Archive for November 2011

Test   Leave a comment

this posting is just a test to see if I can upload a post from my iPhone


(which I apparently can – complete initially at least with spelling mistakes)

Posted November 11, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

9th – 12th November   Leave a comment

Lalibela: Ethiopia's famous underground rock churches.

This is just a post to apologise for not posting anything for the last few days!

In spite of the fact that I have done over 100 foreign tours I still find getting ready and packing before going abroad to be a bit of a stressful experience which takes three times longer than it should. Add to this damp and windy conditions for the last few days and you can see that I have little to report other than trips to town for last-minute supplies and a bit of very unsuccessful ringing in my garden, where all birds caught have proved to be retraps.

On the 12th I leave for Ethiopia for nearly four weeks, as I am doing a private cultural extension to the churches and tourist sites of Axum and Lalibela after the bird tour. I went to Ethiopia in 1988 but was never really satisfied with the trip, as the less than comprehensive itinerary missed at least ten of the endemics plus several other species found only in southern Ethiopia / Somalia or northern Kenya. This Birdquest tour should correct all that, but frustratingly (presumably for security reasons) doesn’t go to the areas close to the Somali border where such exciting species as Masked Lark, Somali Wheatear and Little Brown Bustard occur.

I won’t have the time or resources to update this blog regularly but might, depending on reception, be able to send an occasional update from my phone.

Photos and details to follow on my return.



Posted November 11, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 7th – Tuesday 8th October – Hatch Pond and Durlston   Leave a comment

Much of Monday was spent preparing for my upcoming foreign trip but in the late afternoon I popped into Hatch Pond where after a short wait a Bitten showed well. This is one of three that have been seen at this small reed bed this autumn. it was a cold, grey day and by the time it appeared light levels were low. Hopefully I will get some better photos later in the winter.

A large area of reed bed has been cut at Hatch Pond, allowing easier viewing of Snipe and hopefully Water Rail and Bittern.

This Bittern was photographed at considerable range in poor light.

On Tuesday morning five us attempted to ring at Durlston. The south-easterly breeze made the goat plots to exposed but we attempted to ring in the garden. The light drizzle at dawn became stronger and we had to pack in soon after 9 with just 12 birds ringed.

These three Blackbirds were caught at the same time and were presumed to be migrants.... the pale and streaked throat of the female Blackbird an indication of continental origin?

Posted November 8, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Sunday 6th November – Sterte and Baiter, Poole.   Leave a comment

Margaret had a choir practice this afternoon, so we had a short trip out this morning combining a little birding with a visit to a car boot sale.

We quickly located the two Black Redstarts that have been seen at Sterte, just off the Holes Bay Road. However the cold wind kept them under cover and I didn’t get any photos. Black Redstarts breed in the UK in small numbers but are more often seen as late autumn migrants or winter visitors.

Also seen was a flock of 100+ Woodpigons heading north, an indication that their late autumn migration is underway.

Black Redstart. Photo from the internet.

Later we headed to Baiter Park in the hope that there would be some Mediterranean Gulls to photograph, no luck there but there were two Pale-bellied with about  50 Dark-bellied Brents.

Brent Geese have a circumpolar arctic breeding range. Recently many consider Pale-bellied Brent, breeding in arctic Canada and wintering on the eastern seaboard of America and Ireland, as a different species from Dark-bellied Brent, which breeds in western arctic Siberia and winters in western Europe and southern England. A third form, Black Brant, breeding in eastern Siberia and wintering in east Asia and western America is also considered a full species by some and also occurs in the UK in small numbers each winter.

Unfortunately the overall situation is far from clear. There are two discrete populations (high arctic and low arctic) of Pale-bellied Brent and an as yet undescribed, yet unique, population on a single island in arctic Canada, known as ‘Grey-bellied Brent’. Until the taxonomic status of all five forms is established I doubt if the BOU will act on this group.

Two Pale-bellied Brents (back) with three Dark-bellied Brents.
Typically, Herring Gull obtain a streaked head in winter.
These Starling were using a car as a wind break whilst they were preening.

Posted November 6, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 5th November – Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

An early morning start at Lytchett Bay allowed us to trap a few migrant thrushes including this Redwing.

The current mild weather seems to be inhibiting Redwing migration.

It's easy to see where Redwings got their name.

Note the differences in the patterns of the greater coverts, primary coverts and tail shape between these first year (left) and adult (right) Song Thrushes.

This female Bearded Tit was a nice surprise......

... but not as nice a surprise as its male companion.

Bearded Tits are now considered to be in family of their own, the only other mono-specific family to occur in the UK is the Osprey.

Commercial harvesting of cockles at high tide is a recent feature in Poole Harbour. Whether this causes disturbance to birds is open to debate......

However the cockler didn’t disturb this bird, a first year Red-throated Diver, only the third record for Lytchett Bay and the first for both Shaun and I.

I tried to photograph it, but it was too distant but Shaun managed to get some good disgiscoping shots, which are shown below.

Red-throated Diver, photo by Shaun Robson



Red-throated Diver - photo by Shaun Robson



Red-throated Diver, photo by Shaun Robson

Posted November 6, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

4th and 5th November – Bonfire nights   Leave a comment

Every year our local vicar Jean de Garis and his wife Sue hold a bonfire party at the vicarage in Lytchett Minster. My late wife Janet was very involved in the local church and although Margaret and I are not regular church goers, Margaret sings in the Christmas choir and Kara and Amber sometimes attend Sunday School. As a result we still like to attend the occasional church function.

Kara was attending a school friends party, so we went to the vicarage with Amber, where she met up with various other teenagers including Sophie McPherson, daughter of a long-standing friend Ann McPherson.

Jean de Garis keeps the bonfire supplied.

Amber with sparkler

Sophie and Amber

Flash photography gives sharper results, but I prefer ambient light photography for night scenes where possible.

A combination of flash and a longer shutter speed produces some interesting results.


On Saturday evening Margaret and I intended to go to Poole Quay to see the big fireworks display, but she felt under the weather and we decided to stay at home and I contented myself with photographing a neighbour’s fireworks through the bedroom window.


View from our back bedroom

Posted November 5, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 1st to Thursday 3rd November – Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

In the afternoon of the 1st we attempted to ring some Pied Wagtails at Lytchett Bay.  Now that the clocks have gone back we have start setting up at 3pm and this means its difficult to get people to help midweek. As a result it was just Kevin and I setting up, although Bob was able to help with the ringing after dark, and I found transporting all the gear through the thick mud of the net ride to be physically demanding.

We succeeded in catching 57 Pied Wags and 6 Reed Buntings which were ringed later in Bob’s garage.

Ageing and sexing Pied Wagtails can be tricky. The lack of contrast in the greater coverts and the very dark primaries indicate this is an adult and the uniform grey mantle shows it is a female.

After the birds were extracted the nets were furled. Shaun and I returned at dawn on the 2nd but the weather was much windier than expected and the tide was very high, flooding the already wet and muddy net ride. We soon decided the attempt had to be abandoned.

Under these circumstances we had no alternative than to take down.

I went home to clean up, but Lytchett stalwart Shaun continued birding, and I not long after I got back I received a text to say that he found a first year Kittiwake, a very rare bird at Lytchett. I quickly returned, this time to the Border Road area just in time to see an Egyptian Goose fly overhead, Shaun had just seen a party of three go over and I had caught a brief view of one of them.

Egyptian Goose: photo from the internet.

Later the Kittiwake was relocated on the far side of the Bay.

Photography was difficult as it always faced into the wind.

But thanks to Shaun, I got two Lytchett Bay ticks in the same morning.

I returned to the Border Road side of the Bay on the morning of the 3rd. Nothing unusual was found but their were over 100 Oystercatchers feeding on Turlin Moor playing field, a Marsh Harrier was seen distantly, 3 Little and 2 Great Crested Grebes were in the Bay and there was a large concentration of Mute Swans in the NW corner.

Mute Swans at the Bay

Oystercatchers at Turlin Moor.

Constantly disturbed by dog walkers, the Oystercatchers couldn't settle for long until the tide dropped.

Posted November 3, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 1st November – Blandford   Leave a comment

After the fairly miserable conditions of the last few days, the first day of November was warm, bright and still. In retrospect I should have gone ringing at Durlston, but the fine weather caught me by surprise.

Instead I went back to Blandford in the hope of photographing the Otters. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful, only getting a brief glimpse of one swimming in the distance, but the river was beautiful in the autumn sunshine and a spent a very pleasant morning watching a photographing Kingfishers, Grey Wagtails etc.


I have tried to put these photos in an arrangement other than vertical, but this is fraught with problems and the alignment always goes wrong when you upload!

The footbridge over the River StourRiver Stour

The weir on the Stour

River Stour downstream from the bridge.....

... was beautiful in the autumn sunlight

The Otters are sometimes seen climbing this weir



Swans and Black-headed Gulls at the weir

This Kingfisher remained hidden in the vegetation





































Black-headed Gull

Little Egret and Mallard

Grey Wagtails.......

.... a pair showed well just below the weir.

Posted November 2, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Saturday 29th – Monday 31st October   Leave a comment

I am falling behind with my blog entries and need a multi day catch up!

On Saturday evening Margaret and I spent a very enjoyable evening with at Gio and Jessica’s my former work colleagues Ann and Val and their partners. Gio and Jessica cooked a lovely Italian meal and the wine flowed freely.



Clockwise from the front: Val Hunt, Terry Hunt, Jessica Pietrangelo, Giovanni Pietrangelo, Chris Bunn, Ann Bunn and Margaret.



Their little dog Gypsy kept us amused.




On Sunday morning Margaret and I went to Blandford to look for the Otters that have been seen regularly. There now  appears to be nine or more Otters along the river Stour either side of Blandford, and several can be easily seen from the blue footbridge that crosses the Stour by Morrisons. Although not always on show they seem used to passers-by.



Blandford road bridge seen from the footbridge. Photo taken on 1/11/11


Unfortunately as soon as we got there it started raining and as it was very dull photography wasn’t practical. Two Otters showed well after about an hour of waiting. I have included one photo of the river taken a couple of days later and a shot of an Otter by Kevin Lane taken the following day.



Otter eating a fish, Blandford. Photos by Kevin Lane 31/10/11



Monday evening was of course Halloween. I usually avoid all the trick-and-treaters but this year the grandchildren were taking part and Margaret was armed with a huge bowl of sweets!



Our next door neighbour Tabitha and daughter Cassie




Amber and friend Charlie



Kara with friends Ryan and Chloe



Even Janis got in on the act!

Posted November 2, 2011 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized