Archive for the ‘Turtle Dove’ Tag

Late May to late June 2015: miscellaneous bird news   Leave a comment

We have been back from our trip to the Alps for nearly five weeks now. After a very hectic schedule earlier this year I have been taking it easy and been catching up with things at home, but there has been time for some birding and ringing, something that is covered in this post.

I have already uploaded accounts of us seeing the Red-footed Falcon, White-winged Tern and Greater Yellowlegs in Dorset or Hampshire, here are a few photos of much commoner birds.

IMG_8430 Lodmoor

Back in late May we headed to Lodmoor near Weymouth in the hope of seeing a Purple Heron that was hanging about there. Not surprisingly we dipped, as the best time of day to see it was about 9pm as it flew to roost.

IMG_8409 Common Terns and a Dunlin

We did get to see the local breeding Common Terns and to the lower right of the photo, a summer plumaged Dunlin. The tunnels in the picture are to help protect the tern chicks from attack by aerial predators such as Kestrels. However news received today told that all the chicks on this island have been predated, possibly by a fox or perhaps gulls.

IMG_8424 Grey Heron Lodmoor

No Purple Heron but plenty of Grey ones. This bird looked particularly ragged around the neck.

IMG_8414 Grey Heron Lodmoor

With some blood at the base of the bill I wondered if the heron had been in a fight with a large eel which had wrapped its body around the heron’s neck.

IMG_8574 Mordon Bog

I have made a number of visits to Wareham Forest, especially the area around Mordon Bog. I didn’t get any photos of the local Spotted Flycatchers ….

IMG_8576 Siskin male

…. but this male Siskin preened on a branch just in front of me.

IMG_8587 Mordon Bog

A drake Teal was flushed from this area, unusual record in June – I wonder if they are breeding?


With breeding Little Grebes and possibly Tufted Duck on Decoy Pond, which is part of a National Nature Reserve, it seems regretable that this guy has chosen to take his dog for a swim.

IMG_8447 Yellowhammer Wareham Forest

Other birds seen in the Wareham Forest area included this Yellowhammer ….

IMG_8450 Stonechat Wareham Forest

…. good numbers of Stonechats ….

IMG_8588 Mistle Thrush

…. and on adjacent farmland, this Mistle Thrush.

IMG_8691 Wareham Forest

In early June several birders had distant views of what looked to be a Short-toed Eagle. I was in America last year when a Short-toed Eagle was found and extensively twitched in Wareham Forst, then later in the New Forest. Had it returned for a second summer and was I to get a second chance?

IMG_8692 Charborough Park

Well, I did see a large raptor along side a Buzzard briefly appear over the tree line in the photo, which is in the privately owned Charborough Park about three miles away to the north-east, but again there was nothing conclusive.

IMG_8687 Common Buzzard

After some nine hours of scanning from various vantage points over four days the only raptors conclusively identified were Common Buzzards (above), Kestrels, Hobbies and a single Red Kite.

IMG_8745 Martin Down

We recently spent one morning on Martin Down, just over the border in Hampshire.

IMG_8744 orchid

This wonderful reserve is famed for its chalk downland flora (such as this Fragrant Orchid) and butterflies but along with so many other places much of its bird life has declined in recent years. Nightingales, Willow Warblers, Grey and Red-legged Partridges and even Stone Curlew used to be common or at least regular ….

IMG_8761 Turtle Dove

…. but at least there are still several pairs of Turtle Doves.

IMG_8728 Turtle Dove

This species has undergone a precipitous decline, the result of agricultural intensification here in the UK and on their wintering grounds in Africa and wholesale slaughter on spring and autumn migration in some areas around the Mediterranean.

IMG_8130 Red Kite

Though in many ways its ‘all swings and roundabouts’. Although some of the farmland birds have declined, others such as the beautiful Red Kite are increasing in numbers and I have recently seen two in North Dorset, one over Corfe Mullen and one near Wareham Forest. Don’t pay any attention to those misguided individuals who tell you that the increase in raptors numbers are the cause of songbird decline. It simply can’t be, under that scenario if their prey was declining then raptors would decline too. Also Nightingales and Turtle Doves declined in this area long before Red Kites made a welcome reappearance and Willow Warblers have merely moved their breeding range northwards as a result of climate change (something that others who can’t understand the principle of cause and effect choose to deny). Photo taken recently in Austria.

IMG_8736 corvids

Perhaps less welcome is the large increase in corvids in the Martin Down area. Rooks, Carrion Crows, Jackdaws and even Ravens were regularly encountered, often in large flocks.


Over the last few weeks I have been doing some ringing, but for the type of ringing I usually do, migrants at a coastal locality, it is definitely the quiet period. However I have ringed at several sites, usually with trainee ringers and caught a series of juvenile birds such as this Nuthatch. I have had some interesting retraps including a Chiffchaff hatched at our Fleets Lane site last year that returned there this year to breed.


Something that we have been involved in during the winter months is the ringing of wintering Chiffchaffs. We recently sent off some feathers for DNA analysis on this bird which looked like race tristis,  the so-called Siberian Chiffchaff and on another which was nowhere near as striking and indeed had lots of green tones in the upperparts. To our surprise both came back with a mitochondrial DNA sequence indicating they were tristis. The individual above had a sequence identical to those Chiffchaffs that breed in the Yenesei Basin in central Siberia. I would like to revisit this subject in a future post as I have been writing an article on it for the Dorset Bird Club newsletter, but for now I can suggest that if you find a Chiffchaff looking like the one above in the winter months then it is almost certainly a tristis. This bird was ringed by Paul Morton in January of this year and photographed by Ian Ballam in February.


