Thursday, 30 May 2013

A nice (half) day out

When we decide on a family day out, everyone says 'yay' before the fleeting consensus gives way to a dispute about where to go. The children are getting to the age where 'access to a Nintendo Wii' is an important criteria in destination selection, though this is generally ruled out of order by their parents.
This Common Tern landed on a post on the Quay on Brownsea while we waited for the boat home
Common Tern with Sandeel
'The beach' is another popular option, though less so with Daddy, especially as it's getting to the time of year when no-one in their right mind would head for Studland, our nearest stretch of golden sand, between the hours of 10 and 6. So in our house at least, the unifying destination of choice is often Brownsea Island. Something for everyone there - birds, Red Squirrels, great views, ice creams, cakes (that's me sorted), plus a gift shop full of soft toys and lavender-based toiletries for everyone else.
Mediterranean Gull, Brownsea Lagoon

This pair caused a bit of nervousness when they flew over the tern colony
The other main problem with a family day out is that by the time we've got ready, made sandwiches, set off, forgotten stuff, turned back and set off again, it's usually been reduced to a half-day out. And so it was today that lunch had been and gone by the time we got to the Island. We headed straight for the Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve and its selection of well placed hides.
Common Tern, Brownsea Lagoon
Mallard ducklings on Brownsea Lagoon
A Nightjar has been seen recently from one of these but some visitors have apparently been playing tapes in an attempt to get it to show better than it otherwise would. This stresses the bird and is probably illegal given its protected status. It is also unnecessary as with careful scanning, there is a reasonable chance of seeing one on the ground. You can't guarantee this of course, but if it's a guarantee you want, birding is probably not your thing. The formidable warden has put up some polite signs asking folk to desist from this practice, but I fear anyone he catches churring on their iPod may suffer the same fate as that famously threatened by Jamie to Olly in 'The Thick of It'. Be warned before clicking this link: it contains a teensy bit of swearing.

Black-headed Gull with eggs...
...and what comes out of the egg. You're going to have to flap harder that that to get airborne mate.
Besides, cheating with tapes can't be as satisfying as finding stuff the hard way, and even the kids enjoyed playing 'hunt the bird', picking out the cryptic plumage from lookalike dead bracken. Another family in the hide almost had a row over whether there was a second bird ('There, on that log'; 'It's only a log'; 'No it isn't'; 'Yes it is, you just want it to be a Nightjar'). This reminded me of the tale of twitchers on the Isles of Scilly who mistook a cowpat for a Common Nighthawk, the American relative of our Nightjar.

Nightjar - white patch just visible on the folded wing makes this a male
Another view of the same bird before it moved into the position above
I took some shots of the snoozing bird, hoping for a half-open eye, but, apart from a brief shuffle (not on an iPod, I hasten to add), it remained steadfastly asleep throughout our time in the hide. We got it in the scope and were able to show a steady stream of visitors, including several non-birders, all of whom were appreciative of the chance to see one. And well impressed with my scope. I should be on commission from Swarovski.
I rarely use my 2x teleconverter with the 400mm lens but, with good light or a very still subject, sometimes it's worth the effort
Ragged Robin, Brownsea
Back at the lagoon, many more Common Terns were present than on my last visit, over 100 Sandwich Terns were on eggs, and a good number of the Black-headed Gulls had already hatched. Baden Powell would no doubt have administered a sound beating to a young group of his latter day followers who were virtually moshing in the Macdonald hide. But that's not allowed these days, so they had to make do with some stern tutting from me. That really showed 'em.
Lapwing at Swineham

Black-tailed Godwits, Swineham
After a fair bit of travelling lately, it's been relaxing to spend the week around home. Which reminds me, I even made it to Swineham, which threatened to dump me if I didn't visit more often. Swifts were the main attraction, and I spent a happy hour wasting batteries and filling memory cards with dross just to get one vaguely respectable image.

Swift at Swineham
Blackbird in Wareham St Mary churchyard - voguing like a Dusky Thrush
A flooded field which was great for waders last year is looking promising again, as a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of Lapwings dropped in.
Juvenile Starling on next door's roof - these have been out of the nest for a while now
DON'T PANIC Poole Harbour listers - this Little Owl was the subject of a chance encounter last week in Dorset/Wiltshire border country, on the way to a meeting which was insufficiently memorable to merit a blog post. Hence shoe-horning it in here.

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