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

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