Thursday, 2 November 2017

October Rarities and Visual Migration

Two Owls has been busy over the last month one way and another and it has been a good month for us with a little local rarity chasing and with our groups out and about.

We had visits to  Normandy Marsh, Lymington, Pennington, Lytchett Bay and Middlebere where we were able to get to grips with the identification of all the returning waders and waterfowl now moving back for the winter.  Though its nice to see good numbers of the usual species it's always good to see those we do not.  At Normandy Marsh we had close views of Golden Plover, Greenshanks and our first returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese also Peregrine.  The visit to Pennington gave us sightings of Spoonbill and fantastic views of Bearded Tits.  Then a walk around our local patch again produced good views of Bearded Tit, also of Marsh Harrier. Then yesterday on our walk at Middlebere we saw our first Redwings of the autumn, Lesser Redpolls, Bullfinch, over ten Dartford Warblers and in excess of three hundred Avocet.

On our Two Owls Cornish break, which coincided with the tail of hurricane Ophelia which had a dramatic effect on the birds reducing the number that we should have seen.  Though we did have a few highlights with close views of Turtle Dove, Spoonbill, Firecrests, and the star bird was a Greater Short-toed Lark near the Chapel at Sennen which performed extremely well giving wonderful views.

Short-toed Lark - near Sennen Cornwall internet photograph
We also had a really good selection of autumn Butterflies with Wall Brown, Painted Lady, and Hummingbird Hawk-moth being the highlights.

Returning to Dorset Jackie and I headed to St Adhelm's head, to be precise the stone quarry halfway to the head, where we joined a number of birders patiently awaiting views of a Two-barred Warbler (renamed as it used to be Two-barred Greenish Warbler).  After a wait we had tantalising views of this phylloscopus warbler and eventually we had some excellent views, unfortunately my photographs were not as good as I would have liked.

Two-barred (Greeninsh) Warbler - St Aldhelm's Head © Nick Hull
Then we had a visit to Longham Lakes where a Lesser Scaup had been found on the north lake.  By the time we arrived in the afternoon it had moved to the south lake and was more distant feeding with Tufted Duck.  It stayed for a few days then moved to Blashford Lakes giving Hampshire its first record of this American species.

More recently there has been a large irruption of Hawfinch from the continent into Britain and they seemed to be moving along with the winter thrushes so I've had the Lytchett Night time listening station up and running as much as I could.  Plus Jackie and I have met up with Shaun and Ian doing Visual migration watches at Lytchett Viewpoint off Border Road.  Though this site isn't the best place in the Poole harbour area its on our home patch, Jackie and I started on the morning of the 26th October.  In the first hour we had Jackdaw, Starlings a small group of Redwing and Song Thrush and a few high flying Wood Pigeon all moving west.  It was then that I saw a small group of five Starling coming toward us from the east as they were almost level with us the rear bird was obviously not a starling and was moving slightly slower.  I quickly realised it was a Hawfinch and called it to Jackie and fortunately she got onto it quickly and we watched it fly past and on towards the west, possibly flying over our garden but we will never know.  Though Hawfinch isn't considered a real rarity it was the first record for the Lytchett Patch and it felt like we had seen a mega rarity and one that may not be repeated for some years.
Hawfinch flypast
On the morning of the 28th October we were joined by Ian but only after we had just had a Brambling fly over us going West.  But there was more pigeon movement going on so we changed our position to be able to view to our north, which turned out was a good one as we started seeing large flock moving west, north of Upton and smaller flocks right over us. By the time the numbers died out we had recorded 2664+ Woodpigeon, 67 Jackdaw and 86 Starling and smaller numbers of winter thrushes and finches.

This is the single call of the Brambling that attracted our attention as it passed overhead.

The 30th saw Ian, Shaun and myself at the viewpoint again hoping for another Woodpigeon movement, I arrived a little later than I wanted but I'd missed little and in fact by the time Ian arrived things had just began moving.  Between 07:15hrs and 09:00hrs we recorded 3965+ Woodpigeon and 361 Starlings better than previous days but not a record number.  We think the weather was too good as there was very still condition and usually when we have recorded large passage it has been much windier.

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