Thursday, 30 June 2011

Green Sand and Quail

Another visit to Felbrigg today produced the first Purple Hairstreak of the year with one in the oaks on the east side of the lake. Checking the wall I found a few more exuvia and a few teneral Common Darters were flushed from the lakeside vegetation as I walked round.

Good numbers of butterflies were evident in the meadow to the south of the lake including Small Coppers, Common Blue, Large & Small Skippers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Green-veined Whites.

Walking round to the north end of the lake I heard a familiar call and swinging round I picked up a Green Sandpiper, my first of the year, flying in over the lake. It briefly pitched down in the stream but as a party of school children were then walking along the adjacent boardwalk, they quickly flushed it and it flew off high to the west.

Checking the brambles near the boardwalk I found my first Gatekeeper of the year which briefly paused to feed before flying off across the meadow.

Also in the same area a Black-tailed Skimmer and a rufescens form Blue-tailed Damselfly posed for photos too.

A trip to West Runton late afternoon was rewarded with a Quail calling away from the weedy field by the farm buildings, and then after a Hobby flew low west over the field causing it to go silent for a while it eventually sang again from the adjacent barley field.

Todays two year ticks brought the patch year list up to a very respectable 153 species for the first six months of the year, and given that I had recorded just 3 more by this point last year, maybe beating 2010's record total is achievable with a very good autumn, tho I think I'd settle for finding a patch first instead.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Common Darters emerging at Felbrigg

A visit to Felbrigg Park today revealed that a few Common Darters were emerging from the lake, with a number of tenerals seen taking their maiden flights, a number of spent exuvia found along the walled end of the lake, and the one below which was found having just emerged from its exuvia and then watched as its wings fully formed before flying off into the vegetation in the meadow.

The first Emperors I've seen there this year were patrolling the lake, along with a few Black-tailed Skimmers, and a few Broad-bodied Chasers, such as the one below, were patrolling the adjacent meadow and hedges.

Bird-wise the resident Little Owl was seen perched up on its usual tree surveying its surroundings.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Garden Birds

Its been nice to see a good number of juvenile birds feeding in the garden recently, and in addition to the more regular species, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers that have been regularly visiting the feeders over the last few weeks have now brought in at least 2 juvs with them, and today for the first time ever a couple of Nuthatches also visited the feeders.

Monday, 20 June 2011

White-letter Hairstreaks and Dark Green Fritillaries

With the nice sunny and warm weather a trip was made to Holkham today to see what butterflies were performing.

A White Admiral was seen along the track along from Lady Annes Drive, and then arriving at the bench just before Washington Hide a White-letter Hairstreak was immediately located on the flowering privet there. A number of others were seen flying round the tops of the elms opposite with the occasional one also coming down onto the privet, but frustratingly they would always land just too far away to get a decent pic, however one eventually gave itself up and landed in an accessible area to get a nice close-up of it.

Small Skipper, Comma, Red Admiral and Meadow Browns were also feeding from the same bushes as was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth. A Spoonbill flew across the freshmarsh, 3 Crossbills flew over the pines calling, a Hawker Dragonfly sp. was seen briefly around the treetops, and an even briefer flypast of what was probably a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth all added to the abundance of life there.

A walk further along to the dunes revealed good numbers of Dark Green Fritillaries were present and with careful and patient stalking I finally secured a few pictures with a couple reproduced below.

Friday, 17 June 2011

First Ringlet and Meadow Browns

A walk round East and West Runton today failed to relocate yesterdays (fly-through) Roller, but an adult Med Gull flew south over Incleborough Hill and in the meadows to the north were the first Meadow Browns that I'd seen on the patch this year and the first Ringlet of the year too.

Thursday, 16 June 2011


Today saw the second twitch of the month, this time with me heading up to hopefully see the White-winged Scoter which had been found at Blackdog at the weekend.

Arriving at the beach a few small Scoter flocks were noted offshore along with numerous Eiders roosting on the shore but a scan of the sea revealed that the main seaduck flock was much further south, some c2miles off in the distance. So off we set along the beach, periodically stopping to scan the sea whenever any Scoter or Eider were seen passing.

As we neared the main flock the pager announced it was still present, but as there had been no other cars in the car park and no sign of any birders along the beach or dunes we were intially puzzled by the message but nevertheless started to scan through the nearest flock of birds. In the meantime after a couple of phone calls we located the other observers who had previously been watching it, and then again embarked on the search from their higher vantage point in the dunes.

With the sun now gaining strength there was an immense glare off the sea which along with the heat haze made the task of relocating it quickly a long shot, but I began a meticulous search through the gathering of some 1500+ Eider and Scoter, with the later being the more distant.

The glare and haze continued to hamper the search for the next half hour or so but with a brief cloudy interlude visibility vastly improved and I embarked on yet another sweep of the flock focusing this time on the area just behind the Eider flock that a few Scoter had drifted into. All of a sudden I locked on to it with the head & bill shape along with the pale grey band on the tip of its dark bill immediately obvious and accordingly quickly made everyone else aware that I'd got it. Typically it quickly dived but having gotten everyone onto the area where it was, when I again picked it up as it resurfaced most of the assembled crowd got on to it before it drifted further back into the main scoter flock where it was lost to view amongst the throng of the other birds as the glare and haze returned.

For the next hour or so the sun beat down on the sea making viewing virtually impossible, and we continued to search for it and the Surf Scoters which were also present in the flock with no luck. Eventually it again clouded over and it was amazing the difference it made with the Velvet Scoters, both male and female, now easy to pick out and soon after the White-winged was again relocated amongst a small group of Velvets and was on show for a few minutes before the group all dived but despite all the Velvets resurfacing one-by-one, there was amazingly no further sign of the White-winged showing how elusive it could be.

Our attentions were then temporarily distracted by one of the Surf Scoters appearing briefly in the flock, and then a little while later I again picked out the White-winged amongst some Velvets and this time we were all able to watch it for a good while as it drifted along and watched as it became more active preening and diving before it was again lost to view amongst the other birds. It even came vaguely near enough for a few record shots to be obtained, with the one below showing it behind a small flock of Velvet and Common Scoter.

The tide was now coming in fast and as a consequence the flock drifted in closer, and with more and more cloud cover viewing was getting better by the minute and we again relocated one of the Surf Scoters which this time was watched for a good time with the record shot of it below being obtained.

With viewing conditions now being the best they had been all day with no haze and the flock coming ever closer, it was great to again relocate the White-winged along the back of the Eider flock, the closest it had been all day and thus giving its best views. Despite it still being very distant photography wise I did manage to get the photo below which is fairly decent, and shows well the shape of the head and bill, and even the fact that you could see through its nostrils (although this was only noticed in the photo after rather than in the field at the time), and also for the first time the white in the wing was also noted.

With us all being happy with the views, plus seeing a nice selection of other birds which in addition to the Surf and Velvets Scoters, included Red-throated Divers, Razorbills and Guillemots, and a few photos of the White-winged in the bag too, we embarked on the long walk back to the car delighted with a new bird.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bluethroat at West Runton

With a Bluethroat having been found down the beach road at West Runton this morning, spent a few frustrating hours there not seeing it although a fly-over Hobby and a late Wheatear provided some distraction during the searching. Thankfully it was eventually found sitting motionless amongst the vegetation along the field edge just south of the shelter and then subsequently as it ran across the 'new' field occasionally pausing amongst the weeds before disappearing into the adjacent cereal field.

An excellent bird, and a new bird for the patch for me (WR wasn't part of my patch when the one was by the farm buildings a few years back) so a very welcome late spring record. Didn't manage a photo though as it moved too fast across the field and having spent c5 hours down there and needing to be elsewhere (i.e Mucar GC for the W.W Scoter) I reluctantly dragged myself away happy with just having finally caught up with it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Silver-studded Blues

With the nice weather today I visited Kelling Heath to look for Silver-studded Blues and wasn't disappointed with around a dozen showing well just over the railway crossing.

A good number of Crossbills were flying round, particularly favouring the pine trees on the edge of the garden of the house by the crossing. The biggest flock I counted was of 25 birds but quite a few smaller flocks were also seen so there's obviously a healthy population up there at present. Other birds noted included a Turtle Dove purring away, a Common Buzzard hovering high up in the sky and the usual Stonechats. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

White-throated Robin revisited and a few Butterflies too

With the White-throated Robin unexpectedly hanging around, a return trip was made today with my Dad, with the added aim of hopefully getting some photos of it and depending on time and weather doing some butterflying too.

Shortly after arrival at c8:45 it was watched feeding in the borders within the inner bowling green but was still evading my photographic efforts but after a while it flew off over the road and was quickly refound feeding out in the open on the seaward side of the outer bowling green where it gave crippling views for over 15 minutes allowing me to finally get some pics of this absolutely stunning bird and a true Mega.

With the bird safely and quickly in the bag with good photos to boot, we quickly moved on to make full use of the sunny weather that was gracing the north-east. First stop was Bishop Middleham quarry, most famous for its breeding Bee-Eaters in 2002, but also as one of the most southerly sites for Northern Brown Argus with half a dozen or so quickly found including some really good looking individuals which seemingly closely resembled the scottish populations more than the more weakly marked nothern england subspecies 'salmacis', which was good as 'normal' Brown Argus are now being found this north so there was no question over their id.

Note the white spot in the centre of the forewing on the upperside, and on the underwing the much reduced or absent black spots within the white blobs which separate this species from the Brown Argus.

Also seen in the quarry were Small Heath, a pair of Wall in copulation and Large Skipper.

 It was then on to Fen Bog on the North York Moors, and although there were still good sunny periods there was a very blustery wind meaning anything that was present was keeping low and out of site and after a couple of hours of searching we only had a Painted Lady and a Wood Tiger Moth for all our effort.

On the way back and not far from the car park my Dad finally stumbled upon our first target species a Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary. However due to the wind it was tucked low down in the vegetation making a photo very difficult but I managed a quick record shot before it took flight and was swept away in the wind out of sight and couldn't be relocated.

Shortly after and whilst searching the area for more I chanced upon our other target a Large Heath and again although it was keeping low down I got a more acceptable image of this one before it flew off across the bog to a more sheltered area where a few more were present but none settled in sight.

Both Keeled Skimmer and Broad-bodied Chaser were briefly seen and on the bird front male Redstart and Whinchat were seen on the moor and a Peregrine was seen overhead with prey. So a really excellent day in the end with superb views of the White-throated Robin plus 3 new species of Butterfly so we returned home very happy.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Strumpshaw and Catfield

Today was spent around the Broads with Strumpshaw the first destination of the day. Walking down to the garden a Swallowtail was immediately seen feeding on the flowers in the borders and as usual gave excellent views.

Walking onto the reserve a number of Lizards were seen warming themselves up on the boardwalk giving the best views I think I have ever had of one.

A couple of Norfolk Hawkers were seen around the reserve but probably due to the blustery conditions they didn't hang around for long, unlike this Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Moving on to Catfield Fen a few Variable Damselflies were seen and then on the way back at least two Norfolk Hawkers were patrolling up and down the path and over a small pool battling with both Hairy Dragonflies and Four-spotted Chasers.

Completely down to luck I managed the flight shot below of one of the Norfolk Hawkers which is a pretty good effort for a point & shoot camera!

Around the reserve a good number of Swallowtails were encountered including this one in the car park.

Other photo opportunities were provided by this female Brimstone and an Emperor Moth caterpillar.

Lastly a quick check of the Downy Emerald site produced a brief male and an ovipositing female.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Manic Monday in Hartlepool

The peace and quiet of this morning was shattered shortly after 8.35 when the pager announced that Britains first ever twitchable White-throated Robin had just been trapped and even better it was on the mainland at Hartlepool Headland! It was currently being processed and would be released shortly, so after a couple of quick phone calls etc I was on the road heading north eagerly awaiting news as to whether it would be seen after release. News came through that it was indeed showing and messages confirming its continued presence came periodically over the next few hours as I battled my way through the daytime traffic.

Arriving at c1.40pm with the pager announcing it was currently being watched, I quickly walked the short distance to the crowd only to find out it had just flown off into the gardens. No worries it shows every 20 minutes I was assured, but 20 minutes turned into an hour and then into an hour and a half! In the meantime measures were tried to get people to stand back and allow it a pathway back into the bowling green where it had been feeding and far from coincidentally, shortly after they eventually moved it flew back in at c3.10pm. An anxious few seconds ensued then I noticed a few raised pairs of bins looking down the street so I quickly joined them and to my relief enjoyed about 5 seconds of it on the pavement before it disappeared through the fence and then shortly after flew back off from whence it came.

Obviously the pressure was now off but more prolonged views were worth waiting for, but unfortunately more people continued to stand in its flight line and ridiculously refused to move. Over two hours passed with no further sign and with a local checking the gardens it was frequenting with no luck, a few birders who had yet to connect disconsolately started to spread out to look for it in the adjacent area.

With a near 4m high wall around the garden it may be in, there was little prospect of seeing in to it but one intrepid Teesider drove his van onto the pavement and standing on the roof started to look over the wall into the garden. He quickly asked for confirmation of what it looked like as he had almost immediately picked up a bird feeding round a compost pile. Its appearance was quickly relayed back to him and he immediately declared he had it and after quickly climbing onto his van Franko confirmed that it was indeed the bird.

At this point all hell broke loose as people tried to get up on top of the van and scale the wall and lamp posts etc to get a glimpse. Amazingly after only a few minutes vans and ladders seemed to be arriving from all directions to enable everyone to get a look over the wall, and thankfully it contined to perform well in the garden and with everybody keeping calm all present got to see the bird even if it was only for a minute or so whilst atop a ladder or hanging off the top of the wall.

Having already seen it I stood back to let those who needed it get in first but with it performing so admirally and everyone having now seen it, I was able to have another look courtesy of one of the dozen ladders, as it sat motionless in a flower bed before moving off further into the garden.

All in all an excellent twitch in the end with everyone going home very happy and it was so refreshing to see the amazing generosity of the locals to whom so much is owed with them doing everything they could to help us see the bird, so a big thank-you to them. 

Mid-evening viewing over the garden wall after the initial rush had subsided

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Red Deer out to sea!!!

With the patch continuing to be fairly quiet I took a trip along the coast today recording a few new species for the year that I haven't had round the patch. Star bird was a male Montagu's Harrier watched hunting for about ten minutes, with other notable sightings including 3 Turtle Doves, Grey Partridge and Little Stint.

However the surprise of the day came whilst at Cley as when walking along the shingle bank near Arnolds I noticed a GBB Gull sitting on a large brown blob in the sea. I couldn't quite make out what it was but part of me thought it looked like a large (obviously dead) animal of some sort. I watched it as the tide drifted it nearer and nearer to the shore when its head became apparent and it appeared to be a deer! Eventually it was caught up in the breakers and dumped onto the beach just west of the end of the East Bank when it could be confirmed that it was indeed a deer, being later confirmed as a Red Deer, but where it had originated from was anyones guess, maybe it had drifted all the way over from the continent?

Friday, 3 June 2011

First Razorbill of the year

With fairly brisk onshore winds today I gave the sea a quick look and was rewarded with the first Razorbill of the year. Good numbers of Gannets and Guillemots were also seen passing along with a few Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Common & Sandwich Terns.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Downy Emeralds

With it being a nice warm sunny day I decided to take a trip over to Norfolks Downy Emerald site in the north-east of the county. Quickly after arrival I picked out one over the pond and watched it constantly battling with the Four-spotted Chasers that were also present, along with my first Emperor of the year.

After a couple of hours of trying to photo it/them without much success, I saw one go up into the trees on the far side of the bay and quickly scanning with bins picked it up resting on a branch. Being too far off for the camera alone I had a go at digiscoping it and managed some fairly decent pics given the distance, with three produced below.

As I had my scope with me I tried my luck at trying to digiscope one in flight too, and even though that seemed like an impossible task I managed the one below probably more down to luck than skill, but nevertheless I was pleased with it.

As the nice weather continued into the evening I decided to make the most of it and went up to the Cromer - Sheringham ridge where I was treated to an excellent display by a Nightjar both overhead in flight and churring from atop a fence post.