Thursday, 31 May 2018

Light Crimson Underwing confirmation

This is just a quick post for all of those that joined Two Owls at Bentley Wood.

Do you remember the caterpillar we had at lunch time in the car park.  I thought I recognised it but couldn't put a name to it at the time.  Well when I got home I did a little checking and quickly realised that if it was what I thought, it was a pretty special species to find.

So I sent photograph to Phil Sterling and he was able to confirm from the photographs that I was correct that it was the caterpillar of the Light Crimson Underwing, a rare species found in mature Oak woodlands the larva are rarely seen as they believe they feed in the high canopy.

Light Crimson Underwing © Nick Hull
For a little more information and to see the super looking adult moth follow this link.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Part 2 Bentley Wood on Hampshire - Wiltshire Border

Part 2 continued from previous blog.

Our next walk took us to the Hampshire/Wiltshire border at Bentley Wood famous as a site for Purple Emperor Butterfly it is also good for birds though our visit here was a general wildlife walk.  The morning didn't promise good weather and we had heavy downpour on our way and as we gathered in the car park there wasn't to much optimism, but I said a little humidity would be good for the butterflies.  It didn't take long to pick up Brimstone both male and females, then I found the first Pearl-bordered Fritillary of what turned out to be many, they seemed to have done pretty well here this year.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Bentley Wood © Nick Hull
Also common here is Speckled Yellow a species of day flying moth which larva feeds on Wood Sage.  Another day flying moth which you can find here is the Argent & Sable which is a scarce and local species in the south more common on Scottish moors. The larva spins the leaf of Bog Myrtle of Birch to form a cocoon and we found a number on these on the birch tree around the clearing and later I found a single flying adult which landed long enough to get a couple of shots of.
Argent & Sable- larva spun leaf cocoon and adult moth © Nick Hull
We also came across a couple of other day flying moths one Pyrausta aurata a micro moth sometimes called Mint Moth the other was a Cinnabar Moth whose yellow and black caterpillars are found on ragwort plants. I also saw a single Burnet Companion but it disappeared into the grass before others managed to see it..
Pyrausta aurata ©Jackie Hull and Cinnabar Moth © Martin Wood
These are a few more species seen on our morning walk ranging from Oil Beetles, Broad-bodied Chaser and other butterfly species like Green-veined White, Grizzled Skipper and Speckled Wood.
female Oil Beetle © Nick Hull - Broad-bodied Chaser and Speckled Wood © Martin Wood
Grizzled Skipper upper side © Martin Wood - Underside © Nick Hull
We also came across a small stack of rotted wood where we found a number of Common Lizard soaking in the sun and warmth.
Common Lizard © Nick Hull
Bird highlights recorded were both Garden Warbler and Blackcap, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Kestrel, Buzzard and a male Goshawk as well as the more commoner species.

We ended our day visiting the RSPB Winterborne Downs reserve at Newton Tony in Wiltshire where we were looking for downland species and successfully seeing Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Whitethroat, Lapwing, Linnets, we also had an immature Red Kite drift over us showing signs of moult in its inner primaries.  Our target species had been seen by others but for us was keeping well out of sight.  It's good job that Jackie and I had a backup site not too far away and we headed off there.  Fortunately it took me just a minute or two scoping across the arable field to find one at the edge of the grass-line and the cultivated ground not just one but two an adult and a chick Stone Curlew.  Martin then picked up the other adult just a little way to the right and we were able to get good scope views of these amazing looking birds.  A little while later Ann and Tim managed to find another pair in the adjacent field and a Red Kite flew over us a perfect end to an excellent day.
Stone Curlew ©free internet photo
Thanks to all that came along for making it such a good and varied day.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Three Counties Wildlife Part 1

Well, it's that time of year when you're out walking and you come across all sorts of wildlife, though here at Two Owls we are primarily looking for birds we never pass anything without pointing it out.  From beautiful Orchids, Butterflies, Dragonflies right down to bugs, beetles to the larger mammals we think it makes for a better more interesting walk.

So here today as usual we are catching up with highlights from our recent walks locally and further afield in fact from three counties Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Our walk in the Wareham Forest was fairly uneventful other than we had a chance to get back to basics and used our ears to listen to many of the common species and identify them from their songs and calls, which everyone enjoyed and some surprised themselves with recognising a number of species which they don't have locally to them.  A Mistle Thrush, always nice to hear sat as is usual at the top of an oak singing well and gave a photo opportunity.  We also heard and watched the singing display flight of Siskin, Meadow Pipit and Greenfinch, also watching Dartford Warbler, Linnet, Stonechat and nicest of all screaming Swift and a Cuckoo.
Mistle Thrush aka "Storm Cock" Sherford Bridge ©Nick Hull
Our next walk was to Holt Heath, near Wimborne.  We started in the car park with Goldcrest singing in the Scots Pine over our heads, as we moved off out onto the heath we started checking off all the common species such as Robin, Chaffinch Song Thrush and migrants such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Once out on the heath itself we watch a Common Whitethroat doing its display song flight and had several Linnet singing and Swifts screaming through the sky above us along with a couple of Common Buzzard.

As we walked on Jackie heard our first Tree Pipit but it took us a while before we managed to locate it singing from the top of a dead tree.  Also we were serenaded by Woodlark and its relative Skylark just before seeing our first Dartford Warbler which seemed to be busy collecting food.  We located several Stonechat on our walk but only heard a single Cuckoo and Kestrel.  Though probably the best of the bird sightings were the three pairs of Curlew that were displaying over the bog.

During our walk we came across a couple of large beetles which always seems to add interest.
Minotaur Beetle (male) Holt Heath © Nick Hull
Ground Beetle Carabus arvensis Holt Heath © Nick Hull
Adding to the variety of wildlife recorded we added Beautiful Demoiselle, Azure and Large Red Damselflies and Broad-bodied Chaser, Brimstone, Common Blue, Green Hairstreak and Green-veined White Butterflies. Also we found our first Common Spotted Orchids for the year.
Green Hairstreak Holt Heath © Nick Hull
To be continued:-

Monday, 7 May 2018

Poole Harbour & Beyond

It seems to have been a very long and enjoyable week of birding for us, on Saturday (28th April) we joined the Birds of Poole Harbour early Birdboat down the Wareham Channel.   We had plenty of migrating birds to keep us busy, starting with a single Swift over Poole Quay and shortly after a group of Common Tern flew high over the boat heading north.  As we entered the mouth of the Frome and we were all watching Bearded Tits giving their "pinging" call in the riverside reeds, Nick called Osprey overhead and as it started to soar a Raven hassled it away towards Arne.
Swift over Poole Quay © Nick Hull
We had more Swifts, with Swallows and Sand Martins with just a few House Martins hawking over Swineham. Along the river a Kingfisher sat allowing good views as did Common Sandpiper momentarily landing then flying back and forth along the river.   We had calling Cetti's Warblers, plus a distant Cuckoo.

Around off Arne we had the usual Common also known as Harbour Seal and passage waders with Whimbrel, Dunlin, and Bar-tailed Godwits, also Common and Sandwich Terns fishing in the harbour which will soon be nesting on Brownsea Island lagoon.  Jackie picked out a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers along the Brownsea shoreline which is an unusual sighting for the time of year.

On Sunday 29th, we had a group out on a very early morning walk at Bolderwood in the New Forest, starting from the Canadian War Memorial.  Mistle Thrush, Blackbird and Chaffinch were singing as we got ready and Siskin flew overhead, our first migrant was a Wheatear on the heath opposite.  Wandering on  we had the usual Blue, Coal and Great Tit, Wren and Robin of course, also Chiffchaff.  Then the first Hawfinch flew over, the first of many this morning, though not always easy to get a good view of one settled.
Nuthatch © Nick Hull
Stock Dove called and then the Cuckoo started, we could hear Redstart but we struggled to see it then we heard Wood Lark singing.  Such a beautiful song, we stopped and listened and looked for the songster, it was hidden just out of our view.  Eventually it took to the air and we could see it well and then another, making a pair.  There were several Meadow Pipits also displaying here.  Back into the wood and we stopped to watch Treecreeper and a Blackcap.  Then two pairs of Crossbill were seen sat on top of  their respective conifers, the male looking resplendent in their red plumage.

A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming somewhere in the beech wood but not found, as were Firecrest singing in the top canopy of the conifers.  Nuthatch and Marsh Tit were more obliging and walking back to the cars we had singles of Buzzard and Grey Heron.

We popped to Eyeworth Pond, Fritham on the way home though we only saw one drake Mandarin Duck, we were entertained by the woodland birds with Marsh, Coal, Great and Blue Tit and Nuthatch coming to the feeders.

Nick was taking two ladies from London out birding from Monday to Friday which was very successful, including seeing male and female Golden Orioles on Portland, Bonapartes Gull on Longham Lakes, summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes at Blashford Lakes and Wood Sandpiper at Pennington Marshes.  He will be writing up his report soon.
female Golden Oriole Portland Bill © Nick Hull
Meanwhile I met our Wednesday monthly group in the wind and rain on the 2nd May at Middlebere, but it was all worthwhile.  We arrived at the hide to find a single Spoonbill in the field to the right of the hide, along with several splendid Grey Plover mostly in summer plumage and a few Dunlin, plus a lone Bar-tailed Godwit.  On the opposite side of the channel were a group of Black-tailed Godwits and lots of Shelduck, a couple of Little Egrets while a Common Tern was hawking over the channel.

The rain started to clear and a Swallow dashed about in front of the hide and a couple of Meadow Pipits.  Waders were starting to move off but no apparent reason for a while, then a Hobby dashed past the hide, then suddenly it was in front of the hide coming straight at us (Anthea even ducked), he swerved right over the top of the hide, awesome.  A Whimbrel flew past and two more came and landed in front of the hide giving great views.  We had actually left the hide but one of our group was very late and decided to go into the hide to see what he had missed and Osprey came in and landed on the nest pole, this was lucky for us as we all back into to have a look.
Osprey at Middlebere © Joe Baldwin
Walking back up the track in sunshine brought out a few birds, by the cottages looking over the reedbed we had two male Reed Buntings, several Reed Warblers singing and sat on top of one bush a Wheatear.  Tony had another one a little later and we added Kestrel, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, Stonechat and Song Thrush to the list, finishing with a Swift over the cars.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Catching up with Little Gull, Green-winged Teal, & Bonaparte's Gull

Since our last blog we have visited a number of locations Wareham Forest, Blashford, Pennington & Keyhaven, Longham Lakes and Lodmoor, in what has been mostly moist weather to say the least.  Though the visits have produced some good birds and migrants.

Our Blashford visit gave us many of the usual species we would expect with the added bonus of an adult Little Gull on Ibsley Water along with our first Swallow and Sand Martin.  From the Woodland hide we had at least four Brambling a species that has been pretty scarce locally this last winter.
Little Gull © Nick Hull
Jackie and I made a quick visit to Keyhaven and were successful in seeing the Green-winged Teal though when we took the group a couple days later it wasn't to be seen anywhere. Though we did manage to find the two summer plumaged Little Gulls at Pennington and we saw many more Swallow, Sand Martin. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and plenty of Chiffchaff were also present.
Green-winged Teal & Eurasian Teal © Nick Hull
Jackie and I on the off chance called into Longham Lakes one day in the hope the Bonaparte's Gull would be present. On our arrival we couldn't find it, though a Common Tern was patrolling the lakes.  We ran into George Green who had found the bird a few days previous but he said that he'd walked around the lakes and hadn't seen it either.  We were thinking we'd move on when I turned around and there behind us on an almost deserted north lake was the bird.  Over the next thirty minutes or so it gave us excellent views.  Well worth the stop.

Lodmoor was our most recent visit which started in the dry but before we were half way around the rain started but not before we had picked up a few migrants.  Our first was a singing Reed Warbler we came across at least three on our walk.  The next was a small flock of Swallow and Martins and Fran managed to find our first spring House Martin amongst them in fact there may have been three.  A Little further on we had Blackcap and a couple each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  As we walked along the west path heading towards the bay I heard a bird calling overhead and immediately realised it was a Serin, a few of us managed to see the small finch flying over towards the north-west, unfortunately it kept going.  Both the male and female Marsh Harrier put in separate appearances, also what was obvious since our last visit here was the lack of wildfowl numbers where birds had left for breeding grounds in northern Europe.
Female Marsh Harrier from the Archive

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

A Day on the Levels

Two Owls Birding's visit to the Somerset Levels reserves of Ham Wall, Shapwick and Greylake was arranged for Sunday 25th March, with the aim to hear and see Bittern and of course all the other great species the reserves have to offer.

Jackie and I, joined by Margaret decided we would B&B the night before to give ourselves a chance to do a little scouting around before the Sunday group arrived.  We made our first stop at RSPB Greylake and found lots of waterfowl were still present and loads of Reed Buntings and listened to Bearded Tits "pinging" and a brief sighting.  Then it was on to RSPB Ham Wall for a short walk to confirm the Bitterns were booming which indeed they were and that the Great White Egret were breeding again.  So after our recce we headed off to the B&B then the pub for dinner and an early night as the clocks were going forward.

Quite replete from our full english breakfast we met the group in the Ham Wall car park on what looked like it was going to be a very nice day weather wise and indeed it was.  Birding started in the car park with Chiffchaff and Robin singing, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, a Kingfisher and Bittern flying over and a pair of distant Buzzards.  We all headed out towards the Avalon Hide checking off many of the commoner species on the way.  Jackie spotted one of the early spring flowers thats often overlooked but its one of her favourites as it shows spring has arrived, Coltsfoot at the side of the path.
Coltsfoot - Ham Wall © Nick Hull
Angie started well with picking up a Lesser Redpoll flying over which briefly stopped in an Alder.  I picked up a Bittern flying along behind the trees and the group called another overhead, bringing our count to three before we had really started.  A little further on we stopped and looked over the Great White Egret nesting area where we could see at least six nest locations and seven birds present. 
Great White Egret landing at nest Ham Wall © Nick Hull
We also heard a few of the groaning calls that they make which is quite different than that of Grey Heron.  Other calls we heard here were the whinnying song of Little Grebe which seemed to accompany us all around the reserve.  Here we also had two Kingfisher one chasing the other that came "peeping" past us a couple of times.

Stopping at the first viewing platform we checked out the pools where I was able to explain about the black bill and about the salmon pink upper tarsus on a summer plumaged Great White.  Also explaining that a yellow billed bird would be a first summer bird and wouldn't breed until next year.  I was  then checking through the waterfowl, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe and I came to a Gadwall standing with a smaller duck to its right.  It was at roost head tucked but I could just see a pale blue-grey side panel and white supercilium, a male Garganey.  Whilst getting everyone on to the summer visitor a Bittern flew up and away to our right our fourth, then we had a series of 'booming' from three different birds excellent.  Scott picked up a small flock of Lapwing leaving the marsh with a single Black-tailed Godwit heading off east.
Great White Egret - Ham Wall © Nick Hull
We then made our way on to the Avalon hide we had another look at the Garganey from the screen on the way but though a tad closer it still stayed asleep resting after its long flight.  Reaching the the hide Angie had a brief view of a Bearded Tit a lifer for her whilst the rest of us were watching male and female Marsh Harrier quartering their territories.  We checked out the owl box but none were on show so after a while with little happening we walked back via the second bridge and then on to the car park for a late lunch.  We were happily entertained from our picnic bench by a day flying Pipistrelle bat working its way up and down the tree line, though he disappeared after a short while.
Drake Shoveler flyby Ham Wall © Nick Hull
After lunch we headed out on to the Shapwick reserve, here we repeated most of all the species seen in the morning but Noah Lake was a mass of waterfowl Wigeon by far predominated with Pintail, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Little and Great Crested Grebe, Mute swan, Greylag and Canada Geese in lesser numbers also there was a few Lesser Black-backed Gull present.  From the hide behind that looks over the very large read bed we had our closest views of a male Marsh Harrier of the day, though by the time I got the camera ready it had moved further away.
Male Marsh Harrier Shapwick © Nick Hull
After an hour or so on the Shapwick reserve we headed back to the cars and made the short drive to RSPB Greylake, another wetland reserve though more wet meadow and reedbed than reedbed with open water.  Here we watched a multitude of Reed Buntings coming in to the feeding stations in the car park along with Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Blue and Great Tits to name a few.
Male Reed Bunting - Greylake © Nick Hull
Walking out to the hides we had close views of Shoveler and Teal and a distant Great White Egret. Entering the main hide and looking out on to the wet meadow there was large number of Wigeon and Teal and lesser numbers of Pintail, Shoveler and Mallard, a scattering of Lapwing and Snipe.  We also recorded our first Little Egret, Redshank and Dunlin and a large flock of Golden Plover put on an aerial  display when flushed off fields further west, we also had our first Kestrel of the day here. 

All to soon our time was up and we had to walk back to the cars and start our journey home but not quite finished as walking back to the car Martin managed to spot a Bearded Tit.  We said our goodbyes and all went our own ways, however Mick and Angie decided they were going to go for a longer walk around the reserve as they were staying over in Glastonbury.  We were well on our way driving home when we received a call from Angie who excitedly said she had to call as they had just had two common Crane fly over them as the reached the car park after their walk, her second lifer of the day.
Wigeon outside the hide Greylake © Nick Hull

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Wareham Forest & Thorncombe Wood

Wareham Forest
On Sunday (18th) after the overnight snow I took a small and hardy group out around Wareham Forest, fortunately it was sunny though the wind was cold.  I wasn't expecting a large number of species but hoped we would find a few and with the cold snowy weather get some good views.  We started the walk from Sherford Bridge where we had some close views of Stonechat, we were to see several pairs over the next couple of hours.  We soon checked off many of the common woodland species and had a few small flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare going over.  A few Siskin also passed over and a Sparrowhawk was seen cruising low across the heath hoping to spook a Meadow Pipit no doubt.  We eventually arrived out in the open near to the Decoy Pond and almost immediately I picked up a bird flying towards us and I quickly realised it was our target, a Great Grey Shrike.  I hoped it was going to land close by but no it carried on right over us and continued out of sight, cursing under my breath as I hoped for better views.  
Great Grey Shrike from the archive
I turned to walk on and saw something at the top of a pine about thirty metres away and to my surprise it was another shrike I managed to get a few of the group straight on to it before it flew further back where it perched up again.  It then took off and Mathew saw it take a small bird possibly a tit or a crest species and disappear behind a line of pines.  We hung around for a while hoping one of them might reappear but they didn't, though we had a couple of pairs of Mallard a pair of Greylag Geese and seven Snipe flew over.  

Thorncombe Wood
Today, 20th March, we had our Tuesday group out at Thorncombe Wood LNR, this mixed woodland lies at the Dorchester end of Puddletown Forest.  We began with a few tits coming down to pickup seed that someone had placed on the fence posts with Coal, Blue and Great and then a pair Marsh Tits.  As we moved off a Song Thrush was in the ivy on the side of an Oak and we were bring serenaded by not just one but two Mistle Thrush, one we eventually found singing high up top of a beech tree.
Mistle Thrush Thorncombe Wood © Nick Hull
We had good views of a couple Treecreeper and had several Nuthatch singing and a number of Coal and Great Tit were in good voice.  Moving out onto the heath and the top of the reserve I led the group to a vantage point that looks out over the Frome valley and watched from here for a while.  Three birds flew over and one perched up top a tree then moved and sat in an oak to our left and started to sing, a beautiful male Yellowhammer, a Stonechat could be heard distantly singing.  A small group of thrushes passed four Redwing, five Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush then a few minutes later as I was still describing the difference with their flight calls a very large flock of thrush's, mostly Fieldfare with a few Redwing, came directly over us.  Seconds later we saw the reason for this exodus a Peregrine cruised through and continued towards the east. 
Redwing - Thorncombe Wood © Nick Hull
We had three drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and we had a pair fly into some pines giving us brief views.  Our return walk back to the car park produced more of what we had already seen and heard and added Stock Dove with a pair doing a display flight.