Saturday, 29 September 2012

Plane Twitch (just)

I had never been on a plane twitch before so surprised that the roads around the former RAF Bitterswell base in Leicestershire were chock a block with aviation fans and rubber-necks when Bob and April offered us a chance to see the 60th anniversary flight of XH558 “Delta Lady”.
This Vulcan jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber was celebrating its birthday by flying from its base at Doncaster over a number of sites related to its history and certainly gathered a crowd where we were. 
I thought birders on a twitch can be a little forgetful when it comes to parking etiquette but here folks were even worse, in the end the police had to take control of the situation.
Having found a good spot we were joined by the “experts” who pointed out the likely direction it would make its approach towards us only for Bob to contradict them by suddenly shouting “its behind us” but at least we managed a view while others dipped because its low altitude meant there views were blocked. Bob was more on the ball than me and managed a decent shot. The odd one or two were even oblivious it had flown by and were wondering why everybody else was leaving.
XH558 is maintained by a charity and this 3 hour jaunt which also took in Coventry and Birmingham Airports, RAF Cosford, Gloucestershire Airport, Bristol Filton Airport, Cardiff Airport, MOD St Athan, Ross-on-Wye and RAF Halton, before returning to Doncaster was at a cost of £22,000 in fuel, just think of the Nector Points you would get with that on a forecourt.
Only birds seen today were a Peregrine over my house this morning and 3 Buzzards and 2 Meadow Pipits waiting for Delta Lady.
the twitch begins

more arrive

a bit far but record shot

luckily Bob re-acted faster than me

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Shaggy has got bigger

Due to the heavy shore-line disturbance at the pond this morning I managed to record at least 500 Tufted Duck in toft shallows with another 200 in biggen and hensborough areas reported by Bob so that’s not a bad number for here theses days. Very reluctant to fly off preferring to drift away from the duck feeders and fishermen so presumed majority are recent arrivals needing a nap before they realise where they have ended up and clear off.
Managed to locate the Black-necked Grebe drifting towards gray’s barn where it fed amongst the shore-line weed disappearing out of view while the male Common Scoter commutes between dunns bay and draycote bank.
Around mid-day as the cloud came in there was a small passage of mipits and wagtails going west and included 4 Siskin plus 3 Buzzard very high up going directly south (also ten local birds around the reservoir). Not much else around with Treecreeper, 17 Wigeon, 20+ Meadow Pipit in the cattle field along with 3 Yellow Wagtail and a Whimbrel head calling as it went over but could not be seen.
The rain has certainly helped Shaggy get bigger - almost doubled in size with another 3 found while insects included 6 Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Migrant Hawker. Southern Hawker and 2 Common Darter.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Still a few hirundine present from yesterday at the pond but in much smaller numbers and considering the weather and wind direction, the Redwing seen going over the valley, 12 Yellow Wagtail including a few adults on farborough bank, 2 Goldeneye and 16 Wigeon it was a pretty poor return for getting wet. Male Common Scoter still off draycote bank but we could not locate the Black-necked Grebe in an hours search although it was seen later in its usual place. The 5 Chiffchaff  and a possible Reed Warbler in the same willow tree in toft bay may have been part of an influx that was experienced in the valley with three locations reporting double figures of chiffs today. Red Admiral and Migrant hawker seen on farborough bank.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Hobby, House Martins and Firehorn

A good arrival of hirundine at the pond with House Martin (800) feeding along with 300 Swallow and 100 Sand Martin though numbers started to dwindle by mid-morning attracting the attention of an adult Hobby which made a number of attacks over the fishing pontoons just as we set out to walk to toft shallows. Common Scoter and Black-necked Grebe still present while the blustery south then south west wind pushed the Meadow Pipits and wagtails into the cattle fields. At least 6 Yellow Wagtail found. Only a single Pochard amongst good numbers of Tufted Duck including the Spanish nasal ringed bird here for its third winter. Disappointingly the only other birds of note were 4 Chiffchaff in toft shallows and adult and third year Yellow-legged Gull. Bob photographed a Shaggy Ink-cap and both Common Darter and Migrant Hawker were on the wing in sheltered areas.
Not surprisingly moths have been thin on the ground though while photographing a Rosy Rustic back at home Bob managed to have a Firehorn Leaf Mine (Phyllonorycter leucographella) land on his camera which was not in my trap. Although pretty common in gardens around here these days since its first discovery in Essex in 1989 it is surprising that something as small (8mm wing span) and delicate could have survived the recent weather onslaught we experienced over the last few days.
Shaggy Ink Cap

Firehorn Leaf Mine

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A good weekend

September 21st  Steam Fest
The Severn Valley Railway was holding their annual Autumn Steam Gala so spent the day station hopping between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth enjoying the various local and visiting engines and soaking up the atmosphere of a bygone age on this preserved railway. At least four locos added to my growing list with pride of place going to ‘Battle of Britain’ class 34052 Sir Keith Park a type of engine that use to fascinate me as a kid as it was so different to what passed through Rugby. Unfortunately the weather was not brilliant so got caught out by a heavy shower when deciding to walk off for some trackside shots ending up soaked. Still I was a happy bunny till a no images sign on my camera appeared so it needs a bit of tlc or a surgeon
By the time I arrived home the sky’s had cleared with the thermometer dropping like a stone so set my gear up to explore the spiral galaxy Andromeda (2.5 million light years away) before looking at the W shaped constellation Cassiopea. I was considering packing it in as I had to be out in five hours time and the cold was creeping in to my bones when a fireball type object appeared breaking up in the atmosphere reminding me of the Space Shuttle Columbia when she broke up on re-entry on the 1st of February 2003 with the loss of seven lives. Probably a bit of space junk returning home. An awesome sight whatever caused it.

September 22nd Migrants
Despite the limited amount of sleep I had a fantastic day out on the north Norfolk coast exploring Hunstanton, Titchwell and Holme managing a number of migrant species as the winds turned to the east. Hunstanton had a juvenile/female Pied Flycatcher in the pine plantation by the pitch and putt course and calling Lapland Bunting going over while doing a bit of visible migration. Not a lot on the sea apart from a few distant Common Scoters and Pink-footed Geese passing in small groups but did not give it a lot of time.
Titchwell had a Baird’s Sandpiper, 8 Spoonbill, 6 Little Egret, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Marsh Harrier on the reserve , the sea was rewarding with 2 Arctic and probable distant Pomarine Skua, Sandwich Tern and Red-necked Grebe.
Holme was alive with birders so easy enough to see where the Barred Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Wryneck had pitched up but no sign of the Yellow-browed Warbler. At least 2 Brambling and a Barn Owl noted.

September 23rd Duck Fest and more
After speaking with Colin and consulting the weather forecast we were at the pond just after the gates opened hoping for visible migration on the cool north east wind but totally unprepared for the duck fest that greeted us. At least 14 groups of duck, variable in numbers came in the next two hours and our final count was 300+ Wigeon which is a good September count for the pond, 26 Shoveler, 3 juvenile Pintail, 9 Gadwall and 5 Pochard along with an increase in Mallard and Tufted Duck.
Quackers were not the only species on the move with a large numbers of Swallow (1500+) heading south an hour plus 300 feeding locally and at least 500 House Martin and 100 Sand Martin among them with another 200+ House Martin over farborough bank.
Other notable sightings included 10 Curlew circling the reservoir calling to each other constantly (my highest count for this species here) at 7:15am, 2 Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper in toft, Rock Pipit on farborough bank, 5 Dunlin through at 8:30am, 5 Yellow Wagtail, Black Tern , 6 Siskin, 50+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Wagtail and the long staying Common Scoter and Black-necked Grebe.
We should have stayed longer but with 15 boats chugging out flushing off the duck and a sponsored walk preparing to descend on the unsuspecting bird life on farborough bank we left for the Long Itchington Diner. Our last sighting was a white Swallow feeding over the cattle in fields below farnborough bank, bill was a normal colour so presumed not to be a true albino.
We checked on a few sites in the valley managing a couple of Chiffchaff, 4 Buzzard, 3 Raven and more Swallow and House Martins heading south and had a long over due catch up with two thirds of the Bumbling Bears.
YIPPEE the weather is absolutely shite tomorrow – high winds and rain so local or coastal something is bound to turn up.
Bad News 
Just So closes next Sunday for the season and Naomi will not be returning. God forbid I may starve and missing her cakes already. No idea if it will open next year.Watch this space.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Another day another wader

Common Scoter and Black-necked Grebe still at the pond but not much else unless u have a fetish for Yellow-legged Gulls with 4 present at 9am (single first, second, 3rd winter and adult), a Greenshank flew over "the Griddle" at 11:45am heading west, 3 Chiffchaff in toft shallows and 5 Yellow Wagtail among the cattle.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sanderling saves the visit

A dire visit to the pond saved only by Sanderling flushed by walkers along with 3 Dunlin. No sign of the Common Scoter and the Black-necked Grebe was fighting a losing battle with the 7 fishing boats encroaching towards the barrier becoming flighty though still in toft when I left. Very few passerines showing probably due to the drop in temperature finding only 2 Chiffchaff and a Whitethroat. Other sightings included adult Yellow-legged Gull, Buzzard, Grey Wagtail, 6 Yellow Wagtail, 200+ House Martin and 3 Raven.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Same again ish

More Chiffchaff (11), House Martin (80) and Sand Martin (12) arrived today along with Peregrine and 2 Golden Plover which circled the country park before settling opposite the entrance to the Kites Hardwick Golf Range. At least 3 pairs of House Martin still attending their nests on the sailing club and long staying birds included the Black-necked Grebe, Common Scoter and Wheatear. Also present between country park and toft shallows were Ringed Plover, 5 Buzzard, 6 Yellow Wagtail, 10 Meadow Pipit, 10 Linnet and Whitethroat.
No visible migration in an hours watch from the country park probably due to the direction of the brisk but cool north west wind.
Butterflies included Red Admiral and Speckled Wood while toft shallows had 2 Southern Hawker and 3 Common Darter while a Migrant Hawker was in the main car park.
Dave’s garden had 4 Comma and 2 Red Admiral attracted to his sugar water feeder while the only moth of interest were Burnished Brass and Svensson's Copper Underwing from 83 moths of 23sp while all I could manage was 23 moths from 8 species though 5 Lunar Underwing was a good species count for me.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Another look at the pond

The sewage farm had a bit of bird activity with 2 Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, 5 male Blackcap and 14 Long-tailed Tit among a party of a roving Blue & Great Tits while the same hedge also had 2 Tree Sparrow. The copse opposite the entrance to the sewage farm had a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Song Thrush and 3 Wrens.
Earlier the Common Scoter and Black-necked Grebe were seen but I could not locate the male Scaup and the only other birds of note were Ringed Plover on farborough spit, 10 Meadow Pipit and 5 Buzzard.
 JJ had a Wheatear on top of the hide

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bits and Bobs

Whitethroat in the Grandborough valley and 40+ Tree Sparrows just leaving their roost before we had the drake Common Scoter off draycote bank, Black-necked Grebe in toft bay and the drake Scaup in biggen bay from farborough spit, Draycote Water. Not brilliant views but saved on shoe leather, only other birds of note were 8 Yellow Wagtail, 10 Meadow Pipit, Yellow-legged Gull and a frustrating flyover tern which gave the impression of being a Sandwich but got on to it to late to be certain.
After seeing 9 Raven mobbing a Buzzard over the Northamptonshire border from Napton on the Hill we chatted with the Judge family at Napton Reservoir before seeing 12 Shoveler, Reed Warbler and 4 Meadow Pipit plus Southern Brown and Migrant Hawkers and the odd Common Blue Damselfly, Speckled Wood and Vapourer moth. Tawny Owl calling close by while checking on last nights catch.
latest Space Shed times

a very pale Sallow 

only just starting to appear but a worn  Black Rustic

Lunar Underwing

Friday, 14 September 2012

Scoter and Grebe still

Both the Common Scoter and Black-necked Grebe were still present at Draycote Water this afternoon but opposite ends of the reservoir and in the very blustery conditions the only other birds not being battered senseless were 4 adult or near adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Buzzard.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Things are picking up

Black-necked Grebe by Bob Hazel
This morning dawn
Following an impressive sunrise this morning the pond came alive at last with Bob finding a Black-necked Grebe in toft bay while the male Common Scoter was still off draycote bank. Also present were 3 Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, 3 adult and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull while a Wheatear was among the sailing boats and 2 Yellow Wagtail (16 yesterday) and 10 Meadow Pipits on farborough bank or in the adjacent fields and hedgerows. Warbler activity continues to increase with 2 Whitethroat, 7 Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat and male Blackcap plus 2 Goldcrest though the hundreds of hirundines present from yesterday cleared off at 9am as it warmed up. While Bob did his circuit I walked to rainbow via the country park checking for additional duck and insects with 25 Teal, 12 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler noted. Raven and 5 Buzzard added to the day list. Insects were Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Common Blue Damselfly, Garden Carpet, 2 Silver Y, 4 Vapourer Moth (plus caterpillars) 20+ Red Admiral, 2 Large White, Small White and 4 Speckled Wood. Having spent over 4 hours here we were grateful the Griddle was open for a coffee and sandwich before leaving to clear down Dave’s moth trap. Since the bank holiday a few clear nights have seen a decline in catch numbers and species variety although a number of autumn moths are appearing (Brindled Green, Frosted Orange, Center-barred Sallow and Black Rustic). 
juvenile Ringed Plover by Bob Hazel

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Tree sprogs and finches enjoy the harvest

Following a clear night, this morning had an autumn feel with the temperature down to 3c as we trawled the Grandborough valley finding a good flock of finches at woodbine farm with at least 100 Greenfinch and 100 Linnet feeding on spilled seed in a recently harvested field. Further along Flecknoe rd at least 75 Tree Sparrow were doing the same opposite the Baseley small holding, also Chiffchaff and 5 Buzzard in the area.
The mist was just burning off when we arrived at the pond but all we had was 5 Yellow Wagtail, Teal, Snipe and Common Sandpiper and the only thing we saw differently at Napton Reservoir from yesterdays visit was Small Copper butterfly and 2 juvenile Shoveler.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Snakes & Scoter

I spent the day with the Phillips gang seeing 2 juvenile Wheatear, Buzzard and male Common Scoter at Draycote Water (scoter been present since 31st FF)  At least 10 Long-tailed Tit, Green Woodpecker and 2 Raven on Napton on the Hill while Napton Reservoir had Snipe and 7 Teal. Other sightings at Napton Reservoir included a probable Mink flushed off the bank, 2 Water Vole and 3 Grass Snake (different locations to last visit) including one that had recently shed its skin while insects included Meadow Brown and Common Blue butterflies, and Dragonflies represented by Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Common Blue Damselfly and Common Darter.
Grass Snake

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Productive day on Ouse Wash

Spent the day with Dave on the Ouse Washes where unfortunately the breeding season seriously effected by summer flooding but the RSPB reserve has now become a hive of activity in recent weeks as water levels rescinds just as migration starts to picks up. Probably a couple of thousand duck of the more commoner species present but also contained at least 29 Garganey along with a few wader species mixed in as well with 64 Ruff, 28 Dunlin, 25 Greenshank, 36 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Green Sandpiper, 15 Snipe and 4 Redshank noted. On top of this we counted at least 100 Little Egret so we were in bird fest mode compared to what we having been counting locally recently. It took two hours before the juvenile Glossy Ibis decided to creep out from its hiding place us in front of the Grose hide and then showed really well but the Purple Heron that was also present did not appear till long after we left.
Also present were 5 Marsh Harrier, 5 Kingfisher, 14 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Turtle Dove, Shelduck, Common Tern, Reed & Sedge Warbler and a Sparrowhawk.
Moved down the Ouse Wash to the Welney Wildfowl and Wetland Reserve where we had lunch over looking Lady Fen watching 3 Crane and 10 Egyptian Geese feeding but the reserve its self was quiet with 20 Little Egret but no sign of the Spoonbill reported earlier in the day. Hundreds of darters were on the wing. At the beginning of the day we had a Fox cross in front of us near Lilbourne, Barn Owl near Kettering and 2 Red Kite near Oundle.

On the mothing front Dave trapped a Dotted Clay last Wednesday which we did not expect and took a while to identify followed by another on Friday night just to rub it in, that brings his macro list to 319.