Archive for the ‘Wryneck’ Tag

Early September 2015: mainly ringing and a couple of get togethers with old friends.   Leave a comment

The early part of September has been dominated by bird ringing. When I’ve not been out in the field I’ve been catching up on the considerable amount of paperwork that this activity generates.

However there has been time to catch up with two old friends. Two years ago I reported on this blog that Guy Dutson, someone I have known since the early 80s had returned from Australia with his wife and newborn daughter Lila to meet up with his relatives (see ). Well, two years later Lila has grown somewhat, our get together was, due his crowded itinerary, typically brief but it was really great to see them again. We must make plans to visit all our friends in Australia but as always, there is so much to fit in.

IMG_6437 Guy & Lila

Guy with two-year old Lila.

IMG_6442 Margaret & Bronwyn & Lila

Margaret and Lila with Lila’s grandmother, Bronwyn.


Another get together with an old friend occurred last week when a bunch of us got together with Ewan Brodie to celebrate his 60th birthday. I have been friends with Ewan since the late 70s and we have been on at least five foreign trips and countless twitches together. Changing shift patterns and other commitments has meant that we haven’t seen each other for a few months, so it was good to catch up.

France 09 Ewan and Tim

In 2009 Ewan (seen here on the right) and my friend Tim from work went on a week-long birding and sightseeing trip to northern France. The trip was beset with difficulties from having my car broken into and gear stolen to not being notified that the hotel had changed ownership causing us hours of unnecessary searching. That said, we had a good time seeing tens of thousands of Common Cranes and many other birds, visiting Fontainbleu and Paris, seeing the Bayeux Tapestry and getting together with my University mate John and his family. Maybe one day I’ll post the photos on the blog.

IMG_6454 Grillo bottle

As anyone who reads this blog will know, my nickname is Gryllo, (if you don’t know why then read the very first blog entry in June 2011). I was surprised and pleased when fellow birder Graham Armstrong kindly presented me with a bottle of Grillo wine (not spelt quite the same, I’ll admit – grillo being Italian for grasshopper, obviously from the same root as the scientific name for mole cricket). My verdict, a lovely gesture from Graham but a mediocre wine.


Now back to the main subject of this post, our continuing bird ringing program. In September I only made two visits to Lytchett Bay, one to try to catch Swallows and another for general ringing. The most numerous reed bed species, Sedge and Reed Warblers have largely left the UK by this time, although a few will persist into October. We will continue there however, as other species such as Reed Bunting and Pied Wagtail become commoner as the autumn progresses.

IMG_6434 Winchat

This first year Whinchat was ringed at Lytchett Bay on 4th September

IMG_6436 Winchat

The characteristic white bases to the outer tail feathers can be seen well in this photo.

Our program of ringing at Durlston continues, however with most of the group at work mid-week most of the sessions have been understaffed and it has fallen to me to keep it going. Details of migration counts and numbers of birds ringed at selected sites across Europe can be seen at We now upload our ringing totals to the site, whilst local birder Hamish Murray uploads his ‘vis mig’ counts. For example, details of a very busy morning for me on the 17th  can be seen at . The totals page can be accessed by clicking on ‘totals 2015’ in the top right and by clicking on each of the dates above the word ‘Durlston RS’ will give our totals for the nine visits I have made in September.

Here are a few photos taken at Durlston this month.

IMG_6445 Common Redstart

The brown fringes to the coverts indicates that this Common Redstart is a first year bird. The black chin and white band on the head shows that it is a male.

IMG_6453 Sand Martin

We have been able to ring small numbers of all three hirundines, including a few Sand Martins.

IMG_6452 Sand Martin

The white edging to the flight feathers, especially the tertials and the scalloped rump and uppertail coverts show that this is a first year bird.

IMG_6430 Wryneck DCP

Ringing is all about researching the movements and population dynamics of our regular species and probably the most significant events of the last few days were the trapping of two ‘controls’, a Reed Warbler and a Blackcap ringed elsewhere in the UK, and the notification that a Swallow we ringed at Durlston was retrapped recently in Hampshire. But there is no doubt which event was the most enjoyable, ringing this Wryneck, the first I have seen in the hand in the UK was the highlight of my Durlston ringing this year.


Well that is all for both blogging and ringing for several weeks. In a few hours I leave for South America, my 16th visit, this time to Paraguay. I hope to upload some interesting photos on my return.

Posted September 18, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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April 15th – 19th 2015 – Dipping at Portland and Radipole – but a few nice birds were seen!   Leave a comment

Caspian Gull, Glaucous Gull, Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow even a Puffin. All quality birds that were seen Portland or Radipole, Weymouth on the morning of 19th April, but Margaret and I managed to miss them all ! We arrived at Portland Bird Observatory about 0730 to hear that a Caspian Gull had been seen, but had now gone from Radipole. We soon went down to the Bill where we arrived seconds after a Puffin had drifted by on the ‘race’. One observer on the East Cliffs saw a Red-rumped Swallow fly by but although we were on the Obs patio at the time we saw nothing. A Hoopoe that had been seen the day before was refound in Suckthumb Quarry, but an hour or so of searching failed to deliver the goods and when we got to Radipole we found that a Glaucous Gull outside the visitor centre had just flown off. Further insult to injury occurred when the Hoopoe was relocated on Portland in the afternoon and the Red-rumped Swallow was found at Radipole, both after we were on our way home. The point of all of this is, birding (as is so often stated) is unpredictable by nature and would soon become boring if it wasn’t. Just because a rare or unusual bird is present in an area doesn’t mean you will see it. The key factor is not luck, but skill and persistence. If I had been out birding every day, birded from dawn to dusk or been prepared to turn round on my way home and revisit places I had just left, then the success rate would have been higher, I might even have had found a good bird of my own! Due to my current preoccupation with ringing and foreign birding, I am making birding in the UK a lower priority than I once did and this low rate of success is a direct consequence of that. Margaret takes a much more relaxed attitude than I do, whenever we miss a bird she will point out that ‘the sun is shining, the birds are singing and that Robin over there is every bit as beautiful as any rarity’. Indeed, she calls my pager ‘the disappointment box’ due to my reaction to much of the news that it brings.

IMG_6826 Suckthumb Quarry

Suckthumb Quarry, Portland. Away from the area that is being actively quarried there are many nooks and crannies where a Hoopoe could hide.

In spite of the dips, the visit to Portland and Weymouth was not without its rewards, we saw Common Redstart and Garden Warbler in the hand at the Observatory, had close up views of several common seabirds at the Bill, including Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoter, saw a male Garganey at Radipole and this beauty in the photo below:

IMG_6830 GWE Radipole

This Great White Egret gave us the run around at Radipole. Originally at the North Hide, it had flown to the inaccessible north end of the reserve by the time we had arrived. It was later reported back at the North Hide but in spite of a rapid return there we failed to find it. Eventually it was discovered that it could be seen through a gap in the trees from the adjacent by-pass. This is the first time I have seen a Great White Egret in the UK in breeding plumage. The bill is black with green lores and there are filamentous plumes or aigrettes hanging from the breast and upper tail and (although hardly visible in this photo) reddish legs.

GWW are now placed in the genus Ardea, the same as the Grey Heron in this photo. All other white egrets are placed in Egretta.

Compare with this photo taken at Sutton Bingham in February 2012. In non-breeding condition the bill is yellow, the legs black and the aigrettes are absent.

In fact the migrant birds we have seen over the past few days are the first of the year for us, the reason we have been in the mid-west of the USA since 25th March. Here are a few photos of the best birds we have seen since our return.

IMG_6761 Garganey

On 15th April, we visited nearby Longham Lakes to look for a drake Garganey. Initially it proved to be a bit elusive but soon flew in from behind an island ….

IMG_6799 Garganey

and gave wonderful views.

IMG_6805 Tuftie & Scaup

Longham Lakes has hosted a female Scaup since New Year. Rather than fly off and find a mate it has decided to shack-up with a male Tufted Duck. This species, more correctly called Greater Scaup, provided an interesting comparison with the many Lesser Scaup that we have been seeing in the USA.

IMG_6815 Wryneck LB

On 16th we had a message to say that a Wryneck had been found at Lytchett Heath, a part of Lytchett Bay just a half a mile or so from home. The finder Dave Jones is new to the area and did well to find and identify this often skulking bird. Wrynecks, a species of woodpecker was once common in the UK but is now only seen as a scarce passage migrant, mainly recorded at coastal locations like Portland or Durlston during the autumn. This was the first record for Lytchett Bay.


As the photo above, taken near dusk and at some distance, is of necessity rather poor, I have included a photo of one in the hand taken during my ringing trip to Israel in 2013.

On 17th I made my first visit of 2015 to Durlston and commenced ringing activities, with a brisk north-easterly wind success was low but we did have a few migrants such as Common and Lesser Whitethroat and unusually saw a flock of 8 Greylag Geese fly out to sea. As well as birding with me, Margaret has been busy with her allotment adjacent to Lytchett Bay. I find growing vegetables as enthralling as watching paint dry so, although I have no problem with eating the end results, I normally leave her to it, but here is a photo of her in her element.


Using old shelving to partition the plots Margaret is slowly removing the wild grass that has colonised this abandoned plot and is planting a nice variety of vegetables.

Our trip to the USA was in two parts, a private tour round Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming on our own, mainly focussing on the enormous gathering of Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River but also visiting the Badlands, the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower to the north and also the Birdquest tour of Colorado. Both parts were outstandingly successful and it was one of the most enjoyable trips I have done for some time. I went overboard with photos and have about 3000 to work through so it will be some time before I can post the best on the blog, however here is one to start with.

IMG_4439 WT Ptarmigan

The whitest birds in the world? White-tailed Ptarmigan at 12000 ft asl, Loveland Pass, Colorado.