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On the beaches of Brittany

Peter Moores Blog - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 22:51
By the mid-point of our recent family holiday to Brittany my attempts at wildlife photography had been confounded by the weather. Not only did the low light present a challenge, but the cool conditions had been holding back the spring migration of birds and the early emergence of butterflies which I had hoped would be well underway by mid-April. So when the sun put his hat on for a few hours we were tempted to head down to the beach at Suscinio, at the eastern end of the Golf du Morbihan.Male Kentish Plover, SuscinioThe male's plumage matched the colours of the beach pebbles superbly A very attractive wader
I had walked a good 20 minutes from the car looking for the Bluethroats which breed there when the rain came down, catching me without a raincoat. It was probably the nadir of the trip and I shuffled back along the beach having seen no Bluethroats cursing my luck. I trudged past some small areas at the back of the beach which had been cordoned off for breeding Kentish Plovers, thinking how woefully inadequate they looked on a beach which appeared popular with dog-walkers and sun-worshippers.A front view of the male's head patternThe female Kentish Plover lacks the male's striking head pattern......making for excellent camouflage in the context of the beach as this wide-angle view shows
Then a peep just ahead of me alerted me to the presence of a pair of Kentish Plover - one of the birds I had most hoped to see on the beaches of Brittany. I had to walk past them to get back to the car so headed down to the water's edge to avoid any potential nest site and made my way carefully past. The pair posed beautifully for a few photographs as I skirted their adopted patch of beach.
White-spotted Bluethroat, SuscinioA distinctive song from a distinctive birdNow that's just showing offThe close encounter with the Plovers had put sufficient spring in my step to have another look for a Bluethroat - this time I was more successful, as a male belted out his song across the marsh behind the beach from a prominent perch. The rain had stopped by now and other birds decided to show themselves - first a Fan-tailed Warbler, the archetypal little brown job, and then a Black-winged Stilt, a proper newspaper of a bird with its red, black and white plumage.
A typical view of the skulky Fan-tailed Warbler, though one would occasionally burst into the air in song flight......and a couple of times sat out in the openFan-tailed WarblerThe weather and my mood had improved substantially by this point so I returned to my ever-patient family. As we left we were serenaded by a deafening frog chorus, but couldn't see a single one of the choristers! I can highly recommend Suscinio if your are in the area - a fairy tale Chateau provides a stunning backdrop to the wildlife-rich marshland behind the sweeping bay, and if you are short of time and energy, you don't have to go far from the car park to enjoy it all.
Black-winged Stilt, SuscinioA presumed male, judging by the extent of black on the head......and a presumed female flying over the car park
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19 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Thu, 04/19/2018 - 19:14

Busy day gardening and sorting out sheds in very warm conditions. Main highlights from the garden was a Chiffchaff singing this morning and this evening the islands only Green Woodpecker "yaffling" from the bottom of Wakeham, probably on the lawns at Pennsylvania Castle.

A few bugs etc about with Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina), Leopard Slug (Limax maximus), Woodlouse Spider (Dysdera crocata), Light Brown Apple Moth and a moth sp.
Leopard Slug (Limax maximus) More on this slug Here
Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)
 Woodlouse Spider (Dysdera crocata)
Light Brown Apple Moth
moth sp.
And Ted being Ted, looking for "Roland" in amongst the ivy.
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18 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Wed, 04/18/2018 - 15:15
Pennsylvania Castle Wood, St Andrew's Church and Church Ope Cove

Well the promised warm weather certainly arrived this morning and with it wall to wall blue skies. There was that slight southeasterly wind still, but in the sheltered spots it was very warm indeed.

Main highlight today was a wannabee Wood Warbler which turned out to be a very yellow Willow Warbler in Pennsylvania Castle Wood. Initially it was feeding in the shrub area just off the footpath here, but as I walked down towards it, it flew up into the Horse Chestnut tree in the Castle Grounds, where I lost it in the leafs. A little later it reappeared above me but no matter which position I watched it, I was always looking into the sun.

There were also several Chiffchaffs about with at least 3 singing. Other than that apart from 2 Meadow Pipits overhead there were very few birds about.

However on the butterfly front, this was very good with 8 Peacocks, 4 Commas and a male Clouded Yellow. The latter on the south facing slopes at Church Ope Cove, exactly where I saw them last on 24 Nov 17 Here.

In the grounds of St Andrew's Church a couple of Wall Lizards, several hoverflies and a few bees.

Here are a few images:

Not a brilliant photo I know, but a Willow Warbler in Penns Wood.
Also here a Blue Tit.
In the grounds of St Andrew's Church a Comma. There were 3 others here as well.
A Yellow-legged Mining-bee (Andrena flavipes)
Hoverfly - Syrphus torvus
Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)
Wall Lizard
And a close-up
The south facing slopes at Church Ope Cove which was alive with Chiffchaffs, Peacock butterflies and a male Clouded Yellow.
Birds Recorded: 1 Gannet, Cormorant, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 7 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet and Goldfinch.

Also seen: 2 Wall Lizards, 8 Peacock butterflies, 4 Commas, 1 Clouded YellowYellow-legged Mining-bee (Andrena flavipes), Hoverfly (Syrphus torvus) and a Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)
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17 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 15:39
Bumpers Lane, St Andrew's Church, Church Ope Cove, Cheyne Weare, Combefield Quarry and Perryfield Quarry.

A 2 hour walk on the route below was a bit disappointing on the bird front with the only Spring migrants being 3 Chiffchaffs. The Hoopoe seen in Combefield Quarry early this morning was impossible to find, the quarry is huge.

So it was on the reptile front where the main highlights of the day came from, with a Wall Lizard in the grounds of St Andrew's Church and and a Slow-worm in Combefield Quarry.
Where there was shelter from the stiff southerly wind I came across 4 Peacock butterflies and lots of Honeybees.

Here are a few images from today:
Today's Walk
A Linnet keeps a watchful eye on me as I walked along Bumpers Lane. There was a small flock of around 8 birds here, with lots of males singing.

This is Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis and was on the rocky wall by Rufus Castle...........
...........It originates from the Mediterranean region and is believed to have been brought to London in 1640 with imported marble slabs from Italy. It was grown in gardens and has since escaped and become naturalised and very common throughout the UK.

Portland Spurge, Euphorbia portlandica. Who would have thought that living on Portland we would have our own Spurge named after it. However the name came about as it was discovered here. Interestingly enough it isn't that common on Portland, you would have to travel Durlston to find larger concentrations.

Any raptor passing overhead is fair game as this Buzzard found out over Church Ope Cove. It even had a Kestrel attack it.

I believe this a Southern Pill Woodlouse, Armadillidium depressum. There were several on the coastal path between Church Ope Cove and Cheyne Weare.

I can't make up my mind as to whether this is a Common Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) or Neophilaenus lineatus. The latter would, by virtue of its name, have a pale line running down the outside edge of the forewing. One to ask the experts!!

If you ever find corrugated sheets lying around, there's always a chance of finding a Slow-worm warming up underneath. If you do lift a sheet up and there is one there, please remember to replace it gently.

This is one of the tiniest bees I think I've ever come across and was no more than a few millimetres in length, collecting pollen from inside a Buttercup.........

...... it is possibly a female Bull-headed Furrow Bee, Lasioglossum zonulum. This is a large family of bees, so it could quite easily be one of the other Lasioglossum. However Lasioglossum zonulum are found along the south coast so a good chance.

Poised and ready to spring into action.......
........this Kestrel did just that......
........swooping low and fast...... ponced on a worm.
You do have to ask yourself how on earth did it see that worm!!!!
Across at Southwell something grabbed the attention of these Herring Gulls. There must have been up to 60 birds all milling around the field in front of the houses there. We will never know.

And finally a Honeybee immersed in pollen. I hope she can find the hive with that amount of pollen covering her eyes.

Birds recorded: 1 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, 60+ Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 3 Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, 1 Raven, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet and Goldfinch.
Also seen: 1 Wall Lizard, 1 Slow-worm, 4 Peacock butterflies, Honeybees, Common Drone fly, Southern Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium depressum), Froghopper sp. and possibly a Bull-headed Furrow Bee (Lasioglossum zonulum)
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Catching up with Little Gull, Green-winged Teal, & Bonaparte's Gull

Two Owls Birding - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 08:43
Since our last blog we have visited a number of locations Wareham Forest, Blashford, Pennington & Keyhaven, Longham Lakes and Lodmoor, in what has been mostly moist weather to say the least.  Though the visits have produced some good birds and migrants.
Our Blashford visit gave us many of the usual species we would expect with the added bonus of an adult Little Gull on Ibsley Water along with our first Swallow and Sand Martin.  From the Woodland hide we had at least four Brambling a species that has been pretty scarce locally this last winter.Little Gull © Nick HullJackie and I made a quick visit to Keyhaven and were successful in seeing the Green-winged Teal though when we took the group a couple days later it wasn't to be seen anywhere. Though we did manage to find the two summer plumaged Little Gulls at Pennington and we saw many more Swallow, Sand Martin. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and plenty of Chiffchaff were also present.
Green-winged Teal & Eurasian Teal © Nick HullJackie and I on the off chance called into Longham Lakes one day in the hope the Bonaparte's Gull would be present. On our arrival we couldn't find it, though a Common Tern was patrolling the lakes.  We ran into George Green who had found the bird a few days previous but he said that he'd walked around the lakes and hadn't seen it either.  We were thinking we'd move on when I turned around and there behind us on an almost deserted north lake was the bird.  Over the next thirty minutes or so it gave us excellent views.  Well worth the stop.

Lodmoor was our most recent visit which started in the dry but before we were half way around the rain started but not before we had picked up a few migrants.  Our first was a singing Reed Warbler we came across at least three on our walk.  The next was a small flock of Swallow and Martins and Fran managed to find our first spring House Martin amongst them in fact there may have been three.  A Little further on we had Blackcap and a couple each of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.  As we walked along the west path heading towards the bay I heard a bird calling overhead and immediately realised it was a Serin, a few of us managed to see the small finch flying over towards the north-west, unfortunately it kept going.  Both the male and female Marsh Harrier put in separate appearances, also what was obvious since our last visit here was the lack of wildfowl numbers where birds had left for breeding grounds in northern Europe.
Female Marsh Harrier from the Archive
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Red Kite, Stonebarrow/Chardown Hill, Dorset - 16th Apr 2018

Charmouth Birding - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 22:51
A rather disappointing day in the field was lifted by the appearance of this superb Red Kite late in the afternoon. Not a regular bird here so it was nice to see and quite a bonus on a quiet day. On the migrant front there were only a few Chiffchaffs and Linnets passing through early on. A single Wheatear was found on the horse field this morning.

Birds seen today on Stonebarrow and Chardown Hills, Dorset:
Red Kite, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Buzzard, Raven, Linnet, Green Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Yellowhammer, House Martin, Swallow, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Pied Wagtail, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk.

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Channel hopping

Peter Moores Blog - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 22:30
Just back from an Easter break in Brittany with the family, where two themes dominated: first, the almost unrelenting greyness of the skies, which made photography a bit of a challenge; and, second, the presence of a number of species which appear quite catholic in their habitat tastes on the near continent, but ridiculously fussy, or absent altogether, here in the UK.
Male Cirl Bunting in the last of the light at QuiberonA range restricted species in the UK, but more widespread on the other side of the ChannelIf you can imagine Sandbanks and the top bit of Studland put together with a lot less dogs, you would not be far off the Quiberon peninsular - but can you imagine Cirl Buntings breeding at Sandbanks?For some of these species the English Channel appears an insurmountable obstacle to establishing (or re-establishing) a breeding presence; for others, the slight difference in climate has the same effect; and for others still, the reasons for their relative success over the water are a bit of a mystery. One such is the Cirl Bunting - restricted to a few specially managed coastal slopes in the south west of the UK, but apparently much less of a fusspot across the Channel.
Female Cirl Buntings were not as showy as the males - this one was skulking in the car park at Pointe du GrouinThe song of the Black Redstart echoed around the citadel at Mont St MichelDifficult to photograph the dark plumage against the insipid skyWe saw a pair of Cirl Bunting at our first stop on disembarking the overnight ferry at St Malo, on the rocky headland of Pointe du Grouin, and another pair on the sandy peninsular at Quiberon on Brittany's south coast, near where we spent the rest of the week. I also bumped into them on some non-descript farmland away from the coast confirming the impression of them being fairly widespread across the French countryside.
High in the Abbey grounds of Mont St Michel, a lone Lesser Black-backed Gull had staked out a small lawn within the cloisters Mont St Michel from the mainlandThe bridge linking Mont St Michel to the mainland. Not sure Cornish planners would permit this at St Michael's Mount - and a good job too!Before heading for the south coast of Brittany, we thought we should visit Mont St Michel - a worthwhile detour which, as well as the spectacular setting and fascinating history of the Abbey, had the added bonus of singing Black Redstart on the ramparts and rooftops.
Serin in Carnac-Plage - another species which is common on the near continent but rare in the UK Short-toed Treecreeper: ditto. Very similar to our Common Treecreeper but my eyes and ears tuned in to the subtle differences eventually.Sunset at Quiberon
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16 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 10:22
Broadcroft Quarry Lane, Coastal Path, Rufus Castle, Church Ope Cove and Pennsylvania Castle Wood.

An early morning walk started off dry and sunny at 7:00am, but then a couple of showers rolled in, before the sun came back out again. A bit disappointing bird-wise, I had hoped to have seen a few migrants, but the best i could was 5 Chiffchaffs (with one singing), a single Swallow and a chat. as to whether the latter was a Stonechat or Whinchat I couldn't say as the brief view I had of it was to quick to ID properly.

The best of the morning was a Green Woodpecker "yaffling" from Bumpers Lane. The first time I heard it, it appeared to be about here. About 5 minutes later and it called again from around this area, but try as I could I couldn't locate it. It was probably in someones back garden feeding on a lawn.

Here are few images from this morning:

This Herring Gull is not to happy with this Raven..........
.......and eventually drives it off.
A Jackdaw up by The Grove......
......where there were several Herring Gulls in the horses paddock.
A few finches about including this Goldfinch at Church Ope Cove.
And in the grounds of St Andrew's Church this Robin is still collecting nesting material.
He didn't seem to bothered by my presence and just waited until I left.
Black Slugs, Arion ater. on the coastal path. More on this slug here.
Also along the path Garden Snails, Cornu aspersum
A Red-tailed Bumblebee maybe!!
A plant to ID.
As above
And again.
Masses of these in Pennsylvania Castle Wood.
And a close-up of the flowers.
And another plant to ID.
As above.
The sun rising from the east as a rain cloud passes overhead.
Way out on the horizon, I thought I was looking at a boat. And then I realised they were huge rollers heading into Weymouth Bay. I've no idea of the size but they were big!!
The waves crashing into Church Ope Cove.
Birds Recorded: 5 Fulmar, Kestrel, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Swallow, 4 Meadow Pipit, 4 Rock Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat/Whinchat, Blackbird, 5 Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, 1 Raven, 1 Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet and Goldfinch.

Also seen a bumblebee sp. (Possibly Red-tailed Bumblebee), Black Slugs (Arion ater) and Garden Snails (Cornu aspersum)
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15 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 17:34
Portland Bird Observatory, Crown Estate Fields and Hut Fields

A break in the weather and the miserable rain from this morning drifted away to leave a warm sunny afternoon. I couldn't resist a visit to the Obs and spent a couple hours walking around the local fields and hut area.

One of the Hoopoe's from yesterday was still about and I had amazing views of it feeding in the hut field. Close-by a male Pied Flycatcher had been sighted and I managed a fleeting view of it as it flew along the edge of the Obs Garden wall.
In the Crown estate Fields a Common Redstart had been sighted, but despite my best efforts I couldn't locate it. However, scanning the hedges and fields it was great to see a Short-eared Owl quartering the rough grass area above the horses field. It was doing quite well catching voles, which didn't go unnoticed by a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, and eventually it ended up losing a vole to a very persistent gull. Poor vole having been caught by the owl it was quickly dispatched by one of the Great Black-backed Gulls.
As I crossed back over the main road, I thought I'd have another look for the Pied Flycatcher. I didn't find it again, but I did watch a Hawfinch fly over my head and into the Obs car park. Needless to say I shot back round to the Obs, only to watch it fly towards the patio area. As I got to garden area I realised it had flown into the mist nets, where within seconds it was bagged up for weighing and ringing.
What a great afternoon.
Here are a few images and a video from this afternoon.

A flighty bird this Hoopoe couldn't make up its mind where it wanted to feed.
Eventually it flew back to its favourite field......
.......and started feeding again.
This very obliging Hoopoe was feeding in the hut field close to the Observatory.
The top right Wood Pigeon had an almighty escape from.....
......this Peregrine Falcon. As the "woody" came into land the Peregrine narrowly missed catching it.
This female Hawfinch was originally in the hut field, but flew into the Obs car park before ending up in the mist net.
This is one of those birds where a bird ringer uses all their skill and expertise to handle a large finch with bone crushing mandibles. Scientists have measured the crushing force of a Hawfinch bill and found it to exceed 50kg.
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14 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 12:24
Higher Lighthouse and Sweethill

A tweet early this morning was of a Hoopoe seen on the slopes up to the Higher Lighthouse. I decided to park in Sweethill, as the obs car park was probably going to be packed and I walked along the footpath adjacent to the old Admiralty building. I'm glad I did as there was a Firecrest in the hedgerow along here.

Having managed to keep on my feet along the mud-bath of a path I eventually I arrived on the west cliff and met up with other birders looking for the Hoopoe. It hadn't been seen for a good 20 minutes or so, but after another 10 minutes it suddenly appeared from the direction of the Crown Estate fields and landed on the slopes above the Higher Lighthouse.

Yet again it disappeared and then popped up further north along the coast path where it headed off towards the direction of the Crown Estate Fields again. I decided that having seen it I would head of towards the barns at Sweethill. As I did so the Hoopoe popped up in front of me at this spot here.

Pete Coe joined me with another birder and we managed brief views of it before it flew over a wall into Helen's Field, but despite our attempts to locate it, it had disappeared again. While we searched for it a male Kestrel landed 5 metres away from us on a post and then started watching the grass below. Eventually it dropped down and caught a vole before flying off.

Another tweet came through that there were possibly 2 Hoopoe's about, with another in Southwell. I was heading back that way to car so I kept an eye out in case this other Hoopoe appeared. As I did so a Yellow Wagtail flew overhead, heading north over the barns at Sweethill. Another good year tick.

Here are few images and videos from a very grey and misty morning:

A Hoopoe above the Higher Lighthouse this morning..........
.........and the same bird above Culverwell on the track to Sweethill.
Lovely views of a Hoopoe along the track close to Helen's Field.
A male Blackcap on the coast path.
This male Kestrel flew down onto the post just 5 metres from Pete Coe and myself.
As Pete Coe and myself stood on the track, a male Kestrel flew down onto the post and after a few seconds dropped onto an unsuspecting vole. Sometimes you can be in the right place at the right time.
Birds Recorded: Kestrel, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, 1 Hoopoe, Skylark, 5 Swallow, Meadow Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, 2 Stonechat, Blackbird, 1 Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Firecrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, 50+ Linnet and Goldfinch.
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13 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 16:57

Several Swallows heading north along the beach. Several Oystercatchers on the shoreline and still a few Sandwich Terns in Small Mouth.
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Blog Post: April 2018 RSPB Radipole Lake Update

RSPB Weymouth Wetlands - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 16:52
The Radipole Lake Big S pring Clean (aka Litter Pick) Saturday 24th March saw a gathering of around 30 local volunteers to give the Radipole Lake Drive a long overdue spring clean of all the rubbish and litter which had accumulated alongside the road and edge of the lake. The volunteers first gathered in the car park for a preliminary chat and health and safety briefing by Dan Bartlett, Visitor Experience Officer. Equipment and bin bags were distributed and the volunteers got stuck into the wet and sometimes muddy task in hand with great determination and enthusiasm. A substantial amount of the litter gathered was food and drink related, with bottles, cans, wrappings from confectionery/sandwiches and takeaway tea/coffee plastic cups. Many of these items had accumulated by the fishing /viewing platforms and made the area very unsightly.  Our volunteers were willing to wade in up to their knees getting as much litter out of the lake as possible and make it a much cleaner, safer and pleasanter for our wildlife and for visitors to enjoy.  Larger items such as tyres, picnic tables, gas canisters, road signs and bollards were also pulled out. After three hours of labour intensive litter picking, the fruits of the volunteers labours was gathered together in a parking space in the car park. Over 70 bags of litter were piled up while Dan looks on proud of all our volunteers efforts. The entire length of the road was cleared and looking a much better place.  A special mention here for our newish roving reserve guides;  Colin Grant, Kei Little, Neil Bowler and Carlo. After a successful morning's hard work and efforts, our volunteers were duly rewarded with a free hot drink in the warm welcoming Discovery Centre. The RSPB are hoping to run a similar event early next year.  If you have the time and would like to do more litter picking throughout the year, you would be very welcome.  Contact the Discovery Centre, details below. The RSPB would like to sincerely thank everyone who donated their time and effort to this event: Radipole Lake RSPB Volunteers Friends of Radipole Park and Gardens Dog Friendly Weymouth Photo Credit : All litter pick photos by Martin Jones-Gill, RSPB Volunteer March at RSPB Lodmoor - Conservation Work Dave Morphew, RSPB Estate Volunteer writes: So that’s official, it’s no longer winter and while it’s sunny as I write this, I’m not entirely convinced the weather forecast will back up my claim. But so far as the RSPB Estates Team are concerned winter ends when April begins and we can’t cut any more scrub until the birds have finished nesting. In fact the tree felling season has already ended but that’s another story. So while RSPB Radipole Lake has been having something of a makeover thanks to contractors cleaning out the channels in the reedbeds, the Estates team volunteers have been at Lodmoor for most of March. Job number one on the list was to prepare the islands for the return of our Common Tern colony who have been spending the winter somewhere even sunnier than Weymouth. The birds nest on the ground so every year we weed the islands to provide plenty of bare stones for them and brush cut the areas where there is reed on the islands. If you’ve ever tried pulling reed out by hand you’ll know why we use a brush cutter. Photo Credit : Martin Jones-Gill, RSPB Volunteer This year we’re trying something new; a fence around one of the islands to see if we can reduce predation by gulls. This is a difficult topic but although the tern population is rising the number of birds fledging isn’t and the gulls have to take a large part of the blame. When gulls fly over the island the terns fly up en-masse to chase them away, but if the gulls are sneaky and fly in low, they can often grab a chick before the birds have time to react. Will it work? Honestly we don’t know, it seems to work at Brownsea and we figured it was worth trying. It probably won’t stop predation but we hope it will make it more difficult. Photo Credit : Dave Morphew, RSPB Estate Volunteer Moving on, the Lodmoor paths have had their winter cut . You may remember that scene in Poldark, where Ross was in the meadow with a scythe and his shirt off. It’s just like that apart from two details: Lodmoor is far too cold for shirt off antics We use a mower to do the hard work. If you have a garden you’ll know there’s always something that needs doing, so we also knock back the bramble and vegetation that encroaches on the paths every year. This makes access easier and we hope to see more flowering plants which of course will be nectar sources for insects. In fact Brimstone butterflies are already on the wing. This winter we’ve also widened the path that runs from Southdown Avenue back to Overcombe. Most birders don’t venture down there but they’re missing out because it’s the best place on Lodmoor to see Sika deer. And then working on the parts of the reserve that aren't open to the public we’ve been maintaining the paths and bridges that the cattle will use when grazing starts again and clearing more blackthorn scrub on the wet grassland area to the north of the reserve, which of course will make it a better place for wildlife. Photo Credit : Dave Morphew, RSPB Estate Volunteer Now all of this work has been done by volunteers with a little help and direction from the RSPB Wardening team. There’s always more to be done so if you have some time on your hands and like the idea of working outdoors we’d love to hear from you.   It’s only fair to warn you that you will get muddy, wet and probably scratched by blackthorn, but on the plus side you’ll be working with a great team, get to know the reserves really well and perhaps learn some new skills.  Other Radipole Lake News : Our new Visitor Experience Assistant, Emily Dragon, arrived just before the start of the Easter weekend. Emily comes to us having spent a year with the RSPB London team as a volunteer membership recruiter. She has a degree in Marine Zoology, and enjoys scuba-diving and snorkelling. She has worked at a manatee rescue centre in South America, and is with us full-time for at least 6 months. There are two other new faces in the centre. Sally Maslin and Patricia Mailer have also joined the Discovery Centre team. Our resident Hooded Merganser appears to have been one of this winters victims, and hasn’t been seen since mid January. Hoodie was 10 years old, so he's not done bad for a wild duck. Photo Credit : Martin Jones-Gill, RSPB Volunteer New spring migrant arrivals this month include: Willow Warblers, Reed Warblers, Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins.  An Osprey was seen on Thursday 12th April.  Over on Lodmoor this week, Grasshopper Warbler, Wood Warbler, Redstart and the first Cuckoo of the spring calling. For all the latest sightings, contact Radipole Lake Discovery Centre, details below or pop in and see us. Hot and cold refreshments and snacks available. Telephone : 01305 778313 Email : Website :
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Ring Ouzel - Portland Bill, Dorset - 12th April 2018

Charmouth Birding - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 14:14
A beautiful male spring Ring Ouzel appeared in the Crown Estate Fields opposite Portland Bird Observatory early this morning. Picking it up as it flew from the north west corner along the fence line I had good 'scope views as it began to feed at distance. Unfortunately it quickly moved out of view behind some bushes. Walking round to the east side with sun behind me I got stunning 'scope views from near the Privet Hedge with the bird feeding at a distance of 200 metres or so. The bird was well marked showing the typical pale (almost white) half moon to breast, pale scaling to sides and distinct pale edges to its wing feathers. A handsome bird.

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12 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Thu, 04/12/2018 - 12:22
Crown Estate Fields, Culverwell, Hut Fields and Obs Quarry.

Another beautiful start to the day and it was up early (well early for me) and it was down to the Portland Bird Observatory for 8:10am. As I walked around to the patio area I spotted to flocks of Common Scoter heading north over the sea, there were two parties of 9 and 5. A good start.

My first stop on my walk was the horse field here, where there was a splendid looking male Ring Ouzel. A bird flew past it as I was watching it and my first thought was that it was hen Pheasant because of the colouration. And then I thought hang on its way to small, a quick adjustment with the binoculars and I was looking at my first Mistle Thrush on the island since moving down here at the end of May last year. By all accounts Mistle Thrush are quite scarce on the island so well chuffed I've finally bagged one.

Also in the brambles here were 1 male and 2 female Stonechats, whilst flying through were Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.

I made my way up the track and alongside Helen's Field, before heading south towards Culverwell. Just about here were a dozen or so Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbirds feeding in the field. In the bushes I also managed my first Willow Warbler of the year. In Culverwell there were several Chiffchaffs flitting about and 3 Greenfinches.

From here I headed off to the Obs quarry, where there were at least 5 Chiffchaff. From here I then took a walk through the hut fields before heading back to the Obs. Still more Chiffchaffs about and also a pair of Black Redstarts. There was one possible 2 Bullfinches in the Blackthorn bushes and I managed some good views of 2 more Willow Warblers, one of which was really yellow. Sadly not a Wood Warbler, though one was seen a few days ago at Lodmoor wood.

Back at the Obs and a few small parties of hirundine passed over with several Swallows and 2 House Martins. Here there was a Willow Warbler singing in the garden and also another Greenfinch.

Here are few images from today including record shots of the Ring Ouzel and Mistle Thrush.

A record shot of the male Ring Ouzel in the horse field just west of the Crown Estate Fields.
Also my first Mistle Thrush here as well. A scarce visitor to the island.
Still a few Fieldfare about.
A pair maybe. Certainly a difference in colouration
And tagging along with the Fieldfare a few Redwings. This one perched in Culverwell.
A Chiffchaff
And a rear view of a Willow Warbler.
There were a pair of Black Redstarts in the Hut Fields. This is the female.
And here is a female Bullfinch tucking into a few buds.
A Goldfinch in the Obs garden with some nesting material.
And finally a Peacock butterfly with bee sp. behind.
Birds Recorded: 1 Gannet, 14 Common Scoter, 1 Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, 2 House Martin, 7 Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, 3 Stonechat, 2 Black Redstart, Blackbird, 1 Ring Ouzel, 5 Fieldfare, 7 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Mistle Thrush, 15+ Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, 1 Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, 4 Greenfinch and 2 Bullfinch.

Also 1 Peacock Butterfly
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11 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Wed, 04/11/2018 - 17:08
Pennsylvania Castle Wood, Church Ope Cove, Penn's Weare and Rufus Castle

Certainly the warmest day this Spring and T-shirt weather. Its been a long time coming.

In Pennsylvania Castle Wood my first 10-spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata). A very small ladybird approximately 4mm in length.

Main highlights though were several Chiffchaffs at St Andrew's Church, Church Ope Cove, Penn's Weare and my first one singing by Portland Museum. Also a Blackcap with a sub-song in the grounds of St Andrews Church where there were 3 Wall Lizards, Peacock and Comma butterflies.

A lot of holidaymakers on the beach at Church Ope Cove, but on the south facing bank more Chiffchaffs and Peacock butterflies.

Along Penn's Weare both Blackbird and Robin singing. Also here more Peacock butterflies with several males trying to woo females in at least 3 groups. Also here a Dark-edged Bee-fly, Bombylius major, my first on the island, Marmalade Hoverfly and the hoverfly Syrphus torvus. Along the cliff face a pair of Swallows were making their way north. Also here several Fulmars.

A few images from this afternoon:

One of the few Chiffchaffs in the grounds of St Andrew's Church
In flight, shame about the twig across its eye.
and another flight shot.
A Peregrine overhead.
One of the 3 Wall Lizards in the grounds of St Andrew's Church.
I must have seen over 15 Peacock butterflies. This was the only one to land for a photo.
In Pennsylvania Castle Wood I found this 10-spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata)........
.........a really small ladybird........
..........approximately 4mm in length. 
 Dark-edged Bee-fly, Bombylius major found along Penn's Weare. More on bee-flies Here.
If I've got this right this is an Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Birds Recorded: Fulmar, 1 Gannet, Sparrowhawk, 1 Peregrine Falcon, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, 2 Swallows, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 1 Blackcap, 8 Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet and Goldfinch.

Also seen: 3 Wall Lizards, 15+ Peacock butterflies, 1 Comma, Honey Bees, White-tailed Bumblebees, Red-tailed Cuckoo-bee, Common Drone FlyMarmalade Hoverfly, hoverfly Syrphus torvus, 10-spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata) and a Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major). The latter two being firsts for me on the island.
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10 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 17:09

Work has started on the new housing estate behind the cottage, well actually it started yesterday, not that you could see anything in the dense fog. Yesterday Bumpers Lane was closed off to the Portland Stone lorries and despite a few lorries turning off Wakeham into Bumpers, all the drivers got the "message" that access is only possible via The Grove. That's going to go down well with the residence in Easton.

Back to today and the fog lingered for most of the morning, and apart from a brief sunny interlude it was back to grey skies late afternoon. On the feeders were 3 Goldfinches, 2 Great Tits, a Chaffinch and a Blue Tit sporting a metal ring on its leg.

Overhead the gulls were noisy at times during the day, but despite sticking my head out in the hope of seeing a "Osprey" or any raptor, there didn't appear to be anything about. Just Herring Gulls being Herring Gulls!!

Only real highlight today was a Lesser Redpoll passing overhead, my first for the year.

Two Goldfinches on the feeders..........
.........a third on another........
.......and a Blue Tit sporting a ring on its leg.
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A visit to Dorchester: a museum and an important ceremony – 5th April 2018

Gryllos Blog - Tue, 04/10/2018 - 08:43

This post covers our brief visit to Dorchester for an important ceremony. Whilst there we took the opportunity to visit Dorset County Museum.


There can be no more spectacular foyer of any building in the world than that of the Natural History Museum in Kensington, London. Apart from the architecture, this enormous space is filled with a cast of a Diplodocus skeleton – or at least it was! The powers that be have decided that after being on show for 102 years this magnificent exhibit has had its day and now it must go. But before it vanishes into packing boxes in the museum’s vaults it’s going on tour and the first destination is ….


…. Dorset County Museum in Dorchester! Of course the dimensions of Dorset County Museum are considerably less than the museum in Kensington and it only just fits.


Indeed the relatively tiny skull could only be incorporated by removing part of the balcony and enclosing it in glass (hence the reflections) and the incredibly long tail had to be bent double.


And these same reflections prevent you getting a photo of the whole animal, as there is no viewpoint from which you can get a clear shot. This may sound like the rantings of an old bloke but I’m getting increasingly annoyed by the cult of the ‘selfie’. I see nothing wrong with taking a photo of your family and friends or of yourself  (best done against a neutral background) and of course if you go to see an exhibit or a lovely view you want to photograph it but why must you have yourself in every picture. Apart from anything else it stops the rest of us from getting a good view.


But what of the dinosaur itself. Of course it’s not the original fossil, that would be far too heavy to be held up by such flimsy support. Diplodocus was first described as a new species of sauropod dinosaur in 1878 by Professor Othniel C Marsh at Yale University. The species lived sometime between 156 and 145 million years ago and belongs to a group called sauropods, meaning ‘lizard feet’. The cast is of a fossilised skeleton found in Wyoming USA in 1898 and exhibited in Scottish-born millionaire businessman Andrew Carnegie heard of the discovery and set out to acquire the bones as a centrepiece for his new museum in Pittsburgh. King Edward VII saw a sketch of the Diplodocus while visiting Carnegie at his Scottish castle and remarked how much he’d like a similar specimen for the animal galleries of the Natural History Museum. Carnegie obliged by commissioning a replica cast of his dinosaur which was exhibited in the museum in 1905. (information taken from the Natural History Museum website)


There was a lot more to Dorset County Museum than ‘Dippy’. Dippy was a Jurassic dinosaur from the period (200-145 million years ago) and of course Dorset is the location the famous Jurassic coast. Many other fossils from that period are represented, these dinosaur footprints were unearthed near Swanage.


The jaws of a Pliosaur.


and a small Ichthyosaur.


There were plenty of human artifacts as well. These crude stone tools date from about the Paleolithic period 450,000 years ago, the time our Neanderthal cousins roamed the country.


By the time of the Mesolithic period (12,000 to 7,000 years ago in NW Europe but earlier in the Middle East) many fine stone tools were in use, flaked off the flint cores seen on the left. The remains of a mesolithic settlement has been excavated in recent years on Portland.


By the Neolithic period Britons were farming, however some hunting must have still occurred as evidenced by this deer antler pick and the skull of an auroch, the enormous wild ancestor of domestic cattle which survived in the wild in Europe until just 400 years ago. although were extinct in Britain by the Bronze Age.


Moving onto the Bronze Age, 4500 to 2800 years ago. Dorset had a thriving Bronze Age culture as seen by the many bronze swords and implements found.


By the late Bronze Age beautiful gold necklaces or torcs were being worn by the nobility.


The Iron Age (2800 years ago until Roman invasion in 43 AD) saw the emergence of tribal groups such as the Durotriges who lived in Dorset and surrounding areas. They were responsible for the many hill forts such as Maiden Castle that dot the landscape even today. These two skeletons were discovered at Maiden Castle …


There is no doubt about the cause of death of one of them, a Roman ballista bolt though the spine.


Maiden Castle near Dorchester was the largest Iron Age hill fort in Britain and was occupied by the Durotriges up until the Roman invasion. We visited the site with our granddaughter Amber a few years ago.


Of course he Romans left plenty of archaeological evidence behind in Dorset such as this mosaic.


The County Museum also features a section on famous Dorset writers and poets ….


… including this reconstruction of Thomas Hardy’s study.


Enjoyable as it was our visit to the museum was just filling in time on the way to the main event of the day. Margaret had an important appointment at Dorset County Council’s chamber ….


…. joining ten other applicants for the ceremony that would award her British citizenship.


After swearing an oath and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ she was presented with her citizenship certificate by a local dignitary.


It has taken quite a while (the main delay was getting the necessary documentation from South Africa) but after nine years of marriage I’m no longer married to a foreigner!

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9 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 16:29

This afternoon, a single Swallow along Chesil Beach. I'm amazed it could see where it was flying.

A great day for birding - Not

This is what we've had all day.

Spot the bird!!!
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8 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 16:38

For the third day running a Long-tailed Tit has visited the feeders in the back garden. Also about Great Tit, 2 Blue Tits, House Sparrows, Chaffinch and a pair of Collared Doves.

House Sparrow and Blue Tit
A pair of House Sparrows and a Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
For the third day running a Long-tailed Tit has been visiting the feeders in the back garden.
Easy to tell these two Collared Doves apart as the male puffs out his chest.
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7 Apr 18

Martin Adlam - Sat, 04/07/2018 - 18:41

Another visit to the boatyard this afternoon and local birds were: Red-breasted Merganser, Sandwich Terns and a Meadow Pipit in the yard.

This afternoon the female Blackcap returned to the feeders.

This female Blackcap shows absolutely no sign of moving on.
And she was pretty vocal warning off other birds from coming onto the feeder.
I'm amazed that we are now a week into April, yet the female Blackcap is still visiting the feeders in the back garden.
This morning the first bird I saw on the feeders was a Long-tailed Tit tucking into the suet pellets. Great to see them in the garden.

Also about Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and 4 pairs of House Sparrows.
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