About Two Owls

Monday 21 August 2017

Egrets, Spoonbills & Ospreys!

Our Wednesday group met on the 16th at Middlebere track on a still, warm and fairly sunny morning.  Walking down the track to the hide it seemed quiet with no obvious migrants in the hedgerows.  As we arrived at the cattle grid and farmyard we had a flock of Goldfinch along with the resident House Sparrows and at last Swallows flying round and then landing in line along the wire fence and on the barn roof.  A Green Woodpecker flew across and then a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker landed on a post and a short while later was joined by another juvenile.  We had the usual Robins, Wren and Chaffinch as we moved on down to the National Trust cottages.  Angus was very lucky to see a Barn Owl, the rest of us were out of sight for just a few moments as we turned the corner and missed it!  
Great White Egret © Nick Hull
We got into the hide and a lucky photographer said he had seen Cattle Egret earlier that morning and showing Nick his photos it was obvious that it was in fact 3 adults and 5 juveniles, what a record for Poole Harbour.  We did see Little Egrets from the hide of course but no Cattle Egrets for us.  However we did have views of Osprey and of a Spoonbill, though due to a low tide not much in the channel other than a few Shelduck and Grey Heron.  A Curlew landed in the grass in front of the hide and a Whitethroat and Wren in the brambles and two Greenshank flew in and disappeared into one of the creeks.

Walking back past the cottages and looking over the field with a flock of Canada Geese, Fran picked up a bird across the field on a fence, with the scope we could see it was a Whinchat.   Distantly over the harbour were a couple of Buzzards and Osprey, then a Peregrine flew across towards the Wytch channel.  This is where we were heading next and walked up to look from the Harrier Hide.  This was a good move!  We scanned the channel finding Little Egret, Lapwing and a couple of Greenshank but it was Ann that first pointed out that an egret on the left bank had a Yellow bill with a black tip.  To our surprise we had a Great White Egret and through the scopes we all had good views.  A few minutes later it too took flight towards the harbour, in just one morning Poole Harbour had hosted three species of egret, a scarce event indeed.
parasitic wasp possibly Ammophila sabulosa
Our attention was momentarily taken away from birds to watching a Amnophila wasp possible A.sabulosa, a parasitic wasp taking prey into it burrow in the sandy soil.  It then filled the hole with small stones and sand until there was no trace of a hole at all, quite a mesmerising show.  Then the calls of Greenshank made us look up again to see five Greenshank flying away towards Corfe Castle, though one remained on muddy bank.  One last look along the end of the channel a group of 5-6 Spoonbills could be seen.  We also added Stonechat as we walked back and a few butterflies with Grayling and Small Heath.  Other butterflies seen this morning were Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

In Search of Shearwaters

On the morning of Sunday 30th July we met our group at Portland Bill for a seawatch.  We joined a small gathering of birders watching from the shelter of the lighthouse wall, it soon became obvious that there was indeed a movement of seabirds, at first we watched a trio of Arctic Skua chasing and harassing a small number of terns off the Bill.  

Then we could settle a bit to get to grips with the shearwaters, as a few of the group hadn't seen Shearwaters before we braved the wind and moved to take as much shelter at the Obelisk could afford. We were soon rewarded with a number of Balearic Shearwaters passing close by.  The best was still to come, we were scanning through a number of large gulls and picking up the odd Gannet sitting on the very rough sea when I picked up a Manx Shearwater moving toward us from along the East Cliff.  When it reached our position it landed on the sea right in front of us.
Manx Shearwater resting on the sea © Mike Davidson
We had plenty of opportunity to see many Balearic and the odd Manx Shearwaters moving past and a number formed a small feeding raft a few hundred metres off the Bill.  We added a number of other species such as Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Scoter, Mediterranean Gull, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull, Shag, Cormorants.  We also saw three Kestrels, a Peregrine which flew in off the sea and a single Whimbrel which flew past out to sea.  A single Common Sandpiper took a short rest on the rock just in front of us.  We even had a passing Oystercatcher and a handful of Linnets plus a number of Rock Pipits.

After the seawtaching slowed we walked to the Lower Lighthouse Bird Observatory and added many of the commoner species found on the Bill, though the Little Owl in the quarry wasn't to be seen, probably due to the wind direction.

We thought that as it was so windy at the Bill it might be worth checking the north of the island so we headed for the Verne Common and the Admiralty Cemetery.  As it happened, though it was sheltered and warm here, other than a very noisy Peregrine and the usual gulls and corvids there was little to see so we headed to Ferrybridge for lunch.

We started again looking over the Fleet where Mediterranean Gull and Sandwich Terns showed well. We moved on to Lodmoor to finish our day where we added a small selection of waders including three Common Sanpipers, six Dunlin, a few Black-tailed Godwits still looking splendid in summer plumage.  Also Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and a few Swift over the reserve as well as the usual duck species.