26 Oct 2017

25 Oct 17 - It Would Have Been Rude To Say No

I had a phone call from my mate Marcus Lawson who lives in Poole asking whether I wanted to pop in & see him and meet his new house guest: a Crimson Speckled. Marcus had found it whilst out walking in Dorset that day. This is a rare migrant to Dorset & a cracking Moth, so it would have been rude to say no. Unfortunately, I didn't have a decent camera with me, so I had to make do with this poor quality Iphone photo. The house lights don't help the colour tones.
Crimson Speckled: Dorset. It seemed quite a dull specimen compared to an individual I photographed in Turkey & one found at Portland Bill the following day
Marcus will be releasing the Crimson Speckled in the same location he found it.
Crimson Speckled: This was the one photographed on the beach at Manvagat, Turkey (28 June 15)

22 Oct 2017

21 Oct 17 - The Fine Art Of Chimping

I got introduced to the fine art of Chimping, about the time I got my first Canon camera. It sounds an abusive term (& sadly there are some abusive alternatives), but the Urban Dictionary describes the photographic use of the phrase as "What one does after taking a picture with a digital camera and looking at the result: derived from the words they speak when chimping: Ooo-oo-oo!".
Peter Moore Chimping (over Sabine's Gull photos): Cogden Beach (4 Nov 2013)
My own attempts at Chimping are more varied. If I've just taken some photos & the Bird is still present, I will probably have a quick look to see if I need to improve on the camera settings. If the Bird has gone, then there is little point.

Fast track to Saturday: it was blowing a gale (Storm Brian to be exact) and regular heavy showers were promised. The second best place I could think of being (first involved a lie in) was the Middlebere hide as the tide was rising soon after dawn. So it was an early start to get to the hide for dawn. Good job I did get there that early as the tide was further in than predicted due to the effect of the wind & the low pressure. It ended up with the highest Spring tide I've seen at Middlebere in 20 years of watching the site. There was just enough time for a quick scan of the Waders before they disappeared into the marsh to roost. The highlight was clearly the Stilt Sandpiper, but also 17 Avocet, 3 Grey Plovers, 28 Lapwings, a Curlew Sandpiper, 5 Knot, 3 Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, 65+ Dunlins, & 605 Blackwits. There was a good scattering of Teal & a few Wigeon. Normally, once the tide is up, then Middlebere quietens down an hour or so after the channel is covered in water. But due to the extreme tide, the Waders were constantly moving as each of their regular roost spots flooded. Heavy showers came & went, as did brief patches of sun. With the strong winds & rain, I couldn't think of anywhere else to go & didn't feel tempted into a Studland seawatch, so I stayed put. A couple of Marsh Harriers appeared, followed by a Peregrine to stir the Waders & Wildfowl up. Then there was a shout from Mark Wright or Aidan Brown who were also in the hide of a close Sparrowhawk. I looked out & seeing it was close to the hide, I grabbed the camera rather than the bins & fired off a couple of shots from the front window, followed by a few more from the side window. I noted it was a large female Sparrowhawk, but otherwise didn't get a lot on it as the camera looked out of focus. It was quite distant when I put the camera down & as it had gone & the view through the viewfinder hadn't looked impressive or in focus, I failed to do any Chimping. I just assumed the photos were probably rubbish as I the camera wasn't set up for flying Birds. Moving on to that evening, another photographer, Simon, posted an email saying he had seen a Goshawk an hour after I left (after 8 hours in the hide that didn't seem fair especially as reliable records in Poole Harbour are rare). Later that evening, I had a twitter message from Mark to say our Sparrowhawk had been a Goshawk. Went to check the camera, only to find it was still in the car & it was hammering down with rain again. When I looked at the camera the following morning, then I was shocked with my photos: not only was it a Goshawk, but a bloody obvious Juv & a couple of presentable photos. Assuming it must have been a male given its size.
Goshawk: The large teardrop spots on the breast makes it a juv. Based on the large Sparrowhawk feel, it must have been a male
Goshawk: blatantly obvious as a Goshawk had I bothered Chimping
Goshawk: Later in the afternoon, I realised my camera eyepiece viewfinder was out of focus which is why I had been struggling to focus all day
Goshawk: The best photo of it flying off over the marsh. Note the bulging secondaries, narrow primaries & long barred tail
This is only my second Poole Harbour Goshawk. The previous one was also a Juv Male which was seen with sometimes local Purbeck Birder (when not living in France), Steve Morrison, on 22 March 15. It bombed the South Haven reedbed & pool, circled once more around the area, before departing for Poole over the harbour mouth.

27 Aug 2017

27 Aug 17 - Patch Gold

The August Bank Holiday weekend is one of my favourite weekends for local Birding, outside of the Oct to mid Nov window, providing the weather holds up. A slightly frustrating start to the weekend with having to work on the Sat, but with the forecast looking similar light winds & sunny weather I was keen to get out early this morning. It's about perfect time for Ortolans in Dorset & with last year's revolutionary surprise from the Sound Approach team about how many Ortolans are on the move over Poole Harbour at this time of year, then I was keen to see if I could see one. The only downside to this stunning total of 13 recorded over central Poole last Autumn were they were all recorded at night. In addition to these 13, I seem to remember Nick Hopper having additional Birds over his Wareham house (again at night) & there was a lone daytime sighting of one flushed & not relocated at Soldiers Road (Hartland Moor). The most likely location for connecting during the day would be Ballard Down which forms the Southern boundary of my Studland patch & also Poole Harbour. The best option would be to be able to walk some of the stubble fields, but these are all private. But there is always the slim change of a fly over Ortolan or one pitched down on the grassland.

I had planned to be out for pre-dawn, but looking at the times of the nocturnal recordings then most tended to be in the early hours rather than close to dawn. So I revised my plans to be out for just after first light. The first part of the walk from Studland village goes next to Manor farm. I rounded the corner & standing on the roof of the farm was a Hooded Crow. I'm not sure which of us was more surprised, but after quickly confirming it looked pretty pure, I reached for the camera, The Hoody responded quickly at this point, by flying out of sight & presumably landing further back on the roof. I checked the phone, but no signal. Fortunately, I was able to get a signal back in the village, about the only signal I had all morning (thanks EE) & started ringing around all the Harbour Listers. I reckoned it was probably about the first Hoody for about 30 years (actually only 26 years as the last record was 16 Feb 1991). Having got the news out, I needed to get back to the Hoody again. Fortunately, as I turned the corner it was back on view, but at the furthest end of the roof about 80 - 100 metres away. I grabbed a few photos, before it flew up into one of the trees over the road leading to the Glebelands estate. Soon after a Corvid dropped out of the back & headed off SE towards the fields. I didn't see anything on it, but assumed it was the Hoody as I couldn't see it as I got closer to the tree. There is a regular flock of Crows & Rooks which feed in these fields & I hoped it might have been heading off to join them. As I reached the Glebelands estate, I was caught up by Nick Hopper who crucially had a scope. Once on the main ridge to the East of the Glebelands estate, we could see the Corvid flock & it was happily feeding with the main flock. Not close, but these fields are private with no access & where the Corvids were they were hidden by folds in the field from the Glebelands road. The Hoody was visible for a couple of hours from the top of Ballard, until the farmer flushed the flock as he headed out to feed the cattle. It was later seen by Mark & Mo Constantine & much closer (than me) by Peter Moore in the field next to the road to Glebelands.
Hooded Crow: I was lucky to get this photo as I had knocked the setting onto a completely wrong setting
Checking this afternoon, there are only a handful of records for the Poole Harbour area. The Birds of Poole Harbour website list four previous records:-
  • 6 Jan - 15 Mar 1953 - Sandbanks
  • 29 & 30 Apr 1967 - Brownsea
  • 21 Mar 1980 - Brownsea
  • 16 Feb 1991 - Brownsea
Hooded Crow: A purely record showing more of the underparts & the wing moult (so clearly not a youngster). It also points to this perhaps being of Irish origin, given the lack of any tartan or sporran being visible
There clearly is a bit more checking to do, as the excellent Birds of Dorset book by George Green quotes seven records for Poole Harbour, but doesn't detail most of them. However, more importantly, there aren't any records in the Report of the Birds of Studland by Steve Morrison although Steve's report doesn't include Ballard Down. I will need to do some more digging to try & see & ascertain where these other three records were that George mentions. But at the moment, it looks like Patch Gold & a first for the Studland patch. Later, I was amused to see a metal detectorist in the field: clearly he wasn't aware that the gold had already moved from that field.

8 Aug 2017

11 June 16 - Bonuses of Gardening

During the spring Birding season, the garden tends to get a big overgrown with weeds as obviously the Birding takes priority. But as the local Birding quietens down, then I end up having to spend a fair bit of time to get the garden back under control. Usually there are a few bonuses of spending time in the garden & this year was more interesting than usual with my third & fourth records of Large Skipper.
Large Skipper: Only my third record for the garden, with the fourth on 1 July 17
The gardening also produces the first records for the year of my resident Dark Bush crickets.
Dark Bush Cricket: Nymph
The highlight of the gardening was getting adopted by one of my local Blackbirds. Occasionally, in previous years, a Robin has appeared to check out the gardening. However, when that has happened, they have never got particularly close. This summer this male Blackbird appeared quickly as soon as I started gardening & was very happy to be looking for food about as close as two or three feet away. In the end, I kept moving up & down the garden a bit more to give it a bit more room to look for worms in the area I had just been working on. Although, he quickly moved to where I was currently removing weeds from, if I didn't move on. Clearly, this gardening worked out well for both of us, as I've had up to four young fully grown Blackbirds in the garden for the last few weeks. What I particularly enjoyed was being able to get the SX60 down at ground level & angle the viewing screen up so I could frame the photo without having to lie down to take the photo. It's rare that I get the opportunity to get a up close ground view: when I do it always feels very rewarding.
Blackbird: Male. Great to be adopted by this individual
Blackbird: With this interest in gathering worms, it's no wonder why the youngsters were well brought up
Blackbird: Must have been watching Puffin videos with a bill full of fish through my window

5 Aug 2017

11 Apr 17 - Spot the Difference

I published some photos of the Fovant Badges in Wiltshire in a previous Post.
Fovant Badges: photographed on 13 June 14
I stopped for some more photos as I past the Fovant Badges back in the Spring, which allowed the chance for a Spot the Difference photo. It's not a very difficult competition, so no prizes.
Fovant Badges: photographed on 11 Apr 17
The new badge between the Post Office Rifles and the Devonshire Regiment is to commemorate the centenary of the carving of the first of the Fovant Badges, the London Rifle Brigade, which was carved in 1916.
The new centenary badge with the Devonshire Regiment badge
A number of other regiments who were based at the Fovant camp for training before being sent to the trenches went on to carve their own regimental badges. Sadly, a number of these have now been lost, although a few photos exist of them on the history of the Fovant Badges website.
The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, 6th City of London Regiment & Australian Commonwealth Military Forces Badges
The Royal Corp of Signals, The Wiltshire Regiment & the London Rifle Brigade Badges
Additional badges were carved by troops in the Second World War & the badges for the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry & the Wiltshire Regiment weren't carved until the 1950s. Around 2003, there was another attempt to restore the Fovant Badges to their current splendor. I hope this continues & it would be great if the locations of the other lost badges could be identified & recreated.

