Friday 31 May 2024

Thirty Years Ago - May 1994

8th May:

After a great party I left the girls flat house and walked the ten miles from Wynchmore Hill to Chingford before persuading Roy to take me home and what with the Whiskered Tern still being at Abberton we pottered off there.  The weather was quite changeable but we eventually located this smart adult hawking close in with some Commons. It Particularly liked perching on a huge dead tree that was floating across the reservoir. There was not much else to be seen bar a smart Hobby and a huge number of hirundines.

Hearing that a trip of ten Dotterel were parading around themselves around a field near Burnham-on-Crouch, we headed down that way.  My first for two years and an Essex tick too. There was no sign of the female Monty’s.

13th May:

A long planned trip with both Adrians saw us down at Drift Reservoir at dawn. Unfortunately the Squacco could not be found but we were lucky enough to see the Purple Heron departing not long after we arrived.

With time pressing on we headed to Penzance to catch the Scillonian III and feeling brave, we all had a hearty breakfast.  The crossing was pretty smooth and supplied us with a few birds every now and then.  Manx Shearwaters were frequent close to the mainland and a few Terns included a Black in summer plumage but none were being pursued by the stonking by the fully spooned Pomarine Skua – my first ever in the spring.   A Turtle Dove and Storm Petrel were the only other birds of note and Common Dolphins were noted.

The Scillies looked glorious in the bright sunshine from the boat as we approached.  We still had no news either way on the Porthloo Squacco and Little Bittern and as the former had been refound at Cliffe, tensions were a little high.  Our taxi driver delighted in telling us that he himself had seen the Bittern that very morning. Five minutes later we too were watching this tiny Heron.  I had been hoping for good views but did not expect to see it at just six feet range and for it to be the size of a milkbottle!

Little Bittern #402

This female bird seemed completely unconcerned about our excitable presence.  She was contentedly catching tadpoles in this beautifully vegetated ditch and looked dwarfed by even the Buttercups.

We watched her for ages before I decided to go wandering and headed for the golf course and then down past Telegraph and Four Lanes before returning to Porthloo.   I saw nothing but it was a beautiful day and it was just nice to be back on the islands. The Bittern was still present but the guys were not so I went through Lower Moors.  No Squacco or Night Herons; only some Gadwall and a pair of Pintail while Reed Warblers were an embarrassing year tick.

I eventually made it round to where we were staying via The Dump and picked up the others for a walk back to Porthloo where to our delight the Squacco chose that moment to fly in. A very grey brown individual but still very smart and equally confiding as the Little Bittern which reappeared under our noses and in fact we had both in the same scope view at one stage..  A plane came in and the LB flew into the hedge whirring over our heads in the process.


Little Bittern

Later on we made it down to Porthcressa beach were the 1w Kumlein’s Gull was easily picked up looking like a standard Iceland but with dusky wing tips.   After this we settled down for an evening in the Bishop and Wolf but were interrupted mid pool game by news of a male Subalpine Warbler on Harry’s Walls but it failed to reappear in the gloom.  Not to worry though – quite a day. [Eds: I neglected to mention that my camera back opened when back I the digs and I lost a whole film of both heron including some of both together.]

14th May:

I got up early to look for the Subalp before meeting the others and heading over to Tresco for the Black Duck. A normal and hepatic Cuckoo flew over the harbour as we boarded the boat. A very white 2w Iceland Gull flew past as we headed out  and a smart adult Roseate Tern was with the Common, Sandwich and Arctic Terns on the crossing along with a few Auks.  We landed in high spirits regardless of the imminent rain. The next six hours were miserable with now renamed Black F**k refusing to show. Ok, it’s not the most stunning bird in the world but it would have been a tick.

It was not a totally wasted day with a lone Little Egret adding itself to the Heron list and a fine female Montagu’s Harrier that I saw twice.  The second time she was looking particularly bedraggled and allowed a close approach in the heather. A small group of Whimbrel also flew over and feeling soaked through and fairly despondent, we caught the last boat back to St Marys and hopped onto the Scillonian. I have no recollection of the journey back to Cornwall of the rest of the trek back to Essex.

15th May:

The expected lay in did not arrive as Adrian rung me at 8.15 [Eds: must have been on the landline!] to tell me that there was a male Subalpine Warbler at Walthamstow Marshes and so up I got and off I trundled.  There was quite a crowd gathered but was proving difficult to pin down despite the occasional burst of rattling song but eventually he showed very well in a small Hawthorn. A very bright individual though the pinky red was confined to the upper breast with little on the flanks [Eds: it was indeed later accepted much later as an Eastern Subalp].

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

A short while after getting home Roy phoned to say that a male Sardinian Warbler was at Holme in Norfolk so having the chance of seeing two Med warblers in a day seemed to good to miss especially as Roy needed it and there was also Lesser Yellowlegs and Great Reed Warbler up there!

I was expecting a long wait for the Sardinian but it only took five minutes for this very dapper immature male to pop out and parade about in his chosen Bramble clump.

Sardinian Warbler 

With time pressing on we headed east towards Cley for the Lesserlegs.  The car park looked full so we drove past, turned round and headed back at which point we saw it take off from a small pool near the junction of the Coastguards road!  We never saw it again.

As we parked up a superb Osprey cruised over and the local Avocets and Gulls took exception to it and after a while it headed west and over Blakeney. Down at the hides the Great Reed Warbler was refusing to sing, let alone show itself so we had to be content with ha variety of waders which included two Temminck’s Stints, three Little Stints and a sum plum Curlew Sandpiper.

With the warbler refusing to croak I headed round to the North Hide where people were happily stringing Greenshanks as the Lesser Yellowlegs. Half hour later I was back at Dawkes having missed a fifteen minute showing by the Great Reed! But he was still busily singing but despite staying until nearly dark he never came out again.  The Osprey returned in the interim and a pair of Garganey dropped in right outside the hide with the male giving his curious rattling display calls. The perfect evening was rounded up by booming Bitterns and reeling Grasshopper Warblers.

[Eds: not sure what happened in the rest of May! Perhaps I had exams or there were no birds to chase!!]

Hungary Day 3 - 20th May 2024 for Bird's Wildlife & Nature Tours

Another early walk produced my second sighting of what appeared to be a Wild Cat sloping off down the path but no Golden Jackal this time but the Black Woodpeckers, Wood Warbler, Quails and Tree Pipit were all heard again and a cracking Honey Buzzard drifted over us as we watched the sun come up and a male Red-backed Shrike seemed to content to take in some rays rather than fly away.

Volume up

Honey Buzzard

Honey Buzzard - Neil Colgate

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Neil Colgate

Hoopoe contemplating approaching the nest - Neil Colgate

Cypress Spurge - Euphorbia cyparissias

Clouded Buff - Diacrisia sannio

The Geometrician - Grammodes stolida

Goatsbeard - Tragopogon dubius

Goldmoss Stonecrop - Sedum acre

Roman Snail

We had a relaxed breakfast before going through the mad moth trap (for which a full post will appear at some stage once my moth friends have helped sort things out!).  There were some familiar looking moths and I only had time for quick phone shots.  A taster.

Cream Spot Tiger - Arctia villica

Gold Triangle - Hypsopygia costalis

Poplar Hawk-moth - Laothoe populi

Swallow Prominent - Pheosia tremula

Chocolate Tip - Clostera curtula

The Kunpuszta with it crazy numbers of Bee-eaters and Rollers was our first stop and we caught up with Woodlarks, Linnets and Tawny Pipits around a clearing.  If I could have captured that grassland soundscape...


Onto the Peszéradacs where some new Butterflies were found in a meadow where a male Montagu’s Harrier was quartering. A noisy Black Woodpecker did the decent thing and circled the clearing whining  and we saw our first Green Woodpecker too. 

