Friday 31 August 2018

Portland - 31st August

Its been all work of late and with some easterly elements to the wind this weekend I was desperate to get out, so, after clearance from wifey I took Friday morning off work and headed to Portland. I was up at 04:15 and by 06:15 was watching the sunrise over Portland Bill. I wandered around the Bill area taking in the West Cliffs and Coastguard lookout area, the Beach Huts, part of the East Cliffs, Culverwell, the southern area of the Top Fields and the Observatory area. It was fairly slow going and I didnt see the hoped for Wryneck or Red-backed Shrike but every Wheatear sat atop a Bramble I imagined was a Shrike.

My totals for the morning were:

Whimbrel - 1
Snipe - 1
Common Sandpiper - 5
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Swift - 1 over Culverwell and the Top Fields
Wheatear - 36
Whinchat - 1
Stonechat - 7
Yellow Wagtail - 32
Tree Pipit - 1
Swallow - 55
Sand Martin - 2
House Martin - 5
Sedge Warbler - 1
Whitethroat - 9
Chiffchaff - 3
Reed Warbler - 1
Blackcap - 3

Sunrise over Portland Bill

Wheatear - Portland Bill

Whinchat - Juvenile below the Coastguard Lookout, Portland Bill

Stonechat - In contrast to the pristine juvenile Whinchat above this adult male Stonechat looks decidely scruffy as it moults, Portland Bill

Sedge Warbler - Below the Coastguard Lookout and hanging out with the Whinchat, Portland Bill

Whimbrel - In the paddocks to the east of the Observatory, Portland Bill

Autumn Ladies-tresses - East Cliffs, Portland Bill

Autumn Lady's-tresses - East Cliffs, Portland Bill

Small Heath - East Cliff, Portland Bill

Northern Wheatear - A beautiful male bird, Top Fields, Portland Bill

Northern Wheatear - Top Fields, Portland Bill

Thursday 23 August 2018

Pennington Marsh - 22nd August

Its been sometime since I visited Pennington Marsh and so with a survey to complete near to Christchurch I decided to make an early start and spend a couple of hours birding at the marsh. It was a grey, dull, humid day and it was remarkably still - it felt remarkably autumnal, the ripening berries emphasising this.

The morning started well, I stopped at the corner of Lower Pennington Lane for a coffee and to scan the marsh when I picked up a Barn Owl hunting of the Juncus beds, this is a scarce species at the site and one that I have only seen on a handful of occasions previously. I walked the Ancient Highway and then back east along the seawall. There were good numbers of Common Whitethroat in the bushes with around 30 seen in total. Small numbers of Reed Warbler were still 'chacking' from the reedbeds with around 15 seen. Two Lesser Whitethroat were on the Ancient Highway, one giving a scratching sub-song with an occasional rattle. Numbers of Phylloscopus were low with only five Willow Warbler recorded. There seemed to be very little visible migration underway with five Tree Pipit, a single Yellow Wagtail, a handful of Meadow Pipit, 35 Swallow, five House Martin and ten Sand Martin. There were large numbers of Starling, these presumably being locally bred birds, with one flock of around 250 birds feeding on the seawall. A single Wheatear showed well on the seawall at Keyhaven Lagoon.

Moving onto the lagoons, while it was high tide, the numbers of wader seemed low with singletons of Spotted Redshank and Greenshank, 55 Grey Plover, some in their smart summer plumage, 65 Black-tailed Godwit, 250 Lapwing, 35 Dunlin and 15 Ringed Plover. Ducks consisted of around 60 Teal and 15 Shoveler. A scan to sea produced no terns at all but the resident Eider flock showed well as they loafed on the mudflats off Butts Lagoon and drifted around in the sea - a right motley bunch of birds.

At 09:30 I headed to my survey near to Christchurch where a flyover Tree Pipit and a late Beautiful Demoiselle were the highlights.

Common Whitethroat - Ancient Highway, Pennington Marsh

Common Whitethroat - Ancient Highway, Pennington Marsh

Autumnal berries - Ancient Highway, Pennington Marsh

Hurst Castle and Lighthouse - From Pennington Marsh

Grey Plover - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Juvenile Redshank - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Shoveler - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Northern Wheatear - Keyhaven Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Common Gull - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Eider - Off Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Eider - Off Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Turnstone - Off Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Starling - Pennington Marsh

Beautiful Demoiselle - Christchurch, Dorset

Friday 17 August 2018

A Long Hot Summer

The summer has been long and hot and I have done little but for work most evenings and many weekends with little time for birding. This is a summary of the highlights of my summer before, with luck, Autumn kicks in and tI can get out and see some birds.

I have been carrying out vegetation and butterfly surveys at Bedwyn Brail in Wiltshire, this woodland block is always a pleasure to work in and I recorded three new species for the site, most exciting was an egg laying female Purple Emperor but these Chimney Sweeper and Forester moths were nice additions.

Chimney Sweeper - Bedwyn Brail, Wiltshire

Forester - Bedwyn Brail, Wiltshire

I have been carrying out extensive invertebrate surveys on Portsmouth Water sites in Hampshire and West Sussex with Adam Wright. These have produced a few interesting species including a new colony of Small Red-eyed Damselfly and a whopping count of 31 Asilus crabroniformis at a site on Portsdown Hill. The latter is one of my favourite invertebrates and to find such a strong colony was very satisfying.

Bee Orchid - Near Wickham, Hampshire

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - Fishbourne, West Sussex

The Tachinid Fly Prosena siberita - Near Wickham, Hampshire (O)

The Longhorn Beetle Paracorymbia fulva - Near Wickham, Hampshire (O)

The Longhorn Beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens - Near Wickham, Hampshire (O)

The Picture-winged Fly Chaetorellia jaceae - Near Wickham, Hampshire (O)

Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi - Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth (O)

Asilus crabroniformis - Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth (O)

Asilus crabroniformis - Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth (O)

My only visit to Crockford Bridge this summer was on 26th June where the usual range of New Forest Odonata put on a good show.

Small Red Damselfly - Crockford Bridge

Southern Damselfly - Crockford Bridge

Beautiful Demoiselle - Crockford Bridge

Beautiful Demoiselle - Crockford Bridge

On 28th June I popped to Bentley Wood to try and see Purple Emperor. I met with some success but the only 'grounded' Emperor was in the shade and not showing much purple.

Purple Hairstreak - Bentley Wood

Broad-bodied Chaser - Bentley Wood

Red-necked Footman - Bentley Wood

Purple Emperor - Bentley Wood

On 4th July, having heard of large numbers of Purple Emperor present, I visited the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. After seeing around 12 Purple Emperor I eventually encountered one on the ground which showed fairly well. On the day before my visit there was an impressive count of 388 Purple Emperor at this site!

Purple Emperor - Knepp Estate

Purple Emperor - Knepp Estate

We visited the Isles of Scilly on a family holiday for a week from the 7th July. I didn't do any birding as such but did run my Heath moth-trap at the Star Castle and went on a pelagic on 10th July. The latter didn't produce many birds as the conditions were too calm but we did see around 12 Blue Shark, Ocean Sunfish, 12 Bottle-nosed Dolphin and 25 Common Dolphin. Moth highlights were two new British species for me, Shore Wainscot and Devonshire Wainscot,

Shore Wainscot  - St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly

Devonshire Wainscot  - St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly

 Marbled Coronet - St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly

Four-spotted Footman (female) - St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly

Four-spotted Footman (male) - St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly

Ocean Sunfish - At Sea, Isle of Scilly

Blue Shark - At Sea, Isle of Scilly

Great Skua - At Sea, Isle of Scilly

Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata - Peninnis Head, St. Mary's, Isle of Scilly

Trips to Pennington  20th and 24th July produced relatively little but these three Curlew Sandpiper and a Little Stint on 20th July were very welcome.

Curlew Sandpiper - Pennington Marsh 20th July (O)

Black-headed Gull - Pennington Marsh 20th July (O)

Little Egret - Pennington Marsh 20th July (O)

Reed Warbler - Pennington Marsh 20th July (O)

On 24th July I was working near Noar Hill NNR and so I couldn't resist popping by for a couple of hours.

The Hoverfly Sericomyia silentis - Noar Hill NNR 24th July (O)

Brimstone - Noar Hill NNR 24th July (O)

Brimstone - Noar Hill NNR 24th July (O)

Brown hairstreak - Noar Hill NNR 24th July (O)

Weekends in the cottage in the Cotswolds allowed me to spend some time at Slimbridge 31st July and 11th August where a few migrant waders had begun to trickle through and Avocet showed well.

Avocet attacking Shelduck chick - Slimbridge 31st July (O)

Green Sandpiper - Slimbridge 11th August (O)

Green Sandpiper - Slimbridge 11th August (O)

Ruff - Slimbridge 11th August (O)

Ruff - Slimbridge 31st July (O)

This summer I sold my beloved Canon 7d Mark II and 500mm Mark II and purchased a new camera system, the Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II with the 60mm macro, 70-150mm and 300mm lens. I have found adjusting to the system a steep learning curve having been using Canon kit for the last 20 years or so but I am getting to the point where I am pleased with the images I am obtaining, particularly the macro shots. Images taken with the new Olympus are marked (O) after the caption. For the time being at least most images on this blog will be shot with the Olympus kit. The full list of my Olympus kit can be seen on my About page here.