About Two Owls

Thursday 10 December 2020

November Birding

Well we managed to keep to our challenge of reaching a 100 species which we just managed to top this month but there were still species that we missed so the possibility of doing the same in December I believe is still on.

With going into a second lockdown we were very aware of keeping local so the month's birding started for us on the 2nd with a short drive to Longham Lakes before lockdown started. It was a real grey day with the possibility of a shower but the birds we wanted to catch up with were all around the north end of the South Lake.  Arriving mid morning there were a few people walking around the lakes and most were birders.  Our first birds were the local species Coot, Mallard and the usual gulls then we picked up our first Great White Egret.  Our next target was the Green-winged Teal and we found that on the north end of the north island sat in amongst a few Common Teal and one or two Little Egret and Mallard.. Unfortunately it was a tad too far to get a really good shot of it. 

It was about this time a Dorset birder that we hadn't met for quite some time Bagsy aka Paul Baker, a real character that now lives nearby, came along and we were able to have a bit of a catchup and was able to point him in the right direction for the Green-winged Teal.  We walked on across the causeway finding another Great White stood out in the field west of the lakes. We then met George Green and asked him if he had seen the Great Northern Diver and he told us that it's been around the corner of the lake where we were.  Scanning we eventually picked it up as it surfaced and whilst we watched it came real close to our bank and gave excellent views.  There was just one other target species that we hadn't seen and we were told it had been on the small island in the south of the lake but we couldn't find it there.  The sky had darkened and a few spots of rain were felt and I hadn't a waterproof so we decided to start walking back to the car.  As we approached where we had seen the Green-winged Teal we thought we'd take another look and there stood almost next to it was a Cattle Egret, where it came from and how it passed us to get there know one knows, but none-the-less a good way to finish a morning's birding and just as the rain was starting.

Green-winged Teal © Nick Hull

Great Northern Diver © Nick Hull

Cattle Egret © Nick Hull

What a great start to the month's birding but we knew it would be harder to get to the hundred once the lockdown started so next day we went off to Studland and started at Jerry's point in the hope that the Long-tailed Duck was still in the area.  We spent some time scanning the harbour from the shores of Brownsea Island  across to Furzey and Green Islands and into Brand's Bay.  We managed to find Common Scoter and Scaup, we picked up our first Goldeneye but the water was very choppy and birds were hard to find and see on the water. Before we left we added Red-breasted Merganser to our list which were in a raft in the shelter of Furzey Island there was also a diving duck with them with a low profile possible a Long-tailed Duck but we couldn't quite clinch it. We moved on to Middle Beach and checked out over the Poole Bay and only added Black-necked Grebe.  A slow drive through the village didn't produce the Ring-necked Parakeets but we couldn't spend much time here as we were expecting a delivery at home so we called it a day.  Though not quite as we took a short detour on the way home cutting across Hartland Moor in case we could add Hen Harrier or Merlin which we didn't but did see Fielfare and Redwing which was a bonus.

Over the rest of the month which was spent around various location of the harbour we continued to added many of the usual species of wader and woodland birds.  Highlights were a local surprise whilst at Lytchett View on the 4th with a single Egyptian Goose which flew into the bay. Two days later we visited Arne and added Spoonbill to the list with 31 roosting on Shipstal Point. The 19th was a wet and stormy day so we popped around the harbour from Sandbanks ferry back to home the only highlight was single Sandwich Tern on Baiter. Our next was whilst taking a drive around across Hartland and we had a Merlin cross the road at Slepe Copse on the 21st.  

Next morning Ian found a Goosander out in Lytchett Bay and as they are scarce on the patch Jackie and I had a walk to the viewing area at the end of footpath 12. It took a while but we eventually spotted it out in the main channel in the west of the bay.  We had to wait till the 24th to get Marsh Harrier on our Lytchett list when we had an adult female being harried by a couple of Carrion Crow over the Holton side of the bay.  We were now at 99 species and very close to the end of the month we decided to have a drive out to the Cranborne Chase to see if we could add one or two more species to the month's list and indeed we did with Corn Bunting and Red Kite and Yellowhammer.  We finished the day in the Lower Avon Valley where we had 5 Ruddy Shelduck with a large mixed flock of Canada, Greylag and Egyptian Geese in a field between Sopley and Bransgore.

Though it was nice to see the Ruddy Shelduck as they were the 104th species for the month they aren't on the British list as they are considered a feral species from the European feral population and not true wild birds.  I think many birders think perhaps they should be on category C of the British list and countable as the European feral population are increasing and sustainable which is the most likely origin of these super looking ducks.  Also they turned out to be just inside Hampshire. So our month ended on a 103 species.  

Egyptian Goose & Ruddy Shelduck near Sopley.

What will December bring as we can travel a little further round the county hopefully picking up a few more species who knows...

Sunday 8 November 2020

End of the October Post

Jackie and I started October with a quick visit to a field at Anderson, just past Red Post off the Bere Regis road, where a White Stork had been seen a day or two earlier.  No colour rings had been noticed so if it was an un-ringed bird it may have been a truly wild bird.  I managed to park off the road safely and we scoped the bird which was walking around out in the open and appeared to be eating grasshopper species.  A quick look at the legs and there was a white colour ring and it was found to be one of the Knepp Stork Project birds exploring no doubt.  None-the-less it was still a nice bird to see also whilst we were there we had around 200 Linnet in a flock feeding in the weedy field.  Though as it's a introduced bird it can't be checked off on our year list as its not a truly wild bird but it was still very nice to see.

Jackie and I visited fourteen locations around the Poole Harbour over October and recorded 114 species this is isn't a complete list as many other species were seen by others observers so the potential to seen more was available but they were missed by us. Saying this we had some good sightings we managed to see the Long-billed Dowitcher again before it left, and the two Curlew Sandpiper were still visiting Lytchett Fields. Other highlight for the month were Grey Phalarope (10th), Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest (11th), 2 Glossy Ibis (20th), Hen Harrier (22nd) and 27 Spoonbill (29th),  we also recorded our first sightings of Redwing and Fieldfare for the autumn. 

Jackie and I tried three times for the Grey Phalarope and failed to get this bird, then a text from Ian to say it had returned to the fields and we were lucky enough to get to see it.  A really smart little wader and a great addition to our Lytchett patch list and our second in a month.

Grey Phalarope - Lytchett Fields © Ian Ballam

The Yellow-browed Warbler was a really nice year tick and very typically Jackie and I had a lay-in and the  mobile goes off just as I'm about to go to the bathroom and it's Shaun Robson.  "We are ringing at Lytchett Heath and just caught a Yellow-browed Warbler if you can get here quick we will keep it a few minutes".  So it didn't take long for us to be in the car and up the road and join the ringers and see this little gem of a bird in the hand.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Lytchett Bay Heath © Nick Hull

Whilst we were there they carried out another net round and we were lucky enough to see two or three Lesser Redpoll up close as well.

Lesser Redpoll,  Lytchett Bay Heath © Nick Hull

The two Glossy Ibis was a bit of luck and a surprise in some ways.   We had arranged a social distanced walk at Studland meeting four friends to do a little birding around the village.  The area is good in October to pick up Firecrest and migrant warblers plus the added benefit of grebe, divers and sea duck out in the bay.  

We were scanning the bay where we picked up a few scattered Great Crested Grebe a small group of Common Scoter and a couple Black-necked Grebe.  Viewing further out towards the Cruise Liners I picked up a immature Gannet heading towards Old Harry Rocks and got everyone onto it. I then started scanning again, when Liz said what's this over Old Harry now, I quickly got onto the bird and noticed a dark blackish looking bird with legs out the rear and a long neck and a downward curving bill a Glossy Ibis.  It circled to gain height and slowly moved across the bay over the liners and headed toward Hengistbury Head.  I Tweeted the sighting out and added Olly Frampton who about ten minutes later messaged me back to say there were three Glossy Ibis at Stanpit Marsh which had just been joined by a fourth presumable our bird, which was nice to know.  Well we continued our walk around Fort Henry I was scanning the tree tops for the Ring-necked Parakeets when to my surprise another Glossy Ibis flew between us and The Pig on the Beach Hotel heading south towards Glebelands.  Unfortunately we lost sight of it so we're not sure if it cleared Ballard Down ridge and headed over towards Swanage or turned and headed west inland. 

Glossy Ibis taken near Tarifa Spain © Nick Hull

The above shots are just to show you more or less what we saw, as the caption says these were taken in Tarifa in Spain on a Dorset Bird Club birding trip several years ago now.  The top photograph show how distinctive the silhouette is even at a distance.  

We then carried on our walk up to Studland Church and back and as we came to the viewpoint to look over South beach again something disturbed the birds below on the rocky shoreline and there in front of us appears a Great White Egret, which flew off over the wood out of sight which ended our day very nicely indeed.

We caught up on Hen Harrier over Hartland Moor where we also ticked off a flock of Fieldfare with a handful of Redwing in tow and we ended the months birding on the 29th with a visit to Arne where we added 27 Spoonbill to our monthly list.

We are now wondering what will Lockdown 2 bring us now we are into November birding.

Monday 5 October 2020

Monthly Listing plus VisMig and NocMig & Moths Catchup

I hadn't realised how time has moved on since our last blog, so what has been happening?  Jackie and I have been doing a bit of birding of course mostly locally.  I've had the moth trap out a few times and mid-August started recording nightly nocturnal migration again with varying results.  Also the Poole Pub Birders started a friendly Poole Harbour monthly listing to see who could record the most species in the month though when Mark suggested it he had already started his August list.  So when we arrived at the 1st of September we all started a monthly harbour listing together. Though I have to say Jackie and I haven't taken it too seriously as we have had others things to do, but we put in some time and enjoyed doing what we have and now decided to try a little harder for October, though with the wet weather so far this month we haven't started very well.

For September we recorded 105 species, Mark, who probably put most effort in, recorded a very good 133 species. Ian Ballam also did extremely well when you take into consideration that he concentrated on Lytchett Bay recording area only except for a quick trip to Wareham Water Meadows for the Pectoral Sandpiper/s and recorded 118. 

When the final log was counted there was the potential of 161 species that was possible with in the Poole Harbour recording area. 

To see the Poole Harbour recording area follow this link:-

The birding around the harbour area was pretty good with highlights of two Cattle & Great White Egret, no less than two Pectoral Sandpiper and ending the month with Ian finding Curlew & Wood Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher on Lytchett Fields.
Jackie and I tried for the Dowitcher on the day Ian found it on the 29th but just missed it so we returned the next day when Ian messaged me that he had re-found it on one of the roosting Islands. So off we went in the light rain and found Ian watching it just as the rain increased to heavy. None-the-less we managed fairly good scope views of this American wader.  This is the 34th species of wader recorded in the Lytchett Bay recording area since 2012.

Distant Long-billed Dowitcher _ Lytchett Fields RSPB © Ian Ballam

Wood Sandpiper - Lytchett Fields RSPB © Ian Ballam

Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin & Teal - Lytchett Fields RSPB © Ian Ballam

Visual Migration from Ballard Down and South Haven produced large numbers of Siskin moving with lesser numbers of Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Crossbill. We also recorded three Great Spotted Woodpecker moving north during one of our Vismig morning. Also Jackie and I managed to catch-up at long last with Spotted Flycatcher in the willows at South Haven on one of our mornings outings.

As mentioned earlier above I've started recording nocturnal migration again for this autumn from the middle of August. So far to date The notable species for me here were Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Common and Green Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Moorhen, Coot, Snipe and of real interest was the first Redwing and a single Ring Ouzel recorded on the morning of the 28th September and a flyover Bullfinch on the 30th.  Also of interest was the recording of Barn Owl on three occasions during September. Tree Pipit and Meadow Pipits were commonly recorded and a couple of Moorhen and four Coot were considered migrants passing over in the period. 

This is a very nice recording of a flyover flock of Lapwing at 22:29hrs on the 6th September.
Below sound is the Ring Ouzel recorded at 01:36hrs on the morning 28th September

This is the recording of the first Redwing recorded at 01:39hrs morning of the 28th September

Other species recorded were Fox, Squirrel, Sika Deer Stag first heard on the 24th September which is the sign that the stags are getting their testosterone up for the start of the rut.  I also had several nights where I was recording frog croaking from around the garden but the most surprising was a cow bellowing early one morning and the nearest cattle are at Holton Lee across the bay, also surprising was a Cockerel crowing one morning, I have no idea where that resides.

The September mothing produced the usual species expected here in my Upton? Lytchett Bay garden but ended the month with two new species of macro moth. Heath Rustic Xestia agathina and The Anomalous Stilbia anomala with a supporting Rusty Dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis a micro which has been considered a migrant but a friend has found caterpillars of this species this year so may now be breeding successfully in the county now.

Heath Rustic Xestia agathina

The Anomalous Stilbia anomala 

Rusty Dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis

Sunday 9 August 2020

Catching up with Scarce and Rare Inverts

You have probably read this here before that I feel that I'm pretty lucky to live here in Dorset as it holds some pretty special wildlife which can't always be found in other places.  Some of these species appear to be doing very well here within the Poole Harbour basins Heathland and Bogs.

Since the easing of Lockdown Jackie and I have been catching up on some of those special species that we are lucky enough to still be able to see locally.  The first was a very local and very new arrival to Dorset found by Ian Ballam here on the Lytchett Bay patch in 2018 and last year we observed several pairs.  So Ian and I kept looking for the first emergence this year of the Southern Migrant Hawker or Blue-eyed Hawker (Aeshna affinis) as it is sometimes known as.  This latter name I think is much more appropriate now that it has been breeding in the UK annually since around 2010.

Southern Migrant Hawker - Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull

We had to wait until the 23rd July when Ian texted me to say he had a male over the dried pond a habitat that this species prefers.  Unfortunately though it has been seen by quite a few Odonata twitching people we think we have only got the one male this year and it's been very hit and miss if you are lucky enough to catchup with it when you visit.

Our next quest was for Turtle Dove, a species we had tried for already but failed to see or hear even though we knew they were present.  We chose a fine warm morning with a gentle cooling breeze and hoped that might be enough.  

It wouldn't be me if I didn't try to include at least one bird sound into the blog.  This is one of about four Turtle Dove that we heard I just love the gentle purr that they have and accompanied by a Skylark what can be better.

The next excursion was just me and two friends, Terry and Kat, we are part of the reptile survey team at RSPB Arne, due to the lockdown some of the work that had been planned hadn't taken place.  So as it's something outside we could do easily and distance from each other we were allowed to recommence the unfinished work. This was to replace some old felt Artificial Refuges (AR's).  These if you do not know are bits of tin or felt left for reptiles to warm up on.  The day we chose turned out very hot so no reptile in it's right mind would be on or under one of the felts which we were to replace with tin, indeed we never saw one reptile the whole day. So why are you relating this account, I here you ask, well whilst carrying out our volunteer work we had a surprise, well I did.  At one location we had removed an AR at the end of February but was unable to replace it at the time, it had left a bare square in the heather so it was easy to find.  So I grabbed a piece of tin and walked up to replace it.  When I was a few metres away a Nightjar flew up from the bare patch and talk about make me jump and there on the dried patch were two eggs. I took seconds to take a quick photo and I backed away.  We will not return to the area again until after the breeding season has finished.

This is the view I had of the Nightjar nest & eggs taken with a long lens © Nick Hull

This is the same photo just heavily cropped © Nick Hull

On Fridays as a rule Jackie catches up with one of the daughters and I go off doing wildlife things.  So I met up with Terry to check out a few areas for scarce invertebrates and to see if we could get a few presentable photographs. Though Terry is much more the photographer than I am.  We started for the Southern Hawker then on to a site I know for a melanistic Adder but unfortunately the temperature was again rising quickly and it was becoming too hot.  So Terry led the way to a pond for a very rare Pondweed Leafhopper (Erotettix Macrosteles) cyane) which he picked up straight away and once I got my eye I counted a least 85 and the previous week Terry said they had only around 20.  This Pondweed Hopper is very particular about the ponds it inhabits and is a good indicator that there is no pollution of any kind and because of this they are very vulnerable. 

Pondweed Leafhopper Erotettix (=Macrosteles) cyane © Nick Hull

Next we went off to a bog where we knew there was Large Marsh Grasshopper this is as it name suggests is a large species, the males are green and the female are a super deep red and they are stunning animals.  They make a tick like sound a bit like a electric fence shorting out on a metal post, or as someone recently likened it to the snap of the gorse seeds popping out on its pod on a hot day.  It took us a while to locate one and then another an so on but to get one to pose for a photo wasn't easy but with patience we manged to get a shot of both male and a female.

Large Marsh Grasshopper Stethophyma grossum © Nick Hull

I managed to find a Bog Bush Cricket which was an added bonus this species is a little like Roesel's Bush Cricket but is generally darker and found in much wetter areas hence it's name.

Bog Bush Cricket Metrioptera brachyptera © Nick Hull

Though Cricket species can look similar to grasshoppers the easiest way to tell the difference it check the length of the antenna and cricket antenna are very long and grashoppers are short and stubby in comparison.  We also found a single Marsh Gentians which looked quite lonely on it's own though I suspect not for very much longer.

Marsh Gentian © Nick Hull

We also checked out a few other site but the wind was picking up and not suitable so we decided to call it a day.

It wasn't until a week or so later that Jackie and I met up with a few friends for a heathland walk and I managed to find my first ever Heath Grasshopper.  A pretty rare species but seems to be doing ok in and around the Poole Harbour Heathland where the habitat is right for it.  They are a very cryptic coloured species which has three main identifying features and they are :-

Heath-Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans © Nick Hull

1. The underside is densely hairy. 
2. The marking on the pronotum reach the edge.
3. The wing has a distinct bulge on the edge of the forewing.

Heath-Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans © Nick Hull

You can see the bulge on the forwing of this individual very well as it's missing a rear leg.

Well I think that brings you all up to date.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Getting Back Into The Groove

Hi All,

On May 15th Jackie and I decided to take a trip up to Salisbury Plain and the RSPB's reserve at Newton Tony for Stone Curlew.  We had an easy journey and were successful in finding three birds in one of the traditional fields.  We also ticked off our friends Jackie and Kit who also had the same idea and we pointed them in the right direction for the Stone Curlew and had a catchup.  

We then moved on to Haxton Down area of the plain where we stopped at one of the many tank crossings to have our lunch.  This turned out to be a fantastic choice of stops, as we had ate picnic we were able to listen to Whitethroat, Corn Bunting, Linnet, Stonechat, Skylark and Blackbird all singing around us.  It wasn't until we had just about finished our lunch both Jackie and I said 'Quail' at the same time and one was calling somewhere very close to the rear of the car.  Jackie and I got out of the car and walked slowing towards the 'wet-my-lips' calls and scanned the grassland which wasn't terribly dense but it was obviously thick enough because neither Jackie or I managed to get eyes on either of the two Quail that were singing though they appeared to be very close at times.  I managed to get a little recording of them calling which they were doing quite incessantly whilst we were there.

