Sunday, 4 December 2016

November Highlights!

Weather: The 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

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