18 Jul 2017

21 May 17 - Green Hairstreak on the Patch

I'm catching up with a backlog of photos from earlier this year & came across this Green Hairstreak photographed at Greenlands Farm on the Studland patch. Greenlands Farm can be a good migrant pocket for Wheatears, Whinchats & Warblers and has produced some of the rarer passerines on the patch over the last few years with Rose-coloured Starling, Red-backed Shrike & Richard's Pipit (along with a bonus Hoopoe). But there were few migrants around at Greenlands on 21 May this year. However, I did get my best photos of Green Hairstreak from the patch. Some Birders are purely into Birds & don't look at other wildlife & therefore would have been disappointed in the morning. But having a wider interest can help brighten up an otherwise dull Bird day.
Green Hairstreak
Green Hairstreaks are a species that occur in low numbers on the Studland patch. I suspect they are probably not uncommon around the Nature Trail around Littlesea, but as this isn't a migrant area, I rarely spend much time there during May when Green Hairstreaks on the wing.

15 Jul 2017

9 July 17 - A Recent Dorset Immigrant

In 1999, the first Small Red-eyed Damselfly appeared in Essex from Europe. As with the Estuary accent, it has continued to spread out from there. Unlike the unpleasant accent, Small Red-eyed Damselflies are a welcome addition to Dorset's still water lakes & ponds. They have become established at a few locations in the county, as they continue to spread West into Devon & South Wales and as far North as Yorkshire. I've seen them at Longham Lakes & Weymouth. I've looked for them in Poole Harbour in the recent years, but I haven't managed to find them so far. But given how far they have spread out across the country, then surely they will appear at some point within the harbour boundaries. The obvious places are Swineham (but there is no access to the water's edge unless you enjoy flushing the resident Birds in your canoes), Creekmoor Ponds (not tried) & Hatch Pond (which I've looked at in the past).

They tend to stayed well out on weed & lily leaves in the lakes at Longham, making it tricky to photograph them. But finally while unsuccessfully waiting for the Scarlet Darter to reappear at the large pool at Longham Lake, I spotted this one perching up right at the water's edge.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly: They are smaller & daintier than the commoner Red-eyed Damselflies. Males are another of the blue & black variation of Damselflies & can be separated from male Red-eyed Damselflies by their less deep red eyes, brighter red shoulder stripes & broken blue on the final two segments of the abdomen

12 Jul 2017

9 July 17 - Brown Hawker

I've struggled to get good photos of Brown Hawkers in the past. Partly, as they don't seem to be around the Studland area where I obvious spend most of my local time Birding. But they are reasonably common at Longham Lakes, but have always been very active. So I was pleased that when I was hanging around the large pool hoping the Scarlet Darter would reappear, to see a Brown Hawker perched up.
Brown Hawker: my best photos of this species
Brown Hawker: Looking at the photos I can now see the reason why it was perched up, some small unfortunate orange & black-spotted insect. Any ideas? In the next photo, it starts to drop it so had presumably just finished on the edible parts. Love the legs which suggest that few prey items easily get away

9 Jul 2017

9 July 17 - Scarlet Fever

Every summer we get a few days of sunshine with rising temperatures & Britain ends up in meltdown with everybody desperately heading to the coast or some nearby park to sunbathe. If I am going out, I try to get out early & then either find some sheltered woodland to look for Butterflies or try to avoid the worst of the sun. Not today. The plan was for an early visit to Studland, where Brands Bay produced a few Waders including a couple each of Whimbrel & Dunlin (neither unexpected for this day), an early Grey Plover & just under 125 Med Gulls (a good total for this date). I planned to go out later to trying to get some Butterfly photos somewhere sheltered from the sun.

That plan changed when I saw a photo on the local Birding email group of a presumed Red-veined Darter from one of the local Birders. Martin is just starting to get into Dragonflies & so perhaps it's not surprising that he had assumed that was what it was. However, the photo started ringing alarm bells for me as I could remember looking at the extremely rare Scarlet Darter in the books & it looked a very good fit from my memory. However, my memory wasn't so good on where I had placed the Dragonflies books I had moved yesterday, but eventually I found them & sure enough it looked a like a Scarlet Darter to me. Knowing Peter Moore was already on his way to look for it & feeling rough enough to take a hay fever tablet, then I thought I would give it some time for the tablet to kick in before heading off to Longham lakes. As the tablet started to work, Peter rang to say they were watching the presumed Scarlet Darter on a large pool at the Southern end of the South lake. It's not that far as the Dragonfly flies, but it was a slow journey this morning due to the heavy traffic. Once there, I found Peter had moved on and was trying to photograph a Lesser Emperor on the side of the lake. This year seems to have produced several individuals around the edge of the lake, perhaps suggesting the species is starting to get itself established at the site. Having spent several hours failing to see one the previous day, then I wasn't going to repeat that again, especially with a Scarlet Darter only a few minutes walk away. About ten minutes later, I arrived at the small lake to see about six others looking for it. They confirmed they had seen it a few minutes earlier, but it was coming & going, but occasionally settled on low vegetation at the lake edge. After a five minute wait, it reappeared & flew low over the large pool, before disappearing again. It was such a deep & obvious red in flight, that I was already pretty happy that I had seen the right individual. After another five minutes, it reappeared & fortunately, one of the guys further right from me had seen it land. He carefully walked about a few metres & called us over. It was good to see everybody was well behaved & hung back, rather that try & get in close to get a frame filling photo. Had this been a Hairstreak at one of the well known sites & more general wildlife photographers, then I'm sure somebody would have felt obliged to be more selfish. But good that everybody behaved. After a couple of minutes, it was up on the wing again & I found all my photos were out of focus. I was probably just a few inches too close from the 3.5 metre minimum focus on the 400mm lens. Fortunately, it was back in the same area about five minutes later & this time I was a few inches further back, (but probably should have still be a little further back). After a few more flight views, it briefly landed further down the track, before flying off.  Another brief flight view & we lost it. I stayed at that end of the large pool, before spending another hour at the other end. But there were no more sightings. The previous day it had been seen on vegetation on the main Southern lake which was just the other side of the causeway path, so presumably it disappeared back onto the main lake. Despite a lot of other locals, as well as, Dragonfly peeps from further afield arriving, there were no more sightings over the next four plus hours. Hopefully, it will be pinned down again in the next few days & people will start to get a better idea of its behaviour & favourite haunts.
Scarlet Darter: Male. There are few UK records with the first UK sighting being in 1995. There are records from Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, but this looks to be the first Dorset record
As for me, after spending about five hours in strong sunlight by the lakeside, with no sun cream, I'm likely to almost as red in the morning.

Will anybody heading there in the next few days, park on one of the local roads or the Haskin's Garden Centre. The fisherman's car park is only for permit holders.

2 Jul 2017

2 July 17 - Summer Doldrums

Since the late spring, the local Birding has been very quiet, apart from the excitement over the Elegant Tern. I've been cracking on with dull jobs around the house & garden, especially gardening. With the prospect of another day of gardening this weekend, I decided it was about time to head out to look for White Admirals locally. Soon after moving to Dorset, I started a ten miles from the house list. Not because it was another list to keep, but primarily as it would encourage me to spend more time Birding & looking at wildlife on my doorstep. White Admirals are one of few Butterflies that occurs locally that I've not managed to see. The easiest place to see them is on Brownsea, but usually summer apathy has meant I've not got around to going over to Brownsea at the right time of year.
Silver-washed Fritillary: A pity about the knackered forewing
Silver-washed Fritillary: Hopefully this will help maintain the next generation
A recent tweet indicated that a White Admiral had been recently seen on the nature trail at Littlesea. So with the prospect of them flying on the Studland patch, the gardening plans were shelved. Not knowing exactly where to look meant I was going to have to walk around & around hoping to bump into one. After 90 minutes of searching, I hadn't found any, although I had seen a number of Silver-washed Fritillaries, Commas, Ringlets, Speckled Woods, Meadow Browns, Red Admirals & Large Skippers.
Comma: There were quite a few flying, but all looked a bit beyond their best. Whereas, the ones I've seen in my garden this weekend, look a lot fresher
Comma: Showing how it got its name
Then I bumped into three other locals who had seen a White Admiral earlier that afternoon, as well as, a more showy individual elsewhere on the nature trail about a week ago. I was invited to tag along with them to check out the site of the showy individual, but after 20 minutes of looking, it was a no show. Back to Plan B to return to the site of their earlier sighting this afternoon, while they headed off to check out another historical location. No sooner than I had arrived at their site, which I had briefly looked at earlier that afternoon, then one flew down & started nectaring. It didn't stay long, but was good to finally see one locally. I was joined by the others after about ten minutes. Over the next hour or so, we all had repeated sightings of at least three White Admirals coming down to nectar for a few minutes, before disappearing back into the trees.
White Admiral: Finally on the patch list
White Admiral: This one stayed around long enough to try with the SX60

25 Feb 2017

25 Feb 17 - Getting The Hump

Checking the pager services on Thurday evening produced an unexpected message of a Humpback Whale being seen off Slapton Ley in Devon in late afternoon, with it still being there at dusk. Over the last decade I have heard of a few sightings in the UK, but rarely are any of them in the South. The most frequent locations seem to have been off the Shetlands or Yorkshire coast: neither of which have been particularly convenient to consider for an on spec trip. So one less than three hours drive on the Devon coast was certainly interesting. It was a frustrating day at work yesterday with a few updates that it was still lingering off the Slapton coastline with one Dorset Birder reporting it down to 20 metres offshore. As always there is the uncertainity of why a large pelagic Whale should be seen so close to the shore. The speculation from the Birders was it was down to close in fish shoals which were also attracting a number of Harbour Porpoise & Dolphins, as well as, large Gannet numbers. All potentially supporting the fish shoals & feeding Cetaceans theory. The local press were in favour of it being of its last legs which would be quite a feasible option, but they didn't seem to be quoting any experienced local naturalists. There was no opportunity of taking a few hours off to head West on the Friday. But there was only one day to last to the weekend. 

The forecast for today was for rain to set in from early afternoon, but that looked long enough to allow an early breakfast & the chance to head West based on early news. There was news by 09:00 & I was quickly heading off, with just a short diversion into Wareham to pick up Peter Moore. By late morning we arrived at the northerly most car park along the Slapton coast. About the first person seen was Julian Thomas who confirmed he had seen it about an hour earlier, but it had gone further North and was perhaps a couple of miles or more further away from where we were looking. Soon after that Julian spotted a tweet of it being off Blackpool Sands (close to three miles further North). Deciding the views would have been too distant from where we were, Peter & I decided to head in that direction. After a couple of miles, we found a small layby with a couple of cars in it & just enough room to squeeze my car on the end. We quickly joined a couple of other people looking, but they had not seen it. But there were Gannets feeding close in offshore & good numbers of Gulls so it was worth giving it some time, especially once I managed to get the car fully off the road when one van left. Ten minutes later we had had some short views of a Harbour Porpoise close in off the layby before it disappeared out of my line of sight around the headland.
Harbour Porpoise: Despite seeing at least four Harbour Porpoises, this ropey photo was the only photo I managed. Later in the afternoon, I saw a Harbour Porpoise fairly close to the Humpback Whale. With the large numbers of members of the public enjoying the Whale, but being pretty clueless, then I suspect this was the source of the news that the Humpback Whale was a mother with a calf
Peter & I split up to try different viewpoints as neither viewpoint allowed a huge amount of sea to be seen. The sea was choppy with breaking white waves to fool me into thinking I needed to check each new set of white waves. Then I checked one of the fresh patches of white waves & there was the Humpback about a half mile out from the layby. Not as close as I would have liked, but even on a brief view I was happy it was a Humpback Whale. I quickly call Peter & various others over, including Sue (the locally living sister of Dorset Birder John Down) & gave them directions to where I had seen it. But it had clearly gone down. After a long ten minute wait it resurfaced & was only 100 metres off shore, albeit we had to add another 100 metres of a dropping down field before the beach. But it was still close & it was on the surface & there was no time to waste to grab some photos.
Humpack Whale: The Herring Gull helps to give an idea of the size of the Humpback. Note, the scars along the side of the body
Humpback Whale: This is my third Whale species that I've seen in the UK, with three Northern Bottle-nosed Whales (two on Skye in August 98 and the Bournemouth Bay individual that subsequenlty died in Sep 2009) and two Minkes heading West along the Dorset coast at the end of a Portsmouth - Bilboa ferry trip in Aug 2000
Unfortunately, the next time it reappeared it was back about a half mile offshore again & kept reappearing in the same area over the the next 45 minutes, before we finally felt it had moved South towards Slapton again. Soon after we heard it was back off the central car park at Slapton agaIn so we headed South again.