About Two Owls

Sunday 29 March 2015

Morden Bog & Lytchett Bay

Saturday 21st March

A cold but sunny morning for our walk from Sherford Bridge to Morden Bog.  

While waiting for everyone to arrive I watched a pair of Long-tailed Tits in the gorse opposite busily looking for insects.

As we walked down to the gate a Stonechat in the field to our right was flitting from the ground to a short piece of stubble.  Looking on down past the gate a Mistle Thrush hopped about, back to the other field a Kestrel was perched, our first raptor of the day.

Through the gate we could hear a Goldcrest singing close by as we watched a pair of Coal Tits.  I heard the call of a Red-legged Partridge but it was too distant to be seen.  the resident birds were all in evidence with Chaffinch, Wren, Robin, Blue and Great Tit.  A little further on as it opened out we heard our first Chiffchaff and we did manage some good views of them on our walk.  A Peregrine was perched on one of the pylons as it does quite regularly.  Later we saw him flying following a Buzzard but it was seen off, particularly with three pairs of Buzzard were soaring in this area.  The Peregrine zipped by only to return shortly after and perched back up on the pylon.

At the Boat House Lake there were no wintering ducks left but we had good numbers of Tufted Ducks and Little Grebes, a few Great Crested Grebes, Coot and Mallard.  It took a while before the pair of Grey Wagtails we regularly see here appeared albeit briefly for us.  Back on the heath we had a pair and a single Dartford Warbler and Meadow Pipit displaying.  On several occasions we had Siskins calling as they flew over with only one feeding close.  Our walk finished with a pair of Treecreepers found by Emma.

Sunday 22 March - Lytchett Bay

Nick and I had not been down to the new path over the fields at Lytchett Bay very recently opened up with viewpoints over the Pools.  We bumped into Ian who also regularly watches the bay and fields.  We were greeted by the sound of a singing Skylark as soon as we crossed the stile, such a wonderful sound, we put three up as we walked across the field.  A lone Black-tailed Godwit had been feeding unusually down this end of the field.  From the marshy grass areas a count of eight Snipe took flight.

As we arrived at the Sherford Pools Field viewpoint the first birds we saw were four Spoonbills roosting.  There were around 80 Teal feeding or resting here, a few Shelduck and Little Egret.  A Kestrel hunted by the A35 and a Buzzard soared over the wood.  We met a birder here who had arrived before us and had been lucky to see a ringtail Hen Harrier earlier.  All the the while were were being serenaded by displaying Greenfinch.

Over other areas we had Reed Buntings, a group of 21 Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Curlew, 26 Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and a Weasel that run across our path.

View of the Heath at Morden Bog

Thursday 19 March 2015

Moyles Court & Blashford

Spring was definitely in the air, beautiful sunshine and in the sheltered spots it was delightfully warm, a great start for our new Wednesday monthly group meeting at Moyles Court.   In the short distance from Moyles Court and The Alice Lisle pub we lingered quite a while watching Nuthatches calling and flitting up and down the branches, a Jay sat and watched us, then a Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared.  In the field a few Mistle Thrush and Joe found a Redwing which promptly disappeared.   Chaffinch were in good song as were Robin and Collared Dove.  As we approached the footpath down to Blashford Lake we had our first of several singing Chiffchaffs.  

It was a little difficult looking over Blashford Lake (also known as Spinnaker Lake) was difficult due to the sun but we did watch a pair of Gadwall with a Coot.  Gadwall are well known to stay close to Coots so when they dive bringing up weed the Gadwall take advantage of the excess weed brought up.  Spring flowers seen along the path included Lungwort, Violets, Lesser Celandine and Periwinkle.    From the screen overlooking Ivy Lake we had close views of Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe.  Joe then spotted the Long-tailed Duck in front of the Ivy South Hide, I just got on to it as it flew up chasing a Tufted Duck aggressively across the lake, when the Tufty landed on the water the Long-tail landed on top of it.  No idea what the Tufty did but he certainly found out in no uncertain terms that he had upset the Long-tail!

By the screen a Reed Bunting was calling and one briefly sat up on the brambles before flying past us.  Walking a little further we heard Siskins flying over and then a pair of Bullfinch appeared.  Before everyone could see them properly they flew, however soon after two males and a female landed in front of us showing very well.   One male was much brighter than the other and the female seemed to be much more impressed by him.  Looking across the lichen heath were 3 Mistle Thrush and with them were 2 Redwings and it was here we had our first Brimstone butterflies, over the rest of our walk we had a good number of them.

We walked across to Goosander Hide and a summer plumaged Little Grebe was close in to the Sand Martin bank.  To the right of the hide a Little Egret stood on the shoreline, further along were 3 Snipe, several Lapwing, Goosander and Shoveler duck.  Looking across to the spit further out into Ibsley Water were a few more Goosander, Egyptian Geese and an Oystercatcher all asleep.  A Redshank picked its way along the waters edge and in the water were a pair of Goldeneye, with a few more further out into Ibsley Water.  Walking back to the cars we came across a few stands of Wild Daffodils and a couple of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.

Great Crested Grebes © Nick Hull

Monday 16 March 2015

Mother's Day Birding at Longham Lakes

Despite a delayed start due to the closure of Longham Bridge causing a detour and asking police for access it was a cold but birdy morning.  As we waited for everyone to arrive a Raven flew over announcing his presence with his "cronking" call.  

Walking down the footpath to the lakes we had chattering House Sparrow and Starlings.  Coming out to the lake the sight of around 50 Sand Martins hawking over the water was delightful and Joe was first to spot a single Swallow with them.  We expected to see Sand Martin at this time of year but the Swallow was very early.  Another spring migrant were a few Chiffchaffs scattered around including one singing.

On the water were a large number of Tufted Ducks spread over both lakes, one Wigeon, a few Teal and Shoveler.  As we wandered round looking over the water and over the hedges, trees and fields.  Many of the small birds were singing with Greenfinch, Dunnocks and Robin, though a couple of Reed Bunting males were struggling to have their fairly weak song heard in the cold wind.  Reed Buntings were quite evident and I counted 10 on the walk.  A Grey Wagtail flew over to the shoreline calling but it didn't stay long, whereas Pied Wagtails were everywhere, with one flock of 16 across the path at one stage.  A few Meadow Pipits were mixed in with the wagtails.

Looking through the Tufted Ducks Nick picked up the female Scaup asleep on the water, but easily distinguished from the female tufted with her slightly larger size and rounded smooth head (no tuft) and as it was a first year bird it had an off white face.

There were a few Gadwall, Mallard and Little Grebes and lots of Coot.  Though we did see Great Crested Grebes on the south lake it was the north lake where we found them doing some head shaking but not a full display.  

A couple of Green Woodpeckers gave their "yaffling" call and we did catch sight of one as it flew past us, though a Great Spotted Woodpecker was only seen by a few.  A Buzzard flew over high being mobbed by gulls and a Kestrel hunted over the fields.  In the fields were the usual Mute Swans, Canada and Greylag Geese, also Grey Heron and Little Egret flew across.  Long-tailed Tits, Wren and Goldfinch were then added to the list.   We finished with a Redshank found on the island, our only wader of the day and brought our tally up to 54 bird species seen.

Pair of Mallard on Longham Lakes © Nick Hull

Saturday 7 March 2015

Portland Harbour & Ferrybridge

This morning a Bonapartes Gull was found at Ferrybridge but due to family commitments we couldn't leave until after lunch.  By the time we arrived the bird hadn't been seen for some two hours, so we decided to check Chesil Cove, the last place it had been seen, without any luck.  We then went to Portland Castle but we only found Red-breasted Mergansers, the wintering Black Guillemot which was almost in full summer plumage and a Great Crested Grebe.  So we thought we would head for Ferrybridge but as we drove off I remembered that I had noticed some feeding gulls off the Hamm Beach Road.  When we arrived the gulls were no longer feeding but resting on the water and a quick look revealed our target the Bonaparte's was a little way off shore.  It was then on the mobile to get the news out and I rushed to the car to get the scope and get a couple of digi-scope shots.

Previous Dorset records
1970 Durlston CP 14th March
1975 Christchurch Harbour 9th - 12th April
1981 Weymouth Bay, Radipole & Lodmoor 2nd - 16th April same as Hengistbury 20th April then returned to Radipole 22nd May - 30th June & Lodmoor 13th July - 2nd August.
1990 The Grove Portland 2nd March.
2006 Weymouth Bay at Overcombe Corner 21st Apr.

1st/winter Bonapartes Gull Portland Harbour © Nick Hull
1st/winter Bonapartes Gull Portland Harbour  © Nick Hull

Thursday 5 March 2015

Acres Down New Forest

Yesterday morning our group met in the New Forest to seek out a few of the local specialties that can be found around the Acres Down area.  This is a site that can produce good birds in the winter as well as in spring and summer and yesterday didn't disappoint. We started with a walk around the woodland and almost immediately we heard Bullfinch calls and then it started to sing which was quite a treat. a short distance after I picked up a small group of Goldcrest which were accompanied by two maybe three Firecrest.  These small woodland gems looked so good in the morning sunlight, but it took a little while for everyone to get good views as they worked their way through the holly in search of an insect meal.  We continued our walk around the woodland trail in the hope of picking up a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as this time of year they start to become territorial and you have the best chance to see them as the trees aren't in leaf.  But unfortunately this morning we were out of luck all was quiet on the woodpecker front, though we were treated to the beautiful chorus from a Mistle Thrush in typical fashion sat at the very top of one of the large Beech trees singing its heart out.

We eventually arrived back at the car park and headed up on to the heath at the top of the down where you have a panoramic view across a large part of the forest.  Our target species here were raptors and our first to be seen was a Sparrowhawk which was soaring distantly to the south.  As we walked out to our first view point I picked up a single Raven which looked a little odd at first until we realised it was carrying something the size of a chickens egg in its bill.

We also found several pairs of Buzzard one or two were starting their territorial swish-backing displays.  After a while another raptor was sighted which was obviously a accipiter but this time larger than the earlier Sparrowhawk.  Though distant it was an obvious Goshawk which soared up extremely high before it glided off across the forest out of sight.  Over the time we were here we had several sightings of this super bird of prey but unfortunately none ventured close enough to give really good views.

An Archive shot of a Goshawk over the New Forest
Whilst we were looking for the birds of prey Jackie picked up a large finch flying towards us, as it came closer it became obvious that it was a Hawfinch when it passed us by. We also had the odd group of Siskin flying over giving the high pitched flight calls.  As the morning warmed up a number of species seemed to feel spring was closing and started to sing, with Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Wren, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Robins in good song.

We ended our walk just after midday and all felt we had a good mornings birding.

Monday 2 March 2015

Poole Harbour birding

A sunny but windy start to our birding day, we began by looking over Shell Bay, Studland with some good views of three Black-necked Grebes.  One of these grebes was showing quite extensive summer plumage with golden orange 'ears' and black neck.   By the houseboats overlooking the harbour we had Oystercatchers, Brent Geese and a few Red-breasted Mergansers, then a small flock of ten Sanderling flew past landing further up the beach.  As they were disturbed by a couple of dogs they flew towards us and landed close by where they began to feed busily. 

Looking from the hide over Brands Bay it was very busy with birdlife on the lowered tide.  There a couple of Spoonbill busily feeding with their spatulate bills swishing side to side, a single Little Egret and waders with Curlew, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits.  Also many Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Pintail.  Going on to Middle Beach looking over Studland Bay below us were a couple of Mediterranean Gulls with the more common Black-headeds, a few more Black-necked Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers.  Then Liz picked out a Long-tailed Duck, rather distant but in the 'scope we managed reasonable views.

After lunch we went on to Norden Sewerage beds, always a treat as it attracts many wintering Chiffchaffs and we weren't disappointed.  As well as these delightful little warblers we had three Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail, Long-tailed Tits, Robin and Wren.  Then on to Middlebere, walking up the slope to look over the Wytch Channel our first Meadow Pipit of the day flew up.   A Dartford Warbler 'scolded' but in the wind wasn't going to sit up for us.  From the Avocet hide overlooking Middlebere Channel a lone Spoonbill, the usual Yellow-legged Gull plus Teal, Wigeon and Mallard close by.  A male Kestrel hovered over the Arne side and in the fields left of the hide were a large number of Brent Geese with a few Canada Geese.

We finished our day at Soldier Road looking over Hartland Moor and just before the rain started a ringtail Hen Harrier flew across, a very fitting end to an excellent days birding.

Brent Geese © Nick Hull