About Two Owls

Thursday 11 May 2023

March/ April Update

I think is always a slow month when you are still trying to get those odd winter species that you haven't seen and towards the end of the month there is that expectant feeling of an early migrant.  The weather was pretty awful and wet which limited birding somewhat and Jackie and I managed to get out and around ten times over the month mostly local around the harbour.

We only managed to add five species to our year list Knot, Greenshank, Red-legged Partridge, Skylark and Spotted Redshank.  We also had a unexpected sighting though fairly brief of a male Cirl Bunting at the Sheeps Pen car park at Encombe, Isle of Purbeck, which has to be the highlight of the month.

So our year list stands at 132 species which I think is pretty average but as we don't twitch very much these days only really going for lifers trying to reduce our carbon footprint, I don't thinks we are doing too badly.  The photograph below is from our archive just in case you can't remember what one looks like.

male Cirl Bunting taken in Normandie © Nick Hull

April in contrast to March couldn't have been more different with something like 32 new species for the year list though not all in Dorset.  As at the beginning of the month Jackie and I had a few days down on the Somerset Levels as I wanted to try and sound record Bittern.  

We started our birding on the levels at Greylake RSPB reserve to see if we could find a Garganey which was reported to be there.  Well it was and we saw it almost as soon as we looked out of the hide and it wasn't too far away.

Male Garganey having a wing stretch - Greylake RSPB © Nick Hull

We had our only view of Bittern here or rather I did as Jackie didn't get on to it quick enough before it dropped into the reeds out of sight, a pretty good start to a few days away.  We then headed off to Ham Wall and had lunch before walking over to Shapwick Heath. As we were heading up along the channel path we started to hear the booming of Bittern and I started to do a little recording but there was really to much background noise, but none the less I managed some. It also gave me an idea of where I needed to be the next morning.

On the 3rd Jackie and I were up early had breakfast and out in a cool frosty morning and arrived at the Ham Wall car park just after opening heading back to the spot I had been recording the evening before.  We stood in the quiet of the morning and as the birds woke and started to sing therir territorial songs.  I set up the recorder and recorded Blackcap, Cetti's, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting and then we heard a distant boom.  In fact over the next hour or so we pretty sure we had recorded at least five Bittern Booming from the one spot and one was so close it vibrated the parabola dish it was amazing to hear with the headset on.

As people started to arrive I gave up on the recording and we did a little birding from Noah's Lake hide where we added Barnacle Goose to the list.  We heard that two Cranes were showing well at Catcott Lows so we headed off in an attempt to try and see them.  On our arrival we were told they had just flown off a few minutes earlier. So after having a good look around we headed back to Ham Wall and spent the afternoon there. Where we caught up with the long staying Glossy Ibis saw two pairs of Garganey and several Great White Egret, plus all the usual more common species. As we were leaving and nearly back to the car park a flight of Greylag Geese flew in and one was obviously smaller getting on to it, you could see it had a white forehead blaze identifying it as a White-fronted Goose.  We spent the last part of the day at West Hay where we listened to Bittern booming and lots of Swallow and Sand Martin feeding over the reed beds and recorded our first Reed Warbler of the year. As we headed back to Meare where we were staying I made a wrong turn and we drove around in a bit of a circler route to get back onto the correct road. Which turned out to be very fortunate as we came across a Barn Owl which gave good views as it quartered over the fields.

Back home our next outing was to Blashford to catchup with the female Scaup which we just managed at the last minute just before we were to leave, thanks to Lorne Bissell. We also added Little Ringed Plover on the edge of Ibsley Water.  

On the 8th of May Jackie and I were on domestic duties when Jackie called something is upsetting the Herring Gulls then she shouted "Osprey" I shot out with the camera and managed a few shots as it soared over the garden carrying a fish before it headed off northward.

The gull warning system & Osprey © Nick Hull

Same Osprey with fish © Nick Hull

That afternoon we had a drive up around the Cranborne Chase and stopped off at Wyke Down where I managed to see a male Hen Harrier but failed to get Jackie onto it in time before it disappeared over the ridge.

It was another eight days before we managed to get out to Lodmoor with friends and had a pretty good day adding Common Sandpiper, Sandwich Tern, Grasshopper and Reed Warbler and a stunning male Pied Flycatcher.

Male Pied Flycatcher - Lodmoor RSPB © Nick Hull

The next day (17th) Jackie and I did our Osprey watch and managed to add Woodlark and Mistle Thrush to our 10km list and on the way home I noticed lots of gulls feeding in with the cattle by the Post Green road. So we stopped and had a brief view and found over 50 Mediterranean Gull and 3 Wheatear in the field which were also added to our 10km checklist.

On the 21st Jackie and I had a second try for the Night Heron that had been seen by the Stour at IFord, Christchurch, We had dipped on the previous visit as the birds were flushed by a dog walking along the north bank.  Well we arrived and walked the 120m or so up river from the bridge and there sat on a branch over the river was one of the three Night Heron that had been present in the area for about a week.

Night Heron River Stour Iford © Nick Hull

Over the next eight days we had a run of good birds we started just with our first Whimbrel in Lytchett Bay on 23rd that evening a Forster's Tern was seen from the new Rock Lea view point but next day it was back in the bay and Jackie and I managed to see it distantly at first from Footpath 12 before moving to the Lytchett Bay view point where we had good scope and bins view of this rare American tern. It was still a little distant to photograph but I managed a few passable memory shots of this second for Dorset.  The first was at Ferrybridge in 1996 which we also saw.

1st/winter Forster's Tern - Lytchett Bay © Nick Hull 

On the 25th we had arranged with a friend to visit Durlston CP. to go and find some orchids and catch up on a few sea going species absent from our lists.  We added three before lunch Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, whilst we were thinking of going for lunch a message came through to say there had been a Woodchat Shrike found at Herston, Swanage so once we had replenished ourselves with food and drink we headed off to see if we could find it.  After sorting out where we had to be, we eventually found it sat in a some gorse and bramble scrub where it gave us good views.

Woodchat Shrike - Herston © Nick Hull

But the month hadn't ended nor had the good birds as on the 29th a Dotterel was found between Renscombe Farm and St Adhelm's Head just as Jackie and I was leaving the house on our way to see if the Black-winged Stilts were still on Lodmoor.  So fortunately we changed plans and headed to Purbeck.  Around forty minutes later we were stood watching a distant Dotterel and a couple of accompanying Golden Plover on a recently cultivated field we also saw two Wheatear as well. 

Female Dotterel - Renscombe © Nick Hull

Which as it happened it saved us wasting a journey to Weymouth as the Black-winged Stilts had left left.  We ended the day by adding Yellowhammer to our year list at Wild Woodbury on the way home. Bringing our total for the month to 121 species and 164 for the year. With plenty to still connect with.