Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Turtle Doves at Martin Down NNR, - 22 May 2018

I haven't seen a Turtle Dove since Autumn 2016. That was a passage bird which stopped to refuel at Bridge Marsh in Seaton; a bird found by Tim Wright. It is well documented that numbers of this delightful summer visitor to the UK have crashed. I'm not aware of any breeding sites near Charmouth and once again this Spring, I failed to see a migrant bird hence the trip to Martin Down NNR, near Blandford Forum.

Although one of the largest areas of chalk grassland in the country, Martin Down represent a small remnant of the downland which once covered the geological Cretaceous Chalk.

Chalk Grassland unploughed for centuries ...

...support a huge variety of downland flowers.

This was my first visit to the site and the birding day list as well as the 2 (possibly 3) Turtle Doves included tens of Skylarks, Cuckoo (first of the year), Red Kite, Buzzard, RavenWhitethroat, Blackcap and Linnet. Sadly in the time we had available on the day, we didn't manage to find Corn Bunting or Grey Partridge, both of which had been reported this morning. The Turtle Doves were easy to locate with their iconic purring call carrying considerable distance. They were seen mainly perched conspicuously. They were seen to the take to the wing to give their display flight over their chosen territory.

Iconic Turtle Dove

Purring and displaying Turtle Doves

The weather was sunny and dry, temperature +20 degrees, with a thin high cloud and a light Northerly breeze.
Butterflies on the wing:
Gizzled and Dingy Skipper, Brimstone, Burnet Moth, Small Blue, either Chalkhill Blue or Small Heath.
Grizzled Skipper

Small Blue - they really are this tiny!!

Terrible photo of either a Small Heath

Monday, 21 May 2018

Cirl Bunting - Dawlish Warren - 18 May 2018

Situated so close to Labrador Bay, RSPB and a stronghold of Cirl Buntings, I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised when this popped up onto a dead branch as I was walking around the Warren. Good but distant views of Cirl Buntings at Dawlish Warren, Devon. Love to find one of these near Charmouth!

Red Spotted Bluethroat - Lodmoor, Weymouth - 14th May 2018

A planned trip to Weymouth and Portland was given an extra bit of spice when news broke early that a Red Spotted Bluethroat had been found at Lodmoor RSPB Reserve. On arrival we heard that the bird had been flushed earlier by some joggers and was now proving very illusive, to say the least! So, so fortunate that a few minutes after arriving a voice was heard from the far side of the bush saying in an excited tone "I've got it here!" And there was a superb male Red Spotted Bluethroat giving crippling views (albeit brief) in full sunshine, perched lowdown on some brambles. He stayed for no more than a few seconds, flew up to the top of the bush, and always with his back to us, gave a quick burst of song before promptly disappearing for most of the remainder of the morning. Here's a couple of shots I managed to grab on what turned out to be a very lucky twitch.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Bonxie - 1st May 2018, Portland Bill, Dorset

A couple of photos of the Bonxie which powered round Portland Bill around 10.25 on 1st May heading up channel. I think that's a Herring Gull in hot pursuit.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Golden Oriole (female type) - 30 Apr 2018 - Portland, Dorset

Early reports that the Golden Orioles had remained on the island overnight prompted a little trip over to Portland with Justin T @Woodworser

We arrived around Midday and after making enquiries at Portland Bird Observatory (PBO) headed in the direction of the Top Fields to be told that the bird (a Bird, possibly the male) had been seen heading away from the Observers. Pausing briefly to take in a gorgeous male Common Redstart we wandered over in the direction of Sweet Hill. No Golden Oriole but quite a few Common Whitethroat were evident in the hedgerows. A beautiful male Greenfinch flew through against the cold northerly wind and one or two Swallows were also heading north. We returned to the Barn area of Top Fields, which we decided afforded our best shot at connecting with the Golden Oriole.

While we waited the male and also now 2 female Common Redstart were feeding in the adjacent paddock areas, giving fantastic prolonged views. We didn't have too long to wait and after a couple of false alarms, at 1pm, a beautiful female type Golden Oriole flew along the hedge, affording great flight views. Flying across the next field it perched up about 100 metres away for a few minutes in good light. Thanks to the original finders and the usual great location information from PBO! A fantastic bird and the second I have now seen on Portland - the first being a (sub-adult male I think) bird-in-the-hand last year on 18/05/17. I'm sure others will have fantastic photos which will emerge over the next few days but anyway, here's a few snaps I managed to get which will help me to remember this successful mini-twitch. (Wouldn't want to be greedy but what a pity we dipped the male bird! (see below))

Post Script - Returning to Portland on 1st May, I struck very lucky on my second visit. A couple of minutes after I arrived in Top Fields with the female type Golden Oriole showing really well on the top of a hedge, the male bird flew in, along the hedge giving brief but scintillating views and then the pair of them promptly disappeared out of sight. "Stunning" is a much overused word but the male really is a STUNNER! And all the more so for seeing it set against grey Portland Stone as a passage bird. A great couple of days spring birding.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Ravens - Chardown and Stonebarrow Hill.

Ravens - there's a lot in the press about Ravens at the moment. This is a short piece in support of our largest passerine.

A Raven on a Coastal Cliff ...

... Inhabiting Remote hilltops ...

Walking on my local patch, a loud and echoing call rings out above me, drawing my attention to one of the resident Ravens. The call is described in the guides variously as Korrp! Korrp! or Prruk-Prruk-Prruk. What I hear is Gronnk!-Gronnk!-Gronnk! But anyway its an unmistakable call and I "always" stop, look, and marvel as one of these magnificent bird sails past.  Its a fairly familiar sight around the rocky hills and cliffs near Charmouth and around Lyme bay and Portland.

A familiar silhouette

In flight (see photos above), it's often difficult to judge just how big this monumental bird really is. Seen on the ground though and it's a different matter. Once, very early one morning, I was very fortunate to catch this early morning opportunist raiding the Charmouth car park bins. Ravens are huge birds!

A wonderful Raven - in its more usual clifftop surroundings

Ravens really are impressive birds, particularly if they show their shaggy throat feathering as these birds are doing:

On the cliff edge, showing throat feathering

Glossy all black, almost oily back feathers 

For me, it's a privilege to have these impressive birds on my doorstep.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Red Kite, Stonebarrow/Chardown Hill, Dorset - 16th Apr 2018

A rather disappointing day in the field was lifted by the appearance of this superb Red Kite late in the afternoon. Not a regular bird here so it was nice to see and quite a bonus on a quiet day. On the migrant front there were only a few Chiffchaffs and Linnets passing through early on. A single Wheatear was found on the horse field this morning.

Birds seen today on Stonebarrow and Chardown Hills, Dorset:
Red Kite, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Buzzard, Raven, Linnet, Green Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Yellowhammer, House Martin, Swallow, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Pied Wagtail, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk.