Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

The morning dawned bright and sunny and I made my way to the north west side of Portsmouth harbour and the town of Portchester. I started my walk just south of the town and walked south towards the castle.

Portchester Castle

There were Redwings in the trees surrounding the water meadows plus a single Blackcap, presumably an overwintering bird rather than an early migrant.

On the mudflats were Oysercatchers, Redshank, Curlew and a single Greenshank.

Deeper water remained further out into the harbour and here there were Red-Breasted Merganser, a Slavonian Grebe and a Great Northern Diver.

Slavonian Grebe.
Photo by Anthony Pope (https://www.flickr.com/photos/4gyp/
Red-Breasted Merganser
Photo by JP Newell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpnewell/)

As I retraced my steps towards Portchester a Common Kestrel eyed me from its perch before flying off.

Common Kestrel

Sparkling Starlings

Posted: March 13, 2020 in Birds, Natural History
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When I was at Southsea, I saw these Starlings. The combination of the sun and the rain brought out their plumage to its best effect.

A few days in Portsmouth and a chance to explore the large natural harbours that are found in this area of southern England.

Arriving in Portsmouth in the early afternoon I made my way to Southsea seafront.

On the rocks below Southsea Castle, there is a winter roost of Purple Sandpiper, an uncommon wader which is a winter visitor to the UK and is only found in a few places in Southern England.

The waves are battering the rocks, but I manage to find 2 Purple Sandpipers braving the waves (there have been up to 12 there this winter).

Originally today had been a trip with RSPB group to a new location in the Midlands to see what it had to offer, but the recent bad weather and flooding caused a last minute change of plans and instead we travelled north east towards the Suffolk coast and the RSPB reserve at Minsmere.

We made good time from London and arrived at about 9.45. I would normally walk the whole reserve which consists of two circular walks centred on the visitors centre but today I chose a different approach and concentrated on the sea and the wader scrape. In particular I was looking for a Green-Winged Teal, an American Duck. It is a species which has evaded me over the years and so I was determined to see it today.

So I did the circuit of the scrape and there were lots of other of other ducks to see including a female /immature Smew, but sadly the Green-Winged Teal eluded me again. However, there was plenty else to see as I watched in vain and counting up at the end of the day I had seen 54 species on the reserve (plus 5 other species seen in the local area) which is a good species count for any trip. Other highlights were an excellent view of a basking Adder and a close encounter with a Muntjac.

Storm Dennis had passed (well almost) and a chance to get out and visit the London wetland centre in the hope of seeing a wintering Bittern.

I followed my normal route ending up at the Tower hide. The first hides had their normal selection of waterfowl. There were a number of Great Cormorants of the European race (as opposed to our normal Atlantic race) noticeable because of their white head markings.

From the Tower hide some fellow birders put me onto a Sparrowhawk perched on a fence. There was a deal of discussion about this bird due to the highly visible white patches on the wings and it was decided it was probably one of last years young.

Sparrowhawk

No Bittern emerged on the main lake so I set off to reservoir lagoon where two had been seen the previous day. It was to be an afternoon of quick views as a Kingfisher flashed over the end of the lagoon. As time drew on, I suddenly noticed a movement off to my left and focused quickly enough to see a flying Bittern disappearing from view below the vegetation on my side of the lagoon. Not the best view so will have to try again another day.

A trip to the RSPB reserve at Dungeness in East Kent with Bexley RSPB group. The reserve is on a large shingle ridge which has been built up over the years and has then been used for gravel excavation leaving a series of pits which have now filled with water.

Main pit with Dungeness Power Station in background

Our first stop was the ARC pits – the highlights here were a couple of male Goldeneye amongst the commoner ducks and a patrolling Marsh Harrier over the reed-bed. This is often a good spot for Great White Egret but not today.

We then move onto the main part of the reserve. It seems very quiet, a common complaint this winter as there does not seem to have been the usual influx of winter migrants into the UK. One exception is a male Smew and I set off to find it on one of the pools. I have not seen one for a few years now as they have become less and less common in the south-east of the country so this is a real treat. Eventually, with the help of a few other birders, we locate it on a channel on the far side of a field and we have good views through the telescopes.

