About Two Owls

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Back on the 10km challenge

April I think is the month when you know you're going to get the migrants coming through in pretty good numbers and its a case of catching up with them, particularly those that do not breed locally.  We were also still missing a few seabird species, so on the 3rd we headed up to Durlston to see if we could put that right plus there was the added bonus of seeing a few orchids.  It was a very nice sunny day and we were accompanied by our daughter and granddaughter. Out to sea was quiet though the cliffs were busy with the odd pair of Fulmar and the auks resting on the water and crowding the nesting ledge all were new for the 10km list.
Northern Fulmar - Durlston CP © Nick Hull

Razorbill & Guillemot on the sea Durlston CP © Nick Hull

On the 5th we had a a walk with friends at Arne and added Osprey and a couple of Swallow. As we were leaving we had news that Ian Ballam had found a Green-winged Teal on the fields from the Sherford VP.  We rushed back to the patch and when we arrived the bird promptly went out of view but a little while later it reappeared a little further away, but we had good scope views and it couldn't be mistaken for anything else. We also added Wheatear and White Wagtail to the patch list both seen in the Arable Field.

Video grab of the Lytchett Fields Green-winged Teal © Nick Hull

On the 14th Jackie and I had our morning walk at Middlebere and when we got to the NT hide looking over the Middlebere channel there was very little viewable and the tide was out but with a small group of Grey Plover was a lonesome Knot a species which we had been missing since the beginning of the year.

On the 15th April Jackie and I helped out on one of the Birds of Poole Harbour bird boats which went from Poole Quay to Ridge up the Wareham Channel. It was a very nice and sunny warm morning though a little fresh at the start. It didn't take long for us to pick up our first Sandwich Terns which more or less followed the boat all the way to the mouth of the Frome.  Though the trip was a good one with lots of birds which included two Osprey. Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, it didn't add very much to our personal list.

The next day in the afternoon a few of the Poole birders had a small gathering to catch-up on lost time over the last couple of years and it was good to see everyone and find out what everyone had been seeing and finding out how the Osprey project was doing etc. It also turned out to be fairly productive as we added Sand and House Martin and Sparrowhawk to our 10km list.  We also received news that a Blue-headed Wagtail had been found at Sunnyside Farm by Jol, so after our catchup a few of us headed for Sunnyside to see if we could find the wagtail.  When Jackie and I arrived Ian and Trevor were already searching without any luck though there were a few things to see Gadwall, Mallard, Lapwing and a Wheatear, also Pied Wagtail.  We also picked up a Tree Pipit which had flown in to drink at the pools. 

We were all just thinking that the wagtail had moved on and we were thinking of going when all of us heard the high pitched 'tslee' as a Yellow Wagtail flew over us and landed in with the cattle in the next field.  We all got on to it quickly and yes it was the Blue-headed Wagtail, this is a colour form of Yellow Wagtail which is mainly found in Central Europe, and it gave stunning views.

Blue-headed Wagtail _ Sunnyside Farm © Nick Hull

A cracking looking bird to finish the day on.

On the 17th as it was Easter Sunday we had a family picnic and walk at Arne including our three grandchildren, it was fairly quiet but they enjoyed see the Black-tailed Godwits from the new Lookout hide, also a Red Kite circling over Coombe Heath.  On the way home we drove via Soldiers Road and stopped where we usually hear Willow Warbler on Slepe Heath.  As soon as we stopped we both could hear one singing and a little further on we had four Egyptian Geese grazing on the campsite field.

On the 19th we were back at Durlston mainly to see if the orchids were in flower as our last trip they were only leafed spikes.  After leaving the car park we soon had our first Whitethroat singing and displaying and eventually we probably had at least eleven on our walk.  When we arrived at the area for the orchids we found large number in flower all looking fresh and pristine. The Early Spider Orchid in very good numbers and the Early Purple were scattered in little groups around the down.

Common Whitethroat - Durlston © Nick Hull

Early Purple Orchid © Nick Hull

Early Spider Orchid - Durlston © Nick Hull

On our walk back to the car we went via the Cowslip field which looked wonderful.

Cowslip Field Durlston © Nick Hull

On the 24th we had a walk over to Morden Bog where we heard our first Cuckoo of the year but unfortunately unseen and displaying Tree Pipits.  A Peregrine flew over and a few Swallows passed through and we had at least four Dartford Warblers. 

At the end of the month I did my heathland bird survey at Holton Lee and added Whimbrel, Reed and a Garden Warbler and we had a quick trip to Sandbanks and saw our first Common Tern for the year passing through the harbour mouth. This brought the month's species count to 103 with 22 species being added to the 10km checklist which now stand at 141 species with many more still to get. 

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Untickable Baikal Teal

On the 7th of March Jackie and I decided to take a trip down to the Somerset Levels, to Greylake RSPB, in the hope we would get lucky and see the Baikal Teal which had been present there for a few weeks. Unfortunately when we arrived we were told it had been on show but the RSPB had gone out to do a check on the Fox proof fencing and had disturbed the bird.  Though everything had returned no one was able to find the teal. It was a fine but cold breezy day and we decided to give it to lunch time and if we hadn't seen it we would go to Ham Wall for Bittern and the egrets etc.  During our time there searching for the teal on occasions Marsh Harriers also a Buzzard flushed most of the water fowl and they would lift off and fly around, eventually settling back on the marsh again.  We would scan again to see if we could find the elusive Baikal Teal.  During these mad whirling mass of duck that flew around in panic avoiding the raptors I took a number of photographs just at random of the mass of birds and scanned for the teal but we had no luck at all finding it.  So we ended the morning with a dip and headed off to Ham Wall for lunch and the afternoon.  

Now this isn't quite the end of the Baikal Teal story as several day after returning home when I had a little time to process the photographs taken on the day.  I had a quick scan through the photograph of the flushed flock of ducks. Yes, you've probably guessed now what I'm going to say, in one of them there is a Baikal Teal unseen by everyone at the time but captured by the camera, a camera tick. 
The question is would you tick it or not? We've decided not but it is a bit of a dilemma. The only year tick I had here was Cetti's Warbler which was hardly any consolation. 

                     Untickable Baikal Teal - Greylake © Nick Hull

Ham Wall as ever was great with all the usual species that one would expect good numbers of Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier and a good selection of water fowl.  We only managed to hear a Bittern 'boom' but that was enough to add it to the year list and we will return on another day and hopefully see one before the year is out.

Back home on the patch at Lytchett we added Green Sandpiper, Kestrel, and Mistle Thrush the latter of these species isn't particularly regular on the patch so was nice to get under the belt.  Our next patch tick came on the 20th when Ian Ballam called to say he had a Garganey out in the bay and it had headed towards the end of footpath 12.  We headed out but was unable to find it, it had probably headed into one of the little creeks in the reed bed out of sight.  We didn't have much time as we had arranged to meet friends at Lodmoor. This  turned out pretty well as we added Ruff, Red Kite and our first Swallow of the year and on the way home a quick stop at Maiden Castle added Corn Bunting to the year list too.   Not a bad day but it wasn't over after arriving home, Shaun called to say he had relocated the Garganey out in the bay and it was viewable from the Lytchett Bay Viewpoint.   So we quickly popped around the corner and joined Shaun who directed us onto the bird. It wasn't the best view as we were looking into the late afternoon sun but you could make out it was clearly a Garganey a nice way to end a good days birding.

Yellowhammer taking a drink St Aldhelm's Head © Nick Hull

The last couple of weeks of the month were spent trying to catch up with a few of the species that are not so easy to find the local area, well particularly in the 10km challenge area.  We made a couple of visits following up on information passed to us from friends, one to St Aldhelm's Head which proved fruitful with us seeing our first Wheatear of the year followed by Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting and both Red-legged and Grey Partridge.  

Little Ringed Plover - Lytchett Fields RSPB © Nick Hull

Then to finish up the month on the 25th we had two Little Ringed Plover at Lytchett Bay on the Sherford Pools field, which we followed on the 28th with one of the Isle of Weight introduction immature White-tailed Eagle in the Lower Frome valley.  This made a nice end to the month.

Very distant Carrion Crow (top) - fem Marsh Harrier (middle) & imm White-tailed Eagle

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Norfolk plus

February allowed us to take a short holiday alway after it was cancelled by covid last year.  Though the week before we went we had time to do a little birding around the harbour to add a few species to the 10km list before we left.  On the 2nd a trip out to Middlebere was very quiet except we had a male Goshawk fly past at a fair rate of knots and headed towards Arne Moors direction. When we had arrived back to the van at the parking area a visiting birder asked if we had seen the Merlin we answered "No" and he replied well there is one in that pine tree in the bog, we thanked him and scanned the tree finding a male Merlin sat resting on a branch close to the truck making it very hard to see from some angles a great start to the month.

On the 5th we headed off to Norfolk where were staying in Wells-Next-the-Sea giving us the option to travel to Cley in one direction or Holkham in the other.  The first day was very wet weather but it improved as the week progressed other than the wind stayed pretty blowy. 

Our first target species was to try and catch up with the Red-breasted Goose which seemed to be commuting between Blakeney and Cley.  We had no joy at Blakeney so continued on to Cley where were were told it had just been found at Blakeney but had just taken flight with the Brent.  So we decided to go out to the beach to do a little sea watching but on arriving we were told the Red-breasted Goose had just flown in to the middle of the reserve.  So we decided to walk along the beach to get a view but when we were about half way to where the bird was the brent lifted off and landed in the Eye Field behind the car park so we had to retrace our steps against the cold wind but fortunately I had parked the van facing the right way as it began to rain.  We jumped into the van to warm up whilst we looked for the goose and quickly found it around 30m away along the fence line and had good views. 

Red-breasted Goose - Cley Norfolk © Nick Hull

For the late afternoon we headed for Holkham popping into Lady Ann's Drive which was almost empty of birds so on to the "triangle" to look over the marsh between the end of Holkham and Burnham Overy Staithe.  Scoping the marshes there were lots of birds present with large flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover the latter couldn't be seen until a Marsh Harrier quartered across the marsh and put them all up giving us a great display.  We also found no less than five Great White Egret out on the marsh and had a small flocks of Brent and Greylags, Curlew, Redshank and various duck species.  After some time we had a small skein of Pink-footed Geese fly in and I set up my recorder and parabolic microphone ready for the next flock to come in to roost on the marsh.  It wasn't long before Jackie said "here they come" and I switched on the recorder and waited for them to pass over. It was a real spectacle as it must have been all the Pink-feet that was wintering in Norfolk that was flying over filling the whole sky above us. I checked the recorder and found the sound of all these geese was bouncing the recording level into the red but I hoped it wasn't distorting the recording to much. 

The forecast for the 7th looked good so we decided to take a chance and go somewhere new so we headed of to Deeping St. James in Lincolnshire a LWT reserve.  As we approached the reserve we had a quick stop to photograph a family party of Whooper Swan on the roadside dyke.

Whooper Swan family near Deeping St James © Nick Hull

We arrived at the reserve and parked up with more Whoopers viewable on the nearby lake and headed off towards the first hide.  As we arrived at the hide to birders were exiting and we asked if they had seen our quarry they answered no not a sign.  We checked our instructions and found our target bird wasn't seen      from the hide but an opening in the hedge line before the hide.  We backtracked and found the opening and started scanning the trees and bushes across the water about 40m away.  It took me a few minutes to picked up a pale streaked breast in a tree covered in ivy opposite and directed the others onto it, whilst I set up the scope.  Once the scope was set up you could get a pretty good view of a single Long-eared Owl my favourite bird.

Long-eared Owl - Deeping St James © Nick Hull

After a good look around we headed off looking for Bewick's Swan and Crane.  We were told to explore Thorney Dyke area for both species though we only found one which was a tad interesting. We found three Bewick's Swan on one of the fields one of which had a neck collar, so we took time to get the code and moved on. (Hopefully I will be able to update you later on the swans history)

Bewick's Swan (with gps collar) Thorney Dyke © Nick Hull

We worked our way around the fen area to the Nene Washes RSPB reserve unfortunately there wasn't any access for Jackie's mobility scooter the gates were too small so we looked over the reserve from the parking area.  I have to say it was waisted and we had more Whooper and a handful of Bewick's, Red Kite and a scattering of waders and then Jackie spotted two Cranes which passed over the reserve and disappeared behind a wood never to be seen again.

On the 8th we headed off to Sculthorpe Moor I have to say this is one of the best reserves when it comes to scooter access there was nowhere that Jackie couldn't get to even the raised hides.  We had a great visit though we didn't add much to our year list but added several to the trip list with Brambling, Siskin, Egyptian Geese and lots of Bullfinch were all very nice to see. In the afternoon we went back to the Holkham triangle for the geese to fly in which strangely they didn't at least if they did it was dark when they did.

