Norfolk and Cambridgeshire

Thursday 14th - Saturday 16th August 2014
Juvenile Ruffs, Titchwell
Here are some highlights from my recent camping trip to the east with my father, staying in Yaxham, Norfolk. The weather was better than expected, with a couple of showers on Friday morning being the only daytime rain, and then dry after that with lots of sun but also a cooling breeze.
Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Welney
We stopped at WWT Welney on Thursday. Eleven adult Whooper Swans seems a strange sight in August, and more than I saw two years ago there in June. A juvenile Black-tailed Godwit was on Lady Fen, and five Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were on the main lagoon along with another Black-tailed Godwit. A male Ruff was at Lyle Hide with eight Snipe and a Hobby flew through.
Whooper Swan, Welney
Southern Hawker, Welney
Ruddy Darter, Welney
Migrant Hawker, Welney
Black-tailed Skimmer, Welney
Dragonflies at Welney included c6 each of Southern Hawkers and Migrant Hawkers, a Black-tailed Skimmer and a combined total of c30 Ruddy Darters and Common Darters.
Spoonbills, Titchwell
RSPB Titchwell Marsh on Saturday produced a flock of 16 Spoonbills, a wonderful sight, and also flocks of 15 Spotted Redshanks and 10 Greenshanks plus over 100 Avocets and c160 Black-tailed Godwits, c15 Ruff and c30 Sandwich Terns. On the beach I noted six Turnstones, two Knot, eight Sanderlings, five Dunlins and six Bar-tailed Godwits. I didn't do any serious sea-watching.
Avocet, Titchwell
The Mid-Norfolk Railway runs alongside the campsite at Yaxham
A spot of sight-seeing - Ely Cathedral
Saturday we called in at NT Wicken Fen, only a few butterflies were on the wing in the coolish breeze, but several dragonflies including several  Ruddy Darters and Common Darters, Southern Hawkers, Migrant Hawkers and five Brown Hawkers. Several Roach were in the Lode. The highlight was several Common Lizards which were basking along the edge of the boardwalk.
Common Lizard, Wicken Fen
A nice relaxing few days.
Wind pump at Sedge Fen, Wicken Fen
Roach, Wicken Lode
Knopper Galls on acorns, caused by the wasp Andricus quercuscalicis, Wicken Fen car park


Mostly Insects

Saturday 26th July 2014
Close up of a Megachile sp. Leaf-cutter - the business end
In the garden, Leaf-cutter Bees (Megachile sp.) have been very active lately, making good use of the 'solitary bee hive' I have provided. These are fascinating insects, cutting neat holes in the leaves of plants (I haven't actually witnessed them doing this) and carrying them back to the nest. Pollen is collected on a mass of hairs on the lower abdomen, and they seem to favour my Dahlias for this.
A Common Darter in the garden was very fresh-looking and allowed close study.

At WWT Slimbridge in the afternoon, the highlights were a female Marsh Harrier and two Redstarts from Holden Tower. I also saw 3+ flyover Yellow Wagtails and a juvenile on the sea wall, and 11 Green Sandpipers and four Avocets were at Robbie Garnett hide. I watched the the Marsh Harrier on The Dumbles for around 15 minutes before it took to the air, eventually heading towards the canal, and being mobbed by a Buzzard and an Avocet along the way.

A couple of garden hoverfly photos:
Episyrphus balteatus, Marmalade Fly
Eupeodes luniger
And finally, a White Adniral photo from Oversley Wood, Warwickshire, on 10th July:


Night Heron at Cheltenham and Graylings on Brean Down

Sunday 6th - Monday 7th July 2014
Night Heron, Pittville Park, Cheltenham
After dipping it on back in June, I was pleased to catch up with the NIGHT HERON at Pittville Park this evening after it was re-found yesterday. It showed very well at times as it fished the lake edge.
I spent the afternoon at Brean yesterday with family and was chuffed to find two Graylings on Brean Down, towards the fort. It was quite breezy up there but the Graylings seem to manage to get back to the stony path whenever they flew up after appearing to be caught up in the breeze for a while, giving the impression they were about to be blown off the down never to be seen again!
Grayling, Brean Down, Somerset
Grayling habitat
There were also at least four Stonechats, the males sometimes launching into song-flight before dropping back down to a perch.
Stonechat, Brean Down


