Sunday, December 30, 2007
29th was Lodmoor. I started off scanning Weymouth Bay, and got 3 Great-Northern Divers, 2 Razorbills, a GC-Grebe, c20 Turnstones, and a frustrating distant diver.
On Lodmoor, a large female pheasant powered past, and it was only as it plunged into the reeds that I twigged it was a Bittern – my first for Lodmoor. Then 3 Stonechats, and from Beachdown Way a flock of Pochard contained 2m Wigeon and a female Scaup – another first for Lodmoor. Otherwise a female Bullfinch, and a Shoveller.
Then 30th it was round Portland Harbour. With no wind it was like a millpond, perfect conditions. I watched from Portland Castle, then The National Sailing Academy, and then over the shingle bank into Chesil Cove.
There were at least 4 Great-Northern Divers, possibly 6; a Red-Necked Grebe, 3 Long-Tailed Ducks causing a stir amongst the regulars, 3 Med Gulls (ad, 1st winter, 2nd winter), a couple of Razorbills, a GC-Grebe, and a few Dunlin, Turnstone and Oyks.
Over the bank, there was c30 Common Scoter on the big sea. I couldn’t see the Velvet Scoter with them, despite much searching, but did see a Red-Throated Diver.
Finally another two distant Divers in the harbour. They were good candidates for Black-Throated; serpentine appearance, horizontal beaks, occasional glimpse of white thigh patch, but just too distant to be absolutely positive.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Green Woodpecker, GSW, Siskin c50, Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 12, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Long-Tailed Tit 3, Cormorant 2, many Common Gulls going over with similar BH Gulls and 1 LBB Gull.
And a male Bullfinch in the garden this morning!
Finally a happy Xmas to everyone, and if I don’t post anything between now and next year (which is quite likely), best wishes for successful birding in 2008.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Mike has had some excellent records recently; LSW, Peregrine, Woodcock, Jack Snipe, but my incessant yakking put a stop to that today. I find roosts difficult as birds call once then plunge out of the gloom into a reedbed, and got some invaluable lessons from Mike in bird calls and distant flight identification.
Highlights below (a subset of Mike’s List of evening totals for those notable species I saw): 2 Water Rail, 7 Stock Dove, 2 Little Owl (both calling birds), 1 GSW, 11 Meadow Pipit, 10 Redwing, 256 Fieldfare, Chiffchaff (heard in reedbed), 207 Jackdaw (SSW), 159 Rook (2, 157, SSW) , 24 Reed Bunting, 2 Yellowhammer (N).
I notice that nearby Rainham Marsh has had an influx of exotic geese in the last couple of days. Has St James’s Park lake frozen over?
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Just as I was congratulating myself on this blog finding its rightful place in the pantheon of bird blogs, my photographic talent getting well deserved attention, and my writing abilities finally gaining their proper recognition etc etc I noticed that most of the recent hits come from the same google request back to this entry from the summer. It’s not a particularly noteable entry.
I suspect some automated process is up to no good. Can either of my regular readers shed any light on this?
Probably the worst list this year. The heaving hedgerows and flocks of finches in the field have all gone, leaving just a basic list.
Kevin was out with his new scope, so we wandered slowly round the fields, putting it to the test on distant trees with some success. We found two mussel shells in the middle of the field. A peruse of my guide book at home indicated Swan Mussel as the most likely candidate
Slowly some decent sightings were assembled, and on the way back we came across a Bullfinch. A common enough bird round here, but usually all you get is a call and a white rump disappearing into the distance; today we had a pristine plump vision of jet black, battleship grey, shocking pink and brilliant-white. For a moment I was a transported back to a snowy garden in Leeds, and an eight-year old boy gazing in awe at a male Bullfinch sat in a tree just a few feet away.
Lowlights: Snipe 5, Herring Gull 8 N over, LBB Gull 2 incl 1 on SLRS, Common Gull 4, BH gull 23, Kestrel 2, GSW 2, Green Woodpecker 1, Jackdaw c20 in plughed field, Wood Pigeon c50+ over towards the Gibberd Garden, Song thrush 2, Blackbird 5, Redwing 2, Goldfinch 8, Chaffinch 4, Bullfinch 2, Greenfinch 5.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Little to report. I drove past flocks of finches on the way, but once at the forest birds were hard to come by. I went to the NW corner and eventually found a few birds. Apart form the usual woodland birds – Bullfinch, Nuthatch, GSW & GreenWood, the highlights were 11 Jays in total, and 3 Marsh Tits. Back to the lake for 2 GCG’s, 3 Teal, a few Pochard and Tufted Duck on the lake, and back to the car as the downpour set in.
