Monday, 27 June 2011

Back Local Again

Finally got myself out serious locally again today.
A quick look in at Stony Stratford NR at lunchtime found me my first returning Green Sandpiper of the autumn, along with a couple of Little-ringed Plover - an adult and a juvenile ( these had bred on site and were just reward for Martin and his volunteers who have put a lot of time and effort improving the site )
A Little Egret prowled in the shallows and a Common Tern saw off everything in sight so I'm guessing this too had young.

 Late afternoon I took a good walk around Gayhurst Quarry.
3 Little Egrets were spread around, 2 Oystercatchers, one on Fishing Pit and one on Spinney didn't look like a pair. A Little-ringed Plover and 20 odd Lapwings, including several juveniles made up the wader contingent.
 It looks like Drakey Wigeon has stayed with us again this year as he was out on Motorway Pit.
Common Terns look like they've had a very good year with 15-20 pairs having nested on the flat island. Lots of young around, some of which are already flying.
The Swans haven't fared so well though with one pair having only 2 cygnets ( down from 4 ), another pair still sitting( surely they won't hatch now )
 There are several pairs of Great-crested Grebes around but only one with any sign of youngsters.

On the river 2 Kingfishers sped upstream and a Grey Wagtail fed around the Motorway bridge.
Two Marsh Tits and a Lesser Whitethroat were notable birds in the scrub around the pits.

Friday, 24 June 2011


I had a spare morning today, so I decided to visit Wendover Woods. Ridiculous numbers of Firecrests have been reported here lately, so I thought I'd take a look to see if I could find any for myself.
 Well as I suspected after over two hours searching around the named area, I failed to even hear any of the said birds. Either they had all decided to move off at once (unlikely ) or the person reporting them has a very good imagination (more likely )
 I did see one Goldcrest, lots of Coal Tits, Nuthatches, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and a Garden Warbler.
 Raptors were seen in the shape of a Sparrowhawk, a few Buzzards and a few Red Kite.
My disappointment at not seeing the Firecrests was soon forgotten however as I found my first ever Silver-washed Fritillary feeding on some Bramble flowers

silver-washed fritillary
 I then decided to have a look at the area between Pitstone Hill and Steps Hill as it seemed like a good Butterfly day.
This proved a good choice as the meadows were full of these flying beauties.
My second Fritillary species of the day, Dark Green were present in good numbers.
                                                           Dark Green Fritillary

 Also present were Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites, Common Blues, Small Heaths, Ringlets as well as Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Brimstones.
                                                     Marbled White
Birds were not too numerous, but I did spy a couple of Corn Buntings on the fence posts as well as Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, a Yellowhammer and some Linnets.

Down in the bottom of Income Hole oneof the Ashridge Estates 'black' Fallow Deer sauntered around
                                                            Fallow Deer

It was while looking at the Deer I realised I was standing amongst quite a large colony of Pyramidal Orchids.
Pyramidal Orchid

I know it isn't quite North Bucks, but at least it was Buckinghamshire

Monday, 20 June 2011

Out of County again !

I might have to change the name of this blog at this rate. It's not that I haven't been about locally lately but I just haven't seen anything much to write up about.
Sunday was our latest trip out with  the Bedford RSPB. This time to Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk, primarily to see Swallowtail Butterflies and maybe Norfolk Hawker Dragonflies.But as luck would have it an overcast  and often wet windy day put the mockers on that. In fact I didn't see a single Dragon or Butter Fly all day.
Annoyingly we arrived  on site to be told some Otters had been playing in the top Bay five minutes before we arrived, but we had missed these.
 So it was the good old birds that saved the day.
Many Marsh Harriers were on site and these put on a great show along with 2 or 3 Hobbies, a Sparrowhawk and a distant Buzzard.
Ducks in the shape of Sheld, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted and Teal including several females with young - I haven't seen young Teal before - were observed on the various water bodies and an Egyptian Goose flew through.
Lots of Warblers were around including Reed, Sedge, Willow, Cettis (heard but not seen), Whitethroat, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and this was probably the reason for at least 2 Cuckoos being around the site.
 Having realised we weren't going have any luck with flying insects we decided to move on to reasonably nearby Winterton Dunes just to see what was around.
 A small but varied list of birds was seen here including Little and Sandwich Terns, Ringed Plovers, a single Gannet, a Cuckoo, Yellowhammer and several Skylarks.
 The weather had turned horrible by then so we decided to call it a day.

Bit cheesed off to find out later, that a nearby Red-footed Falcon had reappeared later on and a Ferruginous Duck had resurfaced at Strumpshaw today.But that seems to be how it's going lately and as I have been known to say 'That's Birding' (Grrrrr !)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Walking with Puffins

 The previous weekend was the now annual summer birding excursion of the Bedford RSPB Group.
This year we had opted to visit Northumberland, an area I had not really explored before.

 On our way up we briefly stopped off at the RSPB reserve of Fairburn Ings, where although not seeing anything too unusual, very close views were obtained of Tree Sparrows, a pair of smart Bullfinches and a confiding Song Thrush at the feeding station.
 We did have plans to stop off at Hartlepool to twitch an extremely rare White-throated Robin, but although this had been well viewed for the previous three days and had been seen that morning it decided to disappear a couple of hours before we got there, so those plans had to be abandoned.

 On Friday, we visited Seahouses, where we took one of Billy Shiels  Glad Tidings boats out to visit the fantastic Farne Islands.
 First stop off was Staple Island which just teeming with nesting seabirds.
Shags, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills were everywhere, but the real stars were the Puffins, which were running around all over the place and flying in with beakfuls of Sand Eels, trying to evade the marauding Gulls before disappearing down their nest burrows.
 There is a small colony of Fulmars on the island and a couple of Eiders snuggled down on their nests in the cracks in the rocks with people walking above, most totally oblivious to the birds below their feet.
 A few Rock Pipits were feeding young on the island  and some small parties of Gannets could be seen flying offshore.

                                                'Bridled' Guillemot
A pair of Shags

another Puffin

pair of Razorbills
The ever watchful Great-black backed Gull
and the equally menacing Lesser-black backed Gull
and an Eider down on the shore.(did you see what I did there?)

After leaving Staple Island our boat did a tour around some of the islands, where while hearing of the daring exploits of Grace Darling we were treated to reasonably close views of Atlantic Grey Seals and lots of these attractive looking Jellyfish.
Our next landing was on Inner Farne, which was an incredible experience. Right from disembarking was a constant bombardment from hundreds of Arctic Terns that had their nests everywhere, even on the side of the pathways. We had all come prepared with our hats and these were very necessary, as these very brave little birds attacked mercilessly, even landing on some peoples heads at times. Absolutely Brilliant!

Arctic Tern

Also on the island were colonies of Common and Sandwich Terns along with many more Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags and Kittiwakes.

Early Saturday morning a few of us ventured over to Holy Island or Lindisfarne as it also known as.
From the Harbour we watched many Eiders and some Rock Pipits picking through the seaweed. On the sandbanks offshore a very large flock of non-breeding Bar-tailed Godwits and a couple of Curlews were located and a large flock of ducks on the sea proved to be mainly Red-breasted Mergansers with a couple of male Goosanders in their midst.A Tern colony on another sandbank contained both Sandwich and Little Terns.
Then we heard the sound of what we at first thought was some women singing.This turned out to be coming from 2 or 3 hundred Grey Seals out on one of the sandbanks. What an amazing sound !

After breakfast we crossed the border into Scotland to have a look around the Lammermuir Hills. Unfortunately the weather had turned really wet and horrible so this rather spoiled things, but we did see several family parties of Red Grouse, a few Curlews, 'drumming' Snipe, Wheatears and a Common Sandpiper. Some of the others did see three Dippers but unfortunately  Robin, Bob and I missed these. So for a short while, we were known as the 3 Dippers.

The afternoon saw us back in the homeland at the the beautiful Harthope Valley near Wooler. It was still pouring with rain, but we still  found Redstarts, Stonechats, Whinchats, Grey Wagtails, Treecreepers and thankfully a Dipper. I wouldn't say it was raining heavily but even the Dipper was sheltering !!

Sunday morning, thankfully the weather bucked up again as we took the RSPB trip out from Amble to Coquet Island. We were not allowed to land, but from the boat we had close ish views of the Roseate Terns that nest in the specially made nest-boxes just below the Lighthouse
Coquet Island

All the usual Seabirds were around, Arctic and Sandwich Terns, Fulmars, Shags, Cormorants, Guillemots, Razorbills Kittiwakes, a few Gannets and of course lots more Puffins.

From here we moved to the nearby Hauxley Nature Reserve.
As luck would have it just before we arrived 3 Spoonbills had dropped in and these could be seen from the pathway. Also on site were a pair of Shelduck, a single Goosander, a couple of Barnacle Geese, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Turnstones, a Knot, several Redshanks and a stunning summer plumaged Little Gull

From here it was back southwards towards home after a very enjoyable four days in very good company.  

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Return of a Regular

Having seen literally dozens of Spotted Flycatchers in Mallorca, I was starting to get quite concerned that I couldn't find any  at home.
 Even the regular site at Lathbury had failed to produce.
But a visit after work tonight finally came good, with one of the birds flycatching from fenceposts in the field opposite The Rectory.
 Hopefully the other bird is around or will arrive shortly.
Spotted Flycatcher