Archive for February 2015

February 18th 2015 – The Tower of London   Leave a comment

Most countries allow you to enter without a visa, some make you pay for a visa on arrival (which isn’t really a visa but a type of arrival tax) and others charge you £50 or so for a proper visa, which means sending off your passport and documentation to the relevant embassy and waiting about a week until it is couriered back to you. I have been through this procedure many times, but never had so much hassle as I have experienced recently in obtaining a visa to visit Russia.

I have booked on a boat trip run by New Zealand based Heritage Expeditions to far eastern Siberia in May/June. It should be an excellent trip visiting Kamchatka, the Commander and Kurile Islands and Sakhalin but getting the visa has been far from easy. Once I had the necessary documentation from New Zealand I tried to download the application form from the relevant website, but however hard I tried I couldn’t access the site. Eventually I got a visa and travel company to obtain an application form for me. It took most of one day to gather all the information needed and then once I had all the documentation together I had to go to London to the Russian visa application centre to be fingerprinted. However once there the process was quite quick and (as I paid for the express service) I had my passport back with 48 hours. The whole thing cost about £200, an unexpected cost, but there again if the tour price had been £200 more I’d still have booked!

Margaret came with me and we caught (and almost missed) the 0530 bus to Victoria. We were finished with the visa business by 1000 and opted to spend the rest of the day sightseeing the Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something that Margaret hasn’t done before and that I haven’t done since 1972!

 

 

IMG_1501 the Tube

For 33 years of my working life I drove (and sometimes cycled) the three and a half hassle free miles to work. Every time I visit London I am shocked by mass of people crowded into the tube, rail and bus network, all rushing to get to work on time. Every time we go we say ‘what a great place to visit but what a dreadful place to live’. I’m sure there are many of you out there who would fundamentally disagree with that statement, but Dorset, at least away from peak holiday season, is a much more relaxed place to live.

IMG_1524 modern skyline

Sandwiched between the modern skyline of Tower Hill, ….

IMG_1502 the Shard

…. the Thames with the Shard rising in the background ….

IMG_1576 Tower Bridge

…. and the imposing Tower Bridge lies the ancient Tower of London.

IMG_1506 Traitor's Gate

Once inside the Tower of London, the first sight you come across is the so-called ‘Traitor’s Gate’, so named as it through here that prisoners were brought from a boat on the Thames for confinement in the Tower, although its official title is the Water Gate.

IMG_1521 Bloody Gate

From here, led by a Beefeater, we walked though the Bloody Gate ….

IMG_1522 TOL thru Bloody Gate

…. into the central courtyard.

IMG_1527 White Tower

…. dominated by the White Tower. The Tower of London was first built by William the Conqueror in 1066, the White Tower dates from 1078. The Tower was originally built for defense and to dominate the Saxon population following the Norman invasion. It has been fortified as recently as WW II.

IMG_1529 crowds at TOL

Being a nice and sunny, if cold day in the middle of the half term break, the place was packed with tourists.

IMG_1509 Beefeater

Tours given by the Yeoman Warders, known for unknown reasons a ‘Beefeaters’ can be highly entertaining. Of course he concentrated on the more grisly details such as the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower in 1483, supposedly murdered on the command of their uncle Richard III or the various executions that have occurred in or near the Tower.

IMG_1518 excecution site

On or near this spot, three Queens of England, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey plus four others were beheaded. Only those close to the monarch were executed here, most ended their days at nearby Tower Hill where 112 people were executed prior to the 20th century. During both World Wars a number of spies faced a firing squad in the Tower.

IMG_1544 White Tower

To the right the White Tower, at the back the HQ of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and to the left the Waterloo Barracks, now the home of the Crown Jewels.

IMG_1515 sentry duty

Sentries on guard outside the Waterloo Barracks.

Photography is not allowed inside the so the next two photos are taken from the internet. We joined a very long line to see the jewels, such is the press of tourists that to see the Crown Jewels you have to stand on a conveyor that takes you slowly past the display cabinets. The quantity of precious stones and gold items is just staggering. The Crown Jewels have resided in the Tower since the time of Henry III (1216 – 1272) however the original Crown Jewels were melted down in 1649 during the English Civil War and were recreated in 1660 when the monarchy was restored.

crown-jewels

The Imperial State Crown as worn by Queen Elizabeth on her coronation

1412590766600_Image_galleryImage_A77XJK_London_TheCrownJew

Crown Jewels in their display cabinet.

IMG_1564 wire polar bear

The Tower of London was once a royal menagerie. Henry VIII was given a Polar Bear by the King of Norway, this is now represented by a Polar Bear model made of wire.

IMG_1563 Raven TOL

Of course there is the story that is the Ravens ever desert the Tower of London then the monarchy will fall. Just in case the birds are all pinioned!

IMG_1546 John Dudley graffittii

Perhaps the most famous use of the Tower of London was that of a prison. Many captives were held in Beauchamp Tower and many of the prisoners carved inscriptions on the walls. Some of the graffiti consists of just the prisoner’s names but others are extremely elaborate, for example that of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, executed in 1553 for his part in the attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne following the death of Edward III. The Tower has been used as a prison as recently as WWII when Nazi Rudolph Hess was confined here.

IMG_1543 Royal mint

The Tower was also the Royal Mint from 1279 to 1809 when the Mint was moved to an adjacent site in East Smithfield. Ahead of planned decimalisation, it was moved to larger premises in Llantrisant in South Wales in 1968.

IMG_1531 horse with armour

As well as being a prison, a mint, a royal residence, barracks and a menagerie, the Tower has also been the home of the Office of Ordnance and Armoury. Within the White Tower is a collection of armour and weaponry some of which has been on display for centuries, making it the Britain’s oldest tourist attraction ….

IMG_1535 Henry VIII suit of armour

…. many of the suits of armour were worn by royalty. This suit was made for Henry VIII, but some are clearly fanciful, one suit said for centuries to belong to William the Conqueror has now been identified to be of a style that wasn’t introduced until hundreds of years later.

IMG_1571 TOL

The Medieval Tower adjacent to the Thames are one of the oldest parts of the Tower and have been recently restored.

IMG_1572 medaeval throne

Many of the artifacts date back to the time of the Plantagenets.

IMG_1570 bishop re-enactment

Re-enacting history for the kids.

IMG_1523 TOL

After a final look round the World Heritage site we had to leave ….

IMG_1579 The Shard

….and as the sun set behind the Shard, catch the Tube to Victoria and get the bus back to Dorset. What I expected to be a day spent hanging around getting the Russian visa sorted, turned out to be a great day out with a fantastic insight into England’s complex history.

 

Birding/Ringing in the last week – 16th – 22nd February 2015   Leave a comment

 

 

During the last week I have rather busy with paperwork and all of Wednesday was taken up with a trip to London (see next post) but we have got out a few times for birding or ringing.

 

IMG_2583 New Forest

On the 16th we went to Blashford Lakes near Ringwood but saw little of note. It appears that many waterfowl are already leaving for their breeding grounds. Winter seems to be getting shorter every year, which might sound like a good thing, but isn’t from a birding perspective. Later we continued to an area of the New Forest where Hen Harriers are known to roost.

IMG_2589 Fallow Deer New Forest

Surprisingly, in spite of staying until dark we didn’t see any harriers but a Merlin put on a good show as did this herd of Fallow Deer.

IMG_2592

This is a bachelor herd of about 25 males. Unlike Red Deer which shed their antlers after the rut in November, Fallow Deer (a species introduced to England by the Romans) shed their antlers in April/May.

IMG_2596 Great Bustards

We had heard that three Great Bustards were spending the winter along the Purbeck coast. These birds are from the re-introduction program on Salisbury Plain, an ambitious and worthwhile project which is returning this magnificent bird to its former home. On arrival on the morning of the 22nd we saw the birds in the distance but after a while they took off and flew towards us…..

IMG_2602 Great Bustards

…. giving good flight views before settling in an other field. An adult male Great Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. As far as I am aware this group consist of an immature male and two females. I really hope that this enormous, stately bird becomes re-established (the native population was shot out in 1832) and that winter occurences in Dorset become the norm.

A distant Great Grey Shrike

We continued on to Mordon Bog/Sherford Bridge area where we met a couple who had just relocated the highly elusive wintering Great Grey Shrike. Two or three Great Grey Shrikes have been found this winter in Dorset with the same or slightly more in the New Forest, however they are often elusive and highly mobile, often flying for half a mile or so before perching. Our views were distant and brief so I have included a photo of another distant, but more co-operative individual, that I photographed in the New Forest in 2012.

IMG_2574 Bufffinch 5f

I spent a morning ringing at Holton Lee on 17th and Feet’s Lane on 21st. The former was predictably busy with common species like tits, Nuthatch etc trapped. After four winters of ringing there we are building up an interesting picture of the site fidelity and longevity of the birds, with retraps of several individuals that were hatched in 2011 or earlier. This female Bullfinch was ringed at Fleet’s Lane. The grey, brown edged alula and primary coverts indicate it is a first year bird, however the best ageing characteristic is brown edging to the carpal covert, a small feather that can only be seen on the closed wing.

Firecrest-no6

We also retrapped a Firecrest that had been ringed earlier in the winter at Fleet’s Lane showing that it is remaining site faithful throughout the winter.

IMG_2568 Chiffchaff

Our main reason to ring at the Fleet’s Lane site is to study wintering Chiffchaffs. Chiffs, normally a summer visitor arriving from late March onwards and departing from September to October, have become an increasingly common bird in winter. Nobody knows if the wintering birds are British breeders that have opted to stay for the winter or migrants from elsewhere. We have retrapped three or more birds over a number of winters, showing winter site fidelity and have failed to retrap wintering birds after March indicating that they depart to breeding grounds in spring. This individual is typical of the nominate western European race colybita.

IMG_2569 Chiffchaff best

This individual is slightly duller but is still typical of colybita …..

8224SibeChiff1

…. but this bird, photographed by Ian Ballam and used here with permission, is more typical of the Siberian race tristis. I presume that this bird, which is still showing well, is the individual ringed by others in our group on 27th January. The grey tones to the upperparts, pure white belly, very fine wing bar and green edging to the primaries all indicate tristis. If it is the same individual then it was sound recorded on the date of ringing and shown to give the characteristic lost chick call of tristis. So we know that at least some of the Chiffchaffs that winter in the UK come from the eastern side of the Ural mountains, the cloest breeding grounds of tristis. Some consider tristis to be sufficiently differentiated to be considered a separate species.

IMG_1582 Woodcock

The only other ringing I have done this week is joining one of other group members near Corfe Castle  catching Woodcock at night . This is a very interesting species to ring, as the breeding grounds can be far to the east in Siberia, even on the same longitude as Burma (but of course much further north). As Woodcock are regularly shot for food, both when wintering in the UK and on migration , then the ringing return rate is high.

IMG_1583 Woodcock

Sometimes after processing the birds can be placed on the ground and remain still for long enough for photos to be taken.

IMG_1585 Woodcock

We ringed two individuals and saw at least 15, however most flew long before we could get near them. We also saw a Jack Snipe which stayed hidden until the last-minute before erupting at our feet.

IMG_1563 Raven TOL

As I mentioned above, Wednesday was spent in London, after the necessary tasks were performed, Margaret and I spent the day in the Tower of London where the pinioned Ravens performed for the crowds. More of our visit to the Tower in the next post.

 

Brazil part 2: 16th Jan 2015 – Lear’s Macaw   2 comments

IMG_1345 lifer time in brazil

This was the sticker on the wall of our accommodation at Canudos in the state of Bahia in Brazil, however we hadn’t come all this way to see Hyacinth Macaw, which occurs in the Pantanal in the far south-west, but its near relative Lear’s Macaw.

Edward Lear

Many birds are named after people. Often these are the discoverers of the bird or ornithologists who the describer feels needs recognition. but only seldom are birds named after people who are more famous for their activities in other fields. There are a few exceptions, some birds are named after royalty (for example King of Saxony Bird of Paradise) and Allan Octavian Hume (1829 – 1912) is better known as a political reformer and the founder of the Indian National Congress than for his extensive work on the birds on India. Another Victorian ornithologist better known for his non-ornithological work is Edward Lear (1812 – 1888). Picture from Wikipedia.

1024px-EdwardLearSelfPortrait

Lear, of course, is best known for his comic poems and short stories, including the ‘owl and the pussycat’ and ‘a book of nonsense’, a collection of limericks. He was also a talented artist and was employed by the Zoological Society as an ‘ornithological draughtsman’. Picture from Wikipedia.

3335_o_edward_lear

He painted many birds including the illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots in 1830, which contained this picture, thought initially to be either a Hyacinth Macaw or the now extinct Glaucous Macaw, but later recognised to be a species in its own right and named Lear’s Macaw  Anodorhynchus leari after it’s illustrator . The trouble was nobody knew where it came from, occasional skins and birds in the pet trade would turn up but it wasn’t until 1978 when Helmut Sick mounted an expedition to a remote area in north-east Brazil that the breeding grounds of this enigmatic species were found. Thought then to number only about 250 individuals, this area now known as the Canudos Biological Preserve is protected and numbers have increased to around 1000. Picture from Wikipedia.

IMG_0490 Lear's site pre-dawn

Of course, the area is now much more populated than when Sick first visited, but to be there for first light still requires a 0330 start from the town of Canudos. We transferred from our minibus to a open-backed 4×4 for an hour-long drive along bumpy tracks. We arrived at the lookout as dawn was breaking.

IMG_0492 Canudos Biological Preserve

Soon macaws stared coming out of their roost but views were poor.

IMG_0495 Lear's Macaw

A small number perched on nearby cacti.

IMG_0512 Canudos Biological Preserve

Once it was fully light we could appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.

IMG_0523 Canudos Biological Preserve

One sandstone ridge after another stretched to the horizon.

IMG_0520 Canudos Biological Preserve

After a while all the macaws made their noisy departure, we thought that was it, but the local ranger took us to another nearby canyon ….

IMG_0545 Lear's Macaws

… here we had views of 50+ Lear’s Macaws, either perched distantly or in flight.

IMG_0538 Lear's Macaws

One group repeatedly flew close …..

IMG_0533 Lear's Macaws

…. and perched up nicely on a nearby cliff ….

IMG_0529 Lear's Macaws

…. before flying off again.

IMG_1347 back of pickup

Then it was time to join the ranger’s dog in the back of the pick up ….

IMG_1348 back of pickup

…. and hold on tight for another bumpy ride on the return to Canudos for a late and much appreciated breakfast.

IMG_1350 outcrop

Lear’s Macaw didn’t quite make it as bird of the trip, two complete surprises, Giant Snipe and White-winged Potoo, pipped it at the post ….

IMG_1353 canyon lands

…. but the morning at the Canudos Biological Station, with its stunning eroded sandstone outcrops and canyons plus the wonderful macaws, certainly warranted the title of ‘experience of the trip’.

 

Posted February 19, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Brazil part 1: Ceara to northern Bahia – 11th – 15th January 2015   Leave a comment

I have been to Brazil twice before, to the endemic rich forests of the south-east in 2003 and to the wetlands of the Pantanal, the grasslands of Canastra and the southern Amazonian rainforest in 2008. This trip visited the coastal forests, caatinga, cerrado and canyons of the north-east states of Ceara, Alagoas, Penambuco and Bahia. Although, obviously there was considerable overlap with the birds of the south-east, I still managed to see 78 new species, about 10 more than I had expected.

This post covers the northern state of Ceara, western Perambuco and northern Bahia.

IMG_0009 mangroves

On arrival at Fortaleza we had a three-hour drive to our first destination. We didn’t get to the hotel until nearly 0200 so it was a rather short night. Soon after dawn we were birding at a nearby area of mangroves but our main target, the endemic Little Wood-Rail failed to show. Not the best start to the trip!

IMG_0016 boardwalk

Birding from this boardwalk was pleasant but a few migrant waders and coastal herons was little compensation for a serious dip.

IMG_0137 Serra do Baturite

By mid afternoon we arrived at the Serra do Baturite, a coastal range covered in Atlantic rainforest.

IMG_0099 Grey-breasted Parakeets

There was excellent birding in the area, which lifted our spirits considerably. Birds included the endemic Grey-breasted Parakeet ….

IMG_0159 Band-tailed Manakin

…. the beautiful Band-tailed Manikin ….

IMG_0204 RN Tanager

…. gorgeous Red-necked Tanagers ….

IMG_0049 Ochraceous Piculet

…. and one of the smallest woodpeckers in the world, Ochraceous Piculet, one of four species of piculet that we were to see on the trip.

IMG_0142 Rufous-breasted Leaftosser

Skulking on the forest floor we were able to glimpse a Rufous-breasted Leaftosser ….

IMG_0130 Ceara Gnateater

…. and the recently split Ceara Gnateater.

IMG_0101 Palm Tanager

It wasn’t all about rare, endemic or spectacular birds. Common species like Palm Tanager

IMG_0187 House Wren

…. and House Wren competed for our attention. House Wrens occur from Canada to Argentina and various proposals have been put forwards to divide it into a number of species, but they yet to gain approval by the various checklist authorities.

IMG_0054 pratmobile

One trouble with Brazil is that is so noisy. Many cars fit this sort of sound system in the boot of their car, which is clearly not intended as in-car entertainment but as means of annoying anyone who wants a good nights sleep.

IMG_0205 viewpoint

From a ridge over the local resort we were able to scan the tree tops for raptors but had little success. The white dot on the lake is, of all things, a Mute Swan, but somehow it didn’t make it onto the trip list.

IMG_0254 Caatinga

From Serra do Baturite we drove south to areas of extensive caatinga, a habitat comprised of xerophytic scrub interspersed with stands of cactus. Small differences in the level of aridity produce different height vegetation, which in turn leads to radically different bird communities.

IMG_0397 Caatinga Puffbird

Birds of the caatinga include the appropriately named Caatinga Puffbird ….

IMG_0410 Caatinga Parakeet

….  which was followed by the predictable Caatinga Parakeet ….

IMG_0321 Caatinga Cacholote

…. and (you’ve guessed it) the inevitable Caatinga Cacholote ….

IMG_0214 Caatinga Cacholote

…. which was captured nicely in flight.

IMG_0345 Woodcreeper to ID

In wooded area we saw Narrow-billed Woodpeckers, one of eight woodcreepers we were to see on the trip and one of 48 (if you include the similar scythebills) in South America.

IMG_0374 Lesser Wagtail Tyrant

Two species of tyrant flycatchers have evolved to look rather like old world wagtails and somewhat unimaginatively are called Lesser and Greater Wagtail-tyrant. I have seen ‘Greater’ a number of times but ‘Lesser’ was a life bird for me. Imagine the confusion when we found a pair of ‘Lessers’ (above) in the same bush as a pair of ‘Greaters’.

IMG_0319 dried up river

We visited a dried up river bed in northern Bahia, a stake out for Blue-winged Macaws, a species that prefer the tall riparian habitat. In the whole of north-east Brazil there is only one river, the mighty Sao Francisco, that never dries up.

IMG_0299 Blue-winged Macaw

And there, just as promised was the lovely Blue-winged Macaw.

IMG_0337 Masked Water Tyrant

Earlier I mentioned tyrant flycatchers that have evolved to look like wagtails, well here’s one that has evolved to look like a wheatear – Masked Water Tyrant, living in what is currently a water free environment.

IMG_0323 Streaked Fly

A more typical tyrant flycatcher (with 431 species, the largest bird family in the world) is the showy Streaked Flycatcher.

IMG_0276 Araripe Manakin

At the base of the isolated plateau of the Chapada do Araripe lies some tall woodland. Here in 1996 the gorgeous Araripe Manakin was seen for the first time. The population is estimated to be a mere 500 pairs. Although we got good views, our time with the bird was brief. The most accessible site has been converted to a theme park, we paid our entry fee but were told the park had to close, this seemed bizarre as it was only 11am, but we later learned that the park’s owner had died that morning and the staff were closing the park as a mark of respect.

Araripe_Manakin_Antilophia_bokermanni

With very little time available to get a decent image of this stunning bird, I have included (with permission) a wonderful shot by Ciro Albano, one of Brazil’s top birders and photographers.

IMG_0459 Burrowing Owl

We eventually reached the area around Canudos where we searched an area of scrub for the rare Scarlet-throated Tanagers, which we saw, albeit distantly. More showy species included the widespread Burrowing Owl.

IMG_0481 reflections

As the sun set, the lake where the Scarlet-throated Tanagers could be seen glowed as if lit from within. We saw a couple of the very rare Lear’s Macaws flying to roost but we knew that we had a far better chance of seeing them well the following day. More of that in the next post.

Posted February 12, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Early January and early February 2015 – A brief account of our bird race and two trips to west Dorset.   Leave a comment

 

 

To the regular readers of my blog an apology for not updating this blog since early January. I have spent three and half weeks in return Brazil and since my return a week ago I have been busy with shopping, decorating and other onerous tasks.

This post covers the first few days of January and a couple of trips to west Dorset over the last couple of days. I have yet to edit the many photos taken in Brazil, let alone update them to the blog, but they will follow eventually.

IMG_1325 Poole Harbour at night

We had a couple of birding trips before I left for Brazil, to Blashford Lakes and to Wyke Down but the best by far was the intensive birding on our annual bird race on 4th January. Postponed from the day before due to bad weather, we had an excellent day, travelling from the Poole area to Weymouth and back again starting at 0500 and ending at 1730. Three teams took part and we won with a score of 126 species seen/heard during the day, three ahead of our nearest rivals and only 3 short of the all time winter record. Our first destination was Shore Road, Poole Harbour in hope for Bar-tailed Godwit. Why visit the foreshore of Poole Harbour in the dark, when the birds could be so much more easily later in day? Simple, if we could see Barwits before dawn we could later avoid the northern shore of of the harbour and all the potential delays that traffic and the Studland car ferry could produce. I’m glad to say we were successful, seeing the birds by the light of street lamps.

IMG_5550-Bewick's-Swan

On 7th February Margaret and I had a day out in west Dorset. Our first destination was Tincleton near Dorchester where we located the single Bewick’s Swan in a flock of Mute’s. Bewick’s Swan was once a regular visitor to Dorset and adjacent areas with counts of up to 120 at Tinkleton and similar numbers at Ibsley in Hampshire. Milder winters have allowed more Bewick’s to winter on the continent and feeding at the WWT reserve at Welney has induced most of the birds that reach the UK to stay in East Anglia. The bird we saw at Tinkleton was hidden by trees so I have added a photo of a Bewick’s Swan I took at Ibsley in the Avon valley last year.

IMG_2509 cress beds

Earlier we called in at the cress beds at Bere Regis, a good spot for Green Sandpipers, Grey Wagtails and if you are lucky Kingfishers and Water Pipits, although we had no luck with the latter two.

IMG_2529 Martinstown

We then travelled westwards to Abbotsbury, on the way we passed through the picturesque village of Martinstown ….

IMG_2534 Martinstown

… which comprises a series of charming cottages with a stream for a front garden.

IMG_2528 Harrdy's Monument

From here the road climbs up to Hardy’s Monument with panoramic views in all directions.

IMG_2512 west Dorset

The road that leads from Hardy’s Monument to Abbotsbury is narrow and progress is slow, however the view more than compensates. This is perhaps my favourite drive in all of Dorset, but in the morning the view to the south is always into the sun. The Fleet and Portland can just be seen in the distance. Someday I’ll drive this way on a clear summer’s evening and take some better shots.

IMG_2515 Langton Herring

Abbotsbury Swannery is closed for the winter but distant views are available from the Rodden road. We saw the Greenland Whitefronted Goose briefly before it swam out of view and later we drove on to Langton Herring and walked down to the Fleet at Rodden Hive. The view to the north from Langton Herring is shown above.

IMG_2526 Rodden Hive

The Fleet, the 12 mile long brackish lagoon, separated from the sea by a shingle bank is one of the most outstanding features of Dorset, if not the entire UK. Rodden Hive is the most northerly point that is accessible on foot, with the exception of the Swannery itself. Large numbers of wildfowl can be seen on the Fleet in winter ……

IMG_2522 Barnacle Geese

…. but we had come to see this flock of 16 Barnacle Geese. Barnacle Geese from Svarlbard and Greenland winter in Scotland but there is also a substantial number that winter in Holland It is debatable whether the occasional flock that turns up in Dorset in winter comes from the Dutch wintering population or from the feral population.

IMG_2525 Barnacle Geese

The fact that these birds were wary and flew off soon after we arrived, were unringed and don’t associate with Canada Geese indicate to my mind that a wild origin is probable. In fact using those criteria they are more likely to be wild than the Greenland Whitefront which has been associating with Canada Geese!

IMG_2538 west dorset

Rare bird news seldom breaks when it is convenient. I had just got home when I learned that three Cirl Buntings had been located a few miles from Abbotsbury. This species was once widespread in south of the UK but the range drastically contracted from the 1960’s onwards with agricultural intensification. The last breeding in Dorset was in 1971 and since I’ve been birding they have been lost from Somerset and almost lost from their stronghold in south Devon. Vigorous conservation measures, including a reintroduction program in Cornwall have turned their fortunes around and maybe, just maybe, they are beginning to recolonise west Dorset. The birds had been present for some time but local observers wished to keep this quiet until the site could be made secure from disturbance. This is the same view as above in much cloudier conditions, taken when I returned to see the Cirls on Monday morning.

Male Cirl Bunting - Exeminster

The three Cirl Bunting showed well, if a little briefly. Far too far away for photos, I have included a shot of a male taken in Devon in June 2011, which was I think the first bird photo that I ever uploaded to this blog.