25 Oct 2015

24 Oct 15 - Happy Second Birthday

Happy second birthday to the Blog. In keeping with last birthday, here are my favourite Posts from each of the thirteen months/part months over that last year. On the first Birding trip with the camera, two years ago I was lucky to photograph a Pallid Swift at Stanpit & later to see, but not photograph, a Pallas's Warbler at Studland. On the second birthday for the Blog it is perhaps fitting that I should see the other Eastern striped jewel, a Yellow-browed Warbler, feeding in my garden: only my second garden record after one heard last Autumn in a neighbour's garden. It is ironic that this Yellow-browed Warbler disappeared as I grabbed the camera. So I will start the first with the last Post in Oct of the one of the three Yellow-browed Warblers I saw at Studland last year.
Yellow-browed Warbler: Knoll Beach, Studland (31 Oct 14)
November was the most difficult month to select a single Post as I spent the first three weeks in the Pacific visiting Tahiti, Pitcairn, Henderson Island & the other uninhabited islands looking for Tuamotu Sandpipers & other endemic Pacific landbirds as well as a good selection of Seabirds. I still have a backlog of photos to sort through from the final week when I get time. It is very difficult to find a single Post that stands out beyond the others with some many great Birds, Cetaceans & Green Turtles seen, as well as, the visit to Pitcairn island. But I have narrowed it down to two great characters.
Atoll Fruit-dove: Tenararo, French Polynesia (12 Nov 14)
I didn't get out Birding much in Dec until after Christmas when I started to watch Studland more. The clear Dorset highlight occurred on New Years Eve when I found a male Green-winged Teal at Brands Bay. It, along with an overwintering Great White Egret & an elusive Black Guillemot, were some of the reasons to spur me on to have a go at the Studland/Ballard patch Year List. Frustratingly, it didn't reappear in 2015 despite a lot of seaching on near every day in Jan.
Green-winged Teal: With a male Teal on the left. Brands Bay (31 Dec 14)
With the last minute decision to go for a Studland/Ballard patch Year List then it is not surprising that the year will largely revolve around highlights of the patch. I managed to get out somewhere in the patch on all, but three, days of Jan. As a result, I had stunning start to the Year List with an end of Jan total of 123 BOU species. I also saw my first Butterfly of the year: a Peacock at Greenlands Farm on 16 Jan. My previous best patch Year List was 176 (BOU) in 2009. I set myself an ambitious target of 180 species & after seeing the Peacock, I set a second target of at least one Butterfly seen in each month of the year. Currently, the patch Year List is on 179 with over nine weeks before the end of the year. Additionally, I've seen at least one Butterfly in each month so far. I reckon it will be fairly easy to see a Nov Butterfly, but Dec will be the tricky month.
One of the unexpected species that I saw in Jan on the patch was a Great Grey Shrike which was found by a local Birder on 24 Jan. I managed to see it that afternoon, but the views & photos weren't great. My third sighting was near Pilots Point after it shifted to the South Haven end of the Studland Peninisula. It was surprisingly approachable on this occasion.
Great Grey Shrike: South Haven (21 Feb 15)
March is always a month when the first of the Spring migrants arrive & so it was great to see a couple of Black Redstarts on Ballard Down on the first weekend. The first migrants are few & far between, but always a sign that Birds are on the move & more will be on their way soon.
Black Redstart: Ballard Down (7 Mar 15)
April started off with more migrants on the patch & then out of the blue, news of the UK's second Great Blue Heron on St Mary's. It soon disappeared, but fortunately, was refound on Bryher. As a result, conditions for set for one of those memorable day trip twitches to Scillies with mates Peter Moore & Richard Webb.
Great Blue Heron: Byrher (18 Apr 15)
In May, I managed to join one of the Christchurch Natterjack Toad night walks. This was the only native Amphibian I had never seen. Fortunately, we we lucky to see four Natterjack Toads, as well as, large numbers of their tadpoles. A great evening out & a very informative leader. I would recommend the trip to anybody else who wanted to try & see this great species at its only Dorset site.
Natterjack Toad: Hengistbury Head (May 15)
By June, the patch had become very quiet as all the migrants were long gone & all the breeding species were well into their breeding seasons. But it was a hectic month for me at home as I had to empty the living room to allow the builder to lay a new floor, sort out damp problems & have some rewiring done while the room was being gutted. As a result, the appearance of a Cretzschmar's Bunting on Bardsey was worrying, but the prompt disappearance was good news, given the amount of emptying work I was doing around the house. I was more dismayed when the the Cretzschmar's Bunting reappeared & seemed to have settled down. The prospect of a long drive to North Wales with the uncertainty of whether I could even get on the boat over was not appealing. Then I heard the Ewan Urquhart was organising a charter over & there was a place on the boat for me, as he had had to defer the sailing due to bad weather. I cleared it with the boss to have a day off at short notice & it was game on for the second memorable twitch of the year. A great day that went perfectly with nice bonuses of a Thrift Clearwing, some playful Bottle-nosed Dolphins, local Seabirds & good companions on the charter.
Cretzschmar's Bunting: The second memorable twitch of the year (18 June 15)
I had a short trip to Turkey planned while some of the work was going on in the living room as the house wasn't going to be habitable during the early part of the work. I've yet to write up most of the trip, but here is something to wet your appetite for when I do.
Bruce's Scops Owl: It took us about ten minutes of looking to see this Birecik speciality. Initially, it was watching us, but then bored with the appearance of another group of photographers, it fell asleep again. This must be the most photographed Bruce's Scops Owl family in the Western Palearctic. One of the highlights of the week's trip (2 July 15)
Having successfully completed a six month contract in London, then I had the funds to allow myself to take the Autumn off & enjoy the Birding. Not surprisingly, this focused mainly on the Studland/Ballard patch. One of the highlights of the month occurred off the patch, when news of a Black Stork seen flying off from Arne, broke late in the afternoon. With little to go on local Birder, Nick Hopper, & I were quickly out looking to see if we could relocate it. After about thirty minutes of looking, I jammed into it as it flew out of the Wareham Channel area towards Middlebere. Less than ten local Birders managed to connect with it that evening, but those who got out early the following morning were able to enjoy it before it headed off West.
Despite some great Birding on the Studland/Ballard patch, it was the Acadian Flycatcher twitch that will stand out for many, including myself, as the clear highlight of Sep. When the news broke it was an Empidonax Flycatcher sp. at Dungeness and it was a bit of a gamble about should I go or wait to see if there was a clearer idea of what species it might be. Had it been East Anglia, I might have waited on news, but Dunge was my old late teens stamping ground whenever there was a school holiday & I was quick to team up with local mate & ex-Kent Birder, Marcus Lawson, to go for it. Marcus did a sterling job of getting us cross country after a few problems with the roads that day, whilst examining the photos on twitter. His feelings of Acadian or Yellow-bellied Flycatcher were encouraging (especially as it wasn't an Alder Flycatcher) & after seeing it, we came home thinking Acadian was the most likely fit. Thanks to Martin Collinson (see 30 Sep 15 tweet), we now know if you have purple DNA/poo you might be an Acadian Flycatcher.
Acadian Flycatcher: A stunning out of the blue record. Dungeness (22 Sep 15)
The highlight of the first three weeks of Oct has to be the Wilson's Warbler twitch. Another memorable island trip & my first visit to the island of Lewis & Harris. I'm sure it won't be my last. There is still more to appear on the follow on return visit to North Uist.
I am pleased to see I passed the 100,000 hits on 11 Oct 15. So a big thank you for all the people following the Blog. I hope you have enjoyed it & the photos so far & will continue to look at & enjoy the Posts going forward.