Archive for January 2013

27th – 31st January – Wyke Down and a most enjoyable evening.   Leave a comment

The Hoopoe story I reported in the last post has caused some hilarity among some Dorset birders, especially those around Weymouth who have a far better chance than us of seeing a Hoopoe.

This spoof article was written by Daragh who birds on Lodmoor. The reference to a Swanage woman is about Phyl England who proudly had a Waxwing eating her apples.

Dorset Echo Thursday:
As 4 twitchers flocked from as far away as 2 miles to see a rare Hoopoebird in Hamworthy, the feathered vagrant became embroiled in a major row.
Photographs of the Hoopoebird appeared on the day the Prime Minister announced plans for a referendum on British membership of the Single Market.
But UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the Hoopoebird’s presence demonstrated how the British people were being conned.
“Immigration tell us our borders are secure. And yet I have evidence that this bird has probably been here for months without anyone knowing. It is not British and has sneaked over from Continental Europe to take advantage of our lawns.
“The real scandal is that it has been here undetected for so long, lurking in an area where children play and pensioners walk the streets alone.
“And Dorset birders had no idea it was here. In fact, when the alarm was raised by a patriotic resident some birders dismissed her claim by pretending it was actually a good old British Jay. 
“What’s more I have evidence that more foreign invaders, in the form of Waxwings, have come over here without any immigration checks. These are particularly sinister because they often prey on neighbourhoods in gangs.
“Dorset birders say they know all about these birds but the fact is they don’t really have any idea how many of these illegal immigrants are in the county and where they are going to turn up next.
“These birds pay no taxes and eat our berries. I’ve even heard a heart breaking story of a Swanage woman having her apples stolen by these vicious foreigners.”
And this reply was posted by Langton Matravers birder Steve Smith:
When asked for his comment Prime Minister Cameron said that the British people would be asked in a referendum whether they want to allow these birds to come to Britain. He will be proposing to introduce strict quotas for the European Redwings and Fieldfares as well, some of which have stayed beyond their 6 month visas and have raised families in the UK
After the excitement of finally connecting with the Hoopoe, Margaret and I reverted to our original plan of birding in the Sixpenny Handley area in north Dorset. First we stopped at the River Stour bridge at Wimborne where the resident Red-crested Pochard showed well. The road from Wimborne St Giles to Wyke Down had been closed due to flooding and although the road was now very muddy and wet in places we got through without difficulty.
Although the temperature was much higher than a week earlier, there was a strong wind and it felt pretty cold hanging around. The Great Grey Shrike that had been seen earlier wasn’t showing, but we did see a Short-eared Owl and a Barn Owl. As it grew dark we headed back towards Wimborne St Giles where two Barn Owls put on an excellent show over a meadow and even allowed some photos.
This Red-crested Pochard has been in the Wimborne area for several years now and is almost certainly of feral origin.
IMG_3943-Barn-Owl IMG_3950-Barn-Owl
Three views of the Barn Owls near Wimborne St Giles
With high winds all week there has been no chance to go ringing. Much of the rest of the week has been spent preparing for my trip to Colombia at the weekend, however we went to an excellent talk on Wednesday night. Martin Garner who runs the Birding Fronteirs website spoke about some of the birding events that have inspired him during 2012 and showed that even with well-known species there is still much to learn, be it behaviour or identification features. He decried the widespread criticism of birders abilities by other birders and said his mission was to inspire everyone to be the best birder they could possibly be. Norwegian birder Tormod Armundson gave a presentation on his new home in the Varangerfjord area of extreme northern Norway. As well as showing some excellent bird photos he also explained how he is trying to make the area ‘birder friendly’ and bring more birders and hence more business to the area, something that was treated with incredulity by the locals, but is now welcomed with open arms.
Mark and Mo made the Lush offices in Poole available for the talk, we had an audience of over 50, possibly a record for a Bird Club meeting.
Tormod shows a photo of Vadso in far northern Norway at night. When I visited this area in June 1988 there was of course 24 hour daylight.
Many of us retired to the Blue Boar for a drink. L-R Nick Hopper, Simon Emerson, Martin Garner, Mo and Mark Constantine, Magnus Robb and Tormod Armundson, an eclectic mix of birders, musicians and entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately for reasons that are beyond me, WordPress is prevently me from adding captions to the photos in the normal manner. Hopefully it will be rctified by the time I get back from South America.

Posted January 31, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

21st – 27th January – 8th time lucky for the Hoopoe, uncooperative Waxwings and a great film.   Leave a comment

On Monday 21st having a few tasks to do at home I tried a little ringing in the garden, in the hope that the continuing cold weather might have driven a few birds into the garden. After a few hours all I had ringed was the Coal Tit below, so I packed up and headed to Lytchett Bay, intending to arrive on the low tide.


The failure of the conifer cone crop after the wet summer of 2012 has forced many Coal Tits into gardens searching for food.

Birding at the Bay was most successful,  Fieldfares and Redwing were everywhere, five Golden Plover and many Lapwings fed in the fields, I flushed some 60 Common and one Jack Snipe, two Bramblings fed with a Chaffinch flock and a Spoonbill fed in the outflow from the sewage work.


There have been 16 Spoonbills in Holes Bay recently but yesterday one left the flock and fed on its own in Brands Bay. Has ‘Billy-no-mates’ flown to Lytchett, the other side of Poole Harbour to Brands Bay, or is it a new arrival?


After a while the Spoonbill took off and headed north-west. The black wing tips indicate it is a first winter bird. Colour-ringed individuals have originated in Holland, which is presumed to the be the source of all our wintering birds.

Later I drove round to the other side of the Bay to the recreation ground at Turlin Moor. There had been a number of reports to the RSPB of a Hoopoe in Hamworthy but details where very sparse and I was quite skeptical (and even suggested it might be a Fieldfare due to the recent influx). Hoopoes usually occur in the UK in spring, and are usually associated with hot, dry locations like acacia scrub or olive groves, so one in snow covered Turlin Moor/Hamworthy seemed most unlikely. Not surprisingly all I saw was Fieldfare and Redwing.

On Tuesday I was invited round to Paul Morten’s house to do some ringing. With the recent addition of baby Jake to the family I was surprised that Paul had any time to devote to birds, but his wife Phillipa seemed happy for us to ring birds whilst she tended to the children. We had a very successful morning ringing a Fieldfare, a good number of Blackbirds, (which must have arrived in the cold weather movement) lots of Goldfinches, plus a Bullfinch and a Lesser Redpoll.


The first bird we trapped was a Fieldfare, the first I have handled for many years. Fieldfares can be sexed by the pattern of the feathers of the crown. The pointed black centres of the crown feathers show that this bird is a female. Our colleague Trevor from north Dorset ringed a Fieldfare in the autumn of 2011 which was found, killed by a cat, in Sweden the following spring.  In the background is ‘Svensson’ – the ringer’s Bible.


Ringing was going well when suddenly the flock of Waxwings that has been seen elsewhere in Lytchett Matravers appeared on a wire over the nearby road. 31 in number, we fervently hoped they would come into the garden and indeed they did……


… but no amount of hoping would bring them down from the trees at the bottom of the garden to the catching area. Phillipa wondered why if Paul was ecstatic to get one Waxwing in the garden earlier in the week, he was so disappointed to get 31! Eventually a Goldfinch went into the net and Paul had to creep along the net to extract it in the hope that the Waxwings wouldn’t be disturbed by his actions. Both photos taken through a window hence the poor image.


Meanwhile five-day old Jake slept soundly…..


…. and two year old Millie played with her toy iPad.


At the end of the day it started to snow again, but unlike areas further north it didn’t settle.

On Wednesday 23rd I found out late morning that the Hoopoe story was not a rumour. A local birder had seen it out of the window from a factory in Hamworthy. Two other birders managed to relocate it a few streets away, but by the time I arrived it had vanished. About half a dozen of us scoured the nearby lawns, recreation areas and verges until dusk but to no avail.

Thursday morning saw me back at Paul’s. We didn’t ring as many birds (probably because  it was sunny and the net was more visible) and there  were no sign of any Waxwings. Later we heard that Hamworthy had turned up trumps again with Waxwings on Symes Road, but further suburban searching produced neither Waxwing or Hoopoe.


The proud father with son Jake

However news of three Bean Geese at Longham Lake saw me spending the last hour of daylight at this excellent spot watching these rare visitors to Dorset. Many consider there to be two species of Bean Goose; Tundra Bean Goose shown here is the more northerly breeding species and occurs sporadically in the UK in winter with no regular localities. The forest breeding Taiga Bean Goose has a longer bill, longer neck and winters in the UK in two discreet small flocks, one in Norfolk and one in south Scotland. Both IOC and Clements checklists treat Bean Goose as two species but the BOU hasn’t followed this treatment.

Bean Goose

The Tundra Bean Geese were far too distant to be photographed so here is one from the internet taken in Norfolk.

Friday 25th saw me renewing my search for the Hoopoe, but mid morning I gave up and went to the gym. On my return about 1130 I heard that our friends Nick and Jackie Hull had located it, not in Hamworthy but slightly further north on the Turlin Moor estate. This estate lies north of the railway line and as it is adjacent to Lytchett Bay is included in the Lytchett Bay recording area. So now I not only had a potential year tick and Poole Harbour tick, I had a potential Lytchett Bay tick as well, something I really wanted as I had missed the bird that Shaun found at the Bay in 2003. However I by the time I got there it had gone and another afternoon was spent searching people’s front gardens (I think the postman got fed up of cars pulling up and asking if he had seen any black-and-white striped birds on his rounds).


There were Fieldfares all over the grassy areas at Turlin Moor


The south side of Lytchett Bay seen from the Turlin Moor estate. The line of trees to the left follows the railway line and divides Turlin Moor from Hamworthy.

Saturday 26th I was back ‘kerb-crawling’ at Turlin Moor, with still no sign of the Hoopoe by mid morning I drove to Blashford Lakes just over the border in Hampshire. First I called in at nearby Harbridge where two Bewick’s Swans and 10 (introduced) Egyptian Geese weer hanging around with the Mutes. At Blashford on Ibsley Water a pair of Goosander, two Barnacle Geese, a Knot, a Black-necked Grebe were the highlights but there was no sign of the reported Smew. Hearing that there was one at Longham Lakes I called in there on the way back and had reasonable views. There were two Bewick’s there as well although the Bean Geese had gone. Later careful comparisons of times of observation showed that there were indeed different Bewick’s and Smew at both Blashford and Longham that day and the birds hadn’t been commuting between sites.


The Ibsley floods. These fields are usually wet in winter but the recent wet weather has caused the River Avon to break it’s banks.


Smaller and daintier than Whooper Swans, Bewick’s arrive in the UK each year from Arctic Siberia. Up to 150 used to winter at Harbridge/Ibsley but now many stop off at Welney in the Fens where they are fed.


An introduced species, Egyptian Geese seem to be colonising the Avon Valley and may now breed there.


There were large numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler (in the photo) and also Pintail at Ibsley Water. Perhaps these birds were driven south to France or Spain by the recent snow and are now returning as the thaw continues.


The weather forecast had seemed to indicate rain on Saturday afternoon so I had booked us tickets to see Les Miserables at the cinema. Well, the weather was good but the film was superb so it was well worth missing some birding time.


I am not usually a fan of musicals but this tale of 19th century France is so very well produced and acted. Well worth seeing.

Sunday morning (27th) Margaret surprised me by suggesting we both go and look for the Hoopoe. The bird had inevitably been seem whilst we were in the cinema yesterday but no-one had managed to twitch it. We toured the streets of Hamworthy concentrating on the Galloway Road area where it had last been seen. With no luck there we drove around to Turlin Moor (a few yards as the Hoopoe flies but over a mile by car) and were searching Hamworthy rec for the bird when Steve phoned. He was looking at it in Galloway Road right where we had been 30 minutes earlier, I have never seen Margaret run for bird before! Question, should we go to the railway station and walk the underpass to Galloway Road or drive round. I choose the latter which was a mistake, as it had flown a minute before we arrived and the underpass came out on Galloway Road just feet from where it was. Further searching got us and the other dippers nowhere, so we headed home for lunch.

We had planned to spend the afternoon in north Dorset, but just as we were leaving Mark Constantine phoned to say they had relocated it on the industrial estate that backs onto Galloway Road. We dropped everything and got there in time to see this Mediterranean bird, looking very out of place in a factory yard in the middle of  a Dorset winter.


8th time lucky! Thanks to Mark and Mo I finally caught up with the Hoopoe, my 16th for the UK, 12th for Dorset, but first for Poole/Poole Harbour area.


Although pretty obvious against a dark background it really blended in by the factory wall, clearly the species has evolved a camouflage to prevent it being located in an industrial setting!


But soon it was off over the factories and back to Galloway Road.

Of course many would say why put yourselves through so much frustration for a bird that is common throughout southern Europe, southern Asia and Africa. The the truth is, it was so close to home that I would hate to miss such a quality bird on my ‘doorstep’, indeed the very frustration of birding is what make eventual success so rewarding. If birds were like say, stately homes, always there when you went to see them, then birding would never be be so fulfilling. The only way this could have been bettered was if I had seen it a hundred yards to the north within the Lytchett Bay area!

Posted January 28, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

19th – 20th January – cold weather birding and some nice cakes.   Leave a comment

With the freeze continuing I spent some time birding over the weekend in the hope that I might see some interesting birds displaced by the cold weather. The temperature on Saturday was not only below freezing but there was a strong easterly breeze making it very raw in exposed areas.

As a lot of displaced birds had been reported from Weymouth and I knew of a few goodies there I drove to Radipole first. The area around the north hide was pretty quiet with just a group of Shoveler on view but I did hear several Bearded Tits on the way back and had a couple of sightings of Marsh Harrier.

I had no luck with Black Redstart at the usual stake out but a pair of Velvet Scoters showed very well in Portland Harbour. Nearby at Ferrybridge the sudden appearance of car park man had me running for the ticket machine and as a result I missed the resident Snow Bunting by seconds, which apparently flew north just before I arrived. Photographing Mediterranean Gulls and small waders was some compensation. Fieldfare were much in evidence with flocks everywhere and small numbers of Skylarks were moving east through Ferrybridge. I had intended to go on to Abbotsbury to look for Long-tailed Duck and Scaup but the wind was bitter at Ferrybridge and the thought of walking out to the ‘tank traps’ along the exposed shingle in a brisk easterly was daunting so I returned home via Lytchett Bay where I met up with Shaun. Again there were Fieldfare everywhere, two Marsh Harriers put on a show and a three Woodlarks flew over, most unusual for the site. Back home, I defrosted with a much-needed hot bath.


A flock of Black-headed, Common and Mediterranean Gulls at Ferrybridge.


Adult winter Mediterranean Gulls


Adult winter Mediterranean Gull


Dunlin and Ringed Plover


Small numbers of Skylarks were moving east.


Small Mouth where the Fleet meets Portland Harbour. This is the place where Margaret first landed in the UK after her eight year boat -trip from South Africa. They sailed to Portland Harbour from France, anchored just the other side of the bridge and landed the dingy here.


The snow cover was light in Poole and almost non-existent in Weymouth but still pretty deep between Dorchester and Bere Regis.

The WeBS count two weeks ago was cancelled due to fog and so was reconvened for today. With a couple of hours free beforehand I put a net up in the garden in case any wintering thrushes paid us a visi,t but instead caught two Blackcap, the first I have seen in the garden this year.


A female Blackcap. Numbers wintering in the UK seem to be on the rise and they seem to be able to withstand severe weather by visiting gardens.

On my way to Holes Bay I had time to make two brief stops to see birds that had already been found, a Black Redstart at Upton Park and a two Ruff in a field just north of the Upton by-pass.



Black Redstart at Upton Park

Due to the low tide being higher than usual there were few birds in my section of Holes Bay during the count but the north-eastern quadrant was packed with Wigeon, Teal, Dunlin and other waders. 15 Spoonbill and 190 Avocets were highlights, whilst hundreds of Fieldfare flew over, accompanied by a few Skylarks and two Woodlarks. In the drain behind PC World at least six Chiffchaffs were braving the cold and a Common Sandpiper fed along the margins.


WeBS counts have shown that Holes Bay along with Poole Park and Wareham Channel are the best areas for Mute Swans in Poole Harbour.

Later we joined John and Anita at Poole Quay for lunch and in the later afternoon we all went round to Janis’ where Kara had been busy baking all day so even more food was on offer.


Janis was taking photos of the girls and was using a photo umbrella with a slave flash which fired when I used the flash on my pocket camera, this produced a very washed out picture although I think the effect is quite pleasing.


Amber was looking a bit glum when we arrived but a short time with auntie Anita cheered her up.


Kara and her hamster ‘Fluffpuff’


Kara had been baking cakes all afternoon …….


…. which were as delicious as they looked.

Posted January 22, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

14th November – The Lands of the Queen of Sheba: Myths, History and Endemics. Reposted.   Leave a comment

Several people have told me that the post about the talk I gave on the ‘Lands of the Queen of Sheba’ on the 14th of November had no visible pictures. I have no idea why this happened but have redone all the photos and reposted it here.

