Monday, 30 October 2017

Autumn Migration, 30th October 2017, 07:00 - 10:30

In the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to get to grips with autumn visual migration (vismig) over patch and I've been really enjoying it! Arriving just after dawn, it was evident that good numbers of Wood Pigeon were on the move again and by the end of the session I estimate that several thousand had moved through - one memorable flock passing only a few feet above my head! An amazing experience! I don't know who was more surprised? Me, by the sudden rushing/drumming of wind on feathers or the leaders of the flock which were unexpectedly confronted by a human figure on an otherwise deserted clifftop! The exact numbers were difficult to estimate this morning because with a light northerly wind veering to north easterly, the flocks were well spread over a broad front. Most flocks were heading inland in a north-westerly direction or across the Marshwood Vale rather than along the coast. For 2 1/2 hours from 7am Pigeon flocks were passing at regular intervals but most of the mass-movement had petered out by around 09:30.
But what about the finchesstarlings and pipits? Today, the number moving through patch were not as massive as some days last week. The Finch and Skylark passage continued until around 10:15. but by then the birds were passing at height above my observation point and so it became even more difficult to accurately record numbers.
On the surrounding hedges and at field margins there were a few Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes. I'm assuming that these were new overnight arrivals.
Temperature wise, the colder northerly winds over the weekend has led to a drop in overnight temperature and first thing this morning it was much colder, at around 4 degrees, but warming as the sun grew in strength. By the time I left a dragonfly and even a late Clouded Yellow butterfly were on the wing. My final counts from this morning's session are as follows which should all be read as minima.  All birds were heading W or NW unless otherwise noted.

Wood Pigeon 5 - 6,000
Song Thrush 4
Bullfinch 4
Redwing 2
Fieldfare 2 (first for me on patch this winter)
Starling 140
Jackdaw 86
Linnet 4 (East)
Skylark 9
Chaffinch 24
Meadow Pipit 2 (West), 10 (East)
Snipe 1
Goldfinch 2 (East)
Cattle Egret 1
Stock Dove 2
Greenfinch 2
Chiffchaff 1
Blackcap 1

So, no Ring Ouzel or Hawfinch yet for me which is disappointing, but a Cattle Egret (picked up in the 'scope over the fields while I was checking the Pigeon flocks) was a bonus as was the Snipe.

Breathtaking numbers of Wood Pigeon (estimate 5- 6,000 on passage again today) - these photos go nowhere near illustrating the spectacle but here goes anyway. Another brilliant morning on patch:

Butterfly - Clouded Yellow

Dragonfly - Male Common Darter

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Juvenile Pallid Harrier - Charmouth 26 Oct 17

This morning I found a Pallid Harrier AND it was on Patch!! I've been doing some vismig birding high up on the cliffs above Charmouth and have been amazed and inspired to see so many fairly common birds coming through patch in high numbers, 100s of Chaffinches, 100s of Meadow Pipits and a supporting cast of Bullfinches, Redwings, Starlings, Swallows, Wood Pigeons, Linnets in a constant stream. But when I started watching this morning I was not expecting to see any rarities moving through. I was standing, on a cliff and the Harrier drifted past, so perhaps in a way the Pallid Harrier found me rather than the other way around! What a moment! Fantastic!

Location: high, overflying above Charmouth West Cliff, coastal Lyme Bay, Dorset at 09:15

Where and when seen: At 09:15 I noticed a group of Corvids noisily mobbing a bird flying high over Charmouth Beach Car Park. Viewing with binoculars the group was moving slowly along the west cliff line in the direction of Lyme Regis ie westwards.
Observation point: My observation point was at the top of the cliff near and on the same elevation as Lyme Regis Golf Course. The bird was above my viewpoint so all photos taken are from beneath and mainly show the underside.
Viewing: I observed the bird for about 1-2 minutes. On viewing, I ID'd immediately as a Harrier sp. on structure with long wings. But which one? Hen, Montagu's or Pallid? Unusual for the Charmouth area, I therefore took several photos (attached). The last harrier I saw was the Axe Wetlands Montagu's Harrier last year so I'm familiar with the silhouette/structure.
The bird was flying high beneath grey skies and the Corvids pushed it slightly higher so that at one point the bird appeared to enter cloud (Earlier I had noticed that the cloudbase was fairly low around the same elevation as the top of Golden Cap).

As I didn't have my phone with me I dashed home to text local birders and the guys further down the coast so that they could look out for this rarity. I really hope that this super stunning bird reappears further down the coast somewhere. I emailed Steve W @axebirder with a couple of images so thanks again for help with ID and ageing - A Juvenile Pallid Harrier!

Juvenile Pallid Harrier

And some more photos, some where it was mobbed by Corvids. What a morning on patch!

And I'm told that if/when accepted this will be only the 2nd Dorset record of Pallid Harrier. The last being 1938!! (record info. per @brettyebrant)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Spotted Flycatcher family at local site near Charmouth - 15 Aug 17

Canada Geese, Abbotsbury, Dorset - 13 Aug 17

Incoming squadron of Canada Geese, Abbotsbury, Dorset.

White Stork and Common Redstarts, Charmouth / Stonebarrow Hill - 12 Aug 17

Firstly, a bit of a curiosity. A White Stork has been seen on several occasions recently near Langton Herring on the Fleet, Dorset. It had a green ring on its leg and it would appear to be of Polish origin having been rescued and taken into care in this country before being released. On Saturday morning at 9.20 I received a message from Mike M. that Alan B had just seen a White Stork on the move and heading westwards along the coast past West Bexington. I wasn't optimistic that the bird would hug the coast all the way to Charmouth but thought I would give it a go anyway. So how long does it take for a White Stork to fly from Bex to Charmouth? Well the answer seems to be about 1 hour! Around 10.25 the local Herring Gulls went up and at 10.27 I grabbed a couple of hasty shots (cropped below) as a White Stork overflew my garden heading NW inland without stopping. I called the local birders and quickly tweeted out the sighting but the bird was not seen after leaving Charmouth. Amazing that such a huge bird can disappear so easily and literally into "thin air". [Since writing the blog there have been probable sightings in North Devon (see sightings feed on 15th August)]

So the timing would seem to be perfect that this was the same bird which had been tracked in and around the Fleet and passed West Bexington an hour earlier - the sick bird originally from Poland. As such it is not truly wild. Shame. It would have been a first for me in this country and a Garden tick aswell!!! Tskkk!


Autumn migrants are showing in increasing numbers now. We've had a lot of unsettled, wet weather though late July and early August but Saturday evening was warm, still and sunny. Perhaps there would be some migrant birds about locally? I decide to take a quick walk up on Stonebarrow Hill. I'm so pleased I did as approaching a sheltered, sunny mixed hedgeline of hawthorn and blackthorn a flash of red showed a beautiful male Redstart. What a superb bird but there was more! A quick darting movement further down the hedgerow and a second bird flew out from cover into the paddock to take an insect  from the ground flying back to perch conspicuously on an electric fence. A male AND a female Redstart. What a treat! I haven't seen Redstart around that area since the spring so I assume that they are migrant birds who have finished breeding and are resting and feeding up before moving south.

... and a short video of the male bird.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Garganey, West Bexington, Dorset - 24 Mar 17

I popped over to West Bexington late morning following the report from Mike M. @Bexbirder that a drake Garganey had been seen on the Mere. After 5 minutes walking westwards from the car park I had a decent view of the mere and quickly found the bird on the north shore. Always distant, I managed a few record shots of this beautiful spring migrant drake Garganey. About the size of a Teal, Garganey are relatively small ducks which appear in small numbers regularly at this time of the year. I didn't manage to get a shot of the bird with Teal but the first photo shows its comparative size with the much larger Shoveler in the foreground:

Garganey: a very handsome scarce spring migrant ... 

 ... showing unmistakable crescent above each eye and drooped back feathers.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Charmouth - Fri 10th March - Dunlin, an early site record

A winter plumage Dunlin which paid a visit to a fog-bound Charmouth river this morning:

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This record is a very early date for the site and is the first Dunlin I've seen on the river. They are by no means common here. My previous sightings have been small flocks at the low-water mark on the beach and much later in the year (May).

It was quite content feeding in the soft mud at the waters edge, 20 metres upstream from the footbridge quite unconcerned by passing walkers, even spending some time preening and roosting.

This individual has a long bill tapering to a downcurved tip and dark legs, white beneath and in the overcast/foggy conditions appeared grey brown but with small areas of browner tones visible around the crown and neck. The bird was not heard to call and I didn't see it arrive or depart so did not see it in flight. I believe alpina race birds have the longer bill length but there is much overlap. Amazing to think that in a few weeks this bird could have travelled NW up along the shorelines of Scandinavia, Northern Europe or even as far as Siberia.