10 May 2020

10 May 20 - An Unpreceded Movement For Dorset #BWKM0

This morning I was happily entering old sightings from a trip to South Africa in Nov/Dec 90, with Keith Turner & Jerry Warne. I had been looking out of the window at regular intervals, but it seemed quiet. About 12:20, Westbourne based Phil Saunders rang me to say Sophie, Durwyn Liley's wife, had seen a White-tailed Sea-eagle with some Red Kites, over Swyre Head whilst out cycling. Durwyn had said it seemed to be heading East. There are a few miles between Swyre Head & Swanage, with lots of attractive coastline, including the St Aldhelms cliffs to tempt a White-tailed Sea-eagle to linger. Alternatively, it might end up coasting. It would almost certainly be one of the White-tailed Sea-eagles that were released on the Isle of Wight last Autumn, so clearly not wild or tickable for Dorset, but it was still worth a look. I rang local Durlston Birder, Phyl England, to alert her in case it went over the Durlston part of Swanage. While on the phone, Phyl said she had missed out on seeing any of the Red Kites that had been passing over Dorset this Spring. I then had to apologise as the next Bird I looked at was a Red Kite heading East over Swanage. That was 11:25. I had two more East at 12:05. Then it started getting silly with the following: four at 12:10, five at 12:17, eight more kettling at 12:35, two at 12:40, one at 12:43 & four at 12:45. At this point, it quietened down, until the final one at 13:15. These numbers & times were as they moved over or past my house. On several occasions, I was able to follow & keep track of the individuals that had already moved over the house as they followed the same general route East over Swanage. The maximum I saw at any one time were the eight kettling individuals (which had drifted past the house in the previous ten minutes). Many of the earlier individuals eventually turning North to avoid flying over the sea. They were doing that as I was watching others coming low over the house. None of the individuals were seen to double back. I suspect I might have under counted by one of two individuals, but I'm confident with a minimum total of twenty five in under two hours. This compared to eight all spring over the house. To reinforce these were different individuals, some had extensive wear in the flight feathers & were very tatty, whilst others were in better condition. 

As I watched them, they were flying East towards Western Swanage, before turning North as they saw the sea & reached the more urban centre of the town. A few were in the valley bottom, but still turned North without flying over the town. The eight kettling individuals were particularly interesting, as this seemed to be more a way to get high to check out the lie of the land. They then dropped in height again & like the others I had seen, flew low North towards the Ulwell Gap. I followed a number well towards the Ulwell Gap, where the Swanage road cuts through the gap to Studland, but ultimately, lost them before the pass itself, which is just out of my view. I assume they continued through the pass & either headed over Studland at the Poole Harbour or possibly turned West again over the Rempstone Forest. Not for the first time in local Vis Migging, I've wished I could be in several places at the same time
Red Kite: I did photograph a couple of close individuals today, but they are still in the camera. So here is one that was over the house on 8 Apr 20
After some food, I was back in the study & facing West again. I had a few casual looks out of the window with my naked eyes & bins and picked up another Red Kite heading North East. This individual was further away and would have bypassed Swanage completely. 

Quite a few other Birders in Poole were picking Red Kites up over their houses, include Shaun Robson, who had twenty three heading South West over Upton, Poole around late morning/early afternoon. About 14:15, I rang Phil Saunders to thank him for the earlier call & to hear more about his sightings. Phil had seen amazing sixty three Red Kites heading West over his Westbourne garden Vis Mig site between 10:55 & 12:05, including about thirty in the air at one point. Even more interesting all his Red Kites were moving before I was looking: so how many had I missed? In the twelve minutes we were on the phone, my scanning with the bins picked up another four moving North East. The wind was slowly strengthening, but it wasn't particularly strong, but perhaps it had changed direction & they were coasting more into the wind & missing Swanage.

I was particularly impressed with Phil's total as that was a new Dorset site record. Well the record lasted until mid afternoon, when I saw a tweet from Mike Morse at West Bexington with a hundred & twelve West between 13:00 & 15:15. Later, Tom Brereton had another seventy nine North West between Bridport & Higher Eype between 13:15 & 14:15 & a further eight over Bridport later on.

