Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Chatterley Whitfield Colliery

The Red-footed Falcon here turned up the day we went on holiday to Dorset, almost three weeks ago. In that time I have had to suffer some immensely gripping photos. Even after we arrived back, a string of other commitments cropped up and it was only now that I finally got my chance to go and see it. I was most surprised that it was still there, I would have expected a bird of prey to have moved on by now.
The question is, was it worth the wait? The answer: Yes it was. In the end I stayed with the bird for over 3 hours watching it at incredibly close quarters, once down to as little as four feet away! Due to the weather it spent long periods sheltered and out of sight, and when it showed it was often brief. However, there were a couple of periods where it showed for longer, and it was in these periods that it came close and rewarded our patience by being awesome. 
We got to watch it catch a worm, as well as bank around the fence posts. Occasionally a car would drive past it up the track, less than a foot away and the bird did not even flinch. Needless to say, I took plenty of photos, some of which are good enough to pass as record shots...
-Red-footed Falcon
Other birds were very thin on the ground, with the highlight being a Common Buzzard. I did get a Peregrine while I was walking through Manchester, and a Kestrel whilst walking home, bringing my daily falcon count to three...

Species List:
Chatterley Whitfield Colliery: Pied Wagtail, Red-Footed Falcon, Swift, Woodpigeon, Black-Headed Gull, Magpie, Whitethroat, Robin, Common Buzzard,

Monday, 27 July 2015

Soil Hill: Patch ticks number 70 and 71

First time back up the hill since coming back from the holiday and with the persistent rain I did not expect anything much, most birds presumably taking shelter. That being said, I was almost immediately proved wrong when I was walking up the road to the hill. I noticed a bird which resembled a Black-Headed Gull, but seemed to have a jizz more like a tern. I raised my bins and quickly saw that it was a tern, with a more pronounced bill making it a Common Tern. I grabbed the camera from my bag and grabbed a couple of record shots which are awful but still enough to confirm it, my 70th patch species.
-Common Tern
This was followed on the top by number 71 when an Oystercatcher flew over the hill very low and really quite close to me. It was moving quicker than the tern had been so my record shot is nothing more than its back end drifting away, but that left me buzzing.
I got a reasonably good species haul today, with around 20 species recorded. Other highlights included a juvenile Wheatear and a Pheasant family. I flushed the adult female and had interest in getting a better look where it landed when I heard a soft cheep from my feet and looked down to see two stripy very young pheasant chicks. Needless to say, I very quickly moved on.
-Juvenile Wheatear

Species List: Linnet, Feral Pigeon, Common Tern, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Blackbird, Swift, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Black-Headed Gull, Lapwing, Mistle Thrush, Stock Dove, Carrion Crow,Wheatear, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Oystercatcher, Common Gull, Starling, Pheasant, Kestrel, Dunnock.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Dorset Holiday Day 12

Our last full day! My brother had an open day for his placement next year, which was in Gosport. Adjacent to Gosport is Titchfield Haven NNR with its ever resident Greater Yellowlegs, so that is where I got dropped off for the day.
I arrived to the news the Greaterlegs was in front of the hide, but picked it up on the river, as viewed from the road. It was fairly close and I got some nice views in the morning light before it flew off after about half an hour. I later watched it distantly from the Suffern Hide, for about an hour intermittently, before it flew off again late afternoon, when I was picked up by my parents.
-Greater Yellowlegs
 Between watching the yellowlegs I wandered round the reserve on Scrapes Trail, looking in the hide. In the first hide it was a very similar composition to my other visit here. However, that was rudely interrupted when the birder next to me pointed out a couple of Bearded Tits in the reeds right in front of us. It was the best view I have ever had of the species, and this included a superb moustached male. I was able to get some pretty nice shots and what was the best encounter I have ever had with this species.
-Bearded Tit
 On the path further round, at the Pumfett Hide, there were a few more nice additions to the day list. There was an Avocet in front of the hide which looked quite nice in the light. There were a few Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls too, as well as an adult. They were a plumage tick for me, as I have never seen juveniles looking as fresh as this. A final bonus was a Fluvlous Whistling Duck, which is obviously an escape but I seem to recall is resident. It was distant but was still nice to see. I would hazard a guess that this was the source of the ruddy shelduck reports earlier in the week.
-Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls
-Fulvous Whistling Duck
The other hides were quiet, mainly composed of commoner wetland species such as a nice Greenshank on the river with the Greater Yellowlegs. It was a nice comparison between the two species, but it was distant so I could not get a photo. Common Sandpiper, Redshank and Black Tailed Godwit were also all present, while Common Terns were fishing all the bodies of water. It was a pretty sweet day overall, a nice way to end the holiday.
In the evening we headed up the Nightjar point again and were rewarded with good views, but the views were far more inconsistent than they had been the previous night, with long periods where the birds had gone quite. That being said there were occasions when they were flying round our heads calling, which was awesome as per.

Species List:
Titchfield Haven NNR: Turnstone, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Greater Yellowlegs, Redshank, Common Tern, Linnet, Oystercatcher, Black-Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Lapwing, Black-Tailed Godwit, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Avocet, Teal, Grey Heron, Gadwall, Starling, Blackbird, Magpie, Bearded Tit, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Canada Goose, Common Sandpiper, Sand Martin, Kestrel, Shellduck, Stock Dove, Mediterranean Gull, Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Reed Bunting, Little Egret, Greenfinch, Wren, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, House Sparrow, Robin, Song Thrush, Greenshank, Carrion Crow, Long-Tailed Tit, Dunnock, Willow Warbler, Jay, Great Tit

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Dorset Holiday Day 11

Because of a placement related open day for my brother we were transferring from Dorset to Hampshire, specifically Fareham. As a result the morning was spent in transit and it was not until around 2.00 that I was able to get out.
I headed into the woods around the campsite to see what was about. On the bird front it was very quiet but there was a bit more success to be had on the butterfly front. I was able to enjoy a few more Silver-Washed Fritillaries around the wood, as well as numerous Peacocks and Red Admirals sunning themselves. A bonus was a nice Holly Blue along one of the tracks which settled down for some photos, but the light was poor and they are no more than record shots.
-Silver Washed Fritillary
-Small Copper
-Holly Blue
 On the other insects front there were a few Dragonflies on the wing, including a very nice Common Hawker, but none chose to land sadly. I was treated to a very nice Green Tiger Beetle running along the path, which are always awesome to see.
-Green Tiger Beetle
 In the evening we did our usual activity at this site of looking for nightjars. According to the site owners forestry work had disturbed them so I did not expect to see any. However, when we went up to the original spot we were surrounded by at least 4 calling birds, including an individual that settled on the path in front of us. They are so awesome, and they just get better every time. What superb birds. Words cannot describe…
The Nightjar was so awesome to see, even if it was expected at the start of the holiday. Nightjar was my 208th species this year, and without doubt is one of the highlights on the year.

Species List:
Bere Forest: Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Woodpigeon, Long-Tailed Tit, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Pheasant, Nightjar, Common Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Black-Tailed Skimmer, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Small Copper, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Large White, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral, Silver-Washed Fritillary, 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Dorset Holiday Day 10

The last full day in Dorset started well. Sadly moths were a little thin on the ground but as I came out of toilets I spotted a Silver-Washed Fritillary land on the vegetation adjacent to the path right next to me. I had my compact in my pocket so grabbed a few photos with that before racing back to get the DSLR. When I returned the butterfly decided to leave, buts its still the first profile shots I have of this species
-Silver Washed Fritillary
 My plan for the day was Durlston Head Country Park near Swanage, for some seabirds and butterflies. Sadly there was a dire shortage of seabirds, with only a couple of Shags to note. Land birds were not much better but I gained a novelty holiday tick when I flushed 2 Red-Legged Partridges.
As soon as we arrived I was treated to a Silver Washed Fritillary and a couple of blue butterflies which looked very much like Holly Blues, though they did not land. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was the best of them though, as it fed on the buddleia adjacent to the café where we were.
-Hummingbird Hawkmoth
 Despite the wind there were a good number of butterflies out on the wing. I had hoped for an Adonis blue but instead managed a few Common Blue and a Small Blue. Small Blue was not the only small butterfly for the day, as I also managed Small Copper as a holiday tick.
-Small Copper
-Little Blue
 There were still a few Lulworth Skippers around, this being the last time I will see any of those for a while. I was also able to add another butterfly species to the holiday list in Dark Green Fritillary. They were not abundant round the cliff top but there were about four in a small dell. Sadly, like their silver washed cousins, they did not choose to land conveniently for me.
-Lulworth Skipper
-Dark-Green Fritillary
I was pretty pleased with the days haul. In the afternoon we headed down into Swanage before heading back to the caravan. In the evening we went to Lulworth cove which was a pleasant end to the Dorset experience

Species List:

Durlston Country Park: Kestrel, Shag, Stonechat, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Whitethroat, Carrion Crow, Gannet, Rock Pipit, Red-Legged Partridge, Rook, Raven, Black-Headed Gull, Great Black-Headed Gull, Common Buzzard, Emperor Dragonfly, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Lulworth Skipper, Large White, Green Veined White, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Small Blue, Holly Blue, Small Copper, Silver Washed Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma, 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Dorset Holiday Day 9

Sadly it rained today which left my options limited. The morning I did the moths as per and was rewarded with a new species for the holiday in the form of a very smart Ruby Tiger. I grabbed a couple of record shots, for the lack of any other moths.
-Ruby Tiger
 In the end I decided to revisit the Weymouth RSPB reserves to watch some birds! Since Radipole was right next to the train station I decided to head there first. Birds on the reserve were a little thin on the ground, but a flyby Bearded Tit was nice, and there were a few Pochard and Gadwall on the lakes.
Having said that, most of my time was spent in the reserve car park looking at the gulls… I was pretty desperate to find a YLG, especially since 3 had been reported there about half an hour prior to my searching. I was unable to locate one, or so I concluded having looked through my photos. I could never conclusively rule out YLG but had decided for one or more reasons that all the birds I had looked at considering YLG were in fact something else.
--That being until the 29th when an article appeared on Birding Frontiers with YLG in it. One of the example birds had been photographed in Dorset and was the spitting image of one of the birds I had seen. I decided to message Tim, who confirmed that it was a YLG and that he thought they were the same bird. As such I will now include the photos I took of the juvenile YLG
-Yellow Legged Gull
The fact that the bird raised my attention is a sign that I'm getting somewhere with gulls, even if it was not the right conclusion I hesitantly reached. I hasten to add that the above sequence is not necessarily of the same bird, the first two were photographed in the car park, before all the gulls flushed and I picked it up, or a similar bird, again on the nearby lake...
With that in mind, I have reason to believe that another bird I photographed at Lodmoor later in the day is also a YLG, though I did not get a clear view of the tail on this individual. There are clear faint windows in the wings that I did see, and the notching is incorrect for Herring Gull...
-Yellow Legged Gull
I think a lot more practice will be needed before I will confidently be able to do this in the field, but being able to pick out different looking birds is a good start, and I'm pretty pleased with that. (Its also a yeartick!)--

After spending so long at Radipole I decided to move on to Lodmoor. Once more there were better numbers of birds here, including a nice group of 5 summer plumaged sanderling, a couple of Greenshank, a flock of 11 Dunlin, a Black-Tailed Godwit Flock and a large group of possibly up to 50 Mediterranean Gulls. Not bad going at all.
-Black-Tailed Godwit
 That was only in the main area for birds, and I headed round to the other side of the reserve where I had not been before. Here there were no waders but a few more wildfowl, including a Gadwall, a couple of Shoveler and a few Pochards.
 As I was scanning one bird really caught my attention, namely by its very small size for a duck. I instantly realised it was a teal of some description, but when it turned I was stunned to see how defined the face was and that there were clear white marks. My immediate reaction was Garganey, but I had to spend ages watching it going through every feature before I let myself believe it. Fortunately it was a very obliging bird, feeding in the open, even doing a couple of wing stretches to put beyond all doubt. That being said, I did release the news as a female, when I was rightly corrected via twitter that it is in fact an eclipse drake. My bad!
Not gonna lie, I was buzzing after that and was a real bonus for the bird list of the holiday. It means I did actually make a contribution to the Dorset birding world during my stay…

Species List:
Radipole Lake RSPB: Herring Gull, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Tufted Duck, Reed Warbler, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Swallow, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Greenfinch, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Feral Pigeon, House Martin, Sand Martin, Dunnock, Bearded Tit, Great Crested Grebe, Pochard, Cormorant, Gadwall, Great Black-Backed Gull, Swift,
Lodmoor RSPB: Sanderling, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Black-Tailed Godwit, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Mallard, Cormorant, Common Tern, Linnet, Coot, Moorhen, House Sparrow, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Canada Goose, Magpie, Swift, Starling, Great Black-Backed Gull, Avocet, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Pochard, Gadwall, Swallow, Greenfinch, Reed Warbler, Feral Pigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Gargany,