About Two Owls

Sunday 18 October 2015

Marsh Harrier & Bittern at Lodmoor

We had a fairly good morning meeting the group along Southdown Avenue at the back of Lodmoor. Whilst we waited for everyone to arrive, we listened to Bearded Tits moving out in the reedbed and a very cream headed and shouldered Marsh Harrier quartered the reserve then dropped in out of sight. A pretty good start so we headed off counter clockwise and scanned for what else was around and we quickly picked up Little Grebe, Gadwall and Pochard plus of course Coot and Moorhen.  As we rounded the corner to walk towards the recycling centre Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were heard and Chaffinch went over.  As we made the second turn to walk between the old tip and the reserve I was at the back with a few of the group listening to Gadwall gentle quack and the squeal of Water Rails in the reed.  I happened to look up behind us and there flying across behind us was a Bittern, I quickly called to everyone and most got onto the bird before it dropped into the reed in the central marsh.  

From there on it was checking off the routine birds that one would expect at Lodmoor, Lapwing, Teal, Mallard, Snipe and Black-headed Gulls a single Dunlin and Shoveler.  Until Sarah found the Marsh Harrier perched on a post out in the middle giving everyone a good scope view once we had all found it.
Snipe & Black-headed Gull and a very distant Marsh Harrier - Lodmoor
We turned again now walking along parallel to the Preston beach road and walked into a small feeding flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits which were accompanied by several Chiffchaff and a couple of Blackcap.  From the viewing shelter Grey Heron and two gleaming white Spoonbills.
Sparrowhawk and Spoonbill Lodmoor
It was nice to see the Spoonbills showing some signs of life instead of having there bills tucked under their wings. Jackie led the group on along the path and I took a couple of last shots of the Spoonbill and then chased after to catchup, as I turned the corner to see the last member of the group disappear  a Sparrowhawk dropped onto a bush but quickly realised I was only a few feet away. It flew up the path towards the main group then flicked up over the hedge.  I found what was most certainly the same bird a few minutes later, sat on a fence post along the halfway track and then all the group got to see it.  Our walk back to the cars produced Siskins, Greenfinch and Goldfinch flying over, Cetti's Warbler and a sudden influx of Swallow feeding in a big ball as the moved across the reserve.  Not a bad morning.

After the meeting Jackie and I has lunch looking over the Fleet in the hope we might see one of the many Short-eared Owls that had been around but had no luck.  So headed out to the Portland as they had reported that there were five been seen at the Bill.  We popped into Portland Obs to get any recent gen and was told that the Red-backed Shrike that was in Suckthumb Quarry had re-emerged.  So as our time was running out we quickly stopped at the quarry to see if we could find it. We met up with a few other birders we knew and one of them showed us where he had seen it a little while ago.  After a very short wait a bird flew in and landed on a buddlia and Jackie called it but they couldn't see it from their position.  However, it was straight in front of me so I beckoned them to me and over the next ten minutes or so it performed very well and gave us tremendous views.  A great end to our day.
juv. red-backed Shrike - Suckthumb Quarry Portland © Nick Hull

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Birding Middlebere, Poole Harbour

Our Tuesday group this morning met at the top of Middlebere track, a pleasant sunny autumn morning.  Meadow Pipits called and flitted around us as we walked up to look over the Wytch Channel.  In the gorse a Stonechat posed briefly, then our first Dartford Warbler popped up, followed by a second giving us some lovely views, a third was seen a little further on.  A few Swallows were seen flying in small numbers, then a Skylark gave a flight call and it was Anne that spotted it first as it flew on its way over the harbour.  Another call, this time of Pied Wagtail and then I heard another call, this time from a group of six Crossbills flying very purposefully north.

As we came back down to the path we started to hear Goldcrests, they seemed to be in every bush and we had some lovely views.  In Sika Copse, four Mistle Thrush and Clive pointed out a Treecreeper, it took a while to relocate as it was rather elusive but most of us saw it in the end.  Further down by the cottages we had three Blackcaps.

We then settled ourselves down in the hide looking over a lowering tide with many waders still sat up along the banks.  Though we could see they were mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Avocet it wasn't until a Marsh Harrier came by that we were able to see just how many there were, with about 300 Black-tailed Godwit and 200 Avocets!  With them were 40 Lapwing, 10 Dunlin, Redshanks and a few Curlews.  As the Marsh Harrier disappeared Helen said "I have another bird of prey" this one was causing havoc the other end of the channel, this time it was a Peregrine.  We certainly got a close up view of this bird as it flew very fast past the hide at eye level!  It took a while for everything to settle down again, once they had all the waders congregated in the middle of the channel sticking very close together, but gradually they started feeding again.  Just before we left the hide, ten Pintail floated by, including two very smart looking drakes which ended our morning very nicely.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Bird Walk at Arne rspb

Our birding at Arne this morning started in the car park trying to get views of two calling Firecrest without any luck at all.  Though we did get a good selection of the more commoner species coming into the feeding station. Leaving the car park we took the woodland trail where we had views of Goldcrest, Green Woodpecker and a very noisy Raven which spent most of the morning roaming around the area 'cronking'.   It was also here we watched the local herd of Sika and the stag was being very attentive to his harem and gave us a couple of good wailing calls and saw off a young buck which was trying to muscle-in at the edge of the female group.
Sika Stag on watch duty
As we approached the beach we scanned the marsh and found the usual Curlews and Teal and Liz found the first Harbour Seal and I the second out in the Wytch Channel off Round Island.  We also had a small group of the returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese along with a Little Egret on the near marsh.
Dark-bellied Brent
Little Egret
Out on the Arne Spit off Shipstal we found eight Spoonbill with many Cormorants, and Great Crested Grebes in the bay.  There were many Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher hiding in the cord grass at roost waiting for the tide to drop.

