About Two Owls

Sunday 26 April 2015

Corfe Castle

This morning we were up reasonably early to lead our very enthusiastic group on our walk for migrants last year this walk produced Grasshopper Warbler and Nightingale so our hopes were up. We started almost immediately with Chiffchaff in the car park and as walked out unto the footpath Goldcrest was heard singing along with Dunnock, Blackcap, Robin and Whitethroat. Further on a male Yellowhammer showed well and a single Shelduck flew over heading towards Poole Harbour.
The group intently looking for Nightingale
As we continued on those at the rear of the group heard Raven cronking and Skylark were in good song further up on the down. Greenfinch and Chaffinch were singing along with Blackcaps and Whitethroats and as we listened to all these bird sound trying to pick out if their was anything a little more usual mixed in I picked up the distinctive "peu-peu-peu-tup-tup-tup-tup" of a Nightingale. I gathered the group and we stoop in a line and listened to this superb songster.
Singing Nightingale © Nick Hull
We eventually continued but we hadn't gone far when we heard a second bird but he didn't seem to be so much in the mood to sing for prolonged period so we walked on.  On the side of the path Fran noticed a couple of orchids on closer view they were Green-winged Orchid our first of the year. 
Green-winged Orchid © Nick Hull
The rest of the walk was fairly uneventful though we did record a pair of Bullfinch, Swallows moving through and four Stock Dove also move over north. As we retraced our steps we again stopped and listened to the Nightingales this time stood in the right place it was like stereo and we also had some quite prolonged views with one singing out in the open, an excellent end to a mornings walk. 

Friday 24 April 2015

Out of County Birding

Jackie and I were invited by birding friends to stay and do some birding with them and how can you refuse an offer like that. So on the afternoon of the 19th we found ourselves being shown around their local patch, we had the usual common species which you would expect in an urban area Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Swallow over.  Though when we were passing a field with Alpaca three birds took flight calling, Yellow Wagtails our first of the year a good start.

20th April
After discussion over dinner the previous evening it was decided as Lakenheath was less than an hour away that should be our starting point the next day.  When we arrived it was cool but the morning mist had burnt off and the sun was doing its very best to warm things up.  With seeing Yellowhammer and Kestrel just outside the reserve we were off to a good start and almost the first bird seen on the reserve was Lesser Whitethroat another year tick, was followed quickly by good numbers of Reed Warblers all singing well. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the first plantation then a couple of Whitethroats along the railway brought us to the New Fen Viewpoint.  Looking over the reed bed there was little action the local male Marsh Harrier had a little display and soared over his territory so we moved on after a short while.  Walking on we hadn't gone far when we heard "Cuc-Koo, Cuc- Koo" and the Cuckoo flew in and landed in a nearby tree before flying across the Fen.  The next sighting was our third raptor of the day with a pair of Sparrowhawk leaving the trees and soaring off over the reserve.  Jackie was the first to hear it and she pointed it out to the rest of us, a fishing reel like sound coming from the plantation on our left, our first Grasshopper Warbler of the year.  I heard the pinging call of a Bearded Tit in the reed bed but had no sighting but we did have more Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings.  It was then that I looked up and there in the middle distance the bird of the day flying in was a Common Crane it circled then turned and headed off north.
Common Crane over Lakenheath © Nick Hull
This brought us to the Joist Fen Viewpoint at the far end of the reserve.  From here there was several Marsh Harriers up displaying they seemed to be in every direction, though while we were watching one particular male displaying Jackie picked up a very distant Hobby.  Our return walk added only Garden Warbler to our year list. 

After a big lunch we headed of not too far away to a favourite location of ours for Stone Curlew and we were not disappointed.   Once we got our "eye in" we found at least 5 birds dotted around, though the heat haze made the more distant ones difficult to see properly.  We also recorded singing Woodlark and several Wheatear scattered around this superb piece of Breckland. 

On the journey back we popped into Fowlmere a small Fenland reserve but we found it very quiet, though we did get a little lucky as a Barn Owl was resting just inside of the nest box opening giving a quarter side view not a bad finish to our day.

21st April
We began the day at Paxton Pits in Huntingdonshire, this local reserve is an old gravel extraction site that runs lays along the side of the Ouse.   The reserve's 'piecè de résistance' is Nightingale, numbers usually reach double figures but on the day of our visit only four had returned but it was still early in the season.  We recorded the usual early migrants Chiffchaff, Blackcap plus Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Swallows.  There was a good number of nesting Cormorants in the trees around the lake, all making their groaning nesting sounds.  Flying over the lake and along the River Ouse there were a few Common Terns which had only just arrived on the reserve.  But we were here for the Nightingale and we weren't disappointed we saw one and heard it sing before being chased into cover by a Robin.

Next was a visit to Grantham Water where we stopped at the café for lunch where we could check out the many Common Terns and gulls out over the reservoir.  Otherwise it was quiet here and we headed off to Sandy the RSPB's HQ, here we saw nothing bird wise to add to our list but we did find eleven species of butterfly on the reserve. We also had a male Sparrowhawk take what we think was a Linnet at the woodland pond and we watch it pluck its prey before flying off out of sight to eat it.

Orange Tip © Nick Hull

Thursday 23 April 2015

Garston Wood RSPB Reserve

Saturday 18th April - Garston Wood

While waiting in the car park Joe spotted a pair of Marsh Tit, a delightful little bird that gave us excellent views now and at the end of our walk.  There was a lot of bird song with Goldcrest, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Wren, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Great and Blue Tit.  As we walked out into the farmland we had several pairs of Yellowhammers as we walked along.  Over the fields we had Raven, Buzzard, Grey Heron and Jay.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen and Mistle Thrush heard.  Walking the footpath through Mistleberry Woods we spied a hovering Kestrel and a speeding Sparrowhawk moved through the tree tops was missed by a few.  Nick herd a a Tree Pipit singing along the woods edge, though heard by all only a few managed to see it.  

Nick and Andy did an act of a good samaritan when they heard fluttering coming from a clump of Butchers Broom.  On investigation it was found that a male Blackcap was hanging by the toes which had caught between the cladode of the broom and the stem of the Butcher Broom and between the two of them they were able to release it to live another day.

Other birds seen as we walked backed into Garston Wood were Skylark and Swallows over the nearby field.  In the wood Bullfinch, a couple of Coal Tits and a pair of Long-tailed Tits.

We were also noting the Spring flowers, the Bluebells were not all out and the Wild Garlic were not in full bloom but the carpet of Wood Anemones made up for this.  A full list of flowers seen is set out below.  We also had Orange Tip butterflies on the wing.

Bluebell                  Wood Anemone               Dogs Mercury               Wood Spurge
Toothwort               Ground-leaf Ivy               Yellow Archangel         Greater Stitchwort
Butchers Broom     Lesser Celandine              White Deadnettle          Red Deadnettle
Wood Sorrel           Wild Strawberry               Solomon's Seal             Moschatel (Town Hall Clock)

We also noted a couple of Twayblade and Early Purple Orchid spikes though they would be in flower in the coming days.

Orange Tip butterfly © Nick Hull

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Greater Yellowlegs & more

Saturday 11th April  We popped out this morning with no idea that Jackie and I would end the day with a British tick.  We started at Ibsley Water, Blashford Lakes, finding the Little Gulls were still present and added Common Tern to the year list was a good start.  The Tern Hide was quite full with photographers but they were not quick enough to capture the Peregrine as it zipped by very close in front of the hide.  It then went after a Tufted Duck which dived just in time not to be on the breakfast menu.

Next we headed off to Ocknell Plain to try and find the Great Grey Shrike and failed. So we headed to Stewarts Market Garden to have lunch and get a few plants for the garden, quite mundane.  Well we were on the way back home and news broke of a Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven, couldn't resist and forty five minutes later we were in the hide watching it. Though a little distant to get the best photographs main thing, it was there and we were watching it. Great way to finish the day.
Greater Yellowlegs - Titchfield Haven, Hants © Nick Hull
Sunday 12th April  Our Sunday monthly group met at Durlston starting with a couple of Ravens.  There was a lot of bird song with the usual resident species like Chaffinch, Dunnock and Greenfinch and newly arrived Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere.  A splendid male Redstart was a new migrant and several Swallows flew in off the sea.  A Kestrel was seen hunting continually on our walk, and a pair were seen copulating on the cliff from the view point. A distant Peregrine and three Buzzards were pursued by the Jackdaws.  
Male Kestrel Durlston CP. © Nick Hull
Tuesday, 14th April  Today our Tuesday group were at Stanpit Marsh, again hoping to see migrants but the sea fog was not helpful!  As we walked through the gates on to the marsh itself a few birds flitted around the bushes.  One sat up on the bush briefly giving a burst of song, a Common Whitethroat!  There were two that kept going down to the grass and back up to the bush accompanied by a couple of Dunnocks.  A lovely start that was never really topped.  A couple of Mediterranean Gulls flew across calling and we could hear the harsh call of distant Sandwich Terns, later we watched 3 in the channel with two sat on buoy.  Sand Martin and a few Swallows flew through.  There were few waders including Curlew and Redshank, a few remaining Brent Geese on the marsh.  A delightful flock of Linnets and we surprised a Green Woodpecker as we past one bush!  We finished with a couple of male Blackcaps in the blossom of a Blackthorn tree.
Sandwich Tern - Stanpit Marsh © Nick Hull
Wednesday, 15th April   Another group today and this time we were at Hartland Moor and Middlebere.   Nick and I arrived early, a male Dartford Warbler sat up on the gorse was the first bird we saw.  We had a walk down to the cottages and the highlight were four Spoonbills flying over us really quite close.
Immature Spoonbill Middlebere © Nick Hull
After introductions I lead the group off up the tramway and we checked off many of the usual heathland species, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird.  We then had a number of Meadow Pipit several were doing their parachute displays.  Stonechats were also in good numbers scattered across the heath in their pairs.  We had Skylark singing but no one managed to find it in the clear blue sky. Several Dartford Warbler were seen one pair gave us some excellent views.  We also recorded good numbers of Green Tiger Beetles they seemed to be everywhere, we also had five species of butterfly Small White, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone.

On our return walk we had a trio of Buzzards which gave us at first an aggressive display by one male bird having ago at another that was trying to muscle in on his partner and we saw some talon grappling by the pair, reinforcing their partnership.  Joe picked up a high Sparrowhawk which quickly cruised out of sight.  We ended the walk looking into the Wytch channel where we added a few common waders and duck.

Monday 6 April 2015

Keyhaven & Pennington

It's been a while since we have visited Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes, though this morning we had to scrape the car of frost before we left home and when we arrived the temperature had created a sea fog.
foggy Keyhaven this morning © Nick Hull
So we decided to walk the the back path and search the hedges for migrants though at the start it was much more find the residents with the burst of song of a Cetti's Warbler from the thickest of bushes. Greenfinch display flighting and a good number of Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens singing.  We had our first migrant, a singing Chiffchaff, which seemed to be the only real migrant until we reached the old landfill where a single Curlew was found and I  picked up a couple of smart Wheatears.  We also watched two Lapwing displaying, swooping and diving and calling its classic "Peewit" sounds, always a pleasure to see and listen to.  Shortly after we joined a family who had found an Adder sunbathing at the side of the path our first of the season.
Sunbathing Adder © Nick Hull
Continuing on we stopped to view over Pennington Marsh now in brilliant sunshine and we could feel a little of the sun's warmth.  We scanned the marsh and found Canada and Greylag Geese, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and I found three waders together on a rushy island though silhouetted they were obviously Golden Plover.  Changing our position so the sun was in a better position for us you could see they were nearly in their summer plumage with smoky faces and black bellies and their spangled golden backs glinting in the sun - absolutely beautiful. Just after this Joe picked out two Ruff also roosting out on the marsh, a good find we later found four others scattered between all the remaining lagoons.
Ruff taken on the Jetty Lagoon © Nick Hull
During our walk we had several pairs of Mediterranean Gulls flying over giving their "Chow, Chow" calls.  Jetty Lagoon held more Teal and Shoveler and a superb looking Spotted Redshank almost in its sharp black summer plumage, we also had another Ruff here. The Butts lagoon produced a pair of Tufted Duck and whinnying Little Grebe to add to our ever growing list.  The wader roost on the seaward marsh held good numbers of Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover and a few Bar-tailed Godwits, a single Ringed Plover and a few Brent Geese. Out to sea on the Solent there was little apart from a group of seven Great Crested Grebe and a single female Red-breasted Merganser and  a single passing Sandwich Tern. Fishtail Lagoon produced our first Pintail, Black-tailed Godwits, Oystercatcher and more of what we had already seen. As we approached Keyhaven Lagoon two very confiding Reed Buntings performed well for us.  There was little else new but a couple of Roe Deer on the marsh behind the lagoon, our only raptors of the day with a Kestrel and distant Buzzard and a single Raven flew over. Our last new sighting of the day was a singing Dartford Warbler which performed pretty well for everyone.

Sunday 5 April 2015

Early April Birding in Dorset

On 1 April our Wednesday group walked on Studland looking over Little Sea and the harbour at Jerry's Point and Brands Bay.  Starting by the high Little Sea hide we had the first of several displaying Meadow Pipits on our walk and a pair of Stonechats.  On the Little Sea we had a pair of Great Crested Grebe, pair of Teal and a few Canada Geese.  On the waters edge a Little Egret and Grey Heron.  A flight of eight Curlew flew over to the harbour and Cormorants flew towards the bay.

Common Shelduck flying past © Nick Hull
Walking on we had quite a lot of bird song with Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Dunnock.  Then the call of Dartford Warbler stopped us and we watched a pair of Dartford Warblers, also Stonechats.  While watching them we had a Coal Tit singing, Greenfinch and Long-tailed Tits.  A little further on before crossing the road we had second pair of Dartfords.

Walking over to Jerry's Point a male Kestrel that we had seen a few times earlier was perched in a small spindly silver birch tree.  It had obviously made a catch and was eating his prize of a lizard.  From Jerry's Point we had a few Red-breasted Mergansers, Brent Geese and Great Crested Grebes, and a Sandwich Tern flew past.  Walking on we had Jay, two more pairs of Stonechat and Dartford Warbler, it's so nice to see them doing so well and livening up the heath.  From Brands Bay hide we mostly had Shelduck,  a few Curlew and Teal due to the high tide.

Friday 3 April we went to Longham Lakes in the late afternoon to look for the drake Garganey seen by a friend, Liz, a little earlier.   When we arrived Liz said the duck had flown and had now been able to find it again.  So we walked around, with large numbers of Mediterranean Gulls milling around with their delightful calls, a little softer than the harsh call of the Black-headed Gull.  There were many Tufted Ducks, a few Gadwall, Shoveler and the female Scaup was still there.  We watched a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying doing their "weed dance".  A pair of Mallard with a brood of very young ducklings dabbled in the lakeside vegetation.  Just as we were giving up the Garganey swam out from some rush and he was very splendid, he swam with a pair of Mallard which showed just how small they are.  

Saturday 4 April We started the day with a calling flyover Spotted Redshank adding a new species to our garden list. A little later whilst driving up to see family in Wiltshire we had a Red Kite at Cashmoor, Dorset.  It flew up from a field and we were luckily able to stop and watch it.  It flew close to the car and then over and behind us, our granddaughter, Evie, was absolutely enthralled and Nick managed to get a few photos.  Driving through Wiltshire we saw several Corn Buntings and Kestrels, the latter we noticed is now seems to be more noticeably absent from East Dorset which is rather concerning.
Red Kite Cashmoor © Nick Hull
Sunday 5 April a quick look over the new viewpoints over Sherford and French's Field pools for the reported two Little Ringed Plovers, but sadly they were either hidden or had flown on.  We had a single Black-tailed Godwit, a few Snipe and Redshanks.  Teal were still there and a few Shelduck, Little Egret and a Grey Heron.  Greenfinch in the beautiful gorse and Reed Bunting calling as it flew over.
                                                       Sherford View Point © Jackie Hull

The Bonaparte's Gull is still showing well at Radipole RSPB reserve, we popped in there last weekend and Nick managed a few photographs.
Two shots of the Bonaparte's Gull © Nick Hull
 Bonaparte's Gull © Nick Hull