Archive for March 2012

March 6th – New Forest   Leave a comment

Whilst listening to the beautiful song of a Woodlark today I remembered that I have been asked why I don’t add sound recordings of birds to my blog. In practice I don’t have any decent sound recording equipment and you have pay for an upgrade to upload sound files, but I see now harm in providing an external link. The Xeno-Canto site has recordings of 75% of the world’s birds. For example this Woodlark song at  browse.php?query=wood+lark&species_nr=

On a beautiful spring morning I set off for Acres Down in the New Forest in the hope of finding a Goshawk. This magnificent, yet secretive raptor has been making a come back the UK and numbers are increasing in the New Forest, although it remains rare in Dorset. Acres Down is a wonderful spot with an almost 270 degree view over the surrounding woodland and apart from a distant tower near Sway and the occasional plane overhead, no human artifacts visible.

Acres Down, the best raptor view-point in the New Forest


It is possible to see and identify raptors several miles away from this point.


At least a dozen Buzzards were seen along with a single Sparrowhawk, but I wasn’t there long before a female Goshawk spiraled up and displayed above the forest before folding her wings and diving almost vertically into the canopy. Not only is the female much larger than the former but performs most of the display and defence of the territory. I knew about the former, but have only just learned about the latter. That’s one of the great things about birding, you learn something new almost every day.

I later met Jackie Hull and her TwO Owls birding group, not long after they had departed, a first year (brown) Goshawk flew high over the wood and was joined by two adults, presumably defending their territory. The female showed particularly well, puffing out the white undertail coverts and sky diving over the forest. I beleive Jackie’s group caught up with at least one Gos on the walk back.


Goshawks are much larger than Sparrowhawks with deeper chests, longer more rounded tails, broader based wings with protruding secondaries and a dark cap. Photographed in Armenia in May 2010.



Later I visited a couple of sites in the hope that I might catch up with this winter’s bogey bird, the Brambling and after checking a few Chaffinch flocks I found three Bramblings near to Bolderwood car park. Now at last I have caught up with all the regularly wintering birds in the area.


A female Brambling, female Chaffinch and on the right, a male Brambling, Bolderwood.


A report of a Sand Martin at Blashford Lakes showed that Spring had truly sprung. Hoping to see my first trans-Saharan migrant of the year, I headed for Ibsley Water but the Sand Martin had long gone. I did see a summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe along with the usual ducks and Great Crested and Little Grebes.


Ibsley Water, most waterfowl were on the far side.


Regular in small numbers on the Dorset coast, it was a real treat to see a summer plumaged bird, even if it was at some distance. Photo from the internet.



Posted March 7, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

3rd and 4th March – Derby and Hampshire   Leave a comment

At the end of last week I received the sad news that my mother’s health is declining rapidly, she can no longer communicate and doesn’t want to eat. Plans for this weekend were quickly dropped and Margaret and I headed up to Derby on Saturday morning. Along with my brother Simon, we visited the nursing home where we spent some time with her and were able to discuss her ongoing care with the staff.

We try to look happy for the photo but in reality it is very sad to see Mum's mental and physical decline.

Simon has finally managed to clear Mum’s old house and has a whole lot of old paperwork to sort through. Amongst the old photos, recipes and receipts Simon found my school report, comments like ‘disgraceful French result’, ‘easily satisfied with 2nd and 3rd rate’ and ‘only works on subjects that he likes’  demonstrates that nothing has changed over the past 45 years!

Disgraceful French mark! but I did get some better comments for my science subjects as I got older. Click on the image to enlarge if you wish to read it.

Simon and Viv had other commitments so Margaret and I headed for Carsington reservoir a few miles north of Mum’s nursing home. We didn’t have long, but we saw Tree Sparrows at the feeders and best of all, a pair of Willow Tits nearby.

Carsington reservoir on a cold but sunny afternoon.

Chaffinches are expected on a bird table.......

..... but Moorhens are not!

But it was these Tree Sparrows that we had come to see. No longer a regular breeder in Dorset, Tree Sparrows have declined by 90% since their peak population in the 70s..

Reed Buntings fed in the nearby scrub.

