Archive for July 2011

Saturday 30th July – Tosca   Leave a comment

Now for something completly different! This afternoon for the first time in my life  went to an opera.

Margaret and I joined five friends for a posh picnic and a matinée performance of Puccini’s Tosca at Bryanston School, Blandford.

Initially I was a bit sceptical and even dozed a little in the first act, but in the second and third act I got really involved and have to admit that I really enjoyed it.

Next time I will have to go an opera where I actually know some of the music like Carmen or Nessun Dorma.

Back to bird stuff tomorrow!

Posted July 30, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Friday 29th July – Durlston Country Park   Leave a comment

Stour Ringing Group are very fortunate to obtain ringing permission at Durlston Country Park this year, one of Dorset’s prime migration hotspots.

We have identified a number of areas to ring in, the easiest being not far from the information centre.


Today we ringed 75 birds in 3.5 hours using only four nets, mainly migrant warblers. The incredible thing is that still only July, this year there does seem to have been a particularly good breeding season. Highlights included 2 Garden Warblers and a early Blackcap.

Garden Warbler - always a pleasure to handle, although plain they have a certain character. Unlike most Sylvia warblers the adults moult in the winter, so all fresh plumaged birds must be first years.


Willow Warbler - the commonest migrant at this time of year.


Common Whitethroat - dark eye, buff outer tail feathers and gape flanges indicate a young bird.


Common Whitethroat tail - changes in food availability in the nest means that the quality of feather production varies from day to day and produces tail bars. Symetrical tail bars are diagnostic of a juvenile as all tail fethers grow at the same time. An adult would produce asymetrical tail bars

Posted July 29, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Wednesday 27th July   Leave a comment


Since the mid 70’s memebers of Stour Ringing Group have been ringing birds at Lytchett Bay, research that sheds light on migration routes, longevity, cause of death and population dynamics. We usually at the end of the breeding season and continue, weather and manpower permitting until the end of the year.

Today was my first ‘autumn’ ringing although ther have been four other sessions in July whilst I was away. We mainly ring in the reed beds in July and August, and concentrate on scrubby / wooded areas once the Acrocephalus warblers have departed.

Today we trapped 67 new birds plus a number of retraps, including 6 species of warbler.

Reed Warbler is our commonest bird at this time of year. As the adults have a full moult in Africa, adults are in worn plumage whilst juveniles are fresh.

Unlike Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers do not breed at Lytchett. Their appearance in late July indicates that autumn migration is underway.

The best time to catch Grasshopper Warblers is late July / early August..... and very early in the morning.

Note the long undertail coverts typical of the genus Locustella.

Cettis Warblers are scarce but regular at Lytchett


Posted July 27, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 26th July   Leave a comment

Ringing in the garden all morning. 12 birds captured including 2 Coal Tits.

Coal Tit

Posted July 27, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 25th July   Leave a comment

Yesterday my associate on the West Papua trip, Daragh Croxson found a Stilt Sandpiper at Lodmoor. This is only the second record of the North American wader for Dorset and was the fourth I have seen in the UK. It was in adult summer plumage and may well have involved a bird that crossed the Atlantic in a previous autumn as a juvenile and has since migrated north and south between Africa and Eurasia.

See for a photo by Martin Cade.

Amber claimed to see a Cattle Egret but by the time I got to the spot near the tern colony only Little Egrets were pressent. I don’t know if she was shown this by someone else, was told it was there and then found a Little Egret or just started a rumour!

Lodmoor - view from the hump


Common Tern


Posted July 27, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Sunday 24th July – Tyneham and Flowers Barrow   1 comment


Really jet lagged after the flight home, I didn’t sleep well so a morning outing followed by an afternoon kip was in order.

We took the grandchildren to Tyneham so they could see the 1940s classroom and the old cottages, unoccupied since the inhabitants were evicted in 1943.

As Amber is keen on archeology we hiked up the 170m high Flowers Barrow, to see the Iron Age hill fort. I must be fitter after the New Guinea trip as I made it up from sea level without stopping.

The girls had a ‘who could roll down the hill fastest’ competion which resulted in the sole falling off Kara’s boots and her having to walk barefoot to the car.

Tyneham School


Tyneham Church


View from Flowers Barrow looking east.

The rolling competition


Posted July 27, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

West Papua – a few photos   Leave a comment

Landing at Numfor

Lake Habbema at dusk

Descending into the Baliem Valley

Forest camp site

The kitchen

Mud and tree roots - a typical Papuan trail

Batanta dawn

Wilson's BoP - Carlsberg don't do birds - but if they did.........

