Birds at a distance

We spent last week in Norfolk with my family.  There were some good birds around, but they were all rather distant.  The insects were rather better, though and there were some nice orchids too.

Wells was gloriously awash with screaming Swifts
Norfolk Hawker, a new dragonfly for us
Bearded Tit
After a looong wait, finally a Swallowtail showed briefly for some photos
A young Grey Seal enjoying its own space on a beach heaving with humans
White-tailed Bumblebee
American Golden Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bee-eaters were beautiful, but distant
Sedge Warbler
Bee Orchid
Marsh Helleborine
Spotted Longhorn Beetle
Silvery Leafcutter Bee
Sea Lavender Weevil
Mediterranean Gull
Little Tern
Sandwich Tern
Stock Dove
Stone Curlew


Nightjars have been the focus of the last two weekends.  Last Sunday we did our annual walk to Pulborough to get them on our on-foot list.  It was a successful walk, with Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Golden Plover added to the list, but the Nightjars were a disappointment, with just churring and no views.  The wind made our walk back through the night a slog without much interest.  Last night we visited Iping Common (we were driving past anyway) and the Nightjar action was much better, with them even posing for us.

A singing Quail dragged us up to Cissbury today.  We heard it, just, over the wind noise, but it wasn’t too rewarding.  Far more rewarding was the Scarce Chaser we found on the way back home – a new dragonfly for us.

The moon rises at Iping
Nightjar (the wonders of noise reduction)
Churring in the twilight
Dingy Skipper
Scarce Chaser
Corn Bunting

Second time lucky

The mill stream at Woods Mill seems to be the place to be for Turtle Dove this year, at least for everyone else.  We spent about 4 hours there on 9th, and all we heard was someone telling us that there had been one purring on the reserve earlier.  Another two hours on Sunday yielded nothing, but we went on to the reserve, where it had been the previous time, and had nice views of a purring bird.  49 miles for a bird is a bit of an effort, though.

On the way back we had a very showy Banded Demoiselle by the river, and on the down behind us a very cooperative Beautiful Demoiselle, much more friendly than the ones at Woods Mill.

Another pond resident
Finally, a purring Turtle Dove
Banded Demoiselle
Beautiful Demoiselle

Spring greens

Yorkshire in May is one of my favourite places.  There’s nothing quite like a walk in Strid Woods on a fine morning, with the fresh green of new oak leaves, and the wood filled with the song of Pied Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and Redstarts.  Sadly the Wood Warblers, probably my favourite warbler, are no longer singing there.  Up in Nidderdale, things are a bit bleaker up at Scar House reservoir, but the birding is still excellent, the highlights being my first Crossbill in the Dales, a drumming Snipe, and, on the way home, my first Yorkshire Osprey over Gouthwaite reservoir.

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Lapwing chick
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Osprey being mobbed by Lapwing
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Pied Flycatcher
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Willow Warbler, scarce in Sussex this year, but there's loads in Yorkshire
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Here’s a few more shots from our trip to Bempton.  A mile or so away there were a couple of hundred Grey Seals on the beach at Flamborough.

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The compulsory Puffin shot
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Guillemot with Sand Eel
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Big feet!

The Black-eyed G’s

A quick visit to Yorkshire last weekend saw us visiting Bempton.  To my eyes it looked like the number of Gannets was significantly down from last year, but there will be a census to confirm or deny that.  There are still loads there, though.  The effects of bird flu were in evidence though: black staining of the iris of Gannets’ eyes has been shown to be associated with recovery from bird flu.  A small proportion  of birds showed black or blackened eyes.  Whether that’s because the colony had low incidence of bird flu, or the mortality is such that relatively few birds recover, I haven’t a clue.  Here’s a sample of eyes.

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This eye looks OK
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Both eyes affected
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Completely black
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Just a small amount of discolouration
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One eye looks fine
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Two black eyes


After a few days of seawatching that has grudgingly yielded most of what we were after (a post-work charge down to the sea for a Pom paid off at the second attempt), we went for a proper walk, to Pulborough Brooks.  It proved productive, with the hoped-for Wood Sandpiper and Ruff still there.  Hobbies were everywhere, a plastic White Stork was on the north brooks and there were plenty of Nightingales.  They seemed to be showy this year, one even sitting in a treetop yelling its head off.  A detour looking for owls on the way home (limited success) gave us a dusk encounter with a hare as we walked through a wood.  The daft thing lolloped along the track up to about 10 m from us, and even then it didn’t run, just stepped off the track and started browsing.

A very noisy Goldcrest in our front garden this morning gave some nice views.

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A Nightingale's tonsils, probably the loudest Nightingale I've ever heard.
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Nightingales hide in dense cover to sing. One didn't get that memo...
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It must have seen us...
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... but still it lollops on
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Dirty twitchers

A couple of days’ seawatching over the weekend was slow going, but it’s always a treat to see Little Terns, and a Bonxie was a bit of a relief after the hammering they have taken from avian influenza.  A lack of energy for long-distance walking meant that we hopped in the car for a change and did some twitching: to Seaford for the White-crowned Sparrow and to Pulborough for a Wood Warbler.  This is getting harder to find in its alleged breeding grounds in Yorkshire, so it was good to get a passage bird, although it had stopped singing by the time we arrived.    It would have been a good day to walk, as there was a Pied Flycatcher and five Wood Sandpipers there too.

At home, there’s a couple of Grass Snakes around the pond, including this whopper.

White-crowned Sparrow
Wood Warbler
Grass Snake

The early bird

I dashed out for a pre-work walk around the Brooks this morning, in the hope of finding some migrants.  It was a bit quiet, with a few Reed Warblers in, but not the hoped for Grasshopper Warbler, which has ignored some good looking habitat for quite a few years now.  Setting out for a brisk walk back to get to my desk in reasonable time, it all went wrong: there was a Gropper yelling its head off where I’d been 20 minutes earlier.  Of course Karen wasn’t there, but she was able to dash over in a quarter of an hour while it was still noisy.  Eventually it showed, never unobscured, but the closest and loudest Gropper we’ve ever had.  I’ll admit it: I might have been a bit late to my desk.

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Grasshopper Warbler

Spot the difference

Bird migration is moving slowly, but insects provided a bit of interest today.  The garden had bees, hoverflies and a Dark-edged Bee Fly, some Mining Bees nesting in the road gave us an ID challenge, and then, only a few hours after we discovered that there is another cute Bee Fly species in the area, we were surrounded by them.  Looking back, my last post had a picture of a Dotted Bee Fly as well, but we didn’t spot the difference, because we’d never heard of it.

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Common Carder Bumblebee
Tapered Dronefly
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Dark-edged Bee Fly
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Noon Fly, a new insect for us
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Dotted Bee Fly, showing a white stripe on its backside
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Dotted Bee Fly, a new insect for us
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Yellow-legged Mining Bee