Sunday, 28 October 2012

Vis mig - ousels of fun

As soon as dawn broke Skylark, Redwing, Fieldfare and finches (including 4 Brambling) started appearing over the Southam road so by the time the gates opened at Draycote visible migration was in full swing probable due to the pre dawn shower after the first part of the night was clear.
In our walk to toft bay we had 500 Starling, 700 Fieldfare, 300 Redwing, 8 Brambling, 50 Siskin and 250 Chaffinch from those we could identify. A group of duck circling included 7 Shoveler and female Pintail while an adult Kittiwake flew north.
Although the wind was from the south west it had been bitterly cold at Draycote so we stayed in the Long Itch Diner to warm up before moving on to Napton on the Hill where Dave picked up a Ring Ousel as it flew over the village lagging behind a group of thrushes. Minimum count of 400 Chaffinch, 300 Fieldfare and 200 Redwing went over before the rain arrived and at least 22 Raven in the area.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Vis mig and Brandon Marsh

Having done Norfolk 3x in five days I woke with a “I’m not moving” attitude so as the first glimpse of blue sky’s in a week showed I did a vis mig watch for a couple of hours. A few Fieldfare and Redwing passed over plus a lone Swallow and 2 Jay.
Brandon Marsh for lunch then a walk around the reserve produced Water Rail, Peregrine, 9 Snipe and plenty of thrushes.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Norfolk again

I was preparing to blog yesterdays trip when another chance to visit Norfolk coast came up so re-packed my gear, grabbed a few hours sleep, and found my self at Wareham Greens at dawn watching 2 Barn Owl and a Short-eared Owl as we prepared for our coastal footpath walk to Stiffkey.
It was still cloudy but much better visibility and though we could have driven straight to Stiffkey we wanted to look for migrants and managed 2 Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, 3 Ring Ouzel, 100 Blackbird, 400 Fieldfare, 70 Song Thrush, 800 Redwing, 100 Robin and 3 Brambling but despite a prolonged search of camp site wood we failed to find the Red-flanked Blue-tail but did have good views of 2 Yellow-browed Warbler, 6 Ring Ousel and a Black Redstart. The coastal marsh had Peregrine, 2 Marsh Harrier, 10 Little Egret, Stonechat and Spotted Redshank.
Next stop was Brancaster Staithe for another look at the Arctic Warbler which was accompanied by a Yellow-browed Warbler plus 4 Ring Ousel in adjoining field before an urgent need of bacon and eggs beckoned.
Once the happy head was back on we did Wells Wood where we managed to arrive near the dell just as a Red-breasted Flycatcher had been located but did not show very well. Other species here included Woodcock, Blackcap, Siskin and Brambling. A look at the sea produce 2 Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, 2 female Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Great-crested Grebe and 16 Common Scoter.
Final stop was for the Little Bunting at Burnham Overy Staithe where we also saw 2 Barn Owl.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

If you go out in the fog today

In a reversal of Sundays trip to Norfolk visibility was reasonable till we were closer to the Norfolk coast where it deteriated till you could hardly see the sea when you were on the beach.
Still can’t complain as we witnessed the continuation of the thrush fall they have had with some very impressive numbers of Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Robin.
Started the day as usual at Hunstanton and due to the conditions birds were dropping out of the sky with the best being 10 Brambling and 3 Snow Bunting including one tired individual landing near us and very approachable. The nearby Pitch and Putt course held 600 Redwing, 200 Fieldfare and 40 Blackbird. Decided to work the bushes and sand dunes at the northern end of Hunstanton Golf Course and every one seemed to have thrushes in them with an estimated 2000 Redwing, 800 Fieldfare, 200 Blackbird, 100 Song Thrush and 400 Robin. In amongst this hoard were 30 Goldcrest, 15 Brambling, 3 Siskin and 2 Ring Ousel. Marsh Harrier and 3 Little Egret noted but missed the Shore Lark.
Moved on to Titchwell but due to the fog we saw very little here with 5 Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, 3 Bearded Tit and more very confiding Robins in the dues and thrushes and Starlings going over.
News broke of an Arctic Warbler at nearby Brancaster Staithe showing in the willows on the coastal footpath west of the village which was a new species for Dave and we also managed Chiffchaff and 2 Redstart but did not look for any of the ousels reported there. Dave managed a brief view of a Red-breasted Flycatcher but it was not relocated till we left.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Another grey day - with birds

Weather conditions were similar to yesterday – dank and grey but somehow the pond had a number of overnight arrivals including 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Common Scoter and 2 Pintail loosely associated to a Wigeon flock which on top of the Black-necked Grebe and Scaup already present made this a worth while visit.
Unfortunately I was taken short and had to dive in to the bushes so not sure what dark barrel chested bird harassed the Wigeon but many of them had cleared off by the time I returned and failed to re-locate the Pins or Mergs.
Other sightings included Wheatear and Rock Pipit on barn bank, 90+ Meadow Pipits, 5 Fieldfare, a Grey Plover flew out of the gloom calling heading west, 36 Teal, 2 Pochard, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Siskin, 25 Stock Dove, 10 Yellowhammer, 5 Jay, Buzzard and Raven.
Two brown variations of Green Brindled Crescent and my earliest December Moth were in the trap along with 10 other species and Bob could not resist a picture of some fungi growing on my lawn

December Moth

any ideas?

Monday, 22 October 2012

A grey day

Night time temperatures have been reasonable lately so the moth trap attracted
November Moth agg.

Angle Shades

Feathered Thorn

A dank, grey dreary day of low cloud, mist and occasional showers made our visit to the pond pretty awful so grateful we managed to find a Med Gull in toft bay which moved to join the rest of the gulls in the fields behind farborough spit. Only other birds of note were a Wheatear, 15 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pochard, 2 Goldeneye, Black-necked Grebe and a party of Skylark flew under the low cloud.
We had just reached the car park when Colin rang regarding 6 Brambling near the Coalpit Lane /A4071 junction so we went for a look but only found Kingfisher, 3 Lesser Redpoll, and Treecreeper while dodging the cement wagons and car transporters.

Bob did well to get a record shot of the Med Gull in the gloom

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Choices of fog

red sky at night shepherds delight - my arse - it was foggy

We could have stayed home due to the poor visibility this morning or spend three hours in the valley seeing bugger all till the Long Itch Diner opened or sod it and head east and if the weather stayed crap at least we gave it a try.
So east we headed and though the fog was pretty bad in places we made good time in reaching the Big Chill Café where 9 Whooper Swan flew over.
Once fed and watered it was back on the road and conditions had brightened so much that by the time we arrived at Hunstanton you could see both the Boston Stump and Skegness Big Dipper across the other side of the wash.
Unfortunately what little visible migration there was it was either going over high or diving in to cover before it reached us so did not identify a lot but the sea was productive with Great-northern Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver, 6 Common Scoter, Red-necked Grebe, 25 Great-crested Grebe and 10+ Gannet plus 2 Grey Seal.
Moved on to Titchwell where we had 3 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 10 Little Egret, 2 Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Cetties Warbler and Chinese Water Deer on our way to the beach. The sea conditions were not ideal as the chilly north east wind picked up but after an hours effort we had managed to find 3 Guillemot, 2 Eider, 30 Common Scoter, 40+ Gannet, 6 Red-throated Diver, 4 Great-crested Grebes and 7 Red-breasted Merganser on the incoming tide and by this time a notable Starling passage had started with 1000+ counted between here and Wells-next-the Sea.
Spent some time on Holkham Freshmarsh but only managed 2 Buzzard, 2 Marsh Harrier and a Merlin plus a few Pink-footed and Brent Geese before we put the bins away and chilled out with Fish and Chips overlooking the harbour at Wells- next-the-Sea. Nineteen more Whooper Swans seen on the way home and Dave had 2 Red Kite but by then I was in the land of nod.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Duchess and the pond

The steam hauled “The London Explorer” Derby to Euston to Derby via Kettering was re-routed in the week to go via Nuneaton meaning that it would go through Rugby at 09:48 this morning so Dave and I arrived at Rugby Station in time for a coffee not realising when we ambled up to the platform that she had already arrived some 15 minutes early. Thankfully LMS Coronation Class 4-6-2 no 46233 Duchess of Sutherland was just waiting for the off being pampered by the crew and admired by a small crowd so managed a few shots though had to fight all the electrification furniture along with slow clearing fog.
record shot on our arrival

starting to pull away and sounded great due to the echo off the nearby factory's

about the best uncluttered pic I could manage

distant shot approaching the remains of the old birdcage bridge
Once I had finished shopping in town I popped down to the pond to look at the Black-necked Grebe Bob had found and a chance to have another look at the first winter male Scaup.

immature male Scaup now losing its blaze

distant record shot of the Black-necked Grebe
(last 3 photos by Bob Hazel)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Early morning Med Gull

Adult winter Med Gull was heading out over rainbow corner when we first arrived and despite 30+ Meadow Pipits on farborough bank we failed to turn any in to Rocks. The only birds of note were Swallow, 10 Siskin, 8 Linnet, 8 Redwing and 2 Grey Wagtail. There was a female Blackcap, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, 3 Jay, 3 Buzzard and 9 Raven on Napton on the Hill while the Grandborough valley had Green Woodpecker, 8 Tree Sparrow, 2 Buzzard and 3 Jay.
A gap in the cloud allowed me a short view of the Space Shed as she went over this evening.

Space Shed and friends

October is one of our better months for observing the night sky so if its clear enough for the shed to show it should be worth staying out a bit longer to enjoy whats on offer.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A bit too breezy

With westerly gusts over 30 mph Bob and I struggled to stay upright this morning as we plodded to toft bay and decided to pack it in after seeing 4 Rock Pipit and 3 Swallows from toft bank.
At Napton reservoir there was a little more shelter at the narrow end and managed a Rock Pipit (don’t recorded many here) 32 Wigeon, 14 Shoveler and 2 Southern Hawker. Skylarks are more noticeable in the valley fields as we passed through and Paul C recorded 50 today.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Rocky VII or IX

No Sylvestor Stallone hasn't resurrected Rocky Balboa for another film but refers to the Rock Pipits at the pond this morning. Bob and I had seven on farborough and toft bank and on my return I counted nine. Unfortunately that was the highlight of our visit as the low cloud just about put paid to any visible migration though Skylark (56) and Siskin (32) trickled over low while at least another 7 Jays noted. Other birds present included 6 House Martin, 3 Swallow, Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff, 3 Shoveler and 3 Yellow-legged Gulls but no sign of the Common Scoter.
Due to the road diversions more Jays were noted in the valley as we avoid the speed merchants.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Fog eventually lifted

Visibility was down to 20 yards at the pond this morning so had to be contented with Rock Pipit, 5 Grey Wagtail and Wheatear on farborough bank.
Luckily Napton on the Hill above the mist was bathed in sunlight and we had 11 Redwing, 2 Grey Wagtail, 8 Jay, Swallow and Brambling go over. Also present were Chiffchaff, 9 Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, 8 Raven, 2 Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and 2 Marsh Tit plus Silver Y, 3 Red Admiral and 3 Common Darter. Very good numbers of duck on Napton Reservoir with 32 Shoveler, 57 Wigeon, 2 Pochard, 2 Teal and 5 Gadwall along with 10 Little Grebe and 285 Canada Geese. The surround hedge had Chiffchaff, 3 Buzzards and Jay present plus Red Admiral, Common Darter and Southern Hawker.
Back home 22 Redwing 5 Fieldfare, 10 Meadow Pipit, 4 Jay and 10 Skylark over the garden this afternoon as the rain clouds rolled in.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Great Central Railway

I needed a steam fix so Dave dropped me off at the Great Central Railway in Loughborough while he headed north to umpire a couple of hockey matches giving me a chance to spend sometime with two of my currant favourite engines Cheltenham (I last saw this engine on static display at the York Railfest) and Sir Lamiel as they shared the passenger services to Leicester north.

“King Arthur” class 4-6-0 Southern Railway 777 Sir Lamiel

“Schools Class” 4-4-0 Southern Railway 925 Cheltenham

Friday, 12 October 2012

Cornwall to Brandon Marsh

After an eventful day birding in Cornwall the last thing I wanted was a nightmare journey home but that’s what I ended up with due to train breakdown, missed connections and no creature comforts for 13 hours which meant I was tired and pretty well pissed off despite seeing Paddyfield Warbler, Ortland Bunting and Chough but grateful for lunch with Dave at Brandon Marsh this afternoon and a chance to stretch my legs. There were plenty of duck present with 70 Wigeon, 11 Pochard and 50 Gadwall among the Greylag flock which included the Egyptian but only a single Snipe noted and most of the passerines were around the visitor centre with 2 Coal Tit, 2 Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker on the feeders. Having had 3 Jay coming in on off the sea the day before it made the one seen over Brandon and 2 over the garden more poignant.

Earl of Mount Edgcumbe

Sorry folks - my fingers were not crossed hard enough.
This Saturdays excursion has been cancelled due to unavailability of a water carrier?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Rock, Earl and A426 closure

The visibility down the valley this morning was the best its been for a few days as we watched a couple of Chiffchaff and 3 Tree Sparrow on the Baseley Smallholding while 1000s of gulls flew over after leaving their roost,.
Draycote Water had Rock Pipit, Wheatear, 6 Grey Wagtail (all six on farborough bank) 30 Meadow Pipit and a flyover Ringed Plover as we walked to toft bank. All though there was very little vis mig going on apart from the odd Skylark and 5 Swallow we did notice six large groups of Jackdaws (200+) mostly heading south east over the reservoir and across the valley very purposefully so possibly migrants but I don’t know enough about covid migration to be certain. Normally there are plenty of local Jackdaws moving around to different feeding areas but they soon come down. Also noted were 25 Siskin on the north bank, male Common Scoter, 8 Gadwall and 16 Wigeon.
Napton on the Hill had 4 Jay, 4 Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff but I missed the Ravens and Buzzards and a few other odds and sods as I fell fast asleep on the bench in the churchyard, also 8 Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Vapourer Moth.

Earl of Mount Edgcumbe
At last we have a steam train going through the patch this Saturday (fingers crossed) after a long period of industrial dispute which curtailed many excursions nation wide.

Saturday 13 October 2012
GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe
Steam hauled: Birmingham Moor St-London Marylebone Station – non-stop

Birmingham Moor St
d 09:57
Leamington Spa
Fenny Compton
Aynho Jc
Bicester North
Princes Risborough
High Wycombe
Gerrards Cross
West Ruisilip
Wembley Stadium
Neasden South Jc
London Marylebone

A426 Southam Road
The section between Dunchurch and Draycote Water will be closed to traffic from the 15th to 23rd October. Draycote Water will remain open but can only be accessed from the Southam end. Notification on diversions has not been announced yet. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Odds and Sods make a decent visit

Once the early mist had burnt off we walked to toft bay and were disappointed that there was only a dribble of vis mig mainly involving Skylarks along with 4 Jays (3 others seen by Bob and Colin) 2 Redwing, single Fieldfare and Golden Plover. On the deck we had 30+ Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 21 Long-tailed Tit, 6 Chiffchaff, 7 Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Reed Bunting. On the water both male Common Scoter and juvenile male Scaup (some observer’s thinks it’s a female so sent the images to the duck professors at WWT for comment) present but looks as if the Black-necked Grebe has done a runner.
Other sightings included 4 Raven, Sparrowhawk, House Martin, 5 Buzzard, 21 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall while the sun brought out 4 Southern Hawker, 2 Migrant Hawker, 2 Common Darter, Comma and a Vapourer Moth.
Considering how cool it gets in the evenings I was surprised to find two micros in the trap.
Acleris schalleriana (3rd garden record)
Garden Rose Tortrix

Monday, 8 October 2012

Picture catch up

While I'm going around with my head in the air looking for Jays the more observant ones managed to find a few caterpillars locally.

Pale Tussock

all the above by Bob Hazel

Elephant Hawk-moth by Francoise Farrington
Meanwhile late this afternoon this chap turned up on the garden feeders just as it started to rain and attracted the attention of a male Sparrowhawk which it avoided by leaping five feet to the ground and scampering off.

 Horse and trap resting on Napton on the Hill outside the churchyard and taking no interest in the avian activities inside.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Over the last three days I have put my efforts in watching the sky. Although not brilliant compared to some visible migration I have witnessed in the past and hindered by today’s foggy conditions it paid off with a immature/female type Hen Harrier heading south east over low over my estate this afternoon mobbed by corvids.
Not surprisingly considering the numbers being recorded in some parts of the country Jays have featured heavily over the weekend with my best count being 56 passing over Napton on the Hill in small groups this morning while my garden has seen 16 over since I last blogged. The only difference has been the direction with those on Friday and Saturday heading south or south east while today’s have all been on a northerly heading. Other species that featured in this movement have been good numbers of Meadow Pipit Goldfinch and Redwing with small numbers of Fieldfare and Lesser Redpoll plus single Rock Pipit and Crossbill.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A trickle becomes a flood - briefly

I’m absolutely rubbish when it comes to navigating my way around the night sky so I ended up not convinced that I saw Dwarf Planet Ceres or Uranus when I gave the universe a couple of hours last night before a rain front came in.
Luckily it did not hold a lot of rain so my walk at Draycote Water with Bob to toft shallows was very pleasant if somewhat cooler than of late. Most of the hirundines had cleared out leaving just a handful of Swallows and House Martins while 20+Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtail and Wheatear were already getting irritated by the constant flow of human disturbance. We managed the male Common Scoter off draycote bank, juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on J buoy and the Black-necked Grebe in toft bay but only a trickle of migrants mainly Meadow Pipits and the odd swallow going south. As Bob continued on his circuit  I doubled back and located 2 Goldcrest and a female/juv Siskin feeding in toft shallows while 2 Jays went west. We already had one go east when we first arrived and Bob found another in biggen bay. As the sky’s brightened there was a sudden rush of migrants as hundreds poured over presumably re-orientating themselves after avoiding the weather front. In 30 minutes the bulk had gone over just leaving a few stragglers. My final count was 140 Siskin including a 36 in one flock, 440 Meadow Pipits, 200 finches – probably Chaffinch, 40 Skylark, 30 wagtails, single flava, 5 Redwing, 15 Swallow and 3 House Martin. No noticeable movement of pigeons or starlings yet.
Bob rang to say he had found a juvenile male Scaup – the white blasé threw us off the scent for a second so had to dragged the books out when we got home just to confirm what we thought we knew.
Other sightings included 3 Buzzard, Raven 2 Sparrowhawk and a Great-spotted Woodpecker while Bob added 40+ Long-tailed Tit along with another 5 Goldcrest and Chiffchaff to the day list. Hopefully the BNG survived the onslaught from fishing boat 17 crewed by master bates who persisted in drifting past the orange buoys on several occasions in to the conservation area flushing everything.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Vis mig picking up

There’s been some visible migration in the last two days over the garden with the highlights being 44 Meadow Pipit and 9 Siskin in 40 minutes today while yesterday there were 5 Siskin and Bob spotted 2 Jay while checking me trap..
At the pond then it’s been hirundines again that’s been very noticeable with large numbers of House Martin feeding up over hensborough bank with lesser numbers of Swallows and the odd Sand Martin while today just before 9am there were at least 25+ Meadow Pipit on farborough bank along 3 Grey Wagtail and 2 Wheatear (one yesterday). Alas by 11am they had been booted off by Joe Public.
Only other birds of note were 14 Buzzard, 11 Skylark and 6 Siskin which flew west, 2 Jay and 4 Chiffchaff in toft, Common Scoter off draycote bank, Black-necked Grebe in toft and adult Yellow-legged Gull loafing around. Bob gripped me off with a Nuthatch seen inside the draycote boundary near the valve tower while doing his circuit. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

all's well on Planet Richard

I was in the garden observing the full moon as dawn broke thinking conditions could be good for visible migration when the space shed appeared low over the south western horizon as she headed towards Spain in a NW to SW heading for Tunisia. This pass had been described as barely visible by NASA so had not bothered to give anyone a heads up. She disappeared out of view somewhere over the Med.
Having decided to get dressed!! I checked me trap and YIPPEE a Merveille du Jour was present, I might be having a bad mothing year but at least my most favourite moth has made the effort. In between bouts of domestics I kept an eye on the sky managing a trickle of Chaffinch, Siskin, Wagtails and Mipits going south plus a flock of 6 Jays. My local Jays s don’t normally fly high and this lot were heading south west purposefully so I presume them to be migrants (3 were at the pond this afternoon and they have been more noticeable for nearly a week there)
Bob came round to photograph “Merve” then we potted off to clear down Dave’s trap and he had Sallow and Pink-barred Sallow so at least there are some pretty ones are about.
Merveille du Jour 


Pink-barred Sallow

Moon by John Judge

The full moon is showing well tonight which gives me a chance to publish a photo JJ sent me recently, most remarkable thing about the image is that its hand held and not digiscoped and taken with the new Canon SX40 HS Bridge Camera. I’m certainly impressed with some of his bird images as well so looks like I'm putting my sisters up for sale again-bless.