9th – 20th April 2014: Spring migrants return, plus a ‘flash-mob’ in the shopping arcade.   Leave a comment

 

 

As spring gathers pace we have resumed our ringing program at Durlston Country Park was well as continuing to ring at Fleets Lane in Poole. Migration has been slow so far this year, although as usual in spring Portland Bill has seen seen some large falls of migrants. Peak numbers out of three or four visits to Durlston have been between 30 and 40 birds ringed per session and numbers have been much lower at Fleets Lane.

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Another spectacular Durlston dawn.

 

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This male Green Woodpecker was an unusual catch at Durlston.

 

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One of the delights of spring is seeing the return of the sub-Saharan migrants like Sedge Warbler ……..

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….. Lesser Whitethroat and ….

 

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….. this beautiful male Common Redstart

 

 

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On the 15th I gave a talk to the Bournemouth Natural Sciences Society on the subject of ‘What Came First The Archaeopteryx Or The Egg’ The talk started with a section on the evolution of birds from feathered dinosaurs before I went rapidly through the various groups of birds extant today, describing their origins and explaining how they got to be where they are today. This, the cover of the forthcoming ‘Illustrated Checklist Of The Birds Of The World’ nicely demonstrates, the current best fit for entire bird family tree (with the exception of the Passerines which will be in a the second volume) and represented the baseline for my talk. Unfortunately the slide show didn’t go without a hitch, many of my slides had white lettered captions on  a black background. For some reason when I showed the slides in Bournemouth, the white text projected black and the captions disappeared!

 

 

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Like all teenagers, Kara is growing up fast. On the 10th she joined a school friend and her family on a holiday to the Canaries. She called in the night before to show off her new party dress.

 

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The 12th was a very busy day. I was up at 0500 to go ringing at Fleets Lane, Margaret had some former work colleagues from her days in Southampton round for lunch and in the evening we visited my old friend and former ringing trainer, Trevor Squire at his house in north Dorset. We were just about to leave for Trevor’s when we heard that Paul Morton had found a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Swineham. A mad dash ensued and although I only saw them from a distance, the views were acceptable; and we got to Trevor and Sheila’s in time for dinner as well! Photo by Paul Morton.

 

 

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After an early start on the 12th and a very enjoyable, but late evening at Trevor and Sheila’s, we were slow to get going on the 13th. We opted for a short walk from Langton Matravers to the coast at Dancing Ledge. On arrival we found that due to erosion during the winter storm, the footpath was closed.

 

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However it didn’t take much of a detour to get us to the scenic spot.

 

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Good number of Early Spider Orchids were in bloom.

 

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For the first time in decades Puffins failed to arrive at Portland Bill in March. There had been a mass mortality along the coasts of Biscay and to a lesser extent along the English south coast as a result of the winter storms and we feared the local breeding population had been wiped out. We  also failed to see any at Dorset’s only other site, Dancing Ledge, but fortunately a couple were seen on my next visit to Portland on the 15th.  This photo was taken in Shetland in 2012 and previously posted on the blog in this small format.

 

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The only bird that came close enough to be photographed was this obliging Rock Pipit.

 

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Rock Pipit, Dancing Ledge.

 

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On the 15th I visited Portland. There were very few grounded migrants but seawatching was pretty good with Hobby, Merlin, Common Scoter, two species of Diver and as mentioned above, Puffins seen. Seawatching at Portland Bill. Out of the wind and out of the sun.

 

 

 

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A Whimbrel was the only migrant to come close enough to be photographed. unfortunately is was just disappearing around the Obelisk when I pressed the shutter.

 

 

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After an early visit to Durlston on the 17th I joined former colleagues for a post-work curry and drinks at Wetherspoons in Poole. Some like Dave,  (on the left) are still stuck in the lab but Tash on the right has made a bid for freedom and now works as a primary school teacher.

 

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On the 19th we put on a ringing demonstration at Arne RSPB reserve as part of their ‘meet the wildlife day’. On the same day in 2013 they invited two RSPB employees with ringing permits from elsewhere and the ringed over 100 birds during the day. This year we put on the demo and caught just nine! The reason was the dreadfully cold April in 2013 delayed the onset of the breeding season but this year birds have left the vicinity of the feeding station early for their various breeding sites.

 

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I had to leave the demo at Arne in the capable hands of Shaun, Carol and others and hurry back to Poole in Bank Holiday traffic conditions to see Margaret’s choir perform a ‘flash-mob’ in the Dolphin shopping arcade. The choir suddenly appeared out of nowhere and gave a good rendition of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from the Messiah. They drew a large appreciative crowd but unfortunately it was over far too quickly and most drifted away wishing there had been more.

 

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Margaret and Christine (bottom right) singing as part of the Barclay House Choir  ‘flash-mob’. Christine came round for dinner about a week ago. She is currently studying for a teacher’s qualification in Bognor and regaled us with tales of the activities of her fellow students, activities that she clearly disapproves of !

 

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This morning (Easter Sunday) I set off early for Portland Bill. There was a strong wind, it was quite cold and in spite of clouding over during the night there were few migrants about. However I was delighted when a Serin was found feeding close to the Bird Observatory patio with some Goldfinches.

 

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View initially were quite brief but later it returned to the same area and gave better views. Although common on the near continent, Serins are scarce in the UK with most records coming from southern watch points like Portland. My last decent view of one in the UK was in spring 2000, again at Portland.

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