Archive for August 2011

Wednesday 31st August – Durlston and plus ‘what herpetologists think of us’   Leave a comment

Ringing again at the garden at Durlston.

88 new birds ringed including a Reed warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Garden Warblers and 3 Tree Pipits. Blackcaps are now much the commonest Sylvia and Chiffchaffs outnumbered Willows by more than three to one. There was a strong eastward passage of Swallows and 20+ Tree Pipits over.

I didn’t take any photos this morning so instead I thought I’d share this with you.


Tyrannosaurus rex - is this more closely related to.......


..... this (Grey-hooded Parrotbill Sichuan 2007) .....


..... than this ? (Komodo Dragon - Komodo, Indonesia 2006)


PS now have a working digital TV system thanks to a kind and helpful guy from Wimbourne Aerials.



Posted August 31, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 30th August – frustration in Upton, plus a visit to Mordon Bog   Leave a comment

Today there was hardly a breath of wind, cloud had formed during the night which should have grounded migrants. An ideal day for ringing. The problem was that I needed to get my TVs upgraded to satellite and install a digital recorder to replace the old fashioned VCR.

The man at Curry / PC World made it sound so simple. Buy the three boxes needed from them, make an appointment for it all to be fitted and Bobs your uncle.

  • They agreed come this Tuesday to install it but wouldn’t say when, in spite of requesting an afternoon visit. I had to phone a premium number on Monday evening to find out. I finally got an automated answer at 2100; they were coming sometime between 0800 and midday. I then had to cancel my plans for ringing.
  • When I opened one of the boxes it was empty, they had given me the box for the item on display (I know I should have realised it was lighter but I carried the three boxes in a stack) A trip to the store had to made as soon as they opened, with the grandchildren holding the fort here should the installers arrive in the interim.
  • When they did arrive they told me their said they only had to install two boxes, in spite of what my receipt said.
  • Then they told me they couldn’t go in the attic as it didn’t have a solid floor, couldn’t go on the roof and so couldn’t take a cable from one side of the (terraced) house to the other and couldn’t go up a ladder more than 30ft as it contravened H&S rules (in addition they said that 9 out of 10 jobs they go to have to be cancelled because the store don’t give them the correct information in advance).
  • I then had to drive to the store again to get a refund.

In case you need reminding, the store that gives this ‘high level’ of service is called Currys / PC World.

Whinge over.

So it was late morning by the time I got out. I decided to go to Sherford Bridge / Mordon Bog, an excellent area of woodland, heath and lakes 15 minutes drive west of here. Local birder Aidan Brown has an excellent series of photographs of the wildlife this area on his blog

Oaks along the River Sherford


Spotted Flycatcher


Commercial forestry and restored heathland.


Stonechats are declining in Dorset so it was pleasing to see this late brood.


Juvenile Stonechat

When I first visited this area in the early 80s Decoy Cottage was intact. It is said that the ghost of its last reclusive inhabitant still walks the forest. Indeed Trevor Squire and I whilst using an image intensifier as part of our Nightjar research saw an all white figure jogging near to there at 0200 one night..that path (from where the above photo) was taken was renamed the ‘ghost track’.

Ruins of Decoy Cottage, a good area for birding.


Ravens on the electricity pylon

Mordon Park Lake

Posted August 30, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 29th August – Portland Bill   Leave a comment

Portland Bill is probably my favourite place for birding. Sticking some seven miles out into the Channel, it is an excellent place for rare vagrants, seeing a wide range of common migrants and seawatching i.e. observing passing migrant seabirds. In addition the Bird Observatory forms a focal point where birders gather to exchange news and gossip, observe birds in the hand or browse the substantial natural history bookshop. They have an excellent website at:

Portland Bill lighthouse - open to the public but not on Bank Holiday Monday!


The Old Lower Light seen from the Common


Portland Bird Observatory

After multiple early starts in recent days, today was more of a family outing than a serious birding trip.

Portland Bill. The view north towards the Admiralty enclosure

The girls were having a great time climbing on the rocks. By the time Margaret and I had debated whether to allow them to climb Pulpit Rock they were standing on the top.

Pulpit Rock


Its a long drop on the seaward side!


There were only a few migrants about, but Wheatears and Swallows showed well


Swallows were outnumbered by Sand Martins today

Whilst waiting for an invisible Wryneck at the Obs Quarry this Sparrowhawk shot in and caught prey.
On the way back we stopped at the famous viewpoint over Fortuneswell and Portland Harbour, where several hang-gliders hung in the wind.

The moment of truth for this hang glider


In June 2002 Margaret sailed her yacht into Portland Harbour and made her first landfall in the UK at Wyke Regis. Interestingly in the same month 654 years earlier the Black Death entered England at exactly the same place!


Posted August 29, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Sunday 28th August – Durlston and Upton   Leave a comment

It was a rather breezy ringing session at Durlston this morning and there weren’t too many migrants about. Shaun took charge of a group at the so-called ‘goat plots’, whilst Terry and I worked the site near the visitor centre. Both teams ringed 32 birds, highlights being another Grasshopper Warbler, 3 Tree Pipits and a female Sparrowhawk. Blackcaps are replacing Whitethroats as the commonest Sylvia but Chiffchaffs have yet to replace Willows.

The highly abraded tail of an adult Grasshopper Warbler, the result of over a year of skulking in bushes.


The highly abraded wings of a Meadow Brown that has been on the wing all summer.

Janis and Andy had hired a van to collect a load of stuff that had been stored at the home they once shared in Plymouth (prior to their sailing adventure). Margaret and I helped them unload and later they all came round for Janis’ birthday dinner.

Happy birthday Janis! Janis and Andy at the new house in Upton.


Kara at her new home, 'my stuff must be somewhere in here'!

Posted August 28, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 27th August – Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

Once again we fulfilled our Aquatic Warbler survey commitments by having three ringing session at the study site in a week.

No Aquatics of course, I was in Derby last Saturday on the date of that momentous occasion but negative data is just as useful. I intend to post something on Aquatic Warblers in the near future.

Not so many birds today, but an interesting mix, 2 Grasshoppers, 1 Cettis and another Kingfisher. Anyone visiting the Bay and seeing a Kingfisher on a regular basis would presume it was the same individual but as we have ringed 13 during July and August, with only limited retrapping, shows that there is a consistent migration of birds through the site.

The brilliant blue colour of a Kingfisher is caused by optical refraction, not blue pigmentation.


We try to avoid a target driven culture but this was our 500th Sedge Warbler of the autumn, a new record.


Whinchats have declined significantly as a breeding bird and are seldom ringed at Lytchett.The characteristic tail pattern


The characteristic tail pattern


Cettis Warbler is the only European representative of the mainly Asian 'bush warblers'


Cetti's have only ten tail feathers unlike most passerines that have twelve.

Posted August 27, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Friday 26th August – Durlston again   Leave a comment

With a forecast of heavy showers we were unsure if we would get away with ringing at Durlston this morning. We put up the nets early and were catching Blackcaps before first light. After about 20 birds it started to rain and the nets were closed. Once it had eased off we continued to catch steadily but mainly Sylvias; Phyloscs were conspicuous by their absence but once the sun came out so did the Willow / Chiffs, all in one flock! We continued to ring until midday but as I was taking down the heavens opened. I spent the afternoon drying out clothes and ringing kit.

Best birds a Sparrowhawk, juvenile Goldcrest, 7 Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 1 Tree Pipit. Total new birds 110.

Sparrowhawks are unusual in that you have to sex them before you can ring them, as males and females taken different ring sizes. The brown tipped mantle and covert feathers and the pale yellow eye identify it as a first year.

Juvenile Goldcrest, our smallest bird (along with Firecrest), this individual weighed just 5.5 grams. The single orange feather coming through on the crown is enough to show that it is a male.


The downpour that caught me as I was packing away moved northwards, here seen from the Wareham by-pass.

Posted August 26, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Thursday 25th August – Family news   1 comment

Janis, Amber and Kara have been living with us since I retired in June. Their plan was to return to the catamaran Ladycat, currently moored in Gran Canaria in September, but now Janis has found a job in Poole and intends to stay here.

