Red-line Quaker now on my life list.

Friday 24th October 2014.

My first ever Red-line Quaker.

A good start to the morning with a ‘lifer’ by the moth box today. I decided to put the moth box on overnight and was beginning to regret it when the rain started to come down about 11pm. The weather forecast for Friday was poor, with heavy rain coming through the south and when looking outside this morning through the back door, it looked as though there was going to be nothing within the moth box.

My first Blair's Shoulder-knot of the year.

While drinking my first cup of coffee of the morning, I was looking out of the back door, checking the birds in and around the garden. Despite the rain, a couple of Meadow Pipits flew over and by the garden, a female Chaffinch flew up to the top of a neighbour’s tree, but was soon pushed off by a stroppy Robin! Four Blue Tits were around my feeder and was soon joined by a Great Tit. A male Sparrowhawk, with prey in its talons, flapped low over the rooftops, heading westbound to devour its breakfast. All this in a space of 5 minutes! Later in the morning, a Chiffchaff was heard calling in the neighbouring gardens.

Angle Shades.

When I noticed it considerably brighter outside, I switched the moth box light off and checked around the box. I found a very interesting looking moth perched at the base of the Conservatory door and looked good for Red-line Quaker, although I have never seen one before, except in photos. Close by, my first Blair’s Shoulder-knot of the year was perched on the fence post and above this, an Angle Shades was present. This was a lot better than I expected as I searched the surrounding area for more moths, but all I could find were Light-brown Apple Moths, which were everywhere.

My second Blair's Shoulder-knot of the morning.

The only macro I found in the moth box was another Blair’s Shoulder-knot, but two in one day wasn’t a bad result. Several more Light-brown Apple Moths were present within the box and nearby, I found two ‘Plume Moths’ – Emmelina monodactyla and Amplyptilia acanthadactyla.

I was tempted into a moth ‘twitch’ today, as the Oleander Hawk-moth had reappeared overnight at Durlston Country Park, near Swanage, Dorset; and was going to be shown to the public all day today. But, low and behold, I have a midday visit to the Dentist to have a tooth out! Bugger! I would of loved to of seen this migrant rarity of moths too. On the back of Hurricane Gonzalo yesterday, there was a plethora of rarities in the UK. A Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Hermit Thrush, Grey-cheeked Thrush and Chimney Swift were all found and God knows whatever else will get discovered as the days pass. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo was still present at Porthgwarra, Cornwall, this morning.

Siberian Stonechat climbs onboard my Hampshire List.

Wednesday 22nd October 2014.

The 1st winter Siberian Stonechat from the Meadow Hide. The bird remained distant and had to be digiscoped.

I have not got Siberian Stonechat on my Hampshire List, so today, I wanted to put that right. After seeing my son in hospital, I took a drive down to Titchfield Haven, paid my entrance fee and took the pleasant walk along the boardwalk to the Meadow Hide to view the bird. I have seen several Siberian Stonechats over the years, but it is only recently that they have been given full species status, along with Caspian and Stejneger’s Stonechat (one turned up on Portland last year). This was to be my 290th species of bird in Hampshire.

Its pale plumage clearly defined it by the nearby Stonechats.

It was an overcast day, with the threat of rain, but the winds of Hurricane Gonzalo had now gone, leaving behind a much calmer day for a spot of birding. The walk to the Meadow Hide produced a couple of confiding Goldcrests in the trees overhead and a female Blackcap came down to a pond to bathe for a while.

I took this photo of the bird using my bridge camera.

The new Meadow Hide, only recently opened, has attracted its admirers and some lucky soul came across a very pale Stonechat among the 17 or so Stonechats present here over the weekend. Thankfully, the 1st winter bird remained faithful in front of the Hide, but always remained distant, frequenting the edge of a reedbed. Getting a half decent photo of the 1st winter Siberian Stonchat was going to be challenging as it was on the move quite a lot and my best photos were digiscoped.

The new Meadow Hide.

This male Stonechat was one of many present early afternoon.

The bird still drew a nice crowd within the Hide and one chap kept a running commentary on the location of the bird, which was handy if you looked away for a while. I counted at least 10 Stonechats present in the vicinity, with many perched on the nearby boundary fence. To be honest, I was only really here for the Siberian Stonechat and didn’t check the nearby fields, although other birders said little had been seen here today.

Toadstools growing on a fallen log.

A few Common Darters were flying by the boardwalk and at least one Migrant Hawker dragonfly was seen. I did come across a clump of interesting Toadstools growing on a fallen tree stump, but no idea what species it was. Earlier this morning, the only moth within my moth box was a Light-brown Apple Moth. However, just inside the back door, a Feathered Ranunculus was perched on the wall. I am going to persist with the moth box into November as there are certain species that come out as winter approaches.

