Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Early MAY patch birding.

Sightings during early May on and around my coastal patch.

3rd May - A group of 16 Whimbrel over the Cobb, Lyme Regis early afternoon.

4th May - A warm day, found this Slow Worm basking and Lesser Whitethroat newly arrived both on Stonebarrow Hill

5th May - A trip off patch to Portland Bill most of the day. Arctic Skua fairly close in rounding the Bill, eastwards. Several mixed Tern flocks some with Black Tern

12th May - Great Crested Grebe (first record this month) and Great Black Backed Gull (regular)


13th May - 5 1/2 of the 6 Oystercatchers which paid a brief early morning visit today, again first record this month. I'm noticing quite a range of sizes . Also, Gannets plunge-diving for Herring or Mackerel quite close in the Bay

14th May - A quick seawatch found these 4 Canada Geese heading west (at distance), while 3 Shelduck landed in the bay, On land, a Whitethroat in song at 5.30 am

16th May - Grey Heron across the bay and a Raven is a regular early morning visitor and is usually mobbed by Carrion Crow

17th May - On the river, surprised to see 3 Little Egret paying an early morning visit to a tranquil R. Char. On the beach, a nice group of Sanderling.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


So far I've seen relatively few wading birds on Charmouth Beach. It's just doesn't seem to be all that attractive to waders, presumably because of lack of mud/food sources and because it's busy. It does have fresh water where the river flows across the beach and at low tide, the shingle and rock extends sufficiently far out for there to be a resting-space for the birds, albeit briefly. There were 5 Dunlin on 22/04/16 and until today I had not seen either Sanderling or Ringed Plover here. This spring's wader-passage has brought only a few Whimbrel, 1 Common Sandpiper and a solitary Grey Plover which arrived and stayed briefly on 09/05/16. So my expectation was not high as I started watching. It was a very wet start to the day and as more rain came in, reducing visibility still further, suddenly a couple of decent sized flocks of small waders appeared out of the mist, grouping together and flying past and over the beach. I've now had time to have a proper look at the video clips I took to make the following counts. This mixed flock of 105 waders consisting of 70 Dunlin, 25 Sanderling and 10 Ringed Plover is by far the biggest count of waders I've seen on the beach.

Standing in the car park I watched the display. You can hear the Dunlin calling as they flypast (I think the 'clicking' on the audio is the sound of the rain which has been picked up by the microphone);

Sanderling having a quick bath:

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


I went over to Black Hole Marsh, Seaton this morning. Soon after I arrived I caught a glimpse of a distant shape through the trees near the visitors centre and gliding towards the river. My gut feel was Short-eared Owl. I talked myself out of it though and walked over to Tower Hide to view the marsh and the river. The water level is pretty high on Black Hole Marsh at the moment and it was full tide on the river. There were a few waders about, seeing 1 Ringed Plover, a Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper.

Soon after a Barn Owl appeared, hunting low across the marsh and surrounding areas of rough grassy fields. Here's a short video clip:

Barn Owl hunting over the rough grass

Day-Hunting Barn Owl

The Barn Owl disappeared and a few minutes later a second Owl materialised in the field to the south of Tower Hide - a beautiful Short-eared Owl! Nice! I got the messages out to the local Birders and grabbed some photos. I'm being told that this was the first record for BHM this year (Steve @axebirder had one recently on Beer Head).  It spent some time flying but quite a lot of time sitting on convenient posts.

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Later, around 8pm, I returned. The SEO had been seen again in the early evening but was not showing.The Barn Owl however, appeared again and I got these "moody" shots as it was perched on the "Black Hole Marsh" signpost and began its evening shift:

Monday, 9 May 2016

GREY PLOVER - 09/05/16

The arrival of this partial summer plumage Grey Plover, suggests that this year's spring wader-passage has still some time to run. The bird appeared on the beach early this morning - another nice record for the patch.

Grey Plover

Here's a little video clip of the bird as it was being pushed up the beach by the incoming tide.

Monday, 2 May 2016

SPRING MIGRANTS and March/April Patch Round-Up

2016 Earliest Dates on patch of Common Spring Migrants:
18th March: CHIFFCHAFF, Stonebarrow Hill.
20th March: SAND MARTIN, In/off the sea at Charmouth
20th March: WHEATEAR, Stonebarrow
26th March: SWALLOW, Charmouth, along the beach in wild conditions
8th April: WILLOW WARBLER in song, Stonebarrow
15th April: HOUSE MARTIN over Charmouth village
16th April: GRASSHOPPER WARBLER, Charmouth
20th April: LESSER WHITETHROAT, Stonebarrow
25th April: REED WARBLER, Stonebarrow
25th April: WHITETHROAT, Charmouth
2nd May: COMMON SANDPIPER, Charmouth

Just putting the above dates in for the record. I've been out early most days in the last 6 weeks. The dates are probaby pretty average for a coastal patch in the south west of England, but it sets the bar for 2017!

20th March: I fluked this shot of one of Charmouth's first SAND MARTIN and later that day I had a brief glimpse of my 1st patch WHEATEAR up on Stonebarrow Hill.

30th March: Another sign of Spring. This TURNSTONE (a migrant? not sure) is beginning to show it's spring-spangled plumage. Here backlit by a watery early morning sun on the Cobb, Lyme Regis.

7th April: Sound of Spring in Charmouth, CHIFFCHAFF are in full song

8th April: WILLOW WARBLER are beginning to arrive in numbers and starting to sing.

16th April: Grasshopper Warbler reeling in a small hedgerow. Great find! Later in the month I found a Whitethroat in the same place.

20th April:  I saw my first WHEATEAR on patch a month ago (20th March and the same day as the patch's first SAND MARTIN). 4 new WHEATEAR arrivals today - This beautiful male came straight in/off the sea and landed right next to me. Again, a wonderful moment. It's backlit by the early morning sun so the colours are a bit "artistic", sorry about that:

Later that same day this WHEATEAR was flushed off the beach to the steep grassy area above the Heritage Centre:

21st April: Early morning, delighted to see these 3 WHIMBREL on patch rather than just fly-throughs. They were actually in the car park and I disturbed them. They flew across the river where they re-settled and began to feed around the picnic tables area before moving to the fields. I watched them for 1/2 an hour until they flew off:

22nd April: 5 DUNLIN is a good sighting for this beach. It was just getting light when I first picked them out amongst the boulders and the light was so bad I didn't even see them leave. The photos are terrible and in two minds whether to post them. I really needed night vision! Oh go on then:

And a little later, these 5 WHIMBREL, came in, circled, flew by, thought about it, returned again, calling, and alighted on the beach. I was using the car as a hide and if I'd been quicker with the video camera I could have had great shots as they chose to land about 30 metres from where I was sitting. They were wild and watchful, very nervous, stopping only a matter of a few seconds. I managed to grab a couple of shots (again in poor light) before they departed westwards, calling, across the bay. One of "those moments" and a highlight of the month for me:

25th April: 1st record in 2016 of LITTLE EGRET and this was also the day that a GLOSSY IBIS (almost certainly the long-staying Seaton/Axe wetlands bird) paid a brief visit. BRILLIANT! You can read about that sighting in the separate Blog post at charmouthbirding.blogspot.com . Here's a taster.

And I guess this was the moment when I genuinely started to believe in the potential of this patch. It's not easy birding for a number of reasons (but then most patches will be less than ideal) but as I've said before it really will be interesting to see what turns up as the year unfolds. It should be FUN!

29th April: Not really a migrant but a lovely Dorset bird. GREY WAGTAIL - a pretty bird.

30th April: Another 3 WHEATEAR on Charmouth Beach early this morning; this one perching briefly on a convenient beach hut before resuming its northward journey.

So, a good start to this venture, some excellent patch records I think and some wonderful birding moments for me. It's not all good though and I've still not seen a REDSTART on patch although I did see 2 on 5th April at Beer Head with @axebirder . I've not even mentioned the little trip off-patch on 18th April to see the MONTAGU'S HARRIER at Colyford Marsh, Seaton (another birding Highlight for me) or my 2 trips to Portland (on 10th and 27th). I'm going to close with another patch sighting (although it's really a May report).

2nd May: COMMON SANDPIPER I've been hoping for this bird on patch for a few days now and several have been reported locally already and I saw 3 at Portland on 27th April. This morning, I was standing on the footbridge which leads to the beach when this flicked by underneath me, dropping onto the river bank. 1st COMMON SANDPIPER of the year for me on patch. Nice!

And here's a photo I took last week of 2 of 3 COMMON SANDS on the East Cliff at Portland. You can also view it on portlandbirdobs.blogspot.co.uk for 27th April.

So what else will May bring?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

SISKIN - 01/05/16

A little bit of movement through the garden today with a pair of SISKIN briefly stopping on the feeders before flying off and away. This is the first and only record this winter/spring. They've been absent all winter:

Male and female SISKIN

The above picture also shows a comparison in size between  the smaller SISKIN and the larger GREENFINCH which is to the rear.