Wednesday 25 June 2014

White Stork - Hedge End 25th June

With the news of a White Stork breaking from Hedge End mid-afternoon on 24th June followed by a text and a blog post from Trev (The Barley Bird-er) I felt well and truly gripped. It then dawned on me that I was surveying in Waterlooville on the morning of 25th June, the bird being located between home and Waterlooville. I concluded that a dawn raid may pay dividends particularly as the bird was seen going to roost on the evening of 24th. And so, the alarm went off at 05:00 and by 06:15 I was watching the White Stork feeding within the same hay-cut field that it was seen in yesterday - cracking!! Mission accomplished I was off to work and my survey.

White Stork - Hedge End 25th June

Hunting amongst cut hay

Relaxing in sun and showing gular patch

At 08:40 the bird was seen to take-off and fly high to the west. It is yet to be relocated…..

The Devon Ross's Gull and More 20th June 2014

Trevor Codlin (The Barley Bird-er) and I had planned a little birding outing on 20th June while our wife's were pampering and drinking bubbles in the local spa. So at 06:00 Trev got to my place and we drove onto Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham in Devon arriving at just gone 08:00. The main target was a summering Ross's Gull which had been present since 29th May and a support cast of Bonaparte's Gull and Spoonbill. Trev has written an excellent account of the day here and so I won't repeat it here.

Ross's Gull was a tick for Trev, for me this was my second after the pink adult on the Plym Estuary in 2002. I mainly wanted to see this bird as I had not seen an immature previously. 

Here are some of my photos from the day, unfortunately the light was particularly bad and so the photos are certainly not award winners!

This adult Spoonbill gave the view from the hide a sense of the Mediterranean

Eight of the 11 Little Egret present

Two distant shots of the Ross's Gull in slightly scruffy 
1st Summer plumage

1st Summer Bonaparte's Gull

And a distant large gull which was discussed as 
being a possible Caspian Gull

Thursday 19 June 2014

A Weekend in Sunny Cornwall 13th-15th June 2014

Sarah, Tobias and I spent a chilled weekend in a sun drenched Cornwall staying at our cottage just to the west of St. Ives at Trowan. I love the stretch of coastline between St.Ives and St. Just, it is perhaps one of the most unspoilt stretches of coastline in the UK being dominated by moorland and low intensity agriculture dominated by cattle grazing. The National Trust owns much of the coastal strip which is dominated by coastal heath. Much of the weekend was spent relaxing but I did sneak out for some early morning birdwatching before Sarah and Tobias awoke.

On Saturday morning I visited Kenidjack and strolled through the valley to the coast. It was generally fairly quiet, as was expected at this time of the year. At the bottom of the valley is a deep cleft in the cliff face known as 'Zawn Buzz and Gen' roughly translated to gully of food and song. I often sit on the cliff top here and stare into the gully. There are Herring Gull nesting in the Gully and it is a good place to stare right into their nests. As I climbed the cliff slope to the cliff top I heard the distinctive 'chow' of Chough and four birds tumbled from the east and landed on the cliff top a few metres away. All birds were colour ringed and part of the Cornish Chough reintroduction project.

Chough - Kenidjack

Herrign Gull with chicks - Zawn Buzz and Gen, Kenidjack

The Herring Gulls in Zawn Buzz and Gen had well grown chicks all of a similar age, interestingly those seen at the same time on the roof tops of St. Ives had far more advanced chicks with juvenile feathers and only a few days off flying. I wondered whether this was down to diet of the St. Ives birds being higher in the fat of chips and ice-creams allowing a faster development?

Grey Heron - Kenidjack

Four Grey Heron flew east along the coast spooking the local Herring Gulls. On the beach at the mouth of Kenidjack was the usual gathering of rather motley looking immature and sub-adult Herring Gulls.

3rd Summer and 1st Summer Herring Gulls - Kenidjack

1st and 2nd summer herring Gulls - Kenidjack

As I walked back up the valley a loud 'woosh' overhead and a Peregrine appeared chasing a Collared Dove. The Collard Dove dived into a bush 20 metres in front of me and the Peregrine made a sharp turn to pull out of the dive and circled briefly overhead. My photos show that this bird was ringed although it is not possible to read the ring number from the shots. 

Peregrine - Kenidjack

Other birds seen included four Red Kite circling over St. Just seen from the top of the valley these birds headed east and I later saw them a few miles east circling over the Gurnards Head pub. Numerous Manx Shearwater were present offshore, mainly moving west, and in a half hour of scanning I recorded approximately 250 birds without trying. The nearest breeding colonies are on the Pembrokeshire Islands of Skomer and Skokholm but it is thought that the birds seen offshore in Cornwall during the summer are non-breeding birds, breeders from these colonies heading into the Irish Sea to feed. 

A Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary was nice to see at the top of the valley, this is not a species I see often in Hampshire.

Small Pearl-bordered Frittillary - Kenidjack

On Sunday I did a short, but hot and strenuous, walk from the cottage to the coast nearby and walked from Hellesveor Cliff east to Pen Enys Point. Other than the large numbers of Manx Shearwater offshore the only birds of note were a pair of Shelduck that appeared to be prospecting for a nest site at Pen Enys Point, this was my first record of the species for this location. 

Pair of Sheduck - Pen Enys Point

Two species of bumblebee mimic hoverfly were seen, the White-tailed Bumblebee mimic, Volucella bombylans and the Red-tailed Bumblebee mimic, Merodon equestris. And, one of my favourite British hoverflies the wasp mimic Chrysotoxum verralli was seen at Hellesveor Cliffs. 

Volucella bombylans - Pen Enys Point

Merodon equestris - Pen Enys Point

Chrysotoxum verralli - Hellesveor Cliffs

There was an abundance of orchids in flower with Heath Spotted-orched and many Early Marsh-orchid, the latter ranging in colour from white to a dark pink.

Early Marsh-orchid - Cliffs between Hellesveor Cliff and Pen Enys Point

Much of the rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and catching up with friends including an enjoyable afternoon on the beach at Sennen with world famous birder Nigel Wheatley his partner Alice and sons Ned and Tom.

World famous birder pretending not to sunbath

Tuesday 17 June 2014

New Forest 11th June 2014

With a few spare hours between a site survey and a meeting in Ringwood the birding 'Gods' were twisting my arm to head into the New Forest for a spot of birding - very little twisting was required! Naturally, I was drawn to two of my favourite sites in the forest. First up was Beaulieu Road Station where I walked south from the Shatterford Car Park into the woodland and back again. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining and the warmth of summer on my back. Stonechats and Dartford Warblers were actively feeding their fledged young while Siskin were still in the process of nest building.

Male Dartford Warbler - Beaulieu Road Station
Male Dartford Warbler - Beaulieu Road Station
Female Siskin - Beaulieu Road Station

With time now short I paid a brief visit to Acres Down where I headed straight for the main raptor watch area. Here within 15 minutes I scored a male Goshawk which circled low over the woods before towering up to the clouds and then headed in a shallow but fast decent south-west. Then after, 45 minutes I had to leave but while bending to photograph a Gold-ringed Dragonfly my gaze was drawn to a larger raptor soaring above the woodland, bingo! Honey Buzzard which showed well but due to my low elevation quickly disappeared from view. This was a nice fawn coloured bird very like the male illustrated in the second edition of 'The Helm Guide to Bird Identification' at the top centre of the Honey Buzzard plate. I failed to get any photos but did get some pleasing shots of the dragonfly. And then I had to head for my meeting and my birding was over.

 Gold-ringed Dragonfly - Acres Down
 Gold-ringed Dragonfly - Acres Down

Wednesday 11 June 2014

'Tail Enders'

Here are a few tail end photos from recent weeks that I never got around to posting.

Most of my photos are now digiscoped with Sony RX100M2 and Kowa 883 scope with 20-60 wide angle zoom eyepiece. I like this set-up and while photos are not as good as an SLR I do like the portability of the set-up combined with the long range abilities. Anyways;

On 31st May these Coot chicks at Pennington looked to be newly hatched with the parents feeding their six offspring avidly.

However, as is the way with Coot the adults frequently turned on their chicks while they were begging for food. A number of hypothesis for this are given and it is thought that parent birds may attack and kill their chicks to reduce the demand for food when food supplies are short or it may reduce the demand of that chick for feedings thereby reducing sibling competition and encouraging independence. This behaviour is known as 'tousling.

Also on 31st May at Pennington these Common Tern were 'getting it together'.

The first Redstart chicks at Denny Wood had hatched by 31st May with this male scolding my approach while feeding his chicks.

This Treecreeper was also feeding chicks and was foraging amongst the abundant lichens on the oaks in Denny Wood.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

More Short-toed Eagle Pictures from 8th June 2014 at Bishops Dyke

David Cuddon has sent me the pictures he obtained of the Short-toed Eagle from Sunday. David was carrying a 500mm Canon with a 1.4 converter and was looking for Redstarts to photograph nearby when I found the eagle - I think he panicked with his camera settings as it went overhead but he did well although when showing overhead it was too large to fit in the frame!

Short-toed Eagle - Bishops Dyke, Beaulieu Road Station 8th June (all photos David Cuddon)            

Sunday 8 June 2014

Short-toed Eagle - Bishops Dyke, Beaulieu Road Station!!! And a nice mornings birding in general.

What a superb day (8th June 2014) in the Beaulieu Road Station area I had today. I started at 06:00 at Shatterford and spent a little time watching Hobbies hunting between Shatterford and Denny Wood before heading south to Shatterford Bottom where a pair of Stonechat were feeding chicks and Woodlark and Curlew were displaying in the distance while Snipe drummed overhead. As I continued south a male Dartford Warbler showed very well singing atop a Silver Birch sapling while its mate carried food to nestlings below.

Shatterford Bottom
Great-spotted Woodpecker
Female Dartford Warbler - Shatterford Bottom

Two male Cuckoo were very vocal and conspicuous in the Silver Birch generation at the transition between the heath and Denny Wood, as I watched the Cuckoo's their attention switched between chasing one another to chasing a Buzzard which had appeared from the woodland and was flying towards the railway line. As I followed the Buzzard in my bins my attention switched to a large pale bird perched in an Oak and as I focused, there, before me was a massive pale raptor. Immediately my mind rang 'what the *** is that' and at that moment I dropped my scope to the ground to try to get some digi-shots half knowing what I was looking at without confirming it conclusively, but in my panic the settings on my camera were out and the shots were crap. The bird then flew and circled the clearing and it was evident that it was a Short-toed Eagle - bloody hell!! The pale undersides to the wings with hardly any markings on the underwing coverts with the exception of a string of black 'pearls' on the inner greater coverts and some speckling on the lesser coverts were spot on for the Dorset bird from last weekend. The bird landed out of site in a Silver Birch, I looked around me and called the only visible birder, David Cuddon. There was no sign of it from where we were viewing and so I ran back down the main path and around a bog to get the correct angle to see where it had landed. And there it was, the Dorset Short-toed Eagle last recorded on the previous Sunday! I composed myself and took some acceptable shots, called David and we watched the bird for around 40 minutes before it took off circled about 20m above our heads and then headed east towards Pig Bush. The first two birders arrived and we managed to put them onto the bird before it became a distant speck. Brilliant, I just wished I had had my SLR when it was circling overhead!

Short-toed Eagle, Bishops Dyke - 8th June 2014
This is the only picture I got of the bird in flight, taken 
through my iPhone as it was circling overhead

I then continued my walk west through the woodlands, mire and heath at Bishops Dyke but I could hardly focus on the birding at hand so after an hour or so I turned and headed back to the car. I made a short stop at Matley Bog to photograph some Southern Marsh Orchids that were visible from the road and saw good numbers of Keeled Skimmer in the bog as well as a number of the usual bog denizens. Now, off for a celebratory bevy!

Southern Marsh orchid
Round-leaved Sundew
Meadow Thistle
Agelena labyrinthica
Keeled Skimmer (teneral)