Chestnut Heath


Tufted Mallow Skipper - thanks Mr Tweed

Large Skipper

Small White

Safflower Skipper

Meadow Brown sp

Sooty Copper

Sooty Copper


Montagu's Harrier

Eristalis pertinax I think and on Hoary Alyssum - Berteroa incana

Rhynocoris iracundus - a very large Assassin Bug

Rose Chafer sp

Rambur's Pied Shieldbug

Pied Chafer sp

A family of Long-tailed Tits moved through and a Wryneck dashed through but did not stop.  Gabor went back to get the van and we took a different route back but did not get far as I could hear a Sylvia singing a little way off and with some patience we got to see a pair of Barred Warblers.  The male was performing vertical take-off display flights and a female was interested enough to come in for a look.  Gabor said that they could well be the first ever locally recorded breeders.

A riverine walk added Kingfisher and some new Dragons including the subtle White-tailed Skimmer along with a very showy Icterine Warbler and a pair of Penduline Tits around a delightful down made nest. 

Comfortably propped - like resting on a gate

European Pond Terrapins

Scarce Chaser

Black-tailed Skimmer

White-tailed Skimmer - subtle

Blue-eyed Hawker

Green-eyed Hawker

Four-spotted Chaser

Lesser Purple Emperor of the orange 'clytie' form

Lesser Purple Emperor of the orange 'clytie' form

Dor Beetle

Penduline Tit (top right) and nest (bottom left)

Icterine Warbler - Neil Colgate

Icterine Warbler

Allium sp

Perennial Pea sp

Non-native Cichlid

Hoary Alyssum - Berteroa incana

Water-chestnut - Trapa natans

Blue Fenugreek  - Trigonella caerulea

Non-native Common Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca - a real problem in Hungary

Common Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca

Lunch was taken amongst a Red-footed Falcon colony within the Böddi-szék with obligatory Rollers and Kestrels and watching them play chase and erm – other noisy courtship display was a special moment and one of the many highlights of the trip.  I suspect that with some time and patience you could get some wondrous images.

With Dark Spreadwings - Lestes macrostigma in the grass - 

Red-footed Falcon - female - Neil Colgate

Red-footed Falcon - male - Neil Colgate

Red-footed Falcon - male - Neil Colgate

Red-footed Falcon - female ringed U16

Red-footed Falcon - phwoar

Red-footed Falcons - Nick Baelz

The extensive marshes below were used a falcon hunting grounds and they shared the air with both White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns while Garganey, Ruff, Stilts and Avocets were added to the tally.

Even the hay bales are laid flat - I hope not to disrupt the view!

I was rather taken by the large free ranging herd of Donkeys!

At least two White Tailed Eagles circled and seven Black Storks were noted but the booming Bittern did not show and Rollers followed us on the wires on the way out.


We finished up at Lake Kolon and tried to view it from two places but it seems that although parts of it had been restored and opened up, they have not been managed to keep that way and as such it was a little frustrating and there were no Pygmy Cormorants or Squaccos and just a few Purple and Grey Herons.  

This should be open water.  The red is all Greater Bladderwort

Green Lizard

Greater Bladderwort

However we did hear at least two singing Moustached Warblers amongst the Great Reed, Sedge and Reed Warblers and find three reeling Savi's Warblers.  There was a fledged brood of Lesser Whitethroats and three musical Bluethroats which showed better in the flatter light with no haze.

Great Reed Warbler - a showy one - Neil Colgate

White-spotted Bluethroat - fab in the scope

A drumming Black Woodpecker rattled the dead trees behind us and a calling Syrian Woodpecker was our first although we could not find it and learnt the valuable lesson that the local Chaffinches end their song with a very Syrian like call too!

No native Gaillardia was prettily scattered through the lanes

And so the next wave approached

By dinner time the rain was hammering down once again dampening even the spirits of the Scops Owls.  I stood out on my covered thatched veranda in the complete darkness and enjoyed the storm. Electrifying.