Distant Male Smew
Male Smew (taken at Slimbridge Wildfowl Collection)

The main pools were very busy, but only with Great Cormorants. I was told there are over 3000 on the reserve, which is I was told a all time high. The seemed to take up every tree and every island.

I did find a small party of Black-tailed Godwit on one small island and saw a very close male Goldeneye.

Not the highest total of species but the male Smew was the highlight of the day

Following the blow through by Storm Brendan mk2, the following day again dawned bright and sunny and we had one last full day before heading back to London.

So we went to the RSPB reserve at Arne, situated on a peninsula which projects into Poole Harbour. At the visitor’s centre, we spent some time watching the feeders with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Coal Tits being the highlights. After a wonderful breakfast in the reserve cafe, Sue and I set out for Shipstall point. At the hide overlooking the channel, we saw a party of 20 Eurasian Spoonbills, a large group of Eurasian Curlew plus Avocets and Common Redshanks. A variety of Duck were also present including Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Teal and Shelduck. A Peregrine Falcon flew over the marsh before heading in the direction of Poole and on our way back to the centre we flushed a male Sparrowhawk.

Our next stop was at the Boating Lake at Poole Park where a Great Northern Diver had been reported earlier in the day. We spent sometime looking but could not see it. However, Red-breasted Merganser and Goldeneye were present on the pool.

The day after Storm Brendan blew through the south-west dawned with abright sunny morning.

I started the morning at Sandsfoot castle overlooking Portland Harbour. Surveying the harbour there were a number of gulls, a couple of cormorants and a Great Crested Grebe but no sign of the Black-necked Grebes or Divers that use the harbour as a wintering spot.

I continued along the Rodwell way towards Ferrybridge. This path is the old Weymouth to Portland railway line which has now been converted into a pedestrian and cycle path stretching from Weymouth to Ferrybridge. Near the sailing club I noticed three grebes lazing on the water. A view through the telescope confirmed that these were 3 Black-necked Grebes.

A female Eurasian Stonechat was a welcome sighting as this species seems to be in decline around the UK coasts and a once common bird on coastal walks is now seen far less frequently.

As I was approaching Ferrybridge I saw a diver in the harbour. It was quite distant and so I cannot be absolutely certain of its identity (2 species are regular seen within the harbour) but the lack of a large head and bill and the dark colouring suggested that it was most likely a Black-Throated Diver.

Arriving at Ferrybridge there was a small group of Red-Breasted Merganser on the Fleet plus a Little Grebe. On the shingle bank about 120 Brent Geese were roosting from the high tide. Later this moved down onto the mudflats as the tide receded. Strangely there was not a single wader on the mudflats today.

Spent the morning at the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake in the centre of Weymouth. As I left the visitor’s centre a Cetti’s Warbler called from the reeds and by the stone bridge a female Bearded Reedling was trying to cope with the reeds swaying in the wind. At the northern scape a male and a female Marsh Harrier were seen fling above the reed bed.

As I walked back to the centre the rain began to start falling and the winds became stronger, the first front of Storm Brendan which was due to reach Dorset in the afternoon.

Spent the morning at the RSPB reserve at Lodmoor, just outside Weymouth.

On the islands, there were about 12 Common Snipe along with some common waterfowl.

As I walked down the western edge I was surprised to find a Black swan, This bird is native to Australia, so all birds encountered in the UK are escapes from bird collections.

Apart from around 50 Lapwing, the only other wading bird was a single Common Redshank. In with the flock of Black-headed Gulls was a single Mediterranean Gull and a couple of Common Gulls. In the reed-bed, a couple of Water Rail were heard calling and a flock of Common Pochard were seen on the northern pools.

In the afternoon Sue and I went to the cafe at Chesil beach for afternoon tea, which also gave me the opportunity to have a look on the southern end of the Fleet, where there was a Little Egret, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers and about 30 Dunlin.

The Fleet at Chesil