Friday, 25 January 2013

Hawfinch - Mercer Way

An old friend of mine from my time in the smoke had asked me several times to show him Hawfinch and coincidentally he now works just down the road in Lower Parkstone but lives up the other side of Salisbury. With good numbers of these beasts up at Romsey and with it being roughly equidistant for us to travel we arranged to meet there at 10. I got there a bit before that as having never been there before I wanted to suss out the area as directions have always been a bit vague - well non-existent. In the event it was all rather straight forward, and this link shows where the birds are

Within a minute of getting out of the car a couple of birds flew over and alighted in some tall trees. I headed back to the car to get my scope and wait for my friend who duly arrived shortly after.

Initially views weren't ideal but after a while we managed to get great views (not looks, as I'm not American!) but with dull light it wasn't easy photographing them. I tried to get some flight shots but should have upped the ISO as none turned out sharp, but here's three rubbish ones which I think put across the jizz of the birds quite well.

I really wish this last shot was sharp but it shows the blue on the secondaries quite well (if you squint!).

I noticed a couple of birds land about 20 foot up in a tree quite nearby so I stealthily approached and managed to get some half decent shots but it was impossible to get an angle where they were completely unobstructed. It didn't help when an elderly couple, in beautiful bright blue matching coats, walked up to me and asked if I had seen any Hawfinch. Oddly enough these two birds quickly flew and I doubt they would have seen them anyway with a pair of bins that looked like they'd come out of a Christmas cracker!

Showing the spiky inner primaries

My friend had said that he would like to try and see Waxwing too and I hadn't told him that five had been seen nearby yesterday as I wasn't sure if they were hanging around or not. A local birder then appeared and told us that there were in fact 35 Waxwing just a few hundred yards away so very content with our Hawfinch views (at least 15 birds) we made our way along the stream to where they were. As we got there a Sparrowhawk whizzed through spooking the birds up into an alder but at least it gave us the chance to hear the beautiful trilling call of these birds.

Slowly the birds started to come back to the berry bush by the small wooden bridge at the end of Mercer Way. I managed to get a few shots I was happy with but still await those perfect shots in nice bright sunlight.

1st winter

Adult male

Happy with our morning's twitching we sought somewhere for a cuppa. We struck gold with somewhere in Romsey called "That little tea shop" (48A The Hundred, Romsey, SO51 8BX) and a delicious Full English was duly wolfed down. Better still I didn't have to pay as my friend was so happy with finally seeing Hawfinch.

We then headed off in our respective directions and as there were no hold-ups on the way back I had time to pop into Longham Lakes to have a look for the Tundra Bean Goose. A quick in and out job as the 3 Bean Geese were  easily located to the west of the causeway in the company of several Mute and two Bewick's Swan. To carry on with the theme in this post of truly awful shots here are some record shots - note to people with expensive cameras and mega-lenses - these are what most normal people consider record shots!

 The three Tundra Bean Geese, six Mute Swan, two Bewick's Swan and a Little Egret

A heavy crop of the Tundra Bean Geese.

I've been to Longham Lakes twice now and both times it has reminded me of many a happy hour spent on Staines Res causeway in the early 80's in that the wind chill makes it feel colder than the Arctic!

I will try and post about my shiny new patch Swineham at some point - promise!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

It's all acleris mud!

With the New Year starting off with mild overnight temperatures the moth trap has been out quite a few nights and produced some interesting stuff.
Here's another photo of the Acleris logiana which I caught on the night of the 2nd

Acleris logiana 

Ypsolopha ustella

The A. logiana has only recently been discovered in the south of England having previously been confined to Scotland.

The night of the 3rd produced a couple of macros in the form of Dark Chestnut and Double-striped Pug and micros were represented by 3 LBAMs (Epiphyas postvittana for you purists!)

Dark Chestnut 

Double-striped Pug

The night of the7th was the most productive so far and yielded a Silver Y on the wall near the trap as well as a Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla), an LBAM, an Acleris hastiana (which I initially thought might be umbrana but realised I was stringing) and a couple of Acleris notana/ferrugana - hence the somewhat convoluted post title!

Acleris hastiana

This one has laid some eggs in the pot so I will go and find some leaves from oak and birch to try and breed it out in the hope of a successful identification.

I think all of these are A. notana/ferrugana but if you think otherwise please let me know!

Apple Leaf Miner from the 7th

Finally this Chestnut was caught the night of the 8th and shows how different the colours look dependent on the light
 Chestnut (in the shade)

 Chestnut (in direct sunlight)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Chiff Heaven or Hell

Wednesday gave me a chance to try and add a few species to my Foot-it list so I thought I would wander down to Holes Bay and take in the PC World drain on the way there. It took about half an hour to reach the eastern end of the drain where the first bird I put my bins on was a Common Sandpiper and next was a Grey Wagtail which was all good.
PC World drain

However, there were no Chiffchaff here so I moved into the car park at the back of PC World and immediately could see at least half a dozen of varying hues. One bird looked interesting but didn't appear quite right to me for tristis and in correspondence with one of the local birders he informed me that they caught a bird last year which looked good in the hand for tristis and responded well to the appropriate recordings but they also felt wasn't the full package - the same bird?
Here's a couple of photos of it:

Tristis or not tristis that is the question

I then played a sound recording of tristis call and this bird appeared which to my eye looks good for tristis but both of these birds were silent.

 Siberian Chiffchaff

Looks good to me but usual caveats apply!

I saw the bird again yesterday but couldn't find it today, there must have been upwards of 15 Chiffchaff in the sunny conditions but they were more dispersed along the drain. Whilst playing the Sibe Chiff call a male Kingfisher flew in and perched no less than 20 feet away but didn't stop long enough for a photo unfortunately.


On to Holes Bay where it was the lowest tide I've seen since being down here. It was alive with birds, mainly Wigeon and Teal along with a handful of Gadwall and I could only locate one male Pintail but that's all I needed! There were over 100 Redshank scattered around the bay and I was pleased to pick up a Spotted Redshank amongst them. A tight flock of Avocet numbered 80 and it was good to see some Dunlin (18) as they're not always guaranteed up here. I picked up another Common Sandpiper flying in from over by the railway line and it pitched down in the drain. I hadn't included Kestrel on my target list for Foot-it as I hadn't seen one hereabouts so one perched on the lamp-posts along the road was a bonus.

Holes Bay - not much water but loads of birds - honest!

A quick look south of the railway revealed 5 Goldeneye but still no Black-tailed Godwit to be seen anywhere. The roof at Kerry Foods was covered in large white-headed gulls but I just wasn't inclined to scrutinise them but even with a cursory glance four Yellow-legged Gulls jumped out at me.

I calculated that I had walked 5.8 miles and upped my Foot-it total to 73 (target 82).

Any constructive comments on the various Chiffchaff gladly welcomed!

On the 5th January I took part in a bird-race and as one of the team members has already written a blog post that it quite amusing then I'll just direct you to it:

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Moff tick already?

With the lack of rain and a warm (relatively!) airstream from the south I thought I'd put the MV out and wasn't disappointed. There were four moths in total, all micros, one was a Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla), 2 Ypsolopha ustella and what I'm sure is an Acleris logiana and I would welcome any comments:
Acleris logiana?

As I put the trap out this evening there was an Acleris notana/ferrugana on the back door. I'll post some more photos tomorrow.

I managed to add a few more species to the Foot-it list by scoping the harbour from our bedroom, yesterday's additions were Spoonbill (13 over at Shipstal Pt), RB Merg, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Shelduck whilst a Common Buzzard flew over late in the afternoon. Today I managed to scope Lapwing and Canada Goose whilst a Sparrowhawk whizzed past taking the total to 62 - or 75.61% of my expected total.

I took the kids down to Whitecliff Park in the afternoon as they can have a good runaround whilst I can check the small bay there which usually holds a few Brent Geese. There were 190 today which is my highest count down there so far, there were also a couple of Rock Pipit, a female Goldeneye, 7 Great Crested Grebe and 8 Turnstone as well as the obligatory brain dead dog walkers in large numbers.

I drove round to Baiter Park so I could scan the harbour for any grebes or divers but nothing doing, however I did see a male Blackcap in nearby gardens which would have been a brucie bonus for Foot-it.

Should have the afternoon to myself tomorrow so a chance to do a bit of a recce for Saturday's bird race.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Ok so it's been a while but I promise I'll try and blog more frequently this year especially with these three challanges to enjoy:

1: Foot It

2: Patchwork challenge

3: 1000 for 1ksq

The first challenge only lasts for January so is not an arduous undertaking and that's how I began 2013 with a walk down to Hatch Pond and great views of a Bittern - full write up here:

A brisk walk back home to pick up William and head down to Poole Quay to board the Brownsea Island ferry which Mark & Mo Constantine had kindly booked for the day. A gathering of about 50 Dorset birders were already onboard and we soon headed out into the harbour. It was a beautiful morning and with flat calm conditions it made picking up birds such as Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye quite easy. As we neared Brownsea I got on a diver sp but it dived straight away, thankfully it surfaced in much the same area and with better views we were able to see a white flank patch confirming the identification as a Black-throated Diver - quite rare within the harbour with Great Northern being the most frequent diver species encountered. The ferry stopped to overlook the lagoon on Brownsea and the year ticks fell thick and fast, with the like of Avocet, Knot, Bar and Black-tailed Godwit and a lone Greenshank whilst a male Sparrowhawk glided and then perched on the seawall. As we set off again a Razorbill and then two Great Northern Diver appeared, the latter looking so much bulkier and angular than the earlier Black-throat. They were also within half decent photo range so I rattled off some shots:

Great Northern Diver (1st winter)

Heading deeper into the harbour we paused near the landing at Furzey Island and someone superbly picked up a Kingfisher perched quite high up in a tree. Despite careful scanning no Golden Pheasant could be seen but a Raven was hanging in the air at the western end. Further along to the west of here a Red-necked Grebe was picked up and showed quite well but not within distance for the camera with perhaps a second bird further back but too distant to confirm. Two or three Black-necked Grebe were also seen in the same area. Next it was on towards Shipstal Point where the Spoonbill often are and we were not to be disappointed with 15 roosting and then performing a quick fly-by.

Spoonbill (and Shelduck)

Heading back to the quay another Black-necked Grebe appeared quite close to the boat and a few hasty shots were taken

Black-necked Grebe

Finally, as we neared the quay a Guillemot was another surprise addition to the day list


A great few hours in good company so a big thank you to Mark and Mo for organising the event. I ended the day with a species total of 84 and a couple of pints (Ringwood Best) in the Angel pub in the Old Town.

With regards the other two challenges I probably won't get down to the new patch (Swineham GPs) until next week and the 1000 in 1ksq will begin when we move into our new house just down the road from where we are currently renting, which hopefully will be before the month's end.

Almost forgot, I also found a moth in the underpass heading down to Hatch Pond

Red-green Carpet