Archive for February 2012

3rd and 4th February bits and pieces   Leave a comment

Over these two days I searched the frozen Lytchett Bay and Holes Bay for cold weather immigrants like Smew and Jack Snipe. With temperatures only just getting above zero, the ground remained frozen. There were plenty of ducks and waders about but nothing really unusual.

On the 4th I also visited Soldier’s Road near Arne where a Short-eared Owl had been seen. From the recently cleared (of pine trees) hill I had great views over Wareham Channel and Arne Moors in front of me and Hartland Moor behind. After several days of still and cold weather the approaching warm front brought snow flurries and then heavy rain. Before I was forced to depart I saw four Marsh Harriers and a Peregrine but no Short-eareds.


A frozen Holes Bay



Avocet flocks have a characteristic appearance and can be identified at great distance.



Eleven Little Egrets on the Holes Bay bridge



The waste ground near Kerry Foods used to be a good spot for Jack Snipe in cold weather but has recently been trashed by off-road bikes and fly tipping.


On the evening of the 4th Margaret and I attended a dinner dance in a Bournemouth Hotel organised by the Barclay House Choir to commemorate the retirement of Jim Grocott, the choir’s musical director for the last thirty or so years. It was an excellent meal with a good number of the choir and orchestra turning up in spite of the dreadful weather.


The Barclay House Choir dinner dance


Jim Growcott's retirement speech.







Posted February 6, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

1st – 2nd February – various dips   Leave a comment

With the cold spell upon us and morning temperatures as low as -6 I have been looking out for birds associated with cold weather movements. As there has (yet) been no snow there hasn’t been noticeable movements of Fieldfare and Redwing, but I hoped for some good waterbirds as fresh water lakes elsewhere froze.

One area that has proved excellent in cold weather is north-east Holes Bay, as warm water outfalls keep it ice-free. I had a good bash around there on the morning of the !st hoping for a Smew or, in particular a Jack Snipe along the margins, but to no avail. Jack Snipe is a regular, but elusive winter visitor that is usually only seen when flushed underfoot and last year I the only ones I saw were ones trapped for ringing. There were plenty of gulls, waders and wildfowl to search through, so the visit had its rewards.


Waders, ducks and gulls at Holes Bay


In the afternoon I decided to have a look at Coombe Heath at Arne where a Short-eared Owl has been seen recently. This has been a good year for this species, probably because of a vole population explosion in their breeding grounds, but so far I haven’t connected with one. It was bitterly cold at this exposed location but the views were wonderful. The tide was still out and the flocks of waders that often fill Middlebere Channel were distant, even so, over 300 Avocets could be seen near Round Island.

Coombe Heath, Arne looking eastwards Harbour mouth. Brownsea and Green Island are visible and to the centre right, the chain ferry at the Harbour mouth can be seen.

Coombe Heath looking southwest towards Hartland Moor


On the morning of the 2nd I headed for Lytchett Bay n hoping for Jack Snipe. I trudged around the frozen ‘far fields’ and along the Turlin shore and flushed about 15 Common Snipe but no Jacks.

Much of Lytchett Bay was frozen this morning including the margins of the salt water areas.


In the afternoon I heard that there were two Great White Egrets outside the visitor centre at Radipole in Weymouth. I departed as soon as I could but I didn’t get there in time as they had flown before I arrived. After a walk to the North Hide to check that they hadn’t doubled back, I headed for Lodmoor where a Long-billed Dowitcher had been seen. Very likely one of the birds that was around at the start of January, this bird had also flown but I did get some compensation in the form of a Bittern in flight.

At Radipole even this Grey Heron was sheltering from the cold wind and there was no sign of its big white relatives.

The Hooded Merganser was still at Radipole. This bird was first seen as an exhausted first year and gave rise to hopes that it might be a genuine vagrant from America, however it has stayed for several years and is widely considered an escape. It belong to a group of ducks called sawbills, and you can just see the serrated edge of the bill in this photo.

Posted February 3, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

31st January – Southampton and Blashford   Leave a comment

Yesterday I only managed a short visit to Lytchett Bay, so today I opted for a full days birding.

This year has been remarkable for an influx of Iceland and to a lesser extent, Glaucous Gulls. These are high Arctic breeding gulls, Glaucous has a circumpolar distribution, Iceland breeds in Greenland and eastern Canada (not Iceland!). As a scarce winter visitor Glaucous used to outnumber Iceland ten to one but in recent years it has been the other way round.

These two gulls have identical plumage characteristics and plumage successions as they mature so identification is made solely on structure. The first photo below shows two Icelands and one Glaucous Gull taken in Spitsbergen and shows the smaller size, daintier build, more attenuated shape, smaller bill and longer primary projection of Iceland. The second photo shows a 1st summer Glaucous, similar to juvenile except that the upperparts would be more universally biscuit coloured in a juvenile.

Bottom to top: 2nd summer Iceland, adult Iceland, adult Glaucous. Spitsbergen June 2009


Ist summer Glaucous: Spitsbergen June 2009


This January by far the biggest numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls have occurred in western Ireland, the Western Isles and Shetland, indeed my friend Paul reported seeing 132 Icelands at the weekend in Shetland. Few Icelands have reached the south coast, by far the most reliable has been a second winter in the centre of Portsmouth that I saw on the 16th January. Over the last few days a juvenile Glaucous Gull has been roosting in the centre of Southampton then flying up Southampton Water to the Redbridge area, so this was where I headed this morning.

I first tried a search at Eling but most large gulls were up near the A35 at Redbridge. From the bridge the sun was in my eyes, so I negotiated a maze of footpaths and backstreets to reach Redbridge railway station and a way across the line. In spite of spending over an hour here I had no luck but whilst eating my lunch back at the car the juvenile Glaucous flew over. The views were brief as I didn’t realise what it was until it was flying away but I saw the diagnostic features. Soon afer Dave Unsworth, one of the participants on my Tibet trip in 2005 turned up and suggested I try Testwood Lakes which was in the direction the gull was flying. I had no luck there so headed home via the Blashford lakes where once again I failed to find Bramblings but did have good views of the adult Caspian Gull at Ibsley Water North.


With the A35, A36, M271 and two railway lines converging at Redbridge, access to Southampton Water is fraught with difficulty.


Lower Test Marshes where the Glaucous was seen heading northwards


I couldn't photograph the Glaucous Gull so I had to make do with photographing a 'glaucous' pigeon


Little to report at Testwood Lakes


At Blashford there were plenty of Chaffinches but still no Brambling.


Although we take them for granted now, Collared Doves were unknown in Britain prior to 1955


I find searching for rare gulls amongst the masses of Lesser Black-backs and Herring to be a major challenge.



Only fully recognised as a full species in the last few years, Caspian Gull has been shown to be a regular but scarce winter visitor from its breeding grounds in the Black Sea, Ukraine area. Note the slender, parallel sided bill without an obvious gondeal angle and generally attenuated look Photo from the Internet.






Posted February 1, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized