Archive for October 2011

Monday 17th October – Durlston   Leave a comment

Back to ringing at Durlston, but unlike Saturday, today was cold with an increasing wind so we had to pack in by 1000 with only some 20 birds ringed. They did, however include our first Reed Bunting at the park and another Sparrowhawk.

Rain held off but the skies remained threatening.


Mindful of its talons, Kevin gingerly applies the ring to this male Sparrowhawk


A first year male Sparrowhawk..... the size with this female Sparrowhawk trapped on Saturday


The ginger fringing to the coverts confirm it is a first year...


... Saturday's female shows unmoulted worn inner secondaries, this together with the few reamaining ginger coverts show it was hatched in 2010. Again note the much larger size.



Some Goldfinches stopped briefly.....


.... but this flock of 32 Crossbills just kept going.

If you have already seen this via Out & About I apologise for cross posting.
And finally I received this photos from former Dorset birder James Lidster, who now lives in Holland. It shows four rare birds (in a Dutch as well as a British context) in the hand, all caught at the same time at a ringing site in Holland. I find it far more gripping than any recent UK bird news !

L-R: Red-flanked Bluetail, Penduline Tit, Little Bunting and Yellow-browed Warbler. Holland 2011


Posted October 17, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Sunday 16th October – Poole and Weymouth.   Leave a comment

The plan was simple, Margaret and I would install the wireless router at home, do a little shopping, then go for a walk in the Purbecks and end up at 4pm at in Wareham where Kara was in a swimming competition.

The trouble was that the first two tasks took all day! We were just about to leave for Wareham when the news came through of a Short-toed Eagle leaving Lyme Regis and heading east.  It would probably be impossible to get to Weymouth before the bird arrived anyway, but I had to give it a try! First I had to drop Margaret at Purbeck School, then I had to wait, for not one train, but two at Wool level crossing, so I was bit stressed when I arrived at Preston beach at 4.15. Well no-one had seen the bird for certain so the panic was over.

Preston beach gives a good view of the Dorset coast as well as north Portland.

I ended up at Radipole in the hope that the Caspian Gull that Brett had seen earlier in the day would re-appear. No luck there either, so did I suffer from a bout of double-dip depression?

It was early evening by the time I got to Radipole.


Radipole gull roost


Two Med Gulls

Posted October 17, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 15th October – Durlston   Leave a comment

This morning was a tale of two, very unequal, halves. With five ringers arriving at Durlston it was decided that Bob and Paul would ring at the goat plots, whilst Shaun, Terry and I would do the garden.


Saturday was a wonderfully clear day, almost cloudless day.


We soon heard that little was being caught at the goat plots, whilst we were busy with Swallows and Goldfinches further up the hill. Trainee Paul was sent to the garden whilst Bob soldiered on alone. The end result, goat plots 3, garden 86!

Our biggest catch was Swallows with the odd House Martin. There was plenty of vis mig with many hundred Goldfinches, plus good numbers of Pied Wagtails, Skylarks, Redpoll and Linnet overhead.


Swallows and martins love to perch on the top of a mist net.


First year Swallow. I have reliably been informed that the first ones have just arrived in South Africa for the winter.


First year House Martin. Compared to Swallow, very little is known about their migration or wintering grounds.



Posted October 17, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Friday 14th October – The Lighthouse, Poole   Leave a comment

During the evening Margaret and I joined our friends Gio and Jessica Pietrangelo at the Lighthouse (formerly Poole Arts Centre). At Gio’s recommendation we went to see Eliza Carthy, a folk singer and musician.  See

I first heard her father, Martin Carthy sing in 1969 when the newly formed Steeleye Span played in Leeds. I remember that evening well, folk purists walking out because they played electric guitars, whilst the rest of us enjoyed a wonderful concert, well worth the two shillings (10p) admission!

I later came across the Eliza singing on the wonderful Imagined Village CDs but hadn’t realised she was part of the Waterson musical family dynasty.


The evening started with a set from her cousins, Marie Waterson and Oliver Knight


In the main set Eliza played electric guitar, what looked like an electric mandolin, fiddle and accordion and was accompanied by piano and organ, cello, double bass and drums. A highly entertaining evening.

Eliza Carthy and band

Posted October 16, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Friday 14th October – Durlston   Leave a comment

Plenty of bird but not too many photos because I left the camera battery on the charger.

Last night at Lytchett Bay we only ringed 25 Pied Wagtails. The numbers at the roost have dropped off recently probably because three Marsh Harriers roosted near there a few days ago. What we lost in wagtails we made up for in Reed Buntings, 15 were trapped at dusk. The recapture of a bird ringed in the arable fields on the far side of the Bay a couple of weeks ago indicates that the area is being used as a roost from birds all over the area.

Today at Durlston a stiff east wind made ringing rather difficult and there were very few grounded migrants, mainly Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, but ‘vis mig’ was spectacular.

‘Vis mig’ or visible migration involved watching and counting flocks of diurnal migrating birds. This mainly involves finches and hirundines but thrushes will move by as well as night. Warblers, chats etc migrate mainly at night and usually are only seen on the move by day if they get ‘caught out’ over the sea at dawn.

Today about 2000 Goldfinches with smaller numbers of Linnets, Siskins, Redpolls, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Swallows were on the move, many thousands of birds in all. Best were at least 12 Wood Larks and a flock of 25 White-fronted Geese. The birds were all heading east into the wind except the geese which were flying south-west.

Without a working camera today I have resorted to an internet photo of migrating Wood Pigeons taken on a vis mig watch. The pigeons tend to move later than most finches peaking in early November.

In spite of the low numbers we caught two new species for our Durlston ringing list, a House Sparrow, which just seem to have moved into the area and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Juvenile GSWs have a red crown, after the post-juvenile moult the female develop a black nape and the males a red nape. The bird can still be aged as a first year (even though the red crown has been lost) by the contrast between the median and greater coverts. Photo by Ali Quinney.


Red Admirals have become common again in recent weeks.


A single Clouded Yellow was in the Durlston garden. Photo from the internet.

As a final bonus as I arrived home, a flock of Redpolls flew over the garden.

Posted October 14, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Thursday 13th October – Durlston and Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

An other pre-dawn start at Durlston. Ringing in the goat plots was quite productive with 67 birds ringed. Three new Firecrests and a Yellowhammer were the highlights. Chiffchaffs still predominate but Goldcrest numbers are increasing.

There was a large easterly finch movement with flocks of Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Siskin. Also a few Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. Redpolls were mainly seen at first light. Hamish had 30 or so Crossbills.

A bank of fog moved in from the sea soon after dawn.


A dozen or more Long-tailed Tits were caught in the same net. Note the orbital ring can change colour depending on the bird's emotions


This beauty was in with the LT Tit flock, our 6th at Durlston this year.


DIM Wallace used to call the Firecrest 'the seven-striped sprite'


This first-year female Yellowhammer can be aged on tail shape and sexed by the pattern of the crown feathers. Like other buntings, breeding plumage is acquired through abrasion of the feather tips revealing the yellow colouration below.


A cage fungus, along the entrance road to the park.

We are roost ringing at Lytchett Bay this evening. Further information to follow.

Posted October 13, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 11th October – Tropical Updates   Leave a comment

Catching up on my write-up on my last trip, paperwork for my next trip and preparing for the slide show I am giving tonight has kept me in for the last couple of days.

Whilst tours to high and temperate latitudes, mountains and safaris usually give enough good pictures for a single slide show, trips to tropical area, particularly tropical forests do not. As a result I have prepared a slide show covering seven tropical destinations, four in the Old World and three in South America. As a taster I have included on my blog three shots from each destination, one of scenery and two of wildlife.

If any one is interested my talk is for the DWT at Charlton Down Village hall, Charlton Down near Dorchester at 7.30 Tuesday 11th.

if anyone is interested in my giving a talk on these or any other destinations to their group then contact me via the blog or at


Komodo Island and the Indonesian flag - Sep 2006


Komodo Dragon - Komodo Island


Green Junglefowl - Komodo Island


The arid Sahel region of northern Senegal - Jan 2005


Cricket Warbler - Senegal


African Finfoot - Gambia


Angkor Wat - Cambodia, Feb 2005


L-R: Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant and another Painted Stork.


Giant Ibis - northern Cambodia - photo by Dave Farrow


Hot, humid and dusty - Sierra Leone - Feb 2010


Egyptian Plover - Sierra Leone


The incomparable Yellow-necked Picathartes - Sierra Leone - photo by Nick Borrow.


Maranon Valley - northern Peru - Sep 2005


Tumbes Tyrant - endemic to the dry coastal area of northern Peru


The Amazonian region is full of beautiful butterflies. Northern Peru


The Santa Marta Mountains of Colombia rise straight from the sea to 5,700m - Jan 2007


Torrent Ducks - Colombia - photo by Pete Morris


Using a fairly liberal taxonomy, this was my 7000th life bird. Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, Colombia - photo by Pete Morris


Dawn from the canopy tower, Alta Florista, Brazil Oct 2008


Tapir, Alta Florista, Brazil


Hyacynth Macaws - the Pantanal, Brazil.



Posted October 11, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 8th October – Durlston and Middlebere.   Leave a comment

Margaret and I are members of, and indeed met, via Nexus an organisation for single people. Although we are now married we have maintained our membership and go on the occasional walk, party or outing organised by them.

As several Nexuns have enquired about bird ringing I thought it would be a nice idea to do a public ringing demonstration outside the visitor centre. The demo was a great success but a combination of a cold north-westerly wind and an early start deterred almost everyone, with only two participants. However we were also joined by Margaret, her friend, former colleague and former landlady, Angela, friends of Shaun’s – Charlotte and Pete, a number of passers-by and towards the end of the demo, some of the Durlston volunteers who were gathering for a work party.


Ringing demo: L-R Margaret, Robert, Charlotte, Pete, Rosemary and (seated) Angela. As a youngster Robert used to birdwatch with the legendary ornithologist H G Alexander and even saw Britain's only Brown Thrasher at Durlston in 1966!


Ringing was very successful in spite of the cold wind, with 11 Redpoll, several Goldcrests, single Meadow Pipit, Firecrest and Treecreeper being the highlights, along with the usual Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Goldfinches, Robins, Dunnocks and tits. A total of 121 birds were ringed, a selection of which were brought outside of the garden to be ringed by me for the purposes of the demo.

Female Firecrest. Possibly the most beautiful of British breeding birds.


Lesser Redpoll, photo by Shaun Robson.

Later Margaret, Angela and I visited Middlebere in the hope of showing Angela the Spoonbills but they were elsewhere. A flock of 280 Black-tailed Godwits was the highlight.
Angela stayed for the afternoon. In the evening we visited Janis and the girls and were joined by Janis’ friend Helen from Chandlers Ford and colleague Susanne (originally from Munich). 

L - R: Helen, Janis and Susanne.

Posted October 9, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Friday 7th October – Durlston, Middlebere and Sunnyside Farm   Leave a comment

After spending yesterday morning on a number of mundane tasks and the afternoon sorting out which smart phone to buy, it was good to get out early again this morning for some ringing at Durlston.


Here we go again - another Durlston dawn


I was doubtful that we would achieve much due to the brisk NW wind, but found that the goat plots were quite sheltered. We ringed 52 new birds and handled 11 species in total. Best was undoubtedly a Treecreeper, obviously not a rare bird, but one that I haven’t handled for many years.



Excluding a vagrant Short-toed Treecreeper used to involve a complex mathematical formula involving the length of the bill and hind claw, but now can be done on the fine detail of the pattern on the wing.



All the Chaffinches we trapped today were females. This is not all that surprising, the tendency for male and female Chaffinches to winter in seperate areas was noted by Linnaeus who gave it the Latin name 'coelebs' meaning 'unmarried'


In the afternoon I called in at Middlebere where I connected with the flock of 28 Spoonbills (one was trying very hard to stay invisible behind another and was only noticed when a second bill appeared) before heading for Sunnyside Farm near Ridge, where there were no birds at all on the scrape.



Spoonbills. This is the biggest flock of this species ever to be seen in Dorset


Sunnyside Farm from the viewing screen.


About the only interesting thing at Sunnyside this afternoon !


Posted October 7, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Wednesday 4th October – Boyton, Suffolk   Leave a comment

A vagrant north American Sandhill Crane has made its way south from Scotland, via Northumberland and Norfolk and for the last few days has taken up residence in coastal Suffolk. This is the fourth record for the UK, and to the best of my knowledge, the first for England.

Having the opportunity to see this magnificent species within a reasonable distance of home, Brett Spencer, Mike Gibbons, Paul Morrison and I set off this morning at the ungodly hour of 0200. After navigating a maze of narrow lanes to the easy of Ipswich we arrived at the favoured stubble field at 0650 just at the moment the crane flew in from its roost on Havergate Island. In retrospect such an early start wasn’t necessary, but had the bird opted to continue its journey south soon after dawn we would have felt pretty sick if we had delayed our departure.

Also seen were three Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine, a flyover Spoonbill, 2 Crossbill and a Golden Plover.


Boyton, Suffolk. East Anglian skies are often described as 'wide open' which is a euphemism for a flat landscape.


Considering the extreme rarity of the species, the turn out was quite low, but that will change if it stays to the weekend!


The Sandhill Crane in flight against the eastern sky.


Most flights were of short duration and mostly seen as a silhouette.


At over half a mile away, a hand-held digiscoping shot was the best I could manage.


Adult Sandhill Crane - USA - photo from the internet


Also present were some Willow Emerald Damselflys, a recent colonist of this part of East Anglia and a tick for the entomologists amongst us


Posted October 5, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized