Monday, December 19, 2005

Winter Moth

There are not many insects around at this time of year, especially with temperature keeping fairly low at the moment. Winter Moth is one of a few exceptions. The females are virtually wingless but males fly around on milder evenings in mid-winter. This one was attracted to the kitchen lights.

Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata)

Nikon Coolpix 995

Friday, December 09, 2005

Barney the Cool Goose

An escaped goose?! There are a few individuals that hang around with the Greylags and Canada Geese. This one is regularly on Heron Meadow at Ferry Meadows CP with Canada Geese. Where they come from originally is anyone's guess but the large feral populations in Bedfordshire and Norfolk/Suffolk is now deemed self-sustaining and may well account for some of our birds.

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece

Friday, November 25, 2005


A nasty strong freezing wind originating in the north had me thinking it was worth checking the Dog in a Doublet on the off-chance an Auk had made it up to the tidal limit of the Nene. A good choice as there was this Shag sitting on the rocks very close to the sluice. It was hard to pick out at first, especially through the snow flurries blowing across, and I nearly missed it all together. It was perishingly cold in the wind but these shots aren't too bad. At one point a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail were next to the bird alongside the fish ladder.

The Dog in a Doublet is the place to see Shag in the PBC area. They can often stay for a while: the last one arrived on 18 Dec 2003 and stayed until 5 Jan 2004. See here for pictures.

This is the 197th species I've found in the PBC area. Roll on the 200!

The brownish plumage with prominent pale tips to the wing coverts age this as a first-winter bird.

Click on pics for a larger images.

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hardy Dragons

Common Darters are hardy chaps. The weather has been bitterly cold with hard frosts now every night for a week but the sunny calm days are providing warm pockets in places exposed to the sun. This is perfect for the few remaining dragonflies on the wing but even these can't expect to last much longer now. This one was basking at Stibbington GP.

Click on pic for a larger image.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Nikon Coolpix 995

Green Wood again

The male Green Woodpecker was back again on our front grass feeding most of the morning under the birch trees. It has excavated some significant holes in the grass surrounded by neat, long, whitish pellets that reminded me of the bizarre Wryneck poo collecting crowd last year (see here!).

This prolonged visit provided me with some much-needed digiscoping practice but most pictures are a bit distorted by taking through double-glazing.

Click on pics for a larger images.

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Sometimes twitching gets a bad name but every now and then something turns up not too far from home that is just that bit special and you have to go for it. This Grey-cheeked Thrush was just 70 miles away near Cheshunt so a morning off work and an early start saw Weedon's World of Nature and I heading south on the A1. It turned out to be an excellent morning and we met up with several people we knew.

Although it made us search a good hour and a half in the freezing cold it eventually showed very well. It didn't help that when it stood still facing you it disappeared against the leafy backdrop of the woodland floor. I concentrated on taking notes rather than photographs (it was rather dark under the trees) but click here to see WWoN's photo.

For anyone who thinks this is just a small grey thrush think again. It is not like any bird I've seen before (this is the first Catharus species I've seen). It is small and dumpy like a Robin, has thrush-like speckling but feeds rather like a Wren. A cracking bird to watch.

Grey-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus), Northaw Great Wood CP.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Another look for the Scoter today in better light. They often only stay for a day and these were no exception (maybe two days for three of them). In the absence of anything better we resorted to a bit of duck digiscoping practice at Lynch Lake where a Water Rail swimming along the edge was a surprise.

There are some much better duck photos from this session on Weedon's World of Nature.

Click on pics for a larger images.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Common Scoter

Three female-type Common Scoter were found at Ferry Meadows on Monday and spent the day on Overton Lake. I decided to take a look early this morning but found no sign of the birds. However Ferry Meadows is an excellent site for birds and I had already seen a few Siskin, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Grey Wagtail before getting far from the car. Then I noticed an adult Bewick's Swan cruising across the lake - quite a good bird for Ferry Meadows.

The real surprise came though when I noticed a flock of ducks flying in from the west. A quick look with the bins revealled eight Common Scoter. I followed them closely looking for any signs of white in the wings (indicating Velvet Scoter)! they circled Overton Lake then headed back and appeared to land on Gunwade Lake. I made my way around there and sure enough there they were, all eight including a spanking adult male (a very rare sight in this area). Unfortunately it was still early and very cloudy and dull so photos were never going to be great.

The question is were any of the eight the same three that were present the day before or was it an entirely new flock? They are notoriously short stayers and I can quite believe the three buzzed off overnight and these arrived first thing. Terry swears there was no sign of them on Gunwade before 8am and I had been watching Overton before that. In any case this felt every bit like a find to me and takes my list of found birds in the PBC area to 196 species. Nearing that magic 200!

Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), eight including one adult male
(Click on pic for a larger image)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Click here for pics of the flock of 20 at Ferry Meadows just over a year ago.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reed Bunting and Green Woodpecker

A great day for birding from the house. New to the garden was a pair of Reed Buntings flying south along the river: 96th species and long overdue. I count anything I see from the house in that list so many have not landed in the garden as such. Green Woodpecker was one of those until today as this splendid male chose to feed on the small lawn under the birch trees right in front of the house.

I could hardly tear myself away from the upstairs window today as bird streamed past south along the Nene Valley. There was also a good display of Red Kites and a couple of Common Buzzards, up to 3 Snipe flew over the Water Meadows and a Sparrowhawk lingered in the village. Most of the birds listed here were on the Northants side of the river and passed during about 2 hours in the morning. There were also more passerines involved but most were too distant for confident ID (a lot were Chaffinches).
Skylark, 64
Woodpigeon, 3,150
Stock Dove, 127
Redwing, 70
Reed Bunting, 2
Jay, 1, high south over long distance
Fieldfare, 80
Lapwing, 35
Golden Plover, 16

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Nikon CP995 (too close for digiscoping!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Merveille du Jour

More green moths including the extremely attractive Merveille du Jour, a very welcome first for the garden. Both form of the less green and more common Green-brindled Crecent.

Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina)

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae), f. capucina

Typical and capucina forms together

Nikon Coolpix 995

Sunday, October 16, 2005

More Fungi

I must get better at identifying these. The first is a Waxcap (Hygrocybe sp.). Any help appreciated.

Nikon Coolpix 995

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yellow-browed Warbler in Peterborough

Another failed attempt to find a local Yellow-browed Warbler at Taholt GP this morning was soon forgotten when a call from a local birder had a few of us enjoying one in a Werrington garden! Thanks Leon and Margaret for opening up your garden.

No-one managed pictures of the ellusive warbler so here's a Kingfisher from Tanholt.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


A rare day hunting for migrant birds in north Norfolk was quite poductive, especially for Yellow-browed Warblers. Not sure what the fungus is - found at Holme Dunes.

Waxcap sp. (Hygrocybe sp.)

Nikon CP995

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Going Green

Two examples of the typical form of Green-brindled Crescent here plus a few other typical autumn offerings.

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae)

Red-line Quaker (Agrochola lota)

Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea)

Beaded Chestnut (Agrochola lychnidis)

Nikon CP995

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

Its that tern again

The juvenile Arctic Tern that has lingered in the Prior's Fen and North Bank area since 16 Sep (see here) put its final appearance in today. It was fishing the River Nene alongside the North Bank Road and came incredibly close. This photo was taken only using the camera's 4x zoom.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paridisaea), juvenile

Nikon CP 995

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Portland Hawks

A weekend at Weymouth and Portland proved very enjoyable. The weather was very warm and our first stop at Osmington Mills (Smugglers) revealed a number of Clouded Yellow and Red Admiral butterflies. A couple of Ravens cruised over and one or two Common and Sandwich Terns lingered on the sea.

These were among several orthoptera present on the very warm, south-facing, steep gully.

Grey Bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata)

We stopped a The Fleet to take a look at a few waders before heading onto Portland where Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Rock Pipits were at the Bill and a party of Gannets lingered just offshore. Two summer-plumaged Red-throated Divers passed low directly over our heads and landed on the sea nearbly for a while before continuing off to the east. A single Manx Shearwater cruised in from the SW before turning and heading back the way it had come.

A look in at the Observatory failed to reveal the roving Firecrest but we did get a good look at the two Convolvulous Hawk-moths shown here.

Convolvulus Hawk-moth (Agrius convolvuli)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Large Rannunculus

Large Rannunculus and Beaded Chestnut were the first this year but The Sallow is another garden tick!

The Sallow (Xanthia icteritia)

Large Ranunculus (Polymixis flavicincta)

Beaded Chestnut (Agrochola lychnidis)

Nikon CP995

1342 Eudonia angustea 1
2107 Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 14
2109 Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) 3
2126 Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum) 3
2199 Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens) 1
2252 Large Ranunculus (Polymixis flavicincta) 1
2267 Beaded Chestnut (Agrochola lychnidis) 1
2270 Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa) 39
2274 The Sallow (Xanthia icteritia) 1
2306 Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) 1
2389 Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis) 1
2477 The Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) 1
Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) 7

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tufted Duck

Fletton Lake is one of those places you check but nine times out of ten there is nothing out of the ordinary there. Anyway the light was nice and the eye of this duck looked good so I took a few snaps.

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Bulrush Wainscot

Ran both traps (125W MV and a15W actinic) in the garden for the first time in a few weeks. The Bulrush Wainscot was the first for the garden and appeared in the actinic.

Bulrush Wainscot (Nonagria typhae)

Incidentally this is a female and she has laid eggs:

1342 Eudonia angustea 1
1764 Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata) 1
2107 Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 7
2109 Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) 6
2126 Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum) 3
2134 Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa) 1
2199 Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens) 4
2270 Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa) 21
2297 Copper Underwing (Amphipyra pyramidea) 1
2369 Bulrush Wainscot (Nonagria typhae) 1
Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) 7

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Montagu's Harrier

Inspired by Weedon's World of Nature to bare barely presentable artwork I decided to blog one of my finds of the year.

We were having lunch along the River Nene when Karen noticed a commotion in the air just behind us. I quickly got onto the slender, almost gull-like raptor being mobbed by a few crows and the pulse quickened as I realised it was something special. As it struggled to shake off the corvids it managed a bit of soaring flight to gain height and with the wings raised in a shallow V we were certain we were watching a Harrier of some kind and a slim bird like this had to be either a Hen, Montagu’s or Pallid.

Overhead against the sky it was impossible to see much of the plumage detail but this bird had a long slim tail and narrow, pointed wings, kinked at times making it look almost like a tern. I was now sure it was not a Hen Harrier and when it did bank enough to see the white rump (the “ringtail”) it was tiny and very hard to see, unlike the broader white splash on a Hen. Although it was hard to be sure, there didn’t appear to be any colour on the underside so I guess it was an adult female: immature Montagu’s Harriers have rusty-brown, almost orange underparts.

Now in all honesty I couldn’t say it was definitely not a Pallid Harrier as these are incredibly hard to separate from Montagu’s, especially in this plumage. But since Pallids barely occur annually in the whole country and have never been recorded in Cambridgeshire I feel pretty justified in adding Montagu’s Harrier to my PBC list.

I always carry my notebook with me but for once my bag had been emptied and I had to use the back of a fag packet (well being a non-smoker the back of an old business card). This hasty pen sketch is an attempt to capture the tern-like jizz and the relative proportions compared with a Carrion Crow.

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus) with Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

The Sallow

WeBS count on the Sunday so the trap went out at Stibbington on Saturday night. The Sallow was my first here and the Burnished Brass is of the juncta form (compare with this one).

The Sallow (Xanthia icteritia)

Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis)

Nikon Coolpix 995

Stibbington, 15W actinic Skinner
1138 Epinotia nisella 1
2107 Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 2
2134 Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa) 1
2270 Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa) 1
2274 The Sallow (Xanthia icteritia) 2
2384 Vine's Rustic (Hoplodrina ambigua) 1
2434 Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis) f. juncta 1

Elton, 125W MV
0465 Plutella porrectella 1
1342 Eudonia angustea 2
1906 Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) 1
2107 Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 9
2109 Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) 4
2134 Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa) 3
2270 Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa) 9
2364 Frosted Orange (Gortyna flavago) 1
2389 Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis) 2
2434 Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis) f. juncta 1
Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) 10
Tree Wasp (Dolichovespula sylvestris) 1

Friday, September 16, 2005

Arctic Tern

I was hoping for a seabird out on Prior's Fen today but this smashing little juvenile Arctic Tern was worth braving the strong northerly wind for. It flitted past me looking ghostly white before landing in the field nearby. The wind made digiscoping almost impossible but this shot wasn't too bad considering.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paridisaea), juvenile

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 32x eyepiece.

Other birds present:
Pintail, 1
Dunlin, 4
Ringed Plover, 3
Greenshank, 1
Redshank, 1
Snipe, 5
Little Egret, 3
Hobby, 2
House Martin, 2
Meadow Pipit, 2
Common Buzzard, 1