Ladycat - photographed in the Mar Menor, eastern Spain June 2010

Although it has been great having the family here, having five in our little house has become a bit crowded, so it’s good news that they have found a house to rent, but the best news of all is that its only just a few yards up the road, so as Kara put it, ‘we can still come round and watch telly everyday!’
Last night we were visited by the girls friend from Southampton, Francesca and her father Adrian. With term time only a week away the girls need to be registered for school ASAP, After three years of home schooling that is going to be a bit of a shock.

Janis and Adrian


Amber, Francesca and Kara with a haul of blackberries (or as I consider it stealing migrant Sylvia food)

Further yachting news: Margaret’s younger daughter Anita lives in St Francis Bay, South Africa. Her husband John is involved in the building of luxury yacht with all mod cons.
if you are in the market for a state of the art catamaran !

Posted August 26, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Wednesday 25th August.   Leave a comment

The heavy rain forecast for this morning passed during the night but ringing had been cancelled and it was too late to set up now.

It was mid morning before I got out for a spot of raptor watching at Rockley Point. This caravan site commands a superb view over Wareham Channel and is an excellent place to scan for raptors, especially in the morning when the sun is behind you. Views however are distant. I saw a single Osprey perched in a dead eating a fish over at Arne and had great views of a female type Marsh Harrier quartering Otter Island in Lytchett Bay (which is also visible from the caravan park) as well as at least ten Buzzards.

Spotted Redshank have been absent from Lytchett Bay this autumn so I was glad to find three, feeding with a couple of Greenshank in the Bay. Out in Wareham Channel there was an impressive gathering of over 100 feeding Cormorants.

Wareham Channel from Rockley Sands

Lytchett Bay from Rockley Sands









On the subject of Ospreys, recent genetic research has suggested that there may be as many as five species, although I don’t know of any world check list that has wholly implemented this.

If split they would be:  ‘Eurasian’ Osprey Pandion haliatus, ‘American’ Osprey P (haliatus) carolinensis, ‘Caribbean’ Osprey P (haliatus) ridgwayi, ‘Wallacean’ Osprey P (haliatus) melvillensis and ‘Eastern’ or ‘Australian’ Osprey P (haliatus) cristatus.

Well I have seen all five forms, but I doubt if I will be amending my life list in the near future.

Worth a tick .. probably not ! Although distant the snowy white crown and dark breast band of 'Wallacean' Osprey is visible. It is also smaller than the Eurasian and American forms. West Papua July 2011

Posted August 25, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th August.   Leave a comment

Tuesday morning was very wet and I took the opportunity to catch up with a lot of paperwork. In particular I made a start on my West Papua write up, something that has been put on the back burner with all the ringing and blogging that I do these days. I made sure my pre New Guinea fitness regime wasn’t wholly abandoned with a trip to the gym.

In the evening Margaret and I were invited round to our young friend Christine’s house where she and her friend Malcolm treated us to a meal. Malcolm is the author of numerous specialised books on old aircraft and has a very busy life travelling between international aeronautical and publishing conventions.

Christine Arnold


Kevin ringing a Kingfisher

During the post juvenile moult the greenish greater coverts of this Blue Tit were replaced by blue feathers, the greenish primary coverts are not moulted until next summer.

Its not all doom and gloom, some species such as the Little Egret are much commoner than thirty years ago……

…as this photo proves.

Posted August 25, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 22nd August – Durlston.   Leave a comment

Back to ringing after the weekend away. Kara asked to join me and didn’t complain at all when I told her it was a 0440 start. 

She did however feel just how cold it can be after a clear night in August.

A cold Kara

Things started quietly, but soon migration got going, with a  good passage of Tree Pipits (3 trapped, c30 overhead), hundreds of hirundines (14 Swallows and 14 Sand Martins trapped), 8 Yellow Wagtails and 4 Swifts over. Other ringed birds included a Chiffchaff, 14 Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 4 Garden, 1 Sedge, 2 Grasshopper and many Willow Warblers and to Paul’s delight – a Redstart. 

A total of 92 new birds were ringed.


The air soon filled with hirundines.


More Sand Martins perched on the net than went in it.

Pale tips to the tertials, upper tail coverts, wing coverts and mantle identify this Sand Martin as a first year.


First year Swallows lack the bright colours and long tail of the adults and often show a pale forehead.


Posted August 22, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized