27 Jul 2022

27 Jul 22 - Head & Shoulders

After the success of a private boat trip up the Wareham Channel & the Frome last week, there was an offer of joining another trip this evening. Despite a busy day of volunteering on Brownsea, there is just about enough time to get off Brownsea, make a cuppa of tea & a very quick snack & get back out of the house in time to get to Poole Quay for an 18:00 departure. Like last week, I made the boat with not much more than five minutes to spare.

It was worth it, when one of the other friends on the boat spotted one of the Wareham Channel White-tailed Sea-eagles perched up in a bush at the water's edge. The skipper stopped the boat & for ten minutes it sat there, while the cameras were clicking & we were about sixty metres away. It was quite unconcerned about our presence, in the same way that birds & mammals are often unfazed by people close up in cars. Even though we were walking around in full view on the boat, the White-tailed Sea-eagle seemed to consider us as a boat, rather than a group of people walking close to it. The nice light was a bonus. Finally, it got bored of watching us & disappeared. I will do a longer Blog Post soon.
White-tailed Sea-eagle
The Birds of Poole Harbour team will be running a lot of their Bird Boats in Aug & early Sep into the Wareham Channel in the expectation of multiple Osprey sightings & the hope of other sightings including White-tailed Sea-eagles. Obviously, the birds seen & the views are always going to be a matter of luck of the day, but hopefully they will get some good sightings on those boats. A full list of the boat trips they will be running & how to book a trip is on their website.

21 Jul 2022

19 Jul 22 - Blast From The Past: 12 Years On

In the last few days, Gavin Haig has caught three Orache Moths in West Dorset. This prompted me to write this Blog Post. Back in late Spring to Autumn 2010, I ran my Moth trap most nights. This put a real strain on the Birding as I was having to get up pre-dawn to stop the local Robins, Great Tits & House Sparrows enjoying a Moth breakfast from all the Moths that were sitting on my patio etc. It didn't help that I was also commuting to Portsmouth four days a week and working at home on the Friday. With these early starts I was generally in bed well before it was dark. But I ended up catching some good local Moths with the best being this gorgeous Orache Moth, which was about the tenth Dorset record at the time.
Orache Moth: A good combination of rare, easy to identify & very pretty

17 Jul 2022

9 Jun 22 - The Crossing From Rosslare To Pembroke Dock

The morning for my crossing back from Rosslare to Pembroke Dock started with heavy rain at dawn. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by the time the ferry departed from Rosslare Harbour, but it remained overcast and murky. Light rain started again as the ferry passed the Milford Haven oil terminal. Still at least it was dry enough to allow me to seawatch from the deck. I had hoped to see some Cetaceans, but no joy. There were just under 500 Manx Shearwaters (nearly all in Irish waters), 90+ Puffins and other expected Seabirds including Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills on the crossing to keep it interesting. As we reached Welsh waters the numbers of Guillemots and Razorbills increased, whereas Puffin numbers were similar in both the Irish & Welsh waters. A few Black Guillemots were present around Rosslare Harbour, but I didn't see any after we had left the harbour.
Rosslare Harbour Lighthouse
Black Guillemot: I normally expect to see a few around Rosslare Harbour & wasn't disappointed on this occasion
Manx Shearwater: It's always great to see flocks of Manx Shearwaters rising off the sea as we pass: most were on the Irish side of the crossing
Stackrock Fort: The Fort was built between 1850 and 1852 to protect Pembroke Dock

15 Jul 2022

15 Jul 22 - Some Clearer Air On The Jurassic Coast

Three nights ago there was a superb sunset along the Jurassic coast from St Aldhelms.
Jurassic Sunset from St Aldhelms (12 Jul 22)
I popped out again for the evening sunset after another long session earlier in the day of trying to return the garden to looking like a garden, rather than the neglected grassland that the flower beds had become. The garden Birds seem to be enjoying being able to get into the more open garden.
Robin: An IPhone photo of one of my adult Robins which was looking for food & distracting me from gardening. There were also two independent juvenile Robins enjoying the bonus food
After several hot hours in the garden, it was good to get a decent walk in at dusk. There has been some fresher air since the first photo was taken & a lot of the dust in the atmosphere must have been blown away. The view was a lot clearer & the sunset lacked most of the red skies from earlier in the week.
Jurassic Sunset from St Aldhelms coastpath
Jurassic Sunset from the St Aldhelms coastpath
One of the best decisions I ever made was twenty-six years ago when I decided that I was going to stop renting in Southampton & start buying my own house in the stunning Isle of Purbeck. All those years of having to commute back to Hampshire for work were worth it.

13 Jul 2022

13 Jul 22 - The Hassles Of Moving Home

Back onto Brownsea for my regular Wednesday volunteering on the DWT Brownsea reserve. This week I was first up on the entrance desk meeting & greeting visitors. After about thirty minutes, two ladies arrived & asked about where to see a Red Squirrel as that was what they really wanted to see. I didn't even have time to start answering when I saw a pale flash in the grass. Over recent weeks, I've picked up Red Squirrels best at a distance by an unexpected pale movement. Asking the ladies to give me a minute, I moved a couple of metres & confirmed I had the pale movement was a Red Squirrel's tail. After pointing out the directions to the two ladies, I moved again to get a clearer view. There was something odd about this Red Squirrel as it had something in its mouth.
Red Squirrel: There was something interesting in the Squirrel's mouth
Red Squirrel: As suspected from my first sighting, the interesting object was a third-sized baby Squirrel & the parent was moving it between dreys
Red Squirrel: Having moved the baby, the Red Squirrel came back & posed for us on the entrance bridge. It's possible to see a nipple in this photo, so it's a female
Red Squirrel: More posing
Red Squirrel: The posing has increased to mimic the DWT sign
Finally, the Red Squirrel crossed the track & lay down on one of the branches on a nearby tree. I had seen a Red Squirrel do this a couple of weeks earlier on the same branch & assume it was the same female. On that occasion, the Red Squirrel was quite happy to pose for about fifteen visitors & allowed prolonged views.

While today's Red Squirrel was posing for the next couple of visitors, I saw a group of twenty-five to thirty small children, teachers & teaching assistants from Talbot School coming along the boardwalk. One of the teachers said they were going to stay on the NT side of the island, but they really wanted to see a Red Squirrel. I couldn't say no to that request, but explained they would need to be quiet. Fortunately, the Red Squirrel went along with this & soon there was a class of happy small and quiet children watching her. It's great to be able to show the next generation something exciting. It was nice how many of the children said "Thank you" on their way off the reserve.
It was great to see the next generation enjoying their first Red Squirrel sighting

12 Jul 2022

12 Jul 22 - Jurassic Sunset

There was a superb sunset at the Jurassic coast from St Aldhelms.
Jurassic Sunset from St Aldhelms

11 Jul 2022

8 Jun 22 - Birding On The Irish Mullet

After seeing the Least Tern, I had decided to return for a second attempt to get good views of the American Black Duck at Cross Lough on The Mullet on the North West Irish coast. The weather was predicted to get wet & windy as a front moved through on my first evening in Ireland and it was probably better as an option, than to look for Cryptic Wood White. Having had no success in the last hour of light on the first evening, I was hoping the wind & rain would have easied by dawn. The disadvantage of sleeping in the car was I heard the wind & rain was still hitting the car at dawn. The advantage was I could turn off the alarm & get some more sleep.
Cross Lough (12 Mar 22)
Cross Lough: The Lough is surrounded by these Machair fields
The rain had finally stopped by mid-morning, but there was still a strong wind blowing. I started looking for the American Black Duck along the shoreline, while brewing the first cuppa tea with the car kettle. It looked like most of the Ducks present on the previous evening had disappeared to feed locally or were skulking out of site in the reed edges. Eventually, I found a road that overlooked the Southern shore of the Lough, but I still no joy. Perhaps that was where it had been seen from the previous afternoon. I was glad I had seen it back on the Egyptian Vulture trip, even if it was only a flight view into this Southern section. I have only seen two previously in the UK: at Aber & on Tresco with both sightings in 1981.
A very breezy Atlantic, looking North from the beach
The Atlantic, looking South from the beach
The New York coastline is clearly a long way away
Cross Lough is a lovely place to go Birding as it resembles the Uist islands. I saw several breeding Wheatears.
Wheatear: Male
Wheatear: There were a pair of Wheatears around this small stone wall. I saw the male go inside the wall, so I suspect they were feeding young still in a nest in the wall
Wheatear: The Male showing how well camouflaged they are in the local stony walls
Wheatear: The equally well camouflaged female
This juvenile Wheatear has already fledged closer to the Lough.
Wheatear: Juvenile. I was pleased to see this recently fledged & independent juvenile Wheatear. Really hoping one year to see a juvenile Wheatear this young in the Isle of Purbeck to confirm local breeding
Lesser Black-backed Gull: My favourite regular UK Gull species
There were a reasonable number of Northern Marsh Orchids around the Lough.
Northern Marsh Orchid
Another Northern Marsh Orchid
It was now mid-afternoon and I had to start driving back to Rosslare. There was time for some brief roadside stops for some more Irish roadside art. Having always been a fan of traditional Irish Folk music, I couldn't resist stopping to take this photo.
Traditional Irish Folk band in a small housing development in Swinford
The impressive four Tullamore statues were along another of the main roads.
One of the four Roadside Tullamore Saints
Another of the four Roadside Tullamore Saints
A third of the four Roadside Tullamore Saints
I managed to get to the Wexford Waterfowl Centre just outside Rosslare to find the reserve shut & heavily secured to ensure you couldn't enjoy it out of hours: which was very disappointing. I did manage to see a little bit of the reserve by looking from the seawall & saw my second Irish Hare of the trip. It was getting dark & time to find somewhere to park the Focus Hotel for the night.
An Irish Hare record photo