Friday, 29 May 2009

Acres Down

My exam went better than expected (I think) so Sam and I decided a trip out to the new forest was in order, acres down specifically.

We decided to look for raptors first but nothing other than the usual buzzards.

There is a small pool of water down to the left as you walk to the raptor watch point which I have always thought should hold more life and today it came up trumps!!

A family with about 5 juv pied wags were feeding around the edges and chose one log in particular to sun themselves on. I was able to crawl round and hide behind a ridge about 3 metres from them and spent some time photographing their behaviour, it was awesome and I didn’t want to leave! Here are a few of the shots but I took over 200 and got around 50 keepers!!

And finally this unusual pose:

Swallow were frequently coming to drink but not in the sun, a photo challenge for another day..

Also here a few damselfly species but the kings of the air were the broad bodied chasers which were clattering together all the time. It wasn’t until I ‘cunningly’ shoved a stick into the mud that I was able to get a photograph:

At one stage a grey heron looked like it might come down but saw me and soon changed its mind!! This place looked perfect for spotted fly but no luck there :-(.

On the walk back to the car we heard redstart alarm calls and noticed 2 crows on a dead tree and went over to investigate. After the crow left it was clear a pair of redstart were nesting in the tree and to say thank you for scaring the crows away they then brought food back whilst we watched – fantastic!!



We then went to see the wood warblers and over the course of the walk heard at least 6 singing males. In addition to this we had brief (hence terrible photo) views of a grass snake and found several common toads:

There were also good numbers of song thrush about with this youngster being rather friendly:


Other highlights included:

Watching a poor adult marsh tit rushing about feeding 3 youngsters

Distant female goshawk being harrassed by a crow

Several common lizards

Lots of redstart in additions to ‘our’ pair.

All the best!


Monday, 25 May 2009


Finally caught up with a new forest nightjars, or as my non-birding house mate thought they were called 'nightrags', last night.

endured all the 'orrible biting flies (and there were loads) whilst hearing alot of puring and getting a brief flash of a woodcock after picking up it's call. Snipe were also heard displaying and tawney owls were calling in several directions.

At about 10pm just as we were giving up we heard the squark of a nightjar in flight and looked up to see the bird gliding over to where there were several purrrrrrrrrring. after a little while we heard the wing clapping of a displaying male which was fantastic!!

No pics of the bird im affraid, was too dark!
Another highlight was watching house martins collecting mud, but light was rubbish at this point so nothing good :-(:All the best!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

My Concrete Jungle

Over the past couple of weeks I have not had the chance to get out birding because of exams (apart from this morning for the black winged pratincole, see next post down) and have therefore kept a keen eye on the local birds.

Although I share a house with 4 other lads down a very built up road in Portswood Southampton there is still something to be seen every day.

In the small privet hedge in the grassless back ‘garden’ a Blackbird and a Dunnock pair successfully raised at least one chick each:

Dunnock parent:
and fledgling:and blackbird fledgling:

Swifts seem very common and are always screaming through the streets during the summer months:

Our house backs on to an awful ally way, burnt out cars, fly tipping etc and yet when walking through it I have seen starlings, house sparrows, goldcrests (which have nested in the next doors small conifer) and the biggest surprise was a grey wagtail which was seen once during the winter months.

Raptors are represented by a regular female sparrowhawk and today a pair of buzzards were soaring high over the city and our house courting each other:

One of the local crows did not take kindly to this:

Green woodpecker and song thrush are often heard calling as well as gulls.

House sparrows nest in most of the gutters and the fence post right outside my bedroom window is often used to ‘flycatch’ from, which is most interesting.

Last summer a female mallard was even seen walking down the path on my road with a train of chicks running along behind, I think they must have taken a wrong turn as there is no water nearby…

On the reptile front just down the road my house mate once found a slow worm on the pavement, which was quickly placed into a bush out of harms way! Completely unexpected with so little green space immediately close (apart from the bush!).

All the best,


revision relapse - black winged pratincole

Having not gone to see the crested lark because of revision I felt really tested by the presence of the BW Pratincole and eventually gave in!

Leaving Southampton at 4:50am I headed over to Stodmarsh where I met Ed taylor around 7am.

We didn’t know the area but headed in the general direction towards where it had been seen and eventually at about 8am found marsh hide where it has been seen most mornings from 8:30am onwards.

Whilst trying to find the hide we saw roughly 4 turtle doves and there were plenty of blackcaps around, still no garden warb this year though :-(.

Highlight of the walk there however was the booming bittern, fantastic!! Having never heard this before Ed and I were both very excited and could even hear another one whilst watching the target bird later on, one of those unforgettable moments!

Lots of the common warbs in general and many reed bunts:

We waited until around 9:30 when the bird finally started showing. Relief!! We were beginning to think this would be our first big dip, something which is bound to happen soon but NOT today!! Only it’s head could be seen at first but eventually it came out into the open and was jumping up at passing flies!! What a sight, here is a record shot hand held digiscoped using Ed’s camera: (as you can see it was a fair way off and heat haze played havoc)

At around 10am the bird flew off hawking insects which was fantastic to watch!! Prepare yourself for the worst ever shots of a black winged prat:

Finally a shot of swan before we started our walk back to the car:

On the way back we saw loads of hobbies and they reminded me why they are my favourite bird as they caught insects on the wing right above us:

Also of note was this HUGE caterpillar. I’m not sure of its identity but it was about 4 inches long living (no sign of feeding) on reeds near the marsh, it looked like this:

Any ideas?

Great day and after a tired drive home, highlight of which was a service station perperami, I was ready to start my revision for the day at 1:30pm……..but didn’t, and still haven’t…maybe I should?

All the best, and no more birding until after exams now!!!


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Portland Bill

Day trip to Portland today, hoping that in light of recent happenings something would reward our early awakening....

This was not really the case apart form a single female redstart and a decent fall of wheatears:(heat haze was making things difficult for photographing them)

Linnit seemed very active as usual:I did get a couple of year ticks in the form of turtle dove and swift:We did meet the finders of the eastern bonelli's warbler who gave us a tour of some of the hotspots on the island, which was very kind and I'm sure will benefit us in the future. On the walk we saw an adonis blue:many willowchiffs as usual:They also told us about a good spot for wall lizards, and they really did perform (lizards, not the guys):Finished the day off nicely with this albino lesser scaup:Or possibly an albino american back duck...we weren't completly sure... :-P