The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Monday, 30 September 2013

Grotfinch, Wotfinch?

Previous days

Not a great deal to relate from Dorset from the last 6 days, as I've been either working, or off elsewhere.

My couple of visits to Ferrybridge on the way to Bridport haven't produced much, except a varying number of Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail over, and my first Grey Plover of the autumn here. 

On Friday afternoon I was determined to find something of note on the island, despite the fierce wind (though being easterly, it did have some promise).  But, my checking of Lancridge (that I thought'd be sheltered, but it wasn't!), Old Hill, Penn Castle Woods, and Wakeham produced nothing of interest on the bird front.  This nice Dark Bush-cricket was the only highlight at Wakeham.

 

Over the weekend, I returned to my old stomping ground of Surrey in preparation for my leading of a coach trip to Keyhaven on Sunday.  I was therefore able to make a visit to my old patch, Tice's Meadow, on Saturday afternoon.
 
Great to see the old place is still producing the goods, as a Little Stint was present, only the third site record.  It was very mobile about the workings, and was also often chased by the Lapwing!
 
The other highlights from my 4 hour vigil here were a late-ish Hobby, and Green and Common Sandpipers.
 
The coach trip on Sunday with the RSPB Guildford group went very well, with 52 people heading around Keyhaven Marshes.  The weather was kind, and we amassed a list of 89 between us, quite possibly a record for the group.  The highlight was a very showy Spotted Redshank, but we also enjoyed the likes of Raven, Greenshank, Water Rail, Kingfisher, and Hobby.  One couple saw a Marsh Harrier and one lucky (and very reliable) member had a Woodcock fly past them! 
 
This was my first outing as a leader for a coach trip, and I really enjoyed it.  I think it went rather well!
 
Today
 
I got back home from Surrey late morning, and with messages reporting a decent fall on the island, I wanted to get out immediately.   
 
I also had to do some dreaded shopping, so I decided to combine the two!  I went to Tescos, and walked from there.  With the number of Yellow-browed Warbler around the country, and with one seen at the Obs earlier, any patches of Sycamores were the focus of my attention.
 
I walked from the car park along the path towards Perryfields Quarry, then along the old railway cutting onto Yeolands Quarry and back via Bumpers Lane.
 
There were Blackcap everywhere, and a similar number of Chiffchaff too.  I came across a particular migrant hotspot at Perryfields, where the bushes were jumping with stuff!  This included a single female Redstart, a Whitethroat, and a Spotted Flycatcher.  The wonderful area:
 
 
 
The rest of the walk didn't really live up to that benchmark, but there had certainly been quite a fall of Blackcap and Chiffchaff everywhere.  I hate to think how many there were on the whole island!
 
A message from Martin that the juvenile Common Rosefinch (sometimes nicknamed 'Grotfinch' for it's very plain appearance!) from previous days was showing again, had me heading down to the Obs mid-afternoon.
 
The bird had apparently been associating with the garden House Sparrow flock, but a two hour vigil viewing the edge of the Obs garden failed to produce it.  It would be a lifer, and I'm hoping (no matter how boring it's looks!) that it will show again in subsequent days.
 
The visit was enlivened first by Joe showing us a Grasshopper Warbler he'd caught.
 
 
And secondly from my viewing of the moth traps, which produced a lifer amongst other highlights.  The new one was the migrant, the well-named Delicate.
 
 
 
Other goodies included the striking Black Rustic.
 
 
And the quite common Large Ranunculus.
 
 
I took the route back home via Barleycrates Lane, and was quite astonished to see the small horse field by the entrance carpeted with birds.  Amongst the 50 Pied Wagtail were one or two White, 5 Yellow (if I see one tomorrow it will be my latest ever, same applies for Whitethroat), and 10 Wheatear.  Also in with the Wagtails was one rather striking individual, which I initially thought looked good for a 1st-winter Citrine.  Then I realised it had a yellow vent, and closer inspection also revealed dark lores.  With such a grey back, I can only think it's some sort of 'eastern' Yellow Wagtail.  I'm annoyed with myself that I didn't at least try to get a photo.  Maybe tomorrow.
 
Back to Bridport this week, and Ferrybridge will yet again be rubbish due to the tides.  Oh well, I guess I'll have to make do with twitching other peoples finds on the Island in the afternoons.  Hopefully they'll be plenty to choose from, as we enter the best time of year!
 
 

 
 


Monday, 23 September 2013

Hippolais and Trendy

First of all, please do cast your eyes back to the end of my post 'Well and Truly Spurned', as I've added a video of an Arctic Skua chasing a Tern that I totally forgot I had taken when I came to the write-up!

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On my way to Bridport, I popped into Ferrybridge just in case.  Nice to actually be able to see some mud, unlike my visits last week.  Although as it happens, there was nothing particularly notable present.  Best were 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Sanderling, a Curlew, and 25 Mediterranean Gull.

After work, there was I just sitting down to a well-deserved rest and a spot of lunch, when Martin's message comes through that Joe has found a Melodious Warbler down the Bill.  Oh well, birds come first!  I've only seen one Melodious previously, and it was a 5 second view of a bird down at Land's End several years ago.

On arrival, I was rather amazed to see the spot the bird had chosen.  A tiny patch of three small Tree Mallow plants right next to the car park.  Surely there was no missing the bird.  Sure enough, the Melodious Warbler was immediately in view.  A few phonescoped efforts.
 




 
In fact, in my hour or so there, the bird was rarely out of view, and that was purely down to the rather open plants it had chosen to feed.  This is despite it spending quite some time attempting to skulk right in the middle, preening (but still visible!).

A Chiffchaff kindly decided to show a good comparison, and I added a bit of footage of that at the end of my video of the Melodious.

 
I can't believe I've easily seen two normally very skulking scarce warblers in two days!  Subalpine tomorrow please ;-)
 
The easterly winds are now in control here, so hopefully this is just the start (though I probably won't be around to see it, unless something turns up at Ferrybridge. Working the next 5 days in Bridport).

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Barred from the Pub

Previous days

Since returning from Spurn, I've not done much birding, partly through laziness (and little's been reported anyway), but mainly because I've been working in Bridport, which means getting home much later.

On the plus side, it has meant I've been able to check out the Ferrybridge/Portland Harbour area first thing.

Last Sunday I made a point of rushing home to Portland as seawatching conditions looked ideal, with a very strong south-westerly.  Though numbers were disappointing (does seawatching here ever produce the goods?), I did manage to glean 3 Sooty, 1 Manx, and 1 Balearic Shearwater, as well as a Portland tick female Shoveler going past with three Common Scoter.  The sea was unbelievably choppy. Call this a time-lapse if you like.



Just like last time, my checking of Ferrybridge has been hampered by high tides, though Portland Harbour seems to have compensated a little, as one morning I had an Arctic Tern, and another I flushed a Common Sandpiper and Snipe from the shore there.  On the same day an out-of-place Gannet was in the harbour, but the Grey Phalarope from the previous day could not be found, though a fly-past Sanderling initially put my hopes up.

Today

I managed my first morning Portland walkabout for 3 weeks.

It was immediately obvious with complete cloud cover and no wind, that today was going to be good for birds overhead.  The main feature of the day did indeed turn out to be the incredible number of hirundines (of all three species) and Meadow Pipits about, with every scan of the sky producing swarms of birds.  I really wouldn't like to estimate it. 

Barleycrates Lane was quiet, though I did see a Wheatear and a pair of Stonechat (probably not migrants).  Suckthumb and the Hump was as usual jumping with birds, though they turned out to be almost all Blackcap.  Just a few Chiffchaff and singles of Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler were seen.  The first of several Yellow and Grey Wagtail flew over.

Going via Reap Lane, I saw my only Whitethroat of the day, they'll be gone soon, plus loads more Meadow Pipit in the field and hirundines on the fence wires.  One of which was a House Martin with a brown wash on the rump and throat.  I'm assuming this is variation and not one of these rare Sand x House hybrids, which do occur.

Whether by luck or judgement, the hirundines have timed their arrival here to perfection, as everywhere I went there are swarms of Flying Ants.  This big girl seems to have grown pretty fat on this bounty!

 
The Top Fields go by largely uneventfully, that's until I snatch a view of a Turtle Dove flying along a hedgerow before disappearing behind it!  A beauty, and sadly all too rare now.  By far my latest ever.
 
A few more Blackcap and Chiffchaff later, I reach the Obs, where the moth traps were brimming as usual.  The highlight of course was the rare Purple Marbled (sadly this specimen lacks the purple flash).
 
 
Not the only lifer for me, as in the trap itself was several of the nationally scarce Feathered Brindle.
 
 
                                           
 
Same applies for this striking L-album Wainscot.
 
                                         
 
Not a lifer, but still a coastal speciality is this Feathered Ranunculus.
 

 A nice selection of typical autumnal species here, including a pale form of Lunar Underwing in the middle.


And, I know I've had a shot of these before, but they are just so smart! Beautiful Gothic.

 
I was at the Obs long enough to see a Sedge Warbler and a Sparrowhawk hit the mist-net, though sadly the latter got away!  They must have a field day in these migrant-filled conditions, as must the local Peregrine, one of which I later saw stooping through a cloud of hirundines, no doubt with it's eye on something larger out of sight!  Epic!
 
On the walk back I finally heard a different Pipit in the masses, a single Tree Pipit.
 
Later in the afternoon, I got wind of the Barred Warbler by the Pulpit Inn at the Bill.
 
On arrival, I surprisingly found no-one around!  I was then faced with a reasonably high number of low Bramble bushes where the thing could be hiding.  I sat by the wall of the pub and started scanning.  Within minutes the cracking Barred Warbler flew into view and sat on the edge of a bush.  What a monster!  A shame the juveniles we see in Britain are not at all barred, though the sheer greyness of the bird sure makes them distinctive!  It went on to show occasionally, though it wasn't easy to follow, as in the same small bush was a Reed Warbler, loads of House Sparrow, a couple of Dunnock, a Whinchat, and a Stonechat!  I waited for a little while as I wanted to get some footage, but it didn't show again.  Looking at Joe's tweet that said the last he saw if it was it disappearing up towards the coastguards, I realise just how lucky I was!  Unless there are two of them?!  Doubt it.
 
A cracking day, and I'm hoping that's going to last me a little while, as I'm working the next 6 days straight in Bridport again.  At least the tides are more favourable at Ferrybridge.  It's due a good'un! 
 
 

 
 


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Well and Truly Spurned

Sorry for the length of this post.  I am very aware that people haven't the time to wade through loads of words, but I hope that the bits I've decided to keep in are interesting enough.  Also, it was difficult in this trip to get many photos, as most of the birds we saw were distant or fleeting.  Sorry about that!



Long before I moved to Portland, I thought it would be fantastic to actually stay at a bird observatory somewhere in the autumn.  My first choice was Fair Isle, but having decided the logistics were just not practical, I 'settled' for four nights at Spurn.  I asked my old mates from college to come along too, Matt Phelps and Steven Penn.

My entire previous experience of the site was a half-day visit back in 2008, within which the place left a lasting impression, having seen my first Icterine Warbler, in-the-hand.

9th

We set off from Surrey mid-morning, and having passed on the White-winged Black Tern in Nottinghamshire through an oversight on my part, we headed first for Broomhead Reservoir on the edge of the Peak District.

It's a lovely place that begged further exploration, but we were here of course for the Two-barred Crossbills.  It didn't take long to get good views of Common Crossbill, but the Two-barreds remained hidden, as the flock mostly fed deep in the woods out of view.  Just occasionally a few would fly over, but the quarry never landed on the trees within our sight.  Another birder pointed out the much softer call of one of the juvenile Two-barreds, but I'm not going to tick the bird on that.

In this area was a group of feeders, and there were at least 3 Bank Vole feeding underneath, as well as Treecreeper and Goldcrest in surrounding trees.

We only had a couple of hours of light left, once we had arrived and settled in at Spurn, for birding.  But, just standing outside the accommodation block of Warren Cottage was enough to accrue a decent list of birds out on the Humber and passing over.  Best was a pair of Arctic Skua, a dark and a light-phase, spotted by Matt circling around in the Humber, presumably looking for Gulls and Terns to harass.  A lifer for Matt and Steve.  The other highlight was a Marsh Harrier passing over south, scattering the thousands of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Grey Plover, and Golden Plover.

Views over the Humber to Hull, as the sunset delighted.




10th

Yesterday evening was windless, so it was something of a shock when we awoke to a strong gusty northerly wind.  This didn't immediately strike me as particularly good for seawatching, but with the regulars suggesting otherwise yesterday, and the awful forecast, we decided to do the short walk to the seawatching hide, possibly for the day.

View from the hide.

 

We just about managed to find some space in there, as we met a good friend of a friend, and experienced Spurn birder, Tim Cowley.  It was immediately obvious that there was a good passage of Skuas occurring, as one after another Arctic Skua passed, some very close.  One or two Great Skua also appeared, one of which was being mobbed by a much smaller Skua.  Some guys suggested it was Long-tailed, while others weren't sure.  A single very distant Sooty Shearwater passed, then a little later a much closer bird showed well.  A few Little Gull and a couple of Black Tern went by in addition.  The Arctic Skua count was already 70 odd, when we went to the shops to get some lunch. 

On our return, we were informed by Tim 'You know what you've missed don't you?'  I did.  A juvenile Long-tailed.  We continued to watch, and delight at the numbers of Arctics, plus a few Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter passing.  Some oddities were several Grey Seal showing close-in, a few fleeting Harbour Porpoise, a passing Puffin, plus many Snipe and a late Swift coming in-off.  Then, I spotted a very small-looking Skua moving through at mid-distance.  One look from Tim and the others, and they confirmed my suspicions.  An adult Long-tailed Skua!  Lifer!  It really did look tiny when it skimmed low over the surface. 

Later, I spotted a juvenile Little Gull passing south close-in.  Suddenly, Steve Exley, the guy who's in there every single day shouted 'Sabine's close-in!'.  As I searched, all I could see was a Fulmar and my Little Gull circling around and drifting south together.  I'm not sure who else got onto the bird, but I know that Tim, Neil Randon (also up from Surrey), and Matt all failed to get on it.  I know Steve is a mightily experienced chap, and he sees Little Gull everyday, but the bird I saw was DEFINITELY a Little Gull, and it's awfully odd how I didn't see the Sabine's and Steve didn't see the Little Gull.  Hmmmm.

Though we spent it all in the hide, a bonzer first full day!

11th

The wind was again howling this morning, and conditions seemed identical to yesterday.  Despite this, an early stint in the seawatching hide showed that there were a lot of Shearwaters moving, but hardly any Skuas (final count yesterday 162)!  Both Sooty and Manx Shearwater showed well (if you had a scope that is!).  More Red-throated Diver were passing, as well as a few sitting on the sea, and oddities included a Pintail, a single Velvet Scoter north, and a Shag.  Early on, another birder got onto a distant Petrel, which he proclaimed as a Storm-petrel.  I just managed to get onto it the once at it bobbed above the waves, but that's it!  I'm going to trust his identification. 

Although it was a bit windy still, it was at least looking less rain-threatening than yesterday, so we were determined to actually go out for a walk somewhere.  We decided to try Beacon Ponds.  We walked down Beacon Lane, and we found a few Willow Warbler and the fields were full of Meadow Pipit and Yellow Wagtail.  Before we'd left the cottage, we'd picked up a radio, which came in really useful here.  We heard over it that a Purple Sandpiper had just passed the seawatching hide, and I managed to spot it passing quite close-in not so long after.  After a bit of a struggle with the paths, we found our way to the hide overlooking Beacon Pools.  There were a good number of roosting waders on it, and it didn't take long for me to find a Little Stint on it's own, though it soon retreated back to the forest of legs that were Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit.  Also here was a single Snipe and a fly-past Common Sandpiper

On the way back I got another message, regarding a Red-necked Grebe past the hide.  It didn't take long for the immature (still with some face-streaking) to pass our position close-in.  Another had also passed the hide earlier, which is odd since we saw no Great Cresteds all week.  Also, whilst viewing out to sea, I noticed what I took to be a Skua coming straight at the land.  As it got close, it was obvious that it was a very chunking looking bird, with no obvious white anywhere, which had me a little stumped.  It made landfall further south, around the Bluebell CafĂ© area.

By now, the message that the Red-backed Shrike of Southfield Farm was still present, had been relayed, so that was our next destination.  We had no problem finding the site thanks to Tim Cowley's directions, but the Shrike was not immediately in view.  What was though was a rare-for-Spurn Kingfisher on the little pond here, as well as a Sedge Warbler.  While we were standing here, the alarm-calling hirundines alerted us to a bird of prey.  What appeared was a very large, very dark Falcon, which flew around over our heads several times for us to get a good view.  It had streaky, almost Hobby-like underparts, buffish undertail coverts, and dark-grey upperparts.  The first thought of course was Peregrine, but it was at the upper limit of female Peregrine in terms of size, and it was surely far too dark.  Presumably some sort of falconers hybrid?  No sign of jesses.  That (sort of) solves the mystery of what I had come in off the sea earlier.

We decided to take a chance at viewing from the other side of the triangle.  Just a short walk down the road, we bumped into two Tree Sparrow.  We'd heard they were in the area, but it was great to just stumble across them.  After a Siskin flew over, and we'd checked out the bird-less Canal Scrape, we got round there only to see Neil over the other side using his camera with purpose!  Back we went.  We had no trouble then, viewing the cracking juvenile Red-backed Shrike on posts.

 
After we'd found three of Neil's Whinchat in Clubley's Field (at one point there were two plus a Reed Bunting on the same unbellifer stem!), we decided to join him and take our first walk along the point. 
 
We questioned the need to go all the way to the end (especially as the weather looked threatening), so settled in just going halfway, to Chalk Bank Hide.  The walk was largely uneventful, save for a couple of Whimbrel on the mudflats, and a Wheatear.  I spotted a plant lifer of Prickly Saltwort (the little 'Christmas trees' surrounding it are Sea Sandwort).
 
 
On arrival at the hide hidden in the dunes, a rather incongruous Roe Deer showed well, though as it possessed a dark-face, I had trouble eliminating Muntjac at first.
 
A Greenshank and the only Turnstone of the trip was spotted from here, but nothing else new.
 
On the way back, the waders were showing ridiculously well.  Golden Plover were particularly numerous (here with Redshank).
 
 



On the way back, the weather worsened.  No doubt that's what caused the best bird of this walk, a Tree Pipit, to be grounded on the beach, again looking very out of place!

On our arrival back at the Warren, we thought there was nothing for it but another seawatch.  Virtually nothing was happening, though a particular flock of 250 Common Scoter passing was quite spectacular!

12th

Today had been earmarked by those in the know as a good day for visible migration.  It was clear as we got up that there were a lot of Meadow Pipit, hirundines, and Yellow Wagtail milling about the place, as their calls filled the air. 

We popped into the seawatching hide though as a routine, even though the wind was almost non-existent this morning.  There was little happening though, bar a few Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, and a Grey Heron in-off.   Steve identified a mid-distance Skua as another Long-tailed, though it didn't look particularly small to me.  There had been various reports of interesting waders and the like in previous days at the high-tide roost at Kilnsea Wetlands, so that was decided on our next destination. 

We walked all the way there via Southfield Farm and Beacon Lane.  At the farm we had yet another out-of-place bird, a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker perching on telegraph poles, and more views of the reliable Red-backed Shrike.  The lack of wind had brought the butterflies and dragonflies out today in force, particularly down the warm Beacon Lane.

On our arrival at the wetlands, I soon spotted a bird of prey chasing a pigeon over the fields.  It soon caught it and made off behind the hedges, always distant.  Pretty certain it was a juvenile Peregrine.  Also here was another Tree Sparrow, and the first Kestrel of the trip.  A look at the wetlands themselves revealed a large gathering of mostly Redshank, and Greenshank, with a single Black-tailed Godwit and a lost-looking Golden Plover amongst them.  I found a hoped-for Curlew Sandpiper almost immediately, but it soon took flight and went into the middle of the throng.   It took a while before I was able to find it again, but it duly took flight once more, and landed in the open, soon to be joined by 5 others!  Also three Little Stint together, with another single further along.  The viewpoint that we had found, allowed us to view the Beacon Ponds at the same time.  There were a similar number of waders on there, but of a different constituent.  Grey Plover and Dunlin were the most numerous, but it was nice to find 4 Ruff here, which soon flew over to the Wetlands and showed well.

To eat lunch, we went to the famous Sammy's Point, though there was little of interest here.  I did however find the plant tick of Grass-leaved Orache.


There was a juvenile Arctic Skua in the humber, chasing Gulls, and we went on to see probably the same bird close-in off Easington Lagoons (which also produced little in the way of birds).

Once back at base, a birder told us of a Pied Flycatcher around the Warren.  While Matt and Steve viewed the area where it was last seen, I went off to search the bushes.  I duly found it, and got decent views at the entrance to the heligoland trap.  Once I'd got the others over though, it just showed fleetingly, and then occurred a bit of a cat-and-mouse as it flew about the place, never perching in the open. 

We then heard of a Redstart down Beacon Lane, so thought it would be worth checking it out.  Neil was already there.  As I approached him, a bird flew over the path in front and out of view.  Neil had already seen the bird, and it sounded as though the bird I had was it.  Nevertheless, we continued to check the trees surrounding a house and garden (being careful not to look through the lit windows!).   Soon, Matt had a bird flicking about just out of view, and then Steve spotted a bird distantly on the overhead wires.  It was our very own Pied Flycatcher!  A lifer for all those present bar me, it went on to be just as frustratingly elusive as the bird earlier, as it them moved from bush to bush down the path, though most got acceptable views.

We decided once again on a bit of a seawatch to take us to tea time.  More of the same were passing, till a quite a lumbering beast with a pale belly appeared, going north.  A nice immature Pomarine Skua!  Shortly after, a group of three Skua went back the other way, which I think were also Poms, though they were more distant.  One of them looked very much like the bird we'd had before.

A cracker of a day!

13th

The wind had picked up once again for our last morning, so we took the seawatching option one last time.  Nothing much had passed, by the time we realised that there was a large number of birds passing over again, so we went and watched from outside.

The constant presence of Meadow Pipit and all three hirundines overhead was spectacular, with every scan into the distance revealing more and more birds incoming.  There were also a good number coming in-off the sea in addition (as well as a Wheatear, which rested for ages on a post).  I think the final count of Mipits was in the region of 3000!  Amongst this lot were a few Grey Wagtail, some Siskin, a flock of Tree Sparrow (which kept going back and forth, as if they couldn't make they're mind up), and a Corn Bunting, which called above our heads, but couldn't be found. 

I then spotted a Little Egret passing south out to sea.  The others suggested I check it closer, as a Little Egret out to sea is unusual.  Although the bird certainly had a dark bill, it also had dark feet, and looked large.  It was always fairly distant sadly, but I'm quite happy it was a Great White Egret.

Also occurring amongst all this mayhem, was a Marsh Harrier over the point, alerted to us over the radio, and a Lapland Bunting was found out on Clubley's Field, but could not be found subsequently.  Our walk along this short-grass field, revealed just how many birds had been grounded, in addition to passing straight over.  In fact, every field we came to today was carpeted with Meadow Pipit!

On our way out we checked Sammy's Point again.  No Redstart as had been reported, but a Sparrowhawk chased the massed Mipits.  Also a Buzzard was a trip tick.

We then found a hide in the middle of nowhere near Sunk Island to eat our lunch, as we hunted Corn Buntings.  None of those were found, but the raptors were good in this area with three Kestrel and a distant Marsh Harrier.

We tried once more for the Crossbill at Broomhead, but they were just not playing ball, and we saw even less of the Common Crossbill this time too.  Just not to be.

All in all though, an absolutely cracking trip.  Thanks to all involved, but particularly the boys Matt and Steve, who had to put up with much, not least the accommodation, which was looking decidedly used after their busy migration festival weekend!  The arrangement at Portland Obs is miles better.  Thanks to Tim Cowley too for all his help.

Back to Portland soon, and it sounds like it's all going off down there.  Can't wait to get back!

EDIT:  Forgot I managed to get this footage of an Arcitc Skua chasing a Tern from the seawatching hide.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Great Spot, Shanks for the Memories

I'm currently 'in transit' in Surrey.  It felt great getting back out onto my old patch at Tice's Meadow, Badshot Lea, near Farnborough this morning for one day only, as there was a Surrey Bird Club walk there.  Not only was the weather kind, but quality birds showed up and in great company as always there.

For those who don't know the site, it's an old gravel quarry that's in the process of being converted to a nature reserve.  I had some wonderful times here in the spring, when the highest water levels ever recorded produced previously only dreamt of species.

Even in the 3 months since I last visited, it's changed massively, with the water level now much lower, revealing the gravel islands.  In addition, the clearly productive growing season for the plants has turned the bushes area almost into a wood!

The workings.


The wintering ducks were already starting to appear with 23 Teal, 7 Gadwall, 2 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler, 20 Tufted Duck, and 3 Pochard.  I have volunteered myself to write the Tice's first ever annual bird report come the end of the year, and I am very aware that a bird report must have photos in it!  So, I did my best today to at least get record shots of stuff (the waterbirds at Tice's are usually pretty distant!).  The best I could achieve of a Teal.


And an eclipse male Shoveler.

 
When we arrived, there were a couple of Canada Goose present (along with a pair of escaped Chinese Goose!).  I went on a wander down the end of the site, only to have a seemingly never-ending procession of skeins of Canadas coming in from the east.  My total got up to 375, but the latest news is that there are currently 842 present - a site record!  Surprisingly accompanying the Geese was a single Pintail which is a good record for the date, and less surprisingly a single Barnacle Goose.
 
