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: