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