Thursday 20 September 2018

WWT LWC Barnes with another young birder, 26th July 2018

When I first got Twitter in late February, I wasn't sure what to expect. Gradually, over time, I got to read about more and more birders - I was surprised to find there were more young birders and naturalists than I thought. Though meeting Calum ( at Tring was a bit last minute, I had organised a meetup at the LWC to meet another young, Asian birder Kabir (who recently competed at the Spurn Young Birder of the year award.) This was another good opportunity to meet another like-minded teenager. 
We had picked one of the hottest days of the summer to meet, and it was already stifling by the time we met at the reception at just after 10am. 
After being introduced to each other and introducing family etc, we both headed straight off to the Scrape in pursue of Garganey, which had been reported. It was a lifer for both of us, and I'd dipped it twice already. While en route to the Scrape hide, we saw numerous species like Green Woodpecker, Reed Warbler, Blackcap etc and a nice Emperor Dragonfly or 10. 
From the Scrape hide, there was no sign of Garganey though there were at least 50+ Sand Martin at their nesting bank, largely due to the successful breeding with most of them juveniles. 
We went to the Peacock Tower, but there was very little from there, though a WWT staff member found a Common Sand. A possible juv YLG flew by, but all else was quiet. Then while I scanned a bank on the far side a dark shape blocked my view. Kabir said he saw a green speculum, with white flanks pointing towards Garganey. I didn't see it too well at all, and didn't tick a sighting like that. Another successful dip. 
After thanking the guide Dave, we started to trudge back to the visitor centre, getting stopped by Six-spot Burnets, Blue butterflies, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, gulls and really anything that moved.

Once we'd finished lunch, we used the Wildside route to get closer views of some of the butterflies and Common terns - 6 of which were seen, including a very snoozy bird on the Reservoir Lagoon. An ad Snipe dropped down onto the marsh while we were there, and a m Reed Bunting showed briefly. 
Soon after we'd completed the wildside route Kabir ( and his twin Aryan ( and mum left the reserve; it was great to meet them, and pleasing to know that there were numerous young birders in London. 
Whilst strolling around the wildside area, waiting for my mum and sister to return, I had a quick search for Small Copper unsuccessfully, though some great views of Common Blue butterfly and Brown Argus, with the addition of numerous dragonfly species.
It was an enjoyable day birding and watching the wildlife, despite the intense heat, limited bird quality and limited time because of it. 

Common Sand digiscope

Sand Martin

Little Grebe

Common Tern
Grey Heron and BHG

the snoozy Common Tern




Monday 17 September 2018

Tring Reservoirs & College Lake with a young birder, 24th July 2018

When my dad said he had work in Buckinghamshire and I had a free day I jumped at the chance to be dropped off at Tring Reservoirs. Even better I asked whether young birder Calum, who lived nearby, was around and he agreed to meet me there.
So at just before 10am my dad drove into the car park, and I was greeted with a slightly crazy-looking, small Scottish boy standing outside of the car, with equipment hanging off him everywhere. It's safe to say he was one of the most friendly, enthusiastic young birders I've ever met...
Either way after my dad and Calum's mum left we walked in, opting to go to the Octagon hide in the centre of the main lake, which is College Lake. While walking down we were stopped by several birds and dragonflies, mostly Red Kites, Reed Warblers and Brown Hawkers. In the hide, with nobody else in there, we spent a good time looking at some of the birds - lots of Lapwing, 2 juv Little Ringed Plover as well as Common Terns and a few other common birds; 3 Little Egrets were also present. Fortunately it was a nice day, and there were plenty of butterflies also out with Small Copper and Common Blue abundant. 
After taking pictures and walking back to the entrance, and watching a Common tern mob a Buzzard, we opted to head across to the nearby Pitstone Quarry to try and find something different. 
When we arrived, there was very little other than the usual Black-headed Gulls and a Lesser Black Backed Gull. With a bit effort we added to our days tally, with Calum's top eyesight picking out another 2 LRP and 3 Oystercatcher (Oiks.) A few Little Grebe were noted, and we tried pathetically hard to find a Med gull, in vain. 
Then we both got an unexpected, mega rarity find along the road - a Red Junglefowl Chicken nearly getting run over. 
Heading back to another hide at College Lake we found quite a few more warblers, as well as a few Brown Argus - first for me - and more Small Copper. Birding wise were 2 possible Garganey that we didn't pay any attention to until one was confirmed 2 days after - typical - and loads more Terns. An adult YLG made a brief appearance before swirling away to the East, and a Chalkhill Blue was also seen. Here are some pictures from the day.

ad Common Tern mobbing C Buzzard 

Lapwing and juv LRP

Green Woodpecker feeding

f Common Blue

juv f Green Woodpecker

3 Little Egret, BHGs and juvs

3 Oiks

f Common Blue

juv BHG

juv Common Terns

One of 2 possible Garganey - this one is a Mallard though

Small Skipper

Brown Argus butterfly
Though I had to leave shortly after, we had a great time birding throughout the morning and early afternoon and I was pleased to meet another, like-minded person of my age. And it wasn't the last I saw of him this summer!

Thursday 13 September 2018

Bronze DofE: Final Expedition, North Downs.18th-19th July 2018

Having to be at school at 07:30am again after a long two days in France was never going to be easy. Either way I dragged myself in, still armed with my binoculars and camera just as my mum had not recommended. 

For those who read my blog regularly - thank you - you'll know I had a practise expedition in May in the area around Peaslake. This time we were staying in a different area in the North Downs. We started at Farley Green, and the first notable birds were heard here - a party of Crossbill calling. Plenty more Crossbill to come surely. We soon set off in our group of 7 at just before 10am, aiming to cover the 12km across the area all the way to Etherley Copse in 6 hours. For the first half an hour we covered a good 2km, which was a good start. Few birds were about in the gloom, with the best a family of Stonechat. Carrying onwards butterflies started emerging, and a few more birds singing (Marsh and Coal Tit most common.) Time passed and few other birds were seen and heard, only a few Siskin making the list. A few Yellowhammer and Linnet were about, and just a few warblers and firecrests - still can't get enough of Willow Warblers! Besides this very little else was seen for most of the day - after the quality from the practise expedition in May it was very quiet. We arrived at camp at just before 4pm - most of the evening was spent relaxing and laughing at other late groups (including 3 that got lost taking nearly 9 hours.)

After trying to get some sleep, which largely failed with the Tawny owls playing no part in it, my group declared that it would be better to finish as early as possible by leaving as early as possible in the morning. So we left camp at 06:45, aiming to reach the final destination by midday. Just like the day before few birds were seen, though butterflies were in abundance, especially Ringlets. The day continued just like that, and a friend found me a Great-spotted Woodpecker feather to add to my collection (which includes Osprey.) A moment of typical excitement was a redstart-like bird flying across and landing in someone's garden. Alas obviously a Robin. A few whitethroat were around and a single Lesser Whitethroat. A bird I'm still yet to actually see clearly.
Either way it was a fairly enjoyable 2 days walking, with some great views, and memorable experiences. By the time i got back to school I couldn't stop myself sleeping!
Thanks to Robin Stride for tips on what to see and which areas were good for wildlife. Will be helpful in the future as well!


Marsh Tit - my first picture of one


Monday 3 September 2018

Battlefields School trip and Birding, 16th-17th July

Due to my cricket season being in full swing most of my spare time in June was spent at my cricket club or school, so very little birding was done. However, there were a few wildlife x cricket moments over the month or two:

June 3: cricket match half a kilometre from Little Woodcote had Chiffchaff, Buzzard and Goldcrest. Bonus was a singing Redstart - unexpected but very pleasing.
June 8: an evening match was tiring. Afterwards while chilling near the bar I spotted a largish group of birds, around 20 strong, heading high N in the fading light. Definitely waders, with the verdict of Dunlin coming that evening.
June 9: at a school match all the crows went up and a large raptor stroked over NW, quite clearly an Osprey. Also seen at Capel that morning.
June 24: an odd day saw autumn start early with raptors coming over our house - 4(!) Red Kites, Buzzards, Sprawks, Peregrine etc.
June 30: school match near the River Thames proved special for butterflies. After my first Silver-washed Fritillary a stunning Purple Emperor swooped amongst a tree I sat under while watching.

Anyway back to the trip. I arrived at school very early on the 16th, sleeping for large amounts of the journey. My coach was going to to learn about the World War I cemeteries in Belgium for the day. The morning was spent in Ypres, where we went into a church and had a speech done for us. After we walked around the town learning about its history. Lunch was distracting as a pair of Reed Warbler sang in a canal, and a few Blackcap sang. I'd like to say I heard a Marsh Warbler, the song is distinctive, but I've got no idea whether they breed in Belgium so didn't tick it.
The rest of the day was quiet birdwise, though all the cemeteries were important and often fascinating to learn about, and I saw few birds but there was the odd thing here and there - Lesser Whitethroat once and numerous Chaffinch, as well as an eagle sp. Roadside fields - if only England was like this still - had Lapwing and even Golden Plover in them. Whilst having dinner I noticed everyone panicking about a large moth, and was pleased/sad to find a slowly deceasing Eyed Hawkmoth. By the time I took it to the entrance it had died sadly.

On Day 2, we started by going to a memorial in France with names of people from our school. Only birds of note were Yellowhammer and f Golden Oriole. We then proceeded on, after lunch, to a battlefield turned memorial-park which played a major part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Taking close attention to what our guides said, the only bits I noticed was a Dartford warbler, Whitethroat and hundreds of butterflies that thrived on the wildflowers in the trenches - these included blues, clouded yellows and painted ladys. Whilst driving away, I got an unexpected, pleasant WP tick by way of a Montagu's Harrier over the nearby fields. 

Reed Warbler record shot

Black-tailed Skimmer

Brown Argus -
notice the extra spot on the upper mandible near the head

Painted Lady