A much better day at Burwell Fen, the windy very blustry but lovely light and warmout of the wind. At least 30 roe deer were encountered during my 6 hour walk. Brief views of both fox and weasel the only other mammals encountered apart from the common shrew taken by the owl. The blustery conditions made it tricky for birding but a ringtail hen harrier early on kept my hopes up. A sparrowhawk and kestrel put in brief appearances but a short eared owl put on a nice show before I headed home.
I headed to Fowlmere for the morning in very blustery conditions. I was there for dawn and had 4 muntjac a kingfisher and a few fieldfares of note early on. But things went downhill with several noisy families most not interested in wildlife at alland I met some idiot dog walkers (dogs are banned from the reserve) who did not know this despite the large sign at the entrance. That was enough and I headed home for lunch.
Sick of work I finished early and popped up to the Ouse Washes to look for the cranes, conditions were terrible but I located about 18 cranes along with a couple of thousand whooper swans near Manea. More whooper swans were on the reserve and the fields around it but I was after the tree sparrows visiting the feeders and a couple put in an appearance in the gloom and as the rain started I headed home.
Just one wood mouse in the traps.
Having to work all weekend I took the opportunity to set some small mammal traps overnight.
A muntjac was loitering as I arrived to check the traps, the haul 6 woodmice, one bank vole and one common shrew but under a herp tin were two field voles, but not as much as expected possibly due to the very warm weather. A quick check of the traps before heading home only one was tripped and a nice harvest mouse popped out. It did not pose for photos but got a bag shot before release. Two kestrels, a sparrowhawk and five little egrets of note during my checks.
A day out in the Forest of Dean and other areas nearby. The hawfinches were a no show, but we did see a few Lesser horseshoe bats during an organised bat hibernacular check. Herald and tissue moths and plenty of cave spiders of note during our search. After the bats we headed back into the Forest for a wander to see some wild boar. About 9 were spotted briefly along with some fallow deer.
Just a handful of moths over the last few weeks, December moth and mottled umber of note.
I had to work in the morning but headed to Burwell Fen in the afternoon, the car park was closed for construction of a cow bridge, but parking was not an issue the poor weather had kept almost everyone away and I only met one other serious wildlife watcher all afternoon. I had intended to do a full circuit but after a short distance I heard some squeaking and a weasel shot across the track. I stopped and waited and had a few brief views until joined by the other wildlife watcher. I waited and eentually it came out and eventually I had several other views and even managed a photo but it was really elusive. The other watcher called me over he had another weasel a little bit behind me, I confirmed that there were inded two. The mammals kept coming a hare, a couple of roe deer and a stoat carrying something like a rat or water vole but it was too quick to tell. Despite the wind there were some birds, two short eared owls, three barn owls and a hen harrier the pick.
With some mouse damage in the Garage over the last couple of days, a few Longworths caught the culprit a massive yellow necked mouse rehomed away from the garage.
I had to be in Dorset for 10am which gave me a couple of hours at Blandford Forum, one of the local otters put in a nice performance, shame the light was terrible, but a nice field vole was also spotted. Shame such a good spot was spoilt by an uncontrolled dog who went for me, and I was abused for defending myself, the owner did not take up my offer of inviting the police down to dicsuss the situation and they left quickly.
Dipped the Crag Martin on one of the only days it was not present on my only available day.
I had set 30 longworth traps at a private site and opened them this morning, Plenty of captures in two area and little in the third. Most captures were wood mice but we got singles of field and bank voles and common shrew. We battled a fun run and thick mist to Burwell Fen but just after lunch we the mist cleared a little and we took a wander along the elevated bank. Cranes honked distantly and we found a few bearded tits and a spectacular display from the golden plover. But the main action was from the cycle track where at least 3 short eared Owls showed quite well, and a brown hare and some roe deer kept our interest during the interludes. A male Hen harrier was too brief and distant for me as the ligh faded.
A weekedn in the Lakes was a rather damp affair but Sunday was slightly better and 10 miles up the road was a bufflehead so we popped up to see it. It was distant and dived most of the time during our stay. We started south stopping off at a reserve to see Lancastrian Whitebeam which was easily located on a rather exposed cliff, safely back in the car we headed to Leighton Moss. It was horrible full of families with no wildlife skills running about screaming, springwatchers and people who liked the sound of thier own voice. We had a quick look round and was impressed with the new tower lookout from which we could see the great white egret. I tried my luck at the feeders only to find a sign explaining they were not in use due to rats and that the rats were being taken by a stoat - so why stop feeding them. That was enough so we left and headed for home after some chips from the excellent chippy in Arnside.
We popped into Blandford Forum for Lunch, no sign of the otters so we headed to Arne where we spent the rest of the day watching the sika deer rut till dusk.
We headed back to Devon and did some touristy stuff but did cross the moor and locate some Dartmoor ponies before returning to Exmouth where the black brant and the Ridgeways cackling goose were both located if a little distantly.
We popped into Land's End where the juvenille rose coloured starling was showing stupidly well, after seeing the sights we headed to Porthgwarra to see the alpine swift which was just leaving Rosketal farm as we arrived and we did not chase it to St Leven instead we did some touristy things a few ravens of note.
We had a leisurly start and worked our way down to the Lizard, where it took a couple of hours to locate the adult rose coloured starling but eventually it showed quite well. We popped into Helston but nothing much at the boating lake so we took a quick look for unarmed stick insects and quickly found one, then onto Goldsithney for pale flowered speedwell where a few were still in flower. After a couple of touristy stops we headed to Mousehole but no seals in the harbour and just a rock pipit and a turnstone of note.
Our first stop on the way to Cornwall for a few days was in Exmouth but thick mist hampered our attempts at goose spotting. We gave up and headed off to ?? where we wasily located Devon whitebeam before heading on to Cornwall. High tide on the Hayle allowed us to locate the spoonbill and a couple of garganey. We wandered round St Ives before getting an early night.
I spent the day in the Avon Gorge once again, my targets were more whitebeams. I was in better shape than my last visit and managed to locate 17 species of whitebeams including two of the very rare species houston's and Robertson's, of which there are only one known tree of each species.
I had a meeting near Minsmere and after the meeting I had just over an hour for a quick look round for mammals, rabbits and squirrels were abundant the highlight was a stoat chasing a squirrel the third in just over a week. A water vole was hiding in the rather dimly lit reeds and a quick drive to Westleton Heath was productive with several red deer hinds spotted in the fading light.
I went to Dungeness for first light but the Empidonax sp flycatcher did not show, stoat, merlin and sparrowhawk the best I could muster.
I met up with Ben for a trip to Devon in search of the beavers but we had no luck and when thick mist rolled in we had to call it a day, a dipper the best we could manage, and in the Forest on the way back we had both fox and badger.
I popped to Burwell Fen after work and managed to locate the Grey Phalarope it was a bit distant, apparently it moved close after I left - typical!
The works resident stoat put in an appearance in the car park but too quick for me as by the time I got my camera it was gone, still nice to see as I have not seen it for ages.
Heading down to Goodwood to see the Battle of Britain Flypast, I stopped to see some bacillus rossius stick insects and managed to find a couple despite the terrible weather.
I spent the day in the Avon gorge looking for rare whitebeam trees, I managed to locate Bristol, Leigh Woods, White's, Wilmott's, Observatory, Avon, Robertson's, Fontainebleau and Sell's whitebeams and Proctor's rowan , some were tricky to find and some cliff scrambling was required. One whitebeam eluded me Houston's and that will require another trip. It was an eventfull day, during my wanderings I helped an old lady change a tyre on her car, fell over a tree root and cut my arm on some wire. I found a few western spiked speedwells some Autumn ladies tresses and a peregrine. Totally exhausted I got some very expensive chips - £2.20 for a portion, they were good but not that good.
A late start due to the late night I did a couple of touristy things before heading over to the Forest of Dean, where I eventually connected with Evan's Whitebeam and also fell into a rabbit hole which slowed me down a bit. I spent some time looking for ladybirds but could only find a couple of 7 spots and a Rhyzobius litura before getting some chips. I had some wild boar info and walked into the Forest and quickly found a sounder of 15 or so wild boar and a couple of fallow deer.
I spent the day doing some touristy things before heading to Woodland near Bath for a bat swarming session with the Wilts bat group. Conditions were ideal and large numbers of bats were present and we trapped 10 species in total a single Greater Horseshoe bat plenty of lesser horseshoe bats with a few serotines, brant's, whiskered, barbastelle, bechstein's and brown long eared bats with Natterer's and Daubenton's by far the most numerous, by 3am the rain started and we packeked it in for the night, pleased with our haul.
Despite the poor weather we returned to the Symmond's Yat area to search for more whitebeams. Symmond's Yat whitebeam was quickly located as were Green's and Hereford Whitebeams but the terrible weather forced me to cut the search short and we headed for home.
I headed to Llandovery a few miles from where we were staying and along the river I quickly found the rather scarce 5 Spot Ladybird which was well timed as the weather closed in and a retreat to some touristy places and a pub were in order.
I spent the day hunting a few species of whitebeam, the first was high up in the Black Mountains near Llanthony, the Llanthony Whitebeam took some finding, however my second target was much easier several Welsh Whitebeams were easily located at Cwn Clydach. My last whitebeam was the very rare Ley's Whitebeam Which took some finding but I did locate 5 trees high on the hills above Merthyr Tydfil.
We headed to South Wales for the weekend but made a couple of stops on the way, first stop was in Wiltshire for broken belted bumblebee but conditions were sub optimal. It took a while to locate one and get a few record shots in rather blustery weather. We battled with the motorway and made it to Symmonds Yat and Monmouth for Ship rock, Wye, Orange whitebeams and Chinese mountain ash.
Recent Moths - a poor catch recently just Double lobed and marbled Green of note.
More ladybirds this time Andrew and I spent the day on the Surrey heaths in almost perfect conditions, out first target at Esher was scarce 7 spot but the first species was a 7 spot but it did not take long to locate a couple along with pine, heather, Scymnus suturalis and Rhyzobius chrysomeloides but a a probable Scymnus femoralis was a very good find as was a larch ladybird. The second target was striped ladybird which was located in a pine tree. After some lunch we relocated to Chobham common a place I have not visited for many years and took a punt at hieroglyphic ladybird the gen was several years old but I did get one but it flew off before immediately but I did get a second more accommodating individual and also a Rhyzobius lophanthae and a cream streaked ladybird took the species tally to 12 for the day and not a harlequin in sight.
Moths over the last week maple prominent, iron prominent, and a flyover redshank was a nice garden tick while sorting the moths. A grass snake at the edge of the village was the first I had seen in the village. And I though that we had lost the village turtle doves with no sightings this year but two on wires this evening was a welcome sight.
However I spent the afternoon at Rainham RSPB where reserve staff and volunteers had very kindly found me a water ladybird. I found were 2 spot and 22 spot ladybirds a nice wasp spider and a few bees the walk made made a pleasant few hours
Originally I planned to take Monday off but the poor weather made me change my mind, but today was actually worse but I still managed to get the best out of the day. First stop was Rainham RSPB which was not yet open but my first target lives in the car park and I located the bryony ladybird despite the persistant rain. I headed into the reserve looking for water ladybird without success but I did find a nice common lizard and the reserve staff put me onto a wood sandpiper. The highlight was a water shrew swinning by one of the board walks and I caught up with water vole and several marsh frogs. I did locate an incredibly large frog about 10 inches long nuch bigger than the marsh frogs known as the mega frogs their origin is unknown, and well worth looking out for. Many Thanks to Howard Vaughan for his tips for finding stuff and letting me in a few mins early. Early afternoon I headed over to the Chilterns first stop was some violet helleborines which did not mind the rain. The rain eased and I tried Aston Rowant for silver spotted skipper and despite the less than ideal weather I located a couple but retreated as the rain got heavier. A couple of sites for helleborines were visited in rather poor weather. I got some chips and headed to my last stop, I had a quick kip as it was still to light and inbetween the showers I tried to photograph edible Dormice rather tricky in the conditions but I finally got one sat up and got my photos and headed off as the weather took a turn for the worse.
I have neglected my moth updates over the last few weeks but I have had some nice species Pine Hawkmoth, black arches, coxcombe prominent, white spotted pinion, v pug, yellowtail, early thorn, peppered moth.
I was woken by the cat, it had brought something in and behind the shoes lurked a harvest mouse which I managed to catch and it appeared unharmed, I popped into a tank with food and water to see how it fared. I had to pop into work but then spent a few hours in the brecks for butterflies and ladybirds although I did stop in at Weeting to see the pink saxifrage and stumbled across an obliqued striped moth, other highlights were painted lady, small copper and hummingbird hawkmoth. I found plenty of ladybirds during my search the highlight was finding some cream spotted ladybirds before returning home. The Harvest mouse was fine and I released it taking a few photos.
I was in Ely late afternoon and easily found a Muscovy duck, I had two stops on the way home the first a small roadside reserve to look for Fen ragwort I located it but it was not yet in flower so a return visit will be required. Last stop was Newmarket where I was going to search for the spiked speedwell and I loacted about a dozen plants in flower during a brief search, I returned via the Devils dyke where butterflies were plentiful.
Being my birthday I took a day off and headed for Norfolk, first stop was for the creeping ladies tresses at Holkham then I headed for Morsden Quay where I was booked on Bean's seal trip. I had never done this trip before and I enjoyed despite it being school holidays! There was one common seal pup amongst the hundred or so common seals and dozen grey seals present and great views were had, I indulged in some local icecream enjoying the pleasant sunshine. Then I went to Holt CP where I quickly caught up with Silver washed Fritillary, white admiral and loads of other butterfly species and a few dragonflies as well. The weather then took a turn for the worse and I could not locate any small red damselflies probably due to this. I popped into Thetford Forest for a ladybird hunt locating several species highlighs were Scymnus sutaralis and eyed ladybird. I took a walk round Cranwich but did not see very much and I headed home for a takeaway.
A fellow ladybird enthisuast had contacted me to come and see some ladybirds he had caught in the Lea Valley, and what a haul 18 and 22 spot ladybirds and some of the cryptic species as well Rhyzobius lophauthe, Nephus quadrimaculatus and two colour forms of Scymus interruptus.
We had to visit York and first thing I headed to Bempton Cliffs RSPB to catch up with some seabirds, gannets and kittiwakes the most common but razorbills and guillemots were about and even the odd puffin and fulmar and good numbers of tree sparrows. Our journey home was broken with a stop at Blacktoft sands RSPB for a look at the Montagu's harriers but we only got a brief view of the female.
Ben and I searched a few river spots before checking out a recommended site for beavers followed by an ice cream. We spent a large part of the day at Aylesbere common RSPB dragonflies the highlight with several species present. After some more icecream and chips we returned to stake out the beavers. After a while a mink ran down the opposite bank but despite waiting until dusk no sign of the beavers and we headed for home, a badger diced with death on the A303 the only thing of note.
I was up early and searching for red deer which were relatively easy to find once the mist had cleared along with plenty of exmoor ponies. I spent some time looking for ladybirds without any luck before some touristy stuff then a little more ladybird searching. I headed off to meet up with Ben and then headed to our dormouse stakeout. A woodmouse teased us but eventually two dormice showed and we finished for the night just before the rain arrived.
The first wildlife stops were for the recently discovered Rich's whitebeam and I easily located the tree on the shore of the Bristol Channel and then I headed to Cheddar Gorge to search for three other rare whitebeams Cheddar, Gough's Rock and Twin Cliff Whitebeam along with the feral goats in some terrible weather. Early afternoon I made it to Ham Wall RSPB where the weather had slightly improved and I quickly found my target of Iberian Water Frog with several showing well. Time to move on and I made it to Exmoor where I quickly caught up with two more rare whitebeams Margaret's and Watersmeet. Some other Whitebeams were a little harder to find up the side of a very steep hill but I located Somerset Whitebeam injuring my knee in the process and I gingerly made it back down to the car. That was enough for the day so I headed for some chips spotting a nice fox cub on the way.
A night time visit to two spots to see orchids both which were sucessful despite the darkness, the first was for a hybrid fragrant x common spotted which had just about gone over. The second was a Violet Helleborine var rosea. I then visited Wendover Woods for edible dormice, the first couple were easily spotted before the heavens opened and torrential rain and thunder ensued and I had to give up.
An early start and I returned to Orwell where the quail performed very well not long after first light. I headed to the Lea Valley and spent some time looking for ladybirds and came up with a single2 spot and a single Coccidula scutelleta. I popped into Rye Meads RSPB for a wander greenshank, green sandpiper and garganey were the best I could rustle up before heading home early afternoon.
An evening visit to Lakenheath for invertebrates, plenty of ladybirds and a few bees including yellow loosestrife bees. I then spent a bit of time at Lyndford where I could only find orange ladybirds. I was going to pop into Weeting but it was closed!
I headed home for the weekend to see family and friends but made a couple of stops along the way firstly in Herts for frog and musk orchids both of which were in nice condition. On my return Sunday evening I stopped at Orwell to see the quail that had been showing well, I did get a view but it was alway behind some tall grass so not great for photos.
A local ladybird hunt hit an emergence with approx 150 ladybirds found in a very small area, mostly 7 spot and harlequin but lesser numbers of 2 spot and adonis.
Despite the heat I took an evening wander along the Devils Dyke plenty of marbled whites and a couple of dark green fritillaries, the lizard orchids were just starting to go over but there were still a few nice ones.
I made a stop for marsh speedwell on my way to the Lea valley to meet up with a fellow ladybird enthisiast, we tried a couple of sites and quickly caught up with 4 of the cryptic species, Coccidula rufa, Scymnus suturalis, Rhyzobius chrysomeloides and Scymnus auritus we tried another site but the heavy rain made it impossible to continue and we called it a day. I ahd some lunch and headed to North Kent for a few hours, the weather improved enough for me to find ringlet and marbled white and a common lizard and a slow worm. My last stop was an invite by James Hunter to see the Red belted clearwing he had caught in his garden, it was a fine looking moth well worth seeing.
An early start and first stop was the bee orchid var chlorantha which were easily found then on to Strumpshaw Fen for a brief look before heading the Holt CP. A silver washed fritillary greeted me briefly but I was after broad bordered bee hawkmoths which did show nicely at least two individuals. I headed to the brecks stopping at Weeting for nice views of spotted flycatchers and a few moths and butterflies on a wander round.
Moths this week were plentiful species included Angle shades, uncertain, beautiful hooktip, spectacle, small elephant hawkmoth, elephant hawkmoth, privet hawkmoth, poplar hawkmoth, burnished brass
I had a couple of hours before a medical apt so popped into Fowlmere for a wander round, a couple of muntjac but loads of turtle doves was pleasing to see, but the best sighting was a pike motionless in the stream.
Fowlmere discovery day where my 25 longworth traps only caught a wood mouse and a common shrew but the public enjoyed them, some moth traps had been set and a nice array of moths were found in them of note were scorched wing, small angle shades, blackneck, dark spectacle, Pinion Streaked Snout, Pretty Chalk Carpet, Small Square-spot, Clouded Brindle, Beautiful Plume, Figure of Eighty amongst the 61 species trapped and the event as a whole was a sucess.
Processing the moth trap contents first thing was interrupted by what I thought was a vole I saw out of the corner of my eye, running down the path I looked and realised it was a mole, I left the moths and caught it in a bucket and set up a fish tank with earth and dug up some worms for it. I put news out but had to pop to work for the morning, purchasing some worms from the fishing tackle shop on the way home. The mole enjoyed these and the first visitors arrived to see the mole and a few hawkmoths (Small elephant, privet and poplar) that I had kept hold of. I had plenty of opportunity to get some photos during the day as visitors trickled in until a small group gathered to see its release in a nearby field. I popped to Fowlmere to set the longworth traps last thing, a hobby of note.
After work I went to a local water vole site where I quickly located about 5 voles being relatively active but tricky to photograph in the vegetation, a couple of locals told me they had not seen any for months, but clearly they were not trying too hard. I got a few photos and also located some blue water speedwell before I headed home.
Moths this week Peppard moth, flame shoulder, treble lines, ghost moth, spruce carpet, silver gound carpet, brimstone moth, pale tussock
A brief stop at Barnack Hill's and Holes on the way home for some orchids man, common spotted, pyrimidal, common fragrant and bee orchid easily located but no frog orchids, nothing else of note and as the rain started we called it a day.
A quick visit to Kilnsey where the lady's slipper orchids were still in fine condition, and there were a nice collection of other plants and orchids narrow leaved marsh, early marsh and common spotted. A nice pied flycatcher showed well along the trail before a quick lunch stop and then for a walk on Ilkley Moor, mostly meadow pipits and stonechats but we did come across a red grouse with a chick.
We were heading to the Yorkshire dales for the weekend, but took a detour to Blacktoft Sands late afternoon where we got a brief view of the male Montagu's harrier, plenty of marsh harrier food passes and a sparrowhawk of note.
An evening visit for midwife toads a couple were calling on arrival and they proved to be elusive as usual but one eventually gave itself up.
A much later start James Hunter picked me up from work and we headed into Norfolk and Suffolk for the day, first stop was for orchids , Early marsh orchid var ochroleuca the highlight but also southern marsh and narrow leaved marsh. With excellent weather we headed to Redgrave and Loopham Fen where there was significant dragonfly action, but we were after the rare and elusive fen raft spider which took a bit of searching but we eventually located a small individual. We made it to Strumpshaw Fen RSPB along with half of the county it seemed, we discovered that it was a family adventure day combined with the Swallowtail traffic combined for a busy reserve. We staked out the visitor centre painted lady, brimstone, large white and peacock but no swallowtail so we popped down to the bungalow garden and after a short wait we had two swallowtails showing well and a nice selection of bumblebees using the abundant flowers. A pair of pied wagtail were feeding one even had a Norfolk hawker for lunch, we decided to go for a wander to find a live one. And after a short walk into the meadow, avoiding the pheasant chicks that were all over the path we found a Norfolk hawker and a couple of southern hawkers. We looped back towards the visitor centre but nipped into the Fen hide a couple of marsh harriers but then we spotted an otter at the back of the pool which showed for a few mins fishing before heading off up the channel. We headed back south dropping in on the pool frogs but the weather was now much cooler and overcast and it was this lone frog occasionally calling that helped us find it and I found some brooklime to add to the speedwell tally . A quick look at the Rex Graham Military orchids and some nearby stone curlews before James dropped me back at work where we saw one of the resident little owls to finish off yet another cracking day.
An early start to pick James Hunter, where he was emptying his moth trap a lobster moth the highlight. We headed off southwards and ended up at the site for the fly orchid var ochroleuca, they were excellent although tricky to view, we had plenty of other orchids on site as well and James spotted an upside down common twaybalde. We visited Hen wood where the odd sword leaved helleborine was in good condition but most were going over but the birds nest, white helleborine and the hybrid all looking nice. The New Forest was our next stop and a couple of sites we visited has Lesser Butterfly, Early Marsh orchid var Ochrantha and loads of heath spotted, plenty of heath speedwell was nice to see as well as some of the commoner species. Birdwise we had stonechat and spotted flycatcher of note but not much else. The conditions were sub optimal for dragonflies but we visited Crockford bridge we disturbed a fox and did catch up with a couple of southern damselflies and a common frog. Onward into Dorset where we visited the Pitcher plants, the colony is growing and they were looking impressive.
With the weather now much warmer we tried a couple of sites for herps and we did quite well with grass snake, sand lizard, slow worm and smooth snake. Arne RSPB car park was very busy but clearly our target Sika deer were not bothered by the numbers of visitors as a herd of 20+ were close to the fence in the meadow. We headed for home dropping in briefly into Blandford Forum on the off chance of an otter but no luck and after a quick stop at the chipshop we called it a day, very happy with the selection of wildlife seen during the day.
I was at Lakenheath RSPB early a Black pheasant on the way in was nice and plenty of warblers were showing, I heaed to join the few people assembled for the calling little bittern. And here we waited for 4 hours before it gave a short flight. But during that time there was plenty to see, cuckoos and hobbies flying about and about half a dozen sightings of bitterns. A couple of roe deer the only mammals and as the coach tour arrived I headed off. I checkout a site for spring speedwell which was finally flowering and a few moths and butterflies were about in the rather pleasant weather, which at that point sudenly changed with short sharp showers. I made it to Rex Graham reserve open day where the military orchids were mostly not out, only a handful of good ones so the visit was shorter than expected. I took a short detour home via Warren Heath to see the rare breckland mugwort.
Moths this week were fairly thin on the ground, rustic shoulder knot, muslin moth, shuttle shaped dart, common swift, common pebble the pick.
I made a visit to Upwood Meadows to see the flower meadow and the green winged orchids in particular, and the meadow had a nice selection of flowers and hundreds of orchids and I located a nice white variety. On the way home I diverted to a wood to look for early purple orchids and found plenty, they were just starting to go over but I still had plenty in excellent condition. Some nice wood speedwell as well but little else
A garden pygmy shrew located by the cat gave a nice photo opportunity and a few moths this week common marble, brindled pug, garden carpet, red twin spot carpet, muslin moth, swallow prominent, pale prominent, brimstone, common swift, coronet
Being ill I was unable to try for the citril finch, I kept an eye out for an after work visit. With it going I took a trip after work into the Brecks to see if the birdrace showy firecrest would still be present and after a short while I located it and managed a couple of photos in poor light. On the way home I stopped for slender speedwell which I also spotted on the bird race.
The annual Stortford crew birdrace was upon once again, although none of us now lives in Stortford, Mike lives just outside. We had a new route to try starting in north Cambs about 1am. The strong wind would hamper us for most of the day and at our first stop it was almost impossible to hear the night singers so we headed for the King's Lynn area and had mixed success due to the conditions. Then to the brecks including some new sites again with mixed success and then up to the coast for the full tour. We finished near King's Lynn mopping up a few species missed earlier finishing at 9pm. The final total was 145 which considering the conditions was not too bad. Highlights were firecrest, spotted flycatcher, little stint, dotterel, ring ouzel, gropper and nightjar and we saw a few mammals as well bank vole, muntjac, grey squirrel, chinese water deer, grey and common seals.
After work I popped up into the Brecks where I finally located spring speedwell after a few previous attempts. Then I tried for nightingales several which showed quite nicely. A very few moths this week small waved umber, red twin spot carpet, brindled pug.
Fist thing we tried the ring billed gull again which turned up after a short wait so we heaed to Marazion for the pacific diver no sign but several , several birders were present and we all split up to search the bay. Jubilee pool produced some cracking purple sandpipers but still no sign so we headed to St Just for the american herring gull but thick mist turned us right back to diver searching. A report of it on the bird news services had us head to Long rock car park, we arrived in minutes but no sign of any birder or of the bird and a dozen or so birders turned up to search but no sign and we were all unsure of the validity of the report. St Just was still mist bound so we headed to Helsotn butno sign of any stick insects or anything of interest on the boating lake and as we headed off the american herring gull was reported so back to St Just and we located it distantly in a field in poor conditions. We tried some seawatching but things were quiet and we grabbed a pasty in Hayle before heading for home, stopping in on the bee x Fly orchid hybrids where two plants were now in flower.
Ja,es Hunter and I arrived at Marazion well before dawn and had a little sleep, at dawn we intended to look for the Pacific diver but we could not even see the sea due to the mist and drizzle. We headed for the Scillonian and a 3 hour sailing to St Mary's which I was not looking forward to. Conditions were poor and I felt terrible all trip but managed to see the common dolphins and a few manx shearwaters but dry land was most welcome. We headed to Lower Moors, Hugh Town was packed, it was the Gig racing world championships and hundreds of people were filling the streets. Only a dozen or so birders were Lower Moors bound and the message came out the great blue heron was still present as we were on the board walk. It showed very well and after having our fill we headed to Old Town beach for lunch which I shared with a song thrush and blackbird in rather pleasant weather. After a wander we revisited the heron for more great views, with time moving on we headed back to Hugh Town for a look at the Gig's before returning to the boat as the weather closed in. The return crossing was a little better and once back on terra firma we headed to Hayle to look for the ring billed gull but no sign, so chips and some sleep were in order.
An early start, James Hunter and I arrived at Shapwick Heath just after dawn, the handful of birders present had not seen our target - Hudsonian Godwit. We entertained ourselves with great white egrets, garganey, bittern, hobby and several warblers but moral wained and after almost 4 hours hope was fading until someone called the bird. It dropped in on its own and we has a few hours watching the Hudsonian Godwit we popped over to Greylake RSPB and quickly located the green winged teal but little else and we headed for home with a quick stop for bee x Fly orchid hybrids where one plant was flowering.
Moths this week water carpet, chocolate tip, mint moth, common quaker, clouded drab, early grey, muslin moth, hebrew character, powdered quaker, nut tree tussock
I spent a couple of hours in Hertfordshire looking for speedwells and it was quite productive with lots of common field speedwell and ivy leaved speedwell but my real target at the first site a roadside verge were grey field speedwell a tricky species but with the confirmatory seed pods present on a few plants the ID was clinched. I went to Ellenbrook Fields for my second target and also caught up with a nice wheatear and a cracking cuckoo. Finding my target of Thyme leaved speedwell was very tricky, I had not appreciated how small they were and did eventually found a small patch of them.
An evening amble round Fowlmere RSPB was extremly poor with very little actually seen a couple of muntjac some nice little grebes the pick, but a badger on the way home was worth the effort.
A couple hours at Lakenheath RSPB produced the first hobby and cuckoo of the year along with plenty of singing warblers a pair of kingfishers and a barn owl but little else, although a little owl on the way home was nice.
I returned to Fowlmere first thing to search again for the strange Ring Ouzel, I located the bird in the exact spot but it was a blackbird with partial leucism on its head and neck. A singing reed warbler was nice to hear but little else. So I headed to work where I had set some longworth traps and had a few visitors to see what we had caught. Despite the cool conditions overnight we had a few captures one field vole, one wood mouse one pygmy shrew and two harvest mice from 30 traps. After the small mammal photo shoot Ben and I headed to the Brecks for a little birding but not much of note came our way and we worked our way to the Ouse Washes where three ring ouzels were showing quite nicely. The final stop was Woodwalton Fen where little birdwise in the rather strong and cold wind, a gropper battled against the conditions and we even got a brief view. We headed off to find some deer and it was not long before we had a couple, one showing quite nicely but our efforts were interrupted by some people with little fieldcraft. We headed off and located another singing gropper this one quite showy but always behind some vegetation and made photography incredibly difficult.
Garden moths this week Waved umber, common quaker, hebrew character, small quaker, red chestnut, garden carpet, shoulder stripe, streamer, double striped and brindled pugs. I spent a couple of hours late evening at Fowlmere, the usual species were about the highlight was a nice muntjac. I met some birders who had seen a ring ouzel, they described it with white on its head and neck and it did not seem right so I went to investigate but no sign. A badger on the way home was a nice spot.
Taxi service for my wife was productive as a polecat crossed the road just outside the village, with regular road kills in the area they seem to be in good numbers locally.
My first dragonly of the year a large red damselfly at work to kick the season off.
Late afternoon I headed to Pymoor for the reported ring ouzel which was present in horse paddocks or rather some scrubland with horses present would be more accurate, and all the dead land made it a little elusive but it did show reasonable a few times. I had more luck with the local brown hares several of which showed rather well, and I had a couple of grey partridges and a black rabbit before heading home.
Another trip to Woodwalton, still no mink but some nice common lizards and grass snakes, the migrants had finally arrived with several blackcaps singing and singles of common redstart and swallow. The raptors produced a nice show displaying marsh harriers, kestrels and buzzards and the odd red kite.
Plenty of things happening in the garden, mallards visiting our tiny pond, along with common toads and great crested newts. A hedgehog has been visiting regularly and the moth catch has slowly been increasing with a few nice species.
I spent some more time at Woodwalton, some nice Chinese water deer and grass snakes, but the birding was very similar to Friday.
A rather good day at Woodwalton Fen, despite missing my target species, I was following up on lots of recent sightings of American Mink but they eluded me today, the sightings board was full of them! But it was the birds that took centre stage today. A lesser spotted woodpecker made a couple of appearances chased off by the greater spots. A bittern walked along the main path and raptors, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, kestrel, buzzard, red kite and three barn owls were all excellent. I did see some mammals, a couple of muntjac a lone red fox and several chinese water deer and all this before the screaming families arrived shortly after midday. The afternoon was largely unproductive due to the disturbance and the highlight was a large pike take a small fish.
After an illness that saw me hospitalised this was the first time I had made it out of the house and managed an hour or so for lunch in Thetford having to go that way for another reason. First was a quick look at the speedwells, ivy leaved, breckland and fingered in flower, then for some chips by the river, shared with the brown rats, jackdaws and woodpigeons, the tame heron was still about and quite photogenic in the sunshine.
A day in the Forest of Dean with Simon West. A local badger on the way was nice, I don't see them very often. We started early and made a hawfinch stakeout nice and early, they performed very nicely as we endured the unexpected early morning sub zero temperatures. We had a look round Cannop Ponds with some little grebes and mandarin's of note before meeting up with Ben and our quest for wild boar. A quick cup of tea set us up for the wander round the forest and it was not long before we found the group of piglets we were looking for, and they showed very well at close range for a good period of time. We had a general wander around spotting a few siskin before trying our luck with dippers. But two sites did not produce any dippers and as the rain started we called it a day and a top one at that.
White plume, march moth, common quaker and clouded drab trapped overnight.
