23rd – 25th March – a retirement, several dips and a ringing demo.   Leave a comment

Friday 23rd was a fairly quiet day enlivened by a trip back to my old work place at Poole Hospital. Val Farmer, the quality manager for the whole  Pathology was retiring. As I used to be the dreaded Health and Safety man for Microbiology, I had to work with Val from time to time to ensure that we met the relevant regulations. Val was given a nice send off by members of the various pathology departments.

Val's presentation is performed by Pathology manager, Darren Joss (far left)

Saturday the 24th was a beautiful day but I had a lot to do (including sorting things out at home as Gio and Jessica were coming for dinner). Of course I should have been down Lytchett Bay, then I might have seen the Red Kite that flew over, or the three Egyptian Geese that Shaun found swimming in the Bay. I tried for the geese at an area called South Haven without luck, whilst there I heard that there was a Stone Curlew at Stanpit. Stone Curlews (which are not closely related to Curlews at all) are rare breeders on the northern chalk. For years a pair bred on the Dorset/Hampshire border but they have now gone and it is now difficult to see them away from a site in Norfolk. In 34 years of  Dorset birding I have only seen one migrant bird. Big debate, do I stay here and try and get the Gippo Geese or drive for 30 minutes in heavy traffic for the Stone Curlew that may have already flown off? The geese won, well won in the sense that I decided to drive round to Rockley Park where I would get a more panoramic view of the Bay. Result plenty of Brent Geese but no Gippos.

South Haven, the most southeasterly point of Lytchett Bay adjacent to the railway line.

I had just got home when I received a text from my friend Paul in Christchurch that the Stone Curlew, which had been flushed from its original location and then hassled by crows and was now showing well at Priory Marsh. This time I set off ASAP and arrived 30 minutes later to hear that it had just been booted by walkers and had disappeared to the north. Oh and by the way, a Red Kite had just flown in from the west, almost certainly the bird that I could have seen at Lytchett earlier in the day. To quote the Led Zeppelin song ‘nobody’s fault but mine’ !

The Stone Curlew free zone that is Stanpit Marsh

We had a very pleasant evening with my old colleagues Gio and Jessica, however I was aware that we were going to lose an hours sleep tonight as the clocks were going forwards and I had a very early start the next day, so made sure we didn’t chat late into the night.

Simon, the Durlston warden had arranged that we would give a public ringing demonstration. Billed as a chance to see migrant birds in the hand, it was a tad too early in the year but were able to show the punters a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap in the hand. We only caught a few birds but there was a steady turn over of Blue and Great Tits and Dunnocks and plenty of time to answer questions. About 30 people turned up and was deemed a great success.

Shaun demonstrates how to ring a bird whilst Ian does the paperwork.

Chiffchaff, a common spring migrant and our most ringed bird at Durlston in 2011

This Great Tit has a deformed bill. This is not that unusual and the fact that the bird has survived the winter shows that it must be feeding well. The apparent 'plasticity' of birds bills allows for rapid evolution under certain conditions. If mutants like this have an advantage then this bill shape will be selected for. This rapid evolution of bill shape can be seen in Darwin's Finches on Galapagos and in Crossbills.

Durlston Castle has been redeveloped as a visitor centre and late several off us popped over there to see the exhibits, which included a superb four screen video of views of and events at the park. Well worth a visit.

After only five hours in bed last night I needed a rest this afternoon, but later on our evening meal was interrupted by the news that Shaun had found a Little Ringed Plover at Lytchett Bay, this time I connected and had good views of this uncommon migrant.

The Little Ringed Plover (usually known as LRP) at Lytchett Bay.

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Posted March 25, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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