Honey Buzzard

Day Trip Highlights

Our Day Trips continue to be hugely popular with over 2,500 places filled so far! These guided days have offered many things in this most unexpected and unusual of years: hope, positivity, a date for the diary, new landscapes, companionship, and some fantastic British wildlife spectacles; they have also kept our staff and leaders very busy! We have thoroughly enjoying reading all of the wonderful feedback, and kind words of support, that we have received.

Read the highlights from our mid-August to end of October tours below followed by our mid-July to mid-August tours and our mid-June to mid-July tours:


On Fungi for Beginners ...


Six day trips led by Su Gough around Thetford Forest and a nearby reserve with a fantastic mosaic of habitats were each enjoyed by full groups. During the morning we got to grips with the lifestyles of fungi as well as what to look for when identifying them. Even a small sample showed the astonishing variety of forms and habits of even the most common fungi. After lunch we took what we had learned that morning and began to explore SWT Knettishall Heath, immediately recognising some of the common species we’d encountered earlier and adding additional species. Such exciting encounters included Dead Man’s Fingers, False Death Caps and the common, but wonderful, Fly Agaric.

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The Blusher (Su Gough)


At Keyhaven Marshes ...

 

The Hampshire coast, and especially at Keyhaven Marshes, has been graced by not one, but two species of phalarope this October. Two Grey Phalaropes have been present on the lagoons, soon to be joined by a vagrant Wilson’s Phalarope – the latter had flown all the way from North America! Other sightings have included many returning Brent Geese and a host of common waders.

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Grey Phalarope


On the Wild Side of Essex: Exploring the Naze and Walton Backwaters ...


The inaugural trip was blessed with lovely autumn sunshine; thankfully the heavy showers missed us, leaving a legacy of wonderful cloudscapes as the sun set. Bird highlights included 300 Brent Geese feeding on the beach, confiding Grey Plovers, Teals flashing electric green in the late sunlight and half a dozen Long-tailed Tits on the undercliff. Lingering vestiges of summer included a late group of three Swallows, flowering Sea Spurge and Sea Rocket, the spreading alien Narrow-leaved Ragwort and our local rarity, the Sea Hog's-fennel!

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The Naze Cliffs (Chris Gibson)


On the Red Deer Rut at Bradgate Park ...

 

Bradgate Park on the outskirts of Leicester was full of autumn colour during October. This, combined with the annual Red Deer rut, made for quite an atmosphere within the park’s boundaries.

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Red Deer (Alan De Witt)


On North Norfolk - Birding in Winter ...

 

Norfolk is the county to be in during October and our tours certainly made the most of the exciting birdwatching that was to be had during a spell of prolonged easterly winds. Perhaps the standout highlight was a Red-flanked Bluetail, though a species that had flown all the way from east Asia – a Stejneger’s Stonechat – was also seen! Large numbers of Pink-footed Geese had returned and the woods were alive with the sound of rutting Fallow Deer, which showed very well for the assembled groups.

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Fallow Deer (Mike Crewe)


On Autumn Migration at Gibraltar Point ...


In the morning, large flocks of Pink-footed Geese were seen arriving in off the North Sea, whilst the trees were resting patches for many thrushes and Robins, plus a flock of Brambling, Siskin and Redpolls moving inland overhead. Ducks were also on the move with many Pintail, Teal and Wigeon seen to arrive from their breeding grounds. A superb tour was ended with yet more migrants as a Ring Ouzel was found and then, a Yellow-browed Warbler was successfully seen amongst a large flock of Goldcrests. Another trip saw similar species, however, a Jack Snipe bobbing up and down on a nearby marsh was a spectacular sight!

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Jack Snipe (Toby Collett)


On Birds and Cetaceans of Berry Head ...

 

Two species that are most hoped for during the October period on the headland are Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest and groups managed views of both of these delightful birds – the former breeds as far away as Siberia! Southbound migrants included a Ring Ouzel, Swallows and House Martins. From the headland itself, hundreds of birds were gathered – mainly Guillemots – and Gannets and Kittiwakes were moving offshore. Harbour Porpoises comprised the cetacean sightings offshore, whilst along the shore-line were several wintering Purple Sandpipers. The regular-occurring Cirl Buntings are always a delight to see too.

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Cirl Bunting (Mike Langman)


On the Winterton Dunes & the Norfolk Broads ...


Norfolk’s north-east corner provided a wonderful mix of habitats to explore and some great birding moments. The very scenic coastal dunes at Winterton held family parties of Stonechats and groups of Redpolls, Siskins and Meadow Pipits amongst the Birch Trees. At Hickling Broad reserve, some flighty Bearded Reedlings and several young Marsh Harriers quartered the vast, swaying reedbeds. A couple of Hobbies launched themselves into the local dragonfly population and flocks of Greylag Geese dominated the pools, along with a scattering of Gadwall, Teal and Egyptian Geese. At least two Great Egrets and four Little Egrets were seen and nice flight views of a total of six Common Cranes too.

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Bearded Tit


On the Norfolk - Wader Special ...

 

The highest tides were once again scheduled for our October visits to give the best wader spectacle one could hope for. As the spring high tide covered all areas within The Wash, the action took off with an estimated 140,000 Knot roosting on the shingle at Snettisham RSPB – a site record no less! Once the tide had receded, groups moved to the north coast in search of any autumn migrants and were rewarded with an ‘Eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat and several flyover species including Bramblings, Crosssbills, Grey and Yellow Wagtails and Reed Buntings.

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Knot (Mike Crewe)


On Birdwatching in Rye Bay ...


With its flat landscape and series of well-managed gravel pits, reedbeds and lagoons, guests were able to enjoy a wealth of bird activity during the October trips. A female Merlin was a joy to watch as she showed persistently throughout one morning and was even seen to chase Starlings. Vast swathes of Golden Plover were also observed and a variety of ducks were present. A ‘Greenland’ Wheatear and a few Chiffchaffs were signs that the autumn migration was drawing to a close. The afternoons were spent slightly inland at a number of reedbeds and a gravel pit overlooked by Camber Castle! Gulls were plentiful and comprised eight species, including both Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls. A Great White Egret was seen and Cetti’s Warblers were constantly heard, but rarely seen!

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Merlin


Mid-August to mid-October:

At Beachy Head ...


Over the years, this famous headland has played host to a long list of rare birds, and we were fortunate to spot a whole range of autumn migrants across our eight day trips here in September. On three dates, Grasshopper Warblers were located, whilst our groups enjoyed truly spectacular sightings as vast swarms of House Martins fed along the cliff edge and even within arm’s reach. Whinchats, Wheatears, Whitethroats, Yellow Wagtails and many Siskins were also seen, these no doubt luring in the Merlins and Sparrowhawks that were observed almost daily!

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Wheatear (Matt Eade)


On the Autumn Migration at Spurn ...


This superb coastal hotspot for passerine migration provided the goods. Highlights were a stocky Barred Warbler (which showed well, uncharacteristically!) and a nice variety of waders which included two Little Stints, a Wood Sandpiper, many Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks! Three Spoonbills and a handful of other passerine migrants were also enjoyed over the day trips.

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Barred Warbler (Shirley Bain)


On the Isle of Portland ...

 

An excellent day was had on the Isle of Portland as there had clearly been an arrival of southbound migrants. A Pied Flycatcher, Whinchats and Lesser Whitethroats were observed in the bushes, several Wheatears were on the headland, whilst offshore a Great Skua flew through. With the sun shining, our attention soon turned to the butterflies, with Adonis and Chalk Hill Blues and Wall Browns spread across the island.

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Pied Flycatcher


On Glasgow's Urban Wildlife ...

 

A Kingfisher, a migrating Osprey and a couple of ‘dipping’ Dippers were enjoyed by the group around Glasgow’s urban settings. Our route took in the River Kelvin, continued through Dawsholme Park and returned along the Forth and Clyde Canal which, amongst the autumn colours, made for a beautiful walk!

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White-throated Dipper


On the Colne Estuary ...

 

Along the River Colne migration has been in full swing, with the likes of Greenshanks feeding along the muddy margins and House Martins flying over in vast swathes as they journey south. A variety of other waterbirds were also enjoyed. Afternoons at Wivenhoe Park have provided guests with the chance to observe one of the recent colonists to the UK, the delicate Willow Emerald Damselfly. The autumnal colours of the park, coinciding with the fungal extravaganza on the forest floor, rounded off many excellent days in the county of Essex!

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Willow Emerald Damselfly


On an Introduction to Macro Photography at Pitsford SSSI ...

 

A long list of subjects posed superbly for our macro photographers at Pitsford Reservoir. A tiny snail measuring no more than 10mm, a Burnished Brass Moth and several species of butterfly, including a very fresh Red Admiral and a Vapourer Moth caterpillar, were highlights amongst a long list of fascinating insects and flowers. A Kingfisher was also spotted, but warranted a change of lens for those who wanted to photograph this stunning bird!

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Snail sp. (Dave Jackson)


On the Northumberland Coast ...

 

St Mary’s Island – a tiny islet linked to the mainland by a causeway passable only at low tide – and Cresswell were sites visited during these day trips. A variety of waders were enjoyed as the tide receded, allowing a visit onto the island. The likes of Sanderling scurrying frantically along the tide-line were particularly entertaining to watch. Over by the lighthouse, Grey Seals were loafing on the rocks and ‘bottling’ in the nearby waves, again enjoyed thoroughly by everyone. The afternoons were spent further north at Cresswell where Red-throated Divers and flocks of Common Scoters sat offshore, whilst Marsh Harriers were hunting in the fields nearby.

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Golden Plovers (Keith Buchanan)


In North Norfolk ...

 

The north Norfolk coast did us proud during our two day trips in late September. Despite sometimes rather soggy weather, we nevertheless found an exciting array of birds in the coastal woods and scrub that we visited, all topped off by a juvenile Red-backed Shrike, five different Yellow-browed Warblers and a group of five Lapland Buntings. The supporting cast contained a good movement of Lesser Redpolls and a few Common Crossbills, nice parties of arriving Pink-footed Geese and Eurasian Wigeon, four Red Kites, a movement of Common Buzzards, oodles of busy Little Egrets and a splendid Eurasian Spoonbill. A highlight of our day trips in October was this particularly obliging Hoopoe!

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Eurasian Hoopoe (Mike Crewe)


On the Cambridgeshire Fens ...

 

A sign of the changing times was apparent on the six day trips to the fens of Cambridgeshire, as Great White Egrets were found on all of our trips – this would have been a rare event even as recently as five years ago! There was also a fine supporting cast with the likes of a Bittern, Little Stint, Bearded Tit and Marsh Harriers seen throughout the days here. Willow Emerald Damselflies were also encountered when the sun shone – this is another species to have recently colonised this area!

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Bearded Tit


On the Norfolk – Wader Special ...

 

The spring high tide coincided brilliantly with our day trips, and guests thoroughly enjoyed a true ‘wader spectacular’ at one of Norfolk’s finest birdwatching locations. ‘Animated balls’ of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin enthused all of us as they performed admirably over the pools, whilst a Peregrine Falcon was stalking the assembling flocks. During the afternoons, we moved around the Norfolk coastline to enjoy yet more wader species. Spotted Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets were all enjoyed, as Marsh Harriers flew over the reedbeds in the background.

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Mixed waders and geese (Mike Crewe)


On the Beginner Birdwatching in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire ...

 

Visiting both The Lodge in Bedfordshire and Little Paxton Gravel Pits in Cambridgeshire allowed us to view a good variety of bird species throughout the day trips. Signs of the changing seasons were evident as Siskins and Lesser Redpolls flew over, but common woodland birds, which included Mistle Thrush, Treecreepers, Nuthatches and a striking Green Woodpecker, were fine additions to the morning walks. The gravel pits at Paxton provided a different variety of birds for the afternoons: Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Little Egrets, Little Grebes and Cormorants were on or around the water edges, whilst in the scattered trees a Great Spotted Woodpecker was also located!

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Green Woodpecker


On the Long-tailed Blues of Sussex ...

 

A small area of Broad-leaved Everlasting Sweet-pea on the outskirts of Brighton ensured that this year’s influx had sustained itself to a level where two Naturetrek groups were able to enjoy this rare butterfly. Approximately 10 individuals, including both males and females, were seen over the two dates. Although it was hoped the females would lay further eggs that would be due to hatch in mid-October, no egg-laying was achieved this season as the females quickly dispersed, no doubt migrating back south to the continent.

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Long-tailed Blue (Matt Eade)


On Devon - Just Beavers! ...

 

The inaugural trip to Devon found an incredible five Beavers, including a prolonged view as a female fed, showing little fear as her admirers watched on. Dippers, Kingfishers and Noctule Bats were other wildlife highlights, but it was the Beavers that stole the show! The following seven groups resulted in a 100% success rate!

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Beaver (Matt Collis)


At Keyhaven Marshes ...

 

A tally of 80+ species was consistently achieved throughout September at this superb coastal Hampshire reserve. As first returning Brent Geese arrived, our summer visitors were still being enjoyed as Sand Martins, Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears were all found across the site. Along the shore edges, Rock Pipits were discovered and offshore was an Eider!

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Curlew Sandpiper


At Dawlish Warren ...

 

A vast swathe of waders were enjoyed by all along the Warren, including lots of sprinting Sanderlings, Bar-tailed Godwits and ‘stacks’ of Turnstone. The first returning Pale-bellied Brent Geese had arrived and showed off their obvious pale bellies, compared to the Dark-bellied Brent Geese found further east along the south coast. A drake Eider was offshore and a Curlew Sandpiper also showed itself.

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Turnstone


We invite you to join us on one (or more!) of our many upcoming UK Day Trips, from an ever-expanding portfolio of options. Click here to see our range of Day Trips across the UK.

Reviews:

'Just to let you know that I really enjoyed my two Naturetrek day trips in North Norfolk last week.  The Wader Spectacular was absolutely brilliant and timed perfectly to see and hear the thousands of waders flying about and over us, sometimes pursued by a peregrine.  The North Norfolk day took us to a variety of well chosen sites, and a variety of birds, including two rarities, so I feel I saw much of what the area can offer in terms of landscapes, habitats, and birds.  Our leader Mike Crewe was excellent and kept everybody happy.  His knowledge of not only birds but plants and habitats seemed inexhaustible, which greatly enriched our experience!

I look forward to going on more Day trips in the future.’ 
AM – Norfolk

'Toby was absolutely brilliant. So patient and knowledgable. If it wasn’t for the fact that the texts from my wife were becoming more and more insistent that I give her a clue as to what time I’d be home, I think we’d have been still there, scanning through hundreds of newly-arrived Goldcrests for a Yellow-browed Warbler! I’ve been birding since the eighties, but he is totally on another level - it was inspiring to see him in action.'
TG – Gibraltar Point

‘The Upper Teesdale workshop was brilliant and Andy Bunten was an exceptional guide. So very knowledgeable and an expert spotter, but equally important he had great communication skills so that no-one felt remotely patronised or afraid to ask the most basic of questions. The organisation of the day was impeccably planned too. This was my first naturetrek outing but I have friends who regularly use you and have spoken of your trips in glowing terms. So I will certainly look at your website and I will hope to travel with you at some point in the future.’ 
KS – Teesdale

‘We had a lovely day on Monday; Matt was terrific - particularly with us being beginners at bird watching! The other attendees were very interesting and one in particular was extremely knowledgeable. So we learned a lot - just got to remember it now! We are looking at the other day trips available to see if we can do another one.’ 
Ashdown Forest

‘I wanted to write to thank you for organising your new One-Day trips. It’s an excellent idea and something to give hope to many people, who are keen to get out and about, and to experience the beauty of nature closer to home. Our trip to the Ashdown Forest on Friday was excellent. The weather was kind to us, a lovely sunny, English summer day, but it was our guide, Matt Eade, who made it special. Quite how Matt managed to arrange Goshawk, two Honey-buzzards, Hobby, Treecreeper, and a whole host of other species was remarkable.
Spotted Flycatcher is the personal favourite of my husband Simon – and Matt knew where to find two of them. Simon was over the moon!  
It was a top day. Matt was informative, very knowledgeable, engaging, encouraging, always happy to help, provide insights and share his knowledge and experiences. He paced the walk just right, thoughtful about short breaks where needed. I worked for 8 years as a Tour Director around Europe and I know how exceptionally hard it can be to keep everyone happy!’ 
Ashdown Forest

‘The trip exceeded our already high expectations. Andy Bunten was kind, humorous, thoughtful and his knowledge of the wildlife truly exceptional. It was a real pleasure and privilege to be in his company.’ 
KE – Teesdale

‘So nice to be on a Naturetrek trip again and had a thoroughly enjoyable day with Russ and our other companions. Everyone just got on even though we had not met before. Looking forward to our next day trip!’ 
LD – Smardale

‘We had a great day, thank you.  Matthew Capper was an excellent guide, giving us a wealth of information about the ecology, conservation and social history of the area as well as the wildlife, and having an amazing ability to detect birdlife out of nowhere.  The Lammergeier before we'd even left the meeting point was of course spectacular, but it was Matthew's commitment to searching for the birds and Mountain Hares which would have been personal highlights which impressed me even more.  You can't guarantee sightings, but he could not have looked harder!  We also appreciated his patience and good humour, and his determination to make sure that all 5 of us got to see everything. These day trips are a brilliant idea. We are really looking forward to our next Naturetrek Day in a couple of weeks.’ 
AB – Peak District

Our mid-July to mid-August highlights:

On the Mid-Norfolk Heaths ...


This area of Norfolk has proved to be a botanist’s paradise. Rare species found have included the Marsh Gentian, Marsh Helleborine and, although more common, the Round-leaved Sundew, which is an impressive plant in these fens. A Nightjar was inadvertently flushed off its daytime roost, whilst other bird species encountered include an impressive pair of Honey Buzzards, Spotted Flycatchers and Marsh Tits. The varied mix of habitats in this area of Norfolk ensures that there is always something different to see.

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Marsh Gentian (Mike Crewe)


On the Wildflowers of the South Downs ...


The wonderful chalk Downs to the east of Lewes are famed for their botanical ‘treasures’. The last orchid of the season – the Autumn Lady’s-tresses – has been found in small numbers. Carline Thistle and the ‘Pride of Sussex’ – the Round-headed Rampion – have also been found in good numbers. The chalk Downs are famed for their populations of Silver-spotted Skippers, and groups were able to observe this stunning butterfly at close range. Locally bred Ravens were also showing off as they barrel-rolled their way over the hillsides.

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Silver-spotted Skipper (Matt Eade)


On Martin Down NNR ...


This wonderful reserve has seen an incredible 27 species of butterfly being recorded on a single day trip, though other trips have surpassed the 20 species barrier with ease. Although Marsh Fritillaries have been off the wing for some time now, their silken nests of larvae have been fascinating to observe, and on one particular occasion, one ‘nest’ was being attacked by a Lacewing larva. Clouded Yellows, the stunning Adonis Blues and many Chalk Hill Blues have all been particularly abundant across the Down and the ‘purring’ sound of Turtle Doves has been relished – this declining species still hangs on at its UK stronghold!

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Chalk Hill Blue (Dr Martin Warren)


On Kent’s Oare Marshes ...


This brilliant reserve is key for passage waders and the like. However, the rarest bird of the trips thus far has been an adult Bonaparte’s Gull – a North American species and similar in appearance to a Black-headed Gull. Nevertheless, the crowd-pleasers have been a Peregrine Falcon, Hobby and a Marsh Harrier. Waders have included lovely views of Ruff, Knot, Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits, whilst migrating passerines have included many Yellow Wagtails. Watching up to 10 Grass Snakes hunting Marsh Frogs was without doubt the stand-out moment here.
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Grass Snake (Heather Bailey)


On the Gwent Levels ...


These superb wetlands in south Wales are key for a number of migrating waders and ducks – on our day trip, 13 species of wader had an excellent supporting cast! The group were also lucky enough to see the long-staying Glossy Ibis – this species is treated as a scarcity to our shores, however, they are frequently encountered on the near-continent. Four Garganey in their drab autumn plumage added to a list of great sightings, but it was an elusive Bearded Tit that gave tantalising views as it ‘pinged’ through the reeds.

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Glossy Ibis


On the Wildlife of Otmoor ...


A whole mix of wildlife was found on this Oxfordshire reserve. The rare dragonfly that is the Southern Migrant Hawker (or Blue-eyed Hawker) is fast becoming a regular occurrence in south-eastern counties, but yet to make any sort of a stronghold inland; therefore, it was somewhat of a surprise that one was found during a day trip here. A lovely pair of Turtle Doves were observed feeding together and the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly also pleased the group as it came down to nectar.

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Brown Hairstreak


At Rutland Water ...


With the cancellation of Birdfair, it was wonderful to be back here. Excellent bird sightings included no less than six Ospreys(!), 10 Great White Egrets and a Wood Sandpiper – this being one of 10 wader species on offer! With an array of other wildlife that consisted of mainly dragonflies and butterflies, it seemed appropriate to end the day with an ice-cream!

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Rutland Water (Matthew Capper)


In Richmond Park ...


Intimate encounters with both Fallow and Red Deer have been enjoyed by our groups here. Several stags supported some very impressive antlers, and when seen up close, was a special moment for all. A juvenile Cuckoo and a Whinchat were surprise finds (no doubt encountered during their south-bound migration), but the avian highlight belonged to the resident Little Owls; birds have been seen perched, but also actively hunting as dusk approached. Many butterflies including Speckled Woods, Gatekeepers and Red Admirals were enjoyed by all.

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Little Owl (Ben Chapple)


In the New Forest ...


Signs of autumn in the forest were a fresh juvenile Willow Warbler – these beauties support a lemon-coloured breast and belly, rendering them identifiable as a juvenile – and families of both Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart. Other sightings involved a Curlew, Marsh Tit and a few Dartford Warblers – a species that would have relished the continuous hot weather! Raptors were the order of the days with two Goshawks and three Hobbies performing well, though sadly there was no sign of any Honey Buzzards. A few Common Crossbill flocks also skimmed over the treeline throughout the day. Grayling butterflies were also commonly encountered across the forest, though were always difficult to observe when perched!

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Grayling (Andrew Cleave)


At Keyhaven Marshes ...


Despite the number of birds encountered throughout the day, lunch was most enjoyable as Common Terns were fishing just offshore and a Grey Seal even ‘popped up’ to observe its surroundings. A tail-less Dartford Warbler was most noteworthy, although its appearance was more ‘Wren-like’ than that of a long-tailed Dartford Warbler.

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Grey Seal (Andrew Cleave)


At Formby and the Sefton Coast ...


A whole host of wildlife was encountered along this coastline. There is no doubt the mammalian highlights have belonged to the resident Red Squirrels, that on occasions came to visit the group while they were having their lunch. Flocks of Avocets, spectacular Starlings movements and a Cattle Egret amongst the Lapwings have proved popular. Centaury flowers have also been enjoyed, now in their peak flowering time!

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Seaside Centaury (Russell Hedley)


In Smardale Gill, South Cumbria ...


This wonderful reserve is home to the largest colony of the Scotch Argus butterfly in England, and our groups enjoyed many lovely sightings of this very striking, yet declining, butterfly. Almost as impressive is the viaduct that cuts through here. Many birds and other butterflies were also found on our day trips.

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Scotch Argus (Russell Hedley)


In Pamber Forest and Silchester Common ...


The star find at these northern Hampshire sights has been a superb Lesser Emperor dragonfly – this species is still a rarity, although established colonies are becoming the norm in southern counties as their range increases on the continent. Amongst the 60 species of bird seen, a Honey Buzzard was the most treasured find, whilst more expected birds included Dartford Warblers and Stonechats. Spotted Flycatchers – an increasingly scarce summer visitor – have also been frequently encountered. Many species of plants have been found, including the parasitic Dodder and the folk remedy-rich species of Sneezewort and Fleabane.

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Pamber Forest (Martin Pitt)


In Ashdown Forest ...


Stifling hot days towards the end of the day trips here somewhat suppressed bird activity. Dartford Warblers were encountered on all but one of the 15 trips. Avian highlights all occurred on one morning and in the space of only half an hour; a female Goshawk circled above a valley and ascended to an incredible height, then a short while later, a pair of Honey Buzzards were located that were then mobbed by a Hobby, whilst an ‘escaped’ White Stork also circled over the area. Dragonflies have been particularly abundant with a Brilliant Emerald, Golden-ringed Dragonflies, Black Darters, Keeled Skimmers and many Brown Hawkers proving very popular with the groups.

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Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Matt Eade)


At Breckland Heaths & Wetlands ...

 

Scarce Emerald Damselflies are a rare sighting away from their favoured areas, so finding a couple of individuals on this tour was excellent. Clients also enjoyed witnessing a Sand Fly trying to tackle a larva. Covering the different soil types (acid heath to chalky grassland) ensured many wildflowers were found, including Common and Large Thyme, Spanish Catchfly and the ‘Breckland endemic form’ of Perennial Knawel. A Hobby tussling with a Sparrowhawk was an exciting encounter too.

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Large Thyme (Mike Crewe)


At Dawlish Warren NNR ...

 

Birdlife at this famous Devon reserve has been exceptional. Many clients enjoyed their first sightings of a Roseate Tern as it mainly roosted with the assemblage of gulls and other terns. Offshore, seabirds have been rather sparse, although a summer-plumaged Slavonian Grebe and diving Gannets showed relatively well; a Great Skua was also sighted. Many Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and a lone Whimbrel were also found along the shore edges. The warren with its rich diversity in wildflowers was the perfect area to observe many species of butterfly; Clouded Yellows being the most noteworthy.

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Clouded Yellow (Matt Eade)


On the Introduction to Seabird Photography ...

 

Andrew gave expert instructions on how to capture the perfect image of the many birds that call the famous steep-sided cliffs of Bempton, home. Gannets thrive here and often hang in the wind just above the cliffs allowing excellent photographic opportunities. The Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills posed the true photographic challenges, however, though with the constant activity all managed respectable photos in the end! The abundance of birdlife on these cliffs makes for a special experience, and all clients went away with wonderful views of many seabirds.

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Northern Gannet (Andrew Mason)


Our mid-June to mid-July highlights:

In Ashdown Forest ...


The mixed weather that has been experienced in the forest has had little effect on the quality of wildlife found on the seven trips so far. Clients have enjoyed sightings of a Hobby mobbing a pair of Honey-buzzards, whilst a female Goshawk rising on thermals was another ‘wow’ moment. Dartford Warblers have been seen on every trip thus far, though have always remained elusive. Lovely summer days brought out a range of Odonata with Golden-ringed Dragonflies, Brilliant Emeralds, Black Darters, Small Red Damselflies and egg-laying Emperor Dragonflies providing the most interest.

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Small Red Damselfly (Matt Eade)


In Dartmoor ...


Good weather has ensured our groups have found one of the rarest breeding butterflies in the UK – the High Brown Fritillary – with relative ease when strolling across the bracken-covered slopes. Although similar looking, several Dark Green Fritillaries have also been identified, whilst other butterflies have included the White Admiral, Grayling, Purple Hairstreak, Silver-washed Fritillary and several Peacocks. Birds have also been prolific, while a female Goshawk circled for a prolonged period causing a moment of joy among the group. Spotted Flycatchers, Dippers and an unusual sighting of a Crossbill have also been excellent sightings.

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Photographing Britain's most threatened butterfly; High Brown Fritillary (Matt Collis)


In the Forest of Dean ...


Our groups have been spoilt for choice when it comes to this wonderful forest. A juvenile Dipper has provided much pleasure, as have the regular encounters with Goshawks and Hawfinches, whilst at dusk Nightjars have shown superbly. However, it was to be a Honey-buzzard that provided the most excitement… not just for our clients, but also for our guide who quickly snapped a picture of this Gloucestershire rarity. Small groups of Wild Boar have added a mammalian touch to proceedings, but an egg-laying Golden-ringed Dragonfly will certainly last long in the memory of those that saw it.

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Nightjar (Tom Mabbett)


In Upper Teesdale ...


Curlews ‘whauping’ overhead has been the mesmerising sound along the River Tees, though dancing Lapwings and ‘piping’ Oystercatchers were just as appreciated. Pride of place, though, goes to the Snipe which switch-backed above us, tail feathers akimbo and producing that amazing bleating sound. A Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Dippers have been favourites too. Butterflies have been scarce, but we found some interesting plants including Mountain Pansy, Moonwort, a hay field full of Yellow Rattle and two nice insect-eating plants in Round-leaved Sundew and Butterwort.

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Snipe (Tony Marsh)


On Beginners Botany in Shropshire ...


Despite the grey days in rural Shropshire, our clients were soon greeted by the lovely yellows, blues, purples and pinks of the myriad wildflowers. We luckily found four species of orchid too: Common Spotted, Pyramidal, Common Twayblade and Fragrant Orchids – the latter a particular favourite! Searches of the scented turf found us Wild Basil, Betony, Cat’s-ears, Mouse-ears, Hawkweeds, Woundworts, Yellow-worts, Ragworts, St. John’s Worts and oh so many others. Into the bargain we saw Raven, Green Woodpecker, Peregrine, Common Buzzard… and even found a beautiful Slow Worm!

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Pyramidal Orchid (Rob Mileto)


On the Northumberland Coast ...


A long list of exceptional bird species has brought much excitement to our groups who have walked this stunning coastline. Ground-feeding Cuckoos and ‘reeling’ Grasshopper Warblers were among a wide variety of bird species found. Even offshore, a sighting of a Roseate Tern was most appreciated as it fed with other commoner seabirds, namely Common Terns and ‘rafting’ Common Scoters. Even inland, waders have shown well and have included everyone’s(?) favourite wader – the Avocet! The stunning flora of this unique coastline has included Bloody Cranes-bill, Bush Vetch, Whorled Loosestrife and Common Spotted Orchids.

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Cuckoo (Andy Bunten)


In Dawlish Warren NNR ...

 
The stifling hot weather encountered along the sandy beaches of Dawlish ensured our clients were promised a mixed bag of excellent wildlife. The undoubted highlight was a Roseate Tern roosting on the beach with a small group of Black-headed Gulls (a scarce encounter along the south coast!), though observing summer-plumaged Dunlins and Sanderlings was splendid. Butterflies were making the most of the glorious conditions, with Small Coppers showing off their incredible colours.

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Roseate, Sandwich & Common Tern and Black-headed Gull (Matt Collis)


On the Knepp Estate ...

 

Our only group to visit this estate couldn’t have asked for better weather for a lovely walk through the re-wilding landscapes of Knepp. The public footpaths allowed excellent views of many exceptional butterflies, including an unexpected Brown Hairstreak! Three separate Purple Emperors also put in brief appearances, whilst a further 16 species of butterfly were found. The famous White Storks were wonderful to see, especially the nearly-fledged individual that was doing regular jumps and wing stretches as it stood close to the nest. A flock of seven storks were also seen using the thermals to wander farther afield.

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White Stork (Matt Eade)


In the Peak District ...


This famous landscape has become that bit more famous in recent weeks with the arrival of a first-summer Lammergeier that has taken up some form of residence across the moorlands. Two of our groups have already been lucky enough to lay eyes on this incredible vulture… who’d have thought that! Vultures aside, our groups have enjoyed traversing these landscapes, finding along the way an array of birds, including Red Grouse, Whinchats, Golden Plovers, Curlews and Ring Ouzels. The sight of Cotton Grass stretching across the damp moorlands has been another fine sight.

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Lammergeier (Tim Melling)


In the New Forest ...

 

This excellent forest has provided many ornithological highlights for our groups. Birds of prey are well represented in the forest and clients have enjoyed watching both Honey-buzzard and Goshawk from the various viewpoints. Hawfinches and Crossbills were also encountered, as were many Redstarts and some Dartford Warblers. The top bird located, though, had to be a close view of a ‘foraging’ Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – now a very difficult bird to locate, especially in July!

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Redstart


In Keyhaven Marshes ...

 

The coastal marshes are well known for their wader flocks during the winter months, yet, our groups that have visited here have been able to witness the return of these waders. Species such as Curlew and Dunlin were early returners from their breeding grounds further north. The local breeders were still busy looking after their chicks – Avocets, Lapwings and Little Ringed Plovers especially. Other great birds have included a Dartford Warbler, Peregrine and the magnificent Little Terns!

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Avocet


At Pitsford Reservoir ...

 

The diversity of this SSSI has been noted on all of our trips here. A total of 16 species of butterfly have been recorded, including the majestic Marbled White. A vast range of Odonata has also been found with many hawkers seen hunting in the various bays: Brown Hawker and Southern Hawker, whilst smaller dragonflies have included both Ruddy and Common Darters. Some great birds have also been found – a Common Redstart was most likely a passage migrant, whilst a Hobby overhead and Marsh Tits in the bushes have also been enjoyed.

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Essex Skipper (Neil McMahon)



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