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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Farewell to Adrian

Yesterday, I had several rather surreal experiences. Surreal experience no.1; as I was driving north to Martham, I met Adrian B's funeral cortege (I had hoped to attend but I was running an event at Martham Library that afternoon so very sadly I couldn't attend) as it drove along first Southtown road, and then the Haven Bridge at Great Yarmouth I followed at a discreet distance and was able hold the traffic back as was in the other lane as the hearse travelled over the Haven bridge, I was therefore able, rather unexpectedly, to say my final farewells to a great bloke and ace bird finder of the Horsey, Waxham, Winterton & Hickling area. East Norfolk and Great Yarmouth will be a poorer place without Adrian's cheerful company and excellent bird finding skills.
Surreal experience no.2; whilst finishing the event at Martham Library, a female Brown Hawker Dragonfly got into the Library and spent around 10 minutes flying mainly around the lights on the ceiling.
Having switched off all the lights we eventually were able to usher the Dragonfly outside where it flew away to freedom.
Garden news; there has been evidently an invasion of Silver Y moths in the last week, on Thursday night I counted 17 in the garden, around 12 were in the garden last night plus a very, very obliging  Magpie moth that was on Lavender flowers and then flew to the underside of some Bay leaves which I was able to turn right over and hold in one hand whilst holding the camera in the other and take a few pics of it! A Silver Y moth one even flew into the kitchen briefly this afternoon.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Return of the Migrants

On Saturday 24th I saw the first of the returning Migrant Hawkers with one seen by the boardwalk at Corton sewage works pool and one in the garden. I checked them carefully out just in cast they were the very rare Southern Migrant Hawkers seen this weekend in Essex & Kent but sadly I wasn't able to add to that illustrious list.
Gatekeepers, Red Admiral & Large White, a Migrant Hawker plus 4 Silver Y moths were seen in the garden on the Sunday 25th. Sadly, the return of something else much less welcome, a double migraine put paid to the rest of the weekend.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Brown Hawker again

The Brown Hawker flew around the garden briefly at 6.10am this evening. Always nice to see.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Garden delights again!

I was absolutely delighted to find a Great Diving Beetle 30 minutes ago (5.50pm) perched high up on a Water soldier spike in the garden wildlife pond, when I arrived home a Chiff- Chaff was calling its "hwet" call regularly from within the garden too. 
I managed to get a few shots in very poor light of the Beetle, before the heavens opened and we had a downpour of rain.
A brief interlude between the heavy showers revealed another brief sighting at 6pm of the excellent Hummingbird Hawk Moth that again briefly visited the purple flowers of Hemp Agrimony outside the kitchen window and then it flew up and fed briefly from the Honeysuckle flower before zooming off. Jenny told me that the Brown Hawker "was buzzing around the garden again" today too.
** UPDATE ** 7.35pm, The Hummingbird Hawk moth visited again briefly at 7.10pm (purple flowers) and 7.20- 7.23pm The Lavender (both bushes and then the Hemp Agrimony purple flowers) before zooming off west once again.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Breydon Blues again!

A White- rumped Sandpiper was seen on the estuary from the South wall, it was then moving up to the lumps. we arrived and the water was very nearly up to High tide, all the small waders were roosting by the edge of the Lumps out of view. 237 Avocets were seen plus 2 Greenshank and around 50 small waders took to flight they all apeared to be Dunlin not a White- rump in sight.
My first dip in ages, where else but Breydon!
An excellent Slow worm was seen and photographed at the usual site later on in the afternoon. 
Back in the garden, a Small Tortoiseshell was seen on the Buddlea plus 2 Gatekeepers seen and an as yet unidentified female Damselfly on Hebe.

