Thursday, 31 March 2016

Butterfly Sightings

Today's warm weather has brought the emergence of several butterfly species to the air.
Within an hour I saw 2 Comma, 2 Peacock, Tortoiseshell, 2 Brimestone and single Specacled Wood Butterfly in the garden.

1st House Martin of the year passed overhead with 3 Swallow and several Sand Martin

20+ Chiffchaff in the area, many in song

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Swallows are here

8 Swallows flew north over Trent Village at 19.45pm...First of the year.

Walk on Cadbury Fort hill, 1 Wheatear, 4 singing Chiffchaff and plenty of singing common birds, nest-building Nuthatch, displaying buzzards, Rooks collecting branches, Woodpeckers drumming and glorious warm weather. A fantastic day, bringing a real feel of spring.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Thought I would do a short blog post on my few day's holiday in South Devon. Over the last few day's I visited some local birding spots that I have visited since a very young age. Here are a few images of some of the wildlife and places I visited.

Took a day trip few miles down the road from our friend's house, where we stayed the week to Wembury Beach (National Trust). Wembury is a fantastic site for spring migrant birds on passage, Basking Sharks in summer, rock pooling ( A favourite childhood past time) and coastal walking.
The coastal footpath going towards Jennycliff and Plymouth is a very reliable site to see Cirl Bunting on warm spring days. During the day I came across several Cirl Buntings, 6 Wheatear, Chiffchaff's and a first for me.... 2 basking Adder's!!! This is the first time I have ever seen Adder's despite the many times I searched for them on heaths ad under gorse bushes on summer day's. After photographing the Adder's I returned along the coast path in glorious sunshine and spotted several displaying Buzzards overhead, more Wheatears, nest-building Stonechats and a hovering Kestrel.
Male Adder basking in the sun

Wembury coastal path

The Mew Stone Rock

During the week we visited several other fantastic birding spots including Stover Country Park near Bovey Tracey...Another one of my favourite nature reserves that I've visited since a young age. On this visit, it was a bit early in the year for spring migrant birds such as Nightjar, Tree Pipit, Hobby which are regular around the lakes, but I had a fantastic encounter with several Marsh Tit coming down to some seed left on a picnic bench, allowing me get some great photos. Along with the pesky Grey Squirrels coming bit too close to the camera lens, it was a very pleasant walk around the reserve. Also saw Goosander, 2 Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Bullfinch, Buzzard and Mandarin Duck.
Marsh Tit

"Did someone say peanuts!!??"

Yum yum yum...all for me
Took a trip to Buchfastleigh to photograph some Steam Trains with my dad.... It was a very wet day so birding was out of the question so spending a few hours with the steam trains was an excellent idea.

A few images from day out on Dartmoor near Princetown..A stunning place, full of wildlife with amazing landscapes.....

A 2nd trip down to Saltram House along the plym estuary was very rewarding yesterday with finding a 2nd Cal/Year Glaucous Gull, 2 Little Ringed Plover, Osprey, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper... Spring waders here and Osprey's now in...Spring is here!!

Carrion Crow on the Saltmarsh

Egret landing

Glaucous Gull 2nd Year

Female Wheatear
Record shot of Cirl Bunting
Male Cirl Bunting giving great views
Spring Chiffchaff's arriving in big numbers now

Hopefully return to Devon later in the year in search of more migrants and explore more of the moors.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Spring migrants have arrvied

Spring is in the air. The first arrival of spring migrants have made landfall on the southern coasts of England. Large numbers of Sand Martin's, Wheatear, Garganey, Little Ringed Plover have all been reported across the UK.

In recent day's here in Devon, I've already seen several small flocks of Sand Martins passing northwards, large numbers of Wheatears at Wembury and on Dartmoor. My 1st Garganey of the year seen at Fobney Marsh last week when I was in Reading. Several reported locally here near Plymouth, seen 1 briefly at South Huish Marsh yesterday afternoon.

Reports of Swallows, House Martin, Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Osprey, Green Sandpiper, Ring Ouzel and Willow Warbler all noted in the last five days in Devon and Dorset. Strong stormy southern winds will hopefully bring another large influx of Willow Warbler, Ring Ouzel and Wheatear during Easter weekend and maybe bring a rarity from the Mediterranean. 

If the weather picks up next week across the southern counties, could well see the migrant floodgates open and most headlands holding large numbers of migrants. It is still early day's but an over-shooting migrant is not out of the question. I do fancy seeing another Great Spotted Cuckoo or find my first this space!!!

First Sand Martin's of the year have arrived in decent numbers

Plenty of Wheatear also freshly arrived in along coastal headlands

Several Garganey reported across Southern England in recent days

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Spring is Here

1st Sand Martin of the year flown north over Sherborne. 2 Brimstone Butterfly and single Tortoiseshell Butterfly in the garden. Several Bumble Bees, Hoverflies and Ladybird's in the garden as well. Spring has arrived. Hoping for some Wheatear next week and maybe a Ring Ouzel or Osprey overhead. Keep eye's peeled to the skies and the scrub for migrants

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Local sightings last week

Sherborne Sewage works: 5th March 2016

3-4 Firecrest
6 Chiffchaff
1 Siberian Chiffchaff-proving more elusive
2 Bullfinch
4 Treecreeper
2 Kingfisher
5 Grey Wagtail
3 Goldcrest
2 Siskin
1 Sparrowhawk

Portesham 5th March2016

Pallas's warbler still present and showing well though distant when I revisited on way to Weymouth

West Bexington 9th March 2016

No sign of any Wheatear or Sand Martin
Species of note
1 Chiffchaff
10+ Skylark (In full song)
2 Dunnock
1 Meadow Pipit

A Spoonbill encounter

One of life-long ambitions in birding is to have a close up encounter with a Spoonbill. I have always been fascinated about Spoonbill's ever since I can remember when I saw drawings & images in my birds books.They really are extraordinary birds with some unusual plumage features and odd feeding behaviours that really make them stand out from the local Herons and Egrets. The long "Spoon-shaped bill is used  in a sweeping action to filter through mud in estuary channels searching for small fish, shrimps and crustaceans.

The Spoonbill is a recent colonist species to the UK, originally found around the Mediterranean right into Africa where it can be found in large numbers on vast wetland habitats. Here in the U, Spoonbills have started breeding in Norfolk successfully in recent years. During the winter months they are regularly seen in South Dorset around Poole Harbour, Middlebere, Arne and Brownsea Island. Last year was a record count of Spoonbill's with over 60+ birds wintering in the Poole Harbour area. 

I have on many occasions while birding Dorset, have searched far and wide to see a Spoonbill at close quarters and feeding.  I have seen them at Arne on the Shipstal Point roost (which are quite distant) and 2 birds earlier this year out at Hole's Bay. Nothing prepared me for this encounter I had at Lodmoor. Hannah and I were birding the Weymouth area last week and decided to have a quick look at Lodmoor. Lodmoor is a great birding location which a variety of mixed habitats from reedbed, saltmarsh, lagoons, mudflat, freshwater channels and dense vegetation...Perfect feeding habitat for a  Spoonbill or two, 

I quickly walked down to the first viewing area near the car park, scanned with my bins and BOOM straight in front of me...... 2 feeding Spoonbill's about 40ft away from the path edge. I ran back to my car, grabbed my camera gear!!! We both ran down where we had very prolonged views of 2 adult Spoonbills feeding right in front of us both. It was an incredible experience. The off chance having Spoonbills right in the open, NOT roosting, NOT distant was too amazing to believe. A few local birders were onsite too, but were not too interested in the Spoonbills and carried on birding.

We had great views of the extraordinary sweeping head feeding action and plenty of views of them catching a wide variety of food from tiny shrimps to a sizeable flatfish!! The Spoonbills continued feeding quite close to use, until when a Marsh Harrier flew low over-head. Both birds took off and landed out in the centre of the reserve out of view.

A great day and one of my birding highlights of the year so far!!! Now onto my next birding moment I want to see and that is a Bluethroat....Hopefully see or find my own one this Spring. Finger's crossed. 

Posing nicely for the camera

captured moment about to swallow small fish

Check out that Spoon!! Magnificent birds

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Sherborne Firecrest's

Took another quick trip down to Sherborne Sewage works to have a look for the Firecrest's that I saw on Friday. Straight away when I arrived there was a male Firecrest in the bramble scrub by the disused mill giving a nice but brief view. The Siberian Chiffchaff was present and was calling more frequently today and gave some amazing views.

Other highlights include Blackcap, Marsh Tit, Jay, Siskin and 2 Kingfisher along with the usual Tit, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff flocks. The Firecrest's proved elusive to see well in the dense scrub and my attentions were drawn to a good number of mixed birds including Long-tailed Tit and Chiffchaff's that were flycatching in some tall willows. Shortly afterwards, I had 3 Firecrest reappear from the bramble scrub and give amazing point blank views down to a few feet. They are incredibly difficult to get decent photos but persistence prevailed and this female Goldcrest ( yellow crown stripe) came very close in low brambles and Ivy right beside me. It was a very special & magical moment. Don't think i'll ever beat views and pictures of Firecrest this well.

Many years I have always wanted to see Firecrest and today really became my best ever encounter with the species. My first Firecrest record was from Cross Inn Forest, Ceredigion Wales in 2013. Only saw 2 birds in 2013, 2014 saw 7 different birds throughout the year. 2015 best year ever and recorded total of 21 Firecrest records!! (mostly October and December). The mild weather proved very suitable for Firecrest, wintering Yellow-browed Warblers and Chiffchaff's around wetlands and scrubby habitat. So far this year I've recorded 6 Firecrest records.

Today there was at least 3-4 Firecrest at the sewage works. Several other birds recorded across Somerset and Dorset at Sewage works, gardens, wetlands..... 

When I returned back to Trent I was not expecting any more Firecrest!! There was one in the garden across the road giving some lovely views and another down Mill Lane at Trent sewage works!! Incredible to think there is this many Firecrest about. Mostly all over-wintering birds like the Chiffchaff's. There is without a doubt a small spring movement of Firecrest happening across the south coast of Dorset and Somerset. wintering bird's returning to mainland Europe or freshly arrived birds to the UK. Most likely these Firecrest have over-wintered and now dispersing south towards France, Spain where they breed in large numbers on the continent. It is still a pleasure to see any Firecrest, let alone several in a single day.

Let's see what happens with spring migrants arriving closer each day. Hoping to see my 1st Sand Martin, Wheatear and Osprey of the year by next week all going well with the forecast. 

The sewage works at Sherborne and Trent are really showing a huge amount of potential for a spring rarity to turn up in the next few weeks!! Wishful thinking but have Bluethroat on the cards if we get easterly winds in mid-March. You never know what may turn up. With Ring Ouzel and Yellow-browed warbler in the heart of Yeovil town this winter, spring passage would well deliver some great birds if these migrant hotspots are closely watched.... Watch this space............................................

Friday, 4 March 2016

Siberian Chiffchaff and Firecrest

Took a short trip down to the local sewage works here in Sherborne to search for the reported Siberian Chiffchaff which has been present in recent day's. I have had a very good winter for both Common and Siberian Chiffchaff's which have over-wintered in relatively good numbers in Dorset and Somerset, particularly around Sewage treatment works. Siberian Chiffchaff is classed as a separate subspecies "tristis race" of Common Chiffchaff " Phylloscopus collybita". It is now treated as a separate species by many birders due to the vast difference in plumage appearence and the birds song & call which is unique to Sibe Chiffs.

I have seen at least 8 different Siberian Chiffchaffs in the UK and each bird is very unique. Siberian Chiffchaff' originates from Eastern Europe, wintering in southern Asia. In recent decades they have been recorded very frequently across the British Isles and in South-west Ireland and now classed as a scarce vagrant to the UK. Each year it is becoming just as regular as a wintering common Chiffchaff.

Reading up on Siberian Chiffchaff identification to compare my photos shows the huge range of variation in plumage characteristics that Siberian Chiffchaff show. The classic standard Sibe Chiff is a very dull grey washed out overall plumage, bright  buff supercilium, dark black bill& legs and a Bullfinch/Dunnock like call. There is still much study undergoing looking at Siberian Chiffchaffs.
Here is a link from birding frontiers showing such variation and key identification features for Sibe's.

This bird was very unique in appearance. It was much brighter grey and white in colour than previous Sibe Chiff''s I've ever seen and stood out like a sore thumb!!!!

These first few images show the classic features of Siberian Chiffchaff and a few other features comparing with "Colybita" and "Abietinus"Chiffchaff also present.

Classic slate grey plumage, bright green edge to tertials, secondaries and primaries. Centre tail feathers dark black.
The bright white underside on belly, flanks, throat and vent area of tail were very obvious in sunlight

Bright green wing panel shows well here. Buff supercilium and hint of black eye-stripe feature shown well here

Showing well on sewage work fence line

It spent a lot of time flycatching around the fence line scrub

The grey plumage and projection of supercilium behind the eye

Light levels and sunshine really influence appearance of the bird

Looks much duller here in foliage of nearby bushes

One of  6+ Firecrest also present at the disused mill

Common Chiffchaff for comparison