Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

Croydon Sunset

Posted: June 21, 2017 in Landscape, London, Natural History, UK
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Returning from a meeting in Croydon a few days ago there was a spectacular sunset.

photo by Sue

 

 

Photo by Sue

 

 

A bright sunny morning saw myself and Keith on our way to the Minsmere nature reserve with Gravesend RSPB group.

On arrival, we decided that rather than try and get around the reserve and all its different habitats we would focus our attention on seeing and photographing certain key species.

The first of these was a Marsh Warbler. Although common on the European continent, they are rarely seen in this country and so this one which had appeared at Minsmere that morning was the top target. It was a very obliging bird and although it spent some time playing hide and seek behind bushes, whilst singing loudly to let us know it was there, we eventually got great views.

Marsh Warbler

Our next target was Eurasian Bittern, which breeds at Minsmere. We have been unlucky in our attempts to catch up with this species this year and so it was fantastic to get great views of one crossing a pool right in front of the hide.

Eurasian Bittern

Eurasian Bittern. Photo by Keith

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Island Mere hide and the target bird was a Savi’s Warbler, another rare continental visitor and which had been heard singing in the area for the previous few days. Whilst here we had good views of Bearded Reedling, Marsh Harrier and of 2 more Bitterns. Eventually, after about an hour, some people, including Keith, heard it singing very briefly – unfortunately, I was not one of them. We waited another 30 minutes but it remained silent and we decided to move on.

Eurasian Bittern coming into land. Photo by Keith

We made our way down to the wader scrape and added a number of species including ducks, geese and wading birds, oh and another 2 Bitterns!

Along the paths and amongst the pools we found many Butterflies and Dragonflies.

4 spotted Chaser

Red-eyed damselfly

Cinnabar Moth

Comma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was soon time to return to our coach. An excellent day with a wonderful variety of wildlife and so many sightings of Bittern, but the Marsh Warbler was undoubtedly the bird of the day.

Red-legged Partridge [sp] (Alectoris rufa)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Butterflies

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small Copper [sp] (Lycaena phlaeas)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Dragonflies

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)
Norfolk Hawker (Anaciaeschan isosceles)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)

The Quarry Pond, Shrewsbury

After leaving Aberystwyth I travelled to Shrewsbury en route to a meeting in the Brecon Beacons. Whilst in Shrewsbury, I popped down to one of the parks where a Black-Crowned Night Heron has been in residence for a couple of months.

There is much debate as to whether this is a bird that has escaped from a collection – it certainly seems tolerant of people, but regardless a lovely bird and great for photography.

My last morning in West Wales and we begin at Nantymoch reservoir. This is one of the few places in Ceredigion where Great Crested Grebe nest. We manage to locate one of the pair here, the only bird of this otherwise common UK species we will record on this trip. We also find Tree Pipit, Northern Wheatear and Common Sandpiper.

Nantymoch

Next stop is a return to Ynyslas and this time 6 Western Cattle Egrets are present in the field and some are much closer to us than before.

Cattle Egret

As it is time to return to Aberystwyth for the train, we stop on the front and see Manx Shearwaters passing down the coast.

Aberystwyth

Oystercatcher on rocks at Aberystwyth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Tree Pipit [sp] (Anthus trivialis)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

Naturelog: 4th June

Posted: June 15, 2017 in Birds, Ceredigion, Natural History, UK, Wales
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Day 4 of my trip to West Wales began at Ynys-hyr RSPB reserve where we were looking for Wood Warbler. In an area which earlier in the summer had held 5 singing males, we drew a blank. Near the visitors centre, we located a Pied Flycatcher nest and watched as the male and the female brought food back to the nest.

Pied Flycatcher (m). Photo by Andy Morffew (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andymorffew/)

Moving onto Cwm Clettwr, another woodland reserve we finally located a Wood Warbler, which gave a magnificent display of singing and of the fluttering butterfly-like flight as it returned to its nest in the undergrowth – something none of us had seen before.

Cwm Clettwr

Wood warbler. Photo by Hana Knutsson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/127787488@N03/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Nant Yrarian, where the local Red Kites are fed. This has two purposes – one to supplement the natural food available in times of shortage and thus maintain a healthy population and secondly as a way of introducing the public to the wildlife around then. It is quite a spectacle and we estimated that at feeding time there were about 150-200 present.

Red Kites over feeding Station

Red Kite

Red Kite

Red Kite

 

Our final stop of the day was the area around the Rheidol Power Station. Here we found Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper – all birds associated with upland river and streams.

River Rheidol from Rheidol Power Station.

Waterfalls on River Rheidol above Power Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Cuckoo [sp] (Cuculus canorus)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Pied Flycatcher [sp] (Ficedula hypoleuca)
White-throated Dipper [sp] (Cinclus cinclus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
Common Redpoll [sp] (Carduelis flammea)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Day 3 of my trip to West Wales began with a trip to Newquay Harbour where we had great views of Bottle-nosed Dolphins off the breakwater. There were also a group of Gannets fishing the waters beyond the harbour entrance.

Bottle-nosed Dolphin breaks the surface off Newquay

The next stop was the cliffs above Newquay where we enjoyed excellent views of the nesting Guillemots and Razorbills. Whilst watching these a Chough flew by and further along the cliff top we were found two birds on the cliff tops.

Cliffs above Newquay

Razorbills nesting on cliffs

Chough

Chough

Also present were Fulmer, Kittiwakes and a family of Ravens. As we were preparing to return to the car, we heard a Grasshopper Warbler calling from scrub nearby. It took about 20 minutes but eventually, we found it in a scrub bush and we all had a good view (a first ever for me!).

Grasshopper Warbler. Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/)

After a break for lunch, we went onto Cors Caron, a peat bog near Tregaron. Our target bird was Hobby but although we recorded Raven, Buzzard and Red Kite, there was no sign of a Hobby. We did get a good view of Whinchat and Stonechat perched in the small scrub bushes that grow in the bog.

Cors Caron NNR

Buzzard

 

 

Red Kite

 

 

Northern Fulmar [sp] (Fulmarus glacialis)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Murre [sp] (Uria aalge)
Razorbill [sp] (Alca torda)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Red-billed Chough [sp] (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Northern Raven [sp] (Corvus corax)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Common Grasshopper Warbler [sp] (Locustella naevia)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Redstart [sp] (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Butterflies

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

 

Day 2 of my trip to West Wales and before we left the hotel we were treated to watching a stand-off between two Nuthatches in the garden. They stood absolutely still for about 5 minutes before one flew at the other and drove it off.

Nuthatches

Our travels started off on the Pendam Mountain Rd, where we had excellent views of Tree Pipit and Stonechat.

Stonechat

The rain started to fall and so we decided to make our way to the Dyfi Osprey Project site. From the hide, we had excellent views of the two nesting Ospreys.

Male Osprey

Osprey nest

 

 

 

 

 

Elsewhere on the reserve, we had good views of Cuckoo, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin along with hearing Reed and Sedge Warblers singing from the reed-beds.

Cuckoo

Lesser Redpoll

Wren

Siskin (m)

Our next stop was Glandyfi, a viewpoint looking over the Dyfi Estuary. Here we added Goosander to the species seen along with Cormorant and a number of Little Egrets.

View over Dyfi estuary

Our final visit was to a hill at the rear of the RSPB reserve at Ynys Hyr where we had again excellent views of Cuckoo but although we could hear a singing Whinchat we were unable to locate the bird. Buzzards circled overhead and as we prepared to leave a Grey Heron flew down the valley.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Merganser [sp] (Mergus merganser)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Osprey [sp] (Pandion haliaetus)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Cuckoo [sp] (Cuculus canorus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)

Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Tree Pipit [sp] (Anthus trivialis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Redpoll [sp] (Carduelis flammea)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Arrived in Aberystwyth, West Wales at Lunchtime to meet up with local birder John Davis, who is my guide for the next few days and two other visitors, Jen and Karen. Our first stop is Ynyslas at the mouth of the Dyfii estuary.

Ynyslas. Photo by Alex Jane (https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexjane/)

As we walk down to the estuary we survey the surrounding fields as there have been a number of good birds found here in the past few days. There is a large group of Canada Geese but nothing else and then I see two white birds making their way through the undergrowth in a distant field – it is 2 of the group of Cattle Egrets that have been around. Even at this distance, we can see the beautiful breeding plumage.

Cattle Egrets -Ynyslas

After watching them for a period we make our way down to the estuary, but there is quite a lot of disturbance and not many birds are seen apart from a Red Kite, a Little Egret and a single Oystercatcher.

Red Kite

We make our way back the way we have come and were delighted to see 4 Cattle Egrets in a much nearer field and giving much better views than before.

Cattle Egrets -Ynyslas

Our attention is drawn away by a white-headed gull in the field as an American Ring-billed Gull has been seen in the area, but this turns out to be a Common Gull (not a common summer sighting in this area).

Clarach Bay

Our next stop was at Clarach Bay where as we climbed onto the cliff-top we found a pair of Wheatear along with Red Kite, Meadow Pipit and Linnet.

Northern Wheatear. Photo by Michael Bamford (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mfmb_bentley/)

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Red Kite [sp] (Milvus milvus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)

Orange-Tip

The Orange Tip is the first emerging butterfly of Spring – most other butterflies seen early in spring have hibernated over the winter. It can be seen between mid-April and mid-June as it patrols hedgerows and woodland margins looking for a mate. It is found in England, Wales and Ireland and has been doing well especially in the past decade. Overall numbers are up about 10% on 40 years ago.

Orange Tip

Orange-Tip

These pictures of male Orange Tips were taken at Rutland Water and RSPB Rainham Marshes in April this year. The female lacks the distinct orange colouring and is often mistaken for Small White or Green-veined White.

 

Sedge Warbler

Posted: June 7, 2017 in Birds, Natural History
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The Sedge Warbler is a small warbler which inhabits reedbeds. It is a summer visitor to the UK, wintering in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. It is estimated that the UK breeding population in around 290,000 pairs.

It is best told from the other common warbler found in reedbeds, the Reed Warbler, by it’s striking broad creamy stripe above the eye. Its song is more varied when compared to that of the Reed Warbler.

This very confiding male was photographed at Rutland Water in April. It was establishing it’s territory by flying around each of three perching points, singing at each before moving onto the next.