I went to Lincolnshire to find some clear skies for the eclipse, I had no problem finding some and spent a few hours watching what was quite an impressive partial eclipse. I stopped in at Woodwalton Fen on the way back, not the ideal time of day for chinese water deer so I went to see the displaying marsh harriers, they were impressive with well over 10 seen. A couple of sparrowhawks and a buzzard were also enjoying the sunshine. As I walked out I bumped into a chinese water deer.
I had to go to Wiltshire so spent the day in the area, some touristy things then a visit to the Great Bustard project where 6 great bustards were spotted. Then a quick visit to Arne for sika but now a great deal else. I then went to Blandford Forum to look for the otters, but meeting the locals they informed me that the otters had not been seen for 11 days. The local kingfishers showed nicely before I headed off to my meeting.
Staying near Kirby Stephen, I explored some touristy sites before focussing on the town itself. A garden red squirrel was a bonus but I was after something more exotic. Fortunatly they are rather noisy and rather large so easy to locate. Blue and yellow macaws roamed the city streets, the locals largely ignoring them. I located a scarlet macaw and a selection of amazons as well, all rather surreal.
Heading North for the weekend, our only wildlife stop was at Gonalston for the long staying glossy ibis which suddenly appeared from nowhere and showed quite nicely in rather pleasant weather.
Hurting my back on Thursday almost made me stay in bed this morning, but I got up and made a return visit to Lakenheath Fen for another crack at the ermine stoat. Roe deer and muntjac on the approach road but I was not the first one on site, I took a quick look at the washland and the great white egret was where it was supposed to be and I wandered to the general area of the stoat sightings without seeing very much. The far viewpoint produced a nice bittern in flight but not much else. I spent a couple of hours wandering round getting excited but old white tree guards, but eventually one of them moved and the ermine showed mostly obscured by long grass but I got a couple of reasonable photos beore it disappeared. I headed for home via a quick look for butterflies at a local reserve and both brimstone and peacock.
The moth trap produced a Hebrew Character overnight.
With some nice weather I finished early and headed to Burwell Fen, the usual roe deer were about and a few brown hares the only bird of note was a ross goose probably an escapee with the greylag flock. At least 4 barn owls showed nicely in the light of the setting sun.
Farnborough John picked me up and we headed for a day at Lakenheath in what was very blustery conditions. Our mission was to follow up on reports of a stoat in ermine but the conditions which was keeping the wildlife out of sight did not help. We did have a couple of cranes at the far end of the reserve. The great white egret was not showing and raptor sightings were quite sparse and relatively few ducks around so by early afternoon we moved on to see the Mildenhall waxwing which was still present. Then we headed into the fens searching for the cranes but we could not locate them (they had flown off earlier due to a later message) but we found plenty of swans mostly whooper and four barn owls and just as the weather closed in a brown hare to round the day off, which was not too bad considering the conditions.
We were at Cheswick Sands at first light and began the search for the black scoter, and after a short while we located it with a small group of common scoter. The flock flew south and we seawached for a while waiting its return. This was productive with slavonian grebe, black throated, red throated and great northern divers lots of long tailed ducks and some snow buntings on the beach. A harbour porpoise was a nice addition and there was plenty of the commoner bird species to keep us entertained. We headed to a point further south the look for the scoter and bumped into a merlin perched up near the car park. The scoter were still distant so we called it a day and headed home.
We wandered the woods for a while looking for Capercallie but only got some siskin, we gave up and headed for the Findhorn Valley. We located a family of feral goats and several heards of red deer. Bird wise it was quiet but we has some lovely buzzards and just as we started the drive back a golden eagle. Our last stop of the day was at point where conditions were terrible and searching for sea duck was extreemly dificult. But after an hour or so we located the queen eider but the surf scoter did not give itself up.
Simon West picked me up and after the overnight drive we arrived in Aberdeen in rush hour and found the site, which was not quite as imagined. We negotiated the building site and made it to the river, goldeneye, dipper and grey wagtail were all present but no sign of the harlequin duck, then suddenly it was there swimming in the fast moving water, it then sat on the bank for a while before some more diving and feeding in the rapids. We had great views and eventually left it in peace and headed for the harbour mouth where we quickly found 15+ bottlenosed dolphins showing very nicely. We headed to Glenshee which was bitterly cold, the biting wind made it hard to even get out of the car. snow buntings were showing nicely and very photogenic. Scanning the tops we located several mountain hares and a single ptarmigan. Several herds of red deer were on the hills including some cracking stags. We made our way to Loch Garten with a ringtail hen harrier on the way. Loch Garten had some excellent crested tits and some of the commoner species coming to the feeders showing very well even during the heavy snow flurries. Chips in Aviemore before crashing for the night.
With plenty of snow falling and the hills in thick mist I aborted another session with Mountain hares and did some touristy things before heading over to Normanton for the American widgeon which had moved to Swillington Ings. I relocated there with the help of a local and after a bit of searching I located it sleeping on a distant island. I headed to Carsington water again via some touristy stops. The great northern diver was very distant probably due to the boat activity, and not much else of note apart from some nice ice cream before heading home.
