Tuesday 31 July 2012

Little Owl, Roding valley

Getting home from work yesterday I'm told that the Little Owl that seems to have taken up residence in the fields behind the house has been seen again. 
So I take a walk over there hoping to grab a few shots. It's quite windy and this proves to be a bad sign as there's no Owls to be seen.
So when I get home tonight and I'm told that they have been on view again throughout the day, I can't resist another walk over to try my luck.
Walking the longer route round trying not to disturb any owls if they are in the favoured tree, Dad scans the tree from a safe distance and after a bit of searching locates an owl perched quite high up amongst the foliage.
Little Owl
Unfortunately we are on the wrong side and looking straight into the sun. So we move round to the other side and try to pinpoint the owl again. It's still in the same spot and not surprisingly turned round to face us.
I manage to grab a couple of shots before it flies towards the larger tree and deeper cover.
We spot it again briefly before it flies deeper into the tree and it's not clear if it's flown straight through or has sought the denser areas of the tree. Either way it's not re-located.
Maybe I will get a chance again tomorrow if the weather is favourable.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Eagle Owl at Ashford

An early start as usual and a regular destination is on the agenda. Dungeness is a favourite location of ours and even with the likely prospect of not adding any new birds to our lists, it doesn't matter.
On the way, we can't resist a quick detour to Ashford hoping to bag a view of the Eagle Owl that's been reported recently.
On arrival, we meet a couple of locals who already have the bird in their scope. I quickly set mine up and we are enjoying some great views of the bird perched on top of the Charter House building. At this time of day, it's not going to be very active, But it's awake and we get a couple of head shakes and some feather-ruffling.

We're informed that a collection of some of its pellets suggest it's enjoying the local pigeon population. Escape or not, It's not every day you get to see an Eagle Owl in the wild. A bonus sighting of a Peregrine flying through only added to the enjoyment of seeing the Owl.

On to Dungeness, and the normal routine is beach first for some sea-watching and then take it from there. As expected it's pretty quiet, but there's plenty of Gannets fishing and Sandwich and Common Terns are present in good numbers. There's a couple of Common Scoter on the sea and good numbers of Porpoises are also on show.
We make use of the short walk back to the car by looking for butterflies. With Common Blue, Small and Large White, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown all seen.
A quick stop at the observatory and moat to check out the trapping area and the new trap that has gone up. If you had seen the old trap you would know that it was well overdue for replacement.

Common Blue

The next stop is Arc Pit and we spend an enjoyable couple of hours in Hanson Arc Pit hide. It proves quite productive with at least five garganeys, four Common Sandpipers, Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, and three Dunlin all seen. There are huge numbers of Pochard present and from nowhere masses of Swifts, House and Sand martins appear over the water.

There's just time to visit Folkestone Downs for more butterflies. The main target was Adonis Blues, But the timing is wrong  for them and we make do with plenty of views of Marbled Whites, Large and Small Whites, Meadow Browns, Large and Small Skippers, Small Heath and Commas.

Just Brian and myself today, As dad seems to have developed a mystery illness related to the Olympics which prevents him from leaving the house and for most of the day even leaving the sofa. With luck it should clear up in a couple of weeks. But if it gets to the point where he can't even make it upstairs to the toilet we are going to have to seek medical assistance. 

Saturday 21 July 2012

White Admiral, Stour Estuary

Being quiet on the bird front today we decide to head towards the Stour Estuary in search of butterflies, and in particular the White Admiral.
I arrive at around 7am and take the footpath into the woods. It's looking good weather wise, But it's early and the temperature needs to warm up.
White Admiral
On the walk down to the estuary the temperature increases and I start to see butterflies on the wing. There's plenty of Ringlets and Gatekeepers on view. It's now hot enough for shirt sleeves and on the walk back there's a Purple Hairstreak warming up at the edge of the grass path.
Marbled White
Reaching a crossroads in the path Brian spots our target. The White Admiral is flying around at the top of a tree. I'm happy to get my first views of this butterfly, But it gets better when it starts to descend to lower levels and then lands on some nearby ferns.
I manage to grab a couple of quick shots before it's off and flying around the tree tops again. It's joined by a Red Admiral and lots more Ringlets.
Further along the track we spot a couple of Silver-washed Fritillary. The walk back to the car also produces Small and Large Whites

Next stop is West Canvey Marsh, Where the target here is the Marbled White. These prove to be far easier to see than the White Admiral. In fact they seem to be everywhere along the circular route.
Ringlets are abundant here as well, and there are several species of skippers present.
This was the site of one of our failed trips for Hoopoe last year, Where we missed the bird by minutes.
Today's trip proved far more fruitful and far less stressful.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Cley, Norfolk

5am start and the main aim of today is to try to find Brian his 250th bird of the year.
Cley is the first destination and we make good time and arrive to find dry and bright conditions. We park in the beach car park and walk towards the North Scrape.
Almost the first bird seen is a female Marsh harrier flying across the meadow carry what looks very much like a freshly caught Avocet chick.
With the Pectoral Sandpiper and the Short-toed Lark both having not been reported since yesterday lunchtime, We are not expecting Brian's 250th bird to come easy.
Reaching the hide, There's a good amount of activity on the scrape. Redshanks, Dunlins, Lapwings and Shelducks are all present in good numbers, With smaller numbers of Ringed Plovers.
There's a single Spotted Redshank feeding near the back of the scrape and then two Spoonbills are seen as they fly across in front of the hide.
Chalkhill Blue
 Another scan reveals a pair of black-tailed Godwits and then a fine summer plumage Knot drops in. Scoping the pools beyond the North Scrape adds another five Spoonbills and large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits. A Few Sandwich Terns fly in off the sea and a Whimbrel lands on the scrape to feed. A shout goes up for Green Sandpiper and Dad gets on it in time for a year tick before it drops out of sight.
The Two Spoonbills that flew across in front of the hide earlier drop down onto a small island on North Scrape and give great views.
Still no new bird for Brian to add to his 249 year list, and we start to think about moving on. Then Brian spots a wader feeding among the Dunlin. When we get the scope on the bird it is quickly identified as a Curlew Sandpiper. It's a year tick for all of us and it's Brian's 250th.
From here we try a few sites for Montagu's Harrier and Honey Buzzard, But neither bird are seen today.
To break up the return journey home, We decide to stop off at Newmarket and walk along Devil's Dyke in search of butterflies.
The weather is favourable and I get good views of my first Chalkhill Blues. There's also plenty of Meadow browns, and lesser numbers of Small Whites, Gatekeepers and Small Heaths, as well as a single Comma.
Another good trip, Which saw Brian reach his goal of 250 species in a year.
All that was left to do was to celebrate it with a pint at the local pub.

Congratulations Bri

Saturday 14 July 2012

Red-backed Shrike, Hayes

I'm lying in bed at 5.30am half awake, When the mobile text alert goes off. Message says "Are you up"?
I phone Brian thinking I've missed his earlier message arranging to go out today. Panic over as he has just woke up early and wants to know if I want to try for the Red-backed Shrike at Hayes.
After a mad dash around the house, We meet up at 6am and being a weekend and at this time of day it only takes 35 minutes to reach the car park on Dawley road.
There's a small group of birders already present, and we are told that the shrike has been seen but that it's dropped out of view.
After a short time scanning the small copse, Brian decides to look from the other side and heads further along the path.
I stay behind and start scoping the area. Suddenly the shrike appears in the scope. I call the rest of the group over and after trying to pin down where the shrike is among the vegetation we get good views.
Dad had wandered off with Brian and comes back round to tell us that they have the shrike from their location and that it's in the open.
After walking round to where Brian is standing we watch it for a good twenty minutes as it just sits in the  Hawthorn facing the sun. 
Suddenly it drops down and out of sight. We wait another hour or so with no further sightings. 
Ring necked Parakeets are present here and a small group fly noisily over overhead, Then a Sparrowhawk flies across with prey in it's talons. With the bins on the Sprawk I can tell it's not the shrike, It looks more like a small rodent or maybe a small pipit.
The rain starts to fall and it's time to head for the car and home.
At 5.30am I didn't think I was going to go out, By 9.30am I've been out and returned home, with a cracking male Red-backed Shrike added to my  life, year and London lists, I've also met some nice people and some familiar faces.
Thanks Bri

Saturday 7 July 2012


With the Olympic torch tour reaching Essex today and heavy rain also forecast for the area we head for drier regions and find ourselves at Minsmere.
South Hide
We arrive at 7.30am and head down past the new shop and find that there's plenty of activity at the Sand Martin colony, with the heads of the youngsters clearly visible in the nest holes as the parents return  with food. Along the footpath leading to the beach there's Reed Warblers and Bearded Tits a plenty.
Entering the East Hide there's a lot of gulls and terns on view. Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns are the species in the biggest numbers. A group of thirty plus Avocets are present, with Black-tailed Godwits among them. Barnacle Geese and Redshanks are also on show.
Red Admiral
A Buzzard is spotted high above the distant trees and with a Honey Buzzard having been reported in the area recently we give it an extra close look. We have to agree though that it's only a Common. 
Three Marsh harriers are seen over the reedbeds and Brian picks out a Common Sandpiper feeding at the edge of one of the scrapes.
Moving on to the Public viewing platform we get excellent views of three Spotted Redshanks looking good in their black summer plumage. Dunlin, Ringed Plover and several Sandwich Terns are also added before I find a Little Tern sitting among them.
Swallows are present around the sluice gates and Whitethroats and Cetti's Warblers are in the surrounding scrub.
Further along the path we spot a Hobby overhead. It gives great views as it flies low over the water and picks insects off the surface.
Ruddy Darter
More Marsh Harriers are seen and the sight of a Bittern flying across the reeds is a nice bonus.
With no new additions to the bird year list, It's time to find some butterflies. We walk round to the wooded area and out into the more open areas quickly spotting Ringlets, Red Admiral, Small and Large Skippers. Brian walks off ahead and spots an Adder curled up in the sun. It quickly moves off into thicker vegetation as Brian approaches, Later to be seen again on the return route.
A Speckled Wood is added to the butterfly list, and there's a Blue-bodied Dragonfly and a Ruddy Darter to add to the species list.

No new birds added but still a very enjoyable morning.