Archive for the ‘Dorset’ Category

Trees of Arne

Posted: October 15, 2018 in Announcements, Dorset, Landscape, Natural History, UK
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During my trip to the RSPB reserve at Arne last month I spent the morning in the woodland to avoid the showers which gave me the opportunity to look at and photograph some of the wonderful old trees there.

It was pouring with rain as I left London, on a RSPB group outing, for the 120-mile journey to Dorset and the RSPB reserve at Arne. Arne is situated on a peninsula which stands out into Poole Harbour, the largest natural harbour in the UK. It has a wondrous array of different habitats ranging from woodland to wetlands and heathland.

Saltmarsh (top), heathland (bottom left), farmland (bottom centre) and woodland (bottom right)

It continued to rain heavily as we passed through the new forest and it was not until we reached Bournemouth that there was a break in the rain, much to the relief of all – birdwatching in heavy rain is not much fun! Arriving at Arne, there was still rain in the air and so I opted for the northern part of the reserve, which contains the woodland and a hide overlooking one of the channels of the harbour. The woodland was quiet although there was a marked passage of Barn Swallows migrating south. At the hide overlooking the saltmarsh, there were 30 Spoonbills. This once rare bird from the Mediterranean area is now established in Dorset and Norfolk, another sign of our changing climate and birdlife.

There were also Oystercatchers, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank and Little Egrets feeding on the marsh.

Eurasian Curlew and Little Egret

Towards lunchtime I made my way back to the visitor’s centre and after lunch ventured south onto the heathland. By now the weather had changed completely and the rain had been replaced by bright sunshine. Heathland is not the most productive of bird habitats but it does provide a home to some special birds and one of these was my target for the afternoon. The Dartford Warbler is limited to heathland habitat. As one of our few resident warbler species, it has been severely hit in past years by hard winters and loss of habitat. Thankfully it does seem to be recovering and in some places like Arne flourishing – 70 pairs bred on the reserve this year. Even in this abundance, they remain a skulking bird and so finding one was not a guaranteed thing.

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Dartford Warbler (adult male). Photo by Dave Curtis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/davethebird/)

As I made my way across the heath, I came across Helen, another of our party who had caught a brief glimpse of a bird in gorse and so we waited. Eventually, we were joined by one of the volunteer wardens and as the three of us waited we saw a small bird pop into a tree. But what was it, it was grey, darker above than below – certainly not the colours of a Dartford warbler. But then it came into clear view and it certainly looked like a Dartford, with its long tail cocked at an angle. It was one of this year’s young – I had never seen a juvenile before. Then there were other birds with it and eventually, 4 flew across to a nearby tree. at least one had the rich colours of a male and so we concluded we had a family group. We watched as they moved from bush to tree and back to gorse.

There was time left for a quick check over the Middlebere channel, but apart from a Shelduck and a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits, there was little to be seen. Then it was time to make my way back to the Visitor centre for a drink before we embarked on the journey back to London.

An excellent day, especially considering the weather on the way down, with Spoonbill and Dartford Warblers, the highlight of the day.

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] (Platalea leucorodia)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Eurasian Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta europaea)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

On the way to Ferrybridge for coffee this morning a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew over the harbour at Weymouth. On the rising tide, a flock of 25 Ringed Plovers together with 3 Ruddy Turnstone and a single Dunlin were feeding on the mudflats. There were only 6 Brent Geese today and a scan through the gulls revealed 4 species but no Mediterranean Gull. There was still a good number of Red-breasted Merganser present. Two Rooks were rather a surprise visitor and a Eurasian Skylark was heard singing.

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Ringed Plover

On the way back to our cottage we dropped in at Lodmoor where we flushed a Kingfisher as we approached the viewpoint. Once again there were good numbers of Common Snipe along with Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwits. A single Mediterranean Gull was present with the other Gulls.

Common Snipe

House Sparrow (top left), Dunnock (bottom left) and Northern Lapwing (right)

Late afternoon we heard that a Eurasian Spoonbill had been seen arriving at Lodmoor so we re-visited the viewpoint and after a few minutes the bird was seen flying from the reed-bed into a ditch out of view. Shortly afterwards it took flight and was seen flying away towards Weymouth.

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Spoonbill. Photo by Joe Pell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pellyutd/)

 

Brent Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] (Platalea leucorodia)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kingfisher [sp] (Alcedo atthis)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

A visit to Ferrybridge today. It was reasonably quiet bird-wise but it was a lovely day and very pleasant as I walked along the Fleet.

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The best sighting was 30 Red-breasted Merganser present at various places along the Fleet. Today only 3 Mediterranean Gulls could be seen with the Black-headed Gulls but the only waders present were 3 Oystercatchers.

Oystercatcher (top left), Herring Gull (top right) and Red-breasted Mergansers (bottom)

Brent Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Today some birding mixed with a trip to Poole. Our first stop was at Hamworthy beach on the north of Poole Harbour. A group of Red-breasted Merganser were present and eventually, a distant Black-throated was located out towards the main harbour.

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Black-throated Diver. Photo by Tony Morris (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonymorris/)

Our second stop was at Poole Park, where a good number of Goldeneye were on the lake together with good numbers of common waterfowl. 7 Little Grebe was a notable number.

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Poole Park

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Common Goldeneye (m)

 

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Goldeneye [sp] (Bucephala clangula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Black-throated Loon [sp] (Gavia arctica)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
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)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Grey Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)

Started the morning at Hamm beach on Portland Harbour, where the conditions were arctic with a strong wind blowing in from the bay. A single Red-breasted Merganser was present along with 14 Ruddy Turnstone and a Meadow Pipit, but no sign of the divers or Grebes that had been frequenting the harbour.

Ruddy Turnstone

A Common Kestrel was actively hunting along the vegetation at the edge of the water and allowed me to come quite close

Walking along the Fleet, an inlet from the harbour, a Male Eurasian Stonechat was active in the vegetation.

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The Fleet at Ferrybridge

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Eurasian Stonechat (m)

A small flock of Brent Geese were by the visitor centre and 40 Mediterranean Gulls were on the high tide gull roost along with Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. Had a distant view of a Black-necked Gull along with a Little Grebe, which gave a good comparator. Also present were 14 Red-breasted Merganser.

                   Meditteranean Gulls with Black-headed Gulls (top), Brent Geese (middle)                         and Red-breasted Merganser (bottom)

In the afternoon I visited RSPB Radipole Lake where along with a good variety of water-birds the highlights were a Water Rail, a Bearded Reedling and 2 Western Marsh Harriers.

Shelduck (top), Great Cormorant (bottom left), Herring and Black-headed Gulls (bottom centre) and Northern Shoveler (bottom right)

Brent Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Black-necked Grebe [sp] (Podiceps nigricollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)

Common Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

The weather this morning could not have been more different to yesterday. Crisp and clear and with the sun shining. I decide to take a walk around RSPB Lodmoor, the local nature reserve. But first a stop at the Oasis Cafe at Overcombe on Weymouth Bay, where a Red-Necked Grebe had been seen the previous evening. But sadly, it is not to be seen this morning. The marshes at Lodmoor are separated from Weymouth Bay by the coast road and the first thing that strikes me is a large number of Common Snipe that can be seen sunning themselves in open view (By the time I had completed the walk I must have seen over 20 of this normally secretive wader).

Other species present include a number of ducks together with a group of Canada Geese and a single Brent Goose. There were 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a group of around 20 Dunlin. On the north side of the reserve, I got a quick view of 2 Bearded Reedlings, but there was no sign of the Greater Scaup which has been wintering on the pools here.

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Canada Geese with Brent Goose (on right)

Robin (left), Teal (top right) and Black-tailed Godwit (bottom right)

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Brent Goose [sp] (Branta bernicla)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Great Snipe (Gallinago media)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
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)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Portland Landscape (3)

Posted: May 30, 2016 in Dorset, Landscape, UK
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I love the rugged terrain and coastline of Portland but also the fact that wherever you go you cannot get away from evidence of the extraction of Portland Stone.

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Sandsfoot castle

Sandsfoot castle

Sandsfoot castle was built in Wyke Regis on the north side of Portland Harbour by order of Henry VIII, fearful of attacks by Spanish and French forces. It was built at the same time as Portland Castle on the southern point of the bay and was completed in 1539. It is said that much of the stone for the castle came from the dissolved abbey at Blandon near Wool.

Looking from Sandsfoot castle towards Portland castle

Looking from Sandsfoot castle towards Portland castle

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During the English civil war it was held by the Royalists until 1644, when following a siege it was captured by the Parliamentarians, who used it as a storehouse. It continued in this role until around 1691, when coastal erosion was threatening to undermine the cliff on which the castle stands. This was addressed by the building of the Portland breakwater in 1849, but by this time the castle was in a dangerous state and had been abandoned.

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It was purchased by Weymouth Council in 1902 for the sum of £150 and Tudor gardens were laid out on the adjoining land and a public park created. It was not until 2009-2010 that in a joint project with a local community trust that funds became available to carry out the works needed to allow public access to the castle buildings.

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Sparrowhawk

Posted: May 25, 2016 in Birds, Dorset, Natural History, UK
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The Sparrowhawk is probably now the commonest bird of prey in the UK replacing the Kestrel which seems to have declined significantly over the past decade. Even so it is most often seen in flight, often soaring to a great height. so, it was really pleasing on the recent trip to Dorset to get a chance to photograph a bird perched on  a deserted building on Portland.

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