About Two Owls

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Normandy Marsh

Normandy Marsh was our location for our December Sunday monthly walk it always gives us a good selection of birds to find and see.  We started our walk from Maiden Lane with a Redwing and Song Thrush and headed out to look over Oxey Lake.

 where we found six Little Grebe diving and very actively feeding, Coot, Tufted Duck, Redshank and Little Egret.  Whilst we were moving on we had our first sighting of a Kingfisher streaking by. Looking over the Solent we added a pair of Eider and a number of Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe and a couple of female Goldeneye.  A pretty good start, looking over Normandy Marsh itself we scanned through the many Wigeon and Teal and found Shoveler, Pintail, good numbers of Lapwing either roosting or feeding around the edges of the lagoon.  Here we also found Dunlin more Redshank a single Greenshank, Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwits.  Then a Kingfisher was found sitting atop a post out in the lagoon which we watched fishing before it flew off out of sight.  Jackie then drew our attention to a small group of waders feeding together they were belly deep and had a sweeping feeding action and once we moved along the path a little it became apparent that our first thought were correct we had seven Spotted Redshank and very close giving excellent views.  

Further on we were scanning the outer marsh but the fog hampered our view some what but we found good numbers of waders and as the tide was moving they became restless and we watch a large flight of Dunlin swirling around trying to find a resting place.  Angus and Tony both picked out groups of Grey Plover and we had the od Turnstone or two flyby.  There was also the usual Dark-bellied Brent now back in good numbers they were scattered in various size groups over the marsh and some were flying in to the fresh water of the lagoon to bath. 
Greenshank © Nick Hull
As we started the return walk we had a small flock of Linnet and found the odd Meadow Pipit I found another two Greenshank.  As we took the path towards the yacht yard Angus asked what the possibility was of seeing a Dartford Warbler and Jackie said well on a sunny day we might have been lucky but because of the damp foggy cold weather she doubted if we would see one and no sooner than she stopped speaking Scott sighted one on the gorse by the path so carefully approaching a little closer we stopped and waited and watch and a female popped out on top of the gorse giving brief but good view as she moved through the bushes in search of insects.
Common Buzzard © Nick Hull
Walking the lane back to the cars is where we usually pick up our woodland species and indeed we did with the usual tit species Goldcrests, and various finch species were all seen. In one of the fields there was a good number of Curlew amongst which I found a single Whimbrel.  Also along here we had our only raptor in the guise of a Buzzard a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  We completed our walk with a list of Sixty Four species not bad for a single site in two and a half hours.

Monday 12 December 2016

Bird Fest at Keyhaven

We haven't had a group out birding Keyhaven and Pennington for quite a while, so it was about time we returned to this excellent birding area.  We assembled at 10 o'clock and whilst we were doing our introduction and locking cars Liz and I saw two birds drop out of the air into the reedbed behind my car.  Scanning the reedbed we eventually located two Bearded Tits, the male only showed briefly but the female gave amazing views, an absolutely brilliant start to a walk.
female Bearded Tit - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
We walked the sea wall and quickly ticked off Redshank and Turnstone as they flew in to feed on the edge of the expanding tide line.  There was a constant movement of wildfowl flying out of their high tide roosts and on to the salt marsh to feed as the tide dropped, with many Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Pintail being seen. On the marsh we found our first Rock Pipits and one or two Snipe and a small flight of Reed Bunting flew in and perched up for us to get to grips with telling males from females in their winter dress.
Male Reed Bunting- Keyhaven © Nick Hull
Looking over the Keyhaven lagoon we had Shelducks, Dark-bellied Brent, Teal, Mallard and Liz found a close Snipe in amongst the marsh grass.  Looking out over the outer marsh towards the Solent we could see a large flock of waders moving along the shoreline but they landed out of sight but there were others still roosting in the spartina and Grey Plover, Knot and Dunlin could easily be seen. In the water channels we found Red-breasted Mergansers and a single Greenshank.  A Curlew flew in and landed right in front of us giving us  great views and then we watched as it swam across a small creek.
Swimming Curlew - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
On the Fishtail lagoon we had more of the same wildfowl and I was asked to look at a duck at the back on the lagoon which turned out to be a female Wigeon in amongst a group of Teal.  While I was looking at this bird an obvious pipit flew through the scope, I quickly found it feeding along the back edge of the lagoon it was a Water Pipit which gave good scope views for everyone in the end.  
Drake Wigeon drying off after bathing © Nick Hull
Walking towards the Pennington jetty and looking out over the Solent we added more Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes.  Looking toward Lymington we had a number of waders on the shingle islands which were now exposed due to the dropping tide with Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin plus Ringed Plover and Mediterranean Gull.  Moving on and looking over Pennington Marsh there were good numbers of mixed waterfowl spread over the marsh.  Jackie found a small flock of Golden Plover which were looking their best in the morning sun and she also pointed out a Ruff.  Returning via the ancient highway Sarah stopped and drew our attention to a Dartford Warbler in the hedge next to the path, in fact there were two but one was very visible hunting for insects in the gorse and showed exceptionally well.
Dartford warbler © Nick Hull
Beyond on the large pond by the landfill there was a large flock of Canada and Brent Geese and an assortment of gulls.  Continuing on we looked over the balancing pond where we added Gadwall though Joe had seen a pair distantly on Pennington marsh.  As we arrived back at the cars I picked up a Marsh Harrier quartering over the reedbeds.   Sitting on the seawall with our lunch watching the reedbed we realised that there was another harrier and then three were stirring up excitement in the waterfowl.  With Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing and Teal all taking flight and they only settled when the harriers landed on the distant hedge but were soon off again when they took flight again.  It was a tremendous end to a super walk around an excellent birding area.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Autumn Night Migration

It's been a while since I've posted any of my night time sounds which I've recorded moving over the Lytchett Bay's listening station.  One of the biggest problems is that the parabola is fixed facing the sky so to get a good recording the birds have to fly directly over it calling, unfortunately the birds do not know how to cooperate in this matter.  Though I can identify many of the birds sound I hear with a headset on if I increase the volume of the calls it also increases the background noise as well. This is one of the problems with doing this kind of science at the edge of an urban area.  Which means many of the calls cannot be used to publish and I have to wait for a cooperative bird to fly close enough to give a good recording.  If you cannot hear the sounds below listening with a headset  should improve your listening experience if I can call it that.

1.  This is a typical flight call from a Moorhen I presume it was a migrant though it could easily be a local bird transient between feeding areas in the bay.
Moorhen - Spectrogram 

2. Green Sandpipers are a regular visitor to the Lytchett Bay/Fields and at times in the autumn we can get well into double figures on the Sherford pools.  So it wasn't a total surprise that at sometime I would eventually record one flying past.
Green Sandpiper - Spectrogram

3. In the last twenty years of recording the birds in the Lytchett Bay recording area Ring Ouzel has been a pretty scarce visitor so to record six individual over a couple of weeks flying over or past the listening station ask the question is this a regular autumn occurrence which it could well be.  It just that they do not land but are pushing on to the Purbeck coast and Portland to rest and have a feed before jumping off across the channel. Only time will tell.

4.  This last one was a bit of a surprise in that we have had a few recent records of a single Barn Owl over the fields west of the bay and near to the Bakers Arms roundabout, but to record a night-time call from the garden listening station was really excellent which makes it 'three owls' on the garden list.  I'm not sure if this bird was perched in the wood or called as it flew past either way it was a good record and it's surprises like this that makes the time and effort worth while.  We just do not know what is travelling around overhead during the night whilst we are all tucked up warm in bed.
Barn Owl - Spectrogram 

Over the last year I have put more time into the night time recording and I have managed to record sixty four different species of bird plus a few mammals, you just don't know what is going to turn up next.

I hope you have found these sounds of interest and I'll sort a few more out soon for another blog.

Monday 28 November 2016

Late Autumn birding on Hengistbury Head

We met at 8a.m. in the main car park and we were entertained by a pair of Stonechats while everyone got ready.  It was a cold but dry morning and seemed perfect for a morning spent birding.  

Walking by the visitor centre we had a few of the usual birds such as Robin, Blue and Great Tit etc, also a couple of male Pheasants in a tree, well it is Christmas and there aren't many Partridges around these days.  Looking towards Stanpit we could see Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Brent Geese and a flight of Lapwings.  I just happened to say to the group do look out for Marsh Harrier when an adult female came into view and was quartering the reedbeds, do wish all birds I mention appeared on cue!
Drake Wigeon by Hengistbury Head © Nick Hull
We walked on and paused at the Natterjack Toad pond, Sarah brought our attention to a female Reed Bunting, which promptly disappeared from view, instead a pair of Stonechat popped up on to the fence.  Fran then spotted a male Dartford Warbler, we then watched it flit to and fro round the vegetation and fence.  Patiently watching him he eventually came down to the pond and started bathing only a short distance in front of us, not something we see them doing normally, so felt quite privileged to watch him.
Stonechat pair © Nick Hull
Moving on we had a male Kestrel, then saw the Jay perched on top of a bush and in the distance the Lapwings were up again on Stanpit, a flock of about 30.  Looking through the scope across we added Oystercatcher, Curlew and Redshank to the list.  A few Meadow Pipits and Linnets went up as we walked along the head and looking out to sea we watched Brent Geese flying towards us and on into Christchurch Harbour.  We then noticed another skein of geese, at first thought they also would be Brents, but Nick quickly realised they were Barnacle Geese.  In fact there were 22 and they were later picked up flying over Poole Harbour and then seen landing at Swineham, unfortunately they got spooked and flew off and not seen again.

Reaching the beach huts we did a little more seawtaching and Nick soon found a group of 10 Common Scoters on the sea, then three Great Northern Diver flying past and into the Solent.  On the groynes only Rock Pipit, Oystercatchers and Cormorants, sadly we couldn't find any Purple Sandpipers this time.  So we repaired to the cafe for hot drinks and whilst there watch and admired the Starlings as they hoped we would leave a crumb or two when we left.
Starlings at the Hengistbury Cafe © Nick Hull
After warming up with hot chocolate and teas we walked back stopping to watching Little Egret, Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits at Holloway's Dock.  Then nearing the visitor centre again the Marsh Harrier was quartering even closer giving brilliant views, so a nice end to a very good morning's birding.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Goosanders at Blashford

Sunday 13th November.  We haven't visited Blashford for a while and autumn is always a good time to visit with the new arrivals from the North, moving through or stopping to spend the winter, it is also an area which can produce a variety of fungi.

Starting our walk from Moyles Court, past the Alice Lisle taking the footpath at the side of Spinnaker Lake then across between Rockford, then on to Ibsley Water and back to Moyles Court.  Our first birds were the usual Blackbirds, Robin and a small tit flock of Blue, Great, Long-tailed Tits and a few Goldcrest.  Peering through to the top of Rockford Lake were a roost of at least eight Little Egret and it was whilst watching them one of the site's winter specialties three redhead Goosander, our first of the winter, drifted into view. I managed a quick shot of the last bird through the tree branches as they paddled away to a slightly more discreet distance.

one of the three Redhead Goosander
Spinnaker Lake produced the usual waterfowl including with Coots with Gadwall, a sign that the water levels were high, the Gadwall needed the Coots to dive and pull up the weed so they can feed on the surfacing pieces the coot have pulled up and can't eat, quite an interesting association.  Also on the lake were Canada and Greylag Geese.

Robin © Nick Hull
As we crossed the road to take the footpath between Rockford and Ivy Lakes we heard Bullfinch calling but it didn't show.  Viewing from the screen looking over Ivy Lake Jackie quickly picked out a large white Egret which she confirmed as the returning Great White Egret which had been back for a while but none-the-less very nice to see.  Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal and a few Shoveler were all seen on Ivy.   On the other side of the path Rockford Lake produced Mute Swan, and a small assortment of gulls with Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed.  Jackie was on good form and she managed to pick out two superb male Goldeneye out in the middle which gave good scope views.  We continued on picking out more of the regular species as we headed towards the Goosander hide, on route we came across a small stand of Shaggy Inkcap fungi one of the more easier to id.

Shaggy Inkcap
Our initial thought on our first views from the hide was that there were no birds but scanning around the lake we found a couple of Grey Heron, a Curlew made itself known by having a fly around.  The duck present were very distant with Tufted, Pochard, Mallard more Greylag and a few Little Grebe and more Coot.  An even more distant Curlew on the far bank, then a flock of Lapwing flew up and the sun caught them beautifully.  Then someone noticed that swirling around above Somerley were a huge number of Grey Herons, in fact a count of 43 was made.   We were now thinking of moving on when I spotted movement, something flew in below the hide and it soon became clear it was a Grey Wagtail which seemed to brighten the day a super little bird.  

Grey Wagtail
Our walk back to the cars produced more of the same and we ended the day with fifty two species not bad for two and a half hour walk.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Raptors & Avocets at Middlebere & Hartland Moor

Wednesday, 2nd November.  
As Nick and I arrived at our meeting place some of the group were already watching a Dartford Warbler sat up on a gorse bush.  A good start to a brilliant morning, the weather was also glorious, though a bit chilly.  Walking across to Hartland Moor we had Meadow Pipits calling and flying around the heather while we scanned over for raptors.  We encountered a few more Dartfords, with a total by the end of our walk of 6 showy individuals.   

Fran picked up our first raptor with a distant Kestrel followed by a Buzzard.  A Raven called and we followed him for a while then another bird of prey came into view.  However this bird was flying quite high but rather distantly, it was Nick who realised it was a Marsh Harrier.  Thankfully it came a little closer and much lower so we could see it well.  It appeared to be a 2nd calendar year male, it perched up on a bush which allowed us to get scope views.  Then we realised a second bird was flying low towards it but went to the ground near to our first bird, though the latter went to join it shortly afterwards.  Then the two harriers flew up and seemed to be interacting but not aggressively, we could then make out we now had two young males.  Fascinating to watch them.

Two waders flew up and as they turned we could see they were Snipe, probably disturbed by the harriers.  They were obviously unsettled and it was quite a while before they went back down.  Back to the path and a Mistle Thrush sat up on the hedging and we got our first Stonechat, a female and a few Skylarks were heard flying over.  We made the decision to turn back and walk over to Middlebere.

At Tim's Tump Rod pointed out a bird perched in a bare silver birch tree, so glad he did it was a superb male Merlin.  We all had good scope views before moving round to the Harrier Hide in the hope to get a bit closer.  Though we tried hard not to be seen, even crouching to look under the hide, gaining a wet knee in the process, it clocked us fairly quickly and was off in a flash!  Not before Joe showed his fieldcraft managing to get this photo below, though still a bit distant.

Male Merlin © Joe Baldwin
Walking down to the Middlebere track we could see a flock of Lapwing flying round by the channel.  Other birds added to the list as we walked to the hide included Bullfinch, Jay, Linnet as well as the more common species you expect.  The ivy was attracting Red Admiral butterflies, Ivy bees and a Hornet.  As we neared the cottages a Green Sandpiper was spotted on the wet meadow.

From the hide a huge number of waders had been attracted in by the lowering tide, with about 300 Avocets plus Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal.  I'm sure there was more to be seen but now time meant we had to leave, then another male Marsh Harrier came through and this was definitely a different individual from our Hartland Moor birds as it was moulting its primaries.  A great finale for a brilliant morning!

Marsh Harrier at Middlebere © Joe Baldwin

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Vis Mig at Durlston

Our group met at Durlston Country Park early, though not bright as it was still dark, at 7a.m.  We didn't need to walk far, just to Long Meadow a few metres away!  It started very quiet, then the Tawny Owls suddenly and loudly started up, with their well known "Twit-Twoo" calls, with about 4 birds calling and the odd "Keewik" call being thrown in, then a more distant bird could be heard when the others quieten momentarily.  This lasted for about 10 minutes or so.   The Robins were now calling and some in full song, then Blackbird and Wren as it became lighter.  We could hear a Raven before it came into view, followed by two noisily interacting with each other as they flew along the edge of the wood.   

David and Nick then spotted a Sparrowhawk low over the trees, a male which then flew higher and higher gaining quite a lot of height.  It then proceeded to give a powerful display over the wood and field, even over our heads, that was a bit of a neck breaker!  It carried on displaying over quite a large area, rising into the air then stooping down and back up again.  It was a terrific display and we had two further Sparrowhawks during this period.

Migrating Linnet flock 
Now we were starting to see some visible migration of passerines, Goldfinch started us off with just a few small groups, then 'Alba' Wagtails and then Linnets.  However the Linnets starting coming through in larger groups than the Goldfinch, which seemed to be more tightly packed together.  All figures are at the end.  A few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, then four Redwings but the Starlings were probably local birds.  Five Swallows flew low over the field and it was quite a bit later before we saw a few more.  More finches with Greenfinch and Chaffinch, then a lonesome Goldcrest and Jay flew over.

By 10 a.m. it was beginning to slow so much that we decided to have a little walk over the park, first catching up with Shaun and Ian from Stour Ringing Group.  They were having a quiet morning with the mist nets, though Shaun very kindly showed the group a re-trapped Goldcrest.

Visible Migration totals:
Goldfinch 227
'Alba' Wagtails 40
Linnet  698
Skylark  8
Redwing  4
Swallow  11
Greenfich  36
Chaffinch  9
Goldcrest 1
Jay  1

Nick had also taken his parabolic microphone and recorder and was able to add 14 Song Thrush a Reed Bunting and a Golden Plover to our tally though none were seen as they must have been above the cloud and out of sight.

Thursday 20 October 2016

Photo's from Normandy Marsh

Yesterday, 19th October, we wrote our blog on our group walk at Normandy Marsh, Lymington.  Andy has sent in a few of his photos taken on the walk.  All photographs © Andy Copplestone.

Above a record shot of the Osprey, intriguingly it seems to be trailing something which we didn't notice when we were watching it.

Another raptor with a splendid male Kestrel

This Little Egret kept to the creek and not at all camera shy

However this Meadow Pipit above was not so happy to be snapped, nor the Reed Bunting below.

Finally, a friendly Wren sitting out and enjoying the sunshine.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Late summer migrants at Normandy Marshes

This morning our group were birding round Normandy Marsh, Lymington.  Walking along the path to look over 8 Acre Pond, a Grey Wagtail was seen on the edge of the pond, the usual Little Grebe and Mallard on the water.  Redshank and Little Egret in the creek and a Kestrel was very active hunting the fields near us, while a Wren cursed us from the hedge and two Swallows flew over.

Looking over Maiden Dock/Oxey Lake on the islands of seaweed were a good variety of waders including Lapwing, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and several Curlew that then took off and flew over to the fields.  Teal also seemed to be enjoying the islands, feeding and resting among the weed.  Then Nick noticed seven waders flying away which turned out to be Bar-tailed Godwits.  On the fields behind we had our first of many Stonechats of our walk, also at least four Reed Buntings.  Nick picked up three Golden Plover flying over which continued on.

Greenshank - Normandy Lagoon
Now looking over Normandy Lagoon with a few Black-tailed Godwit, Redshanks and more Teal.  We then found our first of at least seven Greenshanks and then Nick found two Spotted Redshank.  We then added Wigeon, Oystercatchers and a couple of Shelduck.  Then Chris said he had a bird of prey coming in behind us, we all looked round and to our surprise it was an Osprey, it flew round and headed back towards Pennington.  However about 15 minutes later it was back and actively hunting and hovering over the water looking for fish giving us even better views than before.  It was unsuccessful and eventually it disappeared off towards Lymington and beyond.

Back to the lagoon and looking back through the waders we had Dunlin with a single Grey Plover, though later on a few more flew off the outer marsh and away eastward.  A Green Woodpecker was found on the edge of the lagoon and Skylark were heard overhead.  A Cormorant stood next to a Great Black-backed Gull which seemed to make it seem quite diminutive!  Then two Kingfishers flew down the channel, round the back of us and back over the lagoon.  Looking out over the Solent were a few Brent Geese, Great Crested Grebe and a few Pintail.  Now we were at the end of the saltmarsh where Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were feeding, then Joe found a single Wheatear, another late migrant.  A little further on we came across a few Snipe before Nick called "Peregrine"!  We watched the Peregrine causing a little disturbance but it seemed uninterested and just went on its way.  As I watched it I spotted another raptor high up, a Buzzard soon joined by a second bird.   Moving on we came across a flock of about 60 Linnets, a juvenile bird sat and allowed us to admire it for quite a while.   

Walking through to Normandy Lane a Cetti's Warbler burst into song as we past, soon after we added our fifth bird of prey for the day with a Sparrowhawk.  Along the lane we added Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tits, Song Thrush and heard a brief call of Bullfinch.

View across Normandy Marsh © Jackie Hull

Friday 14 October 2016

Portland Bill & Weymouth birding

Sunday 9th October
While waiting to meet Helena, Anna and Steve at Portland Heights Hotel three Ring Ouzels flew low over the hotel, just the start of a great birding day. After a quick coffee and chat we were off to Portland Bill, checked what was around first then walked over to the Obs Quarry, where the Little Owl was already sat out. In the quarry itself were several Chiffchaffs as well as the usual Robin, Dunnock and Wren etc. Over the fields were a large flock of Linnets, a few Skylarks flew overhead while Swallows were swooping low over the crop.

Moving back to the road there was a small group of birders gathering round the Crown Estate Field where the ringing nets were. We were treated to a superb male Bearded Tit sitting up giving brilliant views, he came even closer to us, shame we didn’t have our cameras but amazing photos can be found on Portland Obs blog at http://portlandbirdobs.blogspot.co.uk/search. Moving up the top fields a Kestrel was constantly hunting over the fields, a couple of Ravens flew over and of course there were plenty of Meadow Pipits also Pied/White Wagtails. A few Stonechats were seen, probably migrating through as well. Our raptor tally went up with a Sparrowhawk dashing through and a soaring Buzzard. 
Bar-tailed Godwit  © Nick Hull
We moved on to Ferrybridge and a look over the Fleet Nature Reserve from the visitor centre, a few waders could be seen with Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderling and Dunlin. While the Mediterranean Gulls were by far the most numerous species to be seen, in with them were six Sandwich Terns. After lunch in the cafe we moved on Lodmoor RSPB nature reserve, but first stopping at the tennis courts for a look over Radipole lake. Wildfowl included Gadwall, Shoveler and Little Grebe, while the loud song of a Cetti’s Warbler was heard but remained unseen in the bush next to us.

At Lodmoor we walked along Southdown Avenue and immediately we saw an adult female Marsh Harrier quartering the reedbeds. A Stonechat popped up in front of us and a Little Grebe started Whinnying and watched a Little Egret fly over. In the pools were a good number of splendid drake Pochard. We were now near the end of the road and watched House Sparrows and Starlings in the hedges and flying into the gardens on to the feeders. We didn't wait long before a row of five starlings sat on the wires, the bird nearest to us was a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling giving us great close views and comparisons.

We drove round the other side of the reserve and found a few Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Lapwing near the Tern islands, also a Wheatear on the bank. A Sparrowhawk flew across and we walked on further and came across a few more waders. Stopping to look at a Green Sandpiper and a Snipe, a Bar-tailed Godwit landed in front of us along with a single Curlew Sandpiper. Unfortunately a Lapwing saw then off, we followed them and found a few more waders plus Grey Heron and then finished our day with views of a Water Rail.

Portland Bill © Nick Hull

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Boom! Lesser Yellowlegs at Lytchett Patch

On Sunday 18th September it started much like usual, the weather was overcast and we were meeting our group at 09:30 to lead them around our home patch of Lytchett Fields.  We had just assembled and about to start our walk down to the Lytchett Fields, when a car pulls up and its our friends Paul and Shaun, they announce Ian has just found a Lesser Yellowlegs but it's disappeared.  They left to park their car and we walked down the lane towards the pool field, then up the lane by the Arable Field then over the style across the Purple Heron Field.  We checked off many of the commoner species on the way, and a few migrants like Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

As we approach the Sherford Pools there were a number of birders checking through the waders or watching the actual bird.  I quickly set up the scope and Ian pointed me in the right direction to save time, after all this was a Poole Harbour tick as well as a patch first as I missed the last on Brownsea Island in December 2014.  There was no way you would miss it, it was the only active bird walking around and feeding amongst the Teal and Redshank at the back of the pools.  This small American wader that breeds in Canada through to Alaska and winter along the southern states and South America was stunning.  A little smaller than Redshank looking a little more like a very clean Wood Sandpiper with yellow legs. 

Sorry about the bad digi shot but the distant and heat haze was pretty awful it was much better in the scope which says a lot for my photographic skills.  It's easy when you have a rarity not to look at what else is around.  The high tide was flushing birds off the bay onto the pools, there was good numbers of Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, a scattering of Dunlin and Snipe, lots of Teal, a Moorhen plus a single Water Rail found by Joe.  Looking over French's Pools there was more of the same and a large flock of gulls mainly Black-headed and a good number of Pied Wagtails with the odd White Wagtail mixed in.  Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Goldfinch were all moving around.   After another view of the Lesser Legs we headed off to Sandy Lane heath, a remnant square of heath between the houses and the bay.  It was here we fell in with Shaun again who was ringing and he allow us to watch him ringing a few birds in the hand.  Our first was a Cetti's Warbler, definitely the best and closest views any of the group have had of this super little warbler.   Our next in hand treat was a Meadow Pipit and our last a Chiffchaff, this brought our walk to an end, but what a excellent morning's birding.

Cetti's Warbler Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull

Thursday 15 September 2016

Blashford/Poole Harbour birding

On Saturday, 10th September, we had the pleasure of taking out Mark and Tish from the United States on a birding day.  It was meant to be around Poole Harbour but the morning turned so wet we had to think again. 

After picking them up from their hotel in Poole we popped into Baiter Park, on the field were gathered good numbers of Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls with a few Herring Gulls and Pied Wagtails.  Along the shoreline were a few Turnstones, difficult to spot at first blending in so well with the shoreline seaweed and rocks.  Moving on to Shore Road where there was plenty of disturbance from the kite surfers we did manage to find Curlew and four Sandwich Terns.

Now the rain was too heavy so a quick change of plan and we headed inland to Blashford Lakes and  started with viewing across Ibsley Water from the Tern Hide in the dry.  Before we even got into the hide there were lots of hirundines swooping over the car park and then hundreds of them over the water, with Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins, a wonderful sight.   Wildfowl on the water included Great Crested and Little Grebes, Tufted, Shoveler, Pochard, Mallard ducks, and of course Coots and Cormorants.  On the islands a few Lapwings and eventually a Common Sandpiper came into view and on the far bank a small flock of Egyptian Geese. Moving over the road and sheltering under the lee of the Education Centre we watched the feeders, with Nuthatch, Coal, Blue and Great Tits and under the feeders as you would expect Chaffinch, Dunnock and Blackbird.  Due to the weather there was not much in song except for Wren and Robins.  Finishing our visit to the reserve with a quick look over Ivy Lake adding Gadwall and a single Pochard.

Nearly lunchtime and we need to return to Poole Harbour, we decided to travel across country via Ibsley where a Buzzard sat on top of a pole by the roadside and a Grey Heron flew across the meadow.  We arrived at Arne perfectly timed for lunch, the new cafe is a "must" visit and highly recommended.  Thankfully the rain had now stopped and the sky was brightening perfectly timed to get back out birding.  Our first sighting of note though was not avian, I spotted it feeding on the flowers by the shop, a beautiful Hummingbird Hawk Moth which quite enthralled Mark and Tish.
Corfe Castle
On the track over Coombe Heath a few Meadow Pipits bounced over the heather and a Grayling butterfly flew up from the path and a Migrant Hawker dragonfly was patrolling along the gorse.  Looking out towards Middlebere we could see Little Egrets, Greenshank, Redshank and many Black-tailed Godwits and heard the "squealing" of a Water Rail.   The Osprey platform was forlornly empty but looking round I found the Osprey sat in the more regular dead tree.  Through the scope we had superb views, we were now drawing a small crowd wanting to see the Osprey and it was a pleasure to help them.  Tish spotted a slightly different wader in with the Dunlin, a Curlew Sandpiper and a nice addition to our list.  Nick found a group of 10 Knot and a Spotted Redshank before a a Sparrowhawk cruised across causing the usual movement of waders which had a quick fly around.

Driving by Hartland Moor a bird flew up and onto to some short heath, I was certain it was a Woodlark.  Stopping the car and looking across we eventually found three together, also a flock of Linnets nearby.  At Norden sewerage works we found a small family party of Grey Wagtails, a few Chiffchaffs were flitting through the Holme Oaks, one even starting singing briefly.  A Pheasant called and Rook and Jackdaws flew over.  Our species list for the day was now 63 and we weren't finished yet.  We drove around to Soldier Road, here we added Kestrel from the car and once parked we could hear Raven "cronking" Nick found it atop a silver birch as they walk up the hill to view over the Wareham Channel and Arne Moors.  I stayed by the car hoping to find a Dartford Warbler of a Stonechat. After a short while with us all back together finally a few Stonechats started to appear and we finished our day watching a small flock Long-tailed Tits.

Our final tally for our day was 69 species, which considering the weather seemed a very good tally, some great birds for Mark and Tish and it was such a pleasure to take them out.

Monday 5 September 2016

Birding Seaton Wetlands, Devon

Though Jackie and I have visited Black Hole Marsh and Seaton on several occasions we have never brought a group so we thought it was about time to change that.  So this morning, Sunday 4th September, we found ourselves meeting in the car park behind Colyford Road cemetery.  While we waited for everyone to arrive we checked a few commoner species off like Robin and Goldfinch.  Then Jackie found a Kestrel perched and Mick picked out a falcon soaring over the marsh, which then turned into two a couple of hunting Peregrines and shortly after we had Buzzard, three birds of prey in short succession, not bad.

Once we were all gathered and introductions completed we headed off to look over Black Hole Marsh, we had to decide which hide to go to first and decided on the Island Hide as the tide was in.  Looking through the screen before walking down the boardwalk to the hide we had our first Common Sandpiper and a superb Ruff.  From the hide we had a good selection of waders with Ringed Plover, Common Sandpipers, Oystercatcher, Lapwings and a small roost of Dunlin.  Jess picked out a Little Stint among the roosting birds, a very smart juvenile.

Dunlin and Little Stint Black Hole Marsh © Nick Hull
Justin picked up a Kingfisher zooming by as they do and we picked out a couple of Curlew and a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits with a few Redshanks.  Two of the godwits were coloured ringed, I recognised one of them as being an Axe rung bird as it has Orange Red Orange on its right leg but the other we could only see the colours on the left, so I took a digi-scope shot to record the sighting and we headed off towards Colyford Common.  The hedgerows were fairly quiet with the usual resident birds and a few calling Chiffchaffs.  By the Discovery Centre we had Swallows with a small number of House Martins swooping round us, one almost flew into Jackie!  A single Sedge Warbler gave brief views in the reeds and Linnets were in the bushes behind the Sand Martin wall.

CR Black-tailed Godwits Black Hole Marsh © Nick Hull
Out on Colyford Common and on the meadows were Little Egrets, Grey Heron and a few Mallard. From the hide we added Pheasant on the distant fields, on the marsh a single Stock Dove and more Curlew and Redshank.  Apart from a Green Sandpiper taking flight with a start our fourth bird of prey, a Sparrowhawk, went cruising through so fast not a single other bird on the marsh twitched.  We also checked off the usual gull species.  At the far end of the Common we found the local Axe Ringing Group and were shown a immature Swallow in the hand and how we could tell it from an adult at this time of year. 

After Lunch we visited Seaton Marsh starting with looking around Borrow Pit where we added a family of Mute Swans, closer views of Little Grebe, a small flock of Long-tailed Tits and several Moorhen.  Walking out to the Seaton Marsh Hide on route we had a Wheatear, from the hide we added little until as we walked back to our car we heard a Yellow Wagtail call but we just couldn't find it amongst the cattle as the grass was too long.

Our group throughly enjoyed Seaton Wetlands and I don't think it will be long before they return, if you have not visited it is highly recommended.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Portland, Sea Watching & more

Sunday (21st) saw Jackie and I at Portland Bill where our group assembled at eight o'clock in the shelter of the Lighthouse.  The sea was pretty heavy and the wind gusted strongly but the flock of Gannets moving west off the Bill just took it in their stride.  It was good to see lots of juveniles and a good number of other aged birds up to adult.

At the start Gannets was all to be seen but it wasn't long before I picked up a Manx Shearwater gliding through the 'Race', an area of rough sea off the Bill created by an underwater rock shelf .  I managed to keep an eye on the bird until it cleared the race and was able to get most onto it as it disappeared into, and then reappeared from, the troughs. After a while we were picking up a steady stream of Manx moving west then the first Balearic Shearwater went through.  There was a little panic as everyone was trying to pick it up with very little directional points to guide people except a bright orange buoy which kept disappearing as did the shearwaters.  By the time we finished and moved on everyone managed to see both shearwater species Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Turnstones plus of course the usual gull species.  I managed a couple of views of Storm Petrel but unfortunately couldn't get anyone else on to them in time, though other birders not in our group did manage brief views.  On land we added Wheatear, Rock Pipits, Linnets, Starlings and Swallows, a Sparrowhawk flew in and perched up briefly on a large rock giving us a pretty close view of its rear.
Sparrowhawk Portland Bill © Nick Hull
We moved on to have a quick stop at Chesil Cove but only added another Fulmar and three Mediterranean Gulls to the day list.  Then on to Ferrybridge for our lunch, a short walk first along the beach produced Dunlin and Ringed Plovers, a flight of delightful Little Terns and a couple of Sandwich Tern flew overhead giving their typical grating calls.  We also had a single Wheatear and Common Blue butterfly here.  Time to stop for lunch and when we had finished the tide had started to drop and Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plovers started to fly in to feed.  There was also a good sized flock of Mediterranean Gulls loafing on the water which gave us a chance to go through the plumage differences and ages with the group.   
Juvenile Wheatear Portland Bill © Nick Hull
Just before moving on we heard news that the juvenile Garganey had been seen again at Radipole from the visitor centre so we called in on our way to Lodmoor.  At first we scanned quickly through the duck finding Teal, Mallard, Tufted, Shoveler and Gadwall, but eventually Tony picked out a small duck and asked Jackie to check and she was able to confirm he had found the Garganey which we all enjoyed before heading to Lodmoor.  

Lodmoor was fairly empty at first, it wasn't until we reached the metal shelter that we picked up a few waders, one being a Little Stint looking really diminutive next to the Dunlin it was associating with. An eagle eyed group member found a Common Sandpiper then a second flew in while a Green Sandpiper flew off up one of the dykes landing out of sight. Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit completed the waders here, but a very scruffy male Marsh Harrier was picked up quartering the reedbed.   Moving around to the south side we were able to add Ruff and more Black-tailed Godwits with both adults and juveniles.  As we were returning to our cars a small flock of Sand Martins appeared with the odd Swallow and House Martin and I topped it off by finding with a single Swift, which will probably be our last until next year.  A good end to a super days birding in excellent company.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Two Owls meet Iolo Williams

Hen Harrier Day South - Arne RSPB

Jackie rubbing shoulders with Iolo - literally 
This morning Jackie and I were up early and met Liz and headed off to Arne on a slightly overcast morning for "Hen Harrier Day South" at Arne RSPB Reserve.  As many of you know as birders and wildlife enthusiasts Hen Harrier on grouse moors have been devastated by continued illegal persecution. So Two Owls went along to show our support for the cause to stop this continued flaunting of the law that persists on our grouse moors which our government continues to ignore.

We arrived about 9 o'clock and met Luke from Arne RSPB who mentioned that he hadn't gone through the moth trap, so over we went and started working our way through the nights catch.  Fortunately it was quite as good a catch but there was some nice moths with a male and female Four-spotted Footman and a single Diamond-backed which are migrants.  There was good numbers of Black Arches, Straw Dot, Coronet, Maiden Blush, Willow Beauties and Small Magpie and the list goes on.  It was whilst sorting the moth trap a guy came over and stood next to me and showed interest and ask to have a look at one of the trays of moths so I handed him the tray and carried on. To say my mind wasn't in gear properly I suddenly realised it was a welsh accent and took a second glance and here stood next to me was Iolo Williams the TV presenter who was the main speaker for the Harrier Day. (tick).  Liz and Jackie went off to do a little birding before things got underway and I helped Marcus from Dorset Bird Club setting up stands next to his stand.  I ran into a couple of friends and head off for a coffee at the cafe and Iolo went off around the reserve to do a little birding.

male Four Spotted Footman -Arne © Nick Hull

Just before 11o'clock Luke gathered everyone together and we walked out onto Combe Heath where we listened to speeches from Paul Morton (Birds of Poole Harbour), Mark Constantine (Lush cosmetics). Who explained about how by producing a Hen Harrier bath bomb and selling it to raise funds, they have been able to raise over £100,000 which is going to support radio tagging Hen Harriers and other initiatives to save this species from extinction in Britain.
A few of the 260 people on Combe Heath Arne
The RSPB's Southwest Regional Manager Nick Bruce-white and Mark Thomas from the RSPB's wildlife crime unit spoke on what the society is doing and the efforts the crime unit has to go to, to get the evidence to charge these estates and gamekeeper who believe it's ok to break the law and kill Hen Harrier.  
Our Speakers and the crown of Hen Harrier supporters.
 Last came Iolo Williams who gave a very passionate speech that brought a tear to the odd eye of the 260 people who were there.  He spoke about his first finding of a breeding pair of Hen Harrier at a nest site on a Welsh moor as a teenager and how he still visits the area each year to watch the Hen Harriers and monitor their success. He also made some heart felt comments on what he would like to do to these people who think it's ok to shoot or destroy nesting Hen Harrier which received a very load applause of agreement from the listening crowd.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Butterfly Heaven at Alners Gorse

As it's a quieter time of year for birds I had a request from one of our Wednesday group to visit Alners Gorse for our August outing.  Nick and I have been to the reserve a few times and last visited only two weeks ago, but never turn down the opportunity to go back.  If you love butterflies and you have never visited Butterfly Conservation's brilliant reserve at Alners Gorse in North Dorset you are definitely missing a treat.

Walking through the gates on to the reserve we immediately had Red Admiral, Meadow Browns, Gatekeeper and Green-veined White and we'd hardly walked any distance.  Walking down the hill and watching the tree and hedge line we soon added Large White, while a couple of Swallows flew low over our heads.  It was so sheltered along here and through the reserve it was delightfully warm and sunny, absolute heaven for the butterflies.  
Purple Hairstreak on Alder Buckthorn © Jackie Hull
As we reached the flat we watched a Peacock and then Joe spotted our first Purple Hairstreak, fairly high in an oak tree but with binoculars we could see it well.  Its purple sheen as it turned was beautiful and quite mesmerising, however not great for photography up there.  Following the bramble laden hedgerow we had a Speckled Wood, and even more Red Admirals, Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers!  Now it was House Martins feeding with their little "buzzy" sounds filling the air and a Bullfinch giving it's plaintive call.  Chris, our reptile expert was soon off as usual looking for Common Lizards by the wood piles and finding several during the day, though they were off too quickly for the rest of us to see.  We also came across several young frogs.
Sneezewort © Richard Samson
We were now finding a few more Purple Hairstreaks giving the photographers a better chance, while our first Brimstone of the day came by.  The beautiful Silver-washed Fritillary glided past and landed, all too briefly and then it majestically flew on. Two weeks ago Nick and I watched and photographed many Purple Hairstreaks feeding on the tiny flowers on a Alder Buckthorn, we found two on this same bush.  At the time I did not recognise this bush and a kind gentleman informed me of the name, having looked it up this bush is also a food plant of the Brimstone.  The wildflowers on the reserve are abundant and beautiful, one of my particular favourites was the Sneezewort.
White-letter Hairstreak © Jackie Hull
Moving on we found Small and Large Skippers, just one Marbled White but we had still not found what we really were looking for - the Brown Hairstreak.  So back to the bramble hedgerow and I saw a photographer most engrossed in something, I quickly found his subject, that elusive Brown Hairstreak, brilliant!  When everyone had their fill of this rare and perfect little butterfly we moved on, we had been told where we might find a White-letter Hairstreak.  Joe spotted it first, a very tatty specimen as it really is getting late for them now and next to it was a Ringlet.  This brought our total to 16 species of butterfly, a brillant and very successful morning.
Brown Hairstreak © Jackie Hull

Sunday 24 July 2016

Hen Harrier Day at Arne

Hen Harrier Day South - 7th August at RSPB Arne

We shall be joining the Hen Harrier Day at RSPB Arne on 7 August 2016, with Iolo Williams as guest speaker, with more speakers to be confirmed.  Lots of fantastic raffle prizes. Look forward to seeing you there.

Monday 18 July 2016

Hartland Moor Summer wildlife

At last summer seems to have arrived and in was on an already hot sticky morning when we met our Sunday monthly group for a walk over Hartland Moor.  Walking along the tramway we first encountered Greenfinch singing and also on the path, a Blue Tit calling and the first of many Stonechats and Meadow Pipits.  A Dartford Warbler was heard singing on the other side of the hedge-line, we stopped trying to peer through then the sound got much closer and a beautiful male sat up on the top of the bush then went into a display flight, then disappeared!  Swallows twittered as they flew low over our heads.

Gatekeeper butterflies were enjoying the sunshine and definitely the most numerous on the wing today.  Someone's sharp eyes found a Common Footman moth hiding under a leaf and was a little surprising.  Nick wandered down to a pond and boggy area hoping for dragonflies but only found lots of  Common Damselflies.  Small Heath butterflies flitted about on the path, trying to find a sunny spot  without being disturbed by us and on the hedges Small  and Large Skippers and Ringlets.  It was nice to see the Ragwort was covered in Cinnabar moth caterpillars, now well grown in looking bright in gold and black stripes.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars © Jackie Hull
A Skylark sang and looking up for this lovely songster and then we noticed a soaring Buzzard to the left of the hill, but others looking right had a falcon.  Switching across and looking through the 'scope Nick was able to confirm it was a Hobby, not only that there were three of them!  The only shame was that they didn't come closer.   As we reached the end of the tramway where we were turning off we had Goldfinches and Linnets.  In the field a Green Woodpecker flew up and disappeared into the wood and a female Pheasant dashed off in the other direction.

Blue-tailed Damselfly - ischnura elegant imm fem rufescens © Nick Hull
Just along we had a Silver-studded Blue butterfly and with so much heather coming into flower I was surprised not to see more on the wing.  A few female Keeled Skimmer Dragonfly were warming themselves on the bracken.  We were then lucky to find a rather unusual Blue-tail Damselfly, an immature female of the species ischnura elegans rufescens.  

Silver-studded Blue © Jackie Hull
A Common Lizard ran across my path but Fran was quick to see him in the heather, when we noticed the large green caterpillar of Emperor Moth.  Then our first Grayling, another species found on the heath.  A Kestrel came over as we approached the road and heard Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing, then an adult Raven with a noisy juvenile, the joys of parenthood.  We also added Marbled White and Small Copper to our butterfly list and a couple of moths with Silver Y and 6-spot Burnet.

As we said goodbye to everyone and turning the car round two Wood Larks flew across, a wonderful way to finish a very warm but excellent walk.