Monday, 30 May 2011

Cuckoo Food

Yesterday evening was spent back out on the Lulworth Army Ranges where we needed to ring that last of this years tit pulli. As the evening went on we noticed that the wind was slowly dropping so perhaps another nightjar or two was on the cards?? Whilst having a pre dusk wonder we noticed this monster!

Its an Oak Eggar caterpillar which was wondering around on one of the tank tracks. I think I am right in thinking that Cuckoos are able to eat quite large hairy caterpillars though I suspect this fella is a little to big! Whilst on the subject of Cuckoo, I had a very frustrating near miss not long after setting the net up ready for Nightjars. A cuckoo landed nearby and called a few times. Next thing I see is the net suddenly move and what looked the cuckoo flying back in opposite direction! So close!!!! Once it got a little darker a few nightjars started to chur but disappeared fairly quickly and never came anywhere near a net. Was nice though being out there, woodlark were singing all over the place plus Yellowhammer carrying food. It really is a special place.
Must thank Maureen for taking the pics as I managed to forget my camera. Here’s a superb picture of a woodlark taken with Maureen compact camera!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A frustrating hobby!

Spent yesterday at the beautiful RSPB reserve Ham Wall, reason being was a female Red-footed Falcon which has been ‘showing well’ since Sunday afternoon. Yesterday was my first day off since the weekend so off I went. A message came up on the pager mid morning saying it was still ‘showing well’. That was exactly what I wanted to hear! On arrival I was met by several bored and frustrated birders not watching a Red-footed Falcon. I had forgotten that Ham Wall is a mega place to see Hobby which made looking for a very similar small falcon quite tricky. After nearly 5 hours it finally decided to show up allowing this very dodgy record shot to be taken.
It stayed distant all the time but at least the wait was worth it. Luckily, Ham Wall has plenty of other things to see whilst your waiting for something to show up. I must have had 14 sightings of Bittern plus I heard three ‘boomers’. A Great White Egret flew over the site plus hundreds of Dragonflies which obviously attract the hoards of Hobbies.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Good night for a Nightjar

As promised earlier, here's my second blog of the day. The stilt was quite unexpected therefore deserved a special mention. Anyway, yesterday evening was spent back on the Lulworth Army Ranges where we needed to ring a load more pulli. About 6 broods were ready, mainly blue and great tit plus we found a box with very small Coal tits! Anyone who monitors nest boxes will know that Coal tits in boxes are quite unusual so as you can imagine, we were pretty pleased with that. Here’s a picture of a Blue tit which will probably be fledging this weekend.

Once all the pulli were sorted we turned our attentions to Nightjar. We had to wait a while until it got dark but the wait was worth it. We were trying a very new clearfell which didn’t exist last summer so we weren’t even sure if there were nightjars on it. I set the net complete with a few white tissues in place (white attracts nightjars, plus you can pick them out with your binoculars so it they move it means you got a bird). We didn't have to wait long before a rather fine male jumped into the net. Here he is in all his glory.
We’ll be targeting Nightjars quite a lot over the next few weeks as the ranges are full of them. This gives us a great chance to ring quite a few plus there’s the chance of a control as other ringers in Dorset target Nightjars.

Look at the legs at that!!

Thought I’d quickly post a few picture from today to get them out of the way ready for another post later on this evening (with a bit of luck). This mornings lie-in was rudely interrupted by a text saying that there was a Black winged Stilt at the visitor centre at Radipole! This very quickly woke me up and got me throwing on some clothes and heading out the door. Hopefully nobody noticed that I was wearing odd socks this morning!

As you can see from the pictures, I saw the bird and it stayed on the island for a few hours. By about 10:30 it had moved off presumably it got a little peckish and went off to find a nice muddy area. It has yet to be discovered at Lodmoor so I wonder if it’s headed off to the fleet.

Also about this morning near the centre was these juvy Bearded tits which are the first ones at Radipole this year so far.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Wading through Waders

Well, I wish we were! Last night Steve and myself ventured out to nearby Ferrybridge for a bit of wader ringing. Yesterday I received a load of new nets from a superb polish company called Ecotone who make superb mist nets. Some of the nets in the parcel were a few two shelved nets which I bough specifically for catching waders. Did they work? Well, we caught a few. Like said at the start, we weren’t exactly swamped by waders but 5 Dunlin and a Ringed Plover were caught which was a good start. Last May proved quite good for catching waders at Ferrybridge as plenty of dunlin usually pass through on their northerly migration. Here’s a pic of a Dunlin.

And finally, a bit of good news from Ferrybridge. 31 Little Terns have been present and nesting seems to be getting underway. I do feel sorry for the wardens who will be out doing night shifts shortly to protect the colony. Very rewarding if the birds are successful but the weather gets pretty rough on Chesil beach! Here’s a picture I took last year when trying to read rings. This particular bird was caught the night previous to taking the photo. It was caught whilst ringing Dunlin in a single shelf mist net at about 11pm?! No Idea how it got there!

EDIT: 43 Little Tern have been counted today!!!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Reely Frustrating!

A Savi's Warbler was discovered singing at RSPB Lodmoor yesturday or the day before, or possibly even the day before that depending who you speak too but regardless of when it originally turned up it was still reeling away like a good-un when I turned up lunchtime yesterday lunchtime. I heard it which was all I was expecting to acheive as an evening visit was going to be in order to try to obtain a view.

As you probably know, Savi's Warblers can be very elusive which describes this individual perfectly. It looked like I wasn't going to get a view until after 3 hours and 10 minutes waiting Ken Tucker who was standing next to me shouted a few select words and very kindly got me onto the bird. It turns out that it was a lifer for both of us, so a huge thanks to Ken for allowing me to look through his scope so quickly! It was fortunate that I got onto it quickly as it soon disappeared. It sounded great though which I was going to demonstrate with a video clip that refuses to upload! Will try again at some point.

I actually wrote this post earlier this afternoon and since then an interesting development has occurred. It seems that Mr Savi's is ringed! So its either the Slapton bird from a month or so ago, or we have a rather nice control to be had!?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Yet another Lifer!

Though this time not of the avian variety. It was a Duke of Burgundy Butterfly which is a pretty scarce species in the UK. It’s very localised and where ever they occur they tend to be in quite low densities which in turn make the insects tricky to find. Yesterday morning I found out that there had been a sighting of Duke of Burgundy at Cerne Abbas (apparently not a renowned site for this species??) so as the weather was decent I gave it a shot. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of butterflies though finding the target species wasn’t going to be easy.
To pass the time there were hundreds of these. They are Marsh Fritillaries by the way.

Also had the pleasure of having an Adonis Blue sit on my hand!

Here’s another Adonis Blue

Just for comparison here’s a Common Blue.

And here is a shot of a male Adonis Blue ab. Krodeli I think!! Don’t know how scarce this is but lovely to see.
Grizzled Skipper
Dingy Skipper. No prizes for guessing why its called dingy!
Brown Argus
And after nearly three hours of searching I finally came across one of these.

I didn’t get much of a chance to photograph it as it disappeared fairly quickly but it was there long enough to get a few extra shots.

There was also one or two birds around as far as I could tell, including this Grey Wagtail that had a family somewhere nearby.

I really must apologies for the picture overload. I promise next time I’ll just post one or two.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Its only a Night Heron!

It’s not very often that I find myself a lifer, in fact not since an Aquatic Warbler I found at the Newport Wetlands in September 2007. Today was always going to be good as I was going to be leading a Dawn Chorus walk. I led a walk in the week and it was superb, we had kingfishers posing for the punters, Marsh Harriers food passing, Bearded Tit and a whole host of other good stuff. So after that success I was hopeful that Radipole would produce the goods yet again. It certainly did as one of the first birds we got was this 1st summer Night Heron. Couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing, though a few people on the walk couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. After all it’s a greyish brown bird (not my words!) but it’s a lifer and the first at Radipole in some time. This shouldn’t have been a lifer as there’s been one over at Bournemouth recently but as I am not year listing I never made the effort. Photos were few and far between as the bird could not be approached and was repeatedly being flushed by people (some with their canine friends) wandering around the reserve. I did get lucky (though my exposure was all over the place!) and get a few shots when it was flushed and flew down the reserve right towards me.

By mid morning it had settled in this tree where it stayed for a while but was seen not long after I left and was flying back to where I had first found it.

As far as I know it’s not been seen since then but could easily be lurking somewhere on the reserve so a walk around at dusk might be in order. I must also mention that I also saw a female Goldeneye this morning. Very strange place for one to be in May??

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Twitching Insects?!

I still find twitching insect slightly odd especially when it’s a moth in a pot but today I found myself headed straight to Portland after an early morning update on the bird observatory website alerted me to the presence of a Patton’s Tiger which is an incredibly rare moth in the UK. According the obs website it’s the 4th record for the UK following the third which was trapped yesterday on the Isle of Wight. Here’s a picture of the little beauty!

Whilst at the observatory this rather handsome fellow was making good use of the fences. In my opinion it was slightly out done by the moth but on a normal day this would have easily been the highlight of the day. It is of course a male Red-backed Shrike.

That was pretty much my day over as the rest of it was spent in work where the best bird of the day (apart from usual Marsh Harriers and such like) was this Common Gull. Quite a good record for May at Radipole.

I must finish by going back to my original point about twitching insects. This is second time I’ve done it this week so perhaps this may become a bit more regular? I did suggest to myself at the start of the year that I would do a Butterfly year list. Not too late to start!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Ducking 'ell

It was only the other day I was talking to someone about the lack of Garganey at Radipole this spring, so it’s quite timely for a pair to show up at the north pool this morning. I only went down the hide to stick up some posters but obviously took the bins for a quite squint at the Harriers and/or Kingfishers. I asked another birder if there’d been anything about. He replied ‘no, it’s really quiet.’ The quietness was soon broken by the sound of calling Garganey which showed themselves briefly before disappearing into the rush. Garganey must be on the verge of breeding at Radipole, there’s now so much suitable habitat you could probably fit an army of Garganey on the reserve. By the way, if you know the actual collective noun for Garganey I’d be keen to know, it’s obviously not an army! I went back down the hide this evening and was treated to some great views of the pair plus some bonus Kingfisher chick feeding action. Here are a few pics.

 This poor excuse for a Duck decided that I couldn’t take anymore photos of the Garganey and sent them packing.

Luckily the female came back for one last picture, ain’t she a stunner. I think the drakes get far too much attention hence why I’ve opted for another picture of the duck.

I struggle these days not to add a Marsh Harrier picture on me blog, so here’s another of the male taken this morning.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Dragonfly Delights

After  having a rubbish morning in work caused by awful weather and at one point some thunder and lighting, I was very pleased to take a call from about this superb little creature which as you can see was sitting on someone’s garden gate!

I’ve been really hoping to see one at Radipole over the last week or two after a possible being seen from the north hide. It is of course a Vagrant Emperor. This is a pretty rare insect in the UK but this spring has seen several across the south coast however most sightings locally have remained unconfirmed however there’s no question about this beauty! Their breeding range extends across south Saharan Africa and spreads across to Pakistan though its very migratory so does show up in all sorts of weird places. In fact it’s the only dragonfly species to be recorded in Iceland according my dragonfly book. They are very difficult dragonflies to catch up with in the UK so it may be a very long time before I see another unless this influx continues.