About Two Owls

Saturday 6 April 2024

March 2024 - An assortment of Wildlife

This month's birding started on the 2nd with a late afternoon tour of the Cranborne Chase Sixpenny Handley and Wyke Down.  Getting Short-eared Owl, Red Kites and Raven on our list was nice and hearing Skylark singing gave a good indicator that Spring was on the way even if it was many wet and raining most days. 
A late Short-eared Owl North Dorset © Nick Hull

Next day we had a walk around the Lytchett patch recording area just to catch up on a few species that were missing Dartford Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Snipe and Little and Great Crested Grebe.  The morning ended with rain which didn't really stop and ran through the next day too. 
On the 5th though it was light rain Jackie and I met friends and had a short walk around Sugar Hill area  of Wareham Forest just to try and see the Great Grey Shrike which I found sitting at the top of a pine but again the rain started coming down pretty heavily so we soon called it a day and headed home.

We were out again on the 6th this time meeting friends in the New Forest at Acres Down the sunny morning brought a few species out and we successfully saw Goshawk, and listened to two Woodlark singing plus Firecrest, Hawfinch and Green Woodpecker the latter which seems to have disappeared from our Lytchett patch.

Woodlark Acres Down New Forest © Nick Hull

On the 8th whilst having lunch in the conservatory at home and glancing up sky watching just in case actually paid off for once as a Red Kite drifted over going west a nice garden and patch tick without going anywhere is always good.  

Red Kite © Nick Hull

Next day we had to pop into town and as we needed Peregrine we checked the Asda building as we passed on the way home and there he was sitting on the rail.  After getting home I had a walk over Lytchett Fields the tide was wrong and there was a chill in the air but in the more sheltered spots I saw my first hoverfly of the year plus Peacock Butterfly and a 7-spot Ladybird.

Drone Hoverfly - Eristalis pertinax © Nick Hull

Out around in the 10Km patch which is essentially Poole Harbour and Isle of Purbeck and a little of Wareham Forest on a dry morning of the 16th starting at Holme Bridge added a pair of Mandarin on the Frome and on the Gravel Pits we found a Barnacle Goose which was a little unexpected.   Then moving on we had a immature type Marsh Harrier over Hartland Moor but little else. We decided to head back to Poole and went through the forest and had Redwing at Wild Woodbury and Yellowhammer near Bloxworth ending the morning at the Ham Common VP at Rockley, where we manage to catch up with one of the White-tailed Eagles sat on Wood Bar Looe Point in the Wareham Channel whilst listening to many Mediterranean Gull moving back and forth from the gull nesting islands.  Back at home watching the feeding station we had a visit from the usual Siskin and Goldfinch and a Lesser Redpoll which was very nice edition to the garden list for the year.

Out to Middlebere and to Studland but the weather was against us so very little seen, but on the 20th I had a couple of hours out walk around the patch nothing to unusual bird wise accept two Wheatear were in the Approach Field which was nice though the Little Ringed Plover were nowhere to be seen.  On the plus side on the way back had a male adder basking and my first Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood of the year plus several Brimstone.

1 of 2 Wheatear on approach Field © Nick Hull

I took this photo of the adder with a long lens so not to disturb it from basking.  Taking in the sun is essential so they can get into top condition after hibernation and ready for breeding, and by not disturbing them they will stay and use the basking site more or less every day but if constantly disturbed they will move and then no one get to see these stunning snakes. 

Male Adder © Nick Hull

Small Tortoiseshell © Nick Hull

Speckled Wood  Nick Hull

Whilst at the view point a small spider was running about on the wood rail so I took a few shots of it and identified it at Arctose leopardus and as it turns out it's a new species for the patch.

Arctose leopardus © Nick Hull

I managed to get of for a few hour on the 22nd to Swineham looking for reptiles and managed to find 10 Adder eight males and two females which was nice.  Also went to Studland on the 24th in hope of seeing the Long-tailed Duck off Jerry's Point unfortunately when we arrived the area off Jerry's Point had Kite Surfers skimming around everywhere so no luck with the Long-tailed Duck. Now the rain came in and we popped into the Brand's Bay hide and had the usual section of waders and duck and geese even six Brent were still present with the Canada geese and a couple of Greylag on Greenlands fields.

On the 26th Jackie and I started our Osprey sitting as with last year and it was CJ7 first day back 022  having returned at 05:43hrs the day before. When we arrived she was eating a fish and spent a lot of time resting after her flight which isn't that surprising really.  O22 came in with the odd piece of nesting material and CJ eventually landed on the nest and did some maintenance.

022 on nest perch BoPH Webcam shots

CJ7 on the nest BoPH Webcam shots

Whilst your doing your stint watching over the nest site we usual record the other birds we hear and see  which occupies your time when both birds are away from the nest.  We managed to add a couple of Sand Martin and a very lucky fly over Hawfinch which was a big surprise to add to our 10Km list.

If you want to take a look and checkout the Dorset only breeding Osprey click on the following link to the Birds of Poole Harbour Osprey Webcam.

That bring me to the end of the March blog and April has started well as the Forster's Tern has returned and is back at Arne.

Friday 8 March 2024

February produced a Lifer.

With all the wet weather birding seemed to have been reduced a little this month but we managed to get out to Arne on the 6th.  It was a damp miserable day and we didn't see an amazing number of birds but we had Spoonbill and a Marsh Harrier, Raven and a small flock of Siskin to brighten the morning.  

Next day we popped into Upton Country Park the day was a little better cloudy with sunny spells so there was some bird song making feel like spring was on the way with Song Thrush and Great Tit and Robin singing. We also was able to add one or two species to our 10km and harbour year list.

Because of the weather and home commitments we didn't get out again until the 11th which was a little twitch to Pennington in Hampshire it was another cloudy and overcast day with the occasional sunny spell. We arrive in the very small car park and I managed to find a space to get the van into and we headed out onto the old landfill toward the fishtail lagoon where our target bird was supposed to be.  We were half way there and there were three birders obviously looking at some thing just over the hedge and when asked they replied the Red-breasted Goose is just here.  I suppose it was around 30m away in accompany with Dark-bellied Brent Geese so we had good views.  

Red-breasted Goose -Pennington Hampshire © Nick Hull

Shortly after the Brent started to fly off and off went the Red-breasted Goose to and they all went out on to Pennington Marsh.

Red-breasted Goose flying by - Pennington Hampshire 

We were just walking back to the van when we met Brett Spencer and as we were catching up all the geese took flight again and were calling and you could hear the Red-breasted goose clearly with it's squeakier higher pitched call and it enabled us to locate it in flight amongst all the Brent.

Red-breasted Goose & Dark-bellied Brent in Flight Pennington © Nick Hull

Just in case you can't find it here is a crop of the above shot to help you pick it out as the flew into the camping field.

Red-breasted Goose & Dark-bellied Brent in Flight Pennington © Nick Hull

I managed to make an audio recording of the bird when it was in the camping field.

On the 17th Jackie and I decided to go on a twitch again down to the Somerset Levels this was for a bird we missed back in April 2022 the Baikal Teal had returned. Though I found it in a photograph which I took of all the wildfowl in flight we had never actually set eyes on it.  So this time we set out early and arrived around 09:30hrs just as the rain stopped.  Walking to the hide we had Bearded Tit calling a good start.

This shot is the one from April 2022 © Nick Hull

when we reached the hide I popped in and checked if the teal was around and on view Jackie walked on to the second, the open hide and had brief views but when I arrived a few minutes later I found it was obscured by a clump of rush.

This was my first view of the Baikal Teal this year, Jackie was in the hide before me and had it before it tucked itself up.
Baikal Teal - Greylake, Somerset Levels © Nick Hull

But eventually after an hour or two it moved and had a little walk around and I managed to get a reasonable shot at least you can see this stunning drake. 

Baikal Teal - Greylake, Somerset Levels © Nick Hull

We also had good views of a male Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, a couple of Great White Egret and squealing Water Rails,  plus the enormous numbers of duck was well worth the visit.

We went on to Ham Wall and had a coffee and a snack and as we got out of the van the heavens opened and the dry spell finished and the forecast told us it wasn't going to stop so we headed home for lunch. 

The rest of the month was birding between the rainy days and getting out when we could locally around the harbour. On the 20th we took a trip across to Brownsea.  We had a good visit with excellent views of several Red Squirrel running everywhere though the tide in the harbour was out so most of the waders were out in the harbour but there were a few Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet around in the lagoon. We even managed a year tick whilst leaving one of the hides when we had a Firecrest moving through with a small tit flock and had one singing by the villa whilst having our lunch.

Our last highlight of the months birding was at Dorchester where we had views of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Louds Mill unfortunately no photograph.

Monday 5 February 2024

Starting the New Year 2024

How did the year start for you? Hopefully like us you've managed to get out and start your birding and as I've mentioned Jackie and I always try to get to a hundred species as soon as possible in the fewest number of days we can. This year we managed it in seven days and by the end of the month we are on 117 and there are still plenty of species we are missing before the spring migrants start arriving.

As is usual we always start on the patch here at Lytchett Bay and then head off around the local area to add other species not found on the patch.  We started off very well with the garden birds then our first stop was at Rock Lea View Point to look over the bay to get some waders under our belt.  One of our first species here was a superb grey male Hen Harrier quartering over the reed bed which was quickly followed by a Green Sandpiper calling close by which eventually took flight giving us a view. Checking out the feeding station added tits and finches and Reed Bunting. Once we felt we had seen all we could here we moved on inland for some farmland species.  As we were passing along the Charborough Park we came across Paul Morton (BoPH) and pulled up to see what he was watching.  Glad we did as we added Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Fieldfare and Redwing and a tad unexpected Woodlark made for a very fortunate stop.

Pale Morph Common Buzzard © Nick Hull

From here we had a slow drive around the winding lanes and picking up species en-route like Jay, Rook Coal Tit, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Kestrel.  We had a brief stop at Holme Bridge adding Mute Swan and Grey Heron but no Cattle Egret or waders which were there a few days before.  We were a little limited with time and it was now mid-afternoon so decided to call it a day and make our way home for a late lunch.

Our next chance to get out was on the 3rd with friends at Arne, our morning walk here added a few more species to our year list highlights here were Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Dark-bellied Brent Geese and no less than three Common Seal hauled out on the beach of Long Island. We ended the morning getting very close to our 100 species.

Redwing - Arne © Nick Hull

We were next out on the 5th to Studland for grebes, waders and water fowl.  Again with just the morning available to us for a bit of birding we headed out to Jerry's Point here it would give us a good view over the inner harbour and into Brand's Bay.  Great Crested Grebe were scattered over the water and then Jackie found a single Slavonian Grebe and eventually I managed to find two Black-necked Grebe and a small group of Goldeneye.  In the distance at the south end of the bay there were lots of Pintail and Brent and waders waiting for the tide to drop.  

We moved on to Middle Beach adding another three species to our year list, one was a little odd being a Little Grebe that flew into and pitched up in the bay, the other was a Marsh Harrier crossing the bay and the third was one or two Gannets also moving across the bay though a little distant. After we went home for lunch and then checked out Baiter and Poole Park in the afternoon where we added Greylag Goose, Turnstone and Coot to the list.

Next day as we were visiting my mother in the care home we decided to take a picnic lunch and after our visit we went to Maiden Castle to have lunch.  Here we picked up Skylark and then Corn Bunting and our first Mediterranean Gull.  After we stopped at Lomoor to see if we could connect with a Pochard but had no luck so we moved on to Sandsfoot Castle, to see if we could find the Red-necked Grebe, where we met Loy and Aspen who were doing the same.  After looking for sometime we moved down to the small bay and from this different angle we picked up the Red-necked Grebe out amongst the buoy's  along with a couple of Black-necked Grebe.  This was a good bird to catchup with as they don't come along that often these days..

On the 7th we had a busy day but had time to pop down to Holes Bay where a Black-throated Diver had taken up residence for a few days.  After arriving and walking along the footpath, so we were opposite the Merc garage, we scanned the bay and found it almost immediately and I took a few distant shots but after a while it moved much closer and gave excellent views.  We also had a Shag feeding in the bay which is somewhat unusual. Back home I uploaded our sighting to Birdtrack and we had hit 103 species three days earlier than we did in 2023 so not a bad start to the year.

