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. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Birding New Year

Sunday, 9 December 2018

In Search of Little Bunting

Jackie and I had a 'twitch' today after the Little Bunting that was found at Chiswell, Portland yesterday.  The only trouble was that my car was in the garage and Jackie's turbo doesn't seem to be working properly, but as it's a county tick and it's been a slight bogey bird in Dorset for us to catch-up with, we made the decision to go for it even if we had to get the breakdown truck out to get home. 

After an hour we arrived and parked up and meeting friends Liz and Terry who had already seen the bird and pointed us in the right direction, which in fact was about four metres away from where we were stood.  So I joined a few photographers to see if I could manage a few memory shots and a little video of the bird.

Little Bunting - Chiswell, Portland © Nick Hull
The above shot was taken just to the rear of a parked car at the edge of the drive to the rear of the buildings.  The one below was taken when it was disturbed by a delivery van and it moved to sit and preen in some dried scrub on the Chesil bank.  I have to say of all the Little Buntings I've seen this was the most confiding 
Little Bunting - Chiswell, Portland © Nick Hull
And the good news is we made it back home without use of a tow truck.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Since the last Post

Since our last post I had a few hour to spare and went to Arne and volunteered a few hours which I try to do as regularly as possible. On the way I stopped at a field at Nutcrack Lane and checked if the Cattle Egrets were with the cattle there.  There were nineteen Cattle Egret spread across the field,  so out with the bridge camera for a little shooting and trying out the video mode.  Here's what I managed to get.

Arne had been getting a male Brambling into the feeding station behind the Welcome Hut so whilst helping out I kept an eye open for it to visit.  I was just pointing out the different birds to one of the visitors when I spotted a Brambling but this time it was a female none-the-less a very smart bird and she continued to visit throughout the afternoon though somewhat intermittently to the chagrin of some of the visitors.
Female Brambling Arne © Nick Hull
Next we had a Two Owls group meeting at Blashford Lakes this was on a rather cold damp day but luckily for us it stayed dry right up until we were walking to the cars when it started rain again. None-the-less we had a good mornings birding and seeing many of the regular species that frequents the reserve.  The highlights were Green Sandpiper on the bank and a dozen Goosander from the Goosander hide was most appropriate on Ibsley Water.  Also from the Goosander hide we had really close views of a Snipe which was hunkered down right below the hide amongst trashed willow on the shoreline.
Common Snipe - Goosander Hide, Isbley Water, Blashford © Nick Hull
At the weekend we met at Weymouth to  explore the area for returning wintering species and hopefully to see the Lesser Yellowlegs and the Ring-necked Duck and I have to say we were successful on both counts.  

Before we even started our walk at Lodmoor RSPB reserve we had near to 250 Canada Geese flying in over us to land in the reserve, Cetti's Warbler and Water Rails calling and a Great White Egret flew across the reserve towards Preston cleared Beachdown Way and pitched in out of sight. We walked the reserve anticlockwise in the hope the Lesser Yellowlegs was on the Western Scrape but when we arrived there it wasn't to be seen.  Though there were many Teal, Mallard, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and the long staying white headed Ruff and a Marsh Harrier.  We continued on and we had a Peregrine streak across the reserve putting everything up in the sky which was followed shortly after by a Sparrowhawk.  Further on we came across two more Great White Egret and its smaller cousins the Little Egret and a few Little Grebe sheltering from the wind tucked in by one of the tern nesting islands.  I met a couple of friends that watch Lodmoor regularly and they said they had just seen the 'Lesser-legs' in the marsh bit by Beachdown Way.  So with a quick thank you we hurried along the path and scanned the pools and there it was at the back trotting up and down the waters edge feeding and giving nice scope views.
Lesser Yellowlegs - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
From Lodmoor we moved to Sandsfoot Castle, here we added Red-breasted Merganser, Black-necked Grebe and a single Slavonian Grebe plus a handful of passing Brent Geese. Then it was onto Ferrybridge for lunch, there was no sign of very much, too many people walking dogs and digging bait for fishing along the shoreline, but we did see Skylark, Dunlin, Oystercatcher more mergansers and a Kestrel, our fourth raptor of the day. By the time we finished lunch the day was passing and we headed off towards Radipole, parking at the Tennis courts we scanned though the duck and I managed to pick out the Ring-necked Duck without too much problem with a few Tufted and Pochard.  So after watching this small American duck in appalling light and with the temperature dropping as the sun had started to set we headed back to Lodmoor where we said our goodbye's to the group after an excellent day's birding in Weymouth.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Catching Up Again

When I logged in today I couldn't believe it has been so long since I wrote a blog. The main reason is that we have been very busy with a long weekend with a group in East Yorkshire and walks locally at Lodmoor, Durlston, Studland, Holton Lee, Stanpit and Keyhaven which has given our groups a wide variety species.

So instead of a write up on each location I thought to keep this blog to a reasonable length I would pick out a few of the highlights that we've seen in the period starting with East Yorkshire.
Jack Snipe - Spurn Point archive photo
Yorkshire gave us a few highs and one or two lows in that the first two days were pretty wet but we were able to bird from a few hides at Spurn Point which enabled us to see Jack Snipe, Ring Ouzels, Short-eared Owl. On our second visit we added more Ring Ouzel and thrushes, Yellow-browed Warbler and a Barred Warbler Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl. We also saw two Jay on our second visit to Spurn which was the first for two and a half years quite the local scarcity.  
Fieldfare coming in off the North Sea at Flamborough © Nick Hull
Our visit to Flamborough Head proved to be, for me the highlight of the trip for one reason only the visual migration was superb with large numbers of thrush species flying in off the North Sea which were followed by good numbers of finches giving the opportunity to see and hear Song, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Ring Ouzel, Redwing, Chaffinch and Brambling moving into Britain for the winter.

We also recorded Great White Egret at Hornsea Mere and lots of Tree Sparrows in various location we visited here they seem to be doing very well in this eastern corner of Yorkshire.
Tree Sparrow - Bempton Cliffs RSPB © Nick Hull
Closer to Home our visit to Lodmoor gave the group good opportunity to become conversant with the identification with Lesser Yellowlegs the North American equivalent to our Redshank which gave amazing good views.  Durlston gave us excellent views of Firecrest on what was a very overcast day as well as some visual migration but unfortunately it wasn't a big migration day.  Studland produced all the usual species and we had nice scope views of a group of returning Black-necked Grebe and good numbers of Mediterranean Gull and really close views of three Jay which were scouring for the churchyard for food.  Holton Lee always produces a variety of woodland species for us when we visit and usually adds a few waders and a bird of prey or two and it didn't disappoint us.  Our highlights were a very nice Kingfisher, male Sparrowhawk, Green Sandpiper and best of all was a Short-eared Owl  being harried over the bay by gulls a real scarcity for the Lytchett Bay recording area.  
Short-eared Owl © Nick Hull
Stanpit marsh produced its usual waterfowl also gave us good views of a couple of Wheatear and our first autumn sightings of recently returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese and we finished with a superb male Marsh Harrier over Priory Marsh.  Keyhaven is always an excellent location to visit at anytime of year though we didn't see anything particularly scarce that's not always what makes a walk memorable. Though the winter sun was a bit of a nuisance being low in the sky and the wind was blowing in from the south, we had good numbers of waterfowl in nearly all the lagoons and they appeared very restless with quite large flocks of Brent, Wigeon, Teal and Pintail constantly lifting off and circling around and landing again giving great views and a good opportunity to compare and see identification features of the different species in flight or on the water.  We also saw Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel  and many of the usual wader species out on the marsh.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Night Sound Surprise

Whilst I record on all nights that promise to stay dry the intention is to record what species are flying over Lytchett bay on migration in spring and autumn, I mostly record species that are what I consider local and can be seen most days in the recording area. (

Unfortunately where I am situated isn't a nocturnal migration hot spot, well not yet anyway, but in saying this I occasionally get a reward like the Golden Plover in our last blog.  I suppose that's why I do it for that odd surprise and when you get a real close contact where it calls above the parabol, that is really rewarding.  It just doesn't happen enough but when it does it makes listening to all those hours of silence worth while and when you get probably one, ie the Golden Plover, you don't expect another soon.  To my surprise and joy as I viewed through my next nights recording I came across what was obviously a loud sound (see sonogram blow).  Usually these sounds normally turn out to be something manmade so as I put the headset on I didn't have great expectations but how wrong was I.  As I heard the sound I let out a loud "Yes" and Jackie asked what is it, I said listen and handed her the headset and replayed the sound she looked puzzled then the realisation of what it was dawned on her Barn Owl! she replied.  

I've only record Barn Owl twice before both times were somewhere near the edge of the bay probably   a hundred metres away or so but this was very close if not over the bungalow or at least the garden.

Barn Owl Sonogram 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

More Nocturnal Sounds over Lytchett Bay

Well, I've had the recorder on over seven nights during September the most productive were the last nights of the month. In total 26 species were recorded many of which can be considered as local species, by that I mean I record them on every night I record.  But a handful I only record in spring or autumn or on the very odd occasion.

Moorhen, Coot, Snipe, Skylark and Dunlin I only recorded a few times, though Moorhen and Coot seem to be on the increase.  Moorhen are in the bay so might be moving around in the dark, Coot are scarce though are recorded in spring and autumn as are Snipe and the latter occasionally on winter nights.

A species that Paul Morton (BoPH) and Nick Hopper (Sound Approach) have both recorded on occasions around Poole Harbour is Golden Plover but they seem to have avoided my listening station here at Lytchett Bay.  Until now as this September I've recorded four individuals flying over and one recording (below) must of been very close or even over our Bungalow.

Below is the Spectrogram/Sonogram and recording of the Golden Plover calling as it passed over close to our Bungalow.

Sonogram of Golden plover and call below

Autumn is all about the winter thrushes moving in from northern Europe and it's alway nice to record the first of the year, but then once the migration get fully underway I spend so much time counting all the contacts on the recording it become a little bit of a labour of love rather than enjoyment.  In saying this September recordings not only produced the first Song Thrush, Blackbird and Redwing the latter flew by on 29th at 05:00hrs in the morning, it also produced Wigeon, Snipe, and the first Skylark also on the morning of the 29th at 02:59hrs.

Below is the sonogram and recording of that first Redwing of the autumn.
Sonogram of Redwing above, Call below

I've recorded a number of animal sounds and in the autumn Sika Stag are always recorded usually a number of time throughout the night, and I've often thought I should compare the bellows to see if there are any differences.  So today I compared two as they sounded obviously different indeed the sonogram backed this up. In fact the first you hear would only bellow once every so often the second animal would always put in a series of three in a row then take a break.  It seems to me that the first may be more senior in rank maybe, so doesn't need to sound off as much? So it could be I can identify individual stags by their sound and get an idea of how many Stags are vying for the doe's in the Lytchett Bay recording area.

Below is the sonogram of the two different stags the first sound is the one I think is possibly the senior animal the second sound is usually giving in a group of three seperate calls.

Below is the recording of both stags