Sunday 17 September 2017

Autumn gathers pace

This week's weather appears as a statement of intent about the changing seasons, though for migrating birds 'autumn' has of course been underway for some weeks. Yesterday I met up with my parents on Portland to see what was about on a day which started out fine and bright, but which saw torrential rain by lunchtime, arriving just in time to give us soggy chips at the Bill's Lobster Pot cafĂ©.
Wryneck, Portland Bill
Probably the best view I have had of this species
Photographing it in dappled light on the ground was tricky...
...but the cryptic plumage can be seen well here
And here's a clue to how the Wryneck got it's name
Shortly before the downpour, we had jammed in on a long-staying Wryneck in the Obs quarry - not only was it on view as soon as we arrived, shortly after it was flushed by a rat and perched up to give unusually good and extended views of this often shy species. Apart from Wheatears, common migrants were thin on the ground on Portland, though there were plenty of hirundines in the air feeding up before the long journey south.
Northern Wheatear at the Bill
One of nine in the same paddock
Not just migrant birds on Portland - there were many Red Admiral around too
The resident Rock Pipits entertained us while we sat for lunch
Most of the Wheatears were sporting the tawny female-type plumage - but at least one male (left) was among them
In contrast to the shortage of common migrants on Portland, a visit to Greenlands Farm near Studland a couple of weekends ago saw the fields and woods alive with them. Yellow Wagtails were particularly entertaining and I spent a warm morning stalking them, hiding behind gorse bushes and acting like a horse in an effort to gain their trust. Suffice to say I got closer to the horses than the wagtails.
Yellow Wagtail, Greenlands Farm
The wagtail flock follows cattle and horses around the National Trust land at Greenlands...
 ...feeding right under the noses and feet of the livestock
This blue-grey headed individual didn't look like the regular British race - enquiries are underway to establish what flava it might be, but it's presumably of continental origin
Good to see these migrants on the ground rather than just flying overhead calling
While the Yellow Wagtails dominated the paddocks at Greenlands, Willow Warbler was the most numerous migrant around the forest edge - every tree seemed to contain two or three - with Common Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Whitethroat present in smaller numbers. 
Redstarts seem to like Greenlands - here a male...
...and here a female

Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher

I became enamoured with Greenlands Farm during a late summer bird race in 2015 - the concentration of migrants there at this time of year puts my own patch at Swineham to shame - a good excuse for my continued neglect of the latter! Purists would no doubt castigate me for forsaking my own patch to go farther afield where the grass is greener - I would merely point at that many hard core patch workers travel further to get to their 'local' patch than I do to get to Greenlands!
Common Whitethroat, Greenlands Farm
Wheatear, Greenlands Farm
Wheatear, Greenlands Farm
House Martins were gathering around Manor Farm on Studland at the end of August
This rare visitor to Poole Harbour, a Hooded Crow, was also at Manor Farm


  1. Excellent action pics What shutter speed and ISO do you shoot at?
    BTW have you heard of the birding phenomenon around the twin lights display in NYC on 9/11 each year?

    1. Sorry for slow reply bill - the flight shots above were taken at ISO320, shutter speed between 1/4000 and 1/8000. Yes I read about the twin lights thing - I think they turn them off temporarily so birds can continue to migrate.