Saturday 24 March 2012

Early moths

An early start at Durlston with colleagues Hamish Murray and Phil Sterling to check the moth trap which Hamish had set up at Phil's suggestion the night before, hoping for a good haul as a result of the recent warm weather. Over 100 specimens of 18 species in total, some highlights below.

Common Chestnut

Dark Sword-grass

Dotted Border

Dotted Chestnut

Early Grey

Early Moth

Hebrew Character

March Moth

Mottled Grey

Red Chestnut

Twin-spotted Quaker

Saturday 17 March 2012

A result in South Wales

Back to Gwent today to see if I could improve on my very poor record shot of the Common Yellowthroat taken on my first visit a few weeks ago. I wasn't able to leave Dorset before 0900, and by the time I got to the Severn Bridge most of the Welshmen in England were on the way to Cardiff, carrying high hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam. This made for long queues at the tolls and on the M4. With the forecast set to turn very wet I was a bit concerned at this point whether I would arrive in time to find and photograph the bird.

It took a couple of hours to get a good view of the bird - very much on its own when it was first found in February, it now appears to be moving around with a feeding flock with Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens. It was quite easy to locate when calling, but still difficult to photograph, and it never stayed still for long. About 10 minutes after these pictures were taken, torrential rain and hail started to pelt down, and I made it to the car just in time to avoid a soaking.

The journey back was much easier with most of Wales no doubt in front of the TV - by the time I arrived back in Dorset they had secured their 3rd Grand Slam in 8 years.
Check out those undertail coverts

The Yellowthroat perched briefly on this stone trough but not long enough to photograph unfortunately

This Robin was with the Yellowthroat - but much easier to photograph

Monday 12 March 2012

Cattle Egret: doing what it says on the tin

Had the car at work today in Dorchester so stopped by Kingston Maurward on the way home to look for a Cattle Egret discovered yesterday. It was living up to its name at the bottom of a field, but after 15 minutes feeding quite happily, one of the cows approached a bit too boisterously and it (the egret) flew strongly to the east. Cattle Egret afraid of cows? Not good for the CV.
Careful where you stand: an occupational hazard for the Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret fleeing from the suffocating effects of a symbiotic relationship

Sunday 11 March 2012

Rose-coloured spectacles

In over 10 years birding in the UK I have seen plenty of juvenile Rose-coloured Starlings but never managed to see an adult. Such a bird in Hordle provided the opportunity to change all that this morning, and after a short wait it was to be found singing on various rooftops around the village. A pleasant morning, with slightly bemused villagers smiling nervously as camera-wielding weirdos took photos of their gutters. If the Parish Council ever does a book on 'The Roof Paraphernalia of Hordle', I will be submitting the pictures below for publication.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Bad hair day in Kent

Bad hair day...
Yes, driving from Dorset to Kent to see a dubious duck would have been a bit sad, but as we were staying with friends in nearby West Farleigh this weekend anyway, I did pay a 'rude not to' visit to the Hooded Merganser at Whetstead Gravel Pits on Sunday morning. The weather was foul though I suppose residents of the parched and pestilent South East were grateful for a bit of rain. Back to the merganser: frankly, her hair was a mess and she could not match the drake Smew on the neighbouring pit for sawbill beauty at its best. But it is possible that this is a wild bird, and therefore possible that it will be recognised as such by the records committees, and therefore possible that I will get a tick out of it. With escapes and Dutch feral birds to consider, it will not be an easy judgement, but a previous winter record in Kent (which I missed, despite living there at the time) has since been accepted so who knows. just got worse.
I had dragged my family and our hosts to Dover Castle the previous day, ostensibly to appreciate some English heritage - and we did indeed enjoy the excellent new interpretation of the secret wartime tunnels. But there was obviously a hidden agenda, namely, to put myself within striking distance of the Kumlien's Gull in Dover Harbour, a cunning but unsuccessful plan as it turned out. Searching the web for directions to the birds preferred haunt, the Admiralty Pier, I chanced upon a rant on a fisherman's forum about how it had allegedly become an overcrowded and smelly place. After complaining about being the only 'white English' on the pier, it went on to use one of the most chilling phrases in the English language: 'I AM NOT A RACIALLY PREJUDICED'. Grammatically as well as politically incorrect, and in upper case as if to emphasise that these words are generally a cast iron guarantee of some racial prejudice. Depressing stuff, and enough to make any rare bird want to go back to where it came from...

Thursday 1 March 2012

Hardy harrier

The Hardy Monument from the A35 above Askerswell
The Hardy Monument in West Dorset is often wrongly assumed to have been erected in honour of local author Thomas Hardy, but is in fact a tribute to Nelson's contemporary, Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy. Heading home along the Dorset coast from Charmouth this evening, an impressive cloud sea was forming in the Bride Valley, and from the ridge above Askwerswell I could see the Monument rising through it distantly to the east. There was just enough light left to make a detour via there on the way home for some photos worthwhile.

On arriving I realised that I only had one lens with me - the 400mm - of limited use for landscapes, but it would have to do. I hadn't given much thought to birds at this point but as soon as I got out of the car a Short-eared Owl coasted past. Heading up to the Monument for a better all round view, a ringtail Hen Harrier flushed from the heather, and on the way back down, as the Owl perched up in a tree, a second bird joined it. The Harrier stubbornly refused to adopt a photogenic pose as it flew away from me in the half-light, but the Owls were a bit more obliging.
Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Hen Harrier

Sunset from the Hardy Monument