Halfway round I realised that the reason I couldn’t seem to get a reasonable photo was the zoom extension was still locked from the previous trip, and I’d been taking pictures at 140mm. My punishment was the sun immediately disappearing so apologies for the photos from the gloom.
Tonight Mrs D is indignant. "How come Russell Brand has been introduced to the Queen and I haven't?"
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The scrape was frozen, so smaller numbers here. Meanwhile the fields south of the “Chaff dump” field were freshly ploughed and had large flocks of pigeons and finches.
Highlights of the list below:
Cormorant 1 over, Lapwing 2 on the ice, 5 Snipe flushed from the field south of the scrape. Stock Dove 14 with c30 Wood Pidgeons (the Stock Dovers a record for me in a single group I think). Jay 2, GSW 1, Green Woodpecker 1, Meadow Pipit 5, Yellowhammer 2, Chaffinch c100, Goldfinch c30, Blackbird 10, Song Thrush 3, Mistle Thrush 1, Redwing c20, Fieldfare 1, Starling c20.
Do Stonechats always winter in pairs? Round Weymouth I either see none or several, or don’t count the sexes, but here, where there are fewer, it’s always a pair. So are these the adults from a local breeding pair? Or do first winters pair up in autumn? Questions, questions; perhaps the ringing will give us the answers.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Highlights were: at the golf club, Nuthatch, Linnet, Goldcrest, Skylark, GSW, Kestrel, Bullfinch, Song Thrush. A farm in the middle of the tetrad; GSW, Heron, Bullfinch, Jay, some sparkling Fieldfares and Redwings, Siskin, and then a Common Buzzard heading north along a hedgerow.
Finally back along the road from Gilston to High Wych two more (and different) Common Buzzards. That’s three in an area where the last time this area was surveyed, there were none.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Nothing could match up to that, but Siskins, Kingfisher in the middle of the lake, Nuthatch over and various finches and peckers and plenty of Redwings made for a terrific day, particularly as the Forest is now looking fabulous in its vivid Autumn colours.
Then in the afternoon back to SLRS with a camera for some more autumn colours. Just 70 Lapwing, 16 Snipe, 2 Common Gull, 16 BHG, 6 Long-tailed Tits. Standing on the opposite bank seems to mean the birds aren’t bothered and are happy to come out in the open. The views are too distant for photography, but still excellent through the scope. Okay it isn’t Minsmere, but I cannot think of a better way of spending time than watching SLRS, with the odd narrow boat drifting by, and some chat with the local dog walkers.
Allen’s Green Wood is a Pheasant-rearing base, and there was a shoot going on in the fields outside. Having observed the shoot, I now realise that the bin plonked in the middle of the field in which SLRS sits is not for dog-waste but for spent shotgun cartidges.
In the late afternoon went to SLRS. Highlight was a Water Rail. The Water Rail is a speciality of the Stort valley due to the many boggy places down its length. I know just one is poor compared to the 9+ north of Sawbridgeworth, but this was out in the open for ages on the SE corner. Otherwise some Siskins in the birches by the marina and some Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Green Woodpecker, GSW, c30 Starlings.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Amongst the many bones were remains of Raven, Red Kite, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Quail, and Common Crane, all from between 1300ish and 1666 (all except the Crane the earlier part of this period).
One of the archaeologists explained that Crane remains are often found at sites of banquets or other ceremonial meals. So I got wondering if Cranes were kept, probably pinioned, for such occasions, and possibly transported live from the continent. Maybe the same for some of the other birds. Can we be sure these birds were genuinely wild in the UK, and not transported and farmed?
Remember you read it here first. Unless, like me, you read it here first
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I took a few pics of the gull roost. Here they are unclipped.
I found a Little Grebe close in to the Marina wall, and watched it diving. They may be serene on the surface, but under water they scrabble round rocks like birds possessed, and if they find a suitable fish just tear after it until they get it. Amazing. What photoshop can do ...
