Sunday, 28 July 2013

A mega Wader this Summer?

Personally, I think the next few weeks looks good for a rare, even mega, Wader here in Norfolk. The warm weather has allowed pools, lagoons and scrapes to look particularly inviting to any flyover flocks. At Surlingham, the water levels are the lowest I have ever seen them, almost too low. Pictures below. However, we are now due some stormy weather and a continuation of South-westerlies. Rain tends to ground, or at least push around, any Waders in an area. I would love to stumble across a Pectoral Sandpiper, and both Cantley and Buckenham have a decent record with this species. A straightforward Semi-P, or summer plumage Stilt Sand, and I'm dreaming. So, it was with these thoughts that I made my first visit to Cantley beet pools this morning. Selected counts as follows:

Green Sandpiper 12
Common Sandpiper 1
Ruff 9
Redshank 1
Lapwing 18

Also here, a Common Tern passed though  and I was noisily harassed by a gang of Black-headed Gulls who decided I was a clear threat to their chicks out on the pool.

Buckenham Marshes were splendid today, and hopefully a sign of things to come. I counted a total of 4 Wood Sandpiper, I would tentatively suggest at least 2 were juveniles but need to do some more reading in this area. Such a fragile looking bird, a pleasure to see and a sure sign that Autumn is on the way. Counts:

Wood Sandpiper 4
Green Sandpiper 2
Black-tailed Godwit 52 (Stunning mix of plumages).
Redshank 2
Ruff 2
Avocet 2
Greenshank 1

Marsh Harrier and Little Egret also.
I think 4 Wood Sandpiper is the most I have ever seen at Buckenham. There are also 6 birds being reported from Carlton Marshes in Suffolk. It's now or never for one at Surlingham!

Speaking of my patch, a couple of visits to report. On the 26th a single Green Sandpiper was on the lagoon, as were 2 Grey Heron. I enjoyed watching one wrestle with an Eel. Southern Hawker Dragonflies were new for the year. On the same date at Wheatfen, 4 Snakes that slithered into the undergrowth before I could get a look were probably Grass. I did manage to see a Fox though, near the small broads. On the 27th, it was a warm hazy evening before the rain came. Sparrowhawk begging calls were heard from the wood. 2 Stock Dove fed on the edge of the lagoon and the Green Sandpiper remained. 3 Sand Martin passed overhead. I was again lucky with mammals. Firstly, a vole sp shuffled off into a dyke before I could get a look at him. I was more fortunate with the local Water Deer though; a mother had bought her fawn down to the lagoon to drink and feed. I felt very privileged to watch, the second year in a row I have seen a youngster here.

PS I dipped the Two-barred Crossbills at Lynford. I do like Crossbills, but I like Waders more. Not feeling too disappointed, there will be more.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Away in Spain and home for more Bat surveying.

From the 19th to 21st of July I was at a friend's wedding in Spain, not far from Madrid so other than the airport I enjoyed rural surroundings, the constant buzz of insects and village plazas for my short time there. This was in no way a wildlife watching trip, but naturally my eyes were peeled and I picked up a few good bits. Birds of prey were enjoying the hot thermals, although I could only get a positive ID on a Red-footed Falcon. I had what I think was a Spanish Imperial Eagle, surrounded by many smaller Raptors, high in the sky over farmland. Much easier to ID were Great White and Little Egret, White Stork and Bee Eater. Despite the intense heat and late nights of beer and fine dining I did manage a walk out into farmland. A Shrike on wires was perhaps a Red-backed, and a Clouded Yellow flew right past me, a new species altogether. On doing some research it would seem this was probably a Berger's Clouded Yellow. I also encountered a Marbled Skipper, another new Butterfly. There many smaller Blue Butterflies, Chalkhill I think, although the full suite of features could not be obtained. So, an excellent few days and Spain remains at the top of the list for next year's honeymoon. Cadiz area sounds great, perhaps slightly cooler too!

Back home, I have completed part 2 of my NBMP survey in Thorpe St. Andrew. This time I was accompanied by Johny Prochera, thoroughly nice chap who like me enjoys escaping into the wilderness. On Monday 22nd, we had 6 Noctule Passes, 1 unsure and 3 Common Pip passes. Not quite as productive as last time, but the heavy cloud cover meant the Noctules would have been out even earlier so perhaps we missed the real action. The evening ended with light drizzle too, again perhaps a factor in the Bat's behaviour. Next- the NBMP waterway survey.

First- a trip to Lynford to nail these Two-barred Crossbill!

Monday, 15 July 2013

More Butterflies and the odd Bat for a blog.

Re-visited a site near Bergh Apton on Sunday, rich in Butterlfy and Insect life. Literally 100's of Meadow Brown and Ringlet were seen, the next numerous species probably Small Tortoiseshell. Red Admiral numbered just 2, Large Skipper 2 and Small/Essex Skipper c10. My first Gatekeepers of the year, 2, and 3 White species completed a super haul. The Cinnabar and 6-Spot Burnet were the day flying Moths were also encountered. 2 Brown Hawker patrolled the nettle beds, and a large Hawker went unidentified. Some choice pictures below.

Looking back to the 25th of June, a NBSG survey at Rainthorpe Hall near Taswood Lakes proved very productive and also marked a change in the weather for the warmer. The Hall itself is a quite stunning relic, well maintained and a privilege it was to walk the grounds. Before dark, a Barn Owl flew in front of the car and a Tawny Owl called. At least 3 Fox were seen as dusk fell and finally, James, you were spot on- I saw a Glow Worm! Once the Bats were out we were busy. Soprano and Common Pipistrelle were the frequent flyers tonight, and we also enjoyed good views of Noctule and Daubenton's.  Upon receiving results it seems a possible Barbastelle was recorded, but too faint to be sure.

On the 11th of July, a site record of 2 Little Egret were feeding on the lagoon at Surlingham Church Marsh. Both appeared to be adults, and legged it before I got a chance to capture them feeding. Green Sandpiper numbers are stable at 2.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Weather to watch Insects

After a week of bright but at times unsettled and stormy weather, it seems much of Britain has been struck by a mini heatwave. This is of course excellent weather for watching Butterflies and Dragonflies go about their business. Before recounting the last 2 days, of note at Church Marsh was a Common Tern upriver on the evening of the 3rd, new for the year.
Yesterday Debs and I spent the heat of the day at Wheatfen. We ended up with a cracking species list. Scarce Chaser were relatively common both in dykes and over the reeds. Black-tailed Skimmer, Norfolk Hawker, 4 Spotted Chaser and probable Broad-bodied Chaser were our other big Odonata. Onto Damselflies, and we saw Large Red, Azure, Common Blue, Banded Demoiselle and Blue-tailed. Butterflies were also on fantastic form. We were lucky to receive a fly-past from a single Swallowtail. Large Skipper was new for the year, and Small Tortoiseshell were seemingly everywhere. Really pleased to see them doing well. 

Today, woken by the new Cat I decided to get out and about before the heat became oppressive. Thankfully, there was some bird interest at Church Marsh. A single Green Sandpiper was working the muddy edges of the lagoon. A Little Egret flew overhead, and despite the growing heat the Warblers were all in good voice including Grasshopper- at least 2 of these reeling. Back to the insects, and the expected Red-eyed Damsels were on the lily pads floating on the river. A scarce Chaser hunted over the lagoon, and a Brown Hawker buzzed through. Ringlet Butterflies were out and about, new for the year. I love their beautiful subtlety. 
Onto Rockland, and again Small Tortoiseshell were in abundance. Large Skipper also increasing as the morning went on. I saw a Common Darter, new for the year. Finally, 2 Common Terns fished the broad. 

 Four-spotted Chaser
 Small Tortoiseshell
 Common Darter
 Large Skipper
Scarce Chasers 'busy'.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Canoeing with birds.

After much talk and until now little action (other than the purchase of a dry bag), on Saturday 29th myself and 2 of my best men set off on a weekend canoe and kayak trip down the river Nene. Our starting point was the 'harmless' market own of Oundle and our destination the town of Yarewell and campsite for the night. Conditions were breezy (turning to windy on the Sunday as we headed back up river)  but bright and often warm. It was a privilege to be so close to the wild residents of the river, and for that reason alone a long term aim remains to get myself a kayak or canoe and bird the shit out of the inaccessible broads.  Turning up a rare duck or two, access difficult, I'm there.
Anyway, our journey. We were accompanied by the omnipresent Red Kite. I never tired of seeing this superb Raptor, although Oundle resident Allan has them on his garden list! Common Buzzard and Kestrel were also plentiful. Best bird and contender for moment of the paddle came near Tansor, when a bird of prey leaving the water could only have been one thing- Osprey! The bird circled overhead, shimmied as if to dive, but in the end thought better of it and headed off. Wow. Added to this Summer visitor, Common Terns were seen every 15 minutes or so and both Reed and Sedge Warbler were regular. Cuckoos were heard twice, Kingfisher encountered on 3 occassions and Grey Wagtail, 4 of these.
Away from the birds, 1000's of Banded Demoiselle flitted in and out of the reeds and scrub, quite unforgettable. Red-eyed and Blue Tailed Damsel were easy enough to ID as we cruised past, and I would estimate there were hundreds of Common/Azure/Variable. Are Emeralds on the wing yet? Fairly sure I had at least 2, although the female Demoiselles do appear similar. Of the larger species, Broad-bodied Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer and Hairy Dragonfly were all fairly regular.
Post-pub, we enjoyed Daubenten's Bats over the river and Soprano Pipistrelle near the mill at our campsite. Finally, after Austen meandered into some white water and capsized, a Grass Snake is worthy of a mention.

Some stats from the weekend:
20 miles canoed/kayaked.
15 hours on the water.
10 locks negotiated.
23 beers drank.
1 capsize
1 Osprey.

Lads, I look forward to the next water-based adventure! Now to recover from the last..........