Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Charmouth - Wed 30th Nov

Charmouth River 13:30 - 15:00. Really pleased to get a patch YearTick today. Although they've been around in the local area for a couple of months now, it's shocking really, but this Teal is the first I've seen on patch. They just don't seem to like the river maybe because its just not quiet enough. It was sitting at the edge of the reedbed about 30 meters north of the footpath bridge.

Male Teal

 It was quite wild and very nervous and did not stay long. I was pleased to fluke this flight shot of the Teal, showing a striking white wingbar as it did a circuit of the river before departing eastwards along the beach.
Teal - In flight
 A little further up the river an area of soft mud has appeared after the recent deluge when the river was in spate. I flushed a Common Snipe which took off and headed north and away from the village. The first Snipe I have seen here this year.

Down on the beach, quite a lot of seaweed has accumulated beneath the Heritage Centre carpark. Pied Wagtail and this male Stonechat were taking advantage of the insects and invertebrates living in and around this seaweed. Although resident on the cliffs I don't often see Stonechat on this part of our busy beach.

Male Stonechat on the strandline

Stonechat on the strandline
 I quite like this pic of one of the local Rock Pipit - feeding on the strandline near the Stonechat.
Rock Pipit
Late post: I saw a Goosander feeding between Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the 16th November.

Lower Bruckland Ponds and Seaton - Tues 29 Nov

I decided to follow up on reports that the (or another) Yellow Browed Warbler was still present at Lower Bruckland Ponds.

There'd a been a decent frost overnight and a keen wind was blowing from the North and East. I arrived in bright sunshine under a sparkling blue early winter sky, hopped over the style onto the public footpath and immediately picked up 2 Goldcrest feeding in some tall willow trees.

There was also a small mixed flock of Long Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit and 2 more Goldcrest. A promising start! Frosty in the shadows, the sun had some warmth to it and the willow were brightly illuminated. A Tree Creeper started calling in a nearby Oak tree and then a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew through. But where was the YBW? I didn't have long to wait. Suddenly and joining the first 2 Goldcrest I latched onto a 3rd bird. I've seen so many wonderful photos of this little sprite on twitter this autumn but it was brilliant to finally get my first clear view of a Yellow Browed Warbler. I followed its progress through the trees for a minute or so and then just as suddenly as it had appeared it was gone. I spent another hour or so trying to refind it but only saw the bird once more for a few seconds, in the same tree as the first sighting. Didn't manage any photos but a really great few moments with this lovely visitor.

Also present at the ponds was this femail Tufted Duck together with friends:

I got a text from Steve W saying that there was a super male Black Redstart along the seafront at Seaton. I'd been lucky enough to see the gorgeous male last winter at Seaton bowling green and also a nice male at Seaton Hole. Don't know why but I do love Black Redstarts. Anyway I had a good look along the seafront but couldn't find the bird so I decided to take a quick look around the Yachtclub on my way home. I jumped into the car drove 200yds and slammed on the brakes (checking my mirror first obvs). In the front garden of some houses and feeding with a couple of Pied Wagtail was a different Black Redstart. Here's a few pics, which is clearly not the same bird as Steve's. Always nice to see.

Black Redstart

On the estuary it was nice to see a flock of  32 Dunlin.  All in all, a lovely early winter birding jaunt off patch.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Charmouth - Mon 10th Oct

The numbers of House Martin have gradually built up this week. Reluctant to finally leave across the Channel and with plenty of food available on the wing, 00's are still hawking for insects above the undercliff on Stonebarrow Hill.

It was a bright and sunny day with a a northerly breeze, so the sandy face of the Hill was sheltered and warm. Here's a short video, shot through the heat haze, of one of the flocks as they rested just below the summit before finally continuing their southward migration.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Charmouth - Mon 19th Sep

I made 2 visits to the Dell today in dead calm conditions but didn't have time to visit the Beach , River Meadow or Cowfields. The sea was mirror flat for most of the day.

Visit 1 at 10.00 - 11.00: No rarities and no sign of yesterday's Wheatear this morning. Regulars included 3 or 4 Stonechat, 1 Kestrel, 2 Robin, 2 Willow Warbler and Green Woodpecker the latter anting on the ground. 2 male Blackcap and a Chaffinch arrived just before a shower of rain at 11am. These are the first I've seen at this spot for a while so are likely to be a indication of birds moving through the area.

Visit 2 at 16.30 - 17.30: 3 Willow Warbler feeding together this afternoon - difficult to say whether these are migrants or stayers as I see and hear this species regularly in the Dell. 1 Raven flyover and still plenty of Hirundines hawking along the cliffs but no visible movement of Swallow and House Martin today

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Charmouth - Sat 17th Sep

There have been quite a few Willow Warbler around patch in the last few days. I checked the Dell around 5pm and sure enough a juvenile was taking insects, flying out and back from cover, never visible for too long. I was surprised to find a Wheatear there too, the first I've seen in this location since the spring. A terrible photo but nice to see the bird in this location only a few metres above a very busy beach.

