Thursday, 28 April 2011

Not that I'm counting...

. ..but our warden Andy Schofield has seen a singing Tree Pipit for the last two days and had a Marsh Harrier over today. If only we could have nailed the Arctic Terns and Common Sands today, it would have been a reasonable day.

Common Sandpiper

John Marchant went some way towards easing the pain of The Lodgers' Dot-wits by finding a Common Sandpiper this lunchtime (viewed at 52 metres range). No doubt this one will be gripped back - using the well-known Spotted Sand-eliminating 'Its the brown dot 3 grey blobs left of the white speck' technique - but at this stage of the season I'd rather have the points (as I'm sure a famous football manager recently said): 122.


Dang the Bedfordshire grapevine works well...!

Text from non-staff birder to staff county recorder (on a day off though), to me in the office. Nipped over the fence to view Derek's and saw the three summer plumage Bar-tailed Godwits. The flew off at 9.45 and towards where I was viewing from but I lost them behind tree but a nice one to get.


Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Barn Owl

Well, we really thought that we'd struggle with this one if we didn't pick it up whilst the males were out day-hunting and provisioning females, so you can imaging my delight when this appeared in my inbox from RSPB photographer Andy Hay this morning:

The Lodge, 21st April.
A Barn Owl crossed over the B1040 from the reserve at dusk (flight line from between the gate house & the fuel dump across to the former hemp field).

Lesser Whitethroat

Ian Henderson came up trumps with a singing Lesser Whitethroat on Sunday morning, 121. That's the last of the 'predicted' warblers (although Lesser Whitethroat is never easy as they don't seem to 'stick' at the Nunnery Lakes). Frustratingly it had moved on / shut up by the time I was on the reserve in the afternoon and there was no sign of it on Monday. Compensation came in the form of a Red Kite (at last - my first from the Lakes rather than the Nunnery itself this year), as well as a decidedly plastic Pink-footed Goose with the Greylags.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


...though not in terms of posting: 6 staff members were on the reserve on Bank Holiday Friday (!), three of whom saw a single Swift heading north, number 120. On a personal note, a male Yellow Wagtail was very welcome, having missed three previous individuals despite being on the reserve when they flew over.

Friday, 22 April 2011

More moth magic

Some fine moths yesterday morning, including the first hawkmoth of the year, a pristine Lime Hawkmoth (my first ever, as I started mothing too late in the year to see this species in 2010; also made it on to Martin Hughes-Games' TEAL Cup list!):

...a Great (well, big - but truly great?) Prominent...

...and a smart Lesser Swallow Prominent

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Whinchat pics

OK so it wasn't there today but my card reader was playing up so I've only just managed to download my digiscoped record shots this eve (it was definitely better in real life!):

Moths on the up

25 degrees centigrade in the Brecks over the past couple of days and the increased diversity of moths is certainly reflecting the warm weather.

This morning's haul included Iron Prominent...
...Herald (a personal favourite)...
...and Lunar Marbled Brown

The Ears have it

With all but a couple of the expected birds now mopped up, Richard "The Ears" Thewlis came up trumps with a Tree Pipit (which despite being widepsread in nearby Thetford Forest are rare round here) flying over the Nunnery this afternoon. 119.

Chance find....

We just couldn't resist telling everyone about this beetle....

Greater Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle (Pogonocherus hispidulus)

Thanks, Derek!

As predicted, the Swarovski big guns came out after work and easily picked out the two summer plumaged Spotted Redshanks and slightly more dowdy Ruffs at Derek White's Eggs pit. Common Tern was also a late entrant to the list with around ten zooming around over the pits. 118 and currently back level with the Nuns! I wonder what's next?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Playing it cool on a hot spring day

Just the one to add (so far) today - with Hobby seen over the new heath by Andy S late morning. Also added Woodlark back in as it appears to have been deleted accidentally - now 115.

Letting it cool down a little before we bring out the big guns again and scope Derek's after work...

Haircuts and home dinners

Whilst White Nuns stalwarts Richard 'The Ears' Thewlis and Neil 'Red Star' Calbrade were otherwise engaged this lunchtime (see title), I took the opportunity to have the Lakes to myself. I was hoping to ease the pain of the predictable wader-gripping soon to be forthcoming from The Long-range Lodgers (Ruff and Spotshank on Derek White's Eggs Pits today; no prizes for guessing what's next on their list!) with Red Star's Garden Warbler (which duly obliged). A 2cy male Wheatear and a pair of Shelduck were both 'nice'; neither are predictable on the reserve but somehow they didn't quite do it for me, both being safely OTL already. Then the real jewel in the crown appeared: a cracking male Whinchat! 118

Another borin morning

Spring certainly has arrived with many more warblers even than yesterday around the Nunnery Lakes including the first Garden Warbler of the year. 117


Have just keyed out a hoverfly netted on the Nunnery Lakes reserve as a female Melanostoma scalare which brings us a nice landmark total of 500 species (or aggregate taxa) so far this year. As well as the fun of the competitive element of the TEAL challenge, it's also good that it gives us the impetus to have a good look at just what we've got on our respective reserves. I'm sure there will be a number of exciting discoveries as the summer progresses.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Double Whammy

Having got out a bit late this morning I rushed down the lakes, keen to get down to the bottom end only to get a text from Nick informing me I had walked past a reeling Grasshopper Warbler (a Lakes tart's tick for Nick as it happens!), that thankfully was still there when I walked back past a while later. Although regular, Gropper was by no means a certainty, unlike the Cuckoo calling from the neighbouring Barnham Cross Common taking us to 116.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Get in!

Just had a text from Andy S to confirm that it was a Garden Warbler that I heard in sub-song this morning and that he has also seen the Firecrest bathing in the pond at the Gatehouse this evening. A description species - but I shall go and write it up for Messrs Bashford & Blain right now. I love notebooks.


The Lodge Bird News

This goes out each Friday to RSPB staff, so I thought the White Nones (sic) would like to know what we are getting up to:

-----Original Message-----
From: Oakley-Martin, Darren
Sent: Fri 4/15/2011 11:31
To: _Bird News

An early Bird News this week as I am on leave this afternoon. Please find something good in my absence (although not too good).

Andy Schofield's Swift on 07 April was not only the earliest in the county this year, it is the earliest since records began in 1946. (per Bedfordshire Bird Report)

The Lodge

BTO v RSPB BirdTrack Challenge 2011
Both teams ticked Firecrest this week, although Team BTO adding it first was something of a surprise. With the wind turning north-westerly, the migrants slowed somewhat. The current score is BTO 114 – RSPB 112 but we have some relatively easy birds to grip back. I bet they won’t score Black-tailed Godwit as we did – some would call our tactics sneaky, I prefer to consider them innovative.

Bird records to Darren Oakley-Martin, non-avian taxa to Mark Gurney.

Friday 15 April

    • The first House Martins of the year at The Lodge, with two north over the quarry at 10:40. (Darren Oakley-Martin)
Thursday 14 April
    • Firecrest again by entrance to main house at 6pm. (Johannes Kamp)
    • Moorhen skulking about by the pond in front of the restaurant. (Charlie Butt)
    • At last – Firecrest gripped back from the clutches of the BTO (or Gannet-deniers, as described by a friend and colleague). Male singing briefly in the Cedrus atlantica between the gatehouse and toilet block at 13:05, before flying towards Woodcock Covert. This bird is highly mobile and has proved extremely elusive to Lodge birders, although considerably easier to visitors it seems. (Darren Oakley-Martin)
Wednesday 13 April
    • There is currently a fully fledged Robin in juvenile plumage feeding on oats at the feeder in front of the canteen (the one at the Moorhen pond). (Johannes Kamp)
Tuesday 12 April
    • Firecrest singing by The Lodge entrance [this evening] (per Steve Rooke)
    • Having found a Black-tailed Godwit at Derek White’s Eggs Pits earlier this lunchtime, we just about managed tickable ‘scope views from the plateau. A new bird for/ from The Lodge, and the 111th for the year. (Steve Blain/ Darren Oakley-Martin)
    • Tuesday Walk Group, (09.30-11.30h). Lovely bright sunny day with cool wind. Took to the Sandy Ridge Trail, first sighting was of the Mistle Thrush beautiful colours in the sun, a group 10 of the Loghtan Manx sheep passed in front of us, a new sight for some of our visitors in the group. Great Spotted Woodpecker sighted in the trees to the right of the trail. Turning left at the gate, on the curve of the trail, by the heath we stopped to the sound of the chiffchaff and then spotted it high in the branches.  Continuing up on the path towards the steps to the Gardens a Treecreeper and Nuthatch but sadly nothing exciting was seen in the garden area except the blue tits and chaffinch so headed towards the hide. Again very quiet. Pair of Jays flew across , a nuthatch and Gt & Blue tits visited the feeders. (Jan Murphy)
    • Chiffchaff singing and feeding in birches near Jack’s Pond and Treecreeper singing and feeding, also on birches near Jack’s Pond. (Dave Mansfield)
Monday 11 April
    • Male large red damselfly at Jack's Pond [second earliest county record - Ed), plus orange tip and speckled woods in two places.  A surprise flock of 14 bramblings at Galley Hill Fort, plus a single siskin and a flyover crossbill near the overflow car park by the Data Unit. (Mark Ward)
    • Pair of Shelduck on the new heath at 06:30. Silver-Y in porch of Osprey building was apparently the earliest ever county record. (Darren Oakley-Martin)
Sunday 10 April
    • Male Wheatear on the new heath, but no sign of the Ring Ouzel (per Ben Andrew) or singing Firecrest (per Don Otter) seen earlier in the day. (Mark Gurney/ Darren Oakley-Martin)
Friday 8 April
    • Male brambling at lunchtime on the Lodge nature trail, near the pond hide. A welcome surprise! (Gwyn Williams)

Messing about on the river

No new birds down the Nunnery lakes this lunchtime, but I couldn't resist posting another photograph of one of our local, not mention ridiculously confiding, Otters that was messing about on the river.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

114 on the 14th

Our Firecrest here at BTO gave most of us the runaround yesterday too, only being seen by Neil Calbrade and Nick Moran; despite five more of us all being there within minutes.  So it was good to see something new today - we have forged ahead again with a male Yellow Wagtail heading north at 13.25 hrs, over the mound between Lakes D and E (Andy Musgrove, Richard Thewlis).  Unfortunately it didn't stop but carried on north.  It's surprising RSPB haven't had Yellow Wag already, guess it's only a matter of time; we just have to press on and find the next bird!  114.

Firecrest gripped back

The Lodge Firecrest has been seen by at least three visitors to the reserve, but has really given RSPB birders the runaround over the last few days...until today. A male singing briefly in a Cedrus atlantica pine by the Gatehouse just after 1 o'clock today. 111!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


That'll be Common Ground Hopper Tetrix undulata (thanks to Ian Hendserson), not the warbler ;-)

A few inverts

Our librarian, Ian Dawson has been busy recently! Alderfly, Sialis lutarea:

Striped Millipede, Ommatoiulus sabulosus:

Jumping Spider (male), Marpissa muscosa:

Jumping Spider (female), Marpissa muscosa:

Horse Chestnut Leafminer, Cameraria ohridella:

Heather Beetle, Lochmaea sutularis:

Green-veined White:  

 Ground Bug, Peritrechus nubilus:

 Ground Bug, Graptopeltus lynceus:
Cranefly, Tipula vittata:

Birch Shieldbug, Elasmosthesus interstinctus:
Bee-fly, Bombylius major:

Bagworm, Luffia ferchaultella:

Tawny Mining Bee, Andrena fulva:

Lucky 13th

Despite Nick's pessimism on our chances of adding some species that the Lodgers should get, the singing male Firecrest this morning was a welcome addition, sparking a mini twitch from some White Nuns. 113

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

White Bums for White Nuns

9 House Martin were over the Lakes at lunchtime, recorded by pretty much everyone who was out (John Marchant, Neil Calbrade, Andy Musgrove, Richard Thewlis, Chris Thaxter, Viola Ross-Smith, me), and taking the total to 112.

The first Reed Warbler of the year was singing in the reedbed for Chris Gregory earlier on (111). He also has another species recorded as a 'possible' from this morning; I won't say what it is for fear of cursing our chances of nailing it!

Talking (as Darren was) of rules, I'm beginning to wish we'd said 'on or over'; those flippin' ultra-distant waders are going to clinch it for The Lodgers at this rate.

Black-tailed Godwit!

Steve and I visited Derek White's Eggs this lunchtime, to be greeted by one of the above. Returning to the plateau at The Lodge, we eventually managed to nail the bird! Black-tailed Godwit - a new bird for The Lodge!

I'm still a bit miffed about Sunday's Ring Ouzel. I could have sworn volunteers were included, but looking back through correspondence with Nick, I stupidly omitted it!

I just hope a BTO vol finds a good single-observer bird!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Ring Ouzel

Yesterday (Sunday), my black box beeped and the BirdGuides bird map showed a small square over The Lodge, with news of not just a Ring Ouzel, but also a Firecrest at The Lodge. A quick call to Dr Gurney and we were soon on site searching. We couldn't relocate either, although the RZ had been seen by volunteer Ben Andrew, so it counts towards our total. 111!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Cetti's Warbler!

Bash and I spent our lunchtime standing at the point of the reserve where we had previously scored Snipe with a view to listening for Cetti's, Sedge and Reed Warbler. We knew the first was there, we thought the second might be and didn't really hold out much hope of the third.

Ultimately, we didn't see any, but Dr Mark 'Ears' Eaton did. Cetti's Warbler!! 110 for the year, a new bird for the reserve and a tricky grip-back for the White Nuns.

I gave a very Moran-esque ''Get in!'' when I read Mark's email!

Swift and Whitethroat

Phoning  news of the Emperor through to Andy Schofield, he mentioned in passing that he had a Swift over the old heath earlier in the day. This is a remarkably early arrival for Bedfordshire - since 2000 the first have been seen between 16th - 25th April. I did ask if he was sure it wasn't a Pallid...

And then this morning, a singing [Common] Whitethroat was on the new heath as I once again searched in vain for Woodlarks. Remarkably, this was also Bedfordshire's earliest of the millenium.

The Lodge list moves to 109.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Emperor Moth

The county moth recorder has been taking a female Emperor moth out and about (he also has a wife...) and seeing if any males appear. Yesterday he was at the Lodge and had two of three of these. We popped out to see it. I've only ever seen one of these and that was in the beak of a Spotted Flycatcher a few years ago. Fab! Photo by Brian Reid.


The warm weather yesterday brought out lots of new species for the year. On a bramble leaf was this small bee, Halictus rubicundus, which somewhat surprisingly appears to be the first record for the lodge. It's the 14th bee species I've recorded so far this year, just a couple of hundred more to find!

Halictus rubicundus

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Whitethroat on 6 April!

Even easier for The Lodgers to get back than Cuckoo will be for us, but a Whitethroat on 6 April?! Madness!

It sang quietly, out of sight, for me 3 times at lunchtime today; I was going to let this one go (I hadn't definitely ruled out some mega Sylvia!) but an email from Chris Gregory let us know that he'd gone a step further by actually managing to clap eyes on it, in the same area. No Subalp then, but the earliest for Norfolk this year (per BirdGuides) - seems this Challenge is throwing up some interesting migrant dates!



This won't scare the BTO in the slightest, but a Cuckoo today (found by Derek & Sarah Niemann) moves The Lodge score  to 107.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Notice how I celebrate the following without resorting to a foul-mouthed tirade...

Willow Warbler - John Marchant and I had 2 singing on the reserve this lunchtime: 107

Sedge Warbler - Simon Gillings found one on the reserve this lunchtime: 108

Redstart - I got that sinking feeling when I saw Darren's post yesterday but then by some small miracle, I managed to be looking on to Barnhamcross Common from the reserve this lunchtime just at the moment that a smart male Redstart flicked up into an elder bush! And I even had my 'scope with me (though no camera, as is always the way when there's something half-decent!). First for Norfolk this year? Either way, get in! 109

Edit: John Marchant and Richard Thewlis were able to relocate the Redstart after work; Richard even had time to commit it to his notebook in fine style!

Slow News

Squamata-listing is underway (/nearly finished!), with Chris Gregory's metal slow worm sheet coming up trumps already:

At least 5 grass snake were also seen on the same day (2 April).

Late News

An email in my inbox this morning from colleague Donal McCarthy with news of a Swallow at The Lodge last Friday means both teams are now on 106 for the year.

Monday, 4 April 2011


A male found on the Firs Trail at The Lodge by who other than Andy S!

Edit - the Common Redstart was actually found by a visitor, and Gary Thornton took the fantastic image above - SCB

At last...

A pair of Grey Partridge flushed from the 'borage field' this morning was a long overdue and anticipated year tick. With Mark Brandon's Willow Warbler on Saturday, The Lodge list moves on to 104. And in the challenge within a challenge (Moran v Oakley-Martin) my personal Lodge year list goes to 92.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Spring - it's already too difficult!

Spring's fantastic, but it does mean that the top shelf of my fridge starts to fill up with glass pots containing a variety of invertebrates, and the number of "to be identified" photos starts to get out of control. Perhaps I should just work in the winter, and take the summer off?

Anyway, I made a rare weekend visit to the Nunnery Lakes today with my youngest son Duncan, to employ his sharp nine-year-old eyes in the service of the BTO TEAL assault. Good move, as he added at least two species, the first Alder Fly Sialis lutaria of the year and, more excitingly, my first sighting of a Water Scorpion (Nepidae sp.) This latter was an impressive beast in the shallows of the "Bob Clarke" lake (note to self - must find out who Bob Clarke was, one of these days). I've still to find out how many species of Water Scorpions there are, and whether my photos are sufficient to identify to species.

Otherwise, no new birds (although the Little Egret was still around) but we did add Sticky Mouse-ear Cerastium glomeratum, Thale-cress Arabidopsis thaliana, Shepherd's Cress Teesdalia nudicaulis, Silverweed Potentilla anserina, a bright red weevil that might be Apion miniatum (or similar) and the ugly looking beetle Oiceoptoma thoracicum. A crab spider, a large ant and a water snail also require some work!

Great fun anyway, even if it's hard work!


Edit - unless anyone can say otherwise, this appears to be Nepa cinerea, with no confusion species. Result!

Saturday, 2 April 2011


Just as I arrived home and settled down for some quality time with the moth trap, a frankly embarrassing text from Neil appeared, informing me that I'd managed to drive past a Wheatear earlier on. D'oh! In order to accrue some Brownie points with my wife, I bundled my daughter into the buggy and set off on foot back to the Lakes. By the time I got there, Neil had rustled up a female Wheatear to go with this dapper - if somewhat distant - male:

A timely grip-back, exactly the same date as a pair appeared last year, and a species that one or two senior Nuns thought we might struggle for. It was all happening this morning; not long after Neil and I had headed off in different directions we both heard a Green Sandpiper - for me this was double happiness (like the ironically-named Chinese cigarettes): 100 for my own Lakes year list and 106 for the total :-)

By the time I finally got back home to watch Leeds thump Forest 4-1 (that'll be triple happiness, then!), I'd clocked up 65 species, with other main highlights being the Little Egret that has been kicking around since earlier in the week, plus plenty of singing Chiffchaffs and a few Blackcaps. Oh and a Red Chestnut in the afore-mentioned moth trap.

Edit: Turns out Ian Henderson beat us to the male Wheatear... there's a pattern developing here! At least we were first to Green Sand ;)

Happy couples

A quick drive down the Nunnery Lakes track this morning (on my way back from following up a report of a Great Bustard for the third time this week... still not lucky though!) produced a couple of decent sightings. A pair of Shovelers on D Lake were my first of the year on the reserve; not exactly cooperative but I managed the archetypal record shot of the male:

A pair of Grey Partridges, my first on (rather than from) the reserve, were equally uncooperative, though I did manage a couple of 'action shots' through the windscreen, to help The Lodgers work out what this species looks like ;)

Having texted Neil about the Shoveler (he's new to this Lakes listing lark, you see), I thought I'd go home for a nice, relaxing breakfast...