Saturday, 31 August 2013


Saturday morning was the usual work-party at Maple Lodge. Reserve was quite quiet, probably reflecting the slightly balmy weather we're having. A few migrants around by Long Hedge - chiffchaffs and blackcaps in the bushes. Good numbers of little grebe families around as well, still feeding well.
What was nice was a hobby hawking for insects over the reed bed. Too lazy to walk round to get closer to it, so these are a couple of really cropped in images together with another appalling shot of a kingfisher, which was much in evidence.

In the afternoon I went out with Judith to Incombe Hole to go for a wryneck reported there. Lovely day and spectacular views of the Chilterns. No sign of the bird though, although i'm not sure we were even in the right place as there were no other birders around!! Still, the butterflies were nice.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

I'll have a cream tea please

We're really getting into this "almost retired" lark. This afternoon, we nipped out to pick up a parcel in Hemel, and I suggested a trip to Wilstone afterwards which was quite near. Judith had never been there before.

Not much around apart from 2 common sandpipers, year list tick and probably the latest I've ever got them. Good numbers of little egrets and herons as well as the usual lapwings on the bar. Still a few common terns, including some juveniles and a single ringed plover pottering around.
The fields adjacent to the reservoir looked good and ready to get the harvest in.

On the way back we stopped off at the farm shop next door. Really good stock, lovely looking fresh meat, fruit and veg and a TEA SHOP. Along with the other retired people there we di the "ooh, I'll have a cup of tea please" and even indulged in the cream tea!!!

It's going to be really hard in December when I go back to work!!!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Birds were all around

Two days down in Weymouth/ Portland at the start of the migration with quite a few nice birds around should have been good, however family business limited the time in the field. I did manage to pick up a few nice birds - whinchats and tree pipits which were new for the year list, good numbers of dunlin and sanderling at Ferrybridge, lots of gannets passing the bill. Also, picked up curlew sandpiper, ringer plover, greenshank, barwit, little and common tern at Ferrybridge.
At Durlston Head there were good numbers of swallows passing along the cliffs and phylloscs (cc and ww) were calling in the bushes. Someone claimed a greenish that day as well but I couldn't see it!
At the bill very early on Wednesday the highlight was the very large number of yellow wagtails (over 100) and wheatears, together with more linnets than I've seen in some time and rock pipits. Managed to miss all the good birds though (ortolan, wryneck, ring ouzel, Balearic shearwater).
I'll leave you with a picture of the little owl in the obs quarry looking a bit coquettish!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

2-bar blues

First proper birding day in ages. Early start, leaving at 5.15 to the sound of rain pouring down and Judith asking if it's really the right weather to be going birding (I also had a day in Stratford watching Hamlet offered!). The night before was a toss-up between Suffolk and Norfolk, but, hey, doesn't Norfolk always win that one.
So, 7.15ish was first stop at Wolferton to not see golden Pheasant AGAIN. I think those birds are mythical nowadays. To be fair, I had only given it about one cup of coffee when bird guides came online to report white-rumped sand at Snettisham - barely 10 minutes away!! Quick change into my boots and a dash off to the  car-park. Hadn't been there in ages, and I'd forgotten how far the far hides are. The tide was falling as well, and as I was walking clouds of waders kept flying over into the wash to feed. Not feeling good. First hide, two people who weren't much help "I think it was over there but i'm not sure" pointing to about 500 dunlin. I could see some serious kit pointing out of the Roost hide so I tromped over to there and the guys got me onto it quickly. Luckily it was preening and showing its rump otherwise god knows how you'd pick it out.

The top two are heavily cropped in, but show the bird preening and showing off its rump. The larger one gives the problem - can you spot the white-rump!!??
Quite a few other birds as well to add to the year-list including spotshank, curlew sandpiper, sanderling and knot (yes, 1st of the year) as well as arctic skua offshore.

Next stop was Holme, not for a bit of sea-watching but for the tree-sparrows by the public toilets at the start of the track. I noticed them last time and they are still there in the hedge. Then onto Titchwell. Nothing particularly rare around, but little stint is always a nice bird. There were 12 spoonbills on the freshmarsh. Amazing you only comment about them in large numbers now. Also picked up greenshank in good numbers on the beach. as well as eider mooching around.
Last stop was going to be Cley, but birdguides came up with 2-bar crossbill still showing at Lynford. There are numbers around and a group of 6 was around in Norfolk but not relocated. So, as this was a lifer and on the way home, I packed up and shot over to there. Got there about 2.30, bird reported about 1.15. Three birders on site, including one local. No news since last sighting. To cut a long story short, we waited for about 3 hours till heavy rain set in. Good numbers of common crossbills flying over and occasionally stopping to feed, but not a sniff of the 2-bar. Hopefully when the weather changes we may get that predicted influx of them, and there's always Scotland to come!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Migration watch at Staines

well, a bit of over-claim but an early start down to Staines to try for black tern. As ever at this time of year the most abundant wildlife is the mosquitoes - clouds of them hovering around and settling on anything that stays still for more than a minute.
Still, after 10 minutes scanning the south basin I turned round and did pick up a single juvenile black tern over the north. Feeding quite actively for about 10 minutes then disappeared. Also got a ruff pottering along by the bank, and an overfly redshank. Did hope to get little gull as well but couldn't pick any out from the gulls, which were down in numbers from normal, and only one pair of common terns left.
Hoping to get to Minsmere on Thursday which will really get the year list going I hope.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Yellow-leg conundrum

Quick trip out to Little Marlow today with Judith. Main target was yellow-leg gull, with possibility of a wader or two. Pretty quiet when we got there, only a few large gulls mooching about. Lots of black-headed gulls and nice numbers of lapwings though. Also a few of the resident (?) Eygptian geese hanging about. No waders though.
Most of the large gulls were sitting down in the grass, and my id skills aren't up to 1y michahellis. Finally got one adult though, standing in shallow water, and in close proximity to both argentatus and fuscus for comparison. Nice yellow legs, mantle in-between the other two in colour. Happy with that and it makes 2 year list ticks in two days now i'm back in the UK!!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Back to work

Well, not really, but back to the work-party at Maple Lodge. Everything seems really green and lush, and the reed-bed is really overgrown. They finished off the new walkway whilst we were away.
Not much by way of birds. A few blackcaps eating the berries on Long Hedge, parakeets and a pair of nuthatches visiting the feeders outside clubhouse. Most of the duck still well in eclipse but teal, shoveler, pochard, tufty and mallard all present and a couple of broods of dabchicks.

Friday, 16 August 2013

2 calling quails

Back to the UK now after the USA holiday and back to (half) dipping on UK birds. After a rainy start to the day, delayed due to jet-lag induced lay-in, we first of all had a look at the dahlia trial grounds at Ayletts. As ever they were quite inspirational, especially the wild-flower area. Loads of bees and butterflies including gatekeeper, small tortoiseshell and small white.
After that we went to Redbournbury where quail were reported singing for the last few weeks. Beautiful English scene, corn field, sun coming out. Quite quickly, and with the aid of the IPhone, we had 2 birds calling quite close from the corn. Despite trying for 20 minutes or so we couldn't manage to get them to show. So, a reasonable start to the 4 months off with a new year-list tick, but still to actually see one of them!!

Monday, 12 August 2013

and finally, the big apple

I'll skip over our travel day, which was a bit traumatic as the flight out of Jackson was delayed and we only just made our connection in Chicago. Good on United though who handled it very well even holding the planes in Chicago for us.
Anyway, our hotel in New York wasn't that great so we went out as soon we could. Hard rock cafe on the first evening. Don't really get it. Food was average at best, but the boys (including Yoss) drooled over the rock memorabilia. Still the beer was cold and on the walk back Judith found a shop advertising 18 miles of books!!
Today though we went on a trip to the Statue of Liberty.Massive queues to get tickets and get on the boat, but we lucked out and missed one boat only to be first on the next so we had great places to stand going over. So many people around, felt quite a shock after the parks. We couldn't get tickets to go up the statue, as it seems those are like gold dust. So, we walked round and round taking lots of photos. Trip back was hot so we dived into a museum just for the air-conditioning!!! Then mainly strolled around Manhattan, Wall Street etc till time for tea. So, a very different day.

I'll also cover the following day, the 13th. RAIN. We were meant to be going up the Empire State but low cloud etc killed that one. So, the party split up. We did museums whilst the P-H's did shopping. We all met up in the evening for a least meal and beers before our trip back early the next day.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Bear hunt part 2

Our last day of holiday in the parks, and we still had one massive tick left to get - bears. Only one choice, up early. Despite brave words the night before it was only me and Judith leaving the car park at 6 as dawn was breaking. Lovely mist over the lakes and fields as we got going. Pretty much straight to Signal Mountain.

Couple of quick stops along the way, including where we saw the bald eagle before, but nothing much of additional interest and we could smell those bears.

On Signal Mountain we slowly crawled up the road, stopping the car and looking/ listening. Nothing. Lots of birds around but we were focused so not even mixed flocks got me going.

 On one pull-off i got out and was surveying the brush around us. Basically we had hillside above and below, with low level scrub and huckleberries. One rock caught my eye, a furry rock that moved. "BEAR". Judith leapt out the car and we had our black bear.


About 30 yards away, truffling on berries, and moving parallel to the road. As we has stopped, we created interest for other cars, and soon we had about 20 people watching the bear.

 As it moved, we drove on about 50 yards and waited, then it caught us up. Most people though have no patience and after a few minutes drove off. Finally it was just us and a lovely couple of volunteer wardens watching the bear. It didn't worry about us, just kept eating berries and at one point even ripped open a hollow log (very loud and slightly alarming). Finally a it came up the slope towards us (not with any intent, just after berries) we retreated and left it to it. Marvellous.....

We also managed to get a dusky grouse feeding by the side of the road, but by then, who cared. We had our bear. What a marvellous end to the holiday.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Bear hunt part 1

Using our local knowledge from yesterday, we set out to try and revisit some of spots in the Tetons where we went but didn't connect with what we wanted, mainly moose!! We also had a good of local knowledge about a place to try and find bears!!

 So, another early start had us by the river where we thought moose could be seen. From a couple of hundred yards away we could see a group of cars already clustered and then before we parked MOOSE. Frantic pull off the road, grab camera and bins and run down to the bank before they left. no worries.

 For about 20 minutes I think we had 4 moose wandering around, wading the river, eating willow, mooching about.

 Probably about 25 people in all, and it was noticeable everyone had broad grins. Amazing how a few large deer can brighten up your day.

Next was to travel further down the valley and go in search of bear. First though was a breakfast stop by the dam. What should have been a fairly straight-forward stop was extended though by the fact that there were literally hundreds of swallows.

It looked like a crèche. In two or three large trees there was loads of juvenile swallows waiting to be fed. Occasionally all the flock would lift off and swirl around before settling back in the tree. Judith took loads of photos, the best of which are here.

Finally, we set off up Signal Mountain. This was a road switch backing up and down to a reasonably large summit. Basically, our guide said you often see bears there, and he had seen a grizzly with 3 cubs only a week before. We slowly advanced up the road, but due to the moose and breakfast stop it was now almost midday and pretty hot. 

Last stop was by a lake on the No sign of bears anywhere but the views were stunning. One interesting thing was the grasshoppers. When you disturbed them, they flew up and made clicking noise as they flew off. Need to come back again but VERY EARLY!!!!!
  way back. Not much by way of wildlife but over the road we did catch up with a herd of buffalo (or bison depending upon who you talk to!)

As asn addendum, in the evening we went to a rodeo. Very interesting and a word i've used before, strange. This was a small local affair, only $30 to get in. Hot dogs and beer for tea, bit of roping and riding bulls and horses. Lotso of American patriotism as well. I cant imagine the crowd as a football match getting emotional about a girl riding around carrying a flag!!!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Old-faithful really is

Today was really the basis for the whole holiday. A full day excursion into Yellowstone Park. It was after the BBC documentary on the seasons in the park we decided to do the trip.
Our guide picked us up at 6ish, so another early start for the kids!!! It wasn't just the park. We were also going to be doing wildlife spotting along the way. First was an osprey nest on a pole by a golf-course, well worth a visit later with better light. Next we stopped by a river where apparently moose are regularly seen. One had been around, but not now, so coffee and off again with a mental note of location and to return.
We then pulled off the road down the valley to get a view of pronghorn - a local speciality in the deer-stakes. Quite distant but grazing happily in a field.
Then we were off into the park proper. Well, actually it's two parks - Grand Teton and then Yellowstone. We didn't realise its almost 2 hours drive to get to the geysers etc in Yellowstone, so a note for anyone going there. If you want to do Yellowstone, stay closer than Jackson otherwise you have a massive time overhead. We'd only just got into Grand Teton when we spotted a bald-eagle sitting in a tree by a lake - with it's back to us!! Also got white pelican which was a bit bizarre as I normally associate them with coastal areas.

  Basically, we then pushed on as we were on a schedule to get to old-faithful, the big geyser in the park. As with many things on this trip it was slightly strange. A natural phenomenon but surrounded by tourists sitting in what was basically a grandstand waiting for it to explode. It kept us waiting about 10 minutes over it's due-time, then for about 5 minutes gushed steam about 100 foot into the air. Then everyone went away.

We then went to another area called the paint pots. If anything, this was more spectacular than old-faithful. It was a series of pools with different characteristics. some were bubbling mud, some hot steam vents, some made whistling noises, and all were within a few metres of each other. Again, photos barely do it justice as they cant tell the tale of the smell, the noise, the heat....

Last thing of note was over lunchtime - sandwiches etc by a lovely river. An osprey settled in a tree on the opposite bank, which if course was more interesting than a white chocolate and macadamia cookie!!