In the late afternoon, there was a strong passage of Swallow and House Martin westwards along Black Ven Cliffs estimated as at least 2000 per hour, some cutting the corner across the bay skimming close to the waves over towards Lyme Regis and the Cobb.

On Stonebarrow Hill there were spectacular numbers of hirundines hawking over the fields and on the ground I found 6 Wheatear and 10 Yellow Wagtail in the lower cowfield.

Along the river 4 juvenile Willow Warbler were busy feeding in a sunny patch of willows as the sun began to dip down towards the West cliff. There was no sign of the juvenile Little Grebe on the river but another Grey Wagtail was around.

Charmouth - Fri 16th Sep

A 1 hour late afternoon walk yielded 15 Yellow Wagtail and numerous Pied Wagtail feeding around the cattle in the 1st Cowfield.

 One Yellow Wagtail had a white throat, white stripe over the eye and blue grey head:

A Grey Wagtail was feeding with Pied Wagtail on the beach. On the river, I was surprised to find a juvenile Little Grebe, a first for the year for this bird:

... showing iridescent blue on its back as the bird came to the surface after diving:

 ... it seemed pretty successful at catching what looked like small translucent flat fish.

I checked the meadow, hoping to find another Whinchat but all I could turn up were the usual Stonechat.

Charmouth - Thurs 15th Sep

Clouded Yellow butterfly were on the wing this afternoon in the Dell, this one alighting briefly allowing a quick photograph:

I flushed a Green Woodpecker and disturbed this gorgeous Roe Deer which took off up the steep cliff disappearing quickly from sight:

On Stonebarrow Hill, 10 Yellow Wagtail and 50+ Pied Wagtail were feeding on insects disturbed by cattle. The usual Willow Warbler were feeding along the riverside bushes.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

RED - BACKED SHRIKE - Beer Head, Seaton - Thur 15th Sep

Early this morning, I heard reports of the arrival of a Red-backed Shrike at nearby Beer Head. After the short drive, I found the bird easily with no stress! And what a gorgeous bird it was perching conspicuously on bushes near the headland under brilliant blue sky and with wind slightly to the east - a fantastic few minutes with such a striking and confiding scarce visitor to this part of the country. It is more years than I care to remember since I last saw one - at a time when they still bred in Norfolk.

The Shrike appeared fairly settled and perched openly in the sunshine for most of the time I was there apart from when a Kestrel approached a little too close when it started to call, flicking its tail, before diving briefly into cover. It seemed to be pretty successful in finding food - at least 2 wasps, 1 large green grasshopper (ID'd later as a Great Green Bush Cricket) and during the time I was there it also caught and impaled a second Bush Cricket on a blackthorn spike, creating a "larder" for later, and showing the characteristic behaviour of the "butcher bird".

Thanks to the finder Bun @halek58 and Steve W @axebirder who quickly relaid excellent directions. Brilliant bird!

Red-backed Shrike with Great Green Bush Cricket prey

Despatching the Bush Cricket

Monday, 12 September 2016

SWALLOWS preparing to leave - Mon 12th Sep

In the last few days groups of Swallow have been mustering around the patch prior to their departure southwards. This little flock decided to settle in the early morning sun on telephone wires:

I also came across a group of 20+ Swallow in trees down by the river the other day. 2 were youngsters not long fledged who had been feeding in the valley with adults but were now quietly perched and resting in the warm afternoon sun. The adult and more mature birds gathered nearby perching for a while, flying off and then returning to the same tree in which the youngsters were resting. Amazing to think that so soon after leaving the nest, these young Swallow would be strong enough to join the adults on their long journey south to their wintering grounds.

Friday, 9 September 2016

BRENT GEESE - Charmouth - Thur 8th Sep

I had a call from James @tentims on Thursday evening to say that he was on Charmouth beach looking at a group of very unusual visitors! -15 Pale-bellied Brent Geese . As soon as I could (about 1/2 an hour later) I managed to get away, drove down and sure enough, on the low water mark, there was the lovely flock of Brent Geese - A wonderful sight and a patch year tick for me. And early September is a very early date for these visitors on this part of the south coast.


Here are some photos of Redstart at a nearby Dorset site. Although there were 1 or 2 about they were actively feeding and never easy to photograph. I'm reasonably happy with these shots which also show the open habitat bordering woodland.

It was also nice this week to watch a few Dorset Spotted Flycatcher doing what Flycatchers do. There were a few about and here are the best of the photos I could get. the birds were very active briefly perching on convenient twigs between forays to catch either flying insects or a food morsel on the ground ...

...and lastly one in characteristic pose, high up on a branch: