Wednesday, 30 April 2014


With light easterly winds this morning and low cloud soon burning off it was not surprising that the highlight of our visit was an Osprey flying over high enjoying the thermals heading west at 11:25am. Also noted were Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, 3 Common Tern, Oystercatcher, 3 Gadwall, Sand Martin, Whinchat and 5 Yellow Wagtail. Despite the grass just being cut there were plenty of butterflies on the wing by mid-day with at least 5 Brimstone, 15 Peacock, 6 Green-veined White, 4 Small Tortoiseshell and a Comma.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Mist delays play

Visibility down to 30 yards on our first visit so came back a couple of hours later when it had improved slightly though still very grey and murky. Did not have a lot – 2 Common Tern, Gadwall, 2 Red-legged Partridge, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, 20 House Martin, 20 Sand Martin, Swift and Buzzard.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Whimbrel and Walkers dont mix

No sooner had we left the car we spotted a Whimbrel feeding on the grassy verge two thirds along farborough bank and we were luckily the first walker of the day only flushed it off briefly but as we got closer the second walker sent it off heading east. Now joined by Paul C it presumably the same bird returned an hour later to land in the same place but as the place became busier it finally got fed up of being pushed around and left. There were 2 Common Tern on X buoy, at least 8 Yellow Wagtail and also noted were 2 Raven, Buzzard, 2 Shelduck, 5 Lapwing and Oystercatcher. Three Swift flew east over the visitor centre while in a field below hensborough bank a Peregrine was found feeding on a Yellow Wag/hammer and watched for over 30 minutes as it cleaned itself afterwards. Bird show to be a first summer individual. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Before the rain

Did our normal first thing look at the pond before the grockles arrived? First female Wheatear of the year, White Wagtail, 3 Common Tern on the sailing lodge buoys, 5 Yellow Wagtail and 3 Swift were with many House and Sand Martin plus a few Swallows that pushed off in anticipation of the forthcoming rain front. At least 2 pairs of local House Martin back on site and my first House Sparrow of the year here. Chapel Green had 5 Raven and a Sparrowhawk but abandoned the trawl of grandborough valley due to a road race being held.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Dots & Gales

Another trip to Cambridgeshire with Two female & one Dotterel on Black Bush Fen but little else then another visit to see the male Ring-necked Duck where we also had Whimbrel, 14 Ruff, 200+ Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Avocet, male Garganey, 3 male Pintail, 2 Crane, Hobby, 3 Marsh Harrier, 6 Little Egret, 5 Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Cuckoo. After brunch we took a look at the National Nature Reserve at Castor Hanglands managing 6 Nightingale though only 2 seen well and a brief view of a Grasshopper Warbler.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Tern passage

day of prolonged showers on a cool blustery north east wind at the pond that brought in at least 5 different parties of terns throughout the day totalling 70 birds from 3 species with Arctic (6,21,5,17 and 14), Common (3 & 2) and a single Black Tern though the majority moved through pretty quickly whenever the showers ceased. There were two flocks of Whimbrel with 3 in the morning and another 2 in the afternoon. The rain also brought down 5 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, 11 Yellow Wagtail and one White Wagtail while other sightings included plenty of House Martin and Swallow, Sedge Warbler, 2 Wheatear, Oystercatcher, Gadwall and Swift.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


After sunny start to the day the mist rolled in and visibility was pretty poor for a couple of hours so it was disappointing that when it lifted there was very little on show. A Dunlin flew past while adjacent fields had a Fox, 3 Wheatear and 4 Yellow Wagtails. Raven and my first Swift over the garden late afternoon.

On the mothing front Dave caught his second Lunar Marbled Brown eight years exactly after his first.
Lunar Marbled Brown

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Dave kindly dropped me off early via the half way lane entrance to the pond and there were plenty of warblers singing near the M45 underpass but the open water from toft seemed dead. Had been there over an hour before the first decent bird appeared with a Peregrine followed by distant views of Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear before meeting up with Bob back from his Easter break and had just left him when a male Whinchat appeared in the hedgerow before flying on to farborough bank where he managed a pic before the pram pushers flushed it and despite searching for 45 minutes could not be re-located. Looking from the spit produced small groups of House Martin over biggen bay and a few Swallows over country park and kites Hardwick.
Whinchat by Bob Hazell
Met up with Paul C for coffee and gossip then it was over to Wormleighton with Dave for another look at BR Rebuilt Light Pacific 4-6-2 no 34046 Braunton hauling the Cathedrals Express from Andover to Stratford on Avon. She was running 10 minutes late due to a slow freight train which was put in to the Fenny Compton sidings so she could pass.
travelling so slow the driver was eating his lunch

BR Rebuilt Light Pacific 4-6-2 no 34046 Braunton approaching Fenny Compton (top pic by Dave Cox)
Returned to the pond as it started to drizzle but nothing flew over.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

After the day before

A case of after the Lord Mayors Show as the low cloud lifted there was no sign of any hirundine apart from a single Swallow at the pond or the 2 male Common Scoter. At least 2 adult and a first summer Little Gull and 4 Arctic Tern were feeding amongst 300+ Black-headed Gulls. There were 2 Yellow Wagtail on the spit briefly and as we returned to the car park I realised I had left my bag so had to double back and met up with Paul H and while we chatted 3 Dunlin flew past then a call from Dave saying a Little Ringed Plover had just landed on the wall between us. Only other bird of note were 4 Raven

Monday, 21 April 2014

Wrong choice

Another break from the pond just to keep the motivation going with a trip to Rutland Water where I saw plenty of species including Grasshopper Warbler, Cuckoo, Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Garganey, Osprey and Red Kite but as news filtered through of a probable Red-rumped Swallow at the pond then a Fulmar I knew I was in the wrong place and could do bugger all about it.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Hirundine arrive

Finally an influx of hirundine arrived with House Martin 30, Sand Martin 50 and Swallow 200 scattered over the reservoir. At least 7 Yellow Wagtail present and a single Arctic Tern was the first of many that went through today.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A day out on the Wash

Our planned early start was not achieved when I overslept but we made up the time as the Saturday traffic was light and arrived on the washes in Cambridgeshire to be greeted by a Peregrine flushing the wader flock as we left the car. At least 400 Black-tailed Godwit with 30 Ruff and 10 Golden Plover noted among them and the same disturbance flushed a good number of Wigeon and Shoveler. With plenty of water still hanging around from the winter floods in some areas of the wash we found Pochard, Pintail, Gadwall and eventually the male Ring-necked Duck with a few Tufted Duck but despite our efforts we could not find any Garganey which we were hoping for. Birds of Prey were represented by the above mentioned Peregrine plus 12 Marsh Harrier, 6 Buzzard and 3 Red Kite. Other sightings included 8 Common Crane, booming Bittern, 2 Cettie’s Warbler, 8 Little Egret and good numbers of Mute Swan and Shelduck. A good days birding topped up with a visit to the pub for a well-earned pint and a large packet of their homemade crisps-magic.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Black-necked Grebes

When we arrived at the pond we were too late to see the Yellow Wagtails and Little Gull adult that Keith Yates had seen but as we all walked together Bob spotted 2 summer plumage Black-necked Grebes but alas after an hour of being pushed around by fishing and sailing boats they could not be re-located and presumed to have left. A few migrants arrived overnight with 2 male Wheatear, Common Sandpiper and Whitethroat but by mid-day the place was heaving with Joe public and their little dears so took to the top field of the country park and spent an hour watching out for any visible migration managing 6 Yellow Wagtail 5 Swallow bringing todays total to a paltry nine and a single House Martin going over. A few Buzzard noted so the final day tally was 12. Only other bird of note was 2 Treecreeper.

Should have been gardening in the afternoon but decided to forgo a Britain in Bloom award for 2 hours of sky watching. Only birds of note apart from my local Buzzards were 2 Swallow heading north.
Last night’s 20:59hrs pass of the ISS (Zarya) went right overhead and tonight’s pass at 20:11hrs will not be far off for me and the tracking has it coming in over Mildford Haven passing just north of Oxford, then leaving our coast over Clacton on Sea before heading in to Europe over Holland finally going out of view over Ukraine

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Dribs and Drabs

Up early to see the partial eclipse of the moon but just as it was turning orange it disappeared behind my neighbour’s house 5 minutes before it was at its best- bugger, another demolition job.

Not a lot on offer at the pond despite the wind turning to the east this morning. Best we could manage was 2 Swallow, single House Martin, 4 Yellow Wagtail, 4 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, 2 Goldeneye 2 Sparrowhawk and 38 Greater Black-back Gulls. For the second day in a row there was no sign of the Long-tailed Duck so presumed its heading north now? Between Chapel Green and Burton Dassett hills there were at least 30 Raven, 15 Buzzard, a large female Sparrowhawk and possible Red Kite and Peregrine but heat haze and distance got the better of us. Local Swallows back at a number of farms we passed. A superb looking Red Kite enjoyed the thermals over my garden at 3:20pm before heading south west. At least 4 Buzzards headed north.
Plenty of butterflies about with good numbers of the early spring species enjoying the sunshine including my first Speckled Wood of the year.

Clear sky’s due tonight so ideal for the shed watchers among you. The full moon will be near Spica the 15th brightest star in the night’s sky.
Date, time
4/15 20:59
4/15 22:36
4/16 00:13
4/16 20:11
4/16 21:47
4/16 23:24
4/17 20:59
4/17 22:36
4/18 20:11


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Snake, Steam and Beauty's over the weekend

Snake-head Fritillary Iffey Meadows, Oxfordshire

Rebuilt Light Pacific 4-6-2 No  34046  Braunton approaching Wormlieghton, Warwickshire with the Cathedrals Express Paddington to Stratford on Avon (top pic by Dave Cox)

Brindled Beauty in Dave's trap over the weekend

Thursday, 10 April 2014

April 10th and coming steam specials

With a bright sunny start and hardly a breath of wind we did really well for the first 40 minutes of our visit to the pond before activity died off and we cleared off - male Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, 2 Shelduck, Long-tailed Duck, Raven, 10 Sand Martin and the “blonde” noted
Napton on the Hill had 4 Sand Martin going over heading north, 3 Raven, 2 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and our first Orange-tip of the year while Napton Reservoir had 2 Swallow north, 17 Raven, 6 Buzzard and 2 Chiffchaff. Butterfly’s included 2 Orange-tip, Brimstone and 2 Small Tortoiseshell.

Vintage Trains Limited are running the steam special The Berks & Hants Aquae Sulis on Saturday April 12th from Solihull to Bristol return via Banbury, Reading and Bath hauled by GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 No 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe so will be stopping at Warwick Parkway at 7:27am and Leamington Spa at 7:42am then passing Fenny Compton at 8:17am and Wormleighton Reservoir a couple minutes later.  All times are correct at time of publishing but there’s always a chance of it being later or earlier.

Next day (13th) Steam Dreams are running a steam special from London Paddington to Warwick and Stratford on Avon hauled by BR Light Pacific 4-6-2 No 34046 and due past Fenny Compton at 13:19pm and Leamington Spa at 13:30pm then stopping at Warwick at 13:34pm.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Birds poor Butterfly's great

Wind was lighter and a lot milder than yesterday but our visit was frustrating only producing 3 House Martin and 16 Swallow heading north mainly in singles over a 4 hour period and a Common Tern leaving to the east. Other sightings included at least 4 Willow Warbler, plenty of Chiffchaff and Blackcap calling though few seen, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 8 Buzzard, 3 Gadwall, 3 Goldeneye, the “blonde” RcP and Long-tailed Duck.
Away from the wind then the mid-day sun brought out 6 Brimstone, 5 Peacock and Comma in the country park and trailer park areas while back home my first Green-veined White and Holly Blue of the year appeared mid-afternoon.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Not alot

A very brisk cool west wind with occasional showers made birding difficult today and we struggled to stand still let alone try a see something with feathers slapped all over it. Sightings included the ponds first House Martin of the year, single Swallow, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Green Woodpecker, distant views of 21 Raven enjoying the wind, 4 Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk and 6 Gadwall. Both Long-tailed Duck and the “blonde” Red-crested Pochard still present.

"blonde" Red-crested Pochard and Oystercatchers by Bob Hazell

Monday, 7 April 2014

4th to 7th April

April 4th
Another poor start to the day visibility wise though the change of wind overnight finally shifted the low cloud by late morning. Both Tawny Owl and Canada Geese heard while closing my trap down and another 5 Canada Geese seen while waiting to be picked up.

Draycote was not as good as we hoped so my walk with Bob and Keith only produced Long-tailed Duck with 11 Goldeneye, 70 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing and yesterday’s Scandinavian Rock Pipit though this was being kicked from pillar to post by pram pushers and walkers and became elusive though relocated later by Paul and Martyn. I left them to meet with Dave at the spit and they did well to find a Blonde Red-crested Pochard male. Only other birds of note were 3 Gadwall, 8 Teal, Long-tailed Tit and 4 Reed Bunting.

We gave Napton on the Hill a look managing an impressive 21 Raven, 9 Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.

April 5th
The pond still had yesterday’s Blonde Red-crested Pochard which indicates it came from a captive breeding stock. Internet sites show some for sale at 50 quid a pair. Same site were selling Falcated Duck for £150 a pair, Blue-winged Teal at £40 each and Garganey £30 each. Long-tailed Duck still present while migrants included Yellow Wagtail, Willow Warbler and Swallow. Other sightings included 3 Gadwall, 8 Teal, Treecreeper and 5 Reed Bunting.

Napton on the Hill had Brambling over + Redwing while Chiffchaffs had increased.

April 6th
Another brief look at pond before the sponsored walk started produced 2 adult summer Little Gull, Swallow and Long-tailed Duck. Lots of warblers singing.  Only other sighting of note was 2 white Rabbits near Tomlow.

April 7th
With the forecast for rain it was a game of two halves at the pond interceded with a trip to Sainsbury’s while the heaviest of the showers fell. Little Gulls featured heavily today with a good passage building up by the time we went home, 4 adults and a first winter at 8am, 7 adults at 11am and 11 adults and two 1st summers present at 1pm so at least a minimum of 14 today. Not a lot else though – Long-tailed Duck, 6 Sand Martin, 7 Swallows plus a single Gadwall and 4 Goldeneye. Very few passerines noted and not much singing.

This barmy Canada Goose must be a first time nester – no nesting material apart from droppings and 4 eggs laid over the last 5 days and only just started incubating today.
pic by Bob Hazel

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Deer migrants

A very thin layer of Saharan dust settled over Rugby and with low cloud was partially responsible for the very poor visibility at the pond this morning as the smog drifted over this
part of the midlands. Had to strain your eyes to confirm the Long-tailed Duck was still present and as the morning progressed somehow a few migrants came in with
5 Yellow Wagtail and a single Common Tern which were both new for the year and
2 Rock Pipit including one showing characteristics of the Scandinavian race. Only other birds of note were plenty of Common Gulls, 2 Mistle Thrush which seem to be very elusive around here this year 30+ Meadow Pipits, Oystercatcher calling but not seen, 3 Goldeneye, Gadwall and 2 Treecreeper
Scandinavian Rock Pipit

Yellow Wagtail
Also of interest were a resting female Muntjac Deer on the scrape with 2 Hares in the field below farborough spit, a not so cuddly Brown Rat near the entrance and a Clouded Drab on the Rangers building.
Muntjac Deer
Not had much in my trap lately mainly due to a very attentive Robin but I was out before he woke this morning to find this Pine Beauty in the trap – my 6th.
Pine Beauty
All photos by Bob Hazell

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

All fool’s day

We felt like a couple of idiots wandering around the valley in thick fog at first light having cancelled our trip east because of the weather we did not expect it to be so bad locally. Hardly saw a thing apart from a ghostly image of a Red-legged Partridge and a few Tree Sparrow.

Decided a long breakfast would improve things so eventually arrived at the pond just before nine but though visibility had improved slightly it was soon obvious that very little had arrived overnight apart from the pond’s first Little Ringed Plover of the year. No obvious sign of any Little Gulls or mergansers though the Long-tailed Duck was still around. Only birds noted in two hours was a Wigeon, 3 Gadwall and 13 Goldeneye.
After lunch the sun finally came out and Brandon Marsh had plenty of warblers singing if not always showing themselves and our walk produced 8 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, 3 Shelduck, Snipe and 4 Oystercatcher. Butterflies were plentiful with 8 Small Tortoiseshell, 6 Brimstone, 2 Comma and 3 Peacock. One unidentified mouse seen. Raven and Buzzard over Lawford Heath.