About Two Owls

Sunday 11 December 2022

November Birding

After our Normandie trip it was back home to wet stormy weather so the start of the month was pretty slow mainly patch birding, ticking off the usual waders and woodland birds and those visiting the garden feeders.  On the 11th it was a clear sunny day though a little windy and Jackie wasn't feeling a 100% so I went out to Studland on  my own to see if I could get a few photographs of the Snow Bunting which had been found on the beach at Shell Bay. Annoyingly the Corfe Castle to Studland road was closed so I had to go via Swanage.  After arriving in the NT car park by the ferry toll booths I headed off out on to the beach and fortunately due to the ferry being out of commission on its service there were very few people on the beach.  I had been told that the bunting was often near the new enclosure so I wondered up the tideline near the sand dunes thinking if it was anywhere it would be searching for food in this area.  Well I scoured the area with no luck and I was just going to give up when I heard a Snow Bunting call going overhead but looking up didn't see it pass over me.  I scanned down the beach and saw fellow birder Gary Hayman walking towards me it didn't look that he had seen it either so I decided to walk through the dunes and marram incase it had pitched down into cover. I kept an eye on Gary as he walked toward me and I then noticed he turned and was looking at something on the beach and guessed it was the bunting so I quickly joined him and another birder and there it was just a few metres away and it enabled me to get some nice shots of this arctic breeding bunting.  
Snow Bunting - Shell Bay © Nick Hull

After we had our fill of Snow Bunting Gary and I then walked out to Jerry's Point to look over the harbour.  This proved quite fruitful as we had 2 Red-throated Diver, 3 Great Northern Diver, and Black-necked Grebe and my first Red-breasted Mergansers of the winter.  At the end of the day Jackie and I recieved news that there was a Great Northern Diver in Lytchett Bay, a patch lifer, so we quickly headed out to Turlin Moor as that was where it had been seen last and in the last light of day we managed to see it roosting on the water in the main channel.  We popped out again on the 13th and had better views of it just off the Turlin screen, not often we add a species to our patch life list so thanks goes to David White who found it.

Red-throated Diver - Bramble Bush Bay © Nick Hull

In the late afternoon (13th) we traveled up to the northern chalk around the Cranborne Chase where we managed to have brief views of Grey Partridge, Red Kite and a early evening Barn Owl and a small flock of Corn Bunting going off to roost, not a bad day.

In bad weather on the 15th we had a look around the northern side of the harbour well mostly from the van as it was wet and windy but the only bird of note was a single late Swallow which passed by the van whilst at Baiter.  

On the 17th we headed down to Weymouth via Dorchester where we were to pick up my mother and take her out for lunch.  Once we arrived in Weymouth it was a little early to go straight to lunch so as the Sabine's Gulls were still at Chesil Cove, we had missed them on our last try, we popped over to Portland and had a look.  As there wasn't a parking space I had to to the top of the road to turn the van around. At the top we had the height to look over the wall to see over the Cove and there right in front of us were two Sabine's Gull. I jumped out of the van with the camera and took a couple of quick shots and then we headed off for lunch at the Turks Head at Chickerell and very nice it was to.

Sabine's Gull - Chesil Cove © Nick Hull

Sabine's Gull - Chesil Cove © Nick Hull

A shot of a Kittiwake that was in the company of the Sabine's Gull and a couple Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull which was all that could be seen.
Kittiwake - Chesil Cove © Nick Hull

On the 20th Jackie and I met friends for a walk around Lodmoor which turned out pretty non-eventful in that it was more or less the usual species present but a flock of Golden Plover and a redhead Goosander were nice bonus species. In fact I can't remember having seen Goosander before at Lodmoor.
Female Gossander - Lodmoor © Nick Hull

Unfortunately this was the end of our birding for the month as we both came down with a winter chough/cold and spent the remainder of the month trying to shake it off.  So we only managed 90 species this mouth but added one or two to the 10km and 1 patch lifer so not to bad at all.  What will December bring?

Thursday 8 December 2022

Short Break to Normandie

After Mig-Week in Yorkshire Jackie and I spent a few days at home before we headed off to Normandie as we had to use up our ferry tickets which we purchased back in 2020 for our crossing from Poole to Cherbourg.  We didn't have the best of weather sunshine and showers I think sums it up pretty well.  Though it enabled us to do a couple days of birding and visit friends which we hadn't seen since before covid hit. 

For our first couple of days we stayed at Crasville a small hamlet near the coast which gave us access to drive to a few of our favourite places for birding. Gatteville-Le-Phare, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, Domaine De Beauguillot, La Pointe de Brevand, Géfosse-Fontenay and the  
Ponts Douve, Carentan les Marais. We saw 88 species in what was two and a half days of birding not too bad but if the wind was in the right direction we would have picked up more birds off shore but sea watching was poor.  

Cattle Egret - en-route to La Pointe de Brevand © Nick Hull

The Domaine De Beauguillot is a wetland reserve unfortunately they are doing some conservation work on the reserve so a large area was closed off but we managed to scope over part of the reserve.  We found a large flock of Barnacle Geese also Golden Plover in with the Lapwing and what was really nice was we had two Zitting Cisticola 'zitting' around us.  It was nice to see them as they suffered a few years ago when the Beast of the East freeze hit France as well as us in the UK and Zitting Cisticola suffered badly in Normandie as did the Cattle Egret.  In fact around the polder that surrounds the La Baie des Veys we came across really good numbers of Cattle Egret with many of the grazing cattle herds.

Red-legged & Grey Partridge near La Pointe de Brevand

At>La Pointe de Brevand we had the usual common waders though the tide was out and the waterfowl were scattered over the the mud far and wide. So we headed to >Géfosse-Fontenay en-route I spotted a small covey of partridge of both Red-legged and Grey species which we don't often seen here. Looking out from the beach at >Géfosse-Fontenay the other side of the bay we found 5 Curlew Sandpiper amongst the usual many Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Curlew Grey plover etc.  On our return to the cottage I noticed some egret in a field conveniently next to a layby. I quickly pulled in and took a look through the hedge and was surprised to see 9 Great White Egret and a Grey Heron all stood out in the field I assume they may have been migrant birds as I'm not aware of any breeding in the area. That evening at the cottage we heard Cirl Bunting singing in the adjacent field and we also heard it again the next morning.

Female/immature type Black Redstart - Gateville-Le-Phare © Nick Hull

Gateville-Le-Phare didn't produce much, as I mentioned earlier the wing direction wasn't right for good sea-watching, but we had a Peregrine hunting around the Lighthouse (Phare) and saw it catch something presumably a Turnstone or another wader which it carried off east.  We also had a female/immature type Black Redstart around the cottages and a very nice Wheatear with the Alba Wagtails on the rocks by the beach.

Northern Wheatear - Gateville-Le-Phare © Nick Hull

Our only other birding was with a friend in the forest in Calvados where she lives and we added Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Short-toed Treecreeper to our list which was a nice end to a short trip.