About Two Owls

Sunday 28 December 2014

Upton Country Park

With Christmas over it seemed a good idea to get out and have a walk and get rid of a few of those excesses consumed over the last few days and what better than doing some birding at a local park, Upton Country Park and Holes Bay.

Our first birds were a flight of Redwing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over the car park then it was Robin, Song Thrush, Blue Tit and a Dunnock or two, as we walked past the pond there were the usual Hybrids and Mallards also a single Teal and a few Moorhen.  Out on the marsh and in the bay were good numbers of waterfowl, Curlew, Redshank a few Dunlin roosting around the feet of the Black-tailed Godwits. The Teal were lining the edge of the channels, Scanning through the mass of Teal a few Pintail were found and farther out there was a flock of Avocet and lots of Shelduck.  Then one of the group found a couple of Spoonbill which turned into six as they walked out of one of the distant channels.
Six Spoonbill roosting NW Holes Bay
We moved on to look over the north east of the bay on our way a few had good views of a Green Woodpecker and farther on we had Black-tailed Godwits flying over to feed in the fields.  As we arrived at the Creekmoor outlet I and a few had brief views of a Kingfisher.  Out in this part of the bay we had lots of Wigeon and Redshank, I then heard a Spotted Redshank calling and soon after found it feeding in the channel fairly close to us.

Spotted Redshank NE Holes Bay
There were a good number of Mute Swan along the edge of the bay and we had brief view of a single Spoonbill as it flew into the bay over Pergin's Island.  The PC World ditch had our second Kingfisher  but little else of interest and now the tide was rising and we watched a flock of one hundred and fifty Avocet fly in and started feeding on the far shoreline.  Retracing our steps Jackie mentioned that we had forty seven species on the list three off our target for the our walk 'Aha - a challenge'!  Walking back through the wood Jess saw a Nuthatch and soon after we all caught up with a very noisy bird calling.  

As we looked over the north west of the bay again a small flock of Lapwing flew over and then all the waders lifted off giving a wonderful display and we soon saw why.  A Peregrine came cruising across the bay and flew straight into the wader flock which consisted of mainly Black-tailed Godwit and it missed, turned and went back through them again with no luck.  He gain height again and started to take another flight into the flock when a Crow appeared and had a go at the Peregrine, the Crow then headed toward Pergin's and the Peregrine turned his attention on the Crow and gave it a real wallop and knocked it into a tree on Pergin's, it then circled and disappeared into the back of the island out of sight.

But what a tremendous way to finish a walk and successfully reaching 53 species in total, a good morning's birding.

Black-tailed Godwits taking flight just before the Peregrine made its first pass.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Day at the National Car Museum

Took out our grandson to Beaulieu and the National Car Museaum, Palace House and Abbey, and had a great day.

One of the games we played was we had to pick our favourite car in the museum, well Ben chose one of the older Peugeot formula 1 race cars as it had a number 8 on it.

 Jackie with her expensive taste went for the French built Bugatti Veyron super sports I have to say a very good choice. Only around 400 have been built at around £1,250,000.

I also went for a Bugatti though my choice turned out to be one of only two known in Europe, though you might have thought the Veyron was expensive well this little beauty would cost you in excess of £5,000,000 now that makes the Veyron a pretty cheap deal.

To top the day off when we visited the Abbey I heard calls of Hawfinch and found it up on the top of a fir tree and when it flew, it was joined by nine others just fantastic.

Sunday 14 December 2014

The Home Patch

Today we had a group out on our home patch of Lytchett Bay in an hour and a half's walk we recorded 53 species in just that short time.  We started almost immediately with Bullfinch and Goldcrest and a Cetti's Warbler.  Walking out to the bay added several of the other common species like Robin, Blackbird, Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Magpie and Jay.  As we were exiting the wood I picked up a movement to my left and searching a small birch tree found three Reed Bunting, which are alway nice to see.  Once out at the bay we set up scopes and scanned intently to see what we could find.  A Redshank was the first which noticed us and decided we were too close and took flight giving a very loud alarm call, living up to its old name of 'Warden of the Marsh'.  This unsettled a few other waders and enabled us to see a hidden Greenshank as it few off, and it alerted the Sika Deer out on the marsh to our presence which quickly disappeared into the reeds.  A Raven was seen distantly over the trees to the west and Wigeon and Teal were drifting offshore, an odd Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew fed along the spartina edged banks.  Further out along the main channel Redshanks, Dunlin, Oystercatchers more Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits fed.  A flight of Shelduck passed along the Holton shoreline and then we found three pairs of Red-breasted Merganser, a regular winter visitor in the bay in small numbers. As we moved on around the path I picked up a large raptor flying along the edge of Otter Island which turned out to be a female type Marsh Harrier. 

Unfortunately due to the rather waterlogged path a few of the group had to retrace their steps the rest continued on with me.  Mick found a single Avocet and I a pair of Gadwall, along with more of the species "we had already seen.  'The not wearing wellies' group added a pair of Green Woodpeckers and were watching a wintering Chiffchaff when we joined them to continue on around to the Border Road viewpoint.  Here we had a large charm of Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and then four more Bullfinch, a male and three females.  From the viewpoint the whole group were able to watch the Avocet and Gadwall, after this we headed home for coffee and mince pies, this ended a very nice walk.
Male Bullfinch digiphone scoped today © Nick Hull

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Stanpit Marsh

Had a break from work today and joined Jackie for a walk at Stanpit Marsh followed by our annual Christmas lunch.  Our walk didn't produce amazing numbers of species just thirty two but we had good views of everything and nothing was too far away.  Our first sighting was a small group of Greenfinch in the car park and a flight of Meadow Pipit that flew over towards the golf course, this was followed by Great Spotted Woodpecker one in flight and one "chipping" from the trees by the path.  

On reaching the marsh we came across a mixed feeding flock of Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits one of the latter was coloured ringed so hopefully we will find out soon when and where it has been if its been recorded before.  Also out here were Curlew, Little Egret, a few Meadow and Rock Pipits and a group of Dark-bellied Brent which seemed to be disturbed by three Grey Herons and they flew off towards the central marsh with some of the Black-tailed Godwit. 
Black-tailed Godwit flying by - Stanpit Marsh © Nick Hull
From Crouch Hill we had a look through the wader roost which held Dunlin, Ringed and Grey Plover, Lapwing, Curlew and a single very well marked Ruff. Walking out onto Blackberry Point we had very close views of a Little Egret that performed very well for us putting on a real display on how to fish successfully.
Little Egret catching a small fish Stanpit Marsh © Nick Hull
We finished our walk with close views of the Brent Goose flock that were happily feeding on the marsh and what was very nice there seemed to be quite a few immature birds amongst them.
Dark-bellied Brent - Stanpit Marsh © Nick Hull
After our walk we headed off for a very enjoyable christmas lunch.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Portland & Weymouth

We met at the car park at Portland Bill this morning with blue sky above with the promise of a dry day though the weather forecaster had said otherwise. After introductions we headed off out to the Obelisk for a little sea watching.  Almost immediately Jess spotted three Purple Sandpipers on the rocks below us and out to sea very much the usual gulls with a few Gannets, Guillemots, Cormorants and Shags.  
Purple Sandpipers, Portland Bill © Nick Hull
A small flock of Black-headed Gull had an immature Kittiwake tagging on behind as they passed us heading east.  Jackie picked up a small tern which disappeared behind a wave not to reappear which she thought was a Black Tern and I had what looked to be a starling sized auk which I'm sure was going to be a Little Auk but it flew into the sunny water and didn't appear to come out the other side,  Oh well these things happen can't get them all.  Moving on towards the Obs along the East Cliff we had several Rock Pipits as we walked around the Obs quarry we heard a sharp "Kee kee" like call and there above us was a pair of Peregrine. The surprise came when we were walking back between the Obs quarry and the Coastguard Cottages a chat flew up and it turned out to be a Whinchat, then a Black Redstart was on the roof of the end cottage, we had better views a few minutes later of a stunning male and then a immature with a tail missing which looked a little odd.  Back at the car park we had a pair of Raven sat on the rocks.  We then moved on to Portland Castle but as we drove past the Pulpit pub a Short-eared Owl flew across the slope of the West Cliff, then as we approached Weston we had another view of the pair of Peregrine this time both sat on fence posts. 
Pair Raven Portland Bill © Nick Hull
At Portland Castle our target was the wintering Black Guillemot though our first birds were a group of Red-breasted Mergansers and a Common Guillemot, then myself and Fran picked up the 'tystie' which gave good scope views even popping out of the water to rest on one of the mooring buoys. 
Black Guillemot - Portland Harbour © Nick Hull
Lunch at Ferrybridge added lots of Dunlin and Ringed Plover more R-breasted Mergansers and a couple of Little Egret out on the shoreline of the fleet.  Then on to Radipole where I challenged the group to find two Mediterranean Gull in amongst the resting gulls on the car park by the time they had found them the number had grown to four.  Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails seemed to be having a competition on who could call the loudest and still not be seen.  

Friday 14 November 2014

Forest Walk

With our Sunday group we met at Cadman's Pool near to the old Stoney Cross airfield.  The pool can attract a lot of duck and indeed there was a good number of Mallard present and the Oaks around the parking area were alive with Chaffinch, but no early Brambling was found.  Our circular walk took us down the valley, back up on to the plain and then back to the Cadman's Pool.  We didn't see masses of birds but we found Grey Wagtail along the Dockens Water and as we walked back up onto the plain we had a Painted Lady butterfly, the latest I've ever recorded a sign of how mild the autumn has been so far.
The latest Painted Lady we recorded
A Kestrel hovering over the plain was are only raptor. seen, though our highlight of the day had to be the Fieldfare and Redwing that were feeding up in the holly copse after their recent return to the UK to winter though many of the birds were very restless and after a quick feed moved on across the forest. Though we stopped for sometime listening to a gathering in one holly copse and the noise of the chattering and calls were amazing, made me wish I had my recording equipment as it would have made a great audio recording.  

Our walk turned into a bit of a fungi foray many of which were identified by Mick and Angie, as yet a subject that Jackie and I have only touched on but must do more to learn about as some can be very interesting.  I've included a few of the fungi that I managed to get reasonable shots of.

Cauliflower fungus 
Dung Fungus
Yellow Brain Fungus - Tremella mesenterica
A circle of Sulphur Tuft Fungus

closeup of Sulphur Tuft Fungus


Tuesday 4 November 2014

Radipole & the Northern Chalk

On the 1st November Jackie and I found we had a few hours spare so we popped down to Radipole Lake and arrived around lunch time.  The reason we chose to visit Radipole was because I wanted to try to get a few shots of the Long-tailed Duck that had recently taken up residence.  As usual when I get the camera out the bird disappeared around the edge of the reedbed out of sight.  So the best we could do, which happens a lot in birding, was to be patient.  So we sat and and had lunch, well a piece of Dorset apple cake and a coffee and very nice it was too. Lo and behold almost as we finished this super arctic breeding duck appears and close in to the visitor centre patio.  The light was awful but I managed a few reasonable shots before leaving to check out the gulls on the car park. 
Long-tailed Duck - Radipole Lake © Nick Hull
We had a quick scan over the resting gulls on the car park and found another Mediterranean Gull with a colour-ring which I duly sent of the details to the project leader and had a quick reply. It acquired its metal ring E907356 in Bruxelles as a pullus (chick) on 17/05/2004 at Zwijndrecht (Ineos complex), Antwerpen, Belgium. It was colour-ringed as a 3CY (3rd Calender Year) on 22/05/2010 at Antwerpen, Belguim. Since it was recorded for the first time at Ferrybridge on 09/10/2010 then Radipole 11/11/2010 and again at Ferrybridge in 25/12/2010.  The following year it was recorded at Radipole three times on 14/01/11, 28/01/11, 19/12/11.  Then it was recorded back at Antwerpen seventeen times between 12/03/12 and 29/03/12, then on the 14/04/13 It was seen at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire before retuning to Radipole on the 07/11/13. Where it was recorded a further three time the last being on 26/01/14 before being found back at Antwerpen where it was recorded eight time up until 17/04/14 when it moved to Ouddorp, Zeeland in the Netherlands on 22/06/2014 before we recorded it back at Radipole on the 02nd November 2014.

Mediterranean Gull - Radipole car park © Nick Hull
After recording the Mediterranean Gull we headed up to the northern chalk and the Cranborne Chase to look for owls.  Here we were treated to a very nice 'scope view of our first autumn Fieldfare, a flock  of 26 Corn Buntings which flew over to roost giving there ticking calls.  Jackie picked up a flight of distant waders which turned out to be around fifty Golden Plover stretching their wings over the downs.  We finished the evening with a flight of Redwing heading south on what looked like a migration flight,  unfortunately we heard later we missed a Short-eared Owl by ten minutes, 

Catching Up

Just realised we haven't updated the blog recently which is very remiss of us, our only excuse is that we've had a bout of seasonal illness each and been very busy.

18th October 
We usually visit the Purbeck coast at this time of year as it usually turns up a few passage migrants which are worth seeing and there is always a chance of a rarity.

The day was overcast and the forecast had promised rain by lunch time we could only hope.  We were birding the Winspit Valley and we gathered in the National Trust car park at Worth Matravers, as we waited for a few more people to arrive there was light visual migration going overhead.  A few Skylarks, Meadows Pipits, Goldfinch and Chaffinch were moving west in small groups.

We walked past the village pond and past the cottages and were half way across the first field going down the valley and we saw a large flock of around 80-100 Linnet rise from the field to our right, then a brief view then another of a bird of prey, it showed a third time and it was an obvious ringtail Hen Harrier and by it's rufous underside an immature female a very nice start.  The rest of our walk down the valley saw us check off all the usual common species plus a few that aren't so common like Yellowhammer and Bullfinch, we also added our second bird of prey with a female Sparrowhawk cruising along the ridge opposite.

I was leading and Jackie was behind as we approached the start of the thorny scrub and ivy clad trees that make up the sides of the valley when I heard a distinct "Tup Tup Tup" call and I realised straight away that it was a Ring Ouzel somewhere out to my left, looking I saw a bird fly then a second and a third and land in a red berry tree forty metres in front of us, quickly I put the scope on it but I new what it was but my view confirmed it as a male Ring Ouzel and two immature types behind it.  Unfortunately thanks to a male Blackbird which chased them off they flew off down the valley. We didn't catch up with them again and we didn't add very much more, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers flying by west out to sea a couple of Gannets, Raven and Rock Pipit and we finished the day with another look at the Linnet flock, another Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel, not a bad couple of hours.

19th October
Saw Jackie and myself heading off to Portland in the hunt for a Rose-coloured Starling and Yellow-browed Warbler.  Well we tried three times for the Rose-coloured Starling and as it not been seen that day it probably left on the 18th. Whilst there looking for it for our umpteenth time a message came through that there was Yellow-browed Warbler at the "Hump" just a few hundred yards from where we were stood, so off we went.  The "Hump" over the years has produced some good rarities and often turns up a Yellow-browed.  We walked three quarters of the way around without luck seeing Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Wrens, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robins and then "Shwee, Shwee" call came from a sycamore right next to us after a little investigation, well looking for movement in the tree top produced brief but good views of this eastern gem.

After we popped into Radipole Lake always worth a look through the gulls on the car park for ringed birds and with a little searching we found a colour-ringed Mediterranean Gull (white ring on left leg 36A2). After sending off the details a couple days later I received a potted history of the birds travels.  It started life in the Haringvliet, Slijkplaat, Zuid-Holland on 10th June 2003 where it received it's metal ring and was retrapped and a colour-ringed on 22nd May 2010 at Pionierinsel Island, Luhesand, Niedersachsen, Germany. Since, it has been recorded a further sixteen times all in the Weymouth area except once on the River Adur, Shoreham Airport, Sussex.
Adult Mediterranean Gull - Radipole Lake © Nick Hull
28 October 
Jackie led the Tuesday group around Studland, walking through the churchyard a distant Ring-necked Parakeet was heard, it was found at the top of a tree closer to the South beach.  In the church we had a few finches and heard Goldcrest, one even landing briefly on the gatepost for us to admire.  Walking a short way up toward Glebelands the purring of a Turtle Dove could be heard.  Unfortunately thought it continued to purr we could not see it as it was in trees across a field we could not enter.  Then it had obviously moved further away as the sound became more distant.

Looking over Studland Bay we had a fairly close Slavonian Grebe, as it was half term and many boats were in the bay we lost it, however further away towards the harbour mouth we watched a few Black-necked Grebes, also eight Common Scoter including a drake adult male.

A few butterflies were on the wing with a few Clouded Yellow, Red Admirals, Speckled Wood and a single Brimstone.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Keyhaven/Pennington Marshes

Our Tuesday fortnightly group met at Keyhaven this morning.  Black-tailed Godwits flew in, landing on a small island created by the lowered tide, also a couple of Turnstones.  As we walked along the Ancient Highway towards Pennington we heard Cetti's Warbler with it's loud song, Robins and Dunnocks seemed to be calling constantly as we walked.  A Song Thrush perched on a bush and a male Bullfinch was moving around near the bottom of the bush, while a Jay called raucously nearby. 

A sign of some migration was noticeable with a couple Song Thrush flying over, Skylarks and at least 5 Reed Buntings, a constant trickle of Meadow Pipits and Swallows, also a few Chaffinches.  Two Buzzards in the fields showed well, though the two Goldcrests in a bush were not so easy.  Liz called my attention to a high flying bird, a Peregrine that I got everyone on to as flew over and towards Hurst Castle.  A pair of Stonechats and Linnets also seen.  On the old tip pond gulls loafed on the bank, mostly Black-headed but Jess found a Mediterranean Gull and Common Gull with them.  Also Lapwings and a single Oystercatcher.  On the water Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Mallards.

Looking over the Shoveler pools I saw a bird out of the corner of my eye, my first instinct was Sparrowhawk but in a split second it had disappeared.  On the pools were Wigeon and Teal with a female Pintail, then suddenly their heads were up and very alert, soon after they took to the air in panic.  At first I couldn't see the culprit but Helen found her, a Sparrowhawk which was now perched on a branch by the pool.

Walking across to the Fishtail Lagoon we had a charm of Goldfinch, also another pair of Stonechats and Greenfinch.  On the lagoon were Little Egret, Brent Geese, Wigeon, Teal, a couple of Shelduck and a Moorhen.  Looking over the salt marsh there were a few waders with three Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew and by the far most numerous of the waders was Redshank.  Lots of Wigeon were flying in and landing on the sea creating a large raft.  Over Keyhaven Lagoon were Swallows and House Martins swooping low over the water.   As we neared the car park a Wheatear flew by showing it's lovely white rump, a good bird to finish our morning.

Little Egret

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Birding Pagham Harbour

Birding Pagham Harbour, 28th September 2014

Our birding day at Pagham Harbour started at Sidlesham Ferry and looking over Ferry Pool.  A good start with Avocet, Little Stint, Green Sandpipers and Lapwings, a single Mediterranean Gull and lots of Teal.  A Buzzard and Kestrel were over the fields, whilst overhead a stream of Swallows, House Martins and Meadow Pipits.

In the creek a Spotted Redshank disappeared down the bank leaving just Common Redshank, as we approached the bushes we surprised a male Sparrowhawk which took off very quickly.  It was quiet for passerines though we did have Linnets and the usual small birds you’d expect.

Our next stop was Church Norton, we had a circular walk round through farm fields to The Severals, along the way we had Stonechat, Red-legged Partridge, Willow Warbler as well as Chiffchaff and heard Cetti’s Warbler.  Also enjoying the beautiful early autumn sunshine were Hornets, butterflies - Speckled Wood, Red Admiral and Comma.

On arriving at the harbour a Peregrine flew across, and soared to a very great height moments later two Sparrowhawks moved along the wood edge and then found a another Peregrine sat on a post out on the beach.  The tide was only just starting to come in but we could see Curlew, several Knot were scattered along the main channel as were Oystercatchers and Turnstone. There was good numbers of Wigeon which were very restless flying around.

After lunch we drove round to the North Wall, our first birds were a ‘flock’ of Moorhens, a family party and others in the field with ponies.  A Kingfisher called and flashed past and a Cetti’s Warbler sang.

On the pools we counted five Spotted Redshank amongst the Black-tailed Godwits, a Water Rail crept through the edge of the reeds before stopping to have a lengthy preening session.  Looking into the harbour, now at high tide, we had Grey Plover, Greenshank calling as they flew across, Wigeon, Pintail and Teal.  On the rocks a couple of Wheatears were searching for insects to feed on.

However our real highlight was a little further on I looked down a creek where several Little Egrets were stood on the bank. I put my binoculars up and saw a Cattle Egret, it's yellow bill stood out like a sore thumb. I called the group over and Liz just got on to the bird when it flew up and went into the next field with the cattle.  We then all got good views, but the cattle were not happy with this intruder and they nudged it and pushed it off! It flew off in a north/north westerly direction but was not seen to land again.
Spotted Redshank at North Wall Pagham Harbour  Nick Hull

Monday 15 September 2014

Studland and at Home

Our Sunday monthly group yesterday met at Greenlands Farm and walked towards Brands Bay.  During our 3 hour walk we had Meadow Pipits calling and flying over us in in small groups.  Swallows were with just a few House Martins amongst them.   

We hadn't walked far, though we could see the Bay, when a Great White Egret flew up from the bay and across to Little Sea, then Liz spotted the juvenile Marsh Harrier behind us heading towards Ballard Down, then she found a distant bird of prey over Goathorn, which through the scope was confirmed by Nick as a Peregrine.  What a start to our walk!

Walking to the hide a male Stonechat perched up for us to admire, soon we were sat looking through the waders pushed in by the rising tide.  There were good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit interspersed with Redshanks.  Four Knot flew in, and a Ringed Plover flew out, Nick found four more Knot and we had a brief view of a juvenile Sanderling.  Other waders included  Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing and Oystercatchers plus a single Bar-tailed Godwit.  Our first Wigeon of the Autumn were busy feeding alongside Teal.

Moving towards Little Sea a Green Woodpecker flew across the heath and a Common Lizard moved too quickly into cover for most of the group to see.  Common Darters were now really warmed up and were "common", later we found a few Migrant Hawkers, but not many butterflies despite the warmth.  Looking through the high tide Egret roost we counted 74 Little Egrets and one Great White Egret, also a few Grey Herons and Cormorants.   Below is a digiscoped shot of the Great White in the roost.

We found a sheltered warm spot in the wooded area and had at least three Spotted Flycatchers, Goldcrests and a Firecrest, Coal, Blue and Great Tits and lots of Chiffchaffs, just a few Willow Warblers.  We spent a while here hoping for a glimpse of another bird we saw all too briefly but struck us that it could've been a Red-breasted Flycatcher, but despite our looking we never saw this bird again.

This afternoon we were gardening when we found an amazing spider, a splendid female Wasp Spider.  We were so pleased to find one in our garden.  On the left hand side is the underside and on the right hand side is the top of the spider.

All photographs are copyright of Nick Hull

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Middlebere - Osprey and migrants

Our monthly Wednesday group met at Middlebere this morning, starting our walk we could see that Swallows were steadily streaming over with a few House Martins with them.  A number of Stonechats, adults with juveniles were on the heathland along with a few Meadow Pipits.

Down the track we had a Chiffchaff singing but we had several along our way,  a Jay called and then we spotted it flying across the track.  Reaching the Rowan trees we found Goldfinch but Chris was the only one to see the male Redstart, it disappeared and not seen again.  A couple of Whitethroats sat on top of a bush, a further one was on the wire fencing at the farm, along with a female Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff.   There were a good number of Mistle Thrushes enjoying the rowan berries, with at least twenty enjoying this feast.  Our first raptor was seen here with a Peregrine flying over us.

Arriving at the hide before we had settled down I noticed the Shelduck flying, then the Teal sprung up and I soon spied the Osprey that had spooked them.  It flew down channel, which was at low tide and out into the harbour.  The duck soon came back together with a couple of Grey Heron, Little Egret and a single Curlew.   It wasn't long before a raptor was brought to my attention at the far end of the channel surrounded by gulls.  Looking through a telescope my suspicions were confirmed that it was an Osprey.

Out of the hide Joe saw another more distant bird of prey, thankfully it was coming towards us and we were able to see it was possibly another Osprey, this time with a fish in its talons.  It flew for what seemed ages and descending all the time but we eventually lost it to view as it went past the

Overlooking the Wytch channel we added Greenshank and a beautiful male Kestrel, our fourth raptor of the day, a Buzzard appeared over towards Corfe Castle.  A pair of Coal Tits were in the conifers and a Green Woodpecker gave its lovely 'yaffle' call.

The sunshine brought out the butterflies and we had plenty of Red Admirals, Small Heath, a couple of Grayling and even a lovely male Common Blue.

Small Heath 

Thursday 7 August 2014

Keyhaven and Pennington

Meeting the group at half past nine we headed out to look for waders on the lagoons, with reports that there was a Pectoral Sandpiper and Garganey been seen for the last few days hopes were high for seeing some fantastic birds and fingers were crossed that rain held off, neither disappointed us. 

The first waders seen were Turnstones, with some still in their lovely summer plumage, followed by Redshank, Dunlin and Curlew. Checking the Curlew’s on the salt marshes closely Chris found a Whimbrel, not a bad start to the day. Moving on to Keyhaven lagoon a quick scan produced several more species of wader to add to the days list with Lapwing, Greenshank, Ringed Plover and I found a Sanderling, which is a good bird for here. A beautiful female Kestrel sitting in the bushes was the first of only two raptors seen for the day.

Moving on we were alerted to the presence of terns out on the salt marsh a nice mixed flock of Sandwich and Common but the heat haze made it impossible to tell if anything more interesting was mixed in. Then on to Fishtail Lagoon where all eyes were on the look out for the Pectoral Sandpiper, while looking Jackie and I were treated to great but brief views of two Sedge Warblers. Then the call went out, Nick had found the pec sand along with the added bonus of a Wood Sandpiper feeding along side it.
Pectoral Sandpiper (top)a vagrant from North America & Wood Sandpiper (bottom) © Jess Evans
Jersey Tiger moth a migrant from Europe © Nick Hull
We finished at lunch time having seen 49 species of birds.

Also on the lagoon were plenty of Black-tailed Godwits most of which were still in summer plumage, more Dunlin, another Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank and Ruff. Along with the usual ducks and gulls but sadly no Garganey was seen. When moving on all eyes were drawn not to a bird but an unusual looking orange butterfly as it slowly flew by options of what species were called out but promptly dismissed, until it dawned on us that it wasn’t a butterfly but a day-flying moth, a Jersey Tiger moth to be exact which was a brand new moth to many in the group. Meaning already happy faces turned into huge grinning ear to ear faces.The Rest of the walk was pretty quiet after that, with the only other wader added being Grey plover out on the salt marsh. Other birds of interest were a few Reed Warblers in the reeds in front of Butts lagoon, Eider out by the jetty and the only other raptor of the day, a Buzzard over the caravan park at Pennington.

Thank you Jess for the write up on todays walk.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

A Brilliant Day in the New Forest

Meeting Jackie and the group at nine o’clock we headed off across the heath looking for the usual species of this southern habitat.  They didn’t disappoint first a group of Meadow Pipit flew over then it was a family of Stonechat the male being followed around by a Dartford Warbler and we had glimpses of one or two Redstart.  Our walk took across the open heath and across wet bog, here we found Bog Asphodel in flower and the Bog Myrtle scent wafted in the breeze.  Also Willow Warbler, Lapwing, Starling, a high flying Siskin over and a Grey Heron stood out in the bog.  A few damsel and dragonflies were also found as well as several butterflies species and a single Marsh Orchid.

Grey Heron stood out in the bog
On reaching the edge of the wood we started picking up Chaffinches, then a Green Woodpecker ‘Yaffled’ and we saw one or two Redstarts and our first Spotted Flycatcher of the walk.  Further on, now along the edge of the woodland, with more views of Redstarts and another Spotted Flycatcher.  It was about this point in our walk that I caught sight of two birds flying out from over the wood the first was a corvid the second a Buzzard but something about its ‘jizz’ made take a longer look.  It turned slightly and then went into a soar and at this point I realised its identity, a male Honey Buzzard small head, long tail and heavy barring.  It looked like it was going to come towards us but then changed its mind and climbed higher circling.  Then it put in a few slow butterfly like flaps of the wings then clapped its wing above its body in territorial display and it continued to do this for some minutes before it was lost to view as it flew back over the wood.  What a fantastic sight for the group to be able to witness.

A very cropped shot of the Displaying Honey Buzzard
As we started our return walk we picked up many more of the woodland species  a family of Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great and Blue Tits and a single Marsh Tit.  A Silver-washed Fritillary glided by giving us very brief views, another family party of Redstarts, and Spotted Flycatchers were seen. Jackie found a skull of a bird which we first thought was of a buzzard but we finally realised it was of a Tawny Owl.  Next there was a yellow fungus which Mick identified as Chicken of the Wood, apparently it is edible but has little taste but has the texture of chicken hence its name.  The last stretch to the car park added Bullfinch but only heard it, another pair of Spotted Flycatcher and a Redstart.  Butterflies included Silver-studded Blue, Gatekeepers, Meadow Brown, Small White, Large Skipper and one Silver-washed Fritillary. 

Emperor Dragonfly one of the species seen on our walk
We finished at lunch time with the satisfaction of knowing that it isn’t every day that you see displaying Honey Buzzard almost overhead.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Portland Wildlife

Many people when thinking about Portland will first think of the stone quarries then maybe the lighthouse at the tip of the bill, birders think of it as one of the best sites for migrating birds in the UK a place where they may see or find a rarity.  There is much more to Portland, it has quite a diverse wildlife and yesterday Jackie and I led a small group to various sites on the island to find some of that other wildlife. 

We started at 08:00 in the Bill car park and headed out to the Obelisk for a spot of sea watching.  We quickly checked off Fulmar, Gannets, Guillemots and Razorbill and of course the usual gull species.  Walking around to look at the auk nesting ledges we could hear the nesting birds making their groaning calls.  Walking on making our way across to the Obs quarry we recorded our first butterflies with Small White, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper and Marbled Whites and added Linnet, Rock Pipit, Swallow and a pair Stonechat to the bird list.  A pair of Raven were also seen distantly probably the same pair that I had photographed earlier before all the group had assembled.

Raven - Portland Bill © Nick Hull
We moved off to our next location near Cheyne Weare to try and find Wall Lizard, one of two sites in Dorset, for this mainly continental species.  As we arrived we were able to check off Ringlet and Dingy Skipper on our butterfly list.  We scoured the quarry for sometime before Tim spotted one crawl out to sunbath on one of the large boulders.  Soon after Jess pointed out another and over the next few minutes we located a possible four Wall Lizards.

Wall Lizard catching the rays - © Nick Hull
Broadcroft Quarry was our next location this is a Butterfly Conservation reserve an excellent site for butterflies.  We started with more Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites then added Small and Large Skippers and I found a single Lulworth Skipper.  Next it was blue with Small, Common and then one of the target species, Portland's very own Cretaceous race of Silver-studded Blue.  Whilst watching the "blues" Joe and I picked up a Clouded Yellow which posed briefly for all to see. Walking on we were able to show various stages of Six-spot Burnet with a caterpillar, then with one already in its web like tent cocooned on the side of a piece of grass and then the adult which seemed to be everywhere.  We continued searching, two more day flying moths were found with Silver Y and Burnet Companion, then another migrant moth shot through towards the Valerian - a Hummingbird Hawk-moth a cracking moth but very fast.

Clouded Yellow © Nick Hull
Hummingbird Hawk-moth © Nick Hull
Burnet Companion © Nick Hull
This took us nicely up to lunch time and we headed off to to the view point of Portland Height where, whilst having a well earned break, we watch a male Kestrel hunting the slopes of the Verne and Priory Hill and enjoyed the view across the Lyme Bay and the Chesil beach.  

We ended our day at Ferrybridge where we walked out to the edge of the Little Tern colony which has 24hr wardens and electrical fencing, real high security to protect these super terns from predation from ground animals like Foxes.  Though we found out that the Herring Gull and the local Kestrel can take advantage and predate the eggs and young.  Though the Little Terns will try their upmost to see off either species with driving home attacks one after another to see them off to a safe distance.  We also found Ringed Plover out here on the Chesil Bank taking advantage of the high security.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Exploring the Wildlife of an Ancient Hill Fort

Over the last 10 days, twice with groups I have visited Badbury Rings renowned for its Orchids along with Butterflies and Birds.   I have managed to find 7 species of Orchid, some now going over such as Greater Twayblade and Greater Butterfly Orchid.  There are swathes of Common Spotted Orchid interspersed with Fragrant, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids now looking quite splendid.   The Frog Orchid eluded me but I found one spike of a Narrow Leaved Orchid, which just seemed so out of place on the rings, albeit tucked in by a more scrubby overgrown area.  Photos of some of these are below.

Butterflies have varied over the 10 days with 9 species seen.  With a single Dingy Skipper and lots of very worn Common Blues early on, these had disappeared, with all but 1 Common Blue, by my last visit yesterday.   Our first Meadow Brown and Marbled White 10 days ago and yesterday they were the most common species seen, Ringlets were starting to appear. 

There were also some day flying moth such as Five & Six-spot Burnets, Scarlet Tiger and Yellow Shell we also came across a couple of Caterpillars of Vapourer and Six-spot Burnet.

Birds were not neglected and Skylarks with their delightful song flights and Swifts screaming overhead.  On the rings Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings were regularly heard and seen as were Whitethroats with their scratchy tune, Stonechats and Linnets and early on the Cuckoo was very vocal.  A male Kestrel busily hunting on each visit and Buzzards over the fields.  In the woods Green Woodpecker gave their yaffle call and drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.   Yesterday we came across a family party of Goldcrests, a male Blackcap sitting above us singing, and a pair of Spotted Flycatchers.

Male Cuckoo and a male Yellowhammer

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Boggy Birding Heaven in the New Forest & Wareham Forest

Yesterday morning, 3rd June, our Tuesday group met in the New Forest with heathland, woodland and a lovely boggy area in the middle.  In the car park we could hear Cuckoo, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff together with the more common woodland species and a Grey Heron flew over.   Walking through to the heath we had a pair of Blackcap and a Firecrest started singing but it was unsighted.

Out in the open we had displaying Meadow Pipits and the first Stonechats, as we went round we had several family parties.  Coming down to the boggy area I noticed some Heath Spotted Orchids then a little further in the splendid sight of Marsh Orchids and Bog Bean in flower.

It was very wet but I managed to get some photographs, while I was bent down I heard one of my favourite sounds - a drumming Snipe.  I hurried to get to my feet and the bird was easy to see above the bog displaying, while another bird the other side of the willows was giving it's "yapping" call.  This was amazing at 11a.m. and just wonderful, my day was made already!
Bog Bean © Jackie Hull
Marsh Orchid © Jackie Hull
Back to earth we had a female Reed Bunting land on the path pecking around, I could hear a male and did fly by.  Next we were watching three Lapwings calling and swooping down on a young Grey Heron, obviously very unhappy with his presence in their territory, eventually the heron did fly off.  Then I was asked to look at a bird that the group had seen flying into a tree, through the scope I could see it was a Cuckoo.

Going back into a more wooded area we heard Willow Warbler and found one sat up on top of Silver Birch, then found a family of them.  We had a glimpse of a female Redstart but seemed very shy.  We needn't have worried when we got back towards the car park we had a very showy pair collecting food and going back to a nest, they were very busy indeed.  

This morning our Wednesday group were in a very similar area but in Dorset this time at Morden Bog in the Wareham Forest.  On Saturday/Sunday this area was made famous as a Short-toed Eagle chose to roost here and showed well for a lucky few hundred birders.  However today was very quiet, as the weather forecast had been rather dire we really only saw a couple of dog walkers the whole morning. For us the rain held off and had times we had bits of blue sky and sunshine.  

We started with a pair of Linnets and Bullfinches and the usual woodland birds expected, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing and Swifts overhead.  Looking over Boat House Lake we had a few ducks with a pair of Gadwall plus Mallard with young and Tufted Ducks.  Always good for Little Grebes but we were looking for the Grey Wagtails that favour this area and it wasn't long before they showed and a Kingfisher then whizzed past so quickly not everyone got to see it.  Fran had a brief but good view of a Hobby but it didn't reappear.

Back out on to the heath and round to the Decoy Cottage we had Stonechats and up high in the pines noisy Siskins.  Anthea picked out a Treecreeper, one of a few that we saw while I could hear the song of a Tree Pipit, as I looked for it up it went into a display flight.   A female Crossbill was found close by on top of a low shrub but not for long as she flew up into the tall pines.
Morden Bog © Jackie Hull
Now we were  looking over the bog  then we spied our first Hobby we could all see, it scythed through the air, then another one, superb birds.  Chris was scoping the trees when he found a Hobby perched and as we admired this bird Fran found one sat much closer - excellent!  With the sunshine a few Four-spot Chaser dragonflies were on the wing so good feeding for the Hobbies.

Back at the cottage we watched a Spotted Flycatcher and we found another as we walked back along the woodland path taking food into a ivy covered tree.  A young toad was found wandering across the track and after having its photo taken he was placed out of harm just off the path.  I was also pleased to see a Froghopper on a leaf by my car.

Froghopper © Jackie Hull
Young Toad © Jackie Hull

Sunday 1 June 2014

The Story of the Nightjar and the Eagle

I bet that caught your attention!  

We had our annual evening venture to Holt Heath for Nighthars and Woodcock, as usual a very successful walk.  In the car park we heard Goldcrests and nearby Song Thrush singing and Great Spotted Woodpeckers “chipped” with one eventually seen.  Coming out from the woods into an open area we then started to hear Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.  
Nightjar over the heath © Nick Hull

On to the heathland it was quiet to start with but soon we heard a Cuckoo followed by an excellent view of one flying.  A Willow Warbler sat up high on top of a Silver Birch singing and giving good views through the scope.   Unfortunately the Yellowhammer singing below didn’t stay for us all to see properly.  A Stonechat did briefly put in an appearance, as did Linnet.

It was only about 9.15p.m. when I heard the first call of a roding Woodcock and soon spotted it flying just over tree height and over part of the heath and then over the wood further up.  Then another one and another!  Great good views of Woodcock now for the Nightjars.  We didn’t wait long before we heard Churring, again coming from the woodland area but soon a pair flew over to the heath, from then on we had good views especially as the light was still good.  Eventually with the light now seriously fading we headed back to the cars.

The next morning we had errands to do when news came through from Paul Morton a fellow Poole Harbour birder that he had a Short-toed Eagle at Morden Bog in Wareham Forest.  Wow!  Such an amazing find but it had flown, however news came through in the afternoon it had been seen flying back into the area, we had to go.  It was George Green that actually found it in the end sat up in a tree, easily viewed from a ridge that meant birders didn’t need to go near and perhaps flush it.
Short-toed Eagle - Morden Bog © Nick Hull
This was only the third record, if accepted, for Britain. This magnificent bird was just 10 minutes drive down the road from where we live,  It looked quite majestic and the way it turned it’s head round was almost owl like and the feathers on the back of its head appeared like a short crest.  

While watching this bird and chatting to fellow birders Nick spotted a Nightjar sat on a branch, he just got in the scope when it silently flew out the back out of view.  After 3 hours and the Eagle seemed to be settling to roost we left.  A fantastic 24 hours birding.