About Two Owls

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Raptor spectacle at Lytchett Bay

Our Wednesday group visited Lytchett Fields this morning, what a treat was in store for us!  We started by walking down Slough Lane to look over the pools.  Walking down the lane we had a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, several Great Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, also Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.

Looking over the pools we counted seven Curlew and two Shelduck and through her scope Jess found a Stonechat perched on top of some reeds.  Looking over the bay through the scopes we could see Brent Geese and Oystercatchers.  Moving down to the viewpoint by the water works we had our first sighting of a Marsh Harrier quartering the reeds and then a Buzzard flew across over our heads.  Jess was on form again picking up a Green Sandpiper in the pools field and a Little Egret flew in.  

Walking back up and joining the back lane we had a quick look over the cottage pond with several Mallards lounging about.  Looking over one of the gates I heard a Bullfinch, then a stunning male appeared and perched briefly before flying off over the field.  Climbing over the stile we walked  across what is known as the Purple Heron field towards the narrow bridge, along the way we had another flock of Long-tailed Tits and Fran found a Goldcrest amongst them.  

It was then that we saw a huge flock of waders, mostly Lapwings with a count of at least 150 and about 50 Dunlin with them.  The culprit was soon found, a Peregrine but we lost it to view, however the waders just kept swirling round.  We continued to watch them flying and never seeming to be happy to land again, we walked on to the viewpoint, all the while the waders were in the air.  At times they went in to a "ball" of birds, then became strung out again, Dunlin and Lapwing dancing in the air for most of the time we were there.  

Approaching the Sherford Pools viewpoint a Green Sandpiper flew up noisily calling and flew further down the field.  The group counted just nine Redshank, four Little Egret, four Shelduck, one Greenshank tucked up close to the reeds and 71 Teal.   A Marsh Harrier came across and a Peregrine and even the Teal then took flight.

Some were now watching over Frenches Viewpoint, here there were 32 Sheldcuk and a few Little Egret but then Fran called our attention to a Peregrine.  We stood and watched this Peregrine chasing a lone Dunlin, they twisted and turned, going up very high and then coming back down again, the Peregrine seemed to be right on the Dunlin's tail but it got away again.  Then finally it was seen to catch the Dunlin and then went down behind the trees.  

To add to the raptors we had a Kestrel hovering behind us along the tree line of the lane, but it wasn't long before we were drawn back to the reedbeds towards Holten Lee.  A second Marsh Harrier appeared and then another Peregrine, it was amazing to watch these two birds together.  By now Ian Ballam had joined us enjoying the spectacle and we watched them for ages and for the most part seemed to be happily tolerant of the other's company.  Though we didn't think there could be any prey left for them.   The bay was still being disturbed too as we could see the flock of about 40 Avocet flying up.  Though we left at this point Ian later saw the Peregrine successfully taking prey and flying over towards Holten Lee.  Below are a couple of photo's from this morning taken by Ian Ballam.

Marsh Harrier and Peregrine © Ian Ballam
Marsh Harrier with prey (Reshank) © Ian Ballam

Monday 14 December 2015

Wildfowl Bonanza at Normandy

Normandy Marsh at Lymington is alway a great place to go in winter to see wildfowl, you aways get a good variety and nearly always in good scope range. As we walked out to Oxey Lake we found our first species of the day with a couple of Reed Bunting, a Brambling flew off into the tree behind us not to be seen again. On the lake we found Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Redshank, Little Grebe, Mute Swan and a distant Kingfisher.  Viewing across Oxey Lake I picked up a superb male Goldeneye, then Bob picked up a diver.  Initially was thought to be a Black-throated but once it had turned around the high forehead, a flat crown and then a dark collar was seen confirming it to be a Great Northern Diver.  There was also a scattering of Great Crested Grebe but little else was found. 
Little Grebe - Oxey Lake © Nick Hull 
Now we were looking over Normandy Marsh and here there were large numbers of Teal and Wigeon and a small group of elegant Pintail in the corner of the first pool and more could be seen further out across the marsh.
Pintail - Normandy Marsh © Nick Hull
Closer there was a nice flock of Dunlin busy feeding in the shallows, a scattering of Redshank and good numbers of Lapwing.  As we moved along to get better views over the water we found Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Greenshanks, a nice large roost of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. As we walked around the marsh small skeins of Brent Geese would fly in and bathe in the fresh water, others went on to the fields to feed until the tide become low and they moved back out onto the outer marsh.
Dark-bellied Brent Geese Normandy Marsh © Nick Hull
Other wildfowl found here were Avocet, Red-breasted Merganser, Turnstone, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe. Shelduck.  As we continued around the shoreline path the islands of cord grass that were just high enough to form roosts with the high tide were covered in Dunlin, Grey Plover and with the odd Curlew amongst them. 
Little Egret - Normandy Marsh © Nick Hull
There were a number of Little Egret which didn't settle and kept moving around, another species that wouldn't settle were Reed Buntings we saw several all along the fence line to the marsh.  During our walk we had several Skylark moving over in one and twos but as we were walking towards Lymington a flock of no less than 38 Skylark lifted off the marsh and headed off east. From this corner of the shoreline path we had a good number of Meadow Pipits a small group of Linnet our third sighting of Kingfisher, Black-tailed Godwit and good numbers of Turnstone.
Song Thrush - Normandy Lane © Nick Hull
We walked on through the boat yard out onto Normandy Lane and we had close views of a Song Thrush in full song and continued to do so as we left.  Walking the lane we came across a small mixed tit flock and a few Goldfinch.  Out in the fields Canada and Brent Geese grazed along with a number of corvids mostly Rook.  The other species seen were Goldcrest, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Greenfinch and Chaffinch and the various common tit species which completed our walk for the day.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Birding Blashford Lakes

Our group met at Blashford Lakes, the New Forest Bird Group were also birding the reserve today.  It was great to see some old friends but to avoid a crush in the hides we chose to bird away from Ibsley Water.  So we walked across the road and started by watching the feeders by the visitor centre, Coal, Great and Blue Tits dashed to and fro along with Nuthatch.  We went on to the Ivy North Hide and a Jay flew across our path.  We did hope to see the Bittern that has been reported regularly recently but if it was there it was hidden from view.   

Next we went into the Woodland Hide, at first it was very quiet, we suspected that a Sparrowhawk had probably flown through and the birds were still hiding.  With some patience gradually the birds reappeared first with a male Great Spotted Woodpecker, followed by the usual tit species.  Then a Redpoll came to the niger feeder, then another one until we had four busily eating the seed and a Goldfinch joined them.  The Chaffinches started coming back in and then a Brambling arrived, eventually we had four feeding together on the ground and a Greenfinch joined the party.  The resident Bank Vole came out running round a couple of Dunnocks.
Lesser Redpoll Blashford Lakes HWT Reserve © Nick Hull
We went on to the South Ivy Hide next with Wigeon, Gadwall, Tufted ducks, a couple of drake Pochard and three drake Shoveler.  A Grey Heron flew in and the ducks took flight, even the Cormorants in the trees lifted off, they really didn't like this low flying heron which disappeared in the same direction it had come from and they all settled again.  Walking on the path towards the A338 we came across several large Alder trees a great favourite with Siskins and we were not disappointed with a good number feeding.  

As we walked up Ivy Lane I heard Grey Wagtail and it was found in the garden by a stabled horse, it was very busy and soon lost to view.  Looking over Rockford Lake Joe watched a few Goldeneye fly in, we had nice views of four drakes and two females.  Then a Little Egret flew up and then another egret but this time it was the Great White Egret.  Fortunately it quickly landed again and we had superb views and the Little Egret came back giving a great comparison before they both flew off towards Mockbeggar Lake.  Moving on we watched into the wood whilst watching a Song Thrush as a Goldcrest flitted by and showed well. We ended our walk at the Tern hide parking area one or two had a last look over Ibsley Water but only Egyptain Goose was added to our list.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Birding at Normandy Marshes, Lymington

As we walked the path to look over the main lagoon we had the usual little birds though we could only hear a Bullfinch and not see it.  There were quite a few Meadow Pipits in the adjacent field along with a Song Thrush, Pied Wagtails and a Stonechat.  Moving on we looked over Oxey Lake, the light was dismal but we could see three ducks diving in the main channel along with a Great Crested Grebe.  Even with 'scopes it was awkward but by the head shape and compactness of the duck I knew they were three female Goldeneye.

Turning our attention to the lagoon in the marshy edges Teal and Wigeon grazed and Redshank picked around as well as many Lapwings.  Black-tailed Godwits flew over our heads into the lagoon and on to the fields.  Lesley brought my attention to four waders further right, they were all Spotted Redshanks and just as I was running through the differences to Common Redshank they flew up.  In fact everything went up but we could not find the culprit though I suspect it was the local Peregrine.   Most of the birds returned but not the Spotted Redshanks so we moved a little further along.  

A Kingfisher flew out close from where we stopped and flew across the lagoon landing on a distant post.  I picked up a smart drake Goldeneye a little way out and several Pintails, there were five Avocets and our first of at least six Greenshank.  Clive pointed out some Dunlin that were quite difficult to pick out as they blended in so well with the stony patch they were on along with Turnstones.
Avocet from Two Owls photo archive © Nick Hull
Looking out into the Solent we saw several Great Crested Grebes and one splendid Black-necked Grebe.  I looked over the bank for the Peregrine that regularly sits out here and I was not disappointed with a female preening and though distant we had nice views.   Back into the lagoon we added a few more to the wildfowl list with Gadwall, Tufted duck, Shelduck and a female Red-breasted Merganser.

We were now at the end of the lagoon wall and I mentioned that Dartford Warbler is sometimes seen here and one popped up and flew across to a gorse bush giving an all to short view.  We walked the footpath from the boat yard to Normandy Lane when we heard Song Thrush singing and stood to watch it in the tree.  I turned round to see a Firecrest sat out next to me, what a delightful surprise and a great end to our walk.

Monday 23 November 2015

Vis Mig at Lytchett Bay

After a large movement of Woodpigeons seen over the last few day moving over Poole Harbour but just a few hundred seen going over Lytchett Bay this morning saw a slight change in direction. Between 7.15 and 8.45 a.m. over 17500 moved over our little watch point breaking the patch record of 14,131 set by Nick and myself on the 10th November 2013.   The main passage was between 7.45 and 8.15 with 16500 in just 30 minutes.  

We also recorded a few small flocks of Mistle and Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfares and a few small groups of Starlings all moving west.

This is a section of one of the largest flocks which was estimated at around 3000 birds there is 517 in this shot.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Studland Bay birding

Our Wednesday group met at Middle Beach, Studland this morning, very windy but at least dry and a flock of Long-tailed Tits entertained us as we gathered together.  We started by looking over Studland Bay, where we had four Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebes and Black-necked Grebes but views were not great, plus a lone Brent Goose.   As always the resident Robin came round our feet hoping for a titbit or that we would disturb something tasty.  

We moved on towards Fort Henry, where Sir Winston Churchill watched his troops prepare for the D-Day landings in Studland Bay.  On the way we had a Red Admiral, still on the wing in mid-November.  The first bird I saw as I put my 'binos up was a Great Northern Diver about half way out, we soon got scopes on to it and had great views.  Then we re-found the Common Scoters, closer and with excellent light on them, a fine drake and three females.   Nearby a Black-throated Diver looking very smart and even the Black-necked Grebes were showing much better.  To add to this we had a winter plumage Razorbill.
Archive photo of Great Northern Diver at Studland © Jess Evens
We next went to the churchyard which was sheltered from the wind, Meadow Pipits lined up on the fence line and Pied Wagtails strutted over the grass.  A Mistle Thrush flew across, then we noticed a Redwing sat up in a tree.   In the scrubby area next to us were House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great and Blue Tits, four Blackbirds flew up into a small tree followed by Song Thrush.  Would we find a Fieldfare to make up the foursome of thrushes, unfortunately not.  Though we did have even closer views of a Mistle Thrush when we walked back to our cars.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Round-up 1-4 November

On Sunday 1st November we arrived at Durlston before 7a.m. to meet our group and we may have felt bright but the weather definitely wasn't!  So our planned 'vis mig' (visible migration) to watch migrating birds turned into a listening station with Nick using his parabolic reflector to hear the bird migrating overhead as it was so foggy.  

Though when we stepped out of our car early on as it was getting light all we could hear were Goldcrests, we seemed to be surrounded by them.  A few small flocks of Goldfinch went over and we could hear a few Siskins but that was about it for migrating birds over Long Field.  We decided to move on and try for the Hume's Warbler that had been seen the previous day.  We met Warren and Hamish and they had not had neither sight or sound of the Hume's, we stopped a while and had super views of Goldcrests but not 'the' bird.

Walking on we had a few Song Thrush fly over the first of several small parties we had migrating over.  We walked by the Education Centre as members of the Stour Ringing Group were extracting a few birds from the nets.  It was a privilege to be shown a Green Woodpecker, adult Redwing and a Goldcrest in the hand.  

Goldcrest with ringer Ian  @Jackie Hull

There were Blackbirds and a few Redwing around and towards the end of the walk 4 Fieldfares, though a highlight for many in the group were watching a flock of 9 Bullfinch.  Plus the usual resident birds of course.  

After we finished Nick and I popped down by the castle again just in case the Hume's Warbler had been seen and though it had not been seen two Sparrowhawks flew over towards the sea and the male was displaying.  It was a lovely and very warm day for early November but definitely not Spring!

Meeting up with birding friends Renee and Liz on 3rd November we decided to spend the morning at Blashford Lakes.  As we arrived a loose flock of Fieldfare flew over quite low southwards and 4 Skylark.  From the hide we had the usual species to be found here, a female Goldeneye and a Goosander added to the mix.  The Osprey that has been a regular visitor to Ibsley Water was not its usual perch and many birders that had come to see it were feeling disappointed.  Luckily an eagle-eyed (or rather osprey-eyed) observer picked it up flying north along the river in the distance.  Through the scope we had fair views as he flew until eventually disappearing.

Walking through the wood to the Lapwing Hide we heard 'chattering', we could see movement and at first only seeing Blackbirds but Liz and I were convinced it was Redwing we could hear.  They were obviously just out of our sight though Liz did see one well before they flew off.  By the path down to the Goosander hide we found two female Bullfinch and Siskins were flitting around calling as they went.

The highlight of our walk though was being shown the Earthstar fungus, there were several that had already decayed but one was almost perfect and none of us had seen one before, so thank you Jack for bringing it to our attention.
Earthstar © Jackie Hull

On Wednesday, 4th November, I met up with our Wednesday group at Stanpit Marsh, it was a great start with a heavy rain shower but we were in our waterproofs and spent the worst of it in the visitor centre.  Venturing out again we had close views of Curlew and Little Egret and on Crouch Hill were the usual Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits.  Looking over the harbour in the main it was Brent Geese and Wigeon, on the edges Redshank, a few Black-tailed Godwits and a single Grey Plover.  A Kestrel, flew across behind us and we watched it land in a tree by the visitor centre, then a second Kestrel appeared. 

Then one of the group asked me to look at a bird sat out on the marsh, certainly a bird of prey they said.  It was a Sparrowhawk just sitting perhaps eyeing up potential lunch.  Then another Sparrowhawk appeared making the Lapwings rise up showing just how many of them there were.  We were to see the pair of Sparrowhawks a few time before one flew off over to the houses, possibly to look for prey at the bird feeders.

Moving position we could scope further out into the harbour and we were able to add Ringed Plover and Turnstone, a pair of Shoveler, Oystercatcher and our first Snipe.  After this Snipe seemed to be everywhere we walked, obviously close to the path calling as they burst into the air, the numbers we put up could have only been a fraction of what must've been on the marsh that day.

Sunday 1 November 2015

As promised here are a couple of calls that I've recorded over the nights of 11th and 12th of October. The first is probably three Song Thrush passing over, I'm sorry about the mush of the background noise it's one of the problems with urban recording.  

On the 11th Oct, Other then the usual waders and mammal noises at least 42 Redwing and 36 Song Thrush, contacts were recorded at pretty regular intervals which indicated a fairly heavy passage overhead. Also I recorded 3 Bullfinch calls though possibly local birds one was definitely in flight. 1 Fieldfare, 2 Grey Heron, and a Moorhen possibly a local.  There was also a call I didn't recognise  but after sending it to a friend turned out to be a Knot. The recording ended at 06.26 hrs with a Greylag Goose calling from somewhere over the bay. 

Below is a sonogram of the above calls.

This next sound is of a migrating Redwing, one of the main problems with recording overnight and only being able to hear the birds contact calls, it's impossible to know how many there are. On the night 12th October which was much quieter I recorded 10 Song Thrush, 5 Redwing, 1 Blackbird, 1 Grey Heron contacts. Plus the usual waders and gull and animals you would expect living by Lytchett Bay.

 Below is a sonogram of the above recording.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Marsh Harrier & Bittern at Lodmoor

We had a fairly good morning meeting the group along Southdown Avenue at the back of Lodmoor. Whilst we waited for everyone to arrive, we listened to Bearded Tits moving out in the reedbed and a very cream headed and shouldered Marsh Harrier quartered the reserve then dropped in out of sight. A pretty good start so we headed off counter clockwise and scanned for what else was around and we quickly picked up Little Grebe, Gadwall and Pochard plus of course Coot and Moorhen.  As we rounded the corner to walk towards the recycling centre Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were heard and Chaffinch went over.  As we made the second turn to walk between the old tip and the reserve I was at the back with a few of the group listening to Gadwall gentle quack and the squeal of Water Rails in the reed.  I happened to look up behind us and there flying across behind us was a Bittern, I quickly called to everyone and most got onto the bird before it dropped into the reed in the central marsh.  

From there on it was checking off the routine birds that one would expect at Lodmoor, Lapwing, Teal, Mallard, Snipe and Black-headed Gulls a single Dunlin and Shoveler.  Until Sarah found the Marsh Harrier perched on a post out in the middle giving everyone a good scope view once we had all found it.
Snipe & Black-headed Gull and a very distant Marsh Harrier - Lodmoor
We turned again now walking along parallel to the Preston beach road and walked into a small feeding flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits which were accompanied by several Chiffchaff and a couple of Blackcap.  From the viewing shelter Grey Heron and two gleaming white Spoonbills.
Sparrowhawk and Spoonbill Lodmoor
It was nice to see the Spoonbills showing some signs of life instead of having there bills tucked under their wings. Jackie led the group on along the path and I took a couple of last shots of the Spoonbill and then chased after to catchup, as I turned the corner to see the last member of the group disappear  a Sparrowhawk dropped onto a bush but quickly realised I was only a few feet away. It flew up the path towards the main group then flicked up over the hedge.  I found what was most certainly the same bird a few minutes later, sat on a fence post along the halfway track and then all the group got to see it.  Our walk back to the cars produced Siskins, Greenfinch and Goldfinch flying over, Cetti's Warbler and a sudden influx of Swallow feeding in a big ball as the moved across the reserve.  Not a bad morning.

After the meeting Jackie and I has lunch looking over the Fleet in the hope we might see one of the many Short-eared Owls that had been around but had no luck.  So headed out to the Portland as they had reported that there were five been seen at the Bill.  We popped into Portland Obs to get any recent gen and was told that the Red-backed Shrike that was in Suckthumb Quarry had re-emerged.  So as our time was running out we quickly stopped at the quarry to see if we could find it. We met up with a few other birders we knew and one of them showed us where he had seen it a little while ago.  After a very short wait a bird flew in and landed on a buddlia and Jackie called it but they couldn't see it from their position.  However, it was straight in front of me so I beckoned them to me and over the next ten minutes or so it performed very well and gave us tremendous views.  A great end to our day.
juv. red-backed Shrike - Suckthumb Quarry Portland © Nick Hull

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Birding Middlebere, Poole Harbour

Our Tuesday group this morning met at the top of Middlebere track, a pleasant sunny autumn morning.  Meadow Pipits called and flitted around us as we walked up to look over the Wytch Channel.  In the gorse a Stonechat posed briefly, then our first Dartford Warbler popped up, followed by a second giving us some lovely views, a third was seen a little further on.  A few Swallows were seen flying in small numbers, then a Skylark gave a flight call and it was Anne that spotted it first as it flew on its way over the harbour.  Another call, this time of Pied Wagtail and then I heard another call, this time from a group of six Crossbills flying very purposefully north.

As we came back down to the path we started to hear Goldcrests, they seemed to be in every bush and we had some lovely views.  In Sika Copse, four Mistle Thrush and Clive pointed out a Treecreeper, it took a while to relocate as it was rather elusive but most of us saw it in the end.  Further down by the cottages we had three Blackcaps.

We then settled ourselves down in the hide looking over a lowering tide with many waders still sat up along the banks.  Though we could see they were mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Avocet it wasn't until a Marsh Harrier came by that we were able to see just how many there were, with about 300 Black-tailed Godwit and 200 Avocets!  With them were 40 Lapwing, 10 Dunlin, Redshanks and a few Curlews.  As the Marsh Harrier disappeared Helen said "I have another bird of prey" this one was causing havoc the other end of the channel, this time it was a Peregrine.  We certainly got a close up view of this bird as it flew very fast past the hide at eye level!  It took a while for everything to settle down again, once they had all the waders congregated in the middle of the channel sticking very close together, but gradually they started feeding again.  Just before we left the hide, ten Pintail floated by, including two very smart looking drakes which ended our morning very nicely.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Bird Walk at Arne rspb

Our birding at Arne this morning started in the car park trying to get views of two calling Firecrest without any luck at all.  Though we did get a good selection of the more commoner species coming into the feeding station. Leaving the car park we took the woodland trail where we had views of Goldcrest, Green Woodpecker and a very noisy Raven which spent most of the morning roaming around the area 'cronking'.   It was also here we watched the local herd of Sika and the stag was being very attentive to his harem and gave us a couple of good wailing calls and saw off a young buck which was trying to muscle-in at the edge of the female group.
Sika Stag on watch duty
As we approached the beach we scanned the marsh and found the usual Curlews and Teal and Liz found the first Harbour Seal and I the second out in the Wytch Channel off Round Island.  We also had a small group of the returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese along with a Little Egret on the near marsh.
Dark-bellied Brent
Little Egret
Out on the Arne Spit off Shipstal we found eight Spoonbill with many Cormorants, and Great Crested Grebes in the bay.  There were many Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher hiding in the cord grass at roost waiting for the tide to drop.

Walking back through the wood a rather florescent green hairy caterpillar was found crossing the path which turned out to be the caterpillar of the Pale Tussock moth, thanks to Luke at the RSPB's info hut for id.
Pale Tussock Caterpillar - Arne © Nick Hull
All the time we were out walking the paths of the reserve we could constantly hear Meadow Pipits going overhead and at times could see small flocks passing west.  At one point two Sparrowhawk were found soaring and above them was a small flock of Meadow pipits moving through.

Walking down from the wood towards the barn several species were seen Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, and a couple of Pied Wagtails flew over the cattle field.  We also had one or two of the latter on the barn roof at the farm one was quite happy calling away from the ridge.
Pied Wagtail - Arne © Nick Hull
Some ended the morning having another look for the Firecrests which were still being very difficult to locate but Nuthatch and Coal Tit obliged. 

Saturday 10 October 2015


Over many years now Jackie and I, as many of our friends will know, love birding in Normandie and try and go as often as time will allow.  Over the last week we visited with family so the birding wasn't as intensive as we have done in the past but we managed to visit a number of our favourite sites.  The weather wasn't as kind to us as usual and the wind was in the wrong direction and in fact it was better for the UK, but you can't get it right all the time.  However, in saying this we still had a few nice birds, our first was a little bit of a surprise in that we hadn't recorded them at this particular site before and that was a small flock of Cirl Bunting, though they are not an uncommon species for us in Normandy.  Along with Chaffinch they were feeding at a cattle feeding station and I just happened to pull the car up in the right place for once and we had excellent views.  As you can see in the shot of the male below, which I took with my bridge camera, that came and sat on the field gate by the car.
Male Cirl Bunting - Normandie © Nick Hull
So that was our first highlight of the trip our second came a day or two later when we were scanning a small flock of Sanderling and Turnstone on Utah beach, my sister-in-law asked "what is the pale wader with the Ringed Plover  to the right of the main group of feeding birds".  Locating the bird I realised straight away it was a juvenile Kentish Plover roosting on the shingle.  Though Kentish Plover breed along this coast we didn't expect to see one as usually most have migrated by this time, but they are always a joy to see.
Juv. Kentish Plover - Utah Beach - Normandie
On one of our days we visited the Mont St Michel coast but the weather was a little damp with heavy showers at times and we found little in the way of birds migrating.  Though amongst a few beach hut overlooking the bay we had about twenty Wheatear feeding amongst the rocks that edged the beach so I took the opportunity to get a few shot of these south bound birds.

Looking at Mont St. Michel in a rain shower from Genet 
Juv. Northern Wheatear - nr. Genet, Normandie
It wasn't until our last day and doing a little birding on our way back to Cherbourg, to catch the ferry home, that we had what was for us the best birds of the trip, in fact it was only the second time we have seen them in Normandie. We have seen their French cousin a number of times before and now a sighting of not just one but a covey of 25 Grey Partridge was excellent. A species that is scarce in Dorset and equally scarce here in Normandie was a great way to finish a week of good food, wine with the added bonus of a few good birds.
Covey of Grey Partridge on the polder near Grand Vey  Normandie. 

Nocturnal goings on

A couple of Birding friends over the last couple of years have been carrying out night time recording to see what is passing overhead whilst they have their heads on the pillow.  Between them they have had some very good, even surprising, results. For instance one heard Spotted Crake in the Wareham Meadows, more recently recorded an Ortolan Bunting flying over his house.  So in a quest to enlarge my own garden list I have set up my little digital recorder to my Parabolic reflector (dish) and gave it a go.

So on the night of the 25th September I set up my little system recording from 22:00hrs and recorded through the night until around 07:00hrs next morning.  So over the next couple of days I managed to review the recording and noted the various species sounds that were recorded in the period.

It was not a surprise living by Lytchett Bay that gulls, waders and duck were the common sounds heard during the night. I also recorded the erie calls of Fox and the even more almost horror film wails of rutting Sika Deer out on the marsh around the bay somewhere.

So the bird calls recorded over the nine hours were Wigeon, Mallard, Red and Greenshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Robin, Wren.  The sounds that were more interesting were Tawny Owl, Moorhen and Water Rail.  The only two species that were most probably migrants was a couple of flight calls of Song Thrush going over head, its always hard to tell at this time in autumn if they were local birds moving about in the dark or true migrants.  The other which was definitely a migrant was a Coot which for Lytchett bay is some what a rarity.  It turned out to be the hundred and fiftieth species to be recorded in the bay area this year. A pretty good start I think so can't wait until the next opportunity.

Sunday 27 September 2015

An afternoon at Middlebere

Our Saturday walk was in the sun at Middlebere and due to the tide times we decided to go to the Avocet hide first.  Our walk down the track to the hide produced a few migrants, there were lots of Chiffchaff flitting around the hedgerows hunting for insects. We had a single Whitethroat which was accompanying the Chiffs but a little further on Jess picked up movement in the hedge at the other-side of the field. Scoping the hedge we found at least three Blackcaps feeding around an elder and blackberry bushes.  Joe picked up a Mistle Thrush sat at the top of a pine, later we saw a flock of ten fly in to the same trees.  Looking over the paddock near the barn where often we may pickup the odd Yellow Wagtail with the cows drew a blank with the wagtails, but we had no less than 11 Stonechat accompanied by a single Whinchat along the fence line and we had a single Kestrel fly over.

Distant Whinchat having a wing stretch © Nick  Hull
When we were nearing the hide a Sparrowhawk was seen briefly over the reed bed. At the hide, we could see that the tide had dropped a little further than was ideal, but there were good numbers of Teal and a Redshank or two, Little Egret a handful of Black-headed Gull and six Spoonbill though they soon disappeared into the deep channel out of sight.  A distant Jay and three Dunlin along with a handful of Shelduck to be seen.  So not wasting too much time here we headed off towards the Harrier hide, en-route Pauline called harrier and after a short wait a female type Marsh Harrier reappeared quartering the reed bed and gave some pretty good scope views. 

Two of the Spoonbill at the edge of the channel © Nick Hulll
We had a couple of high Buzzards which got some peoples hopes up that one might have been an Osprey but unfortunately it was just a pale Buzzard.  All to be added from the Harrier hide was a couple of distant Avocet, Teal and in the wood Goldcrest and Coal Tit.  The heath produced Meadow Pipits, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler and as we approached the cars a pair of Sparrowhawk crossed the road heading towards Hartland Moor.  All the time we were on our walk we had a constant passage of Swallow and the odd House Martin mixed in passing overhead. We ended with a Peregrine passing over heading towards the harbour which rounded the afternoon off very nicely.

Catching up with a Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Last weekend Jackie and I had the Sunday to ourselves, and as Jackie was feeling much better after having a virus, we decided to take a walk at Ringstead and see the Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

We arrived at the NT car park at Ringstead in very good sunny weather and had a gentle walk of approximately one kilometre, on the up and down coastal path to join a small group of birders.  It took all of 30 seconds to find the bird on the arable field which looked pretty bare accept for around 5 Ringed Plover and 4-5 Wheatear and a handful of gulls.

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was quite distant at first but as it trotted around the field feeding and with patience it came closer and I managed a few digiscope shots of this delightful american wader.  It's strange how these long distant vagrants often turn up at the same location where the species have been seen before. We had seen our first Dorset Buff-breast in almost the same field back in 1993 though instead of Ringed Plover that time it was with Dotterel.  
Distant shot on the brow of the hill
A shot of it a little closer taking a little shelter from the breeze behind a tussock

Sunday 13 September 2015

Birding - Greenland's Farm

We started well with Liz calling Osprey over Brand's Bay, though I have to admit that I didn't hear this first call but managed to hear the second and watched it with the others as it crossed towards Goathorn and disappeared into the tree line. Our second bird was a delightful little Coal Tit which performed really well though briefly.  We headed off up the track towards what is becoming a very well known field as Hoopoe, Wryneck and more recently Red-backed shrike have been found in.  As we continued we checked off many of the usual commoner species.  As we approached the 'rarity field' we heard Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and later saw both species and a Yellow Wagtail flew over.  We then had a Whinchat top of the hedge ahead and then one was picked up in the scrub just a few metres away and just for comparison a Stonechat further to the right.
Whinchat - Greenlands Farm © Nick Hull
As for the rarity field we found a small group of Yellow Wagtails accompanying Red Dexter cattle. We also had a distant Mediterranean Gull flying west along the edge of the harbour.  But other than a few Siskin going over the field it didn't produce much for us. As we moved on Joe and one or two others picked up movement in a small bush, it turned out that there was more than just one species  in this little bush, the first was a Whitethroat, then two Chiffchaff a Robin and a Wren.  Then a flight of 30 Siskin went over  this turned out to be the first of a few flocks seen moving probably amounting to 100-150 birds.

We came a cross a few autumn fungi with a number of very fresh Parasol Mushroom and our first Fly Agaric.  We also came across a robin's pincushion which develops after the gall wasp Diplolepis rosae has laid it's eggs in the rose bud in spring.
Robin's Pincushion Gall - Greenlans track © Nick Hull
We had a brief walk through the wood and picked up Treecreeper, Goldcrest and a immature Buzzard one of two that were calling obviously not quite used to being out in the big world on their own.  We walked out on the bridleway across towards the Rempstone Heath and it was here we fell into a small feeding flock of warblers.  It turned out it was mainly Blackcaps with the odd Chichchaff amongst them. Though a Spotted Flycatcher did appear from nowhere for a brief spell and promptly disappeared as quick as it appeared.  Instead of heading across the heath I decided to cross the field to the scrub border that led back towards the main track.  This paid off as we reached the rise at the edge of the field we could view all around and Liz's eagle eye found the Osprey sat at the top of a dead pine at the edge of Rempstone Forest and gave good scope views.  Though too far to good digiscoping though I've included the shot below.
Distant Osprey viewed from Greenlands Farm.
Walking back to the main track we had a few Meadow Pipits, a couple of Stonechat and a very nice Dartford Warbler and more Chiffchaff.  When looking for a bird sat a top of a bush that one of the group had seen, a small group of Great Crested Grebe were found resting in the harbour though the bird at the top of the bush disapeared. Our walk back to the cars was fairly uneventful other than  another look at the Yellow Wagtails as they were much closer than before, until they moved off with the cattle into another field.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Raptor Day at Keyhaven & Pennington

This morning we met at Keyhaven with the intent on concentrating on Wader identification and ageing but it turned into a Raptor day to.  We started with Turnstone flying in and landing on the seawall waiting for the tide to go out a little so they could feed on the shore edge.  These gave a good opportunity to see first winter and moulting adult plumages.  As we walked the seawall we searched for more waders and found them, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin and Grey Plovers. A flight of ten Knot flew off the marsh and headed off towards Hurst Castle.  What was nice we had fairly good views of most and able to find first winter and adult birds.  
Sum/plumage Grey Plover Keyhaven © Nick Hull
A little further on looking over a patch of scrub and gorse where we usually find Dartford Warbler and we found two, but soon realised that there were more birds feeding around in the sunny warm sheltered patch. Watching for and checking out every movement we started checking off more species, Blue and Great Tit, Dunnock, a Robin then three Common Whitethroat, a juvenile Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  

Fran spotted a bird of prey fly through low most certainly a Sparrowhawk from her description our first bird of prey of the day.  We moved on looking for more waders and found Snipe, Redshank and Greenshank, then Pauline picked out a distant Wheatear which turned in to two as we got closer.  Keyhaven lagoon produced Grey Heron Little Egret and one or two Teal, but a distant raptor turned out to be a Common Buzzard (2nd BoP), followed very quickly when I picked up a female Marsh Harrier (BoP N0.3).  We checked out Fishtail Lagoon but added Teal, Mallard and a flight of Gadwall over.  The lagoon were very full of water and even the island were covered possibly why there were few waders present but Little Grebe was new for the day.  As we approached the Butts lagoon we had our fourth bird of prey with a Peregrine that stooped into a small flight of Swallow and Sand Martins but missed and lost interest and headed off towards the Isle of Wight.
Stretching Little Egret Keyhaven © Nick Hull
Out on the Solent I managed to find a couple of Eider and a small group of Sandwich Tern were roosting out on one of the points of the marsh. We were about to head off towards the ancient highway when Liz and Pauline almost simultaneously called Kingfisher, a blue flying dart streaked up the drainage ditch and settled down on a dead elder some way off before heading off out of sight. Looking over the new gravel pit lake we found a number of roosting gulls and Joe found a Common Sandpiper. We were adjacent to the balancing pond when Joe spotted another raptor about the same time Liz and I heard a Peregrine calling but Joe said I think I have a Sparrowhawk.  As we watched we saw the Peregrine make a couple of passes at Joe's bird, before moving off.  I realised it was too big for Sparrowhawk and my first thought was possible a roaming Goshawk.  I went for my scope and as soon as I found it and had a better view as the bird soared I saw a long tail broad wings and a small head and barred tail.  There was no bulging secondaries or white fluffy vent area it was more buzzard like, I then saw the barred tail and barring on the underwing and it became obvious that it was a Honey Buzzard not atypical plumage as it was quite pale individual. (BoP No.5).  As we watched it climb and pass overhead we watched a Sparrowhawk and then a Kestrel (BoP No.6) had a little go at it and saw it on its way toward the Isle of Wight.  A very nice finish for the morning birding.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Middlebere Wildlife

View of the Wytch Channel from the Harrier Hide © Jackie Hull
Our group met at Middlebere, Poole Harbour on a glorious sunny and warm morning.  As we started we had brief views of a Dartford Warbler and much more obliging male Stonechat.   Plus the first sighting of a Kestrel that was never long out of our sight as it flew, hovered and perched along our route.

We had a few migrant birds along our walk down to the Avocet Hide.  Several Chiffchaffs, even one was singing as we were walking back, obviously loving the weather.  A  few Common Whitethroats put in an appearance and then a greyer bird poked its head out, I called that it was a Lesser Whitethroat as it flew across the path, followed by another one.  Thankfully they did sit out long enough for everyone to see them and for 3 of the group it was a "lifer".  

The tide was high when we reached the hide and there were plenty of Canada Geese, Mallards a few Teal, Shelduck plus four Wigeon, my first this autumn.  On the post an adult Yellow-legged Gull stood, it then started calling and we could then see a second bird below it.  A large roosting flock of Black-tailed Godwits took flight and the culprit was soon found, a young Marsh Harrier.  She came so close and low past the hide window I wish I had my camera ready as I'm sure I'd have a brilliant photo!   I then spotted a very distant raptor, Alan managed to get it in his scope and I was able to confirm it was an Osprey.  Though everyone got on to the bird it was so distant and going away it was a poor sighting.   
Small Copper © Jackie Hull
Walking back we had two male Blackcaps, a couple of Meadow Pipits, Buzzards, Coal Tit and Goldcrests but it was the butterflies that now stole the show, with Small Copper, Common and Holly Blue, Comma, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood.

Over the road in the boggy areas we found Marsh Gentians and a Common Lizard came out not sure where to go and very nearly wandered over Fran's foot, before deciding to head into the heather.  We also had some wonderful Parasol fungi.
Marsh Gentian © Jackie Hull

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Oxey Lake & Pennington Marsh

Sunday saw the group meet at Maiden Lane near Lymington for a walk around Oxey and Pennington. As we waited for everyone to arrive the early few managed to see Swallows and a Bullfinch put in a very brief appearance.  As soon as we were all gathered we all headed off along the footpath towards the sea.  As we passed Oxey Lake we checked it out and found that there were around eight Little Grebe, a pair of Oystercatcher, a small gathering of Canada Geese and Mallard, also a couple of Redshank.  As we walked across the rough grass field towards the coastal footpath we recorded Meadow Pipit, Dunnock and Reed Bunting.  An immature Dartford Warbler performed pretty well for us before moving off across the field into a large scrub area.  

The warmth of the day was just rising as did six Buzzard that had found the first thermal of the day and soared moving towards their favoured feeding area. As we almost reached the coastal path a Greenshank lifted off and gave its characteristic "Choo Choo Choo" call as it flew over us.  Liz then picked up a Wheatear on top of a gorse bush unfortunately only a few at the front saw it before it flew off west and out of sight. 

As we walked towards Pennington we could see Sandwich and Common Terns fishing out in the Solent and a raft of Common Eider were loafing off shore.  On the shingle islets off shore were a group of mainly summer plumaged Grey Plover which were looking really smart with their black fronts and bellies. On a closer island a nice size flock of Ringed Plover and a few Dunlin were roosting but they soon took off calling towards Keyhaven.  We also found Small and Common Blue and Wall butterflies as we walked the seawall towards Pennington.  On the old rusty piling by the jetty there were a number of smart Turnstones roosting along with three Common Terns. 

Curlew Sandpiper - Jetty Lagoon © Nick Hull
As we came to the Jetty lagoon at Pennington there were a number of waders feeding.  Black-tailed Godwits with most showing signs of moult, along with several black-bellied Dunlin feeding in the shallower water on the muddy edge.  A little further out on it's own was a nice Curlew Sandpiper, an adult moulting out of summer plumage and we had very good scope views of the individual and good comparison with the Dunlin nearby.  

Our return to the cars was fairly uneventful adding little to our day list that we hadn't already seen.  But we had an enjoyable morning with some very nice birds.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Alners Gorse & Butterflies

Sunday 9th August
Today or rather this morning our group met at Alners Gorse, this has to be one of the best Butterfly Conservation Reserves in Dorset or possible the South of England. Our targets were Hairstreaks but we were out to see as many butterfly species this reserve had to offer.

So we headed off in the warmth of the sun with high expectation cameras poised for what we hoped to see.  Shortly after walking through the gate we started with Green-veined, Small and Large White, Meadow Brown and many Gatekeepers.  We were also distracted by a dragonfly which very obligingly landed and proved to be a Southern Hawker.
male Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea - © Nick Hull
It was further into the reserve when Jess with her eagle eyes spotted a small butterfly high up on top of a leaf.  It took a little direction from Jess before all of us were onto this butterfly, but as you can see in the below photograph from the view we had it was only just possible to id it as a Brown Hairstreak.  
male Brown Hairstreak © Nick Hull
Continuing on and keeping a keen eye on the tree tops three or four other small butterflies were seen high in an oak.  It was Tim who found one perched on a small branch just over halfway up in the canopy.  After some direction I managed to get on to it, it was our second species of hairstreak this time a Purple.
Purple Hairstreak - © Nick Hull
I think I was lucky to get as good a shot as I did, though not the best view, it was our second species of hairstreak, one more to go. We were only just saying it would be nice to get better views perhaps even a closer one.  When Jess announced "I've a Brown Hairstreak on the bramble here".
female Brown Hairstreak - © Nick Hull
Sure enough there was one and the cameras were clicking away. We eventually moved on and and we saw our second dragonfly this time a Common Darter.  We continued adding butterflies and even a few moths were found such as a Brimstone moth, Vapourer, Treble-bar and Silver Y. Other butterflies of note were Silver-washed Fritillary, Small Copper, Brown Argus, Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow.  
Clouded Yellow - © Nick Hull
In all we recorded eighteen species, but I think if the sun had held out longer it would have been possible to have recorded another four species as we didn't see White-letter Hairstreak, Peacock, Red Admiral or Small Tortoiseshell.

We also recorded another of the larger dragonflies a Migrant Hawker which at the time I called Common Hawker Aeshna juncea.  It just goes to show you should take better notice sometime and not get distracted taking photographs. As it wasn't until writing this blog that I noticed my mistake, so apologies to all who was there for my error, corrected now.
male Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta © Nick Hull

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Keyhaven & Pennington Marshes

Our Wednesday group started from Keyhaven this morning with look from the bridge over Avon Water.  With a low tide it was easy to see a Water Rail picking it's way along the reed edge and a Common Tern flew over our heads into the harbour.  

We then walked along the back lane which was fairly quiet until we got to the pool at the end of the lane.  Here we had a variety of gulls with Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls loafing about.  The inevitable Canada Geese were on the bank and on the waters edge a Common Sandpiper picked it's way along, over the water were hawking House Martins and Swallows, then Jess brought our attention to a few Swifts above us.   On the other side of the pool we found two Little Ringed Plovers, a second Common Sandpiper and an Oystercatcher.  On the water was a female Tufted Duck with 6 ducklings, a couple of Great Crested Grebes and several Little Grebes.  A passing birder then brought our attention to a Buzzard flying behind us which then flew round and perched up on a post in the field.
Little Ringed Plover © Nick Hull
At last tearing ourselves away we walked on towards Fishtail Lagoon, on the way we stopped to watch several small birds in the bushes with Goldfinch, Greenfinches, Linnets, Great and Blue Tits, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and a male Stonechat.  As we looked down on Fishtail lagoon there was a Grey Heron with some prey, our reptile expert Chris identified it as a Grass Snake, it put up a good fight but finally we watched it being wriggled down the Heron's throat.  Also on the lagoon were Black-tailed Godwits and a few Lapwing.

On Keyhaven Lagoon were two Greenshank while on the salt marsh there were good numbers of both adult and juvenile Dunlin, also Ringed Plover and another Little Ringed Plover, a single Whimbrel and a few Curlew.  We found a single Grey Plover in stunning summer plumage.  Approaching the car park we had a number of Turnstones on the waters edge and a  fly by Sandwich Tern.  An excellent morning.

Friday 31 July 2015

Acres Down New Forest

This morning we met Adam and Avya at Acres Down for a few hours birding in the area, as it was mid-summer we weren't expecting a record day but we were optimistic of finding a few good birds.

As we walked up  the hill towards the raptor view point we checked off many on the common species Robin, Greenfinch, calling Bullfinch etc.  With an every ending blue sky it isn't alway good for raptors but we put in about an hour in the hope something would get up and be noticed.  Common Buzzard was our only bird of prey but we had good views of some very nice local species, Tree and Meadow Pipit, Redstart and Spotted Flycatchers and Stonechats, there was also Swallows hawking overhead most of the time we were there. We also saw flyby Stock Dove and Great Spotted Woodpecker, had good views and listened to the calls of Willow Warblers with their two syllable calls in preference to the Chiffchaffs single syllable 'wheet'.  
Common Buzzard © Nick Hulll
As little was happening with birds of prey we decided to to go and walk through the wood and see what other woodland species were out and about. As we walked back toward the parking area we saw Meadow Pipits and more Spotted Flycatchers another family party, more Willow Warblers, then Avya said "is that a Buzzard".   Getting my binoculars on to it I confirmed she was correct but what was even better it was being harassed by two Hobby who saw it off their territory and diving back down out of sight into the trees.
White Admiral © Nick Hull
Our walk around the wood didn't produce a great deal but what we had were good views of a family party of Goldcrest, several Coal, Blue and Great Tits and Siskins were heard and seen briefly as they flew over, Nuthatch and the usual Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Robins were also seen.  We heard a couple of Crossbills then a tantalising flyover and we tried looking for them but unfortunately they flew off again before we could locate them in the tree tops.  As we were heading back Adam noticed a butterfly he didn't know and Jackie took a look and it turned out to be a White Admiral a good find. We also saw several other common butterflies including a couple of very fresh Holly Blues.
Holly Blue © Nick Hull
We finished with some very good views of a Marsh Tit that performed excellently for us as it foraged for food in the low vegetation close to the side of the path.