15 Aug 2018

9 Aug 18 - Soaring In Devon

It's been a tough week recently, following, the desperately sad news that my good Birding mate, Brian Field died recently following an unexpected heart attack while out Birding in West Cornwall. I have known Brian since the early 1980s & we have spent about five months travelled abroad over seven Birding trips. I will come back to write a longer Post & tribute to Brian later this Autumn when I've got a bit more used to this sudden news. My last Birding trip with Brian was earlier this year when we both had a great trip to Northern Colombia in Feb/Mar 18.
Brian Field: Enjoying a late breakfast stop in the Santa Marta Mountains, Colombia (6 Mar 18)
Brian's funeral was in his home town of Truro on 8 Aug 18 & it was a tough & emotional day for everybody. It was good to catch up with a lot of old mates associated with the South West during the day. I stayed down West with another good mate, Pete Aley & his wife Ali in Plymouth that evening. It was Pete who first introduced me to Brian after they both arrived at Plymouth Poly together in 1980 & immediately they started putting the Poly on the map for young Birders to enjoying a lively Birding & twitching scene & come away with a degree as a bonus. The following day, Pete & I headed out to check out a couple of local Birding sites. The main stop was Soar to the East of Plymouth. There were a few migrant Willow Warblers & Whitethroats around, but low numbers of migrants overall.
Yellowhammer: I'm always happy to see Yellowhammers
However, it proved to be a better day for insects.
Migrant Hawker: Female
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary: Pleased to see these second brood individuals which have really declined in recent years in Dorset. Hope they are doing better in Devon
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary: The same individual
Wall: I saw several, but this tatty individual was the only one that posed briefly for a photo
After nearly completing a circuit of Soar we reached the cafe Pete had said we would be able to get a drink. This proved to be a lot better than I had expected. It was a large open barn next to a few tents for hire & a few friendly farm animals. It certainly was a popular place for the local mums to natter, while their kids played & made some animal friends. Some excellent coffee & freshly made cake. A good day out given the circumstances.
Toy Snake at the cafe: This would catch a few of the local visitors out if placed on the Arne reserve

14 Aug 2018

1 Aug 18 - The Start Of The Autumn Migration

I doubt that you will get a clear date for the start of the Autumn migration from any group of South Coast UK Birders, as it will depend on their Birding preferences. Many will say the end of June or start of July when the first returning Waders appear. But that's subjective as the first heading South are likely to be failed breeding Birds. By the second half of June I was seeing good numbers of Curlews back in Poole Harbour. Around that date, I found a local Great White Egret which could have been a non-breeding individual or a post breeding individual wandering across from the continent or down from the Somerset Levels. Perhaps the date be based on returning Waders from further afield? Maybe, it should it be around the start of July when the Swifts start to depart & the first Sand Martins start gathering to head South. Alternatively, should it be when the Passerines start moving towards the end of July. Personally, I like to work on the start of Aug as that is when the Passerines start moving, although I do enjoy the arrivals of the early Waders. On the first of Aug I was Birding around Littlesea as I was still trying to find the Purple Heron. I had no joy with the Purple Heron, but I was happy to find both a Pied Flycatcher & a Spotted Flycatcher at Littlesea. Both were skulky & not easy to get views of them which is typical when they are on their breeding grounds. So, they were still behaving as if they were on their breeding grounds. Both species are migrants through the Studland area. Spotted Flycatchers are relatively regular and Pied Flycatchers are always scarce with just a small handful of records mainly in the Autumn. So, it was good to see that the Autumn Passerine migration had started.
Pied Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Robin: Juvenile. A locally breed individual close to where the two Flycatchers were feeding
Robin: Juvenile
Red-eyed Damselfly: Pair. Preparing for next year's generation (3 Aug 18)
Water Strider: The large size & upturned spurs at the end of the abdomen confirms the identification (3 Aug 18)

13 Aug 2018

22 Jul 18 - T6 Harvard (G-DHHF) At Studland

I'm always happy to see interesting planes flying over when I'm out Birding so I was keen to grab some shots of this US heritage plane as it went over Littlesea. I'm even happier if they are flying over Studland as they look good over the patch. I was struggling to identify it, but fortunately, local Birder Jol Mitchell knows a lot more about historic planes than I do. Jol identified it as a T6 Harvard, which was used as a World War II trainer for pilots. It's call sign is G-DHHF. It has relatively recently changed hands & is now owned by DH Heritage Flights.
T6 Harvard (G-DHHF)
It is based at the Compton Abbas airfield near Shaftesbury in Dorset. Since changing ownership, it has been repainted to these new colours which didn't help trying to figure out which T6 Harvard it was. It was built in 1942 & served initially with the US air force & later the US navy until 1959 when it was sold to a private owner. It has been owned & flown by a number of owners in the US before finally being sold to DH Heritage Flights & coming to the UK in Nov 2016. More information about its history & the other T6 Harvards that are still flying can be found here.
T6 Harvard (G-DHHF): It looks good in its wartime colours with tail number 431917
T6 Harvard (G-DHHF): It flew South over Littlesea & then over Ballard Down before turning West. Perhaps it was returning from the Farnborough airshow or just on a local heritage flight

12 Aug 2018

22 Jul 18 - Some Of The Resident Wildlife At Studland's Littlesea

In addition to the resident Birds photographed at Littlesea since I found the Purple Heron at Littlesea, I've managed to get some nice photos of some of the other commoner residents, while I've been looking for the Purple Heron during the daytime.
Sika Deer: They often appear around Littlesea & are quite comfortable in the water. This individual was feeding on the fern behind it (20 Jul 18)
Common Lizard: Enjoying the sun (18 Jul 18)
Large Skipper: Male (18 Jul 18)
Emerald Damselfly: Female. This is the only Emerald Damselfly type in Dorset, but I'm checking the ones I see as it can't be long before one of the other recently UK established species appear in Dorset (18 Jul 18)
Emerald Damselfly: Male (21 Jul 18)
Red-eyed Damselfly: Good to see this is relatively abundant at Littlesea after seeing it for the first time in there in 2017. Although I assume it has been there for the last few years (18 Jul 18)
Red-eyed Damselfly: (18 Jul 18)
Blue-tailed Damselfly: A common resident (18 Jul 18)
Water Strider: I saw a few so perhaps this is reasonable common along the edges (22 Jul 18)
White Water-lily: Hopefully I've got the id correct. Not quite Monet standard. The White Water-lilies are a popular haunt of the Red-eyed Damselflies and Small Red-eyed Damselflies (20 Jul 18)

11 Aug 2018

20 Jul 18 - Some Of The Resident Birds At Studland's Littlesea

Since I found the Purple Heron at Littlesea, I've spent a lot of time looking to try & relocate it during the daytime. I suspect it spends its time feeding at Littlesea, but generally tucked into the reed edges, hence my lack of sightings. However, I have had the chance to get some nice photos of some of the other commoner residents, while I've been looking.
Dabchick: There are a few present most years at Littlesea
Great Crested Grebe: Two pairs have bred this year at Littlesea: this youngster is probably only few days old
Great Crested Grebe: One of the parents of the other pair which had a nearly fully grown youngster with a Roach
Great Crested Grebe: The same parent with the large youngster. The other parent seems to have lost interest in feeding this youngster
Great Crested Grebe: There is also a larger group of non breeding individuals on Littlesea
Great Crested Grebe: Bad hair day
Canada Goose: This family successfully raised these two large youngsters at Littlesea this year
Mediterranean Gull: Moulting adult. Littlesea lies between South & Knoll Beaches and Brands Bay & forms a regular stopover place for a quick freshwater bathing site for the local Gulls
Although I've not seen the Purple Heron during the daytime I have seen it on a number of occasions as it's gone to roost. Unfortunately, it has settled into a habit of going to roost in poor light & remains elusive during the day. Still if it continues to stick around maybe I will eventually get lucky.
Purple Heron: Juv. This individual looks like it is going to become a resident for the next few weeks at least (21 Jul 18)

8 Aug 2018

6 Aug 18 - Speckled Bush Cricket

Whilst doing some gardening, I found an adult female Speckled Bush Cricket. This is the third commonest Cricket & Grasshopper in my garden, behind Dark Bush Cricket (commonest) & Oak Bush Cricket. I also have had the occasional sighting of Great Green Bush Cricket, Grey Bush Cricket & Field Grasshopper in the garden over the last two decades.
Speckled Bush Cricket: Female
They are a common species in Dorset, especially in the East of the county.

