About Two Owls

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.