I really have to apologies for the lack of dialog in recent days. Not an awful lot has happened until today which was worth blogging about. So to make it up to you I thought I’d bombard you with pics before talking about today’s exciting exploration to the Lulworth Army Ranges.
This is a Sedge Warbler caught last week.
This is a Reed Warbler caught last week
This is a female Blackcap caught last week
And this is a Willow Warbler which desperately needs to blow its nose!
That’s enough pretty piccies. So this afternoon was spent on the army ranges at Lulworth which is the most amazing place for wildlife. Its got no access to the public and is only used as a training area for the army. Its quite a weird place as you regularly come across large shell which are occasionally unexploded, lots of bits of metal from something which has been blown up and there a railway track through the middle of the site which is used for target practice. I probably shouldn’t say anymore about the site as could possibly be shot on the spot. The site has been inherited through several generations of ringers. My grandfather (in ringing terms) was the first in our line to operate the site, then was the turn of my trainer (dad) who was my grandfathers trainee and now I have my very own pass to wander freely around the site, but only when there isn’t live ammunition being fired across the site.
Today visit with Steve was to check the nest boxes and to inspect a few areas for ringing in the autumn. Boxes were checked quickly so we got the scrub where we stuck a few nets up to see what’s about. We’ll ring this site more regular in the autumn as lots of warblers move through as its the last decent bit of scrub before the sea. Today’s few hours didn’t produce much but it did produce this!
How stunning is that! A gorgeous Nightingale. The ranges are quite good for this species which is great as its becoming a scarce species in some part. When I was living in Wales it became extinct as a breeding species and is now of the welsh rarities list and requires a full description to be sent of the rarities panel! If I remember rightly, there some studies going on with nightingale to work out where they are wintering. The BTO has been using tiny tracking devices fitted to the birds and they log where the birds been during the winter. So its great to get a ring on a Dorset individual (hopefully a dorset one and not a passage one). On release this bird started to sing the most amazing song which quite clearly meant it was a male. Him and others started to sing as the evening wore on which was a perfect end to the day. We then decided to go one better and head out onto the heath for last light in the hope (this really was a long shot!) of a very early Nightjar but that didn’t happen, maybe next week?
Given that I haven’t blogged for over a week I really thought I’d make an effort tonight. However I’ve proved myself wrong and I ain’t going to make to much effort. That can be saved until something really interesting happens such as my first Reed Warbler of the year in the net (which is slightly overdue)or two nests of Marsh Harrier in Weymouth.
Ringing has been quiet with a few Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler being caught at Abbotsbury, pretty routine stuff. Birding has been very similar with the odd Whitethroat starting to appear which adds a little variety to all the Reed and Sedge Warbler now singing at Radipole. Migration really has come to a halt this week. Last week was hotting up nicely with Dorset hosting a Woodchat Shrike and a Whiskered Tern but this weeks highlight so far for me was a distant Little Tern at Ferrybridge a few days ago which was defiantly a nice surprise but not completely unexpected given the time of year. Will talk about Little Tern in a couple of weeks as last year they had an incredible year but that will wait for another blog post.
A quick trip to Wales last week didn't produce anything decent on the avian front but did have a superb walk up Pen-y-fan with my bro. It is the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons.
Was quite amazed by the amount of moths on the summit! Emporer moths were everywhere but photos weren't easy, this was the best I could get. Wales is home to good populations of this moth but I have never seen so many all together!
Buzzards often get ignored by birders due to how common they are. Birds at Radipole this evening were paying this buzzard a lot of attention. Firstly the male Marsh Harrier had a pop at it. Then the female Marsh Harrier had a go and succeeded in getting the buzzard to move elsewhere.
It chose a Willow bush to hide in but then this Grey Heron started harassing the poor bird!
My main aim for the evening was to spend another couple of hours watching the Marsh Harriers. This is becoming something of an obsession but what a great obsession to have! They have been busy hunting most of the day and pretty much every time I’ve stuck me head out of the upstairs window I’ve seen at least one hunting over Radipole.
Here are a couple of shots from this evening.
The male is spending most of his time at Radipole at present which makes me wonder what his intentions are. They have now given up fighting every time they see each other and now just glide alongside each other. The female is very vocal when she’s around the male, anyone know what that’s all about?
Its not very often you get two ‘lifers’ in one day. Today started with high expectation as there was plenty of cloud cover at dawn hence why I was at Abbotsbury with the mist nets open waiting for something to jump in. Sadly not a lot did, in fact the only migrants caught were 2 Chiffchaff and a single Willow Warbler. I gave up early and intended to go over to Durlston Country Park near Swanage. Reason being a Red-flanked Bluetail! It turned up yesterday but didn’t get the chance as work as well and truly in the way. Got back from ringing and somewhere fell asleep! Thankfully a text from local birder Brett Spencer woke me up and got me travelling up to Portland bill. Not for a Red-flanked Bluetail, but a Short-toed Lark. Got reasonable views on arrival and went back to the car to get the camera. But I was just about to take a picture and it did this! In fact that pictures so bad you can hardly recognise it as a Short-toed Lark but I’m pretty sure it is. Better pictures will almost certainly appear on the Portland obs website later.
From Portland I headed straight over to Swanage for the Bluetail. Got to the site and discovered the bird hadn’t been seen for over an hour but after a 30 minute wait is revealed itself and showed on and off through the late afternoon.
Also thought I’d stick this picture on as I’ve literally just taken it. There were plenty of bats in the garden so thought I’d have a bit of fun with the camera. Might have another try at this sometime as I can obviously improve vastly on this picture!
This is a Pipistrelle but don't know if its a common or soprano. Can't ring a bat detecter to find out.
I ended the Marsh Harrier post on the 28th March with the words ‘I really can’t get enough of these birds!’ This is true as I am sitting here at my PC blogging yet again about Marsh Harrier. This time in a much more positive light as I seen some incredible Harrier action at Radipole today. This morning I was showing a new member of staff around the reserve when a Marsh Harrier appeared in the northern end of the reserve. Initially thought it was ‘our’ female but soon realised that I didn’t recognise this bird. Raced back to the office to get the camera and spent my lunchtime sitting in the hide watching no Harriers. Packed the camera away and was about to leave but one last scan revealed the newbie harrier hunting over the same place as earlier in the morning. Light was crap and drizzle made the photos worse but they defiantly show a new bird.
Think I am right in saying this is a 2nd calendar year female as she still has quite a lot of her juvenile plumage. Have sent a couple of emails with the pics so will find out soon. So I wonder if this is one of last year’s offspring returning home?? The bird was calling all the time she was in flight but don’t know how significant that is.
By late afternoon the sun appeared so I had to spend the evening in the hide so see if she’s still about. I had heard throughout the day that all three Marsh harrier were visible from the hide! By the time I got there only two of the birds had stayed but they put on a hell of a show! The male was constantly hassling the new bird; every time she took flight he would be right behind her. He would stoop constantly at her until she landed but even when she perched he would still dive at her. It looked pretty aggressive at times. This went on for pretty much the full two hours I was watching which suggests to me that he’s trying to drive the bird away from the site or perhaps he’s just a sex pest? At one point talons were locked and both birds almost crashed into the ground! The subject of polygamy was talked about during the day but after watching this evenings events I very much doubt it. They both roosted at Radipole so perhaps their moods will change by the morning.