A couple of weeks later we decided that we should see if we could add some butterflies and orchids to our year list as because of lockdown we had seen very few.  We decided to keep things local and popped over to Badbury Rings but on our arrival it appeared everyone in the county had decided to do the same.  So we quickly decided to try Wareham Forest and when we arrived at Sherford Bridge there was only two cars parked so we made it three.

Before I go further I think I should give you a little history.  Many of you will know that I have a reptile licence so I can carry out reptile surveys in case I should come across a Schedule 1 species such as Sand Lizard or Smooth Snake, particularly the later as we try and photograph each individual we find so we know if we catch them again.  Well Jackie hasn't seen Smooth Snake for many years, in fact the last time was when we had arranged a reptile day for the YOC group we used to run for RSPB.  I had said I'll try and show her one this year so she can have a real close up look of one of these beautiful snakes but Covid 19 came along and messed things up a tad though we might get lucky in the latter half of the summer.

Mottled Bee-fly
Ok back to Wareham Forest, the first part of the walk produced many of the usual species for the area  corvids, tits, thrushes and a couple of Yellowhammer was very nice to see. As we arrived in the wood I suggested to Jackie that I thought it might be an easier route if we went anticlockwise and came back along the main path which would be better and easier with her using crutches and she agreed.  We hadn't gone far along the heathland path when I found a Mottled Beefly which I thought I'd take a couple of shots as I was doing this Jackie walked on slowly.  The next thing I hear is "SNAKE SNAKE" being shouted at high decibels. I jumped up thinking she had come across an Adder.  Joining her, I could see a meter or so in front of her was an adult Smooth Snake possible 70cm in length a real big one.  I took a couple of shots and Jackie took some video with her phone of this superb snake as it slunk off into the long heather and disappeared.

I should say I have now started back doing the odd survey and preparing for next years reptile surveys, doing all the work we didn't finish back in February and early March before lockdown started and I haven't come across a Smooth Snake yet, so I'm really pleased Jackie found her own which we had good views of.

Our next real outing wasn't until 9th July when we decided to go on a Dorset Twitch to Portland Bill the bird we were going for was a Yelkouan/Menorcan Shearwater that had been found in amongst a number of Balearic Shearwaters and a few Manx Shearwater feeding off the Bill a few days earlier.

We were expecting a delivery in  the morning so I did some reading up on the species and how to identify it from the Manx and Balearic that would be present during the morning. Shuan a friend had gone in the morning and mentioned it in a text that it was still present and well worth seeing. So Jackie and I had lunch and left for Portland arriving around 16:00hrs.  There was around a dozen other birders present but easy to distance and we picked a spot that gave us the best view over the feeding and resting Shearwaters Gannets and local Herring Gulls that was sitting on the water about a hundred meters off the Bill.  We had been searching through the melee of sea birds without picking it up for sometime, in fact I was beginning to think it had gone.  When I saw a small shearwater flying left, right of the obelisk which it disappeared behind.  It seemed an age before it reappeared more or less in front of us but about 100m out, it banked right and I had a good underside view and I saw the dark bar on the underwing which confirmed I had the Yelkouan.

Yelkouan Shearwater - Portland Bill internet photo photographer not named.
It's flight 'jizz' reminded me of a Little Shearwater but it's overall look was more Manx like though with the upper colouration of a Balearic Shearwater though much smaller than the latter. It also showed a slight dark capped appearance as it had a pale area at the side of the neck.  It had pinkish legs which extended beyond the tail though Manx can show this feature on take off and sometime when in flight though not extending as much.  The other feature is the bird was in moult as were the Balearics where Manx Shearwater were completely feathered as they are still breeding and will not start their moult until on their way to the wintering grounds of the East coast of North America.

Of ten previous British records nine are listed as unproven until one was accepted in 2008 seen from Berry Head.  So if this Portland bird is accepted it will be the second British record and a first for Dorset, a good bird to see.

Sunday 31 May 2020

Semi Lockdown, Whatever That Means Post?

Hi everyone like many we are still trying to adopt a sensible easing of lockdown process and trying to keep safe as possible.  Though it does appear many have suddenly thrown their common sense out of the window and "I'm going to have a holiday even if it means I die at the end of it".

Over the last weeks since the easing I've become slightly disheartened with many groups of people who do not think that a nature reserve or a forest or open heathland should be treated with respect. Dumped rubbish, full dog poo bags, plastic bottles picnic waste just where they like for someone else to come behind them and pick it up.  Also while I'm having a rant, some people have a total disregard for signs they read them then disregard what they say and when challenged deny they read it or even saw it in the first place.  It suddenly appears that private property, closed nature reserves are ok to walk over and turn into a tip because it's not theirs.  It was thought that Lockdown would help wildlife I'm sure in some cases it has, but in many cases it hasn't because it's been a chance for those that haven't taken notice of the lockdown to go and do what every they want.

Anyway sorry for the rant but I think after searching over many hectares of burnt Wareham Forest, being glad I wasn't in the fire service any more, looking for surviving reptiles and then reading that there has been thirty other incidents all caused by camp fires and portable BBQ's and people still ignoring signs and warnings not to have them has slightly P****d me off.

Right down to more cheery things, Jackie and I have had a few outings around the harbour for various wildlife just to cheer ourselves up and reset the mind and our wellbeing.  

NocMig has now petered out so I'm finishing night recording night of 31st May for a while and start again probably late July August time.  Saying this I do have one or two recording to share with you and a little video which some of you may have seen if you follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

My first trip out was to help with the recovery of reptiles that survived the Wareham Forest fire and that recovery is still happening the next search is on Monday, it is mostly a joyless task but there are lizards and snakes which survived and now at risk from predation from corvids and buzzards as there isn't any cover for them when they emerge from their holes. It was amazing how walking over the area only 24hrs after the main burn had been put out and finding that various speccies of spider and beetle and other insects were already doing their thing.  I've also heard since that there is grass already shooting proving nature is very resilient.

Our next trip was an late afternoon to Martin Down where we failed to hear or see Turtle Dove though we know they are back but we can visit again.  We did see a few butterfly species and were treated by a Skylark singing right by us totally unperturbed by us being where we were stood.

This is the sonogram of the Skylark song.

Next I went off doing a Sand Lizard survey this being the only essential survey that will be carried out this year by RSPB for Back from the Brink.  We found a few test burrows at various location and Jackie and I have found a few on our local patch to where the Sand Lizards seem to be in better numbers this year which is a great to see. 

Jackie and I went off to Badbury Rings to search for butterflies and orchids but when we arrived from the car park was rammed and people everywhere so we didn't stop and headed off to Sherford Bridge where things were shall we say surprisingly lonely.  We did our usual walk though going clockwise for a change, which turned out very advantageous for reasons I will reveal.  We were ticking off the bird species as we went and then got distracted by a few flies and a couple of ruby-tailed wasps which I decide to see if I could get a photo of when I heard Jackie shout "SNAKE, SNAKE".  I jumped up and joined up the track and there just a few feet away was a superb adult Smooth Snake Britain rarest and it froze in the track then decided it would go back to cover. I was tempted as I'm licensed to pick it up so Jackie could get a real close view but it does stress the animal and I felt that it was best just to let it go on it's way.

Later we went out to our local heathland for Nightjar which was very successful and I managed to get a couple of reasonable recordings of churring bird and the kwick calls unfortunately not the wing clapping something for another time.
This sonogram of the Nightjar churring shows how rapid it is and how consistent it is in pitch.

They say things come in three's well if the Smooth Snake was the first the second had to be the Marsh Warbler which was found by Peter Moore near to East Walls at Wareham.  This is a species Jackie and I know pretty well from hearing and seeing in France where they are more common. We headed out on the 30th but a little late in the morning than we would have liked and spent a hour or so waiting for it to sing or show itself but it didn't.  So we went home and returned in the evening and as we walked up to the area both Jackie and I went "there it is singing" and we listened to this superb mimic singing various snatches of different bird sounds and it only showed itself very occasionally and then only briefly.  In the hour or so we were there is it mimed Blackbird, Cetti's, Blackcap, Robin, Reed Warbler Blue Tit and Wren and I'm sure there are others that I've forgotten.
Sonogram of Marsh Warbler song

Thursday 14 May 2020

Lockdown Nocturnal Migration Continues

Since the 25th of March I've recorded every night and had some success in recording some very interesting birds flying over my home next to Lytchett Bay, Poole Harbour.  Since my last blog on the subject we have had short cold spells with wind coming in from the north and a few nights of heavy wind which isn't very conducive to recording birds at night.  Putting the weather aside there were a number of night which added more species to this year's NocMig list.

Its quite odd that you can live under 200m from the nearest water of the bay yet you hardly every see waders flying over our house during the day time.  Ok you can certainly hear them so you know they are out there somewhere not too far away. Where I'm situated to the north of the bay most of the wader traffic during daylight hours moves between the fields in the west and to and from Holes Bay to the east which takes them south of my home the other side of the wood which I think kind of acts like a barrier.

Then comes migration time and I then get the waders over at night some can be very close and not that high.  Some of these species are not commonly seen in Lytchett Bay others are regular in the winter in varying numbers. My first sound is one of them, Oystercatcher, which at this time of year are at minimum numbers throughout the harbour.

The following recording are probably fine to listen to without a headset as they were all close to the recorder but you might need to adjust your volume to suit the recordings.

On the night of the 28th/29th April the wind changed and there must have been a good migration night as I added three new species for the year to my nocturnal recording list. The first was this Ringed Plover on the 28th which I had several going over during the night but this one passed by the closest. (You might need to up your volume for this one).

The follow two species both flew over in the early morning of the 29th April. The first of these was a Dunlin, a species that I have recorded a number of times since I started recording birds at night in 2012 but none have every come so close before.

The next species is one that we may see occasionally in the winter out in Lytchett bay but it certainly isn't guaranteed and I recorded at least three passing over in a couple of nights and all three were fairly close but the one you're going to hear is one that called twice or maybe it was two different individuals.  They sound a little Whimbrel like but have the 'tip tip tip' before the trill Whimbrel just trill.

The last species I'm going to share with you in this blog was a total surprise in that I hadn't expected to record them as Avocet had already left the harbour and migrated to their breeding grounds.  So where these birds had come from and where they were going is a bit of a mystery.

Hope you have enjoyed listening to the sounds and finding out about a few of the waders and nocturnal birds that pass over Lytchett Bay at night.

Sunday 26 April 2020

Lockdown Blog Day 33

Well we are still on lockdown and I thought it was time to do another blog our Lockdown birding list is improved a little we are up to 71 species on our exercise walk list and the garden list is at 48 species.  The NocMig list has also gone up and now stands at 40 species obviously this includes common resident species but they have to call or sing during the night.  So I've put together a few more sound tracks which are pretty reasonable sound quality for you to have a listen to.  It might be best to ware a headset to listen or turn up the volume as you see appropriate when listening.

This track of Whimbrel lasts 2.23 minutes this is in real time as it was recorded it shows the dilemma when reviewing recordings on how many birds are involved.  I've kept the track length so you can make up your mind, as to me it seems a long time for a single bird like a Whimbrel to take to pass by. So is it different birds calling to keep in contact with each other in the dark as they move in or away from the bay?

Green Sandpiper are regularly seen in Lytchett Fields RSPB during migration periods and particularly in autumn when number on the pools climb into the twenties. You can also see the odd wintering individual on the pools, it is nice when they fly over and call even if it's only once as is passes over.

As with the previous species Common Sandpiper pass through the bay, though in smaller numbers. I see one or two each year out on the edge of the bay but this year is the first where I've recorded them passing over at night on three occasions so far this year.

Spotted Redshank is another species we have pass through and one or two often over winter in the harbour and are seen fairly regularly on the pools in the fields.  Though saying this it is the first time I've recorded one flying over near my listening station.

Mediterranean Gull are a part of our summer here and we can go out in the garden and around the Lytchett recording area almost at any time of day and hear them calling.  Saying this, this is the first time I have recorded the species moving over at night.

I suppose the Cuckoo is the harbinger of summer and on the Lytchett Bay patch we see one or two most years but in this last week I have recorder two individuals passing over on migration. I've assumed this as they haven't been seen or heard on the patch the next day. This is the first time that I've recorded Cuckoo at night on migration from my listening station.

Thursday 16 April 2020

Lockdown Blog Day 25

Hi everyone I hope you have all been keeping busy and watching the wildlife around your gardens and on your exercise walk. Jackie and I have been continuing to keep an out out the best we can to add species to our lockdown  garden and walk lists.  It's not going to badly our garden list is up to 44 species and our walk list is now on 60 species.

Our garden list does include species seen and heard from the garden, we have a few summer migrants  but still very limited with no hirundines yet though Swallow has been seen by others around us.  Blackcap and Chiffchaff are in good voice and its been great to have to Chiffchaff back as we had a blank year in 2019, the first time since we moved here 8 years ago.  The Cetti's is also breeding again and there are two males singing opposite us and one near the Lytchett Bay view point.

We have Greenfinch back but rarely coming into the garden, even the Goldfinch aren't as regular to the feeders at the moment but the male sings from one of the oaks opposite.  We had a Goldcrest singing for just one day and occasionally a Bullfinch will sit over the road and flying over our garden but not coming in.  A pair of Long-tailed Tits were foraging for nest material and a pair of Blue Tits we think are nesting in our "House Sparrow" terrace box but it's gone quiet, maybe she is now sitting.

We've had some excitement with Osprey and Red Kite over the house but apart from Buzzard we've recorded no other raptors.  In the evening from the garden we have heard Tawny Owl, Snipe, Moorhen and Water Rail.

Nocturnal Migration or NocMig is still continuing and I've recorded 37 species overnight most are local species that have been singing during the night around the bungalow or further out in the bay.  The most interesting for me are those species that are passing over as most of these are migrants moving over heading of to their breeding grounds.

I've included a few of the better recording of those species that have flown over very close over our garden. First is a Water Rail a species we have in the reed beds opposite our bungalow but rarely see them flying or even record them in flight.  So I think this is a bird that is moving to breed somewhere else.

The next is a rather long recording of a Sandwich Tern or terns as their is possible more than one involved but it is hard to tell for sure.  It is the first time I've recorded them flying over at night though we do see them in the day time out fishing in the bay during the summer but even then the aren't a daily occurrence. 

This is Mute Swans out in the bay being territorial probably because another pair or another swan has entered the territory and they are seeing them off.  In the recording you can hear a bird takeoff land and prove they aren't mute.  The nearest water is 250m away so it shows I think how loud the wing beating is also how sensitive my new microphones are.

This is a nice recording in that I've never recorded them flying so close over home usually distantly over the bay then not that often. In fact they aren't a common visitor to Lytchett Bay unlike the Canada Geese.  This must of been quite a large skein which was split up possibly into three groups.

Though we can get large numbers of Oystercatcher feeding on the Turlin sports fields and spread out over the bay feeding at low tide, as soon as the breeding season comes they move out and this is probably what this bird or birds were doing.  As in the eight years we have lived here I think I've only seen Oystercatcher flying over the bungalow once.  With this recording you can hear the doppler effect as it starts faint and increases in volume and then decreases as the bird then moves away to the north.

This recording os a Blackcap I made on my iPhone just this morning as we were taking our early exercise walk to the view point.  There are two Blackcaps that have territories more or less opposite our bungalow and they were having a bit of a sing off this morning so I recorded the closest one as his song was a little more interesting than the other as it was doing a little mimicking within it's  repertoire.  It also shows how good the mobile phones are as its made a pretty good recording.

This last recording isn't a bird but it's quite interesting as it's one of our local Fox or Fox's as I think this involve two animals.  Though I have a number of recording of the local foxes I've never heard or recorded the rapid "hu hu hu hup" that comes before the screaming bark.

Hope you have enjoyed listening to the night sound of Lytchett Bay Keep Safe. Nick and Jackie.

Monday 6 April 2020

Lockdown Birding

Hope your are all well and keeping safe and watching wildlife from close to home as Jackie and I are doing.  

The thing is what to do, well I think birders adapt well and Jackie is keeping a day garden lockdown list and I'm keeping a night time (or NocMig) list and we take our exercise walk around the local Lytchett patch. I've also been writing a daily species of the day on the Friends of Lytchett Bay Facebook page, though it's getting harder to find new species in the garden each day but just about managing it at present. 

The patch lockdown walk list stands at 45 species the Lockdown Garden List at 39 species and I've recorded 33 species between 21:00hrs and 05:00hrs overnight.  We have had some nice highlights and quality birds, Osprey, Red Kite for the garden and Arctic Tern for the Bay with Coot a patch rarity and Common Scoter as migrants over night on NocMig recordings.

Some of you may know that my trusty parabolic reflector microphone after many years of service stopped working last year and I've been undecided about what to replace it with.  Talking to Paul Morton of Birds of Poole Harbour and Sound Approach guys I made the decision to purchase a SM4 Song Meter from Wildlife Acoustics.  Though quite expensive it is waterproof and can be setup to record continually and saves to one or two SD cards.  I'm using 2 x 16Gb cards which has enough memory for four nights of recording.  So far it's proved to be very good and the recording quality is high, when you think that we're in a semi-urban area with a lot of town background noise to contend with.

Below is a couple of the better recordings, one of the three scoter flocks I've recorded over the last week and one of several coot passing overhead and the third is a migrating Moorhen and finishing with Redwing.

This is one of three recording of Common Scoter passing over Lytchett Bay in this past week.

This is one of five Coot that I've recorded over the last week a real rarity in Lytchett bay but I record them every year on NocMig. The thing is you only record the calling birds so you have no real idea of how many there are unless you get multiple calls all at once which sometimes you do.

Now you have heard Coot I thought I would add a migrating Moorhen for comparison. This is a nice recording though early in the night as there was quite a bit of background traffic interference but at around 19 seconds in you will also here one of the local female Water Rail calling from the reed bed opposite our bungalow, also a male at the end.

We also had a unprecedented Redwing passage on the night of the 1st/2nd April when I recorded 282 calling going over the majority being recorded between 03:00hrs and 04:30hrs in the morning.  This movement is possibly to do with the change from the cold northerlies which held the birds up and when the wind changed back to the south they moved and it appears this was a widespread movement across the south of England.  

Just to remind you of what they sound like I've included a recording below.

Our last Birding highlight was from this mornings walk along the east of the bay towards Turlin Moor where we were hoping to see a Swallow but ended up seeing an 'Arctic Swallow'.  

As when we reached the Lytchett View Point I spotted a tern species dipping in the bay as we watched it, both Jackie and I said "think that's an Arctic" I watched as it quartered the bay and Jackie called Shaun who unfortunately had gone to the other side of the bay for his morning exercise. It eventually came close enough so we were able to confirm it was an Arctic Tern.  This was a life species for our Lytchett Bay list and one we might not see until the autumn depending on how long this emergency restriction last.  Unfortunately I didn't manage a photograph so I've added one from a trip we had to the Farne Islands in 2017 coming on an attack.

Arctic Tern coming in to see me off the path - Inner Farne © Nick Hull