About Two Owls

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.