Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Friday, 21 November 2014

Didn't expect to see one of these today! ...part deux.

Got a message from my brother Duncan this afternoon to say he'd seen a "massive lizard in the field approaching the Lordleaze Hotel". I nipped over there quickly to take a look, half expecting to see a Green Iguana, which are frequently kept as pets. I met Duncan close to the sight who then guided me back to the spot where he'd seen it. Sure enough, it was still there but unfortunately it was dead and it wasn't a Green Iguana but a 2 ft Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus)! It looked to be a female in pretty good condition judging by the girth of the tail, so had presumably not long escaped from someone's collection - a real shame, such a lovely reptile.

Savannah monitor: R. Harris
Savannah monitor: R. Harris

It hadn't been dead that long and I think the temperatures last night would have been enough to kill it.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Portland Pallas's...

Technically speaking this post should have gone up before the Dusky Warbler but best laid plans and all that stuff. Didn't get down to Portland to see this little beauty myself but Dave Helliar did and soon found the limitations of the bridge camera. Pallas's Warblers are active little chaps and Dave had his work cut out just keeping up with it:

Pallas's Warbler...nearly: Dave Helliar
Pallas's Warbler: Dave Helliar
Pallas's Warbler: Dave Helliar
At last, a whole bird and beauties they are too.
Dave Helliar
Littl Owl, Obs Quarry, Portland: D. Helliar

Closer to home Dave also caught up with one of the local dippers (no not me - the bird):

Dipper: Dave Helliar
Dipper: Dave Helliar
Dipper: Dave Helliar


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Nearly Dipped a Dusky...

When I set off on a twitch I'm always optimistic. I think most of us are, we probably wouldn't bother otherwise.  But I have to confess that setting off to see a very skulky Dusky Warbler on Portland at 12:15 on a mid - November afternoon,  knowing there was a chance of showers and only a few hours of daylight left was pushing the limits of my enthusiasm. Nevertheless Dave Helliar picked me up and we set off to give it our best shot.

Upon arrival it looked bleak. Only a handful of people were present and it seemed only one or two were serious birders, all of the locals having seen the bird over the previous three days. I don't mind photographers but they have a very different agenda to birders, often where conflict occurs at twitches. We heard it call almost immediately and then nothing. One guy who'd seen it earlier in the day insisted on talking to another guy present at an irritatingly loud volume while some of us strained to listen for the bird above him and the passing traffic. He'll never know how close he came to being told to STFU! A long hour passed and it began to take on all the hallmarks of a major dip. I decided to check out another field behind the group and while I was gone Dave picked it up moving along the back hedge of the paddock calling.  Amazingly only one other birder recognised it (or seemed to care) and a few of us moved around to where it had last been heard.  It called a few more times and I had brief distant views before it flew into a large bramble patch in the middle of the field. 

It spent a lot of time in here...

It called again and we moved back to our original location as it looked like it might be doing a circuit.  Sure enough, it 'tacked' a couple more times and then hopped out in the open in front of myself,  Dave and one other birder! It was only on show for three or four seconds about 10ft away before flying into the hedge to disappear yet again. In fact it had the ability to move without been seen and could pop up just about anywhere. By now we'd been there for two hours and didn't anticipate getting better views so decided to call it a day. We also had two black redstarts there.

On the way back we called in at Portland Castle as the light faded to look for the (returning? ) black guillemot that had been reported in the week.  Sure enough, there it was about 250 m away, a lovely bird in flat light and mill pond conditions - best views I've had in a long while.  It even hauled itself up onto a flat buoy giving a brief phone scope opportunity.

Black Guillemot, Portland Harbour: R. Harris

What a great way to end what turned out to be a few hours of great birding.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

White-fronted goose at Abbotsbury

Andy Grinter was in the right place at the right time on Sunday when this white-front showed up at Abbotsbury in Dorset with some Canada geese. Not so fortunate was the dead gannet found on the fleet close by.

White-fronted goose, Abbotsbury: Andy Grinter
Deceased gannet: Andy Grinter
Deceased gannet: Andy Grinter
There were also reports of scaup, long-tailed duck and firecrest but unfortunately the swannery was closed.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Franklin's Gull...

After a busy week away in the 'Big Smoke' I really wanted to get out birding yesterday and decided to try for the long lingering Franklin's Gull, which has been coming in to roost most evenings at Blashford Lakes near Ringwood in Hampshire. I picked up Dave Helliar and we headed out (somewhat later in the day than usual), to try our luck.

We arrived at the Tern hide overlooking Ibsley Water at around 13:30 and it was pretty full even then! A long wait ensued with the bird not expected until just before dusk but at least there were other things to watch including a couple of black-necked grebes, a few goldeneye, gadwall, shoveler, pochard, teal - loads of greylag geese and  a mixed flock of several hundred distant gulls to pick through. As the clock neared half-four and the light started to fade the Franklin's was picked up 600 metres away towards the back of the lake!

They are surprisingly easy birds to pick out once you get your eye on them, the dark mantle and diagnostic head pattern make it 'pop out' but locating it in the first place among so many gulls isn't so straight forward. These are my best shots, taken in fading light on max magnification (x200) - which is why they look more like Renoir paintings if inspected too closely:

Franklin's Gull, Ibsley Water: R. Harris
Franklin's Gull, Ibsley Water...yes, just behind
the other gull: R. Harris

I've seen plenty in Canada but only one previous in the UK so pleased to have connected with it. Nearly up there with Meds and Laughing gulls in terms of looks for me - love 'em.

Slightly more obliging Little Grebe - they
even swim uphill here!: R. Harris

Snow Bunting...

Dave Helliar managed to see the snow bunting that's been kicking around the Dunster/Minehead area for much of the last week. Confiding, as is usually the case, Dave apparently nearly trod on this one before it moved and showed itself! Cracking little birds and always good to see.

Snow Bunting: Dave Helliar
Snow Bunting: Dave Helliar

Also a showy Skylark present too...

Skylark: Dave Helliar
Dave also saw the Dunster Hoopoe but it was such a flighty bird he couldn't get a pic. Also local birding produced Ring Ouzel, a singing dipper and a number of Clouded Yellow.

Helice form of Clouded Yellow: Dave Helliar

Long-tailed Duck

Andy Grinter caught up with the Radipole Long-tailed duck last week and a few other locals too. A scarce bird at Radipole,  this one seems settled there for the time being.

Long-tailed duck: Andy Grinter
Long-tailed duck: Andy Grinter
Teal: Andy Grinter
Teal: Andy Grinter
Wheatear: Andy Grinter