A Kingfisher put on a bit of a show, as it sat on the fences round the Bike Pool, and one point getting very close to a Grey Heron.  Nice to see together the 'little and large' of the fishermen!  A bit disappointing though that the Heron wasn't looking this way, as I could have got a shot that made it look like the little guy was sitting on the Heron's bill!

 
Also in and over the workings were 4 Snipe, a Hobby, 100 House Martin, 30 Sand Martin, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, and 3 Sparrowhawk.  In terms of breeding evidence, there was two juvenile Common Tern present, plus a pair of Egyptian Goose with two well-grown young, which is a first breeding record for the site, as well as these late-breeding Little Grebe.

 
While we were standing on the mound, we heard some Tree Pipit overhead.  I thought there were two birds, but we only saw one drop down behind the reedbed out of sight.  Only the third site record (and second on-the-deck)!  Later, they're thin calls were heard again, and two birds appeared together overhead, before dropping down onto the fence in front!

 
After hopping down onto the path for a short while, they were flushed by a dog-walker, and all three birds flew off together to the far side of the meadow, where a Whinchat was present also.

A short while later, Kev Duncan, the Tice's recorder and SBC field meetings organiser, alerted us to a pair of wader that had just dropped in.  The light was disadvantageous, but they appeared to have the leggy and slim jizz of Spotted Redshank.  A stroll to the far end of the path with the light more behind us, confirmed our suspicions.  The second site record!  They were a winter-plumaged adult and a juvenile, but this was the best shot I managed as they were at the far side of the workings.


 
 
While we were watching these, a Yellow Wagtail flew over and perched in a tree, and a Clouded Yellow showed.  You genuinely didn't know which way to look!  Patch watching at it's best!
 
Tice's is always worth a visit if you're in the area.
 
Sorry to go on about it, but Spurn tomorrow!!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A bird that Orto be in Africa

5th

This was the first of my three days working in Bridport, which was a bit of a pain, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to check Ferrybridge every morning, seeing as there was a Semipalmated Sandpiper about, and the site's usual visitors (Debby and Pete) are away.

Frustratingly however, the high tide was coinciding with the time I'd be passing in the morning, so stopping there would be pointless.  On the up side, whilst walking around Bridport, I saw and heard birds that I'd been missing on Portland.  Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, and Treecreeper to be precise.

When I finally finished work, as the tide was now low, I thought there might be some mileage in checking Ferrybridge anyway on my way home, despite the usual holidaymaker flushers.

There were the usual pair of Bar-tailed Godwit present, plus a couple of Little Stint, though only one showed well.


 

6th

I wasn't planning on any birding this afternoon, as I was absolutely knackered, but then I heard the Ortolan had been seen again down the Bill.  No sign of it where it had last been seen at the Coastwatch (drinking from the pond!), so I went on a wander bout the Bill in the hope of bumping into it.  No luck, but it was great to see so many Whinchat about.  I counted 18.

Back at the Obs, just standing on the patio produced 5 Spotted Flycatcher. There had clearly been a substantial fall overnight, but such a shame I couldn't have been here earlier.  It was nice to meet Jonathan Scragg (Vice-chairman of the New Generation Birders group no less!) here, and we had a look through the moth traps.  Nothing of much note, except nice Blood-vein.

 
And a shiny as ever, Burnished Brass (with Flounced Rustic).

 
7th
 
Today was supposed to be a day of no birding, as I worked in Bridport in the morning, then drove back to Aldershot in preparation for my trip to Spurn.
 
However, with various 'Ortolan showing well' messages appearing, I thought I better give it another go down the Bill.
 
On arrival at the small crowd, it was feeding unseen in a stubble field, and it apparently hadn't shown for a while.  After some time of waiting, some individuals put in upon themselves to flush it.  Normally I wouldn't condone this, but to be honest I needed to get away, and it was a lifer!
 
It didn't take long for it to take flight, and after initially flying directly away, it then went right over my head calling quietly.  It came down in the strips below the Higher light, and a short vigil here produced it landing on a distant fence, and my first proper view of an Ortolan Bunting!  It then dropped down onto the path behind, and we eventually got good prolonged views as it fed here.  After a bit of heavy-footedness, it flew again, and went back to it's previous haunt.  Fantastic views were then enjoyed, as it sat on a fence close to the path.  Magic!
 
 
I'm now back in Aldershot, and looking forward to a visit to my old patch tomorrow, then off to Spurn on Monday!  Bring it on!


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Icky Dippy Double

2nd:

All I managed today was a short walk round Blacknor Point and Bower's Quarry in the afternoon.  No birds of note, but the highlights were the Portland tick of Autumn Gentian in profusion at Bower's.

 
And this striking gall on some Red Valerian, caused by the rare gall-bug Trioza centranthi.

 
 
3rd:
 
In the morning I thought I'd do something different to my usual routine, particularly seeing as migrants appeared to be scarce at the honey-pot sites.  I headed for Penn Castle Woods and Penn's Weare.
 
The woods were quiet as expected, though the ruins of St Andrew's church were pretty well scattered with Lizards.  Since I've been on Portland, I hadn't really expected to see the rare (though introduced) Wall Lizard, so have been assuming that all the ones I've got glimpses of are Common.   I heard plenty scurry away here at the ruins, but only managed to get the one decent view, and that was of one of the plain harder-to-identify individuals.  I'm happy though that it was a Wall Lizard.  I'll attempt to get a photo another time.
 
A lifer I did manage to photo though was the scarce Beech-green Carpet, which is a speciality of this area of Portland.  I flushed this individual from Ivy on my way down the steps from the woods.
 
 
Penn's Weare is really promising looking area of scrub and scattered boulders, and is supposed to be internationally recognised as a site for Lichens.  I haven't quite ventured into that world yet!
 
 
This is also a good place for higher plants, and Golden-rod was looking good in full flower.
 
 
I didn't see a great deal of birds, though I was greatly entertained by a Sparrowhawk continually teasing some Magpie.  I know we shouldn't really impart human characteristics on animals, but it really did look like it was having fun, dive bombing and chasing the Magpies, often with talons outstretched, as well as scaring the local Feral Pigeon population to death.  Any suggestion that he was actually hunting the Magpies was put to bed, when it went for a perched Magpie, put swerved away at the last second!
 
Before I had gone here, I thought there was a chance it might hold Adonis Blue, though wasn't at all sure.  It didn't take long to finally find my first males here though.  There weren't many, but they really were brighter than the sky.
 
 
Afterwards, I casually went down the Obs to look at the moths.  The traps were fuller than ever, and did include yet another local specialty, the Beautiful Gothic.
 
 
Also a lifer was the migrant Pearly Underwing, though I didn't get a photo.
 
After lunch, I rushed down the Obs once more, as an Icterine Warbler had been trapped.  I only saw a message about it 5 mins after it had been sent, so I thought I had a chance of seeing it before it was released.  Well, if I'd realised it had actually been ringed 20 minutes before, I wouldn't have been in such a hurry!  I had a hopeful look about the release site, but nothing.  It turned out that Martin had sent me a text about it, but I'd been having my lunch at the time so had ignored it!  A bit frustrating, as I missed the Eight Kings bird.
 
Note to self, don't let food get in the way of birds, ever!
 
4th
 
Not a lot today.  I went down the Obs after work to look at the moths, though the one lifer that had been caught overnight, a Gem, had been released accidentally by photographers just before I'd arrived!  Nonetheless, a Canary-shouldered Thorn is always a stunner.
 
 
As are Flame Carpet (this was actually trapped yesterday night).
 
 
 
I was hoping to bump into Jono Forgham (see his blog here http://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.co.uk/ ) who was down from Hertfordshire, and I'd heard he may be seawatching, so I headed down the Bill.  No sign of Jono, though a short session produced an Arctic Skua and a single Balearic Shearwater, both east.
 
Also heading east was this impressive Tall Ship.
 

 

 
After finally finding Jono, I headed home via the Suckthumb Quarry area.  This little trip just proved to me that migrants really are thin on the ground at the moment, as nothing of note was seen.
 
I hope the migrant situation improves here, though this time next week I'll be at Spurn!  You may wonder why I'm going there when I have a Bird Obs etc on my doorstep.  Well, I planned and booked it all before I had finalised my move here, so it seemed like the best idea at the time.  Actually, if the early forecast is anything to go by, it could prove to be an inspired decision (easterlies!!!).  I hope so anyway, cause the price of £12 a night is just extortionate! ;-)