Autumn is coming to a close

...and now sets in the arduous task of birding through the winter. Someone genuinely said this to me the other day, I asked if he was stupid, though fortunately he thought I was being sarcastic. I love winter birding... and with that in mind.

Autumn is dropping off at a slow pace, reaching it's gasp in to winter and if you believe the express we'll probably be in a new ice age by December. I must admit it's been a rather extraordinary Autumn, I've now experienced my first as an assistant warden, essentially birding everyday and it's gone from the truly sublime to the ridiculous, pardon the cliche but who'd have thought, a Radde's Warbler in Andover! So, the Autumn... I guess it's a case of highlights in pictures, most things have been written about, especially the night of October 1st. That was a very special night and will live with me forever, so good in fact that reliving that night for this post brought a tear to my eye just thinking about the excitement I was able to share with some of my best friends.

There were more birds, more finds, probably more pictures but this outlines just how good my autumn has been!

Dusky Warbler

Icterine Warbler

Melodious Warbler

Radde's Warbler

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Common Rosefinch

Sabine's Gull

 Semipalmated Sandpiper

 Spotted Crake

Undoubted Highlight - Thrush Nightingale

Short-toed Lark


Yellow-browed Warbler

Part of 180 Balearic Shearwaters in an hour

Richard's Pipit

Little Gulls with a Big record...

This morning dawned with an air of anticipation, the overnight rain was starting to abate and the first few hardy thrushes began to rise from their soggy roost. It was obvious from the outset we'd had an arrival of Blackbirds, appearing from the top of nearly every high bush, Redwing were fairly numerous too, their "seepings" a nice accompaniment to the morning. 2 hours in the field didn't really produce much more than a better idea of numbers, a walk along the east cliff in the hope of a rare Wheatear was also fruitless, the weather, improving all the time finally had cleared enough to see more than 100m, scanning the sea revealed a rather unexpected Great Skua, then another, and another followed closely by a Pom! I relayed this back to the obs where seawatching had begun with the increased visibility moments before, quite a large number of Kitts were moving westward, what i didn't notice was the numbers of Little Gull beginning to stream by (I wasn't being blind, just fixated on finding a rare passerine!) I finished the walk and returned to the obs. Some really large flocks of Little Gull had moved through, as had quite a few more Great Skua, another Pom and Several Arctics. Determined not to be gripped off Top fields were my next port of call, 35 Song Thrush, 8 Redwing, 3 Fieldfare and 22 Blackbird greeted me in Helen's Fields, A Golden Plover was grounded here too and the highlight, a Corn Bunting, flew from under my feet! Still reeling over the Gulls I continued scanning the sea from the top, 52 Common Scoter, several more Great and Arctic Skua were seen so I had to go back and seawatch for a bit. Taking over the "incoming" position from Martin who'd gone to the bill to photograph the passing birds I was immediately able to call a flock of 32 Little Gull, and then what seemed like and endless stream of 117! It continued in this vain until the weather closed again and visibility was limited. Our lunchtime tally stood at 1001, and with a Little Auk being found in Chesil cove we decided to leave just one person counting. A bit of jam used up and we were very fortunate to see the Little Auk as within a few moments of our arrival it flew off! We ended the day with a massive sense of achievement, the previous Bill record for Little Gull stood at a few over 100, so with today's count of 1138 it took a serious battering!

"Eastern" Lesser Whitethroat

Shortly after discovering yet another Yellow-browed Warbler yesterday at Avalanche Road, I was also lucky enough to find an "Eastern" Lesser Whitethroat, though if I'm honest my knowledge is very limited when it comes to the curruca subspecies, although a portrait of the bird was posted on the the PBO website, i've uploaded here a larger selection of images, showing a bit more detail. Unfortunately the bird was never heard to call, however, if it is still present today we will persevere with recording equipment.

You make your own luck

I'll be honest, when I'm birding I'm not interested in counting stuff, taking note of what's around or talking to people. My sole intention is to find stuff, something not recorded for the day, something interesting or of note, or something rarer than rocking horse sh*t! Sunday I found myself waking up late at my mums after a rather beer fueled evening, even with the late start I was itching to get out and use my new bins, we're all kids at heart... Fortunately my mum's is next to Anton lakes LNR so the decision was taken to head there for an amble around, "hey, there might be a Yellow-browed there" I thought to myself. The weather was overcast with very little wind, by the time I was at the reserve gates I'd already seen 298 Redwing and 16 Songthrush and a Firecrest in the orchard so things were going well! There's a nice unused track following the stream, i've always liked it because of the undergrowth is just about birdable, as I walked around the corner something flushed and began calling, fast and repetitive "peoot peoot" Fuck! Radde's Warbler!!! before doing anything I recorded the call, I was then able to see the bird and I was correct in my ID, I phoned around the local birders and then the bird went national, I hadn't even photographed it! fortunately though, it showed for me one more time before the crowds appeared... 

It was inevitable...

We had to admit, it was bound to happen... our Yellow-browed Warbler duck was broken yesterday with a bird calling shortly after dawn. Unfortunately it was a little bugger and vanished pretty quick! This morning prof had an equally brief view of one in the front garden, again just after dawn, irritatingly it wasn't then seen until 11:30, yet another brief sighting before I was handed a bird bag and told i should go and ring it...

 Check out those un-worn tips!

Lighouse attraction

Typically, when Glen visits most evenings end up in some way debauched, sometimes early in the evening allowing for a nice recovery, though sometimes it goes on to the small hours I we all wake feeling hideous the next day. Fortunately though I might have grown up a little bit and do seem to be able to sneak off to be before ending up too rotten! Yesterday evening was no different, though when Peter popped outside and alerted us to a Lighthouse attraction I sobered up very quickly. My first impression of the flashing lights in the beams were of aircraft, we were all soon told that they were in fact birds buzzing around the main light, dazzled by the beams! Martin and I shot down the bill to observe it a little better, Loads of Robins, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, LRP, Greenshank, Dunlin, Song Thrush, Yellow Wagtail and Snipe were all heard calling in the gloom, One bird even perched up on the railings! An incredible experience, and fortunately what looked like no fatalities. Once tucked up in bed I thought I was dreaming when someone exclaimed "I just caught a Wheatear in the porch"... Turns out I wasn't as it's sat next to me this morning!

Also from last week I managed to continue my run of garden form with a nice Juv Common Rosefinch ringed on Thursday...

Recently it's been rather quiet...

Not been up to much, a few seawatches have resulted in a couple of Long-tailed Skuas, quite a number of Balearics but not too much else. The land has been equally as quiet with virtually no scarce migrant of note. I popped over to Devon yesterday evening to Black-hole Marsh for this Spotted Crake...

Keeping a blog is almost as hard as keeping a notebook.

Before I came to Portland I always kept a notebook, Okay a pretty scruffy thing which I could decipher but not anyone else, my first couple of months it kept going nicely and then, without any thoughts of it I just stopped filling it in. I still have a rough notebook for fieldwork but that's all, the Black and Red no.2 is now gathering dust in my room, strange really. The same can be said for my blog, It's not as though there's nothing to write about, I'm birding everyday and this is a birding blog!

Anyway, enough rambling, what have I been up to? Corncrake was added to my British list on Saturday, it took 4 hours work and numerous attempts but it finally decided to have a fly around just before dusk. A bird which should be seen in Scotland but I'm sure this was just as exciting if not more so! Amazingly it was a tick for quite a few of us that evening including Alan and Nicky Pomoroy who are currently staying with us, an Ortolan Bunting was nicely pinned down for us to enjoy in the afternoon too. Semipalmated Sandpiper was also a new addition last week, It was seen at Abbotsbury Swanery, a very pleasing and confiding bird.

 Ortolan Bunting

 Semipalmated Sandpiper and Dunlin (2)
  Semipalmated Sandpiper
 Semipalmated Sandpiper and Dunlin (2)

This autumn is already starting to shape up nicely, with Corncrake, 6+ Ortolan Bunting, 4+ Icterine Warbler, 10+ Wryneck and loads of common migrants with Whinchat being particularly well represented, the sea by contrast has been rather disappointing apart from the huge Balearic day count of 384! It's getting on for that time now, fingers crossed...

I know it's not THAT rare... but another self-found tick

11AM: It's pretty hot, the sun is shining and there really isn't much going on, net round after net round drew blanks and I'm getting close to giving up, a quick cuppa and a hot sausage sarnie got me going again and decided another hour or two wouldn't hurt.

11:55AM: The penultimate net, I flushed a Warbler from the low bushes, and it dived head first into the net, Result! Taking it out I realized it's Identity down to 2 species but actually they seem so much harder to separate in the hand, especially with a nice amount of adrenalin about to kick in! In the comfortable surrounds of the Ringing hut though it was straight forward, Wing of 78, enormous projection and a pale panel much more visible. Icterine Warbler! Ageing was simple, still fresh feathers with no real ware so a bird of this year, and technically a Juvenile due to Icterine Warblers only beginning post-juvenile moult when they reach their wintering grounds. Exciting Huh!

Tapping into a little east coast magic...

It's not very often that you have a week where there's just too much going on to keep up, being that all we do is just swan around birding, obviously...

Sunday dawned pretty decent, it looked pretty promising for a few birds though again as with the previous few days things didn't pick up until the afternoon... Who said this was a morning Observatory! The top fields were given a proper smashing which provided a few Pied Fly, Whinchat, Redstart and Wheatear. I bumped into Brett Spencer, he casually mentioned that it was about time Portland had another Icterine Warbler, 15 minutes later I was legging it to the 8 Kings Quarry to see one he'd just found! However it didn't show for me until about 90 minutes later (after I'd gone back to the obs) but fortunately the bird porned it for a good 20 minutes before disappearing until later in the day.
Monday, again had the feel of rare about it, though again it took until just after midday for the first decent bird to show itself, a Wryneck was found in the Obs Quarry, which showed well after about 10 minutes, though it became elusive soon after.
Then very shortly after that man Brett struck again, this time in partnership with Julian Thomas, they'd had a rather dashing 1s male Ortolan Bunting on the East Cliff, unfortunately though my search for it drew a blank. Tuesday though brought me the hat trick, after not really getting much in the morning I headed up to the top fields and soon after was greeted by "plip plip plip... teuw" ORTOLAN! maybe Monday's bird, maybe another self found, I'll never know!

Ringing ticks have been coming thick and fast this week, although I don't keep an actual "list" I do know what I have and would like to ring, right up there was Wryneck...

2 weeks pass and all you get is a Weekend that was!

Apologies for my lack of posting just recently, I fear sometimes that the urge to blog is like some peoples attitude to work, you know you could but your just too bone idle, and it gets on peoples nerves.

I've been sat on snippets of this post for about a week now, never quite having enough interesting pictures to go with the egotistical "I did this, I did that" Fortunately though having just had a pretty busy weekend - not much birding involved, a little bit of mothing, a large amount of drinking, there's some pretty pictures to go with this one, though not the one of me half cut in a bar! Friday's journey home was somewhat eventful, the usual 90 minute drive took nearly double that, although the entertainment derived from impatient idiots whilst stuck in traffic kept the spirits up! When at home I don't normally get too much chance to go birding, mainly due to the large amount of socializing involved, because I'm always up a long time before anyone else I run a moth trap, this weekend was no different and notched up 10 ticks including Maple Prominent which turned out to be a tick for everyone here too! A rather nice array of Micros were caught to including this rather brilliantly named Firethorn Leaf Miner... 

Driving home on Monday morning was not the best trip, an enormous hangover coupled with lots of traffic I decided to head down to Pennington for the Long-billed Dowicher that has taken up temporary residence. It showed really nicely upon arrival with 2 Knot, Lots of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit (inc 1 Continental bird) and a few Redshank. Also of note in the area was LRP, Gropper, Grey Plover, Yellow Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and a few Clouded Yellow butterfly. Back at the obs this morning good numbers of Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipits flew over, also a Tree Pipit and Pied Fly were trapped.

 Pied Flycatcher

Tree Pipit
Long-billed Dowicher with Mallard and Knot 

I've been trying to think of what content could top Monday's post, I soon realized that it just wasn't possible, it was potentially a once in a lifetime write up, probably. Bird wise this week has been a little on the quiet side, although a small fall of migrants on Tuesday and Wednesday was welcome, ringing 102 birds on Tuesday including 61 Sedge Warbler was probably the best bit. Being a sucker for punishment I headed out Tuesday night to catch waders, I caught one, a rather scruffy Dunlin.

Today was pretty quiet, so quiet in fact I decided to twitch a Red-crested Pochard, so far a bird I hadn't caught up with in Dorset, today though changed that...

We've had a few nice Moths this week too, mostly from Martin's trap at the grove.

Gold Spot, Dewick's Plusia and Wormwood.

Cornwall... FEA'S PETREL!

Saturday 3rd August; BBC Weather was on constant refresh, as was Met Office and Magic Seaweed. I phoned Julian Thomas mid afternoon, he also conveyed his interest and arrangements were made to drive through the night and grab a few hours sleep in the car.

Sunday 4th August- Porthgwarra Carpark 3:30AM We'd arrived an hour and fifteen beforehand but I still couldn't sleep, turns out Vauxhall vectras aren't as comfortable as a Fiesta or 206 but never mind. I think by the time 5am cam around I'd slept for about 30 minutes, it didn't matter though, it was time to wander up to Gwynapp head. Fortunately on arrival there was only one other chap on site which gave us chance to pick our spot, i turned out it wasn't as wise as first thought... A few showers began passing after an hour or so but this didn't dampen our spirits, we kept plugging away and our first large Shearwater, a Great, was making it's way west. Very soon after I picked up a Cory's Shearwater which was my first for quite a few years, and another Great Shearwater was then seen. The first of the really heavy rain pulses moved through and I realized I was not in the best position and took an absolute soaking, wet optics, wet clothes but not wet spirits a Great Shearwater passed marvelously close, only problem was I couldn't see the thing!

9:04AM: Possible Fea's, Possible Fea's, Possible Fea's, IT IS A FEA'S!!! 
The next 25 seconds were pure adrenalin, anguish but then elation! after initially not getting on to it, I realized I was looking too far off and suddenly it was there, "**** it's that close!' for the next minute or so the enjoyment of this near mythical species off Great Britain was beyond anything I can describe, for many of us on the headland it was a tick, a tick I thought one day I may get from a pelagic, never from land. Punching the air has never felt so good, I just couldn't contain myself, it seemed neither could anyone else!

3:16PM: I was really struggling and had to give up for a cup of tea. Below are my totals for the day, although I missed a few/didn't look, things like Balearics and Sooty Shearwaters are a little unimportant when there are Large Shearwater to be seen!

Fea's Petrel 1

Cory's Shearwater 14

Great Shearwater 31

Long-tailed Skua 1

Balearic Shearwater 32

Sooty Shearwater 12

Storm Petrel 7

Bonxie 4

Arctic Skua 1

Common Scoter 8

Puffin 2

Chough 3

Razorbill 1

Guilimot 2

Med Gull 2

Monday 5th August 11:44AM - I still can't calm down.

Little birds, Many moths

 Very little of note when it came to birds today, apart from a small flurry on the sea early on things just didn't seems to get going, it as though been very warm and sunny, just how we like it! 55 Common Scoter, 15 Manx Shearwater, 12 Balearic Shearwater and on the land 10 Sedge Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler, Black-tailed Godwit and singles south of Whimbrel, Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper. Ferrybridge waders hovered around the same, although a slight decrease in Dunlin; 150 Dunlin, 39 Ringed Plover, 14 Sanderling, 13 Oystercatcher, 5 Turnstone, 3 Curlew and 2 Black-tailed Godwit. In contrast the overnight moth totals made up for our lack of birds with migration/immigration really getting going again; 103 Xylostella, 12 Silver Y, 5 Noctuella, 2 Rusty-dot Pearl a Cream-bordered Green Pea and a Pine Hawkmoth, At Chesil this afternoon 2 Clouded Yellow were on the wing.

Cyneda dentalis ©Joe Stockwell and Black-tailed Godwit at Ferrybridge ©Pete Saunders