Archive for the ‘Wareham Forest’ Tag

April 29th – May 7th 2014 – this week’s birding and ringing.   Leave a comment



Of course to be able to ring birds you need a licence to show that you are properly trained. There are three classes of licence, T for trainee, which means you must be under direct supervision, C which means that you can ring on your own but your activities remain under the control of your trainer and A which means you are responsible directly to the Ringing Committee. If an A permit holder wishes to take on trainees they must have a trainer’s endorsement. I have assisted in the training of many trainees for decades but have only recently decided that I ought to take on trainees in my own right. To obtain a trainer’s endorsement you need to convince another trainer of your merit, by being observed supervising a trainee. This prevents cliques forming where bad practices are passed of from trainer to trainee ad infinitum.

With my friend Paul being ready to be assessed for his C permit we made arrangement s for us both to see Pete Morgan, a well know and long-standing ringer at Portland Bird Observatory on Tuesday 29th May. The first day would mainly be about Paul’s assessment and then we would both return later in the week for my assessment. However we were in luck, our visit coincided with a ‘fall’ and there were so many birds around that Pete could easy assess both of us on the same day.

During the day over 300 birds were ringed allowing plenty of opportunities for Paul to demonstrate his ringing abilities. The majority were, as expected, Willow Warblers, but there was a selection of other migrants including, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Wheatear, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler,  Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. Away from the nets I also saw Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail.


Here are some of the birds that were ringed that morning: a beautiful male Whinchat


Female Whinchat


Female Pied Flycatcher


‘Greenland’ Wheatear. Most nominate race Wheatears pass through in late March and early to mid April. By early May the larger Greenland race leucorha predominates.  From their African wintering grounds they briefly refuel in the UK before crossing the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland and eastern arctic Canada, an incredible migration for such a small bird.



Margaret and I returned on Friday 2nd May for some general birding. This Peregrine was soaring overhead


In complete contrast to three days earlier there were few migrants around, however a good number of Wheatears, mainly of the Greenland race were around the Bill.


Skylarks were everywhere filling the air with their joyful song.


Later we headed down to Lodmoor where we had great views (but not photos) of Beared Tits and saw a number of Pochards above), presume local breeders


What is hiding behind this Coot?


Just one of their bizarrely plumaged chicks.


On 3rd May we performed a public ringing demonstration at Durlston. We have been requested to do this as part of our permission to ring there and it helps people appreciate the birds that occur in the park. However once again we found ourselves short of anything to demonstrate with. Over the two hours that the public were about we only ringed nine birds, but we filled the time explaining what has been learned through ringing and what needs to be learned in the future.

Monday 5th I birded around the Sherford Bridge/Mordon Bog part of Wareham Forest. I should have returned to Portland as there was a large passage of seabirds, including many Pomerine Skuas. The previous night two of my friends had independently heard Spotted Crakes making their ‘whiplash’ calls from the wet meadows near Wareham. On the 6th I got up predawn and listed for them at Bestwall and Swineham. The wind was quite strong and the rhythmic banging of ropes against masts from distant yachts didn’t help. By the time I got to Swineham the dawn chorus was already underway, I am fairly sure I heard a few calls distantly but I would prefer to have another attempt. At the moment the weather is unsettled with high winds, but when that passes I’ll try again.

For a selection of recordings of singing Spotted Crakes click here:



it was a beautiful dawn which gave rise to a sunny morning. The church at Wareham seen from Swineham


The River Frome at Swineham




Later on the 6th I returned to the Mordon Bog area. This photo was taken in the cloudier conditions on the 5th


Both Meadow and Tree Pipits were in song allowing close comparison of both their plumage and vocal characteristics. Tree Pipits (above) have finer flank streaking than Meadows and a shorter hind claw and a subtly different face pattern. Tree Pipits nearly always end their song flight on the top of a tall tree, whilst Meadow Pipit land on or near the ground. The song is different too see the links below.

Song of Meadow Pipit:

Song of Tree Pipit:


Mistle Thrushes are regularly seen in the filed adjoining the Bog


Both conifer and deciduous trees fringe the Bog, which along with wet and dry heath  gives a mosaic of habitats



On the 7th I returned to Portland. I didn’t coincide with either a fall of migrants or a large seabird passage but did see some new species for the year. It was very overcast with heavy showers but this soon passed to give a pleasant morning.


A Whimbrel paused on migration at the Bill




Within minutes of arriving at the Bird Observatory, three pale morph Pomarine Skuas went by. A further 90 minutes at the Bill failed to produce any more so I hit it just right. Photo by Paul Bowerman


Ferrybridge, where the waters of the Fleet run into Portland Harbour is not only a good site for Little Terns and various waders but marks the spot where Margaret first made landfall in the UK when she arrived by yacht (all the way from South Africa) in June 2002.





Posted May 9, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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27th March – A conservationists nightmare? A Great Grey Shrike eating a Sand Lizard.   Leave a comment

Great Grey Shrikes are scarce winter visitors to the UK from northern Europe involving perhaps under a hundred individuals. Although they arrive mainly in November and depart in late March to early April, I have always found them to be easiest to find in March, whether this is due to additional birds that have wintered further south passing through the UK or is merely an artifact of my birding schedule is open to debate (earlier in the year I might be looking for wintering wildfowl, later for spring migrants on the coast).

I have seen at least one Great Grey Shrike annually in all but seven years since I first moved to Dorset in 1978 (although many of those were in the New Forest), almost always on heathland or young conifer plantation. They can however be very hard to pin down, showing well for while then flying a long distance to the next feeding area, or seemingly disappearing for long periods only to emerge on top of small conifer for all to see. Such was the bird that has been hanging around the Sugar Hill area of Wareham Forest. Today I made my fourth visit to the area and after an hour or so of searching saw it well.

Great Grey Shrike complex has a circumpolar distribution (known as Northern Shrike in North America) with some populations reaching as far south as the Sahel region south of the Sahara. However there have been several recent attempts to carve it up into a number of species. First all the southern forms were split off as Southern Grey Shrike, then the Iberian population was found to be genetically distinct and considered a full species by some, then the migratory population of Central Asia was split as Steppe Grey Shrike and most recently a completely different arrangement based on molecular methods has been proposed (but not yet universally accepted as the genetic groupings do not correspond to plumage characteristics). Currently the IOC, whose list I follow, accepts just three species, Great Grey/Northern, Southern and Steppe Grey, but fortunately I have see all the proposed ‘species’ in that study!



Wareham Forest is a large area of coniferous plantation to the west of Wareham that was first planted after WW1. After widespread harvesting now contains a lovely mosaic of habitats, small areas of deciduous woodland, heathland and boggy area that were never planted, cleared areas and recently replanted conifer belts. Great views over the forest can be had from the Iron Age hill fort of Woolbarrow.

IMG_1250 Wareham Forest

Rotational felling and in this case, burning of the brash, has given Wareham Forest a wide diversity of habitats. In other cleared areas the brash still lies on the ground ….


… such as the area known as Oak Hill (not that there are many oaks there now) where I finally caught up with the Great Grey Shrike. I watched it for a while then it vanished only to return a short while later with a Sand Lizard in its bill, a bit of a conservationists nightmare as the Sand Lizard is an endangered species in a UK context.  Unusually for a passerine, shrikes are predators of lizards, small birds and even rodents as well as large insects. They often store their prey on thorn bushes (these days often on barbed wire) earning them the colloquial name of ‘butcher birds’ or as Margaret calls them ‘jacky hangman’.


I later called into our ringing site at Holton Lee to collect a few guy pegs I had left in situ as we don’t intend to ring at this site again until next autumn. A herd of Sika were grazing on the edge of Lytchett Bay.


There were plenty of birds still visiting the feeders including this Goldfinch and also a number of Lesser Redpoll.

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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