A long awaited and well attended SE Herts Group trip to Frampton! Sadly the weather was poor but this did not stop us having a great day. From the new visitor centre we had Dunlin, Spotted Redshanks, Greenshank as well as some Spoonbills.
On the way round we added Sandwich Terns, Great Egrets, Knot and Whimbrel. One of the hides gave respite from the rain and a chance to add Curlew.
Despite the dull conditions I had a go at trying to photograph the many Sand Martins.
But it is waders that is the draw here and by the end of the day we saw a total of 20 species! The commonest were by far Black-tailed Godwits.
There were also a few Ruff in various plumages as they lose their fine Summer regalia.
Good to see some Little-ringed Plover chicks as well.
Of course one of the most graceful waders are Avocets and they seem to be doing very well here judging by the number of youngsters.
Talking of graceful waders our next target were the two families of Black-Winged Stilts a breeding first for Lincolnshire. On the way we met one of groups and this picture shows the weather we faced!
With the rain in our faces we had some good views of both Stilt families.
It was time to head back to the Visitor Centre to warm up and have a coffee. It seemed this Pink Footed Goose wanted to join us!
A wonderful day at one of my favourite reserves!
A quick trip to Fowlmere to see how the Marsh Harriers were getting along. Brief views of the two juveniles and then the male came in with prey, but apart from that very quiet and I suspect they will soon be dispersing. However, around the visitor centre area was a family of Spotted Flycatchers. Always high up and fairly distant so just a couple of record shots.
And below them, a young Muntjac.
The reserve was full of Butterflies, especially Red Admiral.
And lots of Brimstones!
From the Mere hide a Hobby put on a great show hawking for Dragonflies.
The local Kestrel had obviously been watching and proved very successful in catching Dragonflies too!
Always a great place to visit.
A couple of warmer, sunnier days meant a short trip for Butterflies and Dragonflies on the Heath and then into the woods. No sign yet of any of the more exciting Butterflies, but lots of commoner species including this Speckled Wood.
No sign of Cinnabar Moth but plenty of their caterpillars!
I found two Longhorn Beetle species including Black & Yellow and Large Black.
On the Hoverfly front, Great Pied and Marmalade.
Another good find was this Nursery Web Spider with its nest.
It was peak Dragonfly season with Ruddy Darters everywhere.
I managed to find one Emerald Damselfly. I just love those eyes!
The Brown Hawkers were fairly high up and did not perch, however I had more luck with the Emperors.
And finally, Southern Hawker.
When the sun finally shows again a return trip is needed for some of the more exciting and scarce Butterflies.
A long but worthwhile drive out to Norfolk to see the Bee-eaters which had returned after their successful breeding attempt last year. It appears that they had an unsuccessful attempt this time as the nest was predated, however three birds remain and they could make a second attempt. I managed one shot of a bird on the ground but mostly they favoured sitting on the wires.
Last year they seemed to be catching Butterflies and Dragonflies, but this year they actually caught Bees, taking them back to the wires to eat.
Catching them hunting was tricky but fun and here are a couple of shots of them in action.
Fantastic birds to both see and hear!
A great start to the trip and after all that action it was off to Cromer for fish & chips!
A team of crack birders!
Next stop was the Swanton Novers Raptor Viewpoint to look for the reported female Honey Buzzard. Sadly we only saw Common Buzzard.
Careful scanning added Sparrowhawk and a super male Goshawk. There were lots of smaller birds including Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Skylark, Yellowhammer and some confiding Linnets.
A great end to a marvellous day.
A great weekend away in Suffolk to celebrate good friends 30th wedding anniversary in the quirky resort of Thorpeness. While not a birding holiday, in between walks, pubs and eating I managed to visit RSPB North Warren a short walk from the cottage via the beach and "The House in the Clouds".
Small Copper on the heath.
Good numbers of Swifts and House Martins were seen together with commoner warblers such as Whitethroat, Blackcap, Reed and Chiffchaff. No sign of Marsh Harrier there but a hunting Sparrowhawk was a bonus. Again on the Heath, were a few Stonechats including a juvenile.
The following day saw a trip to Minsmere which is one of my favourite reserves. Walking through to the Bittern hide saw quite a few Dragonflies including this Common Darter.
Overlooking the reedbeds you get a great view of Sizewell!
A lone Hobby was hawking for Dragonflies but too distant for good shots and the five Marsh Harriers were also camera shy, but here is one of the females.
I spotted three Bitterns on short flights but just managed one shot as one of them landed in the reedbed.
The Scrape was next and waders were scarce with this distant Ruff.
And two Spotted Redshanks.
As to be expected, Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets were the commonest waders present.
Up onto the beach and the view towards Southwold and the beautiful Yellow-horned Poppies.
The highlight though was watching the Terns fishing very close to shore before taking their catch back to the Scrape. First up were the Sandwich Terns.
And then the Common Terns.
And finally, the Little Terns that are now nesting on the Scrape protected by their mini "air raid bunkers".
The trip up to Dunwich Heath was not that productive as the wind had got up and whilst I had views of the Dartford Warblers I did not manage to photograph them. It was then back to the main reserve and it's always good to check out the Sand Martin bank. Here are three young birds looking out for their next meal.
Even though the weather was turning I spent a short time at "Digger Alley" for the parasitic wasps. I didn't have the best lens for the job but manged some shots of the Beewolfs.
The Beewolfs catch Honey Bees and take them back to their hole. The female lays an egg in the bee and then the hole is sealed. When the young hatch it has a ready made meal! A similar species is the Green-eyed Flower Bee.
Minsmere never disappoints and a great way to end a fantastic weekend.
It has been many years since I last visited Thursley Common in Surrey and I had forgotten what an amazing place it is. It is recovering well after the devastating fires of a few years ago and the new boardwalk was a great place to watch at least four Hobbies hunting.
One of the birds favoured a dead tree to eat its prey in, or to just have a short rest.
Capturing them against the trees was more difficult but very rewarding!
Without doubt one of my favourite birds! The boardwalk was also very good for spotting dragonflies including Four-spotted Chasers.
And a completely new species for me - Keeled Skimmer.
After all this excitement there was a birding lull with not about apart from a Stonechat and brief views of a Dartford Warbler. It was hot but quite breezy which did not help with smaller birds perching up. However, a Tree Pipit was a welcome sight.
Further round, Redstarts were calling and brief views of a couple of male birds were obtained but they were very flighty. A female allowed a couple of shots before she melted away.
And a family of Stonechat's allowed some great close up shots. Firstly the male.
And a juvenile.
And in the same spot, a pair of Linnets.
And almost back at the carpark when a rider and horse disturbed a group of five Woodlark which thankfully came back down to feed.
There was one further surprise before leaving as someone said there were Downy Emerald Dragonflies on The Moat. I managed some flight shots as they never landed and subsequently discovered they were indeed Brilliant Emerald Dragonflies, another new species for me.
But the day didn't end there! After a pub meal it was off to nearby Crookham Common to try for Nightjars. We did see more Woodlark and heard Tree Pipit while waiting and as dusk fell a few Nightjars started Churring. A short video below to show off that amazing sound with the bird resting on a branch.
I had no expectations of photographs but after ramping up the ISO I managed a couple of record shots.
Truly amazing birds! The old English name is Goatsucker as at one time they were believed to suckle milk from Goats at night. Bonus birds also included a calling Tawny Owl and a roding Woodcock. It was then back to the car with bats flitting around and a late journey home after a great day out.
After failing to find the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies the other day I decided to have another go. A few dragonflies were flying including Broad-bodied Chasers and this Four-spotted Chaser.
Jackdaws were patrolling the edge of the main track.
And a male Reed Bunting was holding territory.
I bumped into Barry Reed who knew a good spot for the Damselflies and carefully keeping on the drier ground I managed to get a couple of shots. Similar to the much commoner Blue-tailed Damselfly but to the eye, paler and with more blue on the final segments.
This female Tufted Duck on The New River allowed some close shots.
Amongst the Black-headed Gulls a single 3rd Calendar Year Lesser Black-backed Gull.
After the Dunlin earlier in the week it was good to see a pair of Ringed Plover in almost the same spot.
But the highlight was a hunting Hobby which at times came low over Park Mead hawking for insects.
King's Meads has certainly been productive this month and long may it continue!
There has been a recent influx of Black Terns in the south and east of the country and with two reported just over the border in Cambridgeshire a quick trip was in order. As always at Dernford, the Skylarks were confiding.
A Common Tern proved a warm up act before the Black Terns.
The Black Terns stayed fairly distant, but by walking to the other side of the reservoir they were slightly closer and the light was better.
Such graceful, fast moving Terns and it was good that my good friend Robert made it up the M11 as they were lifers for him and also too him to 199 UK species this year! As if in celebration, there was a flypast from a Spitfire in USAF colours from nearby Duxford.
And a Hisparno buchon which is a Spanish variant of the Messerschmidt 109.
Another bonus bird was this fine drake Garganey.
But the strangest sighting was this flock of ten Common Scoter (six drakes) happily swimming together miles from the coast.
They were very settled and then suddenly took off before landing again. The most I have ever seen inland!
As the car was in for an MOT and service I had a walk down to King's Meads looking for Damselflies. Intently looking at the ground I noticed a large white bird fly off and initially my first thought was Little Egret. It soon became apparent it was a Spoonbill! It quickly landed again and I went round to try and get a another look and it took off again before coming back and settled down for the afternoon.
I have seen them at Amwell, but this was my first at King's Meads and could indeed be a first for the site. Putting the news out on Twitter allowed a few local birders to connect.
A great adult bird showing the yellow throat patch. It stayed until late evening but there was no sign the following day. Heading back home, this Dunlin was another unexpected surprise.
Amazing what is on your doorstep!
It has been a while since I was last up at Waterford Heath and this time of year is good for flowers and Butterflies including Grizzled Skipper. While it was warm, for the most time the sun stayed hidden behind cloud so not ideal conditions! The plants were doing well including Wild Strawberry and Stonecrop.
The Oxalis looked stunning.
I didn't take a macro lens but the Canon RF 100mm - 500mm was a good substitute for this Ashy Mining Bee.
Also this small, bright green Beetle which I think is Cryptocephalus aureolus.
And a small Hoverfly likely Dasysyrphus species.
Damselflies were at a premium with just one Large Red Damselfly.
When the sun did come through it was quite hot and caused some Butterflies to come out, including Small Heath and Brown Argus.
Mother Shipton is a stunning day flying Moth and this shot shows how it got its name, after the infamous Yorkshire Witch.
A female Holly Blue was a good find, especially as it opened its wings to show the black marks on the front wings.
By far the most numerous species was Common Blue, and with some of them posing on the wild flowers, it made for some beautiful images.
No sign of Grizzled Skipper, so another trip will be required when the sun decides to shine!