Sunday, 14 November 2021

Local Wildlife Sightings November 2021

 With the exception of a couple of cool days early in the month, the weather in the first half of November was ridiculously mild. With the prevailing winds continuing to come from the west or south, very limited numbers of winter visitors from Europe appeared in my area. Redwings, in particular, were notable by their absence although I did hear one or two passing overhead in the dark. My bird feeders were restocked and there was plenty of interest shown in them despite the weather, with 13 common species (blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit, house sparrow, robin, wren, chaffinch, goldfinch, woodpigeon, blackbird, jackdaw and magpie) seen around the feeders in half an hour on the morning of the 8th, when a red admiral butterfly was also seen fluttering around at the unearthly (for me) hour of 8.45am. On one occasion I put out an apple on the lawn, hoping to attract thrushes. Within a couple of hours it had been consumed - by a carrion crow! A tawny owl continued to hoot occasionally through the night, from the direction of Royston hospital.

With little of interest around it was left to the many gulls flying over, feeding or generally hanging about in nearby arable fields to keep me on my toes. Numbers of wintering common and black-headed gulls slowly increased through the month, whilst numbers of lesser black-backed gulls (mainly on passage) slowly decreased. The first image below shows a typical group of these three species on the ground on the 12th at Hatchpen Farm, whilst the second shows what I believe (from the primary feather markings on the wing) to be my second local yellow-legged gull sighting of the autumn, seen on the same afternoon. Will I be able to add to my list of gull species seen locally (currently standing at six) this winter? Well, I need something to keep me going through a very quiet year........


Gulls at Hatchpen Farm (Reed), 12 November


Yellow-legged Gull (?) in Flight, Hatchpen Farm, 12 November

My interest in invertebrates finally lapsed completely, with only red admiral sightings to report by the middle of the month. The last individual was seen on the 18th. Colder weather produced the first signs of winter from the 20th, with gales and frosts later in the month.


Red Admiral (Last Butterfly of the Year?), Royston, 18 November

I went on a long walk round the villages on the 16th, which produced a flock of at least 50 fieldfares near Reed End, some scattered redwings and a little grebe at Mardleybury Lake, which has now been named (there is a sign there) 'Phillups Lake'. I'll try to call it by this name in future. A marsh tit was heard on the Wisbridge Estate (Reed) and at least nine corn buntings were seen at Hatchpen. A flock of 61 golden plovers was wheeling around over the Therfield end of the Icknield Way. On my way back I came across a couple who were looking at a large, mixed flock of linnets and chaffinches at Greys Farm. They told me that they had seen a couple of bramblings nearby. I couldn't find any at the time, but returned on following days and was surprised to see at least 15 bramblings on a visit on the 19th, as well as smaller numbers of this species on other occasions. Linnet flocks of up to 200 were regularly seen, as were chaffinch flocks of 50 or more. This has been a good autumn for the arrival of bramblings from Europe and I have never seen such a large number locally. Given the paucity of chaffinches seen during the summer in the Royston area, I imagine that most or all of those seen in the Greys Farm area were also continental visitors.


'Record Shot' of a Brambling, Therfield, 22 November


Linnet, Therfield, 22 November

Following a report of hawfinches at Scales Park (Anstey) I paid a visit on the 23rd. I wasn't able to locate any hawfinches in this very large area of woodland, although I did see a small flock of siskins and recorded at least three marsh tits. I could still find no sign of interesting raptors (merlin, hen harrier, short-eared owl) in my local area to the end of the month, although all three species were occasionally being seen in the area between Wallington and Baldock. However, my local tawny owl continued to hoot to the month's end.


Brown Hare Fleeing a Shoot, Greys Farm, 29 November





 

 

UK Wildlife Sightings November 2021

 On the 2nd I once again visited North Norfolk, firstly heading for West Runton where I saw my first UK short-toed lark, and then driving up to Wells, from where I walked along the beach to see a group of four shorelarks that had made their winter home in a cordoned off area of the beach, just to the east of Holkham Gap. Walking along North Norfolk beaches, particularly on a rare sunny day, is definitely one of my favourite activities. The larks proved to be difficult to photograph, but several wading birds in Wells harbour gave great views, including the curlew shown below.


Curlew, Wells Harbour, 2 November


'Record Shot' of Short-toed Lark, West Runton, 2 November

On the 5th I ventured to the other end of Hertfordshire, lured by reports of a great (white) egret giving very close views from the hide at Wilstone Reservoir. I joined a number of photographers with huge lenses in the hide, to watch the egret fishing for perch in what was obviously a very productive area, a few feet from the hide. Unfortunately for the egret it had a rival in the form of a grey heron, which kept harassing it and chasing it away. I've seen great egrets all over the world, but never been as close to one as I was here. My photographs didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but I've attached a couple below anyway. Also seen at Wilstone were a second great egret, a kingfisher and a flyover siskin.


Great Egret in Flight, Wilstone Reservoir, 5 November


Great Egret with Perch catch, Wilstone Reservoir, 5 November

The following week saw my third attempt of the autumn (on the 10th) to see an American wigeon, this time at a lake called 'The Pillinge', at Marston Moretaine (Bedfordshire) and is a classic example of how not to go about trying to find a rare bird. I set off rather later than planned on a dull afternoon, but still arrived in good time to see the bird before it got dark. However, I didn't bother calling in at the nearby Visitor Centre but went straight out looking for the bird, only to discover that it was in an enclosed reserve, only accessible from the Visitor Centre. By the time I got to the lake dusk was approaching, and I went round anti-clockwise only to find that the flock of wigeon with which it was (presumably) associating were viewable from the very last hide - if I had gone round clockwise (or asked which hide to go to) I would have saved more time. As it was, it was too dark to make out my target bird (if, indeed it was viewable from the hide) in the gathering gloom. My misery was completed when I tried a different route and got stuck in a traffic jam on the way back, taking twice as long to get home as I did to get there!

Fortunately, luck was on my side the following day when I visited Abberton Reservoir to look for Slavonian grebes. Not only did I see the (four) grebes but an un-ringed white stork had just flown in and was showing well from the next hide along. This was presumably the bird that had been regularly seen nearby at Stanway and which I had intended to look for later in the day. Also seen at Abberton were a long-tailed duck and a female scaup, which I was able to photograph near to a female tufted duck with white markings near the base of the bill (which these birds often have, leading to confusion with female scaup). My image (below) clearly shows the differences in body size, shape and markings between these two species.


Female Scaup (on the left) with Female Tufted Duck, Abberton Reservoir, 11 November


White Stork, Abberton Reservoir, 11 November

 I made two further trips to Norfolk in November. On the 17th I visited Lynford Arboretum, where increasing numbers of hawfinches were being seen in 'The Paddocks'. I set off early, but still arrived too late (08.20) to see the dawn gathering, which had numbered 22 and was later to rise to 35. Nevertheless, I hung around all morning and was rewarded with sightings of up to seven individuals. I also set up a rather crude and improvised feeding station on one of the parapets of a bridge where I have often spent time photographing the smaller birds of the area, which have become quite tame. This is, in my limited experience, the best place to see and photograph marsh tits in the UK. Sure enough, there were plenty of takers for my offerings, although the birds in my better photographs annoyingly all had seeds in their bills, making it obvious that these were 'set up' shots. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself.


Marsh Tit, Lynford Arboretum, 17 November

It was a bright, sunny day, so I went on to RSPB Titchwell for the afternoon to photograph waders, both on the freshmarsh and on the gorgeous beach. I waited to watch the harriers coming in to roost, getting the briefest of glimpses of a 'ringtail' hen harrier as it roosted to the west of the main path (the marsh harriers roost on the other side of the path).


Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot on the beach, RSPB Titchwell, 17 November


Three Brent Geese in Flight, RSPB Titchwell, 17 November

I was back on the Norfolk coast on the 25th. This autumn has seen a 'wreck' of hundreds, possibly thousands, of seabirds, mainly auks, along the east coasts of England and Scotland, with many birds dying - often of starvation - although the exact cause of  these deaths has yet to be established. Divers also appear to have been affected, with a number of unhealthy specimens seen in sheltered bays and harbours. I was initially drawn to Wells harbour, where there had been a report of a black-throated diver the day before. I didn't see this bird, although I did see a very tame, probably sick, moulting red-throated diver in the harbour, which allowed a close approach (image below). Although I'm confident of my assignment, it did have a small black patch (viewable on the image) on its throat as well as unusually dark plumage for this species (a black-throated diver was again reported as being in the harbour, a couple of hours after I had left). A rather moribund-looking guillemot was nearby. I walked along the coast as far as Holkham Gap, managing to get some rather better pictures of the shorelarks there than I had on my previous visit. Strong northerly winds on the 25th and the following days brought more interesting birds to Wells Harbour, including a Brunnich's guillemot (a 'first' for Norfolk, although the bird later died) the following day and two little auks on the 27th.


Red-throated Diver, Wells Harbour, 25 November


Shorelark, Holkham Gap, 25 November

I moved on to Titchwell again in the afternoon, where I had good views of two 'ringtail' hen harriers coming in to roost.


Redshank, RSPB Titchwell, 25 November












Monday, 18 October 2021

Local Wildlife Sightings October 2021

 My final Adonis blue sighting of the summer was of a very tatty male on Church Hill, on the first. Coming back from a week away I wasn't expecting to spend much more time photographing invertebrates, but unusually warm weather with occasional sunshine brought out quite a few insects including what, for me, was a new local species - a dock bug. I discovered that, by looking carefully at the yellowing leaves of (particularly) maples and sycamores, large numbers of green shield bugs, harlequin ladybirds and hoverflies (mainly eristalis species) were revealed, whilst ivy bees were still very active around the many late-flowering ivy bushes.


Dock Bug, Church Hill, 10 October


Harlequin Ladybirds, Royston, 15 October

I went on a bird watching walk around the local villages on the 11th. A tawny owl called from one of the trees along the Icknield Way between Therfield Heath and Therfield, but it remained well-hidden when I looked for it. Further up the Icknield Way a flock of about 90 golden plovers swirled around over my head. Perhaps these were some returning birds that wintered here in 2020-21, with a few lingering until well into April. A mixed flock of gulls at Hatchpen Farm (Reed) caused me the usual identification problems. Three or four 'herring-type' gulls of various ages defied identification at distance - one bird standing erect had the posture of a Caspian gull, but the same gull in flight didn't show the pattern of white on the black primary feathers that I would have expected (images below). The bird was moulting flight feathers, making identification even more tricky, and so remains (as usual) unidentified.


Herring-type Gull, Reed, 11 October


The same Herring-type Gull in Flight, Reed, 11 October

Despite continuing warm weather in the second half of October, insect activity declined to the point where I finally decided to put away my macro lens for the winter. A few bugs were still to be seen on yellowing leaves, some large hoverflies (mainly Eristalis tenax) were still active, as were common wasps and the odd bumble bee. The insects were only active in sunny weather, however, and there wasn't a great deal of that around.


Dock (??) Bug Nymph, Therfield Heath, 20 October


Green Shield Bug Nymph, Therfield Heath, 20 October

There continued to be much tawny owl hooting on warm nights up to the 20th. I suspect that a young male was trying to establish a territory, much to the displeasure of the resident males. Normally there is an obvious passage of redwings overhead in late October, but I failed to record any in the month, although they were recorded by others. Flocks of around 250 starlings, seen at Reed on the 22nd and at Thrift Farm (Therfield) on the 27th, may have included birds recently arrived from Europe. However, a lone siskin, seen flying across The Heath, was my only obvious record of a passage bird. There was a remarkable record (T Wilson) of nine (!) great white egrets flying over Royston on the 24th. Hopefully local bird activity will pick up in November, when I will have more time to get out and about.






Thursday, 14 October 2021

UK Wildlife Sightings October 2021

 I was on holiday with my partner Helen in Cornwall from the 2nd to the 9th. Of course, I took the opportunity to look for choughs. None were seen when we did a 'there and back' walk from Lizard Point to Kynance Cove, but we did have four sightings of pairs of chough on a section of a long walk that took us past Pendeen Watch to Botallack, through an old tin mining area. This now seems to be the 'go to' area for seeing choughs in Cornwall. I was lucky to be doing the walk on a day when the strong wind was coming from the north west - ideal conditions for sea watching on the north Cornish coast. Hundreds of gannets were streaming by, as were thousands of auks (guillemots and razorbills). On a day when 63 Balearic shearwaters were reported in six hours from Pendeen Watch, I was allowed about 25 minutes to look out to sea and was lucky to see not a Balearic, but a sooty shearwater close in.


Choughs near Pendeen, 5 October

On the final day we went to the Scilly Isles on 'The Scillonian'. I was hoping to add to my year list wjth some choice sea birds on the crossings, but only managed a single kittiwake, a great skua and a couple of Manx shearwaters. Balearic shearwaters and Sabines gulls were reported from the crossings online, but those of us at the rear of the vessel (including far more experienced bird watchers than me) saw neither of these species. We had an enjoyable four hours walking on St Marys island, but failed to see any rarities here, despite it being the 'Scilly season'. What I did see were lots of speckled wood butterflies and a hummingbird hawk-moth. On the mainland I was lucky to see a digger wasp (possibly field digger wasp) predating and carrying away a fly, whilst we were walking round Trengwainton Gardens.


(Field?) Digger Wasp with Prey, Trengwainton Gardens, Cornwall, 6 October


Rock Pipit, Newlyn, Cornwall, 6 October

The discovery of another 'mega' rarity, a long-toed stint, prompted me to make the long journey to St Aidans RSPB reserve, near Leeds, on the 13th. This tiny 'peep' showed well, albeit distantly, for most of my 90 minute stay, occasionally flying off alongside a small group of dunlin with which it was associating, alongside a much larger group of lapwings, when apparent danger appeared. However, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, meaning that for most of the time the bird had its back to me as we all faced into the wind. The image below is the best that I could manage, a 'record shot' with the stint shown in profile. Alongside white-tailed lapwing and western sandpiper, this was the third wader 'lifer' for me this year. On the way back south I stopped off at RSPB Old Moor reserve, where a juvenile male peregrine flew around in front of the Bittern Hide for a couple of minutes, being pursued by corvids and gulls.


'Record Shot' of the Adult Long-toed Stint (left hand small Wader) alongside Dunlin and Lapwings, RSPB St. Aidans, 13 October

Despite the noticeable lack of rare passage migrants (particularly passerines) coming down the east coast in October (the prevailing wind was coming from the west throughout the month) I did visit the Norfolk coast on three occasions during the second half of the month. On the 19th I spent an afternoon at RSPB Titchwell, seeing my main target (a juvenile grey phalarope) and also flushing a woodcock from the dunes, although I missed the snow bunting that had been seen towards Thornham Point. A very rare 'free' weekend (partner at a wedding) saw me visiting Sheringham on the 23rd. The sea watching shelter was closed off and, despite the warm (but windy) weather I only stuck it out sea watching for around 45 minutes, seeing just a long stream of gannets, guillemots and razorbills, a few common scoters and a red-throated diver. A tame purple sandpiper on the promenade allowed me to take a few photos, before I drove to Wells and went on a long walk round the harbour and along the beach to Holkham Gap. I returned inland by the pines. As expected, passerine activity was very limited. Two red-throated divers were fishing in Wells Harbour. Several guillemots and razorbills were seen in the harbour and close to the shore, as well as at Sheringham. These were likely sick birds - worryingly, thousands of dead and emaciated auks have been found along North Sea coasts this year. The reason(s) for this seabird crisis are, as yet, unclear.


Juvenile Grey Phalarope, RSPB Titchwell, 19 October


Purple Sandpiper Standing to Attention, Sheringham, 23 October


Red-throated Diver A, Wells Harbour, 23 October


Red-throated Diver B, Wells Harbour, 23 October

I failed for the second time to find the American Wigeon when I visited Barleycroft Lake (Bluntisham) on the 21st. It was later reported nearby on the same day at one of the Needingworth Quarry Lakes, but was not subsequently seen in the area. Three red-crested pochards (my first sighting of the year!) provided some consolation. I took time out from a visit to London on the 26th to walk round Regents Park. London's parks provide good opportunities for photographing common birds, which are used to seeing people and are relatively fearless. On this occasion I managed to get a few decent photos of both little and great crested grebes, using the reflections of nearby trees in the water to get some (for me) interesting effects.


Little Grebe, Regents Park, London 26 October

My final visit of the month to the Norfolk coast saw me visiting Cley NWT on the 28th. Frustratingly, the snow buntings that had been present for several days near the East Bank had disappeared. I still needed this species for my year list, having missed out due to lockdown earlier in the year. However, after three hours of fruitless searching I was lucky to meet a couple who had earlier been to Titchwell and informed me that up to four snow buntings were showing well in beach dunes near the main path to the sea. I decided to go to Titchwell and, after a tortuous drive in bank holiday traffic, managed to get down to the beach in time to catch up with the buntings and observe one bird lose its footing and slide down the side of one of the dunes - an amusing and unusual sight, which reminded me of some of my own, painful experiences on steep slopes.


Snow Bunting, RSPB Titchwell, 28 October












Thursday, 2 September 2021

Local Wildlife Sightings September 2021

 My first September bird record was of two tawny owls having a territorial hooting battle, shortly after midnight on the first. Another willow beauty moth turned up in the kitchen. The long period of gloomy weather continued, although Royston did see a few shafts of sunlight on the 2nd, when five house martins were the first seen from my garden this year.


Willow Beauty Moth, my Kitchen, 1 September

Finally, from the 4th, the weather gods relented and, suddenly, we were plunged into a short 'Indian Summer', with temperatures locally reaching 29C. I took the opportunity to spend a lot of time on The Heath, photographing invertebrates including spiders, grasshoppers and hoverflies. One interesting find was the pretty micro-moth pyrausta purpuralis, an insect that I've encountered at other unimproved chalk grassland sites but never locally, as far as I can remember. The warm weather roused ivy bees from their summer slumbers and, by the middle of the month, thousands of these friendly little invaders were on the wing, with a huge colony on The Heath and smaller colonies elsewhere in Royston.


Ivy Bee on Ivy Leaf, Royston, 6 September


Micro-moth Pyrausta Purpuralis, Church Hill, 8 September

Common lizards must have had a good year locally, because I saw several baby lizards on and close to The Heath. I saw more common darters in the area too, but why were they always females when they are well away from water? Common darters are strongly migratory, with occasional influxes from Continental Europe, but I would have expected to see a few males as well. I've consulted text books, but to no avail....


Female Common Darter, Church Hill, 8 September


Baby Common Lizard, Royston, 6 September

I have suffered from a knee problem this summer, which has limited my walking. However, I was well enough on the 7th to do the 8-mile walk round my 'local patch', taking in both Reed village and Therfield. I had a brief view of the front half of an acrocephalus warbler before it disappeared into a bush, close to my home. Presumably this was a reed warbler, which would make it my third local sighting of this species in 2021. Nearby, a spotted flycatcher (probably a bird on passage) was catching insects from the branches of a dead tree. I was pleased to see at least eight yellow wagtails, including juveniles, at Hatchpen Farm - unlike the spotted flycatcher, these were likely to have bred locally this summer. There was a single little grebe at Mardleybury Lake, where I found hordes of male and female common darters engaged in egg-laying activities, as well as the third male banded demoiselle that I have seen locally this year. I took loads of photos of the egg-laying dragonflies in tandem flight. On examining them later at home (the images were pretty awful) I discovered that I had captured an image showing a small red-eyed damselfly resting on some aquatic surface vegetation (image below) - my first local sighting of this species and the 15th dragonfly species that I have seen, in North Hertfordshire, on my walks from home.


Small Red-eyed Damselfly (lower right) with egg-laying Common Darters, Mardleybury Lake, 7 September


Juvenile Yellow Wagtail, Hatchpen Farm, 7 September

Reports (Barry Reed) of a marsh harrier and a common redstart nearby encouraged me to walk up the Icknield Way on the 10th. Sure enough, a marsh harrier (female or juvenile) flew rapidly across the track, heading east towards the A10. I didn't catch up with the redstart, however. Butterfly activity tailed off from the middle of the month, although 30-40 Adonis blues were still on the wing on Church Hill on the 16th. Searching for female wasp spiders to photograph I came across what I at first thought was an unusual colour variant, only to discover that I was photographing its underside! I guess that it's a mistake that is only made once.....


Female Wasp Spider, seen from Underneath, Church Hill, 8 September

Warm, generally sunny weather continued through the month until the 27th, when a cold front coming off the Atlantic heralded the start of autumn proper. The one exception to this settled period came on the 14th, when 46mm (nearly two inches) of rain fell in my garden in eight hours. Bird activity was very limited, with most summer visitors having left by the middle of the month and winter visitors yet to arrive, whilst a lot of our resident birds were moulting. However, a few herring-type gulls were following the plough in Therfield, alongside a single common gull and 50+ lesser black-backed gulls when I did a 'there and back' walk to Reed End on the 21st. I took a few 'record shots' of these gulls and one adult or near-adult displayed primary wing tip markings consistent with those seen on a yellow-legged gull (image below). A pair of ravens was seen nearby.


Adult or Near-adult Yellow-legged Gull (?), Therfield, 21 September

With butterfly numbers declining rapidly in the second half of the month I turned my (photographic) attention to studying crickets and grasshoppers, whose numbers peak at this time of year. In the past I have wilfully neglected these invertebrates, partly because they don't sit up nicely on flower heads but mainly due to lack of time. With a September holiday postponed for a second year, time was on my side now and a visit to the tiny, local wild flower meadow a few hundred yards from my house proved surprisingly productive as I found several Roesel's bush-crickets, two grasshopper species and a single long-winged conehead. A female wasp spider was another surprise find. I have previously found another bush cricket species (dark bush-cricket) on the far side of the adjacent arable field (which, sadly, is ear-marked for development) and a speckled bush-cricket turned up in my front garden recently, so clearly this area is not just a haven for butterflies but also for many other invertebrate species! I thought that I had found a third grasshopper species (mottled grasshopper) on Therfield Heath, alongside the abundant field- and meadow grasshoppers. My images seemed to have similarities with the images shown in 'Brock'. However, when I showed these images to the Herts. recorder, Ian Carle, he confirmed that the images were of field grasshoppers, which must have very variable colours and markings! Apparently only two sites in Hertfordshire contain mottled grasshoppers. Ian gave me helpful advice on what other species to look out for in my local area and recommended a book to purchase, so that I can sort out any future ID issues myself.


Long-winged Conehead, Royston, 23 September


Field Grasshopper (initially identified as a Mottled Grasshopper), Therfield Heath, 21 September


Roesel's Bush-cricket, Royston, 23 September

A few Adonis blues were still on the wing when I visited Church Hill on the 21st and I found a rather attractive female variant (image) amongst some other, faded and battered individuals. A few meadow browns and a lot of whites were on the wing whilst speckled woods, having apparently had a very poor first generation in the spring and early summer, were common and widespread in woodland and along hedgerows in the final days of the month.


Adonis Blue (Female Variant), Church Hill, 21 September









 



UK Wildlife Sightings September 2021

 I visited Sheringham to do some sea-watching on the 2nd. In 90 minutes I counted seven Arctic skuas, two great skuas, a Manx shearwater and a little gull. I had just missed a sooty shearwater and, if I had arrived an hour earlier, I could have seen a Balearic shearwater as well. A purple sandpiper had been reported on the rocks here earlier in the week, but it was nowhere to be seen. Following a busy schedule I had the 15th earmarked for a visit to RSPB Bempton Cliffs to look for the black-browed albatross and for a nearby potential 'lifer', a green warbler, at nearby Buckton. However, with no reports of either by 8.00am I decided not to risk the trip (just as well, as the green warbler was not seen again) and instead headed for RSPB Frampton Marsh, where I saw the long-staying black stork (a UK first for me). With time on my hands I drove round The Wash to end up at RSPB Titchwell Marsh where, after much searching, I found a less than confiding pectoral sandpiper on the freshmarsh, as well as at least three little stints. There has been a big influx of both these wader species on passage in England this autumn (by 'big' I mean 100s of little stints and 20+ pectoral sandpipers). Another notable sighting was of 29 spoonbills at Frampton.


'Record Shot' of the Black Stork, RSPB Frampton Marsh, 15 September


Little Stint, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, 15 September


Pectoral Sandpiper, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, 15 September

Normally, my  RSPB Local Group runs coach trips to bird reserves nearly every month between September and June. However, Covid-19 has changed all this, so the 19 September trip saw a small group of us heading for RSPB Lakenheath Fen in our cars. We were lucky with the weather (it stayed dry, but I had to drive home through torrential rain) and, although the reserve was generally quiet (most of the summer visitors had left and the winter visitors were yet to arrive), we did see and hear lots of bearded tits as well as a couple of hobbies hunting the numerous dragonflies, at least one great white egret and a marsh tit. A kingfisher posed for us just outside the fen hide (image) and water rails, chiffchaffs and Cettis warblers were very vocal. 

 

Kingfisher, RSPB Lakenheath Fen, 19 September


Migrant Hawker Dragonfly in Flight, RSPB Lakenheath Fen, 19 September

I couldn't resist going back to Titchwell on the afternoon of the 24th, after reports of a juvenile rosy (formerly rose-coloured) starling roosting with common starlings on the freshmarsh. The journey took an hour longer than usual (memo to myself: never drive anywhere on a Friday afternoon unless you absolutely have to), so I didn't have time to even go down to the beach. However, the starling did appear at around 6.40pm and was kind enough to sit in front of the massed horde of several hundred starlings for long enough for me to take a few 'record shots' in the twilight. I felt a little sorry for the bird, which was being harassed by the other starlings who clearly didn't want it amongst their ranks. The pectoral sandpiper was still present (although I didn't see it) and a little stint was probing around in front of us, whilst several skeins of early-arriving pink-footed geese passed overhead, perhaps heading to Holkham to roost.


Pink-footed Geese in Flight, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, 24 September


'Record Shot' of a Juvenile Rosy Starling (Pale Bird) with starlings, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, 24 September

My final sortie in September, to see a drake American wigeon in 'eclipse' plumage near Bluntisham, north of Cambridge on the 29th, ended in failure as I couldn't find the bird in amongst hundreds of European wigeon after an hour of searching. However, it could have been sleeping on one of the islands with its head tucked in (as many wigeon were), in which case I would have had no chance of finding it. I will return!