Thursday 26 December 2019

Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail (tschutschensis), Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019

It was many moons ago that I consider I first saw an Eastern-type Yellow Wagtail on the Isles of Scilly. Three different observers called it different species and without a consensus it has remained in limbo, ever since, in the back of my mind. With the boys getting multiple EYW on Scilly that bird in the back of my mind needed sorting...

Fast forward to the afternoon of 23 December and news from Norfolk of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail was surely too good to be true... fortunately not! Indeed, with the bird being a well-patterned male, not only was the (current) species confirmed, but the bird was deemed (by better people than myself) to be of the nominate tschutschensis race - whether you want to call that Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail (a bit of a mouthful), Alaskan Yellow Wagtail or just Alaskan Wagtail is entirely up to the list keeper.

With work on 23 & 24 Dec and something else happening on the 25th...the first available slot for me to travel to Norfolk was early doors today. Thankfully the weather-gods played ball and the rain held off - alas, the bitterly cold wind was a constant reminder that I should have actually put the gloves on and not just drive them to the site and then leave them in the car...

Thankfully the BHEYW...was still present and showing well both beside the puddles in the field and then on the dung heaps. A few snaps taken...

Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019
Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019
Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019

Saturday 14 December 2019

Rough-legged Buzzard, Funton Creek, Kent; 14 Dec 2019

Went out for a couple of hours this afternoon to get some fresh air. Arrived at Funton Creek just after 3pm and didn't even have to wait five minutes before the Rough-legged Buzzard flew in to view and tracked west towards the trees. A quick search for crabs and mice, under the copious quantities of tyres and building materials thrown out by Kent's finest, meant that Max also had a great trip out!

Rough-legged Buzzard

Thursday 21 November 2019

Vagrant Emperor: Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent - 20 Nov 2019

I don't often think of late November as being prime Odonata time, so was hardly expecting to see a new species during a frosty spell... Pager news earlier in the week of a female Vagrant Emperor in The Elms at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory seemed too good to be true, especially as the beast in question was sticking to its favourite branch in the chilly conditions - but whereas most things that seem to good to be true are usually naff, the same wasn't true for this individual.

An extended lunch-break enabled John and I to head east to Sandwich and then find the required woodland. Finding the right twig was, however, a rather more challenging task and we resorted to extra help to locate our quarry.

Thankfully, SBBOT Vice-Chairman, Sally Hunter came up trumps with not just accurate directions, but also a lift back round the corner to The Elms and the a guided tour to the Vagrant Emperor which was still clinging to its chosen twig. Seeing something completely new is always a treat - a big, big thank you to Sally for all her help for getting us happily back on the road and, for me, back in the office...

I think this puts me on 44 Odonata for the UK (with Red-veined Darter, Lesser Emperor and Dainty Damselfly all currently eluding me - not that I've put any effort in to seeing them, honest!).

Happy Days  - thanks Sally!

Saturday 2 November 2019

Presumed Paddyfield Pipit: Sennen, Cornwall, 2 November 2019

It was many moons ago that I ripped out the pipit page from my field guide... after all, what chance of a Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (A. r. Japonicus) in the UK?

News then of an odd large pipit in a soggy Sennen was initially met with little excitement - news though of its continued stay was providing local birders with prolonged viewing opportunities as well as sound recording and even mDNA sampling via droppings.

Expert opinion seemed to be pointing towards an incredulous outcome - could this really be a Paddyfield Pipit? Should we wait for nice weather to go and see a potential 'First for Britain'? No!

Despite a very obviously naff weather forecast for the Saturday (2 Nov), we headed out at 5am. And it really did get f****** windy. With trees and branches down along the route, we eventually arrived to find a soggy field being battered by gales and rain - perfect...not!

Well, we weren't going to see this thing in the car, so eventually we ventured out and got muddy - very muddy. As fortune had it, all was not to be lost and by the great hand of the birding gods in teh sky, I relocated our quarry by pure chance as I slipped my way to seek a new (sheltered) vantage point.

So what was it? Well, I don't know - but the acoustics do indeed seen to point to this being Paddyfield Pipit. And if the mDNA confirms that, it would potentially be the most outstanding rare passerine records I will ever see in the UK. I for one do not think this could be and escape of ship-assisted - but we'll just have to wait to see what the DNA doctors make of samples taken...

Presumed Paddyfield Pipit (Lee Gregory - that's name of the photographer, not the bird)
Presumed Paddyfield Pipit (Lee Gregory)
Paddyfield crowd...
Cornish paddyfield...

Friday 6 September 2019

Brown Booby: Kynance Cover, 3 September 2019

Stunning shot of the Brown Booby
The reported Brown Booby off Swalecliffe, Kent, on the 19 August was an exciting prospect. Could we really have such a mega seabird just 30 minutes up the road. Typically of seabirds, it did what seabirds do, and disappeared.

Fast forward to the 26 August and an apparent Brown Booby is seen near St Ives by bloke with no bins... Too good to be true? Thankfully not as Keith Jennings photographed a clear Brown Booby off Porthgwidden Beach. Seemingly settled in to a pattern around the St Ives bay, the challenge was clearly going to be one of timing - this bird wasn't going to give up easily. Showing on the 29 Aug, but not on the 30th, surely the report of one off the French coast (on the 30th) was the same bird...

On Saturday morning the bird was again seen in St Ives Bay and this time it did the honourable thing and sat on the rocks. Shortly after mid-day we departed with news the bird was still sat on the rocks - shortly after departing, but before taking our first blurred picture of Stonehenge, we heard it had taken off. But surely it was still in the area - we continued... Even news later in the afternoon that the bird was reported past Pendeen was nothing more than its usual daily ritual of feeding off Land's End...

A couple of beers later (and some sleep) and we were on site again - Sunday morning - a brisk NW wind blowing through my insufficient clothing. A no bird to be seen... We had dipped. Yet another blurred image of Stonehenge at 60mph...

Back in to the office on Monday - to be shaken by mega alert at 10:57am. The Brown Booby had been relocated at Kynance Cove near The Lizard - game on! Plans to return to Cornwall were considered whilst birders on site and viewing images considered this was a different bird to the St Ives individual - what? Surely not? There can't be two Brown Boobies in the NE Atlantic! Actually, as the French bird was an adult, surely there couldn't be three!

Third Stonehenge fly-past...
Collected by John RHJS Clements at 5am and gathering Doug at 6am, we were taking our third Stonehenge image in four days before most people get to work: by 11.10am we were on site. Communications as they are these days, we could almost relax before seeing the bird - almost! National Trust car park ticket resolved (my membership card on me was typically three days out of date!) we sauntered down the amassed group of like-minded nutters to witness the almost unbelievable sighting of Britain's second, or just possibly third, Brown Booby!

Certainly though, Kynance Cove is beautiful. OK the weather was brilliant: OK we were excited at the prospect of seeing something special, but Kynance is lovely - simple as that!

The Brown Booby may be difficult to pick out though as it was a little way away...

However, aided by scopes and phones, the amazing sight of an immature Brown Booby in UK waters was now a reality. And after watching it for an hour or so, we did the right thing and departed to take our final picture of Stonehenge!

It was on this rock - honest!

Thursday 29 August 2019

Common Wall Lizards: August 2019, La Jard, France

Lots of lovely wall lizards legging it up the walls(!) of the house, barn, smaller barn, shed and smaller shed - but which species? Having consulted the correct field guide, I am pretty sure these are Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) - the male being the super-sexy spotty one and the female being the stripey lass below. 

Graphosoma lineatum, Striped bug or Minstrel bug: 8 August 2019, La Jard, France

Shield Bug in the UK come in a striking array of colours - usually ranging from 'brown' via 'slightly greeny but mainly brown' to a very exciting 'really quite green, with a hint of brown and maybe some purple hues if you are lucky'
I did learn on this trip to France, that Shield Bugs on the continent can be a whole lot more exciting. I say 'exciting' assuming that readers of this blog have some interest in natural history (rather than just stalking me) and so they will have some appreciation of what I am talking about...

The Striped or Minstrel Bugs encountered during this trip were brilliant. Found on nearly every head of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae flowers growing along the access track, these little fiery jewels of the shield bug world were a very exciting find (if, as me, you didn't know they were there!).

Sounds like they are recorded occasionally in southern UK - natural dispersal, global warming or the transportation via people, produce or plants, who knows? To be welcomed, who knows? But they do look rather smart!

Is this a nymph? Answers please Glen...

Mantispa styriaca, Styrian Praying Lacewing: August 8 - La Jard, France

Opened the moth trap this morning, to be confronted by this beauty - seemingly a Mantispa styriaca, or Styrian Praying Lacewing. Wow! And one of the greatest joys of this beauty, is that I simply didn't know such a group of insects existed. Top end of a Praying Mantis: Arse end of a Lacewing - brilliant!

Wikipedia entry lists a fascinating aspect of it's ecology - closely woven with a spider: "In the spring, the larva searches for a female wolf or fishing spider, of the genera Lycosa and Dolomedes, in order to bore its way into the cocoon that the spider carries on its abdomen, by biting a slit open. It is carnivorous in its first stage, as shown by dead spiders being found around it. Before the larva molts, it resembles a dipluran of genus Campodea. After the larva's first molt, the species has short legs that it cannot use, a small head, has jaws that extend straight out, and has pointed antennae that extend beyond the jaws. Once the larva starts metamorphosis, it pupates by spinning a cocoon inside the spider's egg sac, in which it stays up to 14 days before its final molting.[2] Pupation happens in the middle of June. It is a nymph after emerging from the cocoon, not yet in its adult form.[1][2] Once it enters the adult stage, the species hunt for prey by using fast strikes of their forelegs that can take less than 60 ms. Its hunting style is similar to that of the praying mantis.[3]
Friedrich Moritz Brauer, an Austrian entomologist, discovered the first instar on vegetation in 1852. It was not until 17 years later that he discovered the other instars within spider egg sacs." 

Utterly brilliant! 

Monday 22 July 2019

Moffs at Badgells Wood Campsite: 21 July 2019

Decided on an in promptu camp up at Badgells Wood, just next to Holly Hill. My favourite moth up there is the 'Goodwini' form of Waved Carpet.  The site didn't disappoint with the carpet, and also through up Waved Black, which is new for the site.
Waved Carpet f 'Goodwini'
Waved Black
Slender Brindle - one of six caught (a flock of 'em!)
Double Square-spot (and when you haven't been moffin much this year, even one of these can be photographed)
Blastobasis adustella

Blastobasis adustella
Catoptria pinella - perhaps
Micro 1
Micro 2 - Syndemis musculana perhaps...
Micro 3 - Anania fuscalis perhaps
micro 4
micro 5
Micro 6

Micro 6
Micro 7  - very very small so guessing at Batia lunaris, but assuming gen det would be required...

Grass Snake catching Common Toad; Hothfield Common; 22 July 2019

Visited Hothfield Common this afternoon - probably my favourite KWT reserve to look for stuff! Max had wanted to look for reptiles and amphibians - but after two hours of searching we were drawing a blank.

Nearly back at the car (typically!) Max found this Grass Snake which had caught a Common Toad - an amazing battle then ensued. The toad did a great job of puffing up and looking massive.

It was an amazing spectacle and one which I reckon I'll never see in the wild again (on the basis that after 40-ish years of looking at natural history I hadn't seen it before!).

Saturday 20 July 2019

Yellow-tailed Scorpions; Blue Town, Isle of Sheppey; 20 July 2019

Did a brief evening visit to the scorpions this evening with the old MV torch - they never cease to make me smile!

Various snails and bits: Turners' Wood near Coxheath: 20 July 2019

Visited Turners Wood KWT today on the hunt for some fun snails which I first saw there five years ago. Sure enough they were in the same place - gripping the trees a metre or two high. The next challenge is to identify them! I think the newt was a young Great-crested...