Thursday, 20 August 2015

Summer 2015

Summer 2015

An early summer visit to a private East Kent site produced brief views and no photos of two male Red-veined Darter. The wind across the pools meant they just wouldn't settle and the sun didn't really play fair, going behind a large cloud as I arrived and resolutely staying there during my visit. Searching the grass I did find a few Common Emerald and a smart female Black-tailed Skimmer, before Marc Heath arrived and kindly showed me the Darters and a smart male Scarce Emerald damselfly.

Female Black-tailed Skimmer
Common Darter
Common Emerald

Scarce Emerald

At the start of a week in Norfolk we visited Snettisham RSPB reserve where a Broad-billed Sandpiper had been frequenting the roost and mud around high tide. We arrived as the tide was coming in, finding a small group of hopeful birders up on the sea wall. There were Dunlins everywhere, in small groups across the dryer mud with the majority (thousands) along the still distant tideline. Having scanned the nearer groups I decided that with the tide still an hour away we would walk along the raised seawall past the beach houses to check a large roost of Sandwich Terns. As we arrived and started to scan a hundred Dunlin flew in and fed behind the roost slightly distracting me from the terns. Just as I scanned through these a second bigger group flew in and landed at the front of the roost. Almost immediately I said to Mac 'I've got it' as the Broad-billed Sandpiper walked into my scope field of view. It was feeding with the nearest Dunlin and over the next 30 minutes gave great views. I alerted another birder nearby and Mac kindly walked back along the seawall to gather the other birders as I struggled to send a text message (why is it is sooooooo difficult to find a signal in Norfolk?). 

A few minutes later I turned to see Mac returning Pied Piper style with a straggle of about 30 birders in tow. As the first arrived we put them on the bird, but for no real reason within about two minutes the group took flight and vanished across the mud, lost to view, and before a couple of stragglers managed to see it. I checked through the terns and Golden Plovers and with heavy bands of rain approaching we set off on the long walk back to the car, thankfully arriving before the rain.

A change of scene for some moth trapping in Norfolk produced a few new species, the best of which were several Beautiful Hook-tips, old favourites including Buff-tip and Burnished Brass.

Beautiful Hooktip
Burnished Brass
Plain Golden Y
Beautiful Golden Y
Light Arches
Common Rustic
Dot Moth
Leopard Moth
Eyed Hawk Moth
Elephant Hawk Moth
A great catch of Hawk Moths - 3 Elephant, 1 Small Elephant, 1 Eyed and the massive Privet
Privet Hawk Moth in the hand
Awesome creatures
Elephant and Small Elephant Hawk Moths
Summer birding can be fairly quiet but the first returning waders mixing with this years crop of youngsters makes for some interesting birding. The antics of the Titchwell Avocets one early morning was surprising even for these most aggressive birds. A well grown juvenile began begging an adult bird feeding close by. Not sure if it was one of its parents or not but the adult was clearly unimpressed. It aggressively approached the youngster then climbed onto it and forced it down into the mud - a proper telling off, presumably your old enough to feed yourself. The juvenile sat somewhat surprised, half stuck in the mud for a minute or so, then managed to extract itself before continuing to feed - quietly!

A juvenile Avocet gets put in its place
Juvenile Avocet 
Scanning the reeds where a Spotted Crake had recently been seen eventually found something furtively moving
out of the darkness - a juvenile Water Rail. It gave good views out in the open.
Ruff - moulting rapidly out of summer plumage
Summer-plumaged Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

A very gingery Dunlin contrasted with the other blackish backed worn birds

I have been trying to see Black Darter for a couple of years now without success. I've either been too early in the season or too late and never seemed to have been close to a site at the right time of year. We had visited Dersingham Bog, near Sandringham, last year finding the right area but not locating any darters. In late July being in the vicinity we tried, and failed, again - this time a week too early and before they had emerged. It was actually very quiet on the bog for dragons of any type with a couple of Four-spotted Chaser, a recently emerged Common Darter and just one Keeled Skimmer. We did see some superb Sundew's, Bog Asphodel and Cranberries beside the boardwalk.


Bog Asphodel

Wild cranberry
Common Darter
Mallard - Cley
Mum and baby Mallards - Cley

An early visit to Cley on 30 July started with a real surprise. A dark storm cloud had gathered along the coast threatening heavy rain. I parked the car and decided I could just get to Dauke's Hide before the rain started. As I walked quite quickly along the boardwalk I glanced up and noticed two distinct 'tails' hanging from the trailing edge of the increasingly darkening cloud. I briefly half considered that they resembled the start of a tornado as I continued along the path. I looked at the tail to the left and then heard a deep swirling rush to my right. Turning quickly I saw the tail had developed and hit the ground, actually turning into a real tornado, and spinning its way within 50m of me across the reed bed towards the road! Somewhat startled I turned back to the left just as the other tail spun to the ground and swirled away across the Eye Field. I grabbed a couple of images before it dissipated back into the storm cloud. Wasn't expecting that when I got out of bed this morning....

