2 photos of the Purple Hairstreak and Essex Skipper.
After yesterdays amazing sighting and coupled with a decent amount of rain I headed over to Hilfield hoping that something good may have been forced down. As it was it was fairly quiet bird wise with a Common Sandpiper on the dam, 85+ Canada Geese and a Bullfinch that was heard near the hide. The day was infact much more notable for the sheer number of butterflies present. Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoishell, Small and Large White, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and Speckled Wood were noted in differing numbers but a few Small Copper and Ringlet were new for the year and near the end of the walk 2 Marbled White were seen. But while trying to see if any of the reserves first ever Purple Emporers from last week were still around myself and Tony Blake watched my first ever Purple Hairstreaks. One in particular landed on a leaf and allowed us to get good views and a couple of photos. A bit further round the res Tony picked up a skipper sp and as this butterly also hung around un-concerned about our presence we were able to get some photos of it that confirmed that it was an Essex Skipper which was also a new one for me. Not a bad few days with 3 new butterfly species seen along with a mega garden tick!
3 photos of the Gannet. Thanks Sam for permission.
The day was spent viewing 3 properties in the nearby vicinity but none of which ticked many boxes and so back at home in Chipperfield we spent a couple of hours slobbing around watching crap telly counting down the hours until Carey's parents came round to go out for her dads birthday. After my shower I got changed and sat on the sofa looking out of the window wondering if the predicted heavy rain would ever arrive when all of a sudden a large bird flew into view as it passed over the flat heading SW. HOLY S**T IT'S A GANNET!! I jumped up and grabbed my bins from the desk a couple of feet away and got onto the bird. My heart at this point was beating so hard with excitement that I was shaking! Couple this with looking through double glazing at a miserable dark grey sky and getting plumage detail on it was pretty tricky. Initial views led me to believe it was an adult but just then the intercom went off. It was Carey's parents! I rushed to let them in but by then the bird was about half way to disappearing. Thankfully it casually circled a couple of times allowing me some better views and being able to note darker feathering along the wings and and tail with a hint of creamy yellow on the head. Given that Gannet isn't exactly common in Herts and even when I do see them at sea I don't give them much time I would guess at a probable 3rd summer bird? But whatever it's age it was a Gannet on the garden list. WOW! 10 seconds later and it flew out of view behind the houses opposite. Within 3 minutes i'd put the news out on Twitter and once all the birthday cards and presents had been opened I quickly posted on the Herts Yahoo group of my sighting. Annoyingly where I live the mobile phone signal is worse than useless and the fact that we were already running late for dinner meant that was as much news disemination as I could manage. Once down in nearby Kings Langley I recieved signal followed by a flurry of twitter messages and texts. I had a sneaky look and was amazed to see that Samuel Perfect had been out birding a mile or so down the road and had not only seen the Gannet 3 minutes before me but he had managed 3 record photos of the bird (see above). I wasn't hallucinating after all!! After last years run of Herts ticks this was my first this year. The following day it or another Gannet (being ID'd as a sub-adult) was seen near Staines Reservoir,Surrey and Wraysbury GP's, Berkshire.
A link to Sam's blog can be found in the Blogs I follow list.
The day got off to a flier when a Crossbill was in a tree next to my car then around 9am whilst litter picking by the pools I heard the call of more Crossbills and a few minutes later 3 birds flew off east. 2 Bullfinch were still by the mini railway and my first sighting of a Kingfisher of the year was had as it flew past the rustic bridge.
No birding highlights today but whilst up at Grove Mill Lane car park in Whippendell Woods something large caught my eye fluttering over and there to my amazement was my first ever PurpleEmporer butterfly. It was just a shame it continued into the woods so I missed out on seeing the lovely purple sheen.
BH Gull numbers had risen to around 50 with 1 juv. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were still singing near the meadow along with a Bullfinch then later in the day the first Common Gull of the autumn was near the car park and a Buzzard flew over.
Highlight of the day wasn't a bird but my first Silver-Washed Fritillary butterfly of the year and only my 4th in the park that flew over the rustic bridge. A Grey Wagtail was reported to me in the morning.
After an easy drive home it was back to work. BH Gull numbers had jumped to 22 birds by the car park including a lovely gingery juvenile. Other juv birds were a Moorhen on the river and my first ever juv Coot for the park. Probably one of 3 that were born in the meadow when it was flooded? A Grey Wagtail flew over late afternoon.
After the mammoth dip to the Farnes the last thing I needed was more driving but thats exactly what I had to do. My mum had very kindly booked a weekend at the dodgy sounding Sandyballs hoilday camp in the New Forest! With baking hot temperatures the hour spent in traffic on the M25 wasn't the most pleasurable time of my life but within 2 hours we had arrived. We were staying in wooden cabins with a river view. Stupidly though the staff had left all the windows closed and the curtains open so it was more of a sauna when we walked in! After a bite to eat it was bedtime but sleeping when it was that hot was tricky to say the least. The next day we all had a quick stroll down to the river where I encountered Cetti's Warbler and at least 2 Reed Warbler but the highlight was seeing my first ever Smooth Snake that my brothers girlfriends son had found. Later myself, Carey, Tom and my mum headed out to Beaulieu motor museum where we looked round at the Top Gear cars and the James Bond cars to name a few. We popped in to have a look around the house and as I looked out of the window I noticed a Little Egret on the river.
Today saw the first returning BH Gull for the autumn with an adult on the cricket outfield. 11 CanadaGeese were on the river by the fishing lake of which 11 were grown juvs. Overheard saw singles of Buzzard, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk.
With news of a mega rare Bridled Tern in Northumberland I set about gettign a day off work to go. I'd been offered a lift from Chris Sharp of the Sharpy birding collective fame (see blog on my blog list) but couldnt get the day off. Later in the day another lift offer from Tony Blake came my way and with some persuasion I managed to get the day off. I woke at 12.30am and while going to the car 3 Tawny Owl were hooting away and then on my journey nearly ran over a suicidal Badger that shot out infront of me. Tony picked me up at 1.30am and a clear journey saw us at Seahouses at 7am. News from the boatmen was positive that the warden on the Farnes had seen the bird so spirits were high. At 9am I set foot on the islands for the first time and soon learned that the warden hadnt seen the bird as he had a lie in as he'd been up early the previous few days. Spirits dampened and 3 hours went and no sign. Annoyingly we had to leave the island as it shuts for lunch and in the 15 mins it took to get back to the mainland news broke that it had popped on the rocks we'd been staring at almost as soon as we had left but then flew off after 5 minutes. We went back over but again there was no sign and at 4pm hungry and tired we set off for home frustrated that we had missed it because of a strange ruling for lunch breaks! Due to a couple of rest stops and the M1 being shut I climbed into bed at 11.30pm after 640 mile, 22 hour round trip. The next day it was re-found on the mainland and showed well on and off. That's twitching for you! The islands though are very impressive and the sheer numbers of birds is amazing with Puffins, Guillemots and Terns everywhere. I did have a Bridled first though in the shape of my first ever 'Bridled' Guillemot!
Hard to believe but 10 years ago today my son Tom was born! Where the last decade has gone I dont know but its a bit scary! At Cassiobury Park around 40 Swift were screeching around and were flying so close I could hear the bills snapping shut when they had caught a fly! After work I popped in to see Tom and wish him happy birthday and later on me and Carey wandered over to the 2 Brewers pub in the village. As we walked past the area where the Firecrest was found a couple of weeks earlier I was amazed to hear one again. What was even more amazing was that there were 2 birds and one of them had food in its mouth! I'd only gone and found a breeding pair 3 minutes from home! After dinner both birds were still around and possibly a third bird was heard in the next garden down. Had I found a small colony of them?
After a night at my dads I headed home and save for Kestrel and Buzzard the journey home was quiet birdwise until I was nearly home when a Turtle Dove flew north over the car about 1 mile east of J22 on the M25. This was my first Turtle Dove in 3 years with only the Oriental Turtle Dove being seen in between. Such a shame it's becoming so rare.
As i'd had my old Leica APO Televid 77 for 11 years and the fact that the coating was coming off the 2 lenses and the weight of it was not doing my neck and shoulders any good anymore I thought it was time for a change and so I headed up to Cley Spy in Norfolk to part exchange it for a new model. I'd been hoping for £5-600 for my scope but unfortunately the coating issue was noticed as was an un-noticed problem with the eyepiece and so the offer was a depressing £150! Reluctantly I accepted and so purchased a new Leica APO Televid 65. I can't complain about my old scope as in the 11 years I owned it i'd seen 190 new species through it with the first being the Minsmere Alpine Accentor and the last this years Pacific Swift! Thank you for the memories old scope.
Afterwards I headed to Cley and walked around there to test it out. Annoyingly the heathaze was very bad and so spotting anything properly was tricky. I added 3 new birds to the year list with 9 male Ruff, Little Gull and LRP being those 3.Other noteworthy birds were a Marsh Harrier taking a young Avocet, a late Wigeon and 2 summer plumaged Spotted Redshank..
Born and bred in Watford,Herts, I started birding when I was just 8 years old because the old next door neighbours garden was very overgrown and attracted birds to his and our gardens! I first went to the Watford RSPB group at 15 and then I joined the Herts Bird Club in the same year. I was on the Herts Bird Club committee for 3 years. I started twitching in September 2001 after i'd bought my RBA pager and within a week of owning it i'd added Red-Necked Stint and American Green Heron! I keep 2 main lists which can be seen above.