Large Blues, Orchids, and other Midsummer Things

Large Blue, Daneway Banks
Since my last post I've spent two weeks on holiday in the Canaries and apart from that I've not done a lot of birding really. The holiday, on La Gomera, was great, wonderful scenery, and plenty of wildlife interest - I will get round to doing a trip report some time. Bird life-ticks included Bulwer's Petrel and Little Shearwater (now regarded as a split to North Atlantic or Macronesian Shearwater), and Trumpeter Finch, the latter being quite numerous around the apartment site we were on. I can only offer a photo of the latter here:
Male Trumpeter Finch, Playa Santiago, La Gomera
Also one of two friendly neighborhood Hoopoes which I saw daily in the vicinity.
Hoopoe, Playa Santiago, La Gomera
The top photo is one of three Large Blues I saw at Daneway Banks on 29th June, and talking of butterflies, I made a trip to Whitecross Green Wood, Oxon, on 22nd June with Mark H. where we eventually, and I mead eventually, saw a single Black Hairstreak. It was a bit on the shy side, but still nice to life-tick this rare species.
Large Blue, Daneway Banks
Female Black Hairstreak, Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire
Before we set off, Mark showed me one of the Elephant Hawk Moths  from his previous night's trapping:
Elephant Hawk-moth, Tuffley, Glos
The previous day I couldn't resist going for the lingering Cotswold Water Park Gannet on 21st, which was hanging around pits 57/58 (now called 'Somerford Lagoon' and 'Flagham Fen' respectively). It was also seen on pit 41 ('Freeth Meer'). I walked in from the Minety Road car park at Swillbrook Lakes and this is a pleasant walk, avoiding the 'bomb-crater' access road beyond the Lower Mill development.
Immature Gannet, Cotswold Water Park, Glos
This year seems to be a good one for Bee Orchids and I found my first this year at Kilkenny Viewpoint on 29th, and have since found a few more.
Bee Orchid, Kilkenny Viewpoint
I'll finish this post with a recent garden Hoverfly - Sphaerophoria scripta - not an easy ID but I recommend 'Britain's Hoverflies' by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris, an excellent book from the WildGuides, one of my favourite publishers (I haven't been paid anything to say this!).
Sphaerophoria scripta, Quedgeley


Dragons and Spotted Flies

Saturday 17th - Sunday 18th May 2014
Four-spotted Chaser, Woorgreens FOD
A catch up from the weekend is due. Saturday's highlights were Firecrests in the forest plus lots of dragonflies emerging and recently emerged at Woorgreens, with several Broad-bodied Chasers and a few Four-spotted Chasers.
Broad-bodied Chaser, Woorgreens FOD
Sunday at Hidcote Manor Garden produced at least two Spotted Flycatchers around the Lily Pond area, also a couple of pairs of mating Azure Dameselflies I couldn't see any Great Crested Newts in the pond, but there were several Smooth Newts and also some Acilius sp. aquatic beetle larvae. Also the magnificent Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrata, was in full flower, near the shop.
Spotted Flycatcher, Hidcote
Spotted Flycatcher, Hidcote, this male was singing frequently
Acilius sp. larva, Hidcote
Handkerchief Tree. Hidcote


Great Reed Warbler at WWT

Wednesday 14th May 2014
Male Great Reed Warbler
It was take two at WWT Slimbridge this morning (the Bonaparte's took two goes too!) but the GREAT REED WARBLER was much more obliging foe me this morning. Family commitments limited my time yesterday evening and I had to leave long before it eventually showed. Arriving not long after 8 this morning, it was out in the open at Robbie Garden hide and showed well as it foraged for insects. What a cracking bird to see and hear as it sang and called.