Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What happened to July?

Been on holiday, more on that in another post. Here's a quick update from the notebook on a few sightings from July.

Tuesday the 8th of July
A commute in and out of Norwich was enlivened by a Red Kite in the morning over the northern ring road around Fakenham, always amazing how even when driving their distinctive shape gives them away from a long way off. During a  lunchtime walk in the Rosary Cemetery it was nice to see a Muntjac and then on the way home a Common Buzzard over Sculthorpe.

Sunday 20th 
A family visit to Brancaster Beach. At the beach hut in the dunes we had great views of a resting Grayling, whilst offshore and then over the dunes 7 [but perhaps as many as 11] Arctic Skuas harassed the Sandwich Terns including one unfortunate bird that had 6 Arctic Skuas chasing it at one point. Also offshore was a single Gannet but no Little Terns.
Grayling, in the dunes behind Brancaster Beach

Noteworthy that day were screaming packs of 20 - 30 Swifts over Brancaster and Thornham and a more precise [and repeated count, but still I reckon an underestimate] 31 over the Lincoln / Boston Square are of Hunstanton

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Scorpion Fly's, autumn migrants and 72 million year old squid

A busy few weeks and although the weather has been mixed it has felt like summer with some wonderfully warm days. 

Avocet at Titchwell Marsh where they seem to be having a good breeding season.
 Saturday 21st June saw me in Holkham Park with our two small boys trying to show them Fallow Deer, this was achieved with a bit of effort as the deer seemed mostly to be lying up in the nettle beds presumably with their young. The sunshine brought out good numbers of Ringlet's and Meadow Brown butterflies here.

The following day Sunday 22nd we had a great encounter with a young Hedgehog in a Brancaster garden as it fed on the lawn in the afternoon and allowed the boys a great look at it before it disappeared into the bushes.

After work on Wednesday the 22nd I had to visit a friend who lives near North Elmham and who has two pairs of Little Owls nesting close to his house. I was lucky enough to see one of these birds on my way out.

Thursday 26th saw me heading west into Cambridgeshire to the Village of Over in the Ouse valley for a work meeting, at lunchtime I had brief views of one of my favourite British Dragonflies the Banded Demoiselle.

Saturday 28th saw me taking the boys around Ken Hill Wood in Snettisham and although this was a pretty quiet walk for wildlife in the cool air I did see some nice Ringlets sitting around waiting for the air to war up.

On Saturday afternoon I took our five year old for a walk at Titchwell, he had a lot of fun playing with my camera and asking questions about the war [sparked by some of the interpetation around the site]. Couldn't really do too much birding but nice to see a summer plumage Spotted Redshank and a Riff plus a couple of Spoonbill, highlights though were the good numbers of Avocet chicks and watching a female Marsh Harrier bringing in prey and do an aerial food pass with one of this years young. Also here was a very tatty Painted Lady.

An extremely tatty Painted Lady at Titchwell Marsh

Spotted Redshank in summer plumage at Titchwell Marsh, autumn passage underway?
Tuesday 1st July and a work meeting over coffee in a Snettisham garden was enlivened by the presence overhead of three thermalling Common Buzzards and two Sparrowhawks. Later a lunchtime  walk around Ken Hill Wood was good for butterflies with Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, White Admiral, Comma and what I am pretty certain was a Purple Hairstreak high up in some oaks.

White Admiral in slightly faded condition, Ken Hill Wood
Thursday 3rd another lunchtime walk in Ken hill woods and even more White Admirals and my first Grass Snake of the year, plus a Scorpion Fly one of the three species of Panorpa found in the UK.

Scorpion Fly, Panorpa sp, Ken Hill Wood

Saturday 5th July I saw my first Gatekeepers of the year in Brancaster and in the evening I had another great encounter with a young Hedgehog this time in the Sensory Garden in Hunstanton. Interesting that I have struggled to see Hedgehogs in recent years and this past few weeks I have seen two, I wonder if their numbers were hit by the run of heard winters we had ad are now starting to pickup.

Young Hedgehog, Hunsatnton Sensory Garden

Then today Sunday 6th an afternoon with the family on Hunstanton beach, very quiet for birds with a few Sandwich and Common Terns offshore and a single adult Kittiwake being the bird highlights. Whilst building piles of rocks with the kids we found some small fossils which I think are Neohibolites which were a type of Cephalopod from the Cretaceous about 72 million years ago, in other words very old and very tough calamari.

Fossil Neohibolites, Hunstanton beach

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Mid May to Mid June, Spring into Summer

Lots of catching up to do, as ever been really busy with work and family life and I've started swimming again as a way of managing my bad back, so time is even more precious than usual.

Friday 16th of May, a lunchtime walk around Ken Hill Wood was enlivened by a Cuckoo calling close by, disappointingly I didn't see any Grass Snakes despite the weather conditions being favourable.

Sunday 18 saw me on Holme Beach in the morning with the family, a lovely warm, blue sky sort of a day, offshore in the distance were three Gannets whilst closer were Little and Sandwich Terns and one or two Common Seals popped up to take a look at the beach. Mist exciting though was a brief but good view of a Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth that flew around my wife's hand before disappearing from view.
Common Whelk shells collected by no 1 son at Holme
In the afternoon we could hear Cuckoos calling around Brancaster and I saw a Muntjac with my 5 year old whilst teaching him to ride his bike. In the evening I spent an hour under the cliffs and had a flock of 35 Turnstones including a few with lovely white hoods.

Wednesday 21st saw me on a work visit to Fen Drayton Lakes, not a lot of time for spotting but it was good to see the Common Terns that breed here and four small Avocet chicks on an island in front of the hide.

Friday 23rd and I was at Minsmere for a work visit in between meetings and press calls for the launch of Springwatch and the Suffolk Nature Strategy I managed to see two or three Bitterns and heard several Nightingales 
Oystercatcher and Carrion Crow in dogfight over Minsmere scrape.

Friday 30th saw me walking round Courtyard Farm with my two small sons and enjoying a brief view of a Stoat on the road, a purring Turtle Dove and a brief view of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Saturday 31st and a family trip to Holkham where I saw a Spoonbill fly over Lady Anne's Drive

The following day Sunday 1st June Cuckoos were still calling in Brancaster and I saw a male Orangetip in the garden.

Tuesday 3rd back to Minsmere for work and a short s[ell early evening in Bittern Hide produced a couple of Hobby', three Bitterns, Cetti's Warbler, Bearded Tits and a Kingfisher. The drive home in the dark was notable for sightings of two Tawny Owls and a single Bran Owl.

Monday2nd I saw my first Sparrowhawk for a week or two flying over the car in the morning rush hour in Taverham.

Thursday 5th June, attracted by the sound of mobbing Blackbirds I left the path at Ken Hill Woods and a found a Tawny Owl being mobbed by a mixed passerine flock.

Roosting Tawny Owl, Ken Hill Wood

Friday 6th surely my last Orangetip of the year a male on the edge of Ken hill Wood, but still to see a Grass Snake there this year, very unusual. In the evening I had to drive to Oxford for a nephews birthday party and on the way saw one Red Kite, about ten Kestrels and half a dozen Buzzards plus three Dead on the Road Badgers. The children's party on the Sunday was held in Shotover Country Park and I had Kestrel, Buzzard and Red Kite overhead.

Red Kite, Shotover Country Park

8 year old's birthday party, Shotover Country Park
Wednesday 11th and I found a Lilly Beetle on the Lilly's in our back garden in Hunstanton.

Lilly Beetle, Hunstanton
Thursday 12th saw me back at Minsmere for another work visit on the last day of Springwatch, again I managed views of Hobby, Bittern, Marsh Harrier as well as some splendid flower spikes of Marsh Orchid by Island Mere Hide and some great views from the ramp to this hide of red bellied male Sticklebacks in the Shallows.

Friday 13th a brief afternoon leg stretch and one to one around Ken Hill was brought to life by a wood mouse and then a Stinkhorn covered in fly's and still no Grass snakes

Stinkhorn and fly's, Ken Hill Wood
Sunday 15th, a walk with the family down Gipsy Lane with good views of Spoonbill and Little Tern and later in a Brancaster garden the wonderfully iridescent Oedemera nobilis aka the False Oil Beetle.

Oedemera nobilis aka the False Oil Beetle, Brancaster

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

First half of May catch up

As family bereavement and a busy work schedule have limited the amount of time in the field, having said that I've still managed to bump into a few nice birds in the first half of May.

 Saturday 3rd of May
A visit to Titchwell Creek with the kids for picnic and play in the sand was a lovely family outing. On the walk down from the Brancaster Beach car park we had a Wheatear on the golf course practice green and a singing Reed Warbler. At the creek I saw my first Little Terns of the year and a couple of Sandwich Terns and was able to watch a couple of Marsh Harriers over Titchwell Marsh. When we arrived I counted 19 Common Seals hauled out on the saltmarsh and as the tide dropped these swam down the creek right past as much to the kids excitement. The only downside was that as I attempted to get a nice low angle shot of no2 son he threw sand all over my Panasonic Lumix which now needs to go to the menders.

Titchwell Creek

Tuesday 6th May
Saw my first Swifts of the day a couple of birds out of a meeting room window in Norwich and more over Hunstanton in the evening.


Wednesday 7th May 
Spent a day in the Ouse valley in Cambridgeshire and popped into Little Paxton Pits where I had great fun watching some Great Crested Newts in a pool by the Visitor Centre and hearing some Nightingales in the scrub. Moved on from here fro a brief visit to the RSPBs Ouse Fen reserve near Needingworth and enjoyed watching two Hobby's hunting over the new Marsh surrounded by tens of Swifts and listening to a booming bittern and calling Cuckoo, also had great views of a singing Garden Warbler here.

RSPB Ouse Fen
Saturday 10th May
A walk round Ken Hill Woods was enlivened by a singing Turtle Dove a rare sight and sound these days.

Monday 12th May
Driving through Sedgeford in the morning it was nice to see my first House Martins of the year. In the afternoon I took a brief diversion off the A140 in Titchwell and up the Choseley Road here I was treated to great scope views of a 'trip' of ten Dotterels feeding in a roadside field. A Corn Bunting singing just up the road from the Dotterel was a nice find as they have been scarce around Choseley this year.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Spring gathers pace

April has been a really busy month with nights away for work, a short family holiday and a family bereavement. Below is a bit of a wrap up of some bird and butterfly sightings this month. I've posted two short separate blogs about visits to the Peak District and Bempton Cliffs.

Friday 4th April, Snettisham
A work visit in between discussing the storm damage it was nice to see a male Red Breasted Merganser, a Black Brant and three Mediterranean Gulls. At the Coastal Park I heard my first Willow Warbler of the year.

Monday 7th April
On the way home from Norwich I saw my first Swallow of the Spring whilst waiting for the traffic lights at Heacham to change colour.

Wednesday 9th April
A sunny lunchtime walk in the Rosary Cemetery in Norwich gave me nice views of my fist Orangetip Butterflies of the year plus Holly Blue and Small Tortoiseshell and singing Blackcap and Chiff Chaff.

Rosary Chiff Chaff

Rosary Primroses

Friday 11th April
Durng a work visit to York University it was nice to see a male Goosander on the University lake and a early Swallow hunting for food. Two Great Crested Grebe nests close to the edge of the lake were a real treat.
York Uni Great Crested Grebes

Saturday 18th April
I took no 1 son for short walk down the West Bank path at Titchwell, from Parrinder Hide we saw Little Ringed Plover and Yellow Wagtail and elsewhere we heard Cetti's and Sedge Warblers. A kindly old lady offered to lend my 5 year old her bird book so that he could find out what the Black and White bird was only to be told he knew that it was an Avocet.
Titchwell Avocet

Monday 21st
A walk with the kids around Wharton's Belt at Courtyard Farm was great for lots of early Spring Butterflies including some wonderfully fresh looking Speckled Woods and Peacocks and more Green Hairstreaks than I can ever remember seeing here, in the short time I had with them I saw at least six insects quite easily.
Green Hairstreak

Wednesday 23rd April

A walk with no2 son along the top of the Dunes at Holme NWT this morning was wonderful with seen and / or heard: Cuckoo, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiff Chaff, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Whimbrel, Sandwich tern and 8 Wheatears.

A brief visit to the Peak District

River Manifold at Ilam Hall

Monday 14 to Friday 18 April

Just back from a short family get together in the Peak District. We stayed just to the south of the National Park close the north shore of Carsington Water at Knockerdown Cottages. This was first and foremost a chance for the family to get together and for the kids to play with their cousins, but I did managed a couple of short early morning walks.

Knockerdown Cottages were a great place to have a reunion with a small on site swimming pool, kids playground etc, the one major drawback being that our double bed was perhaps the most uncomfortable bed I have ever had the misfortune to have to try and seep on.

Birds seen included god numbers of Buzzards and the odd Sparrowhawk, Grey Wagtail and Dipper on the River Manifold at Ilam Hall. But the best birding was along the lane that ran from our cottage towards Carsington Water, highlights of two 30 - 40 minute early morning walks along this were: Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Willow Tit, Willow Warbler, and Blackcap, Really hadn't expected Willow Tit, I see a lot of Marsh Tits in Norfolk and these were noticeably different to look at and listen too.

Willow Tit near Carsington Water

Both pictures taken with the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 and the Willow Tot has been heavily cropped.

An afternoon at Bempton Cliffs

Gannet at Bempton

Saturday 12 April

I managed to grab a few hours at Bempton during a work visit to York this weekend/ Always a great place o visit in the Spring with an assault on the sense from the noise of the seabirds especially the Kittiwakes, the fishy smell of the seabird colony and of course the great views of Gannets.

What I was also reminded of on this visit was that Bempton also has a great supporting cast of land birds including a colony of tree sparrows nesting on and around the Visitor Centre, Corn Buntings in the cliff top fields and Peregrines on the cliffs. 

During our visit we saw all of the breeding seabirds: Gannets, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls, Shags, Guillemot's, Razorbills, Puffin's, as well as Jackdaw's, Rock Dove's and Peregrines. We also had great views of Tree Sparrow's and Corn Bunting's. Worth noting that there are not that many Puffins nesting here and you can find yourself working quite hard to see them

Another Gannet at Bempton

A shame about the lack of a decent cafe with the food offer restricted to some long life cakes and packets of crisps served by a rather dour Yorkshire man, still I believes the RSPB have received a grant from HLF to extend and improve the Visitor Centre so hopefully the catering will improve.

Peregrine and Herring Gull having an altercation at Bempton