Wigeon; 6 & 3
Black Tailed Godwit 3
Bearded Reedling. Lots of pinging in two places, and scuttling through the reeds. 1 seen. Cetti’s Warbler 3.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
It was very nice. Almost, but not quite, as good as Fountains Abbey. Although Mrs D did comment, as we trooped in our conga slowly round the lake, that it was like exercise-time in some super-posh middle-class prison. But nice trees, and a nice farm shop too.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
SLRS was full after recent rains,
A Grey Heron at the top of a tall tree - why? Cormorant 3 imm in the Cormorant Tree, appropriately. Mute Swan 3 adults flew over - again why 3? Mallard 10 in total inc 2 at the flash. Snipe 8. 4 at the S end, and 4 on the grass at the top. Lapwing 25 over, 2 on the flash. BH Gull c30 on the flash. GSW at least 3. Skylark a few singles over calling. Meadow Pipit 3 by the flash then later flying round. Chaffinch c20, Goldfinch 15, Greenfinch c10, Siskin 1 over calling, Bullfinch 2, Grey Wagtail 1, Redwing a few flying around but unsatisfactory views. Mistle Thrush 2, Carrion Crow a few, Jay 1, Yellowhammer 1 over.
And in the afternoon, Shaggy Ink Cap in the Garden. My guide says its edible. After you!
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Brent Goose – 2 dark bellied went E out of the harbour
Little Egret 1
Sandwich Tern 1 juv
BH Gull, GBB Gull, Herring Gull,
Hobby 1 slow N over with something in its claws. A couple of Gulls mad a half-hearted attempt to mob it
Swallow – low tens. I didn't see any other hirundines this trip apart form lots of swallows
Wheatear 1 across the road by the centre.
Finally, the obligatory Med Gull sighting. A 2nd year flying around the harbour by Perry’s Restaurant.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Portland was, we were told, a bird-free zone. So, free from the need to wait ages for a glimpse of a Sibe, we took a leisurely walk up the top fields, left to the west cliffs, back to the point, then back to the obs.
And there was action all the way. Firstly we had a fantastic female Merlin that did a couple of hunting sorties for us. Picked up dashing across a field, it twisted and turned after a starling, and then cruised around looking for prey. It was great to have the opportunity to take a good look at the flying style and hunting habits of Merlin at close quarters.
Then at the West Cliffs we had a few Stonechats, a Sparrowhawk, and a Wheatear.Down towards the Bill ours, and everyone else’s attention was turned by the Costguard helicopter hovering by the point. A stretcher went down, and then came up with a person clinging to the basket. Maybe a training exercise? Hope so.
Then from the Bill back to the obs we had a terrific Clouded-Yellow Butterfly, showing off the deep orange of the upper surface contrasting with the lemon-yellow undersurfaces. A couple of well marked Wheatears, a Grey Seal, and 4 Rock Pipits (do they migrate through here?). Finally at the obs a Brown Rat by the bird table.
All the time a trickle of Swallows going through, Meadow Pipits “tseep”ing around, and flocks of Starlings, Linnets, and House Sparrows. The obs recently got a few extra fields I think and the large passerine flocks may be a result of this.
In the evening we went into town. 100+ Pied Wagtails flew down the harbour, and an auk, probably a Razorbill, fished out in the middle. Then a first. Whilst we are used to being one of a few groups in a cinema for a Tuesday afternoon cartoon, for the duration of the 4:30 showing of “Run, Fat Boy Run” we were the only ones in the theatre.
The chopper in action, taken by D2
Monday, October 01, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
So as Marvin Gaye “What’s Going on?” echoed round the fields I picked up a small flock of Long-Tailed Tits. I searched for Sylvia warblers but apart from one in the bottom of a bush drew a blank. A couple of Bullfinches skulked in a bush and a Kestrel flew through as Dusty Springfield sang “Son of a Preacher Man”, and then I struggled for birds and songs – possibly a Kingfisher calling, and was that Sly and the Family Stone?
Stevie Wonder was singing Superstition as I crossed the river, and then the mood changed to Jazz as I went up the hill to view SLRS. I bumped into Kevin on his bike, and as Miles Davis’ trumpet rang out round the fields a Meadow Pipit flew south, and we saw family parties of Yellowhammers, more Bullfinches, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, brownish Willow-Chiff and a GS and Green Woodpecker. SLRS had 4 Snipe, 2 Lapwing, and a couple of Teal, and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”.
Another mood change. The small birds were kicking up a commotion, and as the ground shook to Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” a dark shape slipped out of the hedgerow with a bird in its claws – my instinct was Hobby.
As I headed for home someone turned the sound off at this time, and a total of four Chiffs were in the willows by the river. One singing, one skulking, and two “hoeet”ing.
