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.