Willow Tits were regular in Dorset when I moved here in the late seventies but now are extinct. For me the most accessible birds are at Carsington north of Derby and Attenborough near Nottingham. Willow Tits are very like Marsh Tits but differ structurally, in plumage and in particularly in vocalisations.

During the evening we went to Derby’s main hospital to visit Dennis, my sister-in-law’s father who is recovering from abdominal surgery. As always Dennis was jolly with lots of witty observations on life and his stay in hospital.

Simon and Viv were busy on Sunday so we left early and after visiting Viv’s mother, Ida, we set off home. It turned out to be an awful journey, heavy rain and spray was replaced by snow as we headed south. As we reached Ringwood the weather cleared so we opted to detour to Hordle near New Milton to see a Rosy Starling that had been reported there. It took a while to locate the small close that the bird was frequenting and even longer to locate the bird, but eventually we got good views.

A rare visitor from the steppes of central Asia, most Rosy Starlings seen in the UK are sandy-brown juveniles, this bird is almost in full breeding plumage.

In full plumage Rosy Starlings are very beautiful birds. Photographed by Dave Farrow on my 2006 Kazakhstan tour.

Posted March 5, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

March 2nd – Canford Heath   Leave a comment

This morning I joined fellow ringer Terry Elborne at his ringing site on Canford Heath, a large block of heathland on the northern outskirts of Poole. Terry has been ringing here for the last few weeks and has been feeding the site. This clearly has been most productive, as we ringed 39 birds, mainly finches and tits.

A cold and misty dawn....

... a mist that persisted in the valley where we were ringing.

Ali rings a Great Tit whilst Terry does the paperwork.

Long-tailed Tit, perhaps the cutest bird in Britain.

The breeding plumage of the male Reed Bunting is obtained through abrasion not moult. A few brown-tipped feathers remain around the eyes and the lores which should abrade to black very soon.

We caught six Coal Tits this morning.

Greenfinch numbers have dropped recently due to Trichomonosis, a parasite disease, however numbers may have started to recover, there are still plenty on Canford Heath.

Posted March 2, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

1st March – Last of the Summer Wine?   Leave a comment

Today I met up with my friends and ex colleagues, Gio Petrangelo and Tim Kellaway for a walk around the Studland area. Gio suggested it was like an episode of  ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ where three old codgers always end up going for a walk and on the way to pub get involved in all manner of hilarious scrapes. I pointed out that although Gio and I might pass as ‘old codgers’ this was hardly fair on Tim, who is still in his forties.

Unfortunately it was a very foggy morning when we caught the ferry over to Shell Bay. First we walked along the road towards the freshwater lake of Littlesea. Unfortunately large fish have been illegally introduced to this lake and changes in the ecology mean that it is nowhere as attractive to wintering duck as it used to be, however we were delighted to see three Otters as we approached the main viewing area.

Poor visibility at the ferry.

Formed by the formation of the dune system which cut it off from Studland Bay, Littlesea is part of the National Nature Reserve.

We were delighted to see three Otters, probably a female and two of last years cubs

We continued across Godlingstone Heath to the Agglestone, a mighty block of sandstone perched on a hill. Legend claims it was thrown at Corfe Castle from the Isle of Wight by the Devil who inevitably missed. As we had our lunch the foggy conditions lifted and we had great views, but later whilst enjoying a pint in the garden of the Bankes Ams we noted that in the windless and still misty conditions as we still couldn’t make out the horizon, all the navigation buoys and fishing boats appeared suspended in mid-air!

The Agglestone looms over Goddlingstone Heath.

Tim and Gio at the Agglestone, a 400 tonne block of sandstone that looks very out-of-place in the middle of the wet heath.

Visibility started to improve whilst we were there.


Snowdrops are to be expected a this time of year.....


... but Primroses are a sure sign of spring.


The sea was like a mill-pond off Studland village, grebes and sea duck were offshore but I didn't have my scope.

Back at the ferry it was hardly seemed possible that the Harbour mouth was shrouded in fog just six hours ago.


So will Compo, Clegg and Foggy go on another hike? I certainly hope so, perhaps Nora Batty will come along next time.

Posted March 2, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized