About Two Owls

Saturday 31 January 2015

Studland & Middlebere 24th January

This is a belated blog due to a hiccup on the health front but as they say "the show must go on".  We had a brilliant day last Saturday with our group exploring Studland in the morning and after lunch stopping at Norden and finishing at Middlebere.

Starting at Shell Bay we had a couple of close in views of Black-necked Grebes and Bob scoping the rocks by the Haven Hotel opposite found a flock of 30 Sanderlings.  Looking over the harbour side we had Shags and Cormorants, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye and a single Oystercatcher.  Moving on to Brands Bay though a fairly high tide we did see a good variety of birds with many Shelduck, also Pintail, Wigeon and Teal.  Waders included Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew and Grey Plover.   An immature female Marsh Harrier flew over and created a bit of a stir with the birds in the bay bring out many of those we hadn't been able to see hidden in the vegetation.  Over the far trees I watched a pair of Raven, then someone picked up a Peregrine in the same area.

Moving on to Middle Beach for a look over Studland Bay we found a few Black-necked Grebes and on the foreshore Mediterranean Gulls.  The latter were giving us great comparisons with the Black-headed Gull and before being taken ill Nick gave a masterclass in the differences and ageing.    He also took some photos of the tame Robin always found here looking for titbits.

Robin at Middle Beach © Nick Hull
Apart from losing Nick (thankfully not literally) we carried on after lunch to Norden where we did very well without leaving the same spot.  Before I even got out of the car I could see several Chiffchaffs moving in the bushes, this looked good!  Looking through the Chiffs there was one that was a good candidate for a tristis, very cold and grey looking but it didn't call.  Then I heard someone say they had a Firecrest, it was easy to find as it was just working its way through the wire fencing and then through the hedgerow where a Goldcrest joined it.  We also had Pied Wagtails and we were about to leave when a Grey Wagtail flew in, then two male Bullfinch arrived.

I was with the group until we were at Middlebere and walking up to look at the Wytch Channel, on the way we had Song Thrush.  A flock of Lapwing were seen at the end of the channel but then I had to leave.  However the rest of the group carried on and from the Middlebere hide were well rewarded with Marsh and Hen Harriers, Avocet, Spoonbill.  The highlight was a Merlin sat on a post for 20 minutes in front of the hide so they had a brilliant day.

When we reached Middlebere I had a text from David & Fran, regulars with Two Owls Birding to say they had a Great Grey Shrike while walking their dog near Greenlands, Godlingston Heath.  A great find as there have been very few reports of this shrike this winter.  Photo below, a little distant but recognisable.  
Great Grey Shrike Greenland/Godlingston Heath © Fran Eldous

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Studland & Hengistbury Head birding

Studland - Sunday 18th January
Our Sunday monthly group met at Shell Bay, Studland, a gloriously sunny cold winter morning.   Shell Bay was fairly quiet apart from a close Black-necked Grebe and a calling Bullfinch from the nearby trees.  After a further fruitless scan a raptor was picked up flying in off the sea towards us.   It looked very dark and though we had a good idea of its identity we had to wait until it was closer to be sure it was a 1st winter male Marsh Harrier.  It flew over us and towards the inner harbour and the Goathorn area.  

Moving on to look over the harbour towards Brownsea we had a low flying Sparrowhawk go across to South Haven.  From the houseboats we had the usual birds we expect to see here including Shag, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes.  A few Oystercatchers flew along and past us but a small group of Sanderling did stop on the beach right in front of us and gave us superb views running a long like clockwork toys being wound up, then stopping and then running on again.
Sanderling - Bramblebush Bay © Nick Hull

From the hide at Brands Bay with the tide beginning to go out we had the usual waders and ducks, including a few Avocets, Grey Plover, Curlew and Dunlin, Pintail, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck.  A surprise was to see a Spoonbill suddenly appear from behind some reeds showing briefly before disappearing again.

We finished with a look by the top hide over Littlesea, a few Little Egret and Grey Heron were seen but it was a much smaller bird that stole the show.  A male Dartford Warbler flew into a gorse bush next to us and showed so well as it sat up, then foraged within the bush before popping up again and gave us amazing views.  We left him and walked back to the path when a female was seen, then the male we had been watching flew in nearby.

Nick and I then went for a look over Studland Bay from Middle Beach, we had several Black-necked Grebes scattered across the bay, a flock of Common Scoter and then we found the Red-necked Grebe we had really been looking for.  So a superb finish to our morning.

Carrion Crow - Bramblebush Bay © Nick Hull
Hengistbury Head - Tuesday 20th January
This morning our Tuesday group met at Hengistbury Head and we started with Lapwings in the Barn Field.  Turning round to look over towards the harbour Helen spotted a raptor sat on a fence post in the marsh.  It turned out to be a male Sparrowhawk that sat for us to all have prolonged views through the 'scopes before he flew up causing all the Teal hidden in the marsh to 'spring' up.  We watched him fly over the reedbeds causing panic its wake.

Walking through the woods a Blue Tit was singing so stopping to look carefully Jess found two Goldcrests searching through the lichen on an oak tree.  On our way back we also had Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay.  Towards the head we had Redshank, Curlew, Wigeon and Teal, on the sea the usual Cormorants sat on the posts.  We struggled to find much on the sea or beach and it wasn't until we turned back on the harbour side Kate called our attention to a flock waders flying overhead.  It was a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, they landed on beach and rocks.  Back on the harbour side we watched an enchanting little Stonechat picking bits up on the little beach, though as it got closer to us a Robin popped out and made it clear that bit was his patch!  Then a small flock of Turnstones flew in.   As we arrived back to where we had seen the Sparrowhawk a Kingfisher was seen, briefly resting on a reed before zooming off again.  

Sunday 11 January 2015

Normandy Marsh & Rhinefield Aboretum

We woke today with the rain coming down in waves in the gusts of wind, who in their right mind ventures out - only birders hoping to find some good birds.  After gathering with todays group in the car park at Lymington Jackie made the decision to walk anti-clockwise, in the hope the forecast was going to be correct and the rain would stop after an hour ,which would mean we would be sheltered by the hedgerows whilst it was raining and would be dry once out in the open walking the sea wall.

Walking the back lane we picked up a few woodland species Greenfinch and Bullfinch, Great and Blue Tits, Robin, Dunnock etc. On the back fields Redwing, Mistle Thrush and Starlings along with  many Curlews and Dark-bellied Brent.  We exited out on to the seawall in the dry but no sooner had we set up to scan over Oxey Lake the heavens opened up and the rain was coming in almost horizontal.  So with nowhere to shelter we stood with our backs to the wind and waited for it to pass which it did in a few minutes.  Now having chance to scan the lake a small group of grebes were picked up at the far side turned out to be four Slavonian Grebes looking very clean and tidy birds. Several flights of Dunlin flew in to join Lapwing and Turnstone on the rack of seaweed on the high tide mark. We also had our first  view of a Kingfisher which Jackie found sat on an outlet pipe.  We walked on around the seawall and two Slavonian Grebe were close in and gave an opportunity for a quick photograph.
One of four Slavonian Grebe present Oxey Lake © Nick Hull
Scanning over the marsh Lesley  found a lone Spoonbill preening alongside a small group of Avocet. Other wildfowl consisted of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Shelduck, Goldeneye and a large flight of Brent Geese flew in to bathe on the lagoon.  As we walked further round Bob picked up a group of Greenshank roosting with Redshank on the back edge of the lagoon.  Out off towards the sea marsh Jackie found a female Peregrine sat on a post on a spartina island, then the male was seen on another post further to the right.  We then had another brief view of a fly by Kingfisher ad found a closer Greenshank which enabled everyone get a much closer view.

Top Spoonbill & Avocet below Greenshank © Nick Hull
We then travelled to Rhinefield in the New Forest for a walk around the aboretum, our sole purpose for visiting here was to see one of the forests specialties Hawfinch, though this year hasn't seen many visiting probably due to the very mild weather.  Our walk around produce the usual species one expected with a small tit flock which had associating Siskin and Treecreeper.   We also had a pair of  Bullfinch and a couple of views of Marsh Tit.

Our first view of a Hawfinch was very brief when one flew over and disappeared behind a large fir tree.  Not long after another was seen to fly in, this time landing at the top of another tree this, was a female as it showing the grey panel in the wing all had a good scope view before she flew off.  We waited only a short time and another flew in to this time a male his slightly brighter plumage was quite obvious in the late afternoon light.  With everyone satisfied with the views they had we headed back to our cars. However we weren't quite finished because as we arrived back at the car park a small group of other birders had spotted something in the large redwood, and checking it out I located a male Crossbill feeding on a cone high up in the tree a very nice finish to an excellent day.
Sorry a poor iphonescoped shot of todays female Hawfinch Nick Hull

Saturday 3 January 2015

Starting the New Years Birding

The first day of the new year is somehow always special in the birding calendar to get your year list off to a good start.  Liz joined Jackie and I for a walk around part of our local patch of Lytchett Bay.  Jackie had Blue Tit, Carrion Crow and Goldfinch, and Liz had Reed Bunting before I had started.  I soon caught up then hearing a Curlew and seeing Herring and Black-headed Gulls.  Walking through the wood out to the bay added Robin and Blackbird and as we approached the shoreline a Reed Bunting popped up and down into the reed bed.  Scanning over the bay we quickly added Marsh Harrier, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Redshank, Greenshank, Oystercatchers, Common Gull and a Little Egret beat against the wind as it crossed the water toward Holton.  We continued to watch for a while and I picked up a small flock of waders in flight heading across the bay, getting the 'bins' on them I wasn't sure of their id until they changed direction and headed east.  They then showed black auxiliaries confirming they were Grey Plover, a species that is a very scarce visitor to the patch.  In fact there was only one record of a single bird in 2013 and 2014 and I know 18  flying over was a great start to the year.  

By the time we had finished our patch walk we had clocked up twenty six species so we headed off in the car to Baiter Park.  Here we looked over the railway into Poole Park lake and added Gadwall, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Coot, then looking over Baiter's grass field a good flock of Dark-bellied Brent were present along with Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails.  We searched around the beach for Turnstones without any luck but added a nice Mediterranean Gull to our list.  We continued on by driving through Poole Park adding Canada and Greylag Geese grazing on the lawn followed shortly after by Moorhen, Black-tailed Godwit and Grey Heron.  It was then on to Shore Road where the only new species was Sanderling time was getting on by now and we had a boat to catch.  So we retraced our route back through Poole Park and managed to add Turnstone, with three feeding at the edge of the large lake.

Over several years now friends, Mark and Mo, have invited local Poole birders and a few from further afield to join them on a boat trip around Poole Harbour on New Years Day. We boarded the boat and heading off towards the harbour mouth checking off the usual harbour species Shag, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe and another Med Gull (well for us anyway) also a distant Great Northern Diver.  Coming alongside the Brownsea Lagoon we quickly added Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Black-backed Gull, Spoonbill and Shoveler.  Our cruise continued on via the harbour mouth across Brand's Bay and to as far as Green Island. On the way seeing many Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and Black-necked Grebes, then Steve picked up the first winter Little Gull that had been hanging around the Furzy Island slipway. Unfortunately the tide had dropped so much we couldn't navigate the channel around the back of Green Island so we returned back towards the harbour mouth and as we passed Furzy Island a second time I found a Kingfisher sat atop of one of the jetty posts. 

It was probably fate that turned a hand in dropping the tide so we had to retrace our route back via the harbour mouth because as we approached the Brownsea Jetty a shout from the back of the boat of 'Black Guillemot behind' was called out.  As this is a bird that had probably only been seen up to this point by around three people it was very sought after by the Poole Harbour listers which included us.  A quick word with the skipper and the boat was turned around to make another pass of the area where the bird was spotted. It didn't take long for to be re-found but it did take a while for everyone to get to see the bird and it's white and black plumage worked well to camouflage it on the choppy sea.

Black Guillemot Poole Harbour Mouth © Steve Smith
After we finished enjoying this harbour rarity we had another look over Brownsea Lagoon and moved around the northern edge of Brownsea where we had the Great Northern Diver earlier.  Magnus soon picked it up again and then there were two then when I looked there were three.  It wasn't long before we were back at the quay and in the car to do some more birding around Hartland Moor area.

Norden Sewage works gave up Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and Pheasant, moving on to Middlebere we added Jackdaw and Greenfinch, at Arne Great Tit, Coal Tit and Green Woodpecker.  We moved on to Soldiers Road where we had a little luck when we stopped to chat to friends we had excellent views of a female Hen Harrier which quartered the moor for several minutes opposite the car.

Our last bird to go on the list for the day was Lapwing flying off our Lytchett patch going to roost.

I'd just would like to thank Steve Smith for allowing us to use his shot of the Black Guillemot you can check out more shot of the harbours birds and some from much further afield on his blog which you can find at -  Http://BirdingPooleHarbourandBeyond.blogspot.co.uk