About Two Owls

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Normandie Visual Migration - 'VisMig'

After our visit to the East Riding of Yorkshire Jackie and I had some business across the channel and planned a couple of days birding.  So we had a day at home before jumping on the ferry at Poole  to Cherbourg. An hour and a half later we arrived at our B&B chosen as it was just 25 minutes from the coast and from one of Normandie's best vismig watch points, though you will not see this advertised anywhere.  We found out by accident on visiting the little nature reserve some years ago and was told by a local that the two kilometre's of coastline was a good place to see many birds from l'Angleterre passing over.  It took us a few visits before we hit a good passage and boy was it good, so we have visited on and off since.  As the autumn migration had started in the Yorkshire with the thrush movements a week before we thought it was a good time to visit the site again.

Day 1
We breakfasted early enough we thought to get to our watch point in time for dawn but we arrived a little late.  As we were just getting our gear together in the car park I noticed a scattered flock of birds flying towards us, bins up and I could see and hear they were Chaffinch. So we hurried to get to our preposed watchpoint and started counting.  There was a light mist and the birds would come into view about 500m away as they moved towards us.  Chaffinch were the main migrant and they were passing on a narrow front and as the mist started to clear the front broadened and the birds came past higher up.
Chaffinch passing landward 
Chaffinch moving over the sea
To start with the chaffinch were streaming through then as time moved on they came in waves, but when you are in the position with this many birds of one species moving the main thing to do is look and listen for different sounds and block out the Chaffinch.  It didn't take us long before we heard our first Brambling, Greenfinch, the odd Redwing and Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and 'Alba' Wagtail.  Small flocks of Starling also Woodpigeon the latter was something new for us this side of the channel. Then Skylark started to move through mainly in one's and two's but a few small groups were seen later. It was not long after we recorded our first Wood Lark one at a time, we would hear them call and then we would look for them and most were following the line of the cliff south towards Brittany.
Woodlark disappearing towards Brittany
Small flocks of Starling were also moving, also Jackdaw, lesser numbers of Goldfinch, Stock Dove, Blackbird, Linnet were recorded. Two species I never quite get used to seeing is Great and Blue Tit but we had several little groups some passing by others dropping like stones out of the sky and pitching in to the cliff top bushes before moving on again a while later.
Blue Tit passing by our watch point
It always nice when you are vismiging and you here 'tzick' of Hawfinch and we recorded them on seven occasion during the morning the largest group was ten birds but I'm sure we missed seeing some.
Hawfinch migrating
We did have a few raptors, not all migrants, with a pair of Peregrine, two Kestrels and singles of Merlin and Sparrowhawk.  Our watch lasted till 12:30hrs three hours, this was when everything slowed and came to a more or less a stop and all the bushes and trees in the woodland suddenly went quiet.

We went for lunch then sat on a bench on a nearby beach and had a total count of the mornings birds we recorded 3,828 birds of 29 species we considered migrants, plus a few local species such as Cirl Bunting, Peregrine, and Black Woodpecker the latter gave us a nice call and fly around the tree tops before ducking into the trees again which brought the total number of species to 41 for the morning.  

It was whilst doing our count up that Jackie and I became aware of a background sound, in fact I remembered hearing it all morning and we realised it was coming from out to sea.  Then it fell into place it was an enormous number of Common Scoter, we estimated somewhere between 2000+ birds.  They were around a half a mile out and scattered all across the bay. It appeared they were mostly black drakes but I did find a number of females immature types. I took a little recording on my iphone but it was to faint to reproduce here, so I've taken the recording and mixed it with other recordings to produce a sound similar to what we were hearing.  Apologies to the purists amongst you but I wanted to give you a real feel of the sound we were hearing and you could hear it from anywhere along the coastal path for around around 4km at least.

Day 2
After the previous mornings experience we decided to do it all over again, but it was wet and overcast when we left our B&B.  As we drew nearer to the coast it brightened up a tad and we became more hopeful.  This morning we were at least a half hour earlier and the wood and bushes only had the few resident birds present.  We had a short conversation with a local birder who gave us a little heads up of where to stand to vismig that morning with the overnight change in wind direction .  So taking his advice we started out in the field north of the car park.  As we were walking to our proposed spot a couple of Swallow flew over to get us started and then as with our first day the Chaffinch started streaming through and then Starlings started in small flocks then came several large flocks one after the other, higher than the Chaffinch.

Starling migrating
As the morning progressed we realised like the previous day as it became brighter and the birds could then see the Brittany coast the birds started to move direction more over the sea.  So Jackie and I returned to the previous watch point on the coastal path but not before we had added Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Serin, Ring Ouzel, Siskin and Redpoll to the morning list.

After our move It was then we found we had been missing a few species which we had recorded the day before, Blue and Great Tit and Goldcrests also Alba Wagtail, as they were moving along the clifftop out of sight of us on the field by the car park. By lunch time we had doubled our previous days count and recorded 8065 birds of 35 migrant species six more than the previous day and two extra species considered local Buzzard and Cetti's Warbler.

Those species considered to be migrants over both days:-
Species highlighted were seen on second day not on day one.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose (39 - 18) flying past out to sea.
Common Scoter (2000+ - 3000+) not in counted in final numbers as not migrating through.
Grey Heron (0 - 2)
Great White Egret (0 - 2)
Sparrowhawk (3)
Lapwing (3 - 5)
Stock Dove (6 - 5)
Woodpigeon (327 - 262)
Merlin (1 - 0)
Jackdaw (96 - 45)
Goldcrest (4+ - 5+)
Blue Tit (34 - 7+)
Great Tit (82 - 10+)
Woodlark (11 - 5+)
Skylark (42 - 132)
Swallow (0 - 2)
Chiffchaff (2 - 3)
Starling (1159 - 3187)
Ring Ouzel (0 - 2)
Blackbird (7 - 9)
Song Thrush (9 - 19)
Redwing (31 - 127)
Mistle Thrush (6 - 16)
Pied/White (alba Wagtail) (21 - 1+)
Meadow Pipit (3 - 6)
Brambling (10 - 62)
Chaffinch (1440 - 3935)
Hawfinch (23 - 4)
Bullfinch (5 - 21)
Greenfinch (49 - 4)
Linnet (30 - 0)
Lesser/Common Redpoll (0 - 6)
Goldfinch (5 - 4+)
Serin (0 - 1)
Siskin (38 - 137+)

Species Considered most likely local residents:-
Cormorant (1 - 3)
Little Egret (1 - 1)
Great Crested Grebe (1 - 2) on sea
Sparrowhawk (2 - 2)
Buzzard (0 - 1)
Black-headed Gull present
Common Gull present
Herring Gull present
Great Black-backed Gull present
Woodpigeon present
Black Woodpecker (1 - 0)*
Green Woodpecker (1+ - 0)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (2)
Kestrel (2+)
Peregrine (2 - 0)
Jay (2 - 2)
Jackdaw present
Cetti's Warbler (0 - 2)
Wren present
Blackbird present
Song Thrush present
Robin present
Stonechat (2 - 0)
Dunnock present
Chaffinch present
Cirl Bunting (2 - 3 heard singing)

Monday 28 October 2019

East Riding of Yorkshire Part 2

We started both days at Flamborough's South Landing watching the ringing event and then moved on to Bempton Cliff RSPB reserve where we saw a number of birds species in the hand that you don't often get so close views of normally. 

This was part of the Filey & Flamborough Ringing & Migration Week (aka Migweek). To read more about the birding week and highlights of Migweek go to Mark James Pearson's Blog.

While I remember, Jackie and I would like to thank Mark and his team and all involved with the event for making us so welcome and organising a brilliant event, 'We'll be back'. 

Now back to the birds, both mornings were not in best weather conditions but none-the-less a trickle of birds were brought in from the nets and we had informitive descriptions of the age of the individual bird and sexing if it was possible to do so etc, from the ringers who were representing the BTO.

Day 3 Started at the Flamborough Observatory at South Landing where we saw a few birds in the hand before the rain stopped play .  At which point Jackie and I headed to the Fog Station as there had been a Short-eared Owl reported there. We pulled up in the car park with the rain lashing down. Jackie found the owl hunkered down under a large tussock of grass out to our right. From here we headed to Bempton as we were to meet Derek and Kay for lunch.  By the time we arrived the rain had more or less passed, but was soon to start again. Derek and Kay arrived and we headed off to Bridlington for lunch at Rag's restaurant at the old harbour masters building and a very nice lunch it was to.

After lunch the rain eased and the sun came out more or less as we exited the restaurant and Derek said "often there is Purple Sandpipers on the rocks just over the sea wall", so we took a look and there they were along with a few Turnstone and Oystercatcher plus a single Knot.

As we arriving back at Bempton to pick up our car the info services pinged out that the Red-flanked Bluetail that had been caught in the nets at Filey the day before had been found in the Arndale.  Well we couldn't refuse the chance so off we went, we purchased a 2 hour parking ticket and headed down into the Arndale, a tree lined path leading down to the sea.  We met with four local birders and they kindly pointed the bird out high in the canopy. See Marks Blog for photo of the bird.  making a successful end to the day. 

Day 4 Was a successful morning though slow to start we had several birds brought in to the ringing station. 

Feisty Blue Tit - Flamborough Obs © Jackie Hull
As you can see Blue Tit can be pretty feisty compared to one of the other residents the Tree Sparrow which was caught a little later whose threat display constituted just raising it's wings. 
Local Tree Sparrow giving its best threat display © Nick Hull
Our first migrant was this Redwing which had probably came across the North Sea that morning and came down to have a feed on the Hawthorn berries when it went into the nets.

Redwing - Flamborough © Nick Hull
It was particularly nice to see a female Bullfinch in the hand. We were shown a detail on one of the feathers which I have to admit not having seen before in the field.  The strange thing is no one has figured out what it's there for.  Its a small triangular rufous feather at the inner edge of the greater coverts.
Female - Bullfinch © Nick Hull
Below is the small rufous feather being pointed out, it may maybe that it gives the impression of a face from the rear to help fool predators, but who knows?

The rufous triangular feather being pointed out © Nick Hull
This juvenile Lesser Redpoll was a delight to see up close and without its red poll which hadn't developed yet.
Lesser Redpoll - Flamborough Obs © Nick Hull
This male Blackcap was suspected as being a migrant as many of this species will come to Britain to winter from central Europe.
male Blackcap - Flamborough Obs - © Jackie Hull
This Goldcrest was certainly the smallest and lightest of the species caught at around 6 grams means they are around the weight of a 10 pence coin which is 6.5g which is amazing when you think they migrate over the North Sea.
Male Goldcrest - Flamborough Obs, © Jackie Hull
Once the the ringing slowed and more people were arriving Jackie and I decided to move to Bempton RSPB to see if they were catching any different species there. We jammed in on the catching of a juvenile female Stonechat which we watched being trapped in a spring net which sits on the top of a post and when the bird lands on the post the net springs around it.  Apparently this method is extremely successful for catching Stonechat, Whinchat and Wheatear and other species which like perching on posts I suppose.

Juvenile female - Stonechat © Nick Hull
The cliffs at Bempton still had a few late breeding birds with juvenile Gannet on the nest which hadn't fledged.  Though most of the young birds had gone though there were many adults and a handful of intermediate aged bird cruising along the cliffs and out to sea.
Adults and Juvenile Gannet - Bempton Cliffs RSPB © Nick Hull
Back at the 'Dale' we had a few Brambling and we watched to see a Ring Ouzel which had disappeared into an elder bush.  Whilst we waited for it to show we had a skein of forty Pink-footed Geese heading over south.

Skein of Pink-footed Geese - over Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve © Nick Hull
We also had several flocks of Redwing flighting in for a quick top-up on berries then heading off again south.

Flight of migrant Redwing (Vis Mig) © Nick Hull
Then all of a sudden Jackie calls Ring Ouzel, well it came towards us then flew around in a large loop and landed in the scrubby field behind the Dale out of sight again. I took a shot of it as it was was in its turn but it was so far away you can only just see it's a thrush let alone a Ring Ouzel. Looking closely you can just make out the pale neck collar on this very cropped shot.

Memory shot of a Ring Ouzel - Bempton © Nick Hull
The next day we travelled home only for a day, before heading to Normandy for a few more days of vismiging. Which is coming next.

Saturday 26 October 2019

East Riding of Yorkshire Part 1

Day 1-2
Jackie and I, usually have over the last twelve years or so, have led groups in East Yorkshire but this year we decided to spend a week birding the area on our own, and catching up with friends.  So on the 14th October we set off from Dorset to Flamborough where we had rented a house for the week.  Well the weather was pretty foul when we left and en-route we travelled through various strengths of rain storm.  A couple of days before we left a Red-eyed Vireo, an American warbler, had been found at Easington and we were keeping an eye on the news and updates.  We were travelling along the M62 in sunlight and Easington wasn't far away and we could be there in less than an hour so instead of taking the junction to take to our holiday home we headed for Hull.  As we were entering the outskirts of the city the weather deteriorated and the forcast said it was in for the evening and wouldn't clear until early morning.  So we decide to head for Flamborough and chance that the bird wouldn't move on once the weather broke.  

Next morning though it was very wet the rain had broken and the forcast was good until the late afternoon.  So we headed for Easington about an hour away and duly arrived  and I dropped Jackie off near the site and parked the car.  By the time I had walked back and joined Jackie, who had already seen the bird, were waiting for the vireo to reappear.  Some fifteen minutes or so passed before it reappeared and I managed to get a good view, a British tick for Jackie and myself.  We watched it feeding and moving around the trees for sometime.  Jackie then asked what now and at that moment a Arctic Warbler had been found at the Crown & Anchor car park at Kilnsea, which seemed the obvious next location.
Red-eyed Vireo - Easington © Nick Hull
As we approached the The Crown & Anchor there must have been close to a hundred birders all over the road pouring into the car park.  We made the quick decision to go to the Canel Scrape hide first then have lunch and then return.  At the Canel Scrape hide we did quite well with a Jack Snipe, two or three Redstart, lots of Redwing, Blackbirds with lesser numbers of Song Thrush and Fieldfare flying in off the North Sea in continuous flocks of varying sizes. The highlight was two Ring Ouzel which came in with one of the flocks and fed for a short time on hawthorn berries before moving on again.

We had lunch then headed back to the Crown & Anchor and lo and behold only about a dozen birders.  So we joined them and started to scan the trees in hope of movement.  That movement soon happened and the Arctic Warbler appeared and over the next twenty minutes we had some good views.
Arctic Warbler - Crown & Anchor, Kilnsea © Nick Hull
On our return to Flamborough we stopped off at Hornsea Mere and here we added a female Smew. The Mere is well known for attracting good numbers of Little Gull and we have seen big numbers here in the past but there was only three feeding up and down the Mere but none-the-less very nice to see.
Little Gull - Hornsea Mere © Nick Hull

Friday 18 October 2019

Scarce and Rare Birding in Dorset

On Sunday 6th October Jackie and I had the afternoon free, so where to go? It appeared we had a choice it seemed go for the Black Tern, Scaup and Garganey at Longham Lakes or for the Grey Phalarope and Little Gull at Lodmoor.  We decided on Lodmoor so as soon as we finished lunch we headed off and on arriving we decided to use the car park to save Jackie too much travelling if it should rain.

As we walked around on to the path the first species we saw was a Great White Egret one of four seen that afternoon
Great White Egret - Lodmoor ©Nick Hull
 Though Great White's are very much more commonly seen in recent years they are still very nice to see.   I think they will be breeding in Dorset very soon (my prediction for the week).  There was the usual Mallard and Coot and checking the water other than Black-headed Gulls then scanning the edge of the waterline I noticed the Grey Phalarope walking about in the glasswort.

Distant Grey Phalarope- Lodmoor © Nick Hull
We walked on up the path to the wet scrape hoping for the 1cy Little Gull here, we met a few of the Weymouth birders and was told it was over the back of the reserve.  Checking the area out through bins you could pick it out flying backwards and forwards along stretch of water along the back of the reserve. We waited patiently watching and waiting for it to return to the scrape during which Jackie getting a little bored said she was going to have another look at the phalarope and trundled off down the path.  More or less as she left the Little Gull flew in I had a quick look and called Jackie on the mobile she said I've the Ruff here and its fairly close so after a handful of shots of the Little Gull went to where Jackie was watching the Ruff so both birds we had come to see were seen all within a couple of hours and managed to catch up with a few birding acquaintances. 
1CY Little Gull - Lodmoor RSPB © Nick Hull
Ruff - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
As we arrived home and thinking about what we were going to have for dinner I checked my mobile and found that the Black Tern that had been at Longham had been re-identified as a American Black Tern so we decided to take a chance and go the next morning.

So Monday morning found us at Longham Lakes and it didn't take long to find the tern but it did take a little longer to get any half decent shots of it in the dull overcast weather.
American Black Tern Chlidonias niger surinamensis
We also had the added bonus of seeing the Garganey on the Scarlet Darter pond at the southend.
Garganey - Longham Lakes ©Nick Hull
Overall I think its not been a bad four hours birding though over an afternoon and a morning, what else will the autumn bring.

Thursday 19 September 2019

Lytchett Bay Patch

It's alway hard sometimes to know what to write in the blog after the summer break, for us it's continuing trying to record and add species to the Lytchett checklist whether mammal, avian or invertebrate. Adding to this the reptile survey for RSPB and ARC keeps us busy.  In our last post I wrote about a few rarities that had cropped up locally, well I'm going to continue here a little bit in the same vein.  Though between the patch watchers we haven't found any nationally mega rare species, we have recorded some less common patch species.
Great White Egret - Sherford Pools © Nick Hull
Lytchett Fields hasn't produced a rarity as yet but we've had recent visits from Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover.  There has been regular Osprey and Marsh Harrier sightings over the the fields and bay more or less on a daily basis which is very nice indeed. Shaun and Ian found a Cattle Egret this one I managed to get to see.  Shaun managed to net a Wryneck at the ringing station, the third patch record and a very nice bird it was indeed. On the 15th September I managed another catchup patch tick with Great White Egret on the Sherford Pools field I'd only had the briefest flight view of one previously so it was nice to see one resting and having a preen out in the field.
This was taken just before its release doing what Wryneck do best.
Little Stint on the Approach Field Pools © Nick Hull
August is always a good a month for moth trapping and I had the trap out on a few nights and I've now managed to record 525 species in my garden. The surprise was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth that visited the honeysuckle for about two minutes before being seen off by a bumble bee.  This is the first one recorded since 2017 so it was very nice to see.

Steve Smith whilst carrying out a botany survey came across the first record of White-legged Damselfly, and Ian Just yesterday sent me a shot of a female Red-veined Darter that he had photographed on a visit to Lytchett Heath, this was also a first for the patch which brings the patch list up to 25 species of odonata.  The photograph below is an archive shot of mine take when on holiday in Spain, Ian photo will appear in the Lytchett Report early in 2020.
female Red-veined Darter © Nick Hull
The August reptile survey went well and we recorded the most Adder numbers so far this year and many were only just adult which means there is a fairly healthy population.  We also found a few large Grass Snake one or two looked like they were about to slough as they had blue eyes.  One of which was over 1.5m in length and was probably a female but she didn't stay long enough for us to catch and make sure.

I've included a few shots taken on my iphone hence they aren't the best of shots but I've included them to show the differences in colouration. Though there is some generalisation in colour between males and females you can''t presume and a rusty brown immature will be a female as they all start off with this colour and as the become older they tend to change but there are still exception to the rule which doesn't make it easy.  These shots aren't really good enough to identify the individual snake as they aren't detailed enough.  This is something I think I'll try to do in future and see if we can follow the life of a few of the individuals on the heath here.

Male Adder Lytchett Heath © Nick Hull
immature Adder Lytchett Heath © Nick Hull
Adult male and female Lytchett Heath © Nick Hull

Saturday 17 August 2019

Recent Happenings

Well since our last post a lot has happened though being honest the birding front has been typically slow as it always is in mid summer, leaving little to write about.  It has been in the insect and reptile world where things have been exciting.  As here a matter of a 100m from home Ian Ballam called me and says I've found Southern Migrant Hawker of the footpath near where they were last year.  So I headed over the road and met him near the drying up pools.  The reason this is exciting is last years records were the first to fourth records for the county and to have them again implied that they had have bred possibly in 2017 season and were undetected.  This year we have had at least four pairs which have been seen in tandem and been seen ovipositing so hopefully this very tenuous potential population will continue to grow adding a new breeding species to the county. 

Male Southern Migrant Hawker - Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull
Staying with dragonflies Longham Lakes also recorded a second record of (Broad) or Scarlet Darter two years after the first one found by Martin Woods.
Male Scarlet Darter or Broad Scarlet © Nick Hull
As many of you are aware I volunteer at RSPB Arne and as part of a small group of like minded people  we conduct the reptile surveys, and help out generally with the public.  One of the advantages in doing this is that every so often during our surveys we will find a Smooth Snake or two.  Recently the reserve had a reptile 'Show & Tell' amazingly we were able to show and talk about five of the six native species the only absentee was Adder and not because its our only venomous snake it's because none were found.  The real privilege is that I get to show the young and old Britain's rarest snake and they are simply the best, they always seem to be happy to just rest in a pair of warm hands and really not mind at all.  Saying this I'm always very aware not to stress them and if I feel the animal isn't happy it is placed back in it's holding tank to relax and chill out.  The show & tell went really well, with many young people and their parents enjoying the chance to see and learn about these precious animals really close up, many seeing them for the first time.

My hand & female Smooth Snake at its release on the day of the Show & Tell photo © Bev Langdon

We always try to photograph all the Smooth Snakes as we do Adders because the head and neck markings are individual to the animal. The aim is to attempt to try to understand their movements, the type and location of heathland they prefer and most importantly to try and understand more about them, so when any conservation work is to be carried out we can reduce the disturbance and do not destroy their prefer habitat.  Unfortunately so little is known about Smooth Snake it makes this work extra important.  I should add that we do this under license and have very strict rules to abide by.

Saturday 29 June 2019

What been happening in Two Owls World

It's been a busy time and I've had many hours out in the field doing surveys for the RSPB and leading the usual Two Owls walks.  Jackie has manage to have one or two outings where she can drive her scooter though we our now finding the scooter's limitation, but does add a different aspect to a birding trip. 

Since the last blog we have been to Wales on a family holiday to show our grand-children Puffin and then back with our groups we had visits to Keyhaven, Arne and Holt Heath before heading off down to Devon.   Then it was back to Durlston, the New Forest, Lodmoor, and bringing us to date with an evening walk at Martin Down.

Our holiday took us to Wales with the prime aim to take our grand-children, Ben & Leia, onto Skomer Island as we felt it would be the best place so they could get up close to their favourite birds. I can only say it was a terrific success with Puffin walking around right in front of us and flying in over our heads.  On one occasion Ben felt the wind from the wings beating as one past so close to him.
Puffin - Skomer Island © Nick Hull
Puffin coming into land right in front of us © Nick Hull
Puffin with Sand Eels proudly walking towards its burrow © Nick Hull
When we arrived on the Island we were told at our welcome talk that no pufflings had hatch but were due any day.  Well they must have just started hatching as the only reason a Puffin would be flying in with a bill full of Sand Eels is to feed a hungry youngster.  We also added Chough to the kids bird list when a pair came by us giving their "chow chow" calls which Ben thought was "amazing". 
Chough - Skomer Is. © Nick Hull
Keyhaven is alway a nice place to go birding at almost any time of year though autumn is probably when it really excels. We had a good walk with the highlights probably being a Marsh Harrier at the start before leaving our cars, a group of immature Eider resting on one of the marsh spits. We all enjoyed a pair of Little Ringed Plover on Fishtail lagoon, but the prize probably goes to the twenty or so pairs of Avocet which were nesting on the island in the Fishtail lagoon.

Arne RSPB Our walk at Arne produced all the usual species one would expect plus the added bonus of a pair of Spotted Flycatcher and a male Nightjar which flew across the path right in front of the group on Shipstal Heath.  

Holt Heath is always been one of our favourite places to take our groups to see Nightjar and Woodcock and it provided excellent views of both species on our evening visit.  Though one thing was obvious that the heathland is getting very overgrown with scrub and the birds were not as easy to see.  Though saying this I managed to find a spot where we had a male and a female really close to us which gave amazing views.  The male circled myself and Phil four times and then as the remainder of the group caught us up circled again and then chased off after a female.  All this, and we had at least two possibly three different Woodcock buzzing over head, plus we saw other more common heathland species making it a good evening's birding.
Nightjar - Holt Heath Two Owls archive photo.
Woodcock - Holt Heath © Nick Hull
Our next event was a long weekend down in Devon based at Dawlish Warren we visited Challacombe Farm, Yarner Wood, Labrador Bay, Post Bridge, Exminster Marshes and Darts Farm.  We saw around 88 species and had some tremendous luck as we found a single male Red-backed Shrike on Dartmoor which was totally unexpected.

We later met one of the RSPB's scientific officers for the area who was checking the Pied Flycatcher boxes at Yarner Wood and I asked him how many were left as I was concerned we were a little late in the season to see them and told us that they had all gone, after finding out who he was I reported to him about the RB Shrike and asked him if he was aware of it.  It turns out that he wasn't so we described where we saw it.  He then kindly rewarded us by telling us that their was a single pair of Pied Flycatcher left still feeding two young at box 433. We thanked him and headed off and duly found the box and had good views of both male and female flycatchers.  Jackie who stayed behind along the main track gripped us a little when she told us that she had a pair of Goshawk fly out of the wood over her whilst we were watching the flycatchers.
Male Pied Flycatcher Yarner Wood © Nick Hull
Other highlights were five Arctic Skua from an early morning seawatch from the hotel grounds, an adventurous cub Fox at the Warren, Redstarts, Merlin at Challacombe Farm which always has produced a good bird or two whenever we have visited.  Of course the other species which is always on the hit list  with Dipper at Post Bridge and Cirl Bunting at Labrador Bay.
Cirl Bunting - Labrador Bay © Nick Hull
Durlston Country Park was a visit that could have been in better weather conditions though it stayed dry for our visit.  We had a nice walk around the park and saw most of the common local species which one would expect to find.  One obvious absentee was Yellowhammer, I used to see many here in the past but there seems to be very few certainly around the park which is a little worrying.  We had some nice Bee and Pyramidal Orchids and good views of Guillimot and Razorbill sitting on the sea off Tilley Whim.
Bee Orchid - Durlston CP © Nick Hull
Lodmoor.  Well our visit to Lodmoor was very well timed as the day before a Marsh Warbler had been found singing at the seaward end of Beachdown Way.  So we had little choice where to start and it didn't take long once we were in position to see the bird, in fact most could hear it's varied repertoire before we were able to set up our scopes to look for it. The following walk you might say was a bit of an anticlimax but we saw all the usual birds that Lodmoor could produce on the day.
Marsh Warbler - Lodmoor RSPB © Nick Hull
Scarlet Tiger Moth - Lodmoor © Nick Hull
Other wildlife sighting here were Bee Orchid and Scarlet Tiger Moth. Though not wildlife we also had a very unexpected Spitfire in D-Day markings which gave us a fly over.
Spitfire over Lodmoor RSPB © Nick Hull
New Forest - I had two ladies out in the Acres Down area of the New Forest on a birding Birthday present.  The day started very quiet in the woodland so as the day was warming quickly I decided we should get up to the top on to the view point with hope to see a few raptors.  This turned out to be the right thing to do as we we joined two other birders we almost immediately had a distant Goshawk and then another.  A short wait with intense looking before two buzzard appeared one was obviously a common the other looked very flat winged.  As we watched this lower flat winged looking bird was joined by another which showed the same 'Jizz' as they soared higher in the scope you could see the longer tail and small head and broad wings look of Honey Buzzard.  Before continuing our walk we had a pair of Hobby before adding Redstarts, Tree Pipit and Woodlark singing and all the other usual suspects for the area.
A very cropped & slightly photoshopped shot Honey Buzzard © Nick Hull
Martin Down Our evening walk mainly for orchids and butterflies with the added bonus of Turtle Dove and what else should give itself up went well, though very hot and sticky, it made a very nice evening walk around what is becoming a rare habitat. As this is very much a general wildlife walk taking in anything we can id you never know what we might find.  One of the first was this burying beetle Silpha tristis. 

Carrion/Burying beetle -Silpha tristis © Nick Hull
We then could hear Turtle Dove singing from two locations eventually one was found and we had good scope views in fact over the evening we probably had at least five birds singing and saw three.  Then Sandra and Joe had brief views of a Barn Owl which the rest of us missed.  We needn't have worried as a little while later a dark plumaged bird possibly a female flew out and along the fenceline and then perched up on a fence post at the far side of the field, before disappearing again.
Turtle Dove & Wood Pigeon - Martin Down © Nick Hull
We carried on with our walk when I stopped and quietened the group to listen as I thought I'd had heard a Quail calling.  But because there was a Song Thrush which kept putting in a phrase that sounded similar, I discounted what I had heard to being the Song Thrush.  The thought then occurred to me, if the Song Thrush was mimicking Quail there must be one around for it to have learnt the phrases. We walked on only for me to hear the 'wet my lips' call again this time heard by Margret and Liz. Good I wasn't hearing things.  In fact we heard it calling a few times and there may have been two.  

Joe stopped and said 'moth" I took a look and there in the grass was a Small Elephant Hawk-moth and excellent find so we had a little photographic session before releasing it in a safe place.
Small Elephant Hawk-moth - Martin Down © Nick Hull
We just finished when calls went up Barn Owl I quickly turned to see the owl not far away and thought I had to try a shot even if I had a macro lens on the camera instead of a long one. The result I think is just passable.
Barn Owl - Martin Down © Nick Hull
We ended the evening very happy with a nice list of butterflies and some quality birds which is the best way to end any visit.  Thank you all who came along and made it such a nice evening visit.