Black-throated Diver - SW Holes Bay © Nick Hull

To try and continue our listing for January on the 9th we headed to Durlston to see if we could add a few seabirds.  The morning was bitterly cold but we managed to find a little respite from the cold wind by the Dolphin Lookout and saw Fulmar, Guillemot, Raven and Rock Pipit to our list and then it was retreat to the castle cafe for hot drinks and warm up.

For the rest of the month we revisited Studland a couple of time, had a visit to Blashford and the New Forest a couple of visits to Thorncombe Wood otherwise it was birding the local patch.  Though we added a few species nothing was outstanding until the 19th when a call from Shaun to say that SJ had just found 8 Waxwing feeding on mistletoe in a birch tree in Dacombe Drive, just five minutes away.  So we were in the car and very soon stood next to Shaun and SJ watching eight Waxwing.  These birds are still around as I write but seem to be staying on the berrying trees on Canford Heath near ASDA and the Haymoor pub, with the odd visit back to Upton.

Bohemian Waxwing- Upton © Nick Hull

We ended the month with a walk at Middlebere on the 30th where we saw the usual species of waders and farmland birds.  It wasn't untill we were walking back to the cars we met local birder Trevor Warrick as we chatted he looked up and said "I've a Goshawk" and we all looked up and there heading towards us was indeed a male Goshawk.  I thought it was going to fly directly over us but it then turned away so I took a couple of distant shots as it flew back the way it had come from.  What a bird to end January's birding. not the best shot but you can see it's a Gos.

Goshawk high over Middlebere © Nick Hull

Friday 12 January 2024

1st December to the end of the year.

We hope everyone had a very happy and festive Christmas and we would like to wish you all a very successful wildlife filled New Year.

Though December is always a month where birding seems to drop off a little and we only managed to visit five locations mainly trying to add a few species we were missing for our local lists. A visit to Studland on the 6th December proved fruitful, we walked out to Jerry's Point and scanned the inner harbour which added Red-throated Diver and Long-tailed Duck plus species that we had at the beginning of the year like Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, Grey Plover etc. Which was all very nice to see.

We didn't get out again until the 17th when we popped over to Thorncombe Wood near Dorchester.  A walk around the wood with friends didn't produce a large variety of species but we did manage to find a couple of Brambling in amongst a flock of feeding Chaffinch and had a couple of flyover Lesser Redpoll which are always nice to catchup with at anytime.  

All our other visits were on the home patch trying to add one or two species missed in the early part of the year.  So how did we do overall in 2023, well as Jackie and I do not twitch and travel outside the Dorset unless it's for short break holidays, we alway set our yearly challenge at 200 species to see in the year. 
A breakdown of our year is pretty average 
UK                                       213 species (Not including a further 27 species seen in France on holiday)
Lytchett Bay Patch              123 species  
Poole Harbour                     157 species
Isle of Purbeck                    160 species
Dorset                                  178 species
These figures do not include 2 escape species Black Swan and Harris Hawk.

Local highlights of the year must be:- 
Forster's Tern              - Lytchett Bay & Arne
Spotted Sandpiper      - Bramble Bush Bay
Dotterel                       Renscombe, Isle of Purbeck
Cirl Bunting                 Isle of Purbeck
Great Grey Shrike       - Lytchett Bay
Woodchat Shrike        - Herston, Swanage

Holiday highlights
White-billed Diver     - Flamborough Head
Cory's Shearwater    - off Plymouth
Great Shearwater     - off Plymouth
American Wigeon     - Shapwick Heath Somerset
Lesser Scaup           Shapwick Heath Somerset Noah’s Lake
Ring-necked Duck    - Shapwick Heath Somerset Noah’s Lake

Cirl Bunting, American Wigeon, Dipper, Great White Egret,
Forster's Tern, Osprey, Garganey and Night Heron
Dotterel, Waxwing, Cattle Egret, Spotted Sandpiper
Great Grey Shrike and Long-tailed Duck

Moth Highlights
Palpita vitrealis, Dichomeris alacella, Portland Ribbon Wave
Old Lady, Emperor Moth, Clifden Nonpareil