Archive for December 2014

Argentina part 4 – The Valdez Peninsula and Punto Tombo   Leave a comment

This the fourth update from Argentina and covers our time on the Valdez peninsula and at Punto Tombo a short distance to the south.

IMG_2845 Whale watching - Copy

We arrived at Puerto Piramides on the Valdez peninsula mid afternoon on the 28th and straight away boarded a whale watching boat similar to this.

IMG_2814 Southern Right Whale - Copy

There are two large sheltered bays on the Valdez, both are calving and mating grounds for large numbers of Southern Right Whales (so called because being slow and floating when dead they were considered the right whales to hunt).  The whale watching boats only operate in the southern bay, the whales often approach the boats quite closely allowing great views.

IMG_2819 Southern Right Whale - Copy

We had at least four whales close to the boat including two calves and at about 25 were seen throughout the bay.

IMG_2821 Southern Right Whale - Copy

The head and upper jaw of the Southern Right Whales are covered with areas of thickened tissue known as callosities which are even present on the young calves.

IMG_2850 Mark & Jim on boat - Copy

We were on a boat with about 30 other tourists (thousands of tourists visit the Valdez each year to see the whales) our leader Mark and participant Jim climb to the lookout platform ….

IMG_2854 Mark Pearman

…. but the captain neglects to tell them that he was returning at speed so they have to hang on for their lives.

IMG_3059 Valdez

The following day we drive around the rugged coast of the Valdez.

IMG_3028 Valdez

Unfortunately the wind was very strong, at least F7 probably gusting to F8 and it was impossible to stand in the most exposed places let alone use binoculars or a scope.

IMG_2912 Elephant Seals

We were able to see this haul out of young Southern Elephant Seals on the south east corner of the island but it was so windy that we beat a hasty retreat.

IMG_3048 Puerto Tombo

We continued north but ……

IMG_3042 Valdez

…. conditions weren’t much better.

IMG_3051 Valdez

Again only a brief visit was made to this lookout ….

IMG_2960 Valdez

…. however we had more success at this sheltered bay. Good numbers of Elephant Seals and a few birds were seen here, however last year the tour watched a party of Orcas (Killer Whales) and one took a seal pub by beaching itself as seen on Attenborough documentaries- no such luck this year.

IMG_2954 Giant Petrel

There were a number of Southern Giant Petrels in the area, major scavengers, they can often be seen around seal colonies.

IMG_2948 Patagonian Yellow Finch

In spite of the vicious wind, this Patagonian Yellow Finch perched nicely in front of us

IMG_2908 Darwin's Rheas

A little inland we saw lots of Lesser (or Darwin’s) Rheas …..

IMG_3069 Mara

….and these Pacas, large hare-sized guinea pigs with white mini-skirts. Unfortunately I was unable to open the window of the bus by my seat and getting in and out was a nightmare due to the wind blowing the door out of your hands, so this photo and that of the rheas had to be taken through the glass.

IMG_3157 Punta Rasa

The following day we left the Valdez and drove south to Punto Tombo, a reserve near Trelew.

IMG_3142 Magellanic Penguins

Access through the colony is by means of a boardwalk, this allows the penguins to waddle underneath in places, so it is possible to get very good views without getting in their way …. well that’s the theory.

IMG_3167 Magellanic Penguins

Although there are a million penguins in this colony they are spread out over a huge area and not packed together like some of the Antarctic species.

IMG_3164 Magellanic Penguins

As Magellanic Penguins are hole nesters they have to nest at well spaced intervals.

IMG_3152 Magellanic Penguin

Yet another Magellanic Penguin.

IMG_3232 underwater penguins

You can even watch them swimming underwater.

IMG_3242 Chubut Steamer Duck

One of the prime targets in this area was the Chubut Steamer Duck, a flightless species known only from this small part of the Argentine coast.

IMG_3258 Chubut Steamer Duck

Note the yellow spur on the carpal joint of the (rather stubby) wing of this female.

IMG_3212 Brown Skua

A few Brown Skuas, close relative of our Bonxie, patrolled the penguin colony on the look out for unguarded eggs or chicks.

IMG_3187 Chimango Caracara

…. as did the ubiquitous Chimango Caracara.

IMG_3138 Sharp-billed Canastero

Other birds included Sharp-billed Canastero ….

IMG_3112 Patagonian Mockingbird

…. Patagonian Mockingbird ….

IMG_3195 Dolphin Gull

…. and the only Dolphin Gulls of the trip.

IMG_3102 Guanaco

Both the Valdez and the Porto Tombo area are strongholds of the Guanaco, the wild ancestor of the Llama.

IMG_1194 Guanaco

…. although usually wary, here they fed close to the paths ….

IMG_3266 Guanaco

…. and allowed close approach …..

IMG_3159 cavy

…. as did this tiny Southern Mountain Cavy (which was nowhere near the mountains) ….

IMG_3132 Hairy Armadillo

…. and this remarkable Larger Hairy Armadillo.

IMG_3297 flamingos

The day ended with a visit to a rather unsavoury water treatment (= sewage) works, where we had good views of thesse Chilean Flamingos along with a variety of other waterfowl.

IMG_3305 BN Swan

We stayed overnight in Trelew, the capital of this formerly Welsh speaking part of Argentina. Before going to the airport of our flight to the south we visted a lake in the city where we had good views of Black-necked Swans ….

IMG_3319 Silvery Grebes and Lake Duck

…. and this pair of Silvery Grebes and a Lake Duck.

IMG_3328 WT Grebe + chick

In typical grebe fashion, this White-tufted Grebe carries its chick on its back.

Argentina part 3: 24th – 28th November 2014 – the Pampas   Leave a comment

The third instalment of my Argentine adventure saw us drive eastwards to San Clemente for two night stay, then make the long drive south to Bahai Blanca and onto Las Gruces the following day. From Las Gruces we continued on to the Valdez Peninsula, which will be the subject of the next post.

IMG_2426 Pampas

The pampas covers much of southern Argentina, a huge expanse of grassland interspersed with shallow lakes and marshes. From Buenos Aires we drove eastwards towards San Clemente stopping many times on route. Although dark clouds threatened it remained largely dry.

IMG_2568 Pampas lakes - Copy

Shallow lakes provided a haven for many wildfowl.

IMG_2363 Rosy Pochard, WC Pintail, Silver Teal, Speckled Duck, WF Ibis

In this shot alone you can see three Rosybill, three Silver Teal, a White-cheeked Pintail and a White-faced Ibis.

IMG_2531 Red Shoveler

Red Shoveler ….

IMG_2526 White-Tufted Grebe

…. White-tufted Grebe ….

IMG_2410 WB Stilts

..and Black-necked Stilts (closely related to and possibly conspecific with the Old World Black-winged Stilt) were all seen regularly.

IMG_2369 Limpkin

Damp grasslands held many birds such as this Limpkin, a distant relative of the cranes and the sole member of its family.

IMG_2408 Coscoroba Swans

Coscoroba Swans were common both on the lakes and feeding nearby on the wet grasslands.

IMG_2416 Southehrn Screamer

The huge Southern Screamer, one of three species in their family, are a primitive form of wildfowl. We splashed around in one flooded marsh in the hope of flushing a South American Painted-snipe. In most years this takes several hours to find one or two, this year we flushed 35 within yards of the bus! We didn’t advance any further as the water was coming over our wellies.

IMG_2341 Gtr Rhea

Drier areas held parties of Greater Rheas, the South American equivalent of the Ostrich.

IMG_2395 Crested Caracaras

Southern Crested Caracaras (Caracaras are related to falcons) were abundant ….

IMG_2450 raptor to ID

…. as were Snail Kites, this is a juvenile bird.

IMG_2579 Maguari Stork

This Maguari Stork was feeding on the mud of a nearby river.

IMG_2327 Brown & Yellow Marshbird

Passerines in the area including this Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, a member of the Icteridae or New World Blackbirds ….


…. Warbling Doradito, a tyrant-flycatcher ….

IMG_2555 Wren like Rushbird

…. acrobatic Wren-like Rushbirds (a funarid) ….

IMG_2381 Bearded Tachuri

…. but the real prize was this tiny tyrant-flycatcher which goes under the wonderful name of Bearded Tachuri.

IMG_2480 Punta Rasa

We also visited the coast at Punta Rasa, seeing the tiny Dot-winged Crake in the saltmarsh.

IMG_2505 Turnstone, Am GP, Hudwits

There were many shorebirds/waders on the beach, mainly migrants from North America. Here a flock of six Hudsonian Godwits join single Turnstone and American Golden Plover.

IMG_2510 Hudwits

Hudsonian Godwits winter further south than most Nearctic waders with much of the population going as far as Tierra del Fuego. In a British context they can be separated from our Black-tailed Godwit by their dark underwing. I was lucky enough to see a Hudsonian Godwit in Devon in 1981 I think there have only been three British records, all close together in the early 80s, which probably related to the same bird.

IMG_2493 dragonflies

Incredible numbers of dragonflies were flying along the beach at Punta Rasa, probably numberings in tens of thousands. Whether these were migrants or had recently emerged I don’t know. I was surprised that there weren’t a lot of falcons taking advantage of this bonanza, but eight Swainson’s Hawks overhead, wintering birds from North America, were probably feeding on the dragonflies.

IMG_2434 Pampas

As we drove south the marshes gave way to open grassland and scrub. We had several periods of bad weather but most of the time it was hot and sunny.

IMG_1173 Mar del Platta

After a while we arrived at the city of Mar del Plata. I wondered why we went right into the city centre and then headed for the docks rather than take the by-pass ….

IMG_2599 Sea Lions

…. but all was revealed when we stopped at a beach near the docks where a number of South American Sea Lions were hauled out. We were also looking for Snowy Sheathbills but the only ones we saw were on the far side of the harbour and just appeared as white dots in the scope.

IMG_2607 Sealions

Although this was not a sea lion breeding beach the males were sizing themselves up and fights broke out from time to time.

IMG_2620 Olrog's Gull

Olrog’s Gull is a specialist crab-eating species restricted to the north-east coast of Argentina. We saw a few 1st year birds near Punta Rasa but had to drive much further south see see any adults.

IMG_2646 Pampas Meadowlark

One of the key species in this area is the very rare Pampas Meadowlark. Separated from the much commoner Long-tailed Meadowlark by underwing pattern, shape of the bill, underwing colour, shade and shape of the red on the breast and song, it has declined drastically in recent years.

IMG_2654 Burrowing Parrots

The further south we went the commoner Burrowing Parrots became.

IMG_2718 Variable Hawks

This pair of Variable Hawks were photographed on a roadside pylon. The smaller male is on the right. Once considered two species, Red-backed Hawk (mainly lowlands) and Puna Hawk (highlands), it is now realised that there is a massive amount of variation and that the two former ‘species’ might be merely colour morphs.

IMG_2726 WT Cachalote

On the 28th we had an excellent few hours in the scrub to the south of the town of Las Grutes, seeing two difficult to find funarids – White-throated Cachalote ….

IMG_2746 Scale-throated Earthcreeper

and Scale-throated Earthcreeper.

IMG_2734 Sandy Gallito

Another highlight was this Sandy Gallito (a name more reminiscent of a news reader than a bird) here seen performing it strange wing rotating display with its eyes closed. Although this bird looks like yet another funarid it is in fact a large member of the tapaculo family.


IMG_2752 WW Black Tyrant

The previous day we had found Hudson’s Black Tyrant, a bird restricted to central Argentina, photos were obtained but they were distant. Today we obtained far better views of the very similar White-winged Black Tyrant, which has a bit more white in the opened wing than the Hudson’s.








Posted December 24, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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19th – 22nd November 2014: Argentina part 2 – the Cordoba region   Leave a comment

This, the second installment from my Argentina trip, covers days one to four of the tour which was spent in the Cordoba area to the north and west of Buenos Aires. Terry and I flew from the capital to Cordoba early in the morning where we met up with leader Mark Pearman and the other three members of the group. We drove to the village of Izo Cruz where  we checked into our hotel and then went birding locally.

IMG_2150 Rufous Hornero

One of the most familiar birds in this part of Argentina is the Rufous Hornero. This bird was photographed feeding on the cover of a swimming pool at the hotel.

IMG_2015 Scimitar-billed WC

Woodcreepers are a familiar site in the Neotropics but are almost always are seen climbing trees, woodpecker fashion, in mature forest but these two Scimitar-billed Woodcreepers were messing around on a concrete post in the middle of the village

IMG_2028 Campo Flicker

Open woodland and scrub a short drive from our hotel held a variety of common species such as this Campo Flicker ….

IMG_2064 Fork-tailed Fly

…. and the beautiful Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

IMG_2060 Short-billed Eleania

Tyrant flycatchers are one of the commonest groups of birds in the Neotropics, indeed with 431 species they are the largest bird family in the world. Some like the Fork-tailed Flycatcher are showy and easy to identify, others are more elusive and some like the 27 species of eleanias are frustratingly similar. Fortunately this Short-billed Eleania can be identified by having a third wing-bar, but as that’s not visible in this photo it doesn’t help much.

IMG_2088 Sierras

The following day we climbed high into the Sierra de los Comechingones, a mountainous ridge that lie to the east of, and is much older than, the Andes.

IMG_1109 storm

However we soon ran into some very bad weather with heavy rain and high winds.

IMG_2099 Cordoba Cinclodes

In spite of the atrocious conditions at the top (about 2100m asl) we still managed to find both of our targets; this Cordoba Cinclodes ….

IMG_2102 Olrog's Cinclodes

…. and its cousin, Olrog’s Cinclodes. With high wind, rain and dreadful visibility it was amazing we got to see these range restricted birds at all, let alone photograph them.

IMG_1100 sierras view

Although conditions improved as we descended I was worried whether I had brought enough warm weather gear, this was the northernmost part of the trip and it was bitterly cold at the top – what was it going to like in Patagonia, far to the south?

IMG_1120 muddy track

The next day we drove north to Salinas Grande but yesterday’s rain had softened up the dirt roads somewhat ….

IMG_1118 bus stuck in mud

…. that said our driver put on an exceptional show of incompetence and got the bus well and truly stuck. It look the help of some locals and the driving skills of one of our group (who is used to tricky road conditions in his native Canada) to get us going again.

IMG_1124 thorn in tyre

We managed to pick up this huge thorn in the tyre somewhere on route but rather than get it fixed the driver left it in situ over the next couple of days whilst the tyre slowly deflated.

IMG_2131 Salinas

Whilst the driver was faffing with the bus we walked on for a couple of kilometers to try and get to the salt lake before it got too hot. Surrounded by the ruins of a former salt extraction industry, the lake shimmered in the increasingly hot sun.

IMG_2126 Salinas Monjita

We soon found our target, Salinas Monjita, a terrestrial tyrant flycatcher that behaves like a wheatear. This species is restricted to the xerophytic scrub surrounding a few saline lakes in the Cordoba region.

IMG_2134 Spot-winged Falconet

Returning to our stricken bus were got great views of a rare Spot-winged Falconet.

IMG_2167 Capillo del Monte

That afternoon and the following morning we birded woodland near the mountain village of Capilla del Monte. Our main target was the elusive Black-bodied Woodpecker, but it remained just that – elusive.

IMG_2188 Capillo del Monte

The scrub and woodland held a number of good birds such as ….

IMG_2179 Black & Rufous Warbling Finch

…. Black and Rufous Warbling-Finch, ….

IMG_2086 Green-barred Woodpeckers

…. this curious group of Green-barred Woodpeckers ….

IMG_2239 Rufous-thighed Sparrowhawk

…. and this Rufous-thighed Sparrowhawk (the woodpeckers are not looking at the sparrowhawk, the photos were taken on different days)

IMG_2227 Andean Tinamou

Recent research has shown that Tinamous are some of the most ancient of birds which is why they now appear at the start of world bird checklists. They are typically elusive, keep to cover and often are heard only. We were told by a local that he had woodpeckers around his property so hoping it might be a Black-bodied we went to investigate. We had no luck with the pecker but found that he had habituated an Andean Tinamou by feeding it and we obtained great views. In the afternoon we drove back to Coroba and caught a flight to Buenos Aires.

Argentina part 1- the Buenos Aires area – November 2014.   Leave a comment

I visited Argentina on a four week long BirdQuest trip in 1997, however the following year they added extra areas and divided the tour into two, one to the north and the other to the central and southern regions. Thus I would have to go back and do both tours if I was to get to see the majority of the birds of this fascinating and scenic country. One bird I particularly wanted to see was the beautiful, yet rare Hooded Grebe, in 1997 we visited the lake where it was first described in 1974 but it was only an occasional visitor to this lake and we dipped. Subsequent tours drove to the lakes on the remote plateau in southern Patagonia with considerable success but a recent article by the Neotropical Bird Club indicated that the species was now facing many problems and was heading for extinction. If I wanted to see it I need to go now! The account of the search for the Hooded Grebe will be posted later.

This post covers a pre-tour day in the capital plus a day with the group in the same area five days later.

IMG_1289 Buenos Aires

The international airport lies someway from the centre but at the end of the tour we returned from Patagonia to the domestic airport which is situated on the shore of the huge Rio de La Plata, close to the downtown high rise apartments.

IMG_1291 Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a very modern and prosperous city, however as can be seen from this aerial shot more basic accommodation exists sandwiched between the railway line and various freeways.

IMG_1287 Costenera Sur

Flying into the domestic terminal you get a very good view of the main birding site in Buenos Aires, Costanera Sur. Popular with locals as a place to relax, jog or picnic it is an outstanding nature reserve, but in recent years the open water and muddy pools have been colonised by vegetation and now the only place to watch the once abundant wildfowl is the narrow strip of water between the park entrance and the high rise blocks.

IMG_1150 Costanera Sur

The tour started in the city of Cordoba, but I decided rather than continue on to Cordoba from Buenos Aires to stay overnight and bird Costanera Sur in the afternoon. Having met up with my room mate Terry at the airport we dropped our gear off at the hotel and got a taxi into the downtown area where we first walked along the promenade that runs parallel to the park.

IMG_1987 Coscoroba Swan

The first birds we saw were a family party of Coscoroba Swans ….

IMG_1980 Ringed Teal

…. but soon we found something much rarer, a pair of Ringed Teal, a scarce duck that I have managed to miss on all my previous visits to South America and which was the last waterfowl for my Neotropical list.

IMG_1992 Costanera Sur

It was very hot out on the promenade and we were glad to enter the park and get into the shade.

IMG_2003 Costanera Sur

On previous visits to Costenera Sur I have seen such goodies as South American Painted-snipe and Spotted Rail but now with most of the open water closed over pickings were thin ….

IMG_2001 Spectacled Tyrant

… that said we saw some marsh birds like the strange Spectacled Tyrant …

IMG_1989 Great Kiskadee

… as well as commoner species like the widespread Great Kiskadee ….

IMG_1997 Green-barred Woodpecker

…. Green-barred Woodpecker ….

IMG_2005 Picazuro Pigeon

…. the common Picazuro Pigeon ….

IMG_2009 Monk Parakeet

…. and the vociferous Monk Parakeet.

IMG_2004 Brazillian Cavy

The once common Coypu aren’t so easy to see now that most pen water has gone but we saw a few endearing Brazilian Cavies (or Guinea Pigs) on the paths.

IMG_2288 Otamendi

The first four days of the actual tour were spent in the Cordoba region (see next post) but on day five we were back in the Buenos Aires area and paid an early morning visit to Otemendi, a reserve to the north-west of the city.

IMG_2276 White-faced Ibis

Large flocks of White-faced Ibis flew overhead ….

IMG_2283 Long-winged Harrier

…. and a beautiful Long-winged Harrier (above) joined the many Snail Kites in the air above us

IMG_2263 Dark-billed Cuckoo

Trees bordering the marsh held Dark-billed Cuckoos ….

IMG_2297 Curve-billed Reedhaunter

…. whilst the reeds held both Curve-billed (above) and Straight-billed Reedhaunters.

IMG_2302 9th July Av

We returned to our hotel on the famous 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires during the heat of the day. Named after the date of independence in 1816, this enormous avenue is 14 lanes wide.

IMG_1160 Eva Peron

The image of Eva Peron stares down on the traffic jams.

IMG_1158 Buenos Aires

Later in the day we drove through the city to Costanera Sur ….

IMG_2303 Costanera Sur

…. but the day was a Bank Holiday and the place was packed with many cyclists, noisy kids and loud music. Hardly surprisingly we hardly saw any wildfowl and the much envied Ringed Teal had gone. Terry and I were so glad we made the effort to get here under our own steam before the tour started.

6th-14th December 2014 – Three musical events, an unconvincing ghost, a quiz and some ringing.   Leave a comment



In 1898 HG Wells wrote one of the first science fiction novels, War of the Worlds which depicted the invasion of Earth by Martians, I remember reading the book as a teenager. Of course like all science fiction it is deeply rooted in the values and concepts of the time that it was written (we wouldn’t think today that aliens would only be interested in invading England and that anyone who wanted to escape would merely have to get on a boat to some foreign location) but it remains one of the most enduring examples of the genre. In 1978 Jeff Wayne produced a very successful musical version of the story which he has recently revived as a stage show. We were able to see this excellent show at the BIC in Bournemouth on the 11th.


The show was full of technical wizardry, a band and an orchestra played in front of the huge screen which depicted the narrative, but also players sang and acted out the story on the stage.

IMG_3973 Brian McFadden

The story is narrated by a journalist who is caught up in the Martian invasion, his role is part sung by Brian McFadden ….

IMG_4014 Liam Neeson in WOTW

… and part spoken by a ‘virtual’ Liam Neeson, who appears in this panel over the stage or as a life size hologram on stage which was able to virtually interact with other characters.

IMG_3974 Martians emerge

As the story develops the Martians invade.

IMG_3985 Martian Fighting Machine

A 35ft high Martian fighting machine appears on the stage …

IMG_3988 Martian Fighting Machine

… and proceeds to belch real flames over the audience.

IMG_4009 Beth and Nathaniel in WOTW

One of my favourite parts was the duet between Parson Nathaniel (Jason Donovan) and his wife Beth (Carrie Hope Fletcher) as to whether the invaders are Martians or demons.

IMG_4003 Red Weed

The red weed that HG Wells claims gave Mars its red colour takes over the countryside.

IMG_4012 the Artiliaryman

The infantryman (Shane Ward) claims that the survivors can build cities underground away from the invaders but soon after the Earth’s bacteria kill off the Martians and bring the story to its conclusion (well almost).

IMG_4020 WOTW the cast

Brian McFadden, Joseph Whelan, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Shane Ward and Jason Donovan take a bow. It was a fantastic concert, flawlessly executed with no technical hitches (in spite of the potential difficulty in coordinating so many aspects of the performance) with great performances from musicians and actors alike.

IMG_1312 Gaunt's House concert

In complete contrast on the 13th we went to a dinner and musical performance at Gaunt’s House, a old stately home now run as a spiritual retreat, situated to the north of Wimborne. A very talented pianist played pieces by Schubert and a tenor accompanied him singing pieces by Schumann, Ravel and others. Although beautifully performed these ‘lieders’, short songs sung in German, mean little to me but I did enjoy the Schubert. After the interval we all took part in a carol concert.

IMG_1315 Daphne at Gaunt's House

Our connection with Gaunt’s House is that Daphne, (centre), a fellow member of the Phoenix (formerly Nexus) organisation works there. We joined several Phoenix members and others for a ‘ghost walk’ around the upper corridors and rooms of this extensive house.

IMG_1314 ghost

Although potentially scary in the darkened room, the flash on my camera revealed the ‘ghost’ ……

IMG_1316 ghost

… to be no more than a member of staff in a sheet who managed to run ahead of the tour and hide in each unlit room before the group arrived.

IMG_4027 St Peter's Church

The following day Margaret’s choir performed their Christmas concert at St Peter’s Church in Parkstone.

IMG_4031 orchestra

The Barclay House Choir have a new conductor/musical director Helen Brind and I was pleased to see that she maintained the high standard of her predecessor. Margaret is on the left of the next to top row, my old work colleague Ann Hitchcoe is to her right and our friend Christine third from the left on the front row. The orchestra is led by Andrew Foot.

IMG_4036 Abbi Temple

Soloist soprano Abbi Temple had a wonderful voice.

IMG_1297 quiz night

Spot the birder! L-R Mark Constantine, Trevor Warwick, Tom Carly, Jackie Hull (Nick joined us later), Shaun Robson, Mo Constantine, Mike Gould, Marcus Lawson, Richard Webb, Nick Hopper, Bob Gifford, Ewan Brodie, Terry Elborne, Roger Howell, Steve W Smith and me. Years ago I used to set pretty difficult bird quizzes for the Dorset Bird Club, fortunately the baton has been taken up by Paul Morton who set a really challenging quiz on the 8th December. We all lined up to be randomly selected into teams. I must admit our team didn’t do well (my excuse was that I was still suffering jet lag) but what really let us down was a round of bird name anagrams, I have to admit that my mind just doesn’t ‘do’ anagrams and that seemed to apply to all my team.

IMG_1294 Margaret at quiz night

Thanks were due not only to Paul but also for Mark and Mo Constantine who made LUSH digital centre available for the quiz. Margaret opted not to be in a quiz and relaxed in the corner.

IMG_1317 Woodpigeon

With some new traps I have been doing a bit of ringing in the garden, this Woodpigeon was an unexpected catch – and quite a handful too.

IMG_1308 Rock Pipit

But the best ringing took place on 13th at Lytchett Bay where we caught an interesting variety of birds including this Rock Pipit. Following the Shaun’s capture a Belgian ringed Rock Pipit recently (we are awaiting details of where and when it as ringed) we have decided to renew our efforts to trap Rock Pipits, particularly as we think that those wintering on the saltmarsh may be of the Scandinavian race littoralis. We also ringed a Stonechat, several Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Cettis’ Warblers and Chiffchaffs ….

IMG_1302 beardies

… and also these gorgeous Bearded Tits.

IMG_1303 beardie

Of all the birds we ring, the male Bearded Tit has to be one of the most beautiful. Being a scarce bird that it is somewhat irruptive and nomadic ringing ‘beardies’ is very worthwhile as previous long distance movements have shown. I mentioned earlier that I had two new trainees, Rik and Ginny, they have been joined by a third, Emma. With three people to train I shall attempt to put even more effort into my ringing activities in 2015.

7th – 8th December 2014 – Local twitches   Leave a comment

I have returned from southern Argentina late on the 6th, my last foreign trip of 2014. I still have to edit the many photos that I took in this scenic and wildlife rich part of the world, but I will be posting them here in due course.

In the mean time here is a report on some of the birds that we have seen since my return. During 2014 I have concentrated on foreign birding and whilst at home, local ringing, but a few goodies still around on my return induced me into the field last Sunday and Monday.


Bean Goose Joe Mitchell

A pair of Bean Geese were found in Swineham/Aren Moors area recently. They were too far away when we saw them for photos but these shots were obtained earlier by 12 year old Joe Mitchell, published here with permission from his dad Jol. There has been debate as to whether these birds with their fairly long bills were of the taiga, rather than the expected tundra breeding race. This is of some importance as most world checklists consider then to be two different species. Expert comment however, has led me to believe that they are of the tundra group (or species) on account of the lack of a deep chest and the shape of the bill, in particular ‘grinning patch’. In a discussion  a couple of years ago with my friend Paul Harvey on Shetland, I learned that many of the Bean Geese that occur in Shetland cannot be assigned to one form or the other and perhaps originate, unlike those birds that winter in Holland and the south of UK, from any area in Siberia where the two forms interbreed. Perhaps the BOU have been wise not to follow the major world checklists in splitting Bean Goose into two species.

Velvet Scoter G Upton cropped

Velvet Scoter are regularly seen in very small number in Dorset in winter and on passage but these two females at Ringstead bay where the first I had seen in 2014. Photo by Geoff Upton used with permission.

IMG_3946 George

Our next destination was the fields near Redcliffe Point just to the east of Weymouth to look for a Richard’s Pipit that has taken up residence in the area. Here you get a great view of the Osmington White Horse, a 280 x 320 ft figure of George III said to have been constructed in 1808, supposedly to commemorate the King’s patronage of Weymouth. One local legend has it that the man who cut the figure committed suicide when he realised that he had portrayed the King riding away from Weymouth rather than towards it.

Richard's Pipit Sergey Pisarevsky

The Richard’s Pipit showed well in the scope but was flushed several times by dog walkers before I could photograph it. Others have claimed it to be an adult based on the lack of juvenile median coverts but it just might have been have been a first winter bird that moulted all of the coverts. Photos from Internet Bird Collection by Sergey Pisarevsky of an adult photographed in Russia. Notice the large size compared to Meadow Pipit, upright stance, streaked back and pale lores.

IMG_3953 Barred Warbler

Moving on to Portland Bill, we had very good views of this first winter Barred Warbler from the Obs patio, for some reason this bird has a dislodged primary on the left wing.

IMG_3960 Barred Warbler

Barred Warbler is a scarce visitor to the UK, with first winters occurring mainly in northern and eastern areas in September and October. Adults with their startlingly pale eyes and barred breast are almost unheard on in the UK, at least in the south.

IMG_3964 Barred Warbler

First winter Barred Warblers seen earlier in the autumn have wholly black eyes. This individual seems to developing the pale eyes of an adult already. I have seen 18 Barred Warblers in the UK and about 25 abroad, but none as well as this bird which seemed to be defending these apples against all comers.