You are here


Sightings - Sunday 14th October 2018.

Dorset Bird Club - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 20:17
Great Egret - 1 Cowards Marsh, Christchurch, 2 Lodmoor RSPB Weymouth
Cattle Egret - 2 Wareham - Swanage road
Marsh Harrier -1 Cowards Marsh, Christchurch
Spotted Redshank - 2 Lytchett Fileds RSPB
Lesser Yellowlegs - 1 Lodmoor RSPB Weymouth
Grey Phalarope - 1 Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis
Arctic Tern - 1 Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis
Redstart - 1 Cowards Marsh, Christchurch
Yellow browed Warbler - 1 trapped and ringed Portland Bill, 1 Easton/Wakeham

Brent Goose - Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch © Clinton Whale

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Sooty Terns

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 13:00
In an earlier Post of the guided tour around Ascension Island, I skipped over the stop at the Sooty Tern colony. This was another of the highlights of the visit to Ascension Island. We were given a short talk about the Sooty Terns on Ascension Island & how their numbers have improved since feral Cats were removed. However, removal of the feral Cats has led to an increase in the introduced Rats. This is a problem the Conservation Dept are keen to tackle at some point in the future. But it is a case of arguing for the removal of these Rats against clearance of introduced Mice & Rats on other islands. Hopefully, it will be addressed at some point in the future. Once the talk was over we were allowed down to the edge of the colony to enjoy the spectacle & take a few photos. Enjoy.
It was difficult to figure how how to drive past the signSooty Tern paparazzi
The Sooty Terns were nesting on this old, jagged lava flow
Sooty Tern: Adult with a well grown juvenile behind
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult & juvenile
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: Adult
Sooty Tern: One of the more advanced juveniles took to the air
Sooty Tern: Juvenile
Sooty Tern: JuvenileIt had been a good visit to the Sooty Tern colony, but I was keen to see the rest of the historical parts of Ascension Island including visits to Green Mountain & the historical fortifications. Overall, a great day on Ascension Island & some excellent guiding by the Conservation Dept.
Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

Edinburgh, Durham, Leeds and Coventry: 19th-22nd September 2018

Gryllos Blog - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 10:38

We recently had need to go to Edinburgh to attend a sad event, a family funeral. I’ll say no more about that as it was a private affair. However we did spend three days on the return journey visiting some sites in southern Scotland, northern England and the Midlands which will be the subject of this post.


The day of the funeral was marred by high winds and torrential rain. However it was still and dry at dawn so I took the opportunity to visit the shore at Musselburgh which was quite close to where we were staying.


This area is famous as a wintering area for seaduck such as these Common Eider.


There were a large number Velvet Scoters in the area, spread out over several miles of coast


Velvet Scoter can be told from (in most places) the eponymous Common Scoter by the yellow in the bill, white mark under the eye and in particular by the obvious white stripe in the open wing which is caused by white secondaries and greater coverts.


The female, seen behind this male, is identified by the two pale patches on the head, quite a different pattern than on Common Scoter. I usually see one or two of this species each year, the odd one winters in Dorset although they are nowhere near as regular as Common Scoter either in winter or on migration. Here I saw no Common Scoters at all, just about 300 Velvets.


However the reason I made several visits to Musselburgh was to see Velvet Scoter’s American cousin, White-winged Scoter (third from the left). Recently split from Velvet Scoter, this was only the 3rd or 4th record of the species in the UK (depending on whether this bird is considered the same one as was seen in Scotland in 2017). White-winged Scoter is very similar to Velvet Scoter, differing only (in the male) in it’s larger and upturned white mark below the eye, swollen ridge of the upper mandible and pinkish rather than yellow tip of the bill. The white wing bar is not a diagnostic field mark as is shared with Velvet Scoter, just that in this photo the White-winged is holding it’s wing slightly open revealing the white secondaries. It certainly wasn’t easy to find with so many Velvet’s to check but with perseverance I eventually located it. There is a further type of scoter with white wings, Stejneger’s Scoter from Asia, which I saw well in Mongolia earlier this year. Currently this form is considered a race of White-winged Scoter but many think it deserves species status in its own right. As far s I know there have been no records in the UK but it has occurred in Eire.


We left Musselburgh and continued along the coast towards North Berwick. Much of the Firth of Forth is dominated by views of the Bass Rock. The closest approach is just east of North Berwick where this photo was taken. The marbled surface of the rock is actually perched Gannets. 150,000 Gannets breed on the rock, making it the largest Northern Gannet colony in the world. I was surprised that there were still thousands of them about in mid September.


We continued eastwards and visited this cove next to the headland of Barns Ness. Good for scenery but not many birds. It was a bit of a shock that evening when I found out there was a Woodchat Shrike there all the time. In the distance you can just make out the southern shore of Fife where we visited last November (see this blog for photos and an account of that trip).


We called in to picturesque harbour at Dunbar …


… and St Abbs but by mid-afternoon the weather was on the turn and we headed south, back into England and on to the city of Durham. This was my 19th trip to Scotland. So many people I speak to in the south of England have never been at all, well all I can say is they are missing out big time.


We spent the morning in the city of Durham with Dave, my friend from University days.


We had met Dave, who lives near Consett in County Durham, a few minutes earlier in the quaint Market Place.


The Market Place is dominated by the statue of Lord Londonderry which is known locally as ‘the man on the horse’. As the photo of Margaret and Dave above shows we were wrapped up well against the cold but the chilly conditions that morning had no effect on this man. In fact people from the north-east have a well-known resistance to the cold and it said that the Met Office won’t issue a severe weather warning until a Geordie lass is found wearing an overcoat!


Durham city centre is encompassed within a loop of the River Wear and comprises a small number of quaint ancient streets.


From Wikipedia: Local legend states that the city was founded in A.D. 995 by divine intervention. The 12th century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert’s bier miraculously came to a halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move.[7] Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order, decreed a holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. During the fast, Saint Cuthbert appeared to a certain monk named Eadmer, with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm. After Eadmer’s revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was. The legend of the Dun Cow, which is first documented in The Rites of Durham, an anonymous account about the Durham Cathedral, published in 1593, builds on Symeon’s account. According to this legend, by chance later that day, the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy (southeast of present-day Durham). She stated that she was seeking her lost dun cow, which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her. They settled at a wooded “hill-island” – a high wooded rock surrounded on three sides by the River Wear. There they erected a shelter for the relics, on the spot where the Durham Cathedral would later stand. Symeon states that a modest wooden building erected there shortly later was the first building in the city. Bishop Aldhun subsequently had a stone church built, which was dedicated in September 998. It no longer remains, having been supplanted by the Norman structure.

Also from Wikipedia: Owing to the divine providence evidenced in the city’s legendary founding, the Bishop of Durham has always enjoyed the title “Bishop by Divine Providence” as opposed to other bishops, who are “Bishop by Divine Permission”. However, as the north-east of England lay so far from Westminster, the bishops of Durham enjoyed extraordinary powers such as the ability to hold their own parliament, raise their own armies, appoint their own sheriffs and Justices, administer their own laws, levy taxes and customs duties, create fairs and markets, issue charters, salvage shipwrecks, collect revenue from mines, administer the forests and mint their own coins. So far-reaching were the bishop’s powers that the steward of Bishop Antony Bek commented in 1299 AD: “There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham”. All this activity was administered from the castle and buildings surrounding the Palace Green. Many of the original buildings associated with these functions of the county palatine survive on the peninsula that constitutes the ancient city.


The 11th century castle and for many years was the residence of the Bishop Princes. It now has been renovated and acts as accommodation for student at University College. Considerably finer accommodation than the terraced slum I occupied for three years at Uni in Leeds (mind you it was the best of times and I wouldn’t have had it any other way).


As there were events on for freshers week we were not allowed into the college but the security man allowed me to walk close enough to get a shot of the courtyard through the arch.


We wandered through some ancient streets to the Cathedral …


Photography is not allowed inside the cathedral so I have taken this photo from


But I could take photos in the adjoining cloisters …


In spite of light rain we took a walk along the banks of the River Wear.


…seeing, ducks, swans and the odd canoeist.


By the weir on the Wear we had great views up at the Cathedral. Dating from 1093, both it and the Castle have been designated UNESCO Heritage Sites. There can be few cities that have such magnificent views just yards from the city centre.


We then headed down to Leeds, checked into our hotel which gave a good view over the east side of the city and then met up with our old friend Nigel.


I have known Nigel since school days and shared a place with him at University and beyond. He has developed a strong interest in art and often takes us to either the city art gallery of one of various commercial galleries in the city centre.


He is so well know to the staff that they offered him (and us) a drink and allowed us to sit and absorb the art on offer at our own pace. Our visit to Leeds was short and we just spent a few hours in the afternoon with Nigel in the city and then went for a meal, but it was great to meet up with someone who has been your friend for over 50 years.


As we drove south to Poole we detoured to visit the centre of Coventry. I was born near Coventry and spent my early years here. I still have some relatives in the city but seldom see them. The purpose of our visit was to show Margaret the amazing modern cathedral.


I’m sure on my last visit this used to be a roundabout with the statue of Lady Godiva in the middle. From Wikipedia: Godiva, Countess of Mercia died between 1066 and 1086), was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name “Peeping Tom” for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Thomas watched her ride and was struck blind or dead. Wikipedia goes on to say that although Lady Godiva is a historical figure, the story of the naked ride is almost certainly apocryphal. On the hour a figure of Lady Godiva on horseback appears at the clock and moves from one yellow door to the other whilst the face of Peeping Tom emerges from the yellow triangular opening above. The statue was erected in 1949.


Coventry was devastated during the blitz in autumn 1940 (my mother lived through it all and continued to work at the Sainsburys store in the bombed out city centre). Perhaps the highest profile casualty was the destruction of the cathedral. The cross on the altar is formed from two burning timbers that fell on the altar during the blitz.


Winston Churchill visits Coventry Cathedral in 1941. Photo by Capt Horton- War Office official photographer – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums.


The cathedral was not rebuilt in its former locality but the ruin was left to stand  as a powerful tribute to the events of WWII …


… and has become a powerful symbol of reconciliation between nations with powerful links being forged after the war between the cathedral and church organisations in Germany and elsewhere. Iron nails from the roof timbers have been fashioned into a series of ‘cross of nails’ which have been sent to reconciliation centres worldwide.


In 1963 a new cathedral was opened, designed by Sir Basil Spence and is designated a grade 1 listed building. It was built along side, rather than in place of, the old cathedral. It’s design departed markedly from traditional church architecture and like Concord, the Moon landings and the Beatles it symbolised the ‘brave new world’ of the 1960s. Having grandparents living in Coventry I visited it a number of times and was always in awe of its modern magnificence. So 50+ years on would I still feel the same? As you walk up the steps to the entrance you pass the magnificent statue of St Michael’s victory over the Devil …


This modern sculpture dominates the entrance. Marked on the marble floor is the ancient Christian Chi Rho symbol.


The baptistery window designed by Graham Sutherland


Looking down the aisle and past the quire you see the full magnificent of the cathedral.


Once thought to be the largest tapestry in the world, the huge tapestry of Christ in Glory was designed by Graham Sutherland. Three nails from the old cathedral (the first of the series mentioned above) sit at the centre of the altar cross.


There are a number of side chapels …


… in this one the angelic figure is framed by a representation of the ‘crown of thorns’.


Looking back towards the entrance you see this lovely etched glass window and the old cathedral beyond.


Leaving the cathedral we stopped for a bite to eat nearby and were intercepted by this young lady from a dance troupe called ‘The Dance We Made’. She asked us about our journey from Edinburgh to Coventry and then incorporated ‘aspects’ into the dance. You can see this at and we get a mention 3 minutes into the routine.


The students were returning to the University (as they had been at Durham and Edinburgh, explaining why accommodation was so hard to find as their parent were taking them to Uni and staying overnight in all the travel lodges). So there were other strange events going on as well as the dance troupe, such as these six students sharing a hexagonal bicycle.


From here it was just a matter of finding the M40 and heading home. It had been an interesting few days meeting up with old friends and sightseeing in various cities and doing some birding in Scotland although of course the actual reason for the trip was a very sad event indeed. I’ll conclude with another view of Coventry Cathedral looking away from the altar towards the lovely window by the entrance. And as to the question ‘would the building that I found so inspiring when first seen as a child still do the same today’, then the answer is an emphatic yes.


Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

13th October

Portland Bird Observatory - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 23:16
Another warm but blustery day yielded slightly more in the way of migrant activities with a pair of Merlin at the Bill, the loitering Yellow-browed Warbler and Firecrest in the obs garden and the fourth Cetti's Warbler of the autumn making it the best year on record. A few late-ish migrants included a Yellow Wagtail on the West Cliffs, three Whinchats (including two at Avalanche Hump), and a lone Wheatear. The first Purple Sandpiper for some time, a pair of Snipe and a Song Thrush were indicators of how far through the autumn we have already progressed. The sea had only a Bonxie to offer, however this is unsurprising given the huge swell that has been generated over the past couple of days.

With migrant activity at such a low ebb by day it was interesting to receive Nick Hopper's report on his visit to try some nocturnal recording a couple of night's ago (10th/11th October). It turned out to a well-chosen night since the blasting wind that was such a feature of the latter half of the week dropped away to virtually nothing for several hours during the evening and passage was immediately audible over the Obs. Nick's report is as follows:

The night’s recording coincided with a big Song Thrush movement, with 1576 calls logged. The majority of these were in a 3.5 hour period up until around 00.30, after which the calling reduced significantly. A few Redwing also on the move with 108 calls logged and 4 Blackbird.
In terms of rarity value the night’s highlight was the first Firecrest to be recorded since recording began here. In fact 3 individuals were logged during the night. Also 2 Goldcrest. 
Best of the rest: Common Scoter - small party, Common Snipe 2, Robin 5, Dunlin 1, Ringed Plover 4, Grey Heron 1.

Today's Purple Sandpiper at the Bill © Mark Eggleton
Categories: Timeline, Twitter

Sightings - Saturday 13th October 2018.

Dorset Bird Club - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 19:47
Great Northern Diver -1 Durlston
Cattle Egret - 2- Wareham by Swanage Road, 1 Bridport between Station and Burton Roads,
Lesser Yellowlegs - 1 juv Radipole Lake RSPB reserve, Weymouth
Grey Phalarope - Lyme Regis the Cobb
Arctic Skua - 1 Durlston
Great Skua -  1 Durlston
Little Gull - 1 Durlston
Med Gull - 260 Durlston
Yellow-legged Gull - 1 Lytchett Bay 
Black Tern - 2 Lyme Regis the Cobb
Yellow-browed Warbler -1 Obs Garden Portland Bill, 1 Swanage Hospital

Peregrine, Bournemouth Eastcliff © David Wareham

Common Scoter - 4 Branksome Eider - 1 BranksomeBalearic Shearwater - 2 past Portland BillBittern - 1 Radipole Lake RSPB reserve, WeymouthSpotted Redshank - 2 Middlebere NTLesser Yellowlegs - 1 juv Radipole Lake RSPB reserve, WeymouthGrey Phalarope - 1 Charmouth outfallBlack Tern - 1 Charmouth outfallMarsh Harrier - 1 Middlebere NTMerlin - 1 Middlebere NTPeregrine -1 Middlebere NT
Categories: Timeline, Twitter

23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: An Afternoon Of History On Ascension Island

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 18:00
After a great morning on Ascension Island visiting Green Mountain, it was time to spent some of the lower slopes of the island & have a look around Georgetown. The first stop after lunch was the gun emplacements of Fort Bedford above Georgetown. There were guns from various eras in the island's history.
These two 7 inch guns were manufactured in 1866A close up of the 7 inch gunsIt is a good thing I didn't have any complaints about the service on the Plancius5.5 inch guns from HMS Hood: At the start of WWII, HMS Hood had her twelve 5.5 inch guns replaced with 4 inch guns for better protection against air attack. Two of the 5.5 inch guns were shipped to Georgetown to protect the colony. Sadly, HMS Hood was sunk, along with HMS Prince of Wales, in 1941 during the battle to try sinking the German battleship Bismarck & heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. These guns were used in anger in 1941 when German U-boat U-124 approached close to Ascension Island: it quickly departed. These guns were given a lot of TLC to preserve them in the 1980sThe view over Georgetown
The view over Long Beach
Green Turtle tracks on Long Beach
One of the interesting things about Georgetown is it doesn't appear to have changed much in the last 100 years. Therefore, unlike virtually any other UK colonial base, it has retained much of it's original layout & character. I'm not sure if that makes it a more comfortable place to live, but it makes it a very interesting place to visit.
Georgetown church: Georgetown has retained much of its colonial layout
The final stop was the Georgetown museum. As we were back in the town, we were free to look around the museum, wander around within the town boundaries including the old fortifications & check out the excellent air conditioning in the main food store. The museum was interesting with plenty on the history & natural history of the island.This sign board next to the museum confirmed how isolated Ascension Island is: The surrounding vegetation is Mexican Thorn Bush which is an Acacia-like bush. Obviously, it is introduced & the Conservation Dept is trying to clear it from parts of the island as it helps provide cover for the introduced Rats which are a significant cause for concern for the Seabirds breeding on Ascension Island
More historical cannons: You are never too far from history in Georgetown
Another cannon by the museum
Sgt Davies's Jeep: This is the only surviving Jeep from WWII and was used by some of the American soldiers who were based on Ascension Island during the war & who build the runway
4.7 Inch Quick Fire Gun: This gun dates to 1895 & was of two originally mounted in Fort Hayes along with a six inch gun to protect Georgetown during WWI
Fort Hayes: The garrison in WWI was 38 men and so might have struggled to hold out had there been a serious attack on it
Fort Hayes: The fort is now part of the museum
Fort Hayes lies immediately to the SW of the centre of Georgetown
Looking immediately out of Fort Hayes is the the quayside and another Green Turtle beach
The coastal view from Fort Hayes
Looking back to Georgetown
Looking back on the museum from Fort Hayes: The museum is the nearest building
An old light in Fort Hayes
John demonstrating how one of the 4.7 Inch Guns would have defended Georgetown in the event of an attack
The Exiles Club in Georgetown: This was the original Marines barracks in Georgetown. A replacement barracks was built next to it, but had since been demolished. When the Navy left, the Exiles Club was renamed the Ascension Club
The replacement Marine barracks to the left of the Exiles Club
This Cannon protects the Exiles Club
Historic Anchor
The Pierhead Stores Building: Had this been in the UK, it is likely that this historic building would have been replaced with some modern concrete building with no character
The Moon: There was excellent light to photograph the Moon
Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

Divers/loons along River Frome

Nature of Dorset Forum - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 15:23

I live in Woodsford, 5 miles east of Dorchester on the River Frome.  Quite often around dusk I hear the plaintive call of what I think is a Diver/loon.  It normally just makes 2 or 3 calls in a row.  Can anyone say if it might be a diver and what type?  Will it be living on the river or local quarry lakes or just in transit?

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

12th October

Portland Bird Observatory - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 22:34
Portland didn't fare nearly as badly on the weather front as points westward but it was still way too windy for any serious coverage of the land and too blown out to have expected much reward from the sea. The Yellow-browed Warbler remained at the Obs although getting any more than a glimpse of it required considerable perseverance; the land returned precious little else bar a lingering a Firecrest also still at the Obs. The sea got plenty of attention but 3 Balearic Shearwaters, a Sooty Shearwater and a Great Skua were as good as it got at the Bill.

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

Sighting - Friday 12th October 2018.

Dorset Bird Club - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 20:00

Common Scoter - 4 Branksome Eider - 1 BranksomeBalearic Shearwater - 2 past Portland BillBittern - 1 Radipole Lake RSPB reserve, WeymouthSpotted Redshank - 2 Middlebere NTLesser Yellowlegs - 1 juv Radipole Lake RSPB reserve, WeymouthGrey Phalarope - 1 Charmouth outfallBlack Tern - 1 Charmouth outfallMarsh Harrier - 1 Middlebere NTMerlin - 1 Middlebere NTPeregrine -1 Middlebere NT
Dunlin - Hengistbury Head, Christchurch © Clinton Whale

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension Island Is Another Amazing Island

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 18:00
Ascension Island is the third & final part of the Tristan da Cunha British Overseas Territory. Once we were anchored in Georgetown Bay, the Ascension officials came aboard & checked the Plancius's papers & our passports. We were then cleared to go ashore for the day.
Black Triggerfish: There were large numbers around the gangway throughout our visitBlack Triggerfish: They occur in all the tropical oceans around the worldWe had non-visa access to Ascension Island which allowed us to go on a guided day trip of the island & walk around in Georgetown. Ascension Island has a joint RAF/US Air Force airfield on the island. However, the airport runway was closed to large commercial planes in 2017 due to problems with the runway. As a consequence, some of the limited tourist options that were possible in previous years have currently shutdown. Without a visa which would have allowed us to travel around the island & the ability to hire a car or taxi, then the only option was the guided tour. This guided tour included a visit to one of the Sooty Tern colonies. Some of the punters on the previous Odyssey trips had complained that this left insufficient time to spend at the Sooty Tern colony. The guided tour gave us around an hour at the Sooty Tern colony & this seemed to be sufficient for most of the Birders. We were offered the chance of another extended visit on the following morning, but no more than a handful of people expressed an interest in that trip. The reality is like the other British islands we had visited, there was so many other interesting things to see on the island, it would have been a pity to have spent much longer at the Sooty Tern colony.
Long Beach: This is next to the quayside
Long Beach: The Green Turtle tracks indicate how popular this beach is for Green TurtlesThe landing at the quayside steps was perhaps the trickiest we encountered. When a wave was high, the zodiac driver drove at the steps & Leon in the centre helped to pull the front up another step. By this time, the water level had dropped & the front of the zodiac was firmly wedged on the steps. We were then allowed to get up which involved a walk up the front of the zodiac which was angled at about 30 degrees. Surprisingly, the islanders hadn't found a better way to improve the landing on the steps over the years. The ropes continued to the left of the quayside so it looks like some boats also landed there, but that would have been awkward to get in & out of a zodiac.
The landing: Bob, Leon & Seba waiting to help us landLeon has just pulled the front of the next zodiac up out of the waterOnce ashore we had to wait for everybody to land before we could start on the guided tour. It was a long & hot wait for everybody to land.The approach to the docksThere was even a passenger terminal for visitors: Although that didn't include usThe Ascension Island logo is one of the best I've seen Finally, we were all loaded & headed off for the two minute drive to the first stop at Long Beach. At each stop, the members of the Conservation Dept gave us a short presentation talk. At this stop, it was to tell us about the history of Green Turtles on Ascension Island. In the early history of occupation of the island, the islanders collected Green Turtles & held them in this holding pen. They were then kept for months until a sailing ship came in & bought the Green Turtles. They would have been kept alive on the sailing ship, until being killed & cooked as food for the crew. Fortunately, this practice stopped in the 1950s & now the Green Turtles are fully protected. The population of Green Turtles nesting on the beaches is still increasing. A survey in 1977, suggested there were around 1,000 nests, which had increased to around 10,000 in 2012.
The Green Turtle holding penLong BeachLong Beach: The sea was quite rough along the beachWarning about one of the native species: They are a land crab that occur only on Ascension Island, as well as, Fernando de Noronha & Trindade Island
Parts of this island are incredibly arid When Ascension Island was first discovered it was a hot & arid island. When Joseph Hooker visited in 1843 as part of James Ross's Antarctica Expedition, he proposed that to help provide sufficient water for the population, the high peak should be planted with trees. The hope was these trees would then capture moisture from the sea air & this would then run down & be captured. Hooker suggested a variety of suitable trees from different parts of the world. One of the stops was to the Peak or Green Mountain as it is also known. Our guide told us that the trees planted on the lower slopes were selected as trees that could cope with hotter & drier habitats, whereas the trees on the higher slopes were trees that preferred cooler & more moist habitats. As an experiment to capture water, it was incredibly successful. But it has also left Ascension Island with a large number of introduced trees & plants & many of the native plants are extremely threatened by this mass introduction.Another member of the Conservation Dept gave us a talk on their work to save the endemic plantsA display box which gives an idea of how some of the native plants would have lookedTowards the top of the Green Mountain, there is the remains of an old army base that was built when Marines were stationed on Ascension Island in 1815, after Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to St Helena. The Conservation Dept have set up their botanical centre to grow endemic plants there, so that they can be replanted in suitable areas on the island. There is also a good walk through the Trees to see how successful this scheme has been & which included walking past one of the old water catchment sites.The clock tower at the old Marines base
The start of the walk from the old Marines base
John Holmes with Jemi behind walking up from the old Marines base
One of the Conservation Dept staff (on the left) next to some old Marines buildings
Another view of the old Marines buildings
Part of the 19th Century water capture scheme
The old water tanks
The old water tanks
The runway in one of the typically arid lower parts of the island
The view from the top of Green Mountain: One of the reasons for the Marines base was to provide a lookout of any arriving ships
The settlement of Two Boats: Although the surrounding area looks green, most of this is actually arid Acacia-like bushes
This forest is not only around 160 years old: But it looks to be a lot older
The forest looked good
Shy White Tern: Not surprisingly there was a lack of Birds on the walk
Arjen from the Expedition staff
My mate Richard Lowe
Some excellent Lichen
I've no idea what this is or where it occurs naturally, but it looks good
US mailbox
Good to see a Rat poison trap along the walk: Rats are a major problem on Ascension Island
Finally, we all heading off to the Two Boats settlement for lunch.Filming for the Ascension Island remake of Last of the Summer Wine was going well: Tony, Mike & GlennThe second half of our guided tour of Ascension Island will be coming in the next Post.
Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

Sightings - Thursday 11th October 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 23:04
Red-throated Diver - 1 past Mudeford Quay
Great Northern Diver - 1 Portland Bill
Cattle Egret - 2 Wareham Causeway
Great White Egret - 1 Stanpit
Hen Harrier - 1 ringtail Hartland Moor
Osprey - 1 Portland West Cliffs
Hobby - 1 Slepe Heath
Merlin - 2 Durlston CP, 1 Hartland Moor
Green Sandpiper - 4 Lytchett Fields RSPB, 1 Sturminster Marshall GP
Spotted Redshank - 2 Middlebere, 1 Lytchett Fields RSPB
Greenshank - 8 Lytchett Fields RSPB, 3 Lodmoor RSPB, 1 Middlebere
Lesser Yellowlegs - 1 Radipole Lake RSPB
Great Skua - 1 past Durlston CP
Black Tern - 1 juv over Lynch Cove (The Fleet)
Arctic Tern - 1 Abbotsbury Swannery
Iceland Gull - 1 past Mudeford Quay
Short-eared Owl - 1 Ferrybridge
Woodlark - 2 E Durlston CP.
Firecrest - 2 Durlston CP, 1 PBO, 1 Winspit
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1 trapped at PBO
Ring Ouzel - 1 Tillycombe (Portland), 1 Trapped at PBO
Redstart - 1 female at Woodville (nr Stour Provost)
Hawfinch - 3 E Durlston CP
Linnet  - 1720 E Durlston CP
Crossbill - 24 E Durlston CP
Goldfinch - 1830 E Durlston CP
Siskin - 630 E Durlston CP
Categories: Timeline, Twitter

Night Sound Surprise

Two Owls Birding - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 22:18
Whilst I record on all nights that promise to stay dry the intention is to record what species are flying over Lytchett bay on migration in spring and autumn, I mostly record species that are what I consider local and can be seen most days in the recording area. (
Unfortunately where I am situated isn't a nocturnal migration hot spot, well not yet anyway, but in saying this I occasionally get a reward like the Golden Plover in our last blog.  I suppose that's why I do it for that odd surprise and when you get a real close contact where it calls above the parabol, that is really rewarding.  It just doesn't happen enough but when it does it makes listening to all those hours of silence worth while and when you get probably one, ie the Golden Plover, you don't expect another soon.  To my surprise and joy as I viewed through my next nights recording I came across what was obviously a loud sound (see sonogram blow).  Usually these sounds normally turn out to be something manmade so as I put the headset on I didn't have great expectations but how wrong was I.  As I heard the sound I let out a loud "Yes" and Jackie asked what is it, I said listen and handed her the headset and replayed the sound she looked puzzled then the realisation of what it was dawned on her Barn Owl! she replied.  
I've only record Barn Owl twice before both times were somewhere near the edge of the bay probably   a hundred metres away or so but this was very close if not over the bungalow or at least the garden.
Barn Owl Sonogram 

Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

11th October

Portland Bird Observatory - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 20:57
A day of variety if not rarity value. A Yellow-browed Warbler trapped at the obs during a break in the weather provided some much needed enthusiasm during a rather wet an windy morning. A Great Northern Diver was the first of the autumn, a pair of Yellowhammers were a welcome addition to the year list, three Ring Ouzels were present across the island and a couple of Firecrests finalised the less common species. Commoner migrants included: the first 1000+ day of Linnets for the autumn, a small handful of Song Thrushes and Redwings, a Whinchat at Barleycrates Lane, a Snipe at the North end and an Osprey over the West Cliffs.

The first Yellow-browed Warbler of the year trapped in the obs garden was a welcome delight to the onlookers ©Martin Cade/ Erin Taylor

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

11 Oct 18 - The 500th Post

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 18:00
I started the Blog after I bought my first decent DSLR camera (Canon 7D Mark I & 400 mm lens) in Oct 13. My first trip with the camera was eventful. After a quiet morning getting used to it at Middlebere, a Pallid Swift was found at Stanpit. I didn't hang around as Pallid Swift was still a Dorset Tick, having missed the two on Portland in 1984. University work that weekend stopped me going on the first day & they disappeared when I was able to go the next day. Finally, I had seen a Pallid Swift in Dorset & written my first Blog Post. Over the last five years, the camera has generally been the first think I pick up as I leave the house to go Birding, after the bins. The camera has now changed to the Canon 7D Mark II and 100 - 400 mm Mark II lens which is a much better camera set up, albeit it is also a bit heavier. But it isn't too heavy to be able to carry it, even if I am out for the whole day. I have enjoyed the blogging as it has forced me to sort through the photos of Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Cetaceans, other Mammals & general wildlife & scenery shots. Whilst time consuming to sort the photos, it has been a good diary for me of my trips over the last five years. Hopefully other readers enjoy reading the Blog as much as I do, when I've gone back & re-read old Posts. In just under the last five years, I've now reached the 500th Blog Post & just pasted 280,000 hits on the Blog. To celebrate that I've attached this single photo which I think is my favourite wildlife photograph for the last five years.
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill: This wasn't a Tick, but it was my Bird of the Colombia trip. Hotel Thermales del Ruiz, Colombia (25 Feb 18)It is also a sign that I am well behind on blogging as I've not started on either the Colombia or Chile trips that preceded the Atlantic Odyssey trip. Something I will have to address over the Winter, once I've finished the Atlantic Odyssey & West African Pelagic cruise.
Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

Sightings - Wednesday 9th October 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 20:55
Cattle Egret - 1 Hengistbury Hd, 1 Wareham Bypass
Great White Egret - 1 Radipole RSPB
Spoonbill - 8 Arne RSPB, 1 Brownsea Is.
Black-necked Grebe - 2 Studland Bay
Whimbrel - 1 Lytchett Fields RSPB
Green Sandpiper - 1 Wick
Spotted Redshank - 5 Brownsea Is.
Merlin - 1 Hengistbury Hd, 1 Coombe Heath Arne RSPB
Firecrest - 3 Hengistbury Hd wood, 1 Arne RSPB car park
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1 Ballard Down

Great White Egret - Radipole Lake RSPB © David Wareham

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

10th October

Portland Bird Observatory - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:44
Another breezy and stunningly clear day saw a couple of much desired migrants gracing our shores. A Yellow-browed Warbler at both Southwell school and Thumb Lane were accompanied by a lone Firecrest at the Obs, a Ring Ouzel in the hut fields and a Black Redstart in the front garden. The supporting cast of 13 Wheatears, a Whinchat, a Jack Snipe and a pair of Merlins were also of note. Thrushes continued to trickle through with a slack handful of Song Thrushes and a flock of 10 Redwings. Alba Wagtail and Meadow Pipit migration was much reduced on recent days although small groups continued to move throughout the morning.

Over the past few days we have been treated to a wide variety of 'alba' Wagtails, with 'Pieds' now vastly outnumbering the White Wagtails we saw passing earlier in the season ©Erin Taylor 

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

23 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Twenty Five: Ascension Island Frigatebird

Birding in Poole Harbour and Beyond - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:00
The previous Post covered the Seabirds we saw on the early morning visit the Plancius made to Boatswainbird Island. We also saw large numbers of Ascension Island Frigatebirds, which deserve their own Post, given it is the breeding endemic Seabird at Ascension Island with around 10,000 pairs. The main colony is on Boatswainbird Island, although following the removal of feral cats on the island & the placing of model Frigatebirds, the first pairs were encouraged to breed again on the mainland in 2012. Ultimately, expanding the colony will give the opportunity to grow the size of the population.
Part of the main Ascension Island Frigatebird colonyA close up of part of the Ascension Island colony
The Ascension Island Frigatebirds were constantly patrolling the skies
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juveniles are very obvious with their white heads, white chests & broken breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile chasing a Brown Booby at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Juvenile chasing an immature Red-footed Booby at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult females are identified by the white axillaries and a paler brown collar & breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult female doing what Frigatebirds do best to get food by terrorising the nearest Seabird such as this Masked Booby
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult Female look all dark, but have the dark brown neck collar & no red throat
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Immature male showing a white belly & axillaries and a red throat. Photographed over the Green Turtle beach (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Immature male showing a partial white belly & axillaries and a red throat. Photographed at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Subadult male showing the red throat & white axillaries at Boatswainbird Island (24 Apr 18)
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult males have a red throat & do not have a brown collar & breast band
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult male
Ascension Island Frigatebird: Adult male showing the red throat & a small metallic pectoral patch when the sun catches it. Photographed over the Green Turtle beach (24 Apr 18)After an hour or so at Boatswainbird Island, we headed off for Georgetown: the main settlement on the island. The photographers wanted more time at Boatswainbird Island as we were leaving just as the early morning light was improving. There were so may Seabirds around it had been difficult to get as many photos as any of us would have liked, especially as sometimes I had to lower the camera to just enjoy the overall spectacle. However, we had to get to Georgetown & clear customs, as we had a busy day planned on the island. So, we really needed to crack on for Georgetown.
Some good rock layers confirm this is a volcanic islandThe surf was rough in placesThere was a wind farm & another communication base en route to GeorgetownA wider view of Ascension Island with Georgetown at the right-hand side of the photo Georgetown in the distanceHistorical gun emplacements on the hillside above GeorgetownAnother base high up on the top of the volcano
Categories: Blogs, Timeline, Twitter

9th October

Portland Bird Observatory - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 22:02
Although it was a pleasure to out in summer-like conditions numbers and quality were at a premium today. The only oddity reported was a Yellow-browed Warbler near the Borstal, with the less regulars list including the likes of 2 Merlins, a Ring Ouzel and a Firecrest at the Bill and the first Black Redstart of the autumn at Blacknor. Although the conditions were far too nice to have expected any sort of arrival on the ground it was also surprisingly uneventful overhead where standard mid-October fare was reduced to a trickle and only 24 Siskins over the Obs merited a mention; the fact that there were, for example, fewer than 10 Chiffchaffs at the Bill just about summed up the general dearth of grounded migrants.

So gloriously warm and sunny was it that without making any particular effort 12 butterfly species were logged around the island today; these included Clouded Yellows dotted about at several sites, a Brimstone (a decent island oddity) at Tout/Inmosthay and an Adonis Blue still on the wing there. Common Blue and Small Copper were among the more expected fare enjoying the conditions © Ken Dolbear:

Categories: Timeline, Twitter

Sightings - Tuesday 9th October 2018

Dorset Bird Club - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 20:59
Brent Goose - 1 Lodmoor
Great White Egret - 3 Radipole Lake RSPB
Spoonbill - 2 Lodmoor RSPB
Honey Buzzard - 1 Church Ope Quarry Portland
Marsh Harrier - 1 Holton Lee
Ruff - 1 Lodmoor RSPB
Spotted Redshank - 1 Lytchett Fields RSPB
Greenshank - 3 Lodmoor RSPB
Turtle Dove - 1 Abbotsbury Swannery
Woodlark - 2 Ferrybridge
Yellow-browed Warbler - 1 Ballard Down, 1 Winspit Valley

eclipse drake Shoveler - Hatch Pond © Clinton Whale

Great Crested Grebe - Radipole Lake  RSPB © David Wareham
Categories: Timeline, Twitter

8th October

Portland Bird Observatory - Mon, 10/08/2018 - 22:19
A quite different sort of day to yesterday saw heavy cloud overhead for the duration and Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, thrushes and finches to the fore on the migrant numbers front. Another Yellow-browed Warbler - this one at Southwell - was the best of the oddities, with the first Ring Ouzel of the autumn at the Bill, a Dartford Warbler at Suckthumb and a Green Sandpiper at Broadcroft  of further note. Numbers-wise, it was visible migrants that dominated, with 1500 Linnets, 1000 Meadow Pipits, 360 alba wagtails and 250 Goldfinches tip-of-the-iceberg totals at the Bill where far more birds on the move way out over the sea had to be left unidentified. On the ground, thrushes were quite conspicuous for the first time this autumn, off-passage flocks of Meadow Pipit and Linnet totalled into four figures at the Bill and Blackcaps were numerous around the centre of the island but the like of Chiffchaff hardly featured.

It's taken Yellow-browed Warblers quite a time to trickle down as far as Portland but judging by reports from elsewhere there'll be plenty more to come in the next few weeks © Martin Cade:

Although their autumn passage is as good as over a few Grey Wagtail spend the winter on Portland - we'd guess that today's bird feasting on leatherjackets at Southwell was most likely one of these winterers © Nick Stantiford:

In contrast, Ring Ouzel passage is only just beginning, with this bird the first to show up at the Bill © Martin Cade:
Categories: Timeline, Twitter


Subscribe to The Nature of Dorset  aggregator - Twitter