Archive for the ‘Rutland’ Tag

Mid to late August 2015: The Bird Fair, lots of ringing and a Bird Race.   Leave a comment

This post covers our visit to the Birdfair and some ringing at Lytchett Bay and Durlston plus a postscipt about a late August Poole Harbour big day.

The annual British Birding Fair, normally just refered to as the Birdfair  is held at Rutland Water near Oakham in Rutland, Britain’s smallest county. Over the three days an estimated 20,000 visitors visits hundreds of stands and go to hundreds of talks and other events. All profits go to Birdlife International and during its lifespan the event has raised 2.5 million for bird conservation.

Now in its 27th year, the Fair seems to just keep growing and growing. There are so many marquees, stands, exhibits and talks to go to that it is impossible to do it justice in one day. What I enjoy more than anything is meeting up with loads of friends from previous trips abroad, old twitches in the UK or fellow birders from back home.

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On the 21st and 22nd of August we paid our annual visit to the British Bird Fair at Rutland Water. We stayed overnight some 12 miles away at this pleasant hotel at Cottingham but unfortunately they didn’t do breakfast (which we had already paid for) until after 9 am, far too late as we wanted to be at the Fair by then.

Book signing at the Wild Sounds stand

This photo of book signing on the Wildsounds stand was taken at a previous Bird Fair and shows a typical view of the Birdfair – large numbers of birders perusing books, trying out optics, planning future birding holidays etc.

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One of the unusual thing about the Birdfair is that ‘wildlife celebrities’ wander around from event to event with all the rest of us and you can find that the bloke in the row in front of you at a talk is none other than Bill Oddie.

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Stands selling or promoting wildlife tours and various countries, outdoor clothing, books, optics and wildlife art are joined by numerous conservation organisations such as the RSPB, Birdlife International and Swift Conservation (above).

One talk I especially wanted to go to was by Magnus Robb of the Sound Approach. After his discovery of the Omani Owl in March 2013, which he described as a new species at the time, it has been shown by others that the old type specimen of the closely related Hume’s Owl is a different species from all the other Hume’s Owls (ie those that that are regularly seen in the Levant and Arabia). It has been speculated that the type specimen of ‘Hume’s Owl’, which was collected in Pakistan 135 years ago, is in fact an Omani Owl. Magnus confirmed that their DNA analysis of feathers from a recently trapped Omani Owl proved this to be the case and in addition an owl found trapped on someone’s balcony in north-east Iran also proved to be an Omani Owl. So instead of discovering a new species, the Sound Approach rediscovered one that hadn’t been seen for 135 years and extended it’s range from two narrow wadis in Oman’s Al Hajar mountains to an area that covers NE Iran and southern Pakistan, although of course not all areas in this vast range will actually hold Omani Owls.

For more details see http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/Sound_Approach_Unravelling_the_mystery_of_the_Omani_Owl.aspx?s_id=519400636

For an interview of Magnus Robb by Martin Garner go to https://soundcloud.com/birdingfrontiers

For my account of my trip to Oman to see Omani Owl see https://gryllosblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/1st-9th-february-2014-the-omani-owl-twitch/

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Magnus shows a photo of the Iranian example of Omani Owl.

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Perhaps the most entertaining talk was in the evening of the 21st was an account of ‘best days birding in Britain’ from Bill Oddie, Adam Rowlands, Lucy McRobert and Ian Wallace. Each gave a short account of their most outstanding day in the UK. All but one account was about a day full of migrants and rarities but Lucy told of the day she saw all four species of grouse in Scotland. Her best line was when she described a male Capercaillie as the ‘most magnificent cock I’ve ever seen’.

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DIM (Ian) Wallace, here talking to another birding legend Killian Mullarney, is a true legend of the birding scene. Now in his eighties he is known for his eccentric manner, evocative paintings, editorship of the groundbreaking BWP handbooks, his many pioneering identification articles and his indefatigable rarity finding. Some of his discoveries have been mocked by a later generation of rarity experts but we can say that without doubt that many of the field criteria that are routinely used today were first established by DIMW.

The BTO were holding a ringing demonstration and nearby they had a poster showing all foreign UK ringing recoveries accrued over the 100+ years of the ringing scheme. Of course they can’t label every dot to species, so it is interesting to speculate which species are involved in the far-flung recoveries. Without doing any additional research I guess that the concentration off Labrador/Newfoundland would refer to seabirds like Kittiwake, Fulmars and Great Skuas, the coastal South American ones would almost entirely be Manx Shearwaters, coastal southern Africa are various tern species, the Cape and Natal are Barn Swallows, the Australian and southern oceans are Artcic Terns. Presumably most recoveries from the Levant are Lesser Whitethroats but what species were recovered in Canada just east of the Rockies, in interior South America, in Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia and far eastern Russia on the northern shores of the Sea of Okhotsk? Note the paucity of recoveries from north-east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, showing that with the exception of Lesser Whitethroats few if any British birds enter African via this flyway.

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A map of all BTO ringing recoveries.

The above map leads on nicely to my bird ringing which has kept me pretty busy during this month. Early (0430) starts, the need to keep up to date with uploading the data collected and in addition, my attempts to collate a lot of the data and other articles into a long-awaited ringing group report has meant that I have had little time to work on this blog. But there again its better to be busy in retirement than to sit around watching day-time TV as many retirees do!

I have been trying to get to Durlston as often as I can during the month, hindered though by the unseasonal weather we have been experiencing. Unlike some ringing stations where the ringers live on site and can quickly respond to changes in the weather, Durlston is a 30 minute drive away, so we don’t usually visit on days that start wet then clear later, or are characterised by intermittent rain. That said this ‘autumn’ we have made nine visits in August and three in July, ringed 658 birds of 28 species with a further 127 birds ringed in the spring.

IMG_6362 adult gropper

This time of year is the most interesting both in terms of the variety of species we ring and also in the range of age classes that we see. Freshly fledged juveniles, birds in the middle of the partial post-juvenile moult, freshly moulted first years, juveniles of species like Long-tailed Tit that have a full wing moult soon after fledging, adults in active wing moult, adults that have completed their moult and abraded adults that defer moulting until they reach their winter quarters (like this adult Grasshopper Warbler) can all be seen during the same ringing session.

IMG_6370 Common Redstart - better

One of the most attractive migrants that we see at Durlston is the Common Redstart, this first year was ringed on  18th August ….

IMG_6369 Black Redstart juv

…. on the same day we also trapped this juvenile Black Redstart, a much rarer species that we have only ringed once before. In view of the scarcity of this species and that this bird is a recently fledged juvenile, it is possible that this bird is the offspring of the adult female we ringed on 23rd April this year. Incidently we also trapped a Common Redstart on 23rd April meaning we have had two double-redstart days this year. Photos of the adult birds in April can be seen on an earlier post on this blog.

IMG_6417 Lytchett Heath

We have also been ringing at Lytchett Bay. As well as our usual site in the reeds near the River Sherford we have also been using a new site at Lytchett Heath which has been very productive both in terms of the number of birds ringed but also in the number of controls (birds previously ringed by others) we have encountered. I hope to post a summary of recent recoveries/controls in a future post.

IMG_6414 Lytchett Heath

On a cold morning the dew on the cobwebs is most photogenic …

IMG_6416 Lytchett Heath dawn

…. even more so when the sun rises.

IMG_6365 juv Beardie

This recently fledged Bearded Tit, a species that has recently been placed in its own family, was one of the highlights of a recent ringing session.

P1180532 Bluethroat TE LB

But the real highlight of our recent ringing was this first year male Bluethroat that was trapped on 29th August. We had a public ringing demonstration for the sites owners, Dorset Wildlife Trust, at Lytchett Heath and most of the group were there to help. Some opted to ring near the River Sherford where this bird was trapped. There was just enough time before the demo for those interested to rush over from the heath to the Sherford (leaving the heath site well manned of course) to see it before it was released. Photo by Terry Elborn.

Bluethroat 3 Lyt bay 29.08

The eponymous blue on the throat shows that this bird is a male. At least two populations occur in Europe, white-spotted birds in southern/central Europe and red-spotted ones in Scandinavia but the ‘spot’ within the blue of the throat can only be seen on spring males. At this time of year it is most likely that this bird is of the red-spotted race. Photo by Bob Gifford.

And finally on 30th August sixteen, mainly local, birders took part in a Poole Harbour bird race, that means keeping within the geographic boundaries shown in the Sound Approach’s ‘Catching the Bug’. I have always been keen on doing a January bird race as it seems a great way of kicking off the New Year and it is a good way to meet up with friends that you haven’t seen since before Christmas. During my working years I was always busy when the idea of an August Poole Harbour race, with just two per team, was first mooted. Initially I wasn’t too keen this time either, but when Margaret said she would like to join me we formed a team.

Unlike the keenest we weren’t up at 0430 to try for owls and nightjars but started birding in the Studland area at 0700. We had a stroke of luck when we bumped into Mike Gould and Tom Carly just after they had found a Wryneck, but after that most of the rest of the day was predictable. After birding around Studland we visited the southern edge of Poole Harbour, Middlebere, Arne, Swineham and Lytchett Bay (where the wader bonanza really boosted the list) Having reached the ‘ton’ and with Margaret having hurt her leg getting out of the car we decided to quit but after freshening up we headed for the post-race gathering and managed to pick up two more species, Yellow-legged Gull in Holes Bay and Jay in Poole Park giving us a final score of 102.

With Margaret being the least experienced of the twelve participants and with us taking a fairly relaxed approach it was clear from the onset that we weren’t going to win, but we didn’t come last. The winners, the Sound Approach’s Paul Morton and Nick Hopper, set a new record for birds seen/heard in one day in Poole Harbour with a score of 130, smashing the previous best of 123.

The following pictures show most or all of the participants plus Marie and Mo who came along for the evening. Out usual pub was packed solid with a ‘sausage festival’, the next had run out of beer(!), a third was  closed, so we settled with the ‘Slug and Lettuce’ with a very nice curry at nearby Tandori Nights.

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L-R: Marie Smith, Mo Constantine, Jackie Hull, Mark Constantine, Mike Gould, Tom Carley, Paul Morton (straight from the race still with his wellies on) Nick Hopper and Shaun Robson.

IMG_6422 bird race drinks2

In addition this photo shows: Steve W Smith (standing far left – his position not his politics), Peter Moore, James Phillips, Steve F Smith, Terry Elborn, Margaret and in bottom right Nick Hull.

 1st – 21st August 2014: catching up with the non-birdy stuff   Leave a comment

 

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We have decided to splash out on a couple of items for the house including having solar panels installed.

 

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With an east/west facing roof and some very tall trees in our neighbour’s garden our house isn’t ideal for solar, but we decided to go ahead anyway. Modern panels are more efficient than their predecessors in capturing indirect sunlight but we never even reach 50% of what the panels are capable of generating in ideal conditions.

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Once the workmen had gone I could resist climbing the scaffolding to get this view of our garden.

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Some months ago I posted a picture  of the old Peugeot when it had reached 111111 miles and asked the question of whether it was time for a new car.  Now its done a few more miles and the answer to the new car question is …. yes!



 

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For the first time in my life I have bought a brand new car, a Nissan Qashqai Tekna and I am very pleased indeed. It is lovely to drive and is full of extras such as parking cameras, auto dipping headlights and does up to 75mpg although I’ve only averaged 55 so far.

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The car got its first outing when we went up to Derby to see my brother and family and then on to the BirdFair in Rutland. It was hard to use features like cruise control as traffic was awful and it was stop/start all way. The BirdFair, known as the ‘birders Glastonbury’ was excellent as always and attracted about 22,000 visitors over the three days and raised about a quarter of a million pounds for Birdlife International’s conservation program. I spent a lot of time catching up with old friends and acquaintances as well as attending a few lectures and quizzes.

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We attended a couple of quizzes run along the lines of Mastermind. One, the Bird Brain of Britain chaired by Bill Oddie was hilarious, mainly on account of Bill’s constant ad libbing with the questions and answers. We also went to a talk by Mark Beaman, Birdquest’s managing director, celebrating how the company has shown it’s clients over 10,000 bird species, some 95% of the world total. Mark’s talk was very interesting and highlighted a particularly difficult event in Arctic Siberia some 17 years ago.

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We normally attend for just one day but this time we stayed overnight so we could go to the evening talk entitled ‘listening for life’ by my friends in the Sound Approach. Killian Mullarney (L) and Mark Constantine (R) gave an account of how the Sound Approach was formed and what it has achieved. Mark surprised many taking the microphone into the audience and to get impromptu sound bites from unsuspecting friends and colleagues.

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We had planned to meet up with our American friend Patty Scott at the BirdFair and then bring Patty back to Poole with us for a couple of days of birding and ringing. Patty had already spent several weeks in the UK visiting friends and was staying with Rosemary Foster, an old friend from previous Birdquest trips, at her place near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Rosemary kindly invited us to stay there as well, so we spent a night at her lovely 16th century farmhouse.

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This was the view from our bedroom.

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Patty is a ringer (or bander as they say in the States) and was keen to come to Dorset to see some UK species in the hand. We spent two very pleasant mornings at Durlston (more in the next post). On one day we visited Corfe Castle on our way back.

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The original pre-Norman castle was built of wood and became infamous when an English King, Edward the Martyr was murdered there in 978AD. The stone fortifications seen today were built by William the Conqueror.

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The castle was sold by Elizabeth I in 1572 to her Lord Chancellor, it was then sold on to the Bankes family in 1635 who owned it until l982 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust.

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The castle was held by the Royalists during the English civil war and was destroyed by Parliamentarians in 1645. Sappers lay gunpowder under the enormous keep, the resultant explosion and caused the left hand side to subside by several metres.

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Today the castle is a major tourist attractions, its ruins dominate the skyline on the way into or out of Purbeck. Various medieval crafts are being demonstrated  in the marques below.

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For once I could look down on the Swanage to Corfe steam railway . One day I’ll get round to travelling on it.

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As well as visiting Durlston and Corfe Castle, Patty and I also went over to Portland Bird Observatory as another friend, Birdquest leader Pete Morris and his family we staying there for the week. Pete and his two boys Jack and Josh were off hunting bugs, Patty is chatting to his wife Nina. On the next day Pete, Nina and the boys came over to Durlston to see us ring some birds.

Tynham School

As well as Portland and Corfe Castle we took Patty to Tyneham, the village that was evacuated during the war so troops could prepare for D-Day. The village has remained deserted ever since. This is the school room restored to look just like it did in the 40’s.

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BirdFair season always sees friends from the Sound Approach or the old Dorset birding scene visit Poole, either just before or after the Fair. We have had three pub get togethers in the last three weeks, the first to meet up with former Dorset birder James Lidster who now lives in Holland, the second to meet Killian Mullarney, Rene Pop and Arnoud van den Berg of the Sound Approach and the third to catch up with another Sound Approach member, Magnus Robb. Patty also came along for the third get together and was able to participate in a discussion of the appropriate English name for a new species of owl(you will have to wait for the publication of ‘Undiscovered Owls’ to find out which one!) In the picture above Killian talks to Nick Hopper whilst Margaret is chatting to Mo Constantine and Cecilia Bosman off picture.