News broke on Sunday that a Cape Gull had been found by Richard Patient at Grafham Water. Cape Gull is a subspecies of Kelp Gull and this bird was a first for the UK. It is one of those birds that has been expected as it has steadily expanded its range northwards from South Africa. So an early start was planned for Monday and by the time I arrived there must have been at least 100 birders present, with many more to follow later. It was fairly to locate by the tower off the dam, just by the number of people gathered there. First shots were of it loafing in the water.
It then decided to take off allowing a few flight shots.
It came in briefly to the shore allowing a closer view.
However, its favourite spot was certainly the railings on the walkway out to the water tower where it spent a lot of time.
At certain times it formed part of a Gull ID parade, clearly showing the size difference. In the next two shots I believe that's a 3rd CY Caspian Gull to the left of it.
A great bird even though I know not everyone warms to Gulls! A number of Yellow-legged Gulls were also present.
And of course, Lesser Black-backed Gulls
One or two Common Terns were present also.
This one was blocking my view of the Cape Gull!
On the Wader front I only managed one Redshank.
And foraging along the shore were both Pied and Yellow Wagtails.
A truly memorable morning!
The Kingfishers are on their 3rd brood at the Kingfisher hub and as they are feeding young I knew visits would be frequent so time for an afternoon visit when the light would be less harsh. However, before that, a quick look from the Draper hide which produced a Green Sandpiper close in.
There was also some Little Egret activity, obviously a territorial dispute.
On the way to the Kingfisher hub, I had a surprise encounter on the path with a young Muntjac.
I only had brief views of the female Kingfisher as she perched with a fish.
The male was more evident and after bringing in a fish, perched up for some shots.
He took some time out to keep the feathers in top condition.
I only managed one decent flight shot.
Despite trying to take a short break he was constantly buzzed at one point by a Wasp!
Whilst most of the fish were caught off site, he suddenly dived in from the perch and surfaced with a young Mirror Carp. He flew to the next perch and proceeded to subdue it before taking it for one of the youngsters. It was a long and brutal struggle!
In fact, the process went on for so long I switched to video and got a short sequence.
A fantastic way to spend a couple of hours.
Rutland Water is always a great place to visit and as I had not seen an Osprey this year, what better place to visit. We started off in Manton Bay and visited a few hides before reaching the Osprey nest site. A Ruddy Shelduck was a welcome surprise.
A young Grey Heron was fishing and caught a Crayfish.
Some Canada Geese also dropped in along with a Green Sandpiper.
A Little Egret was also very confiding.
A handful of Great Egrets were very distant, but one kindly flew past and I managed one shot before it disappeared behind the trees.
So, what about the Ospreys? As we arrived at the Deep Water hide both adults and two young were present and the volunteers kindly gave us some helpful information. At the Shallow Water we witnessed some flight action. Later in the day we went round to the Egleton Reserve and saw a further three birds on Lagoon 4. The pictures that follow are a mixture of the two sites.
I love this view across Lagoon 4.
But it's even better with something blocking the view!
Flight shots were initially tricky, but the birds on Lagoon 4 were more obliging today than the ones in Manton Bay.
A wonderful day, and other good birds included Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and Yellow-legged Gulls. A massive thanks to all of the staff and volunteers for making our visit very memorable!
The last time I visited Fen Drayton was for a Red Footed Falcon, but reports of up to 11 Glossy Ibis there were enough to tempt me back for a visit. Viewing from the platform near the car park gave distant views of one or two birds so I decided to make a circuit of the main lagoon. Brown Hawkers were everywhere as were these Common Pond Skaters.
Grey Heron and Little Egret were added on the river as I walked round.
It is obviously a good spot for Cattle Egret as I counted seven in total, though always too distant for pictures. Another bonus was a single Hobby hunting the hirundines. The Glossy Ibis were fairly central on the lagoon, so whilst distant I managed a few shots.
They were fairly spread out, but I certainly counted at least ten individuals. Heading back to the car park I spent some time in the scrub and hedgerows finding this cracking Linnet.
Also, a very obliging Common Whitethroat.
But possibly the star of the show was a Turtle Dove. I was tipped off with a couple of potential good locations and the first one came up trumps! I could hear it purring and managed some shots. What a beautiful bird, though sadly declining! A great end to a very pleasant day.
With the hot weather, some local trips for Butterflies and Dragonflies. Mostly Hertford Heath and Balls Wood but also at East End Green. Firstly some Butterflies including Purple Hairstreak.
And finally, Brown Argus
I came across a few other interesting creatures including this Cinnabar Moth caterpillar, Forest Bug and Meadow Grasshoppers.
So now on to the Dragonflies, and a new site for me, an old quarry at East End Green which held a lot of Emperors.
The lake also held good numbers of Red-eyed Damselflies.
Freshly emerged Common Darter.
And my first Willow Emerald of the season.
But the Dragonfly highlights had to be at the brick pits on Hertford Heath, with initially the start of the Ruddy Darter season.
There are usually a few Scarce Emerald Damselflies there, so it was good to find this one, even with the ponds almost completely dried out.
But the big surprise was a male Southern Migrant Hawker. My first ever sighting in Hertfordshire, but it appears they are spreading from their strongholds in Essex and Kent.
A very enjoyable few days locally!
An un-ringed White Stork had been reported at Smithey Fen near Cottenham just north of Cambridge. Difficult to decide if it was a truly wild bird as there a number of released or escaped birds around. Worthwhile making the relatively short journey to check it out. On the path walking up to the location a family of Green Woodpeckers landed briefly.
Reed Buntings, Yellowhammer and Greenfinch were present in the hedgerow and the flooded area held Lapwing and a couple of pair of Little-ringed Plovers. The Stork was fairly easy to spot! I managed to get a number of shots but it stayed fairly distant.
An interesting place, and an interesting bird!
A few hours free in the afternoon so time for a trip to Rye Meads to see how the Kingfishers are getting on. They successfully raised their first brood at the Kingfisher hub and had started on their second. Indeed the male was visiting with fish frequently, a sure sign sign it would not be long before they fledged.
The male was landing on one of the nearer perches after a fish delivery and would have a quick dip. I managed to get a few flight shots of him in action.
The female was much less evident, but did show and at one point came onto the closest perch for a while.
At one point she dived in for a small insect.
In between visits, there was entertainment from one of the Coots.
And of course the regular Grey Heron.
But back to the Kingfishers, and it was great to get some shots of a fish pass, and mating. A third brood is certainly on the cards!
Really good to see them doing so well. I even managed a short piece of video as they briefly mated again, on a nearer perch.
When news broke that a small group of 7 or so European Bee-eaters were attempting to breed in a sand quarry near Trimmingham, the RSPB quickly set up a safe watchpoint. After the initial rush of people it was time to go and see them.
They favoured the wires as a perch to fly off and catch their prey. Whilst they mostly were catching butterflies and dragonflies I am sure they take bees!
A wonderful experience to watch them, and great work by the RSPB. I even managed a shot of four of them together.
After this it was on to Cavenham Heath with a Fallow Deer in the distance.
A skylark singing from the ground.
And on the wires, a close up view of Woodlark!
As the sun started to set it was time to pop in to Mildenhall Forest to try and see Nightjar. Clearings like this are good places to find them.
As it grew darker we heard the unmistakeable sound of one churring and managed to get some views of one flying around. Sadly no shots of the actual bird as it was too dark, but here is a short video so you get an idea of the call.
A great end to a fantastic day.
While up in Yorkshire I heard there was a Hoopoe in Hertfordshire! Luckily on the way back I popped in and it was still there. Initially a bit elusive, it flew down into one of the paddocks and proceeded to hunt for food. It did not venture too close when I was there, but a beautiful bird, and my first in Hertfordshire.
The local Blackbird also wanted some of the limelight!
A great bird for Hertfordshire and good that so many people had a chance to see it.
On the way back from North Yorkshire I took a short detour off the A1 to Potteric Carr which is just on the southern outskirts of Doncaster. A gem of a reserve, managed by The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. I had heard that a pair of Black-winged Stilts had bred and raised four young and this was a species that I had never seen in the UK. Quite a long walk to where the action was but the hide quickly revealed a few Little Egrets.
A Kingfisher perched up briefly.
And right in front of the hide, a Water Rail.
After a tense few minutes I had views of both Stilts and very distant views of two of the chicks. The light was difficult, but here are a few shots of a very elegant wader.
A great reserve and great birds!