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26 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Wed, 26/02/2020 - 15:18
Lower Horse Paddocks, Broadcroft Quarry Pools, Shepherd's Dinner, The Cuttings, Rufus Castle, Penns Copse, Penns Weare, Church Ope Cove, Church Ope Wood, St Andrew's Church and Penns Wood

A brighter sunnier day, with a stiff WNW wind coming across the island. Apart from my first leg of my walk, the rest was in the relatively sheltered eastern side of Portland, though there was a bit of a draft coming down through Penns Wood.

Main birding highlights today were 3 Firecrests, 2 in Penns Wood and a single bird at the back of the cove. They seemed to have seen off the Goldcrests, not seen the latter apart from an odd one, for a few weeks now.

Was nearly caught out by a Great Tit calling not once but twice, both occasions I thought it was Chiffchaff. It wont be long I'm sure, before they start appearing.

Also seen today were 12 Wall Lizards with 9 in the church grounds, 2 behind the beach huts and another at the top of the steps by Rufus Castle.

The biggest highlight today though was a Common Shrew which was sunbathing (until I nearly stood on it) on the diagonal path which takes you across the south facing cliff at the cove, from the main steps down to the beach huts Here. More on Common Shrews Here.

I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or it. It didn't venture far and I could see it under the Ivy leaves. No opportunity for a photo, but lovely to see and my first on Portland.

There were a few bees about with a couple of Tree Bumblebees, an Early Bumblebee and a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.

Three species of hoverfly seen with Common Droneflies and Tapered Droneflies, and a Syrphus sp. possibly S. torvus which does appear in Winter, but then the weather is mild enough for any of them to appear. Not a single Migrant Hoverfly found today.
Lots of flies again with good numbers of Muscid Fly (Phaonia subventa) and a few Yellow Dung Fly.

Here are a few images from today:
Some good numbers of Wall Lizards out today. All........
..........jostling for the best spot.
This one has found a good ledge to sunbathe on.
This Wall Lizard was one of two which are on the coast path just behind the beach huts.
A Tree Bumblebee. I'm starting to see a few these now. This one was "sunbathing" on Comfrey leaf in Penns Wood.
One of the Syrphus hoverflies. Very early, could possibly be Syrphus torvus which can be seen in Winter. However with this mild Winter it could be any of the Syrphus's.

With the Alexanders flowering just about everywhere, there are more and more of these Muscid Fly (Phaonia subventa) appearing.

A Black Slug also on an Alexanders.
And Ted
Mammals Recorded: Common Shrew (Sorex araneus)

Birds Recorded: Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, 2 Meadow Pipits, 1 Rock Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 3 Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch

Reptiles Recorded: 12 Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Amphibians Recorded: Toad Spawn

Bees Recorded: Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) and Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Hoverflies Recorded: Common Dronefly (Eristalis tenax), Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax) and a Syrphus sp. possibly S. torvus

Flies, Gnats and Midges Recorded: Muscid Fly (Phaonia subventa) and Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria)

Slugs and Snails Recorded: Black Slug (Arion ater)
Ships Today
This is the Liberian Container Ship "Ever Gentle" on its way from Tanjung Peleps (Malaysia) to Rotterdam (Holland). More on this vessel Here.

This is the Cypriot Container Ship "CT Rotterdam" on its way from Rotterdam (Holland) to Dublin. More on this vessel Here.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

25 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Tue, 25/02/2020 - 17:32
Penns Wood, St Andrew's Church, Church Ope Cove Wood and Church Ope Cove

A break in the weather around midday saw me and Ted off on our daily walk. Main highlights, as the sun came out, were singles of Firecrest in Penns Wood and another at the back of the cove. A Grey Wagtail was on the beach, but flew off just as we arrived.

Other sightings were 5 Wall Lizards in the grounds of St Andrew's Church and there was another one in its usual spot at the back of the cove.

The sun was out long enough (before the clouds rolled in again) for a few flies (mainly Muscid flies) and a Migrant Hoverfly to be out on the Alexanders.

Here are a few images from today:

Quite a few Dunnocks are in good voice at the moment.
And also several Robins were.........
.........singing as well. This one at the back of the cove.
In the centre of the frame should have been the Firecrest. However the little so and so had other ideas and ended up in the top left hand corner of the frame. They are so quick.

When the sun goes, its time to head back to your hole...........
...........and wait.........
...........for the sun to come back out again.
A Migrant Hoverfly. I'm finding more of these than the "usual" Marmalade Hoverflies.
Not the most inspiring of names, Yellow Dung Fly, but a pretty looking fly nevertheless.
One of the Muscid Flies. This is Phaonia subventa and out in good numbers especially around the Alexanders and Japanese Spindle

Rufus Castle from Church Ope Cove.
Birds Recorded: Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 2 Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch

Reptiles Recorded: Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Hoverflies Recorded: 1 Migrant Hoverfly (Meliscaeva auricollis)

Flies, Gnats and Midges Recorded: Kelp Fly (Coelopa frigida), Muscid Fly (Phaonia subventa) and several Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria)

Ships Today
This is the British Supply Vessel "Wind Innovation" just off Portland. More on this vessel Here.
This is the Cargo ship "Hav Dolphin" flying the flag of Antigua Barbuda. It is on its way from Hamburg (Germany) to Coruna (Spain). More on this vessel Here.

This is the British Tug "MTS Valour" on its way from Brixham to Portland Harbour. More on this vessel Here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

Norfolk neck-collared Pink-footed Goose

Two Owls Birding - Mon, 24/02/2020 - 18:45
Those of you that follow our blog might remember I mentioned a neck collared Pink-footed Goose that we saw in Norfolk.  I contacted  Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust WWT with the details and Kane Brides replied with the following history of the bird.

As you can see it is a well travelled bird and particularly likes Norfolk to winter as do so many of this species.
Categories: Magazine

24 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Mon, 24/02/2020 - 18:20

No chance to get out for a walk today, as the rain just kept pouring. However it did eventually stop late afternoon, but by then I was in Weymouth. On the way back home there were around 40+ Brent Geese on the sandflats at 5:00pm.

This was the view from the Portland Heights Hotel mid-afternoon. Pretty dire.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine


Gavin Haigh - Sun, 23/02/2020 - 21:42
There are lots of advantages to reaching 60 years of age. Free prescriptions is one. The many others are eluding me right now... But anyway, the disadvantages are very, very few. In fact I can only think of two or three hundred, but one of the worst - and easily on a par with 'vastly reduced amount of remaining life' - is the need for specs. If you are one of those fortunate enough to be old and yet specs-less, I envy you. But don't get complacent. There is still time...

I remember the carefree days of 20/20 vision. As a youngster, happily prancing around in a world of crisp, focused clarity, I had little appreciation of what my specs-wearing friends and relatives were having to put up with. And then one day I realised I could no longer read stuff. You develop little tricks. Holding things up to the light, or at arm's length, or squinting hard enough to compress your increasingly reluctant eyeballs into some kind of working shape. But there soon comes a time when all these dodges are futile, and you get your first reading specs. That was some time in my 40s. You start with +0.75 and speedily work your way through bigger and bigger numbers. It is crushing. When you first try reading specs it's amazing. Print is suddenly BIG and BOLD again. You think 'Wow! These'll do the trick!' but all too rapidly they don't, and it's time for

This was back in my digiscoping days. I could bird specs-free all day long, until I needed to use the camera, because without specs the screen was a blur. Was the bird in focus? Was it even in the shot?! Where did I put my specs? Strewth, I hated the things. Or rather, the need for them...

And then in my early 50s I began to sense that my distance vision was failing too. Where I used to be able to scan a hedgerow and with the naked eye immediately spot a bird sitting up, suddenly I needed bins to be sure. Flyovers became intriguing fuzzy blobs, high ones invisible. And so, in 2012, I joined the world of full-time specs wearers. And not any old specs. Vari-focals. Very clever lenses which combine your reading and distance needs into one window. They take some getting used to, but have transformed my birding. However, there are drawbacks. One of them is sea-spray...

Arriving at West Bexington this afternoon I peered along the beach at this view...

See that hazy stuff hanging in the air? Spray.
All very picturesque, but sea-spray sticks to specs like iron filings to a magnet. In no time at all you've got this...

Frosted glass
It's a right pain. And puts me off visiting Bex, Cogden etc, when there's a stiff onshore wind. Which is a shame, because I love a beach walk on a rough day; it's so invigorating. Even today, though the wind wasn't all that strong, the heavy breakers crashing on the shingle threw up a fine mist of spray. Soon enough you've got half the English Channel clinging to your specs. On really bad days it's been so annoying that I've resorted to taking them off and doing without. It wasn't quite that troublesome this afternoon, but I needn't have worried anyway because the birding was about as unspectacular as it can get. Apart from a handful of passing Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls reminding me that at least some passage was happening, and a strange urge to count Tufties on the mere (46) it was basically just a Sunday afternoon walk. I didn't quite have the beach to myself, but close enough...

Portland in the distance. Just stunning...
Well, I've somehow managed to wangle a whole post out of almost no birds of note. Result.
Categories: Magazine

23 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Sun, 23/02/2020 - 16:06
Lower Horse Paddocks, Broadcroft Quarry Lane, Broadcroft Pools, Shepherd's Dinner, Rufus Castle, Church Ope Cove, St Andrew's Church and Penns Wood

Another change to my normal route and today I added on Broadcroft Quarry Lane, Broadcroft Pools and Shepherd's Dinner.

The 8 Stonechat in the Lower Horse Paddock are down to just a pair, but the Meadow Pipits are up to 11 birds. Also here were a Pheasant, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, 2 Pied Wagtails, 15+ House Sparrows and a Goldcrest in the Fir trees. A Song Thrush was singing within a Bramble Bush and another around Bumpers Lane Quarry.

Not much along my additional route but when I reached the South-west Coast Path, above The Cuttings there were 4 more Stonechats and a single Meadow Pipit.

Elsewhere there were 2 Firecrests calling to each other in Penns Wood, both were seen, but no photos unfortunately.

Here are a few images from today:

This Pheasant is quite at home in the fields at the back of Wakeham. He's been here for a few months now, even venturing down to Penns Wood on a few occasions.

Along Broadcroft Quarry Lane the Wild Cherry is blossoming well.
In the quarry close to Shepherd's Dinner these Giant Viper's Bugloss, Echium pininana, look like something out Jurassic Park. This Summer they should all be in flower.

Long "Strings" of Toad Spawn in the Shepherd's Dinner area. Camouflaged by the mud thrown up by the large tractors that pass along this track.

Still a few Stonechats about. These two were with a party of 4 birds along the South-west Coast Path above The Cuttings.

And a fly to ID
Mammals Recorded: 1 Bunny

Birds Recorded: 1 Pheasant, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 12 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, 6 Stonechat, Blackbird, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch
Flies, Gnats and Midges Recorded: Fly sp.

Ships Today
This is the Italian LPG Tanker "Syn Zania"..............
.............on its way into Portland Harbour. More on this vessel Here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine


Gavin Haigh - Sat, 22/02/2020 - 21:19
Like anyone else I am subject to the stresses and strains of everyday life, and it can certainly take a toll at times. I realise that people have a variety of coping mechanisms, but for me hobbies have always been a powerful antidote to life's downers, a means of therapy if you like. And this afternoon's prescription went like this...

I drove to the Axe Estuary, arriving shortly after 3pm. My visits to the Axe these days are usually squeezed around work, so there's always a slightly urgent note to them, a feeling that I ought to be scoffing down my sarnies double-quick and hurrying back to get on with some honest toil. Naturally I fight such unreasonable constraints, but the notion remains, along with little pangs of guilt. Today though, no such issues. I parked up at the bottom end of the river and then did something I haven't done for years. Normally I would be in a vehicle, viewing from a number of stopping points along the road, but this afternoon I climbed down on to the estuary shore and walked slowly upstream...

The view upriver, towards Coronation Corner
Gulls hang out on the opposite bank, and are very rarely troubled by anyone walking the eastern shoreline like this. Dog walkers do it all the time, and the only time I have known gulls to flush is right at the tail-end of the day when they're on the point of leaving anyway. They can get a bit jittery as dusk approaches and it's almost like they're looking for an excuse to take umbrage at any real or perceived disturbance so they can fly out into the bay to bag a prime spot in the roost.

So that's the story today. A quiet amble upriver, stopping at regular intervals to scope up the gull collection. And I did it properly. Not just the big fellas, where Caspian Gull is the prime quarry, but the little ones also. Although I was probably a bit late in the day for the best numbers, there were still many hundreds of BHGs and Common Gulls to sort through. For me it is a soothingly therapeutic undertaking. Scanning methodically through the assembly, you one by one identify and pass on. BHG...BHG...BHG...Common...LBBG...Ooh! Med Gull. Nice...BHG...BHG...etc... I didn't do much in the way of counting, though there were definitely 25+ Lesser Black-backs. I tried with Meds, but never got past 12 before they'd all lift and fly around a bit. Some would leave, the rest resettling. After a couple of times I gave up. At a guess, 30+ Med Gulls. No Ring-billed or Bonaparte's Gulls today, but if there had been I like to think my careful sifting would have nailed them...

Here's a nice little test for any budding gullers. How many Med Gulls in the following pic? In my London days this photo would have been unimaginable, and I guess it would be pretty amazing even now for many inland birders.

A typical scope-full...
Answer: there are three; two adults and a 2nd-winter. If you reckon you're not really into gulls but still spotted all three within 5 seconds, well, stop kidding yourself, just surrender to it. If you spotted four or more, go take a long hard look in the mirror, you stringer.

The next test is slightly trickier, but there is just the one Med Gull in the photo. So, how quickly can you find it? Ready...go!

Okay, if you spotted the Med Gull without clicking on the image first, well done. If you enlarged the pic first, then spotted it, well done. If you simply clicked on the photo to confirm your suspicion, again, well done. Yes, well done for any of the above, because just making the effort to find the Med Gull is a fine thing, and evidence of what a discriminating birder you are, with a commendable appreciation of avian quality. Med Gulls are without question 24-carat birds, but not all of us are blessed with the ability to detect that. You are fortunate indeed!

So, that was it this afternoon really. A very relaxing stroll up the estuary, carefully picking through the gulls. No time constraints... Very soothing. Nothing special in the way of scarce or rare stuff, nothing particularly notable at all in fact.


And back we go...downriver to the car, and home...
Categories: Magazine

22 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Sat, 22/02/2020 - 17:54
Lower Horse paddocks, Bumpers Lane, Rufus Castle, Church Ope Cove, Church Ope Cove Wood, St Andrew's Church and Penns Wood

After the early morning rain had moved on, the sun eventually came out and for my walk today I decided to change my route slightly.

I'm glad I did, as I came across 8 Stonechats (5 male, 3 female) in the Lower Horse paddock, just behind the Alessandria Hotel in Wakeham. It is that time of year when the Stonechats appear on Portland, but I certainly wasn't expecting to see 8 together. Also in the field were 7 Meadow Pipits.

Elsewhere there was a small flock of Long-tailed Tits just below Rufus Castle and another flock in Penns Wood. Also in the wood were dozens of Chaffinches and Goldfinches, plus a fly-by Grey Wagtail. Sadly no crests seen or heard today, either at the back of the cove or in the wood.

Also about were a few Wall Lizards in the grounds of St Andrew's Church and around the cove I came across 3 Migrant Hoverflies.

Other insects on the wing were 4 Buff-tailed Bumblebees, 2 Tapered Droneflies, a Muscid Fly, 2 Yellow Dung Flies, a Common Green Shieldbug and my first ladybird of the year, a Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis, form - succinea)

Here are a few images from today:

One of the male Stonechats in the Lower Horse Paddocks
And another male. In fact there were 5 males and 3 females.
Also in the paddock were several Meadow Pipits.
An adult Wall Lizard in the church grounds.
And the usual spot which regularly sees one or two Wall Lizards in a hole shared by Garden Snails.
In Penns Wood a Common Green Shieldbug
Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis, form - succinea)
A Migrant Hoverfly, one of three seen today.
A Yellow Dung Fly with two............
...............seen at the top of Penns Wood.
Birds Recorded: 12 Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, 7 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, 8 Stonechat, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch

Reptiles Recorded: Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Bees Recorded: 4 Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Hoverflies Recorded: 3 Migrant Hoverfly (Meliscaeva auricollis) and Tapered Dronefly (Eristalis pertinax)

Flies, Gnats and Midges Recorded: Muscid Fly (Phaonia subventa) and 2 Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria)

Bugs and Beetles Recorded: A Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis, orange with black spots form - succinea) and a Common Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

21 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Fri, 21/02/2020 - 15:02
The Bill

It was back down to the Bill this afternoon and this time I managed to find the Purple Sandpipers feeding to the east of the Obelisk. For some reason there was a lone bird some 50 metres away from the main flock of 11 birds. Odd!!

