Sunday, 4 December 2016

November Highlights!

WeatherThe month began quiet and mild, but cold air quickly spread.  Northerly winds were frequent in the first third of the month.  Mid-month saw unsettled times.  Storm Angus brought wet, windy weather and flooding, while another system brought more rain and flooding.  The month ended with high pressure in charge and it was mostly dry and sunny but increasingly cold.

Places Visited: Amwell; Cheshunt; Ghana; Mersea/Abberton; Rye Meads.

Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Bittern
Butterfly: Hewitson's Acraea Acraea alciope
Damselfly: Western Bluewing Sapho ciliata
Insect: Variegated grasshopper Zonocerus variegatus

However meaningless and vain, however dead life appears; the man of faith, of energy, of warmth…steps in and does something.

The highlight this month was supposed to have been a trip to Ghana. Unfortunately, although it was primarily for birds, it was quite a poor trip. In fact, if it wasn’t for the invertebrates it would have been a waste of time, energy and money.

There were other trips this month, of course. Amwell, Cheshunt and Rye Meads, as well as a day out to Mersea/Abberton.

Let’s get the Ghana trip out of the way, first. It was 7 very long days of forest birding, my idea of birding hell. Hot and humid and very tough going. Although the bird count was over 200, they were mostly all very distant or we only managed to get fleeting glimpses of them.

I soon gave up on the birding, putting all my efforts and remaining energies in to discovering the wonderful dragonfly and butterfly species out there. There was some very good insecting done, as well. So it wasn’t a complete loss.

I started and ended the month with visits to Cheshunt, with mixed fortunes. The first visit saw a male Stonechat early on and ended with seeing 3 Bitterns coming in to roost. Water Rails were good value on both visits, with a Kingfisher being the only good spot on the second.

Next up, was a day out to Mersea Island, with a visit to Abberton tacked on. It was at the invitation of my good friend, Ron aka ‘Amwell Watcher’. Or, the ‘Bittern Whisperer’, as he’s known now.

Brent Geese, Goldeneye, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone were only some of the stand-outs for me.

After the energy-sapping heat and humidity of Ghana, it was satisfyingly cooler to be visiting Amwell again. Although it was a very quiet visit, with only 5 Goldeneyes to mention in dispatches. However, they were good value, with displaying drakes.

It also started out quietly at Rye Meads. However, things warmed up with sightings of up to 6 Golden Plovers, a Shelduck, the long-staying Water Pipit, Green Sandpipers, Common Snipe and hundreds of Lapwing. Ron had also turned up and I regaled him with my (few) successes in Ghana.

So, in general, my run of poor form continues. The really cold weather and associated short days are now upon us and I am only spending around 4 hours or so, on visits. I have to confess that I’m not really a fan of the winter months, if only because they’re aren’t many birds on show, depending on where you go. And, of the interesting ones that are, often prove to be hard work.

My luck has to change sometime, so hopefully it will be in December.

Everything is going to be alright.’ Mark Kermode

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

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Monday, 7 November 2016

October Highlights!

WeatherA shallow depression tracked east across the country early on, bringing some rain. However, the UK soon turned dry, as high pressure took charge, restricting temperatures to near the seasonal average. As the month progressed, increasing numbers of showers encroached from the east, becoming more generally unsettled. This was followed by a build-up of pressure, giving mostly fine weather. The last four days of the month were notably mild.

Places Visited: Amwell; Rye Meads.

Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Bittern
Butterfly: Red Admiral
Dragonfly: Common Darter

Greed and Apathy. The two most dangerous weapons to life on Earth.

Unfortunately, it was generally another quiet, fairly unexciting month. Mainly due to personal illness, which knocked me out for most of the month. However, the weather was not at its’ finest, either.

When I did get out, it was early visits to both Amwell and Rye Meads, with one further trip to Amwell late in the month.

The stand-out sighting, this month, had to be the Bittern at Rye Meads. A juvenile female, which had been injured, was brought in to the Reserve for release. It was still there a few weeks later.

I not only managed to see it, but to photograph it as well. In fact, RM proved to be the best place to go this month, with several decent, close-up sightings, including Meadow Pipit, Green Sandpiper and Snipe.

However, apart from this, it was in essence a very quiet month. Kingfishers put in very good appearances at both venues. Water Rails also started to show well. The first Goldcrest of the season appeared at Amwell, towards the end of the month. The Little Grebes were very photogenic!

The annual changeover between departing summer visitors and arriving winter visitors continued. Hirundines and Warblers, amongst others, have all checked out, while Redwings and Fieldfares have started to arrive, in some numbers, thanks to the strong easterly winds. October is the month for conkers and fungi!

More and more wildfowl were starting to show, in their beautiful winter plumage. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before the really good stuff turns up.

Other than that, there wasn’t much else to report. Invertebrates, Butterflies, damsels and dragons have all started to disappear, their season over.

Red Admiral butterflies were the last to be seen, with Common Darter and Migrant Hawker the last Odonata. Jenny had kindly kept the Dragonfly Trail open a few extra weeks, allowing one final sighting of the Willow Emeralds.

So, all in all, a quiet month. Although November should prove to have something interesting to report. Stay tuned!

Do not judge humanity by the tiny minority who murder wildlife.
Judge humanity by the great majority who stand against them.

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

Or you could follow me on Twitter!

Friday, 7 October 2016

September Highlights!

Weather:  The month again started changeable, but was much warmer. It gave us the hottest day of the year and the hottest September for a hundred years. However, this was tempered by some heavy thunderstorms in the middle of the month.

Places Visited: Amwell; Fingringhoe Wick; Rye Meads.

Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Grey Plover
Butterfly: Comma
Dragonfly: Willow Emerald
Invertebrate: Devil's Coach Horse

Unfortunately, Natural Selection doesn't work on humans anymore.’

Sadly this was a short month, due to an enforced two-week stint of Jury Service. Consequently, I made very few visits and only then to Amwell and Rye Meads. However, towards the end of the month I was given a chance to pay a first visit to Fingringhoe Wick.

An added insult to injury was the fact that we had an Indian Summer this month, as well. It was one of the hottest September months, incorporating the hottest day of the year. While I was stuck inside a Court House. Argh!

There weren’t too many unusual things to see on the few days I did go out. I even missed the final Kingfisher fledging by 24 hours. Although the Kingfishers did put on a very good display on the day I visited.

That, of course, was at Rye Meads. There were several waders on show that day, with Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Common Snipe to be seen. There was similar fare at Amwell, the following day. Although bird species totals were low this month. Such as it was.

September may have set new weather records, but autumn is definitely on the way. Trees were starting to change colour, winter waterfowl were arriving, while the summer birds were departing. Migration had begun.

The invertebrate sighting of the month was a magnificent Devil’s Coach Horse beetle, found at the entrance to the boardwalk, in the Dragonfly Trail. However, other than that the month brought few exciting sightings. Roesel’s Bush Cricket, Dark Bush Cricket, Dock and Green Shield Bug, Mint Leaf Beetle and Wasp Beetle were all that got the juices flowing.

Only 5 species of butterfly were seen all month, while on the Odonata front all the common species were seen, for this time of year, including several Willow Emeralds at Amwell. This summer I had managed to see them at four different Reserves in Hertfordshire. It was good to see them doing really well. However, I only saw the common Emerald damselfly at one Reserve – Hertford Heath. Maybe the Willow has bullied them out of the area.

The trip of the month was a visit to Fingringhoe Wick. The Reserve is Essex Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve and visitor centre. It’s set in a spectacular position overlooking the Colne Estuary. A wide range of habitats includes grassland, heathland and ponds. Advert over.

A lovely, comfortable, new Hide had only recently been created, which jutted out and overlooked the estuary. The idea being a ‘wait and see’ for all the waders that the tide should push our way. In the event, it was a ‘wait and hope’, which then turned into a ‘wait and sigh’ as hope faded.

Frustratingly, most of the birds stayed distant, but eventually a few birds did venture in close. There were certainly a fair few species out there. Avocet, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint, Knot, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Redshank all appeared.

I was delighted to find a few Willow Emeralds on the Reserve, too. A Southern Hawker also appeared, amongst lots of Migrant Hawkers and several Darters. Even a Common Seal appeared, a bright rustic colour in the distance.

So, all in all, a disappointingly short month. Hopefully, things will pick up next month.

I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday.’

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site. Or follow me on Twitter.