Male Brambling & Bullfinch - Sculthorpe Moor © Nick Hull

Well you can't come to Norfolk without at least trying for Shorelark so we woke early and got to Holkham before too many visitors had arrived and we met Tony and Jo from the Flamborough Obs who we had run into a few time over the week and they said the larks were out on the beach from the halfway path behind the Washington Hide so off we went. When we arrived we were told they had been flushed and were in the dunes a couple of hundred metres or so further up the beach.  So on we went but after a short while Jackie was finding it hard so I said to her to stop where she was whilst Tony Jo and I searched for them. Well we were searching around when Jackie called me "I've got them" I whistled to Tony and Jo and we made our way back to Jackie who had four Shorelark a few metres in front of her giving great views.

Two of four Shorelark - Holkham © Nick Hull

On the 11th we headed out after a Short-toed Lark but unfortunately it was too far away for Jackie to walk and not suitable for her scooter and no parking close by so we had a look around Kelling Heath, which didn't provide much but it refreshed our memory of the reserve as we hadn't visited there for some years.  

We had lunch at the Kelling Tearoom (reconmended) sitting outside on a bench in the warm sun which made a nice change.  For the afternoon we went back to Cley to see if we could get the Iceland Gull on our trip list and parked up at the beach car park.  It was fairly calm though there was a bit of a cool breeze, anyway we walked up the beach and did a little sea watch which produced little other than a couple of Red-throated Diver, a handful of Common Scoter, a Great Crested Grebe and the usual common species of gulls.  A birder told us that the Iceland Gull was off the east bank which was some way off too far for Jackie to walk.  I decided that I might be able to see it scoping the gull flock from where we were to, so scanned away.  Jackie started feel the cold and went back and sat in the van as I continued looking after about 15 minutes I picked up a creamy looking gull flying towards me along the beach edge I quickly realise it was the Iceland Gull and called Jackie and pointed and it flew almost to me then turned around between me and the van and headed back to the east bank, perfect you couldn't have arranged it better.

We ended the day back at Holkham triangle where the geese didn't arrive again but we had good views of to Chinese Water Deer feeding and running around in one of the fields which I managed to get a dew digi-scoped shots of.

Chinese Water Deer - Holkham © Nick Hull

It was time to leave Norfolk and on our way home we called into Welney WWT where we saw the usual species and managed to add Tree Sparrow to the year and trip list and as we left for home a mile or two down the road we saw a Cattle Egret which finished our trip very nicely.

We ended the month with adding Redwing, Stonechart to the 10km and Yellowhammer to the year list. 117 species seen for the month roll on March when Sand Martin and Wheatear and possible an Osprey.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

New Year Birding

Sorry this blog is a little late this is mainly due to Jackie and I going off birding in Norfolk and we are only just catching up with all those jobs that we didn't complete before we left, but more about Norfolk in the February blog which will be coming soon.

Though a little belated Jackie and I would like to wish you all a Wildlife filled 2022 with lots of good birds.

Hopefully like us you have already seen a good few birds to start your year list off.  We are doing a 10km challenge for the year so we've been trying to see as many as we can of the wintering species now rather than risk not seeing them at the end of the year when they return from their breeding grounds. 

As usual Jackie and I joined Liz Woodford on January 1st to bird locally around Upton Country Park and Lytchett Bay.  As the Tundra Bean Geese were still around we decided they would be our first target species and we met Liz in the car park at Upton CP and went straight to the farm field and luckily for us they were still there.  Not for long and the park run started and a very loud motivator voice boomed out to encourage the runners and it unsettled the geese which lifted off and flew toward Creekmoor where they landed in the field by the round-a-bout. Anyway we had seen them so we carried on around the park checking off all the common woodland species and a walk  along the edge of the bay produced a good number of wildfowl. 

Tundra Bean Geese Upton CP © Nick Hull

After Upton we went back towards home to cast an eye over Lytchett Bay which added a few extra to our list and we finished at home for lunch with 56 species.

We couldn't get out again until the 3rd when we started at Hampreston Water Meadows for the lone Whooper Swan and had a successful start and also added a Great White Egret fly over. So no time lost we then moved on to Dorchester and looked for the Little Gulls at Maiden Castle which didn't seem to be present so moved to Charminster Water Meadows where we had more success which finding the 5 White-fronted Geese though distant gave good views.

From Charminster we headed for Chesil Cove our target Black Redstart.  We parked up and had a quick look around but couldn't see any sign so we had our lunch whilst keeping an eye open at the roofs and gardens.  I finished my luch before Jackie and said I'd look up along the sea wall and around the edge of the cove and beach.  I was looking out to sea and had an Iceland Gull amongst the feeding gulls out in the cove and turned back to the van to get Jackie as I approached the van I spotted something under the rear and quickly realised it was a female type Black Redstart.  As I got to the van it moved to Jackie's side of the van and up onto the cobble embankment giving us close views.  We then tried to find the Iceland Gull again out in the bay but couldn't find it.  So we headed to Lodmoor and hoped it would come in to bathe before going to roost.  we had been watching over Lodmoor for a while when all the gulls suddenly lifted off and started to circle up and drifting towards Weymouth Bay and I managed to pick up the Iceland Gull and get Jackie onto it before it flew off out over the bay and we headed for home.

Next day we popped down to Studland and had a look around South Haven we managed to add Sanderling to our 10km and harbour and year list along with the usual suspects that are usually around. Next day the 5th we met friends at Blashford Lakes and we added a Red Kite which soared over the car park to our year list.

Red Kite Blashford Lakes © Nick Hull

We popped to our daughter's at Wareham on the 12th and went home via Trigon stopping at Stroud Bridge in the hope we might pickup a Crossbill but found a Peregrine on a pylon instead. In the afternoon we popped to Arne for bird seed and had a quick walk around Shipstal adding Spoonbill on the point then went home via Hartland Moor and got lucky finding a Hen Harrier a nice bird to get at any time.

Towards the end of the mouth we visited Durlston CP to add Black Redstart to our 10km list plus Guillemot, Rock Pipit and Firecrest.

Male Black Redstart - Tilly Whim Durlston CP © Nick Hull

Then on the 16th we had a first for the garden which visited the feeding station for a few days a super little Lesser Redpoll. Then on the 18th we went out to the bay and waited for an hour or so for the Glossy Ibis which had been visiting the bay in the late afternoon before going off to roost somewhere in the harbour area. Shaun called us to say it had flown in and landed on the mud just off the old fisherman's bench, but unfortunately from our vantage point we couldn't see it as it was too close to the bank.  Eventually it wondered further out into the bay and moved into sight and we had distant scope views but good enough to add it to out patch, harbour and 10km lists.  In fact a few days later Paul Morton found it feeding in a field at Post Green Farm where I managed a poor distant memory photograph.

Glossy Ibis - Post Green Farm © Nick Hull

A morning visit to Blashford Lake to meet friends added a Brambling for the year on the 18th and on the 20th we added Purple Sandpiper in with the Sanderling roosting on the one of the groyne's at Sandbanks and  ended the mouth with another Lytchett Bay scarcity a single Golden Plover out in the bay.

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Push to the end of the Year.

Jackie and I would like to wish you all a healthy and bird filled 2022.

To be honest it wasn't too much of a push as with probably everyone we were getting ready for Christmas, those last minute presents and seeing family and friends. So we didn't get much birding done but we did make the effort to see the Upton Tundra Bean Geese on the 21st December .

Two adults and one juvenile Tundra Bean Goose Upton CP. © Nick Hull

Then on the 22nd, whilst having a walk with the grand children around Poole Park, we had a flight of White-fronted Geese fly over towards the north-east which was a bit of a surprise.  On the 28th we had a trip out to Portland and Weymouth in an attempt to see the Iceland Gull and catchup on Black Redstart which was missing from our year list.  Unfortunately they were still missing from our year list at the end of the day.  Though we did drop by Charminster and see the 5 White-fronted Geese in the water meadows though they were very distant as you can see from the photograph.

4 of 5 (Russian) White-fronted Goose Charminster Water Meadows © Nick Hull

We ended our year on 219 species plus 3 subspecies which gives us a total of 222 species in 2021 which isn't our best year but that's not surprising as we were locked down for a good part of the start of the year.

It also reminded me that back in September 2020 I wrote here that we were going to set ourselves a challenge of trying to see at least a 100 species a month throughout the year.  I just realised that we have gone 15 months since I wrote this. Looking back over those 15 months we didn't manage the hundred for 6 of them, but when I calculated the average for the period it came out at 101.44 species per month. Interestingly the months we didn't quite make the hundred were all in 2021 February, May, July, August, September and December.

Looking back over the year from a birding perspective, once you have seen over 400 species in the UK it becomes harder to add new species to your British list. Saying this Jackie and I have had one of our best years for seeing scarce and rare species for a very long time. Not being big twitchers who stick mainly to Dorset and Hampshire though we choose carefully where we take our holidays to give us our best chances to add species we cannot see locally.  

Our personal highlights in 2021 have been:-
Tundra Bean Geese - Upton CP
White-fronted Geese - Poole Park
Garganey - Poole Park
White-tailed Plover - British tick - Blacktoft Sands RSPB
Long-toed Stint - Life & British tick - St Aidens RSPB
Pectoral Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields RSPB
Jack Snipe - Spurn Obs
Whiskered Tern - Longham Lakes
Little Auk - Weymouth Hbr.
Night Heron - Poole Harbour
Hoopoe - Upton Allotments
Red-footed Falcon - Langford Lakes
Chough - Great Orme Llandudno
Willow Tit - St Aidan's RSPB
Western Bonelli's Warbler - British tick - Flamborough Head South Landing
Yellow-browed Warbler - Bempton RSPB & Flamborough Obs
Aquatic Warbler - Lytchett Bay
Melodious Warbler - Middlebere
River Warbler - British tick - Ham Wall
Rose-coloured/Rosy Starling - Martin Down
Red-breasted Flycatcher - Flamborough Obs
Taiga Flycatcher - British tick - Flamborough Head Fog Station
Desert Wheatear - Dorset tick - Lodmoor RSPB
Common Rosefinch - Portland Bird Obs
Snow Bunting - Bempton and Jerry's Point Poole Hbr.

Photo highlights of 2021 © Nick Hull

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Back to Patch and Good Birds

I'm starting this monthly blog at the end of October from when we returned from our holiday in Yorkshire.  We arrived back and the Lytchett Patch still held the Pectoral Sandpiper which was found on the fields on the 12th October and we managed to catch up with it on the 20th with distant views as it was at the back of the Sherford Pools Field, a little too far away to get a photograph. So our purple patch was still running and then on the 23rd a call from fellow patch watcher Shaun Robson to say there was a Hoopoe in the allotments off Slough Lane.  So it was into the car and up the road, a few minutes later we were watching a Hoopoe feeding along the allotment drive with no concern for us.

Hoopoe Upton © Nick Hull

It stayed till the end of the month and was seen by many visitors.

October hadn't stopped giving as on the 23rd a Common Rosefinch turned up on Portland but then wasn't seen again and presumed to have left but on the 28th it or another appeared so Jackie and I headed off to Portland Bill.  When we arrived in the lane next to the Obs there was maybe six people waiting for the bird to reappear.  We patiently joined the others and waited, it didn't take too long before the bird flew in. and perched in an elder and was partially obscured by a branch but I took a few shots as you don't know if you will get a better chance.  As it happened I needn't of worried as it crossed the lane and perched on top of a bramble right in the open and took a few more shots before it moved again this time even closer giving amazing views.

Common Rosefinch Portland Bill © Nick Hull

After watching the Rosefinch for quite sometime we went and looked over the strips and managed to add the ringtail Hen Harrier which was quartering the fields near the old upper lighthouse, which was great to see as it was a catchup species we missed in the early part of the year because of lockdown.

We then had a wander over to the Obs Quarry and to our amazement the Little Owl was sat in its usual slot in the rocks, I was able to get a few shots of this this super small owl.  In fact it must be one of the most photographed birds in the county but again another year tick under the belt and brought Octobers birding to a very suitable end.

Little Owl Portland Bill © Nick Hull
The first eight days of November was fairly normal with us just seeing the birds that we would expect to see at the various location we visited. On the 9th we went off to Studland as two Snow Bunting had been found on Redhorn Quay and they aren't that common in Dorset.  When we arrived we walked across the heath checking off a few Meadow Pipit and a Dartford or two, but as we approached the quay we moved very carefully and watched for movement.  I managed to find one in the grass area feeding on the various seeds and as I moved around to get a clearer shot with the camera I noticed movement on the beach and there was the second bird, which eventually moved and joined the other on the strand-line.

Snow Bunting Redhorn Quay © Nick Hull

Our next trip was more of a local twitch as a message came that there was a Red-necked Grebe near the harbour mouth so Jackie and I headed for the Haven car park at Sandbanks.  Shortly after arriving and scanning around the harbour mouth I picked it up out in the middle of the harbour towards Goathorn. We managed good scope views of the bird but it was some way off but none-the-less a good year tick.

It was back to Weymouth for our next trip out for the Little Auk in Weymouth Harbour which had been seen on and off for a few days but was very elusive at times.  We arrived and parked near the harbour a short walk to the RNLI boat mooring where the bird had last been seen, but we were told that it had dived ten minutes before and disappeared.  When I was parking up the van I had caught movement in the corner of my eye of a bird diving underwater but when we started to walk towards the RNLI all we could see was a Cormorant, but what I saw was just a small plop not the ripples of a Cormorant but I kind of passed it off.  We watched for a while with the others and Brett arrived and we chatted for a bit and caught up on what birding we had been doing etc as we waited.  I then mentioned to him about what I saw and he answered well it might have been the auk as it likes that area, Brett and I walked back towards the town bridge scanning the water for movement.  We had walked perhaps a hundred metres or so when scanning towards the boats moored, by where I had parked, I saw a small black and white blob in the water.  Viewing through my bins there it was I quickly walked back and whistled to Jackie and the others that I had found it and rejoined Brett by the boat where the Little Auk was just having a preen.  It put on a great show only a few metres away it was definitely the closest views I have ever had of this super small auk species.

Little Auk Weymouth Harbour © Nick Hull

After having our fill of the Little Auk Jackie and I popped up to Portland Bill in the hope of catching up with Purple Sandpiper which we managed but just a single bird on the rock near the Obelisk with a couple of Oystercatcher.  After which we went off and treated ourselves to a fish and chip lunch before heading home.

On the 21st we met friends for a walk in Bolderwood in the New Forest, we saw lots of Redwing and had a flyover Hawfinch otherwise it was fairly quiet.  On our way home we called into Eyeworth Pond to see if we could find Mardarin but they didn't seem to be at home at least not while we were there.  We did though have a consolation with a drake Goosander which seemed to be oblivious of any people and just busied itself with feeding.

Drake Goosander - Eyeworth Pond New Forest © Nick Hull

Our next trip out was down into West Dorset to visit friends we hadn't seen since before the first Lockdown visiting Seaton Wetlands and Lyme Regis.  We started with a walk along the Lim in search of Dipper and we were successful finding two birds which gave us good views and on our return walk we saw a Kingfisher before heading off to Seaton which turned out to be very quiet.

Dipper River Lim © Nick Hull

At the end of the month Jackie and I decided to have another look around Studland as there had been Velvet Scoter out in the bay which is always nice to get on the harbour year list.   As we arrived in the middle beach car park we heard the squawking of Ring-necked Parakeets and there flying towards us were four birds being typically noisy and they perched up in one of the trees in the car park.  Amazingly we have looked for these birds a number of times, well, almost every time we have visited Studland and couldn't find them, then today they found us.

Ring-necked Parakeet Studland © Nick Hull

After viewing the parakeets we set up the scope and scanned the bay and almost right away found a group of four Velvet Scoter along with fourteen Common Scoter a few hundred metres off shore.  We then moved down to look over Bramble Bush Bay hoping for Sanderling and we weren't disappointed with 15 on the shoreline.  As we looked over the bay and shoreline we had a good variety of waders flying in including 30 Ringed Plover, 45 Dunlin, a single Greenshank and 2 Grey Plover and a good number of Brent Geese.

We crossed on the ferry to go home via Shore Road, Sandbanks with the tide being perfect for the Bar-tailed Godwit to be feeding and we had a count of 66 and 86 oystercatcher with a few Turnstone and Mediterranean Gulls.  A great end to our birding in November.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Yorkshire Mega's Bonanza October Part 2

13th October - In retrospect we probably should have gone to to Flamborough Obs first thing and then headed off to Spurn Point but we didn't, electing to get down to Spurn as soon as we could.  It was a rather breezy day and for much of it, it was overcast which didn't help draw the birds out of cover.  We started our morning visiting ex-CHOG birder Mark Andrews who has moved to Kilnsea and has a wonderful location and garden next to the Humber.  We had a tour of his garden, which has already seen a number of scarce species but none for us, before we walked down the road to see if we could find a Western Bonelli's Warbler that had turned up the previous day.  It had been seen a little before we arrive in the Crown & Anchor car park but after an hour or so waiting and only having heard it call a few times we decided to head off and do a little seawatching and try again later. 

Our seawatch wasn't spectacular but it added a few year ticks in Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and Goldeneye all missed in the early part of the year because of lockdown.  We also recorded Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Pink-footed Geese, Razorbill, Guillemot, Rock Pipit, Skylark and Brambling.  

Skein of Pink-footed Geese passing by at distance Kilnsea Beach © Nick Hull

After our seawatch we headed back up the road to give the Bonelli's another chance to show but no chance so we headed off for lunch after which we headed to Kilnsea Wetlands before the tide receded and the waders leave to feed out on the Humber mudflats.  There was a good number of wildfowl and waders and we managed to add Spotted Redshank to our year list though we didn't find it in the roosting birds but caught sight of it when it flew out with accompanying Redshank.

We headed back to the Crown and Anchor to try for the Bonelli's again but when we arrived it still hadn't been seen but a message from the Spurn Obs came through to say there was a Jack Snipe on the Obs pond so we headed up the road and around the back of the Obs to join a number of birders already there watching the snipe.  We had great views and we saw a Jack Snipe swim in the pond something we had never seen before.

Jack Snipe_Spurn Observatory Pond Kilnsea © Nick Hull

The Jack Snipe was a fine way to finish our day at Spurn with a pretty good day list of 67 species on a pretty drab poor day, wasn't bad at all.

14th October - Back to Flamborough Obs for the mornings ringing session but it wasn't a great morning the wind had changed direction overnight and there was little migration, best of the morning was a stunning little Treecreeper up close.  So we headed back to the cottage for lunch and checked out up the lane at Buckton but generally had an easy day, fortunately as it turn out. 

Treecreeper - Flambourgh Obs © Nick Hull

15th October - We were up early and back to the Flamborough Obs with no idea of what the day would bring.  The first net round produced a single bird. the second was much better and added Lesser Redpoll and one of the local Tree Sparrows.

Lesser Redpoll, Yellowhammer,Tree Sparrow & Goldfinch  © Nick Hull

Then came the best bird of the weeks ringing sessions and strangely a species Jackie and I had been talking about over breakfast not having seen one for a while.  The last bird that appeared out of the bag was a juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher the first we had seen in the hand close up and it was a little cracker.

Shortly after news came to the Obs that a Western Bonelli's Warbler had been found near to the lodge so Jackie and I headed off with a few of the other birders to see if we could catch up with this elusive species and hoped we could get to see this one unlike the Spurn bird.

We arrive at the location and the sun went behind the clouds and we waited for an hour or so, then the sun shone through again and shortly after we heard it calling along with another Yellow-browed.  It was a little further down the path and I manage to spot it moving through a sycamore and called to the others and eventually everyone was getting brief views.  

Western Bonelli's Warbler - Flamborough © Nick Hull

Jackie wasn't satisfied with the views she had so we went for lunch and returned and we both had much better and closer views though it was very hard to photograph as it was on the move all the time.  We left very happy and went out to the viewpoint and tried a bit of a seawatch but only added Eider to our list.

16th October - We started as usual at Flamborough Obs but things were very slow and there seemed to be very little migrations and it was damp and windy.  So we decided to go to Scarborough and start at Scalby Mills a place we've not visited before.  Looking from the sea wall we added Turnstone to our list, otherwise a good number of Wigeon and Oystercatchers with just a singles of Eider, Guillemot and Curlew, a few Redshank and a variety of the more common gull species.  Then news of a Snow Bunting at Bempton Cliffs showing well made up our minds of where to go next.

We arrived and enquired if the bunting was still present and was told it was down by the Grandstand viewing point.  It didn't take us long to get there and it was performing extremely well with no fear of people and allowed for everyone to get great shots of this northern breeding species.

Male Snow Bunting - Bempton Cliffs RSPB © Nick Hull

Whilst we were there on the info services it came on that an Red-breasted Flycatcher had been found at the Flamborough Fog Station.  We didn't panic as we had already seen one so we had our fill of the bunting and walked back to the centre for lunch.  Just as we finished one of the volunteers said had we heard that the Red-breasted Flycatcher had been re-id'ed as a Taiga Flycatcher.  There was no worries of where we were to go next and off to the Fog Station as quickly as possible.

We couldn't have timed it better as we walked across to where all the birders were the bird was flushed and it sat on the fence rail of the Fog Station and gave us good views though a tad distant for ideal photograph with just a 400mm lens.  I managed a few memory shots before it was flushed again by birders and photographer that had been watching it down on the undercliff as they climbed back up to the clifftop path and flushed the bird back down onto the undercliff.  We decided as we'd had pretty good views and that the weather seemed to be deteriorating we would call it a day and what a way to finish!

Taiga Flycatcher - Flamborough Fog Station © Nick Hull

17th October - This was our last real day of birding in Yorkshire, rather wet and drab, we went to Flamborough Head hoping for a bit of seawatching but rather disappointing but we had no room to complain our birding break had been superb with one lifer and four British ticks and a total of 116 species for the 10 days in the county.

Just to add a BIG THANK YOU to all at Flamborough Bird Observatory for all the work put in to organise MigWeek21 it made a great birding break.