About Two Owls

Monday 17 December 2018

Wishing all our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Birding New Year

Sunday 9 December 2018

In Search of Little Bunting

Jackie and I had a 'twitch' today after the Little Bunting that was found at Chiswell, Portland yesterday.  The only trouble was that my car was in the garage and Jackie's turbo doesn't seem to be working properly, but as it's a county tick and it's been a slight bogey bird in Dorset for us to catch-up with, we made the decision to go for it even if we had to get the breakdown truck out to get home. 

After an hour we arrived and parked up and meeting friends Liz and Terry who had already seen the bird and pointed us in the right direction, which in fact was about four metres away from where we were stood.  So I joined a few photographers to see if I could manage a few memory shots and a little video of the bird.

Little Bunting - Chiswell, Portland © Nick Hull
The above shot was taken just to the rear of a parked car at the edge of the drive to the rear of the buildings.  The one below was taken when it was disturbed by a delivery van and it moved to sit and preen in some dried scrub on the Chesil bank.  I have to say of all the Little Buntings I've seen this was the most confiding 
Little Bunting - Chiswell, Portland © Nick Hull
And the good news is we made it back home without use of a tow truck.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Since the last Post

Since our last post I had a few hour to spare and went to Arne and volunteered a few hours which I try to do as regularly as possible. On the way I stopped at a field at Nutcrack Lane and checked if the Cattle Egrets were with the cattle there.  There were nineteen Cattle Egret spread across the field,  so out with the bridge camera for a little shooting and trying out the video mode.  Here's what I managed to get.

Arne had been getting a male Brambling into the feeding station behind the Welcome Hut so whilst helping out I kept an eye open for it to visit.  I was just pointing out the different birds to one of the visitors when I spotted a Brambling but this time it was a female none-the-less a very smart bird and she continued to visit throughout the afternoon though somewhat intermittently to the chagrin of some of the visitors.
Female Brambling Arne © Nick Hull
Next we had a Two Owls group meeting at Blashford Lakes this was on a rather cold damp day but luckily for us it stayed dry right up until we were walking to the cars when it started rain again. None-the-less we had a good mornings birding and seeing many of the regular species that frequents the reserve.  The highlights were Green Sandpiper on the bank and a dozen Goosander from the Goosander hide was most appropriate on Ibsley Water.  Also from the Goosander hide we had really close views of a Snipe which was hunkered down right below the hide amongst trashed willow on the shoreline.
Common Snipe - Goosander Hide, Isbley Water, Blashford © Nick Hull
At the weekend we met at Weymouth to  explore the area for returning wintering species and hopefully to see the Lesser Yellowlegs and the Ring-necked Duck and I have to say we were successful on both counts.  

Before we even started our walk at Lodmoor RSPB reserve we had near to 250 Canada Geese flying in over us to land in the reserve, Cetti's Warbler and Water Rails calling and a Great White Egret flew across the reserve towards Preston cleared Beachdown Way and pitched in out of sight. We walked the reserve anticlockwise in the hope the Lesser Yellowlegs was on the Western Scrape but when we arrived there it wasn't to be seen.  Though there were many Teal, Mallard, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and the long staying white headed Ruff and a Marsh Harrier.  We continued on and we had a Peregrine streak across the reserve putting everything up in the sky which was followed shortly after by a Sparrowhawk.  Further on we came across two more Great White Egret and its smaller cousins the Little Egret and a few Little Grebe sheltering from the wind tucked in by one of the tern nesting islands.  I met a couple of friends that watch Lodmoor regularly and they said they had just seen the 'Lesser-legs' in the marsh bit by Beachdown Way.  So with a quick thank you we hurried along the path and scanned the pools and there it was at the back trotting up and down the waters edge feeding and giving nice scope views.
Lesser Yellowlegs - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
From Lodmoor we moved to Sandsfoot Castle, here we added Red-breasted Merganser, Black-necked Grebe and a single Slavonian Grebe plus a handful of passing Brent Geese. Then it was onto Ferrybridge for lunch, there was no sign of very much, too many people walking dogs and digging bait for fishing along the shoreline, but we did see Skylark, Dunlin, Oystercatcher more mergansers and a Kestrel, our fourth raptor of the day. By the time we finished lunch the day was passing and we headed off towards Radipole, parking at the Tennis courts we scanned though the duck and I managed to pick out the Ring-necked Duck without too much problem with a few Tufted and Pochard.  So after watching this small American duck in appalling light and with the temperature dropping as the sun had started to set we headed back to Lodmoor where we said our goodbye's to the group after an excellent day's birding in Weymouth.

Monday 19 November 2018

Catching Up Again

When I logged in today I couldn't believe it has been so long since I wrote a blog. The main reason is that we have been very busy with a long weekend with a group in East Yorkshire and walks locally at Lodmoor, Durlston, Studland, Holton Lee, Stanpit and Keyhaven which has given our groups a wide variety species.

So instead of a write up on each location I thought to keep this blog to a reasonable length I would pick out a few of the highlights that we've seen in the period starting with East Yorkshire.
Jack Snipe - Spurn Point archive photo
Yorkshire gave us a few highs and one or two lows in that the first two days were pretty wet but we were able to bird from a few hides at Spurn Point which enabled us to see Jack Snipe, Ring Ouzels, Short-eared Owl. On our second visit we added more Ring Ouzel and thrushes, Yellow-browed Warbler and a Barred Warbler Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl. We also saw two Jay on our second visit to Spurn which was the first for two and a half years quite the local scarcity.  
Fieldfare coming in off the North Sea at Flamborough © Nick Hull
Our visit to Flamborough Head proved to be, for me the highlight of the trip for one reason only the visual migration was superb with large numbers of thrush species flying in off the North Sea which were followed by good numbers of finches giving the opportunity to see and hear Song, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Ring Ouzel, Redwing, Chaffinch and Brambling moving into Britain for the winter.

We also recorded Great White Egret at Hornsea Mere and lots of Tree Sparrows in various location we visited here they seem to be doing very well in this eastern corner of Yorkshire.
Tree Sparrow - Bempton Cliffs RSPB © Nick Hull
Closer to Home our visit to Lodmoor gave the group good opportunity to become conversant with the identification with Lesser Yellowlegs the North American equivalent to our Redshank which gave amazing good views.  Durlston gave us excellent views of Firecrest on what was a very overcast day as well as some visual migration but unfortunately it wasn't a big migration day.  Studland produced all the usual species and we had nice scope views of a group of returning Black-necked Grebe and good numbers of Mediterranean Gull and really close views of three Jay which were scouring for the churchyard for food.  Holton Lee always produces a variety of woodland species for us when we visit and usually adds a few waders and a bird of prey or two and it didn't disappoint us.  Our highlights were a very nice Kingfisher, male Sparrowhawk, Green Sandpiper and best of all was a Short-eared Owl  being harried over the bay by gulls a real scarcity for the Lytchett Bay recording area.  
Short-eared Owl © Nick Hull
Stanpit marsh produced its usual waterfowl also gave us good views of a couple of Wheatear and our first autumn sightings of recently returning Dark-bellied Brent Geese and we finished with a superb male Marsh Harrier over Priory Marsh.  Keyhaven is always an excellent location to visit at anytime of year though we didn't see anything particularly scarce that's not always what makes a walk memorable. Though the winter sun was a bit of a nuisance being low in the sky and the wind was blowing in from the south, we had good numbers of waterfowl in nearly all the lagoons and they appeared very restless with quite large flocks of Brent, Wigeon, Teal and Pintail constantly lifting off and circling around and landing again giving great views and a good opportunity to compare and see identification features of the different species in flight or on the water.  We also saw Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel  and many of the usual wader species out on the marsh.

Thursday 11 October 2018

Night Sound Surprise

Whilst I record on all nights that promise to stay dry the intention is to record what species are flying over Lytchett bay on migration in spring and autumn, I mostly record species that are what I consider local and can be seen most days in the recording area. (https://www.birdsofpooleharbour.co.uk/sites/default/files//011217%20A%20Guide%20to%20Birding%20Lytchett%20Bay-2.pdf

Unfortunately where I am situated isn't a nocturnal migration hot spot, well not yet anyway, but in saying this I occasionally get a reward like the Golden Plover in our last blog.  I suppose that's why I do it for that odd surprise and when you get a real close contact where it calls above the parabol, that is really rewarding.  It just doesn't happen enough but when it does it makes listening to all those hours of silence worth while and when you get probably one, ie the Golden Plover, you don't expect another soon.  To my surprise and joy as I viewed through my next nights recording I came across what was obviously a loud sound (see sonogram blow).  Usually these sounds normally turn out to be something manmade so as I put the headset on I didn't have great expectations but how wrong was I.  As I heard the sound I let out a loud "Yes" and Jackie asked what is it, I said listen and handed her the headset and replayed the sound she looked puzzled then the realisation of what it was dawned on her Barn Owl! she replied.  

I've only record Barn Owl twice before both times were somewhere near the edge of the bay probably   a hundred metres away or so but this was very close if not over the bungalow or at least the garden.

Barn Owl Sonogram 

Sunday 7 October 2018

More Nocturnal Sounds over Lytchett Bay

Well, I've had the recorder on over seven nights during September the most productive were the last nights of the month. In total 26 species were recorded many of which can be considered as local species, by that I mean I record them on every night I record.  But a handful I only record in spring or autumn or on the very odd occasion.

Moorhen, Coot, Snipe, Skylark and Dunlin I only recorded a few times, though Moorhen and Coot seem to be on the increase.  Moorhen are in the bay so might be moving around in the dark, Coot are scarce though are recorded in spring and autumn as are Snipe and the latter occasionally on winter nights.

A species that Paul Morton (BoPH) and Nick Hopper (Sound Approach) have both recorded on occasions around Poole Harbour is Golden Plover but they seem to have avoided my listening station here at Lytchett Bay.  Until now as this September I've recorded four individuals flying over and one recording (below) must of been very close or even over our Bungalow.

Below is the Spectrogram/Sonogram and recording of the Golden Plover calling as it passed over close to our Bungalow.

Sonogram of Golden plover and call below

Autumn is all about the winter thrushes moving in from northern Europe and it's alway nice to record the first of the year, but then once the migration get fully underway I spend so much time counting all the contacts on the recording it become a little bit of a labour of love rather than enjoyment.  In saying this September recordings not only produced the first Song Thrush, Blackbird and Redwing the latter flew by on 29th at 05:00hrs in the morning, it also produced Wigeon, Snipe, and the first Skylark also on the morning of the 29th at 02:59hrs.

Below is the sonogram and recording of that first Redwing of the autumn.
Sonogram of Redwing above, Call below

I've recorded a number of animal sounds and in the autumn Sika Stag are always recorded usually a number of time throughout the night, and I've often thought I should compare the bellows to see if there are any differences.  So today I compared two as they sounded obviously different indeed the sonogram backed this up. In fact the first you hear would only bellow once every so often the second animal would always put in a series of three in a row then take a break.  It seems to me that the first may be more senior in rank maybe, so doesn't need to sound off as much? So it could be I can identify individual stags by their sound and get an idea of how many Stags are vying for the doe's in the Lytchett Bay recording area.

Below is the sonogram of the two different stags the first sound is the one I think is possibly the senior animal the second sound is usually giving in a group of three seperate calls.

Below is the recording of both stags

Friday 14 September 2018

Recent Nocturnal Sound Recording

It has been a while since I have posted any nocturnal sounds recorded from Lytchett Bay.  So I've put together a few of the better recording of recent calls from Curlew flying over my listening station into or from the bay.

The first two are just single calls these were most probably birds moving into the bay to feed at low tide.

The next two are both a series of calls the first is probably two different birds calling one flying slight further away and one a little closer to the microphone (second and third call).

This is what I call the 'Worry Call' this from a bird moving across over the bay.

My last sound for this blog was recorded a week ago and is a sign that the Sika Deer have started the annual rut. This was a stags screaming bellow presuming warning off lesser stags this was his patch. He wasn't to far from the microphone probably just a little way into the wood.

Now I have some new software for processing the recordings I'l try to do more regular blogs to include more of the sounds of Lytchett bays wildlife.

Boating Around Poole Harbour

On Friday 7th Jackie and I were invited out with the Birds of Poole Harbour on the Volunteers Osprey Boat.   Starting at Poole Quay at 8a.m. we set off to sail up the Wareham Channel with Mark and Paul giving us a commentary and updating us on the Osprey translocation project. As we passed the Barfluer dock we had a flyby Mediterranean Gull and then a Sandwich Tern or two.  We passed Rockley and I picked up a flight of thirty one Avocet flying towards the harbour they looked stunning with the blue sky as they flashed black and white as they jostled for position in the air.  When we were adjacent to Holton Lee Paul called Osprey but to be honest it was so far away it was hard to see it flying to our north. 

Avocet over the Wareham Channel © Nick Hull
We continued on searching the skies and the water I managed to point out a Woodlark that flew along the Arne northern shore and disappeared into a pine tree out of sight. We then came across a large flock of Cormorant communally feeding Mark explained that this type of feeding was very typical of the sinensis subspecies which we find in the harbour every year and were probably Dutch breeding birds.  

Cormorant (possibly C. sinensis) - Wareham Channel © Nick Hull
As we reached the mouth of the Frome and the Piddle, the two main rivers that feed the harbour, we had several Sandwich Tern and to the left of the boat a Common Seal surfaced as the boat turned we saw another in the mouth of the Piddle.

Harbour or Common Seal - Wareham Channel © Nick Hull
We returned down the channel and then sailed across to the Wytch Channel past Shipstal to as far as Round Island, where we could observe the release pens off in the distance but no Osprey were on show.  In fact it appeared that most had already left toward the south and Africa.  As we headed back to across the harbour we had a distant view of thirteen Spoonbill on Shipstal Point.

As we crossed the Balls Lake shellfish beds I looked back toward Corfe Castle and there circling in the distance was an Osprey a tad closer than the previous view, so I called it and directed everyone on to it so there was at least two still around at least. 

We cruised on passing between Furzy and Brownsea Islands around to look over the sea wall into Brownsea Lagoon.  As we drifted along the lagoon edge we were able to pick out a number of wildfowl such as Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and I must have been on form as I located a Little Stint feeding on one of the sand bars just over the wall.  We also add more Little Egrets and five more Spoonbill which decided to take off and fly around giving excellent views and a fitting end to a excellent trip around the harbour.

Spoonbill over Brownsea Lagoon © Nick Hull

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Twitching Longham & visit to Middlebere

Jackie and I had a quick twitching visit to Longham Lakes for a Juvenile Black Tern in late August and had good views but when we returned with the group a couple days later it had left.  Though we still saw a good number of birds on the water and in the hedgerows around the lakes.  The highlights for most were watching Yellow Wagtails dodging around the feet of the cattle as they fed on the various diptera and Pauline picked up a high gliding Hobby that carried on south obviously starting its migration.

Juvenile Black Tern - Longham Lakes © Nick Hull
Juvenile Black Tern - Longham Lakes © Nick Hull
Though our walks are primarily for birds we never walk past anything that might catch our eyes and one of such things was a beautiful Hoverfly which was found sun bathing. So a quick photo shoot and  I id'ed it later as Myathropa florea a wasp mimic.  
Hoverfly - Myathropa florea © Nick Hull
We had almost completed our walk when Jackie called "Swift"and hawking above us with the Swallows and martins was a single Swift we took great care, as it was a late individual, that it wasn't something more rare but alas it wasn't but nice to see none-the-less.
Sand Martin over Longham Lakes © Nick Hull
Our Two Owls walk at Middlebere on the 5th September was successful in that we saw all the usual common species one would expect and added a handful of migrants.  Our highlights here were again Yellow Wagtails, which Chris saw first flitting around the cattle out in the bog on Hartland Moor as we were looking for Marsh Gentian.
Marsh Gentian - Hartland Moor © Nick Hull
As we walked down to the hide along the track we had a brief view of a female Bullfinch crossing the track and then heard more Yellow Wagtail calls, we all looked up and a group of 28 flew over heading south.  We also had a splattering of Meadow Pipits, a real sign that autumn is here when the pipits are starting to move. A family group of Mistle Thrush were in the Rowan a species that aren't common in the harbour area but one that likes Sika copse at Middlebere.  From the NT hide we were able to get distant views of a young Osprey sat in one of the favoured dead trees, tucking into a fish, unfortunately too far away to get a photograph.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Dorset with creatures that buzz, fly, slither and flutter

Catching up with a selection of highlights from various walk and wildlife monitoring that Two Owls have been involved with.

Since our last blog I've had a little volunteer time helping out the RSPB with reptile monitoring, one we did about eight weeks ago during the hot weather we only found three Slow Worm, one Smooth Snake and a single Sand Lizard.   Our more recent survey was just as the hot weather broke and we had the first of the cooler days.  We went through the day recording five species of of the six reptiles found on the RSPB reserves but Adder was not found all day.  We recorded several Sand Lizard, a single Common Lizard, several Grass Snake and an immature female Smooth Snake with very individual marking which will certainly help identify her again.  We always photograph the Smooth Snakes as the patterns are like a fingerprints unique to the individual and helps when catching them again to track their movements.
Female Smooth Snake © Nick Hull
Female Sand Lizard © Nick Hull
Our Wednesday monthly walk at Durlston Country Park, where we hoped for a few early migrants, was a little dashed by the weather conditions on the morning but highlights were a pair of Gannet that cruised by close to the cliffs and butterflies seemed to be everywhere in all the sunny sheltered spots.
Two Gannets passing Anvil Point © Nick Hull
Female Common Blue © Nick Hull
Wall Brown © Nick Hull
Our Portland and Lodmoor walk found birding a little hard with south westerly winds not being ideal but an hour of seawatching produced a couple of Manx Shearwater, three Fulmar, a possible Sooty Shearwater but it was just to far out to be 100% but the "jizz" looked good for this species. Unfortunately only myself and Angus caught sight of a pale phase Arctic Skua that dodged by the Pulpit Rock.  Our lunch break at Ferrybridge gave us a few extra waders with a count of 75+ Ringed Plover, single Knot and Sanderling and many summer plumaged adult Dunlin with a few young birds scattered over the shoreline.

Lodmoor was somewhat more productive with a good selection of the usual waterfowl with the added bonus of two Great White Egret, three Common Sandpiper, five Sandwich Tern a good number of different aged Mediterranean Gull and a single juvenile Yellow-legged Gull which was pointed out by birding friend Brett Spencer, a real gull enthusiast which enabled us to go through and see many of the features in direct comparison to the immature Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls nearby.
Great White Egret - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
Occasionally I help out with the Bat box monitoring at Arne when I have a chance it's a great way of learning more and getting up close with these super flying mammals. Last Saturday I was able to join Chris Dieck and a small number of Dorset Bat Group.  Checking the RSPB Bat boxes specifically for the Natterer's Bat project.  By the end of the day we had processed 110 Natterer's Bats (a new Arne record), 19 of these had not been ringed before which hopefully adds to the knowledge of the population movement around the reserve.  We also recorded three Soprano Pipistrelle bats and was able to show one or two to the public which was very appreciated particularly by one lady who had always wanted to see a bat up close.
One of the ringed Natterer's Bats © Nick Hull
Jackie also found a Wasp Spider a week or two ago in the lavender in the Arne wildlife garden and yesterday lunchtime we visited to top up on our Hedgehog food and checked to find she was still there. 
Female Wasp Spider - Arne Wildlife Garden © Nick Hull
The Wildlife garden has been an amazing attraction to an enormous amount of insect life if you visit it's always worth a look around there are some amazing creatures to be found feeding on the flowers or feeding on the insects that visit.  Below The Crucifer Shieldbug was a first for me as was the Median Wasp a species which was first recorded in the 1980's and has spread slowly and now has been recorded in Scotland.  They are a large wasp but not as large as the Hornet but like there bigger relative they will catch other insect to take back to the nest to feed the queen.

Crucifer Shieldbug-Eurydema ornata © Nick Hull
Dolichovespula media - worker Median Wasp
We also had a quick check at the new scrape at Sunnyside Farm and what an improvement and it enabled Jackie to catch up on Wood Sandpiper.  There was also Little Ringed Plover and Snipe plus a Hobby came over but with much of the autumn migration left to go this could be a very good place to see passing waders and more.
Distant shot of Wood Sandpiper- Sunnyside Farm © Nick Hull

Sunday 22 July 2018

Lytchett Bay & a Dorset First

Its not a bird but yesterday at around 14:14hrs, I received a text from fellow patch watcher Ian Ballam that he had just found three dragonflies hawking over the dried up ponds to the left of Footpath 12.  He also added that he thought they might be Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis a very rare species, and could I pop over and give a second opinion.  So I grabbed my camera and walked the hundred metres or so to the ponds and found Ian and the dragonflies.  After a lot of missed and blurred shots I managed a series of three photograph of one in a hover.  So we then quickly walked back home and put them up on the computer and checked the features with the reference book.  It didn't take long for us to confirm that they were indeed Southern Migrant Hawker.  So we put out the news on Twitter and other social media and rang around friends that we knew would be interested in seeing them.  We later checked with the Dorset Dragonfly Group and it appears that these three were the first records for the whole of Dorset.
The two above shot were the two which we were able to confirm the identity that they were indeed
Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis - © Nick Hull
This species quoting from The British Dragonflies Society; "This is a rare migrant but appears to becoming more frequent in the UK, and is a potential colonist. There was a single confirmed record during the twentieth century.  Four were observed in southern England in 2006.  During 2010 many individuals were seen in South Essex and North Kent and with ovipositing being noted at two sites".

This species is usually found in southern and central Europe and all around the Mediterranean, in North Africa, The Middle East and across Asia to China.  It is a migratory species and therefore can be found in some years further north of its usual distribution.

Top view- Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis - © Nick Hull
Side View - Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis - © Nick Hull
At the time of writing they were still hawking the same dried ponds as yesterday when they were first found. In fact reading the habitat requirement for this species it says "prefers standing water bodies that has dried up over the course of summer, often overgrown with low rushes, bulrushes or reed" which perfectly describes the area in which we found them.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Unexpected Rewards

Several months back, as someone who volunteers at Arne RSPB nature reserve, I was invited to a vols meeting.  The subject of the meeting was to ask if any of us would like to assist in survey work over the RSPB reserves locally and at Arne.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the wildlife and the habitats that live within the Poole Harbour basin.  So I agreed to help with  birds, bats, hoverflies, bees, wasps and reptiles, and time passed over the spring and I thought little about it.  Then an e-mail arrived a couple of weeks ago asking if I was still interested with a number of dates to help out.

Well this week I attended a day's training and what a day!  I hadn't given it much thought about what species we would be expected to survey but when I found out two of them would be British 'firsts',  that's if we found them.  Our list had four insects, a wasp, beetle, bee-fly and a damselfly and two rare flowers. 

Our first location was for the two flowers and the wasp, the latter was going to be a first for me. This was a species I had looked for a number of times and on the very heathland I was now crossing and had not found them.  After about ten minutes we stopped at a small area of bare ground and we were shown a few tell tale signs to enable us to recognise what we were looking for.
Excavation spoil like sugar granuals piled just a few centimetre away from the burrow
Though we were in the middle of a hot spell we had a little cloud and there wasn't any sign of any wasps other than the burrows, so we continued on and were shown some rare botany in Yellow Century and Pale Violet. By the time we arrived back to our lunch spot the sun was out and the temperature up. While the rest of our group went into the shade two of us stayed near the wasp site.  I suppose I should say this isn't any common or garden wasp this is Purbeck Mason Wasp Pseudepipoona herrichii.  It is a nationally rare and important species that is only found on the Purbeck heaths in the whole of UK.  The nearest continental population is in Northern Spain, but these may be a different species. It appears that they parasitise on a single species of tortrix moth called Acleris Hyemana.

Purbeck Mason Wasp Pseudepipona herrichii with Acleris Hyemana caterpillar © Nick Hull 
Acleris Hyemana the tortrix moth that the Purbeck Mason Wasp  parasitises © Nick Hull
It took about ten minutes before we spotted the first female flying in and I captured a couple of shots before she disappeared down her burrow.  By the time we had left we had recorded at least four with possibly another and found two more burrows.  Fortunately this isn't the only colony but they are a species that is of conservation concern.  We also found a sand wasp Ammophila pubescens which just happened to be the rarer of the two species of Ammophila that inhabits the Poole basin heathlands.
Sand Wasp - Ammophila pubescenes ©Nick Hull
Our next location was just a few miles away for two species and both I have seen before Southern Damselfly and Mottled Bee-fly.  The latter was picked up within a hundred metres from where we had parked and as we walked towards the mire where we hoped to see the damselfly we had several more. These are more fly like than there smaller relatives which many people have visiting there gardens and do not have the straight proboscis that sticks out front like a small javelin.
Mottled Bee-fly - Thyridanthrax fenestratus ©Nick Hull
The Southern Blue Damselfly was pretty straight forward they have quite specific requirement calcareous water that trickles through the heathland in this case from the Purbeck hills. We saw around six of this delightful damsels and watched a pair in tandem egg laying.
Southern Damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale  Nick Hull
Segment showing dianostic mercury mark
It was then back to the cars and a short drive down the road and out on another piece of heath this time for a Heath Tiger Beetle, another first for me, and once we had walked to the right area of the heath we started to find them, not many but sure enough they were still present and appeared to be doing ok.  We also checked out another area for the Purbeck Mason Wasp but didn't find any, though Kat and I did see a Heath Potter Wasp which is also a recordable species.
Heath Tiger Beetle Cicindela sylvatica © Nick Hull
On our way back to the cars we added a Slow Worm which rounded our day off very nicely.

Big Thank you to Peter from RSPB Arne and Sophie from 'Back from the Brink' team for an excellent day's training and to come away with a 100% success in finding all the species was brilliant.

Monday 2 July 2018

We're Back.

Hi everyone, well Jackie and I have returned from our holiday in France which was one of those kind of up and down type holidays.  There will be more on that later but for now, we have had a few walks which have been interesting in different ways.

Our first venture out after our return was with our Tuesday group on 26th at Sugar Hill, Wareham Forest.  This is a location where almost anything can turn up though it is more of a general nature walk at this time of year and indeed it did turn into a bit of a Butterfly and Odonata walk.  Though we picked up all the usual forest bird species that you would find in June with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit and the ever present Siskins calling overhead, plus good view of Common Buzzard perched and soaring also displaying overhead.  A Green Woodpecker gave us a good show and we heard siskin flying overhead and around us almost continuously throughout our walk.
Scarlet Tiger Moth-Sugar Hill_Wareham Forest ©Nick Hull
It was the Butterflies and Dragonflies that caught everyones attention from the start.  We had Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Large Skipper, Small and Common Blue and shortly after we started to pick up Silver-studded Blues in profusion, it appears they have had a very good year. Keeled Skimmer male and female and one of my favourites the large Golden-ringed Dragonfly cruised by us as it searched for its insect pray.  I then picked up a Scarlet Tiger flying across the path and fortunately it landed on a pine and everyone had a chance of seeing this super looking moth, equal in beauty to any butterfly in my opinion.   Ann found a couple of Bee Orchid spikes almost hidden in the long grass and we continued with more butterflies with Ringlet, Peacock, Red Admiral and we ended the walk with the appearance of the butterfly of the day two Silver-washed Fritillaries.
Golden-ringed Dragonfly-male Sugar Hill ©Nick Hull
Our next walk with our Wednesday group was in the New Forest, on reflection it was more a day of quality that quantity which made it a really super walk.  We began with Goldcrest and Coal Tit singing in the parking area then quickly follow with Song Thrush and Stonechat the latter species we kept coming across and seemed to have had a successful breeding season so far with many family parties being seen.  Linnets and Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Wren and Common Buzzard soon followed.

We then went through a patch of butterflies and dragonflies finding many Silver-studded Blues, Small Heath and Common Blue backed up with Emperor dragonfly, Four-Spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, and Keeled Skimmers.  There were also, Beautiful Demoiselle, Azure Blue and Large Red Damselflies.
Male Keeled Skimmer © Jackie Hull
Continuing on we had singing Reed Bunting and Willow Warblers, these were usurped by watching more distantly a Honey Buzzard and for good comparison a Common Buzzard. Moving on we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker and then saw Redstart fly across our path,  then a flyover Peregrine and it was while watching this speedy falcon that Jackie called "Sparrowhawk" then with quick realisation  said "No"! I quickly checked where she was looking and to my surprise there in my bins was a Honey Buzzard doing a little wing clapping and then it soared more or less over us, before moving off, a wonderful bird.
Honey Buzzard © Nick Hull Archive photograph
We followed this with a sighting of three Woodlark which kindly flew up and perched long enough for us to get good views before they moved off again further out into the heath.  We hadn't walked far when a Spotted Flycatcher put on a little show for us before we moved through an area of mature Oak. Here I picked up our first Silver-washed Fritillary on the year a super looking butterfly followed further on we by Large Skipper. As we walked over the stream we could here Blackcap, Willow Warbler and a Tree Pipit singing and another fifty metres Jackie found the Tree Pipit at the top of a dead tree, we finished our walk watching a small feeding flock of adult and immature Swallows fly catching over the heath.

Our third walk was an evening walk on the 30th at Martin Down, just into Hampshire an excellent chalk downland which is superb for butterflies, orchids and birds.

We started very quickly getting one of our target birds when Fran found a singing Turtle Dove at the top of a tree further up the trail, we quickly followed with birds flying and others singing. Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Blackbird, Bullfinch, Song Thrush and Dunnock were a quickly checked off.
Turtle Dove © Nick Hull archive photograph
Then we had a cluster of butterflies with Large Skipper, Marbled and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Brown then Jackie found a group of Small Skippers starting to go to roost.  Our next sighting was a brief one as a male Sparrowhawk popped over the hedge and very quickly past us and was gone in an instant.  We continued with butterflies with Ringlet and a Green Hairstreak many of the butterflies were going to find evening roosts.  Turtle Dove were all now singing from a number of areas which I think everyone enjoyed as its not a sound that we hear much these days.
Large Skipper © Jackie Hull
On our return we added few bird species but Corn Bunting, Skylark and a single Grey Partridge which was heard and later seen flying low over the Down disappearing into the long grass.  it was then we started picking up Dark-green Fritillary a stunning grassland butterfly.  Shortly after we began to see Scarlet Tiger moths not the odd one or two but many, obviously we had hit on a large emergence of this stunning moth.  Blackcap, Starlings more Turtle Doves and Wood Pigeon were seen or heard to the backdrop of Skylark on a beautiful evening.

We only had a single dip on the evening our first time in probably five years of visiting here at this time of year the Barn Owl didn't show.