Archive for August 2013

19th – 30th August – various ringing activities.   Leave a comment

With the weather remaining largely settled and with autumn migration in full flow it made sense to spend as much time as possible over the last two weeks at our ringing sites.

Over the last two weeks I have been out ringing as follows:

19th Durlston, 20th Fleets Lane, 21st Fleets Lane, 22nd Durlston, 23rd Lytchett Bay, 25th Durlston, 27th Durlston, 28th Durlston, 30th Lytchett Bay, 31st intend to go to Durlston. As each session involves getting up between 0430 and 0500, the 24th, 26th and 29th involved well earned lie ins and catching up on other activities.

The ringing of (mainly) young birds in the autumn is important as a measure of the annual productivity and also sheds light on the movements and dispersal of birds in their first season. Ringing has shown that many adult birds migrate earlier than their offspring and move directly from their breeding to their wintering sites, so are less likely to be trapped at our coastal migration site at Durlston. On the other hand we have ringed many adult and young birds at Fleets Lane in Poole, many of the former are in full wing moult prior to migration, something we don’t see often at Durlston.

Of course ringing is all about discovering more about the population structure, life history and the movements of birds. Information on the former is obtained by statistical analysis and the results are not always immediately apparent to those in the field, however we regularly get retraps of birds we have previously ringed, for example the adult Green Woodpecker shown below was ringed in 2011 at the same site and from time to time we catch birds that others have ringed. We have have had five of these so called ‘controls’ during the last fortnight and eagerly await details of their origins. In addition we have recently been informed the BTO of a few recoveries, the best being a Cetti’s Warbler (a supposedly resident species) that moved from Lytchett to Norfolk and a Chiffchaff from Durlston to near Madrid.

Here is a selection of photos from the above sessions.

P8250183-Goat-plots - Copy

Our site at the ‘goat plots’ at Durlston is more sheltered in a brisk northerly, however birds move through very quickly and its all over within an hour of dawn.


Back in the ‘garden’ Mick and Mike try ‘flicking’ for Swallows, that is swinging a net into the path of Swallows that are drinking at the pond. Although an accepted technique they had zero success!


The best day of the last fortnight was the 27th at Durlston when we ringed 114 birds of 20 species. There were surprisingly large numbers of Tree Pipits about, we had at least 50 over the ringing station, whilst Hamish Murray recorded 75+ elsewhere in the park (some duplication may have occurred). We managed to ring a dozen of them, our best day ever for this regular, yet tricky to see well, trans-Saharan migrant.

P8270221-Pied-Fly - Copy

On the 27th we also ringed our only Pied Flycatcher of the year. The shape of the white fringe on the tertials allows this bird to aged as a first year.

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We don’t catch many flycatchers at our usual site as the nearby trees are too tall, so this Spotted Flycatcher was, like it’s black and white cousin, the first of the year.


This was our 14th Common Redstart to be ringed this year. We haven’t had any recoveries/controls of this scarce migrant but it is likely that our birds originate in the sessile oak forests of Wales or south-western Scotland.

P8270218-Ad-Whitethroat - Copy

Common Whitethroats live up to their name at Durlston, being a regular breeder in some numbers. We have retrapped quite a number of birds over consecutive summers, showing site fidelity. The pale eye and (not visible in this shot) white rather than buff edges to the outer tail feathers show it to be an adult and the grey head indicates it is a male.


This juvenile Yellowhammer is quite unlike an adult, showing little more than a yellow tinge to the plumage.The white spot on the ear coverts becomes yellow in an adult female/winter male.

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The lack of red in the centre of the black moustache shows that this Green Woodpecker is a female.

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Two days later we caught her offspring. As in the adult bird above, the tail has been pressed against the ringers hand for support as if it was climbing a tree trunk.


This juvenile Treecreeper was an unusual catch at Lytchett Bay.


At Fleets Lane this male Sparrowhawk was an interesting capture. The yellow eye (orange in an adult), and active moult of the flight feathers whilst retaining some brown fringed juvenile feathers allowed us to confidently age it as a second year bird.


This juvenile Greenfinch has a large parasitic tick on its head.


This bird was a valuable object lesson to one of our trainees. The definitive way to separate Chiffchaff from Willow Warbler in the hand is the emargination (narrowing of the outer web towards the tip) of the 6th primary (counting downwards, ie ascendantly, and with the first primary being vestigial and hardly visible). This moulting adult appears to have a fresh 6th primary emerging from the sheath that is not emarginated making it a Willow. But it looked overall like a Chiff and the 3rd, 4th and 5th primary are of similar length, again typical of a Chiff. Close examination showed the 6th to be absent and the emergent feather was in fact the 7th primary, confirming it as a Chiff after all.

Posted August 30, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Ugandan Butterflies   1 comment

One of the features of tropical birding trips is the wonderful array of butterflies. Unlike the birds, little information is available on butterflies of the tropics and many do not even have vernacular names. Add to this the demands on your time that birding imposes and you can see why few if any of these gorgeous f tropical butterflies get identified.

Here is a selection of the butterflies I photographed in Uganda, manly in forest habitats. If anyone out there in cyberspace can give me an English or scientific name of any of them I’d be grateful.


IMG_3030-transparent-butter IMG_3016-buterflys IMG_3012-butterflys IMG_2911-Butterfly IMG_2909-butterfly IMG_2886-Butterfly IMG_2333-Butterfly IMG_1148-Butterflys IMG_1146-Butterflys IMG_0026-Butterfly

Posted August 24, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

August 7th – 15th This week’s ringing activities.   Leave a comment

This time of year is a very productive one for ringers with many new fledged birds about. Migration is well underway and our coastal ringing site at Durlston has kept us busy.

I made visits on the 7th, 9th, 10th, 13th and 15th which ave ringing totals of 49, 11, 246, 117 and 27 respectively showing how much migration varies from day to day. By far the best day was the 10th which was also the date of a public ringing demonstration as part of the Durlston Bioblitz weekend; there was a huge pulse of migrants, mainly Willow Warblers, between 0630 and 0730 which kept us very busy and forced us to close some nets, but we managed to ring about 200 birds before the public demonstration at 0800 by which time things had returned to normal. I must stress that we don’t take on commitments like showing ringing to the public unless we have enough experienced ringers available to cope with all eventualities, nor erect more nets than the ringers present can cope with in the event of a fall of migrants.

Below is a selection of some of the birds we have been ringing. The highlight of the period the Melodious Warbler trapped on 13th but I have already posted photos of this bird on a previous post.


We have only ringed five Lesser Whitethroats this year.


Grasshopper Warblers have also been in short supply both at Lytchett Bay and Durlston, where just this one bird has been ringed.


On the contrary Garden Warblers have been quite common, 37 have been ringed already compared with just 48 for the whole of last year, 22 were ringed on the 13th alone. Whether this represents a very good breeding season or just that a fluke of the weather brought them to Dorset remains to be seen. This bird has been gorging on blackberries hence the stained throat and breast.


We have ringed quite a few Sedge Warblers at our reed bed site at Lytchett Bay but they have also been unusually plentiful at our Durlston and Fleets Corner sites.


On the 15th a visitor told us of a ‘swallow’ he had found on the ground which he had picked up and placed in his car. It proved not to be a Swallow but a recently fledged Swift, probably disorientated by the low cloud and mist. We tried to release it but it flopped to the ground. Simon took it into care and fed it meal worms and was able to successfully release it in the afternoon.


Note the scaly appearance of a juvenile caused by the presence of pale tips to the flight feathers, coverts and head.


We have also started autumn ringing at our site at Fleets Lane Corner. Here Paul brings arctic Norwegian birder Tormud Amundson (R) along. Tormud is working with members of the Sound Approach on some interesting projects in the Poole area.


Ringing at Fleets Lane Corner has mainly involved recently fledged and moulting adult Dunnocks, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps but a few arriving migrants have been present including Willow and Garden Warblers and most notably this first year Common Redstart.


Poole Borough Council cuts have forced head of Environmental Services, Shaun Robson, to pick curbside litter in his spare time!

Posted August 16, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

7th – 15th August – other wildlife and a few social events.   Leave a comment

There has been a lot going on this week, too much for a single post, so here is a selection of other (non-bird) wildlife that I have been seeing plus a few family pictures.

There have been worries that Butterfly numbers were crashing following the last couple of bad summers but, in spite of the dreadful spring, the heat wave this summer seems to have turned things around and many species have been abundant.


A buddleia bush at Durlston has hosted many species, including Dark-green Fritilary but the only species I got a reasonable shot of was this Small Tortoiseshell.


Also in the Durlston garden was this Southern Hawker Dragonfly (thanks for the info Nick)


By far the best area for butterflies was Alner’s Gorse in north Dorset which visited late morning on Saturday. This common species is a Peacock.


The Comma


Small Copper


Small White and Gatekeeper


Silver-washed Fritilary


A Ruddy Darter dragonfly


The very common Speckled Wood.


But it is these last two quite rare butterflies that we came to see – a Brown Hairstreak


and White-letter Hairstreak.

Although I have probably seen most of the small mammals that occur in the UK (except I suppose the Orkney Vole) I am not 100% sure that I have identified them correctly as views of mice, voles and shrews are often so brief. Thus when the Dorset Mammal Group, of which I am a member ran a small mammal trapping session as part of the Durlston Bioblitz, I was there at 0630 to see them empty the traps.


The Durlston Bioblitz wasn’t the only event going on that morning. A fund raising walk from Durlston to Lulworth in aid of Help For Heroes meant that there were buses full of contestants, stands and music playing all at 7 in the morning.


This is a Longworth trap for the live trapping of small mammals. 24 baited traps were placed in the Durlston garden overnight by DMG but in the morning 20 have been opened up and raided and four had vanished. No small mammals were found.


They also laid out tunnels with white paper and an ink pad to record footprints. The culprit is clearly a Badger, the black smear lower right is caused by its tail. Note some mouse footprints along the lower edge of the paper.


The group eagerly gathered around a laptop to see what had been recorded on the remote infra-red cameras.


Nothing we didn’t know already, it was Badgers that nicked all the bait and wrecked the traps. Apparently the final score on the cameras was three Badgers, one Fox and a tabby.


Also as part of the Bioblitz weekend Durlston staff ran several moth traps. About 100 species were identified including this beautiful Garden Tiger.

And finally for a few non-wildlife related shots.


How ever busy I am with wildlife related events I always make sure I have some time for the family. Here Kara attempts to show that she can go to sleep upside down.


Kara and Amber have their friend from Southampton, Francesca, staying for a few days. They met Francesca when they first came to the UK and went to school in 2002. Once more the kids feel obliged to make faces whenever a camera appears.


Anita and John have joined a ‘spiritual group’ who were having a beach BBQ at Boscombe. Unlike the last such BBQ it was cool and windy and we didn’t stay long. Anita, and her friend Donna, Janis and Margaret are in the foreground. Whilst they are all very nice people, I don’t share the group’s spiritual beliefs, as I tend to believe that phenomena need to be examined as part of a controlled, double-blind trial published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal before they are acceptable as fact. Perhaps I need in the words of the late, great Douglas Adams ‘an electronic monk to do my believing for me’ maybe even the deluxe version that is ‘capable of believing things they wouldn’t believe in Salt Lake City’ !

Posted August 16, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

More from Uganda – the warblers   Leave a comment

When you think of Afrotropical birds warblers probably aren’t top of the list, but Africa south of the Sahara has many interesting species.

About 120 species of warbler occur in the Afrotropics, of which around 30 are migrants from the Palearctic (all of which were absent in June at the time of our visit). Warblers used to be thought of as a monophyletic group, but are now split in anything from 9 to 16 different families, the majority of which occur in Africa.

Here are a few African warblers that we saw on the trip.



The cisticolas are a genus of at least 52 species, all but one of which occur in Africa. They are the bane of visiting birders due to their similarity but can be separated if seen well on size, degree of streaking, breast patches and most importantly voice. This Chubb”s Cisticola is submontane in its occurrence.


The small and uniquely coloured Foxy Ciscicola


Many cisticolas are named after their repetitive songs, eg Croaking, Rattling, Wailing, Chirping, Trilling, Whistling, Siffling (derived from the French siffleur – to whistle) and of course the more familiar Zitting.  This Winding Cisticola was seen quite often in scrub habitat throughout the tour.


Red-pate Cisticola was first found in central Uganda by Birdquest a few years ago but are now quite common on route to Lake Bisina and appear to be colonising the area.


White-chinned Prinia. The dozen species of Prinias in Africa belong to the same family as the cisticolas.


African Moustached Warbler. This enigmatic bird may be placed in its own family in the future.


Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. This species surprisingly has been shown to be related to the palearctic, Booted, Sykes and Olivaceous Warblers whilst ……


…. the similar Papyrus Yellow Warbler is placed in a different genus. This bird has a very restricted distribution in papyrus swamps of central Africa.


Evergreen Forest Warbler. I wanted to call this ‘nevergreen forest warbler’, I’ve seen it on a few trips and they have always been brown.

Posted August 14, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 13th August – Durlston   Leave a comment

I was intending to update the blog tomorrow with an account of this week’s events, but in view of today’s ringing success I’ll do a quick post, just about Tuesday.

Shaun and I met at 0600 at Durlston and as there were only two of us we only erected three nets. As on Saturday we were very busy from 0630 to 0730, then it tailed off quickly. Apart from the 76 Willow Warblers that we ringed, the most notable feature early on were the number of Garden Warblers (22 were in total, a new record for the site) and two Common Redstarts. By midday when I packed in we had ringed 117 birds

At 1030 I extracted a Melodious Warbler, this is a scarce but annual migrant in Dorset mainly in August, breeding as close as northern France. However nearly all Dorset records come from Portland and although I have seen several in the field I have never seen one in the hand. Unfortunately Shaun had to depart for work at 0930, so I was alone when it was trapped, but Hamish Murray was still in his office nearby and was able to get to see the bird.

Melodious Warblers belong to the genus Hippolais, members of which have typically wide based bills, square ended tails and short undertail coverts. Melodious is best told from its closest relative, Icterine Warbler, by the short primary projection, i.e the degree to which the primaries extend beyond the exposed tertials. Compared to the Willow Warbler that was trapped at the same time, it had a similar wing length of 66mm but was a larger, stockier bird with a much heavier bill.

This was certainly the highlight of my ringing this year, I just wish there had been another ringer present to enjoy it.



The plain face caused by the weak supercillium and pale lores, along with the stout, broad-based bill indicates a Hippolais warbler. The visible primary projection is only about half the length of the exposed tertials (equal in Icterine), with 7 primary tips showing. The tail projection beyond the tip of the primaries is at least twice the length of the exposed primaries (equal or less in Icterine) and the 1st primary extends well beyond the primary coverts (equal in length in Icterine).



As expected this was a fresh first year bird, like Acrocephalus warblers, adult Melodious moult on arrival on their winter grounds and hence would be abraded at this time of year. In the shade, the subtle yellow wash to the plumage in this species was more obvious.



Unfortunately I have cast a shadow over the stonking bill.



Posted August 13, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tuesday 30th July -Tuesday 6th August – a week of social events and ringing   Leave a comment

An update of last weeks activities. Several of the photos were taken in poor light, so I have kept the image size small to compensate for poor quality.

On Tuesday 30th there was a large gathering of Poole birders in the Blue Boar. Mark Constantine had invited  his Sound Approach colleagues over from Ireland, Netherlands and Portugal to meet legendary American bird sound expert Don Kroodsma. All together there were 20 of us and we had a excellent time exchanging news and views. Apparently the Sound Approach spent several days with Don. Mark later described the experience of having all his pet theories about bird vocalisations dismissed by an expert as being like the following Monty Python sketch – where Mark, of course, is the guy on the right!


On Friday we joined Amber, Kara and her friend Lillie, John, Anita and two of their friends to see a band called the Producers who were playing near Bournemouth Pier


Kara and Lillie went for a paddle in spite the fact it was getting dark and was quite cool


The Bournemouth Eye is still operating even after dark.


The area was packed with holiday makers, either watching the band or waiting for the fireworks to start


Scary rides were in operation ….


It looks like the ride has really speeded up but in reality I just used a slower shutter speed.


The fireworks started at ten but it started raining heavily, so we retreated to the bar of the BIC which gave a grandstand view in the dry.


Both Bournemouth and Poole put on firework displays during the summer months, the ones at Bournemouth are set off at the Pier.


Walking back through Bournemouth Gardens at night


Kara and Lillie love hamming it up for the camera. Kara has damaged her hand whilst doing Taekwondo, its the fifth time this year she has been to A&E, she needs a frequent flyer pass!


We didn’t realise until Monday evening when we visited Janis and the girls that Kara’s friend Lillie is a champion dancer in her age class. Here she is in competition, dancing the paso doble


.. and here dancing the rumba

At 0530 Saturday morning I went down to Lytchett Bay to join the other ringers. Bob and Shaun had put up the nets the night before and furled them after dark. I was surprised to see no-one else there. Then I checked my phone – I had a message saying ‘canceled, meet later to take down’. Apparently at 0400 it was blowing a gale and raining. As it was now fine we hastily reconvened and had a successful morning. If I had checked my phone before departing, none of that would have happened.


Here Bob is using the group’s brush cutter to prepare a new net ride.

Later in the day Margaret invited a number of friends over for lunch and we were later joined by Janis, Anita and John. We spent the afternoon chatting in the conservatory and eating the lovely food she had prepared.


Clockwise: Margaret, Angela, Christine, Jennie, John, Anita and Janis.

Sunday morning was the reverse of Saturday. I was up at 0430 and by 0500 I was at the end of our road waiting for a lift from Shaun to Durlston when he phoned to say he had heard it was blowing a hoolie in Swanage. I suppose I should have carried on and gone seawatching at Portland or Durlston, but I’m afraid I went back to bed. Margaret and I later joined some of our friends from the Phoenix (formerly Nexus) group for a walk.


It was a small group of Nexuns who set off from Ulwell to Corfe Castle on a fairly grey and windy morning.


The walk was from Ulwell gap along the chalk ridge to Durlston where we had lunch and then back. about seven miles in total. There is a fine view over Poole Harbour from the ridge.


Corfe Castle is photogenic from just about every angle,  we are crossing the tracks of the steam railway on our way to the Castle Inn for refreshments.


.. and here Corfe Castle can be seen from just outside the village, emerging from the fields of barley.


On the home stretch: Margaret descending the path back to Ulwel. Swanage is in the distance.


Our feet and knees aren’t what they used to be, after seven miles we wished we could get a lift, like Felicity’s little dog does.

On the morning of the Tuesday 6th Shaun and I went ringing again at Lytchett Bay. It was very misty at dawn and the reeds were soaking wet as yesterday’s rain combined with a cool night had led to a heavy dew. we ringed 26 birds, all but one Sedge Warblers. There was quite an arrival of birds on the coast so we might have done better by going to Durlston.


Misty dawn at Lytchett.


A spider’s web covered in dew.

On a serious note the 6th was the 9th anniversary of my first wife Janet’s death. Whilst is true that time is a great healer, I will always mark the anniversary in solemn contemplation of a life so tragically cut short. Incidentally I don’t have many digital images of Janet as I first started using a digital camera a short while before her passing. I have many slides of course, but scanned slides don’t look so good.

Janet Lewis - Hawaii 2003

Janet in Hawaii in 2003

Posted August 7, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Leeds in the Seventies.   Leave a comment

An old house mate of mine forwarded this link recently.

The pictures show what the older parts of Leeds looked like in the seventies.

I arrived in Leeds straight from school in 1969 and left in 1978 when I moved to Poole. Although I don’t remember these specific locations, except Quarry Hill flats which I often walked through on my way home from the city centre. Its amazing to think that there was only one telephone for all those people.

Five of us lived in a very run down area near the centre. The house we rented was compulsory purchased not long after we left, we believe the landlords were given £260 for it !

Posted August 3, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized