Archive for August 2012

August 28th – Janis is 40!   Leave a comment

On the 28th Janis celebrated her 40th birthday, although we didn’t see her until 8.30 as she took Kara to Southampton for Taekwondo training. Amber and Kara had spent much of the previous two days making and decorating the cake and Amber produced an extensive spread of ‘nibbles’. We all gathered around at her house for a surprise party, but as Kara was texting like crazy on their return from Southampton, she had an inkling something was going on, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise.


Two days in the making – Amber and Kara’s cake for Mum.


Janis tucks into Amber’s nibbles.


Margaret, Birthday Girl and Andy.


Kara and Auntie Anita


Amber experiments with a cocktail of fruit juice and a slice of pineapple








Posted August 30, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

24th-26th August – a ‘Jynx’ lifted and a family reunion.   Leave a comment

Having dipped on a Wryneck a few days ago at Portland and again on the 24th I wondered if this was becoming a jinx bird, which in a way is quite appropriate as it’s scientific name is Jynx torquilla. News of another at Middlebere had me heading down there early on the 26th where after a short wait I had brief but reasonable views of it on the lawn of the National Trust Cottages. Has the ‘jynx’ been lifted?


Wryneck at Middlebere, photographed through a five bar gate.


Far more important news is that Margaret’s younger daughter Anita and her husband John have arrived here for an extended stay. After leaving South Africa and travelling around central Europe for a month they flew to the UK on the 24th but a problem with bus availability meant they didn’t arrive in Poole until 0200 on the 25th. They will be staying for us for a while and we will see how their plans unfold.


Re-united for the first time since our wedding in 2009 – Margaret with both her daughters, Anita and Janis.

Kara and Amber with ‘favourite uncle’ John.

On the 26th Margaret, Anita and John met me at Corfe Castle after I had twitched the Middlebere Wryneck and then we all headed to Swanage and on to Durlston for short walk and a light lunch. On the way back we stopped at Kingston to show them the panoramic view of Corfe Castle. The traffic was horrendous with grockles galore and I’m glad we were heading north, not south in the early afternoon.

Ballard Down and Old Harry from Durlston Castle. The Bournemouth skyline and the ‘Bournemouth Eye’ (balloon) can be seen in the distance.

The 10th century Globe at Durlston.

Corfe Castle from near the Scott Arms. The Hartland and Godlingston heaths and Wareham Channel can be seen in the distance.

And the final bit of family news is that my niece Miriam got her GCSC results a couple of days after her 16th birthday. Four A*s and six A’s !!!!

As I posted a recent photo of Miriam a few days ago, I though I’d dig out this one of her practicing ballet steps back in 2005.

Posted August 26, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

20th – 23rd August – Three visits to Durlston and one to Weymouth and the pub.   1 comment

Ringing at Durlston on the 20th was very successful, not only was it the best day of the year so far for numbers with 120 ringed, but we had an interesting mix of species. Single Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and nine Garden Warblers were good enough, but these were eclipsed by the eight Pied Flycatchers we caught. We had no Pied Flys in 2011 but with the three Shaun ringed on the 19th, we have had eleven in two days. We would have probably had more had the wind not increased during the morning.

A first year Pied Flycatcher. The ruffled feathers are due to the stiff breeze that arose during the morning.

L-R: Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher.

The ‘Catching The Bug’ saga continues as Mark and Mo Constantine brought Around van den Berg, Cecilia Bosman, Killian Mullarney and Magnus Robb back from the Bird Fair to Poole. A pub visit was hastily convened and 15 of us met for a drink on the evening of the 20th. Inevitably the book was the main subject of conversation and we had a good few laughs as a result.

Five of the fifteen birders at the pub, L-R: Arnoud van den Berg, Cecilia Bosman, Richard Webb, Killian Mullarney, Mark Constantine.

