Archive for the ‘New Forest’ Tag

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.


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.


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 …..


…. 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.


12th May – New Forest birding   Leave a comment


 On the 12th May, Margaret and I spent the morning in the New Forest , followed by a brief visit to Coward’s Marsh at Christchurch on the way back.



We first visited the raptor watch point at Acre’s Down. There is a panoramic view over the forest and indeed this is the only spot I know in our area where no human artifacts are visible.


It didn’t take long until our target, a Goshawk was seen. This large bird, presumably a female was seen circling over the forest.



A dreadful, greatly enlarged image, but one that shows several Goshawk ID features: the deep chest, bulging secondaries, a long tail with a wide base and rounded tip (square tip in Sparrowhawk)



Goshawks soar on flat wings, unlike similarly sized Buzzards. The white undertail coverts can even spread out and be visible on the upper tail as can be just  seen on this shot.


The bird drifted towards us and entered a blue patch of sky. The prominent white supercilium can just be seen on this picture.


Nearby a Wood Warbler was in song. This Phylloscopus warbler is much rarer than than either Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff and in our area is confined to mature beech woodland in the New Forest.


Later we headed for Coward’s Marsh near Christchurch. Close to the viewing spot newly fledged Starlings were being fed by their parents.


They were pretty distant, but we soon located the pair of Glossy Ibis that had spent the last few days on the banks of the River Avon. Once a mega-rarity in the UK, increased numbers breeding in Spain has led to a small numbers occurring each autumn, although spring records are still pretty unusual.


15th – 23rd March – An hilarious cabaret act and a series of dips.   Leave a comment

A year or so ago I was sent a link to a cabaret act called Fascinating Aida, three ladies who sing some very amusing, yet risque song with lovely harmonies. Some of the songs were absolutely hilarious so when we found they were playing in Bournemouth we had to go and see them. See but beware that they use a lot of  ‘adult humour’. Check out their song ‘Cheap Flights’ on the link below.   They concluded the set with a song about Bournemouth which included the wonderful line that ‘[Bournemouth] has seaside oceanarium, its not the same fish, ‘cos sometimes they vary ’em’ By the way I had to do an update to the WordPress software and now I am back with the situation of having pictures that either too small or too large. As the Fascinating Aida photo isn’t very sharp I’ll keep it in the ‘too small’ category.


Fascinating Aida


Over the last couple of weeks I have made a few ringing trips. At our site at Fleets Lane all the wintering Chiffchaffs have gone but some new birds have arrived, all with pollen stuck above the bill, probably picked up on migration in Spain.

Over the last couple of weeks I have done a few ringing trips. At our site at Fleets Lane all the wintering Chiffchaffs have gone but some new birds have arrived, all with pollen stuck above the bill, probably picked up on migration in Spain.



Recently I have paid a few visits to Wareham Forest. A very visible pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were found in the Sherford Bridge area whilst I was away. On my return Margaret and I eventually obtained good view of the male in flight, but didn’t get any photos. I made three visits to the Sugar Hill area (above) in the hope of finding a  Great Grey Shrike that a number of birders had seen, but drew a blank each time.



Middlebere near Arne in Poole Harbour can be an excellent place to see raptors but only Buzzards were on show when I visited last week. Clearance of pines on the ridge overlooking the marsh has allowed these improved views.


I had just got in the hide at Middlebere when this herd of Sika Deer ran past just in front of me, leaping over a barbed wire fence in the process. Thirty seconds later I would have been sat down with the camera ready and could have caught them mid leap.


A group of six Spoonbills were asleep opposite the hide. Spoonbills were once a rare visitor to Poole Harbour but now can be seen for most of the year. It appears that ‘our’ birds breed in Holland, I wonder how long it will be before they breed in Dorset.





On the 22nd I made a quick twitch to Weymouth in the hopes of seeing an Iceland Gull at Ferrybridge but had no luck. The run of dips continued on the 23rd when Margaret went first to the Balshford Lakes in hope of early migrants like Garganey, Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover but only saw the regular duck species. Later we headed to nearby Ibsley Common to look for another Great Grey Shrike but merely got caught up in series of hail storms and got frozen by a bitter northerly wind.


….. however we did get to see a Red Kite and a flock of Fieldfares in this area.


….. and the skyscapes were very dramatic…..



….. but a few pairs of Mandarins on Eyeworth Pond was the only addition to the year list.

Posted March 25, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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12th November – what a busy day.   Leave a comment

The 12th November proved to be a very busy and interesting day. After a spell of indifferent weather it was great to get out in some lovely autumnal sunshine. We had our regular monthly waterfowl count at 0900, so Shaun, Terry and I did a little bit of ringing at Fleets Corner beforehand. We didn’t catch many birds in the short time frame, but what we did was quite notable. A Redwing and a Firecrest were lovely birds to handle, but better was a Goldcrest that had been ringed there the previous winter, showing winter site fidelity for this tiny bird, but even better still was a Chiffchaff that we had ringed in January 2012 and retrapped in March 2013, a bird that has returned to this area for its third winter. As Chiffchaffs are considered to mainly be a summer visitor to the UK and little is known about winter site fidelity, we consider this to be quite a significant discovery. The fact that we have ringed regularly at this site and not retrapped this bird between March and November indicates that it migrates here specifically to winter, rather than being a breeding bird that just hangs around all year.


This Redwing was trapped at dawn at Fleets Lane.


Another female Firecrest


It is only a short walk from Fleets Lane to my Webs count area in south Holes Bay. This monthly count of waterfowl and waders is carried out throughout the country from September to March and gives an accurate picture of numbers nationwide.


The weather was excellent, visibility good, but there were very few birds in my sector, the vast majority being beyond  the railway line in the north of Holes Bay, where there is a lot more exposed mud. Here I am looking across Holes Bay to Cobb’s Quay marina. I briefly joined Robin Heawood who was counting the northern sector after my count and saw 10 Spoonbills, a Spotted Redshank and Yellow-legged Gull along with hundreds of commoner birds.


I was back home before 11 and in time give my respects to the country’s fallen heroes on Remembrance Sunday – This view of the Cenotaph was photographed on the telly.


As it was such a nice day Margaret and I decided to have lunch in the New Forest. Although most leaves are still on the trees, many are turning colour and others have already fallen. Autumn seems to be getting later each year, the temperature was about 13C and it seemed amazingly mild for mid November.


In reality, the trees of Rhinefield ornamental drive positively glowed in the autumnal sunshine.


Roads closed for repair and other hold ups meant it was quite late before we got to Beaulieu


We headed for the The Bake House at Beaulieu, once a bakery now a cafe. Margaret and I met there at the end of October in 2006 and we like to go back on or near to the anniversary to celebrate.


Well it wasn’t quite our anniversary, it was blowing a gale on that day, but it was near enough. We even managed to sit on the same table as we had seven years ago.


We were thinking of birding at the Blashford lakes on the way back but we received news of a Lesser Yellowlegs at Lepe County Park, which was only five miles away. Here is a view of the Solent and the Isle Of Wight from Lepe.


Similar in size to our Redshank, Lesser Yellowlegs is one of the commoner North American waders to occur in the UK. This is the tenth I have seen in Britain.


Breeding mainly Canada and Alaska, Lesser Yellowlegs winter in the southern USA, Middle and South America and the Caribbean. Several are recorded annually in the UK.


This Rock Pipit was wandering around the car park unafraid of the Sunday trippers and the odd twitcher.


And finally we topped off a very busy day with a quick visit to John and Anita’s in Bournemouth. All that remained when we got home was to pour a beer and watch the ‘Strictly’ results!