Friday, 28 August 2020

TH visit and other QECP BSM and coffee


Common Snipe from Titchfield handheld phone-scoped. This flushed out of grass and decided to land as close to the hide as possible. Otherwise little else.

At QECP three Spotted Flycatchers were briefly showing at the South end of the slope.
Butterfly numbers are now much reduced with non-whites represented by this Small Copper (above) and two each of Common Blue and Small Heath, all very fresh. For the first time this autumn Migrant Hawkers outnumbered Common Darters by about ten to one although none of the former were perched up for a photo. The small patches of 'still white' Angelica attracted a few insects including Cheilosia spp and Chrysogaster solstitialis hovers,  this Tenthredo spp  (suggested as possible schaefferi via FB), a few Ectemnius wasps and this Tachinid fly possibly Epicampocera spp.

Thursday, 20 August 2020



Coffee, breakfast muffin and a short hobble around the bottom path at the park was quiet but this female Helophilus trivitattus popped out but was a little  'too far in' for a close-up and soon after this male H. pendulus was close by. A couple of invisible Siskin went over and at least one Spotted Flycatcher  was calling from well up into the biggest trees.


After yesterday's visit called off due to weather, today saw very nice weather for a trip to Arundel which, unsurprisingly, was rammed with people. The reserve was also full of families . Nice to catch up with Richard but birdlife was quiet with just various heard Kingfishers, multiple Buzzards (some obviously whining  youngsters), single Sparrowhawk and Common Sandpiper. House and Sand Martin's were overhead.

Patches of Fleabane and Water Mint etc were attractive to a few insects:-
Nowickia ferox 
Tachina fera 
Nomada spp
Volucella inanis and zonaria
Helophilus pendulus and trivitattus
Eristalis pertinax and tenax
Other  small unidentified hovers

Odonata were represented by:-
Brown  Hawker
Migrant Hawker
Southern Hawker
Black-tailed Skimmer 
Common Darter
Ruddy Darter
Blue-tailed Damselfly and
Small Red-eyed Damselfly

A post-pasty sojourn on a shaded bench with a juvenile Canada Goose cropping the grass between my feet saw two calling and overflying Ravens; later one returned and soared  effortlessly for ages quietly croaking away to itself and seeming to enjoy the freedom of just cruising around, getting higher and higher until it disappeared into the blue. 


Just a brief coffee visit with crowds of runners, cyclists and dog-walkers - Buzzard over the park, Red Kite over the road and a Grey Wagtail in the carpark; a Spotted Flycatcher was again calling from the same spot as Tuesday.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Four horsemen...

(Chalkhill Blue, Comma, Dolichovespula media, Nowickia ferox, Athalia spp, Harebell all from QECP and Cormorant, Little Egret, Volucella inanis, Leptura quadrifasciata, Volucella zonaria, Common Terns, Redshanks and a Common Sandpiper from TH).

The four horsemen of the 'wildlife apocalypse', Covid19, arthritis, August and heat have all combined over the last couple of weeks  to make it pretty joyless being out.
Locally, bird life has been very thin with just a one observer, one day Citrine Wagtail as a stand out. A prebooked TH outing (masks in hides now) was pleasantly quiet peoplewise and produced decent views of the female Marsh Harrier and two Kingfishers, both firsts since before the start of lockdown, plus the autumn's first Yellow Wagtail and a nice roadside Water Rail; three more of the latter were heard. At least two juvenile Sparrowhawks were calling continuously from the usual clump and this year's Kestrels were hunting together over the meadow. One or two Silver-washed Fritiliaries washed up and down the boardwalk on a couple of dates.

Many 'mothers' have attracted  loads of Jersey Tigers whilst trapping which ought to prompt me to put mine out tonight whilst this hot, dry weather lasts; sadly all my garden moths info for the last three years held in spreadsheets was lost due to a factory reset on a tablet - I'd  foolishly forgotten that I'd  never backed up to an external device. Doh!!

Thankfully last night's decision to hold off on the moth trap was a good call as it rained hard at least twice during the night.

Another pre-booked visit to TH on Thursday was quiet with just a single  Wheatear in the meadow, the first this year. MF's earlier  Black Tern and Whinchat had both gone into hiding. Various heard onlys included Green Sandpiper, Water Rail, Cetti's Warbler, Bearded Tit and the juvenile Sparrowhawks.  The juvenile 'European' Blackwit was present along with a couple of Common Sandpipers and a Dunlin and the single Great Crested Grebe chick was still bring fed by parents. Volucella zonaria was on Water Mint and a Helophilus  trivittatus was also seen, but little else.

A non birding outing today saw a flyover Grey Wagtail in town and a Red Kite out towards the windmill.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Birding - The beginning - Part 3 - Optics

The initial months of 'being a birder' were without any optical aids but luckily a friend had access to a pair of 7×50 individual eyepiece focussing binoculars which we were allowed to 'share' although curiously NOT allowed to alter the right ocular which made for one eyed viewing!!

An unexpected and not entirely appropriate birthday present that first year came from my grandfather  - a pair of brass (well brass looking) 4×40 opera glasses and these were packed into the ex-army gas mask case along with the Observer's Book of Birds, flask, sandwiches and Mars Bar for all outings for the next few months.

Luckily, my parents realised I needed something better and that Xmas (1967) saw the 'main present' turn out to be a pair of Prinz 16×50 binoculars from Dixons I think - basically  junk by today's  standards but at the time the single biggest improvement to my viewing experience to date.

Within a few days I'd seen Red-necked Grebe from the road bridge and a cracking male Velvet Scoter from the old Tudor Sailing Club.

Over the years another handful or more of binoculars came and went either sold, part exchanged for an upgrade or sometimes used to destruction - the old porro prism binoculars were always being dropped, knocked out of alignment or fogging up with damp incursion.

Half a dozen scopes came and went starting with a Nickel Supra funded by my degree grant which, being drawtube, eventually seized up  - in hindsight I don't  know why I didn't  go for the Hertel and Reuss a much better instrument.

Luckily things are better now although if someone had said to teenage me that in 50 years you'd be paying £2,500 for a pair of binoculars and over £3,000 for a scope I'would have broken down in fits of laughter!!

Thursday, 23 July 2020

A couple of more butterflies...

At the park finally, a couple of male Chalkhills (my first this summer) made it to the 'tree dump' area presumably searching for females and/or horshoe vetch, whilst around the pond a couple of fresh Holly Blues and my first male Southern Hawker and Figwort Sawfly. Unlike this time last year precious few hovers and little Wild Carrot to attract them; presumably the early, hot and extended spring has had a detrimental effect. All insects seem to be hard to find.

Red not grey..

('Red' Knot and seven of twenty Turnstones using whatever perches were available)

Male Volucella zonaria, Black-tailed Skimmers, a brief hawker spp and a flyby fritillary spp were the only decent  insects. The Avocet family down to two chicks, lots of birds on the scrapes but once again the Roseate Tern proved elusive, although it was reported later. Sadly, in two visits pre- and post-lunch no other scope-toting birders just camera users so no help there! With so many white birds all dozing on and around the causeway it was like looking for a needle in a haystack and the view from the third hide is compromised by the height of the vegetation. Roll on crap weather to thin out the crowds and parking. On the bright side few other hide users and all 'socially distanced'.

Birding - The beginning - Part 2 - Books

Books at home were few and far between growing up although the local library provided plenty of kids stuff. Two volumes of the Narnia chronicles, one a school prize and  the other a birthday present from a grandfather that same summer, an old and already battered copy of Jacques Cousteau's Silent World and John Hunt's Ascent of Everest was pretty much it. However there was an old Reader's Digest compendium which featured a chapter or so from Fred Boswell's fictionalised tale The Last of The Curlews which I found fascinating - until then I thought extinction was for dinosaurs and mammoths!!

Like most people my first birdbook was the Observers book which got thumbed until it disintegrated. However, it didn't take long to realise the limited number of species and 'victorian' style artwork made it mostly useless. The Observer's Book of Bird's Eggs was more useful early on!

Although having been available for a decade or more the Fitter and Richardson and Peterson guides were still not easy to find. The former came to me first ( a pocket money purchase? a just-because present?) but peer group suggestions were 'get the Peterson book, it's better'. So, like many people, that was my default ID guide for ages and again was thumbed until it fell apart. A cousin found a pristine copy inadvertantly left behind by a birder and promptly  sold it to me for 50p (or was it a quid!!). But by now, aged 14, it was made clear by more experienced birders that only 'dudes' carried a field guide; if you wanted to be taken seriously leave it on the bookshelf and take a notebook and pen it its place! So that copy of Peterson lasted much longer.

The other main work for UK bird identification was the already well out of date Witherby's Handbook - and well out of financial reach of someone who didn't even have so much as a paper round! But luckily the main library had a copy in the reference section  - I did consider slipping it under my coat volume by volume!!

Another glorious book was the rather wonderful House on the Shore by Eric Ennion - the tale of setting up Monk's House Bird Observatory, littered with lively paintings and tales of ringing nets and traps ; all of interest to a newly-taken-on trainee ringer. I can't remember if that's where I got the design of my chardonneret trap from!!

Some more inspiration came from the library in the form of Guy Mountfort's  two books Portrait of a Wilderness and Portrait of a River both published some years before I started birding but so exciting to read. Not sure how I missed out on Portrait of a Desert ; maybe its not too late to find an old copy.

I guess the final offering in those first few years was the weekly publication Birds of the World, edited by John Gooders and which gave a rock solid weekly fix of exotic and mostly unheard of birdlife for a couple of years. I well remember the back page being typically devoted to a single species painting by one of the many 'old masters' of ornithological art and in one case, Laughing Falcon. Not sure why but I was particularly transfixed by that one. Nearly twenty years later, stepping off a minibus in Costa Rica and there it was, the real life version and a species I'd not thought about in the intervening years. If I could have one birding moment over again from the last half-century that would be it.