No, I’ve not been hibernating! – January and February 2016   Leave a comment

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything about 2016 yet – mainly because I’ve spent three weeks in India.

I’ve just about edited all the Indian photos and will start uploading some of them soon. But first I thought I do a short post about other things that have been going on in 2016.

The weather in the UK has been a major factor, constant wind and rain, particularly early in the year, has prevented ringing and hasn’t made birding very pleasant.

We tried to organise a bird race for the first weekend in January and quite a few teams were going to take part but the weather was dreadful. We were finally able to run it on 10th January but by then only two teams took part. It was good fun but my team came a rather poor second. Even so I find the annual race to be an interesting and worthwhile challenge and I like to start the year off by searching out some of the scarcer (but not necessarily rare) birds like Marsh Tit or Barn Owl that otherwise tend to get forgotten about. We started before dawn for owls in east Dorset, headed to Weymouth for first light, visited Portland, the areas around Maiden Castle and Hardy’s Cottage before returning to Poole Harbour for the rest of the day. 113 wasn’t a great total, in 2015 we managed 126 but then its only a bit of fun.

IMG_1816 Black Redstart

One of the many quality birds we saw on the bird race day was Black Redstart. However I didn’t stop for photographs – this one was photographed in Turkey last autumn.



On my return from India I was delighted to find that I had been offered free tickets to an Afro Celt Sound System gig at the BIC. This wonderful band (not to be confused with any other bands with a similar name) fuses traditional African and Scottish rhythms and has a unique and very infectious sound. Margaret was unable to go so I took granddaughter Amber along instead and she had a wonderful time.

There are no other bands where you can hear a duet between an oud and bagpipes or for that matter where they have four different drummers. Can’t wait for their next album, due out I believe in April. Regrettably I didn’t take my camera and these photos were taken from their website


Drummer Johnny Kalsi


Bagpipe player Griogair


Traditional African instrument player Nfaly Kouyate



Recently I gave my talk on bird evolution and how birds spread around the world to Poole RSPB group. The talk was entitled ‘what came first the Archaeopteryx or the egg’. There are several different ideas of what the Archaeopteryx, the 150 million year old proto-bird looked like. I took this reconstruction from the internet. I have done this talk four or five times now and I think its time I came up with another subject.

01-archeopteryx-2-Archeopteryx (1)

Whenever conditions have allowed I have tried to continue our ringing program. During the winter I have ringed at Holton Lee where we have continued to monitor common woodland birds, and at Fleet’s Corner where the primary target is wintering Chiffchaffs. We have proved that some Chiffchaffs return to the site each year to winter and that wintering birds are a different population from breeding birds. We have caught two or three Chiffchaffs on most ringing attempts this winter but on 10th February we caught 18! Six were re-traps first ringed in November or December, one had been ringed in Southampton in early November and the rest were new. Five days later I returned, and we caught none, although two or three birds were in the area, the following day I returned just to check and found just one. In spite the fact that this is only mid February it would appear that Chiffchaffs are already on the move. It is possible that a full month before migrant Chiffchaffs wintering in the the Mediterranean and North Africa start arriving in the UK, the Chiffchaffs that winter here are already moving towards their (unknown) breeding areas.

IMG_6713 Chiffchaff ELR135 12 12 15 FLC

This bird, a potential Siberian Chiffchaff, was ringed on 12/12/15 and re-trapped on 10/2/16.

IMG_3795 GGS Warham Forest

Unusual birds have been thin on the ground in Dorset this winter. A Great Grey Shrike has been wintering in Wareham Forest, I have only seen it once in three visits and that was the time I forgot my camera, but I did manage a poor digiscoped image using my pocket camera.


Our young birding friend Christine (who also goes to the choir with Margaret) has recently decided to up her birding game by doing a year list. Without her own transport she isn’t going to do well, so we have offered to help her out. Visits recently to Wareham Forest, Studland, Portland, Weymouth, Abbotsbury and a few locations around Poole have added a good number of species to her list.

We recently went to a talk for the Christchurch birding group CHOG by top Israeli birder Yoav Perlman who is currently studying for a PhD at UEA. I met Yoav in Israel in 2013 where he took Margaret and I to see the critically endangered ‘tamarisk’ race of Nubian Nightjar and have met up with him since at the Bird Fair. Yoav gave an excellent talk which brought back fond memories of my three bird-filled visits to Israel.

Not having any photographs of Yoav from our Israel trip, I looked on his website and found this memorable photo taken on Shetland which I have reproduced below. I know or have met all five in the photo; on the left is Peter Colston, former curator of the bird collection of the British Museum who I met on a trip to French Polynesia in 1997, in the centre is Yoav, to his right is my friend and bird identification expert Paul Harvey who I have known since 1978 and on the far right is Roger Riddington, editor of British Birds magazine who I met in Shetland and at the Bird Fair. But the reason I wanted to post this photo is because of the guy to the left of Yoav, Martin Garner. Martin died recently after a long battle with cancer and the birding community has joined together to mourn his passing.  Martin  loved to be at the cutting edge of bird identification and many conundrums were explored in his excellent website Birding Frontiers and the two ‘Challenge Series’ books. Martin was a kind, generous and inspirational man, with deeply held religious beliefs and faced death with a serenity that was quite awesome. I only met Martin a few  times, at a talk in Poole and at the Bird Fair but wish I could have known him better.



L-R Peter Colston, Martin Garner, Yoav Perlman, Paul Harvey, Roger Riddington. Photo from


Posted February 18, 2016 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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