Also along here were 5 Oystercatchers and several Rock Pipits. Out to sea a few Razorbills, Guillemots and Gannets.

In the fields close to the Obs was a Skylark singing in the grass. Well it was very windy.

Here are a few images and videos from today:

Ten of the 11 Purple Sandpipers that came into land as I approached the Obelisk. A twelfth bird was keeping its distance from this main flock.

Coming into land..
Here 3 of the Purple Sandpipers are feeding in amongst the seaweed.
And another 3 take a break.
Some of these rocks are pretty slippery and they........
.........certainly live close to the edge as you can tell by this sequence of images as a.......
...........wave swamps the rock they were on.
The sheer force of the wave has forced the nearest bird off the rock.
Wave gone and back on the rock to continue feeding.
Dodging the waves
Living on the edge
And bath time
There were a few Oystercatchers about today. An interesting fact I heard the other day is that Oystercatchers can change the shape of their beaks to suit the food they eat. More Here

In the field next to the Obs was this Meadow Pipit. And as comparison....... is a Skylark.
It even managed to sing a couple of times, from the comfort of the ground. Well it was pretty windy.
Birds Recorded
: Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, 5 Oystercatcher, 12 Purple Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Razorbill, Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow and Chaffinch

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

20 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Thu, 20/02/2020 - 17:31
Penns Wood, St Andrew's Church, Church Ope Cove Wood, Church Ope Cove, Rufus Castle and Portland Museum.

A break in the weather and an opportunity for Dawn and me to walk down to Church Ope Cove for a beach litter pick. Its amazing how quickly you can fill 2 carrier bags with washed up plastic bottles, golf balls, fishing line and dozens of rubber straps stripped off the Lobster Pots.

Our walk took us through Penns Wood and it was good to see that there was at least 1 Firecrest still present here. In fact most of the birds I saw were in singles, with a single Goldcrest also in the wood, a lone Rock Pipit on the beach and a single Great Black-backed Gull keeping an eye on a Shag which was fishing just off the beach.

Birds in double figures were a party of Long-tailed Tits in Penns Wood.

Here are a few images from today:

A Great Black-backed Gull just off the beach
Just the one Rock Pipit at the cove today.
And still more empty Whelk egg cases being washed up.
Also on the beach was this "Mermaids" Purse, which of course is either the egg case for a ray or shark. This looks as if it could possibly be the egg case of what sea anglers call a Dogfish. The scientific name would be Scyliorhinus canicula (Small-spotted Catfish), but there are other similar catfish. Here's a useful website from the Shark Trust. Click Here.

Another "Sea Fern"
So much rubbish on the beach, mainly plastic bottles and this Golf Ball.
And a couple of bags of rubbish from the beach.
Birds Recorded: 1 Gannet, 1 Shag, Herring Gull, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, 1 Rock Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Firecrest, 10+ Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch

Ships Today
This is the British Buoy-laying ship "Patricia" in Weymouth Bay. More on this vessel Here.
This is the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship "Lyme Bay" in Weymouth Bay. More on this vessel Here.
This is the Liberian Tanker "Soho Square" on its way from Jorf Lasfar (Morocco) to Rotterdam (Holland). More on this vessel Here.

This is the German Tanker "Paulin B" on its way from Hamburg (Germany) to Cork. More on this vessel Here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine


Gavin Haigh - Wed, 19/02/2020 - 21:57
Yesterday lunchtime I visited Colyton WTW for the first time in a while, and eventually found both Sibe Chiffs together in a really photo-friendly spot. Unfortunately that discovery coincided with a downpour, and before it stopped they had moved on and I didn't see them again. So no pics...

Quite good numbers of gulls on the river. I counted 65+ Med Gulls in the morning, and 50+ mid-afternoon. A really good movement of Common Gulls too, well into three figures, probably 2-300 at least. Lesser Black-backs were passing through as well, though I never saw more than 15-20 at a time; but no intermedius candidates yet.

I was in the Seaton area again first thing today, and had an early look at the gull collection. A surprising 55 Med Gulls amongst the otherwise modest gathering. Something quite profound has happened to the status of Med Gull on the Axe. And it's happened overnight. From barely any all winter, and an all-time max of 30-something, to...well, here we are in silly-numbers land since Jan 29th. Very weird.

By this time of the year birding me is usually bemoaning the direness of mid-February, how it's all a bit flat and monotonous. So I was just gearing myself up to write that sort of post. But Serin, a biffing great American Herring Gull, much personal Casp jam, Sibe Chiff joy and so on... You can see the problem. I have nothing to moan about. And yet...

As I made ready to leave the AHG last Friday, Phil jokingly called out: "Hopefully we'll have a proper bird for you soon!" or words to that effect. Phil meant something NOT a gull of course, but yes, no matter how good the birding, as winter drags on I cannot help wanting a change too. And not just in the weather. Spring is just around the corner, and the gull passage already underway is a beguiling reminder of spring's promise. It will bring birds. Lots and lots of birds. Hopefully - if I stay the course and keep my optics shiny - there will be that magic moment when you're traipsing along the beach early one morning, and...

Well, hello again...
Categories: Magazine

19 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Wed, 19/02/2020 - 13:58
Penns Wood, St Andrew's Church, Church Ope Cove Wood, Church Ope Cove, Rufus Castle and Mermaid Track.

I thought I'd timed my walk perfectly today so that I would dodge the showers. How wrong was I and had I left it for another 30 minutes I'm sure I wouldn't have got a soaking. Needless to say birdwatching was pretty difficult and the best I could in the rain was 1 Goldcrest along the Mermaid Track and 2 Rock Pipits on the beach.

A Shag fishing just off the cove was good to watch as it dived down to catch its meal. It was difficult to see what it was catching, but whatever they were it was finding plenty.

Here are a few images from today:

This Shag was fishing just off the beach at Church Ope Cove.
It looks like it was successful, though it was a bit of an effort to swallow this fish.
Unsurprisingly, with the all the storms we have had in the past week or so, that there are so many empty Whelk egg cases washed up onto the beach.

I think this is Sea Fern, but I'm struggling to find anything about it. Maybe its called something else!!
Birds Recorded: Shag, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, 2 Rock Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow and Chaffinch

Ships Today
This is the Swedish Tanker "Bonito" on its way from Milford Haven to Portland Harbour. More on this vessel Here.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

18 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Tue, 18/02/2020 - 12:57
Portland Bird Observatory, Hut Fields and The Bill

Today I made another trip down to the Bill to see the Purple Sandpipers. Unfortunately and despite it being low water, the gale force winds had whipped up the waves and they were still crashing onto their favoured ledges. So plan B was to walk along the more sheltered eastern side, just in case they had moved around there. Even here the waves were rolling in, and after an extensive search, all I could find were 6 Turnstones, 1 Oystercatcher and a Rock Pipit.

Originally when I arrived at the Obs, Martin Cade (Obs Warden) kindly pointed out the Common Scoter to me, which were just north of the Races and to the east of the Lobster Pot. Without his expertise I dont really think I would have spotted them. My count was 9 in a small tight flock sat on the water, though I'm sure there are probably more. Whilst I was here a Grey Wagtail flew over and just as was leaving, a Firecrest was in the Japonica along the driveway

Here are a few images and a video from today:

The Rock Pool and ledge which was the only spot I found along the coastline at The Bill that had any birds on it. They were...........

...........these 5 Turnstones. Honest there are 5. They are so well camouflaged; the hardest one to see is at the very top of of the image.

A close-up of 3 of the Turnstones. If it weren't for their orange legs I think it would be hard to spot them.
Here the Turnstones and a Rock Pipit join each other higher up on the ledge.
A little easier to spot was this Oystercatcher on the same ledge.
One of the reasons why there weren't any Purple Sandpipers here today.
And Ted enjoying a good run on the Common.
Birds Recorded: Fulmar, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, 9 Common Scoter, Kestrel, 1 Oystercatcher, 6 Turnstone, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Razorbill, Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Blackbird, 1 Firecrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch

Ships Today
This is the Liberian Tanker "Fredericia" on its way from Falmouth to Portland. More on this vessel Here.
It wasn't until I was editing the image of "Fredericia" that I realised there was another ship behind it, the Italian Tanker "Smeraldo" on its way from Le Havre (France) to Barcelona (Spain) More on this vessel Here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

Lytchett Bay Report

Two Owls Birding - Tue, 18/02/2020 - 12:41
Hi all,
This is going to be a short blog just to make you all aware that the 2019 Lytchett Bay Report has been completed and is now on line on the Birds of Poole Harbour website survey page or you can follow this link for a PDF version.
Wryneck © Terry Elborne
The report gives you a summary of the birds, mammals,  invertebrates and botany recorded in 2019 in the Lytchett Bay survey area.
Shaun and myself would like to thank particularly Ian Ballam for his continuous recording in the area and all those that have contributed by sending in their records and photographs either by entering them on BirdTrack, e-Bird, Twitter or directly by e-mail it all adds to our knowledge of the patch.
So a Big Thank You All
Nick, Jackie and Shaun
Categories: Magazine

Something From Nothing

Gavin Haigh - Mon, 17/02/2020 - 22:55
This post is simply a description of the Caspian Gull at West Bexington just over three weeks ago. I thought it might be useful as an example of what it is possible to extract from a rubbish video. Instead of fumbling around with a camera I could have spent another couple of minutes with the scope and then from memory tried to write a description in the field notebook which I don't carry these days, desperately trying to shelter the imaginary pages from the foul weather. But I didn't. I got some jumpy footage instead. I know which I prefer, and I can guess which is easier for a county records committee to assess...

2nd-winter Caspian Gull
Date: 26th January, 2020
Location: West Bexington, Dorset
Conditions: Very strong SW, steady rain, air full of fine spray. Dull and overcast.
Distance from bird: Probably 100-150m
Time: Shortly before 14:00. The bird was in view for several minutes, but probably less than ten.
Other observers: None.
Previous experience: As of 26th Jan 2020, 14 previous Caspian Gulls (11x1W, 1x1S/2W, 2x2W), all on the Axe Estuary, Seaton, Devon; all photographed. My first was a 2W in October 2007.

Initially picked up on the West Bex mere with bins (Zeiss Dialyt 10x40 BGAT) it was the clean white head and breast which caught my eye, belonging as they did to an obviously immature bird. I realised it was a candidate for 2w Caspian Gull, and scope views (Nikon ED82A 25-75x zoom) confirmed. After loafing on the mere with other gulls for several minutes, the bird lifted off and flew into the wind, over the beach and away.

Despite awful weather I really wanted some images, and recorded 1'50" of video on my Nikon Coolpix P900. The video is available here. The following stills are taken from that recording, and illustrate various ID features, as highlighted in annotations or text...

Photo 1
Photo 2Photo 2 shows complete, narrow black tailband, and clean white underparts.

Photo 3Photo 3 also shows dark secondaries. This, plus the complete, narrow tail band definitely rules out 3rd-winter Herring Gull. While I was watching the bird I couldn't remember exactly what HG of this age would look like, so it was a niggling worry at the time. However, 3W HG would have grey, adult-type secondaries with white trailing edge, and just traces of tail band.

Photo 4
Photo 5
Most 2W Caspian Gulls carry a small mirror in p10, and Photo 5 depicts it clearly. Through the scope it was surprisingly easy to see this feature on the open wing, mainly from below because p9 largely masks p10 from above.

The combination of features shown by this bird rules out Herring Gull. It cannot be HG in 3W plumage for reasons outlined above, and 2W HG would not look as clean white on head, breast, belly and underwing. Neither would it be this advanced in moult on the scapulars (usually few grey feathers, if any) and coverts (again, few grey ones) and its tail would have a wider, less sharply-defined terminal band. According to Gibbins et al (2010) a p10 mirror is shown by 1-5% of 2W HGs (particularly argentatus) so any 2W bird which has this feature is far more likely to be a Casp. In addition, there were no anomolous features which might suggest a hybrid origin.

Finally, it is helpful to compare the photos above with the bird in the following image. This 2W Casp was seen in Torbay in November 2015, and three days later on the Axe Estuary, Seaton. Note similar state of moult in scaps, coverts and tertials, the bill pattern, whiteness of head and underparts, and spotted 'shawl' on nape. It all matches the West Bex bird extremely well.

2W Caspian Gull, November 2015
Top: Torbay, Devon (photo: Mike Langman)
Bottom: Axe Estuary, Devon (photo: Ian McLean)

References: Gibbins et al (2010) - Identification of Caspian Gull Part 1 (BB 2010)

Here endeth the description. I realise this kind of post is a'specialist', and if you have reached this paragraph after wading through the rest of it I do hope the above was helpful. If I am jammy enough to find interesting birds in the future I might well do it again.
Categories: Magazine

17 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Mon, 17/02/2020 - 18:41
Penns Wood, St Andrew's Church, Church Ope Cove Wood, Church Ope Cove, Rufus Castle and the Old Railway Track
As Storm Dennis moved on it left a day of sunshine and the occasional shower. It was still pretty windy, but for the most part it was dry.

Not much had changed since my last visit and there are still single Firecrest at Penns Wood and at the back of the cove, where there were also a flock of 9 Long-tailed Tits.

In the wood the male Chaffinches are still in good voice and more Comfrey are beginning to flower.

On the beach were 5 Rock Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, whilst just out to sea were 5 Herring Gulls and an adult Common Gull.

No Wall Lizards seen today, but a bit of a surprise was finding a Tree Bumblebee just below St Andrew's Church on the path leading down to the main steps. This bee normally appears in April!!

And finally another new fly for my list a Calliopum tuberculosum, which was on an Alexanders at the back of the cove.
Here are a few images and a video from today:

Church Ope Cove from Rufus Castle
On the beach the waves were certainly rolling in as you can.........
..........see in this video.
A Herring Gull above and a Common Gull below.
That's twice this year I have seen a Common Gull.........
...........just off the beach at Church Ope Cove.
One of the 5 Herrings picks up a "snack" off the surface.
On the beach were 5 Rock Pipits.
They didn't stay too long as the spray continually swamped the beach.
A Tree Bumblebee was a real surprise. This species normally appears in April, not February!!
This is a Calliopum tuberculosum a member of the Lauxaniidae family of flies............
................... and is found in woodlands and shady moist places.
Birds Recorded: Cormorant, Kestrel, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Common Gull, Wood Pigeon, 5 Rock Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, 2 Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Magpie, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch

Bees Recorded: 1 Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) and 1 Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Flies, Gnats and Midges Recorded: Kelp Fly (Coelopa frigida) and a Calliopum tuberculosum

Ships Today
This is the Maltese Tanker "Eser K" doing some sort of circuit east of Portland!! More on this vessel Here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

The Twitching Thing

Gavin Haigh - Mon, 17/02/2020 - 15:51
Back in the day  I never gave much thought to twitching, I just did it. I kept a British list, and vaguely remember breaking 200, then 300, and that it seemed important somehow. I suppose the first birds I ever 'twitched' were incidental goodies which happened to be on hand during visits to Norfolk and the like. You'd bump into birders and they'd ask if you knew about the so-and-so. A negative response inevitably led to them telling you where it was, and it seemed obvious to simply follow up the tip by going to see the bird. Was that twitching? Debatable I guess. But episodes like this gave Mrs NQS and me some memorable birds, like our first Dotterel, Black Guillemot, Spotted Crake and Buff-breasted Sandpiper back in 1981/82.

Soon came friendship with other birders, membership of the telephone 'grapevine', and a mutual desire to see new birds, especially rare ones. Almost every twitch I remember was in company, when the thrill of anticipation becomes infectious and stimulating. If our dawn raid to see some feathery little waif was successful it was dead easy to gee one another into zipping across country to the next tick...

Though I do remember one vintage jaunt which had a different vibe. A November day in 1983, and I was at Staines Res. A routine visit with routine fare. Alone on the causeway I pondered the fact that I was here, seeing 'nothing', while a Pied Wheatear was in North Norfolk. Also a bonus Richard's Pipit. Both potential ticks. So I abandoned Staines and drove straight to Weybourne, arriving some time in the afternoon. I did see both birds, but my lasting impression of that trip is one of anticlimax. It felt as if I'd gone simply out of boredom, and was probably the first time I wondered if twitching was really for me. Certainly it felt very different on my own as opposed to in company.

Subsequent years saw many more twitches, some absolutely bursting with stress and anxiety, some just blah... Then there was phasing, and dusty optics. And finally a move to East Devon in December 2002, which rekindled something...

Although there have been periods of deep phase in the last 18 years, mostly I have managed to be a birder. But a twitcher??

Well, sometimes.

In fact, if you count local patch birds, there's actually been a lot of twitching! Unless I was in the middle of a phasing spell I would always go to see good patch birds if I could. One or two were lifers, many were patch ticks, but lots were neither. Which raises the question, why twitch a bird you don't in some way 'need'? Hopefully that will become clear...

So, American Herring Gull. If you read the relevant NQS post it is impossible to miss the utterly frantic nature of the 38 minutes between my learning about the bird's presence and my seeing it. They were awful! But why? I don't give a monkey's about my British or any other list. I'm not a twitcher per se. So what on earth elicited such emotional havoc?

Was it the bird? Partially, yes. I twice tried for Matt Knott's Otter bird a decade ago. I really like gulls, and for years have wanted to see AHG in the flesh, if only to find out for myself how distinctive it is, or is not. But I can say this with virtual certainty: had it been in Weymouth I would not have gone. I've nothing against Weymouth, but the place doesn't mean anything to me.

So was it the location then? Partially, yes. The Axe patch unquestionably has a place in my throbby little birder's heart. I love that estuary. It has given me so many super moments, particularly through its gulls. When Steve was describing to me exactly where the bird was, I asked 'On the gravelly strip?' 'Yes,' came the reply. I could see it like I was there. Except I wasn't! Aaggh!

So, a combination of the bird and the location. Was that it? Was that the magic mix? Again, partially, yes. But there was one more ingredient...

In my years in Seaton I was always part of a team, and those individuals - those birding friends - are inextricably tied up with my fondness for the Axe patch. As clearly as I could picture the bird on that gravelly strip in front of the tram sheds, I could picture so much more. I could see Steve, in a state of mega-excitement and stress, desperately willing others to hurry up and get there, and the bird to not fly. I could see Ian, Phil, Kev and others rushing around for their optics and keys, also willing the bird to please, please stay put. And you know what? I wanted to be part of that. Solitary creature that I generally am, I nevertheless wanted to share in that excitement, to get stuck in and be involved in this momentous event on my old patch.

One occasionally sees twitchers getting knocked, and twitching itself dismissed as some kind of less worthy activity. I think this is very unfair. In my experience at least, twitching has rarely been about a number, but rather about a bird, a location, and good company. That is the magic mix, and it can truly be enormous fun. Why knock it? If there's one thing all of us need in this world, it's a bit of light relief...
Categories: Magazine

16 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Sun, 16/02/2020 - 20:00

Not a day for being outside as Storm Dennis made its presence felt. Unlike last weekends Storm Ciara, Storm Dennis was a very wet one, with continuous rain all day long.

This is a screen grab from the Portland Heights Webcam.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine

Always Look at Gulls

Gavin Haigh - Sat, 15/02/2020 - 21:14
Badly misjudged the weather today. I can read a forecast like anyone else, but for some reason I thought we were getting just the odd shower until about 2pm. So I optimistically headed over to Seaton for extra helpings of American Herring Gull. Er...

Storm Dennis was going on. And a storm is a storm. The horizontal deluge, brim-full river and thin supply of gulls quickly persuaded me to make do with just the one massive helping I'd enjoyed yesterday, and go home. I spied a few birders huddled in their cars and silently wished them all the best as I slunk away.

There is no doubt that the Lyme Bay American Herring Gull has been a popular bird. A short video I stuck on Twitter has already been viewed in excess of 4,700 times, and yesterday's NQS post has had something like 6x the usual number of readers. And I'm sure some of that popularity is not simply because AHG is rare, but because it's a rare gull. There are a lot of gull fans out there. And yet...

Gulls are a bit Marmite, aren't they? My own interest in them goes right back to early days at Staines Res, and finding my first London Med Gull there in 1982. The species was actually quite rare in London back then, and a major prize. Fired up by this success I habitually scanned any group of gulls I came across, hoping for another. On 28th November that year I was picking through a distant flock on the drained north basin when a slightly odd bird caught my eye. It was smaller than a Herring Gull, very pale grey, and basically had no white tertial crescent. It was London's second Ring-billed Gull, a 2nd-winter bird. It was also only my third 'BB' rarity, and thus far the trickiest ID challenge I'd been faced with, full stop. Being quite 'new' to gulls I was aware of some features to look for on Ring-billed, but had no idea how much you needed in order to clinch the ID, so just noted everything I could see. Thankfully I got enough, but learned later that the description needed two circulations before it was accepted. A close call.

Thirty-eight years later my memory is a bit iffy, but I am fairly sure it was the virtual absence of a white tertial crescent which stopped me in my tracks and made me look again at that bird. But why would I notice such a thing? Because I had been making it a habit to look at gulls. And when you look at hundreds and hundreds of gulls on a regular basis it soon adds up to thousands and thousands. And that steady parade of familiar shapes, colours and patterns gradually becomes a sort of background noise, against which something different leaps out like a shout. That's my theory anyway, but I think it's true.

One of the local birders present yesterday admitted that he would most likely have looked straight through the American Herring Gull without seeing it. I am absolutely sure I would not have. Like Steve describes in his account of the find, it would have yelled at me from across the river. Why? Because over many years I have looked at countless gulls, and eventually you find that even the subtly different birds make you stop and look more carefully. I cannot always say exactly what it was that caught my eye - in fact I doubt that I consciously think about it - but something did. First-winter Caspian Gulls, I do know what it is. It's the white head. Not just white, but white!

A year or two after the Ring-billed Gull I still hadn't seen a London Iceland Gull, but old London Bird Reports told me they sometimes turned up in reservoir gull roosts. That was something I'd never tried, so began climbing in to Wraysbury Res late on a winter's afternoon and sneaking round to check out the roost. On only my first or second try I found a Glaucous Gull. Win! Just the encouragement I needed in order to persevere. Soon I had my Iceland Gull too. Brilliant! It had a dark mark beneath one wing, and turned out to be a bird which was spending its days many miles away in Berkshire, feeding on a tip. That winter I found one or two more Iceland Gulls in the Wraysbury roost, and other birders began to join me. We even had an adult Med Gull one evening. Bonus!

Back then, as now, I got a major buzz from finding a good bird, and looking at gulls was a great way to increase the potential for that happening. I realise that Caspian Gulls and the like are not as obvious as a white-winger, but the field characters are learnable, and with every manky young Herring Gull that you look at, analyse, identify and discard, you are one step closer to something a bit more special. And then one day a bird will stop you in your tracks, and you will realise you've got something different. Maybe a mild panic as you struggle to remember what features to look for. Then a growing realisation that this actually could be a Caspian Gull. And no 'expert' pointed it out. Not only did you find it yourself, but you can even say why it is one. That is a nice feeling.

However, I do realise that not everyone can be bothered with any of this...

I remember once going into the Tower Hide at Black Hole Marsh. Two or three birders were present, and lots of gulls on the estuary in front of the hide. Among them was a virtually white Iceland Gull. No one else had seen it; they basically didn't look at the gulls. When I pointed it out they did look, but it clearly made little impression. Fine. Each to their own I guess.

But boy, are they missing out! Apart from umpteen scarce and rare species to get excited about, there are other things. Like migration. Loads of gulls migrate, and noting the arrival, departure and passing-through of various species adds another facet of interest. And colour-rings. Many gulls are marked with plastic colour-rings which are designed to be read through binoculars or a scope. Recording and reporting them, and getting feedback on an individual bird's history, adds one more facet. And did I mention about the rare and scarce thing? Oh yes, I did. Well, it bears mentioning twice. Because if you don't bother with gulls, then this becomes a possibility:

You won't know what a Pallas's Gull is.

And if that's true, then this becomes a possibility:

Heart-attack material
One of the above could be sitting in the flock right there in front of you, and you would be totally oblivious. And if that's true, what is the point of living????

One day some poor soul is going to be hospitalised as a consequence of finding one of these in Britain. If I am the one destined to suffer this fate, so be it. I am ready.

And if you always look at gulls, you will be ready too.
Categories: Magazine

15 Feb 20

Martin Adlam - Sat, 15/02/2020 - 13:16
Chesil Beach and Portland Marina

With the arrival of Storm Dennis just a few hours off, it was off down to the marina to make sure that all the mooring ropes were tied off on "Star". En route I stopped off at Chesil Cove, just to see if anything had been blown in. There were certainly a lot of gulls, mainly Herring Gulls and the odd Great Black-backed Gull, but not a lot else.

As I walked along the pontoons towards "Star" there were 2 male Red-breasted Mergansers feeding close-in. However it wasn't until I left that 3 Great Northern Divers appeared. A "pair" were tight into the boulders in front of "The Boat that Rocks" restaurant and a lone bird was right at the back of the marina. Unfortunately the weather really deteriorated and all sorts of error messages were appearing on my camera. I was amazed it still worked as the rain hammered down.

Here are a few images and videos from today:

The Environment Agency keep an eye on the approaching storm at Chesil Cove.
As the waves begin to crash onto Chesil, so the gulls work their way along the churning surf for a morsel or two.
A Great Black-backed Gull makes its way along the beach.
Here another Great Black-backed Gull makes its way out to sea.
An adult Herring Gull, one of many along Chesil.
Just a few waves crashing onto the Chesil. Later when the wind speed increases, I should imagine these waves will be a lot higher up the beach.

In the marina were these two Great Northern Divers.
Possibly a pair!
Further out in the marina another Great Northern Diver.
Also in the marina were these..........
..........2 male Red-breasted Mergansers.
The Red-breasted Mergansers were only on the surface for a few seconds, before diving back down in search of a meal.
Birds Recorded: 3 Great Northern Diver, Cormorant, Shag, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------On this day..........2019
Today's Sightings Here.
Today's Sightings Here.
Categories: Magazine


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