I thought the bizarreness would stop there, but mid afternoon Mrs Dipper called for an emergency chocolate run to Waitrose in Bishop’s Stortford. On the way back I stopped at the large recently ploughed field at Trimm/s Green/Allen’s Green, a local highpoint with views over Stansted Airport . Mike had been earlier and seen good numbers of Lapwing, Carrion Crows, and various other birds. I saw most of that through the heat haze, and then a wader flying around; notions of Golden Plover were dispelled by the enormous white wing bars. It didn’t settle, was chased by Lapwings, and eventually flew up towards me to confirm as a Black-Tailed Godwit, then flew off north. Bizarre.
** evening update ** Kevin informs me that the music was from an all-nighter takin place in an overgrown bomb-hole slightly south of the birding site. Kevin's source, an unwashed crusty emerging from under a bush, says this happens every September.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
So Steve, Mike and myself stood in the middle of a set-aside type field chewing the fat and watching the surrounding hedges and skyline. We had plenty to watch too. Very similar to the last trip but Grey Wagtail, a family party of 4 Bullfinches, and lots of Robins were notable.
Took the camera this time, and got lucky with a Lesser Whitethroat preening itself. All pics the original size today.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
First up was Rainham RSPB. This is the first Autumn for the new reserve, and already it’s delivering the goods. Leaving my camera at home paid off immediately with a Sparrowhawk right over my head. At the Aveley lagoons there was a Spotted Crake giving infrequent but reasonably close views – a long time since I saw one of these. Around were small numbers of Green Sandpiper and Ruff, with a Wood Sandpiper, a couple of Greenshank, a couple of Dunlin, and a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper which showed well close up, then flew around and sat preening a distance away. There were a few Wigeon amongst the Shoveller and Teal, and plenty of Little Egrets and Herons, and a few Hobbies giving a hunting exhibition in the background.
Then attention shifted to the gulls. Amongst the BH, LBB, and GBB gulls there was a number of Herring Gulls. I found one gull that was a definitive juv Yellow-Legged Gull; tertials had pale cream tips only forming a chocolate band, and the rest of the plumage at rest and in flight was a text book YL Gull. I think there were others, but it was nice to nail one of them.
I wandered round the rest of the reserve in the company of another Herts birder. The sun shone, we exchanged gossip, birding stories and jokes, and saw Wheatear, close-up Heron, and a Hobby posed on the fence for extended viewing.
Just when I thought birding doesn’t get much better than that, it did. On the way home I called in at our local puddle SLRS. Its small, its miles from the sea, but its ours (there's a picture from last week at the bottom to illustrate). There were 3 Lapwing, 5 Snipe, and oh-my-god-knock-me-down-with-a-feather a juvenile Little Stint. I shot home, made a few calls, and was shortly set up on the bank of the Stort with local birder Steve admiring the Stint out in the open. Perfect light, perfect vision, and a good distance, we spent an hour or so just admiring a text-book Stint and Snipe.
The strange thing is that the bird that really left an impression was the Snipe. A bird hidden in reedy corners on dull November days, today they were feeding out in the open with sun on their backs. The fine barring, rich buff and brown markings and unique shape were perfect today.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Still a healthy number of warblers through the bulging hedgerows; 5 Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, plus a few Willow Warblers and a calling Chiffchaff. Also around were plenty of Goldfinches and Greenfinches, with a few Chaffinches and Bullfinches scattered around. Also Green WoodPecker, Jay, and Song Thrush. The flash had 3 Snipe, 12 Teal, 1 Common Sandpiper, a few Pied Wagtails, Moorhen, Mallard, BH Gull, Wood Pigeon, and a Stock Dove.
Finally a Common Buzzard drifted over. Given the direction from where it came this was possibly one with its own letter in the Times.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Last week we wandered up the cliffs, which are alive with flora slightly past their peak. One of these is Sea Samphire - any information on the others welcome. We didn’t get as far as the Autumn Ladies Tresses.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Ferrybridge won, and I was rewarded with a couple of Avocets drifting east over the back of the Chesil Beach, 3 Sanderling and the usual suspects on the beach, and a juv Black Tern in Portland harbour, with obvious movement around (Wheatear at Small Mouth, for instance).
But I felt strangely unexcited by it all. Probably because the Avocets were pointed out to me (I spent some time wondering if they weren't Gannets - no really - but wiser heads than me were satisfied), and the Black Tern likewise. I guess everyone goes birdwatching for different reasons, but for me the adrenalin of the moment of discovery, the uncertainty, and the challenge of identification is a big reason, and when everything is pointed out it loses a bit of the fun.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
So to start to remedy that I went down to the boating lake and clicked away at this year’s crop of Herring Gulls.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Cormorant. 1 immature at Radipole had clearly a fish which was still a visible bulge in its throat. It kept drinking water and standing on an emerged rock and stretching. Eventually it had had enough and barfed up the fish, which presumably swam off to count its blessings. I’d brought my camera but not my brains so missed the shot.
Little Egret a flock of 9 at Radipole, plus other isingles.
Grey Heron. Some of this year’s offspring were in evidence.
Knot. 1 beautiful moulting adult at Lodmoor on 8th. My first at Lodmoor?
Oystercatcher. 2 ad and 1 juv at Lodmoor. One ad had muddy legs and beak from constantly finding worms, running the gauntlet of harassing BH Gulls, and presenting them to the juv to eat, which gulped them down then requested more. So it’s not just me that has a life like that then.
Black-Tailed Godwit c10
Redshank 2 Lodmoor
Wood Sandpiper, 2 at Lodmoor on 11th. As always, beautifully elegant birds that look like they should be somewhere a lot smarter than a grubby puddle.
Common Sandpiper 2-3 at Lodmoor
Sanderling 2 at Ferrybridge
Curlew 1 at Ferrybridge.
Snipe 1 at Ldmoor 11th.
Black-Headed Gull c200 at Lodmoor, including
Mediterranean Gull. At Lodmoor, 3 on 5th (2 1st winter + 1 juv), 1 on 8th (1 ad/3rd summer?), 0 on 11th, probably due to lack of interest. Searching for Med Gulls is one of those things that starts off as “I’ll have a quick look and see if I spot one”, and ends up on the 10th sweep going “come on you b******, I know you’re there, give yourself up!”
Common Tern. C10 left at Lodmoor, with most juvs flying.
Sparrowhawk 1 f at Lodmoor on 5th
Kestrel. 1 at Lodmoor 5th, 1 at Maiden Castle.
Peregrine. The waders at Ferrybridge are used to disturbances, so when every bird on the south side headed off east like their lives depended on it, a raptor was clearly around. A minute later, a huge brown Peregrine came through like a rocket.
Yellow Wagtail 2 at Lodmoor on 11th
Pied Wagtail c20 Lodmoor.
Wheatear 3 at Maiden Castle.
Stonechat. 1 at Maiden Castle.
Skylark 2 at Maiden Castle.
Hirundines. Good numbers of Swallows and House Martins throughout.
Finally, D#2 looked up from taking guard at Portland Bill expecting his father to be preparing to bowl at him, only to see me running madly after a butterfly. It was big, like a Painted Lady yet not a Painted Lady. Given there have been a few sightings of Large Tortoiseshell, this is one that got away.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
At Sheering Mill Lane a Hobby went through. My first for the town itself.
On the flooded field, c50 Black-Headed Gulls, a resting Common Tern, a Lapwing, some Pied Wagtails and a good number of Swallows and House Martins over the pond.
Back up through the rough fields to Bonks Hill. A patch of willows and bushes had a Spotted Flycatcher, a male Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and a Willow Warbler .
Saturday, July 28, 2007
So a wrap up of Weymouth.
1. Returning from Portland to Weymouth along the Fleet road I found myself wondering why I was looking at two crows, and then realised its because they were Peregrine falcons!
2. Ferrybridge had a couple of Dunlins and a coupled of Sanderlings. Have the Sanderlings been here all summer?
3. Back at Lodmoor the following day. More of everything but still no Roseate Terns. The Blackwits were givng terrific views close up - of course I had no camera. A local was trying to sex them and was concluding that they were all males. the logic would be: Males mate and push off mid July. The females incubate and push off early August. The juveniles come through in September. Anyone know if this makes sense?
4. I went to Badbury Rings. Aidan Brown has reported from Badbury Rings on a number of occasions with terrific close-ups of orchids and butterflies. The rings are not particularly extensive in area, so surely even I could clean up here.
No need to fill in the details. It was wet underfoot, the wind blew, I saw two species of orchid. Yes, two. I saw a few Fritillary butterflies, but they whizzed off before I could get a photo. I did get a photo of a Marbled White, but that's because it was dead.
August should have a few more opportunities.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Any day when there are Gannets about is a good day, particularly so if it’s a dull windy day. The white of the adults seems to be so bright they glow. There are a number of great pictures of gannets on other blogs (eg here), but they are mainly of Gannets lah-di-dahing around on nice sunny days. To really appreciate their flying abilities I think you need to see them when there’s a gale blowing.
Pics taken on Canon 30D, 100-400mm IS, 1.4x converter, so manual focussing.