About Two Owls

Saturday 10 April 2021

A Good Month on the Patch and a Twitch to Weymonth

 Like always you have some luck and some bad luck and this month has been "Swings and Roundabouts", with much of the usual Lytchett Bay species being seen at the start of the month.  We started on the 3rd March out on Higher Hydes Heath at Arne as I was helping RSPB in my volunteer role surveying for reptiles.  At it's early in the month and we didn't expect anything really but it's an opportunity to lift the Artificial Refuges (AR's) and make them more attractive to the reptiles.  Whilst Stewart and I did this Jackie surveyed the birds. The most notable were the number of Crossbill that we saw plus Jackie and Stewart  located a probable nesting site.

Our next birding walk was on the 8th when Jackie and I were walking along towards Turlin Moor and had a very noisy Bearded Tit calling from the reed bed though it refused to show itself.  Otherwise the walk was rather mundane. Next day or rather in the late evening I went into the office to close down my computer and as I was sat at my desk I heard a Coot calling and I rushed to the front door and outside as quickly as I could and heard it call several more times as it headed west towards the fields.  You may think rushing out to hear a coot is odd but they are extremely rare to see in the Lytchett Bay recording area and usually only recorded on Nocturnal Migration (Nocmig) when they fly past my microphone at night. The nocmig recording list I keep separate from the day to day birds we see or hear on the patch hence my rush to the front door to get it on the patch list.  I've had several more over the month migrating past my listening station along with Mediterranean Gull, Little Grebe, Water Rail, Moorhen and Curlew plus a few nights of Redwing and Song Thrush moving back to their breeding grounds in Europe. 

The next highlight of the month was on the 16th when Liz Woodford telephone to say she had a White-tailed Eagle flying towards her over the Lytchett Bay view point. Jackie and I quickly rushed out and down the road the couple of hundred metres and Liz was pointing up above us and yes there it was probably 213m (700ft) above us was an obvious large eagle gliding north.  I took an handful of record shots but didn't expect anything to be good as it was so high.

White-tailed Eagle going north over Lytchett Bay View © Nick Hull

Our next excursion (18th) was to Longham Lakes to see if we could find the Ring-necked Duck and in fact it turned out to be quite easy as we found it on the north lake loosely associating with a few Tufted Duck.  We had good views though it was very active driving regularly but would occasionally rest and preen on the surface between dives.

Female Ring-necked Duck_Longham Lakes © Nick Hull

Two days later we went to Garston Wood for a walk and to see if the wild garlic and bluebells were starting to flower but we were a little early.  We did manage to see 29 Corn Bunting on route and record Marsh Tit singing in the wood so not a bad mornings trip out.

Our next was a short drive around Hartland Moor to see if we could find Wheatear on the fields by the Horse Stud which we managed to do find two very smart individuals.  We met a friend here who asked if we had seen the Little Ringed Plover at Holme gravel pits and we said no we hadn't and he kindly described roughly where to look for them.  So about 15 minutes later we were scanning the bank on the gravel pit and managed to find one of the Little Ringed Plover in almost the place we were told to look.  We also added a good number of Sand Martin and a couple of Swallow to our list here making it a really good stop.

The next day the lockdown eased and that morning a Desert Wheatear was found by Dave Chown behind the the Park & Ride (Covid test centre) at Weymouth so we headed off there after lunch and once we found where it was we didn't take long to locate it and have some very good views.  What was particularly nice  this bird was a first summer female and previous birds we had seen had been males but this was the first we had seen in Dorset which was even better.  We ended the day having fish and chips at the top of Came Down and ticked off Yellowhammer before driving home.

1st/summer female Desert Wheatear - nr. Lodmoor ©

The last day of the month gave us a Lytchett Bay year tick when Shaun telephoned to say he was listening to a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the trees by the allotments entrance on Slough Lane. We grabbed our bins and I grabbed my recording kit to and headed off up the road. We both started to hear the bird drumming as we were walking down the lane and I managed to make a reasonable recording of what appeared to be a pair duetting.

The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker brought out month list to 101species for March.  We were lucky as they've not been seen or heard since unfortunately.