7 Aug 2018

18 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty: A Run Ashore At St Helena (Part 2)

Having got to the bottom of Jacob's Ladder, I realised that life on St Helena wasn't always as laid back as it appeared on the surface.
Parking infringements are taken very seriously: A cannonball is a bit extreme, but a good deterrent
Parking rules are quite detailed
The local nick
Napoleon Street: Named after the most famous visitor. Although he was incarcerated at the other side of the island
Napoleon statue: Putting on his best Gordon Brown smile
Cannon bollard: Just like Swanage back home which has a lot of Napoleonic era cannons as bollards
After a look around Jamestown, then I decided to head off to Anne's Place to meet up with Glenn for a cuppa & some lunch. The cafe/bar is easy to find as it is in the only small park in lower Jamestown.
The small park
White Tern: The trees in the park provided a shady nest site for some of the White Terns
I like the humour of the local Saints
St Helena Moggie
Old anchor & Fig Tree
Anne's Place
Anne's Place: It has a good atmosphere inside
Doc Laura: Catching up on news from the outside world
Common Myna: Another introduced species which originates in Iran to the India Subcontinent to South East Asia
African Monarch: There were a couple feeding in the small park next to Anne's Place
Sean Browne: Chimping the African Monarch photos
After lunch it was time to head back to the Plancius as Glenn & I were booked to go on a trip to the Sperry Islands to look for the local Band-rumped Storm-petrels & other Seabirds.
St Helena Roller: Apparently, it is owned by one of the hotel owners & must be horrendously expensive to run as we were told it managed 6 miles per gallon. Still it looked perfect for the island
Wirebird: The only surviving St Helena endemic Bird. There are sub-fossil remains of a Petrel, Shearwater, Crake, Swamphen, Dove, Cuckoo & Hoopoe
Michael Frauendorfer getting a short run ashore: Michael, along with Zsuzsanna, were the two hotel managers on the Plancius who was responsible for all the accommodation & catering onboard. Both put in long hours to ensure an excellent experience for the passengers
This check post box looks to have been around for many years
Another example of Saints humour: But a bit of reality as well, given Land Rovers are probably the best suited & maintainable vehicles on St Helena
Common Myna: These platforms were erected to replace the nesting ledges used by the White Terns before the cliffs were covered in the retaining wire
White Tern: A recently fledged White Tern
Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus adscensionis): There were a few scrambling around the harbour rocks. This species occurs in the Eastern Atlantic, but has also colonised Ascension island & St Helena
Sally Lightfoot Crab: They have quite a variable colouration
While we were waiting after lunch for the boat there were a few Red-billed Tropicbirds & White Terns flying around the harbour.
Red-billed Tropicbird
White Tern: This is the nominate alba subspecies which occurs at the Brazilian Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Islands, as well as, St Helena & Ascension Island
White Tern: I like the shadows on the second individual
White Tern
We returned to Anne's Place for a meal & drinks ashore in the evening.
Kev Bollington (left) & Mike Deverell: Heading off for evening food & drinks
Jacob's Ladder
Common House Gecko: We were pleased to finally see this Gecko. Somebody had claimed one on Tristan da Cunha where they don't occur & it became a standing joke in ever log after that until we finally saw some in the toilets of Anne's Place
Common House Gecko: They are another introduced species. The nature range is India, South East Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea & Northern Australia
A number of the Wildwings punters returned to Anne's Place in the evening: Phil Hansbro was happy to get a chip buttie as apparently, they haven't worked out how to prepare this typical British cuisine in his adopted Australia