Santa brought me a bank vole squatting in my attic, and a new garden tick - moorhen.
A full weekend of bat hibernacula counts, Saturday with the Sussex bat group checking some railway tunnels and we had a great haul of almost 170 bats. The prize was the greater mouse eared bat although a Greater horseshoe in its perfect pose was up there. Lots of Daubenton's and Natterer's bats and a few Brown long eared but there was also plenty of Whiskered, Alcathoe's and Brant's some attributable to probable species some not and by significantly better bat workers than I.
Sunday was a much more local affair with some sites in Cambridgeshire and just over 100 bats of four species Daubenton's, Natterer's bats, common pipistrelle and a few Brown long eared and a brown hare obviously outside the hibernacula was nice as well. One of the hibernacula contained a great crested newt and we encounted, hibernating peacocks, small tortoiseshells and herald moths. There was a rather nice cave spider as well what a great weekend mostly underground.
With another day off I headed to Woodwalton fen, it was cold and frosty and the sun took an age to rise as I wandered, Chinese water deer were easy to locate including a rather splendid barking male and I saw about 15 during my mornings walk. muntjac were more elusive only two brief sightings, several grey squirrels and a high speed fox the mammal tally. I visited the hides and on Gordon’s Mere a bittern was sunning itself in the reeds and a nice kingfisher visited and apart from a couple of marsh harriers duelling there was nothing else of note and I headed off without seeing another soul on the reserve, although a group was just arriving as I left.
I spent the afternoon at the Ouse washes which was a little quiet a water pipit and a kestrel of note but as I wandered back to the visitor centre 5 ring necked parakeets came screeching by. I watched the feeders as the light faded and then wandered back to the car and noticed a barn owl hunting along the river and managed a few photos in the gloom and I scoped some Whooper and Bewick's swans in a field as I left the area.
28th November - 1st December
Nothing much to report on a city break to Basel, Switzerland some goosander the highlight.
A lesser spotted woodpecker in the garden first thing was a brilliant sight over breakfast. I have seen one in the next village in the past but never in my village before, unfortunately it was chased off by one of the regular greater spots I hope it returns.
A colleague called me saying there was a dying creature near the car park I hoped it was not one of the water voles, I went over to investigate and discovered a mole barely moving, I took it home but it died before completing the journey.
Despite an early start I was ot the first car at Woodwalton Fen, as I walked down the track I bumped into Steve Evans who had popped in on the way to Norfolk to see the humpback whale. We headed our separate ways but I considered coming along and Steve agreed more pairs of eyes to better the chances. So off we headed to Happisburgh, grey seals and a bonxie of note on perfect sea conditions. Someone spotted the humpback whale distantly to the south. We headed to Sea Palling then Waxham where although still distant we we as close as we could get and had some nice scope views. One of the other observers mentioned pilot whales at Cley, we checked and they had moved to Salthouse and we headed off. Quite a large crowd had gathered to see 25 or so long finned pilot whales 3-400m off the shore, they were relaxing not doing too much for about an hour before heading off east as dusk fell. It was great to watch them and a fantastic end to the day.
Despite working less than a mile as the crow flies (longer by car) I had not been to see the snow bunting or Richard's pipit present in Fordham. So this afternoon I took a late lunch and headed over to try my luck. There were a few others there looking but they had not had any success in hours of searching but within 15 mins of my arrival the Richard’s pipit flew over calling. One birder saw where where it landed and we saw it a few times in flight before wandering back to see the very showy snow bunting not a bad lunch hour.
Finally a day off work and I decided to stay local, I got to Fowlmere at dawn a brown hare along the entrance track and I encountered my first muntjac shortly after entering the reserve. Grey squirrel and rabbit quickly spotted and the first birds of note a flock of fieldfares. I sheltered from the wind in the reedbed hide but the only thing of note were about 100 black headed gulls. After a while I thought I would try the spring hide, a short way down the track a stoat was staring at me but he turned tail before I could get a photo, a lucky bank vole was a short distance away but again eluded the camera. That was my first stoat at Fowlmere in all the time I have spent there I was quite pleased. The spring hide was also quiet a flyby kingfisher all I could rustle up. I headed towards the watercress hut to try to photograph muntajc when another stoat darted across the path in front of me, I waited for 10 mins tried squeaking to lure it in but it did not reappear. I almost stepped on the next muntjac missing the photo opportunity and a resting fallow deer also eluded the camera. But then my luck changed a third stoat yes definitely as I was the other side of the reserve, this time it came up the path darting in and out of the vegetation and I got several photos before it disappeared. I was about to move off when a fourth stoat appeared following its predecessor up the path and again I got some photos. I took a look in the Drewer hide which had nothing before heading the Hay Street where shortly after arrival the rough legged buzzard put in an appearance. I stopped briefly in Letchworth for black squirrels which were easily located before heading to the Lodge. There was little about, a nice fly agaric the highlight but it was a pleasant walk in the sunshine
With a balmy 20 degrees plus I took the afternoon off, in the car park at work it was mixed up redwings and fieldfares feasting on the berries as butterflies fluttered by. A local walk only produced a brief water vole and a brimstone. so I headed to Burwell Fen to see if I could see the short eared owls that had been seen recently. A nice marsh harrier was present on my arrival and I wandered round, a few stonechats entertained as did a flypast merlin and several butterflies. I waited for the owls for a while chatting to another birder a distant ringtail harrier the only thing of note. The light started to fade as I wandered back the ringtail harrier was a bit closer allowing some record shots as did a few roe deer now starting to show themselves. I stopped to watch a brown hare in the long grass as I walked away I saw a weasel shoot across the path with something in its mouth. It was gone in a flash but I stood still and it emerged onto the path and headed towards me. I finally saw me and dived into a bush and stashed it wood mouse. I backed off and it headed off into the grass it returned to the bush and I backed off. I wandered back spotting a short eared owl and a sparrowhawk on the way. A cracking few hours was celebrated with the usual fried potato fayre.
