Monday, 20 May 2019

Early Summer Catchup

Hi I can't believe it's been so long since I've written a blog, so here I'm going to try and summarise as so much has happened since the spring blog.  

A visit to Blashford on the 13th April gave us a few year ticks with Little Ringed Plover (5), Swallow, Sand and House Martin also Common Tern and a female Goosander along with the usual common species.
Little Ringed Plover - Ibsley Water Blashford Lakes © Nick Hull
Then we had visits to Lytchett Fields RSPB and another to Holton Lee we recorded all the usual woodland species and a few of the common migrants.  Whimbrel, Blackcap, Reed Warbler, Cuckoo and an Osprey were all seen.  Our next outing was our around Poole Harbour day visiting a number of sites. Middlebere at the end of April again produced an Osprey with a large mullet on the nesting post but we had a number of migrants walking to the hide. Cuckoo, Reed Warbler, Swallows, House Martin, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Bestwell and Swineham produced Swallow, House and Sand Martin, Swift, Whimbrel, Blackcap, Reed Warbler. 

Jackie and I had morning visit to Hartland Moor on the 6th May and tried out her new scooter along the tramway and we managed Dartford Warbler, Cuckoo, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and had our first Wall Brown butterfly along with Green Hairstreak and I caught up on Swift which Jackie had on the Swineham visit that I had missed.  Next day we had a group at Arne RSPB and had a very nice walk around the reserve seeing a good 50 species.  

On the 11th May we had our Two Owls visit to Portland and Weymouth, over the previous two days the migration was good but on our visit it was very slow and hard work to find birds.  Starting with a seawatch we managed to get the usual gull species and of course Shag, Guillemots and Razorbill and a couple of Fulmar, several displaying Rock Pipit and a pair of Wheatear gave us a good show.  We lunched at Ferrybridge and added three species of tern to our day list and had 25 Little Tern in flight together over the Fleet. Also here we had three Whimbrel and a handfull of summer plumaged Dunlin.

We ended the day walking around Lodmoor RSPB and though we saw nothing particularly rare we had some good sighting of Bearded Tit which we came across a number of time during our walk. Reed Warblers and a couple of Sedge Warbler more Dunlin and a good number of Common Tern. Several sightings of the male Marsh Harrier on our walk round and a good number of Pochard drakes, the females must have been hidden away sitting on their nests. Jackie picked out a single 1st/sum Mediterranean Gull and we ended with more Swift flying in a group across the reserve.
Bearded Tit - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
To bring us up to date we visited Martin Down this morning, this is always a site for quality rather than quantity.  We started with Skylark, Yellowhammer and Whitethroats,  and not long after added two Red Kite and Lesser Whitethroat. We then came into a number of butterflies, Common Adonis and Small Blue, Brimstone males and females, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers and then Marsh Fritillary one of which looked so fresh it appeared to have only just pumped up. We had several pairs of Raven flying over probably going towards the pig fields east of Tidpit. The piece de resistance of the day were the Turtle Dove of which we had at least four singing and good scope views of two.   Has it has recently been reported that there is only around 200 pairs left breeding in the UK we are very lucky to see them. We took great care not to disturb them as we started our return walk back to the cars.  We had another sighting of a Red Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel along with Red-legged Partridge.

Turtle Dove - Martin Down © Nick Hull
Just for Phil, the butterfly whisperer, who was with me today had a close encounter with a very fresh Marsh Fritillary, I've included the next shot.
Phil's finger & Marsh Fritillary © Nick Hull
To finish this blog I had to include a photograph taken by Carolyn Newman of a Nightjar that she took in a friends garden this morning, just how lucky can some people be.
Nightjar © Carolyn Newman

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Spring Catchup

It's that time of year with bird and reptile surveys and Two Owl walks, plus keeping an eye on Jackie so she doesn't try to do to much as she recovers from her operation.  Which seems to be going in the right direction this time, though it is going to take time.  
Male Adder - Swineham Point © Nick Hull
So, what's been happening since our last blog, well I managed to acquire a reptile survey license and will be surveying reptiles for the RSPB at Arne and with ARC in the Lytchett Bay area.  

We have had visits to Radipole, Lodmoor, New Forest Acres Down and Eyeworth, also Keyhaven and Pennington. At this time of year it's we are in a transition period with the wintering waterfowl, divers and grebes leaving for their northern breeding grounds and our summer breeding species returning from climes further south.  A time for keeping an eye out for our scarcer breeding species and passage migrants and maybe a rare overshoot. 

Highlights from our walks were the long staying Ring-necked Duck, now in adult plumage at Radipole, as well as the resident Bearded Tits. At Lodmoor the long staying Lesser Yellowlegs is moulting into summer plumage, which at the time of writing it will probably have completed and will be leaving soon.  Plus Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tits, to add a spring time feeling several Chiffchaff singing and four Wheatears.
Ring-necked Duck-Radipole Lake 1st/winter and adult plumage © Nick Hull
In the New Forest we had an hour or so watching Goshawk and listening to Woodlark along with Marsh Tits and Firecrest and we recorded our first Sand Martin and Wheatear of the year.  At Eyeworth we had a good number of recently arrived Blackcap, a couple of pairs of Mandarin Duck and two Red Kite which soared off towards the North.  At Keyhaven and Pennington we had all the usual species though there were very few waders and the numbers of duck had reduced considerably, but eight Ruff and a number of Chiffchaff showed evidence that migration was underway. We also had a Peregrine sat on a post out on the marsh and a pair of Eider flew east over the Solent.

More locally this week Jackie and I have recorded our first Swallow, House Martin and Osprey and as I write Little Ringed Plover and Little Gulls, Redstart, Willow Warblers are all returning and passing through. Out to sea spring passage with Common Scoter various divers species, Manx Shearwater and Gannets along with Skua.
Gannet - English Channel © Nick Hull

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Web Cam Links

Hi everyone, sorry no real posts of late, that's mainly down to me looking after the invalid that is Jackie.  The good news her operation seems to have been a success and everything appears to be going in the right direction. Though being the number one carer at the moment is leaving me little time to blog.

Out with our group Sunday (17th) at Arne we had a few highlights with seven Spoonbill and Mick spotted a Great White Egret which quickly disappeared into the marsh out of sight.  We had some nice views of Dartford Warbler and had a chance to listen to one singing.  Otherwise it was fairly uneventful with all the usual species being seen.  Though there were lots of Siskin flying over everywhere and at the feeding station. There was also some signs of Meadow Pipit starting to move and a few that looked like they were back on territory.

Sand Martin, Wheatear and Chiffchaff, Osprey have all been recorded locally so the Autumn migration has certainly started so keep your ears and eyes open you just don't know what might turn up next.

During conversations with the group yesterday, I promised to put up a few links to some webcams just for interest.

This is the camera on the Osprey nest at Manton Bay Rutland the female returned on 17th March St. Patricks Day.

For those of you that like big falcons here is a Hungarian webcam of a nesting Saker Falcon thats already sitting.

Another from Hungary is this one of Black Stork.

Sticking with birds of prey this is a webcam in Decorah Iowa of a Bald Eagle. This page has links to other webcams on various other species.

If you want to compare your home feeding station to a feeding station in Ontario Canada this link is good as a starter.

How about checking on a Barn Door nest on occasions here is a link to White-tailed Eagle nest in Estonia. (When I checked it today I could here Common Crane calling nearby.

Well that's a few to start and as soon as the breeding season continues and I come across a few more sites I'll post the links for you to check out.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Identifying Marsh & Willow Tit

We have been out on a couple of walks around the New Forest recently seeing a few of the forest specialties.  Though I have to say it's been fairly quiet period, but we had encounters with singing Crossbill, and a group of ten Hawfinch was particularly nice.  We also recorded singing Woodlark and Skylark, Goosander and Mandarin Duck, in what has been very spring like weather for the time of year.

We also came across several Marsh Tit during our walks and the question that always comes up 'what is the difference between Marsh and Willow?' So I said I'll look out a photograph or two from the archive so the differences can be seen.  Though the main thing to remember is Willow in this area is the rarer species by far certainly in Dorset and the New Forest.  Marsh Tit is the commoner species though they do seem harder to find in Dorset in recent years.

In general Willow Tit look more robust with a thicker or bull necked look

1. The black chin/bib is smaller on Marsh though tends to vary but overall Willow has a larger bib.

2. The bill is dark on both species but Marsh has a pale patch at the base on the upper bills cutting edge. This is absent on Willow.

3. Marsh has a glossy cap and Willow always seem dull black cap.

4. The cheek colour on Marsh in two-toned White going into a pale tinge or buff.  In Willow the cheek through to the rear of the neck is white.

5. Marsh Tit do not show a marked pale panel on the secondaries edges. In Willow there the pale edges forms a pale panel but this does vary a little with individuals and time of year in my experience..

6. This feature I think in harder to see and judge is the tail, Marsh has a more square edge feather tip. In Willow the outer tail feathers are more rounded.

7. This is audible and arguably one of the best feature is the birds calls are quite different.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

January Challenge Waxwings

Just a quick blog, Jackie and I went to Carey Road in Wareham today after news of a handful of Waxwing were seen feeding on Rose-hips near the Wessex Oval.  We arrived to find a few friends already watching them. 

Can I request that any photographers going for them not to get to close to the Rose hip bush, they are pretty happy with about 3m-4m, but closer then they fly up into the Oak and do not come down to feed. I've only a 400mm lens and I have some nice shots.

This bring the January Challenge to 132 species with one day to go.

Four of the five Bohemian Waxwing - Carey Road, Wareham © Nick Hull
Bohemian Waxwing © Nick Hull

Monday, 21 January 2019

January Challenge continues

Since our last blog Jackie and I have continued to add to our list and help our groups to add to theirs.  So we have had walks at Hengistbury Head, a day's birding around Poole Harbour and a walk round Radipole Lake RSPB.

Hengistbury Head walk was on a sunny but cold morning birds seemed to be keeping a low profile with little visible out in Christchurch Harbour just a few Wigeon, Teal and three Little Grebe could be found.  Then we spotted a Marsh Harrier a nice sub adult male which performed well for us, giving great views.
Sub/adult male Marsh Harrier Hengistbury Head © Nick Hull
Another of the highlights was a good number of Snipe and a single Water Rail in one of the marshy areas near to the pond behind the beach huts and a small group of eight Common Scoter resting on the sea.

Poole Harbour
We started at South Haven looking out across Poole Bay and quickly picked up a small group of Black-necked Grebes, a handful of Shag and the usual comings and going of the commoner species of gulls.  What was a little odd we had a Great Spotted Woodpecker which lifted off the Alder and head high towards Sandbanks.  We then moved to look over the inner harbour and found our first Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and a Great Northern Diver.  We also added a nice flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a flock of 21 Sanderling which ran about the shoreline right in front of us. We also added Turnstone, Meadow Pipit and a male Kestrel which headed out over the harbour towards Brownsea Island.
Sanderling- Bramble Bush Bay- Poole Harbour © Jon Mercer
Ring-neccked Parakeet - Studland © Nick Hull
We called into Middle Beach and walked on to South Beach we added little other than the commoner species though we found more Black-necked Grebe and of course Ring-necked Parakeets.

After a well earned lunch we continued our tour next was a small sewage works which always produces something for a day list and it didn't disappoint, we had a number of Chiffchaff feeding on the filter beds along with Pied Wagtails, a couple of Goldcrest and Grey Wagtails and Jackie found a Siskin in an Alder.
Grey Wagtail - Norden Sewage works © Jon Mercer
We soon moved on driving across Scotland Heath to Middlebere we had a Merlin flash across in front of the cars.  At Middlebere hide we added the usual wader and an immature Marsh Harrier and a single Spoonbill.  We finished our day still in the western harbour area waiting for Hen Harrier to come into roost unfortunately we only heard Dartford Warbler, Raven and had a distant Buzzard obviously the weather condition weren't correct and the birds had used a different roost, you can't always get it right but we had a good day in good company.

Radipole Lake
Our visit to Radipole RSPB this Sunday gave us a good morning's birding at this Weymouth reserve and saw a good selection of what the reserve could produce.  Starting at the Centre I was able to take the group through ageing of Mediterranean Gull as there were first and second winter birds mixed in with the adults some of which were already showing some quite dark heads.  We continued on around the reserve around the Buddleia loop to the concrete bridge then on to the North screens and then back to the car park.

We saw a good number of waterfowl with Teal and Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard, Little Grebe, Moorhen and Coots all being seen in good numbers.  From the concrete bridge I could hear the pinging of Bearded Tits and after a patient wait a male bird came out of hiding and showed well for us.  From the North screen we had good views of the male Marsh Harrier, lots of Teal and our only pair of Shelduck and Wigeon. We ended the day looking for the Ring-necked Duck which was seen briefly though it was playing hard to see, keeping in to the edge of the reeds in the water channel opposite the Aldi supermarket.
Male Bearded Tit - Radipole Lake RSPB © Nick Hull
Jackie, Margaret and I continued birding after lunch which we had at Sandsfoot Castle overlooking Portland Harbour.  Here we added Red-necked Grebe to the year list which we had missed twice before and then headed across to Abbotsbury in an attempt to try for the Long-tailed Duck and Whooper Swan again, but we failed to find either mainly because we were looking into the late afternoon sun.  Though we did get a reward for our effort. We were just about to leave when I spotted a largish bird glide across the road and dip behind the hedge, I recognised it immediately it was a Short-eared Owl and shortly after we saw a second bird further up the hill to our right.  As we watched patiently one of the owls came along the road edge towards us and them perched on top of the hedge, though the light wasn't good but I managed a couple of shots.  We ended the day with two Cattle Egret in with Little Egrets near home at Lytchett Minster, finishing a pretty good days birding.

This brings "Two Owls" January new year list up to 123 species not at all bad for county birding and there is still a few species still to get.
Short-eared Owl - Abbotsbury © Nick Hull

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Chasing 100 species in 7 days of January

As with most birders come the 1st of January Jackie and I are out to start the new year list, we like to try and score a hundred species in the first seven days of January and this year is no different.  

Though with Jackie still using crutches it made planning a little harder than usual.  We picked Liz Woodford up and headed to Swineham Point.  Though we hunted through all the geese we couldn't find the White-fronted Goose though a couple of Egyptian Geese were more unusual otherwise we checked off all the usual common species seen here. The highlight here was a flock of Redwings by the Rugby field and a Starling singing and looking stunning in the sun.
Starling reflecting the sun at Bestwall © Nick Hull
We continued on visiting Holme Lane, South Haven, Knoll, Middle Beaches, Norden Sewage Works, Arne and back to Bestwall where we managed to find the White-fronted Goose second time around before finishing at Hartland Moor.  Other highlights of the day were Cattle Egrets, Great Northern Divers, Black-necked Grebes, Sanderlings and a adult female Hen Harrier to finish with sixty-two species.

Next day we were out with a Two Owls group at Upton Country Park and our few hours here were amazing for waterfowl which were lacking on the 1st Jan and we added another twenty species best was probably the Kingfisher we saw by the new path bridge.

Yesterday on 4th January Jackie and I had a free day so after delivering our grandson Ben's birthday present we headed towards Weymouth.  Our first stop was Lodmoor for the Lesser Yellowlegs as Jackie had missed it in 2018.  When we arrived at the west scrape we were told it had flown into the middle of the reserve but then a few minutes later it arrived back and pitched in almost in front of us giving fantastic views.
Lesser Yellowlegs - Lodmoor RSPB © Nick Hull
After having our fill of this gorgeous American wader we headed to Beachdown Way ticking off Ruff on the way and within minutes on arriving by the bench we were viewing a little gem of a Yellow-browed Warbler, two ticked off our list for the day.
Yellow-browed Warbler - Lodmoor RSPB © Nick Hull
Radipole was next and parked by the tennis courts had lunch and then checked through the Tufted Duck and Pochard, then a little walk down the road we found our next target the 1st/winter drake Ring-necked Duck which spent more time under the water than it did above.

Ring-necked Duck - Radipole Lake RSPB
This bird has started to look good as since we had seen it in 2018, it has moulted considerably and I guess by the time I see it again it will be looking like a full adult bird.

Our next target was seen from Sandsfoot Castle but it took some finding but I managed to pick up the white breast right out near the harbour middle arm, then it moved and really gave us good scope views Black-throated Diver in the bag, a species we both missed in 2018.

On the way back towards home we stopped and checked out Bowleaze Cove for the Red-necked Grebes but unfortunately our luck ran out but for consolation we had two Eider, two Great Northern Diver and a Common Guillemot not a bad finish for the day and a quick count up we ended the 4th January on ninty-six species. 

Today 5th January Jackie and I decided to go to west again, as we headed towards Abbotsbury near to Winterborne Steepleton we came across a covey of seventeen Red-legged Partridge our first tick for the day.  At Abbotsbury beach we viewed from the top of the Chesil Bank and quickly checked off our first Razorbill of the year but no Red-troated Diver, our target bird.  Fifteen were seen yesterday between Abbotsbury and West Bexington so we figured a couple at least should be still around.  We headed for West Bexington but missed the turning so thought we'd try Hive Beach then backtrack to Bexington for lunch.  From Hive Beach looking out on the almost flat sea there didn't appear to be anything, then we found two Great Crested Grebe another then four and scoping further out several Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls.  I then picked up a Fulmar heading west, continuing to scope the sea I then found one then two and then a third Red-throated Diver.  We had a late lunch at West Bexington but the sea here was almost empty accept for a small group of Razorbill.

Our next location was Abbotsbury Swannery where we added Green Woodpecker but dipped on Whooper Swan and Long-tailed Duck and couldn't find the Scaup either so we wondered if our luck was now running low.   Our next target was Black Redstart so it was to Chesil Cove, Portland and by the time we had arrived there was quite a chill in the air and the sky was very grey. We walked out past Quiddles Cafe to the end of the promenade and scanned the rocks here Jackie caught up with Rock Pipit but no sign of the Black Redstart.  We headed back towards the cafe and as we drew near Jackie said "whats that on the fence up there" I took a look and there it was a female/immature Black Redstart number "One Hundred".

As the light was going we decided to head to Maiden Castle on our way home, on arriving the field looked devoid of birds so we moved half way down the road by the footpath.  I could hear calls of Golden Plover then saw a small flock and called Jackie and after scanning we estimated approximately a thousand birds were scattered all over the field and it was a delight to hear their calls. We also added Meadow Pipit before we left ending our challenge on One Hundred and Four species.