30 Sept 2015

30 Sep 15 - September: A Great Month On The Studland & Ballard Down Patch

The month started as August ended, with a good selection of common migrants, especially at Greenlands Farm, and smaller numbers on Old Harry & at South Haven. The first highlight was a skulky Pied Flycatcher at Greenlands Farm on 2 Sep.
Spotted Flycatcher: One of eight I saw on Greenlands Farm on 2 Sep 15
Wheatear: Greenlands Farm (7 Sep 15)
I visited Old Harry on 3 Sep. There were a few common migrants, but none of the hoped for Grasshopper Warblers: which I still needed for the patch Year List. As I was getting back to Studland village, Graham Armstrong rang me to say he was watching a Great White Egret at the South Haven Houseboats. It was quickly flushed by a fisherman & later appeared in Brands Bay. It has now settled down into a routine of being seen erratically around Littlesea, Brands Bay, Brownsea & may or may not be the GWE that has been seen in the Arne area. As such it is tempting to believe it is the long staying GWE that overwintered around Studland, but visited Middlebere & Brownsea on some days.
Great White Egret: Brands Bay (16 Sep 15)
The next highlight was on 8 Sep: a long overdue Grasshopper Warbler near the front wood at Old Harry. This took the patch Year List to 169.
Grasshopper Warbler: The first of two seen in September, with the other individual being in Brands Bay on 16 Sep. This is the Old Harry individual (8 Sep 15)
Grasshopper Warbler: Old Harry (8 Sep 15)
Rock Pipit: This showy individual was photographed after seeing the Grasshopper Warbler (8 Sep 15)
I managed to get out for a few hours on nearly a daily basis somewhere on the Studland/Ballard patch & this persistence was finally rewarded on the 11 Sep with finding a Studland Tick: a Red-backed Shrike from The Rare Gate at Greenlands Farm. Frustratingly, it didn't stick around for long. Within a few minutes, it flew across the field & out of sight behind a bush. Despite looking for a further five hours, I was unable to relocate it.
Red-backed Shrike: Year Tick no 170. Greenlands Farm (11 Sep 15)
The Rare Gate at Greenlands Farm: These private fields visible from this gate have had Rose-coloured Starling, Hoopoe, Wryneck & now Red-backed Shrike
Up to 3 Ospreys were appearing in the Brands Bay up to 12 Sep, although my last sighting was on 10 Sep.
Osprey: Adult. This was my last Osprey sighting. Brands Bay (10 Sep)
Kingfishers are a more regular species around Brands Bay & Studland at this time of year. There are usually one or two which appear to set up wintering territories, but they tend to be most obvious in the Autumn. This year is no exception with almost daily sightings in Brands Bay, especially in early September.
Kingfisher: Brands Bay (6 Sep 15)
The first of the Winter visitors appeared back in Brands Bay, including the first handful of Brent Goose, as well as, up to twenty Pintails & Wigeon.
Pintail: Brands Bay (6 Sep 15)
More interesting visitors to Brands Bay were a Black Tern on 18 Sep & a Little Tern on 21 Sep. Neither lingered for more than five to ten minutes. But as I only see each species about once every couple of years somewhere in the Studland/Ballard patch, even a few minutes of views were good to see: especially as I had already seen both species earlier in the year.
Black Tern: Record shot from Brands Bay (18 Sep)
One of the most exciting Bird spectacles on the Studland/Ballard patch are the Vis Mig movements. This is best watched at South Haven, when Hirundines, Finches, Thrushes, Wagtails & Pipits & other species move North on light North based winds. Even after a few years of Vis Mig watching at South Haven, it isn't always certain whether the next day will have a good movement until the Birds start moving. But generally, Oct & early Nov are the main months for Finch movements. Therefore, I was a little bit surprised to find Siskins moving on 9 Sep & 16 Sep. Not only were they moving, but they were moving in stunning numbers. On 9 Sep I saw 888 Siskins moving North by 09:50. The following week produced a new UK total of moving Siskins with 2423 moving North, with 2071 Siskins moving in a two hour period from 09:20. This record didn't last long, as the following day over 5000 Siskins were seen flying over that morning. My first Redpolls for the patch Year List (number 171) passed over South Haven on 16 Sep. Their numbers as migrants will build up in Oct & Nov, but they are never guaranteed on any reasonable Vis Mig day.
Siskin: Just 24 of the 2423 Siskins seen on 16 Sep
The second half of Sep turned into a fairly similar pattern. Common migrants & the same species on most visits to Brands Bay, with a few days with reasonable Vis Mig movements. A call from Paul Morton who is the main man running the Birds of Poole Harbour charity, sounded interesting. He had been up at Ballard Down from pre-dawn, recording calls of Vis Mig migrants & had a Woodlark. Woodlarks are barely annual at South Haven, but Ballard Down seems to get a few more records. Presumably they don't move North or perhaps they pass high overhead at South Haven & we miss them. But more intriguing Paul said the Woodlark was in one of the fields to the East of the Glebelands estate & was occasionally singing. I decided to leave South Haven as it was too still for any Vis Mig & quickly walk up from Studland village. Paul had heard it several times, but not seen it. As I might not get to see one later in the year, I hung around on the down & finally heard it singing. It wasn't easy to pin the field down, as it didn't sing for long. After an hour, I had worked out the field & was scanning it with bins & scope, when I finally picked up a couple of Larks. Just as I got the scope on one, it flew up & started climbing & I confirmed it was a Woodlark (species number 172). Even better it started singing & was joined by a second individual. I had only given myself a 50-50 chance of seeing Woodlark for the Year List, so this was a nice bonus.
Woodlark: No photos from Ballard Down, so a recent photo from the Hartland Moor part of Poole Harbour (3 Sep 15)
The last noteworthy Bird was a Cetti's Warbler found by Graham Armstrong on 28 Sep at South Haven. Cetti's Warblers are a common breeding species around the top of Poole Harbour especially the Swineham & Wareham Valley areas and Lytchett Bay. But they rarely seem to wander from the traditional haunts & they are a major rarity at Studland. Up to about 2000, there were three records of four Cetti's Warblers & there has probably only been one or two records since. Therefore, I was keen to look for this as it wasn't just a patch Year Tick, but a Studland Tick. A couple of hours were spent at lunchtime, but I failed to even heard it. Plan B was to return in late pm to the South Haven boardwalk where I immediately heard it singing. Only a few metres into the reeds, but not visible. It moved around & sang occasionally, but finally ended up singing more from the Northerly most end of the South Haven pool. Finally, I saw a movement at the base of some reeds. Raising the bins, I was surprised to find it was a Water Vole. I had heard there had been recent sightings of droppings here, but this was a Studland Mammal Tick. I watched it for a couple of minutes before it swam off. Great to see this sadly uncommon Mammal which have declined a lot since my teenage Birding days. Finally, the Cetti's sang again & I could see it sitting in one of the trees by the waters edge. Species number 173 & more importantly, it took the Studland/Ballard patch list to 219, excluding Crap (Feral) Pigeon & Nightingale (which I've only heard). It would be great if I could make this 220 before the end of the year.
Grey Squirrel: South Haven boardwalk. The habitat isn't great for Grey Squirrels so I am guessing that fairly quickly it headed back to where it came from (6 Sep 15)
Another unusual Mammal sighting in early Sep on the patch was a Grey Squirrel at South Haven. Grey Squirrels are resident in the woods around Littlesea, Studland Village, the edges of Greenlands Farm & Old Harry. However, the appearance of one on the South Haven boardwalk was noteworthy as this is only my second sighting in the South Haven area. The previous record was of one running along the road to South Haven. But it's that time of year when young Grey Squirrels get kicked out of their family territory & wander around looking to find a new home. So they have a habit ofappearing  in unusual locations.
Autumn Lady's Tresses: Old Harry (8 Sep 15)
All good slide shows seem to end on sunset. Instead here is a dawn photo of the Isle of Wight from South Haven.
Island of Wight from South Haven: Dawn on 27 Sep 15
Looking forward to October which is traditionally a great month of Birding on the patch.