Sunday 21 August 2011

Avon calling

Gripped by the excellent photos from various Scilly pelagics, and cursing my spindly sea-legs which have discouraged me from going on one, I was starting to wonder if I would get any of the more exotic seabirds on my Dorset list without a greater commitment to seawatching than I have the time and patience to make. The slim chance to see the Cory's Shearwater off Portland Harbour was missed due to holidays, but news of a Sabine's Gull in the Avon Valley this week looked more promising. With no car it proved a complicated journey but after a missed train, a short railway journey from Wareham and a vigorous 4 mile cycle from Christchurch station I was on site to give it a go. While not present immediately, the bird eventually flew over the Avon Causeway, landing briefly (on the Dorset side of the river) before heading off north again. Rain set in and most birders headed off but on the bike I would have just got wetter so stuck around for a few hours. The sun came out, the Red Arrows performed at nearby Bournemouth Airport - tragically as it turned out - and the Sabine's returned, allowing these distant flight shots to be taken.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Evening at Middlebere

With the rest of the family on a camping trip I was restricted to birding within cycling distance of home tonight so headed for Middlebere. The evening was bright and breezy, and I was rewarded with two Redstarts (juvenile male pictured)and two Barn Owls along the track. A selection of waders were in the creek, with Green Sandpiper and Whimbrel being heard but not seen. On the way back, a small group of Sika Deer posed against the light - one of these is pictured here.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

More from Brownsea

From top: Shelduck, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Red Squirrel.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Brownsea Waders

Black-tailed Godwit was the most numerous wader on Brownsea lagoon this afternoon, with Oystercatcher a close second. A few Curlew, Greenshank, Redshank, Avocet, Knot and singles of Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper were also present. Redshank, Godwits and Avocet are pictured above from top.

Durlston Butterflies

As well as birds, Durlston was full of butterflies this morning. Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood were commonplace, Marbled White (below) and Wall (above - doing what it says on the tin) more scarce.

Wings on Brownsea

After a successful morning at Durslton, we spent the afternoon on Brownsea. Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Shelduck are pictured here flexing their wings.

Pigeons beware...

This Peregrine was perched on a crag below one of the viewpoints on Durlston's coast path this morning. Catching it in flight was tricky as it skirted under the cliff but I did managed to get one reasonably sharp image. Small groups of feral pigeons on the cliffs seemed understandably jumpy!

Durlston warblers

Matt Jones and I arrived at a very warm and sunny Durslton at about 0730 and almost immediately started seeing some of the many migrant warblers present this morning. Willow Warbler (pictured) undoubtedly topped the list - apparently 78 wre ringed this morning, and we must have seen a similar number around the Country Park, along with many Whitethroat, several Lesser Whitethroat, plus one or two of Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Garden Warbler and Blackcap. Matt also saw two Grasshopper Warbler which I managed to miss, and not even Hamish Murray's arrival could help me locate another. 5 Redstart were also seen.

Monday 15 August 2011

A good catch

My good friend Matt Jones is visiting the UK from his adopted home of Stewart Island, NZ. He arrived at lunchtime today, so we headed out to Middlebere with low expectations. Within five minutes of leaving home an emergency stop on the Arne Road was required as we caught sight of this Osprey through the sun roof, carrying a substantial fish. It headed south to an unknown perch!

Sunday 7 August 2011

More Citril Finches

Last day of our holiday today before the long, over-land journey home across France. Following success earlier in the week with Citril Finch and Nutcracker, I returned to Cret de Chatillon in the hope of improving on my initial photographs.

No Nutcracker this time unfortunately but the Finches were still present in a mixed flock with Goldfinch and Siskin. The sun was behind me this time, and while the Finches were quite approachable when feeding in the long grass this made them quite difficult to photograph. Add in some heat haze and the challenge was increased. Charming birds though, especially when vocalising.

A few more of the ubiquotous Black Redstart and Crested Tit rounded off an enjoyable final morning in the French Alps.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Dusk in Verthier

I had noticed one or two Black Redstarts on the wires outside our chalet in the village of Verthier at the foot of Lac Annecy towards dusk on previous evenings so spent a bit more time this evening studying them. The Black Redstarts rose in number to four, and were then joined by the same number of Serin (pictured). With a Black Woodpecker seen from the balcony a few nights ago, the garden birdwatching was turning out to be pretty good.

Friday 5 August 2011

Sooty Copper

Back to butterflying in the garden of our holiday accommodation near Annecy this afternoon. I had been struggling to identify a small species of blue which looked like a brown female of some sort, but with dark marks on the upper-wing (above). Then a similar, more coppery one turned up, and I realised on consulting a field guide that the brown one was probably a male Sooty Copper, and the more orangey one a female. Small Copper is one of my favourite British butterflies, so this was even more exotic.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Mont Blanc

In addition to the excellent birds, Cret de Chatillon also afforded excellent views of Mont Blanc and the rest of the French Alps. Mont Blanc was often draped in cloud during the rest of our visit, but when visible it really does tower above anything else around it. The remaining snow on the flanks of the mountain emphasise the height and bulk of Europe's highest peak.

Alpine Chough

A flock of about 20 Alpine Chough at Cret de Chatilllon west of Lac Annecy (elevation 1700m) seemed wary initially but after a bit of hanging around they become quite precocious, even coming down to pick up picnic leftovers at one point. A mixture of red-legged adults and dark-legged juveniles lined up on the chairlift paraphernalia, occasionally taking flight en masse before circling and returning to similar perches. Very characterful and vocal birds.

Monday 1 August 2011

A Crazy Hour on Cret de Chatillon

On a family holiday visiting non-birding friends I did not expect to have many opportunities to see good birds. Getting above the treeline to Cret de Chatillon in the French Alps offered some hope but, as coffee an ice cream were the main objectives of the rest of my party, not much. Or so I thought. Stepping out of the car I immediately heard an unfamiliar 'te-te-te' call as a small flock of Citril Finch flew over. They landed nearby so family and friends were abandoned in search of some photos - against the light unfortunately, but the first I have managed of this species. Rejoining the coffee drinkers I heard another unfamiliar call - somewhere between a Jay and a Nightjar - and saw the back end of a Nutcracker vanish into a conifer looming over the cafe. It exchanged calls with another further down the slope, and after some careful searching I could just about see it, partially obscured by branches. After this excitement, a short walk to the nearby summit brought us face to face with a small flock of Alpine Chough (see later post). The best hour's birding of the entire trip!