Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Walk in the New Forest

It was our last Tuesday fortnightly group meeting for the summer term and we had a circular walk at  Bishop's Dyke in the New Forest, one of my favourite summer walks.  It seemed fairly quiet though we had the usual Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush.  The Dog Roses added a touch of colour to the  darkness at the edge of the wood, as we came out to the heath we found another splash of colour with Heath Spotted Orchids and the heather was starting to flower.

Meadow Pipits were displaying and a Grey Heron flew over and a small party of Linnets seemed to bounce over the bracken and out of view.  The Stonechats as always were very obliging and it was good to see a juvenile, in fact I think they have had a good breeding season, we seemed to have Stonechats all along our walk.   Approaching the boggy stream we heard Willow Warbler and a couple Reed Buntings singing.  A Dartford Warbler flew up and gave it's characteristic scratchy call and disappeared almost immediately, it reappeared twice before everyone managed to see it.  In the wet grassland three Little Egrets were feeding with a Lapwing looking on and a single Pied Wagtail.    Then a Kestrel flew over and immediately two Lapwing were up and flying to drive off the Kestrel from their territory.

Now on our return to the cars we came upon a family party of Swallows, the young birds would settle on a branch and wait for the adults to feed them, before flying around again, a true delight to watch.  We had our only butterfly, a Meadow Brown and then only a count of three, very disappointing.  On a more cheerful note we had our first Redstarts, the males certainly brighten up any day.  A Treecreeper made its way mouse like up an oak, and a Blackcap gave us a burst of song and a Green Woodpecker put in a brief appearance.  Siskins were calling from the top of the Silver Birch trees and we did manage some views of two of them.  A Tree Pipit flew up singing in a display flight and obligingly landed where we were able to get good 'scope views.

An excellent walk to finish for our summer break and look forward to starting our Autumn term in September.

Heath Spotted Orchid © Jackie Hull

Coming into the wood at Bishop's Dyke © Jackie Hull

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Chalk & Wetland Birding

After a great five day Two Owls Birding Break to Pembrokeshire, something for another post, I met up with the Tuesday group at Martin Down yesterday and the Wednesday group at RSPB Radipole today.

At Martin Down we met in the main car park and walked across the busy road to Kitt's Grave.  A Song Thrush was singing on the wires, one of many on this part of our walk and we got no further before the rain started and watched a Meadow Brown fluttering to find shelter.  When the rain stopped for brief moments the birds were singing with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Robin and Woodpigeon. We had a Buzzard soar across and a few Swifts but otherwise our attention was taken by a couple of Roman Snails slowly crossing our path and a Small Blue sat out in the wet  As we started back to the main road a Tree Pipit started to sing and we found him sat up on the wires and good views were had in the scope.  Then a Garden Warbler started singing and in their usual fashion kept singing without taking breath and sounds like it's in such a hurry to get all the notes out!

Back on the down itself we walked along the dyke and had Linnets and listened to Yellowhammer and Skylarks but it started raining again and the birds took shelter.  From the Rifle Butts towards the car park the rain stopped and the birds reappeared, the Skylarks seemed to be everywhere.  Watching  some Linnets I saw a Red-legged Partridge walking the path away from us and in the scope we could see just one youngster with it.  Looking at a Skylark on a bush a Corn Bunting joined it then another.   Yellowhammers sat up to be noticed now and we finished with a Whitethroat before the rain came down again and we went back to our cars.
Small Blue © Jackie Hull
This morning a very different habitat at Radipole RSPB reserve in Weymouth and sunshine and no showers!   Standing on the bridge by the Centre we had low flying Swifts and House Martins, on the water Mallard, Shelduck, Gadwall and Tufted Ducks and a pair of Mute Swans with cygnets.  A Common Tern perched on a railing and an Oystercatcher was sat on its nest on the island.  

Moving only a short distance a Reed Warbler popped up and though moving about was nice and showy.  Just a few steps further on a Cetti's Warbler exploded into song and so loud, not surprising as it was just a couple of feet from us on eye level on a bare branch.  From the elevated platform we had a Bearded Tit fly across twice and a male Reed Bunting on a distant bush.  

As we moved on round to the North Hide we had Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing, then we heard Sedge Warbler.  Moving nearer it showed very well and was busy searching and finding food for its young in a nest hidden nearby totally oblivious to us but we moved on to make sure we didn't disturb him.  We did see the male Marsh Harrier from the hide, also Grey Heron and Reed Buntings.  Walking back we looked for the Bee Orchids and also had Marsh Orchids along the paths, butterflies included Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Orange Tip and several Blue-tailed Damselflies.  Finally a delightful sight of a pair of Coots with just one baby and giving it their full attention providing plenty of food.

Coot adults with 1 young © Jackie Hull
Sedge Warbler © Joe Baldwin



Thursday, 2 June 2016

Birding Three Counties

Over the last 4 days we've been birding over parts of Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire and despite some gloomy weather we have had some great birds.

On Sunday, 29th May, we at last went to Portland to see the long-staying Great Spotted Cuckoo.  This bird arrived while we were on holiday in France and though we've been back a couple of weeks we never had the right opportunity to go.  We arrived at Reap Lane at 8.40a.m. and stood with a few other birders looking at bushes we were told it prefers.  Getting restless we decided to look a little further up the road when we met a local lady who said it will be in the bush we'd been looking at and it will appear at 9a.m.  Amazingly she was spot on and we had some good views, as it sat on the edge of the bush picking off large Brown-tail moth caterpillars for its breakfast.

Great Spotted Cuckoo © Nick Hull
On Bank Holiday Monday we decided it was a good day to look for Stone Curlew and to visit the RSPB reserve at Winterbourne Downs in Wiltshire.  The sightings board did have a sighting of a single Stone Curlew which had been seen that morning.  We realised that in fact the breeding Stone Curlews on this reserve were not open to the public, disappointing for us but good for the birds!

Nick had heard a Red-legged Partridge when we arrived but we couldn't find it but we did having Yellowhammers, Greenfinch and great views of Corn Buntings.  From the screen looking at a "Stone Curlew" patch we watched a pair of Lapwings and four Brown Hares.  We then stood fascinated by a pair of Chiffchaffs taking food into a patch of brambles and weeds where they obviously had a nest.  They seemed quite oblivious of us and were very busy.  A Garden Warbler started singing a superb songster and Swifts flew overhead.

Our next stop was to a site where we usually watch Stone Curlew in Wiltshire, this time we were not disappointed.  We had lots of Skylarks, Corn Buntings and we heard a singing Quail - of course we didn't get to see it.  We had Linnets and Swifts were overhead as we came to the site of the Stone Curlew and we picked it up straight away as it was standing out in the open.  Tearing ourselves away we drove on adding Pied Wagtail and Jay, Whitethroat and Meadow Pipit.  We had Stonechat and then we heard Whinchat singing, Nick found the male singing on top of a bush.   Moving on again we stopped to look over another area for Stone Curlew but our attention was soon taken by a beautiful male Montagu's Harrier.  What a brilliant day!
Yellowhammer © Nick Hull

Tuesday, we had our group out at Holt Heath near Wimborne, but it was windy and cool and this was not good for birding today.  In the car park we could hear Siskins overhead in the pines.  Walking through to the heathland we had Song Thrush and Blackbird and a Buzzard overhead.  We had several Chiffchaffs on our walk and four singing Blackcaps, but it was hard work today but then in a sheltered spot we found a few Linnets on the path, Stonechats including a male sat with a youngster.  Then Yellowhammer started singing and we found him sat up, a second male close by and then we heard a third nearby.  Despite the weather we did find a Holly Blue butterfly and a small stand of Heath Spotted Orchids.
Heath Spotted Orchid © Jackie Hull
Today, 1st June, though with the weather was not very summery and our Wednesday group was at Martin Down, Hampshire.  The sound of Skylarks accompanied us all the way round, also Yellowhammers were in good numbers.  Chiffchaff was singing in the parking area, we also had Common Whitethroat and three of us had views of a Lesser Whitethroat, though another one was singing later on our walk.  

We hadn't gone far when we heard our first of three singing Turtle Doves, we did get views of it sat out but then it had a display flight landing back to the same perch.  Further on I saw one sat out on a bare branch.  We had the usual Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, though a Mallard flying over was a bit more unusual.  

We came to an area with a few Fragrant and Common Spotted Orchids and here we started seeing Linnets and a few Swifts overhead.  A Green Woodpecker flew up and came superb views and it decided to briefly perch uncomfortably on a bush.  We heard Blackcap singing and a Lesser Whitethroat.  A few Stonechats and as we approached the car park I heard a Corn Bunting, we did locate it and then one sang from behind us and much closer, a good bird to finish our walk with.
Fragrant Orchid © Jackie Hull