I often give slideshows on my travels to RSPB and other wildlife orientated groups, however the talk I gave to the East Dorset Antiquarian Society on 14th November was a completely new departure. Brian Maynard, a former colleague is a leading light in EDAS and I suggested to him that I might have enough material for a talk.

In November 2011, after my three-week bird tour of Ethiopia, I spent a further five days in the north of the country looking at the archeological wonders of Axsum and Lalibela. Their original suggestion for a title ‘Early Christian Churches in Ethiopia’ lacked impact so I suggested ‘the Lands of the Queen of Sheba, Myths, History and Endemics’, as this would allow me to dwell on the multiple ‘tall stories’ I was told on the tour, as well as showing a few pictures of endemic birds.


The EDAS meeting in Wimborne

I started by giving an overview of the stories pertaining to the Queen of Sheba and asked if there was any proof that she ever made the famous journey to Jerusalem to see Solomon or for that matter if she ever existed at all.

I then gave a brief overview of my travels around Ethiopia before starting to describe my visit to Axsum.


The stunning scenery of northern Ethiopia


An endemic mammal – the Gelada Baboon


Perhaps the most beautiful of all the endemics: Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. It’s titled discoverer was killed by an elephant soon after the type specimen was taken and for decades the whereabouts of this species remained a mystery. Photo by Brian Field.

At Axsum I was shown some markets, ruins that were claimed to be the palace of the Queen of Sheba (although archeology dates them to 7th century AD not 1000 BC), the famous Stele Park and the church of St Mary of Zion that is supposed to contain the Ark of the Covenant, the actual box that holds the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, taken from the Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem by Melanik, the supposed son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.


My guide in one of the royal tombs that date from the 5th century AD


The incredible stelae, 4thC AD monoliths. 120 remain but only two are this tall, at over 24m.


The largest stele, 33m high toppled soon after erection, perhaps not surprisingly as there was only one metre of foundations. When it fell it crushed a royal tomb, the entrance of which can still be seen to the left of the stele.


This chapel holds what Ethiopians believe is the Ark of the Covenant. Only one priest is allowed into the chapel and once there he never leaves until he dies.

After the break I showed pictures of the wonderful rock churches of Lalibela and told tales, both mythical and historical, of their construction and use.


St George’s Church, Lalibela. These remarkable rock churches are not built of rock, they are carved out of rock.


Estimated that it took 40,000 people 40 years to cut the 11 churches out of the rock although legend has it that the angels carved them in a small fraction of that time.


Most of the churches are collected by tunnels and walkways.

I then showed some shots I took in Yemen in 2009, another land that claims the Queen of Sheba as their own.


The Yemen highlands: ancient villages perched on the edge of precipitous cliffs.


The old parts of Sana’a look unchanged since Biblical times. With some archaeological remains dating to nearly 3000 years ago. Was this really the land of the Queen of Sheba?


Lucy, named after the Beatles number ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ which was playing at the time of discovery, is one of the most significant hominid fossils ever discovered.

The talk was concluded by returning to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia where I visited the National Museum to see the bones of ‘Lucy’, the 3.6 million year old Authralopithicus, one of humanities earliest known ancestors. I finished by saying that Lucy was no myth, was real history, well prehistory and was endemic to the Horn of Africa, thus bringing the three threads of this talk together at the end.

This talk had been quite a challenge, as I had never spoken to a historical society before. It had taken quite a bit of research but it had been good fun, both preparing and giving the talk and it seemed to be well received.

Posted January 20, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

15th – 18th January – a little ringing then a little snow.   Leave a comment

Proper winter weather at last. It has been cold all week but on Friday the forcasted snow arrived.

The past few days have still been dogged by this nasty viral infection. Whilst I have been getting better, Margaret has been off work for much of the time, however she hopes to be back at work fulltime on Monday

On Tuesday 15th Shaun, Kevin and I did some ringing at the drain behind PC World. We were very successful with over 40 birds trapped including 10 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap both scarce in winter in the UK. There were another seven unringed Chiffchaffs present, so a total of at least 17 Chiffchaffs in one site in winter is most remarkable.


Although a common breeder Blackcaps are quite rare in winter. Ringing has shown that our wintering birds are not breeding birds that decide not to migrate but are from southern Germany.


A typical nominate race (colybita) Chiffchaff


The matted feathers on the crown of this Chiffchaff is usually a sign that it has been feeding on pollen, but where would a Chiffchaff find pollen in winter?


This Chiffchaff with a very pale belly and greenish fringes looks quite like a Siberian Chiffchaff (race tristis) when held in the shade.


… but in the sun shows some green on the lesser coverts and above the bill. This bird was ringed at this site in winter 2009 and was retrapped in 2012, it would be most interesting to know where this bird goes in summer.

On Wednesday 16th Sean, Kevin and I made our weekly visit to Holton Lee. Again we trapped 50 birds, 32 of which were retraps. Best birds were two Treecreepers and a Sparrowhawk.


Details of the patterning on the primary feathers and the margins of the alula feather help separate this Common Treecreeper from its continental Short-toed cousin.


This male Sparrowhawk looks like an adult, but a few brown-fringed feathers on the lesser coverts show that is a third calender year bird, ie hatched in 2011 or age code 7 in ringing parlance ……


…. in addition the iris is a deep yellow, midway between the pale yellow of a juvenile and the orange of an adult.

On Friday 18th the expected snow arrived. Normally we don’t get much snow in Poole, due to the warming effects of the harbour, and what does fall usually melts during the day. By 0600 there was already a good covering and it continued to snow for much of the day, although it turned to a fine sleet in the afternoon. Of course we didn’t get anything like as much as snow as inland areas, especially in South Wales where a red alert had been issued. Weymouth, Portland and along the Fleet had very little snow and it was here that birds congregated. Cold weather movements used to be a feature of winter birding but we have seen few in recent years. In the afternoon I thought I would have a look at Holes Bay in case a Smew or other refugee from the cold had turned up. I did see a distant flock of Fieldfares, a group of Skylarks crossed the water, 16 Spoonbills (which have moved here from Arne), over 80 Avocets, a Spotted Redshank and a Kingfisher so my visit was hardly wasted. It is easy to get blase about the birds in our area but over much of the UK finding the aforementioned species alongside a major road just a mile outside of town would be unthinkable. Unfortunately the light was appalling and totally unsuited for photography.


Snow in Upton.


Both of the girl’s schools were closed due to the snow and they were both round before it was light, to tell us all about it. Kara is trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue.


We next saw the girls after dark when they popped round to build a snowman in our front garden.

Posted January 19, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

11th – 14th January – a bit of birding in Hampshire and Dorset,   Leave a comment

Feeling much better on Friday 11th I opted for some birding. First I visited drain that runs behind PC World near Holes Bay, this forms the outflow for the nearby sewage works and the warm water produces a microclimate that attracts wintering warblers. Chiffchaffs are a common summer visitor but are quite scarce in winter so an aggregation of ten or more birds along the drain is most unusual. We ringed a number of these Chiffchaffs last year and it is pleasing to report that two (one of which may be of the Siberian race tristis) have returned this winter. We need to recatch these birds to be absolutely sure and we hope to be able to do this in due course.

With the tide in I didn’t bother to look at Holes Bay but headed out to Ringwood and a flooded area known as Bickersly Common. A Glossy Ibis took up residence here in December and remains into the new year. Once a major rarity, numbers have greatly increased in recent years and the copy of British Birds journal that arrived today has confirmed that it has been removed from the list of official rarities. The colonisation of the huge reserve of Coto Donana in southern Spain seems to be the reason for the change of status in north-west Europe.


Viewing conditions at Bickersly Common were far from ideal.


The River Avon has flooded Bickersly Common making it a haven for wildfowl.


Looking directly into the sun it was impossible to photograph the Glossy Ibis, so here is one that I shot in 2012.

Later at Blashford Lakes I was able to see a Bittern, Great White Egret and many species of wildfowl. Several hides have smoky windows which allows you to get very close to birds, great for those who don’t have optics, but not for taking pictures, however one window does open and there are always a gaggle of photographers trying to squeeze in to use it.



The wintering Bittern showed well at Ivy Lake


From the woodland hide I was able to photograph this Goldfinch ……..


…. this male Lesser Redpoll ….


… along with this female Lesser Redpoll ….


… a male Siskin ….


… and a female Siskin.


Unfortunately this Brambling had to be photographed through the smoky window.



With Margaret’s condition worstening I spent all of Saturday with her. The whole family came round on Saturday evening to wish her well and share some pizza. On Sunday morning I visited Holes Bay where I saw both Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper along with a few Chiffchaffs and a Kingfisher. Unfortunately visits to Holmebridge near Wareham on Sunday and Monday in search of the Pink-footed Goose that has been there since late December drew a blank.


comsand Pooleparrot

The same Common Sandpiper was photographed by ‘Poole Parrot’ and has been reblogged from Bird Forum.

spotshank Pooleparrot

The Spotted Redshank was photographed by ‘Poole Parrot’ and has been reblogged from Bird Forum.

