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.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The Last few Days

This is just a short catchup on the last few days, a visit into the New Forest on the 6th March for raptors was successful with amazing views of displaying Goshawks, three Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.  Though there is only a shot of the Goshawk that soared right in front of us, thanks to Peter for the shot, should have carried my own camera, though I doubt my shots would have been better.  We also had Hawfinch, three Woodlark and Crossbills of note.
Goshawk - New Forest © Pete Dixon
Today (7th March) we walked around Studland, best of the day was seeing a stunning summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe found by Fran & Chris off South Beach where we caught up with the local Ring-necked Parakeets.

A pair of adult Mediterranean Gull in full summer plumage off Middle Beach were looking smart alongside several partial summer accompanying individuals.  Further out I managed to find the wintering four scoter. One drake and two duck Common Scoter with what now appears an immature drake Velvet showing a black head and neck with dark brown body and showing a little yellow on the bill.  Today it was most cooperative in that it was have a wash and brush up and kept flapping his wings showing the white secondaries.
Ring-necked Parakeet - Studland © Nick Hull
I hadn't realised how Ring-necked Parakeets can frown when they are looking at you.
Returning home we took a little detour into the Lower Frome where we came across a large number of winter thrushes frantically feeding up after the recent cold weather.
Fieldfare - Lower Frome Valley © Nick Hull

Friday, 2 March 2018

Arctic Mega & White Wingers

Well the usual white winger that we see is adult Mediterranean Gull which move back for the breeding season, Jackie and I see and hear them almost daily as they go to and fro from the nesting island over our bungalow calling.  Though in the winter we always hope for the larger white wingers in Glaucous or Iceland Gull to visit, here in Poole as the harbour is so large it can be difficult to find one of these arctic species, Weymouth however  is so well watched they get found if they are around. Glaucous Gulls started turning up in mid February at West Bexington, then Ferrybridge followed by Lodmoor and Radipole.  But no one in the UK would have thought of the gull that turned up at Ferrybridge on the 21st, an adult Ross's Gull, a tern sized gull that is very much sought after by almost every birder in Britain.  

It's not a well known fact that this gull nearly had a different name but the story started with James Clark Ross who was a midshipman and expedition naturalist who shot one of two gulls which seemed to be new to science when exploring the Melville Peninsula.  When they returned to Britain Captain Parry the expedition leader commissioned zoologist Dr John Richardson to describe the natural history material and presented Richardson with one of the gulls. Richardson named the gull Cuneate-tailed Gull Larus Rossii, but the results of Parry's voyage wasn't published until 1825.  The other specimen was given to the Edinburgh University Museum where William MacGillivray named the gull Ross's Rosy Gull Larus roseus and because his description was published first he gained the credit.

Incidently Ross's Goose was named by John Cassin after the Hudson Bay Company Factor Bernard R. Ross.
Ross's Gull in flight © John Wall
Ross's Gull with Mediterranean Gulls - Lodmoor © Ian Ballam

I'd like to thank both John Wall and Ian Ballam for allowing us to use their excellent photographs of this very beautiful small gull.  It would be nice if it stayed around to show its summer plumage fully.

Fortunately Jackie and I have seen this species before a few years ago down in Plymouth and though we have tried three times for this individual and haven't connected, but hopefully it will stay around and we will get lucky.  There has been about 140 records in Britain and Ireland not surprisingly there is a northern bias to the records.

Though the Ross's Gull eluded us we had compensation with these big brutes of a gull, in two possibly three different Glaucous Gulls, two at Lodmoor and another at Radipole two days later.

2cy Glaucous Gull - Lodmoor 23rd Feb © Nick Hull
2cy Glaucous Gull number 2 - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
2cy Glaucous Gull & 1st/W Herring Gull - Radipole 24th Feb © Nick Hull

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Update on Recent Walks

We have been busy as usual with our regular group walks, with Studland on Tuesday and this morning at Stanpit Marshes.  Both walks produced all the usual species that we would expect to find at the two locations.

The highlights at Studland was a Velvet Scoter out in the bay, found by Jackie, which was accompanied by four Common Scoter.  It gave us some good flight views when a passing helicopter flushed them off the bay so everyone could see the white secondaries confirming its identification.  We had three Ring-necked Parakeets around the usual trees, always easy to find by their screeching calls.  We also had at least eight Black-necked Grebe and one or two were approaching full summer plumage.  We tried for the long staying Hooded Crow around Manor Farm to no avail but we were rewarded on our return to the cars by excellent views of a Firecrest which are always nice to see.
Firecrest - Studland © Nick Hull
This morning (21st) we had a good walk around Stanpit Marsh and searched through all the waterfowl and waders for the Stilt Sandpiper but unfortunately it wasn't to be found, unless it was hiding in one of the marsh water channels of which there are many. We had good views of all the regular species out highlights here was the regular Spotted Redshank and a female Kingfisher, also a small flock of Redwing.
Female Kingfisher - Stanpit Marsh © Nick Hull

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Lytchett Patch 2017 Report Online

Hi everyone,
2017 has been a memorable year in many respects on the Lytchett Bay patch and it has taken a while to compile the 2017 report.

So after a few weeks of collating and compiling our individual sections, hence not much blogging of late, Shaun Robson and I have completed our sections and Shaun has compiled both sections into a great report.

So thanks to everyone who has helped in anyway and in particular Ian Ballam and Shaun and of course Birds of Poole Harbour for hosting the report on their website. If you are interested in reading the 2017 Bird and Wildlife Report follow the link below.

Lytchett Bay Birds and wildlife 2017
Shaun Robson and Nick Hull
4 seasons 4 great birds – we’ll never forget 2017 

Stilt Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Buff-breasted Sandpiper & Hawfinch @ Ian Ballam

Monday, 29 January 2018

A Mystery Solved

We had a Sunday group out in the New Forest today (29th) looking for woodpeckers and other woodland species.  Highlight of the morning probably has to be coming across a small feeding group of six Marsh Tits plus one seen earlier, along with other tit species.  There were also a lot of Stock Dove activity and we recorded our first singing Chaffinch and Mistle Thrush of the year.  We ended our walk with a great view of a male Crossbill which seemed to be singing a sub-song.

Crossbill - Shattisford New Forest © Nick Hull
Crossbill - Shattisford © Joe Baldwin
Though we also had a bit of a mystery, Fran called me to what looked like single frogs eggs (spawn) on a leaf, then we found it wasn't the only sample of spawn there were lots scattered all over a fallen tree and all around a patch about a metre square.  We discussed various theories but came to no conclusions.  I ended the conversation by saying I'll put it out on Twitter someone will know.  Once home I uploaded photographs taken at the time and soon after received a couple of replies.  One of these was from Richard Broughton @woodlandbirder that we had considered but with first hand knowledge is always better.  He replied  "A raptor (usually Buzzard) has eaten a frog, and discarded the spawn. It gets scattered around as they flick it off, and some maybe washed off by rain, which expands it", this seems the most plausible as we know there are Buzzards in the area.

Frog Spawn scattered probably by a Buzzard when eating Frog.
Scattered Frog Spawn over fallen tree

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Surprise Barn Owl & Birding on Patch

Jackie and I traveled up to Salisbury on Monday (22nd) but on our return I decided to take a cross country route home.  Our first stop was at Wyke Down, it was pretty quiet though we had a Peregrine sat out in the middle of one field and a Buzzard was close by in a small tree.  We watched from our parking spot for a while and we we started to see other species, Stonechat in the rough grass opposite us, Pheasants, Magpie, Crows then both Jackie and I heard a short cackle, Fieldfare in fact around thirty birds flew right over the car .

After a while we continued on seeing more Fieldfare and Blackbirds, then Jackie picked up a falcon perched in a tree stopping we realised it was a Kestrel and I found two Red-legged Partridge sheltering under the edge of the wood.  We traveled further along the road to another location where we used to like to stop and listen to drumming Snipe several years ago and sadly not anymore.  As we arrived there was a photographer waiting and Jackie then noticed a Barn Owl quartering the meadow.  So obviously we waited and watched it for sometime but just as we were thinking of leaving it flew directly towards us I grabbed the camera and jumped out of the car and as she passed took a couple of shots.  We decided to wait and see if she would return back past us, and eventually she did but she took us by surprise.  I managed a couple more shots as she passed but the evening light was going and I have to say the results I had were totally luck as I didn't check the camera settings I just upped and took a few shots.
First pass of possibly a female Barn Owl © Nick Hull
One of the later shots as she returned passing us she took a glance as
she passed © Nick Hull
As she notices me or may have heard the shutters sound she turned away
slightly © Nick Hull
Birding on Patch - 23rd January
Birding the home patch and showing others around that patch is always a little worrying somehow as you know the patch is good and can turn up surprises even in the winter.  As you will know the weather wasn't good the forecast was overcast with 90% chance of rain.  As the group arrived it was dry but as I started to lead them out to the bay it started to drizzle, by the time we reached the bay it was blowing across the bay in heavy gusts, so we took shelter by the trees which at least broke the wind. Ann picked up two birds feeding on birch catkins and on checking them out they were obviously two Lesser Redpoll.  A species that is usually recorded as flyovers during migration times, not a bad start considering.  We walked back through the wood and picked up many of the usual garden species which you would expect in a semi urban area and we picked up Jackie who joined us for the rest of the walk. Walking towards Border Drive and Chad Copse we continued adding the commoner species Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Starlings and the local pair of Magpie, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tits  and several singing Dunnock and the local House Sparrows.  A Sparrowhawk whizzed over scattering a large charm of Goldfinch and a handful of Greenfinch a species that is just hanging on here.
Spoonbill Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull
As we walked through Chad Copse there was a another noisy flock of Goldfinch feeding in the alders and we heard the squealing of a Water Rail.  I then found one then two swimming into cover in the copse a few of the group managed to get a rear view just before they disappeared.  As we turned to move on I noticed another behind us but at the same moment it flew up the path and into the wood out of sight. Out on the sports field there was a flock of Black-headed Gulls with a number of Oystercatchers.  On reaching the foreshore path looking over the bay the rain stopped and the visibility improved.  Scanning the bay we picked up the usual waterfowl, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard on Lytchett point we added Canada Goose and Redshank.  Over on Turlin Point Cormorant and more Oystercatchers, both Jackie and I heard the 'choo choo choo' of a Greenshank but couldn't locate it. Further out in the bay off Turlin Point we found a group of Red-breasted Merganser and Christine then picked up what she thought was two Spoonbill which turned out to be three roosting on Otter Island.  B

Best of all was probably the Harbour Seal which Ben spotted just off shore, right in front of us. A scarce visitor to the bay but as we were watching a few Black-headed Gull swooped down towards it and the seal launch itself upwards towards the closest bird to a height approximately half its body out of the water, the gull gained height quickly before it became lunch.
Ringtail Hen Harrier from Two Owls archive © Nick Hull
The morning wasn't over as we were wondering where the seal was going to resurface all the the Wildfowl took flight which included a flock of approximately sixty Avocet which had been unseen up to now.  The cause of this was soon apparent a ringtail Hen Harrier crossed the bay and the point and quickly disappearing behind the wood but after a short while returned again giving better views as it quartered the Lytchett point and unsettled the wildfowl again. Curlew and Redshank lifted off before the harrier moved away towards the west of the bay out of sight.

Our return walk was fairly uneventful until we reach the cars when I picked up a Grey Wagtail outside our house which ending our walk very nicely.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Wow! Day, Birding the Harbour

No matter how you plan a birding day you never connect with all the birds you would like to see, you alway miss something.  Once in a while everything goes to plan and Saturday was one of those days, we met at the NT car park at South Haven and headed out on to the beach to look out over Shell Bay.  

