Saturday, 27 February 2016

Three-striped Gem Twitch

A Pallas's Leaf Warbler was reported on Birdguides in the Portesham area, West of Dorchester in Dorset over the last few days. It was noted to show on occasions along an old disused railway track which is now a bridle walk and public right of walk track. After seeing my first Pallas's on the day of my birthday in Spurn, Yorkshire last year, I could not resist the temptation not to twitch this bird and see another one of these mega rare gems.

The Pallas's Leaf Warbler is closely related to the Yellow-browed Warbler. A member of the Phyllosc family. They breed in Northern Siberia and winter in Southern China and Inondesia!! This bird is most likely an over-wintering bird that may have reversed migrated to Europe in the Autumn and with the mild winter we had it fancied staying in Dorset on this dense vegetated farmland.

I arrived about 10am, where a large crowd of birders gathered waiting and watching out for the bird. Unfortunately the bird had not been seen since 7.30am. It was seen along a very long stretch of mixed scrub of brambles, hawthorn, holly, ivy and birch trees along the track. I had some doubt about the bird reappearing. Weather conditions were not ideal, string east winds, dull overcast and freezing cold temperatures kept most birds consealed deep in the dense vegetation.

I took several walks to keep the blood flowing in my legs while searching for any small goldcrest type bird moving through the scrub. In the hour of searching I saw single Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Bullfinch, 2 Blue Tit and several Chaffinch.

At around 11am the Pallas's appeared to the crowd and showed very well flitting on the tree tops and occasionally low to the ground. I managed a few distant shots of the bird obscured my branches.

It was a special bird to watch at close quarters!! Really magical experience. Most of the birders present after having good views departed off leaving myself and 3 others present. A few short moments later the Pallas's dropped low down and started fly-catching showing off it's bright lemon-yellow rump! I was gobsmacked...I could not believe my luck with such views. It fed low down right in front of me and kept getting closer and closer till I could not focus on the bird with my 500mm lens!!  I got a few nice shots but the experience of watching the bird at close range in lovely sunshine was a very magical moment.... words cannot describe the moment.

More birders arrived on site and the Pallas's flitted out of view into the back of the vegetation. I was happy with my views and headed back to Sherborne.

A few images of the Pallas's Warbler. Enjoy

Pallas's Leaf Warbler giving stunning views

Spotted Redshank and Green Woodpecker

During last week I took another trip down to Hole's Bay and Upton Country Park to try once again to see the Spoonbills that have been present in the north bay area. Unfortunately no joy in finding any Spoonbills again!!! They are truly are an elusive bird that evades me every time!! Some day I'll see one up close!

To my surprise I managed to refind several Spotted Redshanks that I saw a few weeks back. These scarce wintering waders are one my favourites and this individual bird gave Mega views from the north channel area in North Hole's Bay.

We watched the Spotty Redshank for a good hour as it fed alongside a Little Egret, 1 Common Redshank, several Wigeon and Black-tailed Godwit. A truly lovely experience and a rare one to see these great birds close up and confiding, allowing me take some notes, sketches, get good images and learn more ID skills.

I even managed to hear the bird call and see it chase off a Common Redshank who ventured to near it's feeding patch. A wonderful sight.

Also present was a large flock of 200+ Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit out on the saltmarsh which provided some great ariel display as a Peregrine tried to snatch one mid-air!!

Happy to see the Spotted Rdshank and the vast wader flocks around the reserve I was sure that would be the highlight of the day.... I was wrong!! 

On way back to the car park I noticed two birds moving in the long tussock, ant mound covered field to my right. Quick look in the bins and I had 2 Green Woodpeckers (male&female) feeding right in front of me!! I was in luck.....Green woodpecker has been another one of these birds that I never have seen close up or had good views of before. I slowly took my camera out and fired some images off. Happy I got some decent shots I sat on the ground behind an Oak tree along the fence line hoping they might approach nearer for better views.

After 10mins or so, another bird dropped into view about 5 metres from me and fed happily undisturbed. I was shaking like a leaf and could not believe my luck. All 3 birds in one view feeding on Ants emerging from the mound hills...incredible!!!

A few moments later some dog walkers quickly passed by and the birds took off with their laughing call and flew deep into the nearby stand of birch and oak trees.

Another magic moment to be up close with such an amazing bird and I think now, wondering when will the next time I see Green Woodpecker that close!! Time will tell.

A few images below of the Spotted Redshank showing all the ID features and the Green Woodpecker.

Spotted Redshank at Hole's Bay...Giving mega views at the channel

Green Woodpecker

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Local Brambling's

The last few days has seen a cold spell of weather with some heavy frosts, -8 degrees at night and strong northerly winds across the UK have seen a movement of Bramblings into Dorset.

A large number of recently turned up here in Trent village, Dorset in the last 3days. Single male and female noted on the 17th at a private garden, 5 on the 18th, 3 on the 19th and today over 15+ birds frequently local feeders with a large Chaffinch flock.

Most likely Scottish/Welsh birds avoiding the cold spells up north, or mainland European birds on passge migrating northwards back to Scandinavia for the Spring.

Lets hope more turn up over the next week

Female Brambling in the garden

Hole's Bay and Upton Park

Hole's Bay, Poole Harbour Birdtrack count summary:

2 Spoonbill
2 Spotted Redshank
1 Common Sandpiper
200+ Avocet
150 Wigeon
135 Teal
19 Mallard
58 Pintail
1 Smew "redhead"
100 Black-tailed Godwit
1 Ringed Plover
90 Oystercatcher
18 Redshank
2 Turnstone
2 Red-breasted Merganser
1Great Northern Diver
2 Cormorant
50 Canada Geese
2 Kingfisher

Upton Country Park:

5 Jay
3 Nuthatch
2 Great spotted Woodpeckers
1 Song Thrush
2 Sparrowhawk
2 Marsh Tit

Few photos below of some of the birds seen at Holes' Bay

Avocet in evening sunset light

One of Two Spotted Redshank, Hole's Bay North Channel

Nuthatch at Upton Country Park

Song Thrush at Upton Country Park
Male Wigeon

Spoonbill at Hole'sBay North Channel


A few weeks ago, Hannah and I took a trip up to Slimbridge WWT reserve in Gloucestershire to see the vast amounts of wildfowl and waders present each winter. Slimbridge has become an annual January event over the last 5 years and this year is my 6th ever visit to Slimbridge.

I have always had a huge interest in both the captive & wild population of birds found at Slimbridge.
Slimbridge hosted my first encounter with Bittern back in 2012, saw my first British Cranes also in 2012 and my first UK Tundra Bean Geese in 2013. It really is a special place for seeing extraordinary bird species.

Slimbridge holds nationally and internationally important numbers of winter wildfowl including 1,000's of Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Mallard, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Bewick's Swans, White-fronted Geese. Both nationally and internationally important numbers of waders ranging from 1,000's of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit's and many more.

Every time I've visited Slimbridge, the Holden Tower hide allows excellent views of wild Cranes, several wintering Little Stints, Ruff out on the wetlands.

Throughout the day we had amazing views of over 100+ Bewick Swan's from the hides. Countless numbers of wildfowl and waders. It was great to see some wild Cranes with over 5 together from Zeiss Hide. Plenty of captive wildfowl including my favourite...Red-breasted Geese ( critically endangered species of east Europe).

The day ended off very well with the feeding of 1,000's of ducks & Swans and Geese from the viewing hide my the centre.

A great day out!! Few photos below of some of the day's highlights.
Highlight of the trip...Amazing close up views of Bewick Swans

White Fronted Goose

Tufted Ducks

Orange headed Thrush at Slimbridge tropical gardens

Record shot of Crane with some Bewick's and mixed Ducks from Holden Tower

Bewick Swans flying onto the wetlands

Bewick Swan
Barrow's Goldeneye (Captive)...Stunningbird to see

One of my favourite birds...Red-breasted Goose

Feeding time at Slimbridge for 1000's of birds

Vast numbers of wildfowl from the viewing hides

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Blashford Lakes Visit 2

Returned to Blashford Lakes during the week to explore more of this amazing reserve and catch up again with some Bramblings and of course the epic Gull roost.

We arrived about 10am and headed through the woodland. The weather was fantastic, the birds were in song and there was a great sense of spring in the air with large variety of lichens, fungi, flowers brightening up the woodlands.
After a short walk we bumped into a large feeding flock of Chaffinch and Siskin feeding on the ground. No sign of any Bramblings in the flock but a look at the nearby feeders and there were at least 7 Bramblings present showing very well down to a few feet.

The Brambling ( Fringilla montifringilla) is the Northern cousin of the Chaffinch which arrive in late September on the East coast and Scottish highlands to winter in the UK. During some cold snap spells, Bramblings move south into milder climates, hence the small arrival of birds in the south of the UK and in Dorset & Hampshire area.

These birds have always been a great photographic ambition to see up close. I saw my first Bramblings in 2010 few years ago in County Dublin. They are simply stunning birds and have some fantastic colours & patterns in their plumage compared to the Chaffinch.
The Brambling is a rather elusive bird and difficult to see close up and even in decent numbers at a feeding station. They fed on fallen seeds from the feeders alongside vast numbers of Chaffinch, Siskin, Greenfinch and several Redpoll. It was an amazing sight to watch...a true winter spectacle.

After enjoying the Bramblings, we headed around to the Ive Hides and Lakes to look at some wildfowl. Present on Ivy lake were large numbers of Wigeon, Pochard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pintail. A Continental Cormorant was a nice treat to see fishing on the lake alongside Common Cormorant, Coots, Moorhen and some Black-headed Gulls.

A Bittern has been frequenting a small patch of reeds below the North Ivy Hide and has been popular with local birders. The Bittern never showed while waiting in the hide but did enjoy lovely views of a Water Rail feeding along the reedbed edge.

We finished the day off with checking the Gull roost from the Tern Hide where at least 8,000+ Gulls were roosting on the far end of the lake. Scoping through the vast numbers I picked up a 1st winter Iceland Gull, 1st winter Caspian Gull and several Yellow-legged |Gulls among the Black-headed Gulls. Over 50+ Common Gull, 500+ each of Herring Gull, Lesser-black backed, Black Headed Gull made up the large majority of gulls present. No sign of the Ring-billed Gull.

A great day's birding and wildlife watching. A few photos below of the trip.

Female Brambling

Stunning male Siskin sitting in lichen covered tree

Tufted Duck on Ivy North lake

The amazing Gull roost spectacle

Male Brambling

Sunset overlooking Blashford Lakes

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Water Rail

A quick walk around the local patch which has been recently flooded by rain and I heard the familiar sound a Water Rail.... a harsh pig-like squeal coming from the dense undergrowth.

The Rail was very close to me but could not see it!!! After waiting for a short while I had several glimpses of the bird running about under the willow scrub. I had some great views of it as it ran passed but could not get any clear shots. I waited longer hiding low down along the track over looking  small pool surrounded by brambles in hope the Water Rail may come forwards.

After about 10mins I was in luck, the Rail came out into a relatively open patch of exposed mud and started feeding in front of me!! I was shaking like a leaf, I never seen Water Rail this close up or ever seen the detail on their amazing plumage. Absolutely stunning birds!!

I fired off a few shots and then watched the Rail no more than 3 metres from me until when a second bird joined and started displaying to each other with loud calling!! It was amazing to witness. The moment did not last very long and both birds ran into dense over and there was silence. The moment lasted about 15mins or so and I wonder when I will see a Water Rail like that again next time!!

So glad I took the camera!! Despite low light levels in the wood and having ISO 1000 I am pretty pleased to obtain any decent shot of this elusive bird up close.

A day not to forget!

Water Rail showing well down to 3 metres

Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve

Couple of days ago I took a trip over to Blashford Lakes in Hampshire to have a look at the large Gull roost present on Ibsley Lake. I arrived at about 11am and already there was at least 150+ gulls present sitting on the spit right hand side of the Tern Hide.

In front of the hide I had smashing views of a Black-necked Grebe, Slavonian Grebe and 6+ Goldeneye floating about 20metres in front of the Hide. One the east side of the lake was a substantial number of male Pochard  numbering 20+ ( highest number I've seen in a long time) and vast numbers of Wigeon and Teal.

Slavonian Grebe from Tern Hide
After an hour or so gull numbers increased with significant numbers of Lesser-black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls appearing on the main lake. Shortly later after scanning the Gull roost I spotted a 1st winter Caspian Gull sitting on top of the spit ridge showing very well. The gull roost is quite distant from the hide, hence the poor record shots  achieved through digiscoping. Got to love Caspian Gulls!!!

1st winter Caspian Gull
After watching the bird another two 1st winter Caspian Gulls and 5 Yellow-legged Gulls ( 4 adults & 1st winter) dropped into the roost, when shortly after an adult Ring-billed Gull joined alongside!!! Incredible gull watching and really enjoyed the identification challenges of the various ages of gulls present.
intermedius/fuscus type Lesser-black-backed Gull
Also present was this very dark Lesser-black backed type Gull roosting with standard graeslii type Lessers.

The bird was extremely long in appearance, long primary projection over the tail, very dark black mantle & wings ( dark as Great black-back), short stubby legs, lightly streaked neck collar and was much smaller in size compared to other Graeslii type gulls present. I obtained a few digiscoped shots before the bird flew off. A good candidate for Fuscus (Baltic Gull) but need to obtain better images if the bird hangs around.

After taking notes and photos of the gulls I went to the woodland to spot some Bramblings which have been seen recently around the feeders. Straight away before I even got to the hide, a male Brambling was feeding on beech mast on the footpath right in front of me with some Siskin & Chaffinch. Few moments later in the hide, I had 6 Bramblings together feeding away in the mixed seed feeder right in front of me.

A few hours admiring the vast numbers of Siskin, Redpoll, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch and rechecked the Gull roost one last time before heading home with a notebook full of gull notes and a great encounter with Bramblings

 Siskin showing the vibrant colours in afternoon sun

Lesser Redpoll

Male Brambling from woodland hide, Blashford

Saturday, 6 February 2016

My First post

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. 

I will bring you up to date wildlife and bird sightings to this blog from all my birding experiences out in the field across the UK and abroad.
Hope you enjoy. Here are a few recent images from couple of outings around Dorset over the last few weeks.

Raft Spider at Arne RSPB

Day trip to Arne RSPB reserve:

A short drive down to Arne RSPB reserve in search of the Raft Spider ( Dolomedes fimbrata) left me not in vain when after a short walk around I finally found several on a small pond. These amazing arthropods are very rare in the UK and restricted to only a few locations. There are tow species found in the Uk, the other is the Norfolk raft Spider. Raft Spider can be found around acidic bogs, heathland especially where there are small pools with floating vegetation.
The amazing thing about Raft Spiders is their ability float on top of the water creating small rings of air around their legs, keeping them buoyant.
Arne is a great place to see Raft Spiders in Dorset, they are most certainly an amazing invertebrate to get up and close with and watch them hunt dragonflies, small fish, tadpoles etc on the ponds.

A few days ago I took part in the Big Garden Bird Watch for the RSPB. Over 20 species recorded in the garden this year including Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Sparrowhawk and this stunning Nuthatch.

Nuthatch in the garden

I will be keeping regular updates on my new blog and recent sightings around the Somerset and Dorset regions. Happy Birding