Monday, 29 September 2014

Irish Moths

Although so far you may not have realised, but my trip to Ireland was not completely dedicated to twitching the Long-Billed Dowitcher.  No, I did do other things, although little other birding.  So -surprise surprise- moths again.
 Moths and butterflies (more the former) were a big focus of my trip, and I mean a very big focus. It's pretty much all I did. By day I'd look for butterflies and by night, moths. Setting a bright light to point at a sheet at night makes a beacon which moths seem unable to resist. I spent many a night in this way, looking for something to be drawn in other than July High-flyers, sometimes this went quite late into the morning...  On occasion it did work, some nights it would be teeming with moths, others,  not so, with just a few the whole night.  It really did vary a lot.  I'm not quite sure the total, but I estimate around fifty species of moth came, though you can easily be sure that was never in one night.  It really wasn't the best time of year to moth, the numbers of Summer moths were dwindling, and Autumn moths had properly started to arrive yet, still, I coped with Early Thorns, Pink-Barred Sallows, Lesser-Swallow Prominent, Barred Chestnut...  Such hardship.

The makeshift 'trap' did a better job than I had expected, it didn't get me my longed-for Elephant Hawkmoth, but enough Carpets for a mansion.
Worth the disrupted sleep pattern..

Bring on the Autumn Moths!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Return

It's been nearly a month since I was last patch birding, my how much the park's changed... well not really.  I suppose yes, there's a little difference. Rats are now a lot more abundant, and I do really mean a lot. They nearly outnumber Squirrel, which in London is saying something. On occasion they can be quite nice though...

Do you remember me writing with some excitement about a Cormorant that was regularly gracing the park with it's presence?  As it turns out Cormorants are definitely going to become more regular on the park, with five - yes, five - being present at once yesterday, and four again today.  I'm not sure what the sudden popularity of the park is for them, it's a great mystery. Maybe we'll get a Little Egret next... I still have hope.
 Take into consideration first that this is my patch, now you should most likely be surprised to hear that this is not the biggest news.  No, bigger news is the return of the Kingfisher!!! I had the clich├ęd flash of iridescent blue and the piping call along the canal, it then proceeded to land along the water's edge. It was a female, so most likely the same individual as last year.  I'm frankly amazed though at how early it's turned up, most winter visitors don't turn up until October.  This gives me longer to try and get a shot of it this time, I think I'm going to need all that time....

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Autumn Begins...

The Autumn migration,  ah, that fantastic time of year.  In retrospect, I've never really been able to observe Autumn migration at its full capacity. The sheer number of birds passing can be incredible.  So it was, on Monday I found myself in an awe at the numbers, at the magnitude with which some species were present.
 Arriving at Seaford Head before the sun was fully risen, I was greeted by House Martins.  Thousands and thousands of House Martins.  The sky was full of them, the Sea, the cliffs... everywhere you looked there were House Martins.  It seemed rather an unreal sight to behold.  Three, to four thousand seemed about right.  I imagine I had watched them for at least thirty minutes before I could drag myself away to look at Yellow Wagtails, which were in decent numbers also, although nothing like the House Martins.  Over the day I had a respectable thirty-forty of these stunning yellow(ish) migrants.

Similar numbers of Wheatear were also present, with one field containing over ten.  It was a good field to say the least and, after two hours, some did come rather close.  I recall one surprising moment when a Wheatear ran directly at me and stopped no more than twelve foot away.  There was however, in rather typical fashion, a single blade of grass going across its face.  Here's one from twenty foot instead.

Among all the migrants - Whinchats, Redstart, Willow Warbler, Whitethroats and Swallows - I did make time for some non-avian wildlife. I must be mad.  I suppose it's excusable to be distracted by an Adder though isn't it? Yes, I was lucky enough to find my first ever Adder, basking in a gorse bush by the edge of a path.  Just amazing.  Seeing a wild snake was one of my hopes this summer, I'm sure I can make do with getting it in Autumn though...

Rather a nice way to break into the new season don't you think?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

An Offaly Long Way to go....

Having only recently returned from what could easily be classed as a very long trip to Ireland - nigh off a month- what better way of starting the long and arduous task of describing it all in (not so)  minute detail, than with a twitch.  A remarkably large one at that.  To be perfectly precise 141.70 miles. And what, you ask was this epic journey for?  Would a Long-Billed Dowitcher sound about right?  No, I'm sure it wouldn't but that it is.  With reports coming in almost daily from Lough Boora in County Offaly, we decided to undergo the momentous distance, surely it couldn't go wrong.  But then again knowing my luck....  After three hours - and a wrong turn which graciously provided my first Red Squirrel - we were on site. The initial scan of the likely haunts for this American wader drew a blank. It was a little worrying.  However, close inspection of a group of Snipe revealed that one was slightly larger and redder. It also lacked the pale stripe on its crown.  In brief, it wasn't a Snipe. As I'm sure you've guessed, yes this was the Dowitcher. Despite the rain and distance, it showed decently, for the half an hour I watched it. Mostly it fed among the group of Snipe.

An exploration of the surrounding area to look for Grey Partridge sported none. It did though hold several Irish Hares and some Lapwing. Thoughts of finding Partridge though, were soon forgotten after a stunning, but all too brief view of a female Hen Harrier.  It being nearly two years since my last Hen Harrier, and with their tragic drop in population, this was a more than welcome sighting.  Fantastic birds.

 Well worth three hours in a car wouldn't you say?  Although there's no way I can now say I'm not a twitcher...
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