Archive for January 2012

Tuesday 10th – Thursday 12th January – miscelaneous birding   Leave a comment

This has been a very busy week and I have fallen behind in my blog entries. On Tuesday we had a new TV delivered, getting it wall mounted and getting the necessary cables to connect it to the digital box and hi-fi proved to be a much bigger job than I expected and had taken up much of the last few days.

I have managed to get some birding done. On Tuesday the news broke of a Spanish Sparrow at Calshot in Hampshire. As this was a new bird for the UK for me, I headed straight there. I didn’t get any photos, but there are plenty on the Surfbirds site

On the way back I was delighted to see both Bewick’s and the far rarer (in local terms) Whooper Swan with Mutes near Ibsley as I had missed both wild swans in Norfolk due to the car breakdown.

One Whooper (above) and three Bewick's Swans from Iceland and Siberia respectively had joined the resident Mutes


On Wednesday I joined Shaun and Kevin in an attempt to ring some wintering Chiffchaffs at a local site. Although the vast majority of our Chiffchaff population arrives in to breed in the spring a few winter and the origin of these wintering birds is much debated. Some have a cold greyish plumage with green wing edges and a trace of a wing bar and have a different song and call. This form tristis has even been considered a different species, however some birds looking like tristis give the familiar’ hweet’ of our breeding collybita. We caught three typical collbita and the bird shown below, which may look like a candidate for tristis but it called like collybita on release!


It would be easy misidentify this as a 'Siberian' Chiffchaff if it didn't call!

On Thursday I managed tpo catch up with a Firecrest at Creekmoor that Ewan had relocated and checked a few other local sites. In the afternoon I tried to see Short-eared and Barn Owls and a Great Grey Shrike, all of which have been hanging around the Sixpenny Handly area of Cranbourne Chase. Unfortunately I drew a blank on all three.


The best sighting at Sixpenny Handley was this sunset









Posted January 13, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

7th – 9th January – Adventures and misadventures in Norfolk   Leave a comment

Margaret and I had a three day trip to Norfolk at the weekend, staying in a B&B in Cley.

Our first destination was the Buckingham marshes near Norwich and our target was a Lesser White-fronted Goose, an increasingly rare vagrant to the UK. We found the Lesser Whitefront quite quickly but the views were into the light and there was a strong wind, making it hard to keep the scope still. Also present were good number of Greater Whitefronted, ‘Taiga’ Bean and Barnacle Geese.

The most amazing feature of the marshes were the thousands of Golden Plover and Lapwings, which were repeatedly flushed by a couple of Peregrines, there were also large numbers of Wigeon and Teal.

Buckingham Marshes, Norfolk

Golden Plovers by the thousand

... the fllocks twisted and turned in response to the Peregrines

Female Wigeon in flight

Red-legged Partridges in the nearby fields

Later we visited the Norfolk Broads, ending our day at Stubbs Mill, a raised bank by an old windmill overlooking a huge expanse of marsh and reed bed. This area has become famous as a roost site for Marsh Harriers and we were not disappointed as at least 80 came into roost along with a couple of Hen Harriers. At least 8 Cranes were seen, part of the slowly increasing Broads population.

The low bridge at Potter Heigham is a nighmare for yachtsmen and cabin cruisers alike.


I doubt if this Greylag Goose is from the wild Icelandic population.....



...particularly as it was keeping company with tame Mallards!


The marshes at Stubbs Mill, the dots in the sky are all Marsh Harriers



Over 30 Cranes can now be found in East Anglia.



Unfortunately I missed a Merlin that appeared briefly and we didn’t see Barn or Short-eared Owl, but being at the raptor roost was a great experience. The drive to Cley on the north coast took longer than I expected mainly because I followed the coast road through numerous small villages. Our B&B was an old 18th centuary former coach house in the village of Cley and must have subsided somewhat as the bedroom and the bed was on a noticable slant.


A nursery rhyme about a crooked sixpence comes to mind!


On the 8th we headed for the local reserve where the very rare North American Western Sandpiper was overwintering. A bird that breeds no closer than Alaska, this is, not surprisingly very rare vagrant to the UK. Unfortunately it wasn’t on show so we headed to Holkham to witness the huge gathering of Pink-footed Geese. Up to 70,000 Pink-feet winter in Norfolk, mostly centered on Holkham. There was a ‘Tundra’ Bean Goose, Barnacles, Whitefronts, Greylags and a couple of Ross’s Geese in the flock, a vagrant from artic Canada that for reasons I have yet to understand has yet to make it onto the British list.


Wintering Pinkfeet. One of Britain's avian spectacles.


Breeding in Green;land, Iceland and Spitsbergen, most of the world's population winters in the UK



We had no luck with either the Rough-legged Buzzard that has been seen in the area or the Shorelarks on the saltings, so we returned to Cley where we had moderate views of the Western Sandpiper along with lots of other birds.


Water Rail


Drake Teal


Female Teal


Bearded Tits


Pair of Pochards


On the 9th we planned to have another search for the Rough-legged Buzzard then head for Titchwell where three species of Redpoll were coming to the feeders and Snow Buntings were frequenting the shore line. Unfortunately the car broke down on the way. The AA were very helpful, initially they intended to tow us home but after for 50 miles a second AA driver told us he could locate the broken part and by late afternoon we were on our way home. So concludes a great weekend, marred only by the loss of a whole days birding.


My 35 years of AA membership proved worthwhile!






Posted January 13, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

6th January – Studland and a wild Crane hunt   Leave a comment

After the recent gales it was a beautiful day on the Studland peninsula, the sea was like a mill pond and there was excellent visibility. After a few short stops on the Poole side of the harbour entrance I walked along Shell Bay to Pilot’s Point. The Red-necked Grebe that has been seen close inshore was now a long way out, but several Black-necked Grebes were seen close in, along with a Great Northern Diver and at the point a group of Sanderlings fed along the shore.

Shell Bay with the Haven Hotel and the chain ferry in the background. On her arrival in Poole in June 2002 Margaret nearly rammed the ferry, expecting it would give way to boat under sail!



A digiscoped shot of a Black-necked Grebe




Inside the harbour many more Black-necked Grebes were seen, the air was so clear that I could identify the flocks of Avocets heading for Middlebere on the far side of the harbour. Littlesea, once the winter domain of hundreds of wildfowl is now completly birdless, recent illeagally introduced fish may have upset the enviromental balance of this freshwater lake, however I did see a Dartford Warbler in the surrounding heaathland.



Littlesea, a fresh water lagoon in the middle of the dune system



More grebes and the introduced parakeets were seen near Studland. On my way back I received a phone call from Jackie Hull who was watching a Crane circling over Corfe Mullen. I headed  quickly in that direction but later receiving a text to say it was heading south-west I went to the Baker’s Arms roundabout in the hope I could see it in Lytchett Bay airspace, but to no avail. I finally went to Mordon Bog, an area of lake, bog and forest to the west, which is not unlike Crane breeding areas in northern europe but again had no luck.


On a more serious note, today would have been my late wife Janet’s birthday, so I called in at her grave at the Parish Church to pay my respects.



Posted January 6, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

4th – 5th January – Blashford Lakes and New Forest   Leave a comment

Although my friend Paul Harvey hasn’t lived in his native Dorset since the early 80,s he still likes to add species to his Dorset list, so we headed to Longham Lakes. The first bird we found was a female Smew and I had a very pleasant shock when a pristine male Smew (quite rare in Dorset) flew over a few minutes later. In due course we found the female BB;ue-winged Teal and had good views.

Drake Smew, photo from the internet

We continued on to Blashford lakes where we failed to find the drake Ferruginous Duck but there was a good selection of other wildfowl. Paul had to leave at this point to catch his flight back to Shetland. It had been a real pleasure birding with Paul again and I look forwards to seeing him in Shetland later in the year.

Mockbeggar Lake, Blashford

With a major rarity staked out in the New Forest I headed for Hawkshill Enclosure but had to negotiate the odd flooded road, a legacy of yesterdays storm. The Dark-eyed Junco, a sparrow like bird from North America showed well if a little distantly, after about an hours wait. This is the second time I have seen this species in the UK, although I have seen many in North America.

I continued on to Blackwater Arboretum, where after a long wait, a number of Crossbills and Hawfiches appeared in the gathering gloom. I made a quick visit to the Blashford Lakes on my return but there was still no sign of the Ferruginous Duck.


Flooded roads

Dark-eyed Junco - a record shot

Hawfinch - another record shot

Male Crossbill, completes the trio of mediocre record shots

On the 5th I returned early to Ivy Lake at Blashford where I discovered the Ferruginous Duck sheltering from the vicous wind. Unlike yesterday the Woodland Hide feeders were stacked with birds, but I couldn’t find any Bramblings, a target bird for my year list. Further disappoinment occured when the nearby ‘staked out’ Bewick’s Swans appeared to have got blown away, when I failed to find any Egyptian Geese in the Avon Valley and when I found the road home closed due to a tree felled by the gale. However good views of the Ferruginous Duck and some good photo opportunities made the day well worthwhile.

Ferruginous Duck drake - photo from the internet

Ivy Lake boardwalk leading to the woodland hide


Goldfinch, Redpoll and Siskin


Male Chaffinch

Chaffinch female

Great Tit

Posted January 5, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 3rd January – Weymouth   Leave a comment

With dreadful weather this morning it was lunchtime before I headed out. I soon heard that the two Long-billed Dowitchers, first found late yesterday afternoon at Lodmoor had been relocated, so I headed for Weymouth. Dorset was host to a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher last winter, but seeing two together in the UK was something I had not seen before. It is likely that these birds were part of the influx of North American waders last autumn and may have been the same birds that were recently at Chew Valley Lake.


High winds and heavy showers at Lodmoor



Not much point in searching for Bearded Tits in a gale!



The two Dowitchers showed well, but a bit out of photos range



After checking for seabirds offshore I headed for Radipole to look at the gulls that gather in the late afternoon. I was delighted to find an adult Ring-billed Gull in the car park before I had even parked. I later found that Luke the warden had seen it earlier outside the visitor centre. I managed to take a few photos before someone walked right through the flock and flushed the lot! There appears to be two Ring-billed Gills visiting Radipole at the moment.


Adult Ring-billed Gull


Also in the car park many Common, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls, plus a few Mediterranean Gulls that were flushed before I could photograph them.


Posted January 3, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Monday 2nd January – mainly West Dorset   Leave a comment

Today Paul Harvey and I did a tour of the various rare birds in west Dorset. We started at the Bridging Camp at Fleet, getting good views of both the Richard’s Pipit and the Hume’s Leaf Warbler. Scanning the bay produced two Black Brants with the several hundred Dark-bellied Brents.

The Fleet from by Littlesea Holiday Camp

The Sun on the Fleet near Abbotsbury

We continued on to Lyme Regis were we searched the Cobb for the Spotted Sandpiper, the same bird I saw a couple of weeks ago. In spite of the waves breaking over the top, the Cobb was very busy with people out for a walk. Purple Sanpipers showed well but there was no sign of the American vagrant. We later searched the area around the mouth of the River Lym, all to no avail.

The biggest waves broke over the top of the Cobb

Purple Sandpipers showed well

We later searched the River Lym and had good views of a Dipper, a scarce bird in Dorset

We continued on to Forde Abbey in the far north-west of Dorset.  Scoping the Great Lake of the stately home from the road gave us views of more American vagrants, two male Ring-necked Ducks. Also present were a pair of Mandarin Ducks.

The Great Lake, Forde Abbey

We ended up at Hatch Pond in Poole, where in spite of the fading daylight two Bitterns showed well. A great conclusion to a great day.

The upright spike in the lower centre is a Bittern!


Posted January 2, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

January 1st – Happy New Year   Leave a comment

Happy New Year to all readers of my blog!

I have decided that this year I will try for a big British year list. As I enter all my bird sightings on the computer I by default keep a year list. Most years I try to see most of the birds that I can in Dorset and west Hampshire, but this year I’m really going to push the boat out and try to see over 300 species in the UK in the year, far more than I have even seen before.

I started the New Year with a quick visit to Longham lakes, I was particularly interested in seeing the Blue-winged Teal again, which after an hour or so of searching revealed itself. It was too far away to be photographed but I had reasonable views and even saw the blue forewing.  An immature male Scaup was also on the lakes along with lots of commoner species, but the Smew that was there yesterday seems to have gone.



I returned about 10 and picked up Margaret. We headed to Poole Quay where we joined lots of other local birders for Mark and Mo Constantine’s New Year bird boat. Year after year they very kindly hire one of the Browensea ferries for a trip around Poole Harbour for the benefit of local birders. It is great social event, they provide good food and we (usually) see good birds.

The Quay was packed, as an annual raft race takes place at about the same time as we were to depart. The raft race participants seem prepared to get soaked in their makeshift rafts irregardless of the weather.


Are they here to see us off or to watch the raft race?



... rather them than me!


Unfortunately the weather wasn’t kind to us and soon it tipped down. Some persevered on deck but many retired to the cabin. Good birds were seen, a Great Northern Diver, 14 Spoonbills on Brownsea lagoon and a distant Red-necked Grebe but it was in the main (a very enjoyable) social event. I wish to give my thanks to Mark and Mo for their generosity.



We gathered on deck or birding and a chat ......



.... but soon the upper deck was abandoned due to the weather.



Down below, Justin from Lyme Regis provided some lovely cheeses and Storms restaurant provided the tasty soup.



17 month old Kimberley Elborne was the youngest participant.



Plans for birding post boat trip were abandoned and Nick Urch and Trevor Warren returned to our house in order to make plans for our bird race on January 14th.

Posted January 1, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

30th – 31st December – Upton and Lytchett Bay   Leave a comment

My friend Paul Harvey from Shetland has returned to Upton to see his parents. On Friday evening he arranged for Ian Alexander and I to join him and our old friend Trevor Squire for a drink. We met up in the World’s End pub. Trevor was my ringing trainer and we have all known him since the 70s. Trevor has been ringing for over 50 years and is one of the most experienced ringers in the whole country. We spent the evening catching up, discussing ringing opportunities all over the world and reminiscing on some of the great times we had in the past.


L-R: Ian, me, Trevor and Paul


On the Saturday the 31st Paul, Ian and I visited Lytchett Bay, an area that Paul birded regularly when at school. There were good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing and Dunlin but neither us, nor Shaun who was birding from the opposite side of the Bay, could add that elusive extra species to the Lytchett year list.


Lytchett Bay from the main sluice



Over 100 Canada Geese and 56 Brent Geese were in the Bay


During the evening Janis Andy, Amber and Kara came round for a meal and stayed to see the New Year in.



Amber and Kara's New Year resolution was to be nicer to each other - lets see how long that one will last!



Both Kara ......



.... and Amber were showing off new dresses .....



.... and Kara entertained us with some songs before we turned on Jools Holland's Hootenanny to see the New Year in.



Posted January 1, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized