Saturday, 30 April 2011

April 30th 2011

After brief early morning rain which did not do much for the garden it was a sunny day with a cool blustery north east wind. New moths for the year were Chocolate-tip, Epiblema foenella, Scalloped Hazell and Cinnabar
Out early with Dave and the pond produced a Sandwich Tern briefly, 6 Swift, Sedge Warbler, Wheatear and 3 Yellow Wagtail but little else though I got good views of the Hobby which flew across the A426 at Birdingbury Bridge on our way to the Diner. After breakfast we looked for butterflies around the more sheltered areas nearby adding 12 Dingy Skipper and 4 Green Hairstreak to the year list along with 5 Grizzled Skipper seen among the more commoner species. Bee Fly, Cinnabar, 2 Treble Bar, Raven and 3 Lesser Whitethroat noted.

Treble Bar

Dingy Skipper

Coffee at the Just So café gave us Hobby and Garden Warbler while probably the same Hobby performed at nearby Napton Reservoir catching insects above our heads. Large Red, Common and Blue-tailed Damselfly, Cetties Warbler heard above the din of “reed” warblers and Common Sandpiper present.
A search for Grizzled Skippers back at the pond in the afternoon produced 3 individuals plus Red Admiral and 2 Holly Blue while the biggest surprise was a Green Hairstreak. Over the reservoir were 2 Common Tern and 2 Black Tern but no sign of any Godwits present earlier though a very smart summer plumage Grey Plover in biggen bay more than made up for it.


Friday, 29 April 2011

April 29th 2011

Drizzle at 6am this morning was the first rain we have had for weeks but it did not last long and there was no chance of Dave and I watching the wedding so down the pond by 7am. Unfortunately it was the poorest day of the week with very little about – just Wheatear, 2 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Gadwall so cleared off to the diner to warmer up with Red-legged Partridge seen on the way at Kites Hardwick.
No improvement in the weather and Napton on the Hill could only offer us 3 Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcaps while Napton Reservoir had 2 Yellow Wagtail and good number of warblers with 10 Reed and 8 Sedge Warbler plus 12 Reed Bunting.
We saw 3 Tree Sparrow at Hill on our way to look at the orchids at Draycote Meadows and though many were out the majority could do with a good dollop of rain, Red Twin-spot Carpet and Celypha striana also seen.
Bob came round to photograph a Pale Tussock and Rustic Shoulder-knot that Dave trapped overnight while my trap contained my first Silver Y of the year then it was out again as the sun tried to breakthrough. There had been a large movement of Bar-tailed Godwit inland today so decided to risk the pond hoping one might come in but far too busy for me so hung around the country park managing Hobby and Swift before seeking solitude down the Grandborough Valley. Despite the wind there was plenty of activity with Lesser Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, Tree Sparrow, Swift, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and Grey Partridge seen.


April 28th 2011

I managed to see all 3 passes of the shed last night including the last down the valley before mid-night as it passed just above the horizon shared with calling Tawny and Barn Owl.

Its faint but Pa Phillips did well to catch the shed on the first pass over Rugby.

Despite the sun eventually emerging the cold north easterly wind made today’s morning visit hard work and all I managed was 19 Yellow Wagtail with 5 on farborough bank and 14 in the country park joined by a White Wagtail. Also present were Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, 8 Whitethroat, 25 Swift and Raven so Bob and I cleared off and went looking for butterflies along Ashlawn Cutting where it was a lot more sheltered and warmer. Probably 50 Green-veined White present along with 20 Orange-tip, 2 Red Admiral, 20 Speckled Wood and 2 Brimstone plus Red Twin-spotted Carpet and Bee-fly. Interestingly we walked the stretch from the southern entrance to Pytchly Road where nearly 50 years ago I use to sneak under the bridge for a day’s train-spotting rather than go to school. How times have changed – never thought it would end up as a nature reserve although shamefully it’s a dog shitters paradise these days.
Late afternoon trip to the garden centre gave me a chance to look at the pond from the country park top car park briefly with 7 Artic Tern and 4 Common Tern off the sailing club.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

April 27th 2011

3 Common Tern’s and a first summer Little Gull greeted our arrival at the pond today along with 4 Yellow Wagtail and a Wheatear along farborough bank where a Dunlin rested. The cold wind had brought very little else in until the sun came out when a party of 6 more Common Terns arrived followed by the first 3 leaving and then possibly this six left mid-day when seen very high up replaced by another 7. Only other birds of note were another 4 Yellow Wagtails, 3 House Sparrow, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and 20 Swift. Francoise reported a Whimbrel in toft bay early afternoon and I had a Bullfinch over the garden this afternoon. The cooler nights mean that the moths have quietened down a bit but still managed my first Peppered Moth of the year last night bringing the garden list to 61 species for the year.

The space shed is going over tonight at 20:40 peaking at 20:45 and finally lost to view approaching the Ukraine at 20:50. The pass is classed as excellent and with clear sky's should show well so get out there (put a coat on - the temperature is dropping)


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

April 26th 2011

On our arrival at the pond there were 6 Common Tern leaving over biggen bay with another 2 remaining till mid-day around N Buoy. Farborough bank had Wheatear and 5 Yellow Wagtail but the bitter north east wind produced very little else so I split from Bob to search the sewage farm.
Being more sheltered I managed Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler and Grey Wagtail but being out of view of the reservoir I missed the 4 Black-tailed Godwit that Bob had by the hide in toft bay that were flushed by fishermen. On the way back to the country park a Common Sandpiper flew past farborough spit, 10 Swift over the valve tower and a summer plumaged Sanderling in front of the fishing lodge.
The country park was quiet until I managed another year tick in the form of 6 House Sparrow then 26 Yellow Wagtail and 20 Swift arrived mid-day.

House Sparrow by Bob Hazell - once upon a time they were common as muck but now it takes nearly 5 months to put it on the draycote year list.

A brief early evening look at Brandon Marsh produced the hoped for Grasshopper Warblers with at least 3 seen plus Lesser Whitethroat, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Tern, Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Oystercatcher

Orchids are starting to appear on my patch. Mason Phillips

Dotted Chestnut by Bob Hazell

Blood-vein by Bob Hazell


April 25th 2011

Early morning arrival at Tetney Lock, Lincolnshire after seeing 3 Barn Owl on route the 4 male and 2 female Dotterel showed well in field left of the second wooden gate. It’s been ages since I last saw one so thoroughly enjoyed getting some sketches and another bird I don’t often see was a nearby Tawny Pipit that was still east of the lock gates on the grass bank and showing occasionally.
Moved on to the RSPB Reserve at Frampton where there were 3 male Garganey, 10 Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper and 2 Grasshopper Warbler. Also seen were Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit,
Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail. Good number of warblers and Corn Bunting. I added Cuckoo and Red Kite on the way home to the day list.
Met up with April and Bob late afternoon for more moth photography and the shed did a stunning pass in the evening. First sighted over the Atlantic approaching Ireland as a faint orange blob it brightened as I tracked it out of view over the Ukraine. Dennis and Mark reported seeing it well locally while I received e-mails from folk in the counties of Dorset, Oxford, Derby, Kent and Middlesex all chuffed at seeing it well.


Sunday, 24 April 2011

April 24th 2011

There were enough breaks in the cloud to see both passes of the shed last night with the first watched while a pip bat flittered around my head and the second pass scoped.
Last night was a little cooler with a north west wind and full cloud cover by morning so nothing new in the moth trap though notable was a pale form of Powdered Quaker that I have not caught before – almost resembling a wainscot.
Out early again but we could only manage 2 Whitethroat and 2 Red-legged Partridge down the Southam Road and I was not expecting much at the pond and that was exactly what Dave, Colin and I got as we wandered up to farborough spit. All we had in 90 minutes was 2 Wheatear, 7 Yellow Wagtail and 2 Oystercatcher while a desperate search in the gloom for the calling Whimbrel failed even though it was close.
After meeting Dennis for breakfast it was a search of Napton on the Hill with very little of note seen, plenty of Blackcaps singing, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker and 4 Buzzard for our efforts.
On to the Just So café where Naomi had a break in overnight but luckily they had not stolen the Lemon Meringue Cake – orgasmic.
After splitting from Colin and Dennis we tried our luck at Napton Reservoir where we had a Hobby hunting over the reservoir, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Whitethroat, 6 Reed Bunting, 5 Sedge Warbler and 10 Reed Warbler. On the downside the long running dispute regarding the fencing off of an unofficial path seems to have backfired as the pile of sludge placed by the fence to prevent individuals climbing through has slipped threatening to block the watercourse in a number of places. Hopefully it will dry out.
Back at Dave’s for dinner and a stunning Rhubarb and Orange pudding with Ice cream – more orgasmic food but slightly spoilt by his grinning mug as he gloated over catching his fourth Dotted Chestnut. He’s back on sale on e-bay.
Rest of the afternoon spent dreaming I was slim then a look at the pond before dusk produced Common Tern, Common Sandpiper, male Blue-headed Wagtail by the valve tower and 3 Swift.
This evening Bob kindly sent me 30 photographs of the moths taken recently and done some sterling work identifying the micros – here’s just some of those we have trapped recently.

Knot Grass

Muslin Moth

Waved Umber

Lime Hawk-moth

Iron Prominent


Saturday, 23 April 2011

April 23rd 2011

Moths just keep piling in – Coxcomb Prominent, Red and Green Carpet, Knot Grass, Bee Moth all new for the year while the early morning clear down of my trap also produced Little Owl and a Whimbrel over calling.
Out early with Dave to the pond where the reservoir was like a mirror and a male Garganey showed well off the wind surfing area. Only other birds of note were 3 male Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and male and female Shoveler but did not hang around long.

Garganey (file picture)

After a relaxing breakfast we moved on to Wormleighton and with time to kill walked from Tunnel Bridge to Wormleighton Reservoir along the Oxford canal and back managing Raven, 2 Buzzard, 10+ Whitethroat and 3 Garden Warbler plus 3 Grizzled Skipper, 20 Orange-tip, 3 Peacock, 3 Large White, 15 Green-veined White, 2 Brimstone, Comma, 8 Speckled Wood and 2 Small Tortoiseshell. Also seen were Bee Fly and 3 Large Red Damselflies. Scared Dave to death when me mouth acted quicker than me brain (normal) and shouted Gannet but it was a Yellow-legged Gull adult drifting over – y I said gannet I will never know - keeps him on his toes.

Grizzled Skipper

Britannia took us by surprise as she came round the bend past Wormleighton Reservoir going full throttle and well in front of time. In fact she was so early someone who had joined us went walk about and missed it – embarrassment and blackmail prevents disclosing who it was.

BR Britannia Class 4-6-2 no 70000 Britannia pulling the Cathedral Express between Paddington and Stratford on Avon approaching Fenny Compton junction

on her way to Stratford on Avon by Alan Anscomb

Double pass of the shed tonight with the first pass between 20:37 and 20:46 peaking at 20:42 as it fly’s over northern France towards Germany. The second pass starting 22:12 peaking at 22:17 and ending 22:22 will fly in a line between Milford Haven and Clacton on sea before going out of view over Holland. Unfortunately storm clouds are due in my area.


Friday, 22 April 2011

April 22nd 2011

The pond was cool and peaceful with no flies and no runners at 5:30 this morning so though I only had a couple of hours it was magic compared to the hustle and bustle in the week. My first Black-tailed Godwit of the year was feeding in toft bay but moved on when the fishermen arrived and Garden Warblers were in toft shallows and near the visitor’s centre where 2 Wheatear, 5 Yellow Wagtail and 4 Reed Bunting fed.
Out in the centre of reservoir 2 Black Tern were resting on Y buoy and two adult Little Gulls working they way between A and Y buoy. Also present were Ringed Plover outlet, 7 Linnet, 4 Teal, 3 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, Grey Wagtail and Lesser Whitethroat.
Back home I met up with Bob who came round to photograph another good catch with Lime Hawk-moth, Muslin Moth and Cabbage Moth all added to the garden year list from 15 species trapped then Dave turned up with a bag of 11 micros so most of the day spent over the microscope and books – at least 3 new for his garden.


Thursday, 21 April 2011

April 21st 2011

The day started well with first for the year Least Black Arches, Pebble Prominent, Mottled & White-spotted Pug among 14 species of trapped in the garden after another warm night bringing my garden year list to 45 compared to 29 this time last year and just shows what a crazy world the insects are having with so many species out early.

Yellow-barred Brindle

Least Black Arches

Pebble Prominent

On the birding front and out with Bob it was poor till a Black Tern and male Shoveler turned up at 10:20am and by 11am there were 11 Black Tern grazing the surface as we chatted with Kevin. Wheatear 2, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail and 5 Buzzard were the best of the rest.
In the afternoon there were 2 Raven, 5 Buzzard, Hobby and 3 Sparrowhawk over the garden while butterflies were Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Large White, Orange-tip and Brimstone.

Pub night and got half of the clientele on to the space station as she did a pass overhead which was a first for many.

Heads Up – The times of this Saturday steam special from London Paddington to Stratford on Avon featuring BR Britannia Class 4-6-2 no 70000 Britannia have changed. She will now go through Warwickshire as follows:- Fenny Compton 12:20, Leamington Spa a 12:34 d 12:42, Warwick a 12:46 d 12:49 arriving at Stratford-u-Avon 13:24. Of interest for many years, Britannia had her cab roof painted white. This was to commemorate her pulling the funeral train of King George VI from Norfolk to London following his death in February 1952 at Sandringham House, Norfolk


April 20th 2011

Early morning visit with Chris to the Grandborough valley produced 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Willow Tit, 3 Whitethroat, Blackcap, 6 Linnet, plenty of Yellowhammer and a Red-legged Partridge. A female Wheatear was near the junction of hill road and the A426.
The fishermen are back at Draycote Water with an open day and with the warm weather already motivating the flies we only stayed long enough for a walk out to farborough spit which produced 4 Wheatear, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Whitethroat, White Wagtail and the 3 Swift over the visitor centre which equaled my second earliest arrival date for this species. Unfortunately the 6 House Martins checking out last years nest site were wary of the disturbance from the fishermen so will have to wait and see if they pluck up the courage to start building.
Napton on the Hill was quiet apart from Sparrowhawk and Cuckoo which flew past us over the church and the poor hazy conditions meant very little else could be seen so moved on to Napton Reservoir where there were Raven, Sedge, Reed and Cetties Warbler.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

April 19th 2011

Draycote was disappointing this morning with only one Black Tern remaining from yesterday’s influx. The only other birds worth mentioning were my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year, 3 Wheatear, 3 White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 8 Whitethroat, 14 Buzzard, 2 Teal, 4 Gadwall and 2 Yellow Wagtail. Also on the down side were the amount of visitors pouring in today due to the school holidays with nothing remaining on the banks for long so don’t bother coming if you are not early.
On the plus side this warm spell has brought out plenty of butterflies with a total count of the six areas I checked being 1 Comma, 8 Peacock, 6 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Speckled Wood, 15 Brimstone, 2 Green-Veined White, 1 Large White, 39 Orange-tip and 1 Small White. There were 3 Holly Blue in my garden when Bob dropped me off home and a Green-veined White appeared later.

Green-veined White and Large White by Bob Hazell and have included a female Orange-tip as a useful comparison kindly sent to me by Terry Southgate as I always get confused at the begining of the season.

Over the next 9 days there is a space station fest with 26 passes forecasted with two classed as excellent and nine as good. If the weather is favourable the best could be.
April 23rd start 22:12pm peaking at 22:17pm and out of view by 22:22
April 25th start 21:26pm peaking at 21:31pm and out of view by 21:36
April 26th start 20:16pm peaking at 20:21pm and out of view by 20:25
April 27th start 20:40pm peaking at 20:45pm and out of view by 20:50
The shed will be traveling west to east.

On Saturday 23 April BR Britannia Class 4-6-2 no 70000 Britannia will steam haul the Cathedral Express from Paddington to Stratford on Avon and return and is due to pass Fenny Compton at 11:50, Leamington Spa 12:00, stop at Warwick 12:04 to 12:07 before arriving in SOA at 12:37pm. Unfortunately times may change due to last minute engineering works so will keep you up to date the best I can.


Monday, 18 April 2011

April 18th 2011

A game of two halves today with the pond being pretty lifeless between 9 & 12am with only a couple of Wheatear, 8 Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, 3 Little Ringed Plover inlet and a male Shoveler as the sun tried to breakthrough the cloud with a light east north east wind.
Just before mid-day it finally started clearing the mist that had been building and turning to the east which allowed an Osprey to be found high over the country park heading north at 12:05pm followed by a mixed flock of gulls & terns coming in at 12:20pm from the south east which turned out once they started to feed off the sailing club as 16 Little Gull, 2 Artic Tern, Common Tern and Black Tern. By mid-afternoon theses had increased to 24 Little Gull and 4 Black Tern as the wind turned south east.
Other sightings included 2 Whitethroat, 8 Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and female Teal.
The influx of Little Gulls must have continued in the afternoon with Napton Reservoir having a very smart adult with a light pinkish flush on chest and a Cuckoo. Also present were 3 Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Green Woodpecker and Raven.
Calcutt had Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipit while Kites Hardwick mustard up a Grey Wagtail on the River Leam and Red-legged Partridge.

Red Twin-spot Carpet by Bob Hazell

Sunrise over the pond yesterday by the Bumbling Bears


Sunday, 17 April 2011

April 17th 2011

Definitely ate and drank too much yesterday so woke feeling fragile but more good moths overnight and a cold shower put me in to some sort of normality by the time Dave arrived.
Unfortunately the pond did not have a lot to offer with a walk out to farborough spit with Steve V and meeting up with the Bumbling Bears for a chat producing only Common Tern, 8 Yellow Wagtail, male Wheatear, male and female Shoveler and 2 Curlew.
Napton on the Hill was just as quiet though there were plenty of butterflies around. Birds seen were 2 Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, 2 Sparrowhawk, 10 Buzzard, 2 Coal Tit, Green Woodpecker and a probable Garden Warbler. Butterflies were 2 Large White, 25 Orange-tip, 3 Speckled Wood, 7 Holly Blue, 2 Peacock, 2 Small Tortoiseshell and 8 Brimstone.
Napton Reservoir had a Raven and Grass Snake plus Cetties, Reed and Sedge Warblers and this evening a Green Woodpecker flew over my estate.

Bee Fly by Francoise Farrington
One seen on the hill today but this one was taken last week at the pond where they have been showing well recently.


April 16th 2011

Despite a busy day ahead I took advantage of a warm night to arrive at the pond before dawn where a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling along the south east hedgerow of toft bay and Little Owl perched on the telegraph pole in the sewage farm.
Two of the 4 Common Sandpiper seen this morning were on toft bay bank and with no disturbance the elusive male Blue-headed Wagtail made an appearance with 12 Yellow and one White Wagtail near the visitor centre plus 2 male Wheatear.
I could not hang around so quick circuit produced another male Wheatear and White Wagtail on draycote bank, 2 Whitethroat and 2 Little Ringed Plover on the inlet and 4 Brambling near dunns bay.
I arrived home in time to check my trap with first for the year Red Twin-spot Carpet, Eriocrania Subpurpurella and Garden Carpet plus 2 Brindle Beauty, Brimstone, Purple Thorn and Early Thorn among 11 species.
Dave picked me up and we headed for Cathiron meeting up with Terry to watch the Princess Elizabeth pulling the Cathedral Express to Chester. She sounded terrific as she approached with all cylinders firing.

Princess Elizabeth passing Cathiron by Terry Southgate

I was under strict instructions not to eat by she who must be obeyed as she had laid on a spread for a family gathering with my sisters and brother-in-laws. Nice girls but personally I would have sued the surgeon so once Dave had satisfied his desires it was a quick look at the marsh with plenty of Whitethroats around but little else.
The rest of the day spent with the family and it was very enjoyable with brilliant food served med style so dinner lasted over 5 hours including a break to walk down the canal to the locks at Hillmorton and watch the “princess” return in the evening - a lovely day


Friday, 15 April 2011

April 15th 2011

On our way to Wormleighton for the “princess” this morning Bob and I decided to call in on the pond for a brief look at farborough bank as the conditions looked cracking for migrants and soon located 2 newly arrived White Wagtail among 8 Yellow Wagtail and 2 male Wheatear.
On arrival at Wormleighton we had a bit of spare time so checked out the reservoir and found a Whitethroat and 5 Tree Sparrow then our second Osprey of the year came in head on and looked as if it was thinking of fishing but the local crows pushed it off.

Princess Elizabeth came rattling past going hell for leather and faster than expected so my shot doesn’t do her justice (bottom) (Bob Hazell middle and Alan Anscomb top).

The journey to the Just So café at Napton produced 12 Orange-tip and 4 Brimstone then it was back to the pond but the temperature had dropped and there was not a lot going on.
Later after meeting with Terry, Mo, Paul and Martin we trawled the Grandborough valley but all we could find was a flock of Yellowhammers.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

April 14th 2010

As soon as we arrived in the country park at Draycote Water at 9am we were surrounded by Brambling with at least 20 birds flitting in trees between the lower car park and visitor centre. Some were summer plumage males looking very resplendent and later on Bob found another 50+ in five groups along the north shore while I had six back in the country park at 2pm. Some were still present when JJ looked at 5pm near the sailing club.
There were 4 male and one female Wheatear along the banks on the east side with others seen on the west side by Bob and at least 8 Yellow Wagtail present but no sign of the Blue-headed.


The sky’s were full of hirundines feeding high up with an estimated 500 Swallow, 200 Sand Martin and 20 House Martin when we first arrived which was not surprising considering the amount of flies hatching – they were so thick a lot of visitors turned back because it made them so uncomfortable.

The brown blob behind the flies is a Rabbit

I saw 2 Little Ringed Plover but Bob had more elsewhere and also present were Ringed Plover and a Curlew over while the Red Kite made another visit as it flew from Dunchurch towards Grandborough.
Unfortunately there was nothing out in the centre and the only interesting ducks present were 8 Gadwall, 4 Teal and 2 Wigeon while the perimeter still holds good numbers of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap along with a newly arrived Sedge Warbler in the sewage farm. Also around today were 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, 4 Bullfinch, 6 Long-tailed Tit, 6 Reed Bunting, 8 Buzzard, Raven and 25 Stock Dove.

All pic by Bob Hazell


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

April 13th 2011

Though it was a cold and cloudy day the wind had dropped when Bob and I first arrived at the pond with a Common Sandpiper seen by the fishing pontoon but unfortunately disturbed by one of the sailing brigade boy racers on a rescue boat which also flushed a Turnstone that flew towards the north shore.
On farborough bank there were 2 Wheatears which from the back look liked females but one was a late developing immature male showing adult facial pattern but still retaining a brown mantle. At least 8 Yellow Wagtails and 3 Meadow Pipits were around with a very smart Blue-headed Wagtail found by Bob and a Common Tern out in the centre.
The wind picked up by the time we reached toft bay and we just made it to the hide as the rain came in. There was nothing of note in toft bay as I walked back but could see Bob enjoying the company of 12+ Brambling which could be seen flitting from tree to tree on the north shore from toft bank.

Yellow Wagtail
By the time I got back to the fishing pontoon it was swarming with people getting the place ready for the fishing season which will be starting soon. The rain had brought down more Yellow Wagtails with at least 29 present including the Blue-headed and also seen today were Green Woodpecker, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 7 Buzzard, 300 Sand Martin, 10 House Martin, 50 Swallow, 9 Graylag, 4 Barnacle Goose and a Red-legged Partridge. Two early broods of Mallard chicks (4 and 8) seen.

Bob did well to get this image of a Sparrowhawk briefly perched partially hidden by foliage.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

April 12th 2011

There were 11 Yellow Wagtail and a male Wheatear when I walked out to farborough bank with Bob but the cold strong north westerly put paid to any chance of looking for gulls or terns so hung around till Mark arrived then we went off to seek a more sheltered location.
Wormleighton fitted the bill with a walk along the lane producing 10+ Tree Sparrow though the reservoir had very little to offer with only 5 Linnet and 4 Swallows recorded.


Monday, 11 April 2011

April 11th 2011

Draycote was blustery and cool when Bob and I arrived just after nine this morning.
At first it seemed there was very little on offer till Bob found a White Wagtail and I located 2 adult Little Gull and a Common Tern out in the centre. Only other birds of note were male Goldeneye, 6 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Wheatear, 2 Shoveler, 4 Wigeon and 6 Gadwall.

Wheatear by Bob Hazell

White Wagtail by Bob Hazell

It was far to windy for passerines on Napton on the Hill as a number of weather fronts went through so Mark and I watched the horizon from the sheltered east side and found our first Hobby of the year hunting high up after a low flying Chinook had stirred up the valley. At least 8 Buzzard and 4 Raven were seen along with Green Woodpecker.
Mid-afternoon 3 Buzzard and 2 Sparrowhawk over the garden and last night I trapped a Purple Thorn while Dave recently had a Flame Carpet

Flame Carpet by Bob Hazell

Purple Thorn by Bob Hazell

The moon looked good tonight captured by Marc Phillips and Saturn was showing along with one of its moons.

A photo of the Red Kite that flew over Long Lawford last Saturday taken by John Judge.


Sunday, 10 April 2011

April 10th 2011

I spotted a Sandwich Tern arriving at the pond 8am over rainbow and while trying to get Dave on to it I couldn’t understand why his commentary was different to where I was looking – a check showed he had found another bird so the two joined the 4 Common Terns and 2 first summer Little Gull that were already present but the “wiches” only stayed 10 minutes before flying off north west.
A year tick was the Ruddy Duck that has so far avoided the national cull – can’t be many left and other ducks of note were 3 Shoveler, 8 Gadwall and 6 Teal.
A Blue Tit is trying to nest in an old House Martins nest and will be interesting to see what happens when the martins return and there was a nice male Wheatear and 6 Yellow Wagtail on farborough bank but by 8:30 they were being pushed around by the walkers and cyclists flooding in.
Joined Dennis at the Long Itch Diner then on to Napton on the Hill where the farmer allowed us to check his private spinney next to the windmill – did not find anything special but a very peaceful and relaxing two hours. Best birds seen were 2 Treecreeper, 2 Raven and 20 Buzzard plus the usual butterflies including 4 Holly Blue.
Dave Hutton had kindly given us the nod that he had found a Black Tern at the pond but as we went past the place was far too busy so will have to wait till tomorrow.
I added Green-veined White to the butterfly year list with one resting in Dave’s garden when we checked his moth trap.


Saturday, 9 April 2011

April 9th 2011

I was down the pond by 4am so I could catch the two passes the “space shed” was making from horizon to horizon though the second pass was disappointing as it was low and in almost day light. Being early gave me a chance to check for moths attracted to the various security lights and managed a good haul of 41 moths of 9 species though my ugly mug would have given the security camera watchers a fright. The count was Early Thorn, Engrailed, 2 Small Quaker, 11 Common Quaker, 5 Clouded Drab, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 15 Hebrew Character, Satellite, and 4 Early Grey.
The dawn chorus included my first Sedge Warbler of the year and good numbers of other warblers including 34 Blackcap 8 Chiffchaff and 17 Willow Warbler but disappointingly no owls were heard earlier.
Two Brambling males were still on the north bank but unfortunately the first runners passed me just as I was scoping a White Wagtail sending it off into the adjacent fields along with 16 Yellow Wagtail. Amongst the Black-headed Gulls at least one first summer Little Gull was present while toft bay had Common Tern, Shelduck, Common Sandpiper, 4 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 3 Teal and Willow Tit, while the sewage farm had Meadow Pipit and Grey Wagtail.
Dave trapped 3 “barred” moths and dropped them round on his way out for me to identify so Bob came round to photograph them – unfortunately we lost 2 before the camera clicked but managed to confirm them as 2 Streamers – new for his garden and a Shoulder-stripe.

Streamer by Bob Hazell

Back home things were quiet till mid-day when a raptor passage started and continued till 2pm then ceased with 11 single Buzzards and a group of 3 flew north plus 2 Sparrowhawk and John was doing the same managing a Red Kite. I resumed at 4pm with 8 more Buzzards going over and many hirundines. There was also a good passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls going north today at a higher altitude than the buzzards.
Looks like another busy night for moths – my trap has 6 species already.


April 8th 2011

After watching the “space shed” go over earlier it was another glorious day of blue sky’s and sunshine so spent the morning gardening with 2 Brimstone, 2 Peacock, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Orange-tip and my first of the year Speckled Wood and Holly Blue butterflies but nothing bird wise was on the move overhead with only 3 local Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Raven noted.
I was out with Dave in the afternoon calling in on the Just So café for refreshments then a pleasant walk around Napton on the Hill spending more time looking for butterflies than birding - 2 Peacock, 4 Small Tortoiseshell, 12 Brimstone, 12 Orange-tip and 2 Small White. Very few birds were heard or seen so the distant Red Kite, 5 Buzzard and 3 Raven saved the day. Other butterflies seen elsewhere today were 4 Brimstone, Peacock and Orange-tip at the Just So, 3 Orange-tip and 4 Brimstone near Calcutt and 3 Brimstone in Kites Hardwick.
With this great weather Im able to spend more time in the field on my various hobbies so getting slack with blogging but will try and do todays later when fed and watered


Friday, 8 April 2011

April 7th 2011

I was up early to spend time trying to find two of the Messier astronomical objects listed by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. The total list published by Messier finally contained 103 objects, but the list "got an independent life" by successive additions by other astronomers. I finally got on to M81 a large spiral galaxy & M82 a starburst galaxy both in Ursa Major – just 108 to go.
The Space Station was picked up over the Irish Sea with an uninterrupted view till she faded from sight south east of Prague, Czechoslovakia. Overnight the Russian Soyuz spacecraft successfully docked with her.

As soon as Bob and I arrived at the pond we located the near summer Med Gull but could not see any Little Gulls despite extensive searching, a few Yellow Wagtails were on farborough bank. Having just left Bob and no more than 300 yards away when the Osprey came in at 10:13 and remained soaring over the reservoir for over 15 minutes till it drifted off north west. Luckily he could hear my bellowing but the bird made no attempt to fish. Its arrival caused panic among the gulls and waders with a second Med Gull in full breeding plumage found along with first summer Little Gull while Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher flew over trying to avoid the commotion. Toft bay had 2 Shelduck, 6 Wigeon, 5 Teal and 14 Gadwall with a female Goldeneye seen later and 8 Mute Swan might be the start of the arrival of those choosing to spend the summer here.
More warblers arrived overnight with plenty of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcaps around and overhead a steady stream of Swallows were coming over at 40 an hour from the south east with a few House and Sand Martins plus another good passage of Buzzard with 12 watched heading north either in small groups or singles.
Also seen today were 3 Raven, 4 Sparrowhawk, 2 Little Ringed Plover and Great-spotted Woodpecker. Butterflies were not as noticeable as yesterday but 2 Brimstone, 4 Small Tortishell and 3 Peacock seen

Blackcap by Bob Hazel

The Grandborough valley late afternoon had 2 Wheatear and Tree Sparrow along hill Road, 3 Yellow Wagtail and 3 Buzzard in the horse paddock at Grandborough Fields and a stunning male Marsh Harrier flew low over Flecknoe Road by the double barns scaring off a Red-legged Partridge as it headed north east. Surprisingly 12 Fieldfare remained at Napton Reservoir while the Cetties Warbler showed out in the open for a couple of minutes. Also present were male and female Teal, Yellow Wagtail, 5 Sand Martin, 3 Bullfinch, 5 Buzzard, Raven and 2 Sparrowhawk. I couldn’t do Napton on the Hill justice as time ran out but 4 Blackcap, 3 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaff and female Redstart showed that some migrants had spent the day feeding up in the churchyard.
A small bat greeted our arrival at the pub in Cubbington plus a Barn Owl flew over later and on the way home a medium size bat just avoided our windscreen near Princethorpe. We called in on Lawford Heath to enjoy the stars and had at least 4 meteorites and 3 satellites and a very vocal Little Owl.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

April 6th 2011

Weather wise it’s been a lovely day but disappointing on the migration front with nothing new at the pond today despite what was happening nationally though there was a light passage of hirundines, Skylark and Buzzard.
At least 5 Little Gulls present on our arrival among the 500+ Black-headed Gulls with 3 first summer and 2 adult summer birds along with yesterdays near adult Med Gull seen off farborough bank and though distant out in the centre by the time Alan and Francoise passed me mid-morning the Med was in toft bay and showing well.
Yellow Wagtails were thin on the ground in the morning but by early afternoon had increased to 12 birds and the male Wheatear still present.

Yellow Wagtail by Bob Hazell

House Martins have been around for a couple of days as passage birds so pleased when one of our local birds returned and was inspecting last years nest site while I was chatting to the Bob’s. With 3 Brambling in the country park and some still on the north bank its good to see they have now spent 5 months with us and the only other birds of note were Little Ringed Plover, Raven, 6 Wigeon, 5 Teal, 10 Gadwall, male Shoveler and 3 Sparrowhawk plus many local Buzzards with at least another 10 seen high heading north.

Brambling by Bob Hazell

Butterflies have been brilliant today with 2 Comma, Common Blue, 7 Peacock, Red Admiral, 5 Small Tortoiseshell, 9 Brimstone, 3 Orange-tip, 2 Small White at the pond along with an Early Thorn moth found by the Bob’s and Common Blue, 2 Peacock, Red Admiral and Orange-tip in my garden. Animals at the pond were 3 Hare and 2 Stoat and Francoise had a Grass Snake in the country park.

Back home the Buzzard migration continued with 6 more over the garden – all singles, high up and heading north or north east. Also over were 2 Fieldfare and a Yellow Wagatil while my Yellow-necked Mouse made its second appearance of the year.

Napton Reservoir this evening was warm and pleasant with early evening moths coming out including March Moth, Chestnut and Diurnea fagella. Birds seen were Yellow Wagtail, 2 Raven, Snipe, 2 Green Woodpecker, 4 Bullfinch and Tawny Owl heard while waiting for the sky's to darken. Both Common Pipistrelle and Noctule Bat seen.

A bit early for most people but if you are up and about between 05:19 and 05:29 tomorrow morning the “space shed” is coming in from the west over Haverfordwest, Stroud, Oxford and continuing east towards Holland, Belgium and Germany. With only 20% cloud cover predicted it could be an excellent pass and Saturn with its rings on show is also worth a stare.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

April 5th 2011

Overnight rain had stopped by dawn though the strong south westerly’s continued throughout my visit to the pond with Bob.
Though cloudy, dull and looking uninteresting when we stood on farborough bank by the defunct visitor centre within minutes we were cooking on gas with 3 first summer Little Gull (adult summer seen later), near adult Med Gull, Little Ringed Plover, 8 of 11 Yellow Wagtails seen today and a White Wagtail. Yesterdays Stoat was seen in the same area again today and spotted by the Black-headed Gulls loafing on the pontoons and they took umbrage and started too flock over it calling madly.
I walked with Bob to toft bay and as he continued his circuit as I doubled back but was soon on the phone to the boy dragging him out of toft shallows to see a pair of very smart Red-breasted Mergansers that had just flown in – stayed about 10 minutes then disappeared though Bob relocated them two hours later off the valve tower just before they were flushed off by the windsurfers and flew off north. Luckily Bob managed a distant record shot.

distant Red-breasted Merganser by Bob Hazell

As I continued towards rainbow another 3 Yellow Wagtails, a White Wagtail and Rock Pipit appeared on toft bank before every health freak stopped them from feeding and they soon went walk about and a Raven flew over north. For me the bird of the day was my earliest record of a Cuckoo by two days at the pond that flew out of the country park and along the bottom of farborough bank.
The wind was still gusting up to 28mph by late morning so gave up on walking to rainbow and settled down in the sheltered part of the picnic area for lunch watching 300+ Sand Martin, 30 Swallow and 20 House Martin over draycote bank and ended up kicking myself for not spotting a Sandwich Tern that was on the surface about 200 yards off shore until flushed by a wind surfer and it flew off east. Must have been there for an hour and I never noticed.
Other sightings included Wheatear, 4 Goldeneye, 6 Gadwalls, 5 Wigeon, 10 Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and Great-spotted Woodpecker plus a few warblers singing.

Common Gull by Bob Hazell

Met up with Mark and decided to check on Napton Reservoir where we managed Snipe, 40 Fieldfare, Chiffchaff, Swallow, 6 Reed Bunting, Cetties Warbler and Buzzard. A chat with a fisherman and he reported Curlew for couple of days last week.


Monday, 4 April 2011

April 4th 2011

Draycote Water was cold, dull, and windy this morning with good views of a Stoat on farborough bank plus 6 Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Wheatear with a Little Ringed Plover in toft. As Bob continued his circuit and I joined up with Mark to walk to rainbow and we had 2 Chiffchaff and 6 Blackcap singing by the windsurfing area with some occasionally showing themselves. Over 300 Sand Martins and 30 Swallows were feeding high above draycote bank and another Little Ringed Plover flew over the inlet. Only other birds of note were 11 Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk so it was off to the Long Itch Diner.
Having been fed we decided that Napton on the Hill would be too windy for migrants and ended up at Brandon Marsh.
I have not bothered mentioning some of the horror stories of birders waiting 8-9 hours for the Spotted Crake to show when it first arrived so if your one of those people – look away now.
Walked in - sat down – cleaned me bins - counted me toes, counted the Little Ringed Plover (3) counted the Snipe (7) saw the crake and left – job done inside 20 minutes. Less than thirty minutes waiting in two visits.

Heads up steam lovers
Princess Class 4-6-2 no 46201 Princess Elizabeth will be moved from Tysley to Southall on April 15th passing Leamington Spa 10:12 and due to stop in Banbury 10:42 to 11:08 before continuing south so in between that time she will be going through Fenny Compton and past Wormleighton Reservoir. The following day she is scheduled to take the Cathedral Express to Chester leaving Euston, London 07:39 stopping at Milton Keynes 08:40 before arriving at Rugby 09:23 and leaving 09:35 on the Trent Valley line. On her return she is due to stop at Atherstone 18:03 to 18:15 then pass Nuneaton at 18:21 and arrive in Rugby 18:37 leaving at 18:41 to continue south. As usual time may change so will try and keep you updated.

46201 Princess Elizebeth passing through Long Lawford last July by Jon Hall

The space station is due over again 06:07 tomorrow but unfortunately the weather around here is forecasted to be cloudy and raining compared to this morning when she gave another cracking pass over the garden – O I do love my flying tin shed. The rest of the week shows a number of early morning passes so hopefully the weather will improve.

Finally a couple of moth pictures to share taken by Bob Hazell

Engrailed, Draycote Water last week

Brindled Beauty in Daves trap Saturday night