Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

It may be cold outside but before long spring will be here, with all the delights it brings.

Comma
Buff-tailed Bumblebee
Orange-Tip
Speckled Wood
Blue-tailed Damselfly

During our walk at Rochester riverside, we saw some strange things buried in the river bed.

just wish they would!

A winters day and a chance for some birdwatching in Kent with Keith. Our first stop was a housing estate in Strood, which is now becoming a regular spot for a wintering flock of Bohemian Waxwings, a Scandinavian bird which only comes to the UK in years when the berry crop on the continent is not enough to sustain them. Some years there are huge eruptions with many hundreds or even thousands of birds coming over the North Sea. This is not one on them and this winter there has only been a handful in the South of England, so we wanted to take the opportunity to see if we could catch up with them. We had to wait over an hour, but eventually, the group of 6 birds dropped into their favourite feeding tree and stayed for about 20 minutes before flying off.

After a break in a local cafe for lunch, we made our way down to the River Medway at Rochester looking for Common Sandpiper, a species which winters on this stretch of river. As the mud was exposed on the falling tide there were Northern Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Common Redshank feeding on the mud together with Mallard and a single Little Grebe.

Mallard
Common Redshank

Then out from one of the little creeks came a Common Sandpiper and we got close views as it began to feed.

Common Sandpiper

As we walked along the riverside to the Railway station we saw a second Common Sandpiper. A good day with both target species seen well.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Bohemian Waxwing [sp] (Bombycilla garrulus)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Mute Swan

Posted: February 6, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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Looking through the photos taken at Gravesend last month I came across this one of a Mute Swan, which I really like.

In Gravesend on the River Thames today for an RSPB meeting so Keith and I arranged to meet early and go for a walk along the promenade to see what was about on the river.

The River Thames at Gravesend

As we walked along the riverside, there were groups of Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud.

Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwits with Black-headed Gulls

Nearer to the fort, there were some Common Redshank

Common Redshank
Common Redshank

As we walked into the riverside park a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew over attracting the attention of one of the resident Carrion Crows which harried it till it flew on. The lake contained only a small party of Moorhen and the sheltered gully only the usual residents.

As we walked back towards the town, a man was feeding the Black-headed Gulls and the Mute Swans and a couple of Common Gulls were present.

On one of the peirs, we spotted a small party of Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Naturelog 18 January

Posted: February 1, 2019 in Birds, Dorset, Natural History, UK
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Although the weather forecast promised heavy rain and strong winds, the morning dawned clear and bright and so sue and I set off for the RSPB reserve at Arne. This reserve is situated on a peninsula in Poole Harbour.

Corfe Castle from Coombe Heath

Walking out on Coombe Heath we had a brief view of a Dartford Warbler as it flitted across the path. Reaching the first viewpoint, we had a sighting of a Eurasian Spoonbill as it flew into the reed-bed.

Middlebere Channel

In the Middlebere channel there were around 100 PiedAvocets; 50 Brent Geese; 20 Grey Plovers and 30 Black-Tailed Godwits plusCommon Shelduck and Eurasian Wigeon. A number of Little Egrets were seen flyingaround the channel.

Middlebere Channel

After lunch, the promised weather seemed to be moving in and so we headed back to Weymouth.

Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] (Platalea leucorodia)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Grey Plover [sp] (Pluvialis squatarola)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

Portland Harbour from Sandsfoot Castle

A lovely sunny winters day and I started out at SandsfootCastle looking for Divers. As on Tuesday, there were Great Crested Grebe andBlack-necked Grebe but no divers.

I then walked the Rodwell Trail (the route of the oldWeymouth-Portland Railway line) and added some common birds such as Wren andGreenfinch.

Sandsfoot Castle from the Rodwell trail

At Ferrybridge, a large group of Red-Breasted Mergansers and Black-headed Gulls had obviously located a shoal of fish and were feeding frantically. On the high tide roost there was a party of 30 Brent Geese, whilst on the Fleet, there were only some gulls and a small party of Red-Breasted Mergansers.

The Fleet at Ferrybridge

After meeting Sue for Lunch at the excellent Chesil Beach Cafe, we went to Radipole RSPB reserve to have another look at the Ring-necked Duck and see if I could get some photos, but alas it was asleep tucked into a bank of reeds. However, whilst we were standing there watching it a Yellow-Browed Warbler flew into the reeds in front of us and flitted from reed to tree and back again, calling repeatedly, in the frantic way that seems characteristic of this species.

Yellow-Browed Warbler
Photo by Dave Curtis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/davethebird/)

Brant Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Black-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps nigricollis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Naturelog: 16 January

Posted: January 29, 2019 in Birds, Dorset, Natural History, UK
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A dull, overcast and wet day which didn’t bode well for birdwatching so Sue and I set out in the car. Our first stop was at Portesham village, a known area for Western Cattle Egret. As we drove along we saw some white birds in a field. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop until some distance later when we pulled into the entrance of the Sewage Works and was able to look back with the telescope and confirm that they were Cattle Egrets.

Cattle Egret
Photo by Doug Greenberg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dagberg/)

Our next stop was Lyme Regis Harbour and our target birds Black Redstart and Purple Sandpiper. As we walked along the harbour wall we saw 3 Rock Pipits and a few Ruddy Turnstones but there were no roosting Purple Sandpipers. I scanned the sea out from the harbour and was surprised to find a Red-Necked Grebe, a number of which winter on this part of the coast.

Lyme Regis
Rock Pipit
Photo by Steve Herring (https://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_herring/)
Red-Necked Grebe
Photo by Dave Inman (https://www.flickr.com/photos/79254232@N08/)

The rain was now coming down hard and so we retreated for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Afterwards, with the wet weather not abating, we decided to call it day and head back to our cottage in Weymouth.

Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Red-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps grisegena)
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)

Started the morning at Sandsfoot Castle on the north side of Portland Harbour.  There are a distant pair of Black-Necked Grebe in the harbour and a small raft of Red-Breasted Merganser. In the gardens around the castle there are a large flock of House Sparrows.

View from Sandfoot Castle looking towards Weymouth

Sandsfoot Castle was built in the reign of Henry VIII to protect the entrance to the harbour.

View from Sandsfoot Castle looking towards Portland

Walking west along the north side of the harbour, there are more Red-Breasted Mergansers. I reach Ferrybridge and check the high tide roost but there are no waders or geese only gulls and a Meadow Pipit.

Bowleaze Cove

In the afternoon, Sue and I went to Bowleaze Cove looking for Short-Eared Owl which winters in that area. We didn’t see one but did see two Kestrels and a Buzzard. On the sea was a raft of 20 Mediterranean Gulls. 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Black-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps nigricollis)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Naturelog:14 January

Posted: January 24, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
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Today’s location was the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake. This area of reed-bed and open water is just upriver of the mouth of the River Wey. It starts in the town and follows the river north from there.

My first location is the main channel, where a Ring-Necked Duck has been wintering. This American bird is one of a handful that have made their way across the Atlantic to the UK this winter. I was fortunate to see one only last month in Kent. After some searching I find the bird with a group of Tufted Duck (a close relative) and although I get an excellent view sadly it is by looking through a bank of reeds and so impossible to get any photographs.

Ring-necked Duck.
Photo by Alexandra Mackenzie (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mizmak/)

Having seen the star bird on the reserve, I make my way to the reserve centre to see what other birds are around and to get a hot drink as it seems rather cold this morning. From the window of the centre, a Water Rail is seen flying from one reed-bed to another. A single Mediterranean Gull is amongst the commoner gulls roosting on the perches around the centre.

Great Cormorants

Walking through the reed-beds it seems very quite apart from the occasional song of the Cetti’s Warbler. On some open water there is a group of Great Cormorants along with Common Pochard, a pair of Gadwall and a large flock of Tufted Duck.

Tufted Duck

Continuing on to the North screen, there is a group of Eurasian Teal along with a single Little Egret. At least 3 Western Marsh Harriers are seen over the reed-bed.

Mute Swan
Mouse
Northern Shovellor

Turning south again and retracing my steps towards the river mouth and harbour, I choose this time to walk down the western side of the river. A Grey Wagtail and 3 Little Grebes are welcome additions to the day’s list before seeking out another hot drink.

Little Grebe

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)