Recent moths in the garden trap feathered thorn, red green carpet, sprawler, Merveille du jour, yellow line quaker, green brindled crescent, November moth and Blair's Shoulder-knot
A trapping exercise at Isleham nature reserve produced 16 wood mice and one bank vole, the 4 traps in my garden were more productive with singles of wood mouse, bank vole and pygmy shrew.
A touristy weekend away to the Mid Wales border, I visited Lake Vyrnwy but there was not much around apart from a melanistic female pheasant. I stopped at the only site for Stirton's Whitebeam most of the few trees are in a private site but at least one is in a public area although difficult to access on the cliffs. I found it relatively easily but most of the leaves had dropped so not the best condition to see it in. A couple of red kites of note but not much else.
The latter part of the week improved with loads of field voles and wood mice as well as a few shrews of all species but the highlight was two harvest mice all performed well for Steve Evans and Paul Wetton to film, despite the poor weather.
Mammal trapping again this week and despite the poor weather I had all three shrews but nothing else. And the traps at the stables held a house mouse
Some bat box checks on a pleasant afternoon, the boxes did not hold many bats but a few individuals of noctule and common, soprano and nathusius pipistrelle was well worth the effort.
With loads of holiday to use up I took a day off work and headed to Wiltshire for a few touristy things then headed to Westonbirt arboretum (somewhere I have wanted to visit for a while) where I spent most of the day, the autumn colours were quite spectacular and will probably get better in the next couple of weeks. I came home via Slough and in a rather 'salubrious' housing estate I found a Bacillus whitei - stick insect in a rather dodgy alley.
Small mammal trapping at work over the last couple of days is very easy and productive, I opened 30 trap this morning set last night and had water shrews, pygmy shrews, common shrews, bank voles, field voles and wood mice.
A grass snake crossing the road just outside the village was an unexpected surprise as I drove home.
I awoke and after some caffeine headed to a park and quickly found the introduced Turkish snail, then it was off to Rye Meads RSPB. I headed off onto the reserve to check the traps in advance of the public, at the far end a mink crossed the trail. The closed trap rate was quite low and some may be false trips so I was not too confident on putting on a good show. The public arrived including Simon West and we headed off, stopping to watch 2 water voles at the viewpoint. We collected up 20 traps from along the river but only one was tripped but it had an occupant a pygmy shrew emerged - very nice. The next 20 were in a reedy area along a trail and the first trap we opened contained a harvest mouse and the assembled group were very happy at least we had quality if not quantity. We also had a bank vole and a couple of wood mice which pleased me so I could show the differences between mice, voles and shrews. The last 10 traps had nothing in and I packed up and headed off to work.
After setting some small mammal traps at Rye meads I headed down to North Kent via the chipshop to do a bit of mothing with James Hunter. Two traps running but it was very quiet there were a few I had not seen before dusky thorn and ?? sallow but after a couple of hours it became almost non-existent so we packed it in.
I was still in the mood for some wildlife so headed deeper into Kent and stopped at a recommended site and after a couple of minutes I had located a Fishers esturine moth resting on a plant, I took a quick photo and left it in peace. The night was quite warm so I headed to a local site and after a quick search found the biggest yellow tailed scorpion I had ever seen here about an inch long. It co-operated allowing me to take plenty of photos, plenty of scorpions were seen in a quick look including another large one. Tube web spiders were also plentiful and after plenty of photos I headed back to Hertfordshire for a couple of hours kip.
A 14 spot ladybird in the moth trap and a quick stop after work produced some 7 spot ladybirds and a Scymnus suturalis ladybird. But the evening was for badger watching. It was a productive evening, a brown rat was the first sighting and then the badgers arrived 9 in total. A fox put in a couple of appearances but was very weary.
I had to go to Kent and on the way back stopped at a nature reserve for an hour a couple of slow worms and a few butterflies.
A busy day at work but I did see one of the resident water voles, I headed over to the Chilterns to see to a few matters before visiting Wendover Woods. The previous week I had organised to take a few people to see edible dormise and a small group assembled and it was not long before we were hearing and seeing edible dormice everywhere and they showed nicely for some photos.
I was tempted down to Landguard for the evening, a rather annoying small child was making plenty of noise and warbler was not going to show but eventually the family left and another birder and myself had some peace and quite to search for the Eastern subalpine warbler which the other birder located and called me over we both had good but brief views.
I got an invite to Northants when suitably wet weather occured and tonight was ideal, the target was midwife toad which obliged, but also temped out by the rain was a large yellow common frog.
A common toad located while I was gardening and a walk round the village produced a dozen or so 16 spot ladybirds.
A touristy weekend in Yorkshire produced a few unexpected bits and pieces. The moors held plenty of red grouse, a day flying daubenton's bat was great to watch going up and down a river. noctule and common pipistrelle at the evening BBQ and driveby brown hare, rabbit and roe deer but the highlight were two weasels playing in a road which were too quick for the camera.
A day out in the search for ladybirds which was partly successful, the first stop was sunny Southend where a morning search of the seashore produced two 7 spot ladybirds a 14 spot and my target the locally scarce <11 spot ladybird. The Lea valley was less productive only a couple of 7 spots but several migrant hawkers. My last stop at a very blustery Therfield heath did not produce any butterflies but I did find a cream streaked ladybird and 4 curlew feeding on the golf course.
Not much recently apart from running the moth trap and locating some insects at work and in the garden, kidney spot ladybird in the garden and 14, 24 spot and Rhyzobius litura at work. Moths included ear moth, small waved umber, wax moth, spectacle, orange swift
and a recently emerged common darter on the edge of my garden pond. The resident work little owls have been fairly active as well always nice to see.
I was helping out with an event at Lakenheath during the morning but popped to the washland viewpoint first thing to see the great white egret that was still present. A moth trap was run overnight and we picked our way through those, a common shrew the only other sighting of note.
I left a sunny Cambridgeshire for a day in misty Chilterns, first stop was a verge that held a violet Helleborine var. rosea a rather spectacular orchid which was worth the visit, I stopped briefly at another site but was short of time so did not find any orchids but lifting a tin I found a nice field vole.
I drove the short distance to meet some other Cambs Mammal Group members, we were joining in with the edible dormouse box check, I did this about 11 years ago and forgot how much fun it was. The first box held an edible dormouse and we spent the day checking boxes and recording details, photographing the escapees as they ran up trees etc. the usage rate was quite high and 4 being the largest number in any one box. The weather held out until we had checked the last box and were enjoying tea and cake. The rain subsided and I headed off to a couple of sites nearby to see green flowered helleborines, broad leaved helleborines and some violet Helleborines which were still in bud. My last stop was Aston Rowant where more Violet Helleborines were in bud but plenty of rather small frog orchids were flowering nicely. Plenty of red kites about and a nice display of chalk grassland plants, then it was off for chips which proved quite difficult so late on a sunday but I knew one which would be open and I just caught them thus just avoiding a chipless day.
Its harvest time, so I put a few mammal traps in the hedgerow along a nearby field, success this morning with a rather jump wood mouse and a harvest mouse, which was saved for an evening photo session very nice.
After getting the car repaired I revisited Norwich this time with the site details but the Scarce tortoiseshell had gone a while before I got there and the best I could muster was some purple hairstreaks and a nice selsction of dragonflies.
SImon West picked my up from work and it was not too long before we were in the suburbs of Norwich looking for a scarce tortoiseshell, but the exact site had not been forthcoming and we were not at the correct site. Continuing on to Breydon water where a short walk from the car we were watching the
Great Knot after a while it flew up the river and we decided to call it a day.
I was contacted through Birdingpal and agreed to take 3 American ladies and a friend of theirs from Derbyshire out for the day. A tough time of year but I gave it my best. We started at Weeting and its stone curlews which put on a good show. Lyndford also produced some new birds but the baby great crested grebes seemed to be the favourite, some budlia in the car park held 15 species of butterfly which was pretty good grayling a real highlight. But here we ran into trouble, the car would not start, but we managed to push start it. Santon Downham brought a plethora of warblers and finches and a female mandarin, and the slope so rare in Norfolk made for an easy start. The last stop was Lakenheath which always produces and we had some warblers, marsh harriers, hobby amongst others.
I have been so busy with work recently that I have not done much apart from running the garden moth trap. This has been very productive with about 200 species recently. But this afternoon I watched the Duxford Air show from a nearby field, it took me a while to discover the russling but eventually a field vole showed itself a few times dashing between runs in the grass. Next was a visit to Wicken Fen where I had a nice walk round 2 barn owls a turtle dove and a kingfisher. I headed over to Burwell Fen where a nice grey partridge was wandering down the track and as I got out of the car for a walk the heavens opened. I drove to the chippy and headed over to the serotine roost to meet Mike Richardson. The torrential rain eventually gave way and a few pipistrelle bats emerged and eventually about half a dozen serotines left the roost and we heaed off home.
Amazingly I had no hangover so we headed off our first major stop was Darland Banks WT, we headed to the top of the reserve where we quickly located a male large blue and several others followed but they would not bask for the money shot. A nice selcetion of other species was present on this rather nice reserve. We quickly popped to Wake Barrow to see the musk orchids before our last stop of the day just down the road. We easily found the caged enclosure containing the red helleborines before retiring to the local pub for a meal before battling with the sunday night traffic.
I spent most of the day at Craig-y-Cilau National Nature reserve in the Brecon Beacons and had large parts of it to myself and I only really met other people during the mid afternoon. I was here for the rare trees present and it took me a while to locate them but I did find least whitebeam which is endemic to the area amongst the commoner species. There were plenty of butterflies about and a family of ravens were ever present.
We headed down to South Wales for the weekend, battling with the traffic we made it early afternoon and our first stop was on the coast. A cracking little cove on which the hillside had a large number of orchids. We were here to see the unusually marked bee orchids and they were easily located along with a very pale pyrimidal orchid. Next stop was Kenfig NNR, and we had a bit of a walk to find the fen orchids and managed to see plenty of other species on the way. We headed north to the Brecon Beacons where our accomodation was in a real ale pub - top draw and we located a rather nice bag of chips on the way.
I built a moth trap and have had some success with plenty of species and two hawkmoths privet and small elephant.
A tip off from James Hunter saw me heading to Rainham RSPB where a Deathshead hawkmoth the beast of all moths was on show, a brief wander allowed mw to locate some marsh frogs and a few warblers.
An early evening visit to Felbrigg Hall, where the lesser emperor had just been relocated as I arrived, it mainly stayed distant and elusive but the odd flypast was too quick for the camera.
I awoke at Gait Barrows at dawn and quickly located a couple of lady's slipper orchids that were still in good condition but most had already gone over. I visited another site a bit further north and had a red squirrel by the side of the road was a bonus as the targets were frog and Northern Marsh Orchids both duly located. The last plant stop was a little further north and I easily located the small white otchids at a traditional site before heading east to my last stop of the day and it was only 8am. I arrived at Mount grace priory well before it opened. Here I was after stoats which are seen regurlaly and despite spending the whole day on site there was no sign. A family of kestrels entertained as did the swallows and I had a very relaxing day enjoying the grounds. I left at closing but will try again some other time.
An evening visit to Barnack Hills and Holes for an orchid fest, I made a detour via the chip shop. Here I easily located man, frog, common spotted, pyrimidal, common fragrant and bee orchid. Then a quick visit to another site for some wasp orchids which were very nice. I dropped into Rutland Water for a wander round but there was little of note, but it was a rather pleasant walk. At dusk I headed north.
I had not seen a stag beetle for many years and when James Hunter informed me he had caught one in his moth trap I popped down for a look. It was a beast and posed well for some photos. James as always had a nice selection of moths for me to see. Alder kitten my favorite but there were much rarer ones.
I popped out to some local sites after work and stumbled upon some common lizards before locating my real target lizard orchid most still in bud but a few were out as were a few bee orchids but the pyrimidals were still a little way off. Next stop was at Fulborn fen wildlife trust reserve where a nice selection of orchids were in bloom bee, common spotted, early marsh, southern marsh and common twayblade, two calling cuckoos also of note.
Somehow I did not check any of the news services as I was too busy at work, so I managed not to see the report of spectacled warbler. I could not go first thing in the morning so hatched a plan. I managed to finish work early and headed to the Norfolk coast. It would be tight as I had a meeting to go to near home later in the evening. I made it to the site and within 10 mins the spectacled warbler was showing to the small assembled crowd which was good as I could only spend 1 hour on site. It flew a few times but showed nicely at others and when the hour was up I frog marched back to the car, but did stop to help some non birders with the ID of a young redshank with parents, photograph asedge warbler and look at two painted ladies and despite the heavy rain and poor drivers I made it to my meeting on time, however there was no time to stop for chips, so not quite as well executed as it could have been.
With the news of the short toed eagle roosting in Dorset I drove overnight to Dorset and parked with a handful of other cars and had a couple of hours kip before dawn. Significantly more cars were present when I awoke and I joined the crown at the rather misty viewpoint but the eagle was still present and good views were had once the mist had burnt off. I watched it for four hours before heading off to do a few other sites in the local area. I popped in to see the pitcher plants in full flower bumped into some nice insects beetles a few broad bodied chasers, keeled skimmers and a nice roe deer.
Now quite hungry I visited a chip shop before heading to the New Forest, I checked out a few sites for orchids and had lesser butterfly, heath spotted and early marsh and a few nice birds during my wanderings hobby and redstart the pick before calling it a day.
After working most of the day I headed out for a couple of hours to see some local wildlife, I took a walk round a local nature reserve next door to where I work but have never been, plenty of butterflies and dragonflies out and a nice kingfisher. I headed for home via a pond with red eared terrapins one was enjoying the early evening warmth. I finished the day with a trip to a local ditch that has a good population of water voles there were at least half a dozen showing well including some youngsters.
I stopped off in Ely to check on the Muscovy ducks as none were present on my last trip, one was present on a very pleasant evening, the ice cream van was too tempting and I indulged before heading off to the Nene washes. Little to see apart from marsh harriers but calling cranes and corncrakes accompanied by booming bitterns was a delight. After some chips I headed to March to do a bat roost survey, here 29 noctules left the roost and a couple of pipistrelles did a couple of flyby's as my bat detector ran out of battery so the ID could not be clinched but probably soprano's.
Visiting family was a good opportunity to stop in at the Chilterns Military orchid and monkey orchid sites, I had both sites to myself and had a nice selection of orchids, military, monkey, greater butterfly, birds nest, white helleborine, lady, common twayblade, common spotted and fly and a whole lot of lady x Monkey hybrids. Common blue butterfly the only other thing of note.
A more leisurely start to do some touristy stuff on the south coast but I did find a nice male redstart along the way. I made it to Dungeness RSPB for lunch here a cool breeze off the sea made it very pleasant. I had managed to get an invite to see the next stage of the short haired bumblebee reintroduction, about 50 queens were to be released. After a quick talk on the project we headed off in groups into the reserve to release the queens and get a few photos a stooping peregrine of note, , I celebrated with a frozen dairy product and headed off to Denge Wood. It was blisteringly hot without the cooling sea breeze, but the butterflies loved it, several Duke of Burgundy were easily located along with a dingy skipper in amongst the amazing orchid display, butterfly, white helleborine, early purple, common spotted and common twayblade all in flower. I headed back to the car spotting a fox and a wood mouse on the way before continuing my journey towards home with one last stop for some early marsh orchids with some common spotted also at the site along with a hybrid of both species. I headed for home after a great couple of days out and about.
A very early start and first stop was the famous Hampshire sword leaved helleborine site, I had the whole site to myself in the early morning sun, it was magical, there were plenty of fly orchids out as well. I headed to East Meon to look for the possible Italian sparrow but despite locating plenty of sparrows I could not find it so headed off. I went to Bournemouth to the traditional green lizard site but it is now very overgrown and difficult to find anything in at all. Wall lizards were everywhere as usual so I tried the undercliff area and stuck lucky with one juvenile green lizard and several more wall lizards. On the cliff top I had a quick search but only found a common lizard.
This is where I differed from the normal sort of Dorset day out, I went to a few sites on Wareham heath to search for stuff and I found some great bits and pieces, both sand and common lizards were scurrying about and I found a jumping spider which was pretty cool. Butterflies were a plenty with green hairstreak, small copper and wall, but something flew past and landed a short distance away it was an emperor moth and a real corker it was. There were beetles, a selection of odonta and bumblebees to keep me occupied. My next stop was for carnivorous plants, a couple of sundew species were present but I was after a colony of pitcher plants which were pretty amazing and well worth the effort in blistering heat. I popped to Swanage for some rest and ice cream before heading back to Poole to a new site for me to search for the rare white sika deer. It was a lovely site and I located the sika herd on the marsh but they were a fair distance away but I could see two white hinds. I explored the site a little and found a feeding station with a nice selection of common birds and a family of brown rats trying to match the climbing prowess of the local squirrels. I explored further and round the corner was a white sika feeding close by very nice. I headed into Poole to a fried potato establishment I know before heading into the New Forest. Large numbers of fallow deer were around the Stoney cross area mixed in with the ponies and I found a lone roe deer down a ride and as dusk fell a nightjar started to fly round to finish off a rather nice day out.
Some small mammal trapping in a local wood, and a nice haul 10 Bank voles, 11 wood mice, 2 yellow necked mice and singles of common and water shrews. A cuckoo was a nice surprise and an unusual hybrid water avens x wood avens of note.
I popped over to Bedfordshire to follow up on some info on alba early purple orchid and despite the heavy rain got a few nice photos.
The annual bird race day and the weather held until we had about a dozen species on the list, the first being spotted crake. But then a large part of the day around dawn was ruined by torrential rain costing us about a dozen species. As the rain eased we scoured the brecks for birds and racked up the species but struggled with a couple of common ones. Off to the coast and the same again intermittent heavy rain and struggling to find stuff, missing the temminck's stints present at Cley but we had some successes and considering the terrible conditions 143 species was not too bad a haul, highlights were spotted crake, Golden pheasant, dotterel, white wagtail, red kite.
Staying local I spent the time in a local wood which was quite nice, a few early purple orchids and fallow deer the best. A bit of gardening disturbed a common newt, common frog and common toad and two hedgehogs during the night.
Having to work at the weekend is not a bad thing as I had the site pretty much to myself a fox was loitering but at distance and a few water vole sightings of note but some nice birds marsh harrier and cuckoo new additions to the list.
Not feeling too well I cancelled my plans and stayed at home, the trap in my garage held a rather large yellow necked mouse which escaped my grasp but sat for a momnet in the garden for a photo, as did the now regular grey squirrel.
James Hunter and I started exploring North Kent in the search for orchids, the torrential rain put a little dampener particularly as we could not find our first target a white early purple orchid, but we had plenty of others. We headed to Samphire Hoe where we took a look at the massive early spider orchid colony which was the best I had ever seen it despite the rain. The rain had one benefit we had the site to ourselves and searched for variations finding an all green individual. We headed for Dungeness as the weather improved and enjoyed excellent views of the two black necked stilts in sunshine. A wood sandpiper was a bonus and a close encounter with a family of bearded tits was the icing on the visit. We had a quick look at the black, little and arctic terns on the ARC pit before heading off to Marden Meadow. The green winged orchids were putting on a great show in the afternoon sunshine and we had the whole site to ourselves. With the evening still holding some sunshine we had a quick look for herps on our way back north. A single adder and about a dozen slow worms the haul.
I had to work in the morning but popped over to Thetford after had another search for speedwells bumped into some others doing the same we had 5 species of speedwell including the two rare ones but they were not in the best condition. No otters but plenty of rats in a quick look before heading home.
After fixing my car (well most of the problems) with the aid of my brother in Leicester, I headed to the peak district for some touristy stuff and a couple of wildlife stops, the first was Cressbrook dale which was glorious in the spring sunshine. The early purple orchids were just flowering but there were plenty of other plants out and butterflies everywhere. I headed home via Carsington Water where I quickly located the great northern diver close in but it dived and next time I saw it was in the middle of the lake. There was little else a wood mouse and some common scoter of note.
James Hunter and I headed to Flamborough for the Crag Martin, but we had got the timing a bit out and the bird was nowhere to be found and not seen again, we braved the strong wind to see the rather nice tawny pipit and saw the expected seabirds and despite the rather unspring like conditions indulged in ice cream. The journey home was broken at a potato frying establishment.
Passing the brecks again, I dropped into Weeting, no stoats but some nice stone curlews and plenty of roe deer.
Passing Thetford I took a look for otters in the town centre but had to content myself with feeding chips to the large numbers of brown rats. I took a look for speedwells in town but could not find any of the rare ones, but a quick look for grape hyacinths was more successful.
A very busy day with an early start, Flitwick Moor the first stop where John, Marion and Claire were already in residence watching the three water shrews busily feeding is a rather manky ditch and none of them showing well at all. After a couple of hours I left them to it and passed on some info about one at the Lodge I was going to visit later. I headed off to Little Brickhill from John's info easily found a couple of Chinese water deer and a muntjac but little else. I headed to the lodge spotting a roadside roe deer along the way. At the Lodge I took a wander and managed to find some heather ladybirds before meeting up with John again et al for a much showier water shrew but it was too quick for photos. I headed back into Cambs for some Bat box checks and although we only had two species soprano pipistrelle and noctule we had plenty of individuals.
I took an evening visit to Pymoor to see the American wigeon it was still present but quite distant and elusive and not the best example I have seen. Some black rabbits were feeding in a nearby field
were of interest. I stopped at Ely to check on the muscovy ducks but not a single one to be found which was a little strange.
James Hunter kindly invited me down to his humble abode to view some rather nice moths he had caught. But first I visited a site for herps and managed a common lizard, slow worms and some adders including a rather nice youngster. I arrived at James' house to see the moth highlight an emperor moth, there were rarer ones on view but none as spectacular as the emperor!
I get riddiculed for looking for exotic species most probably escaped etc. but today evryone had joined in my madness as I visited Fen Drayton to see the baikal teal. A nice looking bird and who knows how pukka it is.
A day out in Kent, first stop was Snodland for the rather elusive hoopoe but it was not located so I went herping for a while. Only two adders and a handful of slow worms for my efforts but a pygmy shrew was resident under one of the refugia. I headed back to Snodland and after a short while someone located the hoopoe and it showed nicely if a little distantly. Then I dropped in to Rainham RSPB where messers Lowen and Bradnum were loitering, marsh frogs were abundant and a water vole showed for a few mins. My last stop was disapointing as the hide I visit in the Lee Valley had been removed, this was not the most annoying thing, that was the burning of fallen rotting wood that had occured - sheer madness and my letters of complaint have not reassured me that it won't happen again. Despite this it was not a bad day and the warm sunshine brought out six species of butterfly spring is finally here.
We headed for Leighton Moss RSPB along with most of the North West dudes in rather pleasant sunshine, we made it to shelter for the big hail shower. All the usual stuff was about but we had a long tailed duck, scaup and a distant bittern the highlights, red deer and grey squirrel the only mammals of note. We headed to Arnside for chips (one of the best chippies I know of) then to the Eric Morecombe hide just away from Leighton Moss central, but it was quiet and only a few avocet and black tailed godwits of note. Onwards to Warton Crags where we quickly located raven and peregrine and a large number of jackdaws before heading home.
Away to the lake district with friends, we stayed next to a brewery in Coniston – nice, hence I was not up and about too early but beat everyone to Tarn Hows a picturesque location nearby and named after me, well not really! With snow on the hills and no one about it was idyllic. A roe deer fed by the edge of the tarn and goldeneye and a red breasted merganser were present amongst the commoner wildfowl. As the tourists arrived I headed off for some touristy stuff myself just missing a heavy hail shower. My last stop of the day was Muncaster which houses a collection of Owls but that was not my reason for visiting. They feed wild herons daily late afternoon and it is quite a spectacle. The herons gather 30 mins or so before feeding time as do the buzzards, the herons are fed day old chicks and about 25 herons turned up for the food fight and the buzzards try to rob the herons of their free lunch, very entertaining and well worth the visit. A passing red kite and a raven were also of note and I headed back to our base for more ales direct from the brewery.
With some wet and warm weather the local amphibians have started to move, the toad crossing was busy for one night only and plenty of frogs as well, a particularly nicely coloured red frog which was present last year as well was the pick. ,b>Common and great crested newts also use the crossing so it was an ideal opportunity to photograph all of these species, which was tricky in the rainy conditions but I was happy with the results.
We had overnighted in Strontian and spent a few hours in horrible weather searching for the black duck but it was nowhere to be seen and rather sodden we headed south to Campbeltown stopping only for the two snow geese. We arrived in Campbeltown and searched the harbour and airport for gulls but there were only a few about, the main flock was behind a farm in Kilchenzie numbering about 500 birds and we scrutinised these several times, locating at least three Iceland gulls and a Nordic jackdaw but not the American herring gull and despite additional searches by other birders as well no one picked it up in what was very poor weather so we headed for home after a rather disappointing weekend.
James Hunter, Ben Locke and I headed to Scotland, first stop was a random road where a pine marten was running along a wall very nice. We arrived at a site in Perthshire for a black grouse Lek, but no lek was in progress, but there were plenty of black grouse about and we had some nice views of both them and red grouse. Then it was up into Speyside for Capercallie and crested tit, but despite a lot of searching we only had the latter, but we did get a bonus dipper on the way to Cairngorm in search of Ptarmigan. Still plenty of snow about and with incredibly strong winds it would be tough, James spotted a mountain hare and Ben and I went to photograph it, as we did James found a Ptarmigan but by the time we returned it had gone. But a little later we did relocate it distantly. With a little daylight left we whizzed up to Loch Flemmington where, as the light faded we located the American Coot and we drove to Fort William for chips.
Simon West and I left a sunny London for a misty and murky Forest of Dean, but things cleared a little as we arrived and a sunny day ensued, we met up with Ben Locke and took a walk for willow tit but no luck, then a site for some wild boar, we spooked them just out of sight in the bushes. So we tried two barred crossbills but again had no luck but plenty of brambling about in the woods. Onward to look for goshawks where we were put onto an adder and also on to a goshawk by other birders – thanks very much. Off for some more boar but during the walk Simon took ill and went back to the car insisting Ben and I continued, we bumped into a great grey shrike and several crossbills before locating some boar sounds. Eventually they crossed the track into view 4 adult wild boar and about 20 piglets. We returned to Simon and then onto another boar site but nothing here and we called it a day.
I picked up James Hunter and we arrived in Hythe just after dawn and parked up with half a dozen or so cars. Some movement of people to the other main site occured and people generally milled about until the Chinese pond heron flew into a nearby tree and showed well for 30 mins or so before dropping down out of sight into one of the gardens. Happy with the views we headed to Dungeness where there was a concentrated area of birds on offer. First was the Glaucous gull, but it eluded us and we tried for the Hume's yellow browed warbler which was present in the desert, which ironically wellington's were required to enter it! It gave a brief view and we headed for dry land. A brief stop on the causeway for smew and great white egret and tree sparrows at the reserve entrance and another great white egret on the track. The glossy ibis also proved elusive as did the Rhea which was in the same field. So we returned to the glaucous gull which took some finding but was roosting near the lighthouse. Another causeway stop allowed us to locate the two black throated divers, the glossy ibis once again was missing but the rhea was now present, so we popped to Scotney where we quickly located the black necked grebe and three scaup. No ibis again so onto the reserve where the black necked and slav gebes were located and as we were leaving James saw the glossy ibis fly in and we had some brief views as is fed in the reed edge. A quick look at Denge marsh but not a great deal and then a barn owl as we drove back to the main road via the marsh.
After work I popped to the Research Park to look for the Taiga bean geese, but no sign, a kingfisher and a dozen snipe of interest. Then I made it over to Burwell Fen, plenty of roe deer about and two short eared owls a close flypast was disrupted by two unruly noisy dogs most annoyingly!
I spent the morning in Thetford to look for the otters, but apparently no one has seen one since Sunday and my search was fruitless but they have been about quite a lot recently. One helpfull family pointed one out and were amazed when I correced them on the ID, it was a very large rat and they were horrified. I lost count after 12 brown rats and they would even allow me to throw them chips, which drew the attention of the local grey heron eager for an easy meal but the rat was just quick enough. Some nice grey wagtails and treecreepers pairing up in the spring like conditions. With no otters I left at lunchtime.
Finally managed to get out and about after my latest trip, I popped up to Burwell fen to see the short eared owls that have been present. I stopped for a herd of half a dozen roe deer on the access road and then a very large flock of golden plover. An additional herd was further down the road. It was very blustery at the fen and it was very quiet until a ringtail hen harrier gave a nice flyby. Yet another herd of roe deer present on the fen, then a commotion behind me a kestrel and barn owl were squabbling over the same prey item. The barn owl and two kestrels showed off and on till dark but no short eared owls.
Very little action due to continuing back issues, but I was in Northants for work so popped in to Northampton to see the wood duck. It was not the tamest of ducks but probably not a wild bird, still a nice bird. I waded round Stanwick Lakes for an hour but very little doing so I gave up and headed for home.
A visit to Fowlmere but it was very quiet, the kingfisher performed nicely a couple of times but apart from a few muntjac very little doing and I left early afternoon before the bigh storm hit.
Connaught Water was my first port of call but not much was doing in the light drizzle, a few mandarins about but not much else. I headed to Lee Valley CP for the rest of the day. Again it was very quite hardly any birds visited the feeding station and some passing long tailed tits with a couple of goldcrests in tow the highlight. Four mammal species endless grey squirrels robbing all the food at the feeding station but at least three bank voles and a common shrew finding some left to keep them interested. Rabbit the fourth species for those interested.
Loch of Strathsbeg for dawn, but we could not locate any of the American wildfowl that had been present recently. We visited the well hidden Meikle Loch for the Ring necked duck which was still present. No dolphins in Aberdeen harbour so we headed over Glenshee to try our luck with Ptarmigan. We quickly found a dipper and some mountain hares and from the car park we located a few ptarmigan and yet more mountain hares nice to see both in winter plumage. We finally encountered some red deer as we dropped down towards Blairgowrie and a roe deer at Ruddons point where we used the last minutes of daylight to look for the surf scoter but without any luck. We headed for home stopping for chips after a productive weekend.
James Hunter, Simon West and I took the long overnight and very snowy drive to Scotland arriving at Loch Flemington just before dawn. A power nap ensued before braving 100 yards of the very icy road to the viewpoint. The American coot was showing immediately in the gloom and we watched it feeding for a while. Someone spotted two otters at the far side of the Loch. We decided to head off in search of the local Iceland gull, which was well timed as the heavens opened. The gull was nowhere to be found so onwards to Alturlie Point, the scaup flock were quite far out but we possibly picked out the lesser scaup but they were distant. red kite and slavonian grebe were nice accompaniments. More ice in Dingwall library car park where the ring billed gull was coming to bread, we had our fill as did the gull and we popped into Channonry point via Udale bay but no dolphins were playing today. We revisited the American coot much more enjoyable with only a handful of people present before connecting with the local Iceland gull. We popped into Loch Oire and located one of the adult Iceland gulls present before the flock left and then headed to Fraserburgh checking out the gulls in the harbour by streetlight before visiting the fish and chip shop. A brief look in Peterhead harbour for gulls was unsuccessful and we got our heads down for a bit.
My visit to Draycote Water was in torrential rain and I was thankful for the shelter of hide. Here my target was an albino grey squirrel present since at least October. It was quickly located emerging from its nestbox and fed in the adjacent small wooded area and along the tarmac path. It did eventually join its grey cousins at the feeders and I could watch it in the dry. I braved the rain once more as the drake smew and great northern diver were showing close in and it was worth the effort. On the way home I could not resist a diversion to Letchworth. Here in the still pouring rain, I would look for the melanistic grey squirrels fortunately they were very co-operative and I found three within minutes and I finally went home to dry out, having seen three forms of Grey squirrel in one day very nice.
Two Yellow necked mice occupied my longworths this morning and two on New Years Day.
I thought 63 UK mammal species (my total for last year) was something that could not be topped, but somehow I managed to smash last years total with 68 species seen in the UK during 2013 in what was an awesome mammal year. * Denotes not photographed.
2. Common Shrew
3. Pygmy shrew
4. Water Shrew
5. Lesser White Toothed Shrew
6. Greater horseshoe bat
7. Lesser horseshoe bat
8. Whiskered Bat
9. Brandts Bat
10. Natters Bat
11. Bechsteins Bat
12. Daubentons Bat
13. Serotine Bat
14. Leislers Bat
15. Noctule Bat
16. Barbastelle Bat
17. Pipistrelle Bat
18. Soprano pipistrelle Bat
19. Nathusius's Pipistrelle Bat
20. Brown Long eared Bat
21. Grey Long Eared Bat*
22. Greater Mouse eared Bat
23. Red Squirrel
24. Grey Squirrel
25. Bank Vole
26. Field Vole
27. Water Vole
28. Wood Mouse
29. Yellow Necked Mouse
30. Harvest Mouse
31. House Mouse
32. Hazel Dormouse
33. Edible Dormouse
34. Black Rat
35. Brown Rat
36. Red Fox
37. Pine Marten*
45. Red Deer
46. Roe Deer
47. Sika Deer
48. Fallow Deer
49. Muntjac Deer
50. Chineese Water Deer
52. Brown Hare
53. Mountain Hare
55. Red Necked Wallaby
56. Common Seal
57. Grey Seal
58. Wild Boar
59. Minke Whale
60. Common Dolphin
61. Harbour Porpoise
62. Risso's Dolphin
63. Humpback Whale
64. Sperm Whale
65. White Beaked Dolphin
65. Bottle Nosed Dolphin
67. British Primitive Goat
68. Feral Horse / Pony
A cracking year with 2 ticks in the 68 species seen, 62 species photographed or videoed. October was the most prolific month with 34 species seen.
The amazing trip to Scotland including the Shiant Trip to see the black rats, wildcat, pine marten, beavers amongst others. The Sperm whale was a real highlight as well. Finally catching a Weasel in a longworth was also up there.
In Iceland I caught up with Arctic Fox and California for some great mammals including bobcat, channel island fox.
Another busy year 18 species of herps, some nice insect species with 39 butterfly species catxhing up with long tailed blue and large tortoiseshell, odonta only 24 species and nothing of real note. Another poor birding year with only 230 species seen. Some nice new species as well Pine Grosbeak and rock thrush started off the year Baikal teal and semi palmated plover in the middle and finished off with an Western Orphean warbler and Brunnichs Guillemot.