About Two Owls

Sunday 30 April 2017

Bonaparte's, Plovers, Sandpipers, & Flowers

Over the last month or so Jackie and I have been out visiting various favourite sites between leading groups and we have seen a few nice things.  So I thought I'd put a few of our highlight into a blog with one or two photos which I was able to get.

One of our clients mentioned on a walk recently that he had just seen Pasqueflower near where he lives in Hampshire, a flower I had never seen in the UK so directions were imparted and Jackie and I went off to find this beautiful flower.  When we arrived at our destination we hunted for the plant but couldn't find it but then quickly realised that we hadn't listened to the interaction properly and we were in the wrong place.  After a bit of a uphill walk we came to the correct location and we found ten plants fully out in flower.
Pasqueflower © Nick Hull
Pasqueflower © Nick Hull
Jackie and I had visited Blashford Lakes to see the Bonaparte's and Little Gulls which were to far away to photograph but gave good scope views.  Whilst there we added Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper to our year list and our first Common Terns so it was a very successful visit.
Little Ringed Plover - Blashford Lakes © Nick Hull
Common Sandpiper - Blashford Lakes © Nick Hull
A few days later another Bonaparte's Gull turned up at Longham Lakes but it wasn't until the late afternoon when we received a 'tweet' from a friend that whilst watching the gull a Red-rumped Swallow was found.  It was too much of a lure so we quickly grabbed our bins, camera gear and headed to Longham.   When we arrived we found Terry and Mike and a handful of others watching a gathering of swallows.  We joined them but the Red-rumped wasn't in sight at that moment but just a few metres away was the Bonaparte's Gull resting on a floating island, so I took advantage and took a few shots though the light was going a little by then, I managed a reasonable photo.
2nd Calendar Year Bonaparte's Gull - Longham Lakes © Nick Hull
Shortly afterwards George picked up the Red-rumped and it kindly did a fly pass, in fact it flew right over my head and we had a very good quick view as it past.  It then went out of sight and shortly after I found it with other Swallows in a tight ball circling high and then drifting off towards the Christchurch direction no doubt to go to roost somewhere.  Unfortunately it passed too quickly to get any record shots of this beautiful southern Swallow.

Yesterday (29th) we had our granddaughter so we took her for a walk at Challow Hill in the hope the Nightingales had returned. Unfortunately it appears they haven't but we had a good number of Whitethroat, Blackcaps, Chiffchaff and the usual common species Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird etc.  But we did note that there was no Yellowhammers there this year which was a little disconcerting hopefully they were off feeding somewhere and we just missed them.  What was there and looking superb in the morning sun was Green-veined Orchids just a small stand  but more plants than last year which was very nice to see.
Green-veined Orchid - Challow Hill © Nick Hull
On Our walk back to the car we watched a Buzzard pass over us and shortly after returned and passed us carrying prey which looked like a slow worm in its tallons.  This was the third Buzzard that I have seen of late which was carrying a reptile, the previous birds had a Grass Snake and what looked like an Adder.
Common Buzzard with Slow Worm - Challow Hill © Nick Hull

Sunday 23 April 2017

Woodland Ramble!!!

On Wednesday (19th) we saw ourselves in the north of Dorset near the Wiltshire border at Garston Wood a RSPB woodland.  Its a very botanically rich woodland and can produce a good selection of woodland birds.  

Whilst we assembled in the car park we were serenaded Blackcap, Robin and Chiffchaff, walking through the gate we quickly added Orange-tip and Speckled Wood butterflies.  But the thing you really notice is the carpet of Bluebells interspersed with patches of Wild Garlic, Dogs Mercury, Wood Anemone and amongst all these Toothwort and Early Purple Orchids and Greater Twayblade just fantastic. 

Early Purple Orchid
Greater Twayblade Orchid
male Orange-tip - Garston Wood & Butcher Broom in berry © Nick Hull 
Our walk produced all the woodland species expected, Nuthatches were pretty active and probably our bird of the day was Tree Pipit, in fact we had two which were singing well and one sang long enough from one position for everyone to get pretty good views. Thanks to Martin for his photograph below.
Singing Tree Pipit - Garston Wood © Martin Black

Tuesday 18 April 2017

New Forest & Coastal Birding

On Saturday (15th) we met up once again with Steve and Helena for a day's birding in the New Forest. After watching Marsh Tit, among the many birds feeding in Helena's beautiful garden, while having a cup of tea we drove to Pig's Bush/Bishop's Dyke area for our first walk of the day.  

Driving there we saw a Red-legged Partridge perched on top of a gate which started our list off nicely.  Arriving in Pig Bush car park we stopped to listen to the birdsong with Robin Blackbird, Stock Dove, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch and Chaffinch.  Walking out on to the heath a superb male Redstart hopped on to a branch then flew down to the ground then back up and stopped long enough to get even closer views in the scope.  We then heard the first of at least 10 Willow Warblers on our walk and a few Swallow flew over.  Meadow Pipits were displaying and a Buzzard was soaring over the far wood.

Coming into the marshy area of the dyke we had our first Stonechat, a splendid male and singing Willow Warbler.  We came into close contact with several Meadow Pipits flitting around this area, coming down on the path and almost dancing across the heather and landing back on the path, quite fascinating to watch them.  Reed Buntings as usual here and a Grey Heron flew across, then we heard a Cuckoo. Maybe it was Selborne, the first satellite tagged Cuckoo to return to UK, go to  https://www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/cuckoo-tracking/selborne for more info.

In their usual spot were three Lapwings as we moved into the wood with another male Redstart to greet us.  We added Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker and Dunnock to our list, as well as watching three Mallard fly over.  Further on Siskins flew over and we stopped to watch a Greenfinch singing and displaying. Little further on Nick noticed a Treecreeper collecting nesting material.  We watched him going in and out of where he had obviously chosen to nest behind some loosened bark on an old Oak tree.  He was happy with us as we kept a very respectful distance but Nick was still able to get a nice series of photos.  
A sequence of shot of the Treecreeper moving around the tree to disappear under the bark to its nest. © Nick Hull
After lunch we went on to Lower Pennington, looking over Pennington Marsh as usual plenty of Canada Geese and more unusually two Barnacle Geese.  Also Lapwing, Redshank and a few Wigeon still.  A few Swallows flew by as we crossed over to look over the old landfill pool with the usual assortment of gulls, plus Tufted Duck and Coots.  On the grass I picked up four Wheatears in the scope also lazing Shelduck, then a few Sand Martins appeared hawking over the pool but disappeared almost as quickly.  A Buzzard over the distant woods and a Meadow Pipit started displaying.  The warm sunshine brought out a few butterflies with Peacock and Red Admiral noted here.

Walking on to look over Fishtail Lagoon we had Skylark and the loud blast of Cetti's Warbler singing.
At the lagoon we had Little Grebe, Gadwall, Teal and Little Egret, along with Redshanks but otherwise it was fairly quiet.  Looking out to the Solent we found a pair of Eider, also a Ringed Plover but in the heat haze it was difficult and a much closer Great Crested Grebe.  Looking behind Butts Lagoon we heard the "ping" call and watched a Bearded Tit briefly fly over the reeds before diving back into the reedbed.  Further on a few winter plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, a Reed Warbler sang from the reeds while a Whitethroat piped up behind us.

We ended our day at Tanner's Lane, rather busy with holiday makers so we didn't linger long but we were very pleased to see our first Little Tern of the year, while listening to the Mediterranean Gulls calling and in the scrubby area Blackcap and Chiffchaff sang.  A good end to a glorious day and thanks to Steve and Helena for being such great company.