About Two Owls

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Keyhaven Wader ID Walk

We met at Keyhaven on a three quarter tide and as soon as we got out of our cars we had seven Bearded Tits flying into the reedbed next to the parking area, not waders but what a start!  We took the shoreline path and immediately started with a number of Black-tailed Godwits, mostly adult birds but we managed to find a couple of youngsters to compare plumages.  Here we also had Turnstone, Dunlin and Grey Plovers followed by Curlew and Redshank.  Moving on round we came across a number of birders looking into a marshy field and found out that the Wryneck from the previous day had been seen.  We gave it some time but it didn't show so we moved on to look for the Grey Phalarope on Keyhaven lagoon, though we hadn't gone far when Martin drew our attention to a Peregrine sitting on a post out in the saltmarsh on the seaward side.

Scanning Keyhaven Lagoon we added eight Pintail looking like they were freshly arrived and a flight of eight Wigeon flew over to the west.  We were just viewing the Grey Phalarope at the far end of the lagoon before moving for closer views when another birder mentioned to us that the Wryneck was now showing.  We turned on our toes and headed quickly back to look for this small woodpecker species.  Very kindly one of the birders helped me to place my scope on the right spot so I could do the same for the rest of the group.  It took a few minutes for it to show and then it popped up right on top of a small mound giving good views though a little distant, then it flew a short way and disappeared out of sight again. It was nice to get a life tick for a number of the group so everything else was going to be a bonus.

Shortly after we were stood at the end of Keyhaven lagoon looking to see where the Grey Phalarope had gone, it was nowhere to be seen.  I stepped as close to the drainage ditch as possible to look down the edge and it just popped up and flew directly towards us banking at the last minute and plopped down on the water just a few metres in front of us giving great views.

Grey Phalarope sequence shot as it passed us and landed on the water © Nick Hull
Well, Jackie and I knew we weren't going to top that but the rest of the walk produced all the usual species we would usually expect to see and we added a couple of Spoonbill which were feeding on Fishtail lagoon.
Spoonbill - Fishtail Lagoon - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
We walked out to the point to see if there was anything out on the Solent and this gave us the opportunity to look at a number of Grey Plover that still retained most of their summer plumage.  We had a few more Dunlin and Oystercatchers. We ended the day with 64 species and hopefully the group has a better idea of ageing waders.
Grey Phalarope - Keyhaven Lagoon © Nick Hull
I promised a couple of the group a link to the ageing of Grey Plover, and one to show waders that migrate via the Yellow Sea that shows what an important area it is for so many wader species or as they say on the video Shorebirds.

Monday 25 September 2017

You should never think it's all over, particularly in birding

After seeing Least, Stilt and Buff-breasted Sandpiper in just a few days it never struck us that the next week was going to be nearly the same.  

We had a walk at Lodmoor on the 20th where we hoped the two American sandpipers would stick around but unfortunately they didn't, but the day was good and we had a good selection of birds none-the-less.  Not long after starting our walk we had two Cattle Egrets flying across the back of the reserve and going into the distant reed bed, a good start.  Jackie found a couple of teal sized ducks with a distinctive supercilium I managed a brief look at one of them before they disappeared from view, to quick for most of the group, we both thought Garganey but they didn't show again for us.  Later three were found by another birder which confirmed our thoughts.  On the marsh at the bottom of Beachdown Drive we had our first Yellow Wagtail along with a number of Pieds. A little further on at one of the viewpoints I picked out, among a few Dunlin, a Curlew Sandpiper then one of the group picked out a Common Sandpiper and from the viewing shelter we added two more.  Here we also had an adult and juvenile Sandwich Tern, then eight more Yellow Wagtails flew in showing the variations of plumages of juveniles and adult.  

From the Hump side of the reserve we scanned through the small flock of Dunlin and found a second Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, a Sparrowhawk flew in and disappeared into the rush at the far side of the scrape. We were just walking on when Joe called Marsh Harrier and over the middle of the reserve was a immature male quartering the marsh.
Curlew Sandpiper - from Two Owls Archive
After finishing our walk we found out that the Baird's Sandpiper was still at Lynch Cove and a few of the group were keen to see it.  So we headed off across the town and around fifteen minutes later saw us standing beside the Fleet scanning through a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plover.  I quickly picked up a small long winged stint-like wader a smart juvenile plumaged Baird's Sandpiper a perfect end to a mornings birding.

The next day (21st) I took a bit of a lay-in and was just finishing breakfast when Shaun rang and said "Hi Nick, Shaun Stilt Sand on Lytchett Fields" it took me a few seconds and for Shaun to repeat what he said for me to take it in, I quickly replied "ok see you in a minute".  All thought of finishing breakfast had gone Jackie and I grabbed Bins, Scope and Camera and in to the car.  A short drive and a quick walk found us standing in the drizzle trying to locate the sandpiper at the bottom of the field.  We had several views none were brilliant when it suddenly took flight and headed towards us, the four of us  there were locked on to it as if it was a guided missile.  Nearly to us it banked left circled and then our prayers answered it landed about thirty metres from us.  I threw caution to the wind and pulled out the camera into the rain and took a dozen or so confirmation shots not really expecting them to be prize winning and not caring too much.  Jackie and I watched it until we were uncomfortably wet and headed home to dry out by which time a number of fellow patch and Poole Harbour birders had arrived to see it.
Stilt Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields © Nick Hull
That morning we also had two Curlew Sandpiper, two Little Stint, three Ruff plus all the usual common waders. Next day it wasn't seen but was refound at Middlebere on 24th.

The day did get even better when we heard that the Grey Phalarope on Arne Moors had been joined by a Red-necked Phalarope.  Of course an opportunity we could not miss of seeing both species together and in Poole Harbour.  Arrangements had been made with boat yard for access so easy parking and a short walk found us with lots of fellow Poole birders watching these two small and very attractive arctic breeding species. It's uncommon to see both together and the Red-necked was quite obviously smaller.
Red-necked & Grey Phalaropes - Arne Moors © Ian Ballam

Saturday 16 September 2017

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Since I started writing our last blog we went off to see yet another American sandpiper, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and this time on Portland.  We arrived at the Obs and decided to just pop to see the Wryneck in the Obs Quarry first.  The bird had not been seen for 1/2 hr or so, but eventually I wandered round to a young man who was staring into the grasses.  After a little while he turned and said he had the bird, it was difficult to get everyone on to it but I thankfully found it fairly easily as it popped its head up, it was incredibly well hidden.
Wryneck - Obs Quarry, Portland Bill
The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was a different matter, it was so close to area fenced off where the few birders were sat watching it feeding quite happily, before trying to shelter from the strong wind behind the horse poo.  Then it would come back out and run around, feed then without any apparent reason started flying and we watched flying out to sea a little way and out of sight.  Apparently it does this every so often, but didn't return before we left.

The video clips were photocopied are © Wayne Prosper and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper © Nick Hull

Dorset Sandpipers and more

American sandpipers seem to be favouring Dorset at the moment with Baird's on Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, Least and Stilt on Lodmoor, Weymouth and most recent yesterday a Buff-breasted was found at Portland.  We did try twice for the Baird's but dipped twice so we were hoping we could get to Lodmoor after taking our Tuesday group at Middlebere on the 12th.  More of about Lodmoor later, first we had a brilliant morning with the group.

It was the first of our Autumn course (12th September) so it was good to see everyone back together and Ben who was new to our group.  The sun was shining and this certainly brought the birds out and we started almost immediately with Redstart.  It would fly down to the path showing it's bright tail beautifully, a little further on we found two more.  House Martins were flying over all the time we were out, then a Kestrel appeared hovering over the moor.  Meadow Pipits were on move to as well as our usual resident species of Goldfinch, Wren and Robin joining in the mix.
Common Redstart - Middlebere ©Nick Hull
One of the highlights this morning was a Lesser Whitethroat sat out on a branch of the hedge enjoying the sunshine allowing time for us to really enjoy this little bird.  For some of the group this was the best views they've had of this species.  Above it was a small charm of Goldfinch and Blue Tits.  The sun also brought out the butterflies with Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Heath and Speckled Wood.

We'd hardly moved a few hundred metres down the track at this stage with so much to see, moving down though we added a pair of Bullfinch, though calling they were hard to see.  A female Blackcap popped up which I called then Nick said he had a male.  Then we stopped at a copse where several Chiffchaffs were flitting about with a couple of Willow Warblers with them and Long-tailed Tits.  From here on to the cottages we added Stonechat and a very smart Spotted Flycatcher as well as the usual Blackbird and Dunnock.
Spotted Flycatcher - Middlebere ©Nick Hull
From the hide an Osprey was perched in the dead tree but the heat haze didn't help viewing.  An array of waders in the channel included Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin and Oystercatcher.  Also Teal Mallard and Little Egret as well as three Spoonbill, until a flight of 27 came in to boost the numbers to 30!  Seeing them in flight is a such a sight very graceful for a long legged large white bird.
26 Spoonbill over Middlebere lake ©Nick Hull
Looking from the bench by the barns we heard Water Rail and saw a couple of Stonechats.  But it was the sight of a Kestrel being joined by a juvenile Hobby and they started tussling together right in front of us.  Quite quickly they broke away and the Hobby landed in a tree allowing us great views through the scope.  What a finish to a great morning now for those Sandpipers at Lodmoor!

We met up with Wayne who works at RSPB Arne for his ever twitch and first visit to Lodmoor.  This proved to be a very easy twitch as we arrived at the "Bandstand" or viewing shelter it was very easy to find the juvenile Least Sandpiper.  As named it is a diminutive American wader which has been blown across the Atlantic and the first one seen in Dorset.  While watching a Green and Common Sandpiper  came in and now we wandered round to find our fourth sandpiper and second rarity the Stilt Sandpiper.  This was a very different looking bird to the Least and no less good looking and we had good close views of this splendid wader feeding alongside Black-tailed Godwits and a Dunlin.  I think we can safely say that Wayne was impressed with Lodmoor and his first twitch!

We hoped to be able to include a piece of video of the sandpipers but we have a glitch that Nick is working on and hopefully we can upload soon.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Birding Lytchett Fields

On Wednesday (6th) our group met for a walk round our home patch of Lytchett Fields.  Our arrival was timed well for the high tide when large numbers of waders use the fields when the feeding areas disappear in the bay itself.  On the way we had views of one of our local Buzzards and a few of the usual resident species like Robin, Blue Tit and Starlings.  It was fairly quiet as we walked across the "Purple Heron" field as it's known by the local birders, to the two viewpoints and now called the approach field for more obvious reasons.  But just after crossing the wooden bridge I heard a Yellow Wagtail call, scanning the pools to our left for this bird we found a good number of Pied and mixed with them a few White Wagtails, then right at the back of the pools we could see a couple of Yellow Wagtails.  We were just moving forward towards the viewpoints when Ian Ballam, a fellow patch watcher, phoned my mobile telling me that in the corner of the pools in front of us was a Curlew Sandpiper close to the path.  So I quickly found it for all to see just in case it flushed as we walked passed though we didn't need to worry as neither the Dunlin or the Curlew Sandpiper took any notice of us.
Curlew Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields RSPB © Joe Baldwin
Arriving at the Sherford Pools viewpoint other than a few wagtails everything was at the far end, apparently just before we arrived a Peregrine had "buzzed" the field.  There was still good numbers of  Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Teal, several Little Egrets, a single Greenshank and a few Lapwings.  Chris found another Buzzard sat in an Oak tree and then a Peregrine sped in from the left across the field really low and nothing moved!  Soon after Fran found it sat in a dead tree, it was a young bird obviously still honing her skills.  Shortly afterwards a Kingfisher streaked across the pools heading for the Sherford River but perched long enough in an oak to allow us brief scope views. 

Next we viewed over French's Pools, here the field had a deeper water level but there was a couple of Greenshank and more godwits.  Also a large flock of roosting gulls with mainly Black-headed Gulls, with a Great Black-backed and a few Herring Gulls mixed in. We had taken over an hour working our way through the birds trying to find the Wood Sandpiper, which had been around for a few days, but we couldn't find it anywhere on the pools. 

Walking back to Slough Lane we had a Kestrel hovering over the Purple Heron Field, in the lane we had a small tit flock, also Chaffinch Greenfinch, Goldfinch and of course Robin.  A look of the wildflower/arable field didn't produce anything of note but it was looking good for the late autumn and winter, with the flowers heads now gone to seed, hopefully this will bring in the winter finches and buntings.  Lytchett Pools had more gulls, a scattering of Lapwing, a couple of godwits and a Green Sandpiper.  A quick look around the waterworks we added Jay and a few Chiffchaff.

Now time to return to our cars but it was really nice to show the group our local patch.