Walking back through the wood a rather florescent green hairy caterpillar was found crossing the path which turned out to be the caterpillar of the Pale Tussock moth, thanks to Luke at the RSPB's info hut for id.
Pale Tussock Caterpillar - Arne © Nick Hull
All the time we were out walking the paths of the reserve we could constantly hear Meadow Pipits going overhead and at times could see small flocks passing west.  At one point two Sparrowhawk were found soaring and above them was a small flock of Meadow pipits moving through.

Walking down from the wood towards the barn several species were seen Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, and a couple of Pied Wagtails flew over the cattle field.  We also had one or two of the latter on the barn roof at the farm one was quite happy calling away from the ridge.
Pied Wagtail - Arne © Nick Hull
Some ended the morning having another look for the Firecrests which were still being very difficult to locate but Nuthatch and Coal Tit obliged. 

Saturday 10 October 2015


Over many years now Jackie and I, as many of our friends will know, love birding in Normandie and try and go as often as time will allow.  Over the last week we visited with family so the birding wasn't as intensive as we have done in the past but we managed to visit a number of our favourite sites.  The weather wasn't as kind to us as usual and the wind was in the wrong direction and in fact it was better for the UK, but you can't get it right all the time.  However, in saying this we still had a few nice birds, our first was a little bit of a surprise in that we hadn't recorded them at this particular site before and that was a small flock of Cirl Bunting, though they are not an uncommon species for us in Normandy.  Along with Chaffinch they were feeding at a cattle feeding station and I just happened to pull the car up in the right place for once and we had excellent views.  As you can see in the shot of the male below, which I took with my bridge camera, that came and sat on the field gate by the car.
Male Cirl Bunting - Normandie © Nick Hull
So that was our first highlight of the trip our second came a day or two later when we were scanning a small flock of Sanderling and Turnstone on Utah beach, my sister-in-law asked "what is the pale wader with the Ringed Plover  to the right of the main group of feeding birds".  Locating the bird I realised straight away it was a juvenile Kentish Plover roosting on the shingle.  Though Kentish Plover breed along this coast we didn't expect to see one as usually most have migrated by this time, but they are always a joy to see.
Juv. Kentish Plover - Utah Beach - Normandie
On one of our days we visited the Mont St Michel coast but the weather was a little damp with heavy showers at times and we found little in the way of birds migrating.  Though amongst a few beach hut overlooking the bay we had about twenty Wheatear feeding amongst the rocks that edged the beach so I took the opportunity to get a few shot of these south bound birds.

Looking at Mont St. Michel in a rain shower from Genet 
Juv. Northern Wheatear - nr. Genet, Normandie
It wasn't until our last day and doing a little birding on our way back to Cherbourg, to catch the ferry home, that we had what was for us the best birds of the trip, in fact it was only the second time we have seen them in Normandie. We have seen their French cousin a number of times before and now a sighting of not just one but a covey of 25 Grey Partridge was excellent. A species that is scarce in Dorset and equally scarce here in Normandie was a great way to finish a week of good food, wine with the added bonus of a few good birds.
Covey of Grey Partridge on the polder near Grand Vey  Normandie. 

Nocturnal goings on

A couple of Birding friends over the last couple of years have been carrying out night time recording to see what is passing overhead whilst they have their heads on the pillow.  Between them they have had some very good, even surprising, results. For instance one heard Spotted Crake in the Wareham Meadows, more recently recorded an Ortolan Bunting flying over his house.  So in a quest to enlarge my own garden list I have set up my little digital recorder to my Parabolic reflector (dish) and gave it a go.

So on the night of the 25th September I set up my little system recording from 22:00hrs and recorded through the night until around 07:00hrs next morning.  So over the next couple of days I managed to review the recording and noted the various species sounds that were recorded in the period.

It was not a surprise living by Lytchett Bay that gulls, waders and duck were the common sounds heard during the night. I also recorded the erie calls of Fox and the even more almost horror film wails of rutting Sika Deer out on the marsh around the bay somewhere.

So the bird calls recorded over the nine hours were Wigeon, Mallard, Red and Greenshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Robin, Wren.  The sounds that were more interesting were Tawny Owl, Moorhen and Water Rail.  The only two species that were most probably migrants was a couple of flight calls of Song Thrush going over head, its always hard to tell at this time in autumn if they were local birds moving about in the dark or true migrants.  The other which was definitely a migrant was a Coot which for Lytchett bay is some what a rarity.  It turned out to be the hundred and fiftieth species to be recorded in the bay area this year. A pretty good start I think so can't wait until the next opportunity.