27 Dec 2017

27 Dec 17 - A New View Of My Favourite Castle

As I've driven home every evening over the last few weeks, I've seen this stunning view of Corfe Castle. On several occasions, I planned to take the camera out to take some photos, but had forgotten by the time I had eaten or found it had started raining. But I finally remembered.
Corfe Castle: Taken from the field to the North of the castle
I've driven past Corfe Castle for the majority of the weekdays for over 20 years now & it still hasn't lost its appeal to me. With the current lighting up of castle in the early evening, the National Trust are doing are great job of promoting it. I am assuming that the lights will be turned off in the New Year, but I am enjoying it for now.

25 Dec 2017

25 Dec 17 - Happy Christmas

Well it's traditional in the UK to send Robins on Christmas cards, so feel I had better follow suit & pop a Robin on the blog.
New Zealand South Island Robin: This has been split in 2019 from the North Island populations. Motarua Island, Marlborough Sound (Dec 2001)
This is a true forest Robin & while it looks like a black version of my garden Robins, is not related to them (it is a member of the Australasian Robin family). I only ran into them on a couple of occasions on this trip and on both occasions they were seen on islands: Tiritiri Matangi off Auckland & Motarua Island at the top of South Island. They are full of character and very tame. I found that if I stayed still after tuning over a bit of the path, then will quickly come down to look for food right next to you. Far tamer than my garden Robins. Guess it's a species that has suffered a major population crash after the original European settlers introduced over 50 species of mammals, of which about 30 are still present in the country. However, the Kiwis are leading the world in removing these unwanted predators. They have now started on clearance projects in parts of the mainland. So hopefully this will allow some of the native birds to be introduced from these island refuges back into larger mainland sites.

25 Oct 2017

25 Oct 17 - It Would Have Been Rude To Say No

I had a phone call from my mate Marcus Lawson who lives in Poole asking whether I wanted to pop in & see him and meet his new house guest: a Crimson Speckled. Marcus had found it whilst out walking in Dorset that day. This is a rare migrant to Dorset & a cracking Moth, so it would have been rude to say no. Unfortunately, I didn't have a decent camera with me, so I had to make do with this poor quality Iphone photo. The house lights don't help the colour tones.
Crimson Speckled: Dorset. It seemed quite a dull specimen compared to an individual I photographed in Turkey & one found at Portland Bill the following day
Marcus will be releasing the Crimson Speckled in the same location he found it.
Crimson Speckled: This was the one photographed on the beach at Manvagat, Turkey (28 June 15)

21 Oct 2017

21 Oct 17 - The Fine Art Of Chimping

I got introduced to the fine art of Chimping, about the time I got my first Canon camera. It sounds an abusive term (& sadly there are some abusive alternatives), but the Urban Dictionary describes the photographic use of the phrase as "What one does after taking a picture with a digital camera and looking at the result: derived from the words they speak when chimping: Ooo-oo-oo!".
Peter Moore Chimping (over Sabine's Gull photos): Cogden Beach (4 Nov 2013)
My own attempts at Chimping are more varied. If I've just taken some photos & the Bird is still present, I will probably have a quick look to see if I need to improve on the camera settings. If the Bird has gone, then there is little point.

Fast track to Saturday: it was blowing a gale (Storm Brian to be exact) and regular heavy showers were promised. The second best place I could think of being (first involved a lie in) was the Middlebere hide as the tide was rising soon after dawn. So it was an early start to get to the hide for dawn. Good job I did get there that early as the tide was further in than predicted due to the effect of the wind & the low pressure. It ended up with the highest Spring tide I've seen at Middlebere in 20 years of watching the site. There was just enough time for a quick scan of the Waders before they disappeared into the marsh to roost. The highlight was clearly the Stilt Sandpiper, but also 17 Avocet, 3 Grey Plovers, 28 Lapwings, a Curlew Sandpiper, 5 Knot, 3 Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, 65+ Dunlins, & 605 Blackwits. There was a good scattering of Teal & a few Wigeon. Normally, once the tide is up, then Middlebere quietens down an hour or so after the channel is covered in water. But due to the extreme tide, the Waders were constantly moving as each of their regular roost spots flooded. Heavy showers came & went, as did brief patches of sun. With the strong winds & rain, I couldn't think of anywhere else to go & didn't feel tempted into a Studland seawatch, so I stayed put. A couple of Marsh Harriers appeared, followed by a Peregrine to stir the Waders & Wildfowl up. Then there was a shout from Mark Wright or Aidan Brown who were also in the hide of a close Sparrowhawk. I looked out & seeing it was close to the hide, I grabbed the camera rather than the bins & fired off a couple of shots from the front window, followed by a few more from the side window. I noted it was a large female Sparrowhawk, but otherwise didn't get a lot on it as the camera looked out of focus. It was quite distant when I put the camera down & as it had gone & the view through the viewfinder hadn't looked impressive or in focus, I failed to do any Chimping. I just assumed the photos were probably rubbish as I the camera wasn't set up for flying Birds. Moving on to that evening, another photographer, Simon, posted an email saying he had seen a Goshawk an hour after I left (after 8 hours in the hide that didn't seem fair especially as reliable records in Poole Harbour are rare). Later that evening, I had a twitter message from Mark to say our Sparrowhawk had been a Goshawk. Went to check the camera, only to find it was still in the car & it was hammering down with rain again. When I looked at the camera the following morning, then I was shocked with my photos: not only was it a Goshawk, but a bloody obvious Juv & a couple of presentable photos. Assuming it must have been a male given its size.
Goshawk: The large teardrop spots on the breast makes it a juv. Based on the large Sparrowhawk feel, it must have been a male
Goshawk: blatantly obvious as a Goshawk had I bothered Chimping
Goshawk: Later in the afternoon, I realised my camera eyepiece viewfinder was out of focus which is why I had been struggling to focus all day
Goshawk: The best photo of it flying off over the marsh. Note the bulging secondaries, narrow primaries & long barred tail
This is only my second Poole Harbour Goshawk. The previous one was also a Juv Male which was seen with sometimes local Purbeck Birder (when not living in France), Steve Morrison, on 22 March 15. It bombed the South Haven reedbed & pool, circled once more around the area, before departing for Poole over the harbour mouth.

2 Sept 2017

2 Sep 17 - History Flies Over Brownsea

A Baird's Sandpiper was found on 1 Sep 17. This was a first record for Poole Harbour & only the fourth Dorset record. I managed to get out of work early & get a boat over in the late afternoon, but there was no sign of the Baird's Sandpiper. The following morning, I decided to try Ballard Down as Brownsea has a track record of Waders moving on fairly quickly. Fortunately, my mate Peter Moore had more faith & headed over to have a look at Brownsea. Peter gave me a ring late morning to say the Baird's Sandpiper was still present. I had to give it another go, as it was a Dorset & Poole Harbour Tick. It was good to see it, although too far for either of us to get any worthwhile photos. But as always Brownsea was well worth a visit & I really should make more of an effort to visit regularly. It was day three of the Bournemouth Air Show & so it wasn't too surprising to see a few military airplanes flying over Poole from the Brownsea hides. This is the Sally-B, an American World War II Flying Fortress. It is the only airworthy Flying Fortress left in Europe & is part of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. It is painted up to resemble the Memphis Belle & was one of five Flying Fortresses used in the 1990 film Memphis Belle.
The Sally-B Flying Fortress
The Sally-B Flying Fortress
Soon after a Bristol Blenheim flew over towards Bournemouth beach. She is also based at Duxford. The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber that was built in the early 1930s & became the backbone of the British Light Bomber force from the start of World War II. Bristol Blenheims were used ina variety of day time & night time roles. This particular plane was used as a display aircraft until it was severely damaged in 2003. It changed ownership & was rebuilt which included replacing the nose of the plane. The replacement nose came from a Mark I Blenheim which had been converted into a unique car in the 1950s, before being mothballed. Once the plane was made airworthy again, it was repainted in the flying colours for the original plane that the nose was on. This was YP-Q which fought through the Battle of Britain as a night fighter.
Bristol Blenheim Mark I YP-Q
Getting back to the Birds I was meant to be looking at. There was a relatively close Common Sandpiper feeding along the edge of one of the Tern islands.
Common Sandpiper

27 Aug 2017

27 Aug 17 - A Bonus Hawk Moth

I'm still in photo catch up mode from Aug 17. A couple of weeks after I twitched my first Bedstraw Hawk Moth in at Paul Harris's garden in Weymouth, I saw a tweet from local Swanage Birder Phyl England. Phyl had found a Death's-Head Hawk Moth in her moth trap. Normally, I would be suspicious about Death's-Head Hawk Moths in the UK, given they can be easily bought on the internet by people who want to photograph a good-looking Hawk Moth. Personally, I can't see the attraction in buying Moths or Butterflies to photograph them. Even worse is to then claim they are wild. I know of one well known 1980s Bird stringer who went on to buy various Butterfly caterpillars or pupa for photography. He thought that producing photos of rare Butterflies would prove that he didn't string all his sightings. Instead, he just added to his dodgy reputation when he claimed a number of pristine rare Butterflies were wild. More amusing I did hear of one of the Hampshire Birders who caught a Death's-Head Hawk Moth back in the 80s. He took that Moth down the pub that evening to show his local Birding mates, only to find that they all had brought one to the pub as well. Only then did he realise it was a wind up & they had all been captively breed & one of his mates had secretly visited his garden trap the night before.
Death's-Head Hawk Moth: This was my first Death's-Head Hawk Moth. The Dorset Moth Group web site details a total of sixty records over forty four sites in Dorset. So, it was well worth making the effort to see this individual
Fortunately, Phyl's individual turned up with a number of other regular migrant Moths. Phyl's garden virtually backs onto the Durlston Country Park which has a great track record in migrant Moths. Phyl was very good & allowed me to pop along with my camera.
Death's-Head Hawk Moth: Apparently, they have a habit of raiding Honey Bee hives for honey
Death's-Head Hawk Moth: They look even better from the front & they have the most amazing eyes
I thought I was only going to get the chance to see the Death's-Head Hawk Moth, but Phyl said she had a number of other migrants that she had caught, but hadn't had the time to photograph them until I arrived. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity to photograph a few bonus Moth Ticks.
The Delicate: I've only seen one of this migrant Moth before at Portland
Scarce Bordered Straw: This is another migrant. I saw my first three Scarce Bordered Straws that afternoon
Scarce Bordered Straw
The Ni Moth: My third migrant Moth Tick of the afternoon

27 Aug 17 - Patch Gold

The August Bank Holiday weekend is one of my favourite weekends for local Birding, outside of the Oct to mid Nov window, providing the weather holds up. A slightly frustrating start to the weekend with having to work on the Sat, but with the forecast looking similar light winds & sunny weather I was keen to get out early this morning. It's about perfect time for Ortolans in Dorset & with last year's revolutionary surprise from the Sound Approach team about how many Ortolans are on the move over Poole Harbour at this time of year, then I was keen to see if I could see one. The only downside to this stunning total of 13 recorded over central Poole last Autumn were they were all recorded at night. In addition to these 13, I seem to remember Nick Hopper having additional Birds over his Wareham house (again at night) & there was a lone daytime sighting of one flushed & not relocated at Soldiers Road (Hartland Moor). The most likely location for connecting during the day would be Ballard Down which forms the Southern boundary of my Studland patch & also Poole Harbour. The best option would be to be able to walk some of the stubble fields, but these are all private. But there is always the slim change of a fly over Ortolan or one pitched down on the grassland.

I had planned to be out for pre-dawn, but looking at the times of the nocturnal recordings then most tended to be in the early hours rather than close to dawn. So I revised my plans to be out for just after first light. The first part of the walk from Studland village goes next to Manor farm. I rounded the corner & standing on the roof of the farm was a Hooded Crow. I'm not sure which of us was more surprised, but after quickly confirming it looked pretty pure, I reached for the camera, The Hoody responded quickly at this point, by flying out of sight & presumably landing further back on the roof. I checked the phone, but no signal. Fortunately, I was able to get a signal back in the village, about the only signal I had all morning (thanks EE) & started ringing around all the Harbour Listers. I reckoned it was probably about the first Hoody for about 30 years (actually only 26 years as the last record was 16 Feb 1991). Having got the news out, I needed to get back to the Hoody again. Fortunately, as I turned the corner it was back on view, but at the furthest end of the roof about 80 - 100 metres away. I grabbed a few photos, before it flew up into one of the trees over the road leading to the Glebelands estate. Soon after a Corvid dropped out of the back & headed off SE towards the fields. I didn't see anything on it, but assumed it was the Hoody as I couldn't see it as I got closer to the tree. There is a regular flock of Crows & Rooks which feed in these fields & I hoped it might have been heading off to join them. As I reached the Glebelands estate, I was caught up by Nick Hopper who crucially had a scope. Once on the main ridge to the East of the Glebelands estate, we could see the Corvid flock & it was happily feeding with the main flock. Not close, but these fields are private with no access & where the Corvids were they were hidden by folds in the field from the Glebelands road. The Hoody was visible for a couple of hours from the top of Ballard, until the farmer flushed the flock as he headed out to feed the cattle. It was later seen by Mark & Mo Constantine & much closer (than me) by Peter Moore in the field next to the road to Glebelands.
Hooded Crow: I was lucky to get this photo as I had knocked the setting onto a completely wrong setting
Checking this afternoon, there are only a handful of records for the Poole Harbour area. The Birds of Poole Harbour website list four previous records:-
  • 6 Jan - 15 Mar 1953 - Sandbanks
  • 29 & 30 Apr 1967 - Brownsea
  • 21 Mar 1980 - Brownsea
  • 16 Feb 1991 - Brownsea
Hooded Crow: A purely record showing more of the underparts & the wing moult (so clearly not a youngster). It also points to this perhaps being of Irish origin, given the lack of any tartan or sporran being visible
There clearly is a bit more checking to do, as the excellent Birds of Dorset book by George Green quotes seven records for Poole Harbour, but doesn't detail most of them. However, more importantly, there aren't any records in the Report of the Birds of Studland by Steve Morrison although Steve's report doesn't include Ballard Down. I will need to do some more digging to try & see & ascertain where these other three records were that George mentions. But at the moment, it looks like Patch Gold & a first for the Studland patch. Later, I was amused to see a metal detectorist in the field: clearly he wasn't aware that the gold had already moved from that field.

14 Aug 2017

14 Aug 17 - Bedstraw Hawk Moth

I'm currently sorting out a backlog of photos that have been clogging up my laptop for too long. This will be the first of a few Posts that should have appeared sooner, if I had had the time. Autumn 17 was a busy period in Dorset with a number of interesting Birds in the county. However, it was also a good autumn for Moths & the first was a Bedstraw Hawk Moth that Weymouth Birder Paul Harris caught in his garden. Paul regularly tweets about good Moths that he catches & is good enough to allow other people to twitch them, before they are released. I had seen a tweet from Paul about a Bedstraw Hawk Moth & it was too good an opportunity to miss as an after work twitch.
Bedstraw Hawk Moth: It was a pity the stone wasn't big enough, but I arrived while Paul was having a family dinner as his brother & his wife were staying. He was a gent to allow me time for some quick photos
This is a rare Moth in Dorset & the excellent Dorset Moths web site states there are only 36 records recorded across a dozen sites since the first record in 1989. Well worth making the effort to go & see one.

30 Jul 2017

30 July 17 - Butterflies on the Edge

In 2014, I spent a lot of time trying to see the regular breeding Butterflies that occurred in Dorset that I hadn't seen to date, as well as, trying to get photographs of as many of the Dorset Butterflies as I could. Photos of  many of the Dorset species were added to the Blog during the year with a couple of round up Posts: Whites, Hairstreaks & Blues & Nymphalidae (Aristocrats, Fritillaries & Browns) and Skippers. At the time, there were considered to be 45 breeding Dorset Butterflies left, with the news that Wood White had probably gone from the county, following its demise at Powerstock Common. So I was probably a few years to late to see a Dorset Wood White. The nearest colony was in Devon. At the time, I was told that they occasionally had flown over the border in previous years, but that hadn't been any recent records that my mate knew of. So I was resigned to the likelihood that I should have made more effort in my earlier years of living in Dorset. But fortunately, people have kept looking & I recently heard one of the Dorset Birders had managed to see some about a week ago. It was then a case of having to hope for decent weather this weekend. Yesterday was far too windy first thing & then went downhill as the rain set in for the rest of the day. Further heavy overnight rain didn't help, but it looked more promising this morning. So following clear signs of blue skies at home this morning, I had a hurried chat with Peter Moore, before we decided to head West. Even better, it was still sunny when we arrived. Soon after we were at the site to find James Lowther & his wife had beaten us there, but no sign of the Wood Whites. We spread out to look & about ten minutes later, Peter had found one at roost. By the time I got there it had flown, but it quickly settled down again in a more promising position for photos.
Wood White: A species I never expected to see in Dorset
Soon after it started warming up & we were regularly seeing sightings of the approximately ten individuals there. They were quite easy to pick out in flight having a much weaker & fluttery flight compared to the true Whites. There were also a couple each of Dingy Skippers & Clouded Yellows there, but neither were particularly photogenic & more flighty. No photos of either as I didn't want to get distracted from the Wood Whites. A lot of the Butterflies seem to be having a good year in 2017 & I guess they have just expanded a little bit onto the Dorset side of the border.
Wood White: Preparations for the next generation. Male to the left
This brings me to 49 species of Butterflies seen in Dorset, having seen vagrant Swallowtails, Large Tortoiseshell (Durlston) & Monarchs (Winspit (1995 & 1999) & Portland (2012)). This excludes the Swanage Maps which are now understood to be an illegal introduction, (surely accidental escape according to the individual involved to escape a potential prosecution - Ed). I guess it's too much to hope that there are still Pearl-bordered Fritillaries tucked away somewhere waiting to be rediscovered in Dorset since they disappeared. Probably the most like species for no 50 for Dorset will be a Long-tailed Blue.

27 Jul 2017

27 July 17 - Young Pipistrelle Bat?

At the moment, I'm working at a company with offices set in fairly extensive grounds on the downs outside Winchester. This is a great site to walk around at lunchtime & has a reasonably good selection of wildlife within the grounds. Today's walk was nearly over & had been fairly uneventful for interesting wildlife, when I saw a small & presumed Pipistrelle Bat fly low over the grass, before landing at head height on a small tree. As I approached I could see it climbing up the trunk, until it froze as it saw my movement. There was time for a few quick photos on the iPhone before leaving it in peace.
Presumed young Pipistrelle Bat sp.
I am presuming it is one of the two abundant species of Pipistrelle Bat. Until the 1990s, it was thought that there was only a single species of Pipistrelle Bat in the UK. Then studies confirmed there were two abundant & widespread species: Common Pipistrelle & Soprano Pipistrelle, as well as, the rare Nathusius' Pipistrelle. These first two species are best told by the frequencies of their echolocation calls with the strongest calls being around 45kHz & 55 kHz, respectively. Obviously, I didn't have an Bat detector with me, but then it probably wasn't calling whilst clinging to the tree. Therefore, it's identification will probably remain a mystery, unless there are any Bat experts out there who can help to identify this Bat. I was expecting it to have grey brown fur, so was surprised to see the grey colouration of the bare skin. I am assuming it is a young Bat that has only recently learnt to fly & hasn't had time for the fur to grow.

9 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

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 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 - Still in the Summer Doldrums

In an earlier post, I mentioned I had gone looking for White Admirals in the Nature trail woods at Littlesea on the Studland patch. Whilst looking I decided to have a quick look at Littlesea. Sadly, the lakes Diving Ducks, Coots & their following Gadwalls have been decimated due to the large numbers of Carp that have plagued the lake in the last decade. But I still occasionally feel I need to look at Littlesea to prove to myself it's still largely devoid of Waterfowl. It was. But I did notice a handful of Black-tailed Skimmers in front of the hide.
Black-tailed Skimmer: Male. A relatively common Studland species
More interesting on the lily pads were about 8 Red-eyed Damselflies. This is a species that I wasn't aware occurred on the patch. So it was great to see them, even if they were a bit too far out for photography.
Red-eyed Damselfly: Note the all blue final 2 segments of the abdomen & black shoulders. They are also larger & stouter in build to the Small Red-eyed Damselflies
Even better whilst looking at the photos taken at Littlesea, I realised I had also photographed a Small Red-eyed Damselfly. Frustratingly, it is out of focus, but the black & blue penultimate segment on the abdomen & the chestnut shoulders are still visible. My first Small Red-eyed Damselflies in Poole Harbour. No longer a doldrum day.

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

11 Jun 2017

11 June 17 - Bonuses of Gardening

During the spring Birding season, the garden tends to get a big overgrown with weeds as obviously the Birding takes priority. But as the local Birding quietens down, then I end up having to spend a fair bit of time to get the garden back under control. Usually there are a few bonuses of spending time in the garden & this year was more interesting than usual with my third & fourth records of Large Skipper.
Large Skipper: Only my third record for the garden, with the fourth on 1 July 17
The gardening also produces the first records for the year of my resident Dark Bush crickets.
Dark Bush Cricket: Nymph
The highlight of the gardening was getting adopted by one of my local Blackbirds. Occasionally, in previous years, a Robin has appeared to check out the gardening. However, when that has happened, they have never got particularly close. This summer this male Blackbird appeared quickly as soon as I started gardening & was very happy to be looking for food about as close as two or three feet away. In the end, I kept moving up & down the garden a bit more to give it a bit more room to look for worms in the area I had just been working on. Although, he quickly moved to where I was currently removing weeds from, if I didn't move on. Clearly, this gardening worked out well for both of us, as I've had up to four young fully grown Blackbirds in the garden for the last few weeks. What I particularly enjoyed was being able to get the SX60 down at ground level & angle the viewing screen up so I could frame the photo without having to lie down to take the photo. It's rare that I get the opportunity to get a up close ground view: when I do it always feels very rewarding.
Blackbird: Male. Great to be adopted by this individual
Blackbird: With this interest in gathering worms, it's no wonder why the youngsters were well brought up
Blackbird: Must have been watching Puffin videos with a bill full of fish through my window

10 Jun 2017

10 June 17 - 7 (00) Up

On 7 June 17, there was a very brief mid-week sighting of an Elegant Tern on the Eastern side of Hayling Island, Hampshire, but so brief that only a handful of locals managed to connect. Searches the following day proved negative, but then another tantalising sighting on Friday 9 June. Despite being another fleeting sighting, it gave hope that it might get pinned down somewhere in the area over the weekend. I spend some time looking at maps of Thorney Island & the surrounding harbour which forms the border between Hayling Island & West Sussex, with a view to try sorting out the most likely Tern colonies that it might be in & potential viewing points. But before I made any efforts to head off East, there was a Mega alert on the pager to say it had been seen one harbour further East at Pagham harbour. This perhaps explained its fleeting visits across the border to Hampshire. A quick call to alert Peter Moore, who was miserably being dragging around the Brownsea reserve by the family & visiting friends. Normally with Peter & family, it is the reverse, but as this was a potential UK Tick for him & virtually on the doorstep, he felt the right to be miserable. It was clear that trying to arrange a rendezvous with my twitching buddy would not work, especially as there was a three line whip to ensure he was back that evening, so I grabbed the cameras & headed off alone.

The pager was telling people to park at the RSPB centre & walk along the coast. I decided to chance heading for the small Church Norton car park, figuring that some of the quick responding locals would be leaving to avoid the arriving crowds. It worked, one spare place in the car park & 100 metres later, I arrived at the viewpoint for the Tern colony. The only problem it had headed back out to sea an hour ago. A group of locals suggested sticking with the Tern colony viewpoint than the beach, as it would be better views there assuming it had just gone fishing. After a wait of well over an hour, there was a shout at the other end of the group of viewing Birders. There was no possibility of hearing any quick directions, due to the usual many close & loud shouts for directions, which drowned out any chance of the required directions. But after a minute or two, word filtered down that it's on the spit. After that there were directions to the spit, which I hadn't noticed, having been focused on scanning the harbour entrance. Perhaps it had returned over the field of view of my scope or having overflown the shingle bank. Either way, it was academic as I could now see it. A long overdue British Tick finally seen. Even better this was species 700 for the Western Palearctic (based on the AERC taxonomy & boundaries i.e. the BWP boundaries). Not a list I take too seriously, but good it has finally reached 700.
Elegant Tern: A crap SX60 record shot as I arrived to find a flat battery in the 7D, with the spare in the house. Surely if the Sandwich Tern was going to stand on another's back to see its rare cousin, it would actually look at it!
I half toyed with the idea of going for one in 2013 on the Shannon estuary, but family commitments really made that difficult. Had I gone, I probably would have dipped, but would have been perfectly placed for the Wilson's Warbler twitch on Dursey Island. But then I might not have made the effort for the cracking Wilson's Warbler on Lewis in 2015, so perhaps best I didn't go. There have been other UK contenders with one in Devon while I was abroad. Also one in Dorset, when I was working in Bath at the time & I belted for, but abandoned the twitch & headed home when news of its departure reached me. There wasn't the time to get there once it was refound & it wasn't there the next day. Neither was I as I had to be back in Bath that morning. Today none of the previous British contenders have been accepted, but now a colour ringed individual with a known DNA pedigree has turned up in the UK, perhaps the authorities with consider accepting some of the previous UK candidates.

I felt sorry for the Hampshire Birders who spent a lot of time, desperately trying to see it around Hayling Island, knowing it was a few miles further East at Pagham. Less than a couple of weeks later, when it turned up on Brownsea, I spent four hours that evening & another two from first light scanning from my Studland patch at the Poole Harbour mouth for it. During that time, I got a call from Paul Morton who runs the Birds of Poole Harbour charity, that he was watching it on their Brownsea camera. But with no access to Brownsea that evening, all I could hope would be it would fly out of the harbour on one last feeding trip that evening or for an early breakfast flight: it didn't. I managed to join a few of the locals on a visit the following evening: a great evening except the main star wasn't there. There were a few claims during the day after it disappeared off the Brownsea camera in the early morning, but none sounded reliable. I will just have to hope it decides to return to Brownsea next ear & stay for a few days. It has been seen in a number of French colonies over the years, so it isn't impossible.

21 May 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.

11 Apr 2017

11 Apr 17 - Spot the Difference

I published some photos of the Fovant Badges in Wiltshire in a previous Post.
Fovant Badges: photographed on 13 June 14
I stopped for some more photos as I past the Fovant Badges back in the Spring, which allowed the chance for a Spot the Difference photo. It's not a very difficult competition, so no prizes.
Fovant Badges: photographed on 11 Apr 17
The new badge between the Post Office Rifles and the Devonshire Regiment is to commemorate the centenary of the carving of the first of the Fovant Badges, the London Rifle Brigade, which was carved in 1916.
The new centenary badge with the Devonshire Regiment badge
A number of other regiments who were based at the Fovant camp for training before being sent to the trenches went on to carve their own regimental badges. Sadly, a number of these have now been lost, although a few photos exist of them on the history of the Fovant Badges website.
The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, 6th City of London Regiment & Australian Commonwealth Military Forces Badges
The Royal Corp of Signals, The Wiltshire Regiment & the London Rifle Brigade Badges
Additional badges were carved by troops in the Second World War & the badges for the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry & the Wiltshire Regiment weren't carved until the 1950s. Around 2003, there was another attempt to restore the Fovant Badges to their current splendor. I hope this continues & it would be great if the locations of the other lost badges could be identified & recreated.