Oystercatchers, Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit quickly seen, but the sea was very choppy making it difficult to see the birds on the sea.  With constant scanning we started to pickup a Great Northern Diver off Pilots Point, a Black-necked Grebe and several Shag came into view.  One of the group noticed another diver this time close in right in front of us, after a few minutes it turned out to be another Great Northern this time an immature but as we watched a second suddenly surfaced right next to the first, this was an adult which gave great comparison to their ages.  We also had several Red-breasted Mergansers in flight and on the sea.
Great Northern Diver © Nick Hull
Moving to look over the inside of the harbour mouth we had a Razorbill surface right in front of us and as soon as it spotted us it dived again and were were able to watch it in the clear water as it swam beneath the surface, excellent.  Also from here another Great Northern Diver just off Brownsea shore more Red-breasted Merganser, Shag and Cormorant were scattered all over the harbour but the bird I was looking for I couldn't find.  I decided to try viewing from another angle so we headed off to the Houseboats, this gives a good view over Bramble Bush Bay and can be good for waders too.  On arriving we added several Dark-bellied Brent on the shoreline with Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls.  Scanning the old tank teeth concrete blocks which often have a few waders roosting we quickly added Grey Plover, a single Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Turnstone and beyond Redshank on the shore.  A little way out into the harbour we had our first Goldeneye with a couple of stunning males, further out three more Black-necked Grebe.  The RSPB Birdboat had just sailed around Goathorn and moved into Brand's Bay and started moving off towards Brownsea when I picked up three birds lift off the water and circle high towards Furzy Island, one showing white secondaries a Velvet Scoter.  I watched it until it pitched in alongside a few Mergs and Great Crested Grebe out from Furzy Island but with the magnification up on the scope you could see it well.  before we moved on we had nice views of two of the wintering Sandwich Tern and a Yellow-legged Gull put in an unexpected appearance just as we were leaving.
Velvet Scoter from Two Owls Archive
After all had their fill of the Velvet Scoter we headed to the hide looking over the south end of Brand's Bay.  Here we were able to pick up all the usual wildfowl species that we expected to find in much larger numbers as they moved off the roosts when the tide started to change and go out.  It was here that Joe found our only Shoveler of the day and Tony found a godwit roosting on a spartina islet in the bay, with close scrutiny it was a Bar-tailed Godwit in full summer plumage, a bird that seems to have his seasons mixed up a bit. A little later Tony again picked out a distant white bird a single Spoonbill feeding in one of the narrow channels through the cordgrass margins of the bay.

Middle Beach was our next venue for our lunch break.  Though we had seen Mediterranean Gull already here is alway a good location in winter for this species and indeed some forty individuals were resting on the sea with first and second winters and adults.  More Black-necked Grebe were scattered over the bay and another two Great Northern Diver but it was Joe that picked out a small group of Common Scoter.  

Next around to the western area of the harbour to Middlebere but with a quick stop at a favourite sewage filter beds en-route.  As we crossed the railway line heading towards the filter beds a chunky bird flew out of a tree on our left across the front of the car I glanced at it and right away realised what it was a Hawfinch.  I slowed and stopped as I saw it land in the top of an oak tree to the right of the road.  Jackie pinpointed it as I informed the following cars and we all managed good view what a bonus bird.  The sewage works proved good with at least twelve Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail also our first Wren of the day.
Hawfinch Two Owls Archive
Middlebere can always be good in the late afternoon though our walk down the lane only produced a Song Thrush, Reed Bunting and a couple of Black-headed Gulls over the reedbed.  I have to admit it wasn't looking too good. Once in the hide the tide was fully out and it looked like there were few birds around but slowly we started checking them off.  Two Spoonbill flew in from the west and pitched in right out front, things were improving.  It was Ben that called first "small raptor moving left fast"  no one else picked it up but quickly after a ringtail Hen Harrier seemed to appear from nowhere and moved off to the left, quickly followed by a fast moving falcon.  Unfortunately I didn't see the falcon and there was a little discussion going on to its identity when the Ringtail came back into view flushing a number of Meadow Pipits from the marsh and there sweeping in behind came the falcon.  Small very pointed wings, a slate blue cast to the upperparts, a male Merlin which put on a great show before heading off down channel and the harrier moved off over Coombe Heath and towards Arne. By this time the light was fading and there was definitely a chill in the air so we decided to walk back to the cars and Jackie.  As we arrived back at the cars a darker looking ringtail was quartering the heath right in front of Jackie giving us another view of one of these super raptors making it a real fitting end to a excellent birding day around the harbour.
Merlin from Two Owls Archive