31 Mar 2020

29 Mar 20 - More Seawatching From #BWKM0

After the thirty minutes of seawatching from the House on the previous day, I decided that I might as well give the seawatching another go. There were still several potential House Year & Lockdown Ticks available. I'm writing these Blog Posts two days later than the actual day & therefore, I would be back to another five days in front of the laptop working after the Sunday. So, there would be no opportunity to enjoy (or endure?) another seawatch till the following weekend. The problem is the morning light is generally poor until late morning. So later in the Spring when there is the realistic chance of a House Tick, I can't look at the optimum passage hours as I've got bad glare & lighting from the sun. But the light improves by late morning & was looking good, so I had no excuses to not try another thirty minute seawatch. There was even a decent wind & plenty of white horses on the sea. However, the wind was still NE & hence offshore. As a result there was nothing moving on the sea. But I did manage to see one or two Great Black-backed Gulls that had eluded me the previous day. Small wins for the House Year & Lockdown lists.
Great Black-backed Gull: Even less interesting than the previous day's Cormorant for the House Lockdown List. One of the well-known & original world listers told me many years ago: they all count as one. Not a sentiment I subscribe to as proven by the fact that a few minutes after taking this photo, I was leaving Old Harry to look for Dorset's first & the UK's third Short-toed Eagle, a few miles away at Morden Bog. I failed to connect that lunchtime, but a return visit in the afternoon was successful. It was a lot more interesting than the Great Black-backed Gull (31 May 14)
Note, some Birders are including what they see or heard on their daily self-isolation walks. I will be restricting my Lockdown list since the start of self-isolation to what I can see or hear from the house & garden.
The list is currently on 37 species, including Green Woodpecker heard

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at when I will be confined at #BWKM0.

30 Mar 2020

28 Mar 20 - Seawatching From #BWKM0

Many Birders dislike seawatches away from well recognised sites or even at them. The combination of wind & rain battered coastlines & potentially long periods waiting in the hope of getting onto a good Seabird, is enough to put many Birders off. Being a Poole Harbour Birder means I, like a number of the other Poole Harbour listers, are made of sterner stuff: we are used to disappointingly dull seawatches. I could seawatch from Durlston, where there is a proper sea-facing coastline & a track record of interesting local Seabirds flying past. But Durlston isn't in the Poole Harbour boundaries. Instead all the Poole Harbour boundaries are on the inside of Poole Bay, so generally the only interesting Seabirds occur when they get pushed well into Poole Bay if the winds are right or if they drift in by mistake during misty conditions & we are there as the mist clears. This makes for long & tediously boring seawatches on many occasions with little reward, except for knowing that if you do see something good, it will be really good for Poole Harbour.
Balearic Shearwater (no 102): By far the best Seabird on my garden list. Seen in Jan 08 when there were several around the Swanage & Studland area. A very good thirty minute seawatch hoping one would go past while I was watching Peveril Point from the house. Whilst waiting, 150 Razorbills (no 100) flew by along with a Red-throated Diver (no 101). I had previously been watching the Razorbills at Studland & had seen over 200 in a few minutes. This photo was taken in the Bay of Biscay (16 Aug 18)
But seawatching is far more tedious from my house. I have a line of sight to Peveril Point. I have what an estate agent would call sea views (i.e. distant sea views). But I don't have the downside of waves & spray crashing into my garden. It would have to be a terrible tsunami for the waves to reach that far. On the positive side, the telescope is stable, it isn't getting battered by the wind so I can increase the magnification, it's warm & comfortable & I can enjoy some music while I'm waiting & waiting for something to fly by. To be fair, I have seen some good Seabirds over the years. The last was an Arctic Skua found by Mark & Mo Constantine at South Haven in Oct 14. I wasn't going to chase it, but then Mark rang back to say it was flying South: game on. I had time to make a cup of tea, set the telescope up & 15 minutes later, Garden Tick no 113 flew through my telescope.
Arctic Skua: From the Plancius off the Portuguese coast (7 May 18)
Having decided, I'm clearly going to be confined to the house for the foreseeable future, then I decided I would try adding a few potential bonuses to the House Year & Lockdown Lists. It was the weekend so I could spare some time to try some House seawatching. The target species were Great Black-backed Gull, Shag & Gannet. It was a stiff NE wind so blowing Birds offshore & I didn't think there would be any Gannets moving offshore. Thirty minutes later, I had good evidence to confirm that expectation. I thought there was a better chance of one of the Durlston Shags flying past Peveril Point into Swanage Bay, but I was disappointed. Even a good scan of the Gulls flying over Swanage, failed to produce anything, but Herring Gulls. But one of my Gull scans, did manage to snatch success, with a Cormorant flying down the valley to the sea. I see one about every other year on average: albeit I am generally not daft enough to try seawatching from the house, more than one or twice a year.
Cormorant: How many coastal Birders really get excited about seeing a UK Cormorant. Old Harry (1 Jun 14)
At least, I know from twitter there are quite a few other Birders who are coping with the current restrictions in leaving their house, by scanning the sky or distant fields, trees or rooftops for extra house Ticks.

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at when I will be confined at #BWKM0.

29 Mar 2020

27 Mar 20 - My Neighbour, But Who Are You? #BWKM0

Having lived in my Dorset house since 1996, I first saw today's subject within a few days of moving into the house. I've just seen it again & I still don't know its name. It's last light & I've just looked out of the window & seen my neighbour again. Erratically at dusk, I see small Bats flying over the front & back gardens, especially on the dry, warmer evenings. When I first moved in to the house, I assumed they were Pipistrelle Bats, which are the small, common Bat species at the time. But knowing there were other small Bats, I left them in my notes as small Bat sp. Then a few years later, I discovered that there were three species of Pipistrelle Bat: Common, Soprano & Nathusius'. The first two species are widespread & considered common & the latter species is scarce. I know all three species occur at Studland, as I was lucky to bump into a Bat survey team in Sept 18 who had permission to catch & ring Bats that evening as part of a wider study into Bat movements in Dorset. They were good enough to allow me to stick around for the evening.
Common Pipistrelle Bat: Studland (13 Sep 18)
My assumption is my local small Bats are probably either Common Pipistrelle Bats or Soprano Pipistrelle Bats, but I don't know which species or possibly both species occur. One of these years, I will probably either buy, or try borrowing, a Bat detector to try figuring out my local species.
Soprano Pipistrelle Bat: Studland (13 Sep 18)
The photos aren't great, but all I had was my iPhone camera which was pretty old then & is even older now. The ringers were using torchlight to process them, and clearly it wouldn't have been acceptable to use flash to try to get a better photo. The features in the hand are pretty subtle, but the identification is much easier with a Bat detector as Common Pipistrelle Bats call at 45 kHz compared to 55 kHz for Soprano Pipistrelle Bats. I presume Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bats & Whiskered Bats (which we also saw that evening) call at different frequencies & perhaps my local habitat will rule those species out.
Nathusius' Pipistrelle Bat: Studland (13 Sep 18)
Whiskered Bat: Studland (13 Sep 18)
One of these years it would be good to spent some time trying to look at my local & other Dorset Bats species & learn more about their identification & preferred habitats. But it's still be on the To Do list.

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at when I will be confined at #BWKM0.

28 Mar 2020

26 Mar 20 - Exploring Further Afield Than #BWKM0

For the first time for six days, I've left the house/garden & taken a pre-dusk drive to the supermarket in Swanage for the weekly shop, which is next to the small river through the town. I tried looking over the wall from the pavement in the hope of seeing a Mallard, Moorhen or Grey Wagtail. No joy, but there was a very smug looking Brown Rat: presumably because the Humans were all acting very worried & this time, it's not down to Rattie's near relative: the Black Rat.
Brown Rat: Radipole (1 Jan 19)
Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at when I will be confined at #BWKM0.

27 Mar 2020

25 Mar 20 - Red-bummed Bumble #BWKM0

I saw my first Bumblebee sp. in the garden for the Year on 20 Jan. The next was 8 Mar & I've seen several flying through the garden from the study fairly regularly since we were all told to stay indoors. But the recent views have always been brief & I've not managed to get a decent look to identify them. All this changed today, when I popped outside for a brief spot of fresh air, whilst making a cuppa of tea. There was a queen Large Red-tailed Bumblebee flying around. She didn't hang around for long & I had to get back to work. So, no photos. It's a fairly common species, but given the current circumstances, it's nice to spend a bit more time enjoying what I can see in the garden at #BWKM0.
Large Red-tailed Bumblebee: Win Green, Wilts (28 Jun 14)
Given we are all confined at home these days: why not buy a new field guide & see what you can discover in your garden or local park whilst out on a daily walk. A few years ago, the excellent Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk and Richard Lewington was published. I'm still at the beginner level on many of the Bee species, but it's a great source of information. Alternatively, there are some good websites on line with information & photos to get you started on Bumblebees.

Ironically, I had taken the camera upstairs in the hope of something flying over while I was in the study. In fact, I did get my second flyover migrant Red Kite in two days. But it went over when I was on another works call and I could hardly try taking photos, given as I had an open mic & was talking at the time.

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

26 Mar 2020

24 Mar 20 - Red Kite & Garden Mega #BWKM0

In a recent Post, I said I was surprised that I hadn't seen a Red Kite flying over the house in the last few days, given how much time I've spent in my study & the number of other Dorset Birders who had seen them on the move recently. So, I was pleasantly surprised to get a response to my 'complaint' when a Red Kite flew over the house in an Easterly direction about 11:15 today, during a works phone call. Must admit I am getting quite happy with the idea of having to focus my mind, ears & voice on phone calls, whilst leaving my eyes to keep an eye on what is flying around outside.
Migratory Red Kite: Ballard Down (6 Apr 15)
I was proof reading the above Post this evening, when I decided to have a quick look out of the window before the light faded. Perfect timing as I could see three distant Birds flying North in formation towards Poole Harbour about 18:40. I thought they would probably be Gulls. But as they were flying in a line I thought it was worth a look with the bins: wow Egyptian Goose. Not only a Garden Tick, but only the fourth species of Waterfowl for the Garden List. I get Mallard erratically & not even annually in the Spring. But otherwise, I've only seen Shelduck on two occasions & Canada Geese once. The Garden List is now on 116.
Egyptian Goose: Wish they had been this close. Drents-Friese Wold, Holland (28 Nov 13)
Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

25 Mar 2020

23 Mar 20 - To The Very Small #BWKM0

Today's wildlife focus is something many of the UK population may have, but have never noticed or looked at carefully. About ten years I had some new carpets fitted in the bedrooms. The following Spring, I noticed what looked like a miniature Ladybird in one of the bedrooms. The problem was it was only about 3mm long & I couldn't figure out which species it was. I took a photo & put in on the excellent iSpot site, where you can post photos & volunteers offer their help to identify the species. Several answers quickly came back & all said Varied Carpet Beetle. It's not a species I was familiar with, but then I've not got a Beetle field guide.
Varied Carpet Beetle: They are quite cute when seen well (7 Apr 12)
Since that date, there has been a regular appearance between Feb & May of Varied Carpet Beetles. Generally, I find them close to the windows and they are quickly helped on their way to explore the outside. But clearly, some end up finding each other & laying new eggs in the upstairs carpets. I guess many people would be shocked to have to share their house with these little Beetles, however, they haven't destroyed the carpets in the last decade, so I'm happy to live with them, albeit the ones I see get the chance to live outside once found.

Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0. The Post is already written & it will be a couple of Bird species.

24 Mar 2020

22 Mar 20 - Red Kite (Not) #BWKM0

It's been a quiet day on the Bird front. I had been hoping a Red Kite would fly over as there have been a number of sightings across Dorset throughout the weekend & I have a good view facing West from my study. The vast majority of records in the Purbeck area of Dorset, are still Spring migrants that move East from March to May on dry, sunny days with generally light, and often Easterly, winds. This pattern has been well established for the last few years & many Dorset Birders are probably keeping any regular eye skywards on these conditions.
Red Kite: This individual was moving East through a few years ago (Jun 14)
Given the time of the year, my assumption is these are young Birds which haven't established territories yet, have wandered to the South West for the Winter & are now generally drifting back to closer to where they were born. A bit of speculation with this idea, but if they were adults then they should have been on breeding territories for some time already.
 
So, one interesting question is where are they spending the Winter. I've not heard of large numbers of Red Kites down West, but perhaps that is just because they are there, but well-spaced out or perhaps too common for anybody to both mentioning. Anyway, the weather isn't looking like it will be changing in the next few days, so I might still get one soon over the house. With a few weeks of working at home & plenty of conference calls being booked, I will have plenty of time to look out of the window, when nobody is presenting documents on the laptop screen.

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

23 Mar 2020

21 Mar 20 - Wood Mouse #BWKM0

Having an old house, it's not unusual that a Wood Mouse will find a route into my house during the Winter. Over the years, I've managed to find ways to minimise the number of places they can actually get into the living areas, but it's not that unusual to hear them running behind skirting boards or on the upper side of the ceiling. In the last few years, I've taken to leaving a couple of peanuts on the kitchen floor. So, I know that if they have gone overnight, I have a new lodger. At that point, the live Mammal trap goes down & depending on how clever the new visitor is, I might quickly or eventually catch it. This has proved a good tactic as it has added both Common Shrew & Pygmy Shrew to the Garden (or House) List in recent years. There has been an elusive Wood Mouse that has skilfully avoided the trap earlier in the Winter & it disappeared, before being caught. But a couple of weeks ago, I heard a rustle while in the study & turning around saw a really cute Wood Mouse sitting in the corner of the room. It stayed there for a couple of minutes before it saw me & disappeared. Two weeks later, it was finally enticed into the trap when I added some cheese to the peanuts & it safely released about 50 metres away in some local woods. There is plenty of cover & food & hopefully it won't find its way back.  It was perfect timing to release it, as my fourth record of Crossbill flew over West as I was walking down the garden path.

To be on the safe side, I put down some more peanuts in the study & kitchen. Both sets had gone overnight. So, clearly there was at least one more to locate. There are probably plenty of mouse friendly routes within the stone walls so not necessarily two individuals. The live trap went down in kitchen & this morning, I woke to find the kitchen trap had a new visitor. This was safely released in the woods as well. More peanuts down, so will have to see if there are any left tomorrow.
Wood Mouse: Very cute. This is how & where I prefer to see them (9 Jun 13)
Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

22 Mar 2020

20 Mar 20 - Two Garden Year Ticks #BWKM0

A bit more of an eventful day at #BWKM0. While topping up the Bird feeders, I heard a Raven calling. A quick look & I saw the first Garden Year Tick flying over. I see or hear them a few times over the house each year. If I spent more time in the garden, I suspect I would get a lot more records a year.
Raven: Brands Bay, Studland (21 Apr 14)
The day continued to improve as early afternoon say the second Garden Tick for the year flew over during a works phone call: a Ring-necked Parakeet. They have turned out to be fairly regular visitors especially during the Spring & Summer in the last two or three years.
Ring-necked Parakeet: They aren't a particular common species in Dorset, apart the long established individuals in the Studland area. But the Studland population wander a lot locally & this was presumbly one of the Studland individuals. This was taken in my garden (28 Aug 18)
Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

21 Mar 2020

19 Mar 20 - Roe Deer #BWKM0

The last few days have been enjoyable as there have been a pair of Roe Deer in the field that I can see from my study. They have certainly made the work conference calls more interesting watching them, whilst obvious focusing on the conversations on the headphones (honest). As I said in the previous Post, I not going to get many opportunities for photos taken while working, but at least I can use photos I've taken over the last few years.
Roe Deer: Taken in the same field (28 May 13)
Roe Deer: Taken in the same field (28 May 13)
Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.

20 Mar 2020

18 Mar 20 - Birdwatching At KM 0 #BWKM0

A couple of days ago, I saw a tweet saying that Italian Birders were fighting back at the stay at home instructions from the government & were tweeting sightings from their homes & gardens under the #BWKM0 Birdwatching at kilometre 0. I've decided to join in with this & get the Blog going again. Working in the IT industry, I'm probably luckier than many as I can work from home & we were all sent home this week for the indefinite future. With a desk & a computer screen already set up in the house, it's been an easy transition. The commute to work is now under 30 seconds, even carrying a cup of tea, which is certainly better than the usual hour & three quarters each way. Even better I've got a nice view from my study & looking out of the window, is a lot better than staring at a computer screen showing photos of my work colleague's faces, while on yet another long conference call. So, with some of time not spent commuting, I've decided to do a short Blog of the most interesting Birding or Wildlife event from the day. I will be posting my photos, but they may be ones from the archive rather than taken on the day. After all, I am still being paid to work for most of the daylight hours.

The highlight of the day was the first Chiffchaff for the year in the Garden. Over the 22 Springs I've spent in the house, this was the second earliest record for the year: only beaten by in one year by one on 14 Mar 09.
Chiffchaff: I've not got any reasonable Spring photos, so it will have to be a late Autumn photo taken South Beach, Studland (7 Oct 14)
Check tomorrow to see the next day's wildlife sighting at #BWKM0.