30 Jul 2017

30 July 17 - Butterflies on the Edge

In 2014, I spent a lot of time trying to see the regular breeding Butterflies that occurred in Dorset that I hadn't seen to date, as well as, trying to get photographs of as many of the Dorset Butterflies as I could. Photos of  many of the Dorset species were added to the Blog during the year with a couple of round up Posts: Whites, Hairstreaks & Blues & Nymphalidae (Aristocrats, Fritillaries & Browns) and Skippers. At the time, there were considered to be 45 breeding Dorset Butterflies left, with the news that Wood White had probably gone from the county, following its demise at Powerstock Common. So I was probably a few years to late to see a Dorset Wood White. The nearest colony was in Devon. At the time, I was told that they occasionally had flown over the border in previous years, but that hadn't been any recent records that my mate knew of. So I was resigned to the likelihood that I should have made more effort in my earlier years of living in Dorset. But fortunately, people have kept looking & I recently heard one of the Dorset Birders had managed to see some about a week ago. It was then a case of having to hope for decent weather this weekend. Yesterday was far too windy first thing & then went downhill as the rain set in for the rest of the day. Further heavy overnight rain didn't help, but it looked more promising this morning. So following clear signs of blue skies at home this morning, I had a hurried chat with Peter Moore, before we decided to head West. Even better, it was still sunny when we arrived. Soon after we were at the site to find James Lowther & his wife had beaten us there, but no sign of the Wood Whites. We spread out to look & about ten minutes later, Peter had found one at roost. By the time I got there it had flown, but it quickly settled down again in a more promising position for photos.
Wood White: A species I never expected to see in Dorset
Soon after it started warming up & we were regularly seeing sightings of the approximately ten individuals there. They were quite easy to pick out in flight having a much weaker & fluttery flight compared to the true Whites. There were also a couple each of Dingy Skippers & Clouded Yellows there, but neither were particularly photogenic & more flighty. No photos of either as I didn't want to get distracted from the Wood Whites. A lot of the Butterflies seem to be having a good year in 2017 & I guess they have just expanded a little bit onto the Dorset side of the border.
Wood White: Preparations for the next generation. Male to the left
This brings me to 49 species of Butterflies seen in Dorset, having seen vagrant Swallowtails, Large Tortoiseshell (Durlston) & Monarchs (Winspit (1995 & 1999) & Portland (2012)). This excludes the Swanage Maps which are now understood to be an illegal introduction, (surely accidental escape according to the individual involved to escape a potential prosecution - Ed). I guess it's too much to hope that there are still Pearl-bordered Fritillaries tucked away somewhere waiting to be rediscovered in Dorset since they disappeared. Probably the most like species for no 50 for Dorset will be a Long-tailed Blue.

27 Jul 2017

27 July 17 - Young Pipistrelle Bat?

At the moment, I'm working at a company with offices set in fairly extensive grounds on the downs outside Winchester. This is a great site to walk around at lunchtime & has a reasonably good selection of wildlife within the grounds. Today's walk was nearly over & had been fairly uneventful for interesting wildlife, when I saw a small & presumed Pipistrelle Bat fly low over the grass, before landing at head height on a small tree. As I approached I could see it climbing up the trunk, until it froze as it saw my movement. There was time for a few quick photos on the iPhone before leaving it in peace.
Presumed young Pipistrelle Bat sp.
I am presuming it is one of the two abundant species of Pipistrelle Bat. Until the 1990s, it was thought that there was only a single species of Pipistrelle Bat in the UK. Then studies confirmed there were two abundant & widespread species: Common Pipistrelle & Soprano Pipistrelle, as well as, the rare Nathusius' Pipistrelle. These first two  species are best told by the frequencies of their echolocation calls with the strongest calls being around 45kHz & 55 kHz, respectively. Obviously, I didn't have an Bat detector with me, but then it probably wasn't calling whilst clinging to the tree. Therefore, it's identification will probably remain a mystery, unless there are any Bat experts out there who can help to identify this Bat. I was expecting it to have grey brown fur, so was surprised to see the grey colouration of the bare skin. I am assuming it is a young Bat that has only recently learnt to fly & hasn't had time for the fur to grow.