Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Patch

Yesterday was my first day back on patch after a nice trip to Portland (you can find the post by clicking on "Portland"). We walked down to Balls Pond Farm to see if we could find any passing Wrynecks as there had been some turning up all around the place. We had no luck but instead we managed to encounter 3 WHINCHAT a patch mega. These were the first I ha ever seen in Kings Langley so me and my brother were thrilled. Today I went back again in search of Wryneck and amazingly the 3 Whinchat were still present! This time along with a Clouded Yellow. The patch has definately livened up, I wonder what will be next?

Friday, 30 August 2013

Portland Bird Observatory (25-29/08/13)

It was nearing the end of my very long and interesting summer holidays and like last year I headed down to Portland for a few days to see if I would have the luck of finding myself something interesting. My brother accompanied me down and we stayed together in a room in the bird observatory. This meant it wasn't a relaxed holiday destination but thorough birding from 6 in the morning to 8 in the evening. Well that was what Samuel did I would usually role out of bed a bit later. The trip did not only consist of birding but also photography. On the first day we arrived on the bus around 1 o'clock in the afternoon and headed straight down to the bill for a seawatch with all our luggage, after a few minutes of looking through the Gannets, Common Scoters and Fulmars we had our first Shearwater which was quickly lost but soon after we had one very close in Samuel put me on it and I instantly recognized it as a BALEARIC SHEARWATER it flew sporadically up and down making its way east after this we didn't linger for much longer and headed off to the Obs with about three Balearic Shearwaters under our belt. Dropping our luggage off and saying hello didn't take long and we were out looking for migrants again very quickly. The walk around the East Cliff which turned up over 22 Wheatears. Along with the Wheatears we had Rock Pipits, Meadow Pipits, Yellow Wagtials and a good variety of butterflies including some Clouded Yellows and my first Chalkhill Blue.

Female Wheatear

The second day came quickly and Portland had already had its first scarce bird of the autumn so we had high hopes. I walked around separate to my brother because I was interested in photographing the Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails. This proved to be more of a challenge than I had expected but my new camo gear came in very handy and I had all the shots I needed. Although I saw over 20+ Wheatears I only managed to spot one male which was not very obliging when it came to photography.

Male Wheatear

As well as the Wheatears I had Yellow Wagtails and the occasional Tree Pipits flying over throughout the day. I arrived back happy with the photos I had got, ready to sit down and have a proper look at them. However, when I arrived at the Obs I saw a man running towards me who thought I was a local and began to ask about different places on the Island I asked him why he wanted to know and exclaimed that there was an Ortolan Bunting. I tried to give him the best directions I could and we headed straight off. We arrived at the place to find that the finder had left and we were left with no idea where it could be. Over the next few days, it was seen a few more times flying around with the Linnets and I tried my best to look for it but I had no luck. I was searching around the fields for the Ortolan and decided to check for more info on the bunting and after the information eventually loaded, I saw "Wryneck, Isle of Portland"! I quickly checked the news and found out it was at the Obs Quarry, where I was about to check before I ran off after the bunting. By this time, Samuel had arrived and we ran off together to the Wryneck. However, there was no need because we stayed around waiting for it for over three hours. We left the place to go and have dinner, which after all the running was a good idea. We finished our meals quickly and tried for the Wryneck again. This time we were a lot more lucky we and had great scope views of the WRYNECK!


we stayed around and observed its habits, which was good fun and watched it until some young children ran into the quarry and flushed it.

Tuesday was a lot less stressful and we made a walk around top fields. It rewarded us with only 5+ Wheatears but instead Yellow Wagtail numbers a lot higher than before with one flock being at least 18 strong. We also had Tree Pipits over head and a good number of Clouded Yellows. But the best didn't come until Samuel found a Pied Flycatcher in one of the fields we set the scope up to have a look at it and I quickly found another 2 female Redstarts to join and a Spotted Flycatcher. I also saw what I expect was a second Pied Fly but Samuel was doubtful. So far so good, we carried on and arrived at the east side of Portland where we went inside one of the quarries to see if anything interesting was about. A Little Owl and another Redstart were the highlights along with some sort of Acro warbler which I never got a look at. Also a 1cy Yellow-legged Gull was a nice surprise on the way back to the Obs and 3 more Balearics from the Obs. We then met up with Alex Berryman whose photographic work I have always admired and looked around the top fields again but only had a Redstart and a very showy Linnet.


The next day I headed back to photograph the Linnet and found it to be a lot more flighty than the day before but performed well enough to get some decent shots.


I then headed on and found 3 juv. Stonechats along with some adults. A Whinchat was also a nice photographic subject but flew away before I had any proper pictures.

Male Wheatear


Back at the Obs I was lucky to see a Pied Flycatcher in the hand which was very nice.

Pied Flycatcher

Then another report of the Ortolan pushed me out to the top fields with no reward so headed back quite quickly to the obs where I again met up with Alex to go and look see some Hummingbird Hawkmoths a moth I have wanted to catch up with for a while. I had very short views of what I expect was more than one flying around the place but headed back when the light was beginning to fade. On the way back we stopped quickly off at the Obs Quarry and had a very loud Nightingale appear twice. That night we had a nice selection of waders fly over including Dunlin amongst a Starling flock, Green Sandpiper and a Ringed Plover.

Our last day at the obs started nicely with myself being able to partake in the ringing of two Willow Warbler one which I was allowed to hold. Then when my brother arrived back I had a quick seawatch with his scope which ended nicely with a pod of about 25+ Bottlenose Dolphins which I think are my first. I then headed off with Alex to the Hummingbird Hawkmoth place where after a while we had one feeding nicely unfortunately this was to much for the auto focus of my camera and it rather took pictures of the background rather than the actual moth.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

After the disaster we headed back and packed our bags and left on the bus to go back home.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Mega Patch (Raven, Wheatear and Clouded Yellow!!!)

This week has definitely been my best ever week on patch. 2 days ago me and my brother as usual had a walk around our local patch in Kings Langley. Well nothing out of the ordinary was seen until we came out of Scatterdell's Woods. We had decided to look around a different part of the patch and after a short look around my brother spotted a Buzzard like bird. He didn't mention it until it was almost flying over our heads and he had made sure of his ID. It glided over use only taking a few wing beats and we could tell the diamond shaped tail, the thick large shaggy neck and its giant beak which told s instantly it was a RAVEN. A patch first. Today after starting to make some new bird boxs for next years breeding season we took a break and went indoors but our break was cut short when my brother alerted me that there were 5+ Clouded Yellow butterflies down Barnes Lane, obviously we got our equipment ready as quickly as possible and ran out the door in the direction of the butterfly. On the way we stopped and had a look over the field not expecting much but in hope of a Yellow Wagtail. We looked over the Pied Wagtail flock and there right infront of us was my first self found patch female WHEATEAR. Anywhere else this bird would be over looked but on our patch it is very rare. But we were still interested in the butterfly so we headed on at a fast jogging speed. Soon we had arrived but the clouds had taken over the skies and if the were there they obviously didn't want to fly. We quickly gave up on that promising to come back tomorrow when it was sunny. On the way back we saw a spectacle of nature in the form of a Sparrowhawk catching a Juv. Green Woodpecker a very dramatic scene but we were still very interested in the butterflies and when the sun came out we headed straight over. When I entered the field I saw a orangy yellow butterfly flying around and sure enough it was another patch first but this time a CLOUDED YELLOW.

Clouded Yellow

Find the butterfly

when the sun was covered by the clouds it rested down on a piece of grass and stayed there till we left. I'm going to head back there tomorrow to see if I can get some better photos in the sun.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Last birding day in Germany

Germany is packed with birds which do not occur in Britain which is perfect for something new. We had researched into birds and the best one seemed to be Rock Bunting. We checked the best places for them and headed there the next day. We searched around the place but unfortunately we saw no Rock Bunting. But we did see lots of Black Redstarts and 2 HONEY BUZZARDS.

Honey Buzzard

But we also saw a few Wall Browns2 Brown Hairstreaks and a lot of Jersey Tigers.

Wall Brown

Photographic failure

Abroad many of the birds which are endangered in Britain are quite common especially Red-backed Shrikes. This is why me and my brother are lucky enough to have a local Red-backed Shrike colony in Germany. It took this opportunity to take some pictures of Red-backed Shrikes which I wouldn't be able to in England. Well I couldn't have had a worse idea. I headed to the sight and after a 3 minute cycle ride I was setting up my camera equipment and getting to a well hidden spot good for photographing the Shrikes. I didn't have to wait long before a Juv. Red-backed Shrike popped up on the top of the hedge and I took a few pictures.

Juv. Red-backed Shrike

Then when I was reviewing my pictures I felt a small bite on my hand I looked at it and it was some kind of ant. I immediately stood up and saw hundreds of them walking all over me. I had completely forgotten about the Shrikes and began to try and get them off but the ants began to bite me all over and it was starting to hurt so I packed my stuff away quickly and ran back to my bike. Even on the cycle ride home I was being bitten by ants the photo was definitely not worth the bites.

To Buchholz and back again

The next day we were more lucky with birds. Again my brother had got up earlier and already explored the woodland. I then tagged along on his second part of the walk which was to Buchholz. The road on which you get to Buchholz is surrounded by woodland so woodland species are not uncommon. On the way on that day we bumped into some Firecrests. We decided to stay in the place in hope of some more interesting species, and our wait payed off we saw a small group of Crested Tits which flitted around above our heads. We were proving to be quite lucky in this spot so we stayed there for a little longer and after a short wait we heard a Willow Tit call in the woods, we tried to track it down but only saw it for a few seconds before it flew off. Whilst we waited for the Willow Tit to show again we saw another two which was enough for us so we moved on. On the farmland we managed to almost instantly find the resident pair of Red-backed Shrikes. No male was to be seen but two females which was odd but they showed no sign of vermiculation which a Juvenile bird would. Whilst I was taking a look at the Shrikes my brother spotted some kind of dove on the telephone wires and asked me to have a look at it. I almost instantly recognised it as a Turtle Dove with its red eye, its white,blue and black collar and its reddy brown back. Unfortunately whilst my brother and I were celebrating and writing the sighting down in our books it it flew off and we didn't know where it had gone. But all in all a successful days birding.
to read my last post on going to the altenburghutte click here.

Off to the Hütte

Unlike my brother, I decided to have a nice lay in, but it wasn't long before I too was having to role out of bed after being woken by his alarm. When he had got back from his first walk about the place I was ready to go so Samuel was kind enough to go out again. Bird wise it was dull with only a possible Spotted Flycatcher and a possible Black Kite which had a very shallow forked tail but other wise to me was unrecognizable due to it only being a silhouette. But on the Butterfly side of things we had a great day. We started off with a Map Butterfly which was very shy when it came to photos.

Map Butterfly

We also had some Clouded Yellow Butterflies which were very reluctant to land anywhere so I gave up on trying to photograph one. We also had Painted Lady which showed nicely. But it was when we got to the edge of the woods when we began to see the real good Butterflies. It started with a Silver-washed Fritillary which kept on growing in number until we had a total of 3. I then spotted a butterfly which was flying away from us at first in flight it looked like a gatekeeper but when it landed and we were able to inspect it turned out to be a Fritillary. We first took our ID photos and then when we had IDed it as a QUEEN OF SPAIN FRITILLARY one that I had never before seen we went into proper photography mode.

Queen of Spain Fritillary

Next on the list was a Mallow Skipper a butterfly which does not occur in the UK. I was more interested in the Fritillaries so I left my brother to photograph the skipper whilst I ran around after the other butterflies.

Queen of Spain Fritillary

Later on when we eventually got to the Altenburghütte we saw a few Purple hairstreaks due to the hütte being so high we were at the top of the oak trees so a perfect opportunity to photograph the Hairstreak.

Purple Hairstreak

To read my last post about my trip through France click here.

Going onto the continent

Well it was that time of year again when the Butterflies come out and all the schools are on holiday and in this time free, people wish to go on holiday to exotic places or places they haven't explored before. In my case the holiday was to Germany. Yep some where I have been probably over 39 times and we all know how exotic it is there. Well again on the trip to Germany my brother and I were lucky and had a chance to stop off on the way. Our destination, Oye Plage near Calais. We had visited this reserve once and had experienced a wonderful amount of Kentish Plovers, but this time we decided to go round a different way around the shooting pools. Although these pools are specifically made or shooting they can at certain times of the year be very bountiful in birds but we choose just the wrong time to go exactly when they were beginning to start shooting so we only saw a few Common Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, some Whimbrel and a Snipe. We decided after this to head on to the beach in hope we may see some more Kentish Plovers again but it wasn't to be so we headed back to the car luckily we met a local on the way who told us about a hide which was slightly hidden away. We took a short walk to the hide where we were greeted with a run down wooden hide. We went inside and our day immediately improved. We had a short scan through the scope and I found myself a small amount of Avocets and shortly after a very blurred Spoonbill. After carrying on the scan I found out there were in fact a total of 12 Spoonbill. On the butterfly side of things we were lucky and got a large variety including: Painted Lady, GraylingClouded Yellow, Speckeled Wood, Essex Skipper and Red Admiral. And in the end the day turned out to be successful. P.S I am very sorry about the lack of photos recently.

Completing the Dowitchers (03/08/13)

On the 3rd me and Samuel were eventually at home and had a free weekend. This left us to the choice to be able to go twitch something for the first time in a long time. Chris was interested to go see the Dowitcher down at Pennington Marshes and so were we. When the Saturday eventually came we left at around 5:30am from Kings Langley. It didn’t take us long before we were parked up and walking to pool. On the way we did a little birding trying to find something for ourselves like a Wood Sandpiper. We were fruitless in our efforts and arrived at the pool when the largest congregation of twitchers had gathered. Then after a little looking we were rewarded with a stunning Adult Long-billed Dowitcher. After looking at the bird for a while we found the Curlew Sandpipers which was a boggy bird for me and then headed back to find the Little Stint but were rewarded with only some Dunlin and Greenshank. After a while we gave up on the search and headed back to the dowitcher when we arrived we were informed that it hadn’t been seen in a while so we carried on to do some more general this time we managed to see a Sanderling along with some Turnstone. Then on the way back to the car we stopped off at the Dowitcher spot one last time to see it, but it still had not been seen so we stuck around and hoped that we would be the ones to find it. We gave up after a short while and carried on but when we were half way around the pool Samuel had fond the Dowitcher and called over the other twitchers, the problem had been that we had been looking from a different angle so it had been hidden from us but from where we were looking we had some nice scope views. Other noteable species were Ringed and Little Ringed Plover. We then moved on to Acres Down in hope of some Woodland species after a nice walk through the woods we came out with: Common Redstart, Crossbill, Treecreeper and a possible tree pipit.