Friday, 16 November 2012

Was it really that Bad-minston?

Decided to run an experiment this Autumn and moved closer to the coast for my vis-mig sessions. I decided on Badminston mainly due to it's cracking panoramic view, and fairly obvious flightpath between Lepe and the gap between Fawley Power station and the refinery.

In total, I spent 26 hours(!) this Autumn watching the migration passing over my head, and although it was fairly pleasant, it never really felt *that* good! Highlights were fairly modest: a Marsh Harrier, an Osprey, and that was about it really.

However, vis-mig is all about numbers and it actually performed better, on average, than my other watchpoint overlooking the Test Valley. From Trektellen:

2010 Lower Brook: 3000 birds of 47 species in 26 hours (7000 Starlings excluded from the total as they were a local movement of birds heading to evening roost. Pretty spectacular nonetheless!)
2011 Lower Brook:  2775 birds of 35 species in 15 hours
2012 Badminston: 4453 birds of 63 species in 26 hours

Badminston doesn't feel too good because it lacked a "big day" of 1000's birds per hour. I'm sure the site is capable of great numbers, it just didn't happen in 2012. It also lacked the quality of Lower Brook, where a couple of flyover Lapland Buntings made the entire 2011 Autumn worthwhile. Badminton also lacks the daily commute of Gulls which head up the Test Valley.. amongst the many hundreds of Gulls (not counted in the Trektellen totals above as they are on a daily commute and not true migrants), was a single Kittiwake. Again good quality for an inland site, but overall the Gulls were more of a distraction than anything!

The vis-mig on Trektellen is a good thing to get involved in. The totals find their way onto the BTO database, and the County stats. I don't think I have the dedication to stay in the same spot every Autumn, so the question is where to watch from next year? Badminston, Lower Brook, both, or somewhere new again?

Badminston 2012 on trektellen
Lower Brook 2011 on Trektellen
Lower Brook 2010 on Trektellen

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Early November Vis-mig

A couple of sessions of vis-mig over the weekend. Badminston is quite frustrating as it is obviously right beneath a migration flightpath.. Finches, Hirundines and Thrushes pass right over my head, and Corvids, Woodpigeons and other species all pass within recording range.. there just doesn't seem to be a great deal using the flightpath! Results from Friday 2nd November at the link below:

I may try an alternative survey spot North of the Fawley power station to see if more birds divert North around the refinery then across the New Forest. (Badminston catches the migration filtering between the refinery and the power station). The alternative spot would also have the advantage of being closer to Southampton Water, so birds moving along the coast would be picked up.

I also ran my Sound recorder overnight on Thursday 1st November and picked up:

28 Redwings
5 Song Thrushes

Plus Robin and Tawny Owl present.

Finally the Kingfisher is still present along the brook outside the house. Heard a couple of times on Saturday.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Another addition to the house list

Quiet end to October, but a real highlight last Saturday when a Kingfisher dropped in to the Brook alongside the house. Always thought we had a slim possibility of adding Kingfisher, but I have waited over 4 years for one. Looks to have moved on after one brief glimpse, though it could still be around, further along the stream, perhaps.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Overnight migration monitoring 12th October2012

Ran the tape overnight again, on 12th October. Weather was fairly clear skies, with a SW wind, but with a band of rain passing thru.
Results were down on the previous weekend with only a handful of birds:

Redwing: 6
Song Thrush: 1

Tawny Owl, Robin

The biggest highlight was my new method of analysis:
I now produce a single mp3 (@  128kbps),
then split the file using a free tool called mp3splt.
Also, by loading the next sound file as I analyse each file reduces waiting time.
I'm up to 5 hours of analysis per hour now!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Overnight Migration monitoring

I've noticed a few people are trying their hand at monitoring night migration lately. It seems to be popular in the US where software is available to pick out calls. See

So, with nothing to lose, I wrapped my Zoom H2N in a tight plastic bag, put the weathershield on and left it in the front garden overnight! The first problem I encountered was the size of the wav file the following morning. Can't remember how big it was, but it took audacity over half an hour to open it! Fortunately, the Zoom has a built in tool to divide files, and so I chopped the file into 1 hour chunks. These took about 5 minutes to open in Wavesurfer, and once the spectogram was focussed and showing a healthy glow of background noise it was fairly easy to fast forward/scroll through each hour segment.

Lots of unwanted noise at first, but it soon became clear that the vertical signals were fireworks, doors slamming, or twigs snapping. The huge blurred low frequency areas were cars, and yobs falling out of the local pub! I was starting to get a bit disheartened after listening to several dogs barking, and a distant car slam on it's brakes but then out of all the noise, the bird calls started to emerge in the recordings.. Local Tawny Owls came first, and were pretty distinctive after a while. The sonogram long drawn out, and just higher than the man made sounds of the village.

I continued fast forwarding wondering if this was the limit of my kit. You don't get much louder than a family of Tawnies, especially if they are in a tree pretty much above the microphone, but then a high frequency downward sloping call whizzed by. I rewound and played back.. REDWING! Success! This was followed by a handful of Redwings, then a Song Thrush which was even fainter on the tape, but the sonogram was clear as day. So, now I'm thinking, if it can pick up Redwings and Song Thrushes flying over, there probably isn't much that this set up would miss. Any Waders or Wildfowl would definately get picked up, Finches probably would if they went straight overhead.

A sample of results are below, plus the details of how they were obtained.

Overnight Migration monitoring, Hampshire, 6th-7th October 2012:

Redwing 24
Song Thrush 4
Present: Tawny Owl 2

Very faint Redwing:
Redwing Sonogram, Redwing flight call from night monitoring, 6th October 2012, Hampshire

Faint Song Thrush
Song Thrush sonogram, Song Thrush call overhead during night time migration monitoring, 6th October 2012, Hampshire

Very noisy Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl Sonogram, Tawny Owl Sonogram from night monitoring, 6th Oct 2012, Hampshire

Set up details:

Zoom H2N ext

Gain 10 (max)
file type mp3 / 96kbps
auto gain OFF, low cut filter OFF,
Recording mode: MS with very small side lobes

Analyis used Wavesurfer software
Samples extracted and uploaded to Soundcloud taken using Audacity software

Next time, I intend to use auto record, constantly triggering throughout the night. This will generate hundreds of small mp3 files which can be joined together using a single terminal command on the pc merging them into ~60 minute mp3 files for subsequent analysis.

2012 finally kicks in

* Self-Found Melodious Warbler finally brings 2012 to life!
* Other Migrants on Scillies include Yellow-Browed Warbler, Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher
* Quiet Scillonian crossings still bring some good sightings

Took two weeks off work and headed to the Isles of Scilly for a few days. Unlike recent trips to Shetland, which I have had to book many months in advance, camping on the Scillies can be booked a day in advance, so I had no real excuses that the weather was all wrong! Having said that, a Low Pressure that I had intended to piggyback somehow doubled back on itself, and loitered in the Irish Sea for the duration of my stay. This caused North and North West winds throughout, and no doubt reduced the number of East Coast migrants continuing West.

I stayed on St.Agnes, and decided pretty early on that the outlying Isle of Gugh, joined to St.Agnes by a sandbank and cut off at high tide, was the place for me.

And so it proved to be a super venue with a Melodious Warbler found on the first morning making the trip a success for me (any new "self found" bird in the UK is a real highlight for me nowadays). The second day didn't quite match the first with a Yellow-Browed Warbler the stand out bird. There was a good number of Spotted Flycatchers throughout, and other highlights were Ring Ouzel, Pied Flycatcher, along with more common migrants like Whinchat and Yellow Wagtail. I say common, both where firsts for the year for me, but that probably reflects the relatively poor birding year I have had.

Other birds seen well, but found by others were Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Ortolan, and Little Stint, plus a single Greenshank.

Another highlight for me, of the Scillies is the ferry journey. The outward crossing despite the severe winds just days earlier was fairly quiet with just a single Great Skua, and Manx Shearwater the highlights. Kittiwake, Great Northern Diver, and Red Throated Diver being the other highlights. The return crossing was slightly better with a Balearic, and Sooty Shearwater plus 4 Harbour Porpoises.

Photos below:

Linnet, Scillies, Sept 2012 Spotted Flycatcher, Scillies, Sept 2012 Pied Flycatcher, Scillies, Sept 2012

Yellow-Browed Warbler, Scillies, Sept 2012 Yellow-Browed Warbler, Scillies, Sept 2012 Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Scillies, Sept 2012

Wren, Scillies, Sept 2012 Swallow, Scillies, Sept 2012 Song Thrush, Scillies, Sept 2012

Wheatear, Scillies, Sept 2012 House Sparrow, Scillies, Sept 2012 House Sparrow, Scillies, Sept 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

September update as migration steps up a gear

* Vis-mig switched to the coast, with limited success
* Meadow Pipit added to House list
* Nathusius’s Pipistrelle Survey.. Highlight was a Nathusius’s Pipistrelle
* Badger watch.

Vis Mig at Badminston continues at a reasonable pace. Numbers aren’t particularly high just yet, and I’m not sure if I am sitting in the optimum location. Slow moving Hirundines seem to pass tantalizingly North of me which is no problem, but finches and Pipits could be going undetected so a tweak of the viewing location might be in order. Best bird so far has been an Osprey, and judging by recent reports from the North end of Southampton Water, I suspect a decent number of Ospreys pass the area. Any change in my location needs to ensure the flyway past the power station is still in view.

Closer to home, Meadow Pipit was added to the house list during a fairly massive movement across the region (e.g. a few hundred over Christchurch Harbour). This has been a very elusive species over the house, despite them being regular in fields 400 yards away!

Finally, on a long dog walk yesterday (19th Sept.) I logged a big increase in numbers around Hoe Lane: large groups of Swallows and House Martins, about 50 Gulls (mainly Herring Gulls) on a fresh plough, plus Meadow Pipit, and 2 Wheatears.

Aside from birds, I have repeated the Nathusius’s Pipistrelle survey at the beginning of September at Testwood lakes. At least one Nathusius was picked up, very late in the survey, and up to three on the repeat survey. 
Been a good month for Mammals with  incredible close up views of Fox and Badger being fed in a New Forest garden. The Badgers literally pressed against the patio door waiting for food.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Slow Vis Mig and an ex-Polecat

Saturday morning was a very poor vis-mig session, with just a couple of hundred Woodpigeons on the move, and these were, worryingly, a long way West of my favoured position, in a very light West wind and thick cloud cover. The morning was at least brightened up by a few migrants on the ground including Spotted flycatcher, Blackcap, and a few Chiff-chaffs.

This is turning into a pretty dismal year for finding birds.. I don't recall seeing a Whinchat so far! let alone some of the more scarcer species. Another species that seems to be in short supply locally is Yellow Wagtail. There seem to be a lot more records East of Southampton Water than West where I tend to focus.

Also, sad to report a Polecat dead on the side of the A3057 near Ashfield. Such a rare and elusive Mammal, a pity I have only ever seen dead ones, and amazing to think this one has passed less than a mile from my house.. picture, slightly gory!

Polecat, Roadkill sadly, September being the peak month for dispersing Polecats to succumb to traffic accidents. An animal I have never seen live in the wild.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Dog walks and vis mig

* Wheatear and Spotted Flycatcher brightens up local dog walks
* Tree Pipit signals a new era for my "Vis Mig."

Spending more time around the village taking our dog for a walk lately. He's old enough to go on longer walks now, and it gives me a chance to at least check out the habitat around the village. in the last month just a Wheatear and a family of Spotted Flycatchers to show for several miles of walks! Hoe Lane is starting to look a bit better now with the fields being harvested.

Have also spent a couple of mornings at my closest area of coast, which is Lepe and Calshot. Again, nothing out of the ordinary but a ramping up of Terns and WEaders in the last week or two. I've also been checking out Badminston with a view to vis. mig. later in the Autumn. My walks in the area last year certainly showed the area to have potential with clouds of Woodpigeons, and on one occasion a passage of Crossbills. Finding a suitable vantage point, other than the chimneys at Fawley isn't easy, but I think I've stumbled on somewhere slightly uncomfortable, but with a good 270 degree view. An hour or so in the rain this morning got me a flyover Tree Pipit, and two Stock Doves.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Autumn starts here!

2012 has been a very ordinary Birdwatching year for me so far. Even a trip to Shetland in the Spring couldn't do anything to alter the fact that all my best birding seems to get done in the Autumn.

So, good news, the Autumn starts now! Headed to Lepe before dawn very optimistically checking the reedbeds around the new hide for a Spotted Crake or two! These elusive birds turn up regularly at Farlington this time of year (in fact one is there as I type), but other similar locations don't have any previous form. Lepe looks good on paper, but the hide doesn't really overlook the suitable habitat, so birds could slip through unnoticed. Gave up on the hide after an hour. Hides are not really my thing! headed East to the other potentially good area of habitat: the lagoon.
A Common Scoter offshore, and a Spotted Redshank calling in flight, which looked to have flown out of the lagoon were the best of the birds. Meanwhile over at Calshot, a large number of Common Terns were feeding in the Solent plus a decent sized group of 30+ Ringed Plovers on the shingle. 48 Redshank at nearby Ashlett was a pretty good number for me. a handful of Black-wits, 2 Greenshank and Green Sandpiper rounded off the common Wader species that will feature over the next few months.

The garden has been "different" this summer. Recently fledged birds seem to be more in evidence than previous years including Jays and Goldcrests. Despite the poor spring, I'm hoping the summer has rescued the breeding figures for the year.
We are fortunate to have Purple Hairstreak butterflies around the garden, but this year, I only saw my first this morning!

Jay, August 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Is Spring over-rated?

Is spring over-rated?!

From the perspective of someone who likes to find my own birds, based in Hampshire, the last two springs have been fairly uneventful, compared to other times of the year. So I went onto Bubo and retrieved my major finds since moving to Hampshire..

Spring is rubbish

Low and behold, with the exception of a (very memorable) Montagu's Harrier in Mid-April, (not listed), Spring never seems to produce the goods for me. The last week in Shetland was an extreme example of this, although I had my share of bad fortune with the weather on this occasion.

So why do I find more birds in Autumn? Could it be that there are more birds to be found in Autumn after the breeding season? Could it be that in the Northern Hemisphere it is easy to migrate North in Spring, than it is to go South in Autumn, and therefore the Autumn Migrants get lost and held up much more? It is often said that Autumn Migration is more relaxed compared to the Spring rush to breeding territories, so the birds are easier to catch up with.

It certainly isn't me! If anything I try harder than ever in Spring. Whatever the reason.. Here's to Autumn!

And looking at the table.. I doubt it will ever get much better than 2009 for finding my own birds?!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Unst, 2012

Spent a long weekend in the Shetlands, mainly thanks to some Flybe rewards points, and an understanding family! Weather prior to the trip had been excellent for migrants with a constant East wind for the best part of 2 weeks. Sadly it didn't last into my break, and I was faced with some pretty unpleasant North Winds for the duration of the stay.

This had a really adverse affect on the migrants with single figures in total of Blackcaps, Spotted Flycatchers, Chiff-Chaffs, plus a Willow Warbler. A likely "Tristis" Chiff-Chaff called, but didn't hang around for a look at the plumage. Pretty ironic as I spent much of last winter grilling a likely Tristis that showed well but never called!

I persevered on Unst but there was nothing doing. I was almost relieved to get back onto Shetland Mainland, but this too had very little in terms of excitement. I did see the long staying Subalpine Warbler and Long-Eared Owl at Quendale.

However, what the trip lacked in rarity finding quality certainly didn't lack in photography opportunities, and I had excellent prolonged close-up views of many of the Shetland specialities such as Arctic Tern, Arctic and Great Skua, Puffin, Twite, and Fulmar. Photo slideshow below (hit page refresh if it doesn't load)..

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Migrants still passing through Lepe, and some media!

Up early on Sunday morning for a walk around Lepe. Best birds were 6 Avocets high over, heading East, 1 Greenshank, 1 Turtle Dove, 1 Nightingale, and a Siskin overhead.

Red-Legged Partridge, Lepe, 26th May 2012 Red-Legged Partridge, Lepe, 26th May 2012 Sandwich Tern, Lepe, 26th May 2012

Cetti's Warbler, Lepe, May 2012

Monday, 21 May 2012

Spring starting to fizzle out

Finished my BTO Breeding Bird Survey at Broadlands Lake and Wade Bridge this weekend. As is often the case, the second survey whittled out with very little to add, except a distant Sedge Warbler. The best bird of the morning was a Red Kite overhead.. Within the survey boundary, but outside the timeframe.

From there, I headed to Badminston for some vis-mig. With blue skies and a South wind it seemed like a good idea, but not much to report here. Baddesley Common was also fairly quiet over the weekend.

I seem to struggle to find quality in Spring compared with Autumn. Only hope now lies with a few days in Shetland at the end of the month.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The one that got away!

Spurred on by news of a Woodchat found up the coast at Keyhaven, I changed my plans for Sunday morning and headed to Calshot. The marsh always looks a good bet for migrants, but was pretty quiet with only Reed and Sedge Warblers about. Headed round the castle to scan the sea but this was no better. Ringed plover and Rock Pipit were all I could add here. So, took a few photos then decided to try my luck with the sky.

Headed to a fairly small embankment which, despite it's low altitude had a superb view of Calshot, Fawley power station, and New Forest. I could even see the Spinnacker Tower in the far distance. This looks like a superb place to witness Vis-mig, and in the hot sun, I managed a small trickle of Hirundines, plus Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine and several Buzzards. The one that got away was a possible Honey Buzzard over the coast.. Just too far to make any plumage out, though the structure looked very promising.
Photos below of Sedge Warbler and Ringed Plover

Sedge Warbler, Calshot, May 2012 Ringed Plover, Calshot, May 2012 Ringed Plover, Calshot, May 2012 Ringed Plover, Calshot, May 2012

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Floodgates open

A good weekend when all the floodgates seemed to open up with migrants, and left me thinking "why have I bothered going out searching for scraps for the last 2 months?!"

The weekend started well with a Lesser Whitethroat singing outside the BBC building at White City. This area has a few bushes and trees, but is really manicured and isolated. I'd be surprised if I have got into double figures of species seen here. (although I did once record a Reed Warbler, so it kind of has some form).

Over the weekend I visited Lepe twice. The first visit was pretty dire with just 6 Avocets to liven up the morning. Two days later, and the area was alive:

Great Skua and Razorbill offshore
20+ Med Gulls overhead
1 Peregrine
2 Avocets
1 Greenshank
1 Dunlin
Handful of Bar-Tailed Godwits and Whimbrels moving west
1 Nightingale
1 Lesser Whitethroat
Plus Sandwich and Common Terns

Calshot area had 3 Wheatears.

Finally, Baddesley Common got in on the action with 2 Wheatears, a Tree Pipit, and 2 Cuckoos.

Whimbrel at Lepe..
Whimbrel, Lepe, May 2012 Whimbrel, Lepe, May 2012 Whimbrel, Lepe, May 2012

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Storm Chasing

  • Bad weather brings the Hirundines down
Birding after severe weather, or even during the storm has been good to me over the years. Nothing like some good gusts to bring in the unexpected, and nothing like the bad weather to keep other people, (and other birders!) indoors, thus maximising my chances of finding something!

Last night's strong winds and heavy rain ended quite abruptly just after lunch, and for much of the afternoon there was a small but noticeable movement of Gulls over the village. Mainly Herring with at least 1 Lesser Blackback. Also a few Hirundines and a Swift plus a Raven. All heading West. The House list seems to have dried up recently, and it is occasions like this where a new addition might be added. Stock Dove, Peregrine, or pretty much any species of Wildfowl except Mallard would be much welcome. Today it was not to be though.

Late afternoon, I was able to head out to the River Test at Skidmore. This is an area that often turns up good birds, Ospreys migrating up the Test valley, and recently Short Eared Owl and Crane. I visit the area quite frequently since we got a dog, but the area has never really turned up anything good for me. Green Sandpiper is the best I can recall! plus a fly-away Egret that had a feel of "Great White" about it but didn't allow me to confirm 100%.

Today was much the same, some interest, but "could try harder" for Skidmore!
A Kingfisher along the River Blackwater, and a good number of Hirundines over the Test. Mainly House Martins, and what a superb sight watching these presumably tired and grounded migrants re-fuelling over the swollen river. Alos a pair of Little Grebes!

BTO Birdtrack Android app... REVIEWED!

I'm always willing to give apps a try on my android phone, especially if they are free, and to date there have been a few birding log tools released. I've tried them but quickly abandoned them - they all seem fine when sitting at home, but become very tedious, and laborious to use in the field. Let's face it, the more time you spend with your head in the phone, the less you are going to see.

The BTO BirdTrack app, initially fell into this category: I set it up fairly easily, and added our garden Blue Tits in without any problems. However, "in the field" I stood for a couple of minutes trying to enter a Shelduck into the app, whilst continuing to get an error message that my pre-defined site did not match the grid reference I was at.

So, I looked for a workaround, and by ignoring sites, and just entering sightings as you see them by grid reference from the phone, it seems to work very well.

Best of all, you can upload the sightings to the BTOs Birdtrack survey which contributes to the bigger picture. And, you can browse other people's recent sightings via a map, which is really cool.

So, unlike other trip sighting logs, I'm prepared to give the BTO birdtrack more time, and use it in anger for a few trips. I just need to pack a notebook and pencil for when the phone battery runs out ;)

In terms of improvement, what we really need is an app that takes the data entry by voice input: "Lapwing...2...enter" would be really cool.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Audio

  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Drumming and calls caught on sound file 

I've never been able to really study a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in any great detail before. Usual sightings have been brief one-offs, but this Spring, a local territory seems to be very reliable for drumming and calling birds (even though I haven't actually seen the birds yet!). Managed to grab some recordings of Drumming and the alarm call..

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Drumming, Sonogram of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming, plus the descending song of a Willow Warbler

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Call, Sonogram of pee-pee-pee call of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

(Call on the sonogram looks to be the constant calls at ~5KHZ)

Migrants battle on, and a bonus White Stork turns sour

  • Migrant Redstarts in local farmland
  • Whitethroats and Swifts arrive
  • Whimbrel and Wheatear at Lepe
  • White Stork Bonus (County Durham)
Quite a few bits and pieces from the last few weeks. Locally, 2 Redstarts have turned up in local farmland, and I watched my first Swift of the year at Skidmore, with Swallows and Sand Martins.

Slightly further afield at Lepe, Sandwich Terns are now joined by a few Common Terns offshore, and I saw my first Whitethroat of the year singing in coastal scrub. My last visit coincided with bad weather, so I checked out the new hide in the conservation area. A good place to spend an hour sheltered from the rain, but a slightly strange view from the hide as there is a line of trees between the hide and the marshy meadows. Still a few birds on show including 2 Wheatears, 2 Whimbrels, plus Redshank, Shelduck, and a Lapwing.

Finally, on a work trip, I was amazed and delighted to see a White Stork drift North over the A1. I pulled over and was unable to locate but phoned the sighting through to Birdguides. It had also been seen in the morning further south dispelling any thoughts that I had been hallucinating. Also, a few Storks throughout the Country added to the credentials of this bird. It all went a bit downhill subsequently though, as the Durham bird was marked "Presumably an escape" due to the presence of a known escape in the area for the last year or so. So no definite proof this bird was an escape, but so close on the back of the known escape, I'd have trouble convincing anyone that it was a true wild migrant. (As indeed would anyone seeing a fly-over White Stork in the UK by the look of it)

Some recent photos from Lepe:

Greenfinch, Lepe, Hampshire, April 2012 Goldfinch, Lepe, Hampshire, April 2012 Red-legged Partridge, Lepe, Hampshire, April 2012

Monday, 16 April 2012

Migrants arrive, and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers

  • Wheatear and Fieldfares at Baddesley Common
  • Double delight with Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers
Plenty of Migrants in the local area now. Difficult to say exactly when they all dropped in, but the recent rain probably played a major part. Chiff-Chaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps singing in most woods and Baddesley Common had 3 Wheatears and 4 Fieldfares together in one loosely grazed field. Baddesley Common also had the best find for me so far this year.. a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming and calling. This just a day after unbelievably good views of a Male Lesser-Pecker during my BTO survey (this one at a known territory)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Spring arrives

  • Firecrest, Raven and Woodcock establishing territories locally
Probably the mildest March I have ever known, and subsequently the Summer migrants seem to be puring through fairly quickly. My part of the world in Hampshire, about 20 miles inland seems to suffer from very few passage migrants when the weather is fine, and so far in March the only activity has been breeding birds arriving on territories. Firecrest and Raven are both holding territories nearby, and Woodcock seem to be fairly abundant in the nearby woodland. Still haven't recorded a Woodcock from the garden, but came very close with two over the adjacent street last week.

Also, in the surrounding commons and fallow land, Stonechats seem to be making a recovery compared to last year. 4 Territories so far.

Further afield, I did spend a morning at Lepe and Calshot, but I seemed to have fallen between seasons, with just my first Swallow and a very pale Buzzard giving me excitement.

The bird feeders are starting to ease off now, but I did manage the photos of Starling and Blue tit below. The Reed Bunting was at Lepe.

Blue Tit Starling Reed Bunting

Monday, 27 February 2012

A good day for Grebes, and Sibe Chiffchaff still present

  • Black-Necked and Slavonian Grebes off Lepe
  • Singing Firecrest at Calshot
  • Siberian Chiffchaff still looks the part - but no call
Arrived at Lepe shortly after dawn for a pleasant stroll along the coast before the crowds arrived. Always lots to check out here. Today's highlights were the 3 Black-Necked Grebes relatively close to the shore and 3 very distant Slavonian Grebes, probably on the limit of identification with a 60x eyepiece. (Great Crested and Little were also present giving me 4 out of the 5 regular UK species). Also offshore were 2 Eiders and 4 Red-Breasted Mergansers. Not as many Med.Gulls today, but some of these were approaching full Summer Plumage. and ducks included quite a large number of Pintails plus Teal, and Wigeon.

Black-Necked Grebes off Lepe
Black Necked Grebes, Lepe, 26th Feb 2012

Late morning, I checked out Calshot beach. Very little offshore here, but the Firecrest was singing in the pines, and still a single Chiff Chaff in the area.

Finished the day in warm sunshine at the Sewage treatment works South of Horsebridge, where the Siberian Chiffchaff was showing amazingly well once I had tracked it down to a hedge with an abundancy of insects. It responded to Tristis calls by moving closer, and responded to Tristis song with a brief wing flicking and flying straight at me and over my head before returning to the hedge. I'm of the opinion, this bird must be the real deal now. All that's missing is some vocals from it.

Siberian Chiffchaff
Tristis Chiffchaff, 26feb2012, Compton, hants Tristis Chiffchaff, 26feb2012, Compton, hants Tristis Chiffchaff, 26feb2012, Compton, hants
Tristis Chiffchaff, 26feb2012, Compton, hants

Monday, 20 February 2012

ChiffChaffs wintering at Horsebridge STW

  • Possible Tristis - Photo slideshow
Have spent a few recently grilling a Chiffchaff at the local Sewage works (Just South of Horsebridge). This venue has always been the pick of the local Sewage works for birds with a good turn out of Thrushes, Pipits and Wagtails on any calm, sunny winter morning. Highlight so far was a Water Pipit seen just once in the winter of 2010/11.

(Other nearby sewage works include Romsey which is a larger complex but always seems to have zero birdlife for some reason, and Nether Wallop which is better for Pipits and Wagtails, but I have never found anything unusual there. There is a fourth works just North of Stockbridge where viewing is dificult, and further afield the works at Downton look excellent)

The works at Horsebridge have 4 Chiff Chaffs present this winter. Two are bog standard olive coloured Collybita, the regular species seen pretty much everywhere in England and regularly overwintering. A third bird is a very pale grey and white oddity with orange legs. I won't even attempt to drill down to subspecies level with this one!
The final bird, for me, is the most interesting, and after reading up no every piece of literature I can find online, I'm of the opinion it is pure Tristis, (or something very close).

So far I have photographed it on two occasions, and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was two different birds! from warm brown bird on February 11th to a cold grey and white bird on February 19th. However, the plumage has eventually fallen into place as ticking all the required features for Tristis (In my opinion at least, plus a few brave souls on Birdforum who have stuck their necks out). Photos below in the slideshow plus the 3rd bird (the "oddity" for 3 pictures in the sewage beds). See what you think!...

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Dawn to Dusk from Coast to Downs

  • Black Necked Grebes offshore at Lepe
  • Firecrest still at Calshot
  • Golden Plovers check in at Hoe Lane
  • Eastern Chiff-Chaff 
  • Jack's Bush devoid of Raptors and Owls
  • Sparrow Twitcher mistakes me for someone who gives a damn!

Started out pre-dawn in temperatures of -8Deg C. Fortunately, it didn't affect the birds on the coast with some good numbers of Waders at Lepe. Mostly Dunlin, with a few Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Curlews thrown in, and a couple of Ringed Plover and Grey Plover. Gulls were slightly more interesting with good numbers of Med. Gulls (60+) and a single Yellow Legged Gull.

Best of the birds offshore were 3 Black-Necked Grebes, and 4 Mergansers.

Calshot had some good photo opportunities with Teal and Little Egret close to the road. The wintering Firecrest is still present joined by a Chiff-Chaff today.

As temperatures crept above freezing, I checked out Hoe Lane and was pleased to see the pair of Stonechats still present in the field of rough grass, with 42 Golden plover also seen in the distance. A further 7 Plovers were in another field bringing the total just shy of 50.

As the afternoon wore on, the birds fizzled out, with just one more quality sighting.. An Eastern Chiff-Chaff at the sewage works near Brook. Got photos, but didn't hear it call unfortunately. However, it looks pretty good for Tristis, and if it stays in the area may even call in the coming weeks. Plenty of birds at the works, but nothing out of the usual: Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipits, and all the common Thrushes present.

Finished the day on a low with very little at Jack's Bush, other than Yellowhammer and a Reed Bunting.

I was also reminded why I have steered clear of Calshot for several weeks since the Spanish Sparrow was found! Within minutes of carefully pulling up on a verge and photographing the wildfowl, the birds were pushed out by a twitcher coming to my driving window and asking me which house the Sparrow was at!

Little Egret, Calshot, Feb 2012 Little Egret, Calshot, Feb 2012 Mediterranean Gulls, Lepe, Feb 2012
Teal, Calshot, Feb 2012 Teal, Calshot, Feb 2012 Teal, Calshot, Feb 2012
Red Breasted Merganser, Lepe, Feb 2012 Red Breasted Merganser, Lepe, Feb 2012
That Chiff-Chaff!...
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