Mark Hows - 2016 Wildlife Blog

Welcome to my wildlife blog - I will chronicle my exploits looking for wildlife in the UK and post links to trip reports from further afield. I have plenty of target species this year from Whitebeams to Ladybirds and plenty of things in between and tracking these down will keep me busy. I will be doing plenty of mammal watching and there will be some twitching in the mix as well which should keep me out of trouble - hopefully! and all this will be fuelled by lots of Chips and Ice Cream.


Go to the 2017 Blog

Tenerife - Dec 2016

Friday 30th December - Cotswold Coup

Stejneger's Stonechat

With recent the confirmation of the Stejneger's Stonechat at Dungeness, James Hunter and I headed there first thing. Visibility was poor so the observers on site split up, it was not too long before it was located and we got reasonable views considering the conditions. We headed into the reserve but conditions were equally poor but we did catch up with the ring necked duck, some nice tree sparrows, goosander of note, but the long eared owl and smew were no shows. A slavonian grebe at Lade was nice and a quick look at the ring necked duck and we took a drive to Denge Marsh a Great White Egret was present but not much else that we could see anyway. A quick drive round some of the fields but not much before heading off to Biddenham to look for the Cattle egret but even if it was there we may not have seen it and we called it a day.

Chips - Sole Plaice, Darenth - Chicken Pakora, Chips, mushy peas, pickled egg 8.5/10

Wednesday 28th December - Cotswold Coup

Blue Rock Thrush

With recent Christmas birds such as Little Bustard, Brunnich's Guillemot I was hoping for something this year and Santa did not dissapoint. I was at a housing estate in Stow on the Wold for dawn and joined a small group of 30 or so birders for a glimpse of the blue rock thrush. It was elusive for a while before sitting on a roof in the winter sunshine showing well. But with little supporting castthat was all for the day.

Chips - Cor Blimey, Bourton on the Water - Sausage and Chips 5.5/10

Sunday 11th December - Derbyshire Dipping

Grey Seal

I was at Donna Nook at dawn to see the Grey seals, the light was actually quite good and I always enjoy watching the seals and it was an enjoyable few hours with almost no people around at all, I was the only one there for the first hour. I had a tourist stop in Lincoln and then had to decide my next stop Frampton Marsh or head over to Derbyshire for the Dusky Thrush. I picked the latter and it was the wrong decision as the weather there was terrible, poor visibility and heavy rain off and on. I left just before the thrush showed but the views where it did show were going to be awful in torrential rain, misty conditions and near darkness, good job I saw the Kent bird.

Chips - Chippys, Haverhill - Sausage and Chips 8.5/10

Sunday 11th December - Burwell Beauties

Short Eared owl

I had to work but managed to finish early enough to pop to Burwell with a bag of chips to watch the owls. The light was good and at least 7 short eared owls were present sometimes interacting with each other and the kestrels, a few roe deer of note but not much else apart from the building flock of goldfinches.

Chips - Rumbles, Exning Just Chips 8/10

Friday 9th December - Pouring in Pembrokeshire

Mashed Wagtail

James Hunter and I drove overnight to Pembrokeshire, the weather was sub optimal for birding dark and raining. But one brave soul found the Masked wagtail in the rain and we left the comfort of the car to join him. It was quickly relocated and showed well to a small group braving the terrible weather but it was worth the effort to see such a striking bird. After having our fill we headed east and stopped in the Forest of Dean where the weather was much nicer. It was quiet but we did have a hawfinch and a large group of Mandarins before heading for home.

Chips - Fish n Chick n, Harlow - Just Chips 7/10



South Africa - Nov 2016

Wednesday 30th November - Nice in Norfolk


I had an afternoon jaunt into Norfolk to see the Todd's Canada Goose, on arrival a couple people were looking and I enquired about its presence, we have been looking for 4 days and still not seen it - not the news I was after. But within 4 minutes (good job it was freezing cold) I had located it and put the others onto it. I watched it for 15 mins before it went over a ridge and I headed to Sculthorpe Moor. The fen hide was being refurbished so only had a few seats and they were taken by 4 people who liked the sound of their own voice and consequently had not seen much. I went to the tower hide which had several bramblings and onto the scrape hide which had a barn owl but the highlight was a lesser spotted woodpecker in the trees near the barn owl box very nice. Time was moving on and I headed home the last to leave the reserve.

Chips - Mother Hubbard's, Swaffham - Battered Burger, Chips, mushy peas 7/10

Sunday 20th November - Miserable Mistley Marvel

Forster's Tern

It was off the plane from South Africa (Trip Report to follow) dropped the luggage and wife back home and after a cup of tea I was off the Mistley. The weather was bitterly cold, grey and overcast a far cry from hot and sunny South Africa. A large assembed crown had just watched the Forster's Tern disappear round the corner. I got a brief view when it returned briefly but had to wait for 2 hours for some close views in terrible light. A nice welcome back to blighty.



Sunday 30th October - Garden Stuff

Stethorus punctillum

With a weekend of gardening and household chores I did little but ran the moth trap with some success Merveille du Jour, Green-brindled Crescent, November moth, Beaded Chestnut, Black rustic I found a few ladybirds during my gardening mostly harlequins but one Australian (Rhyzobius lophanthae) and one tiny ladybird (stethorus punctillum) was also found. And yet another house mouse in my garage.

Friday 28th October - Nice Norfolk

Isabelline Wheatear

I had the day off but had a few errands to run so did not get to Norfolk until early afternoon but was quickly in the dunes at Burnham Overy watching the cracking Isabelline wheatear. I had my fill and headed to Cley and looked for the dusky warbler without any luck. So I headed off up the east bank for the desert wheatear when I got the news of Dusky warbler at Ttichwell so I changed plan and headed there. I made a quick stop at Brancaster for a massive flock of pink footed geese a quick scan produced a whitefront and I realised this was the docking flock and after about 10 mins I found the bean goose. I arrived at Titchwell and was quickly in the right spot, the Dusky warbler was calling but was only showing briefly, I had several views including an excellent but brief one. There were a couple of chiffchaffs and a yellow browed warbler which some people kept calling the dusky. I wandered into the reserve as dusk fell and had some amazing wader displays in the fading light.

Chips - 5 Fishes, Hunstanton - Sausage, Cheese and onion fry it, Chips 6.5/10

Thursday 27th October - October Owls

Short Eared Owl

With the local Short eared owls back already I could not resist a couple of hours at Burwell. There was hardly any water on site probably accounting for the lack of birds. But 5 short eared owls were present and plenty of roe deer but a low camera battery prevented taking many photos but instead I just enjoyed the spectacle.

Monday 24th October - More Mammals

Harvest Mouse

With activity in my garage I put a few longworths down and caught a couple of house mice. And with a dozen or so longworths still fully baited and un tripped, I threw them down at work first thing and checked them late afternoon only two captures a rather lively wood mouse and a cracking harvest mouse. A fox on the way home was an added bonus.

Saturday 22nd October - Mammal Week

Harvest Mouse

Being Mammal Week I though it would be good to educate my colleagues about small mammals, so did two nights of small mammal trapping. It was a good couple of sessions with the catch as follows, Friday am - 8 Wood mice, 2 bank voles, 5 common shrews, 2 water shrews and 1 harvest mouse
Friday pm - 1 water shrew, 3 common shrews, 1 bank vole
Saturday am - 7 Wood mice, 1 bank vole, 6 common shrews, 2 water shrews, 2 pygmy shrews and 1 harvest mouse

Saturday 15th October - Forest Folly

Lesser redpoll

Spending the weekend in South Wales was an ideal opportunity to meet up with Ben. I make a leisurly start after the previous evening indulgence and me tup with Ben around lunch time. We took a wander round looking for wild boar, we bumped into one of his friends mist netting birds and he showed us some cracking lesser redpolls but no boar. The weather was very pleasant and an ice cream was in order at Cannop ponds where a couple of ravens were scrounging. We tried for boar but only found a few fallow deer before the rain set in and late afternoon I headed back to wales.

Chips - Monnow Bridge Fish Bar, Monmouth - Chips 7/10

Friday 14th October - Easington Escapade

Siberian Accentor

I already had the day off work for a trip to South Wales but With the breaking news of a MEGA on Thursday afternoon, a little detour via Easington was in order. We arrived at dawn along with a few hundred others and were quickly on to the Siberian Accentor. It showed very well for the few hours we stayed, The well organised twitch quickly increased in size and after having our fill we headed off late morning and made it to Wales in time for a large number of beers that evening to celebrate and with two chip stops on the way, you can't get much better than that!

Chips - Churchills, Bar Hill - Chips 7.5/10, Full House, Monmouth - Chips 7.5/10

Monday 10th October - Hunting in Huntingdon

Nathusius' pipistrelle

I joined a few other members of the Cambs Bat group in Hungtingdon to continue the survey for Nathusius' pipistrelles. We had a brief window to do some trapping and we quickly had 10 bats of 4 species including our target, all three species of pipistrelle and Daubentons, a great few hours.

Chips - Churchills, Bar Hill - Chips 7.5/10

Saturday 8th October - Great Orme Offerings

Booted WarblerKashmir Goat

I was to spend the weekend in North Wales mostly for non wildlife reasons but I had most of Saturday free so was tempted by the booted warbler which was showing as I arrived, and it showed very well. I searched for the goats but they were absent from their usual haunts, but I did find some Great orme berry bushes endemic the the Great Orme and also soeme whitebeams. I did eventually find a couple of herds on the north of the peninsular. I watched them for a while enjoying the Autumn sun. A couple of choughs and a few stonechars kept me entertained. I went for a quick ice cream and stopped to watch a seal, and I spotted fins. A couple of harbour porpoises were quickly replaced by 15 or so bottlenosed dolphins including a couple of calves and at least one Risso's dolphin. I rounded the day off with ice cream and chips.

Chips - Orme View, Llandudno - Battered Burger and Chips 8/10.

Wednesday 5th October - Local Ladybirds

24 Spot Ladybird

I had a couple hours free this afternoon and spent it looking for ladybirds locally, plenty of 24 spots, a few 7 spot, harlequin, Rhyzobius litura and a single 16 spot.

Sunday 2nd October - Aston Adventure

Sawfly Larvae

I was away for the weekend but had an hour or so stop at Aston Rowant on the way home. I found a few ladybirds mostly 24 spots but a couple of Rhyzobius litura and a couple of common whitebeams but a weird caterpillar turned out to actually be a sawfly larvae. Plenty of red kites overhead



Friday 30th September - Garage Invasion

Red Green carpet Moth

This evening I caught two house mice in my garage, with two others this week is the start of a mini invasion. Moths again thin on the ground but Red Green Carpet, mallow, black rustic, were of note.

Wednesday 28th September - Loads of Ladybirds

Rhyzobius litura

I finished work a little early and headed into the brecks, I managed three sites which was quite productive with 11 species adonis, 7, 16, 22, 24 spot, harlequin, eyed, pine, cream streaked, Rhyzobius litura and rhyzobius lophanthae. Bird wise a peacock was a bit unexpected given where I was, and a nice colony of ?? bees of note.

Saturday 24th September - More Bats

Horseshoe Bats

I joined a group checking boxes for dormice at Brampton woods the only Cambridgeshire site. But the group I was in didi not see any other groups were more lucky. We did have several wood mice including a family. Late afternoon I headed to Wiltshire for another bat trapping session. Another good session with over 200 bats species greater and lesser horseshoe, Natterer's, daubentons, bechstein's, and brown long eared bats. The rain started about 3am so we packed up and called it a night.
Chips - Station Place, Bradford on Avon - Fish, mushy pea fritter, Chips 7.5/10

Friday 23rd September - Local Catch up

House Mouse

Some mammal activity in my garage this week resulted in two house mice A few moths of interest but numbers are starting to reduce, beaded chestnut, chestnut and lunar underwing of note.

Sunday 18th September - Kent Caper

Sickle Bearing Bush Cricket

Andrew Jewels and I spent the day in Kent and Sussex looking for ladybirds, but first stop was for sickle bearing bush crickets. The weather was poor, could damp and breezy but we had good info and located one realtivly easily. Next stop was Pett Levels where we found some ladybirds, harlequin, 14 spot and 7 spot were quite easliy found along with a couple of Rhyzobius litura which were nice to see. Next stop was Dungeness where we located dozens of 24 spot ladybirds and another Rhyzobius litura. Of note were rush veneers everywhere.

Friday 16th September - Bumper Bats

Bechstein's Bat

The terrible weather had caused traffic chaos so my journey to Wiltshire was a nightmare but I made it in time for chips before another session of bat trapping. An excellent but rather cold evening had well over 300 bats of 9 species Daubentons, Natterer's, Whiskered, Brants, Greater Horseshoe, Lesser Horseshoe, Bechstein's, Brown long eared and barbastelle.

Chips - Tong's, Corsham - Battered Burger, mushy pea fritter, Chips 8.5/10

Thursday 15th September - Moth trap Danger!


I ran the moth trap at work overnight and although a few nice moths barred sallow, ingrailed clay and lunar underwing, it was full ofhornets at least 8 with a couple on the outside. So extracting the moths was done very carefully, good job the conditions were cool. Recent home catches had similar species only Nettle Tap of note.

Tuesday 13th September - Melting in Monk's Wood


I picked up my car from the garage, (the verdict was - not worth repairing!) and headed up to Monks Wood for some bat trapping with the Cambs group. It was very warm and sticky and conditions seemed ideal. But there were hardly any bats on the move and it took an age before we actually caught a bat. It was well worth the wait, a rather feisty male Nathusius' pipistrelle who would not co-operate for photographs. We heard a few bats and eventually caught a few 2 Brown long eared, 2 soprano pipistrelle, Leislers, natterer’s and a barbastelle.

Chips - Fish n Chick n, Sawston - Chips 7.5/10

Sunday 11th September - Fowlmere Finds

Water Shrew

Some poorly organised last minute mammal trapping to trap some small mammals for a public event. 40 traps were set the previous evening in pouring rain and at dusk neither were ideal. I arrived early to check them, a weasel crossed the access road as I arrived which was a good omen. The first trap contained a water shrew and the rest of the catch was reasonably good considering the poor preparation. 8 wood mice, 2 yellow necked mice, 3 bank voles and two common shrews. Muntjac, grey squirrel and rabbit were also encountered during my wander. The event went down well.

Chips - Fish n Chick n, Sawston - Chips 7.5/10

Friday 9th September - More Bats

Leisler's BatWhiskered Bat

I headed up to North Cambs with some other Cambs Bat Group members for some bat box checking mostly soprano pipistrelle's some 28 individuals but the three leislers were the highlight. I headed to Whittlesey for some food and onto Woodwalton Fen which was rather quiet. A kingfisher and a family of hobbies were very nice, plenty of dragonflies and a distant Chinese water deer. I headed to Ferry Meadows to meet up with the bat group for a session of trapping. Conditions were poor and we only caught two bats a soprano pipistrelle and a whiskered bat but we did locate a Nathusius' pipistrelle calling from a tree but we did not see it and called it a night.

Chips - Chippy Sue's, Whittlesey - Battered burger, Mushy pea fritter and Chips 9/10

Sunday 4th September - Brilliant Bats

Bechstein's BatGreater Horseshoe Bat

I headed down to Wiltshire for a postponed bat trapping session, the previous night was too bad weather wise and the Met Office promised a much better evening, pity they got it wrong! Things started very slow with just two bats in the first couple of hours a Daubenton's and a Bechstein's but the rain showers did not help things. Eventually the bats arrived and in the end we had over 100 bats of 8 species trapped and a couple of common pipistrelles flying around.
Final list - Daubentons, Natterer's, Whiskered, Brants, Greater Horseshoe, Lesser Horseshoe, Common Pipistrelle, Bechstein's, Brown long eared.

Chips - Crispies, Bristol - Battered Sausage, Mushy pea fritter, pickled egg and Chips 8.5/10



Tuesday 30th August - Mostly Moths

Frosted Orange

Haveing a weekend away not doing any wildlife stuff apart from Leys Whitebeam I thought I would round up on recent moths. Some highlights include Rosy Rustic, pale eggar, frosted orange, feathered gothic, double striped pug, centre barred sallow, burnished brass, chinese character, light emerald amongst hornets, wasps, thousands of bradycellus Beetles, harlequin and orange ladybirds. The commonest species by far is setaceous Hebrew character with over 100 most times I have trapped.

Tuesday 23rd August - Local Rares

Cambridge Milk Parsley Common Lizard

I tried to finish work early all last week but with holidays etc. it just did not happen so I took the afternoon off. First stop was Chippenham Fen my target Cambridge Milk Parsley at its only UK site, (the others now defunct) I bumped into the warden who I know and he put me on to some. A nice young common lizard and a few butterflies and dragonflies and a brief water vole also of note. I headed into the Brecks first stopping Lakenheath for an ice cream and then Weeeting for Tunic Flower then Brandon for Field Wormwood before heading into the forest for ladybirds. This was very successful with 2, 7 and 24 spot, cream streaked, eyed, harlequin, pine and over 25 striped ladybirds, only one cryptic species scymnus suturalis.
Chips Lakenheath Chip Shop, Lakenheath - Chips and pickled egg 8/10

Saturday 20th August - Giant Mouse

Yellow Necked Mouse

Two longworths were tripped again one false trip but the other was heavy and active and contained a large male yellow necked mouse.

Friday 19th August - Simply Shrews

Common Shrew

I put 20 longworth traps down at work the previous night three were tripped but one was a false trip. A common and a pygmy shrew were worth the effort. With 17 traps still of use I threw them down in my garden overnight.

Wednesday 17th August - Local Little Owl

Little Owl

I am luck to have a family of little owls at work and at times they show well and recently I have had some great views. Other local stuff has been the brown hares visible again now the fields have been harvested. Recent moths - Lime speck pug, orange swift, iron prominent, ruby tiger, dark bordered beauty, twin spot carpet, common white wave, dark arches.

Saturday 13th August - Hell for Helleboriness

Narrow lipped helleborine

I was going to Wiltshire to see some friends but obviously took a detour through terrible traffic to get into Surrey. It was worth the effort as the narrow lipped helleborines were just starting to flower. Next stop was a very blustery Salisbury plain looking for broken belted bumblebees with no luck.

Thursday 11th August - Brilliant Badgers


After a brief sleep I headed to Watersmeet on Exmoor, a dipper on the river was nice, but I was after trees, and one in particular Bloody Whitebeam and it took a couple of hours of searching through the other whitebeams before I found one. I found a tawny owl during my search. The rest of the day was touristy, but early evening I drove to a farm in the middle of nowhere. Here was a badger watch and a small group headed down to a hide and it was not long before badgers started to appear about 6 of the dozen regulars put in an appearance. They showed well for about an hour then melted away to forage away from the hide and we called it a night.
Penguin Fish Bar, Tiverton - Spring roll, Mushy pea fritter, Onion rings and Chips 9/10

Wednesday 10th August - Woefull West Country

Hudsonian Whimbrel Dartmoor Ponies

I was headed down to the west country for a couple of days, first stop was Perranuthnoe on a beautiful morning where the Hudsonian Whimbrel was easily located and showed very well, a shag, grey seal and rabbits also seen. I headed to Hayle for a look round the estuary heavy rain arrived and with little of interest I moved on for a look round Helson and then Helford before heading to Restronguet Creek. There was no sign of the pelican, apparently it had flown off the previous afternoon and not returned. There was nothing doing at all in Cornwall so I headed north. Dartmoor was my next stop, a brief red deer and a few ponies of interest and a nice ice cream and improving weather. Next stop was a dormice stakeout but no sign of any dormice on an all-night stake out only a hedgehog for my efforts.
Penguin Fish Bar, Tiverton - Battered Sausage, mushy pea fritter, pickled egg and chips 9/10

Sunday 7th August - Moths

Small Phoenix

Recent common moths include Herald, chocolate tip, Citroen plume, clay, coronet, dusky sallow, dunbar, double lobed, green carpet, small rufous, v pug. Some highlights - fen wainscot, iron prominent, leopard moth, small phoenix, slender brindle and waved black

Saturday 6th August - Minsmere once More

Pantaloon Bee

I had to pop into work first thing but then headed off to Minsmere for another go at the Pantaloon mining bees. The place was packed, I parked in the overflow overflow car park. I headed straignt there and watched the bee wolfs. I heard the purple swamphen had not been seen good job I saw it in the week, but I did not impart that fact on the small group who had joind me to see the bee wolfs but had dipped on the swamphen. After a short while a couple of Pantaloon bees put in an appearance, I had a bit of a wander round but nothing doing. After a chip stop I headed to West Canvey Marshes where I located two southern migrant hawkers both were constantly on the move. I then went to Wat Tyler along with most of Essex it seemed and I had a brief southern migrant hawker, but it was a migrant hawker that allowed a few photos before I headed home.
JJ's, Martlesham - Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas - 9/10

Friday 5th August - Chiltern Cheers

Edible Dormouse Starfruit

Having my birthday on Thursday was inconvenient so I took Friday off instead, I was up early and headed to Black Park where I eventually found the small pond containing the starfruit only one plant was present. Silver washed Fritillarys were also present and showed well. I headed to Aston Rowant for a butterfly fest the main target silver spotted skipper and although tricky in the windy conditions I had several. Other included marbled white, chalkhill blue, brown argus, large white, brimstone, red admiral, essex skipper. It was then a jaunt round several site for helleborines which I could only find violet and broad leaved although of the two var rosea one was in full flower. Late afternoon I headed to College Lake for a wander, it has changed a lot since I last visited for the polecats and a new visitor centre / cafe was packed with families. I headed for a wander but not much apart from a few butterflies and some flowers, of interest common cow wheat and crimson clover. After an ice cream I headed off to do a bit of shopping for then I popped to the chip shop before heading to the edible dormice site. Ask the light faded the dormice became very active and showed very well with some of the best views I have had for a long time.
Wendover Plaice, Wendover - Cheese and Onion Fritter, Saveloy, Chips and Mushy Peas - 9/10

Monday 1st August - Minsmere Mega

Purple Swamphen

I finished work early and headed to Minsmere where the Western Purple Swamphen was showing on arrival at the back of the pool behind the south hide. It showed off and on for an hour before I took a wander, stone curlew, rabbits, sand martins and some interesting bee wolfs for my efforts but no pantaloon mining bees. It was quiet generally and with nothing else of note I headed home.
Debenham Fish & Chips Shop, Debenham - Battered Burger, Chips, Mushy peas, pickled Egg 8/10



Sunday 31st July - Garden Goodies

Harvest Mouse

As I emptied the moth trap a common shrew was running round the garden, a good omen for the mammal traps. I checked the longworth traps two were tripped the first held a mouse probably a wood mouse but it exploded from the trap and was lost to view. The other trap I was ultra careful and it contained a cracking harvest mouse. I replaced the traps to try for the shrew but no luck when I checked them at dusk. The weather was much better than the previous day so I tried the raspberry clearwing site again around lunch time, this time with more luck 5 in about 30 mins - cracking.

Saturday 30th July - The Long way to Leicester

Chalkhill Blue

I had to go to Leicester to see my brother so planned a route there via a few stops. First stop was Therfield heath which was alive with butterflies my main target Chalkhill blue were abundant amongst the other 8 species. I visited a site for raspberry clearwings but the conditions were not ideal and I had no luck so continued on to the Lodge RSPB. Here it was generally quiet but plenty of dragonfly action kept my interest and a few butterflies of note small copper. There was time for one last stop, I am not sure about the access so I won't mention the site, but as hoped it held a few dark green fritillaries, if a little on the worn side. I got home at dusk to find the fields around my house being harvested so I deployed the longworth traps (I only have 5 of my own and the club traps were not currently with me - poor planning)
Chips - Churchills, Bar Hill - Saveloy and Chips 8/10

Friday 29th July - Moths

Buff Arches

I have run the moth trap a few times in the last couple of weeks, still poplar, pine and elephant hawkmoths and plenty of footmen. Highlights luna spotted pinion, oak eggar, dusky sallow, v pug, small phoenix, buff arches, leopard moth plus loads more commoner species.

Wednesday 27th July - Glorious Gloworms

Glow worm

I headed to Cambridge to the Lime Kiln Quarry not long before dusk, but time enough to see moon carrot in flower. But the main event was the glow worms and at least a dozen were easily located before heading home. Two hedgehogs and a tawny owl on the way home were a bonus.

Friday 22nd July - Briefly Brecks

Eyed Ladybird

After work I popped up to the brecks for ladybirds, stopped at Lakenheath just a few butterflies so headed to Mayday which was much more sucessful with a eyed ladybird, 7 spot and a couple of Scymnus suturalis the haul.

Tuesday 19th July - Bass Rock - Rocks!

Gannet Gannet

I was up at dawn for amazing views of the sunrise over Dunbar, the sea was calm and I headed to Bass rock with a small group for a landing trip. The smell on approach was quite something but the island was amazing gannets everywhere, non-breeders on the lower slopes with breeding herring gulls and few pairs of guillemots, razorbills , shags and puffins. The rest of the island covered with breeding gannets, with young of varying sizes from newly hatched to almost fully grown we had 3 hours to explore the island in perfect conditions, it went very quickly and we got back on the boat where they started throwing fish over the side, plenty of gulls came for a free feed but we were after diving gannets and they performed, quite a sight seeing them diving that close. Suddenly we were back in Dunbar and the trip was over, the noisy kittiwake colony took my interest, rock pipits on the harbour and grey seals in the harbour. I had some lunch and ice cream before heading for home, I made a stop for butterflies but the temperature made them very active, but a nice selection anyway northern brown argus, grayling and green veined white plus a couple of others moving a high speed. One last stop for Youngs Helleborine but it was still in bud and I headed off after a rathr mixed trip.
Central Fish Resturant, Dunbar - Battered Burger and Chips 8/10

Monday 18th July - Mountain Marvels

Mountain Hare Ptarmigan

The weather was poor again with heavy rain but with the promise of better weather further east I headed in that direction and eventually made it to Glenshee where the weather was much better, I scoped Ptarmigan and mountain hare from the car park but it was windy and difficult to photograph them so I took advantage of the chairlift and headed up the mountain. Ptarmigan were encountered first and they were very confiding, the mountain hares were a little trickier but I did get a few shots and a young wheatear as well. I headed down the mountain for ice cream and search for red deer, I located a massive herd high on the hills. Next stop was the famous Meikleour beech hedge which was quite impressive, I did a few touristy stops before arriving at Musselburgh, I could not find the surf scoter but a nice summer plumaged red necked grebe was worth the effort. I headed to North Bewick for sunset views and more ice cream.
Rainbow Restaurant - Musselburgh king Rib and chips 7/10

Sunday 17th July - Torrential Rain doesn't Dampen

Pine Marten Pine Marten

Torrential rain was the theme of the day and it stopped pretty much all wildlife watching particularly the insects I had hoped for today, so I did mostly tourist things but did spend some time looking for otters and seals along the loch shores as I headed down to Fort William, plenty of common seals and a common sandpiper a few gulls but not much else. Next stop was at Incree for red squirrels in the rain but there were at least 3 around. I headed to Glenloy Lodge for the night, they had forgotten my visit but quickly welcomed me in with tea and cake and I sat in the warm to dry off. Food was put out and the weather improved just in time for the pine marten to come visiting, I had cracking views and the pine marten (a young male from last year) eventually came too close to photograph. He wandered off and a common gull helped itself to a few bits of food. I waited for a few more hours as a female with kits has been around but no sign before I called it a night.
Pier Takeaway, Fort William - Mac Pie, Chips and Mushy Peas - 6/10

Saturday 16th July - Crappy Cairngorms

Bottlenosed Dolphin Wood Mouse

I was up at dawn and headed onto the very blustery but sunny beach at Channonry point but no dolphins after a brief watch, I retreated to the car for a break before returning once more and as soon as I arrived so did the dolphins. They performed very well and I spent hours watching them. I headed to Cairngorm but the weather was very different, I could barely open the door, frequent rain showers and a discussion with the rangers and I decided not to go up on the mountain to look for Alpine speedwell - a good decision. I headed to the Loch Garten area but the weather was not good for dragonflies although a few newly emerged common darters, a common blue damselfly and a few common emeralds keeping low down in the vegetation. At Loch Garten itself an osprey was present and both bank vole and wood mouse were feeding under the bird feeders and the hide was a good shelter from the rain showers. I did locate a few creeping ladies tresses in flower and many due to shortly. I went to a few plant sites lesser butterfly orchid and fairy foxglove of note. I headed to the Findhorn Valley for goats, deer, hares and raptors but despite a long search I could only find a few red deer. Last stop of the day was Findhorn for the white billed diver, conditions were not good for sea watching and I could not find the diver but a harbour porpoise was spotted before I called it a day.
Northern Chip Shop, Forres - Haggis and Chips 7.5/10

Friday 15th July - Bleak Ben Lawers

Rock Speedwell Yellow Saxifrage

I was at Loch of the Lowes at dawn where Osprey and Red Squirrel were quickly spotted along with a nice red deer hind who did not want her photo taken. My next stop was Ben Lawers where I was joining a mountain walk to see some of the alpine flowers and butterflies, but the weather was against the latter and rain started pretty early on during the walk. It was heavy and persistent but despite this we managed to see some of the mountain flora, rock speedwell and thyme leaved speedwell ssp humifusa of particular interest to me. Back at the car and a quick change into warm dry clothes I headed off to Aberdeen. I found the golf course and some players pointed me in the right direction directly across the course (to exactly the best spot - many thanks) and it was not too long before I was scanning the scoter flocks, holding onto the scope to stop it blowing away. I quickly found a cracking male surf scoter but it took quite some searching before I located the American white winged scoter which was not easy in the very strong wind. Next stop was the harbour but no sign of any dolphins and I went for chips as the light faded.
Chips - Mike's Famous Fish and Chips, Aberdeen, Mac pie and Chips 8/10

Thursday 14th July - The North

Northern Brown Argus Bonaparte's Gull

I headed up to Bishops Middleham Quarry arriving late afternoon, the dark red helleborines were still mostly in fine flower but some going over, some nice chalk fragrant orchids just coming into flower, a nice selection of butterflies from very worn common blues and pristine northern brown argus, rabbit the first mammal of the trip. Next stop was Grindon Lough where the red necked phalarope was easily located although a little distant, the demoiselle crane was nowhere to be seen. Once again I headed to Ashington dodging the stereotypical kids in shell suits with pitbull terriers I made it to the river where the Bonaparte's gull was showing well much close than my previous visit. I safely made it back to the car and headed further north. I skipped chips due to the tide times and made it across to Lindesfarne. Time was short as the tide was coming in but I quickly located my target Lindesfarne Helleborine, also plenty of marsh helleborine's, heath spotted and northern marsh orchids. A common seal of note and I made it safely off the island before the tide covered the causeway, grabbed a burger and headed into Scotland.

Wednesday 13th July - Glapthorne

Common Lizard

I headed to Leicester to get me car fixed but made a stop at Glapthorn Cow Pastures for butterflies, Black Hairstreak had not been reported for a few days so was probably finished for the season and I did not see any but I did have my first Silver washed fritillary of the season, a few common lizards and some hemlock of note. And my car is all fixed ready for Scotland.

Sunday 10th July - South Coast Stuff

Lulworth Skipper Beaver

I had to go to South Wiltshire so the logical progression was to visit the New Forest after, the weather was terrible, heavy rain and blustery winds but the bog orchids did not seem to mind. Plenty easily located but challenging photographic conditions. Next stop was for coral necklace And wild gladioli, the necklace found easily but the gladioli evaded me despite an extensive search in the rain. I stopped for a cup of tea to shelter from the rain before heading west, as I entered Dorset the weather improved and was very actually very pleasant. First stop was Arne RSPB where a roosting nightjar was nice to see just outside the cafe, but it was silhouetted making it difficult to photograph. My first visit to the cafe resulted in a purchase of an ice cream. Next stop was Corfe castle where the Lulworth skippers were in abundance along with a nice selection of other butterflies, marbled white, red admiral, ringlet, meadow brown, gatekeeper. I tried a few dragonfly sites blacktailed skimmer but not a great deal and then a few herp sites a few sand lizards and a smooth snake. I headed off to my final stop of the day after eventually finding some food, was the Devon beavers. I got to the beaver site a little later than planned and the female was already out feeding, but I was after the kits and eventually all be it briefly one kit came out for a swim. Dark clouds gathered killing the light was my cue to leave and I made it to the car before the rain came.
Chips - Golden Sea, Budleigh Salterton, Sausage and Chips 6.5/10

Wednesday 6th July - Bountiful Brecks

Maiden's pink

I finished work early and headed to Weeting Heath to meet Sophie one of the wardens, she took me to see the spiked speedwells that were doing well some really quite large. Maiden's pink was very numerous here and very photogenic. Cranwich Heath held the much rarer proliferous pink, much daintier than the Maiden's. Forester and marbled clover moth along with a nice selection of butterflies were also present. I headed to Lakenheath for a wander round the reserve, plenty of mosquito's on what was a quiet walk, the highlight was a rather showy kingfisher.
Chips - Trawler's Catch, Lakenheath - burger and chips 7.5/10

Tuesday 5th July - Woodwalton Whistle Stop

Fen Ragwort

After work I checked on the progress of the Fen ragwort at Soham and it was in fine flower. I continued to Woodwalton Marsh (actually a grassland reserve) for a quick look a nice collection of butterflies, and of interest was a bee orchid with an upside flower. Then I headed the Woodwalton Fen just for a dragonflies and then general walk round, caught up with a few micro moths and a few ladybirds along with a good selection of dragonflies, scarce chaser the clear species of note and showed very well but red eyed damselfly kept its distance and made photos very difficult. A juv marsh harrier showed that this years breeding had been successful. I got the fright of my life when I disturbed a Chinese water deer which was a couple of feet behind some reeds and it exploded away down the ride. A reeling gropper the last thing of note before heading for chips.
CHips - Chippy Sue's, Whittlsey - Spam Fritter, pea Fritter and chips 8.5/10

Sunday 3rd July - Clearwing

Yellow Legged Clearwing

A very leisurely start I headed to Conard Mere for ladybirds but nothing apart from a plague of horseflies. I headed to Barnham Cross common to try my luck with clearwing pheromones and it was not long before a yellow legged clearwing showed up. With spirits up I headed to The Like Kiln pits in Cambridge which has two clearwing species but I had no luck with them, the peregrine was some compensation before heading home nice and early as I have a very busy couple of weeks ahead.

Saturday 2nd July - American Speedwell and Stuff

Bee Orchid var trolli

I had to pop to south London and it was an ideal time to start speedwell month, I have several speedwell targets to get this month. I had been tipped off about American speedwell at Beddington and it was easily located with the excellent information I was given - many thanks to them. Simon West tipped me off to some interesting Bee orchids in Hertfordshire and I swung by them on the way back, again excellent directions made finding the site easy but the orchids were a little harder to find in the long grass but they were worth the effort with several trolli forms. Some marbled whites and the first small skippers of the year in good numbers of butterflies and a nice selection of species. My last stop was Rye Meads RSPB somewhere I have not been for about a year, I managed to dodge the very heavy showers using the hides as shelters, the kingfishers were active bringing fish to the nest and eventually I had to tell the couple that the kingfishers they were watching coming in and out of a different nest were in fact wrens!
Chips - Colney Fish Bar, Colney - Just chips 6/10.

Friday 1st July - Lovely Lizards

Lizard Orchid

After work I popped to Newmarket to see the Lizard Orchids on a rather pleasant evening but the wind seemed to strengthen all the time and by the time I got there the orchids were being buffeted around. I found a few sheltered ones for photos and found an emperor moth caterpillar doing the same. Plenty of pyrimidal orchids as well made an enjoyable diversion from my commute.



Wednesday 29th June - Local Lime Kilns

Musk Thistle

After work I joined an organised walk at Lime Kiln Quarry reserve in Cambridge which despite driving past loads of times I never visited. The poor weather accounted for a low turn out but the wildflowers put on a good show, moon carrot the highlight not yet in flower in a rather plant rich site, a peregrine of note and we just made it back to the car before more rain arrived. A nice local reserve which I must visit again.

Saturday 25th June - Great Not!

Spotted Redshank

After a rather leisurly start I headed to Titchwell (a nice barn owl on the way), the Great Knot was not present but I took a look round the reserve anyway, the Great Knot had been relocated at Scolt Head Island so I took the long walk to take a look before heading to ice cream. It was back to Titchwell where I located a couple of little gulls, a spoonbill, spotted redshank and some avocet chicks the highlights. I spent the bulk of the day at Titchwell and headed to Gore point just before the news came out it had been relocated there. It was showing on the beach but the light was terrible. I headed for home via the chip shop.
Chips - Eric's Fish & Chips, Thornaham - Battered Sausage and Chips 7/10.

Friday 24th June - Trapped in Tunbridge

Slow Worm

I had been in Tunbridge Wells for a training course for 3 days, bad weather ruined the evenings and any possible excursions. But Friday evening after finishing I spent a couple of hours at a local nature reserve while waiting for the M25 dartford crossing rush to clear. Bee, pyrimidal, common spotted, man and chalk fragrant orchids all in good condition, a couple of slow worms and plenty of butterflies including some very fresh looking marbled whites. The weather was excellent and the wander round was very enjoyable and not another soul there.

Friday 17th June - -Sunday 19th June - Menai Magic and Motor Misery

Menai Strait Whitebeam

I was in North wales for a touristy weekend but had a few targets in between, first stop Great Orme, where the goats were easily located and plenty of silver studded blues, a few grayling and a rather tatty painted lady. My last stop was the Menai Strait where along the mainland shore I located several Menai Strait whitebeams before heading the Snowdonia for a few beers. Saturday the plan was to look for Snowdon lily but despite my efforts the thick mist and low cloud made it near impossible to see anything and it will have to wait until next year. A few plants were found (those within a few feet of the path) including Mossy Saxifrage. Sunday the plan was to heade home via Lake Vyrnwy to search for Lesser Twayblade and Llangollen for Llangollen whitebeam but car trouble made me abort and a rather frustrating weekend came to an end.
Chips - Orme View, Llandudno - Battered Burger and Chips 8/10.

Saturday 11th June - Ladybirds and local stuff

Eyed Hawkmoth

I stayed local and tried for some ladybirds, a nice selection but no cryptic species. Plenty of nice moths trapped in the last week or so eyed, privet, poplar and elephant hawkmoth, ghost moth, scorched wing, spectacle, flame plus loads more. Local Little owls have been active and the local red eared terrapins have enjoyed the hot weather.

Sunday 5th June - Trip Cancelled


I headed to Musselborough where the surf scoter was distant and took some finding amongst the eider. I took delight in watching the eider ducklings battle up the weir with their mothers. I had another ice cream touristy stop then got the news that my boat trip to Bass Rock the following morning had been cancelled. It was too late to get the the Farne islands for a trip there so I planned a route home, via Dunbar for the Kittiwake colony and Bamburgh for a tourist stop which produced a grasshopper warbler and a grey seal and finally to Ashington where I managed to find the riverside park used mainly as a dog toilet it would appear, eventually I located the distant Bonaparte's gull and headed home.
Chips - Carlo's, Alnwick - Haggis and Chips 9/10.

Saturday 4th June - Tourist Day


I was at RSPB Lochwinnoch For dawn but there was little of interest just the common species, the rest of the day was mostly touristy but mid afternoon I headed to Kinnell Lagoons for the gull billed tern which was showing distantly on arrival, infact all the gull billed terns I have seen in the UK have been distant, a whimbrel dropped in later but nothing else during my visit and I called it a day.
Chips - Benny T's, Laurieston - Haggis and Chips 7/10.

Friday 3rd June - Arran

Catachol Whitebeam Common Seal

The drive was largely uneventful a tawny owl and a hedgehog the only things of note on the long drive to Ardrossan. I arrive well before the ferry terminal was open and got my head down for a while, a kindly policeman checked on me and I could not get back to sleep. The ferry journey was uneventful a full Scottish apart, and a few manx shearwaters the only wildlife seen. I was one of the first off the ferry and quickly made it to Glen Catachol, which is the home of Arran's three endemic whitebeams, the rarest Catachol whitebeam only has two individuals. The weather was perfect if a little too warm, and after a rather pleasant walk located the three whitebeam species, Catachol, Arran and . The views were spectacular and I saw no one else on my walk apart from buzzards, stonechats, cuckoo's, adder and a frog. I did several tourist stops round the island including a couple of ice creams, there were a few incidental sightings on my drive red breasted mergansers, eider, black guillemot and plenty of commoner species. The last stop of the day was a common seal haul out and half a dozen were present
Chips - Alberts Chip Shop, Ardrossan - Haggis and Chips 6/10.



Monday 30th May - Heading Home

Early Marsh Orchid

Completely different weather today cool, breezy and overcast I headed back to Arne first thing, plenty of Sika and a nice water vole. I made a stop for herps which despite the poor weather was quite productive, two smooth snakes, a sand lizard and a slow worm. I headed over to the New Forest for some touristy stops but made a couple of orchid stops Lesser butterfly still in bud but early marsh orchid var. ochrantha in perfect condition. I headed for a butterfly stop but the weather had deteriorated and I saw nothing so headed for home.

Sunday 29th May - More West Country

Great Spotted Cuckoo

I had a leisurely breakfast before heading Radipole RSPB for a wander, a couple of showy cetti's warblers but nothing else so after a short time I headed to Portland, I found the hedge with a couple of other birders watching it and after a short while the Great spotted cuckoo was spotted (no pun intended) it showed well for quite some time feeding on caterpillars, a flyover peregrine also of note. I popped down to the bill but nothing doing so I headed to Powerstock common for marsh fritilaries and Narrow bordered bee hawkmoths, conditions were probably a bit too warm but I saw both species but they were quite active and photography difficult for the moths, plenty of other butterflies of note. A couple of common lizards, slow worm and grass snake spotted but not much else despite spending most of the day here. Chips in Dorchester before heading to Arne RSPB for late evening, Sika deer and water voles showed in very poor light but I was after a nocturnal species, I had several small bats flying around but I was really after nightjars, one showed nicely flying around after a chorus of churring before I headed off.
Chips - Peter Pan, Dorchester - Sausage, cheese and onion fry, pickled egg and chips 8/10.

Saturday 28th May - Whizzing about the West Country


I drove overnight to South Wales, first stop was Cardiff, where in the centre of a roundabout Vosages Whitebeam was growing. I had an encounter with a hedgehog on a dual carriage way, he was missed by myself and the car behind I whizzed round the roundabout to the other carriage way to rescue him but he had made it safely across onto the verge and headed into the undergrowth - a lucky chap. I made a quick stop for Ley's whitebeam on the way to a tourist stop. Onwards to the Wye valley for more whitebeam, I eventually found Doward whitebeam which had eluded me on a couple of occasions. Then battled with idiots on the M4 which was down to one lane on the bridge yet no one diverted over the M48 which I did missing on most of the agro, but I got my fair share on the M5 south as I battled to Ham Wall. Plenty of dragonflies and a few Iberian water frogs around the car park, a flyover bittern the only bird of note. I headed off to Devon stopping for chips in Sidmouth. I wandered down the river banded demoiselles, kingfishers and dippers keeping my interest. I settled down with one other watcher and it was not long until a female beaver appeared and showed very nicely, feeding right in front of us. We watched for quite some time until she swam downstream very quickly and was lost to view. An otter appeared and disappeared upstream and the beaver reappeared, we assume she was seeing theotter off but did not see the interaction. I watched until the light faded.
Chips - Bloaters, Sidmouth - Sausage, pickled egg and chips 8/10.

Friday 27th May - Military Orchids

Military Orchid

A quick after work visit to Rex graham reserve to see the Military orchids which were just coming into full bloom, plenty out in the public enclosure along with common twayblades.

Thursday 26th May - Midwife toads

Midwife Toad

An evening visit to Northamptonshire where I located two southern midwife toads after a bit of a search.

Tuesday 24th May - Chaotic Kent

Edible Frog

I had planned to spend the day firstly at Rainham RSPB then head into Kent late morning, however the M25 issues made me divert to the Waterworks reserve where the edible frogs were very vocal, in several of the ponds but little else but it was nice to have the reserve to myself. I made it to Rainham but the M25 was still very bad so I took the full circuit which I only encountered a few other birders, but a large group of noisy ramblers were rather annoying. A brief water vole, plenty of marsh frogs, a vocal cuckoo and beaded tits of note. By early afternoon the M25 had sorted itself out and I headed into Kent, first stop for butterflies in good conditions if a little windy plenty of species seen orange tip, large white, brimstone, comma, holly blue, grizzled skipper and red admiral. A slow worm and a common lizard also seen well worth the stop. Orchids were next, parkgate for Monkey's which were flowering well some early purple’s hanging on and man and lady in flower then onto a site for Late spider and man orchids and finally onto Samphire Hoe where some early spider orchids were still in flower, nice to have both early and late spider orchid on the same day. The M25 was once again in gridlock so I diverted for chips allowing the traffic to clear before heading for home.
Chips - Sole Plaice, Darenth - Spam fritter, mushy peas, pickled egg and chips 8/10.

Monday 23rd May - Moth and Garden Update


Just a moth trap update which has been very slow recently, but brimstone moth, green carpet, common swift, greater swallow prominent, spectacle, poplar hawkmoth, chocolate tip, powered quaker, muslin moth were the pick of the catch. Garden bits and bobs plenty of large red damselflies emerging from my pond and a 16 spot ladybird. The evening produced a hedgehog wandering round the garden as I set my moth trap.

Sunday 15th May - Kent

Monkey x Man Orchid

I was up early and headed to work to open the mammal traps, there was about a 30% capture rate which was not too bad considering the time of year. The tally was 2 x Harvest mice, 2 x bank vole, 2 x wood mouse, common shrew, field vole and one slippery yellow necked mouse which I lost. I looked under some herp tins I had put down and a litter of field voles with mum was present under it in a small nest. I packed up and headed down to Kent for an afternoon out mostly looking for orchids. First stop was Bonsai bank for lady orchid, plenty were found including one alba form. Other orchids such as common twayblade and early purple were common and one white helleborine was also spotted, conditions were not ideal for butterflies but several duke of burgundy were present the cool conditions slowing them down ideal for photography. Next stop was Yocklets bank for more lady orchids but also a couple of fly's and greater butterfly and broad leaved helleborine coming up. The next site was very special a man x monkey hybrid had been located and this turned out to be a real stunner. A short hop to Stockbury for man orchid and more ladys. One final stop had more man orchids but also plenty of herps 2 common lizards and 13 slow worms, the first small heath of the year rounded off a good day.
Chips - Fish n Chickn, Harlow - Sausage and Chips 7/10.

Saturday 14th May - Brecks Again

Hairy Dragonfly

I headed for the brecks in breezy conditions, where the golden pheasants would only give a brief glimpse so I headed to Lackford Lakes, last weeks bird race Arctic tern was still present but not much else of note but plenty of common birds. I left my rucsac in one of the hides, I realised and went back which was 20 mins later and it was still present pheww! The bird ringers did not want to engage in conversation and did not want to tell me what they had caught. The warden mentioned the impending arrival of a bus load of springwatchers so it was time for a sharp exit. I made a couple of stops for stone curlews before driving over to Cavenham heath, which was plagued by dog walkers. But I still found both woodlark and skylark singing together. A quick stop for spring speedwell and another for chips on the way to Lakenheath. There were lots of hobbys feeding on the emergence of hairy dragonflies, bearded tits and bitterns on the way to Joist Fen. Here was a group (from the coach) who somehow seemed to think I was RSPB staff and asked me loads of inane questions I pointed out a distant crane and made my escape. My freedom was short lived as I was accosted by another part of the group. I made it back to the visitor centre for ice cream and headed to work where I set 57 traps that had been prebaited the previous day, 55 longworths and two new traps to evaluate in the field. - I will write the traps up in a later post.
Chips - Lakenheath Chip Shop, Lakenheath, Suffolk - Sausage, Chips and pickled egg 8/10.

Thursday 12th May - Orchids

Green Winged Orchid

I finished work early and headed to two green winged orchid meadows, Chettisham and Upwood Meadows some 30 mins apart. Chettisham had the best display with one white form and plenty of other colour forms. Upwood meadows did have calling turtle doves a couple that the Maltese missed! I headed to Woodwalton Fen for a couple of hours, there was no one else on the reserve which was ideal, however the strengthening wind was not and it kept the warblers out of sight, but the raptors were more showy, red kite, marsh harrier, hobby, sparrowhawk, kestrel all present. A pair of common terns were prospecting on the tern raft and a barn owl did a fly by. The Chinese water deer were out in force at least 15 spotted during my wander, along with 4 muntjac and a fox which took some stalking down with the wind blowing in the wrong direction. I headed off before dusk.

Wednesday 11th May - Happy in Hampshire

Caspian Stonechat

Last year or two have been poor birdwise particularly going for rares has not always been possible so this year I am making a bit more of an effort. So I took the afternoon off to head to Hampshire where on arrival at Titchfield haven the Caspian stonechat was showing well to a surprisingly low number of observers. It was a very striking bird and well worth the effort. Conditions were perfect considering the heavy rain I had driven through so I popped over to the New Forest for a few hours induldging in some rather ice cream and chips during my visit. Mostly common birds seen and the fallow deer were present at Boulderwood but little else. I headed for home stopping at Fleet pond where the black terns reported earlier were still present.
Chips - Berties, Lyndhurst, Hants - Saveloy, Chips, pea fritter 8/10.

Monday 9th May - Brecks Again

Tree Pipit

Such a nice afternoon I finished work early and headed to Lakenheath to check on a speedwell sp which was not in flower so I can not yet ID it, but I sampled some of their nice ice cream. I was not going to spend time here today but headed to Maidscroft hill for nightingales, but helicopter manoeuvres overhead made this quite difficult so I headed further into the brecks. I had a brief fox cross one of the trails, woodlark, tree pipit, cuckoo were amongst the commoner species present. A couple of roe deer and a few rabbits disturbed by two trail bikes, it started to rain and I just made it back to the car before it was heavy, a quick stop for chips - my preferred shop was closed but the backup was not too bad.
Chips - Trawlers catch, Lakenheath - Just Chips 7/10.

Sunday 8th May - Dipping in Dorset

Red Footed Falcon

With very little sleep I drove to James Hunter’s where we transferred into his car for the drive to Dorset. But a quick stop round the corner at Otford where the oriental turtle dove had just appeared, well timed. I dropped into the garden after a short period on view and we contained out journey. Some rain in Dorset changed our schedule and first stop became Morden bog. We wandered a little before we found the red footed falcon a beautifully marked bird and well worth the effort, aided by a supporting cast of tree pipit, wood lark and hobby made the stop a success. Conditions were much better and we headed for ladybird spider country but despite the perfect conditions and several hours of searching we had nothing but sand lizards to report. We gave up the search and did some herping some planned and some incidental a cracking aggressive male adder which we disturbed on a footpath was of the latter, and I was not sure who was the more surprised him or us! Other sightings included grass snake, slow worm and smooth snake. The heat had finally brought out some dragonflies with 4 spot chaser, large red damselfly and hairy dragonfly all on the wing. With time moving on we headed back with a bit of a detour into Sussex for some early purple orchids including three alba forms which made the detour worth it. Kent still closed I got chips north of the river before heading home for some sleep.
Chips - Fish n Chickn, Harlow - Saveloy and Chips 7/10.

Saturday 7th May - Bird Race

Grey Headed Wagtail

Once more The ex Stortford Crew embarked on the annual bird race and with a target of 142 to beat set by a Norfolk team last weekend we had our work cut out. With no chip stops and no cameras (only a compact for emergencies) to slow us down, conditions were good and despite some missed targets and birds go missing overnight things went quite well. The route was a variation on last years route. We added a few new birds to the list such as long tailed duck, great white egret, black winged stilt. Other highlights spotted crake, short eared owl, black necked grebe but the bird of the day was a grey headed wagtail that the crew self found. Final tally 153 not bad at all and I even squeezed in an ice cream. Mammal a bit thin on the ground but a badger the pick.

Thursday 5th May - Back to the Brecks

Grasshopper Warbler

An after work visit to the brecks checking on the spring speedwells which were not quite in flower but I did find a nice common lizard. I headed to Lakenheath RSPB, stopping at the airbase on the way to join a large number of aircraft watchers looking at the F22 raptors. On the reserve entrance track I stopped for a pair of roe deer, on the reserve itself there were several cuckoo’s making quite a racket, at least 3 males chasing one bubbling female and a bittern booming over the cacophony of warbler song made the reserve feel very alive. The warbler of real note was a rather showy grasshopper warbler which I watched for some time, a kingfisher buzzed past on the walk back to the car but not much else.

Tuesday 3rd May - Fantastic Forest

Wild Boar Dipper White Clawed Crayfish

Yet another early start and Simon West and I found ourselves at Nagshead RSPB which was closed. We tried Woorgreens lake instead where a wood warbler was the previous day, but not anymore but a cracking male pied flycatcher was singing and showing well. We headed back to Nagshead which was no open and went for a wander, but it was very quiet we tracked down 4 pied flycatchers and a wood warbler was singing briefly but we could not locate it. A roe deer, bank vole and slow worm were added to the list but no butterflies or dragonflies. We headed to meet Ben but made a stop when we spotted some wild boar. It was a sow and 9 piglets and we had a good view of them before eventually meeting up with Ben and then had a wander to catch up with tree pipits, buzzards and some nice stonechats. A quick stop at another site where we had two adders and a couple of common lizards. We joined a licenced ringer to check some dipper nests and ring some birds if appropriate. We checked almost dozen nests and 9 chicks and one adult were ringed but two other broods were still too small to ring, the other nests were empty. While we were wandering in the rivers and streams checking the boxes we saw plenty of water life some brown trout, bullheads, caddisfly larva, freshwater shrimps and while removing some litter we disturbed a white clawed crayfish we quickly returned it to the stream safely. We stopped for some fish and chips ate them by the river enjoying the spring sunshine. It was time to call things a night but as we drove back to drop Ben off we saw some wild boar. We stopped and it was a large group of boar feeding on the edge of the village, 12 piglets and 5 sows. They showed very well as did some mandarins on a nearby pond, we had our fill and called it a day.
Chips - Blakeney Chip In, Blakeney - Fish and Chips 8.5/10.

Sunday 1st May - Kent

Dew Moth Adder

The drive was largely uneventful a tawny owl and a hedgehog the only things of note on the long drive to Ardrossan. I arrive well before the ferry terminal was open and got my head down for a while, a kindly policeman checked on me and I could not get back to sleep. The ferry journey was uneventful a full Scottish apart, and a few manx shearwaters the only wildlife seen. I was one of the first off the ferry and quickly made it to Glen Catachol, which is the home of Arran’s three endemic whitebeams, the rarest Catachol whitebeam only has two individuals. The weather was perfect if a little too warm, and after a rather pleasant walk located the three whitebeam species. The views were spectacular and I saw no one else on my walk apart from buzzards, stonechats, cuckoo’s, adder and a frog. I did several tourist stops round the island including a couple of ice creams, there were a few incidental sightings on my drive red breasted mergansers, eider, black guillemot and plenty of commoner species. The last stop of the day was a common seal haul out and half a dozen were present
Chips - Fish n Chickn, Harlow - Haggis and chips 6/100.



Saturday 30th April - Local


Another weekend day at work but I was up at dawn and was going to make a few stops on the way, I was still in the village when I stopped for a muntjac. Barely out of the village before I stopped again. A group of hares were chasing and boxing each other but were a fair distance away, they did come within camera range on the odd occasion. I stopped at the Fordham woods near work, common warblers and muntjac all that was about, until I spotted afox moving the other side of the river and managed a shot as is moved between two pieces of cover. I was still early for work so took a wander round our site and had 4 male blackcaps in one tree fighting over one female. After work I headed to Cambridge for water voles but torrential rain almost put me off and I got a quick ice cream. The rain eased and I had a quick look but no voles but a nice yellow wagtail was an unexpected bonus.

Friday 29th April - Blustery Brecks


An after work visit to the Brecks in less than ideal conditions, Maidscross Hill had nightingales but they were elusive keeping out of the wind and rain showers, I managed a couple of shots before retreating to the car to avoid a massive rain shower. I headed to Weeting Heath where the stone curlews were also hiding but a rather nice hare was being more obliging. I stopped for chips before heading to Lackford Lakes. Several muntjac and loads of rabbits the mammal tally but plenty of birds, a nice sedge warbler allowed me to take his photo and a kingfisher is always nice to see. The long tailed duck was distant and on the furthest lake and I called it a night.
Chips - Lakenheath Chip Shop, Lakenheath, Suffolk - Just Chips 8/10.

Wednesday 27th April - The Secret Garden

Another weekend at home this time decorating but I kept an eye out for garden going's on. The best was a fight between the rat and the squirrel on the bird table, the male reed bunting was elusive but the yellowhammers were very showy. I also completed my new moth trap, the electrics came from Paul Batty who was very helpful. And a Muntjac feeding in the garden one morning during the week was very nice to see.

Fox / Muntjac
Fox / Hedgehog

Tuesday 26th April - Frosty Fowlmere

Fallow Deer

I was up well before dawn and headed to a Frozen Fowlmere, I have not been for a while, I had the place to myself and quickly encountered muntjac and fallow deer and as it became light up the warblers became active and I had good views of reed, sedge, Cetti's and blackcap. The marsh harriers were busy nest building and the geese and ducks already had young, but the weather felt nothing like spring. The highlight of the morning was a couple of turtle doves good to see if only briefly. By early afternoon the rain and snow showers made me call it a day.

Sunday 24th April - Loads at Lakenheath


I was up well before dawn, I was not sure I had made a good decision as it was sleeting and bitterly cold. But I arrived at Lakenheath RSPB at dawn and as I did the skys cleared. The wind was bitterly cold and I was in full winter clothing. I was first on site and took a wander, warblers singing everywhere but all keeping out of the wind only a whitethroat braved the conditions. I sheltered from the poor conditions in the hide a few bearded tits were showing low down out of the wind and a bittern flew over. I headed for Joist Fen a crane flew over and three cuckoo's were very active. The usual birds were also about but apart from the first swifts of the year there was nothing else of real note, I dodged a hail shower in the shelter and made it back to the visitor centre for an ice cream before heading for home mid afternoon.

Saturday 23rd April - Brampton Boxes

Soprano Pipistrelle

I had to work during the morning but joined the Cambridgeshire Bat Group for a box check in Brampton, stopping for chips on the way. Fewer bats than usual of two species noctule (27) and soprano pipistrelle (18). After a quick ice cream I headed off to Woodwalton Fen for a few hours. The last person was leaving as I arrived and I had the reserve to myself apart from loads of Chinese water deer but there were plenty of birds about the first cuckoo of the year and grasshopper warblers making plenty of noise. A cracking short eared owl was hunting over the back of the reserve, a saw a couple of voles very briefly but could not ID them, and a brown hare but the highlight as I walked back to the car was a long eared owl which crossed my path.
Brampton Fish Bar, Brampton, Cambs - Just Chips 7/10

Friday 22nd April - Incidental Stuff


Some nice incidental sightings this week, with nice muntjac and several hares, a photogenic red legged partridge and late one night a cracking vixen with two cubs. Moth trapping was very quiet early grey and white point the only things of note.

Tuesday 19th April - Local Luck

Weasel Short Eared Owl

A nice hare on the way to work made me pull over and grab the camera. With family commitments over the weekend and such nice weather, keen to get out I took the afternoon off. I stayed local first stop ISleham for herps but no luck, but a few butterflies and bumblebees enjoying the warm weather. Next stop was a site for common lizards and I easily found half a dozen or so sunning themselves. Then it was off to Burwell Fen, the roe deer were easy to see on the access road. I corssed the bridge and wandered a little way when I heard somethign I went to investigate and a weasel greeted me peering out of a hole watching me. This site is one of the best to see weasel that I know of with very regular sightings. I had the reserve pretty much to my self just the odd cyclist passing through. Two short eared owls showed well off and on all afternoon as did a nice hare but it was a bit thin on migrants, just a couple of whitethroats and no sign of the earlier whinchat. Time was moving on so I headed for food and home, a small group of fallow deer on the way home was also nice to see and finished a very productive afternoon.
Best Plaice, Burwell, Cambs - Just Chips 7/10

Wednesday 13th April - Back to the Brecks

Fingered Speedwell

I popped back to Thetford to see some the speedwells again, the Breckland speedwells were flowering nicely, or were earlier in the day, but the earlier sunshine had gone by the time I got there and most flowers were shut but I did find a couple worth photographing. After some chips I headed to Weeting Heath, I had the reserve all to myself, there were three stone curlews and a hare was a nice change from the rabbits. A couple of muntjac's in the surronding fields on the way home.
Chips - Mr Chips, Thetford - Chip Butty 8/10.

Sunday 10th April - Woodwalton Wonders

Chinese Water Deer Grass Snake

I got to Woodwalton at dawn, it was a rather misty morning and deer photography was not very easy, but as time moved on things cleared and I got a few pics of both muntjac and Chinese water deer. Singing sedge warblers and reeling grasshopper warblers were a good sign that spring was coming, but not quite today as despite the sun the wind was rather chilly. I stopped to watch the marsh harriers and had a wonderful time watching them display, mate and carryout food passes. However the camera died all batteried were dead so I returned to the car to get the spare camera body and batteries. I found a couple of grass snakes and common lizards in the odd sheltered spots but the wind was not ideal for herps. I headed to St Ives for lunch and and ice cream while looking for the local seal, but there was no sign of it. I took a stop for water voles without success on the way home.
Chips - Local Fish and Chips, St Ives - Just Chips 6/10.

Friday 8th April - Cambridge Cattle Egret and Local Stuff

Cattle Egret

After work I popped over to Cambridge to see the cattle egret which was found earlier in the day, it was feeding in a flodded horse field and there was no one else around Several hares in the local fields one morning were sparring nicely if a little distant, but did have a nice view of a lone individual one evening.
A few moths this week, I only ran the trap on one night as one of the power wires has broken so I need to fix it. Moths were mostly hebrew character, common quaker, small quaker, clouded drab, but an early grey was nice to see.

Tuesday 5th April - Rare Speedwells

Breckland Speedwell

I popped over to the Brecks to see how the Breckland and fingered speedwells were getting on this season, two very rare plants. I found lots not yet in flower but did find two Breckland Speedwells in full flower and some fingered nearly out, I will take anotherlook next week. I took a walk into Thetford along the river but found little of note. My wife was cooking tea so I had to walk past the chip shop, however being such a pleasant evening I did manage an ice cream during my wander.

Saturday 2nd April - Forest of Dean

Wild Boar Hawfinch Great Grey Shrike

I arrived at Cannop ponds in the Forest of Dean just after 8am in torrential rain, it eased a little so I put some seed on the bird table and it instantly sprung to life. Blue, great, coal and marsh tits, nuthatch, greater spotted woodpecker, chaffinches amongst others all battled with the squirrels for the food. Eventually the rain eased enough that I could go for a wander, there were plenty of common birds about and a fall of willow warblers was the highlight although the mandarins are always nice to see. As the weater improved the mountain bikers and tourists started to arrive so that was my cue to met up with Ben. After a nice cup of tea watching a bank vole we headed out into the forest in search of wild boar, we came across some piglets but they were in thick cover. Our next boar encounter was with a young male who was very confiding and offered some great photo opportunities. We then had another encounter with two adults and a number of piglets always slightly obscured but they were great to see. The weather was lovely and Ben suggested Dipper and chips in the sunshine. We picked up soem chips and went a short distance to a dipper river and watched a dipper and grey wagtails while dining. We paid a visit to New Fancy view but not much apart from buzzard and raven but we had better success deeper in the forest where we located some siskin, brambling and a couple of hawfinches. It was time to take a look for one of the three wintering great grey shrikes it was the far side of a clearing but flew into a tree above us offering nice views. Some fallow deer, common toads and palmate newt were also seen. With the light evenings we had time for another forest foray looking for boar, we spooked a couple but did not get any views and headed back to Ben's for a cup of tea, before I drove home after a couple of great days.
Chips - Blakeney Chip In, Blakeney - Battered Sausage and Chips 8.5/10.

Friday 1st April - Dorset

Otter Sika Sawfly Orchid

I took the day off and arrived to a very chilly Blandford forum at dawn, the sunrise was super and eventually the sun would warm me up. But before then I patrolled the river searching for the otters, I met a local who said the recent flooding had disrupted their routine but they had been seen yesterday after an absence of a few days. Three hours went by without anything and I was going to leave after a last look, at the far end of the river the other photographers had located an otter with two cubs. They entertained us for the next hour until they were lost to view. Next stop was a little look at the shrivelled sawfly orchid which was in very poor shape, it is suffering in the poor English weather. A few early spider orchids were almost in flower, and my first migrant of the year a wheatear was spotted. My walk back to the car was broken by a look for herps in the now pleasant sunshine and I found a couple of wall lizards and an adder. With this weather I took a look at a site for herps and found two sand lizards, 2 slow worms a common shrew and a Dartford warbler, I also stopped off at an ice cream van for a local ice cream, the first of the year. I headed to Arne for the rest of the day, the car park was packed but most people seemed to be in the new cafe, I avoided that and headed into the reserve where I quickly caught up with a herd of about a dozen sika. This heard contained the white stag feeding in the saltmarsh and I watched it for a while before trying for some water voles. I had one view, one was by the path by my feet but too close to focus the camera and as I backed off it spooked and was not seen again, but I did find both common and sand lizards nearby, the first I have seen at Arne. I struggled to find much else during the visit and headed back to the car watching a family of brown rats under the bird feeders until dusk. I then headed for some chips.
Chips - Parkway Fish Bar, Poole - Saveloy, Cheese and Onion Fritter, Baked Bean Fritter and Chips 8/10.



Thursday 31st March - March Moths and Mice

Oak Beauty House Mouse

Mostly moths for the last few days but the warm wet weather has brought the amphibians out on my toad crossing including several great crested newts. Moths include hebrew character, common quaker, common drab , march moth and a nice oak beauty. My wife mentioned some mouse activity in the nearby stable so I popped some Longworths down and hey presto a house Mouse popped out. We had a photo shoot before letting him go. Edit - I forgot to mention the soprano pipistrelle we saw in the church at a recent council meeting there (Wed 30th)

Friday 25th March - Staying Local

Hen Harrier

I had a lot on this weekend but with such good weather I could not resist a day out, I stayed local and first stop was a water vole site but no voles only a water rail so I moved on to Burwell Fen. A ring tail hen harrier greeted me so the omens were good, and indeed they were as I heard cranes bugling, I located them on the far side of the reserve but they flew well before I got halfway. There were several roe deer feeding amongst the usual wildlfowl. I stopped for lunch when a dog walker threw a ball for the dog and out shot a weasel across the path into a ditch. I waited for an hour but it did not show again, but the hen harrier did. I wandered on to Baker's Fen to see the new hide which is miles from the scrape / water so will be a waste of time ever visiting again. I headed up into the Fens for swans and on the back of Ouse Washes at Pymoor was a large flock of whooper swans and a lone white fronted goose. A black rabbit and a couple of hares the only other things of note. It was a strange day which seemed like a summer's day but with winter's wildlife alongside butterflies and bumblebees, and I finished it off in the usual fashion.

Chips - Alan Fish Bar, Ely - Spring Roll, mushy pea fritter and Chips 8.5/10.

Monday 21st March - Moths

Common Quaker

I have managed to run the moth trap a couple of nights over the last week or so, cath has been a bit low with 6 Hebrew Character, 2 common quakers a White-shouldered house moth and a small quaker.

Sunday 20th March - Hinksford Hoopoe


I was away just north of Manchester for the weekend nut not wildlife related although some incidental sightings of raven, sparrowhawk and goosander were well received. The journey home was broken at Hinksford where the long staying Hoopoe was being a little elusive always hiding in long grass and scrub, but I did get a few record shots in the rather pleasant spring sunshine.

Sunday 13th March - Garden

Another weekend at home this time decorating but I kept an eye out for garden going's on. The best was a fight between the rat and the squirrel on the bird table, the male reed bunting was elusive but the yellowhammers were very showy. I also completed my new moth trap, the electrics came from Paul Batty who was very helpful. And a Muntjac feeding in the garden one morning during the week was very nice to see.

New Moth trap
Rat / Squirrel
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday 6th March - Garden

A weekend at home catching up on chores decorating etc. I did pop out to various DIY shops and had a nice red kite and a buzzard. While in the garden half a dozen yellowhammers and a single male reed bunting, one brown rat the highlights.
Chips - Walden Fish and Chips, Saffron Walden - Just Chips 8/10.

Saturday 5th March - Fen Drayton Seal - Update

Common Seal Flipper TagCommon Seal

This common seal was spotted at Fen Drayton RSPB in Mid Feb, it was flipper tagged (62639) and I tracked down the history of Beetlejuice as he is apparently named. It was taken into care at Cromer by the RSPCA, looked after at their East Winch site no date supplied when he was picked up. He was released at Sutton Bridge on the 14 December 2015. - Sadly he was found dead today .



Israel - Feb 2016

Saturday 13th February - Forest of Dean Downpour

Penduline TitWild Boar

An early start, Simon West and I rocked up at a bitterly cold Horsebere Pool on the edge of Gloucester, where we quickly picked up the long staying penduline tits. They showed reasonably well but the conditions were not ideal it was dull and overcast and a strong freezing cold wind eventually made us retreat back to the car to warm up. Next stop was a bat hibernacula check where we only found a handful of lesser horseshoe bats. We headed on to the Forest of Dean to meet up with Ben, John and Claire to search for wild boar, conditions were poor with persistent rain and very sodden ground. We tried a couple of areas and in the second site located a few wild boar but only one showed itself although we did disturb three woodcock during our search. As we headed back to the car a nice herd of about 10 fallow deer were spotted and we headed for home to dry out.
Chips - Fish and Chipper, Enfield - Battered Sausage, Chips and picked egg 6/10.

Thursday 11th February - Fantastic Fen Drayton

Short Eared Owl

A brilliant afternoon at Fen Drayton RSPB, where the young common seal was showing very well near the Bailey bridge as I arrived early afternoon, it spent some time dozing but when it started fishing it was quite effecient and caught several fish in a short period, it was flipper tagged with I presume a ZSL tag I got the number and will try to find out its history and will keep you posted if I find out anything. A nice kestrel and a circling sparrowhawk of note. I took a drive round but not much so I staked out the short eared owls with some other photographers and one showed quite well. A quick look for the seal again but no sign so I returned to look for ban owls ojne showed distantly and I called it a night.
Chips - Fish n Chicken, Bar Hill, Cambs - Just Chips 8/10.

Sunday 7th February - Twitching Dutch Style

Siberian Rubythroat Pine Bunting Bufflehead Siberian Rubythroat

James Hunter, Simon West and I took an overnight Le Shuttle crossing (I was so glad not to have chosen the freey option) and drove through the poor weather to Hoogwoud and had a few hours in the car park to catch up on sleep before dawn. Early morning conditions were good and we walked the short distance to join a handful of Dutch twitchers watching the Siberian Rubythroat, the stunning male was roosting in a pollarded tree and was largely obscured. But after a short while it started feeding in the surronding bushes and occasionally showed well. We headed south to the Europort terminal near Rotterdam, here in the surronding sand dunes and grassland was a long legged buzzard. We eventually located the favoured area and bumped into a local birder who confirmed we were in the right area but there had been no sign in very blustery conditions. But within a few mins Simon had located it distantly and it showed for a while but always distantly. A Bufflehead awaited us at our next stop but a muscovy duck was all we could find until James found it distantly, not satisfied with our views we drove to the far end of the lake and had it a point blank range as it surfaced right infront of us. Onward to our next site and we knew we had the right place with a small group of cars parked at a random site. We crossed the sea defence and a photographer had the pine bunting right infront of him and we joined the pine bunting totally tolerant of our presence, it showed amazingly well. A small selection of waders was also present and the surronding fields held several brown hares. Our last stop was just over the border in Belgium, where a Lesser whitefronted goose had been present but despite our drive round plenty of suitable fields no geese were located although two captive wallabies were spotted. We bumped into a small murmuration of starlings to round off the day. We subsequently learned that the geese had apparently moved to another location earlier in the day but we could not complain with a totally amazing birding day. We made it safely home despite the terrible weather back in the UK but the lateness of the timing I remained chipless.

Friday 5th February - Garden Trail Cam

Grey Squirrel
Brown rat
Red Fox

A selection of recent garden trail cam photos, Muntjac, red fox, brown rat, grey squirrel, pheasant, collard dove.

Wednesday 3rd February - Blustery Burwell

Short Eared Owl

A Very blustery but a brilliant afternoon at Burwell visited after a chip stop. It was bitterly cold and the wind was biting but it was an afternoon break from work so I persevered. It was quiet initially but several raptors made it a great afternoon. Two kestrels showed off and on and one caught a mouse, but it was the eruption of ducks that alerted me to the female peregrine and it made a second pass late on as well. marsh harrier and buzzard also showed as did three short eared owls and two barn owls but the star was the merlin who flashed through after the goldfinches. I watched the sun set hoping for a hen harrier but I had used up all my luck for the day so headed home.

Chips - Handy Plaice, Soham, Cambs - Just Chips 7/10.



Saturday 30th - Lucky Lakenheath


I had an extra 30 mins in bed as the storm raged outside but still made it to Lakenheath just after 8am siskins and redpolls greeted me at the vistor centre as the staff must have had a lie as well. I was following up on the ermine stoat which I saw last year here and has been reported again. It was not long before the partial ermine stoat appeared and it showed a few times but quite distantly. I dodged a rain shower in the shelter talking to a nice couple from Northants as we watched nothing. I wandered round looking for the stoat and was joined by Farnborough John but no further sign. We took a wander to the end viewpoint three common cranes flew over and a brief bittern and about 14 marsh harriers the bird highlighs. The light was fading and we wandered back spotting a couple of barn owls but not much else in what now was a bitterly cold evening. Time for chips and home after a nice day out.
Chips - Lakenheath Chip Shop, Lakenheath, Suffolk - Battered Burger, Chips and mushy peas 8/10.

Sunday 24th - Garden Gazing

Brown Rat

Just a bit of back garden watching today in between the chores, two Brown rats showed off and on as did three grey squirrels, birds were plentiful with several yellowhammers and the regular great spotted woodpecker the highlights.

Saturday 23rd - Lea Valley

Bank Vole Bittern Muntjac

I have not been to the Lea Valley much since they took down the Wren hide (health and safety and they could not afford to replace or repair it, but they had enough money for new signs for the whole of the park, and there was nothing wrong with them). I went to a small feeding station someone I know set up several years ago. It had not been used for sometime and it took a little time to repair, I put some food out and nothing for an hour apart from a magpie, but then things picked up a little, a nice bank vole and a selection of common birds. It took two hours for the squirrels to find the food but then they arrived in numbers. The smaller birds drew in a sparrowhawk but it perched in a spot obscured by lots of branches. A muntjac made a couple of visits showing very nicely and an unseasonal peacock butterfly flew past, eventually I had to move and headed to the Bittern watchpoint for a while. The hide was not busy but was dominated by one noisy woman who surprisingly had not seen a bittern. As soon as she left it showed in one of the channels! a water rail showed briefly and I spotted two male muntjac were washing each other but little else. I tok a wander another muntjac the only thing of note as I headed for chips and home.
Chips - Wilson Brothers, Lower Nazeing, Essex - Pickled Egg and Chips 5/10.

Thursday 21st - Birdy Burwell


Having worked almost every day since the new year break I took the afternoon off and headed for the chip shop for lunch. I headed off to Burwell Fen for a couple of hours. The wind was biting but the advantage was that there were no visitors and I only saw one other person all afternoon. There were plenty of roe deer scattered around the place, but the birds really took the show at least 6 stonechats battling with the wind which the kestrels used to their advantage hanging motionless in the sky. There were plenty of winter thrushes moving about and a rather nice green woodpecker landed close by but a drake smew in on a small patch of unfrozen water was a delight although a little distant (which is the norm here). I headed back to the car and had a nice starling murmaration until some noisy uncontrolled dog spooked them from their pre roost and they headed off, just as I was about to do the same I spotted a barn owl but the dogs had run off into the field it was hunting in and again scared it away, although I saw another in the fading light just as I was leaving.
Chips - Best Plaice, Burwell, Cambs - Just Chips 7/10.

Tuesday 19th - Foxy

I disturbed my regular garden fox while putting food out for him or her too brief to tell, but the trailcam may reveal the sex.

Sunday 17th - Boring Burwell


I had a more relaxed start a treecreeper in the garden during breakfast was nice. I had to work in the morning and it was logical to visit Burwell for a few hours after. I stopped for chips on the way. The fen was very quiet a few roe deer, a brief sparrowhawk and a brown hare and a distant marsh harrier but little else and I headed for home.
Chips - Rumbles, Exning, Suffolk - Just Chips 7.5/10.

Saturday 16th - Fantastic Fens

Short Eared OwlChinese Water Deer

Dawn saw me at Woodwalton Fen on a cold and frosty morning a muntjac crossing the access track the first wildlife of note. Ground conditions on the fen were tricky, a frozen crust of leaves and reeds with an underlying thick mud layer, this made fieldcraft tricky, startling the first Chinese water deer confirmed my fears but I persisted and eventually managed a few reasonable encounters but they seemed very skittish. Bird wise it was quiet although a nice kestrel allowed some photos, it was mostly winter thrushes. The hides were quiet and by midday I headed off for Fen Drayton RSPB, stopping for chips on the way. At Fen Drayton I lucked in on the serin's as they flew in just after my arrival. I had a little look round before staking out the short eared owls one of which showed nicely, as the light faded so did I and headed for home.
Chips - Barry's Plaice, Fenstanton, Cambs - Just Chips 5/10.

Friday 15th - Garden Going's On


I had a few hours off this afternoon as I had a builder coming to price up a job. I spent the time just watching the garden birds, the yellowhammers have returned, prompted by the cold weather but nothing rarer. A brown rat put in a brief appearance to torment me, but was spooked by a squirrel.

Wednesday 13th - Cracking Commute

A very enjoyable commute to work, the local barn owl was flying around the edge of the village a ghostly dawn figure. One of the local hares had met its end on the road during the night. However the highlight was in the work car park, as I pulled in a rabbit shot across the top of the car park near my regular parking space closely followed by a stoat, I lept out of the car but they both disappeared through a hedge and were lost to view. The journey home was less impressive but I had to stop for a muntjac leisurly crossing the road in the next village.

Rat update - still not tempting them into the traps will have to try another approach, I will keep you updated on progress.

Tuesday 12th - Handbook of the Mammals of the World 5

Handbook of the Mammals of the World

I just received the latest volume of The Handbook of the Mammals of the World - Volume 5 Monotremes and Marsupials a belated Christmas present. I sent most of the evening looking through it taking particular interest in a couple of species I would really like to see. Duck billed platypus, Kowari, Koala and any of the gliders. This is a lovely book as are those in the rest of the series.

Sunday 10th - Trapping Success

Harvest Mouse Common Shrew

I had to work all weekend so took the opportunity to set the longworths out for some small mammal trapping. The small wood at work was flooded but held two muntjac which I startled. So I put 29 longworths (I left the 30th at home by mistake) in the rough grassland where I caught very little in November and December's sessions. It was near dark and raining heavily when I set them and finding them the next morning was harder than I thought and I could not locate a pair of traps for 20 mins. The first 4 were empty but the next two held harvest mice. I had a total catch of 5 harvest mice, 4 field voles a common shrew and a wood mouse.

Saturday 9th - Oh Rats!

Brown Rats

I noticed some rodent signs in my garage just a bag of hay with a hole in, so I put a small pile of seed on the floor one evening, the next morning it had gone, so I put some longworth traps down and over the next two nights caught nothing. I repeated the seeding of the floor and once again it disappeared. I suspected something else so repeated the seeding with a trail camera in situ. I had the settings wrong and all the shots were very over exposed but I could make out at least 3 brown rats. I changed the longworths for rat cage traps baited with snickers bars which worked so well on the black rats on the Shiant islands a couple of years back. But after two days nothing in the traps, the rats were still present as I spotted one yesterday evening.

Sunday 3rd - British Mammal DVD

British Mammal Guide DVD Small mammal Trapping

I received a complimentary copy of the British Mammal Guide DVD from the producers, who I have been helping a little over the last couple of years with advice and some doing some small mammal trapping. Click on the photo to see the small mammal trapping video. I watched the two DVD set over the Christmas period and will offer my thoughts on it. The cinematography is well done with nice footage of 79 British mammal species the total running time is almost 3 hours. Most of the footage is taken in the British isles of wild animals but doing this for all species such as wildcat is very difficult and some footage was filmed in captive collections. This does not detract from the overall feel of the DVD and some of the species would be almost impossible to film in the wild. The factual content is very good and well narrated and there are only a couple of minor errors and omissions. Overall this DVD is very well done, has some nice footage and information and is well worth adding to the DVD collection.

Saturday 2nd - Minsmere Madness

Muntjac WigeonRabbit

A barn owl was the only thing of note on the drive to Minsmere where my mission was to photograph red deer prints for the Cambridgeshire Mammal Atlas which is nearing completion. I was there early and quickly added rabbit and grey squirrel to the mammal list. I followed a muntjac to get a couple of photos and came upon a red deer but it left no prints. I headed to the Island Mere hide but there was very little there but I hung round for an hour or so. I headed off for the prints and came across a nice set, job done I took a look on the scrape. Plenty of duck and a few waders mostly black tailed godwits. I wandered round a bit more ending back at Island Mere hide, it got busy in the hide by a noisy group having a picnic, a couple of famalies with screaming kids and a bloke who liked the sound of his own voice and insisted on telling everyone about the hen harriers they were watching despite being corrected a couple of times. It was a scene from birdwatching hell and I was there eventually these people left and were replaced by some normal people and one of these located a nice bittern. Eventually I was alone in the hide and then an otter appeared swimming across the mere, a couple arrived just in time to see it. I then went to the scrape again, an overwintering avocet the highlight. I helped a group of very friendly people with a couple of bird ID's before heading for home just as the rain started.
The first chips of the year - Debenham Fish and Chips, Debenham, Suffolk - Just Chips 7/10.

Friday 1st - Lazy Day on the Fens


The first bird of the year was a pair of mallard flying past my house as I left for Lakenheath RSPB. I had to wait for the entrance track for the first mammal a roe deer.Siskins and redpolls were around the visitor centre and the Great White Egret on the wash I wandered round all morning there were few people round but also little wildlife. Both roe and muntjac were spotted as was a nice family of stonechats. A kingfisher posed briefly but the real highlight was the number of wrens I lost count after 70, they were everywhere and very vocal. I headed to Burwell Fen for a couple of hours, the short eared owl put in a brief appearance as did a nice sparrowhawk but the highlight was a flock of 150+ goldfinches before I headed for home (Chipless being a bank holiday).


2015 Review


Stoat in Ermine

Another good mammal year with some amazing encounters some fantastic Wild Boar piglets and brilliant encounter with a stoat in Ermine were highlights as was a well twitched mole which I managed to catch by hand in my garden. I finally photographed a wild mink and had some nice harvest mice trapped which posed well for photographs. A total of 51 species in total makes the 8th year in a row exceeding 50 species.


Hudsonian Godwit

Another average bird year with 231 species seen but some very nice ones including a rather confiding Harlequin duck was nice but new species were a little hard to come by Hudsonian godwit, Great Blue Heron and Little bustard I dipped on a few others.

Other Wildlife and Trips

Bryony LadybirdThyme Leaved Speedwell

Branching out into other areas I had a great year with Ladybirds, Moths, Whitebeams and Speedwells. Highights were a couple of clearwings and some hawkmoths, loads of ladybirds but 5 spot Ladybird of real note. Some very rare whitebeams incuding Houston's Whitebeam and several nice orchids including some variants of Fly and Bee Orchid. I had only one trip outside the UK to Tuscany, the highligh was a porcupine, Hermann's Tortoise and Asp viper. A new Herp in the form of Iberian Water Frog was unexpected in a total of 11 species, I neglected other groups with only 25 species of butterflies and 23 dragonfly species seen.


Upcoming Trips

  • Tenerife - Dec 2016
  • My Flickr Photos


    2016 Targets

    Green when seen

  • Broken Belted Bumblebee
  • Cryptic Bumblebee
  • Menai Strait Whitebeam
  • Llangollen Whitebeam
  • Bloody Whitebeam
  • Doward Whitebeam
  • Arran Whitebeam
  • Cut Leaved Whitebeam
  • Catachol Whitebeam
  • American Speedwell
  • Rock Speedwell
  • Alpine Speedwell
  • Corsican Speedwell
  • Thrift Clearwing
  • Narrow Bordered Bee Hawkmoth
  • Ladybird Spider
  • Forester Moth
  • 2016 Mammal List (Target 50)

    Green when photographed

  • 1 - Roe Deer
  • 2 - Muntjac
  • 3 - Brown Hare
  • 4 - Rabbit
  • 5 - Grey Squirrel
  • 6 - Red Deer
  • 7 - Otter
  • 8 - Brown Rat
  • 9 - Harvest Mouse
  • 10 - Field Vole
  • 11 - Common Shrew
  • 12 - Wood Mouse
  • 13 - Stoat
  • 14 - Chinese Water Deer
  • 15 - Red Fox
  • 16 - Bank Vole
  • 17 - Common Seal
  • 18 - Lesser Horseshoe Bat
  • 19 - Fallow Deer
  • 20 - Wild Boar
  • 21 - Weasel
  • 22 - House Mouse
  • 23 - Soprano Pipistrelle
  • 24 - Sika
  • 25 - Water Vole
  • 26 - Noctule
  • 27 - Pygmy Shrew
  • 28 - Badger
  • 29 - Yellow Necked Mouse
  • 30 - Hedgehog
  • 31 - Beaver
  • 32 - Grey Seal
  • 33 - Feral Goat
  • 34 - Red Squirrel
  • 35 - Bottlenosed Dolphin
  • 36 - Harbour Porpoise
  • 37 - Pine Marten
  • 38 - Mountain Hare
  • 39 - Edible Dormouse
  • 40 - Wild Pony
  • 41 - Daubenton's Bat
  • 42 - Bechstein's Bat
  • 43 - Natterer's Bat
  • 44 - Whiskered Bat
  • 45 - Brant's Bat
  • 46 - Greater Horseshoe Bat
  • 47 - Brown longeared Bat
  • 48 - Common Pipistrelle Bat
  • 49 - Leislers Bat
  • 50 - Water Shrew
  • 51 - Nathusius' Pipistrelle
  • 52 - Barbastelle Bat
  • 53 - Risso's Dolphin
  • The Chip Count

    Chips 62
    Chip Butty 1
    Fish 3
    Battered / Sausage 13
    Battered Burger 7
    Saveloy 6
    Spring Roll 2
    Pickled Egg 11
    Cheese and Onion Fritter 4
    Baked Bean Fritter 1
    Mushy Peas / Fritter 16
    Spam Fritter 2
    Haggis 4
    Chicken Pakora 1
    Macaroni Pie 2
    King Rib 1
    Onion Rings 1
    Ice Cream 26
    Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites