Sunday, August 29, 2004

I spent an hour or so wandering around Woodwalton Fen NNR in search of darters and wasn't disappointed. Common Darters were everywhere, including dozens on the railings of all the bridges, and Ruddy Darters zipped around the reeded dykes.

Male Ruddy Darter Woodwalton Fen NNR.

Female Ruddy Darter Woodwalton Fen NNR.

Pair of Ruddy Darters Woodwalton Fen NNR.

Male Common Darter Woodwalton Fen NNR.

Female Common Darter Woodwalton Fen NNR.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

A rare run of the trap overnight produced a couple of garden ticks including a fine Dark Swordgrass. Not especially rare with 112 previous Hunts records.

Dark Swordgrass

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Well I'm cock-a-hoop this evo, having found two near-fledged broods of Tree Sparrows in the two nest boxes by the house. On seeing an adult come out of one box, I climbed the tree to find a brood of three Treebies, so I decided to check the adjacent box which held another three. Both broods are within a day or two of fledging.

Brood of three Treeps in one of my nest boxes

Expecting all six young to make it out of their homes, this will make it 14 broods for the year totalling 33 young! Fantastic given that this is only the second year I've had them breeding here (and not seen on the fen for 15+ years).

Orange form of the Large Black Slug

Some would say its weather for ducks, but it sure is weather for slugs! They love these damp days, and this evo I counted 22 orange Large Black Slugs in the back garden. I rarely see the black form of the Large Black Slug, and so far this year, I ahven't seen any Leopard Slugs which I've seen in the garden before.

Three orange Large Black Slugs on over ripe bananas
A rare moth-trapping session overnight yielded only a small catch, but included a new garden tick in the form of Bulrush Wainscot.

Bulrush Wainscot - a common species but still new for the garden

Monday, August 23, 2004

On a rather dark, stormy looking day I was pleased to be entertained over lunch by this fine male Southern Hawker which has been perched on the leylandii hedge outside my office window.

Male Southern Hawker

Sunday, August 22, 2004

I nearly choked over breakfast when a Sudan Golden Sparrow visited the garden feeders. Looks like I'm gonna have to start an exotics garden list as well. Unfortunately, by the time I got the camera set up with the scope it had done a bunk and wasn't seen again. I did managed to get a couple of snaps of a couple of garden favourites.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker on garden nut feeder.

Juvvy Treep looking for Mum and/or Dad to ram some seed down its throat.

Spent the afternoon walking around the fen, and it was one of my best days on the fen to date. The tracks and dykes were stuffed with dragons and damsels - Migrant and Brown Hawkers, Common and Ruddy Darters, and loads and loads of Emerald Damsels. A couple of juv Marsh Harriers were out-performed by two scrapping juvvy Hobbies over our heads. Flushed a family party of Grey Partridges, plenty of juvvy Reed Warblers, Skylarks, Whitethroats etc - fab time.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

This weekends British Birdwatching Fair saw the launch of the new LEICA Ultravid 32 series of binos. Along with the 8x20 and 10x25 series, this now completes Leica's Ultravid range.

The new LEICA Ultravid 8x32 - gorgeous or what!

As a member of Leica's Optical Innovation Team I'll obviously be seen as biased, but I'm on the OIT for one reason - I'm a birder. I use bins every day of my life and talk to birders all around the world about optics and their needs.

As a community, birders continue to challenge optical manufacturers to produce better birding products. For the last 15 years I've been helping Leica do just that, and I think two of the most recent introductions in particular, the Televid 62 scope and the Ultravid bino range, directly respond to the needs and challenges set by birders.

The 8x32 Ultravids are simply outrageous. They are incredibly light (525g on my scales) and tiny (116mmx116mm) and optically superb (you would not expect anything else from Leica!). Can a 32mm bino get any smaller than this? And where do we go from here? Wait and see!

The pick of the other optics on show at the Bird Fair had to be Nikon's new High Grade 'lights'. Weight was the main reason why this range never caught on (along with possibly the shallow depth of field and slighlty narrow fild of view at this level) - so will the new lighter models now catch on? Lets hope so. I believe that every truly great product deserves its day, and the Nikon High Grade Lights rank amongst the best of birding optics.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I've had a couple of Migrant Hawkers in the garden most days for the last few weeks, but today an influx of at least 16 males hawking around the back garden including these four chaps. The top photo shows just how unterritorial these guys are and often forming large feeding groups in woodland rides and along sheltered field edges.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

News of a number of Southern Emerlad Dams at Sandwich Bay (Kent) was more than welcome, so I joined friends Tim & Margaret Benton for a dash down to see witness only the second ever sighting of this species in Britain.

We arrived at Sandwich Bay to be greeted by some familiar faces and both male and female SEDs on view. We located at least two different females and at between 5-7 males. The differences from (Common) Emerald damselfly is very obvious, in particular the bi-coloured pterostigma (the small coloured panel near the tip of each wing) and the ante-humeral stripes. The females are really robust with very thick abdoments.

Male Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus Sandwich Bay, Kent. Note the bi-coloured pterostigma and green stripes down the thorax.

Female Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus Sandwich Bay, Kent. Note the thick, robust abdomen, bi-coloured pterostigma and thorax stripes

Southern Emerald Dams were only added to the British list last July when a small number were found at Winterton Dunes in Norfolk having been predicted only a year before by Adrian Parr in Atropos. Rumour has it the Kent individuals were found in mid-July (the Norfolkf onesl ast year were found on 30 July) and it is likely, given the two locations, that these are recent arrivals from the continent where the species is known to be expanding its range.

We also found several Wasp Spiders while searching for the damselflies - fab eh!

Wasp Spider - dig the zig-zag web

Saturday, August 14, 2004

It was one of those great mornings to be out in the field - still, sunny and warm and the fen was leaping with birds and drags.

32 Treeps is the highest count to date and included most of the seasons youngsters, and a flock of 37+ Yellow Wags in one of the stubble fields was likewise a new record count for the patch. Add 170+ House Sparrows, a juvvy Marsh Harrier, Hobby, a couple of Sprawks, Reed Warblers, Whitethroats, etc - great stuff.

In the garden the Treeps bullied the other birds off the feeders and the seemingly now resident Zebra Finch (remember him - turned up the same evening as my Pied Fly last week!), was reasonably approachable with my camera hand-held - well, I can't be fussed trying to digiscope a cage bird!

Ziggy the Zebra Finch - a new garden resident?

Friday, August 13, 2004

A newly fledged Tree Sparrow in the garden today is the 25th fledged youn seen this season. This years six pairs have now raised 11 broods (three pairs raised six broods, 18 young last year).

The latest baby Treep in the garden - the 25th fledged young for the year

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I spent the evening in Ely on BOURC business checking out the city's Muscovy Duck population. I found 25 adults and 38 young - is this species destined for admission to the British List?

Muscovy Ducks in central Ely including babies

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Wow! What a day. Hot on the heels of garden tick no. 99, Red kite last week, last night I found a fem/imm Pied Flycatcher in the front garden - garden tick no. 100! It performed well until a thunderstorm moved in.

I awoke to heavy rain and in a brief respite mid-morning I couldn't see the Pied Fly, but the buzzy call I first heard last night (which went un'IDed) was pinned down to an escaped Zebra Finch.

Late morning the rain stopped, the sun came out and insects were suddenly on the wing. The garden was hoochin' with birds, including a couple of new baby Treeps. I soon located the Pied Fly in next door's garden feeding from one of the large weeping willows. It was on the house side, so I was able to watch it for about 15 mins from one of my bedroom windows. Whilst hanging out of the window, garden tick no. 101 flew over - a noisy Grey Wagtail. And within half an hour, a Reed Warbler bounced through the garden - garden tick no. 102!! Unbelievable, three garden ticks within the last 24 hours! The Reed Warbler appears to have taken up residence for hte afternoon and judging by the amount of juicy items its finding, it ain't going hungry!

To add to the garden tally, a Willow Warbler performed well early afternoon and a Common Sandpiper (from the nearby irrigation res) was heard a couple of times - presumably flying around the fen when disturbed from the res.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Another warm, sticky day, with the garden again alive with insects. The second Wall butterfly of the week, and hundreds of hoverflies and irritating thunderflies. The house is covered in dead hoverflies - in every room - and at one point I had nine live hoverflies sat on my keyboard! And I didn't get a photo!

This evening saw three dragonfly species hawking in the garden for insects - two Brown Hawkers plus Southern and Migrant Hawkers. One of the Brown Hawkers tangled with the Southern a couple of times - top stuff!

I found one of the Brown Hawkers roosting in a leylandii hedge in the back garden. The light wasn't good, and it was under the over hanging branches, so I had to use flash - something I don't like doing.

Brown Hawker - one of two in the garden this evening

I also found this Comma roosting on the side of one of my window boxes.

Comma roosting on window box

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The garden continues to be heaving with insects (and a few birds!).

Wall - only the second for the garden

Hoverflies - part of the massive invasion in recent days

Female Emerald Damselfly - a garden regular