15th – 19th February – Owls, Woodlarks, Crossbills, Skittles, Ibis and WEBS   Leave a comment

Once again I am falling behind with my blog. I have managed to do some birding on each of these days.

On the 15th I spent the afternoon up at Sixpenny Handley. This area has hosted a Great Grey Shrike and several species of owls. It was the latter that I hoped to see today. Short-eared Owls often come out from their roosts well before dark, so I hung around the ‘pumping station road’ from mid afternoon, seeing Red-legged and Grey Partridge, Fieldfares and Redwing but little else, although a guy who got there before me had seen a Red Kite. As the sun set I had a distant silhouette views of a Short-eared Owl, but just as I was about to leave at 1740 one flew over the road and gave great views.  On the way back I saw a Little Owl perched on a barn. Little Owls were introduced to Britain from Europe in the 19th century and soon became established, however in recent years numbers have plummeted and have all but disappeared from around Poole Harbour.

The first Short-eared Owl was seen against this stunning sunset.

Although almost dark, I had as good views as this of the Short-eared Owl. Photo from the internet.

A Little Owl on a barn roof, similar to my view on the 15th. Photo from the internet.

On the 16th trainee ringer Ali and I visited Holton Lee. Birds were not as numerous as on previous visits, which was a bit of a relief as it gave Ali a change to practice extracting and ring all the birds. We ringed 32 new birds, mainly tits but also a few Chaffinches, Dunnocks and Robins.

We ring at the feeders in front of the hide. Ali is extracting a bird from the net.

Ali is measuring this Blue Tit's wing. A record of the wing length can indicate the origin of a population and in some species can be used to establish the sex of the bird.

In the evening of the 16th I went to Lytchett Bay. Best birds were a pair of Goldeneye, a bird that wasn’t seen down the Bay in 2011 and a Woodcock that flew into the stubble field at dusk.

On the morning of the 17th I headed to Sherford Bridge in the hope of locating a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, no luck there, but I had a very enjoyable morning, Song and Mistle Thrushes were in good voice and there were plenty of Siskin, Fieldfares and Redwing about. On the heathland I saw between three and five Woodlarks and several Dartfords.

Woodlarks will sing from the ground or from a tree but the from the longest and most beautiful song is given on the wing.

In the evening I gave my Tropical Updates talk to CHOG, Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group. Unfortunately the talk was badly affected by technical difficulties, which spoilt it for me, if not for the audience. Later some of us retired to the pub for a few drinks, there Roger Howell mentioned he was twitching the Parrot Crossbill in west Sussex the next day and I asked if I could join him.

Crossbill taxonomy is complex and unresolved. In Scandinavia two very similar species co-exist, Common Crossbill and Parrot Crossbill which differ mainly by the size of the bill (they feed on different species of conifer cones). In the Caledonian Forest in Scotland there is a third species, Scottish Crossbill, that has evolved to feed on Scots Pines. As if it wasn’t hard enough to tell Common and Scottish apart, recent evidence has proved that Parrot breeds there as well.

The West Sussex bird itself is controversial, its bill isn’t as big as would be expected for a Parrot, it is a dead ringer for a Scottish, except that they are considered non irruptive and have never been recorded away from the Caledonian Forest. We arrived soon at Blackdown on the South Downs soon after ten and spent the next three hours watching Common Crossbills coming into to a pool to drink. Most were paired up as Crossbills breed early although there was also a contingent of single males, presumably their mates were already on the nest. The putative female Parrot arrived on its own, gave a slightly deeper cal and showed the necessary ID features,l but although I photographed it none of my pics show the bill! Roger concluded the debate by saying ‘I’m certain we have seen a very interesting bird!’

By early afternoon the cold front that had been forecast arrived and we headed home. Plans to go to Southampton for another Glaucous Gull search were abandoned as the rain become very heavy.

Blackdown is on a ridge high on the South Downs.

We spent three hours watching Crossbills coming to into these trees and dropping to drink at the pool.

A pair of Common Crosbills

The West Sussex Parrot Crossbill, most Parrot Crosbills have much larger bills. Photo from the internet.

We also had good views of Woodlark at Blackdown. Note the short tail with white tips to the outer feathers.

Woodlark have a complex face pattern and a dark alula feather which shows well in this shot.

On the evening of the 18th Margaret and I joined our friends in the Nexus organisation for a skittles evening and a pub meal.

Margaret uses the underarm bowling technique. Behind her Julia maintains the score..

I prefer the 'squat and thrust' technique but it doesn't give me higher scores just sore wrists! Behind me is the organiser Sue and Alwyn from the Sailsbury Nexus group.

On Sunday morning a visit to Wimborne market was delayed when news broke that the Glossy Ibis I had searched for on Monday had been found again at Wareham Common. we had great views on arrival. The bird was colour ringed and we could read the ring number through the scope.

Living up to its name, Glossy Ibis has become a regular if scarce visitor to Britain, probably from Spain. The ring combination will help to confirm this.

The bird liked to feed close to the path, which meant it was often flushed by dog walkers and joggers.

There is the debate whether the area north of the railway line should be included in the Poole Harbour recording area but either way I saw the bird fly over the track before doubling back to Wareham Common.

POST SCRIPT added evening of 20/2/12. The speed of the internet means I have already heard that this Glossy Ibis was ringed at Donana Biological Reserve near Seville, southern Spain in May 2004 as a first year bird. It has been recorded four times since then at various Spanish sites and was also in Devon earlier this year.

In the afternoon I had to do the monthly WEBS (wetland birds survey) in Holes Bay. There weren’t as many birds around as on previous visits. Perhaps some have already started to move north towards their breeding grounds. Highlights were 41 Avocet, 4 Goldeneye and a few Pintail.

The southern part of Holes Bay.

Dramatic skies make counting the birds in the direction of the sun a bit of a problem.

Posted February 20, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: