Archive for September, 2006|Monthly archive page

Bad Year for Barn Owls

According to the Devon based Ashburton Trust this has been the worst breeding season for 20 years.


More Patching

I didn’t set the alarm today and woke up at the really late time of 7:15!!!

I headed first to Amwell Gravel Pits. You can tell its getting Autumnal, Wigeon are starting to come back. Only had one Swallow and had a flyover Grey Wagtail. Lots of Lapwing. A nice group of Goldcrests, totally oblivious to me! I had thought the weather would be horrid but it was lovely.

After lunch I went down Rye Meads. I missed the Whinchat by 20 minutes but had a pleasant stroll, many of the usual suspects. Highlight a Tit flock with Willow/Chiffs.

Working the patch

Well loads of flexitime and the car needed a service so I was off.

The car was fine, read some of my book whilst waiting.

I had decided to work the patch and of course it HAMMERED down. Highlights were a tit flock (Blue, Great and Long Tail) with wrens, Robins, chaffinches and a few Chiffchaff.

Also 14 Snipe (all sitting out), a Common Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a fishing Kingfisher!!

Not perhaps a stunning selection but a nice few hours.

Now here’s a thing

If you well me that there has been a really rare bird around I tend not to bat a an eyelid. I’m philosophical about it. However last night I glanced at the Herts Bird Club website and saw a report from Rye Meads. Now this seldom happens since people who report to the Herts Bird Club tend not to watch Rye Meads. I glanced at the sighting and saw Ruff. And of course I’ve never seen a Ruff at Rye Meads.

Mutter Mutter. I’m more annoyed at missing the Ruff than I am of 99.9% of the rare birds that go through. Strange.

Some patch musings

One of the things about my patch is that it is home to the Rye Meads Ringing Group. This has been in existence since 1960. That means there are substantial records for the site.

The Ringing Group has recently produced a book, the birds of Rye Meads, which details what has been seen on the reserve as well as breeding information.  The records cover the period 1960-2000, with a small section on notable records 2001-2004.
The habitat has changed over the past forty years and this has affected the birds since on the reserve.¬† For instance Willow Tit and Tree Sparrow were both found on the reserve and bred. They certainly don’t now! Equally there was one record of Little Egret in the period 1960 – 2000 but there have been numerous records 2001-2004.

Kingfisher has become a breeding bird, thanks to artificial nest sites. Most dispersal are within 40km of the reserve. There are extreme records of dispersal, one to Guernsey and one to France!

A couple of years back I thought I’d heard a Grasshopper Warbler, given my extensive knowledge and expertise of birdsong (LOL) I dismissed it but reading the book I find that Gropper actually breeds! Must pay more attention next spring!

The Local Area

I live close to the North end of the Lee Valley Country Park. I tend to avoid the main areas of the park. This is mainly because it tends to get busy and I prefer my birding to be slightly quieter. My local patch is Rye Meads nature reserve. I don’t dutifully bird it but as of late I’ve been there most Sunday afternoons. I also bird Amwell Gravel Pits and Hatfield Forest, both deserve more attention than I can give them.
Rye Meads is hardly a mecca for birding, most of the local birders seem to prefer Amwell Gravel Pits. Experience shows that at Amwell you tend to get slightly “better” birds.Amwell tends to be more sedentary. Walk to watch point and watch. Ok there is more than that but much of the birding is from the watch point, it can also be bitterly cold. In Winter it gets good numbers of Goldeneye and Smew. Rye is more of a stroll with sit downs in hides.Its a good place for Kingfisher and Green Sandpiper.
I’ve decided that instead of rushing to other places I want to spend one day per month seriously birding the local area. As well as the above three mentioned spots I’ve ‘discovered’ a few other local places. Stansted Abbots Gravel pits is between Rye Meads and Amwell. To the South of Rye are Nazing Mead (Gravel pits?) and Glen Faba. I will be more selective of when I go off somewhere else.
Over coming days I’ll be adding another page to this site.This will detail my patch life list and a patches year list. The later will start in 2007.

I have two ambitions for 2007. One is to see my 100th bird at Rye Meads (currently on 93) and the other is to see 100 species at Amwell, Rye, Stansted, Hatfield and Nazing/Glen Faba for the year.

I happen to have Friday off, car being serviced, so presuming the car is ok! I’ll be having a days local birding.

a quiet afternoon at Rye Meads

Went for the usual Sunday afternoon stroll around Rye Meads.

Fairly quiet. Numbers of ducks are up with increasing numbers of Shoveller and Teal. Probably bird of the day was a Reed Warbler (bit different to yesterday). Other highlights Great Spot, Kingfisher along river and 3 Common Gulls.

I found out from one the ringers that Gadwall is 3 times as numerous as Mallard and that Coots are present in record numbers. He was telling me that there were 101 Little Grebe present in the previous days count. I asked why we got so few Great Crested Grebe, apparently a couple of years back a lot of fish died. Little Grebes are probably feeding on snails.

Apparently there are more small fish now so hopefully………….

A day out in Norfolk

I’d mentioned to Dave that I fancied a trip to Norfolk today and he suggested getting to his place early. So I crawled out of bed at 5:00….

The previous day there had been a Red Breasted Flycatcer at Gun Hill (Burnham Overy Staithe) and since its a good place for migrants that’s where we went. Its a fair trek but lots of stuff flitting about including a Garden Warbler. Lots of Beardies in the reeds and we soon came across a Whinchat. A few waders including Avocet.

We arrived at the scrub bushes at Gun Hill (Hill in its Norfolk sense) and had a lovely Redstart, loads of Mipits. Also Common Terns. There were four of there and then the chap from English Nature said Red Breasted Flycatcher. This was no skulky little bird this chap was a gorgeous little fella sitting out 10ft from us. He moved about doing what flycatchers do. Superb. Had a brief walkround. Mipits, Chaffinches and went make to watch the RB Fly, at least 2 Redstart, a chiffchaff and a Wheatear.

Time for breakfast, bacon roll at Titchwell. On the walk back to the car there were lots of Dunnocks, Wrens, Robins and a Willow Warbler. Then a chap said Red Breasted Fly. Two? you’re kidding. well he wasn’t !! Also two Marsh Harriers.

As we sat munching our Bacon Roll we decided to head for the sea but one of the volunteers had seen an unusual warbler in the car park but had poor views. Well lets have a look…. well nowt. Over the back of the car park in the field there was a ton of Pied Wagtails, a Redstart, Blackcap (male and female), Garden Warbler, Song Thrush and an odd Yellow Wagtail. It had a grey head, thin eye stripe and a white throat but was very yellow all over (other than the throat)… nearest to it was the Flava race. Oh well never know for sure. Dave had a Ring Tailed Harrier.

Head to the beach and Dave’s pager comes up Yellow-Browed Warbler at Cley. It was supposedly in the reeds near the sea but not seen by us. Still a few waders about, oh and more beardies. Off the coast we had a close Great Skua. Lapland Bunting was also reported but we never met anyone who had seen it.

At the other end of the beach was a Red Backed Shrike. However it proved very elusive before finally popping up. Off the sea was Sandwich and Common Tern, Kittiwake, Two Great Skuas one having a fight with a Gull, Gannets, Red Throated Diver and Guillemot.

Also Brent Geese flying through, ah winter comes!

Stopped at the Red Bull, Stiffkey for a pint and a pack of crisps before popping into Warham Green for a Wryneck.

That did for the day but there was a Buzzard on the way back.

If all days were like this. Still one of those days you dream about.

1000 up at Minsmere

1000 species of Moths and Butterflies have been recorded at the RSPB’s ¬†Minsmere reserve.

Disease outbreak in Finches

The British Trust for Ornithology has been getting more and more reports of dead and dying finches. This disease is caused by a Trichomonas parasite. The BTO has issued this advice on the matter.

To summarise you should adopt good hygiene practices and regularly clean feeders and feeding stations.