Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Red-legged Partridge & Family

Azure Damselfly at Gooderstone Water Gardens

On Saturday 22nd June 2013, I visited Gooderstone Water Gardens in Norfolk. The gardens were very beautiful and natural, with a constant chorus of bird song. Time ranout before we could get around the 1.6 acre nature reserve, but I would imagine it would be a nice relaxed experience and worth exploring.

During the visit we did hear a Kingfisher, but after spending about 25 minutes in the Kingfisher Hide it did not appear. Dragonflies and Damselflies were very visible during our visit, flying over the water courses and paths. I managed to photograph a pair of Azure Damselflies and there were also numerous Nettle-tap moths.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Titchwell Marsh 20/6/13

I must admit that Titchwell Marsh is one of my favourite UK nature reserves and despite the damp conditions I still enjoyed my afternoon birthday visit. As I parked in the car park a Cettis Warbler was singing, a unmistakable sound that has this year been missing from the nature reserves in Cleveland. Then as I walked through to the visitor centre a Jay was sitting on a picnic table, as a Field Vole scurried across the path all in the space of a few minutes.

Heading into the reserve up the main path, a male Ruddy Duck was on Thornham Pool along with Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mute Swan and Coot. Reed Warbler's and Reed Bunting's sang along both sides of the path as the Island Hide approached. Before reaching the door, the first drops of rain started as darkness came overhead. The waders were all roosting in a elongated huddle, moving as one body when the rain came down. The brown mass was occasionally lit up like a beacon when I summer plumage Knot or Bar-tailed Godwit appeared.


The birds seen during our visit were as follows:

Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Pied Wagtail
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black headed Gull
Canada Geese
Mute Swan
House Martin
Reed Warbler
Blue Tit
Common Tern
Coot Moorhen
Greylag Geese
Little Egret
Great Tit
Reed Bunting
Tufted Duck
Herring Gull
Cettis Warbler

The wild flowers along the Fen walk were fantastic too and it was along this path that we saw the Bittern in flight and also the Cettis Warbler.

Rose-coloured Starling

I spent last weekend in Norfolk for my birthday and on Thursday 20th June I was going to RSPB Titchwell Marsh which is a favourite. Previously, news was out of a Rose-coloured Starling at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, so with a slight detour it became the first stop of the day.

Parking in Wells and walking to the area, there were a few birdwatchers waiting for a glimpse of the visitor. Sure enough it had previously been for a bath and was drip-drying at the top of the tree. The bright pink was shinning out within the green foliage and after waiting for about 20 minutes the bird flew down to the garden feeders.

As a garden bird recorder, I must admit that I was slightly jealous of the garden owner having an adult Rose-coloured Starling on their fat balls and also washing in their birdbath. What a beautiful bird, it is was only my 2nd record of Rose-coloured Starling too.

After a great start to the day, I headed to Titchwell Marsh with the dark rain clouds threatening overhead.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Garden Birdwatch - Week Starting 16/6/13

Blackbird 2
Coal Tit 2
Goldfinch 3
Greenfinch 1
House Sparrow 12
Dunnock 1
Starling 14
Jackdaw 4
Woodpigeon 2
Feral Pigeon 3
Magpie 1
Carrion Crow 1

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Peanuts, Fat Balls & Kitchen Scraps.

Amphibian: Frogs 3
Butterflies: Large White 1 (17/6/13), Speckled Wood 1 (17/6/13)
Insects: Brown Cader Bee, White-tailed Bumblebee

Crimdon Dene - Update

On the 17th June, I update my blog following a visit to Crimdon Dene with my Dad on Father's Day. I mentioned how we sat and watched the Little Terns bringing in fish for partners, before returning to the sea for more. I ended the first paragraph with ......The fragility of this area is all to apparent and in previous years both natural and unnatural influences have meant an uncertain breeding success rate for this species.

Well, on Wednesday 19th June local news reported that an egg collector had stripped the colony of eggs! I cannot believe that some people can behave in this way, not only in the shameful act of  a) removing eggs from the nest of a rare bird, but b) wiping out a colony for a year.

We should feel privileged that these birds fly from Africa to the North East instead of stopping somewhere else on the way.

Last year, 110 pairs raised no chicks due to natural predators and now this year with only 65 pairs returning we will again have no chicks fledging from Crimdon. I fear that we will reach the stage of no Little Terns returning, before too long.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Crimdon Dene

On Sunday 16th, my Dad and I went for a walk at Crimdon Dene, a special section of the Durham/Cleveland coast which has a nesting colony of Little Terns. As you walk down the path to the beach area, your eyes only see the vast seascape and fenced-off area on the beach - no birds. Walking on further and a check through binoculars you see the small Terns flying in and out in a frenzy of activity. The fragility of this area is all to apparent and previous years both natural and unnatural influences have meant an uncertain breeding success rate for this species.

Visiting this site for a quick year tick on a bird list doesn't feel right and as in previous years sitting down and taking in this special site is a must regardless whether you are a seasoned professional birdwatcher or a beginner. Take the time and watch the world go by. The Little Terns with their beautiful plumage anchored down in a hollow in amongst the pebbles and rocks waiting for a partner to drop by with a fish. Also present were Ringed Plovers and occasionally Linnets dropped into collect extra nesting material and food. Whilst walking back to the car a Silver-ground Carpet was seen in the grass. Common Whitethroats were also busy collecting food.

Elephant Hawkmoth - more photos

Pink Elephant Magic! 

Bailing out an Elephant

On Saturday night (15th) I put my moth trap out to record moth as part of the Garden Moth Scheme. At 10:30 pm I went out to have a look to see if any moths had arrived early and I was thoroughly pleased to see an Elephant Hawkmoth sitting on an egg box. I hadn't recorded one if these in our garden since 2010 and I was quite surprised to see one in the trap so early in the evening.

At 10:35 pm, the heavens open and down came the rain with such force that the droplets rebounded up about 30 cm off the shower proof lamp shield. It makes you think that the Elephant Hawkmoth sensed the change possibly in atmospheric pressure, temperature or an increase in air moisture, but it rode out the downpour in the relevatively dry trap. It is always nice to stand out outside on a dry or warm evening to watch the moths fly in and around the garden. Their flying behaviour across the species is quite variable and as they stop at particular plants, you can start to guess which species they are. However, Saturday night was not one of those nights unless you had a dry suit!

Later as I dosed off to sleep, again the roar of the rain could be heard through the window as the next downpour arrived. The next morning I didn't know what to expect as I opened the back door and peered into the trap. Each egg box valley was half to three quarters full of water and generally everything outside was soggy. Next question - would they be any moths left?

The minimum overnight temperature was 8.7°C and there were still moths present in the trap.

Peppered Moth 1
Elephant Hawkmoth 1
Buff Arches 1
Buff Ermine 1
Common Marbled Carpet 1
Pale Prominant 1
Garden Carpet 1
Heart & Dart Moth 2
Rustic Shoulder-knot 1
Cabbage Moth 1
Celyhpa Lacunana 1

Billingham Beck Valley

Today, I went for a walk in Billingham Beck Valley from the car park near the visitor centre.  Despite the windy conditions in the valley in was warm and sheltered. Most of the birds seen were either feedings fledgings or carrying food to a nest site. Common Whitethroat, Great Tit, Robin, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Goldfinch were all seen in a small area near a split in the path.

Walking on further, I came to a small wooden bridge over the beck. A Mallard and seven ducklings were busy feeding on flies along the beck and a Blackbird sat in the tree ready to start the afternoon chorus together with a Chiffchaff.

Over the bridge and down the path, the vegetation near our feet was alive with Nettle-tap Moths. Small & Large White butterflies flew past at head high and another day flying moth called a Grass Rivulet was spotted.

Monday, 10 June 2013

On Sunday the 9th June 2013, I went to Beningbrough Hall near York. In in the gardens I photographed a Speckled Wood and Large White Butterfly

I also saw a Queen Red-tailed Bumblebee with the brightest pollen sacks I have ever seen.

Garden Birdwatch - Week Starting 2nd June 2013

Blackbird 2
Goldfinch 5
Greenfinch 1
Blue Tit 2
Coal Tit 1
House Sparrow 8
Dunnock 3
Feral Pigeon 4
Woodpigeon 1
Great Tit 2
Jackdaw 3
Starling 2
Magpie 1

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Peanuts & Fat Balls

Mammals: 2 Wood Mice, 1 Hedgehog & 2 Pipistrelle Bats (circling the house on moth trapping night) .
Butterflies: 2 Large White on 4th & 6th June 2013
Insect: 1 Garden Bumblebee
Amphibians: 3 Common Frog

Garden Birdwatch Update - May

Week Starting 5th May 2013

Blackbird 2
Goldfinch 4
Greenfinch 2
Coal Tit 1
Blue Tit 2
House Sparrow 3
Dunnock 1
Feral Pigeon 3
Collared Dove 1
Woodpigeon 1
Great Tit 2
Jackdaw 3
Starling 1

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Peanuts & Fat Balls

Butterflies: Large White & Small White
Amphibians: Common Frog 4

Week Starting 12th May 2013

Blackbird 2
Goldfinch 5
Greenfinch 2
Coal Tit 1
Blue Tit 2
House Sparrow 4
Dunnock 1
Feral Pigeon 4
Collared Dove 2
Woodpigeon 1
Great Tit 2
Jackdaw 3
Starling 1

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Peanuts & Fat Balls

Butterflies: Small White on 16th May 2013.

Week Starting 19th May 2013

Blackbird 2
Goldfinch 2
Greenfinch 1
Blue Tit 2
House Sparrow 6
Dunnock 2
Feral Pigeon 5
Collared Dove 1
Woodpigeon 1
Chaffinch 1
Great Tit 2
Jackdaw 4
Starling 9

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Peanuts & Fat Balls

Butterflies: 2 Large White & 1 Peacock on 19th May 2013 
Amphibians: Common Frog 4

Week Starting 26th May 2013

Blackbird 1
Coal Tit 2
Goldfinch 5
Blue Tit 4
House Sparrow 8
Dunnock 2
Feral Pigeon 2
Collared Dove 1
Woodpigeon 2
Great Tit 2
Jackdaw 3
Starling 3
Magpie 1

Food: Sunflower Hearts, Seed, Peanuts & Fat Balls

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Garden Moth Update

It has been awhile since I reported what Garden Moths have been trapped in my garden as part of the National Garden Moth Scheme. To be truthful the numbers of moths has been very low and now we are in the busiest mothing summer season it was hoped that things to pick up quickly.

Friday 31st May 2013 - minimum overnight temperature 10.6°C

464 Diamond-back Moth 12
1906 Brimstone 2
1728 Garden Carpet (f.thules) 1
1728 Garden Carpet 2
648 White-shouldered House Moth 1
2078 Least Black Arches 1
892 Mompha Subbistrigella 4
2154 Cabbage Moth 1

873 Blastobasis adustella 1
1769 Spruce Carpet 1

Saturday 1st June 2013 - minimum overnight temperature 7.0°C

464 Diamond-back Moth 2
1906 Brimstone 1
2154 Cabbage Moth 1
1920 Scalloped Hazel 1
1728 Garden Carpet 1
1288 Twenty-plume Moth 2
2078 Least Black Arches 1
2334 Rustic Shoulder-knot 1
1769 Spruce Carpet 1 (see pictures below)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Low Barns Nature Reserve

On Sunday, we went to Low Barns Nature Reserve in County Durham. At least two male Pied Flycatchers were singing and giving excellent views from the path along the north side of the lake. Unfortunately they didn't sit perched for very long so the wideo clips are very short. Whilst we stood watching the Pied Flycatchers, a Spotted Flycatcher was also seen catching insects.

During our visit we also saw Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, Cormorant, Mallard, Nuthatch, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Oystercatchers, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jay, Jackdaw and Common Buzzard.

The butterflies seen were Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Small White and Large White.

Coatham Stob

Last Saturday, I went for a walk at Coatham Stob near Long Newton. Walking around the paths lined with Dandelion clocks was quite amazing. Unfortunately, the butterfly numbers were low although four species were seen Small White, Large White, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood.

A Yellowhammer was seen collecting food for young ones and as we crossed the wooden bridge we could hear a Tree Pipit. We watched the bird singing and parachuting into the tops of the trees. Also we saw a Great-spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker, as the summer migrants sang a wonderful background chorus.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Estonia May 2013 - Day 6

Friday 17th May 2013.

Sadly, our last day on birdwatching in Estonia, but as we started the day at my favourite site Valguta Polder I knew it would be another great day.

The birdwatching at an another area within the polder was again brilliant with Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, White-tailed Eagle, Black Tern, Common Tern, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Reed Warbler, White-fronted Geese, Osprey, Black-headed Gull, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Shoveller, Pintail, Barnacle Geese, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Ruff, Greenshank, Common Crane, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Little Gull, Cormorant and Great-crested Grebe.

The warm morning, brought out Holly Blue, Peacock, Swallowtail, Brimstone and Map Butterflies. I was also surprise to see two new moth species with a Mint Moth (pyrausta aurata) and Lattice Heath (Chiasmia clathrata) moth.

At lunchtime, we stopped near a small village called Love were we heard a Corncrake very close to the path. This was the closest I had ever been to a Corncrake and so as we waited people within the group spotted the bird moving within the vegetation. I just couldn't see the bird and I kept thinking that it would stop calling any minute now and my opportunity for this lifer would be lost. The noise got louder and more intense as the scanned the tops of the plants for the elusive bird. No luck, so tried plan B - standing on top of a pile of bricks and looking down on the plant tops. The calling continue as a scanned back and forth, then after what seemed like a lifetime I spotted an eye, then a head, thanks to John our leader's patience. Once I had seen the bird I watched as it move through the plants without any vegetation movement occasionally popping up its head to survey the area. At last Corncrake was added to my Western Palearctic List. Also present was a Red-backed Shrike.
In the afternoon we visited the Ilmatsalu Fishponds to look for Red-necked Grebe. As we walked from the car park within a few hundred yards a Bluethroat (white-spot) was seen. White Stork, Black Tern, Black-headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Hooded Crow, Swallow, Thrush Nigthingale, Coot, White Wagtail, Whooper Swan and Reed Bunting were all seen as we walked down the path passing local fisherman catching Carp.

We heading towards the bay, stopping to watch a Penduline Tit feeding in amongst the trees. As we stood beside the bay we counted six Red-necked Grebe in beautiful summer plumage. Overheard flew a Hobby and Marsh Harrier and the air was once again filled with the sounds of Thrush Nightingale and Corncrake.

In the trees at the end of the bay we spotted two Penduline Tit nests and watch a bird visiting a nest.

What a fantastic end to our trip to Estonia!

I had seen 154 bird, 11 butterfly, 2 moth and 7 mammal species showing what a excellent country Estonia is for wildlife watching. It was a pleasure to see a country not covered in litter which is a major problem in the UK.

Estonia May 2013 - Day 5

After leaving Valguta, we head towards Elva and the local forests for woodpeckers. As we stood listening a Honey Buzzard soared effortlessly over our heads, showing the characteristic underwing pattern and shape. Then a Hedgehog scurried across the track, disappearing into the dark undergrowth.

Moving on to another part of the forest we spotted at a clearing. The air was filled with the constant song of a Yellowhammer and a Cuckoo. Then in a flash, the call came as a female Black Woodpecker flew between the trees until it perched for a moment in the clearing for the group to see.  Then as quickly as she appeared, she was gone again deep into the forest. Further down the path, a Red-breasted Flycatcher was calling and soon appeared high up in a tree alongside the path.

We stopped in a few villages as we toured the area and the majority of trees had nesting Fieldfare in them, so green spaces were busy with adults collecting food for hungry babies. Occasionally Redwing could be heard singing from the tops of the trees.

A stop at Valguta village pond for a well-earned ice cream had at least three pairs Common Gulls all looking very smart and very much together.

We headed back to Vehendi Motel for an early evening meal as we were heading out in the evening to hopefully see Great Snipe lekking. We arrived at the edge of a marsh with the sun slow setting and a flock of 16 Black Tern flying around over the water.

Great Snipe was one of the birds I had hoped to see whilst in Estonia and would be a lifer for me. I scanned the grass with my telescope slowly, until suddenly a brown bird leapt up into my view and disappeared. What a surprise and it took a few seconds to sink what had just happened until I got confirmation from our leader Roger. The search continued, back and forth as the sounds of 'knitting needles' grew louder and move intense. The light continued to fade, then behind us two Hobbys give an aerial display as a Red Fox marched across the field on a night time patrol.

The time ticked on to 9:45 pm with the sounds becoming louder and more fanatic. Then as I scanned, the birds appeared, leaping into the air showing flashes of white from the outer tail feathers. I counted at least four individuals and at one stage all were facing each other standing up vertical with their chests puffed up clicking their bills before leaping skywards. An amazing sight and quite bizarre, so turn up the volume and watch the video clip below. Hopefully, you will hear the 'knitting needles' and see some birds - don't blink!


At the end of Day 5 we had spotted 147 bird species.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Estonia May 2013 - Day 5

Thursday 16th May 2013.

We started today at the wonderful Valguta Polder.

The Estonian Encyclopaedia defines the term "polder" as an area that is specially drained and protected with a dam from overflowing from a sea, lake or river and situated too low for natural draining to occur. To avoid overflowing and flooding protective structures are built in the drained area (protective dam, cut-off canal or drain, sluice) along with a drainage network and a collecting pool. The floodwater would thus flow away via the sluice or be pumped away.

In 1964 the Valguta Polder construction began in the marshy meadows between the Haani and Rongu river mouth. The Estonian Polder system was launched in three stages in 1965-1968. A total of 533 hectares was drained. The protective dam was 2.3 kilometres long. In addition to field hay, the polder proved to be an adequate location from growing potatoes, barley and winter wheat. The polder is no longer functioning today.

The Valguta Polder is now part of the Natura 2000 network as the Lake Vortsjarv special conservation area. The purpose for having the Lake Vortsjarv special conservation area is protection of the following habitat types listed in Annex I of the Council of Europe Directive 92/43/EEC: natural eutrophic lakes, alluvial meadows, transferred marsh and bog forests; habitats of the species listed in Annex II; of the species listed in Annex I of the Council of Europe Directive 79/409/EEC and of the migratory bird species not listed in the Annex I. 

The morning light was beautiful and the birdsong was once again wonderful. In the trees and scrubs we spotted Great Reed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Thrush Nightingale, Jay and Reed Bunting.

Along the muddy edges and in the shallow water Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Common Snipe were feeding. At least 50+ Little Gulls were present including some in full breeding plumage with pink flush. Black Terns danced over the water mixing the Little Gull flock made up a magical telescope view.

The bird we had come to see was Citrine Wagtail and the group was not disappointed. Two males and a female were seen during our visit. It was a pleasure to watch such as beautiful bird for the 2nd time this year and seeing this species as a lifer in UAE in March.

Other birds present were Pochard, Mallard, Coot, Great White Egret, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, White-fronted Geese, Tundra Bean Geese, Whooper Swan, Grey Heron, Teal, Common Crane, Shoveller, Pintail and Herring Gull.

In the skies, we spotted Marsh Harrier, White-tailed Eagle and a Sparrowhawk flew past us whilst we watched the Citrine Wagtails.

We walked to another area within the Polder and we rewarded with good views of Penduline Tit, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Icterine Warbler. As watched the Penduline Tit, the air around us was filled with the noise from a booming Bittern.

We were also lucky to see Large Tortoiseshell butterflies. Although, all individuals seen were worn, it was still a new species for me and one I didn't expect to find.