About Two Owls

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