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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Rare Orchid, Moths and new Marsh Warbler Video

Lizard Orchid
Just a few photographs and video of wildlife seen over the weekend and one amazing Orchid.
The Marsh Warbler performed exceptionally well, as did the Little Tern.
The Norfolk Moth Survey (NMS) also did a mass trapping session at East Wretham NWT reserve and came up with some real goodies including Breckland Plume, Beautiful Brocade, Cream-spot Tiger and a new micro for Norfolk in the form of Epiblema grandaevana.
I also had several very special moths along the North Norfolk coast in the form of Scarce Pug. Never seen the adult moth before.

Marsh Warbler, Narborough
Little Tern, Titchwell
Scarce Pug, Eupithecia extensaria, North Norfolk. Red Data Book

Cream-spot Tiger, Arctia villica ssp. britannica, East Wretham NWT

Bordered White (male), Bupalus piniaria,  East Wretham Heath NWT

Rhyacionia pinivorana, Spotted Shoot Moth, East Wretham Heath NWT

Lizard Orchid
At first glance, or even just a few feet away, this plant looks as though the flowers have passed their peak and it's going to seed. It's only when you get up close and personal that you can really appreciate the beauty of the Lizard Orchid.

Lizard Orchid, last years spike


Friday, 12 June 2015

Rare Birds & Insects at Lakenheath, Frampton & Narborough.

Marsh Warbler, Narborough
Refreshed and ready to go after my Scottish adventure though with a knackered medial knee ligament which meant that certain places were not reachable. Unfortunately that included Blakeney Point. C'est la vie!
Joist Fen at Lakenheath RSPB was just manageable with multiple rests and lots of Naproxen (just joking Doc.). I spent nearly 5 hours there for all of 20 seconds worth of Little Bittern. I saw it very briefly up one of the channels then had to wait a few hours for a flight over the reed bed. Just to put it in perspective, I saw four Great Bitterns during the same time frame.
There were a few Hobbys knocking about and a flyby Common Crane. Slightly rarer here, than perhaps the Crane, was the immature female Goshawk which flew south over the middle reed bed. Cuckoos and Kingfishers put on a fine display as did a Red Kite on the way back to the car.
Bittern, Lakenheath. I saw 7 that day.

 Cuckoo, Lakenheath
 Marsh Harriers doing a food pass.

 Hobby's, Lakenheath

 Kingfisher, Lakenheath
Four-spotted Chaser, Lakenheath
I have had two visits to Frampton RSPB in the space of a week, looking for rare waders both times. The first trip was for the White-rumped Sandpiper. It took ages to find the thing and it only fed in the middle of the conservation area. There are photographs but its hard to tell bird from grass from mud! Hence none here. There were some very smart summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers in their orange finery and a small group of Little Stints. An elongated, greyish bird, I mistook for the White-rump turned out to be a Temminks Stint. A very nice set of waders. Lots of young waders also on view including Avocet, Lapwing and Redshank. A strong wind meant no worthwhile photographs.
The second visit was totally the opposite. The Broad-billed Sandpiper was feeding very near the road and pleased everyone who saw it. It turned out to be the only Calidrid I saw that day. Who knows where everything else was but they turned up after I left. Typical.
A pair of drake Garganey showing signs of eclipse were picked out and there were some particularly obliging Common Terns and Little Ringed Plovers showing off. Two Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and a second year, circled over the visitor centre on the return to the car. Finally a distant Quail could be heard calling from the field next to the car park.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Frampton RSPB

Common Tern, Frampton

Little Ringed Plover, Frampton
Last, but definitely not least, a Marsh Warbler was found along the Nar Valley Way at Narborough. I turned up this morning, the only person there and I could hear it singing. I nearly fell over when I saw it sitting in full view! I didn't know they did that! It was short lived but over the next hour it paraded through the nettles and reeds on the opposite bank. The number of birds it mimicked grew each time it sang. Blackbird, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Common Buzzard and Nuthatch calls were all heard.
This idyllic patch of Norfolk, chosen by this stealthy Acrocephalus also had Garden Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Kingfisher and a visiting Osprey.

Marsh Warbler, Narborough
Some interesting moths and insects have also been seen recently.
Lace Border, Scopula ornata, nationally scarce, known from 2 sites in Norfolk.

Breckland Plume, Chrombruggia distans.

Mother Shipton, Callistege mi

Wasp Beetle, Clytus arietis. Totally harmless.


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Scotland Trip 2015 part 5. 22/23 May. Handa Island and Journey Home

Bonxie, Handa
No rushing around today as I'm off to Handa Island. The first "ferry" doesn't leave Tarbet until 10am and it's only a few miles away though it can take a while when driving at "bird watching speed".
Tarbet is a passerines oasis. The Shorehouse Restaurant has one or two feeders and they are very busy. In the space of a few minutes we saw Rock Dove, Robin, and surely some of the UK's most northerly Great Tits, Blue TitsBullfinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches. Rock Pipits were on the shore by the slipway while Common Sandpipers and a Wood Sandpiper were on Loch Dubh. In the Sound of Handa there were Arctic Tern, Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot and Shag visible.
Bullfinch & Goldfinch, The Shorehouse, Tarbet
The Handa ferry with Handa behind
Everyone gets a life jacket on the ferry and soon you are speeding across the Sound to one of the two landing beaches. There the boat is met by volunteers from the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The head boy then gives an orientation briefing on the island and no go areas. The rest of the time is yours. Last ferry at 17:30.
We did the 6km circular walk around the whole island. Everywhere there were Arctic and Great Skuas, often flying very close and always appearing menacing. Waders on the moorland were represented by Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Snipe. Red Grouse were also present. Red-throated Divers were continually flying over our heads.
After yesterdays shocking weather I wasn't expecting much today, especially as there were some showers early on. However, the Gods of Handa looked down upon us and we had blue skies nearly all day and got sunburnt despite the wind.

Bonxie, Handa
Arctic Skua, Handa
Arctic Skuas
Tough Guy! A pair of Bonxies flew too close to an Arctic Skua nest. One of the Arctic Skuas got in the air and gave chase. It knocked the first Bonxie to the ground and then the second. The Bonxies were not seen to approach the nest again.
As we walked / hobbled around the island we were in awe of the size of the cliffs and the numbers of seabirds. Puffins, Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmar. There were also one or two Manx Shearwaters off the island.
Handa Stack

Puffin nesting area

Guillemots. A bridled form can be seen near bottom right. Handa
Razorbills, Handa
The cliffs on the seaward side of the island are very high and seem to rise straight out of the North Atlantic. As we walked along the top we were getting soaked yet there were no clouds visible. The culprit was a phenomenon that I had never seen before. Water from the water logged island drains over the cliffs but the wind was so strong that the water was pushed back up and over the cliff top. It was RAINING UPWARDS! weird!
A few Twite were seen here along with Fulmars riding the same air currents that got us wet.
Handa seaward side. We were soaked at the top. The white lines are hundreds of nesting birds.

Fulmar hanging in the air, Handa

Twite, Handa
We made our way slowly back to the ferry point, dodging Skuas along the way. Passerines were in short supply. Meadow Pipits were the commonest followed by Wheatear. A particularly large Wheatear stood out as a "Greenland" Wheatear. A single Common Whitethroat was singing. Flowering plants included a lot of Spotted Heath Orchid.
Greenland Wheatear, Handa

Spotted Heath Orchid
Nearly time to go now so we lounged by the Warden Hut and waited for the last ferry. Red-throated Divers, Skuas and Eider all in evidence. Then back on the ferry, fight with a life jacket and away. What an amazing place. I'll be back.
Red-throated Diver, Handa

Handa ferry in action

Bye-bye Handa
The day and my holiday is finally coming to a close. I scanned the lochs on the way back to Scourie. A particularly confiding Red-throated Diver was on Loch Gobhloch and a very wary Black-throated Diver on Loch Druim na Coille along with a Dipper.
Red Throated Diver, Loch Gobhloch, Tarbet

 The only other bird of note that evening was a Garden Warbler on the beach by Scourie Causeway. It was climbing over and going under rocks looking for insects. Never even seen one on the ground before.

Saturday 23rd May- Packed up and gone by 9am and heading back to Newcastle via the scenic route. I chased Bert, the Robin, out of the car several times while I was packing.

From Scourie I headed north to Durness photographing the awesome ridge of Arkle along the way. It was very sunny and I scanned the mountains for signs of Golden Eagle. I stopped in a layby near Gualin House and looked across at the peaks of Cranstackie and Beinn Spionniadh to the east. A displaying Golden Plover put on a good show then a large bird put in an appearance over Cranstackie. It was very high and kept high as it glided west almost over head. A 2cy Golden Eagle! I tried very hard to get some decent photos but it was just too high so they are rubbish.

Golden Eagle, 2nd/3rd calendar year, Cranstackie
At Durness I had a quick look over Balnakiel Bay but there were no divers only the 5 Long-tailed Duck.  I then followed the A838 east and turned off at Hope and followed the unclassified road south past Ben Hope and Loch Hope along Strathmore to Altnaharra. There were some good birds along this road then places where there was nothing. Birds included Raven, Merlin, Whinchat, Fieldfare, Spotted Flycatcher and Golden Plover.
Loch Hope

Spotted Flycatcher, Strathmore

Territorial Dunlin, Mudale

Golden Plover, Mudale
Headed off the Newcastle now with only a few stops for decent birds. Likewise the next stage from Newcastle to King's Lynn. Birds on these stages include Peregrine, Tawny Owl, Common Scoter, Black Grouse, Black-necked Grebe and Garganey.
I'm sure there will be another trip next year. Until then back to local birding. LITTLE BITTERN here I come!