Recently I have been asked if I would like to participate in an exciting project on Nightjars on one of the heathland areas in East Dorset. Researchers want ten electronic GPS tags attaching to Nightjars, which will then recaptured a few days later, the tags removed and their movements downloaded. Our ringing group, which has a lot of expertise in catching and ringing Nightjars, has been asked to help. The tags are attached to the tail feathers, so if any bird avoids recapture the tag will be shed at the next moult.


Last night we trapped a female Nightjar, which had been initially trapped on the far side of the heathland area the week before, and the tag was removed. It will be very interesting to see what it reveals. So far we have deployed nine of the ten tags and have recovered one, more will follow in subsequent weeks.

8th – 20th July 2014: its not all been about the birds   Leave a comment


Its been a fortnight since I returned from Borneo and, as always, I have been pretty busy. One of the main projects has been to edit all the photos taken on the trip. Unfortunately my ‘bridge’ camera was ruined by a sudden downpour just a few days into the trip and after a number of days of being unable to take photos, the leader Chris Kehoe offered to lend me his camera as long as I took enough to illustrate the tour report. This was an arrangement that suited us both as he had no interest in photography, but it meant that editing my shots had to be given a high priority on my return.

To birders autumn starts as soon as south bound migration commences, which can be as early as late June. Certainly by mid July we were ringing southbound Sedge Warblers at Lytchett Bay, at least two weeks earlier than usual. At Fleets Lane we have trapped 22 juvenile Blackcaps showing that there has been an exceptional breeding season at this very small site but most seem to have already departed.

I have also tried ringing in my garden, where juvenile Robins, Starlings and House Sparrows have  featured. Now that the BTO’s ringing emphasis has shifted from understanding migration routes to population dynamics, the ringing of these common garden birds is as valuable as the ringing of long distance migrants.


Juvenile Starlings can be a pitfall for the less experienced birdwatcher and indeed Margaret was puzzled when they gathered on our feeders. This bird is losing its grey juvenile feathers and adult type feathers can be seen on the primary, lesser and greater (but not median) coverts and a few spotted feathers are appearing on the flanks.



Starlings are unusual in that juveniles undergo a complete moult. This juvenile can be seen to be moulting its primaries. In all of the British passerines this moult strategy is shared only by Long-tailed and Bearded Tits, House and Tree Sparrows and Corn Bunting.



We have been out to various places in Dorset and Hampshire recently. An attempt to locate a reported Short-toed Eagle in the New Forest (a bird I missed in Dorset when I was in the USA) drew a blank , hardly surprising as that sighting (but not the original) referred to a pale Buzzard. Inland of the Purbeck Ridge in Dorset there is a lot of forest surrounding the heathland and this can be good for raptors.



It is outrageous that even in these so called enlightened days there are those who would persecute raptors, be it by egg collection or in a misguided belief that their game rearing interests are more important than the existence of a healthy raptor population. As I result I cannot reveal the site where this Honey Buzzard was photographed. With a UK population of just 50 or so pairs we can’t take any chances. Photograph by Ian Ballam


A week ago my friend Paul Harvey came down from Shetland to visit his family. He spent a few days with his parents in Poole before going to stay with his daughter and her family in Devon. One day he went out with Ian Alexander and myself and instead of birds we targeted Butterflies and Dragonflies.


Most of our time was spent at Holt Heath near Wimborne where we found this Beautiful Demoiselle, which clearly lived up to it’s name.


A Gold-banded Dragonfly


and a Keeled Skimmer


A heathland specialist, the Silver Studded Blue Butterfly.


But the real surprise came later in the day when we heard of the existence of a rare ‘rogeri’ variant of Painted Lady. As with the Honey Buzzard the exact location cannot be revealed, as those who prefer to see butterflies pinned in a display cabinet rather than on the wing or in their cameras memory,  would pay good money for someone to collect it.


A view of the underwing.



The following day we went round to Paul’s parents, Terry and Margaret. As well as Paul and family, both his sisters, who I haven’t seen for about 30 years, and their children and grandchildren were there. Above – Paul with his wife Liz, and grandsons 9 month old George and 3 year old Harvey.



Harvey last appeared on this blog two years ago, he’s grown a bit and turned into Spiderman since then.



Paul and Liz’s daughter Bryony with her son George.


On another evening we took a  dusk walk to Upton Heath which lies just the other side of the Upton by-pass from our house. It didn’t take long before we saw several Nightjars displaying.



Another bird I failed to see on spring migration was the Turtle Dove so a few days ago Margaret and I spent the morning at Martin Down, one of the few sites were it can still be found.



An extensive area of chalk downland on the border of north Dorset and Hampshire, the site is a haven for chalk land plant and butterfly specialities.

The increasingly scarceTurtle Dove

We soon heard and eventually saw a couple of Turtle Doves but without a telephoto capability failed to photograph it. This shot was taken in 2011 at the same site. Turtle Dove have declined by 95% in recent decades, a combination of agricultural intensification in the UK, destruction of their wintering grounds and shooting on migration in the Mediterranean have taken their toll.


Pyramidal Orchid, one of the many chalk grassland plants to be found at Martin Down.

On Sunday we were just leaving for walk to Swineham near Wareham when we head that Lytchett Bay stalwart Ian Ballam had just found a Spotted Crake. I have seen this species before at the Bay 33 years ago (!) but the views this time were far, far better. Well done  Ian (who also took this photo)


That evening we put on a braai (South African for barbecue) for our friends in the ringing group and their partners. As usual Margaret excelled with the food and a good time was had by all. Some group members couldn’t make it as they were away, others were stuck down the Bay trying in vain to see the crake! Clockwise: Ivana Gifford, Jane Dowling, Janis, Kimberley Elborn, Margaret, Paul Morton, Bob Gifford, Mike Gould, John Dowling, Ian Alexander, Terry Elborn, Karen Elborn.


Terry, Karen and three year old Kimberley.