Monday, 26 October 2015

Redwings arrive

Over the last week or so the winter Thrushes have started to arrive locally. Migrant Blackbirds and Redwings have been the most abundant. Over at the Brickworks, I came across a flock of at least 50 Redwing last week. A good few remain on site, and the smaller woodland birds are forming mixed species flocks to give themselves the best chances of survival as winter approaches. For a full species count from this morning, head on over to the Brickworks blog, HERE.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Colour-ringed Little Egrets

The River Bulbourne, running through Bulbourne Meadow, is currently a favoured spot for 3 colour-ringed Little Egrets. Two were first spotted at the beginning of September, hatched this spring in St Albans, Verulamium Park. A third bird turned up yesterday, ringed as a juvenile at Lemsford Springs in September 2014. The ring details are as follows:
LAON(9); RAYN(H). BTO ring GR24085, first spotted 03/09/2015
LAON(H); RAYN(F). BTO ring GR24083, first spotted 04/09/2015
LAON(H); RAYN(C). BTO ring GR24066, first spotted 20/10/2015
Colour-ringed birds on Bulbourne Meadow, 4 Sept 2015

Third colour-ringed bird, River Bulbourne, 20 Oct 2015

If you'd like to know more about the history of Little Egrets in Europe and the ringing scheme, I put together a couple of far more rambling posts on my personal blog, HERE and HERE.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The clash of Kings on the River Bulbourne & an Osprey!

It’s that time of year when monogamous Kingfisher pairs part company and set up alone to see out the winter. The young too disperse, finding their own stretches of water to patrol and to sustain them through the colder months.

Just after 3pm yesterday, beside the river on Harding’s Moor, approaching Station Road, I could hear two Kingfishers having a right old barney. Insistent calling from both parties and, when I finally located the female, perched precariously on grasses overhanging the river, she was posturing continually, bowing her head and staring with murderous intent.

Disturbed by a man looking for fish(?!), the birds flew up in to the tree on the opposite bank and here they remained for at least the next 2 hours, barely moving except to posture, flinch and mirror one another. Apart from the rise and fall of their chests as they breathed, you could be mistaken for believing they were playing statues - to move was to lose the battle.

The female had clearly staked out her spot but the male seemed to slowly but surely decrease the distance between them. Unfortunately, it started to rain quite heavily towards 5pm and I had to call it a day, leaving the pair locked in this subtle but fierce battle. I wonder if this location on the river is a boundary between adjacent territories and they were asserting their lots? The male, I think, is a first winter bird and the female an adult. Perhaps mother is trying to encourage son to stop raiding the food cupboard and go out and find his own supplies! I had watched the female fishing downstream last week, again in the gloom and drizzle.

Female Kingfisher, River Bulbourne, 6 Oct 2015. A selection of video stills from handheld video footage, in the rain!

One of these days, I’ll come across the Kingfishers when there’s enough light for nice photographs at a reasonable ISO. In the meantime, here are some 90 seconds from the 2 hour stand-off, to give you a flavour of the determined patience of these birds when holding their ground. The tension of battle is palpable but made all the more obvious when the young male jumps at the sound of the female’s sudden call. Their focus was such that they completely ignored me, standing less than 10 metres away, as conspicuous as a pink elephant.

In other news - An OSPREY!

I received an exciting report from Trustee, Peter Ablett, yesterday. He’d been a passenger in a car crossing the Bulbourne on Station Road at about 12:20 and “fleetingly saw an Osprey sitting on the stump of the fallen willow by the river bridge” (very near where I subsequently watched the Kingfishers). He returned on foot a little while later but the bird had gone by then, unfortunately. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic record and another “first” for the Trust.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Trail Cams, Moths & Autumn Flowers

Apologies for the lack of updates recently. With a bit of luck and a following wind, normal service should resume.

In the last week, Liz has posted the latest clips from the Gadespring trail cameras. And, Ben Sale and the Trust mothing team carried out their final trapping of the season at Gadespring. For more details just click on the links.

Meanwhile, over the past month or so, the autumn bloomers have really got going. A warm, sunny first week of October has certainly helped. Singling out just a couple of them, we have the tiny but ever so lovely Autumn Gentian at Roughdown Common, and, over at the Brickworks, there’s a beautiful spread of Common Toadflax in the area east of Baker’s Wood. The latter will flower right through November and perhaps even into the beginning of December.

For Gentian blooms, click HERE
For Toadflax blooms, click HERE