Saturday, 20 May 2017

All over the place - again

As promised, here is the second horribly late post from our travels around Cornwall and Devon at Easter. Castle Drogo in Devon is about half-way home for us from Cornwall, so a good stopover at this time of year as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary can be found around the base of the castle.
As we were packing up to leave Cornwall on a bright but chilly morning, a male Orange Tip fluttered weakly into the garden. Still torpid in the low temperature, we were able to get some close photographs.

 



Monday, 15 May 2017

All over the place

A busy schedule, a disorganised hard-drive and a terrible memory have caused me to neglect to post details of our travels over the Easter break. So to make amends, here is the first of two posts with some photographic highlights of an unseasonably warm week in Cornwall and Devon:
Chough near the Lizard
Chough, the bird which appears on the Cornish coat of arms, returned to breed on the Lizard several years ago after a long absence. The Cornish population continues to increase steadily
Fulmar also breed on the cliffs at the Lizard
A Common Sandpiper was on an ornamental lakes at our cottage on the Bonython Estate
An early morning visit to Church Cove on the Lizard produced a few migrants, including this Willow Warbler
A vigorous songster
A common enough bird, the Rook, but still deserving of the occasional appearance on this blog
Hard to believe that when I started this blog, the one on the right was much shorter than the one in the middle, and the one on the left was still in a pushchair!
Green-winged Orchid near Mullion Cove

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Black magic at Longham

Black Terns pass through my local gravel pit at Swineham but usually at a time of year when they are in their winter plumage. As I was attending the end of season party for Wareham Rangers Under-14s last Sunday (played 14, lost 10, drawn 3, won 1 - not their best) three of this species were reported in their summer finery at nearby Longham Lakes.

After the speeches and festivities were over I headed over to check out the Terns. Although spending much of their time roosting on a buoy in the centre of the larger southern lake, they did get up from time to time to feed, giving their shrill calls as they hawked over the surface of the water.

Longham is having one if its purple patches with the Bonaparte's Gull (still present last weekend), Red-rumped Swallow and Osprey being seen in recent weeks. Over the years I have seen Ortolan Bunting, Blue-winged Teal, Penduline Tit, White-rumped Sandpiper and Great White Egret there as well as commoner passage birds like Little Gull, Garganey and Little Ringed Plover. So another good record for the site, and no doubt more to come.
 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Must fly, can't chat

The day before my recent emergency excursion to Portland to see a Spectacled Warbler, I was on Portland shortly after dawn looking for commoner migrants - flycatchers, chats and warblers. Photographing a migrant male Pied Flycatcher well in Dorset has been a long-held ambition - and so it remains as I didn't see one on Sunday. But I did find a female in the Reap Lane area, alongside a couple of Spotted Flycatchers. Another Spotted Flycatcher was just around the corner at Avalanche Road, all entertaining and confiding birds to watch.
Pied Flycatcher, Reap Lane
Pied Flycatcher, Reap Lane
Pied Flycatcher, Reap Lane
Pied Flycatcher, Reap Lane
Spotted Flycatcher, Avalanche Road Hump
Spotted Flycatcher, Avalanche Road Hump
Spotted Flycatcher, Reap Lane
Before the flies, and therefore the flycatchers, had woken up, I had ambled up Barleycrates Lane where Whinchat was the early bird of the day - a couple of this attractive species were present. The Whinchats were matched for perkiness as the morning warmed up by a duo of male Redstarts which played their own version of duelling banjos, singing at each other across a Portland paddock.
Backlit Whinchat on Barleycrates Lane
Whinchat, Barleycrates Lane - from the exact spot I saw the Northern Harrier on 21 April 2014, in case I hadn't mentioned it previously...

Whinchat is always a delightful bird to see
Invariably sitting up to give good views

Male Redstart, Reap Lane
Male Redstart singing on Reap Lane
Willow Warblers were still passing through this weekend - this one at Reap Lane
It shouldn't be a surprise that a series of early morning visits to Portland in recent weeks have proven so rewarding for migrant birds, but what was a surprise was the apparent lack of birders I encountered around the middle of the island. I'm not complaining, or indeed criticising - I display borderline criminal neglect towards my own patch at Swineham, after all - but let's face it, there is a bit more incentive to get out on a spring morning if you live on Portland!
Whinchats on Barleycrates Lane

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Perfect timing

About once a week I need my car for work, otherwise preferring to travel by train. Sometimes on these days I sling my camera in the boot in the hope that something interesting might turn up during the day and I can go to see it on the way home. Once in a blue moon, something interesting does turn up, usually on Portland, but nine times out of ten it is gone by the time I get there. So the chances of seeing something good on the way home after work are actually pretty slim. Yesterday, however, the stars aligned and it all came together beautifully: a Spectacled Warbler, the first record for Dorset and only the 9th for the UK, was found at the Bill in the late afternoon, and a couple of hours later I was watching it with a small crowd of appreciative observers.
Spectacled Warbler, Portland Bill
Compared to the much commoner Whitethroat, the Spectacled Warbler is smaller, with black lores...
...more extensively dull pink underparts and a shorter primary projection
There was much wing-flicking and the occasional rattlesnake call from the warbler
Wing-flicking from the other angle. Charming!
Note the clear demarcation between white throat and pinkish underparts
A very smart male
Portland is not the easiest place to get to from outside Dorset, and I guess given the late hour of the bird's discovery that not too many people would have made it down from out of county to see it. It was found by a visiting birder on the first day of a five day stay so he will be most welcome to come again! The warbler was not seen today so it was a fortunate and exclusive group which got to enjoy it yesterday. A quick stop at the Ferrybridge car park on the way home as dusk approached found it crawling with migrants, part of yet another handsome fall which has been a feature of Portland this spring: Wheatears appeared to be on every rock, a couple of Whinchats were present, including a startlingly bright male, and an equally startling male Redstart was also hopping around the rocks. All against a carpet of pink thrift. A magical end to the day.
A small but happy band at the Bill
Wheatear at Ferrybridge
Whinchat against a backdrop of thrift
Looking south from Ferrybridge at the back of Chesil Beach to Portland beyond