The second tornado races across the Eye Field, Cley, 30 July 2015
Still slightly disbelieving and with the rain starting to fall I raced into the hide, setup my scope and opened the flaps. Within seconds the heavens literally opened and the rain hammered down. From the comfort of the hide I watched the birds react to this deluge. They all stopped feeding and pointed their bills into the rain. The female Avocet managed to gather her brood under her wings to offer some protection as the raindrops battered the pools and islands, just four little dangling blue legs revealing their presence.

Shelducks taking a battering
A young fox takes a walk around the Cley pools
Ruff - Titchwell
A brief stop at Titchwell RSPB produced the usual waders but not in the numbers of the previous week as the heavy rain during the week and raised the water levels. Ruff, Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit gave good views from Island Hide and the first Common Snipe of the Autumn appeared around the margins.

We ended the day at spectacular Snettisham, an east coast site with west coast views, looking across The Wash towards Lincolnshire in the distance. Snettisham is most famous for large numbers of birds and today was no exception. The tide was well in when we reached the sea wall with all the birds crammed onto a small area of exposed mud. The views were spectacular, enhanced by the amazing cloud formation and passing squalls. Thousands upon thousands of Knot and Dunlin whirled around over the sands as a large mixed tern flock twisted and turned along the shore. Flocks of Black-tailed Godwit flew in over our heads to roost on the gravel islands.

The stunning sky off Snettisham

A weekend in the New Forest to celebrate our wedding anniversary allowed for some walking and dragonfly hunting in one of the UK's top areas. I had a couple of targets - Scarce Blue tailed Damselfly, which I have tried for four times previously, and Black Darter, which I've looked for five times before without success. We spent a brilliant afternoon at Latchmore Bottom, north of Ringwood. We walked along the stream in the sunshine finding several Beautiful Demoiselles and a brief Golden-ringed Dragonfly. I checked the first feeder stream where a couple of Small Red Damselfly were resting and a Blue-tailed Damselfly teased. A Keeled Skimmer gave good views.

Further along the stream we checked the large reedy pool. A couple of superb Emperor were hunting and chasing over the pool and several Common Emerald damselfly were hanging, spread-winged, from the reeds. I noticed two small blue damselflies flying around close by. Using binoculars I was delighted to see they were Scarce Blue tailed Damselfly. Over the next hour I got wet feet finally managing to photograph this very localised species. Managed to squelch quietly into the hotel without anyone noticing....

Finally a Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly
I got very wet feet to get close enough for a photo

Small Red Damselfly
This species gets infested with mites,visible on the rear body
Even more mites on this one
After a fantastic evening at The Pig in Brokenhurst we spent the next morning walking around a couple of heathland areas looking for birds and dragonflies. Mandy found a very friendly baby Donkey with its mother - I did have to admit it was rather cute. Around the heaths we found countless Common Redstarts and eventually a pair of Spotted Flycatcher. Common Darter and Beautiful Demoiselle were plentiful and a strange pool on a hilltop produced an ovipositing Emperor and a Southern Blue Damselfly.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Ovipositing Emperor
We found the pools at Debden Bottom and they did not disappoint despite a stiff breeze blowing across the heath. The number of Common Emeralds around the edges was impressive.

Common Emerald Damselfly

Female Common Emerald
Keeled Skimmer were common and several Emperor were cruising around. Common Darter were seen around the heath but I just could not find my main target - Black Darter. Maybe  I was looking in the wrong places. As I reached the corner of the second pool a small black dragonfly whizzed away into the heath. I managed to follow it and watched it land - finally a male Black Darter. Once tuned in I soon found several more males and females and managed to get some photos.

Male Black Darter
Female Black Darter

Common Blue Damselfly
We finished at Crockford Bridge, walking down the stream for several miles. We found Beautiful Demoiselle and Keeled Skimmers as we walked onto the heath. A showy Dartford Warbler in the gorse, several Common Buzzard overhead and a Hobby out on the heath were the highlights, though an unseen calling Goshawk would have been the star had it given us a view.

Keeled Skimmer
Silver-studded Blue
Back in Norfolk a visit to Cley provided views of a Water Vole and the first returning waders alongside locally raised Little-ringed Plover.

Refraction in the sunny sky
Water Vole
Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit
Juvenile Little-ringed Plover
Adult Little-ringed Plover
An unseasonal northerly gale in July tempted an early seawatch of Sheringham. The hoped for Albatross that is spending another summer in the eastern North Sea off Germany and Denmark never materialised - didn't really expect it, but you never know. However a few birds were on the move:
  • Gannet 38E, 30W
  • Common Scoter 35E, 210W
  • Wigeon 3W
  • Teal 1W
  • Tufted Duck 3W
  • Manx Shearwater 6E
  • Fulmar 2W
  • Arctic Skua 8E
  • Kittiwake 3W
  • Common Gull 1W
  • Sandwich Tern 124E, 2W
  • Common Tern 18E, 2W
  • Arctic Tern 17W
  • Black Tern 1W
  • Bar-tailed Godwit 7W
  • Whimbrel 1W
  • Knot 16E,9W
  • Turnstone 1W
  • Dunlin 2W
  • Guillemot 1E
  • Swift 1W

The seawatch shelter at Sheringham and the rather rough summer shoreline

Southern Hawker