Thursday 30 September 2010

Sterling Stork

A timely text from my good friend and colleague Phil Sterling enabled me to twitch the White Stork in Wareham tonight on the way home from Dorchester to Poole. Phil is Dorset's County Ecologist and a moth expert by trade but didn't need his Observer Book of Birds to ID this monster. I had already missed it (twice) last weekend when it was reported around Blandford so this was a welcome addition to my Dorset list. The bird fed actively on the east bank of the River Frome, seemed approachable (it actually approached us on more than one occasion) and was still there when the gathering gloom caused us to beat a retreat at about 18:00. Cheers Phil!

Monday 27 September 2010

Empidonax? Who needs it..., evidently. I missed the 2008 Alder Flycatcher in Cornwall due to some lame life-or-death work/family excuse, so news of an Empidonax in Norfolk breaking on a Saturday was a no-brainer for a Sunday twitch, right? Except for the very expensive, pre-booked, bought and paid for day out at Longleat to which the family and I were being treated by doting grandparents. More rock 'n'roll birders blogs would at this point explain how they blew out their entire genetic line for a tick, but I didn't go, so I can't. Consoling thoughts as follows: (i) seeing it wouldn't have made me a better birder (ii) marital/parental brownie point jar is still half-full (iii) it's not even October yet (iv) I appear to have retained a shred of decency. A modicum of compensation came in the form of Buzzards and Ravens feeding on the carrion that the lions didn't want, and a Kingfisher skitting over the heads of Californian sealions. Weird. So I will dwell no more on yankie flycatchers, not be bitter and put it down to bad timing. Mind you, I could probably get Wednesday off...

Sunday 19 September 2010

Luck turns at Christchurch Harbour

Headed to Christ- church Harbour early morning in search of a Pope-free zone, and the Glossy Ibis reported last night at East Marsh. There was no sign of it (or His Holiness) there at 07:30 but as I approached Priory Marsh 20 minutes later I could see it in flight heading towards the golf course. By the time I had walked around there it had returned to the central marsh. The bird fed close to the path until a couple out for a stroll flushed it - though at least this provided an opportunity for some flight shots. This was the first Glossy Ibis I had seen in Dorset, missing a recent one as it arrived the day I was heading off on holiday. The previous one was an even closer miss - I was actually driving along Chesil Beach road when one was reported on the pager at Ferrybridge, but by the time I has rounded the roundabout and gone back it had flown. So the close views this morning were very welcome.

Across the river a Wryneck had been reported at Hengistbury Head, and although on arrival it has flown some distance away it returned to the corner of the Barn Field to show very well for a few minutes. I have struggled to photograph both birds well for many years, so was pleased with these pictures.

Not many other birds around - a Kingfisher, some confiding Green Woodpeckers and a few Chiffchaff being the highlights.

Monday 13 September 2010

On the water at Blashford Lakes

I was unable to capture a fleeting Kingfisher on film at Blashford but this Great Crested Grebe (top) proved more obliging - a smart bird in any plumage. Along with the usual fayre, a pair of Egyptian Geese and this Common Sandpiper (bottom) adorned the shore of Ibsley Water. The hide overlooking Ibsley is an excellent place to photograph any passing waders - well known for its nesting Little Ringed Plover, I have also had captured good images of Lapwing and Redshank from this hide.

Feeding time at Blashford Lakes

Returning home from a family weekend camping in the New Forest (punctuated by the Arctic Warbler twitch - see post for 11 Sept) it seemed rude not to pop into Blashford Lakes on the way. Waiting for a sleeping bairn to stir in the car provided an opportunity to photograph whatever chose to visit the feeders in the car park.

This Blue Tit (bottom) posed nicely in nearby bushes, but the Nuthatch (top) remained well hidden unless actually on the feeders themselves. Attempted some flight shots which made me appreciate the skill of the pros who manage to capture anything of small birds in flight!

Sunday 12 September 2010

Call of the Arctic...

Arrived at Holme in Norfolk at 0700 courtesy of a lift from Paul Welling - cheers Paul - to search for the Arctic Warbler present for much of the week. Efficient as ever, Paul even had Arctic Warbler calls on tape in the car so we could do some revision before arriving on site. Not that listening for the dipper-esque call did us much good, as the bird stubbornly refused to call or show until after 09:00. Despite sub-optimal viewing conditions - the bird was often high and hidden in pines against the light - we eventually managed reasonable views though these were the best photographs I could muster. Confused by the byzantine structure of Holme's complex of 'pay-per-view' nature reserves, we weren't quite sure whether the bird was on the NWT reserve (Judean People's Front?), NOA land (People's Front of Judea?) or even Natural England's (the Romans?) NNR. Although tempted by the nearby Red-Necked Phalarope, when that turned out to be on a splinter reserve we decided to head home in the hope of saving marriages and seeing our children before bedtime. A new bird for Britain for me.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Out of place wader

Couldn't resist going to see this juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper which had pitched up on a lawn on a housing estate on Portland without so much as a puddle in which to wade. I thought it didn't look too well but, encouragingly, it later relocated to Radipole Lake where it might have more luck finding something to eat. A very unlikely location for any bird, let alone a rare one.

Friday 10 September 2010

More Durlston migrants

Many migrants on show on a fine morning walk around Durlston today with Hamish Murray - Blackcap and Whitethroat were particularly numerous, with Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Wheatear, Sedge Warbler and Garden Warbler also present. No sign of yesterday's Common Rosefinch, but saw my first Durlston Dartford Warbler and managed to catch up with a Wryneck - either a long stayer or possibly a new arrival choosing the same habitat as last week's bird. Juvenile finches were well represented by this large charm of Goldfinch, and a more solitary Bullfinch.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Weymouth reserves

Rounding off a quiet day in Weymouth, this Little Egret strikes a balletic pose landing at the Lodmoor RSPB reserve. An Elephant Hawkmoth larvae strikes a more aggressive one on the boardwalk at Radipole Lake. A Marsh Harrier was at both reserves (or possibly the same one), plus Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank at Lodmoor.

Ferrybridge waders

Pretty quiet on Portland this morning - one Balearic Shearwater past on the sea, a few Whinchat and Wheatear around the fields - so spent much of the day at Ferrybridge waiting for the tide to push in a nice selection of waders. Sitting in the mud waiting for them to come to us seemed like a good plan, but we didn't bank on children (who can be forgiven) and blokes laden with fishing gear (who can't) from diligently walking past us to flush everything in sight. Still, passable images of a very buffy Curlew Sandpiper, a single Sanderling and a few Dunlin were obtained. Bar-tailed Godwit and many Ringed Plover also present.

Saturday 4 September 2010

Durlston and Morden

No sign of the Wryneck seen at Durlston earlier today but many Adonis Blue present, including this fresh female. A single Osprey again at Morden Park Lake later in the day, with a good mixed flock of tits, warblers and Spotted Flycatchers in the woods by the lake. This juvenile Song Thrush posed unperturbed on the path, allowing a close approach.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

North Kent revisited

A glorious day to visit some old haunts in Kent and renew a dormant birding partnership with Matt Jones. Like me, Matt is a former Kent resident who trumped my move to Dorset by becoming domiciled on New Zealand's Stewart Island with only Kiwis, Penguins (and loyal partner Jules) for company. Was it something I said? Despite high rolling with Kakapo and world listers in his adopted land, Matt is still able to enjoy the familiar sights of Green Sandpipers, Yellow Wagtails, Little Grebes and Avocets (all pictured here) on the North Kent marshes. Reed Warblers, Wheatears and Whinchats were also very much in evidence today. Birds that can fly clearly now appear as things of wonder to Matt...

Starting at Oare and working our way down to Grove Ferry, we were able to marvel at the continuing success of the former and the lack of visible water and mud at the latter, which seem to decrease with every visit. There has clearly been some investment in new facilities at Grove since our last visit, with new hides, a pond dipping platform and some sort of bus stop structure for visitors to enjoy - but you fear the full benefits of this investment might not be realised if the the reedbeds aren't managed a bit more to allow the same visitors to see what's in them! Looking up proved more fruitful, with a pair of Hobbies adding a dash of drama to an otherwise sleepy reedbed.

For images of the more exotic wildlife Matt is used to in NZ, check out his website.