Dungeness goodies

On Saturday 17th July, I took a full car load of birders (John H, Andrew E & Rob W) down to Dungeness in Kent, on a quest for a White- tailed Plover. We left at 6am and 3 and a half hours later we were drawing into the car park by the ARC pits at Dungeness. Very much an iconic location famed for its migrants and rarities, it is dominated by the imposing view of the Nuclear Power station on the horizon and the area is composed of a network of habitats of pools, lakes, marshes and shingle and scrub.
We walked down to the screen overlooking a lake with several long islands dominated by swathes of Purple Loosestrithe. We eventually saw the excellent White- tailed Plover running at the back of an island occasionally showing amongst the purple plants. It showed particularly well at the left hand point where its pale mousey- brown plumage with striking long yellow legs could clearly be seen. Two Little Egrets were seen near by.
Meanwhile to the extreme right of the hide/ screen, 2 Green Sandpipers showed well close to the hide at the edge of an island. One even falling asleep here.
walking down to the left hand edge of the lake, we picked up the White- tailed plover perched again on the left hand edge of the island viewed behind some tall Purple Loosestrithe which swayed around in the strong wind. As it stood here it stretched out its wing and the white tail could be clearly seen.
Back at the screen, the White- tailed Plover stood on one leg and dozed off, whilst to the right of it, a female Garganey flew in, showing a large white patch at the base of her bill.
A walk around to a lake marshy area called Denge marsh, revealed at first, a flying Grey Heron and then a flying Bittern flying left. Slightly later, an excellent adult Purple Heron flew into distant reeds viewable in front of a barn structure, which was apparently the nesting area (the reeds not the barn structure!) Just to the left of here, a distant Great White Egret flew even further back before settling in a reedy area.
After an hour's delay waiting to get through the Dartford Tunnel, we eventually arrived at Minsmere Island Mere at 7pm and the excellent female Ferruginous Duck was soon  seen, the white undertail coverts prominent, she was swimming around an island with 2 Cormorants. It then swam back to the rear right hand end of the Mere.
Meanwhile a female Marsh Harrier perched on a bush to the left. whilst a male Sparrowhawk perched on a post sticking out of the water before flying left.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

One Good turn...

A few days ago I had agreed to help out Chris & Alison A in marshalling the twitchers onto site to see the River Warbler on their land. It was the least I could do to repay them for their generosity in allowing me and many others to see it earlier in the week. So I wearily surfaced at 3am this morning and picking up Rob W at 4.10am and half an hour later, we were on site. We met Andrew, Lee W & Craig F & Dick F gave us the run down on what we had to do, but we had 20 minutes to enjoy the bird, which showed really well singing almost constantly for 3 hours and it showed for most of the time at the top of  the reeds sometimes in full view. 
I managed to run off a few shots and then took it in turns to collect the money, put the twitchers onto the bird and direct car parking. This was interspersed with regular breaks watching the bird, that continued to show very well mostly singing from the tops of the reeds.
I noticed the slight supercilia, the pink legs, the very thick dark tail and crucially I could see the marked undertail coverts. 
We also saw a Barn Owl and Marsh Harrier flying past.

On our way across a country lane near Aldeby, a Hare scampered across the road and briefly showed very well at the side of the field close to the road.
We then went down to Theberton Woods, where we immediately saw a White Admiral fly by.
I then observed a Southern Hawker fly around an Oak and then perched up in the tree.
We spotted an excellent male Purple Emperor that flew around the tops of the trees, often gliding in flight before he settled in an Oak tree, where we had reasonable views as it closed its wings. When the male Purple Emperor opened them we could clearly see the purple on the wing. Another Purple Emperor flew by and over our heads. Lower down we saw 3 Ringlet butterflies and finally I saw an Emperor dragonfly which flew over the road and out of sight.
It was really nice to see Jean & Ken G here who I hadn't seen for a long while.
At Minsmere Island Mere, we missed the Ferruginous Duck sorting through all the ducks in eclipse plumage but did see a Bittern twice briefly in flight. On the road by the Rhodedendron tunnel, a Common Viviparous Lizard was seen briefly before scuttling to cover.
At Westleton Heath we spotted at least 5 excellent Silver- studded Blue Butterflies and heard the brief "churr" of a Dartford Warbler. Note on the hindwing of the Silver- stud, the grey/silver within the black marginal spots and additionally the clear white band between the 2 rows of black spots, also on the hind wing.
At Dunwich, we saw several White Admiral butterflies which showed well, several Comma & Ringlets plus a Large Skipper were also seen but we failed to see any White Letter Hairstreaks. 
A Grass Snake, slithered under a log as we waited for a White Admiral to fly by.

After a couple of hours of much needed kip, in the late afternoon in the garden, the Brown Hawker continues to patrol the area and Greenfinches, Great & Blue Tits adults and youngsters continue to use the feeders. 

I was delighted again to see the Hummingbird Hawk Moth again in the garden feeding on the purple flowers near the kitchen window 15 minutes ago at 8pm this evening, this time it flew east near the Fuchsia and Honeysuckle where it was lost from view. Maybe it keeps coming back in the evening because of the strong smell of our large Jasmine bush, which is nicely out in flower at the moment (attracting a myriad thunder flies too.)

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Flying visit!

I was delighted to spot at 8.20pm this evening a super Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden flitting from one pink flower of Hemp Agrimony to another just behind the kitchen window. Before it zoomed off next door to the west. Minutes later it was back for some 30 seconds before it again darted. This is the first sighting of Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden for some 3 years when there were several-7 sightings seen (mainly on Honeysuckle flowers that are barely out yet) in mid to late July 2007.
At 2.50pm the Brown Hawker that has been present since at least yesterday (when it was seen to fly off west away from the pond area) fed on a myriad thunder flies zipping around the garden this morning. The Hawker appeared to settle possibly one one of the sunlite wooden beams on the middle of the pagoda amongst the Wisteria plant. However as I approached it zoomed off west and away sadly.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Lesser Stag on the drive

I was delighted to find a Lesser Stag Beetle at 8.10am on the drive and had to hastily remove it to the back garden to safety before Jenny reversed her car out. The Beetle is a woodland species seen in the south of England and unlike the Stag beetle has small pincers "antlers" and all black body as opposed to the brown abdomen of the Stag. 
After gently handling the beetle, I noticed it was missing it's right hand antennae if you look carefully at the second picture you can see the spot just in front of the eye where it should be. Maybe that was why I found it out on the drive? Was it disorientated? The Lesser Stag would stand stock still "play dead" for a couple of minutes after it was handled, before it crawled off. Needless to say, I took a few photos of it in the half hour I had before I had to leave for work. Finally I carefully put the Lesser Stag Beetle under leaf litter under a large bush at the side of the garden. On investigation, after I got back from work the beetle had unsurprisingly departed. 

Sunday, 4 July 2010

River Warbler

On Sunday 4th July, a message had been received on Suffolk BINS, tantalizingly informing me that a River Warbler had been seen and heard SE of Norwich and further details and access would be released at teatime.
At 5.25pm the news was released that the bird was at Thorpe cum Haddiscoe, on area of marshy land owned by Chris A. I always enjoy chatting to Chris A and family when I usually see them on a twitch during the Scilly season every October. Headless chicken time saw me eventually picking up Rob W & James W and we found the site by following the River Warbler signs and the direction of Dick F himself.
Parking in a field we walked back to the entrance of the field skimmed its perimeter to walk to the edge of Haddiscoe/ Thorpe marshes. We overlooked a dyke lined with reeds and 2 big bushes on it's western perimeter. By now a steady crowd had gathered, eventually numbering 300 plus and a long wait ensued. At around 7.20pm it started to sing intermittently, its impressive, distinctive and loud zre-zre-zre-zre-zre "sewing machine" song. It appeared to be singing from one of the bushes but we couldn't see it.
During the wait I spied an excellent Hobby feeding over the distant bushes on the west side of the marshes as well as a female Marsh harrier quartering the fields and an overflying Green Woodpecker.
Other birders present included Ricky F and our photographer friend from the village west of Gorleston, Andrew E, Morris B, James B, Richard W, John H, Steve S as well as many others ( it was particularly nice to see Neville S) including head twitcher Lee E, but where were our other birding friends from Lowestoft, Yarmouth & Norwich?

After an hour (!) we were informed by Julian B (thanks to Julian for finally letting us know, this not meant as a sarcastic comment on Julian, but it would have been nice if other birders could have told this a little earlier) that it had been seen from the car park field looking directly onto the western most bush. The bird started to sing virtually constantly, right on cue from around 9pm, actually 8.55pm & subsequently pandemonium broke out (following Julian's news) as most of the birders started to walk and even run back to this area. As I went back, I lost my mobile phone and had to go back and retrieve it and subsequently I was one off the last to join the throng of birders who were looking at it from the car park.
Apparently it was perched deep within the bush and viewable only in a few telescopes at the front and left of the crowd. I had no chance of viewing the bird at the very back, but Justin L had the bird in his telescope and kindly let me have a three minute view of the bird. A big, big thank you to Justin, a true gentleman. It was perched deep within the bush and could be seen singing its swivelling around as it sang. 
I could clearly see a large dark grey- brown warbler with indistinct short supercilium and pale eye ring, its yellow inner mandible and diffusely mottled grey-brown streaking on the upper breast. I could only see the head bill and upper body/ breast. A wonderful sensational bird to see and above all hear (and 21 years since my last at Boughton Fen, also in Norfolk!).
Somebody else wanted to see the bird so I moved back to the original field and the bird had apparently flown and could be seen occasionally just to the left of the base of reeds near 2 thistle plants, Neil M kindly let me see through his telescope (thanks Neil) and I could see the left side of the bird obscured by the reeds. Slightly later, I was finally able to pick the bird up in my telescope, but it was now more of an indistinct blob in the fading light (10pm). Sorry there are no pics of the bird as it was difficult enough just to see it. Rather pathetically all i could take was a picture of the bush it sang from.
One final treat, was a wonderful Tawny Owl that sat in the road directly ahead of us driving back through Ashby wood, it was nicely illuminated by the car's headlamps as I stopped the car, we watched the bird for about 30 seconds before it flew left and just before I could reach for my camera!
UPDATE 5 July: We went back the following night hoping for better views, but sadly we didn't see it at all this time. It only sang in short bursts mostly from the further away on the marsh behind the wood. A Barn Owl flew past very close by and a more distant Marsh harrier also seen.

Orchid shocker

On Saturday 3rd July I did my annual count of the Southern Marsh Orchids and was surprised and greatly shocked to only count 66 Southern Marsh Orchids and 3 hybrid plants most of which were seen in the south- west corner of the very local site. Why so few? The increasing encroaching scrub has rendered access to many areas virtually unaccessible. Secondly, the drying out of the site, have made conditions much less favourable and thirdly there are significant number of areas (I counted 7 areas) that have been used as dens/ play areas by local children, causing much erosion ie. dust bowls on former pristine wet grassland areas. One fears greatly for the immediate future of these wonderful plants at this site.
It was also very disheartening to see the results of the totally ignorant efforts of our next door neighbour but one (just moved in) who mowed his lawn, therefore cutting the beautiful flowers of 6 Southern Marsh Orchids. I wish I had them in our front lawn, where they would be cultivated, looked after, cherished and enjoyed to the full.
On Sunday 4th July, Jenny & I visited Kentwell Hall and on the journey there on the A143 just before the turning to Redgrave, an excellent Green sandpiper flew over the road from left to right. At Kentwell itself it was very pleasing to see (apart from the excellent Great Annual Tudor recreation) a grassy area full of Pyramidial Orchids, around 100 seen in peak condition.