Posted January 14, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

7th – 10th January – under the weather, but still active.   Leave a comment

Well it’s not been the best of weeks for Margaret and I. Margaret started a cold on Saturday 5th but soldiered on in spite of all our post bird race guests. By Monday she was well enough to go to work but I had started a sore throat, she seemed to recover during the week as I got worse, but then by the following Friday (11th) I had largely recovered but she had markedly deteriorated and has been almost bed bound since.

Although I have spent most of my adult life working with infectious micro-organisms I have suffered few serious respiratory infections. I have put this down to the fact that my immune system was being constantly challenged by the bugs at work and so was in a state of constant readiness. Maybe now that challenge has been removed I can look forwards to more colds and flu-like symptoms in the future (although reduced contact with infected people should help to mitigate this).

At the age of 17 I made the decision that I wasn’t going to get the grades to be a medic, the career the headmaster had been pushing me towards, and it was my biology teacher, whom we nicknamed ‘Noddy’, who recommended Microbiology as a degree subject. I soon became fascinated with electron microscopy and the detection of viruses (although later found that EM work can be most boring). I used an EM whilst I was at Leeds and soon after I moved to Poole in 1978 one was installed there, however new techniques meant that you no longer had to look at viruses to detect and identify them and it soon became obsolete.


Me working at an Electron Microscope in about 1974. The device is really just a modified TV. The electron beam is fired downwards. The specimen, stained with an electron opaque dye is placed in the apparatus just above my head and the image projected onto a screen below.


An electron micrograph of a single Adenovirus. A common cause of colds and respiratory infections. This virus is a masterpiece of design having 252 protein ‘capsomeres’ arranged into a perfect icosahedron. The diameter is about 60nm, ie 60 millionths of a millimeter. The protein spikes (6 visible here but 12 in total) can’t be much more than a nanometer (a millionth of a millimeter) in diameter and represent the limit of EM resolution. We certainly knew we had set the machine for optimum performance when we could see them.


The 7th would have been the birthday of my first wife Janet. Although life has moved on, I will not let her memory fade and accordingly I visited her grave at the Parish Church. We were together for 30 years until her untimely and totally unexpected death in August 2004.



Janet and I at our wedding in September 1976. Although we lived in Leeds we opted to get married at her parent’s church in Long Eaton near Nottingham.



Later in the day I was told by my friend Paul Moreton of a flock of Waxwings near his house in Lytchett Matravers. A quick visit showed there were 27 in the flock but it was grey and dull and conditions were far from ideal for photos. Although I saw a few from the current invasion in late 2012, this was my first sighting this year.



Although it was very dull I was pleased with this shot as it shows the red waxy projections on the wing coverts that give the bird its name.


After a suitable rest on Tuesday I had a number of commitments to honour on Wednesday. I had promised trainee ringers, Kevin and Sean that I would ring at Holton Lee. We have found in the past that unless we continue to ring birds away from the main migration periods and maintain activity during the winter, then trainees quickly lose the skills they have built up during the autumn. As I want to continue to monitor the birds visiting Holton Lee this lets us ‘kill two birds with one stone’ to use an inappropriate expression. As both are quite experienced I was able to sit back and take a supervisory role. We trapped 48 birds, two-thirds of which we had ringed before. The surprise, I suppose, was this Woodpigeon that blundered into the net.



Although we see Woodpigeons migrating in huge numbers in November these local birds are most likely to be sedentary.


My other commitment was to give a talk to the Bournemouth RSPB group on my three visits to New Guinea. Somehow I croaked my way the talk, I felt it wasn’t the best slide show I had ever delivered but I was able to show that although New Guinea undoubtedly has the finest birds in the world, getting to see them can involve some hardship.


The trail 2

Undoubtedly the hardest of the three New Guinea trips that I have done is the one to the Indonesian province of West Papua, Trails like this over never-ending tree roots and through deep mud…….

IMG_0752 Arfak camp

…. and accommodation like this …….


…. is obligatory if you are going to see gems like this turkey sized Victoria Crowned Pigeon …..

Bird of paradise

… or the best bird in the entire world, the unbelievable Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise. (photo from the internet).

Posted January 14, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized