Sunday, 23 April 2017

Woodland Ramble!!!

On Wednesday (19th) we saw ourselves in the north of Dorset near the Wiltshire border at Garston Wood a RSPB woodland.  Its a very botanically rich woodland and can produce a good selection of woodland birds.  

Whilst we assembled in the car park we were serenaded Blackcap, Robin and Chiffchaff, walking through the gate we quickly added Orange-tip and Speckled Wood butterflies.  But the thing you really notice is the carpet of Bluebells interspersed with patches of Wild Garlic, Dogs Mercury, Wood Anemone and amongst all these Toothwort and Early Purple Orchids and Greater Twayblade just fantastic. 

Early Purple Orchid
Greater Twayblade Orchid
male Orange-tip - Garston Wood & Butcher Broom in berry © Nick Hull 
Our walk produced all the woodland species expected, Nuthatches were pretty active and probably our bird of the day was Tree Pipit, in fact we had two which were singing well and one sang long enough from one position for everyone to get pretty good views. Thanks to Martin for his photograph below.
Singing Tree Pipit - Garston Wood © Martin Black

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

New Forest & Coastal Birding

On Saturday (15th) we met up once again with Steve and Helena for a day's birding in the New Forest. After watching Marsh Tit, among the many birds feeding in Helena's beautiful garden, while having a cup of tea we drove to Pig's Bush/Bishop's Dyke area for our first walk of the day.  

Driving there we saw a Red-legged Partridge perched on top of a gate which started our list off nicely.  Arriving in Pig Bush car park we stopped to listen to the birdsong with Robin Blackbird, Stock Dove, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch and Chaffinch.  Walking out on to the heath a superb male Redstart hopped on to a branch then flew down to the ground then back up and stopped long enough to get even closer views in the scope.  We then heard the first of at least 10 Willow Warblers on our walk and a few Swallow flew over.  Meadow Pipits were displaying and a Buzzard was soaring over the far wood.

Coming into the marshy area of the dyke we had our first Stonechat, a splendid male and singing Willow Warbler.  We came into close contact with several Meadow Pipits flitting around this area, coming down on the path and almost dancing across the heather and landing back on the path, quite fascinating to watch them.  Reed Buntings as usual here and a Grey Heron flew across, then we heard a Cuckoo. Maybe it was Selborne, the first satellite tagged Cuckoo to return to UK, go to for more info.

In their usual spot were three Lapwings as we moved into the wood with another male Redstart to greet us.  We added Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker and Dunnock to our list, as well as watching three Mallard fly over.  Further on Siskins flew over and we stopped to watch a Greenfinch singing and displaying. Little further on Nick noticed a Treecreeper collecting nesting material.  We watched him going in and out of where he had obviously chosen to nest behind some loosened bark on an old Oak tree.  He was happy with us as we kept a very respectful distance but Nick was still able to get a nice series of photos.  
A sequence of shot of the Treecreeper moving around the tree to disappear under the bark to its nest. © Nick Hull
After lunch we went on to Lower Pennington, looking over Pennington Marsh as usual plenty of Canada Geese and more unusually two Barnacle Geese.  Also Lapwing, Redshank and a few Wigeon still.  A few Swallows flew by as we crossed over to look over the old landfill pool with the usual assortment of gulls, plus Tufted Duck and Coots.  On the grass I picked up four Wheatears in the scope also lazing Shelduck, then a few Sand Martins appeared hawking over the pool but disappeared almost as quickly.  A Buzzard over the distant woods and a Meadow Pipit started displaying.  The warm sunshine brought out a few butterflies with Peacock and Red Admiral noted here.

Walking on to look over Fishtail Lagoon we had Skylark and the loud blast of Cetti's Warbler singing.
At the lagoon we had Little Grebe, Gadwall, Teal and Little Egret, along with Redshanks but otherwise it was fairly quiet.  Looking out to the Solent we found a pair of Eider, also a Ringed Plover but in the heat haze it was difficult and a much closer Great Crested Grebe.  Looking behind Butts Lagoon we heard the "ping" call and watched a Bearded Tit briefly fly over the reeds before diving back into the reedbed.  Further on a few winter plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, a Reed Warbler sang from the reeds while a Whitethroat piped up behind us.

We ended our day at Tanner's Lane, rather busy with holiday makers so we didn't linger long but we were very pleased to see our first Little Tern of the year, while listening to the Mediterranean Gulls calling and in the scrubby area Blackcap and Chiffchaff sang.  A good end to a glorious day and thanks to Steve and Helena for being such great company.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Birding Keyhaven Marshes

Our Tuesday group met on the first day of Spring at Keyhaven for a walk round the marshes, in glorious sunshine but with a chilly wind.  It was a day when it was very noticeable that numbers of waders and wildfowl were much lower than of late, already flying north towards their breeding grounds.  We're sure this will change over the next few weeks with new waders coming through from the continent.

There was still plenty to keep us occupied, starting with a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, a few Brent Geese, Redshank and a single Oystercatcher.  Also the first of five bird of prey species with Marsh Harrier and Buzzard as we began walking the sea wall.  We were pleased to come across a flock of 30 Turnstones on the tideline, they hadn't forsaken us yet. We stopped to look over the small pools with a single Black-tailed Godwit, a few Redshank and Teal, also a Meadow Pipit.  A Kestrel hovered over the fields and then went across to the saltmarsh.  As I watched it I heard some of the birds on the marsh fly up agitated, Nick found the culprit as it flew towards us low and fast, a Sparrowhawk.  Nick luckily had his camera ready and got a couple of shots as it flew across us.  
Sparrowhawk - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
We reached Keyhaven Lagoon, first though a pair of Stonechats took our attention feeding on the ground and then popping up on top of the gorse or on the wire fence.  I could see a large white blob on the lagoon, looking very much like a hunched Spoonbill.  Not only was it indeed a Spoonbill moving round a little further we found four roosting together, one very briefly lifted up its head to show its bill.

Also on the lagoon were 22 Pintail, Wigeon, a few Lapwing and a smart Greenshank.  A couple of Roe Deer   On Fishtail Lagoon we added a couple of Snipe and three Spotted Redshanks, several Shoveler and Little Grebes.  On the saltmarsh all we could add were four Dunlin other than Redshanks and Curlews.
Redshank-Black-tailed Godwit Keyhaven ©Nick Hull
As we came up to the ancient highway a Cetti's Warbler called, a Skylark spiralled up in song despite the strong wind.  On the old tip pool were the usual Black-headed Gulls, Tufted Ducks, Coots and Canada Geese.   Suddenly the gulls lifted up and seemed upset, Nick again came to the rescue seeing the Peregrine flying along back of the old landfill.  It did land and we had poor views only really seeing its head as it came up from eating something it had obviously caught.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A good week Birding catch-up

It's been good birding over the past week or two with some excellent birds despite some grotty weather at times.   On  Sunday, 26 February, we had a group out for the day in the New Forest and it was challenging with wind and rain but we braved it and were rewarded for it.  Starting in the north of the forest watching for Goshawk, we'd had good views of a pair the week before so were very hopeful of a repeat.  Though we did see a pair they were fairly distant but with Wood Larks, Mistle Thrush, Raven and Lapwing nearby we didn't mind.

Moving on to Eyeworth Pond for the Mandarin Ducks we were not disappointed watching several drakes flying around the pond chasing each other, quite a sight!  Another reason to pop into Eyeworth is for Marsh Tit attracted to seed that someone puts down on the wooden posts.  Of course it also attracts other small birds including Coal Tit.  On to Bolderwood for a comfort stop and a quick look round, on the grass were several Mistle Thrush and a couple of Song Thrushes.  However it was Scott that picked up a two of Crossbills flying over us.  

Now the rain was heavier and we moved on to Beaulieu road to have lunch before looking for the Great Grey Shrike.  We added Stonechat and not much else and certainly not the Shrike!  However, our last stop at Blackwater Arboretum was now much less windy and much drier, even a bit of blue sky at last.  We had seven species of finch with Chaffinch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, a brief view of a Redpoll nicely picked up by Angus.  However the best was left to last with Hawfinch, we saw a few flying in but not stopping then one landed in a dead fir.  It stayed there for at least 20 minutes while we watched and admired it, in the end we had to leave.  
Male Hawfinch - New Forest © Nick Hull
On Tuesday, 28 February, Nick and I went with our friend Margaret to Abbotsbury, West Dorset.  It was very windy to say the least but we walked over the field by the Swannery looking for the Richard's Pipit that have been wintering there.  Nick spotted them in a private field but through the scope we managed good views, super looking birds.  Feeling a bit battered in the wind we got back to car and looked over the water in a bit more comfort.  We found the Long-tailed Duck and Scaup, also watched a Marsh Harrier briefly quartering the reeds.  After a great pub lunch we popped down to Portland Harbour for the Slavonian Grebe recently reported and Nick found two so another year tick in the bag.

Our Wednesday group on 1 March, we met at Knoll Beach, Studland for a walk in the wood, it was a quiet start with the usual common woodland birds.  Not much on Littlesea but Joe had spotted a small bird to the right of the hide, so we investigated.  Very glad we did as I walked to side of the hide on the ground were a small flock of Redpolls feeding.  We stood and watched these beautiful little birds for ages before finally they flew off.  
Great Northern Diver Studland © Nick Hull
Now for a spot of seawtaching first from Knoll Beach and then from Fort Henry, with a scattering of Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes and then two Great Northern Divers showed very well.  Then we heard the familiar call of Ring-necked Parakeets, despite being a brilliant green in colour they really don't stand out but eventually we had very good views of them.  On the way back to the cars admiring the beautiful spring flowers, with Snowdrops, Primroses, Daffodils, Fran saw a small bird flitting around and I able to see it briefly before it flew off, a Firecrest!

On the afternoon of 2 March it was sunny and we had a chance to visit Wareham Forest to look for the Great Grey Shrike, we started with Reed Bunting, then a few Siskin flying over as well as a Raven.  We hadn't walked that far when the shrike put in an appearance.  It was distant so no photo's again for Nick but through the scope we could admire it.  We added Stonechat on our walk back to the car.  

As we had been so lucky to see the shrike so quickly we popped over to the bay at the end of the afternoon but only recorded the usual gull coming into bathe before going to roost in the Wareham Channel.  But we were handsomely rewarded with a female Hen Harrier.

This week we've also caught up with the Snow Bunting on Studland Beach, if you've not seen it yet it likes to hang round Pilots Point area.  On a beautiful spring day you won't be disappointed, this was our view on Tuesday 7 March.  Shame I managed to put my thumb over part of the lens!

Studland Beach looking towards Sandbanks © Jackie Hull

Friday, 24 February 2017

Deep Sounds from the Garden Pond

Sorry for having blogged of late but we have been away and both ended up with a nasty cold virus which we have now both recovered from so hopefully we can get back to normal.  So we will catchup on posts over the next few days hopefully, but for now a short blog from earlier in the week
Our small garden Pond
This last week it suddenly came to Jackie's notice that we had a couple of Frogs and a few Palmate Newts  in the pond.  Next day we had a little frog spawn and even more frogs, in fact our peek count was ten pairs.

Over the next few days all we could hear was a continuous deep croaking from the pond and every morning more spawn would appear.  Until today when there was only spawn and all the frogs seem to have gone.

Below is a sound recording of what we were hearing. Also you can hear Goldfinch sounds as they came and went from our feeding station.

Frog spawn and you can just make out a Palmate Newt having breakfast

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Birding Poole Harbour

We had a great day with the group yesterday (4th February), starting at South Haven looking over Shell Bay.  As we walked through to the dunes Martin picked up a male Bullfinch that gave brief views and we checked off a few of the common woodland species.  Setting up our scopes and looking out over Shell Bay, at first glance there seemed to be little around.  Then I picked up single Black-necked Grebe quite close inshore and a adult Mediterranean Gull a little further up the beach.  Further offshore near to Pilots Point I found a Great Northern Diver.  Then a couple of Shag surfaced both showing their crests and looking ready for the breeding season.  A while later a black duck came into view we had good scope views of a very nice drake Common Scoter.  We also found Meadow Pipits a single Rock Pipit and a handful of Oystercatcher further up the beach. It just goes to show that what appeared at a glance to be an empty sea with a little persistence some nice birds were found.

We moved on to look over the inner harbour and Bramble Bush Bay, here we straightaway added Red-breasted Mergansers which were scattered all across the area in small groups, another Great Northern Diver was found in the South Deep off Brownsea as was another Black-necked Grebe.  Cormorants on Stoney Island had the company of a Grey Heron which somehow looked a little odd out in the middle of the harbour.  Still looking over the same area, though from the Boat houses a little further along the beach towards Redhorn Quay, we added another Great Northern Diver, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Redshank, Goldeneye distant Shelduck and Little Egrets.  Jackie then noticed a female Sparrowhawk towards North Haven harassed by a Carrion Crow, it didn't relent in its pursuit as it flew across us and out towards Studland Bay.

On to the look over Brand's Bay we added to our wader list with Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshanks and Grey Plovers. There was plenty of wildfowl, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, fewer Mallard and Pintail and Brent Geese and a scattering of Great Crested Grebes.  From here we moved to Middle Beach where scanning the bay added numbers to species we had already seen with a further twelve Common Scoter, four Black-necked Grebe a couple of Mediterranean Gulls and our fourth Great Northern Diver.  The only species added was a single very distant Razorbill. Walking around the coastal path as we passed Fort Henry, Tony picked up two Ring-necked Parakeets which soon turned into four which gave the group great views as the fed and checked out nesting holes.
Ring-necked Parakeet © Nick Hull
It's amazing how time flies when your enjoying your birding and it was time to take a break for our packed lunch adding Raven and Buzzard before moving on to Norden.  Where we found at least a dozen Chiffchaff but no sign of the Siberian or the Firecrest, but Stock Dove and Grey Wagtail were added.  It was off to Hartland Moor and Middlebere, Hartland added Kestrel but there was no sign of the Great Grey Shrike so we walked to the Middlebere hide via Tim's Tump where we had more Brent, Little Grebe, Jay and our first Gadwall.  From the Middlebere hide the tide was pushing in and all the waders were moving into the roost front of the hide so many were hidden from view, but many were seen when they lifted off and stretched their wings or moved as the tide pushed them off.  here was good numbers of Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Lapwing, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Wigeon, Teal and Brent Geese.
Lapwing and Dunlin © Nick Hull
We ended the day with Dartford Warbler calling at dusk, two Spoonbill, three Marsh Harrier and three large flocks possibly a thousand birds in all of Starling heading towards Studland no doubt for the evening murmuration before going to roost.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Keyhaven/Pennington Marshes & Upton CP

On Wednesday 18th January our group met at Keyhaven and started immediately with Marsh Harrier, in fact three of them, mostly just resting on top of the bushes.  A Cetti's Warbler sang from somewhere in the reedbed as we started to walk around the sea wall and as usual the Turnstone were searching through the seaweed and doing what Turnstones do, flipping pebbles for a tasty sandhopper or two.  On the far shore there were many Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin and Curlew and in the distance we saw a very large flock of Brent take flight and heading inland, no doubt to feed on the fields.  Tony picked out a distant Grey Plover and a little later we had a few closer individuals which we could study much better.  As we walked on we could here the calls of Curlew and Grey Plover from the distance edge of the salt marsh and the odd Redshank would be seen flying a short distance to find a better feeding area.  Andy had a little luck with his camera with a very confiding Rock Pipit which seemed to be more interested in feeding than it was in Andy or the rest of us come to that. 
Rock Pipit © Andy Copplestone
Keyhaven lagoon we found it frozen with only a few Teal, Pintail, Wigeon a single Lapwing and Stock Dove.  Fishtail lagoon was also partially iced over but the bank had a good selection of wildfowl, we added Shoveler and Gadwall to our ever growing list.  We were treated by a flyover of noisy Canada Geese and another flock of Brent. We were just continuing along toward Butts Lagoon when I noticed a large brown bird with slow wing beat heading towards us, as I raised my binoculars to get a better look my initial thoughts were bird of prey.  You can imagine my surprise when it turned to give me a side profile and it was a Bittern I quickly called and I was very pleased that everyone in the group got onto it before it descended into the reedbed of Butts Lagoon.  On reaching the lagoon we scanned the reeds in the hope of getting another sighting but with no luck.  
Bittern © Andy Copplestone
Looking over the outer marsh there was a good few waders roosting mainly Grey Plover and Dunlin but we managed to find a handful of Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot amongst them. Out on the Solent there were a few Great Crested Grebes, several small groups of Red-breasted Merganser and Wigeon then a Kingfisher was found fishing from the Pennington jetty.

Pennington Marsh was fairly frozen though there was good numbers of Lapwing, Pintail, Wigeon and Snipe but no sign of any Golden Plover or an wintering Ruff seen on our last visit.  We added little on our way back to Keyhaven.

On Sunday 22nd January our Sunday group met at Upton Country Park, being on the edge of Poole Harbour it comes into its own in winter.  When we have a freeze  the water treatment works outfall flows into the top end of north east part of the bay warming the water slightly so it doesn't freeze like many of the other peripheral bays.  This of course has the attraction for the wildfowl searching for a place to feed.  

Today the bay was stacked with Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Avocet, Curlew,  Redshank, Knot, Spotted Redshank and Oystercatcher  scattered all over the north west and north east sections of the bay.  We managed after sometime to find our target species for the day a "redhead" Smew, a delightful female which has been returning to Holes Bay for the last couple of winters or so.  She was mingling with the Wigeon out in the middle of the main channel a little different to her usual habits of either being on her own or with Goldeneye. 
 Smew © Nick Hull
The renowned PC World drain produced a Little Egret, at least a half dozen Chiffchaff, Pied Wagtail and a single Grey Wagtail.  The woodland of the park produced the usual tit species and we found a small tit flock that included a couple of Treecreeper, Nuthatch and in the same area a couple of Redwing.  
A view across Holes Bay N/E section © Jackie Hull