25th March – 10th April – catching up!   Leave a comment

Since I got back from Colombia I have been busy editing photos of the trip, posting accounts on the blog, preparing for our upcoming trip to Israel as well as getting out and doing a little birding and ringing etc. What I haven’t been doing is updating the blog with what’s been going on at home. Now’s the time to catch up.


On the 26th Feb I gave my ‘Lands of the Queen of Sheba’ talk to the Anglo-Italian Society. Whilst the links with Italy were tenuous in the extreme, they seemed to enjoy it. The photo shows the remains of the Grand Stele at Axsum. At 32m high it was the largest stone monolith ever erected.


We had a very busy time over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd March. All the family went down to Swanage to attend the Blues Festival as Kara had heard there was an open mike session in one of the pubs.


Most musicians sang stand blues numbers……..



… but Kara sang a couple of her own compositions unaccompanied, including the lovely ‘Misty Blue’. She got a great round of applause and was invited back to sing on the Sunday.


… meanwhile I was struck how Amber is growing up to look just like her auntie Anita


We were joined by Amber’s boyfriend Josh


In the evening Margaret and I went to a totally different type of musical event, the Moscow City Ballet’s performance of Sleeping Beauty at Poole Lighthouse and very elegant it was too.


Early in the morning of Sunday the 3rd I went to Paul’s house to do some ringing. He has had a large number of finches moving though his Lytchett Matravers garden. This is a male Redpoll in full summer plumage.


The white tips to the outer greater coverts on this Siskin indicate that it is a first year bird.


After a spot of lunch we returned to Swanage to hear Kara again. This time she was joined by her friend Lilly and together they sang an Adele song ….


They looked pretty pleased with themselves, even though Lilly admitted to being rather scared.

We didn’t stay at the pub after Kara had done but headed to Middlebere where a Green-winged Teal had been seen. This is the North American equivalent of our Eurasian Teal and differs in the vertical stripe on leading edge of the flanks and by the lack of yellow margin to the green eye patch. Views were a bit distant but adequate through the scope. Later we had the whole family round for a meal, ending a busy but enjoyable weekend.


Green-winged Teal. Photo from the internet.

With Shaun away in India it fell to me to try to continue our wintering Chiffchaff ringing program near PC World. I visited with trainee John Dowling on the 4th but we only caught retraps. However one bird was of note, a Chiffchaff ringed in January 2012 giving our second record of winter site fidelity. Site fidelity of breeding birds is well documented but there are far fewer records of migrant birds wintering in exactly the same place in subsequent years.


A typical colybita race Chiffchaff, the common breeding form in western Europe. Although migrant breeding Chiffchaffs arrive in March, at the start of the month this is most likely a wintering bird, a fact backed up us capturing it in January 2012.

Taking advantage of the improved weather I visited Holton Lee to continue the winter ringing program. Now nearly all the birds coming to the feeders have rings on them. This will allow some interesting data to be compiled on site fidelity, longevity and population dynamics.


Not all birds can be ringed. There is an absolute ban on ringing Pheasants, a) because as most are released for shooting they actually belong to someone, and b) a ring might cause damage to the spur on the tarsus. They have a nasty habit of flying through mist nets leaving a gaping hole but fortunately this bird didn’t cause any damage.


Another bird that could not be ringed. Finches, especially Chaffinches suffer from a mite infection which produces this ‘scaly foot’ affliction. It is common in some cage birds and has been linked to a Vitamin A deficiency.

Apart from a nice get together with birding friends down the pub I didn’t get out much for the rest of the week. Cold weather and ongoing problems with my foot and a new cold kept me at home. Disappointed by the quality of the photos I took in Colombia with my old Lumix camera I decided to replace it with a Canon Powershot HS50, the camera that Ed Wilson used (see previous post). It arrived towards the end of the week, so we went up to Wyke Down on Saturday afternoon to try it out. The day was very dull and grey, but that was OK as I wanted to see how it operated in low light.


The road between Wimborne St Giles and Wyke Down is still flooded in places. When this Barn Owl appeared I had no option (other than step out into ankle-deep water) than to stop in the middle of the road and photograph through the passenger side window. Results weren’t too bad though.


This Short-eared Owl was photographed about 100 yards away at 1/20 of a second and a focal length of 1200mm. The image stabilisation on this camera is remarkable.

Undoubtedly I will get better photos with my Canon SLR, especially of flying birds, although the focal length is only 400mm and the weight is  five times as much which makes a huge difference in hot or humid conditions abroad.

Sunday 10th was Mother’s day and Anita and John invited us all round for a delicious lunch. This must be the first year for decades when Margaret has been able to spend Mother’s Day with both her daughters.


A Mother’s Day treat for Margaret.

Posted March 15, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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