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Showing posts from January, 2019

KIngfisher in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

KIngfisher in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

We are blessed with some wonderful chalk streams and rivers in Dorset and they are undoubtedly a prime nesting environment for kingfishers. In winter, however, kingfishers tend to move downstream nearer to the sea where, I assume, the fishing is better. The records in the Nature of Dorset database show this seasonal movement quite well with inland records from sites along the Stour and the Frome and then clusters around the outlets of these rivers into Poole harbour and Christchurch harbour. There are also sightings along the Fleet and at the mouth of the River Wey at Radipole in Weymouth; indeed kingfishers nest at Radipole. Records for the breeding season from April to July are few and far between and this will be due the their nesting locations not being heavily watched sites together with the birds being more active at this time of year and they seem to spend little time stationary but always on the move and more likely to be missed…

Redwing in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Redwing in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Redwing are very definitely bad weather visitors to Dorset. They come, usually with their cousins the fieldfare, every winter but the colder and more severe the weather 'up north' the larger the numbers we see here in the soft south. They are members of the thrush family who they nest in Scandinavia and far northern places and a trip to Dorset in winter is an escape from the tough winter conditions that set in up there in autumn and winter. As the weekly chart shows clearly you can expect to start seeing redwing from week 40 (early October) until week 12 (end of March) the following spring. To see one outside this time frame is very unusual. There is no specific peak in reports caused through regular migration; peaks in redwing sightings usually coincide with bad weather. You can encounter redwing almost anywhere in Dorset in winter. Most often they will be in hedgerows and in isolated trees near farmland. They are ground feeding bi…

Lapwing in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Lapwing in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

One of my earliest memories of nature is my father taking me out into the New Forest near Beaulieu where we lived to see the lapwing nesting in a bog there; that was back in the 1950s and times have changed. The lapwing is now a scarce nesting species in southern England and I am not at all sure any nest in Dorset. They were connected with Tadnoll not so long ago but I am pretty sure the attempted nest failed and they have not been back since. I may be wrong, I may have missed more recent news. Whilst lapwing can be seen in Dorset through much of the year reports are few and far between with just small number of tweets each week. The weekly chart is quite unusual as it shows between 1 and 5 reports most weeks but in week 9 this rises to 33 in March. There were also far more records in 2018 than 2017 and that spike in reports coincides with the bitterly cold 'beast from the east' and shows how bitter weather will force birds to move…

Mediterranean Gull in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Mediterranean Gull in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The mediterranean gull is one of those species, like the little egret, that was a real rarity here forty or so years ago but are now well established here and breeding in favoured locations. I remember going to Titchfield Haven in Hampshire one Saturday in the early 1970s and was surprised to find thirty or so 'birders' there. On enquiry I discovered they had come to see one of the first mediterranean gulls to be recorded in Hampshire; a photograph of it subsequently appeared on a book produced by the Hampshire Ornithological Society with details of all the species recorded in Hampshire. I think the book was called "The Revised LIst of Hampshire Birds"; sadly my copy has long since gone from my library as I must have loaned it to someone and never got it back. The 'med' gull is now resident in Dorset and breeds on the Brownsea lagoon and possibly at other sites too. As the weekly chart shows rarely a we…

Sanderling in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Sanderling in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The sanderling is a delightful little wader best known for its habit of running up and down sandy beaches as the waves come in seemingly trying not to get its feet wet! Whilst they can be seen in many coastal locations they do have a marked preference for sandy beaches and that is where their name originates from. The sanderling is not that common in Dorset but it could not be considered scarce either; they certainly do not breed here. They are primarily a passage migrant species although some do spend much of the winter here if conditions do not get too severe. A look at the weekly reports chart shows two peaks for sightings, one in spring and the other in autumn. The spring influx picks up in week 17 at the beginning of May reaching a maximum in week 21 at the beginning of June before falling away and then there is then a gap of about four weeks before the return flow starts which is then well under way by week 30 in July and goes on …

Green Sandpiper in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Green Sandpiper in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The green sandpiper is rarely seen in large groups, they seem to be solitary individuals although sometimes half a dozen or so might be seen together in suitable habitat. They are very fond of muddy scrapes with nearby cover and do not seem comfortable out in the open on the mudflats at low tide along with other waders.  This is not a breeding species in Dorset of course, like many waders the green sandpiper is generally seen on migration tending to arrive here, stay a while and then move further south when the weather deteriorates. The weekly chart shows this quite well with a good number of reports from week 24 at the end of July continuing through until week week 35 at the end of September. Reports continue to come in over the winter at a lower level with few sightings in December through until the end of April when reports dry up as the birds are return north for the breeding season. There is little sign of a spring influx so, …

Red Kite in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Red Kite in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

When I started out 'birding' back in the 1970s I was told we have resident species of birds (robins, blackbirds, etc) and migrant bird species; those that visit for the summer (swallow, house martin, etc) and those that visit for the winter (dunlin, brent goose, etc). Now I am a bit wiser! Birds need to eat and birds have wings and so birds can move to find food in bad weather; obvious isn't it? The red kite could be considered a 'resident' species as it is seen in Britain all year round but, like many other birds, when the going gets tough the red kite gets going; when the snow comes the red kite goes because it has to to survive. In Dorset the red kite is certainly a vagrant species even though it is seen regularly but as far as I am aware, although they could well be breeding in the north of the county, they could not be considered resident. The weekly reports show that you can encounter a red kite at virtually any …

Hobby in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Hobby in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The hobby is famed for following flocks of migrating hirundines on migration with the small birds providing a constant supply of in flight meals for the predatory hobby. The hobby is also famous for its ability to catch dragonflies in mid-flight, quite a remarkable achievement. Both of the these features I think show through in the reported sightings of these spectacular birds in Dorset. The hobby is a summer visitor to Britain and they start appearing in Dorset from week 13 in early April but the main influx of spring birds seems to occur from week 17 in May to week 24 at the end of June. Many of these early reports will be of birds moving through to more northerly locations but some will nest in Dorset hence reports throughout the summer before autumn migration picks up in August with the peak for reports coming in September and with them all gone by week 43 in mid October. September is, of course, the prime time for migrating swallows and…

Avocet in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Avocet in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

I have a soft spot for the avocet! I try not to have favourites in nature believing that all creatures and plants are beautiful in their own way as part of the rich diversity of life our world currently offers us but, that said, the avocet has to be one of my 'top ten birds'. When I started birding back in the 1970s the avocet was uncommon in the south of England, indeed rare, and I still recall seeing my first avocet in 1981 in Pagham harbour in Sussex. Thankfully they are now almost common place in Dorset coastal areas in winter with large numbers, well over 500, to be seen gathered together in feeding flocks on exposed mudflats at low tide. Whilst they are seen on the Fleet and in Christchurch harbour the main wintering population is to be be found in Poole harbour; reports from other sites would tend to be birds on the move as they do not appear to generate reports other than just one off casual records every now and again. As wi…

Great Northern Diver in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Great Northern Diver in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The great northern diver breeds in the Arctic and migrates south for the winter. Most birds seen in Britain come from Iceland although some come from Greenland and even as far away as Canada. In winter they are a frequent sight around the northern shores of Britain and Ireland and a small number venture as far south as the Dorset coast where they are seen in variable numbers each year. They are not numerous here but, as notable birds, those that are here generate a good number of reports from local birders. They start to appear in favoured Dorset locations around week 46 which is early November and they remain until the following May although reports seem to start to diminish from week 5 at the beginning of February. A couple of odd reports have been seen from as late as June but this is certainly not the norm and are probably non-breeding birds but even they will head north at some point and you would not expect to see one du…

Yellow Wagtail in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Yellow Wagtail in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The yellow wagtail no longer breeds in Dorset, it hasn't done for quite some time now, however it is frequently seen on passage during migration from Africa to its breeding sites further north in Britain and Europe. I say on its way to its breeding sites but actually, when you look at the weekly reporting chart you see that it is far more likely to be recorded in autumn on its way south rather than in spring going north. This is not unusual amongst passage migrant species; in spring they have one objective, to press on homeward, set up a territory and raise young. It seems that apart from dropping down for a quick snack they are not going to hang about here in Dorset when they have important work to do. The autumn is a very different scenario; they have plenty of time to make the journey south and whilst there is ample food supply here in Britain there is no incentive to move quickly on. This means that when they reach the Dors…

Brent Goose in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Brent Goose in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

The harbours of Dorset are important wintering havens for Brent geese and their arrival in autumn is a sure sign that winter is approaching. There are actually two different races of Brent goose that you can encounter in Dorset, the more common dark-bellied and the much scarcer pale-bellied. The dark-bellied race nest in Siberia and northern Russia and come to the east and south of England to over winter whereas the pale-bellied race are from Greenland and Spitsbergen and mainly spend their winters in Ireland but a small number end up here in Dorset each winter, mainly to the west along the Fleet. Because most tweeted reports do not differentiate between the races I make no attempt to separate them in my database of records. The weekly reports chart show that small numbers of early arrivals start returning about week 34 in late August but the main return seems to kick off a couple of weeks later in week 36 in September and they are the…

Redshank in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Redshank in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Whilst not the most numerous wader on the Dorset coast the redshank is probably one of the most common; by common I mean most frequently and easily seen. Like many waders they are found on tidal mudflats where they feed on exposed mud at low tide and the natural harbours of Dorset and the Fleet are ideal habitat for them. The distribution map shows this quite clearly with virtually all reports coming from the various sites in Poole and Christchurch harbours and from points along the Fleet shore line. Redshank can be seen all year round as the weekly reports chart clearly shows and it is interesting that there are more sightings in the second half of the year; especially from week 25 to 35 and I am left to ponder why this might be. This chart is saying that the most reports are in June and July during the wader breeding season and yet it is believed very few pairs breed at sites in Dorset. The answer may lie in the vagaries of Twitter repo…

Great White Egret in Dorset: what your tweets tells us ...

Great White Egret in Dorset: what your tweets tells us ...

It is not that long ago, maybe four or five years, that a great white egret sighting in Dorset was quite unusual and would create a bit of a stir but not any more. They have been seen quite regularly on the Somerset levels for a while now and I understand that they are now starting to breed there so to have over wintering birds in Dorset is no longer that surprising. It remains to be seen whether their colonisation of Britain is as dominant as their smaller cousin, the little egret. The weekly reports chart show the frequency at which this species is being seen with records during the non-breeding months from around week 26 (mid-July) through to week 17 in early April. They are pretty much absent from 18 through to 25 presumably whilst away breeding so it will be interesting to see if that gap is maintained this coming summer or whether we start to get sightings as younger birds stay with us or even if they start to breed here. I…