Sunday, 22 May 2016

Revision Break

My first proper A2 exam is on the 16th of June, so it's come to the point now, that I am in full revision mode. It's probably not even worth explaining that this obviously takes a toll on ones spirits and so I find it important to go out and relax occasionally. In this case it was another twitch, this time to Vange Marsh, Essex. Luckily for me, there is a station reasonably close to the reserve. So I was on the train from Kings Langley to Euston at 5:45am and after a few changes here and there, I was at Pitsea in Essex by 7:45. Following a short walk, I found myself on the Reserve where I had already been only just over half a year ago to see a Wilson's Phalarope.

My target species for the day were Black-winged Stilt and Red-footed Falcon. My initial efforts were fruitless and neither species were playing ball, which led me to do some general birding. A few warblers and the common water loving birds were to be seen, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then at 8:10am on the west side of the reserve, I noticed an interesting raptor perched up in a hedge in the cow fields adjacent to the reserve.The bird had it's back to me, but I noted a scaled mantle and back and an orange cap. I had already come to a reasonable conclusion of what the bird was, but it was when it dropped from the branch and gave a brief flight view that I clinched the ID, it was my first ever Red-footed Falcon! Little did I know this would be my only view of the bird for the whole day, and know it seems it's not even being reported on RBA or BirdGuides any more! Oh well.

In an attempt to refind the Falcon, I headed around the reserve in hope I would find it perched in the bushes in the cow fields as I had first seen it. On the way around, a wader on the marsh stood out to me and as soon as I raised my bins, I instantly identified it as a Black-winged Stilt, my other target species! The bird gave good views for the next half an hour before I moved on to try and refind the Falcon which was the main attraction of the day.

Black-winged Stilt

I spent the next 4 hours wondering around the fields and the reserve searching for the Falcon, but unfortunately it evaded my radar. Instead, I did see and hear 2 Cuckoos, which was an added bonus. I still headed home with a broad smile as I had seen both target species for the day.

Moth trapping in the garden has been slow recently and I haven't had much time to put out the trap, but last night made up for it, as I caught my first ever Hawkmoth for the garden!!! The Lime Hawkmoth was an obvious highlight, but I also enjoyed the: Scalloped Oak, White Ermine, Brimstone Moth, Pale Tussock, Nut-tree Tussock, Angle Shade and Waved Umber.

Lime Hawkmoth

Monday, 16 May 2016

Great Spotted Cuckoo, Portland

Great Spotted Cuckoo was without a doubt the bird at the top of my want to see list. Luckily, last weekend my dream came true after a Juv. was found on Portland!

Paul, Ian and I, organized the trip the day before hand, as we were all keen to see it. We started the day shortly before 6 o'clock, and arrived on Portland by 9. The Cuckoo was still there and was hidden away in the bushes barely visible. 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Redstart provided entertainment up until the Cuckoo decided to move and feed just a few metres away where it gave stonking views up until a dog walker flushed it. The bird flew off with the photographers chasing after it and the bird was eventually forced into the school.

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Predicting that any further views would be challenging, we moved swiftly on to the Red-rumped Swallow which had just been found at Lodmoor. After some searching we eventually found it, along with a supporting cast of Bearded Tit, Knot and a mint looking Grey Plover.

Red-rumped Swallow

We then headed back onto to Portland where we spent a few hours just doing some general birding and seawatching, more Spotted Flycatchers and a Short-eared Owl being the pick of the bunch.

On the way home we stopped briefly in the New Forest and were able to locate Tree Pipit, Cuckoo, Wood Warbler, Crossbill and Firecrest. All in all an absolutely tremendous day!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Local produce

Well, here we are again. One year later and I'm having to revise for my exams. I guess this is what my entire school education has been leading me to, before I leave and eventually have to take full responsibility for my life.

I'm trying to spend as much of my time revising, but "all work and no play" becomes very depressing, very quickly. So I've been out most Sundays, ringing in the morning and checking the Tring Reservoirs by day.

However, on Bank Holiday Monday a Roseate Tern was found on Wilstone Reservoir, and I was happy to be able to break up my revision for a little bit and see the Tern. When I arrived there was a reasonable crowed of twitchers, particularly county recorders, since this bird and the one seen last year on Amwell were the first to be seen in Hertfordshire for 120 years!

The Roseate Tern was sat on the concrete edge of the res, looking absolutely knackered. Both its wings were drooped and lain down on the ground.

The bird barely moved for the first half an hour I was there, and others explained to me how it had been attacked by a Black-headed Gull and had not resisted at all. Obviously this bird was not in a good state, and therefore care was called. Luckily, it was at this point that a Pied Wagtail decided to investigate the bird, this triggered the Tern fly out into the Reservoir and begin to feed. A remarkable recovery we all assumed. I watched it fish for the next half an hour before I had to get back home. A truly remarkable day.

Unfortunately, not all stories have a happy ending; the bird was seen the next day again lain down on the side of the Reservoir, it was then taken into care where it sadly died.

This morning, after weeks of waiting in agony, I eventually found myself with the time to visit a local Lesser Spotted Woodpecker sight. Although the sight has been quite widely broadcasted I won't name it for sole reason, that technically it shouldn't be public information.

I left at 5:30 am and after a brief cycle ride I was there by 6:00 am. As I was locking my bike up I instantly picked up a drumming sound, it was immediately obvious to me it was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I had been there for no longer than a minute and I had already heard it! I scrambled through my bag desperately to try and find my binoculars, but I only managed to get a brief glimpse of it, as it flew off. I spent the follow two hours or so, tracking it down and following it on its circuit. At points the bird showed extremely well drumming for almost the entire time except for small intervals when it fed on something or was calling. It was an amazing experience to have a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker almost completely to myself. Content with the views I had got, I pressed on home and was in school on time for my first lesson. All in all an absolutely spectacular morning!