Going out to the pub and enjoying a few beers is not the best idea when you have to get up at 0430 to go ringing, but somehow I managed it. Michael Gould and I had a good morning but we only caught 50 birds, less than half of yesterday’s total, however a Grasshopper Warbler, two Tree Pipits and a good number of Whitethroats. Of particular interest was a family group of four Long-tailed Tits, as juveniles of this species undergo a complete moult, both the adults and young were in full wing moult, but at different stages and the year old unmoulted primaries of the adults were highly abraded. However I was on my own by that stage and photography wasn’t practical.

Although often seen flying overhead during migration periods, Tree Pipits are only ringed in small numbers.

After a busy weekend and two early morning visits to Durlston I had a bit of a lie-in on the 22nd, but about 0930 I headed off to the Verne on the north side of Portland where a Wryneck had been seen recently. Wryneck, a migratory woodpecker, is a scarce but annual visitor to Dorset but was once a regular breeder, it was described by Yarrell in the mid-nineteenth century as ‘a common species that was kept widely as a pet by country children’. In spite of much searching it wasn’t seen again that morning however my trip to Weymouth/Portland wasn’t wasted as I obtained good views of a Woodchat Shrike at Camp Road, although I have seen this rare migrant twice already this year and hence it didn’t add to my year list, it remains a notable sighting. Five Yellow Wagtails, similar numbers of Wheatears and lots of feeding Swallows and Sand Martins provided further entertainment.

Woodchat Shrike (photo from the internet).

On the 23rd I returned to Durlston where we had a reasonable morning, similar to the 21st with 47 birds ringed. Interesting birds ringed included four Tree Pipits, several Garden Warblers and Whitethroats and a Redstart. A Lesser Whitethroat, up to four Spotted Flycatchers (which kept perching on the top string of the nets) and a Wheatear. There was a light passage of Swallows and Sand Martins. However as so often happens, I left my memory card in the computer, so no photos from today.

Back home I was pleased to see the giant eucalyptus next door is getting a serious prune. With the trimming of our big tree a few weeks ago, it means that last our garden is getting some light.

After years of having our lawn covered with fallen eucalyptus leaves and twigs, next door’s giant blue gum is getting pruned.

Posted August 23, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

18th – 19th August – Lightning really does strike twice!   Leave a comment

As we usually do, we headed up to the Rutland Bird Fair and again year we took Amber and Kara with us. Leaving at 0630 we arrived about 0950, even at that time of the day it was hot inside the marquees. I wanted to hear a talks by Mike Watson of Birdquest on Oman (a trip I have been on with him), Mark Constantine’s talk on his new book and one on the filming of the BBC’s amazing Birds of Paradise program, all of which we managed to do. The rest of the day was spent visiting friends on various stands, although as always there was far more to do than time available.

Recent rain has meant that the Rutland Water has no muddy margins, so few waders were on show, but single Osprey was seen. Conditions were so bad in July that it looked like the Bird Fair was going to have to be cancelled.

My old friend Peter Basterfield on the Birdfinders stand. Peter used to lead for Birdfinders but has had to give up following a serious road accident in India. Like me Peter used to work in medical laboratories, I first met him on Scilly in 1979 and we have kept in touch since.

I always visit the Dutch Birding / Sound Approach stand. L-R facing the camera, Around van den Berg, Magnus Robb, Rene Pop, AN Other. At the back Mark is sat down, Mo is facing left and Paul Morton is standing up with the checked shirt.

Mark giving his talk on Catching The Bug

…….. and Mark and Nick signing copies of their book.

It was a long and tiring day, fortunately the driver stayed awake.

We all spent Saturday night at my brother’s place in Derby. We usually visit this weekend as it falls close to my niece Miriam’s birthday. Simon, who runs a degree course in Acoustics and Stage presentation at Derby University, went through a recording of the Olympic opening ceremony explaining how it was all done.

In Simon and Viv’s garden, Kara shows off her cartwheeling skills.

Kara has been selected to trial for the national Taekwondo team, not bad as she has been training for less than a year.

On Sunday morning we called in to see my sister-in-laws parents, Ida and Dennis and as always were entertained by their highly positive outlook on life.

Margaret with Ida and Dennis relaxing in their garden.

Miriam, Amber, Jennifer and Kara at our wedding in June 2009 ……….

………. and again in August 2012 – haven’t they grown up!

Then it was the long and tiring drive back to Poole

Well this weekend was an almost exact copy of the equivalent date in 2011, right down to what I missed by going away. Just as happened in 2011, no sooner had I got in the car, then an Aquatic Warbler was trapped at Lytchett Bay, and this year it was not an Aquatic but two! Although I have seen Aquatics before in Dorset and ringed a few, missing this globally threatened species still rankles. Yes, lightning really does strike twice!

Bob with Aquatic Warblers, 18.8.12. Photo by Terry Elborne.

Posted August 21, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

14th August – Catching The Bug   Leave a comment

The cover of Catching The Bug.

On the 14th I had an early morning, yet unremarkable ringing trip to Durlston. I opted to rest during the afternoon as I knew I had a full evening ahead of me.

Mark Constantine and Nick Hopper have just written an excellent book on birds, birding and birders of Poole Harbour, called ‘Catching The Bug’. The book is an account of Mark and Nick’s fascination with the area and is based around conversations and debates that Poole birders have had at the pub (and also at the reception of Margaret and my wedding). Many of the local birders feature in the book and many of the best stories of the last quarter century are retold including several that involve me. I particularly liked Mark’s description of me ‘Ian is very well read, acting as the Wikipedia at the pub. You know, not always accurate but no one else knows enough to argue.’

Mark invited all us who are mentioned in the book to the book launch at Storms restaurant in Poole, as well as an excellent meal it was a great chance to meet up with many other Poole Harbour birders and their spouses.

Simon Emerson (R) of The Imagined Village with Mark and Mo’s son, also named Simon.

Margaret with the Olympic Torch. Mo Constantine was selected as one of the Torch bearers and many of us took turns to photographed with it.

On everyone’s behalf, Shaun thanks Mark for his generosity and congratulates Mark and Nick for producing the book. In the lower left is Arnoud van den Berg, fellow member of the Sound Approach and editor of Dutch Birding.

Mark responds to the toast and ensures us that at least some parts of the book are true! Apologies for the lack of sharpness, by this time a full bottle of wine was affecting my stability.

Clearly the book is of particular significance to those of us who live in Poole and are mentioned in the book, but Mark and Nick touch on many issues of wider interest; global warming, identification and possible speciation in Cuckoos, Cormorants, Chiffchaffs and Dartford Warblers, ups and downs of our local bird populations, record assesment, suppresion and release of rare bird news, bird races etc and, as you would excpect from a Sound Approach book, great photos, wonderful paintings by Killian Mullarney and two CDs of bird sounds mentioned in the text.

Sylvia (undata) dartfordiensis – Bibby’s Warbler – an English endemic? Read the book to find out.

Posted August 16, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

9th – 12th August – lots of ringing and an unwelcome dip.   1 comment

On the evening of the 8th I was down at Lytchett Bay helping to set up the mist nets at Lytchett Bay for the following morning’s ringing. One net ride known as ‘Riverside’ is just that, it ends on the bank of the River Sherford. whilst trying to place the pole in the bank, I slipped and plunged head first into the river. The tide was in and the Sherford was sufficiently deep so that I couldn’t touch the bottom; to make matters worse, the bank by the net ride was undercut and I couldn’t get a footing to clamber out. Fortunately Terry Elborne and Paul Morton were setting up nearby and hearing the splash came to my rescue. I put a brave face on it and even asked them to use my camera to photograph the scene, then I realised that my camera was still on my belt and was completely ruined. This was the camera I had bought less than a week ago to replace the one I had lost in PNG and to make matters worse my phone was in my pocket. Fortunately my binoculars survived the immersion without damage.

It goes without saying the other members of the ringing group found the incident hilarious. There have been a number of requests to rename the net ride from ‘Riverside’ to ‘Tom Daley’, ‘Flipper’ or ‘Gryllo’s Swim’. Requests for reinactments, underwater photographs etc abounded. A final twist to this tale was when I contacted the insurers to claim for the phone. When I reported the details they asked if it was best to ring me back on the landline. I pointed out that I could hardly be contacted on my mobile!

We ringed at Lytchett Bay on the mornings of the 9th and 10th. Given the dreadful weather of this spring and summer, it is hardly surprising that numbers trapped are less than half those at this time next year. One particularly notable feature of this autumn is the greatly raised proportion of adult birds present. This reflects that there has been good adult survival in spite of the weather but very poor reproductive success. Also many of the young birds show pronounced growth bars on their tails. This is produced when birds suffer a severe depletion in nutrients for a few days whilst growing the tails feathers and shows most clearly in young birds as all the tail feathers are grown simultaneously. I will post some photos of this phenomena when I finally get a pocket camera again.

I have seen four Kingfishers in the hand over the last few days, three at Lytchett and one in north Dorset.

After the ringing on Saturday 11th, Margaret and I went down to the beach, unfortunately the hot conditions of the last two days had been tempered by a stiff easterly breeze. I considered a second swim in as many days, but the sea was so cold that I only went in ankle-deep, although Margaret was a bit more adventurous.

The joys of the British seaside……

We didn’t stay long as I had yet another outing to fit in. With Paul Harvey down from Shetland, Ian Alexander suggested that the three of us go and stay at Trevor Squire’s private reserve in north Dorset. Trevor trained me to ring in the 70s and early 80s and is one of the most experienced ringers in the country. After a pub meal we stayed overnight in his caravan, although we didn’t get much sleep, each person accusing the others of snoring all night. We trapped over 70 birds, mainly migrants, not bad for an inland site, indeed an inland site that was just a grassy field a few years ago.

I was back home by lunchtime on Sunday 12 and needed a well earned rest after a very busy few days.


L-R Ian Alexander, me, Trevor Squire and Paul Harvey photographed in December 2011.


Trevor’s reserve photographed last summer, the vegetation has grown up considerably since then.

Posted August 13, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

7th – 9th August – two visits to Durlston and one to the Olympics   Leave a comment

On the 7th Shaun and I had our first autumn ringing visit to Durlston. There were quite a few early migrants about but the wind soon got up. We caught mainly Willow Warblers plus a the odd Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap, we trapped 42 birds in total.

This juvenile Bullfinch cannot be sexed as males and females are identical until the commencement of the post-juvenile moult. The lack of a black crown separates juveniles from adult females.



Most adult ‘Sylvia’ warblers have a complete moult after breeding, however Garden Warblers are more like ‘Acrocephaus’ warblers in that they moult in the winter quarters. Thus the tatty abraded appearance of this Garden Warbler proves it is an adult.

On the 8th I opted to take Amber and Kara to Weymouth to see the Olympic sailing. We parked at the back of Lodmoor and I was able to see a few migrant waders plus a Spoonbill on our way down to the beach. It was quite a long way along the sea wall to the area where the races were shown live on large screens. Kara and Amber wanted to go swimming so we didn’t go any closer, and I watched a couple of races on the screen. The yachts were just visible from the esplanade via binoculars, but to see the race properly you either need to go to the top of the new tower or get tickets to the Nothe gardens. Next to the display screens was an area where various sports were being displayed. The girls had a go at a ‘canoe race’, golf and tag rugby.

Screens on Weymouth beach relay the Olympic sailing races that occur just out of sight in Weymouth Bay.


With face paint and bikinis, Kara and Amber declare their patriotism.


Amber and Kara try a canoe race.

On the 9th I returned to Durlston along with my friend Paul Harvey who is down from Shetland for the Olympics and to see relatives. We only caught 32 birds, 19 Willows but also 6 Garden Warblers. It was quite busy for the first hour but it soon quietened down.

Although still showing signs of juvenile plumage, this male Blackcap had moulted some of its secondaries and greater coverts and also showed the very abraded primaries and tail feathers that would be associated with a pre-moult adult.

I dropped Paul back at his parent’s house in Upton later where his daughter Bryony and grandson Harvey were also staying. Two -and-half-year old Harvey has changed a lot since I last saw him, but there again it would be strange if he hadn’t.

Paul Harvey and Harvey Paul.



Posted August 9, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized