30 Sept 2014

30 Sep 14 - The New Studland Great White Egret

Just when the Studland Great White Egret & story was looking settled, a pager message on the 28th said 2 Great White Egrets on Littlesea. But there was nothing on the local email group about the second individual, so there was no clue as to the observer. Given this is the most frequently misidentified species in Poole Harbour, then I was interested, but cautious. But the caution was removed by a call 30 minutes later from my mate, Richard Webb, to say he was watching 2 GWEs on Littlesea. This confirmed there was a new individual in town, but he hadn't phoned the original news out. Having just got used to the news we finally had a showy GWE in Poole Harbour, then to have a second individual at Studland was even more remarkable. I was on the end of Old Harry at the time & by the time I had finished Birding there & got to Littlesea & Brands Bay, both GWEs had departed. I did managed to see both late on the follow afternoon at Littlesea, but no chance of any photos. So a couple of return visits were scheduled to look for them. This mornings visit on the rising morning tide to Brands Bay was unsuccessful, but a distant Osprey in the bay was good to see as were the first returning Grey Plovers that flew into the bay. A quick look at Littlesea, failed to find any GWEs, but it wasn't a thorough look as I was keen to get onto Middlebere (but more on that in a future post).
Teal: The only bird close enough to be photographed on this visit & a new species for the blog
Teal: Great to see them back in numbers
By the time I was finally leaving Middlebere, I decided to give Brands Bay another look as the tide should be starting to drop. I arrived to find a couple who I had met earlier at Middlebere by their car. They were just giving up & heading home. Before they left, they confirmed the water was still high & there were no GWEs in the bay. Oh well, it was a bit of a long shot. I then got a non birding phone call before I had had chance to get the scope & camera out of the car. While I was on the phone about 6 Egrets went up from the bay including a GWE: must have been in the side creek & out of sight of the hide after all. Finally, the call ended & I could grab everything & get to hide to see if it was still there.
Great White Egret: Here I am. Before I could get a decent shot it flew to the middle of the bay
The light in Brands Bay at this time of the day is always grim, as checking the best parts of the bay means looking straight into the sun. When it gets really bad, Redshanks can be almost as contrasty as Oystercatchers in some parts of the bay. So the photos aren't great, but even so, I can't see any sign of buff edgings to the coverts in the photos or with the scope. As such, it looks like we should be able to separate these two individuals (if good views or photos are obtained).
Great White Egret: The new individual
Great White Egret: The new individual
Hopefully some better photos will follow in the next few days. Photos of the first GWE can be found here.

30 Sep 14 - It's All Happening At Middlebere

Middlebere is a site that is best to visit on the rising tide as it's one of the last places in that part of the Poole Harbour to flood. But the height of the tide is also a factor. On spring tides it can go from fully out to high water in about an hour, on some neap tides the creek doesn't get flooded. But today I hit it perfectly. The tide pushed up but left a reasonable amount of mud exposed for Waders to roost on through the hide tide. As I walked into the hide, the creek was a mass of 1029 Black-tailed Godwits & 354 Avocets in two tight clusters. There was always some mud exposed on the high tide so there was the chance for prolonged views of the Waders. Sadly, no small Waders, but 10 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Greenshanks & 7 Spotted Redshanks also kept things interesting.
Avocet: Part of the 354 flock. They normally roost on Brownsea, but will roost at Middlebere on the lower high tides
Black-tailed Godwit: Part of the 1029 flock. Again normally they roost in numbers on Brownsea, although they often roost in smaller numbers (generally less than 150) at Middlebere, Brands Bay etc to avoid flying back & to be ready to feed as the mud is exposed again
A first Winter Green Sandpiper was back on the pool in front of the hide. This pool has been well visited of late by both a first Winter & an adult Green Sandpiper.
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. The broad spotting on the tertials indicates this is a Juvenile/1st Winter
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. Which is my better side, this side?
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. Or maybe this side?
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. After all that, it's time for a rest
Later on this Little Egret dropped into the same pool to feed.
Little Egret: They are commonly seen here, but it has taken a lot of visits to photograph one this close
Mute Swans are erratic visitors at Middlebere and this is only my second sighting here this year after one in the Spring.
Mute Swan
Mute Swan: After circling it did set down on the water
The visit continued to get better when a first Winter Marsh Harrier, grabbed something & settled down on the kill.
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter birds look very dark & uniform at this time of the year
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter. Note the pale tips to the primary & secondary coverts and the uniform flight feathers
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter. Not a great shot, but it shows the uniform flight feathers also have pale tips to them
Marsh Harrier: 1st Winter
It was later joined by a female Marsh Harrier, but it wasn't interested in sharing the food. After a chase, the female departed and the first Winter bird went back to the kill.
Marsh Harrier: Female being seen off by the 1st Winter Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier: Female. On first impressions, this looks like another 1st Winter bird as it has the buff tips to the primary & secondary coverts and the flight feathers. But it also shows contrast between dark & light secondaries which points to a bird that has a mixture of old & new flight feathers. The more extensive buff-yellow patch on the leading edge of the wing can occur in some 1st Winter birds, but is more prominent in older females 
Marsh Harrier: Female. The contrast between the old & the new secondaries is quite obvious as is the dark wedge of outer primaries
At one point, the subadult male that was around a few days before put in another appearance.
Marsh Harrier: Subadult male
Marsh Harrier: Subadult male: A distant record shot view of the upperwing (which will have to do until I can get some decent shots)
With all this Harrier action it was no surprise to see the Avocet & Black-tailed Godwit flocks spooked a few times.
Black-tailed Godwits: Still trying to work out how I found feel if one of these had dark underwings
The best point of the afternoon was finding a 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull on the foreshore. Despite being a common breeding bird in the upper harbour and a common wintering species around the Studland area, it is a rare bird at Middlebere. In 17 years, I have seen Mediterranean Gulls here on 4 occasions, including a flock of 3 on one visit this Summer. Whilst directing the other visitors in the hide onto the Med, I then realised there were 3 more 1st Winter individuals. Soon after an adult joined them, followed by a 2nd Winter. In the space of 10 minutes, I had doubled my number of Mediterranean Gulls for the site. They hung around for an hour or so, but despite good numbers of Black-headed Gulls being there, they departed as one of the Marsh Harriers booted everything again. Unfortunately, I failed to get any worthwhile photos of the group. I finished off the day, by returning to the Brands Bay hide for the late afternoon falling tide & got my first photos of the new Great White Egret.

28 Sept 2014

28 Sep 14 - Southern Hawker Egg Laying

I spent several hours out Birding locally on Old Harry & Studland today with a selection of commoner typical migrant Bird species seen, but nothing unexpected. Jays were on the move with a flock of 7 North over Studland. An additional 12 heading West from Old Harry, having realised that they were on the end of a headland with water on the Northerly direction that they wanted to go. The Westerly direction would have got them back onto a land route North.
Jay: Part of the flock of 12 which rose out of the front wood by Old Harry
I am always happy to see Long-tailed Tits & I spent some time grilling a couple of mixed Tit & Warbler flocks: but only Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps tagging along today. But the Long-tailed Tits are always great to watch.
Long-tailed Tit: The only European species in my top 10 Birds of the world that I've seen
Long-tailed Tit: It finally got bored with my pishing & after a final look, it decided to move on
There were also a few Butterflies on the wing with Clouded Yellows, Red Admirals, Speckled Woods, Large Whites & a singles of Small Copper & Peacock (the first I've seen for several weeks). The car was showing 23 degrees when I got back to it, so no surprise the Butterflies were enjoying the weather.
Clouded Yellow: The commonest Butterfly seen today with at least 14 individuals. This one appeared to be trying the "If I can't really see you, then you can't see me approach", which didn't really work
The wildlife highlight of the day was this cracking female Southern Hawker which greeted me on my return home. She was egg laying around the main pond. But unlike the other species of Dragonflies & Damselflies, which I've seen lay eggs in water, she was laying eggs in the moss, a few inches above the waterline on the rocks that edge the pond. This is something I've seen before on a few occasions in the last 2 years. From what I've read this evening, it seems that the eggs will not hatch until the following Spring, so perhaps this is a safer strategy for this species than laying the eggs in the pond over the winter. At one point, she even landed on my arm, but wisely decided that a green Rohan fleece was not the right place to lay an egg!
Southern Hawker: Female. This egg was a good 6 inches above water line, with some even higher
Southern Hawker: Female
Southern Hawker: Female. The final 2 segments have bands on them which separates this species from all the other Hawkers

27 Sept 2014

26 Sep 14 - The Birding Gods Are Listening

Back to Middlebere, but I still managed to miss the rising tide. But the weather was mild & the light OK, so I decided to see if any Raptors came along. I wasn't disappointed with 6 species of Raptors (in order of appearance): Kestrel, a first Winter Ringtail Hen Harrier, sub adult male Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine & finally a Buzzard. Must be my best Raptor day in terms of numbers of species. The 2 Harriers & the Merlin are freshly into the area. Unfortunately, the Harriers kept their distance & the Merlin did a quick fly past (but long enough to enjoy it with the bins).

In a recent post, I photographed a 1st Winter Green Sandpiper on the pool in front of the hide. I ended up saying I wished I had some photos of an Adult for comparison at this time of year. The first bird of note seen was an Adult Green Sandpiper on the same pool. I'm sure this is just luck, but in case the Birding Gods are following the blog, I would like to be able to show you photographs of a Siberian Rubythroat on Old Harry in the next few days!
Green Sandpiper: Adult. Note the streaky breast. This is more uniform on 1st Winter birds
Green Sandpiper: Adult. Note the fine spotting on the wings, especially the tertials. The tertials have broader spots on 1st Winter birds
Even better a Green Sandpiper dropped into the pool later in the morning & it was a 1st Winter bird. This was very photogenic & allowed me some better photos.
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter: This bird has far more uniform breast without the obvious streaking on the adult. Also the spotting on the tertials is larger & more distinctive
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. The centre of the breast was more streaky, but still not as streaky as the Adult
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. A nice view of the rump & tail. Pity there wasn't a central dark band to the rump & tail. That would have a sparked a major Dorset twitch, given Solitary Sandpiper has not been seen in the county before
Green Sandpiper: 1st Winter. Just posing for the camera now
Black-headed Gull: This Black-headed Gull also wanted its photo taken on the pole
As I was planning on leaving the Great White Egret from Studland flew in & dropped into the back of the marsh: but not before I got the chance to get the scope onto it. I saw it a couple of times over the next hour while I hung around, hoping it would appear on the creek as the water started to drop. But both views were less than a minute as it flew, before landing out of sight again. This is the first time, the GWE has been seen from the main hide (as it was first seen from the Harrier hide on the 7 Sep).

25 Sept 2014

25 Sep 14 - Migrants, Residents & Idiots At Studland

After a few grotty overcast days, the sun was out early & I was looking forward to getting out around the Studland patch. First stop was South Haven and a chance to look around for some migrants in the bushes. There were good numbers of Chiffchaffs and a few Goldcrests in the Tit flocks and the highlight around the lake area was this Spotted Flycatcher. There seems to have been good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers this Autumn, so hopefully they have had a good breeding season.
Spotted Flycatcher: I never get tired of seeing Spotted Flycatchers, especially as they tend to be erratic locally in the Spring & therefore the August & September tend to be the best months to see them
It's just getting to the time of the year to start checking the Heather Walk. This is a trail which heads off from the beach with some good trees in it. It is a good spot for mixed Tit & Warbler flocks & there is always a chance of a rarity in the flocks, although it's probably a bit early. In Autumn 2011 there were 3 Yellow-browed Warbler sightings over a 4 week period. Each of the birds looked different, but with no photos taken we will never know for sure.
Reed Bunting: There are usually a few around at the start of the trail. The first Reed Bunting for the Blog
Migrant Hawker: Female. Migrant & Common Hawkers have 2 spots on each of segments 9 & 10 (nearest the end of the abdomen), whereas Southern Hawker has bands on these segments. Migrant Hawkers have a prominent yellow triangle on segment 2. Additionally, the costa (leading edge to the forewing) is brown which separates this species from Common Hawker (which had a yellow costa)
Migrant Hawker: Female. Showing the brown costa & yellow triangle. This is easily the commonest Hawker flying locally at the moment. I've seen the occasional Southern Hawker in the last few weeks & yet to find a Common Hawker this year: it is definitely not common locally
Migrant Hawker: Female. Head on view
Migrant Hawker: Female. A nice face
The Great White Egret was on view again in the Little Egret roost at Littlesea. Although visible from the High Hide, it is too far at that point for photos. But the High Hide is about the only place to see this roost clearly. Still there have been plenty of photos of this GWE in recent posts.

The final site was Brands Bay, just as the tide was starting to drop. Highlights were 2 Greenshanks, a Whimbrel & a Knot. All seen until 2 idiot canoeists decided to come into the bay & explore all the side inlets. They must have been able to see the bird hide & the open windows. They must also have been able to see they were flushing all the Ducks, Waders & Gulls in the bay. But in a totally selfish way they insisted on flushing everything & then going to the back of the back of the bay, to flush many of the Birds a second time. I have nothing against canoeists in principal, but they need to consider that there are some bays such as Brands Bay, Middlebere & a few other bays around Poole Harbour, that get good numbers of roosting Birds & it is just irresponsible & selfish to disturb them. Non Birdwatchers probably only think these Birds are sitting around. Often they have been up half the night feeding or potentially migrating at this time of the year and are resting & sleeping whilst they wait for the water levels to drop again to be able to feed. If you are a canoeist and you see a large group of Birds in a bay, please turn back & don't disturb them. If they had done this a few days ago, it would have been even worse as they would have flush Birds into the back of the bay where another antisocial person, a hunter was waiting.
Irresponsible canoeists: Do you know these people. If so, perhaps you could ask them not to try & flush every single Bird in sight next time. I was fairly polite in this request & very polite at this time given the presence of a small kid with his dad in the hide

21 Sept 2014

21 Sep 14 - The Day Isn't Over Yet

Having seen good views of the Masked Shrike, then there was still a couple of hours for Peter Moore & myself to have a look at some of the other good Birds at Spurn. The combination of the favourable winds & the number of Birders had found Olive-backed Pipit, 2 Red-breasted Flycatchers, Barred Warbler & a Yellow-browed Warbler in the general area. However, the bad behaviour at the Olive-backed Pipit by Birders trying to flush it to see it, had meant that it had disappeared. Peter Moore & I were keen to see the Barred Warbler as it was only about 300 metres walk up the road. First stop was the chance to have a quick chat with friend & keen blogger, Ewan Urquhart, who writes the Black Audi Birding blog. Regular readers will remember I spent a couple of great days on Rum last October with Ewan on the Mourning Dove twitch. Unfortunately, it was only a short catch up as we were moving in opposite directions & time was short. Next stop was another 40 metres up the road, where there was a Red-breasted Flycatcher. But it hadn't been seen for about 15 minutes, so we didn't linger. 5 minutes later we arrived on the beach to look for the Barred Warbler.
Barred Warbler bushes: The Barred Warbler was skulking in these bushes, but eventually it popped out completely for a minute or two
Spurn Fashion Week: It's a smaller, low key, event compared to the London Fashion Week. But the number of motor drives going when the Barred Warbler popped out a few minutes later, would have impressed the catwalk. Peter is on the extreme right, trying to pretend it's cold up North
Barred Warbler: Being typically shy. My first Barred Warbler for about 19 years since Edge who featured in the Masked Shrike post found one in Winspit
Barred Warbler: A quick check to confirm Peter had moved to the other side of the hedge
Barred Warbler: After confirming he isn't there, it popped out
Barred Warbler: Look at the size of that bill
Barred Warbler: This is a species that doesn't raise many eyebrows on the East coast, but being much less than annual in Dorset, it's a good bird for us
Barred Warbler: Note, the white tips to the outer tail feathers
Having had good views & reasonable photos of the Barred Warbler, it was time to start drifting back to the car. But with a stop for the Red-breasted Flycatcher, which was now moving around in trees & bushes next to the road.
Red-breasted Flycatcher: Another species which is only every few years in Dorset. Having seen my first in Dorset, last year, I guess I've got another 3 or 4 years before the next one even turns up
Red-breasted Flycatcher
We finished off back at the Masked Shrike field, but it was skulking & only erratically showing at the far edge of the field. But a male Roe Deer had appeared. This one has a much darker face than the my local Roe Deer.
Roe Deer: Male happy sleeping by the Masked Shrike hedge
The final stop before leaving was the Bluebell cafe: You could tell we weren't in Dorset, when it was only £5.60 for a pasty, slice of chocolate cake & pot of tea.