About Two Owls

Sunday 27 March 2016

A tale of two walks at Keyhaven

A belated post of our walks at Keyhaven/Pennington Marshes, our first walk was on Saturday, 19th March, a grey and unappealing day.  We started with Greenfinch, the explosive sound of a Cetti's Warbler and Goldfinch.  There were plenty of other songsters on our walk with the usual Chaffinch, Wren and Dunnock's.  During the walk we often saw a large skein of Brent Geese which seemed to be very restless.

Looking over the Balancing Pond were Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Canada Geese.  On the old landfill site next to the pond were Oystercatchers and Curlew, often to be found here.  A flock of five Skylark and a little later 2 were singing, along with Meadow Pipits and Linnets. On the pool by camp site were a few Redshank, plus Shelduck, Coot and Mute Swan and of course more Canada Geese.   The wet fields of Lower Pennington held plenty of duck including Pintail, a flock of over 100 Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwits nearly all in their lovely brick red summer plumage.  Then a Raven flew over our heads towards the shoreline.

Looking over the salt marsh at the wader roost there were good numbers of Grey Plover and Dunlin, a few Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwits.  On Fishtail Lagoon more Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank.  Two Spoonbills were on the western edge of the lagoon and Nick got everyone on to a Water Pipit, though as I went to look in the scope it decided to fly on!  A flock of nine Spotted Redshanks flew in and later were seen flying around Keyhaven Lagoon calling before returning to Fishtail Lagoon.   We couldn't find the Long-tailed Duck but we could see Red-breasted Mergansers  at Iley Point.  Our last species of the day was Rock Pipit.
Rock Pipit, Keyhaven © Nick Hull

Three days later I was back at Keyhaven, 22nd March, this time with our Tuesday group and the weather could not be better, sunny, mild and very springlike.  As we gathered to start our walk a Marsh Harrier appeared  and was quartering the reed bed.  As on Saturday Cetti's Warblers called and one made a very brief appearance as we walked down the Ancient Highway.  Greenfinch and Chaffinch singing and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew into one of the trees.  On the Balancing Pond were a few duck including Shoveler and Tufted, the usual Coot and Canada Geese.

Moving on we had several Meadow Pipits, some giving display flights and I counted five singing Skylark on the old landfill field.  A Chiffchaff gave a short burst of song, we counted 3 along here and on the other side of the track a pair of Stonechat, plus another female.  At the end of the highway a look over the pool added Gadwall, Shelduck, Teal and Wigeon to the list and a Buzzard over.  We found the Golden Plover were in much the same place as on Saturday but were disturbed by a female Marsh Harrier flying over putting them up into the air.  Such a wonderful sight as they whirled round putting on a lovely display for us.

Moving on to Fishtail Lagoon a Grey Heron stood stock still then lunge catching a small fish then flew away.  Looking through the waders I picked up several Spotted Redshanks, then I said I had a Snipe.  Then I paused thinking it didn't look right, that's because I soon realised it was the Long-billed Dowitcher.  Clive and Kate had good views before it disappeared behind some grassy looking mound and before I was able to make sure everyone else was looking in the right area.  We did find several Snipe and more Spotted Redshank and Clive found a single Ruff.  On the water we had a few Little Grebes, one calling with it's distinctive "whinnying" call.  We had a count of six Spoonbills this time and the superb Water Pipit with it's pinkish summer tinge showed well.

Grey Heron and Spoonbill © Lesley Waller
Looking across the salt marsh as we moved on to Keyhaven Lagoon, we had Black-tailed Godwits, Grey and Ringed Plover, Curlew, Dunlin and Redshank.   A smart drake Red-breasted Merganser was on the lagoon as well as Pintail, also another addition to the list with Greenshank.  Though not quite the last species to add as a pair of Dartford Warblers earned that honour.

On the 19th March when dull and dreary we had just 45 species, but on a bright sunny day on the 22nd we managed to see 58 species!

Saturday 19 March 2016

More Bird Sounds

Today we led a group around Keyhaven and saw most of the usual species we'd expect to see, but spring migrants such as Wheatear and Sand Martin was on our list to see but unfortunately didn't get found.  During our walk we had the opportunity to see Redshanks and Spotted Redshanks and hear them calling.  Then the question was asked how do they compare to Greenshank, so I've had a look through my old recordings and dug out the three typical flight calls of the three species.  I've added them and a sonagram for each of the three species for direct comparison.

Do remember all species have more than one call which they make in flight and the best way to learn any species calls is to listen to them out in the field. There is a good website to use to check out any bird sound is Xeno-canto it has an extensive on line collection of bird sound from all around the world follow this link http://www.xeno-canto.org/collection/area/europe to take a look.

First is Greenshank:-

Common Redshank

Spotted Redshank

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Night Migration

Last autumn I posted a few night time calls I recorded flying over our bungalow in an aim to find out what species of bird were passing on migration. I have recorded overnight on three occasions this year with some interesting results.  The first was in January when I only really recorded the local species of wildfowl going to and leaving the bay accept for one call which was of interest which belonged to Coot.  Coot has been or still is a very scarce visitor to Lytchett Bay, in 2015 I recorded coot three time passing over a bay record.  Of the three times I've recorded this year I have recorded one in January, one in February and two on one night this month.  It appears that they may not be seen in the day time but Lytchett Bay seems to be a popular flyway for them at night, only further recording will prove how common they really are.

As spring is on us and the nights have started to remain dry I decided to record on the night of the 11th & 12th March. This was very interesting in that there was an almost continuous passage of Redwing moving over, I recorded in the region of 166 contact up to midnight and only a further 38 after. But 14 different species recorded isn't bad, there is another 4 calls that I've not managed to identify as yet but I'm sure I will with help from one or two more experienced friends.

Recorded over night 11/12th March, from 20:10hrs to 07:10hrs
Recorded the follow:-
Wigeon - 14 contacts
Mallard - 2
Teal - 1 first time I've recorded it over the garden
Curlew - 6
Redshank - 17
Coot -     1 (12.34hrs) seem to use the Lytchett airspace quite often!
Mediterranean Gull - 1 (23.12hrs) surprised to get a Med just before midnight.
Cock Pheasant - 1
Blackbird - 7
Song Thrush 7
Fieldfare - 4
Redwing - 204 (166 before midnight 38 after)
Tawny Owl - 4
Robin - 1
Not id'ed yet  - 4
Fox - still recording several barking session during the night.

Birding from Moyles Court

13 March - Our Sunday group met at Moyles Court near Blashford for a circular walk taking in part of Blashford Lakes and we managed 55 species of birds.   We very quickly reached 20 species before we had gone more than 200 metres, with Song and Mistle Thrush, three Jays, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Bullfinch and of course the ever present Robin.  Only a couple of people got on to the Merlin that Nick picked up going too quickly for the rest of us!  A pair of Bullfinch along the footpath were not easy to see at first but finally we had great views and both Chaffinch and Goldfinch sang in branches overhead.  With glimpses of one of the lakes we had our first views of Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and Canada Geese.

We were now on the footpath beside Spinnaker Lake but the light was so awful it was test of our skills iding silhouettes and all we added was Coot.  It was much easier once we were on the Rockford Lake/Ivy Lake footpath, with good views of Pochard, Wigeon and Little Grebe.  A Treecreeper was briefly glimpsed but I could only be hear it singing.  Two pairs of Reed Buntings were seen feeding on the ground by Rockford Lake, a female flew up into the bushes at the waters edge and was joined by another male.   A pair of Buzzard was watched soaring overhead taking us to 42 species.

Looking again over Ivy Lake we had a pair of Shoveler, a few Teal were tucked tightly in at the edge of the lake under the trees where the Cormorants always like to hang out.   In the middle Rockford Lake a party of five Goldeneye including three splendid looking males, every now and then they would stop feeding to display to one of the females.

Leaving the lakes we had four Mistle Thrushes on the lichen heath, then a small party of 10 Redwings were found and as usual in this area we had Bullfinch.  A small bird was seen flitting in the holly and being very active and hard to see properly, finally Liz got a view - a Firecrest, it performed quite well for everyone to see it well.

Moving over the road to the Goosander Hide we added three more to the list with Lapwing, Goosander and Egyptian Goose, we were now on 51.  Nearly back to Moyles Court and we at last had a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and heard Siskin going over.  Finishing with Meadow Pipit on the school field and a Carrion Crow flying off towards the forest.

Wild daffodils, Blashford Lakes © Jackie Hull
Nick and I went to have lunch by Broomy Plain accompanied by Stonechat, Dartford Warbler and a Peregrine, then on our drive home we had a Red Kite, near Ashley Walk a most excellent day.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Hunting an Eastern Gem

Jackie and I decided to get up early and head to Portesham for an Eastern gem today but things didn't go quite the way we had planned as shortly after we had left a low tyre pressure warning light came on.  Pulling into the Bere Regis garage to use the airline we found we had a nail in the rear left tyre.  As this car doesn't have a spare and the tyre repair couldn't happen until after 10.00hrs, we decided to return home and change cars, which we duly did.

We arrived at Portesham much later than we'ed planned but the sun was out and that was the best luck we had had so far.  We only had about 500m to walk to the old railway cutting, we arrived and joined a half dozen others and the bird in view.  Our first Pallas's Warbler for a couple of years this absolutely stunning little striped gem was named after German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas who discovered it on the Ingoda River in Siberia back in 1811. We watched it for around an hour and enjoyed really close views at times and I managed a few half decent shots, but if it stays would love to go back and see if I could get some better ones.

Pallas's Warbler in flight Portesham © Nick Hull
Pallas's Warbler Portesham © Nick Hull