Lemsford Springs is a little gem of a HMWT reserve near Welwyn Garden City and great for photography. It has recently reopened and a had Greenshank turned up which is a very scarce bird for the reserve. Lemsford is a HMWT reserve and please see their website for visiting instructions and any guidelines currently in place. A disused watercress farm, it is noted for its population of Green Sandpipers, all colour ringed by Barry the warden. The clear waters and tiny shrimps are a big draw for them.
In a strange quirk, one of the Lemsford Green Sandpipers on the 24th August had been reported in Santander, Northern Spain, making the 963K journey in just over 26 hours!
Another Lemsford speciality are Grey Wagtails with this one catching an insect.
Mandarin Ducks are sometimes seen here, and eventually this male, just coming out of eclipse plumage, offered an opportunity for some shots.
I don't think I have seen Common Snipe here before, but this one showed extremely well right in front of the second hide.
I even managed a bit of video footage.
Up in one of the large trees opposite the hides, a Red Kite was having a meal of what may have been a Rabbit leg.
One of the highlights for me was a family group of five Mistle Thrushes that came down to bathe. I heard them before seeing them, and one of the birds stood guard while the others washed!
Was the Greenshank still there? Thankfully yes, and it showed really well, certainly the closest I have seen one. You can certainly see how it got its name!
And a short video to finish with.
A great couple of hours, and if you visit, please check the HMWT site first to ascertain how to access and follow the current guidelines that are in place.
It's the time of year when anything can turn up and despite missing both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers at Amwell you have to keep hoping! The Ruddy Shelduck had been reported again on the morning of the 5th at Amwell. It has been elusive, but when I got there it was sat on the island and then had a few flights, aggressively chasing first a Cormorant and then a Greylag before once again flying off South.
Also at the Viewpoint a little later was this Yellow-legged Gull.
The next step was a walk up to the top of Widbury Hill behind Amwell. The higher ground sometimes attracts migrating birds and I have seen Wheatear here in the past. A Whinchat had been seen near here a couple of days before, and sure enough one was present as I arrived. One of my favourite birds, especially with their habit of posing in the open!
The following day I had a walk down to King's Meads for a Wheatear, but before that a chance to photograph some Willow Emeralds.
The Wheatear had taken up position on some Heras fencing around a new compound where silt from the New River was being stored before being removed. It was also proving popular with this Grey Heron.
Thankfully it also favoured the ground and some fence posts!
All in all, a good couple of days!
Time for a local walk to King's Meads to see what may have dropped in on passage. By the pools where The New River bend sharp left were a few Lapwing and a couple of Snipe.
A couple of Teal were also present.
A small tree was host to Reed Bunting's, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and this Chiffchaff.
Also along this stretch were a couple of migrant Hawkers.
It's also been a good year for Southern Hawkers.
Further on the New River were a couple of obliging young Mute Swans.
Towards the viaduct a Grey Heron was spooked and took off.
Back along the Lea Navigation and a Cormorant was posing on the Gauge House.
Almost home and back at the bend in the New River, the local Fox dashed across.
And then, a flash of blue! I slowly walked further and looked left and this Kingfisher was perched on the bridge.
Carefully walking on further I manged to get closer for some more shots.
A lovely way to end the day!
A trip up to and around the farmland near Barwick Ford for early migrants and farmland birds. A few Swallows were still flying around a farmyard and the next birds of note were a few Yellowhammer which perched up briefly.
Some heaps of earth were attracting lots of flies and also a few Pied Wagtails.
There was also a flock of at least 7 Yellow Wagtails present as well.
This one seemed to be spring loaded!
Further along a very noisy raptor was calling and despite scanning the sky and trees I could not locate it. Eventually I tracked it down, calling from a stubble field - a beautiful Hobby!
I suspect it had young in a nearby tree as it took off calling and flying around. I managed a few shots before quickly moving on. Possibly not the best choice nesting above a public footpath.
A nice end to the walk!
A tip off from Roland Powers had me up and out in the Whempstead area for a Black Redstart that had been present for a couple of days. As is usual it was inhabiting a group of buildings and in particular an old slate topped building. Fortunately, it came down to feed and obliging posed for some shots.
A cracking little bird!
It would appear that the Kingfisher young hatched around the 6th August at the Kingfisher hide so activity would increase over the next weeks. A couple of visits ensued to photograph the action. Always a good place to visit and even before entering the centre there was a Jersey Tiger Moth and Leaf Cutter Bee activity in the wildlife garden.
At the Draper hide, at least 7 Green Sandpipers were in evidence.
The usual suspects were also present including Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Further round at the Gadwall hide a Common Sandpiper obligingly posed right in front of the hide.
So finally on to the busy Kingfisher hide where there was a fair amount of activity. It would appear that the male is a young bird and certainly not as efficient or as obliging as the female. He would fly straight in with a fish and then depart, only posing once near by.
The female was much more confiding, perching up close by and even catching small Tench in the pond.
Not sure if these larger fish were suitable for the young as they were taking smaller ones into the nest site.
In between fishing trips she was very happy to perch up for a rest.
Flight shots were tricky, but I did manage a couple.
The nearby trees and a leafy perch provided a great background for some shots.
Here she is showing how she deals with a larger Tench.
Even the rain did not stop play!
A brilliant few hours with some amazing birds!
A visit to Lackford Lakes, Suffolk but this time concentrating on the "insect bank" just past the visitor centre. The target species was Bee Wolf and we will get to them soon, however the Buddleia bushes were attracting huge numbers of butterflies, so let's start here.
There were very good numbers of Painted Ladies, and I always marvel at the fact they migrate here from North Africa!
A surprise visitor was this incredible Hummingbird Hawk-moth. Even with a fast shutter speed the wings were a blur!
A few larger Dragonflies were patrolling but not settling for shots apart from an obliging Common Darter.
It was also fascinating to watch a family of Common Lizards in the wood pile.
And so to the Bee Wolf! Not actually a Bee or a Wolf but a Wasp. They are parasitic and prey on Honey Bees. They firstly dig a hole then catch their prey, bringing it back to the hole and laying an egg in the body before sealing the hole. When the young hatch they have a ready meal.
Whilst watching these, I noticed another parasitic wasp carrying a caterpillar. This was a Red Banded Sand Wasp which has a similar tactic to the Bee Wolf. However, rather than flying in with prey it dragged this caterpillar along the bank for a good 15 yards to its prepared nest hole.
A fascinating day, and Lackford Lakes never disappoints.
News broke on Twitter through Alan Ford of a possible Black Tern at Amwell so I couldn't resist a quick trip to check it out. A couple of others were already there, but the bird was very distant. It was smaller than a Common Tern and had a darker back and was acting like a Marsh Tern. Suddenly a flock of Black-headed Gulls headed skywards chasing flying ants and the Tern went with them. It was difficult to pick out but eventually resumed its flight low down at the southern end of the pit. Fortunately it perched up in front of the viewpoint and a quick picture on Twitter confirmed it as a juvenile Black Tern - Thanks Barry Reed.
At one stage it was joined by a Common Tern to give a size comparison.
My initial flight shots were binned as it then flew much closer in front of the viewpoint.
I have seen a couple of Black Terns in Spring at Amwell, but this is my first on return passage.
A stunning bird, so tiny and dainty!
Since at least early March there have been a pair of Peregrines using the tower of All Saints Church as a base. I have not previously posted any photographs of them in case they bred, but as we are now into August and they have failed to breed I feel it is ok to do so. The female is very young indeed probably about 16 months old and is now starting to get her adult plumage.
The male is older with what looks like full adult plumage.
There should certainly be plenty of food about for them including Pigeons and good hunting areas over King's Meads. It is wonderful to see this species expanding and spreading throughout Hertfordshire. I have also been fortunate to get some flight shots.
Wonderful birds and a great addition to the County Town.
I have been watching and photographing Barn Owls on King's Meads from mid May through to late July. They are annual here, though disappear during the Winter months and I assume they move up onto farmland as the Meads may be too wet at this time. Following on from the Short-eared Owl which over wintered, it has been a great area for Owls.
This will be a slightly different blog from normal, with very little narrative, but lots of photographs as I have managed to monitor their progress through these months. I will start off with some flight shots. Always a thrill to get a close pass as they concentrate on hunting.
Waiting for them and finding the best position without disturbing them is key and it is always a thrill when one appears in the distance. Fingers crossed it will head your way!
They seemed to be very successful in their hunts, and it was fascinating to watch them float effortlessly, then hover and dive!
During many visits I was able to get some shots of them perched up.
Fabulous birds to watch, and all 20 minutes walk away!