It was a very enjoyable & amazing movement. But it raises an interesting question: why weren't the Swanage individuals following the same West route as most of today's other Dorset individuals. My guess it they were individuals that perhaps had been going West, but hit the coast around Swyre Head or St Aldhelms & having seen the sea, they started coasting into the wind, until they reached Swanage when they were forced by the local geography to head North again. As I said earlier, it would have been great to head to Studland or the Godlingston viewpoint near the Studland golf course, to figure out what was happening there. But with the lockdown in place, I'm not going to re-interpret the mix messages from this lousy government & use it as an excuse to head out Birding: when it isn't essential travel.

It was a great spot of Birding from the house. A lot more enjoyable that seeing a presumed released White-tailed Sea-eagle. To be honest, I just can't get that excited about most of the recently released species in the UK. Perhaps a bit of irony there, given all today's Red Kites originated from reintroduced schemes. But they started the Red Kite reintroductions a bit over thirty years ago and most of the individuals I saw today would probably be able to trace their family tree back for several generations of breeding in the wild.

27 Apr 2020

21 Apr 20 - Checking The Whites #BWKM0

My notes for 21 Apr produced a good selection of species for my Birding & wildlife database. Given the list of sightings, I must have had a few work conference calls in the morning. I can get on & work in the background on some calls & try to keep listening enough to stay in touch with the conversation, in case it's something that is more important to me or my area of responsibility. However, on other calls I need to pay a lot more careful attention to the discussion. When I can't multi-task on the laptop & if nobody is presenting on the screen on these more important calls, I can allow my eyes to wander to what's happening outside of my window. It's either that or watch my colleague's photos on the screen. Fortunately, I can cope with staying focused on the call, while watching something flyby. Not all the time & that's when I end up having to throw something interesting away. This has included at least two probable lockdown Ticks: Yellowhammer & Tree Pipit. I can accept that I won't identify everything and work obviously has to remain the priority.
Green-veined White: Westbere (3 July 14)
This time, I did get a good view with the bins of the highlight of the day: a Green-veined White which was seen from the study during another work conference call. This is a species that took me over a decade to add it to the garden list. In the last decade or so, it is still only my fifth garden record. I think it is a combination of not spending enough time looking at the Whites in the garden, apart from the Orange-tips, coupled with it being a scarce visitor. I am looking at the Whites more this year with the lockdown. Many are flying through my garden & not stopping. So, clearly there is still a reasonable chance I'm overlooking them, but I've not seen any Green-veined Whites during the lockdown. It's still only at the start of their flying period for this brood, so perhaps I will see one or two others in the next few weeks.
Green-veined White: Old Harry (24 May 15)

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

24 Apr 2020

19 Apr 20 - Little Brown Job #BWKM0

There were quite a few wildlife highlights from a short look in the garden with the camera at lunchtime. The Bird highlight was my seventh migrant Red Kite from the lockdown which I enjoyed. However, the local Herring Gulls were less impressed, judging by their heckling.
Red Kite: Number 7 for the year which isn't bad considering I've only seen one a year, apart from a couple in 2019. It was circling over the garden before drifting off East over Swanage
There was a good selection of other garden species that have cropped up in recent posts, including both species of Newts, Roe Deer, a few Butterflies & a variety of Bees. But the wildlife highlight of day was the first of the next generation of Dark Bush Crickets for the year. Dark Bush Crickets are probably my commonest species of Orthoptera in the garden. In many gardens, it would perhaps be one of the Grasshopper species. However, Grasshoppers are scarce in my garden, given nearly all has been converted to flower beds, apart from the two ponds & bog garden.
Dark Bush Cricket: The nymph bodies are only about three or four mm long at this time of year
Dark Bush Cricket: A larger nymph, with some of my small pea gravel for a size comparison (21 Jun 10)
Dark Bush Cricket: Male. Photographed in the garden (5 Aug 10)
Dark Bush Cricket: Female. They get to be around an inch long body when fully grown. Alner's Gorse (4 Aug 13)

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

23 Apr 2020

18 Apr 20 - My Large Spring Visitors #BWKM0

One of the first things I did with the garden after I bought my house, was to dig a nice large pond. The previous owners had a wendy house for their kids. Fortunately, they were removing the wendy house as I was moving in, which saved me the hassle to get rid of it. This left me with a big patch of bare ground & a lot of long rank grass. A nice large pond was the best way to start sorting that mess out. I refused to put the obligatory Goldfish or Carp in, as it was planned to be a wildlife pond. I expected the Frogs to find it & start breeding. Frustratingly, while there are often one or two Frogs in the pond, they have never bred. After a few years, the Smooth Newts found the pond and are generally visible, especially at night. I was very excited at the end of May 13, when I checked the pond & found my first Great-crested Newt. Numbers at this time of year are always tricky to count, as they generally are only visible after dark & are fairly shy. A few nights each Spring, I pop out with a torch after dark to count the Great-crested Newts. The peak count has been five in May 14 and two so far this year: but it's still early.
Great-crested Newt: Male (31 May 13)
Great-crested Newt: Male (18 Apr 14)
Great-crested Newt: Female (18 Apr 14)
Great-crested Newt: Female (9 May 15)
Like many kids of my generation, I got into wildlife by looking at Frogs, Tadpoles & whatever we could in some of the local streams in school holidays. This was several years before I started birdwatching. My interest in pond life have never left me & it's a real privilege been adopted by the local Great-crested Newts. I found out soon after I moved down to Dorset, that all three Newt species occur locally. I've got two species & I keep checked each year in the hope that a Palmate Newt or two will appear. That would be fantastic, but I'm not complaining with what I have.

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

22 Apr 2020

16 Apr 20 - One Of My Favourite UK Butterflies #BWKM0

I saw my first Orange-tip flying in the garden on 12 Apr & I've been seeing one or two daily since them. While many Butterfly fans get excited by Purple Emperors or some of the scarcer Butterflies, I personally prefer Orange-tips. It's even better when one of your favourite species is a garden resident. This was the wildlife highlight of the day.
Orange-tip: Male (4 May 15)
Orange-tip: Female (19 May 19)

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

21 Apr 2020

15 Apr 20 - My Little Residents #BWKM0

One of my occasional & very pleasurable activities at this time of the year is to check what's going on after dark in my big pond. My little residents are the Smooth Newts in the pond. It is a real treat to have good numbers in the pond & I will never tire of watching them: albeit I only look quickly to avoid disturbing them. One or two are often visible during the day & it's easier to watch them in the daytime. The numbers that are visible vary night to night, but my peak on 12 on 8 Apr 20, is close to be best single night count of 14. However, in late Summer 2011, I had to drain the pond to replace the liner & caught 22 over a couple of days: they were safely transferred to my small front garden pond.
Smooth Newt: Male. This individual has a wavy crest along the length of the body & tail. Males only develop this during the breeding season, so sexing individuals without this crest isn't easy (20 Jun 10)
Smooth Newt: Male. (18 Apr 14)

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

20 Apr 2020

14 Apr 20 - Bumblebees In The Garden #BWKM0

I've been writing the recent Blog Posts since the lockdown based up the wildlife highlight of the day. Today's wildlife highlight was in the five or ten minutes I had at lunchtime to see what I can find in the garden. I saw three different species of Bumblebees in that time feeding on my extensive patch of Bluebells. The only lockdown species that was missing, was the erratically visiting & relatively scarce Tree Bumblebee.
Buff-tailed Bumblebee: Old Harry (4 May 15)
Large Red-tailed Bumblebee: Photographed in the garden on some of my white Red Valerian (22 Jun 10)
I've been trying to get my head around the identification of Bumblebees in the last few years. This has been a lot easier with the excellent Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk & Richard Lewington. As a result, I have identified a number of my commoner resident Bumblebees in my garden. With the current lockdown, I've been able to spend more time looking at the Bumblebees in the garden this year. Currently, the lockdown list is on four species.
Tree Bumblebee: My only record so far this year has been one on 2 Apr 20. This individual was photographed at Goring-on-Thames, when I failed to find any Club-tailed Dragonflies (13 Jun 14)
Common Carder Bee: Doing its best to pollinate one of my Bluebells (10 Apr 20)
Common Carder Bee: Another individual (10 Apr 20)
I've also seen Garden Bumblebee, Early Bumblebee & White-tailed Bumblebee in the garden in previous years, but I've not seen any of these species yet this year. I generally only have a few minutes at lunchtime to see what I can find. But at least I'm likely to have quite a few more opportunities in the forthcoming weeks before the lockdown is lifted & I have to return to work.

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.