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20th August

Portland Bird Observatory - 12 hours 43 min ago
The toil for a scrap of quality continued and looked to have nearly had some reward this morning when a Hippolais warbler showed up in the Obs Quarry; sadly, however, it proved to be extremely elusive and although Melodious was suspected the views were not quite clinching before it vanished. Commoner migrants were a tad more numerous, with 25 Willow Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Yellow-legged Gull and the first Redstart of the season amongst the tally from the Bill/Southwell and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and a Greenshank at best from Ferrybridge. With the huge numbers of gulls that had been offshore for several weeks having now looked to have moved on the sea has become noticeably less noisy and at the same time also conspicuously underwhelming in terms of movement, with little more than 13 Common Scoter and singles of Manx Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater through off the Bill.

Another 2 Convolvulus Hawkmoths were the pick of the overnight moth catch at the Obs.

Even a godforsakenly windswept spot like Portland is absolutely swathed in leaves at this time of year that makes for frustrating migrant-hunting, when even normally showy things like Spotted Flycatchers can be really tricky to get to grips with © Peter Saunders:
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Sightings - Monday 20th August 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 21:22
Great Egret - 2 Holes Bay
Wood Sandpiper - 1 Sunnyside Farm, Ridge
Whimbrel - 10 Stanpit Marsh
Woodchat - 1 West Bexington
Swift - 10 Hengistbury Head
Pied Flycatcher - 1 Sunnyside Farm, Ridge
Willow Warbler - 25 Hengistbury Head

Wood Sandpiper Sunnyside Farm copyright Jol Mitchell











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20 Aug 18

Martin Adlam - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 21:00
Ferrybridge

As the tide dropped this afternoon, so dozens of small waders arrived. Also about 4 Sandwich Terns (2 adults and 2 juveniles).

Wakeham

Over Penns Wood this evening several Swallows feeding on insects above the tree tops.
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15 Aug 18: Return To Biscay: Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 13:00
I had already seen good numbers of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, at least half a dozen Fin Whales (plus more blows), a Minke Whale, as well as, large numbers of Great Shearwaters & a handful of Cory's Shearwaters during the first few hours on the first morning on the Pont-Aven while I was looking from the front of the top deck. After checked with the Orca team, I realised that despite the rear top deck being more open it was actually a bit more sheltered as the deck was narrower than the front of the top deck. There was also the benefit that with observers on both sides of the deck, then it was possible to quickly hear if there was something good seen on the other side of the deck. The reality was often there was a shout & all we heard was Dolphins or Whale with no identification. Still I hadn't been getting any news of sightings from my initial possible near the front of starboard deck, so overall it seemed the rear of the top deck was a better viewing position.

About 10:00 UK time, there was a shout for a Whale on the port side. I crossed over to look for it & only had a brief view of a medium sized Whale. Unfortunately, I didn't get onto it again & it remained unidentified, but it was either another Minke Whale or a Beaked Whale (it had been a very brief view). I'm not sure if anybody else figured it out either. As it was more sheltered on the port side, I decided to stay there. About fifteen minutes later, another medium sized Whale was picked up close off the port side. I quickly got onto it & as it looked interesting, I very quickly swapped to the camera to grab some photos. Through the camera, it looked medium sized, dark & slim-bodied with a noticeable curved-backed dorsal fin. It appeared several times, but every time I picking up with my naked eye & then raised the camera to get as many photos as possible. I never saw it again with the binoculars. Finally, it disappeared & I was starting to check the photos when I heard it had been identified as a Cuvier's Beaked Whale. As I zoomed into the photos I could see the head & front of the body was off-white & heavily scarred and I was happy I had just seen my first male Cuvier's Beaked Whale. I had hoped we would see one or two, but hadn't expected to see one so soon at the Northern end of the continental shelf drop off. It was a good job that we did see it, as there weren't any Cuvier's Beaked Whales seen later in the afternoon as we got closer to the final canyon off Santander. The reality is when Beaked Whales dive then can be down for quite some time & therefore, if they dived a mile in front of the ship they would next reappear well behind the Pont-Aven.
Cuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. The first photo shows the pale front of the body & the extensive scarringCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. It quickly put the front of the body underwater & looked noticeable darker in appearanceCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. The vertical white scar on the dorsal fin must be distinctive enough to allow this individual to be easily recognisedCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. It seemed to sink in the water, rather than roll forward & dive whilst showing its tailCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male
Cuvier's Beaked Whale: Male
Cuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. With just the dorsal fin showing it wouldn't be possible to identify it on this viewCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. When it came up again it was possible to see the large white melon & the dip in the head shape after the melon which is another of the features for Cuvier's Beaked WhaleCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. It is just possible to see the dorsal fin & the melon together in this shotCuvier's Beaked Whale: Male. Looking at the photos, it's easy to see why I didn't see the white at the front of the head & the scarring when I was using my naked eye before quickly switching to the camera. Once I press the button to start taking photos, it's not possible to see anything other than the general shape of the subject 
I was glad to have finally seen a Cuvier's Beaked Whale on my fifth trip through Biscay in the autumn. I had also hoped to have seen one on the Atlantic Odyssey or West African Pelagic, but the only one seen was a short sighting by Marijke from the other side of the Plancius as we passed through the Canaries. This was my 38 species out of 90 extant species of Cetaceans.
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19th August

Portland Bird Observatory - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:00
Still slow on the migrant front with the muggy, heavily overcast Atlantic airflow looking to be keeping potential departers grounded well before they've reached the coast. A few single figure totals of routine fare included a lone Pied Flycatcher at the Obs and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls at both the Bill and Ferrybridge. Ten Manx Shearwaters, 6 Balearic Shearwaters and a Great Skua passed through off the Bill.

A couple of new 'non-juvenile' Yellow-legged Gulls - this adult was at the Bill - were of note today © Martin Cade:

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Sightings - Sunday 19th August 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Sun, 08/19/2018 - 22:44
Black-throated Diver - 1 Portland Bill
Great Egret - 2 Lodmoor
Osprey - 2 Middlebere, 3 Wareham Channel
Ringed Plover - 75 Ferrybridge
Green Sandpiper - 14 Lytchett Fields
Greenshank - 6 Lytchett Fields
Yellow-legged Gull - 7 Tarrant Rushton pig farm
Arctic Tern - 2 Mudeford Quay
Pied Flycatcher - 1 Portland Obs
Woodchat - 1 West Bexington (picture to follow)


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19 Aug 18

Martin Adlam - Sun, 08/19/2018 - 20:14
Wakeham

In the back garden a Footman moth. Possibly Eilema griseola, Dingy Footman, a species recorded in the back garden before.



Ferrybridge

More painting on Star. At this rate there will be so much paint on her, she'll sink when she's launched on Tuesday. Overhead 2 screeching Sandwich Terns. Also seen approx 200 Starlings and 20+ Linnet.
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15 Aug 18: Return To Biscay: Dolphins & Fin Whales Galore

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sun, 08/19/2018 - 18:00
I was on deck for 06:15 & found that the sea was already busy. In the first 15 minutes of light, I had already missed a Fin Whale, as well as, several groups of Short-beaked Common Dolphins. The ship had already passed between Cap Finistere & the offshore islands in the dark between 04:00 & 05:00 & we were already heading for the continental shelf.
The Pont-Aven's position at 06:15: As indicated by the red & white S. The ship was travelling at 23 knots which was a lot faster than the 11 - 12 knots of the Plancius (when I was on the Odyssey). It was also travelling several knots faster than I think the Pride of Bilboa sailed at
The following maps help to indicate why Biscay is so good for Cetaceans. The route passes across the continental shelf & into the deep waters, before following the canyon off Santander until very close to the coast. I've read that 31 species have been seen in Biscay over the years, which is over a third of the world's pelagic Cetaceans. Many of the Dolphins & some of the Whales are typically seen before we dropped off the Continental shelf. Sperm Whales & Beaked Whales typically feed in the Bay of Biscay's deeper waters as they dive deep to chase their prey of Squid: which are typically several hundred metres deep during the daytime. Generally, the deep canyons off Santander & Bilbao are also very good for Cetaceans.Map of Biscay showing the water depths: The pale blue shows the continental shelf where the water depth can be up to 200 metres deep. The green shows where the continental shelf drops off & the pale yellow is the really deep water where the depth is over 4000 metres. The red area indicated the very deep canyons that continue close to Santander & Bilbao. The black line shows the normal route for the Pont-Aven into SantanderA close up of the Santander & Bilboa canyons
I spent the first couple of hours of the morning sheltering behind some emergency life rafts on the starboard side. It provided a reasonable amount of shelter & a good view forward of the Pont-Aven. Despite the seas being flat calm, there was still a noticeable wind, as well as, wind from the 23 knots the ship was doing. However, as it was a forward position I was away from most of the other Birders & Cetacean watchers on the ship & had no idea what was happening on the port side. But for the first few hours of the day, I didn't think I was likely to miss a Cuvier's Beaked Whale shout so was happy where I was. It wasn't long before I starting seeing Short-beaked Common Dolphins. There were a number of pods of six to fifteen individuals in each pod. However, they weren't photogenic as they were feeding & quickly passed astern. It didn't help that the Pont-Aven was travelling too fast for the Dolphins to keep up with the ship & enjoy some bow-waving.
Short-beaked Common Dolphin: A typical view of one of the early pods of feeding individuals that didn't do more than just break the water's surfaceShort-beaked Common Dolphin: Some of the pods were more inquisitive like this pod which had at least two youngsters in it. There is a youngster with the left hand mother & a second youngster had just gone down by the right hand motherShort-beaked Common Dolphin: Another female with a youngster which I saw about 20 minutes after the previous photo
There were a decent number of Fin Whale sightings throughout the morning in Northern Biscay from both sides of the ship. I saw at least six Fin Whales, but could have seen twice that had I been prepared to rush across the ship to see every individual. However, by the time the shout has gone up & it has been confirmed as a Whale (& not a Dolphin) shout, then the railings were usually packed. Thus, racing across the deck didn't always give a great position for views or photographs. I preferred to stay on one side & keep a better viewing position. While I missed a few Fin Whales & more Short-beaked Common Dolphins, it gave me a better position to scan from.
Fin Whale: Blowing as it surfacedFin Whale: The dorsal fin finally appears towards the end of the blow confirming there is a lot of back in front of itFin Whale: It's a small dorsal fin considering the size of the bodyFin WhaleFin Whale: Neither the dorsal fin not the head are visible as it starts to disappear
This second individual provides a better view of the overall dorsal fin shape.
Fin Whale: The overall size of the Whale & this not too steep dorsal fin shape help to separate Fin Whales from the much scarcer (in the Bay of Biscay) Sei Whales. Sei Whales have a much steeper dorsal finFin Whale: Showing a reasonable of back after the dorsal fin as it starts to go downFin Whale: Just a little bit of the dorsal fin before it goesThere were several hundred Great Shearwaters seen in Northern Biscay. However, it very difficult to accurately count them, given I wasn't looking closely enough to try & work out how many were keeping pace with the Pont-Aven, compared to the individuals that we quickly passed by. It didn't help that the Cetaceans regularly distracted me.
Great Shearwater: The main deck on the Pont-Aven was deck 10 & it was a long way above the sea. Generally, the Seabirds weren't coming close to the ship, but occasionally some gave better viewsGreat ShearwaterGreat ShearwaterFulmar: I only saw a handful each day There were good numbers of fishing boats on the horizon: A clear sign of good numbers of Fish to keep the Seabirds & fish-eating Cetaceans happyI was pleased to spot a Sunfish travelling unobtrusively down the starboard side. I saw three on the Atlantic Odyssey & West African Pelagic cruise, but didn't success in getting any good photos. This individual was a bit more photogenic.Sunfish: This individual is swimming on its side with the head to the left of the photo. The dark eye is also visible in this photo. They are one of the most bizarre Fish I've seenSunfish: Looks like it has now opened its mouthSunfish: This photo has less distortion from the water which gives a better image of the real body shape. They can grow to 1.8 metres long & weight up to a metric ton. They are a pretty flat fish with a very rounded body & two large fins at the back of the body. When swimming vertically all you see is the dorsal fin sticking out of the water & often flapping from side to side. At other times, like in this photo, they swim so the body is horizontal & at a first glance could they easily be overlooked as rubbish floating on the seaFloating Seaweed: There were a lot of patches of this Floating Seaweed which one of the Orca volunteers called Wrack. Generally, the patches were a couple of feet across, although I did see a couple of patches several metres across. Unfortunately, I didn't see anything feeding in these patches of weedIt had been a good start to the morning. It was a pity about the poor light initially, but the clouds finally started to clear & the light improved. Unfortunately, we also lost the flat calm seas & started to see whitecaps on the waves. Eventually, I decided to go & fill up the insulated mug with some more coffee & check in with the Orca team to see what they had been seeing & I had missed. I also wanted to check on a Whale I had seen just after 06:30 close to the ship on the starboard side. My feeling was it was a Minke Whale, but I had only had a single quick view of it. Fortunately, the Orca team were able to confirm my tentative identification. I've only seen four before in 2000 & 2001 from the Pride of Bilbao so was pleased to have seen another.
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Vietnam part 1: Cat Tien National Park: 7th – 10th March 2018

Gryllos Blog - Sun, 08/19/2018 - 10:19

After a protracted absence I now hope to catch up with reports on my two most recent foreign trips: Vietnam in March and Mongolia in May 2017.

Although I have visited Thailand twice and also birded in China, north-eastern India, Cambodia and Malaysia, Vietnam still offered a very tempting selection of Oriental goodies. Over the course of 23 days I recorded an amazing 414 species (including 47 life birds). There were some excellent mammals as well including some very rare primates and my first ever pangolin.

 

Getting there was not without its problems. A long delay due to technical problems at Heathrow meant that it looked like I would miss my connection to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at Bangkok. On arrival those passengers flying on to Vietnam were met on the gangway taken down steps and driven across the apron to our waiting plane without even entering the airport. So it was a great relief when we landed at Saigon on time. However predictably my luggage didn’t make it. It was quite difficult to explain to the very polite lady on the Thai Airlines desk that I was going onto Cat Tien National Park and not some Saigon hotel but fortunately I was able to contact leader Craig Robson who came to my rescue. I was reunited with my luggage the following evening. The photo shows the plane descending over the many channels of the Mekong Delta.

 

Here we are from the vehicle crossing the Mekong.

 

Right from the outset at Cat Tien we saw top quality birds like this Green Peacock. This magnificent male was feeding close to the road. We saw about 12 during our stay. This was only the second trip I’ve been on where the species was recorded.

 

Unlike it’s relative Indian or Blue Peafowl, this species is endangered with a population of just 10-20,00 birds spread over SE Asia, South China and Java. Still hunted for its feathers it has never been semi-domesticated like its Indian cousin.

 

Bird photography has become big business in SE Asia with many bated hides available. These are not the permanent sort of wooden hides you might find on reserves in Europe but netting with small holes to photograph or observe through and you often have to either squat down or carry a stool with you to sit on. One of first observations wasn’t a bird but a mammal, the cute Cambodian Ground Squirrel.

 

There were a variety of small birds feeding in the clearing in front of the hide – Puff-throated Babblers and …

 

… Buff-throated Babblers showed very well.

 

Smart Siberian Blue Robins here for the winter from their breeding grounds in Siberia and Japan were a real treat …

 

… and were seen alongside resident Magpie Robins.

 

Magpie Robins are common but quite shy throughout SE Asia.

 

Several races of Orange-headed Thrush occur, some migratory others resident differing among other features in their facial marking. The brown hue of the mantle indicates that this is a female.

 

The long-tailed White-rumped Shama was a delight to see …

 

… although currently classified as ‘least concern’ populations of this species along with many others in SE Asia are dropping rapidly due to trapping for the cage bird trade.

 

It’s seldom that you get such stunning views of a pheasant in Asia, this Germain’s Peacock-pheasant performed admirably.

 

The gorgeous endemic Bar-bellied Pitta was perhaps the star of the show. This endemic pitta is only found in Vietnamese lowland forest but thanks to these feeding stations is quite easy to see.

.

The endemic Blue-rumped Pitta is quite understated by pitta standards, but it was lovely to watch a pair of these mega-elusive birds feeding in the open.

 

The 32 species of pitta, an exclusively Old World family) not to be confused with the New World antpittas) are some of the most elusive yet beautiful birds in the world.

 

There is a big problem in SE Asia with primates being poached for the pet trade. The cage contains Red-cheeked Gibbons that have been confiscated by authorities and are being rehabilitated for release back into the reserve. Wild gibbons attracted by the sight of these caged individuals come to investigate. The black individual is the male.

 

Other primates included Crab-eating Macaque …

 

… but far rarer and most unexpected was this endangered Black-shanked Douc Langur. Only about 600 individuals may remain in Vietnam, although maybe more in Cambodia. we had a young lady who was a primatologist on the trip and she was absolutely delighted to see this species.

 

A pair of habituated Great Hornbills were often seen hanging round the restaurant area. Tragically one morning one of the pair was found dead, entrapped in electrical cables near the HQ.

 

In the opposite direction the road led into taller, more mature forest.

 

Species included the charming Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher …

 

… the bizarre Dusky Broadbill …

 

… and its cousin the stunning Black-and-Red Broadbill.

 

There are 15 species of broadbill, three in Africa, the rest in Asia. I have seen all but three (two in Philippines and one in Borneo) however I have no plans to go back to either of these localities so I doubt if I’ll ever complete the family.

 

From the HQ and accommodation a drivable track runs in both directions. In this direction the forest is more open and eventually leads to dry paddyfields outside the park.

 

Birds in this area included Orange-breasted Green Pigeon …

 

… Violet Cuckoo …

 

… and an elusive Banded Kingfisher.

 

Wintering birds from Siberian included this Asian Brown Flycatcher.

 

The large and endemic Red-vented Barbet was high on my wish list.

 

Non avian species included this striking Neon-blue Dragon.

 

Eventually we reached some dry paddyfields where we searched for a few open country birds.

 

In the trees there were a small flock of the scarce and appropriately named Plain-backed Sparrows.

 

Red-wattled Lapwings and ….

 

… Oriental Pratincoles were amongst our targets.

 

Dry country passerines included Indochinese Bush Lark ….

 

… and Paddyfield Pipit. This species is largely resident, however we also saw its close relative, the migratory Richard’s Pipit which winters in SE Asia from its Siberian breeding ground. These two species are very similar although the larger Richard’s can be distinguished when they are side by side.

 

We did several night drives and saw a range of mammals including this Red Muntjac …

 

… and Common Palm Civet.

 

But the best mammal sighting, indeed one of the best mammal sightings of all time, was this Sunda Pangolin that was found near our accommodation. Here photographed by the light of the leader’s torch and by flash below.

 

Pangolins are the most traded wild animals in the world. For reasons completely beyond my understanding, the scales (made of keratin, the same stuff as your fingernails) is considered of value in traditional oriental medicine. Millions of these charming and harmless animals are killed every year, this amounts to about 20% of the entire global wildlife trade. No wonder its taken me 35 years to see one.

 

After three nights at Cat Tien it was time to catch the ferry across the river and meet up with our vehicles.

 

But let’s end with a photo of one of the most striking bird of Cat Tien’s forest … Great Hornbill.

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18th August

Portland Bird Observatory - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 22:14

A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm next Tuesday, 21st August.
The less said about today's meagre return the better: just 2 birds trapped in several hours of trying at the Obs/Crown Estate Field, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and singles of Manx Shearwater and Great Skua the only rewards from the sea and a Whimbrel the best of the waders at Ferrybridge. Roll on something that isn't heavily overcast westerlies.

Another single Convolvulus Hawkmoth at the Obs was the best of the overnight immigrant moths.

A well-timed shot of the Swallows at the Obs yesterday © Mark Eggleton:

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Sightings - Saturday 18th August 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 20:00
Osprey - 3 Wareham Channel, 2 Middlebere earlier
Whimbrel - 5 Stanpit Marsh
Sanderling -13 Stanpit Marsh
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14 Aug 18 - Return To Biscay: The First Evening

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 18:00
During the Atlantic Odyssey & West African Pelagic trip earlier this year, I was already planning in my mind a return trip to Biscay this Autumn. This is an excellent & relatively cheap way to see a good selection of Whales, Dolphins & Seabirds. On four consecutive four Autumns from 1998, I was one of a group of Poole Birders who took the P&O ferry Pride of Bilbao ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao. I was abroad in 2002 on a year off travelling so missed the trip that year & there wasn't a lot of interest for further trips in subsequent years as the regulars all looked to do different holidays. We went as foot passengers on the three day trip. Typically, a four berth cabin cost each of us £30 if booked early with a voucher. We generally took snack food on the ship to eat during the day, so allowing some money for hot & cold drinks & an evening meal & car parking, it generally didn't cost more than £60 or £70 for the three day trip. I had heard on the Odyssey that the Cetacean trips were still being run on Brittany Ferries, but with the complication that the cruise now went from Portsmouth to Santander & returned to Plymouth. However, I could book on the mini cruise on the Pont-Aven ferry with the Orca charity & they laid on coaches to get the mini cruise passengers back to Portsmouth at the end. The ferry is capable of carrying around 2000 passengers on board & seemed a lot plusher than the Pride of Bilbao. Orca put a number of their volunteers on to help with the identification of the Cetaceans, collate sightings & help educate the punters. Some of the passengers were veterans of the Biscay cruises, while others were on their first ever trip & weren't particularly experienced on their Cetacean identification. Other bonuses were as having plenty of eyes on both sides of the top deck & the agreement with the ship that half of the top deck would be roped off for the Cetacean passengers. While this was the rear half, it was generally the more sheltered half of the top deck & did allow easy access to both sides of the ship, the Pont-Aven. The cabin worked out at £265 (including a £30 single cabin upgrade) & another £39 for three days parking at the ferry terminal in Portsmouth. This included the cost of the coach back. It was still possible to take snack food on board, so I only needed to pay for coffee on board & some food & drink during the early evening run ashore at Santander. Gone are the days of the silly prices for the Pride of Bilbao trips, but overall it was still a reasonable price for a couple of days in Biscay.
Portsmouth's Royal Navy dockyard: With the Spinnaker Tower in the background
Part of the historic remains of Portsmouth's Royal Navy dockyard
Confirmation this is the Royal Navy dockyardBrittany Ferries run from the terminal right next to the Naval dockyard & affords excellent views of a few of the original Royal Navy ships right up to the latest in the fleet. Having spent a few years in the late 80s working on software in use on the Type 42 Destroyers, visits to the dockyard & trips to sea generally off the Isle of Wight were an essential part of testing the new software. I still have an interest in seeing the replacement ships.
HMS Bristol (D23): The first ship I went on board only five days in the job. A bit daunting at the time, but I soon gained experience & was leading my team for the last few years of software testing at sea. It was a great time. She is the only Type 82 Destroyer & was designed to be a carrier protection ship, but the rest of the Type 82 Destroyers were cancelled as a cost saving exercise. She was launched in June 69 & entered active service in Mar 73. She was the prototype ship for some of the new weapons systems that were ultimately deployed to the Type 42 Destroyers & Carriers. She remains based in Portsmouth & has been used as a training ship since 1987
HMS Daring (D32): She is the first of the Type 45 Destroyers & was launched in Feb 06 & entered active service in Jul 09. The Iron Duke (F234) is in the foreground
HMS Dauntless (D33): Getting some much-needed TLC. She is the second of the Type 45 Destroyers & was launched in Jan 07 & entered active service in Jun 10
;HMS Defender (D36): She is the fifth of Type 45 Destroyers & was launched in Oct 09 & entered active service in Mar 13
HMS Duncan (D37): She is the sixth & last of the Type 45 Destroyers & was launched in Oct 10 & entered active service in Sep 13. She is named after 1st Viscount Adam Duncan who defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797
HMS Iron Duke (F234): She is the fifth of the Type 23 Frigates & was launched in Mar 91 & entered active service in May 93. She is named after the nickname for the Duke of Wellington (of Waterloo fame)
HMS St Albans (F83): She is the sixteenth & last of the Type 23 Frigates & was launched in May 2000 & entered active service in Jun 02
HMS Kent (F78): She is the fourteenth of 16 Type 23 Frigates & was launched in May 98 and entered active service in Jun 2000. I saw HMS Kent in the Plymouth dockyard whilst looking for the Risso's Dolphin at Torpoint. In the background on the right is HMS Forth (P222)
HMS Forth (P222): She is the first of five Offshore Patrol Vessels designed for anti-smuggling, counter-piracy, fishery protection, border patrol & maritime defence duties
HMS Forth (P222): She was launched in Aug 14 and entered active service in Apr 18
HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08): She is the largest (284 metres) which compares to HMS Illustrious & HMS Invincible which were 210 metres long & HMS Ark Royal which was 245 metres long. She is the most expensive ship ever built for the Royal Navy. She was launched in Jul 14 & was commissioned into the Royal Navy in Dec 17
HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08): Ultimately, she will carry up to 36 of the brand-new F-35B Lightning II aircraft & 14 helicopters
HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08): A final view with the Portsdown Hill in the background
HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) emblemHaving sailed past the working Royal Navy dockyard, it was now time to admire the Navy ships of the past, all of which are worth a visit.
The new museum for the Mary Rose: She was Henry VIII's flagship & after 33 years at sea, she sunk off Portsmouth in 1545 whilst fighting off an attack from a French invasion force. She had been extensively rebuilt in 1536. It is thought this rebuild contributed to her loss as it reduced her stability. Accounts at the time were contradictory, but the current belief is she sunk quickly when water poured into the lower decks whilst turning in the heat of the battle on a gusty day. The wreck was relocated in the late 1960s & she raised in 1982. I saw her when she was first opened to the public in 1984, but I need to go back & have a look around the new museumHMS Victory: Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in Oct 1805, which was probably the most important battle the Royal Navy has fought inHMS Warrior: She was the first of the Navy's amoured-plated, iron-hulled ships & was launched in 1860 & decommissioned when obsolete in 1883. After an eight year restoration, she officially joined the National Historic Fleet in 1987. It's well worth a visit if you are in the Portsmouth areaThe Spinnaker Tower: Portsmouth's Millennium was scheduled to be built by 1999, but delays to the project meant building didn't actually start to 2001 & it wasn't opened until 2005. Still it made it for the Millennium using the Ethiopian calendar which is about 7.5 years behind the generally accepted calendar used by most of the rest of the world. Perhaps Portsmouth should also adopt the Ethiopian calendar
The Round Tower forms the entrance to Portsmouth harbour: This area gets packed whenever a Royal Navy ship leaves for or returns from an active deployment
The Square Tower & the old harbour defences: The locals were very imaginative with their names for the forts
The War Memorial on Southsea Common
Southsea Castle The history doesn't stop as you leave Portsmouth island, as there are several historic forts in the Solent that were built as additional protection to the dockyard. Three are now owned by Solentforts.com which have renovated them into luxury hotels & visitor attractions. Two are currently open to visitors & the third Horse Sand Fort has recently been bought & is being renovated to convert it into a museum. I will definitely be visiting when it is opened.
Horse Sand Fort: It was built between 1865 & 1880. The granite walls are up to 18 metres thick & further reinforced with concrete & armour-plating. It even has its own well to provide fresh water. It was bought in Mar 12 & it is good to see that it being restored & converted to a museumFinally, we left the Solent & headed South West past the Isle of Wight. I didn't expect much in the way of Seabirds or Cetaceans & wasn't surprised when there were only a few Gannets & a couple of Mediterranean Gulls. Still there were a few final views of the Isle of Wight to enjoy in the early evening.
The Yarborough Monument on Culver Down, Isle of Wight: It was built to remember the first Earl of Yarborough in 1849 who was an MP & large landowner on the Isle of Wight & founding member of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes
HMS Tyne (P281) with Sandown in the background: She was launched in Apr 02 & entered service in Jul 03. She is another of the Offshore Patrol Vessels which I've seen off Studland in the pastSt Catherine's Point: The Southern most point of the Isle of Wight. A good place & heavily under-watched place to go Birding. However, it's not cheap when you consider the logistics of taking a car over from the mainland. I was one of two people who went on to look for the last UK Wallcreeper in May 85. It had been seen flying in off the sea by seawatchers who carried on seawatching after it headed inland. Not surprisingly, we didn't relocate it, but a flyover Serin that circled us twice before heading inland was reward for our efforts
It was quickly getting dark & time for an early night so as to be on deck for dawn the following morning when we would be to the South of Cap Finistere on the Brittany coast with the promise of Cetaceans & Seabirds.
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18 Aug 18

Martin Adlam - Sat, 08/18/2018 - 10:57
Wakeham

As promised a photo of one of the Common Darter nymphs in the garden pond.

A real odd looking creature.
More on Common Darter nymphs here.
Castletown

Two Little Egrets here today.

One of the 2 Little Egrets at Castletown feeding in the shallows.
And the other one looking for a feeding spot.
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17th August

Portland Bird Observatory - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 22:46
Busy days have been at a premium thus far this this autumn so today's half decent little flurry of grounded migrants at the Bill was very welcome. Willow Warblers totalled 70, whilst the back ups included 25 Wheatears, 20 Whitethroats and 15 Sedge Warblers, with Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher all chipping in with singles or twos. Overhead passage begun soon after first light with 6 Tree Pipits, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Yellow Wagtails but faltered after the first small wave of hirundines had passed through. Routine fare in the wader line at Ferrybridge included 66 Ringed Plovers, 55 Dunlin and a Sanderling, whilst 4 Balearic Shearwaters through off the Bill constituted the day's only worthwhile sea passage.

On a cooler night than of late 3 more Convolvulus Hawkmoths (2 at the Obs and 1 at the Grove) were the best of the immigrant moths.
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17 Aug 18

Martin Adlam - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 22:33
Mermaid Track, Rufus Castle, St Andrews Church and Pennsylvania Castle Wood.

Another lovely warm day, though on the coast path it was a a bit cooler with that south-easterly blowing in. No real highlight, but there was a "lowlight" with seeing a juvenile Blackbird with a poorly eye. Not quite sure whether it could see me, but I was incredibly close to it as it was picking off the Blackberries at the top of Penn's Wood. Whether it could see out of it or not, it did appear to be in good health.

Also in Penn's Wood were dozens of Dead Head Hoverflies (Myathropa florea) buzzing about in the sun, with several landing on the leaves and tree trunks. Also here were 2 Ectemnius sexcinctus wasps.

On the butterfly front, there were a few Common Blues about, mainly along the Mermaid Track and in the grounds of St Andrew's Church there were 2 Holly Blues and a Meadow Brown again.

Also in the grounds of St Andrew's Church were 2 Common Darters, a female and a juvenile male. On the buddleia were a few Buff-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and a Lesser Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella inanis).
On the way down the steps from Rufus Castle I always take a slight detour onto Penns Wear, its only a short walk, which takes you back to the bottom of the steps. Even though its a short walk, its quite surprising what you can find. Today it was grasshoppers, of which there were dozens, with lots of youngsters jumping about.

Here are a few images from this afternoon:

A Speckled Wood along the Mermaid Track
Also here a Dead Head Hoverfly
I was going to say Common Carder Bee, but though not easy to see in this photo, it was considerably smaller than a Bombus pascuorum. Another one to ID
The view across Penn's Weare towards Lulworth Cove in the distance.
A Garden Spider packing its lunch
A grasshopper, though as to which one who knows.
Pennsylvania Castle at the top, centre the remains of St Andrew's Church and bottom right the bottom of the steps.
The ruins of St Andrew's Church
Two Wall Lizards eye each other up.
A Holly Blue
And a Common Blue
As above.
A Meadow Brown. This one seems to be the only one in the grounds of St Andrew's Church.
Looking at the extended abdomen I would say this is a Tapered Drone-fly (Eristalis pertinax)
A juvenile male Common Darter, just showing a bit of red.
And a female, a lot greener.
A Lesser Hornet Hoverfly
An Ectemnius sexcinctus wasp.
And another one
On the leaves and tree trunks in Penn's Wood were dozens of Dead Head Hoverflies.
First appearance is that this "tame" juvenile Blackbird is blind in its right eye............
........however it does seem there is a pupil there. Whether it can see who knows, but it didn't seem to bothered and was feeding well on the blackberries.
A new notice board.........
........which is very informative. I hadn't realised there is no right of way through Penn's Wood to Church Ope Cove via St Andrew's Church. Apparently the Australian owner of Pennsylvania Castle, also owns the wood and has given consent to the public to use the track through it.
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Sightings - Friday 17th August 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 19:58
Great Egret - 1 Radipole Lake, 2 Lodmoor
Purple Heron - 1 Littlesea
Whimbrel - 13 Stanpit Marsh
Pied Flycatcher - 2 Lambert’s Castle, 1 Portland Obs
Grasshopper Warbler - 1 Portland Obs
Common Whitethroat - 20 Christchurch Harbour
Willow Warbler - 18 Christchurch Harbour, 24 Portland Obs
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Sightings - Thursday 16th August 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 22:09
Great White Egret - 1 Radipole Lake RSPB, 2 Lodmoor RSPB
Purple Heron - 1 in roost this evening Little Sea, Studland.
Storm Petrel - 2 Portland Bill
Balearic Shearwater - 1 Portland Bill
Spotted Redshank - 1 Lytchett Fields RSPB
Green Sandpiper - 2 Lodmoor RSPB, 1 Holton Lee
Tree Pipit - 1 Portland Bill
Whinchat - 1 Portland Bill

Sandwich Tern - Hengistbury Road © Clinton Whale
Magpie - Bournemouth © David Wareham

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16th August

Portland Bird Observatory - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 21:00
It would be safe to say that this morning we did not wake with our usual vim and vigour, the lashing rain and howling wind could be heard from bed and it was most definitely not the day for an early start. The inclement weather made sea watching the only viable option for most of the morning, the highlight being two Storm Petrels lingering with the Gulls. In addition to this there were 16 Common Scoters, 1 Balearic Shearwater, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Great Skua, 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and 1 Common Tern. Once the rain had eventually alleviated, play resumed as usual and some migrants were tracked down. The largest count of Wheatears this autumn was bolstered by 26 birds on the East cliffs bringing the total to 39, a single Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Lesser Whitethroat added to the days species totals and 10 Willow Warblers rounded it off in the Obs area. A quick visit to Suckthumb Quarry was rewarded with 2 Garden Warblers, 5 Willow Warblers and a Sand Martin.

Ferrybridge suffered also in the dawn downpour with just 2 Little Terns, 4 Sandwich Terns, 1 Common Tern and 1 Redshank.

There's a distinctly autumnal feel in the top fields at present with large mixed flocks of Finches gathering amongst the seed-ridden crops © Erin Taylor:

The numbers of Sand Martins have been dramatically decreasing over the past couple of the weeks as they leave our shores en mass © Erin Taylor: 

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16 Aug 18

Martin Adlam - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 16:28
The Fleet

A quick afternoon visit to The Fleet as the tide was going out at 1:30pm. First visitor to the mud flats was a Little Egret, followed by 3 Ringed Plovers, a Turnstone and then 2 Sandwich Terns (an adult & juvenile).

Also about several Herring Gull, Linnets, 2 Pied Wagtails and a small flock of Starlings.

Here are a few images:

The Fleet looking west towards Abbotsbury in the far distance.
A Little Egret comes into land.......
......and immediately starts looking for food.
A nice pose......
....before getting down to the serious business of catching some small fish.
One of the 3 Ringed Plovers comes into land.
No 1
No 2
And no 3.
Just one here
And all three.
A Turnstone is another arrival.
Nice colours.
Two Sandwich Terns are next to arrive. You can just make out the juvenile on the right.
They stopped off to have a preen.
And a break before......
......having a bathe, before setting off again.
On the revetment wall one of the 2 local Pied Wagtails.
A few Starlings on the railings and in the back ground...........
.........Tiki our Shetland.
Mustn't forget Star either which hopefully will be in the water soon.
The Dorset Wildlife Trust out in their boat The Fleet Explorer. More on their Fleet Trips Here.
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15th August

Portland Bird Observatory - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 23:14
The delusional amongst us awoke under the sad misapprehension that the dreary skies of a mid-August dawn promised a worthwhile flourish of migrant activity - perhaps this might have been the case a couple of decades ago but times have moved on. What few rewards there were on the land at the Bill included just into double figure totals of Wheatear and Willow Warbler but little else by way of quality beyond a lone Pied Flycatcher; 3 of the dispersed locally-bred Tree Sparrows were also dotted about there. With the breeze freshening from the west the sea got plenty of looks but 40 Mediterranean Gulls, 13 Common Scoter, 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Whimbrel accounted for the best of things off the Bill. The only other reports came from Ferrybridge where a few Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 late Little Terns were of note.

Another single Convolvulus Hawkmoth was the pick of a thin scatter of immigrants in the Obs moth-traps.

With any luck some of the locally-bred Tree Sparrows will linger on through the autumn and winter; just at the moment they've dispersed quite widely around the Bill, with as reliable a spot as any being amongst the House Sparrows that frequent the roadside bramble bushes between the Obs and Lloyd's Cottage © James Phillips:
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