About Two Owls

Sunday 19 January 2014

Poole Harbour

Weekend birding in Poole Harbour  

Two Owls Birding Day Saturday - 18th January
We were just a small group today, the weather forecast had been awful and put people off, they missed a treat. Though dull and overcast it stayed dry until the last hour, we had some fantastic birds.

Looking over Shell Bay, Studland with a high tide and few people about we had waders on the beach with 14 Sanderling, 15 Ringed Plover and Oystercatchers.  Offshore a Guillemot flew out of the harbour past us and 3 Eider were seen bobbing up and down in the choppy sea.  Looking over the harbour we had Great Northern Diver distantly, Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye.  On the concrete posts stood Grey Plover and then a Sandwich Tern flew by.

Going out to Redhorn Quay, Jess and I had our attention taken by a Rock Pipit, then noticed Nick beckoning us to join the rest of them.  They had a Great Northern Diver very close off the point giving amazing views, Jess got a great photograph below.

Great Northern Diver © Jessica Evans

Due to the high tide waders were thin on the ground in Brands Bay except for Lapwing on the bay edge, lots of Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard.  We then went on the Woodland Trail at Knoll Beach but it was very quiet, though Jess was lucky catching a glimpse of a Kingfisher over the flooded area near the path.  Next it was a stop for lunch looking over Studland Bay, in the bay were 2 Common Scoter and Mediterranean Gull.  Close to South Beach we heard the squawking of the Ring-necked Parakeets and found a couple, considering their gaudy colours they were hard to pick up.  

Time now to leave Studland and head towards Middlebere, firstly stopping at the sewerage works, always worth a look.  A good stop it produced Grey Wagtail and at least 2 Chiffchaff and a few Redwings flew over.  At Middlebere the sky was now looking quite disturbing so we made sure we had all our wet weather gear on and walked down the path to the hide.  We stopped on the way to watch a beautiful little Goldcrest singing and calling in the hedge, no need for binoculars it was that close and quite unperturbed by our presence.  

The tide was now receding quite quickly and from the hide we had a bounty of waders, with 410 Avocets, about 200 Black-tailed Godwits, 30 Dunlin and lesser numbers of Redshank and Curlew, plus the usual Wigeon and Teal.  Nick captured some of the Avocets as they flew in, photo below.  By now it was raining very hard but it was time to go home and the light was going, but it had been a brilliant day.

Avocets flying into channel © Nick Hull

Poole Harbour BirdBoat  (19th January)

What a contrast in the weather today with brilliant winter sunshine, mild and no wind other than a couple of short showers and back to blue skies.  The New Forest Bird Group were on board and last year they brought fantastic weather with them and the same this year, so perhaps we should thank them.

Anyway setting out from Poole Quay to Brownsea Island we weren't far out before we had our first of a least 7 Great Northern and 2 Black-throated Divers.  Though some confusion was caused as Nick called out his Black-throated Diver from the front of the boat, while those of us at the back called Great Northern, there were 2 birds, one each side of the boat.  Approaching the island we had 2 Buzzards sat on the harbour wall and just one Spoonbill in the Lagoon, they had gone by the time we landed though.  However Liz was one of the first off and found a Merlin sat on the ground within the lagoon, she gave us a call so we hurried ourselves to see it.  Then a swirling mass of Dunlin and Grey Plover came round  so we stopped looking for the Merlin and Paul saw it flying up high carrying it's prey, a Dunlin.

A flight of Shelduck with Shoveler © Nick Hull 
There were plenty of duck to be seen on the lagoon especially Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon with a few Gadwall and Shoveler.  About 300 Avocet feeding scattered over the lagoon , while a mass of about 800 Black-tailed Godwits seemed happy to be packed together.  Other waders included Bar-tailed Godwits, a few Greenshank along with Common Redshank, some saw Spotted Redshank but we only heard one calling, also Curlew and a Turnstone.   Red Squirrels also entertained as we walked round the reserve.  All too soon it was time to board the boat once again to go round the harbour back to Poole Quay.

Avocet in Brownsea Lagoon © Nick Hull
It all became very exciting as we pulled away as a Great Northern Diver was spotted fairly close, then the cry of "Surf Scoter".  Sure enough the Surf Scoter, not seen for a few days was there, it was fairly close and the lighting was just right to show off it's facial markings so there were no mistaking in it's identity, a lifer for some on the boat.  

Then Black-necked Grebes kept popping up, though most were quite distant, more Great Northern Divers, it was almost hard to keep up with it all.  Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye on the water and flying round, then someone said they thought they had Sandwich Tern, indeed they had and there were four of them.  Closer into Arne Nick counted 22 Spoonbills on the Spartina at Shipstal, later a few of them flew right over us, brilliant views of flying Spoonbills!  A Common Seal popped it's head up but it was never up for long.  A Kingfisher put in an appearance for some, even hovering at one stage but it eluded me.  A truly brilliant weekend for us out on Poole Harbour.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Blashford Lakes HWT Reserve

This morning we led our Tuesday group around Blashford Lakes, starting in the North Ivy Hide. Here we had brief views of a Bittern which decided it wasn't going to show itself again at least while we were there.  So we moved to the Woodland hide where we lucked in as the Mealy Redpoll was on the feeder opposite a Lesser Redpoll, so good comparisons of size and colouration of plumage could easily be seen. Unfortunately the reflective  glass in the hide doesn't help photography but you can see that the left hand bird is larger and has a much colder frosty look about it where the right hand lesser has a far warmer appearance.
Mealy Redpoll on left Lesser Redpoll on right

There were all the usual common tit species and lots of Chaffinch, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and a good number of Siskin were also coming in to the feeding station.  From Ivy South Hide we had good variety of duck, including Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler.
Male Siskin - Blashford Woodland Hide

Walking across to the Lapwing Hide we had a few Redwing, a party of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrest with them.  Ibsley Water as usual had plenty of duck and it was very nice to see so many Pintail along with the species already seen Ivy Lake plus a pair of Goldeneye, the male briefly displayed to the female, Great Crested and Little Grebe.  A single Yellow-legged Gull and two Lesser Black Backed Gulls, there were also Egyptian and Canada Geese and a few Greylag Goose.

Monday 13 January 2014

Hampshire Birding

Yesterday saw Jackie and I at Keyhaven with the Sunday monthly group with the weather producing a very grey damp day and the tide was higher than anticipated.  But that didn't deter us from our quest and we headed off along the drive that takes you straight to Pennington as the Marsh there was reported to be packed with wildfowl.  On our way we picked up many of the common hedgerow species i.e. Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird etc.  There were an assortment of duck on the balancing pond Mallard, Gadwall, Teal Tufted Duck, Coot and Moorhen.  Overhead I picked up a Mediterranean Gull and we watched flights of Brent moving back and forth as though they weren't so sure where the best feeding areas were with so much water around.  Once we arrived at the corner gate by the Pennington parking area it was obvious there were several hundred duck and waders out on the marsh and it was just to scan through them to record the species.  The first obvious species were Lapwing with small groups taking flight and giving there plaintive pee-wit calls.  The other species that was quickly noted were Wigeon, Pintail and Teal which were spread in numbers all across the marsh along with Brent Geese Shoveler, Mallard, Oystercatchers, Turnstone, Curlew and Redshank.  We moved further up the road to another vantage point to give ourselves a different view and this paid off when Jackie found two Ruff and Liz a small group of Golden Plover.  It was really nice to watch and listen to all the various sound being made from so many birds, I wish I had my recording kit it would have made a nice track.

Moving on to the sea wall and to make our return to Keyhaven we didn't add to many species but had the opportunity to watch various duck flying in to the marsh and compare on their flight Jizz.  Though we added Buzzard, Raven, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Scoter and a very nice Great Northern Diver to the day list.

After saying our good byes Jackie and I thought as we were half way to Lepe that we would continue on up the road a little further and see if we could add the long staying Lesser Yellowlegs to out 2014 year list.  This american wader has been frequenting a small marsh north of Lepe Park only around two hundred metres from the car park.  So it didn't take us long to be in position scanning the marsh, though at first we couldn't find the bird, but as it turned out we were looking to far away, it was much closer and directly in front of us. Though with the dull conditions it was to far for good photography, but I managed to get a memory shot and you can just see it's yellow legs.

Lesser Yellowlegs - Lepe- 12th January

Poole Harbour and the New Forest

With Jackie having a lie-in this morning I headed for the harbour entrance, my aim was to try and photograph the Purple Sandpipers which hang around the breakwater and groynes in front of the Haven Hotel.  As the sun came up and the local fisherman started out across the bay to their favourite fishing spots I hoped to find the Purple Sandpipers before the rising tide covered their feeding areas but with no luck.  I watched for a while from the harbour mouth to see what was moving in and out of the harbour.  The answer was very little a handful of Red-breasted Merganser, a few Oystercatcher and four Shelduck flew in, otherwise it was the usual gull and a few Shag and Cormorant dotted about inside and outside the harbour entrance.

Fishing boat leaving the harbour at dawn © Nick Hull


So started to head back to Poole Park to see if I could find the Scaup on the park lake but more or less as I arrived my mobile pinged and Ian Ballam text to say Smew on Very Far Field now.  As Smew is a patch tick I headed home and out onto the fields and thanks to Ian, found the redhead Smew in the very place he said.  Unfortunately not in an area where the public can go and see it today but with the floods draining I do not expect it to stay very long before moving to Swineham gravel pits or Poole Park which will be better for viewing.

Female Smew Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull

Later Jackie and I met Poole RSPB members at Brockehill for an afternoon walk. Our aim was to get them Hawfinch, our walk would take us past a regular wintering haunt for this species, we just had to hope they turned up and we were able to see them when they did.  The Ornimental Drive was very quiet with the odd crest, Wren and flyover Siskin, we hunted for Woodpeckers and one or two heard the Great Spotted 'chipping' call.  We found three lovely Bullfinch feeding in Silver Birch and Larch also on the same path we had Siskin, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Stock Dove and Woodpigeon.

In the aboretum we set our scopes and prepared to wait and watch for any Hawfinch but we had   barely set up when I spotted one a nice male sitting atop a fir and most had good views before it flew off.  We continued are vigil and were rewarded with three more sightings of males and a female which all gave good views, Job done.

Our walk back to the cars was fairly uneventful only adding Greenfich to our birdlist but we did have  good views of a very confiding Roe Deer, and as we watched a small herd of Fallow Deer which had a one white individual amongst them came through, a nice comparison.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Studland and Poole

Out at Studland this morning and had a wonderful sunny almost spring like start to the day.  On the way we checked the Wareham Causeway and had a Marsh Harrier moving up the Frome Valley.  We arrived and met the group at the Shell Bay National Trust car park and headed out to the beach to see what could be found out in Poole Bay. 

A scan of the sea found a single female type Eider and several Shag, amongst the few gulls on the beach were two adult Mediterranean Gull.  Then I scoped the Groynes and foreshore by the ferry ramp in front of the Haven Hotel and along with a couple of Pied Wagtail were five Purple Sandpipers.  There was also a Great Northern Diver just off Pilot's Point with Oystercatchers and a handfull of Dark-bellied Brent.   We then moved to look over the harbour mouth and the southern harbour across to Goathorn and Furzy Island.  Here we had a small raft of Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebe, another Great Northern Diver, Shags and Cormorants and Jackie had a Greenshank flying high over Brownsea going west.  I then picked up the immature Surf Scoter but very distant out in Brand's Bay so we decided to move on to Redhorn Quay to see if we could see it better.

Walking out to the quay we were treated to excellent views of three Dartford Warblers and a pair of Stonechat enjoying the morning sun and flitting from perch to another.  The group were quite buoyant and chatty after seeing the Darfords and as we approached the point I was leading and had to hush the group, as just off the point was the Surf Scoter.  We had super views of this rare sea duck which seems to have settle in to spend the winter with us.  From out vantage point we could scan the south end of the bay where we saw a nice little flock of thirty Avocet, Grey Plover Teal, Wigeon, Curlew and Redshank and the odd Little Egret.

We then moved to Knoll Wood as a Yellow-browed Warbler has been wintering in the area north of the Discovery Centre.  We had an extensive search of the area and drew a blank on the little eastern gen,  we saw the usual common species though generally it was pretty quiet.  The best bird was a Woodcock but unfortunately not many got on to it when it burst up through the canopy.

Well we said our goodbyes to the group at lunch time and Jackie and I headed for Poole Park to see if the first winter Greater Scaup was still in residences.  Scanning through through all the Tufted Duck we  managed to find a Pochard, Mallard and then Jackie found it near the farside of the park lake with its head tucked roosting.  We then popped to Baiter Park and found large numbers of Dark-bellied Brent and Oystercatchers on the lawn but little else of interest, then a quick look over the water found a Black-throated Diver, a nice bird to finish a days birding on.

Distant view of the imm. Surf Scoter in Brand's Bay today
Another slightly closer shot of the Surf Scoter

Thursday 2 January 2014

Starting our Year List

With a lull in the weather today, it was much better for birding and we went over to Weymouth and Portland.  Jess joined us and we started at Radipole Playing Fields with the Glossy Ibis, also ducks including Pochard and Gadwall on Radipole Lake and a Cetti’s Warbler gave it’s burst of song.  In the car park we had a bit of a ‘gull fest’ with Mediterranean, Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls.  

Then on Castle Cove, looking over Portland Harbour finding Slavonian, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebe, as well as Red-breased Mergansers, Great Northern Divers, Guillemot and Razorbill.  At Ferrybridge a Wood Lark was pointed out with three Skylarks but it was very elusive.  On the tideline were Brent Geese, a few Bar-tailed Godwits and Dunlin.  Off Hamm Beach we found a Black-throated Diver, while watching this bird I was surprised but delighted to see a Red-necked Grebe pop up.  From the Aqua Hotel we had our closest views of the winter plumage Black Guillemot.  It was also here I saw a bird plunge dive into the sea, putting my binoculars up I saw a Gannet, Nick and Jess looked up and there were actually three of them flying across the harbour.

At Portland Bill we added Kittiwake, Kestrel, Raven, Turnstone and pleased to see the Little Owl in the Obs Quarry from the car as we stopped opposite it on the road.  Next was the Bridging Camp with a male Stonechat looking very smart, a small charm of Goldfinch were nice additions on the Fleet a single Curlew and two Little Egrets.  We then heard the Velvet Scoter was being seen from Sandsfoot Castle so we finished our day there with brilliant views of the Velvet Scoter.

Rainbow over Portland Harbour today

Wet New Years Days Birding

New Year’s Day 2014

Every New Year’s Day we look forward to our Bird Boat trip round Poole Harbour courtesy of Mark and Mo.  A great way to start our birding list for the new year, chatting with our birding friends, sharing our birds and partaking in a wonderful lunch on board.  However, with a gale force wind and driving rain it was just too much this New Year’s Day meant the boat never left Poole Quay this time.  So it was a good social occasion and having our lunch at Storm restaurant instead.  

It didn’t mean we missed out on birding, early we looked over Baiter Park, with a high tide and stormy weather there were large numbers of Brent Geese and Oystercatchers, also Dunlin, a few Common Redshank, a handful of Turnstone and Black-tailed Godwits.  We popped back at the end of the day and we had the 1st winter Little Gull.

After our lunch we went up to Avon Causeway to look for the Green-winged Teal without success, however there were plenty of Lapwings, Wigeon, Teal on the flooded areas.  We went up to Blashford Lakes reserve, en-route we came across a flock of Fieldfare in Ringwood.   At Blashford the Tern Hide car park was far too flooded for us to proceed but parking by the visitor centre was dry.  We were also able to “tick off” several woodland species including Song Thrush, Jay, Green Woodpecker and tit flocks that included Coal Tit and a wintering Chiffchaff.  Over at the very flooded Ibsley Water Meadows we found the single Bewick’s Swan.