Archive for September 2011

Wednesday 7th September – School run and Lytchett Bay   1 comment

Life keeps bringing new experiences. For the first time in my life (and at the age of 60) I did the school run. I don’t intend to make this a daily event, but as the grandchildren were going to proper school for the first time in three years and were unfamiliar with the bus routes, I thought I’d do the honorable thing and take them.

Kara had never tied a tie before. Margaret demonstrated how yesterday and Kara later told me ‘I expected her to tie it in a granny knot, after all she is the granny’

Unfortunately the girls have to go to different schools, Kara to Sandford and Amber to Wareham ..

Later I went to Lytchett Bay for a couple of hours, still too windy for ringing, but a wander around turned up a Great Crested Grebe, three Common Sandpipers by the sluice, a Green Sandpiper and 10 Little Egrets on the far fields, a scattering of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins, a Yellow Wagtail over, several Buzzards and an Osprey.

As the number of breeding Ospreys in the UK grows, the number that stop off in Poole Harbour in the autumn on route to West Africa increases, with up to 5 present in the harbour on some occasions.

Posted September 7, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 5th August – Portland   Leave a comment

With force six winds ringing was out of the question and searching for migrants was going to be hard work. The best option seemed to be seawatching at Portland, something I haven’t done since the spring. On arrival I found the wind was more  westerly than south-westerly and only a few distant birds could be seen.

Even from the north side of the observatory the 'white horses' can be seen on the sea.

A single Bonxie (Great Skua) Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters were seen along with 20+ Manx Shearwaters. Photographing seabirds at this distance and this light would be impossible so I have included a few taken elsewhere / from the internet

The kleptoparasitic Great Skua is more often known by its vernacular Shetland name of Bonxie. Lyme Bay September 2007


Sooty Shearwaters breed exclusively in the subantarctic, many 'winter' off the Grand Banks of Labrador and can be seen in the UK as they return in our autumn to the southern hemisphere. Photographed off West Bay September 2009


Balearic Shearwaters are closely related to Manx but are duskier below and slightly larger. Breeding in the islands of the same name, they are critically endangered due to predation by introduced mammals, but can often be seen post breeding in the Channel. Photo from the Internet.


Opposite the observatory are the Crown Fields, managed as a bird friendly habitat, larks, Linnets, finches Wheatears and wagtails are attracted to the area.


At this time of year migrant Pied Wagtails will be joined by White Wagtails from Iceland and Scandinavia. Adults are easy enough to ID but first years can be tricky (at least to my eyes). Pale flanks may indicate a White Wagtail but the black rump showing between the inner two tertials point towards a Pied.


For comparison: an adult White Wagtail photographed in Oman in November 2007


Posted September 6, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Sunday 4th September – Great Dorset Steam Fair   1 comment

Took the day off from ringing or birding and took the family to the Dorset Steam Fair at Tarrant Hinton. Andy and Janis wandered around on their own and we took the kids with us.

Amber, Kara and Margaret with vintage bus

The steam and smoke from the steam engines against an angry sky


I can remember steam rollers fixing the roads when I was a kid


but it was my father's generation who witnessed the travelling threshing machines going from village to village.


There must be hundreds of working steam engines at the fair...


...and beautiful old caravans with exquisite interiors


Many model enthusiast exibit at the Steam Fair, being boat children, the girls made a bee-line for this model yacht


The girls, of course, wanted to get to the traditional fun fair


Amber on the bucking bronco


Amber off the bucking bronco


Kara on the bucking bronco


Kara off the bucking bronco


The girls loved the scary rides


Rather them than me......


...particularly when it get up to speed.....


.... and you end up upside down.


I was physically forced onto a stage by the girls and made to do a humiliating dance


..but at least I got a hug from the pretty dancer.

Posted September 4, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 3rd September – Durlston   Leave a comment

Ringing at Durlston was curtailed by an increasing wind. We had packed in by 0900 with 26 birds ringed. Highlight was undoubtedly a first year female Sparrowhawk. The female is considerably larger than a male, the largest male has a wing length some 10mm shorter than the smallest female and as I indicated in a previous post they take different ring sizes.  This sexual dimorphism is claimed to be an evolutionary adaptation allowing the pair to hunt a wider range of prey, males catching birds up to thrush size, females can predate birds as big as pigeons.

This is the fourth Sparrowhawk we have trapped at Durlston. The capture of three immatures in the last few weeks either indicates very successful breeding nearby or migration through the area.

First year female Sparrowhawk


...although direct comparison isn't possible, the smaller size and slimmer proportions of this male trapped on 26th August can be seen


Although superficially similar to Willow Warblers, the browner appearance, especially on the flanks, darker legs, shorter wings and more rounded head all identify this bird as a Chiffchaff.

Posted September 3, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Friday 2nd September – Durlston   Leave a comment

Making the most of this fine and still weather, we were back at Durlston this morning. 99 birds were ringed (we just couldn’t catch that last one before we had to leave).

Highlights, another Grasshopper Warbler, a Green Woodpecker, Tree Pipit and a Spotted Flycatcher plus a few hirundines. Lets hope this effort is rewarded with some useful data from controls (a bird trapped by another ringer) and recoveries.

The dirt on the bill of this immature Green Woodpecker is due to it foraging for ants.


As there are plenty of tall trees near to where we ring, flycatchers seldom descend to net level. The fresh plumage and buff tips to the coverts identify this Spotted Flycatcher as a first year.


The dull plumage and pale tips to the tertials show that this House Martin is a first year.


 Interesting sightings included a high flying  juvenile Marsh Harrier.

Posted September 2, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Thursday 1st September – Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

It’s officially autumn, although there has been a strong autumn migration going on for the last six weeks.

This morning three of us ringed at Lytchett Bay.  Highlight was five Grasshopper Warblers, but as you’ve seen enough photos of those recently, I won’t bore you with any more. Unfortunately the regular Osprey didn’t put in an appearance.

Yesterday evening we set tried to catch Yellow Wagtails at roost and succeeded in catching three out of some twenty or so present. Yellow Wagtails have declined greatly as a breeding species in recent years and no longer breed regularly in Dorset. so it was pleasing to hear that a flock of 70 were seen on Tuesday evening. Perhaps the dry spring has helped this year.

First year male Yellow Wagtail of the race British race flavissima

Yellow Wagtails have a fascinating but complex geographical variation. The genetics suggest that there are two species involved, with the eastern species Motacilla tschutchensis breeding from west of Lake Baikal to Alaska. However not all eastern forms are Eastern Yellow Wagtail, races of Western Yellow Wagtail breed in Japan, Arctic Siberia as far east as the Omalon River and in  north-east China and Ussuriland. Some split the species further, the Dutch consider most races to be separate species, (although they have just lumped the Spanish iberiae with the Italian cinerocapilla)

This is Blue-headed Wagtail, the widespread race flava of continental Europe. Photo from the internet

Black-headed Wagtai;(race feldegg) Armenia May 2010. This is considered the same species as European flava and the British flavissima ......


..... whilst this form tschutchensis, is a separate species Eastern Yellow Wagtail in spite of its strong similarity to flava. Confused? You're not the only one! Photo from the Internet, taken at Nome, Alaska

In 10/10/89 I trapped a extremely grey ‘Yellow Wagtail’ at Lytchett Bay, which is compatible with first year Eastern Yellow Wagtail. With claims of possible Eastern Yellow Wags occurring in the UK in recent Octobers,  I really regret not taking full biometrics and photographs of this bird and retaining a feather for DNA analysis. At the time it was just dismissed as a very grey looking Yellow Wag as the split hadn’t been mooted at the time.

Posted September 1, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized