About Two Owls

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Portland Bill & Lodmoor

On Sunday Jackie and I led a group from Kent around Portland and Lodmoor, though a little late for migration here we had a pretty good time searching out the regular birds.  We started with a seawatch off the Bill though we had to wait a short while until the lighthouse fog horn had completed its test so we weren't deafened by 'Old Bill'.  It was very quiet over the sea with little movement but the Gannets were coming in close as they passed, and the local auks both Guillemot and Razorbill were very active coming and going from their nesting ledges to there fishing areas out to sea.  We had a pair of the local Fulmars cruise by along the edge of the West Cliff passing really close giving excellent views.  We also had good views of Rock Pipit and Linnets while several Swallows were seen coming in off the sea.  The best here I think was without doubt the Little Owl in the Obs quarry who was sat out taking the sun allowing everyone good views and to take as many photographs as they pleased.  Kestrel and Buzzard and Raven were also seen as well as the usual suspects.
The Obelisk & Portland Bill Lighthouse ©  Nick Hull 
We had a very nice lunch overlooking the Chesil Bank at Portland Heights before moving the short distance down to Ferrybridge. Where we had a short walk across to the fenced area that protects the Little Tern colony, en-route we saw summer plumaged Dunlin and Sanderling along the shoreline and Ringed Plover several running around inside the fenced area. But the target species here was the Little Terns and they performed well giving good scope views to all.

Ringed Plover - Chesil Bank © Nick Hull
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around Lodmoor, here we saw the usual breeding species Reed, Cetti's Warblers, Moorhen, Coots, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard and more.  Of particular interest here was the Common Tern nesting islands which were packed with lots of activity with birds coming and going.  Mixed in with the terns were the odd Black-headed Gull and Oystercatcher both seemed to be nesting as well.  A Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the reserve looking for a meal no doubt to feed her young which must be large enough now for her to leave the nest to hunt locally.  A brief view of a very fast Bearded Tit, though better views were had of the Swifts that fed overhead and only just overhead at that.  
One of Lodmoor's Tern Islands
Both Jackie I would like to thank Richard and Simon and all the Kent group for making it a very pleasurable days birding and we hope to see you all again sometime in the future.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Turtle Doves & Red-footed Falcon

A good day was had yesterday 20th May as we led a group around Martin Down a superb chalk downland great for butterflies and orchids and of course the special downland birds.

From the word go we had Skylark and Yellowhammer then a few of butterflies Holly Blue, Brimstone and Grizzled Skipper followed shortly after by Dingy Skipper.  Blackcap and Whitethroat were also picked up pretty quickly and of course Woodpigeon, Rooks and accompanying Jackdaw were all around coming and going from their nest sites  

We arrived at the long thick mixed scrub patch that usually gives us Lesser Whitethroat and Turtle Dove but all was quite except for a Common Whitethroat and a Blackcap and another Yellowhammer though that was further away.  Then a speeding Turtle Dove flew past in front rom right to left and disappeared into the trees and was gone from view.  We change our position to view the tree better and it flew out returning to where it had just come from and began its gentle 'purr purr' song, just perfect.  Over sometime we were tantalised by brief flight views of several Turtle Dove comings and goings but none would sit out in the open for us to get a good view.  But eventually one did perch up in a view position for everyone to get excellent views of this beautiful small dove.
poor shot of a Turtle Dove as it flew by
Continuing on we recorded at least two singing Lesser Whitethroat but neither came into view the wind was just to high for these song birds to raise their heads.  We also recorded our first Common Blue butterfly of the year sheltering in the lee of this belt of thorn scrub. The rest of the walk was pretty uneventful though we did add Raven, Meadow Pipit and several Buzzards and Kestrel to our day list. We ended our walk much the same as we started with Yellowhammer, Linnet and Skylark, but all agreed that it was just a perfect walk as the Turtle Dove performed so well in the end.
Male Yellowhammer - Martin Down © Nick Hull
In Search of Red-footed Falcon
Whilst we were leading our walk at Martin Down news broke of a female Red-footed Falcon had been found perched in a tree of a garden near to Wareham school and was hawking over the Wareham water meadows.  After lunch I had to attend my gym club so we had to wait until after 16.30hrs before we were able to go for it.  It was a little nail-biting wait but we arrived and parked on the bridge and joined other birders looking for this scarce visitor.  Which incidentally hadn't been seen for quite a long time, though a couple of birders had seen three falcons hawking some distance away up river.  After quite a wait we had a tantalising view as a falcon powered past along the woodland edge and disappeared out of sight over Stoborough.  Then another birder found it flying very high above the tree line heading back towards the west then it headed briefly towards us and then away again out of sight towards East Holme direction.
Very distant female Red-footed Falcon - Wareham By-pass
This is a shot I took as the bird glided towards us before moving off to the west you can see the obvious pale head that even at this distance set her aside from a Hobby.  We then waited for quite a time with no further sightings.  Well, not satisfied with the views we had, Jackie and I and a couple of other local birders decided to go and see if we could relocate her further up river.  I think that our local knowledge then paid off.  From the top of Worgret hill gives a good view of the Lower Frome water meadows looking over towards East Holme and we quickly picked up three falcons feeding on the wing over the trees the opposite side of the valley and one of these was definitely the Red-footed Falcon.  The question was how to get a closer view, well we took a chance and drove around to East Holme and just stopped at places where we could see through the hedges and trees towards where we thought the bird was feeding.  Eventually we scored the jackpot, though not ideal the bird only came into view on occasions but gave us respectable views and thanks to my new long lens I managed a few passible shots though heavily cropped of this beautiful 1st/summer female Red-footed Falcon as is crossed the tree tops into view.
Red-footed Falcon - Lower Frome Water Meadows © Nick Hull
Red-footed Falcon - Lower Frome Water Meadows © Nick Hull
Red-footed Falcon - Lower Frome Water Meadows © Nick Hull

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Birding Devon

Yesterday (18th) Jackie and I joined Justin (Lyme Regis, Town Mill Cheese Monger) to Yarner Wood, to see Pied Flycatchers and to Labrador Bay for Cirl Bunting.  As you are all aware the morning started with heavy rain but the forecast said it was going to clear in the west by mid-day.  So we decided to go for it, so up early and joined Justin and Katy for a leisurely breakfast and headed on to Bovey Tracy.  As we travelled you could see it was getting lighter in the west and as we arrived at Yarner Wood we had one last heavy shower and the sun came out, perfect.
Drake Mandarin - Yarner Wood © Nick Hull
Marsh Tit - Yarner Wood © Nick Hull 
We spent the first half hour sheltering from that last shower in the hide by the car park and we were surprised that the first birds we saw were Mandarin Ducks.  Apparently they turned up last year and decided to stay, its strange these attractive looking ducks never quite look right in an english setting but nonetheless a smart looking duck.  Whilst we waited and watched several tit species which included Marsh Tit were popping in and out to the feeders obviously feeding young nearby. A beautiful Grey Wagtail was also searching for food around the pond. A Grey Squirrel was testing its balancing skills as it searched out for the young acorn buds on the overhanging oak. 
Grey Squirrel after the acorn buds © Nick Hull
The rain soon stopped and the sun came out and as the humidity climbed so did we, we walked the slopping trail to the top of the wood.  As soon as the rain stopped several species were starting to sing and we checked off the commoner ones fairly quickly.  Then we could here a vibrant trilling which ended with the chararctoristic 'peu peu peu' sound of a Wood Warbler in fact we came across four on our walk.  It wasn't long before we heard the song of our main target species here, then it was just down to getting a good view of a Pied Flycatcher.  It took a while but Justin picked out our first which appeared to be, a young male.  A little later we found a full blooded male then a female and we could hear as we walked along several singing males.  It took some time before I was able to catch a nice male perched up wanting to be photographed but eventually I was successful.
Male Pied Flycatcher - Yarner Wood © Nick Hull
Our next destination was Labrador Bay this coastal habitat is an RSPB reserve managed for Cirl Bunting.  As it was a rather windy day our hopes weren't high as Cirl's don't like the wind much and  tend to sit down low in the hedgerows and not out on top, can't blame them for that really.  As we ate our picnic lunch we managed our first sighting of two birds flying over the car park and we watched Gannets passing by out to sea.  Lunch over we decided to walk east and search the hedgerows of the small coastal fields.  We had walked some way when I heard a singing bird off to my left we were just about to change directions to search out this singing bird when a gorgeous male flew in. He landed some two metres away on the corner of the hedge right in front of us.  It obviously realised his mistake and pomptly flew off up the hedge line.   We continued on as we could here at least two other males singing and hoped to get better views.  A hundred or so metres on I saw movement in the hedge ahead and with the binoculars could just see a male, possibly the one we had already seen moving about feeding on some buds from a Hawthorn. I quickly directed the others on to the bird and raised my camera and took the shot, a good job I did as seconds later it had moved out of sight deep inside the hedge.
Male Cirl Bunting - Labrador Bay © Nick Hull
An excellent way to finish our days birding in Devon, a trip that is well worth doing, both are excellent reserves.

Sunday 17 May 2015

In Search of Butterflies

Over the last few days Jackie and I have made good use of the few hours that we had spare to go in search of butterflies.  Our first target species was Pearl-bordered Fritillary, a pretty scarce butterfly and we heard they were on the wing in the New Forest.  We parked at the Standing Hat parking area and just took a walk around the forestry with mixed beech woodland and down various rides.  It didn't take too long to see our first one then two.  But it was another matter getting a photograph however with patience I managed a few exceptable shots.
Upperside of Pearl-bordered Fritillary - New Forest © Nick Hull
Underside of a Pearl-bordered Fritillary - New Forest © Nick Hull
Yesterday we decided it was going to be the best day to go butterflying and headed to Martin Down but as it was windy and cool so we decided to pop into Salisbury to make a few purchases ready for our forthcoming holiday.  Which worked out very well because it had warmed up by the time we had returned to Martin Down car park.  Immediately Jackie  spotted a Dingy Skipper right by the car.
Dingy Skipper Martin Down © Nick Hull
As the wind was still fairly blowy we decided to search out the sheltered spots along the Bockerley Dyke and this paid dividends with excellent views of Marsh Fritillary, a rare butterfly here and we found four along with Grizzled Skipper.  A few Brown Argus appeared and one sat next to Silver Y moth. Then Jackie flushed a Small Heath from the long grass.  We were on a roll only Green Hairstreak to go.  We went to the area behind the old rifle range and it didn't take long before a Green Hairstreak flew by us and landed in one of the bushes close by.
Grizzled Skipper Martin Down © Nick Hull
Marsh Fritillary Martin Down © Nick Hull

Monday 11 May 2015


A walk around Whitesheet near Holt was where we chose to take our Sunday monthly group this week.  A Heathland habitat with some fir plantation and deciduous woodland so a good mix of bird species were in the offering. We started with a Willow Warbler in the parking area which was soon followed by Goldcrest, Chaffinch and Song Thrush.  Looking over the old landfill area we had a little luck a bird flew up on to the top of a gorse bush, scoping it I had a surprise instead of being a Linnet or Stonechat which I had expected, it turned out to be a Spotted Flycatcher.  Soon after we added good views of a Jay and a Yellowhammer which dutifully sang for us.
Singing Yellowhammer - Whitesheet © Nick Hull
We moved on and walked back through the pine plantation and headed out towards the heath and almost immediately we were treated to the sound of a Woodlark singing and we viewed it as it hovered above us before moving off.  A pair of Bullfinch on the path quickly disappeared into the gorse not to be seen again.  Another Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff were singing along with another Yellowhammer, Robin and Wren were also in song along this path.  A short way further on a Tree Pipit was heard and later found singing from a dead tree and another was found about a hundred yards further on.  Here we fell into a number of Linnet and Greenfinch all going about their seasonal duties some carrying nesting material others singing.  A pair of Stonechat were busy looking after a pair of recently fledge young which looked just fine in their cream flecked first plumage.  Here we had our only views of Common Whitethroat though we heard others on our walk. 
Male Stonechat - Whitesheet © Nick Hull
A Cuckoo was heard possibly a second as Bob had seen and heard another when he had arrived at the parking area before we joined him. On our return route we had three more Tree Pipits another Woodlark singing, Bullfinch calling and many of the usual commoner species and we ended with a Green Woodpecker searching for ant hill in a small paddock near to the farm.
female Green Woodpecker - Whitesheet © Nick Hull

Sunday 3 May 2015

Dawn Chorus in the New Forest

As it was National Dawn Chorus Morning we arranged ours in the New Forest at Acres Down, ending at a local camp site for breakfast, which as it turned out was very welcomed indeed.  When you make these arrangements six months in advance you are always at the mercy of the weather as any outdoor event is.  Generally Two Owls have always been fairly lucky not often have we had bad weather, but this morning we started with a light drizzle and by the time we went for breakfast it can only be considered heavy rain.  I think it was a day of testing the waterproofs and I think everyone may have found one item that failed in some way.

Even so it didn't mean that we didn't hear any birds, though not many ventured out to be seen singing from deep cover but then the idea of a Dawn Chorus is to listen.  When we started at 05:00 o'clock it was silent just water dripping from the trees but suddenly a Blackbird started to sing then Robin and we could only hear these two species from all around and it was hard to decipher other species.  With concentration several Wrens were joining in as we move along and listened from another location, Goldcrest and then a Firecrest singing, then a Cuckoo then a second and possibly a third though they were all some distance away.  As we moved from the Beech to a mix of fir and deciduous we heard Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Redstart and Chiffchaff, also the Blue and Great Tits had woken.  Our third stop produced the first of at least four Wood Warblers, which probably was everyones favourite of the morning.
Chiffchaff not from this morning © Nick Hull
On our return route we added Coal Tit, Bullfinch and Willow Warbler then things went quiet for a while as we passed as we passed through the evergreens just the Chaffinch and odd Goldcrest and another Firecrest.  It the last stand of fir there came a chattering of a family party of feeding birds up high in the canopy I knew they were Crossbill but couldn't find them.  Suddenly they flew and six birds flew out and moved to another stand of pines giving the quickest in the group a brief view as they went overhead.  We changed track and started to head toward our breakfast stop and found a very showy Tree Pipit singing nicely in the rain.  A 'yaffle' told us that a Green Woodpecker was somewhere in the wet wood and a few of us had a brief view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker moving through the trees.

Then our circular walk was completed and we headed to the camp cafe for breakfast and a chance to dry out and warm up.  Which I must add was very nice and enjoyable just what was needed after our wet dawn chorus.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Twitching The Hud-Wit + CR Black-tailed Godwit

Twitching the HudWit
On the 25th April a Hudsonian Godwit was found at Meare Heath on the Somerset levels this was the fourth record for the UK, but unfortunately Jackie and I were unable to go and see it.  Next day it wasn't seen so as with many others we resigned ourselves that we had missed out.  Then low and behold on the morning of the 29th April it was re-found more or less in the same spot on Meare Heath but we had to go to a funeral.  Next day with hospital and appointments in the morning Jackie and I had to wait before heading off after lunch. After an hour and a half I was parking up in the Ham Wall car park.  It was still there which is alway a nice thing to hear when you are arriving at a twitch at any location.  After a few hundred metres walk we joined, maybe twenty or so, other birders looking over one of the pools where a group of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding and it didn't take long to pick out their North American cousin.
Hudsonian Godwit - Meare Heath, Somerset levels © Nick Hull
It had already been identified as an adult female by its size compared to the associating Black-tailed Godwits which were the smaller Icelandic race.  It also appeared a much darker well marked bird in comparison. It performed well though a little distant for good photography, so I had to digi-scoped it with the iPhone which managed a fair memory shot of this off coarse long distant vagrant.

CR Ringed Black-tailed Godwit
On the 28th April whilst leading a group around our patch of Lytchett Bay we came across a colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit and I promised to post here on our Blog the bird's history when I received it from the project database coordinator. So here goes:-
Adult Female [Lime (pale Green) over Niger (black) Orange over White with X]
LN-OX           10.07.08          Hrisholl, Berufjordur, Reykholar, NW Iceland
LN-OX           06.01.09          Holes Bay, Poole Harbour, Dorset, S England
LN-OX           07.02.09          Exminster Marshes, Exe Estuary, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           13.03.09          Bowling green Marsh RSPB reserve, Topsham, Exeter, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           29.09.09          Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Dorset, S England
LN-OX           31.12.10          Exminster Marshes, Exe Estuary, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           13.02.11          Exminster Marshes, Exe Estuary, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           13.02.12          Bowling Green Marsh RSPB reserve, Topsham, Exeter, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           27.09.12          Holes Bay, Poole Harbour, Dorset, S England
LN-OX           12.10.12          Wareham,  Poole Harbour,  Dorset,  S England
LN-OX           03.01.13          Bowling green Marsh RSPB reserve, Topsham, Exeter, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           25.04.13          Lytchett Bay, Poole Harbour, Dorset, S England
LN-OX           09.07.13          Reykhólar, NW Iceland
LN-OX           27.11.13          Exminster Marshes, Exe Estuary, Devon, SW England
LN-OX           12.12.13          Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           15.08.14          Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           5.09.14            Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           2.10.14            Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           14.01.15          Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           16.02.15          Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           17.02.15          Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           27.02.15          Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           4.03.15            Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           5.03.15            Holes bay, Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, S England S England
LN-OX           17.04.15          Lytchett Bay, Poole Harbour, Dorset, S England
LN-OX           29.04.15          Lytchett Bay, Poole Harbour, Dorset, S England
As you can see it appears to like Poole Harbour.