Pre-dawn boat trip to Salawati

Western Crowned Pigeon

Happy locals

Batanta loo !

Everything we owned got damp

The Arfak mountains

We called this 'Arfak flat'

Vogelkop Bowerbirds bower - this is not a nest its a display ground - note the ornaments

Mountain Owlet-nightjar

Posted July 25, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

June 24th to July 23rd: West Papua – ‘not for sissies’   Leave a comment

West Papua – ‘not for sissies’ – that was the title of the month long tour
according to one of the Swedish participants!
Our international group, 2 Germans, 2 Swedes, a Belgian, a Yank and two Brits
(amazingly the other brit was fellow Dorset birder Daragh Croxson) met in Jakarta for the flight to West Papua, the western Indonesian half of New Guinea.
To say that this month long trip was demanding would be quite an understatement, although road building has made it easier than on the first trips in the 90s, it still requires slogging up mountains along steep and muddy trails, covered in fallen trees, tree roots, lianas, creepers and other trip hazards. Between all of these lie pools of mud, some ankle deep, some knee deep and each hand hold must be checked to ensure its not covered with spines or is rotten before you commit your weight to it.
The weather could be described as warm and wet on the offshore islands, hot and wet in the lowland forest, cool and wet in the Arfak mountains and cold and wet at Lake Habbena in the Snow Mountains.
The accommodation was challenging too, a few nights in hotels but mainly
sleeping on the floor of huts, camping or just sleeping under a tarpaulin in the forest on a bed of branches. One night I awoke to find my sleeping bag and clothes soaked, on another Daragh’s stick bed collapsed. It was a tour where a shower or even a clean, dry pair of socks was a luxury.
Why did I put myself through so much hassle and was it all worth it?  …. the
answer undoubtedly is YES. It was a great adventure, really good fun and we had a great insight into the lives of a people who were still living in the stone age as recently as 1939. But what of the birds? well birding was very difficult,
many birds refused to show, or showed briefly, at times I thought we were on a
birdglimpsing rather than a birdwatching trip, but with perseverance most
species gave reasonable views.
To say that I saw or heard 315 species and 80 odd lifers would be factual but would not tell the whole story, many of the birds were just fantastic and must be considered some of the best in the world.

Some of our rewards included:

Squadrons of Biak Red Lorys flying across the sky like the Red Arrows on the way to an airshow

Three species of Paradise Kingfisher, the best Numfor PK, only seen by one group before, a vision of cobalt blue and white, with a bright red bill and a long spatulate tail

The tiny Biak Scops Owl caught in the spotlight beam

Biak Monach seen less than 10 times by birders

A huge prehistoric looking juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo chasing after its much smaller Torresian Crow foster parents.

The turkey sized but very shy Western Crowned and Victoria Crowned Pigeons, the latter is hardly ever seen by groups

We  were the first group to see the mega skulking Greater Ground Robin

The huge Grass Owl that exploded from the marsh at our feet near Lake Habbena.

But the biggest reward were the BoPs (where P = paradise) From displaying Lesser and Red BoPs on the offshore islands to the huge Black Sicklebill in the Arfak Mountains we saw 18 species. Orange and black McGregor’s BoP in the alpine scenery of the Snow Mountains, the wonderful tails of the two Astrapias, the scarlet and red of the King BoP displaying in a vine tangle, the flash of gold as the MagBoP (Magnificent BoP) descended on its display area, the pole dancing Twelve-wired BoP are all imprinted on my mind for ever’

 However two species deserve special comment:

The Western Parotia male that turned itself into a spinning top and teetered around the dance area like a ballerina whilst three females sat on a branch above watching the show. We wondered if they were going to hold up score cards!

 And the Wilson’s BoP. This bird required an 0330 departure for a two hour hike up a steep, mud covered hill in torrential rain. I soon found that I needed four hands, one for the torch, one for a stick, a free hand to hold branches to pull myself up and one for the brolly. Something had to go – and it was the brolly. Soaking wet we arrived at a makeshift hide and once it was light we were entertained for two hours by what must be the best bird in the world, a vision of electric blue bald skin on the crown, yellow scapulars, bright red mantle and a green shield on the breast, but to top it all, two of the upper tail coverts are formed into helices, black in most lights but flashing bright silver when seen head on!

I am so, so glad I did this trip but equally I’m so, so glad its over and I’m back home.

I hope to post a few photos tomorrow.

Posted July 24, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized