Saturday, 31 March 2012

Another Sunny Day.....

In Dorset this time, at the beautiful RSPB reserve at Arne. An early start again, but well worth it. By the time we arrived at 8, the sun was up and there was not a cloud in the sky, and it remained that way all day. Things were quiet early on, but it didn't take long for the birds to start waking up. Chiffchaff, Green and Great Spotted woodpecker and a small flock of Goldcrest were for starters on the way to and from the heath. Once up there, we were treated to very showy Stonechats, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Woodlarks; the latter being one of my favourite to watch as they spiral from the sky with their unmistakable song. It's a real shame these birds are in decline; heathland like this at Arne is scarce nowadays, luckily there are more and more projects aimed at trying to bring back some of this stunning habitat, and protect the areas that still remain.

Meadow Pipit, Anthus pratensis

This followed us all round the heath, during which time we added Buzzard to the list, and had a fly-over Raven. From the hide overlooking Middlebere lake we had Redshank, Black-Tailed Godwit (starting to get their summer plumage), Teal, Shelduck and a potential but very distant Yellow-Legged Gull. A lone Swallow also shot past the window, my first for the year. Just as we were sitting down to have lunch in the shade up on the heath, one of the target birds of the day flew right past us, a Spoonbill. Not the place I was expecting to see it!
Onto the other side of the reserve, and there was just as much activity from Nuthatches busy lining their nests with moss, Woodpeckers calling and two Mistle Thrush feeding in a field, amongst roughly 140 Sika Deer. A close relative of the Red Deer, the Sika Deer was introduced from Japan, and hybridisation is a concern as populations of the two species meet.

Sika Deer, Cervus nippon

Arne Bay was relatively quiet, with most of the waders already gone to their summer breeding grounds. However, there were still good numbers of Curlew and Redshank, a few Little Egret, some lingering Brent Geese and three Red-Breasted Mergansers diving further out into Poole Harbour. The sound of another spring arrival was also prominent, the Sandwich Tern's "Keerik." Just to round off a lovely day, a Speckled Wood appeared and settled on some gorse for a nice photo.

Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Climping..... or the Med?

A late afternoon walk at Climping felt more like a mid-summer walk on a Mediterranean beach today, as we were treated to more glorious sunshine. Not much in the way of unusual migrants, but there were two year species for me, in the shape of four Common Terns that floated past offshore and at least five Wheatears, including three males which accompanied us on the walk back.

Northern Wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe
Northern Wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe

Other birds around included the obligatory spring Chiffchaff as well as Goldfinch, Greenfinch, and Common Buzzard and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was also heard drumming away. Out on the boulders near Elmer were Sanderling, Turnstone and these two Ringed Plover. May this lovely weather continue!

Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Spring has Sprung!

So it's been nearly two weeks since I've had the chance to get out properly, and how things can change. On Friday at the Wetlands Trust, Chiffchaffs were singing and a stunning Long-tailed Tits nest was found. A morning walk around Henfield Levels yesterday in glorious sunshine was an excellent start to the weekend, with Chiffchaff, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Mistle and Song Thrush and many others in full song, with males chasing females and no less than six species of butterfly seen; Peacock, Tortoiseshell, Holly Blue, Comma, Brimstone and Red Admiral.
This morning started out quite different, a six o'clock start for ringing and it was quite chilly!! This didn't last long, and by lunch time the sun was blazing. The bird numbers at the Mumbles are starting to drop slightly as they all head off to set up their breeding territories, but this didn't stop no less than seven Chiffs being caught, as well as two fine male Blackcaps and the usual others (Goldfinch, Wren,Robin, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit and Great Tit). It's amazing to think that some of the Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs have just arrived having travelled all the way from Southern Europe, and in the case of the Chiff potentially Northern or Western Africa! Then as we were packing up, a Small White flitted past taking the weekend total to seven species of butterfly. With the sound of Chiffs everywhere, and more and more Butterflies appearing, spring is well and truly here. It won't be long until our local flock of nesting Swifts return, the Chiffs are joined by the Willow Warblers and Whitethroats and it'll be time to get the flower I.D book out!

Chiffchaff, Phylloscopus collybita

Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla

Monday, 12 March 2012

Photography Course, Woods Mill

A beautiful weekend and a very informative and helpful course at Woods Mill courtesy of David Plummer, with me finally learning how to use my camera properly. While the object of this weekend was to learn the basics of nature photography, I couldn't help but get distracted by the wonderful wildlife present, which included this lone Marsh Tit which isn't looking very healthy at the moment, a real shame; a Wren in full voice atop a tree, rather unusually and this poor female Common Toad who had attracted the attention of two males, while there were also many calling all along the edges of the small lake! There was also an accidental shot of a Blue Tit, which produced a moment of artistic luck that I was rather pleased with.

Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris

Eurasian Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes

Common Toad, Bufo bufo

Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus