Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Lytchett Bay

Our group meeting on Sunday (8th October) had a perfect day, a little cool to start but windless, dry and sunny. As Lytchett Bay is our home patch it's always nice to share it with others the only thing is you always worry that it's not going to live up to expectations.  We walked through the wood out to the bay the tide was low but rising slowly. As we reached the shore a few close waders moved off landing again further out in the bay. We started scanning with binoculars and scopes picking up Wigeon, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Mallard and Teal but for scanning the whole bay I was distracted by a pinging sound to my right in the reedbed.


Yes, Bearded Tits at least six individuals were flitting about in the reeds only giving brief views as they moved around.  We were still watching and hoping the Reedlings would sit up on the reeds when I then picked up a Marsh Harrier quartering at the Slough Lane end of the reedbed.  As this bird hunted over the reeds it became obvious this was a young second year male, he disturbed a few birds including a Snipe that towered up and flew high over our heads. After we went back to scanning the bay and Bob found a single Spoonbill feeding at the far side and a Kingfisher flew across. We heard the slightly eerie bellow from a Sika Stag and he was found out to our right looking rather smart.

We retraced our footsteps back to the road and walked around to the Lytchett Bay View near Border Drive, en-route checking off several garden and woodland species.  From the raised viewpoint we could see a small group of duck mainly Wigeon, Mallard and Teal then we heard the squealing call of a couple of Water Rail.  We also had good views of a flight of Black-tailed Godwit and a large skein of Canada Geese passed over.  We also had more Bearded Tit and the Marsh Harrier again though gave us closer views this time.  As we started to move on Jackie called Skylark and looking skyward there were seven birds flying over towards northwards, we had a second group going the same direction shortly after when we were looking around Chad Copse.  We continued our walk along the shoreline to Turlin Moor leaving ten Collared Dove and a couple of Greenfinch and Chiffchaff in the copse.  The shoreline produce Blue Tit and Wren, Reed Bunting and out in the bay we added Oystercatcher and five Greenshank roosting with Redshank, several Little Egret, Grey Heron and a flock of Goldfinch.  A single Stonechat is unusual here but by the time we had reached the Turlin birding screen we had seen six, obviously migrants moving through.

Our return to the cars enabled us to see much of what we already had though we added Goldcrest and a few more Chichaff, House Sparrows, Starlings and distant a Buzzard.  We recorded 54 species in what is relatively a small area.

One or two of the group requested if we could direct them to RSPB Lytchett Fields so I led them to the west of the bay and with the tide in there was a good number of wildfowl and waders on the fields.  We added Ruff, Dunlin, Pied Wagtails and the Spoonbill was now a little closer and we could see it was a immature as it was showing black tips on the primaries. There was about five Ruff two of which came into the pools right in front of us and gave stunning views, unfortunately the Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint that was there earlier couldn't be found. Probably roosting in amongst the Redshank and Dunlin and hidden from our view.

We ended the morning saving a Pale Tussock caterpillar that was crossing the road who could let such a stunning caterpillar get squashed by a car.
Internet photograph
Next Morning
Jackie and I were invited to drop by the Stour Ringing Groups ringing session at Lytchett Heath early next morning.  I woke at 06.45hrs breakfasted and Jackie decided to be lazy and lay in so off I went.  All I had to do was drive half a mile, it was dry when I left home, after getting out of the car and starting to walk to the ringing station there was a dampness in the air.  By the time I met Shaun, Ian and the others it was "mizzle".  They had just finished the second net round and had bags of birds, umbrella's were fetched to shelter the birds in the bags and the ringing table and recording book and the net furled.  The rain didn't last long but we all got a bit wet except the birds which was good.  The first bird to be ringed was a Reed Bunting, an immature female age unknown or in ringing terms a 2.  The next was a delight to see up close a female Bearded Tit, then a male.

Male Bearded Tit - Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull
Other birds caught were Reed Warbler, Robin, Chiffchaff, and Blue Tit but before I arrived they had the patch first Redwing of the autumn, a single Cetti's Warbler but double figures of Reed Bunting and Bearded Tits showing that there was some post breeding dispersal going on.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Lytchett Bay Night-time Sounds

As some of you already know I do a little night-time recording when the weather is conducive, but living in a semi urban location it's hard to get good clear recordings as there is usually something that spoils it.  Emergency vehicle sirens, helicopters, plane and trains are usually the main culprits but people walking by shouting, dogs barking etc also spoil many a recording.  Very occasionally everything comes together and I get a pretty good recording which is loud enough to upload here which doesn't require wearing headsets to listen to them.

The following two sounds were selected from nine hours of recordings taken on the night of 17th - 18th September 2017.

Tawny Owl Sonogram
The above sonogram is just a small part of the recording below, it shows the three calls that start at 36  to 45 seconds which ends with the two hoots.



I recorded the first bellows from the Sika Stags on the 25th August but they were all too far away but on the night of 17/18 September I recorded this Stag which must have been close to our the home.  At this time of year when the rut is taking place we can hear them from the garden all around the bay.  Most of the Stags will bellow three times then stop then bellow another three times then stop I presume this is to listen for other stags that may be nearby.

Sika Stag Sonogram

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Keyhaven Wader ID Walk

We met at Keyhaven on a three quarter tide and as soon as we got out of our cars we had seven Bearded Tits flying into the reedbed next to the parking area, not waders but what a start!  We took the shoreline path and immediately started with a number of Black-tailed Godwits, mostly adult birds but we managed to find a couple of youngsters to compare plumages.  Here we also had Turnstone, Dunlin and Grey Plovers followed by Curlew and Redshank.  Moving on round we came across a number of birders looking into a marshy field and found out that the Wryneck from the previous day had been seen.  We gave it some time but it didn't show so we moved on to look for the Grey Phalarope on Keyhaven lagoon, though we hadn't gone far when Martin drew our attention to a Peregrine sitting on a post out in the saltmarsh on the seaward side.

Scanning Keyhaven Lagoon we added eight Pintail looking like they were freshly arrived and a flight of eight Wigeon flew over to the west.  We were just viewing the Grey Phalarope at the far end of the lagoon before moving for closer views when another birder mentioned to us that the Wryneck was now showing.  We turned on our toes and headed quickly back to look for this small woodpecker species.  Very kindly one of the birders helped me to place my scope on the right spot so I could do the same for the rest of the group.  It took a few minutes for it to show and then it popped up right on top of a small mound giving good views though a little distant, then it flew a short way and disappeared out of sight again. It was nice to get a life tick for a number of the group so everything else was going to be a bonus.

Shortly after we were stood at the end of Keyhaven lagoon looking to see where the Grey Phalarope had gone, it was nowhere to be seen.  I stepped as close to the drainage ditch as possible to look down the edge and it just popped up and flew directly towards us banking at the last minute and plopped down on the water just a few metres in front of us giving great views.

Grey Phalarope sequence shot as it passed us and landed on the water © Nick Hull
Well, Jackie and I knew we weren't going to top that but the rest of the walk produced all the usual species we would usually expect to see and we added a couple of Spoonbill which were feeding on Fishtail lagoon.
Spoonbill - Fishtail Lagoon - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
We walked out to the point to see if there was anything out on the Solent and this gave us the opportunity to look at a number of Grey Plover that still retained most of their summer plumage.  We had a few more Dunlin and Oystercatchers. We ended the day with 64 species and hopefully the group has a better idea of ageing waders.
Grey Phalarope - Keyhaven Lagoon © Nick Hull
I promised a couple of the group a link to the ageing of Grey Plover, and one to show waders that migrate via the Yellow Sea that shows what an important area it is for so many wader species or as they say on the video Shorebirds.



Monday, 25 September 2017

You should never think it's all over, particularly in birding

After seeing Least, Stilt and Buff-breasted Sandpiper in just a few days it never struck us that the next week was going to be nearly the same.  

We had a walk at Lodmoor on the 20th where we hoped the two American sandpipers would stick around but unfortunately they didn't, but the day was good and we had a good selection of birds none-the-less.  Not long after starting our walk we had two Cattle Egrets flying across the back of the reserve and going into the distant reed bed, a good start.  Jackie found a couple of teal sized ducks with a distinctive supercilium I managed a brief look at one of them before they disappeared from view, to quick for most of the group, we both thought Garganey but they didn't show again for us.  Later three were found by another birder which confirmed our thoughts.  On the marsh at the bottom of Beachdown Drive we had our first Yellow Wagtail along with a number of Pieds. A little further on at one of the viewpoints I picked out, among a few Dunlin, a Curlew Sandpiper then one of the group picked out a Common Sandpiper and from the viewing shelter we added two more.  Here we also had an adult and juvenile Sandwich Tern, then eight more Yellow Wagtails flew in showing the variations of plumages of juveniles and adult.  

From the Hump side of the reserve we scanned through the small flock of Dunlin and found a second Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, a Sparrowhawk flew in and disappeared into the rush at the far side of the scrape. We were just walking on when Joe called Marsh Harrier and over the middle of the reserve was a immature male quartering the marsh.
Curlew Sandpiper - from Two Owls Archive
After finishing our walk we found out that the Baird's Sandpiper was still at Lynch Cove and a few of the group were keen to see it.  So we headed off across the town and around fifteen minutes later saw us standing beside the Fleet scanning through a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover.  I quickly picked up a small long winged stint-like wader a smart juvenile plumaged Baird's Sandpiper a perfect end to a mornings birding.

The next day (21st) I took a bit of a lay-in and was just finishing breakfast when Shaun rang and said "Hi Nick, Shaun Stilt Sand on Lytchett Fields" it took me a few seconds and for Shaun to repeat what he said for me to take it in, I quickly replied "ok see you in a minute".  All thought of finishing breakfast had gone Jackie and I grabbed Bins, Scope and Camera and in to the car.  A short drive and a quick walk found us standing in the drizzle trying to locate the sandpiper at the bottom of the field.  We had several views none were brilliant when it suddenly took flight and headed towards us, the four of us  there were locked on to it as if it was a guided missile.  Nearly to us it banked left circled and then our prayers answered it landed about thirty metres from us.  I threw caution to the wind and pulled out the camera into the rain and took a dozen or so confirmation shots not really expecting them to be prize winning and not caring too much.  Jackie and I watched it until we were uncomfortably wet and headed home to dry out by which time a number of fellow patch and Poole Harbour birders had arrived to see it.
Stilt Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields © Nick Hull
That morning we also had two Curlew Sandpiper, two Little Stint, three Ruff plus all the usual common waders. Next day it wasn't seen but was refound at Middlebere on 24th.

The day did get even better when we heard that the Grey Phalarope on Arne Moors had been joined by a Red-necked Phalarope.  Of course an opportunity we could not miss of seeing both species together and in Poole Harbour.  Arrangements had been made with boat yard for access so easy parking and a short walk found us with lots of fellow Poole birders watching these two small and very attractive arctic breeding species. It's uncommon to see both together and the Red-necked was quite obviously smaller.
Red-necked & Grey Phalaropes - Arne Moors © Ian Ballam

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Since I started writing our last blog we went off to see yet another American sandpiper, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and this time on Portland.  We arrived at the Obs and decided to just pop to see the Wryneck in the Obs Quarry first.  The bird had not been seen for 1/2 hr or so, but eventually I wandered round to a young man who was staring into the grasses.  After a little while he turned and said he had the bird, it was difficult to get everyone on to it but I thankfully found it fairly easily as it popped its head up, it was incredibly well hidden.
Wryneck - Obs Quarry, Portland Bill
The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was a different matter, it was so close to area fenced off where the few birders were sat watching it feeding quite happily, before trying to shelter from the strong wind behind the horse poo.  Then it would come back out and run around, feed then without any apparent reason started flying and we watched flying out to sea a little way and out of sight.  Apparently it does this every so often, but didn't return before we left.

              
The video clips were photocopied are © Wayne Prosper and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper © Nick Hull

Dorset Sandpipers and more

American sandpipers seem to be favouring Dorset at the moment with Baird's on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Least and Stilt on Lodmoor, Weymouth and most recent yesterday a Buff-breasted was found at Portland.  We did try twice for the Baird's but dipped twice so we were hoping we could get to Lodmoor after taking our Tuesday group at Middlebere on the 12th.  More of about Lodmoor later, first we had a brilliant morning with the group.

It was the first of our Autumn course (12th September) so it was good to see everyone back together and Ben who was new to our group.  The sun was shining and this certainly brought the birds out and we started almost immediately with Redstart.  It would fly down to the path showing it's bright tail beautifully, a little further on we found two more.  House Martins were flying over all the time we were out, then a Kestrel appeared hovering over the moor.  Meadow Pipits were on move to as well as our usual resident species of Goldfinch, Wren and Robin joining in the mix.
Common Redstart - Middlebere ©Nick Hull
One of the highlights this morning was a Lesser Whitethroat sat out on a branch of the hedge enjoying the sunshine allowing time for us to really enjoy this little bird.  For some of the group this was the best views they've had of this species.  Above it was a small charm of Goldfinch and Blue Tits.  The sun also brought out the butterflies with Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Heath and Speckled Wood.

We'd hardly moved a few hundred metres down the track at this stage with so much to see, moving down though we added a pair of Bullfinch, though calling they were hard to see.  A female Blackcap popped up which I called then Nick said he had a male.  Then we stopped at a copse where several Chiffchaffs were flitting about with a couple of Willow Warblers with them and Long-tailed Tits.  From here on to the cottages we added Stonechat and a very smart Spotted Flycatcher as well as the usual Blackbird and Dunnock.
Spotted Flycatcher - Middlebere ©Nick Hull
From the hide an Osprey was perched in the dead tree but the heat haze didn't help viewing.  An array of waders in the channel included Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin and Oystercatcher.  Also Teal Mallard and Little Egret as well as three Spoonbill, until a flight of 27 came in to boost the numbers to 30!  Seeing them in flight is a such a sight very graceful for a long legged large white bird.
26 Spoonbill over Middlebere lake ©Nick Hull
Looking from the bench by the barns we heard Water Rail and saw a couple of Stonechats.  But it was the sight of a Kestrel being joined by a juvenile Hobby and they started tussling together right in front of us.  Quite quickly they broke away and the Hobby landed in a tree allowing us great views through the scope.  What a finish to a great morning now for those Sandpipers at Lodmoor!

We met up with Wayne who works at RSPB Arne for his ever twitch and first visit to Lodmoor.  This proved to be a very easy twitch as we arrived at the "Bandstand" or viewing shelter it was very easy to find the juvenile Least Sandpiper.  As named it is a diminutive American wader which has been blown across the Atlantic and the first one seen in Dorset.  While watching a Green and Common Sandpiper  came in and now we wandered round to find our fourth sandpiper and second rarity the Stilt Sandpiper.  This was a very different looking bird to the Least and no less good looking and we had good close views of this splendid wader feeding alongside Black-tailed Godwits and a Dunlin.  I think we can safely say that Wayne was impressed with Lodmoor and his first twitch!

We hoped to be able to include a piece of video of the sandpipers but we have a glitch that Nick is working on and hopefully we can upload soon.



Sunday, 10 September 2017

Birding Lytchett Fields

On Wednesday (6th) our group met for a walk round our home patch of Lytchett Fields.  Our arrival was timed well for the high tide when large numbers of waders use the fields when the feeding areas disappear in the bay itself.  On the way we had views of one of our local Buzzards and a few of the usual resident species like Robin, Blue Tit and Starlings.  It was fairly quiet as we walked across the "Purple Heron" field as it's known by the local birders, to the two viewpoints and now called the approach field for more obvious reasons.  But just after crossing the wooden bridge I heard a Yellow Wagtail call, scanning the pools to our left for this bird we found a good number of Pied and mixed with them a few White Wagtails, then right at the back of the pools we could see a couple of Yellow Wagtails.  We were just moving forward towards the viewpoints when Ian Ballam, a fellow patch watcher, phoned my mobile telling me that in the corner of the pools in front of us was a Curlew Sandpiper close to the path.  So I quickly found it for all to see just in case it flushed as we walked passed though we didn't need to worry as neither the Dunlin or the Curlew Sandpiper took any notice of us.
Curlew Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields RSPB © Joe Baldwin
Arriving at the Sherford Pools viewpoint other than a few wagtails everything was at the far end, apparently just before we arrived a Peregrine had "buzzed" the field.  There was still good numbers of  Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Teal, several Little Egrets, a single Greenshank and a few Lapwings.  Chris found another Buzzard sat in an Oak tree and then a Peregrine sped in from the left across the field really low and nothing moved!  Soon after Fran found it sat in a dead tree, it was a young bird obviously still honing her skills.  Shortly afterwards a Kingfisher streaked across the pools heading for the Sherford River but perched long enough in an oak to allow us brief scope views. 

Next we viewed over French's Pools, here the field had a deeper water level but there was a couple of Greenshank and more godwits.  Also a large flock of roosting gulls with mainly Black-headed Gulls, with a Great Black-backed and a few Herring Gulls mixed in. We had taken over an hour working our way through the birds trying to find the Wood Sandpiper, which had been around for a few days, but we couldn't find it anywhere on the pools. 

Walking back to Slough Lane we had a Kestrel hovering over the Purple Heron Field, in the lane we had a small tit flock, also Chaffinch Greenfinch, Goldfinch and of course Robin.  A look of the wildflower/arable field didn't produce anything of note but it was looking good for the late autumn and winter, with the flowers heads now gone to seed, hopefully this will bring in the winter finches and buntings.  Lytchett Pools had more gulls, a scattering of Lapwing, a couple of godwits and a Green Sandpiper.  A quick look around the waterworks we added Jay and a few Chiffchaff.

Now time to return to our cars but it was really nice to show the group our local patch.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Egrets, Spoonbills & Ospreys!


Our Wednesday group met on the 16th at Middlebere track on a still, warm and fairly sunny morning.  Walking down the track to the hide it seemed quiet with no obvious migrants in the hedgerows.  As we arrived at the cattle grid and farmyard we had a flock of Goldfinch along with the resident House Sparrows and at last Swallows flying round and then landing in line along the wire fence and on the barn roof.  A Green Woodpecker flew across and then a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker landed on a post and a short while later was joined by another juvenile.  We had the usual Robins, Wren and Chaffinch as we moved on down to the National Trust cottages.  Angus was very lucky to see a Barn Owl, the rest of us were out of sight for just a few moments as we turned the corner and missed it!  
Great White Egret © Nick Hull
We got into the hide and a lucky photographer said he had seen Cattle Egret earlier that morning and showing Nick his photos it was obvious that it was in fact 3 adults and 5 juveniles, what a record for Poole Harbour.  We did see Little Egrets from the hide of course but no Cattle Egrets for us.  However we did have views of Osprey and of a Spoonbill, though due to a low tide not much in the channel other than a few Shelduck and Grey Heron.  A Curlew landed in the grass in front of the hide and a Whitethroat and Wren in the brambles and two Greenshank flew in and disappeared into one of the creeks.

Walking back past the cottages and looking over the field with a flock of Canada Geese, Fran picked up a bird across the field on a fence, with the scope we could see it was a Whinchat.   Distantly over the harbour were a couple of Buzzards and Osprey, then a Peregrine flew across towards the Wytch channel.  This is where we were heading next and walked up to look from the Harrier Hide.  This was a good move!  We scanned the channel finding Little Egret, Lapwing and a couple of Greenshank but it was Ann that first pointed out that an egret on the left bank had a Yellow bill with a black tip.  To our surprise we had a Great White Egret and through the scopes we all had good views.  A few minutes later it too took flight towards the harbour, in just one morning Poole Harbour had hosted three species of egret, a scarce event indeed.
parasitic wasp possibly Ammophila sabulosa
Our attention was momentarily taken away from birds to watching a Amnophila wasp possible A.sabulosa, a parasitic wasp taking prey into it burrow in the sandy soil.  It then filled the hole with small stones and sand until there was no trace of a hole at all, quite a mesmerising show.  Then the calls of Greenshank made us look up again to see five Greenshank flying away towards Corfe Castle, though one remained on muddy bank.  One last look along the end of the channel a group of 5-6 Spoonbills could be seen.  We also added Stonechat as we walked back and a few butterflies with Grayling and Small Heath.  Other butterflies seen this morning were Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown.




Tuesday, 1 August 2017

In Search of Shearwaters

On the morning of Sunday 30th July we met our group at Portland Bill for a seawatch.  We joined a small gathering of birders watching from the shelter of the lighthouse wall, it soon became obvious that there was indeed a movement of seabirds, at first we watched a trio of Arctic Skua chasing and harassing a small number of terns off the Bill.  

Then we could settle a bit to get to grips with the shearwaters, as a few of the group hadn't seen Shearwaters before we braved the wind and moved to take as much shelter at the Obelisk could afford. We were soon rewarded with a number of Balearic Shearwaters passing close by.  The best was still to come, we were scanning through a number of large gulls and picking up the odd Gannet sitting on the very rough sea when I picked up a Manx Shearwater moving toward us from along the East Cliff.  When it reached our position it landed on the sea right in front of us.
Manx Shearwater resting on the sea © Mike Davidson
We had plenty of opportunity to see many Balearic and the odd Manx Shearwaters moving past and a number formed a small feeding raft a few hundred metres off the Bill.  We added a number of other species such as Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Scoter, Mediterranean Gull, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull, Shag, Cormorants.  We also saw three Kestrels, a Peregrine which flew in off the sea and a single Whimbrel which flew past out to sea.  A single Common Sandpiper took a short rest on the rock just in front of us.  We even had a passing Oystercatcher and a handful of Linnets plus a number of Rock Pipits.

After the seawtaching slowed we walked to the Lower Lighthouse Bird Observatory and added many of the commoner species found on the Bill, though the Little Owl in the quarry wasn't to be seen, probably due to the wind direction.

We thought that as it was so windy at the Bill it might be worth checking the north of the island so we headed for the Verne Common and the Admiralty Cemetery.  As it happened, though it was sheltered and warm here, other than a very noisy Peregrine and the usual gulls and corvids there was little to see so we headed to Ferrybridge for lunch.

We started again looking over the Fleet where Mediterranean Gull and Sandwich Terns showed well. We moved on to Lodmoor to finish our day where we added a small selection of waders including three Common Sanpipers, six Dunlin, a few Black-tailed Godwits still looking splendid in summer plumage.  Also Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and a few Swift over the reserve as well as the usual duck species.

Monday, 24 July 2017

New Forest walk for wildlife

On Saturday, 22nd July, we had a group out at Hawkhill Inclosure to look for wildlife, a new walk for Two Owls Birding.   We had a fairly early start and we hoped we would be able to get round before the forecasted rain started.  Bob had arrived just before us and had seen a Spotted Flycatcher on the fence in the car park, unfortunately it had disappeared as we parked up.    
Grayling © Nick Hull
Once everyone was ready we set off and soon we could hear Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush.  A Goldcrest was singing high in a pine tree but it was further on our walk before we actually saw one.  A Green Woodpecker was making a lot of noise out on the heathland and we took path into the open, a family of Stonechats and making their familiar "tac" call sat up on the small gorse bushes around us.  As I turned round to walk back to the main path I put up a Grayling butterfly, it landed just in front of me, it just blended in completely with the stone path.  Everyone had a good look and we found several more on our walk, though the Gatekeeper butterfly took the honour of the most numerous.
Silver-studded Blue © Nick Hull
Further on, my eye was caught by a bird in some honeysuckle, in fact two birds were here and the quick glimpse I had made me think it was a Marsh Tit.  Then a couple of Great Tits came in to view and wondered if I was mistaken.  However we only walked a few feet when I saw my bird again and it was Marsh Tit and its mate was close by and we all got wonderful views of them.  Moving on Nick called Redstart as a bird flew across the path, I just caught the back of it as it disappeared, unfortunately not everyone in the group got to see it.  A Stock Dove started calling and Chiffchaff, by the brook we had a little party of Blue, Great and Coal Tit, also Chiffchaff and Goldcrest.  

We then came back out on to the heathland and the sun was shining, so this brought out several butterflies with Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Common Blue.  However, it was the beautiful little Silver-studded Blue butterfly we were really pleased to see feeding on the bell heather.  Dragonflies were not to be forgotten with Keeled Skimmer, male and female also Common Darter.
Keeled Skimmer (male) © Nick Hull
We did have a walk on the opposite side on Beaulieu Heath and added a few more birds to our list including Swallows, Swift, Grey Heron, Little Egret and plenty of Linnets.   We also had our first and only bird of prey with a Peregrine.  Unfortunately the weather had deteriorated and rain set in, but it was a most enjoyable walk and one we hope to do again.
Juvenile Linnet © Nick Hull

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Two Owls in Northumberland Part 2

Our fourth day, 12th June, saw us heading for Cresswell, Druridge Pools and East Chevington.  We arrived at Cresswell and started birding as soon as we were out of the cars with Swifts overhead and singing Reed Bunting, Coot, Mallard on the pond.  We made our way towards the hide and en-route had good views of Tree Sparrows which were obviously nesting in the barn, Blackbirds, Greylags and more Lapwing including some young chicks.  From the hide we quickly found the breeding Avocets and one or two chicks running about on the muddy banks.  Almost immediately noticed three small gulls roosting on the mud bank to our right and on closer view with the scope confirmed them as 1st/sum Little Gulls a real bonus.

From here we went to the Drift Cafe where we always go when in the area as they provide good coffee the best freshly made sandwiches and cake plus much more at a reasonable price.  Not only that we picked up some birding news and an update on how stopping the open cast mining from going ahead in the area. Things at the moment are look promising fingers crossed as it would be the end to a fantastic birding site and would ruin this wonderful coastal area.

After a while we moved only a few miles down the road to Druridge Pools which is essentially flooded meadows.  Here we started off with Whitethroats, Stonechats and Swifts feeding overhead.  
Swifts over Druridge Pools © Nick Hull
We saw a good number of waterfowl here highlights were Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon, Pochard and Little Ringed Plover and Little Egret.

After our lunch we headed for East Chevington we visit here as it can turn up anything and we had always picked up the odd bird of prey here.  In fact it produced our first and only Marsh Harrier with a beautiful male bird which gave some of the group the run around for a while as it persisted on ducking out of sight for minutes at a time before reappearing.  From the hide we had feeding Common Terns and an odd Arctic mixed in with one or two Sandwich Tern and the usual common gull species.  
Male Marsh Harrier East Chevington
Before we finished here Jackie called to check if the Coquet Island boats were going out as it was very windy and we needed time to get there if they were.  As it happened they weren't so Jackie and I decided that we would follow up on a little info received at the Drift Cafe and we headed off the Bothel Pond only around five miles away.  We found the location without any problems thanks to good directions given earlier and quickly started scanning the pond which was fairly large.  It took me about ten minutes before I located it, in the far left corner of the lake, a chocolate brown duck with white face, black head and blue bill with a stiff tail, a drake Ruddy Duck.  Since DEFRA ordered the shooting of the British feral breeding population to preserve the White-headed Duck in Spain, this bird was either a very clever duck or a genuine vagrant, either way it was very nice indeed to be able to watch it for a while.
Drake Ruddy Duck per Wikipedia 
As we were unable to get out to Coquet Island and see the Roseate Turns from the boat the next best thing was to drive to Hauxley and view across to the island from the sand dunes which we did.  I was able to find a Roseate standing in front of one of the nest boxes on the island, even with the scope wound up to 60x it was hard to see detail, but the long streamers of the tail were visible when the bird moved and they caught the evening sunlight.  Nonetheless it was a good way to finish our day watching the comings and goings of all the terns and auks moving between feeding ground off the coast and feeding their offspring on the island.

Back on schedule for the 13th and a visit to Wooler to pick up our lunches and walk along the river, this  broke our journey and gave us good views of Grey Wagtail and our main target Dipper.
Dipper - Wooler © Nick Hull
We continued a on to favourite valley in the Cheviot Hills, where we spent the rest of the day seeing various wildlife in glorious sunshine and finding our target species of Red Grouse, Ring Ouzel, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Sandpiper, Wheatear and Whinchat, amongst other commoner species.
Ring Ouzel Cheviot Hill
Our last day, 14th, we back towards Wooler, stopping at various points in the local area, one stop gave us stunning views of a male Yellowhammer, of course everywhere seemed to have displaying Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Curlews, Buzzards and Linnets.  We lingered quite a while at Doddington Bridge which held several pairs of Sedge Warblers and the first of our trip plus Blackcap, Whitethroats, Sand Martins, Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Bunting.  We lunched at Wooler and the Dippers showed even better this time with one individual so unperturbed by our presence that it fed, preened and just stood on his rock in the middle of the river and binoculars not needed!

We drove across to Holy Island as many on the trip were interested to visit, the highlight was actually having tea and cake sat out in the sunshine of the cafe garden.  We did see a few common birds and lots of Eider including young ones offshore.  John and Linda had a Weasel run across their path a new mammal for the trip list.  But this was meant to be a lazier afternoon as we were having an early dinner to get out in the evening for owls.
Barn at Dusk Cresswell © Nick Hull
After another delicious meal at the hotel we set off to Cresswell Ponds, on the pond Tufted Duck and Reed Warbler singing from fringes.  Tree Sparrow were busy and then Nick said I'm sure I just saw the Barn Owl across the field, finally it showed again carrying prey back to its young.  We moved down to Druridge Pools and stood by a photographer who was waiting for a Barn Owl to come past that he saw earlier.  By this time the sun was lowering and the dunes opposite us were bathed in a beautiful pink glow, Jackie then spotted the Barn Owl coming in and as it flew low over the dunes it also turned pink, the most beautiful sight.  Unfortunately no one in our group managed to capture a photograph.
Sunset at Druridge Pools © Nick Hull
We had a look over the pools, really in the hope that we might see the Long-eared Owl that had been seen here.  It was not seen that evening but we did have a Little Owl by the farm and Grey Partridge calling in the field next to us.  A superb end to our Two Owls Birding Break to Northumberland.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Two Owls in Northumberland Part 1

Two weeks ago Jackie and I found ourselves meeting a very keen group at the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel to see what Northumberland could offer in the way of birds.  After everyone had dropped their baggage off in the rooms we set off for a walk down to the beach.  Our walk got us off to a good start with Sandwich Tern, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Tree Sparrow amongst many of the common species.
Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel
Next morning the weather wasn't kind but we decided that we would continue to Long Nanny and the tern colony as the forecast said it would improve.  It did but only for the rain to pour down on us as we were walking to the colony.  We arrived at the wardens hut sat high on the dunes and were met, even in the wet, by the sound of Arctic and Common Terns calling continuously all around us.  The Little Terns unfortunately had been having a bad time as a high tide had washed through the nesting area.  The wardens had lifted all the nests and placed them on crates to prevent this, but it soon came apparent that this time it wasn't enough.  They had lifted the eggs and waited for the water to subside but it took two hours which was too long for the Little Tern and they deserted.  However some them came back and twelve pairs were nesting again and hopefully will be successful.  After getting rather wet we headed back to the hotel for lunch a warm up and dry out.

We took a lazy lunch as we could see the weather was brightening and we were waiting for confirmation that the Farne Island boats were going or not.  As it happened they weren't so thinking on our feet we decided to take the coastal route and stop at a number of places that we had good sightings in the past.  Starting at Warkworth where we had a couple of stops.  The first of which paid off with a sighting of a Grey Seal near the weir, and as we were waiting for it to surface again a call from the group of "its up other there".  I looked and saw an Otter on the surface, we watched it for sometime before it drifted off downstream.  Jackie said "I think I've got a merganser way down the channel" but getting the scope onto it, it was a female Goosander which eventually flew up and landed nearer and gave us great views. 
female Goosander - Warkworth © Nick Hull
This spot wasn't finished, with a duck Eider and a couple of Grey Heron one of which flew into the trees on the opposite bank.  We soon realised there was a small Heronry and we could see a number of young birds awaiting parents to return with food.  There were a couple of pairs of Greylags with goslings and in the field opposite Canada Geese with theirs.

We moved on down river about half a mile to see if the Otter was still lurking but we couldn't locate it but had good views of several Eider and a duck with her ducklings.  We located a Sand Martin colony on the opposite bank and found twenty six Ringed Plover and two summer plumaged Dunlin and a couple of Sandwich Terns.
Otter - Warkworth, River Coquet 
Our next stop was Hauxley where we looked out over the sea from the beach and saw our first auks flying by mainly Guillemots and Puffins, there were more Eider scattered offshore, several Kittiwakes and oddly we had a flyby Gadwall.  The afternoon was moving on but we had time to do another location so we thought we would try Druridge Country Park, a place we haven't visited before.  We added a number of woodland species including adult and young Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.  On the lake Common Terns, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Swallows, both Sand and House Martins and Swift hawking insects and Reed Warblers were singing from the reeded margins. On our way back to the hotel Sparrowhawk and a Brown Hare were seen.

On the 11th we woke to a sunny but breezy day we birded Beadnell and Budle Bay, we added little to our list, though at Beadnell we had Gannets, Arctic and Little Terns, Fulmar and a skein of 40+ Common Scoter.  At Bamburgh we recorded our first Northern Marsh Orchids in the sand dunes and admired a wild flower field which seemed the attract Reed Buntings, Goldfinch and Linnets.
Northern Marsh Orchid © Nick Hull
In the afternoon we boarded one of Billy Shiels boats that took us around the Farnes and dropped us off on Inner Farne for an hour of birding indulgence.  These islands just have to be one of the best seabird colonies in Britain and for a wildlife photographer an ideal location.  To get up close to all three auk species, terns, gulls and Shags and of course St Cuthbert's ducks, plus Grey Seals and even Rabbit.  Not forgetting the Gannets passing by.  Our hour on the island passed so quickly, it seemed we had hardly arrived and we were having to take our chances with the Arctic Tern on the path back to the jetty.
The walk back through the Arctic Terns to the jetty
Arctic Tern on Martin's head, aways good to wear a hat
Selection of Inner Farne Birds © Nick Hull

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Part 2 - Damselflies, Woodcock & Nightjar

Our walk at Fiddleford Mill is one we enjoy in spring as it gives a variety of wildlife, from the car park we started with Swallows and Pheasant, quickly followed by House Sparrow and Robin.   As we walked through to the Mill and along by the Mill Pond we had a quick look at the Archimedes Screw hydro generator and here we found a good number of Banded demoiselle they seemed to be everywhere.  By the weir we had four Grey Wagtails, three juveniles and an adult female, a very nice sight.  Another Damsel this time a Blue-tailed Damselfly, then I heard a Garden Warbler and quickly located it singing out in the open on a nearby thorn bush, all had good views before it crossed the river to another song post.   Walking towards the old railway bridge as we passed the rushbeds we watched a number of Reed Warbler, a nest was found and we watched as the pair flew in and added nesting material to the not quite complete nest.  We stopped on the old railway bridge for some time and checked off a number of species including our only Sedge Warbler.
Banded Demoiselle - Fiddleford Mill © Nick Hull
Walking along the trail we added Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and a Holly Blue butterflies, also added Goldcrest and Chiffchaff to our list.  David then picked up two circling raptors which turned out to be a pair of Sparrowhawks.  We watched them for a while and the female crossed the field to our left and put the wind up a number of Jackdaws which were feeding out in the field.  Buzzard was next, in fact by the time we finished we had recorded three pairs.  We continued recording the regular species on our way back to the car park.  We walked a little way down the road and looked out over the fields to the north.  David did it again picking out a Hobby which gave pretty good views catching flying insects over the field and we finished with another raptor, a Kestrel, which brought a nice walk to an end.

Bringing you right up to date we had our annual evening Nightjar and Woodcock walk which turned out to be one of the best ever.  We walked a slightly different route then usual and checked off the usual woodland species Song Thrush, Jay, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff in the wood.  As we came out on to the heath, Dartford Warbler was heard and later seen and a Hobby performed well though a little distant.  Stonechat and another Dartford sat up on the gorse, also a stunning male Linnet.  A Mistle Thrush stood on the path and a Willow Warbler was singing close by.

We made our way down to the area of the heath where Jackie and I hoped we would find our target species. Though it was still light on our way we watched a Serotine bat was hunting along the forest edge.  Arriving at where we thought we would be able to get good views based on previous knowledge of walks past, it was now just a case of patience and keeping our eyes peeled and ears attuned.  I picked up a quick view of a bird disappearing behind tree out to our right I was sure it was a Woodcock.  Keeping my eye half on the area and the other looking for Nightjar, I heard the 'Tsip' then 'grunt grunt' of a Woodcock which flew pretty much over us the first of possibly four that circled or flew over us roding.  
Woodcock roding
Jackie then asked the time it was 21:20hrs she commits "they should be singing soon", I answer "after half past" I had no sooner said this and the first Nightjar started it evening 'Churr' and it was close.  Then another and within a few minutes we had at least five males singing around us. We heard wing clapping and quipping, a bird in flight, Jackie tried the old trick with the white hanky and from nowhere a male flew right over us.  Over the next quarter of an hour we were treated to two different pairs flying over and around us absolute magic.  After having our fill, we started to return to our cars when Jackie sat churring on a bare branch of a tree and we were able to get good scope views.  We eventually dragged ourselves back to the cars finding a couple of other churring birds and seeing the Serotine Bat again.  What a absolutely fantastic night.
Churring Nightjar 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A week of Butterflies, Damsels & Orchids Part 1

A busy week visiting Martin Down twice and Butterfly Conservation Dorset reserve by Cerne Abbas Giant, Badbury Rings NT finishing our week with a walk at Fiddleford Mill. 

Our two visits to Martin Down produced many of the reserves specialties, our first walk was mainly for the birds but as alway we never pass something good without pointing it out.  Martin Down as a remnant downland is an oasis for many species and Turtle Dove, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Skylark can be still found here in relatively good numbers even though all are declining some more than others. We started with Yellowhammer, Whitethroat and a Great Tit family, then a little way further on we heard our first Turtle Dove and I found it singing in a tree along the hedgerow and it gave good views.  Walking around our circler route we counted at least eight singing males, of this endangered dove, listening to their purring song was truly wonderful. We also recorded Common and Small Blue, Small Heath, Peacock, Brimstone, and a surprise was a Clouded Yellow.
Turtle Dove - Martin Down © Nick Hull
Clouded Yellow Butterfly - Martin Down © Nick Hull
Our second visit was a general wildlife visit so we targeted all the above and were successful in finding them all and even added two more singing Turtle Dove.  We also recorded 13 species of Butterfly which included Marsh Fritillary, Adonis Blue and added Burnt Orchid, Fragrant and Common Orchids which either not seen or were not fully out on the previous visit. 
Burnt Orchid - Martin Down ©Nick Hull
Jackie and I took a day to visit Cerne Abbas near Dorchester a site we haven't visited for a few years it is at the same site as the famous Cerne Giant which is carved into the chalk hillside.  Butterfly Conservation Dorset take care of the site and work hard to maintain it for the butterflies.  Our target species here were Duke of Burgundy and Marsh Fritillary but we also added Large Skipper to our growing year list.
Duke of Burgundy - Cerne Abbas © Nick Hull
Pupa & adult Marsh Fritillary - Cerne Abbas © Nick Hull

Part 2 to follow including our Nightjar & Woodcock evening.










Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Recent Wildlife Highlights

Though at Two Owls we concentrate on birds we have a much more general interest in all wildlife and will not pass something by without pointing it out if we know what it is, if we don't we try to get an identification.  Over the last few weeks we have visited a number of different locations and we have seen a variety of different wildlife some of the highlights I managed to photograph so we thought we'd post a few of them here.

From our visit to Bentley Wood, this was a Butterfly walk though as it turned out not the best day as the weather was cool and overcast. During a few brief sunny periods we did catch-up with a few of the species we went to see.
Pearl Bordered Fritillary upper and underside © Nick Hull
We came across several beetle species as we searched for roosting butterflies, the Malachite was a new species for us as was the Alder Leaf Beetle.  The latter a slightly more interesting species as it was thought to have become extinct in Britain until it was discovered in 2004 in Manchester, since then it has been found in Southampton and seems to be spreading.
Common Malachite & Alder Leaf Beetle © Nick Hull
We also had a Black Oil Beetle a amazing looking beetle, in fact two were found.

Black Oil Beetle © Nick Hull
On our walk at Middlebere and Hartland Moor we recorded our first Small Copper and Small Heath butterflies of the year.
Small Copper & Small Heath © Nick Hull
Another find from the eagle-eyed in our group was this Wasp Beetle resting on a leaf.
Wasp Beetle Cletus arietis © Nick Hull
Yesterday, 23 May, our Tuesday group visited Martin Down, not only good birds to be seen but we saw a good number of butterflies with  Common, Small and Adonis Blues, Dingy and Grizzled Skipper to mention a few.  Below are two photos taken by Jackie of Adonis Blue, one landed on my hand and shows how tiny they are.


But again beetles seemed to get noticed.  We started with a Bloody-nosed Beetle and then found many Garden Chafers and particularly on many of the yellow flowers we found the metallic green beetle Cryptocephalus aureolas

Garden Chafer & Green Beetle Cryptocephalus aureolus
Also found was a delicate looking Lacewing Chrysopa perla

Lacewing Chrysopa perla © Nick Hull