I have not had much luck at the Parkgate high tide, but with one on the highest tides of the decade I was hopeful of a good day. I did some touristy stuff and arrived about 2 hours before high tide. A nice merlin was perched up within digiscoping range, the peregrine however was distant. I was talking to a local who was there the day before and the tide came very close to the wall and a fox had to swim to shore, had I missed the boat? The tide rose and the birds put on a great display a short eared owl of note. As the tide reached the wall the small mammals went into a frenzy escaping the water and the hungry birds, and finally I had the display I hoped for. Bank and field voles were everywhere swimming for land and were running past the crowd, but I spotted a close in water shrew and a harvest mouse and managed to put some people on them. But the highlight was a mole which met its end at the hands or rather beak of a grey Heron. I was happy with the haul and headed off to New Brighton where the laughing gull was showing well with a nice selection of waders on the marine lake pontoon. Through the tunnel and to Formby dunes, I forgot it was half term and the place was full of screaming kids and barking dogs - what joy! There was one benefit an ice cream van was present and I indulged. My fears were not justified and there were plenty of red squirrels despite the chaos all around. Last stop was to Crosby Marne Lake, where I easily located the long tailed duck before heading to Macclesfield for the night via an epic search for an open chip shop. What is wrong with chip shops up north I had to visit 4 before I found one that was open, most closed at 7pm!
A pre work trip to see some water voles, a passing local informed me of a water rail seen in the last few days and seconds later it put in appearance. With the lack of voles I headed to Swaffham Proir to see the great grey shrike which was rather distant, half a dozen roe deer were of note. I headed off to work and lucked in on a hunting ringtail hen harrier. A fox on the way home was nice to see as well, so it was just the middle of the day which was rather dull!
A few wood mice in the traps this morning, the low temperature traps seem to have worked well.
A Chestnut the first moth on my first session this year.
Before work I went for a quick look at the Mildenhall waxwing, the light was terrible but the waxwing showed off and on during my brief visit.
Despite the cold weather this week I have been doing a little bit of small mammal trapping, mostly indoors in my garage and in the stables and also in some barns on a local farm. This was in anticipation of Tim and Stephanie visit from Belgium. Very limited success early in the week the wood mouse escaped my grasps but a harvest mouse on the farm. By Friday that was all I had. I had been devising some insulated and heated longworths suitable for the cold weather trapping so set 20 of these longworths at my work and hoped for the best. I was nervous so was on site very early to check only three captures but success all three were alive and healthy. Tally was two field voles and a water shrew and my guests were happy with my meagre capture and got some photos. A snipe was a new bird for work but little else was about in the increasingly thick mist.
I was up early and at Dovestones before the crowds, the snow was not too bad and I headed up the track to the top. At the top conditions were significantly worse at least a foot of snow evrywhere and waist deep in places. The conditions would make my task of finding mountain hares quite tricky. The red grouse however were much easier to locate. I waded through the snow eventually locating some recent tracks, in fact too recent as the mountain hare exploded from in front of me. I tracked it for about 15 mins, my progress was slow but I located it under some rocks and it stayed put as I got my photos and as the dark clouds approached I headed to the track and wandered back to the car park for a cup of tea and then headed off in search of a chip shop in Holmfirth. Suitably refreshed I headed for home stopping off at Deeping lakes briefly to see the long eared owls a couple of white fronted geese and a grey squirrel of note.
Spending a couple of days up north visiting friends during the afternoon I visited Stoke to see the smew at Hanley park, but only a goosander was present, but the smew was down the road at westport lake and only located as the light was fading. A brown rat was the only mammal seen.
Plenty of mammal activity in the garage over the last few days so I had set some traps overnight, a wood mouse and a yellow necked mouse the occupants.
I spent the rather chilly afternoon at Burwell Fen but it was worth the effort. It started slowly with only a kingfisher and a dozen kestrels of note, but then it warmed up with a marsh harrier about 5 short eared owls, a barn owl and loads of roe deer. A brown hare also put in an appearance.
One of the weekends mating foxes was hunting in the same field at the edge of the village this morning, and three separate hares on my route to work. And in the church during a meeting this evening one of the resident soprano pipistrelles was active.
The edge of the village were two mating foxes with the camera in the boot I left them be. I got to Fowlmere for first light (when it eventually came) and had a pleasant wander between the snow flurries. Muntjac were abundant but not stopping for photos and I came across a fox stalking down a grey heron but was far to slow and it let me take a few photos before sloping off. Fallow deer were plentiful including some nice stags, but birdwise it was quiet as usual a bullfinch the highlight! I encountered a muntjac which was quite confiding, and I worked out why it had a fawn the other side of the path and was waiting for it, I backed off and they were reunited and wandered off into the woods.
A quiet weekend at home but I did catch up with one of the garden hedgehogs who has been out and about recently and a couple of glimpses of the fox as well.
Another Bank Vole occupied my attic longworths this morning and one in the garage.
Happy New Year - James Hunter and Simon West picked me up in the early hours and we headed north arriving on the East Yorkshire coast in time for a quick snooze before dawn. We joined the 150 or so other birders peering into a kale field. After a short while someone located the Little Bustard crouched down out of the oppressively cold wind. We watched it wander round feeding for a while but it was never going to be very active in the conditions but it had showed well at times and after about 3 hours we headed off. Our next stop was in West Yorkshire to a horrible scrap of land where after a short while the long staying blyths pipit was seen quite well, with rain and fatigue arriving we called it a day. My wife had a house mouse in one of the longworths in her stable which she kept for me.
A much quieter year then the previous with just 50 UK mammal species, but in that 50 were some execellent species, long finned pilot whales, humpbacked whale, greater mouse eared bat, pine marten and some cracking encounters with both stoat and weasel and an albino grey squirrel made it feel like a much bigger year.
In the Western sahara a cracking trip where I saw fennec fox one of my most wanted mammals along with loads of other quality species. I finally caught up with racoon dog in Poland, where I had a great opportunity to see spotted sousliks and in Italy saw marsican brown bear and Abruzzo chamois.
A year where I branched out into other wildlife areas (ladybirds, moths and some plants) which was very enjoyable and I will continue next year. Butterfly wise another poor year with 29 species, odonta only 18 species and nothing of real note. Another poor birding year with only 220 species seen. Some nice new species as well such as spectacled warbler, short toed eagle and great knot.