Saturday, 31 December 2011


I can’t quite believe that I’ve managed to keep this blog going a whole year. This time last year I was contemplating the idea of starting one of these ‘blogs’ that everyone kept on about. I must admit that it’s been a blast being able to share with all my readers my antics (if you can call them that) and I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading it.
So what will 2012 bring? Before that starts I’d better round up the last few days. I’ve been in Wales for Christmas and all its done is rain except for one and half days during which I managed to do some ringing. About 60 birds caught though to my delight (not!) they were all tits. A Goldcrest bounced and a several Redpolls thought about coming into the feeders but thought better of it. The sessions were useful in that several retraps from 2010 were caught including a Coal tit and a Long tailed tit. Both species I’ve only ringed in fairly small numbers in the garden. All the retraps have made it through two very cold winters so congrats to them!
I didn't take this recently, its from a while ago at a lovely welsh nature reserve called Silent Valley and I did fill up the feeder when I left!

So 2012, well its hopefully going to start with a bit more canon netting, fingers crossed I get some good weather so I can get some good catches from my finch  feeding site in the fleet and I am really hoping to get some more Woodcock and snipe though I really need some cold weather for that to happen.
I won’t go through all the 2011 highlights but something I did do earlier was go through and read all my past posts and it really reminded me that 2011 hasn’t been a bad year.  So thanks again for making the effort to click on me blog now and again, I really appreciate it!
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bells are ringing at Radipole

Bells are ringing at Radipole
I was desperately trying to tie in today’s Ring-billed Gull at Radipole with this Christmas malarkey that I keep hearing about, so the title had to contain something bell related as they ring which also describe the bill of the gull. A little tenuous but it will have to do.
Managed to miss this bird on Sunday afternoon when my mate Bret found it standing on Radipole car park whilst out shopping with his missus. Thankfully, I managed to find it this morning whilst in the company of Brett who was pretty sure it was the same bird as Sundays. Other sites in the UK it would be very safe to assume it would be the same one but Radipole has a good track record with this species. A few weeks ago, a different individual was on the car park and we had another adult last winter.
I even managed a picture.

This will probably be my last post until after Christmas so would like to take the chance to say merry Christmas and all that...

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Not quite a Woodcock

With the moon not rising until late in the night, I’ve started going out with the lamp again. Warm weather hasn’t really encouraged me to get out as Abbotsbury usually only gets Woodcock in extreme cold conditions. However, two visits this week has revealed that one Woodcock at least is using the meadows. It’s managed to avoid capture on both occasions but did catch a Lapwing tonight which wasn’t bad compensation.
This morning I met Terry down at Radipole to see if any non colour ringed Coot fancied getting its own lovely ring but sadly non obliged. I did manage to catch four Tufted Duck and a Mallard so the morning turned out to be a decent one.
Don’t have any pics at present but I may get hold of a picture of tonight Lapwing which I’ll add in due course.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Back to the Axe

This morning I found myself back on the Axe Estuary in Devon at first light waiting for a loud bang followed by the ringing of plenty of lovely ducks. This was the first catch of the winter following a cancellation due to low water levels. Plenty of birds came up onto the bank which lead to a catch of 63 birds. Unfortunately, the catch comprised of a decent number of Canada Geese which allowed several smaller ducks to escape but everyone was still happy, especially those who got to ring a goose. (Was I being sarcastic in the last sentence? Make your own mind up...)
I took a bit of a step back from ringing as there were lots of eager trainee’s keen to get stuck into some new species but I did get tempted by a few Wigeon. It’s been nearly a year since the last wigeon I ringed so today was a good reminder with regards to aging them.
It’s pretty easy to tell an adult male! That bloody big white bit gives it away.

And here’s his head.

I can’t forget the ladies. (Or should that be ducks?)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Tufty Trio

This mornings plan to catch and colour ring more Coots were quickly ruined by the fact that nearly every coot that came within a metre of me already had a colour ring on! Instead, I started grabbing what ever came near and ended up three Tufted Duck and a Mallard. Not bad for 20 minutes catching. The Tufted Ducks were presumably newly arrived birds as they were clearly not aware of our intentions.
I have not featured a Mallard picture on the blog (I think) so this should rectify that.

This Tufty took a real dislike the old geezer sitting on the bench.

Notice my hand in the corner struggling to stop the duck from attacking.
I’ve also (literally!) just been sent this picture of me trying to catch Black-headed Gulls this afternoon. Managed one before they realised what I was doing and flew to other side of the lake. I have had some good returns from Black-headed Gulls at Radipole car park. One of the first I ringed was sighted in Denmark and I’ve had a Belgian  control which I caught last winter.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Hume's something or other...

Went over to Little sea Holiday Park this afternoon to have a peak at the Hume’s leaf Warbler, or should it be called a Hume’s Warbler or even a Hume’s Yellow-browed Warbler. No idea…
Anyway, it was expectedly elusive though luckily it was calling frequently giving away its location briefly. Got a few good views but only for a second or two at a time and by the time the camera had been aimed towards the bird it duly disappeared. You’ll just have to Google it so see a picture of the species but basically it’s a washed out Yellow-browed Warbler which has features a few times on the blog over the last month or so.
Another rarity I’ve failed to photograph recently is the juv Rose-coloured Starling that’s frequenting Lodmoor at present. Seems quite settled there so will have to get back over the camera and try harder!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A bit of bird spotting at Lyme

Today started with a visit to clouds hill where my bird feeders had hopefully been attracting plenty of customers. On arrival the feeders were empty which was encouraging as obviously something had been using them. Filled them up and after about an hour and large flock of Greenfinch, Linnet and Goldfinch turned up. The Greenfinch were keen to jump into the net and one round produced 12 of them plus a few Goldfinch.

 By mid morning Fred (who was ringing with me) and myself started to feel the urge to go twitching. Probably should have been heading up to Chew Valley where a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper plus a host of other goodies (though not Bill Oddie) are in residence. Instead we stayed a little more local and landed up in Lyme Regis where a juv Spotted Sandpiper has decided to spend the winter. Unfortunately the bird stayed pretty distant which meant photos came out like this.

Shame it wasn’t as obliging as the Purple Sandpipers.

Whilst back at the car park having Sandwiches and Coffee this young male Black Redstart performed on nearby buildings. There seems to be quite a few around Lyme Regis with another three being seen on the other side of town near the museum.

Must quickly mention that Radipole’s been back on form with several 'nice' Gulls including this superb Little Gull which was about last weekend.

And finally I can’t not post a picture of a Yellow legged Gull. Sorry! Taken during the week at Radipole.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The coots are back in town

Coot catching commence this morning at Radipole with a short session to see how keen the birds were to come in for food. There has definitely been an arrival over the last week so hopes were fairly high. We caught three in quick succession then the birds wised up and remembered not to come anywhere near me. The temperature is still stupidly high for the time of year so hopefully things will cool down soon and the birds will get a bit more peckish.

As with last year, we are colour ringing the coot with a white ring with a green code consisting of two letters. Obviously, sightings are most welcome!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A rather interesting 'Phyllosc'

This morning’s visit to clouds hill wasn’t particularly an exciting one. Got there extra early in the hope of a few grounded Redwing and Fieldfare but numbers of each were very low and none were caught. However a few Song Thrush and Blackbirds were caught including a re-trap Song Thrush from the start of October which I presumed to be a migrant but perhaps not? The morning just got quieter and drizzle made me pack by about 9am but whilst furling the nets a ‘phyllosc’ jumped into the net. Extracted it a presumed it was a Chiffchaff but when I took it back out of the bag for processing, I could see that it wasn’t! Getting excited? Portland bird obs caught a Dusky Warbler yesterday and this time of year can produce all sorts. So what did I get?

A Willow Warbler!

This is obviously very late for a Willow Warbler to be still in the UK and its the latest I’ve seen by far.  Just as proof here is a shot showing the primary feathers where number 6 is clearly isn’t emarginated. Chiffchaff (and infact Dusky Warbler I think but thats irrelevant) have emarginations on the 6th primary.

Monday, 7 November 2011

As Dorsets getting colder Blandfords getting Otter

Nearly every Dorset naturalist will have either been to see or have heard about the Blandford Otters. It’s ridiculous how bold they are! They just parade back and forth in front of large crowds of spectators. There must have been about 70 people watching them whilst I was there and the animal wasn’t the slightest bit concerned. Not sure how many Otters there are at Blandford but locals have been suggesting up to five all around the blue bridge over the Stour. After a while it became a little like watching an Otter in a zoo as the animal was in constant view feeding on small fish that it was catching at the base of the weir. Obviously I took some photos so here they are.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Last one for the Larus Lovers

This is now the third post in a row and if I remember rightly the last time I was barking on about gulls on this blog it ended up with a post about a Caspian Gull. Well, guess what. Here’s another gull post (for a few week or two at least!) about a Caspo. Today started with a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls, then another Yellow-legged Gull and then another Yellow-legged Gull. If you haven’t seen enough on this blog already here are a few more Yellow-legged Gull pictures. I promise not say Yellow-legged Gull again!

Minutes after Dave Chown and myself finished looking at a gull with yellow legs (or at least it will in about three year’s time) this fantastic creature appeared out of nowhere!

Managed to miss this bird at the weekend and I missed another one when I was out on Lundy so I was pretty made up after seeing this fine example of a 1st winter Caspian Gull.

I promise I’ll find something else to blog about soon unless a gull that betters a Caspian Gull turns up!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Minutus - minutest of all gulls

I had the pleasure of watching this little beauty on the way home from work yesterday. I went via the buddleia loop at Radipole as another birder had mentioned the bird late in the afternoon. By the time I got there it was getting quite dark so pics weren’t ever going to amount to much but it was at one point feeding about 6 foot away from on insects the were on the surface of the water. It appeared to roost on the lake rather than head off with the other gulls so it may still be about this morning.

Also yesterday another Yellow-legged Gull spend a few hours at Radipole during the afternoon. This time though a 1st winter rather than one actually with yellow legs.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A gull with yellow legs

I’ve mentioned Yellow-legged Gulls quite a bit over the last few months, probably to the point that bores people to death. But this one has actually got yellow legs, well just about. This 3rd winter bird was hanging around Radipole Lake yesterday. Ages other than juvs and 1st winters are quite unusual at Radipole so this one was a nice surprise. Perhaps it was seeking refuge after listening to the Jeremy Vine show yesterday where people were phoning up suggesting that we shoot every gull in the UK and stamp on any nest you come across. Surely it’s these people who were whinging about gulls are partly to blame for the increase of urban gulls. Landfill and rubbish on the streets all contribute to the problem plus other issues such as over fishing has caused gull numbers to decrease on the coast which has resulted in gulls having to look elsewhere for food! Rant over... enjoy the lovely gull pictures.

Some more pics from Lundy

I thought I’d stick a few more picture from Lundy as I am bored and its pouring with rain which has ruined my day off.
First up is a Firecrest. Saw surprisingly few of these one the trip and this was the only one we came across in the nets.

This ‘cold’ looking Chiffchaff caught a few peoples eye. We saw a possibly ‘tristis’ type earlier in the day so not sure if this was the same one or another easterny type Chiffchaff thing.

Redwings didn’t feature as much as we’d hoped though we obviously got some as I wouldn’t have any pictures if we didn’t! Everyone we caught had swabs taken. We took samples from the feet and flank looking for Sudden Oak Death. This disease apparently comes into from Scandinavia and this study is to see if our winter thrushes bring it in with them.

Computer has now decided its had enough and doesn't want load anymore pictures so this lots will have to do.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lundy Trip Report

You may have guessed that I didn’t get any internet signal out on Lundy (surprise surprise) but I did keep a daily  log of what we were up to. Appologies for such a long post but go get an cup of tea and biscuit which should help you get through all the text.
Day 1
After a very early start, Fred and I headed off to north Devon to catch the 7:30am ferry over to Lundy. We met up with Richard Taylor and Tony Taylor both Lundy regulars especially Tony who has done a lot of work with Lundy’s birds for several decades.  The day was full of prospect as an easterly wind had been blowing all night and intermittent cloud cover may have grounded a few migrants. On arrival passage had just started to tail off but by the end of the day a reasonable list of species developed.  We started ringing mid-morning though not a lot was happening. A nice variety of birds were caught  including a visitor from Siberia. Late afternoon a Yellow browed Warbler jumped into a net after avoiding them most of the day.

Raptors were well represented on the island today with a Short eared Owl in off from the east and an Osprey flew down the west side of the island. Peregrine, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and at least one Merlin kept its eye on the finches. Another interesting bird today was a possible tristis Chiffchaff which refused to call so we’ll see if it ends up in a net tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be our first proper day ringing so hopefully a good thrush passage overnight will result in a busy morning.
Day 2
Unfortunately the change in wind direction overnight didn’t do much for Thrush migration. In fact it was minimal with just a few blackbirds and a single Song Thrush trapped and ringed. Thankfully overnight rain did bring a significant arrival of Blackcap. This was easily the most numerous bird ringed today. Chiffchaff and crest numbers were reasonable though no more than the previous day. Overhead passage wasn’t particularly impressive though probably half a dozen Redpoll hung around for a while and siskin numbers were slightly up on yesterday.
Scarcities trapped today were a Common Rosefinch and a Firecrest. Yesterday’s Yellow browed Warbler had presumably moved on. Little else of interest around the island except an Owl species which I saw at first light but couldn’t ID due to poor light. Later in the day non-birders reported flushing an owl from some trees which to me would indicate a Long-eared Owl but we’ll never know.

Weather is on the change tomorrow so not sure how much ringing we’ll do but rougher weather might mean going out with the lamp around the island in case of a woodcock or something similar.
Day 3
Yesterday’s prediction was correct and by mid-morning we were furling all the mist nets. Strong south westerly winds had slowly picked up followed by rain later in the afternoon.  I am currently writing this listening to rain smashing in the living room window!
Just a handful of birds ringed, mainly Blackcaps. These could have been lingering birds from yesterday or perhaps some did venture from the mainland overnight in spite of the weather conditions.
Birding was equally quiet with a single Snow Bunting proving to be the best. Two Black Redstart and a single Ring Ouzel were the only other notable species seen by others who braved the weather. Whilst looking for the Snow bunting we flushed a single Snipe and came across several Meadow Pipit and Skylark, all of which were grounded by almost gale force winds. Raptors were busy as ever patrolling the island with definitely two Merlin still about (possibly 3). It’s probably too windy to even go out with the lamp tonight so an evening in the pub is almost certainly in order.
Day 4
Very similar to yesterday weather wise, the wind was still strong though not as much rain today. One net was put up at first light but was taken down again a few hours later having had not birds go into it. As I write no birds have been caught today!
Back to yesterday briefly. I did end up going out with the lamp and I was joined by Richard. We got very very very wet and the wind was quite extraordinary. We pressed on and ended up with a Curlew to take back to ring. It was probably quite too pleased to come into the warm and dry albeit briefly before I took back up into the fields.
Due to the lack of ringing today, a few of us went for a nice long walk along the length of the island. Whilst on our travels we bumped into 4 Snow Buntings and not a lot else. A Merlin or two whizzed past as did a few Peregrine.

As no birds had been ringed by this time we headed down to the beach to try to catch a Rock Pipit or possibly a Black Redstart.

 We didn’t catch either though saw both including at least 2 of the latter. Whilst walking back to the cottage we bumped into another Snow Bunting just 100 yrds short of our accommodation.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better and we may end up going out lamping again tonight so we may end up ringing something after all.
Day 5
We did end up going lamping and thankfully I arrived back at the cottage with a Snipe. That was the only bird ringed yesterday. Thankfully though, today was a little better with a steady stream of birds though we did get quite a lot of re-traps. Not a bad thing though as it all adds to science.
Late in the afternoon we finally caught the Greater spotted Woodpecker which has been about for the week. It was a re-trap from last week but good to know it’s the same one knocking around. They are a very rare bird on Lundy which makes it (in Lundy terms) the rarest bird of the trip so far!

Very little else to be seen, a flock of 30 Fieldfares early morning and a single Snow bunting flew over the east side of the island.
We finished today with a Fieldfare caught in St Johns valley which is a nice way to end the day. We are now off to the pub so better stop writing!
Day 6
Another steady day with Goldcrest being most numerous species caught. The weather appears to have settled down for a few days though getting a weather forecast on Lundy isn’t easy. Thankfully the pub pins up a printed off forecast though it was out of date the last time I looked. The settled weather presumably gave migrants chance to move with the first decent numbers of Fieldfare seen plus more Redwings than the previous days. Several Redwing were caught throughout the day but I’ve just come in from lamping and I’ve heard Redwings overhead which could mean the morning could be productive.  Bramblings also appeared for the first time today with at least 2 or 3 around the seed outside our cottage along with growing numbers of Chaffinch.
Rarities today proved frustrating. First ‘miss’ of the day was a probable Red-throated Pipit that flew over St John’s valley calling at about 9:30. Only heard it briefly and never saw the bird but Fred and myself both agree that it was most likely one on call but neither of us has ever heard one before in the field (only on CD’s!) Next up was a small ‘Phyllosc’ that Richard saw. He didn’t get much of a view at first but noticed it was fairly white underneath and had a pretty strong supercilluim. After a bit of searching I managed a picture and it was a Willow Warbler so panic over. Next up was a ‘Lundy rarity’, a Blue tit. This species is about annual on Lundy so we were pretty pleased to get a ring on it.

Later in the day we caught the willow warbler though the one in the photograph was a second bird caught that day.

I mentioned earlier that I have just got back from Lamping. I managed to catch another Snipe tonight though conditions were far from perfect as the wind had dropped making my every foot step audible but presumably not to the snipe that I caught.  Tomorrow is our last full day ringing on the island so really hoping it’s a good one!
Day 7
Unfortunately today wasn’t a good day for ringing. Just a few Redwing to start the day and then a trickle of Chaffinch through the afternoon. Not all bad though as we got to have a good look at difference aged female Chaffinch which occasionally prove tricky to age. Due to the quiet morning Fred mentioned that he wanted to go looking for Ring Ouzel. I joined him on his quest but it proved unfruitful. However we did see some other nice birds including some superb views of a Yellow-browed Warbler feeding in some grass and some bracken. The stroll also produced a Woodcock and a Firecrest. We also counted about 45 Goldcrest which obviously shows that they were still moving through.
Not a lot else to say about today except that I’ve managed to catch a cold that Fred was nursing on arrival last Saturday. We may get a little bit of ringing done in the morning though If the weather stays as rough as it is now we may be leaving a little earlier than expected on the Helicopter rather than using the boat. Either way it will be pretty exciting!

Day 8
Our last morning was another quiet one though there was a clear arrival of Chaffinch. We started catching a few but then time came for us to leave. Just before we left one last good bird founds its way into a net. A juv female Sparrowhawk which we had been seeing regularly around the area along with at least one other.
On the way to catch our boat (not the helicopter unfortunately!) we had chance to stop and see the final nice bird of the trip, a Pied Flycatcher. By the time we were half way to Ilfracoombe it had found its way into a net which I bet the ringers that replaced Fred and myself were pleased as it was probably one of the first birds of theirs weeks ringing.

Must finish by saying how great the company was, I had a fantastic time even though the weather was a bit frustrating time. Huge thanks to Tony for arranging the week.  Lundy is an amazing place for birding but it’s so under watched! I only bumped into one other birder during the whole week. Who knows what was lurking out there just waiting to be found. We left Richard and Tony on the island as they are there for another week so I look forward to hearing how they get one but here’s Richard obviously upset to see Fred and myself leaving. (or was it something to do with his fiancĂ© also leaving? Or maybe even his cold? We’ll never know.)