 30 miles from the airport, making it a real easy hop over to do, the weather was still dull and overcast. With Ian's directions it was really easy to find the rough grass area along the railway line and I walked the entire length of the north side without luck and crossing under the railway made my way back along the south side.

As I suspected the board might contain the only Cryptic (still shown as Real's) Wood White, a photo seemed worth while. As I more or less got to the end of the south embankment, the cloud started to have the odd break, allowing some sun to shine, albeit over the next hour or so, only on and off for five or ten minutes at a time, but the sun was strong enough to produce a single Cryptic Wood White!

Over the next couple of hours I manged to see three, possibly four on the south side and returning to the north another three, which considering the weather was a real result. The only other butterflies seen was a a single Large White and a mating pair of Green-veined Whites.

Green-veined White

Cryptic Wood White

One other thing that struck me about Craigavon Lakes was the amount of birdlife - there were Reed Buntings singing everywhere. I cannot remember anywhere in the UK in recent years where I have heard them in such densities as here. Also there were a good number of Sedge and Willow Warblers singing. The birds seemed to be more tolerant of my presence and would pop up right next to me. I could not help wondering, as I saw so few people in the rough grassland area whether the lack of disturbance was a factor, unlike in the UK where there are people everywhere. Is this effecting our bird populations?

After Craigavon Lakes I headed over to the nearby Oxford Island NNR. Cryptic Wood White here is seen in lesser numbers and more on the small areas of marginal grassland. The weather now had become a bit more overcast and none were seen here though in one area of boggy field when the sun did make an appearance suddenly over 60 green-veined Whites appeared. The only other butterfly seen was an Orange Tip. Birding wise it was fairly quiet in an extremely brisk NW wind.

 Green-veined White

Orange Tip

 Juvenile Hooded Crow.

I had forgotten that Hoodies replace Carrions in Ireland.
One of the reserves bird hides

After Oxford Island I headed over to Motiaghs Moss NNR, an area of lowland bog. By this time there was more or less complete cloud cover, with the odd spit of rain. Here again Cryptic Wood White is only seen on the road edges or in the odd field.  I only managed one Orange Tip here, plus a probable Four-spotted Chaser and a Damselfly, which is either a Azure or Irish Damselfly, but as it is a newly emerged female it is proving tricky to get someone to confirm what it is. but I rather suspect it is Azure Damselfly.

Azure Damselfly.

Belfast was left via the last flight back to Luton.

The other thing that struck me about the day - was I did not see anyone Birdwatching all day - another novelty compared to England, what a change, moderate traffic and not a person around every corner, lots of birds singing to boot!