Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Twenty years on …

My first visit to Weymouth was twenty years ago this weekend. The future Mrs D and I drove down in her mum’s Mini Metro and stayed with her Grandfather in Coronation Road just over the road from Radipole nature reserve.

My notes show it was hot and sunny. They also show male Garganey, Temminck’s Stint, Sanderling, and Grasshopper Warbler at Radipole. At Lodmoor there was a male Pintail, and at Portland Bill a Redstart, 3 Whinchat, and a Wheatear. At Ferrybridge there was Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Turnstone and c10 Little Terns.

The big change from today is Radipole. Twenty years later, I went round Radipole (26th), and saw lots of Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and a few Sand Martins. There were Ruddy Ducks and Little Egrets are common now, so those are new. But basically Radipole is a shadow of its former self. The cause is well known; the water level has risen, and the Environment Agency is not persuaded of the benefits of the RSPB’s plans to restore the reserve to its former glory. Otherwise not much has changed. I missed Quail and Bluethroat at Portland, so that certainly hasn’t changed.

Back at Ferrybridge on 28th this year there were lots of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin. In addition, some Sanderling, a Shag on a bouy, and some Little Terns too.

Saturday 26th May Hardy's Monument

First observation of the day was a dead Slow worm in the middle of Weymouth. It’s not every day you see one of those!

Then we went to Hardy’s Monument at Blackdown Hill just north of Portesham. This is a favourite spot of ours, as there are a number of walks that go from here and most of them have ancient features – Round Barrows everywhere, a few ancient stones, defences etc. so Mrs D gets the ancient history, I get some birds, and if the wind blows then you can’t here the sound of children moaning about having to walk a few hundred yards.

Birdwise it was unremarkable with the usual Buzzards and Swifts, but a Hobby slipped silently past to liven up the day.

Back at the car park we bumped into the energetic Andrew Duke who owns and runs the car park. He point out to us the Needles on the Isle of White visible in the distance, Start Point in south Devon, and was looking for one of the Malvern Hills – sixty miles in all directions! It occurred to me later that this would be a good spot for raptor watching in migration time. With an excellent mobile cafĂ© I think I might be spending a few more lunch-times up here soon. Here’s the island of Portland from the Hardy Monument.

Then it was off with the family for some traditional sea-side entertainment.

Lodmoor Friday 25th May evening

As a rule there’s always one bird of note at Lodmoor and today it was a Greenshank. There’s always a few in Autumn but a spring one with a spangley back is always nice. Otherwise a couple of Ringed Plover, and a party of ten Dunlin looking fabulous in full summer plumage very close in. I didn't notice the enormous worm in the Dunlin's beak until I looked at the photos back home.

The Common Terns are back in force, but I couldn’t get any decent photos – surely there will be a chance later in the year to get some decent photos.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bat scan

Finally converted my bat files, analysed them and compared to the files that came with the software, and .... I think they were Pipistrelles. I've attached the scan below, and the rapid regular signals with the frequency around 45Khz I think is typical. Its fun to hear and see the sound of them hunting and then the bat give a blast of ultrasound to get the prey. Here's the sample from the scan software with my comments on top.

Anyone with more (ie any) experience who can comment pls pitch in.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bat Watch

I bought a bat recorder recently (a BatBox duet). Last night I went back to Gilston to try to record some bat sounds.

Myself and D#1 stood by the lane down to the Marina and waited for the bats to appear. At 9:05 pm the first one came down the lane from the village, and a slow procession continued until we had counted 9 come from the village down. By 9:30 there was a regular flow of bats up and down the road.

The recorder was great – easy to use, fits in the pocket, and was giving us a clear ticking sequence as the bats approached. A sonic burst coincided with a bat flipping round in mid-flight to catch its prey. Finally we went back to the car, and the recorder alerted us to another bat round some trees, and we caught a glimpse of it round our heads. On a number of occasions we would have missed bats without the recorder.

I’m still none the wiser what the bats were. The peak (lowest sound) recording frequency seemed to be around 30 KHz, but was audible over a wide range of frequency settings. I managed to record a several bursts of the full spectrum onto my MP3 player, and on return got them onto the Laptop, but before I can analyse them with the Bat diagnostics program I need to convert the file from .wma to .wav first.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stortford Hoopoe Twitch

I don’t generally do twitching. It’s not that I have anything against it; its just that with my type of birding – usually tucked in at the start or end of the day – its not feasible. Also, I think you start the day with an ideal list and then measure how far you fall short, whereas if you just go out, everything is a plus.

And if I’m honest, when I do go twitching I become a person I don’t particularly like; nervous, tense, short with people, just generally unpleasant and irritating.

Bishop’s Stortford has been host to a Hoopoe recently. I hadn’t been partly because I’d seen a couple just a few weeks ago on Rhodes, and partly for the above reasons. But I was up early and had a spare hour, and got to Grange Paddocks just after it had been located searching for ants on a football pitch, and it disappeared at 8:15ish – just in time to get to Waitrose at opening time!

There are lots of excellent photos of birds on Surfbirds and on the local sites - links on the right, but here’s mine, and of a Mallard duckling that was with its more usual mottled brethren.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lodmoor Saturday evening

7:15pm – 8 :15pm. Bright evening with N breeze:

All the action happened at the start and end. When I arrived, a flock of 20 Blackwit’s appeared from the distance and ended up on the main pool on the southern edge. There were a further sevenish Dunlin there, and a close-up Barwit but sadly not the brick-red variety. Finally as I was leaving three Whimbrel dropped in. In between the usual warblers (Cettis/Sedge/Lesser ‘throat), with good numbers of pied wagtails, swallows, swifts, and waterfowl.

The light was fading, so a bit of help from Photoshop needed here.

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in sea...