Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Rosy Starling !!!

At present there's been a big irruption of Rose-coloured Starlings into Europe and the UK. 100's have been found right across the continent and at least 50+ different individual birds found across the UK. Rose-coloured Starlings are found on the steppe plains and semi-arid desserts of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, wintering in India and Sri-Lanka. Every few years populations irrupt out of Asia during food storages and many hundreds of birds migrate into west Europe searching for areas to spend the summer months. In the autumn juvenile Rosy Starlings get blown off course following east winds and some turn up as far as the headlands of Ireland and even Western Scotland!

These stunning birds can turn up anywhere during summer months occasionally found in coastal gardens feasting on suet fatballs from garden feeders. They also are very keen feeders of cherries and always worth checking ornamental and native cherry trees. The Starlings immaculate pink plumage, spiky punk crest and iridescent purple and black plumage maked these birds really striking and stick out like a sore thumb in amongst common Starling flocks in which they associate occasionally.

Earlier today I had point blank views of this stunning male Rosy Starling in a garden in Dorset. Over the next few weeks It is well keeping an eye out in your garden or local park for a "pink" Starling and report it in to your local birding group or county recorder. Easterly winds forecasted for the next week or so will see many more of these superb iridescent and pink funky birds turning up right on your doorstep! Bird feeders topped up and check your local Starling flocks. Happy Birding !

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Signs of Summer

Throughout the past few weeks, I have been birding daily on patch, regularly walking the River Yeo, Trent Hill and down on the farm. This year definitely has been a bumper year for many species including a few patch scarce visitors popping up on a more regular basis during the month of May.

The lockdown for us here in Sherborne has been less road traffic, less polluted air, more invertebrate diversity, greater botanical life emerging and the dawn chorus of bird song has been spectacular to listen too every morning. My recent daily walks out birding has been well reward during May with Cuckoos on spring passage returning to the farm and singing on site!! Total of 3 different male cuckoos and two females seen one morning was a magical moment and personal highlight of the year for me.

Cuckoos are regular spring migrants to the Somerset levels and open countryside areas of Dorset but to have so many on the farm this spring really shows how lockdown has allowed "normally" busy/noisy areas disturbed by local walkers, farm traffic etc turn the farm into a haven for these special birds.

One early morning, Hannah and myself walked across the farm up to the hill where we sat and watched two male Cuckoo and two females constantly flying backwards and forwards across the fields and woodland tree tops displaying to each other. The distinct bubbling call of the female Cuckoo is certainly a rare sound nowadays and one I have only heard couple times in the past!!

The joys of watching the Cuckoos and listening to their song echo across the farmland while Swallows and House Martins fly overhead, Whitethroats and Blackcaps flickering in nearby bushes, singing and setting up territories while the local woodland resident Robins and Blackbirds sing their hearts out to the world. Truly magical moment of natural history. We felt like we had travelled back in time to when Cuckoos were the bread and butter sound of summer across the United Kingdom. it really shows how we as Humans can change our way of life and how nature steps in straight away to reclaim their lost homes and habitats once again.

The Cuckoos have remained on the farm throughout the past few weeks singing mostly in the early morning from the nearby fields, where I can sit in bed and enjoy the sound of summer right on our doorstep. Looking forward to the next few months as wildlife thrives and nestles down to breed and the first signs of autumn will be not too long around the corner.

Male Cuckoo flies right over singing his summer song!

Female Cuckoo-More browner plumage and barred throat

"Cuc-koo, Cuc-koo"
Sitting and singing atop a tree

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Lockdown Birding

With the ongoing lockdown in place across the UK, I reside back on my old patch based at Hannah's parents home in Trent-Sherborne in North Dorset. Here we are kept busy carrying out various tasks growing our fruit, herbs and vegetables in the new vegetable plots I built. Enjoying time spent gardening, bird-box making, painting, reading and of course birding in the garden and down on the farm and the lanes around the village.
Over the past few weeks I have been doing short daily morning walks down on the farm and then carrying out vismig watches from the garden for spring passage movements of hirundines and raptors. So far my lockdown list is on 78 species including Osprey, Red Kite, Cuckoo, Great White Egret, Redstart, Sedge Warbler, Fieldfare, Jay, White Wagtail, Wheatear, Little Owl and Barn Owl just some of the highlights seen and heard since 1st March on site.

Birding in the garden has been extremely successful and really has opened my eyes into an area we spend many times visiting family but not always out in the garden birding and watching wildlife, has shown the potential and rewards for been patient. Since early April, 11 different Red Kites have been recorded on spring passage migrating over along with 2 Ospreys and Buzzards, Kestrels, Peregrine and Sparrowhawks soaring on the thermals during the warm spring afternoons. Small numbers of Swallows and House Martins following up the river high over the garden certainly gave a migration feel to the days that our spring birds were returning! The joys of watching Willow Warblers and countless numbers of Blackcaps moving through the gardens scrub areas and the nearby field hedgerows felt like we were on the coast at Portland or back on my Charmouth patch but ino this is inland 30miles from the coast and the signs were really promising that 2020 might be a very good spring and May is just around the corner

A really nice list of species boosted by the arrival of spring migrants moving inland included large numbers of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Two Redstarts, several Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Wheatear, White Wagtail and Cuckoo best of the batch. Awaiting the big rush of migrants following the river and valley inland where hopefully next week will see the first Lesser Whitethroats and Grasshopper Warblers back on site. Something to look forward to over the coming days. Maybe a Pied Flycatcher in the garden sycamores or a Wood Warbler would be much welcomed but hopefully a few Sedge or a Reed Warbler soon as they are regular around the garden pond reeds usually autumn time in the past few years but with May approaching, interested to see what is in store.

Many resident species have been recorded in the garden and more frequently than normal. Species such as Bullfinch, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Little Owl and Tawny Owl are almost seen weekly! The quiet roads, lack of noise in the vicinity from people carrying out daily tasks and commuting seems to have allowed normally shy birds to be more active. Seeing Greenfinches, Bullfinches, Linnets and Green Woodpecker in the garden daily may be usual but they seem to be frequent every day now and from my knowledge knowing they usually are difficult species to track down on a normal day here unless you venture down the lanes away from the village.

Another positive note is the return of House Sparrows back into the garden!!! A small population breeds in the village but we are slightly on the outskirts and Sparrows are uncommon visitors and rarely spend long periods in the area! ( Possibly due to road noise and disturbance from nearby buildings?) Now this year with Lockdown since March 1st, Sparrows are daily observed and now breeding in the old barns by the car park of the pub along with Grey Wagtail and pair of Collared Doves. Really positive outlook on the virus that nature finds a way to retake lost habitats and make the most of human free zones straight away.

I am really positive that if the Lockdown continues until early autumn, birds will breed very well away from human disturbance, upland mountain ranges and moorlands undisturbed by dog walkers and hikers ad quiet nature reserves exploding with life and hopefully scarce species like Woodlark, Cuckoo, Yellow Wagtail, Turtle Dove and Nightingale will breed successful and have higher survival rates without the risk of human destruction and disturbances! An hopefully our spring migrant birds crossing the Mediterranean will have reduced illegal sport shooting and trapping persecution will benefit many species and give them a chance to hopefully recover and re-establish old haunts for the future! Fingers Crossed!!

With lockdown in place, my daily short walk and birding from the bottom garden as more migrants start arriving, I look forward to seeing the rewards for lockdown birding. 

Here's a selection of images taken over the past few weeks of some highlights out birding from the garden and walking down the farm. T
ake care and Stay Safe.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

An hour with some Purple Sandpipers

Today took a visit after filling up the feeders on patch to have a look around Lyme Regis, given the wind had died down a tad. Still a bit breezy around the Cobb wall, no sign of the drake Eider but a nice little flock of 6 Purple Sandpipers feeding close to the aquarium on the rocky beach was great to watch as they feed close to me while I sat on the beach in the afternoon sunlight!

Always a joy to watch Purple Sandpipers at close quarters, especially when they can be so confiding of peoples presence which makes the moment more enjoyable.

It was fascinating to watch them pick small morsels of crustaceans and molluscs from under the small pebbles and rocks as they foraged along the receding shoreline as tourists, dog walkers and every day people passed by.  A few images below of some of the birds taken in the afternoon sun.

Other observations include dozen Rock Pipits, 10 Turnstones, 2 Ringed Plover on Monmouth Beach and female Black Redstart briefly on rooftop of the Bowling Club.

Weymouth RSPB

A super days birding with Hannah around Weymouth and Portland Harbour during the week. First stop-off was to Radipole RSPB where we had great views of Bearded Reedlings, Mediterranean Gulls, Pochard, Tufted Ducks and several Marsh Harriers. Nice to see a adult winter Sandwich Tern in the car park. Over to RSPB Lodmoor and a little windy but nice views of Marsh Harriers, the resident Avocet, 100+ Lapwing, calling Water Rail, Pochards and an escaped Black Swan.
Portland Harbour proved quite productive in the prevailing winds with several Great Northern Divers and Red-breasted Mergansers close in off Osprey Quay. A great days birding despite the poor weather 😊

Bearded Reedling

An escaped Black Swan

Great Northern Diver sheltering in Portland Harbour by the Castle/Osprey Quay

Mediterranean Gull-Coming into summer plumage with black hood forming

Marsh Harrier


Sandwich Tern


Drake Shoveler

Angry looking Tufted Duck

A sleeping drake Teal

Wednesday, 25 September 2019


Earlier this year Hannah and I spent a fantastic two weeks at the Ponza Island Ornithological bird-ringing study centre. A truly fantastic place to witness spring bird migration of many species. Commonest species seen/ringed include Icterine Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler and Wood Warbler during big fall days numbers in their 100's to 1000+ across the Island. Large numbers of Golden Oriole, Bee-eater, Hoopoe seen daily migrating through along with many familiar species in the UK including Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Whinchat and Nightingale present in large numbers. During the 2weeks several fall days saw Pied Fly, Redstart and Whinchat numbering 200+ each across the Island. Extraordinary numbers Other highlights , large numbers of migrating Honey Buzzards, Great Reed Warblers, Wryneck, Collared Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Short-toed Eagle, Elenaora's Falcon, both Western and Moltoni's races of Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warblers, Serins, Audouins Gull and Red-footed Falcon all recorded during our visit to the Island. Looking forward to returning again next spring! :)