Sunday, 24 September 2017

Stilt Sandpiper, Lytchett Bay - 21st September and Pennington Marsh 22nd September

On the afternoon of 21st September I was driving along the A30 past Poole and was aware that the Lodmoor Stilt Sandpiper and been relocated at Lytchett Bay, being only 25 minutes off route I couldn't resist popping in (information on birding the area can be found here). Parking on Seaview Road I walked down Slough Lane and scanned the pool just off the bottom of the lane. There was no sign of the bird here but there were two Green Sandpiper, a Greenshank and six Black-tailed Godwit. I wandered on to French's Pool where three birders were gathered and they reported no sign of the Stilt Sandpiper. I set-up my scope and scanned the flooded meadows here seeing Black-tailed Godwit (25), Greenshank (10), Dunlin 175 and Teal (75) with a Peregrine flying through. In the closest flock of Dunlin were three Little Stint and two Curlew Sandpiper and I enjoyed good views of these, my first of the Autumn. News then broke that the Stilt Sandpiper was on the pool on Slough Lane so the assembled birders (now eight) paced back to the pool where the Stilt Sandpiper was quickly located feeding amongst Lapwing, but no sooner had I got my scope on it when it took flight and flew around the pool before settling again. I again just got the bird in my scope when it took flight this time heading east and seemingly settling in the salt marsh. This was the last time the bird was seen and it has not been reported subsequently at this site. We scanned the pools where two Ruff and four Green Sandpiper plus a Marsh Harrier were present and then I decided to head off. I was somewhat disappointed with my views of the Stilt Sandpiper, while I saw it briefly I did not get a chance to study the plumage of this juvenile bird, the first I recall seeing of this plumage, and certainly didn't get a chance for any photographs. There have been 33 accepted British records of Stilt Sandpiper with an additional 16 in Ireland, of these only eight were juvenile, this age is genuinely a rare bird in the UK.

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper - French's Pool, Lychett Bay, Dorset

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper - French's Pool, Lychett Bay, Dorset

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper - French's Pool, Lychett Bay, Dorset

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper - French's Pool, Lychett Bay, Dorset

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper - French's Pool, Lychett Bay, Dorset

Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper - French's Pool, Lychett Bay, Dorset

On 22nd September I spent a couple of hours after dropping Tobias off at school at Pennington Marsh. It was pretty slow going with 32 Tufted Duck now on Efford Lagoon, 17 Pintail, 75 Sand Martin, 50 Swallow, two Spotted Redshank, two Yellow Wagtail and one Sandwich Tern amongst the usual selection of common waders and wildfowl.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Pennington Marsh and Grey Phalarope on Hayling Island - 17th September

In a chilly north-easterly wind I was once again at Pennington Marsh. The morning started with a beautiful low lying mist but in the sunny conditions this soon burnt off.  By 08:00 it had turned overcast and for the first time this season I wished I had put an extra layer on and gloves in my pockets. Walking out past Fishtail it was remarkably quiet with no waders but for 25 Lapwing and a handful of Redshank on the pool. The four regular Black Swan were initially on Fishtail Lagoon but were spooked and flew east.

Dawn over Pennington Marsh

Three of the four Black Swan

Scanning across the marshes I picked up a distant Whinchat and a Wheatear. I decided to turn east and head through the Bramble scrub along the southern bank of Butts and Jetty Lagoons hoping for a Wryneck but it was pretty birdless. Scanning over the now cut marshes to the south of Shoveler Pools there were at least 150 Meadow Pipit that had been put up by a passing Kestrel. Wandering out to the seawall I turned east for a short way to scan Pennington Lagoon but there was little here. Scanning to sea produced seven Sandwich Tern and a large flock of perhaps 500 Black-headed Gull feeding offshore. A passage of hirundines eventually picked up with around 350 House Martin, 20 Sand Martin and 50 Swallow moving east. There were still small numbers of Yellow Wagtail with three moving west over this morning. On Jetty Lagoon there were 55 Black-tailed Godwit and 68 Teal, it was feeling remarkably slow and I began to think I might be home early. On the seawall a small flock of eight Yellow Wagtail were showing nicely and I spent a little time watching them although they remained too distant and flighty for any photos. Approaching Butts Lagoon I picked up a small wader in flight and knew immediately that it was a Grey Phalarope, it flew towards me and dropped below the reedline on the southern edge of Butts Lagoon so I changed my angle to get a view along the reedline but by the time I had walked along the seawall it was nowhere to be seen. I put the news out on the Hampshire birding text system and within about 15 minutes I could see Steve Piggot marching along the seawall but at this stage I had not relocated the bird. Steve and I then spent at least 30 minutes looking for the bird but with no luck and we concluded that the bird must have flown. Splitting up, I had only walked a short distance before I heard Steve shout that he had refound it and as I ran back to him I expected to see the bird spinning on the lagoon but Steve had lost it when he had turned to shout to me. We started scanning with no sign of the bird and once more split up. After a further 20 minutes or so I refound the bird where Steve had seen it and watched it for 30 seconds before it flew several hundred metres out into the Solent. I rejoined Steve to find that he had also been watching it on Jetty Lagoon. This was a flighty bird that had clearly just arrived and unfortunately I didn't manage to take any photographs.

We wandered on past Fishtail lagoon where the three Spoonbill were showing well. A scan back out to the Solent produced a small flock of perhaps 15 'Commic' Tern and scanning through we found at least three juvenile Arctic Tern while all the other birds appeared to be Common Tern. A flock of around 50 Black-headed Gull on Fishtail Lagoon also contained an adult winter Mediterranean Gull, a Sandwich Tern and a Common Tern. Keyhaven Lagoon supported a small flock of around 30 Dunlin but little else so I decided to head off.

Adult Winter Mediterranean Gull with Black-headed Gull

Being a little disappointed I had not photographed the Grey Phalarope I decided to visit the bird that had been on the pools at the north end of the Billy Line on Hayling Island. This 1st winter bird had been present since 15th September and had proved to be relatively confiding. On arrival the bird was present on its chosen pools and showed well but perhaps a tad too far and in poor light for really decent photographs, still, I enjoyed this fantastic little bird for an hour and a half before heading for home.













Above images all of the Grey Phalarope at the north end of the Billy Line, Hayling Island. This is a 1st winter bird with dark juvenile feathers retained on the head and upper parts

And this is why the species is called Red Phalarope in the USA - Barrow, Alaska 11th June 2016. See my account of a trip to Alaska here with more photographs from the breeding grounds of Red Phalarope at Barrow here

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Lodmoor RSPB and Portland - 16th September

Sarah was in London with a friend today and so I used the opportunity to spend the day birding. With a Stilt Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper at Lodmoor and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Portland it was an easy decision to make. Unfortunately, the 15th bought news that both the Stilt Sandpiper and the Buff-breasted had departed but Least was a British tick so I decided to go for it. I was up at 04:30 and on the road by 05:15 after a few coffees. Arriving at Lodmoor at 06:45 I walked east along the path to the shelter where after a short scan I found the Least Sandpiper crouching on the mud around 100m away. After a while the bird started to feed showing its features, this was a subtle bird and I can easily see why the finder passed the bird off as a Little Stint. The pale legs were admittedly readily visible but the bird was as bright as a Little Stint with lovely rich buff edges to the mantle feathers, the pale mantle tramlines were perhaps a little less obvious than a Little Stint and with close inspection the virtual lack of a primary projection beyond the tertials could just be seen. The bill appears to be slightly longer and more decurved than Little Stint. After 10 minutes or so a Grey Heron flew over and flushed the bird to the far south-eastern corner of the reserve and after walking along the track the bird showed marginally better feeding with Dunlin. It was remarkably agressive towards the Dunlin and despite its smaller size always seemed to get the better.

Least Sandpiper - Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset

Least Sandpiper - Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset

Least Sandpiper - Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset

After getting my fill of the Least Sandpiper I spent 30 minutes or so birding the southern area of Lodmoor recording Great Egret, seven Yellow Wagtail, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, four Bar-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, 20 Dunlin, three Common Sandpiper, Marsh Harrier and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull

Yellow Wagtail - Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset

Black-tailed Godwit (juvenile) - Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset

Bar-tailed Godwit - Lodmoor RSPB, Dorset

At just gone 10:00 I headed to Portland and parked in the main carpark at the Bill. After stomping around in the grassland to the west of the Pulpit Inn I decided to head for the Observatory Quarry where a Wryneck had been present since 6th September. When I arrived the bird was grubbing around  in the grass feeding on ants and I was hoping that it would hop up onto the brambles but it remained very hidden as it fed mouse-like in the grass. After an hour or so I decided to go for a walk and wandered up over Top Fields and down to the main road via Sweet Hill. It was hot and slow-going, I recorded around 25 Wheatear, a Sedge Warbler, three Yellow Wagtail and a handful of Chiffchaff. Good numbers of Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin were feeding over the Crown Fields. Just as I got back to the Observatory the heavens opened and I took shelter in the bookshop. Once the rains had ceased I decided to head back for another look at the Wryneck and after a short wait it popped up into an Elder and showed brilliantly for 10 minutes as it dried itself in the sun. It was 15:00 and time to head for home after a good day in the field.

Wryneck feeding in the grassland where it was very inconspicuous - Observatory Quarry, Portland

Wryneck  - Observatory Quarry, Portland

Wryneck  - Observatory Quarry, Portland

Wryneck  - Observatory Quarry, Portland

Wryneck  - Observatory Quarry, Portland

Wryneck  - Observatory Quarry, Portland

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Pennington Marsh and Woodchat Shrike at Chipping Sodbury - 15th September

Another beautiful sunny morning at Pennington Marsh and I decided to walk my normal circuit in reverse, first out past Fishtail and to Keyhaven and back past Butts and Jetty Lagoon and finally past Pennington Lagoon and Shoveler Pools. I had much of the morning to spare after dropping Tobias off so my birding was very leisurely. There were very large numbers of hirundine passing west overhead with many hundreds of birds, I estimated 750 House Martin, 150 Swallow and 75 Sand Martin but this was a fraction of the birds and numbers may have been 2-3x this easily. Two Swift were with the hirundines early on and no doubt these will be the last of the year. I was disapointed at how few waders there were on Fishtail but three Spoonbill showed very well as they fished actively in the lagoon. After the recent numbers of Baird's Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper that have been in the country I spent some time grilling the waders and searching the shallows at Keyhaven Lagoon but other than 25 Grey Plover, one Spotted Redshank, one Knot and 12 Dunlin there was little to be seen. There were increased numbers of wildfowl with 12 Wigeon and 25 Teal on the lagoon. In the dead gorse at the back of the lagoon I was pleased to see three juvenile Whinchat. On past Butts Lagoon three Bearded Reedling showed well, a male, female and a juvenile bird. The spit off Butts Lagoon had a good gathering of waders with 75 Grey Plover, 150 Dunlin and four Knot while 17 Sandwich Tern loafed on the mud nearby. Walking out to Jetty Lagoon the female Red-breasted Merganser was still present but an unfamiliar wader call grabbed my attention and as I got onto the bird I was convinced I had something decent but then I realised I had heard the call before but just in a slightly different habitat and I soon realised the bird was a Purple Sandpiper - still, a patch tick so not to be sniffed at.

Spoonbill - Fishtail Lagoon

Spoonbill - Fishtail Lagoon

Spoonbill - Fishtail Lagoon

Spoonbill - Fishtail Lagoon

There are large numbers of Starling around the marshes at the moment, this 
flock numbered around 350


Greenshank - Jetty Lagoon

The Mornings Totals
Teal - 121
Pintail - 2
Wigeon - 17
Shoveler - 8
Tufted Duck - 32 on Efford Lagoon
Eider - 15
Red-breasted Merganser - 1
Swift - 2 
Grey Plover - 100
Ringed Plover - 30
Knot - 3
Lapwing - 45
Black-tailed Godwit - 53
Bar-tailed Godwit - 6
Dunlin - 150
Snipe - 5
Common Sandpiper - 2
Purple Sandpiper - 1
Greenshank - 1
Spotted Redshank - 3
Spoonbill - 3
Sandwich Tern - 17
Bearded Reedling - 3
Swallow - 150+
Sand Martin - 75+
House Martin 750+
Chiffchaff - 2
Goldcrest - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Dartford Warbler - 3
Wheatear - 6
Stonechat - 6
Whinchat - 2
Meadow Pipit - 
Yellow Wagtail - 2


After picking Tobias up from school I had to drop him at Brockworth near to Cheltenham for a sleep-over with his cousins for the weekend. I then headed to Chipping Sodbury Common where a juvenile Woodchat Shrike has been present since 9th September. I have only seen one juvenile Woodchat previously and this was in the 1980's on the Isle of Wight so I was keen to catch up with this bird. Parking on the edge of the common and walking to the area of bramble scrub that the bird frequents it was not long before I located the bird and over the next 1.5 hours I had some great views as the bird fed on cranefly and on one occasion took a Sericomyia silentis (hoverfly) which it swallowed whole - it barely touched the sides. Also here were six Whinchat, three Wheatear and four Yellow Wagtail. At 17:15 it was time to head for home.

Woodchat Shrike (juvenile) - Chipping Sodbury Common, Gloucestershire

Woodchat Shrike (juvenile) - Chipping Sodbury Common, Gloucestershire

Woodchat Shrike (juvenile) - Chipping Sodbury Common, Gloucestershire

Woodchat Shrike (juvenile) - Chipping Sodbury Common, Gloucestershire

Woodchat Shrike (juvenile) - Chipping Sodbury Common, Gloucestershire

Whinchat (juvenile) - Chipping Sodbury Common, Gloucestershire

Friday, 8 September 2017

Pennington Marsh - 3rd September

I had a little time on Sunday morning before I needed to do some work so on a rather cloudy and windy morning I was up early and headed down to Pennington. Walking towards Jetty Lagoon from the car park I heard a couple of Yellow Wagtail fly over and then a flock of six Spoonbill came off the lagoon and flew east. On Pennington Lagoon there were around 30 Teal and two Greenshank. The sea was pretty choppy on the rising tide and with the strong winds it was difficult to scan to sea but around 25 Common Tern and six Sandwich Tern were present.

I spent a short while scanning from Butts Lagoon but other than a small passage of Sand Martin and Swallow there was little to be seen as the waves were breaking over the last remaining areas of mudflat. On to Fishtail Lagoon it was evident that there had been an influx of ducks since my last visit with around 55 Teal and a single Pintail present. Also here were three Spotted Redshank, one juvenile and two non-breeding birds.

Onto Keyhaven Lagoon there around 175 Grey Plover on the lagoon with my first Golden Plover of the season, an adult in near summer plumage and a single juvenile Knot, also my first of the season. There were around 125 Teal and my first six Wigeon of the season and a further five Pintail.

Spoonbill - These all appeared to be juvenile birds

Spoonbill - An adult and a juvenile

Stormy skies over the jetty looking towards the Isle of Wight

Curlew - On the foreshore by the jetty

Curlew - Same bird as above, in heavy wing moult

Black-tailed Godwit on Jetty Lagoon hungering down in the rain

Spotted Redshank, two non-breeding birds and a juvenile (left bird) - Fishtail Lagoon

Juvenile Spotted Redshank  - Fishtail Lagoon

Non-breeding Spotted Redshank - Fishtail Lagoon

Grey Plover and three Dunlin - Keyhaven Lagoon


The Mornings Totals
Teal - 230
Pintail - 6
Wigeon - 6
Grey Plover - 250
Golden Plover - 1
Ringed Plover - 25
Knot - 1
Lapwing - 15
Curlew - 30
Black-tailed Godwit - 125
Turnstone - 75
Dunlin - 150
Snipe - 3
Common Sandpiper - 3
Greenshank - 2
Spotted Redshank - 3
Spoonbill - 6
Common Gull - 2
Common Tern - 25
Sandwich Tern - 6
Peregrine -1
Reed Warbler - 2
Swallow - 25
Sand Martin - 5
Chiffchaff - 6
Whitethroat - 2
Wheatear - 1
Meadow Pipit - 25
Yellow Wagtail - 4