A flock of around 10 very confiding Turnstone were feeding by the roadside.

A nice close up of this smart bird.

Firecrests in the Cemy.

Monday 20th October 2014.

You can just make out that this is a Firecrest, that I found in the Holm Oaks.

Again, there seemed to be a lot of activity within Highland Road Cemetery early this morning and I came up trumps with at least one Firecrest within the Holm Oaks. I could hear several Goldcrests calling away within the trees, then I heard the distinctive call of a Firecrest, but it took a while to find it. Eventually, it gave itself up, feeding in a leafy branch of one of the Holm Oaks, however, it was very difficult to photograph and hardly staying still long enough for a decent photo. Nevertheless, a good year tick here and only the third seen here for me personally. I was pretty sure that a second bird was calling behind me, but was not visible.

Looking up at a Goldcrest.

It was a sunny morning, with a breezy south easterly keeping the temperatures just right. The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo is supposed to hit the UK tonight, with strong gales forecasted. Overhead, Linnets, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch flew over as did good numbers of both Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

The albino Squirrel showing itself again.

The usual Jays were present with at least three seen and Magpie numbers have increased. A pair of Goldcrests were seen in the conifers in the south west corner and at least four were in the Holm Oaks area as well. A Chiffchaff was seen briefly also in the Holm Oaks and another called near the Mausoleum.

I spent most of this morning looking up into the trees. This 1st winter Blackbird was just above my head.

Still no sign of the Green Woodpecker of late, although it can disappear now and then. Most of the leaves have no fallen off the trees and it is quite crunchy underfoot.Squirrels are everywhere, looking for places to store their nuts for the winter and the albino Squirrel was showing well today in the centre of the Cemy. Locally, in Hampshire today, the 1st winter Siberian Stonechat was showing well from the Meadow Hide at Titchfield Haven. Jim Walker went to see it yesterday and also sent me photos of a Sparrowhawk and a Stonechat he saw there. John Goodall staked out the south side of the Iron Age Fort at Old Winchester Hill yesterday and came up trumps with several sightings of a Ring Ouzel.

Male Stonechat at Titchfield Haven. Photo by Jim Walker.

The moth box, this morning, held just a single Common Marbled Carpet and a Feathered Ranunculus.

Female Sparrowhawk over Titchfield Haven. Photo by Jim Walker.

Silver Y & Feathered Ranunculus in moth box this morning.

Sunday 19th October 2014.

Silver Y.

I had the moth box on last night and this morning there were around 14 moths present, of which, 12 of these were Light-brown Apple Moths! There were probably more around but the only macros present were a Silver Y and a Feathered Ranunculus. There was also some kind of wasp present, which I posted some photos on the Facebook UK Insects page for an identification.

Ichneumon Wasp within the moth box this morning.

While checking the moths, there was some ‘vis mig’ going on, which included a couple of Meadow Pipits, a flock of around 20+ Linnet moving east and a pair of Grey Wagtails moving north. Busy day today, which includes seeing my son in hospital this morning, so I am not sure if I am going to get any birding in. I am on the lookout for a new pair of walking boots as the sole of one of my boots was nearly off yesterday!

Feathered Ranunculus.

A wet afternoon on Old Winchester Hill.

Saturday 18th October 2014.

Where are the birds? A soaked John down by the Copse.

John and I took a walk over, or should I say under, Old Winchester Hill this afternoon. However, the weather was certainly not kind to us as persistent heavy drizzle took hold during our walk as we descended down the Hill into the valley below, hoping for a Ring Ouzel or two. Unfortunately, any bird was a bonus as the windy wet conditions took hold.

Dead Man's Fingers growing out of an old bough of a tree within the Copse. It was so dark in the Copse that the photo didn't come out very sharp.

So, during a wet miserable walk down into the valley and into the copse below, all we could muster on the bird front was a single Green Woodpecker, 1 female Sparrowhawk and a Meadow Pipit! We did find a Red Admiral butterfly flying around over the short grass and a few Toadstools were present also. Within the Copse, similar to when I last walked through here, I found some Dead Man’s Fingers; a particularly ugly looking fungus that protrudes like black swollen fingers from a rotting bough of a dead tree. There was also some small dainty little Toadstools growing from fallen branches, but I have no clue what species they are.

The walk back was just as wet and uphill too, but we took our time. We bumped into Dave, a regular here (who keeps an eye out in the car park for anyone thinking about breaking into the cars, then calls the police), who told us that a Ring Ouzel had been seen on Thursday and Friday near the fields. The only thrush species seen on our wet walk today was a single Song Thrush flying over the hill.

These tiny Toadstools were growing on the side of the Hill.

A report of a possible Siberian Stonechat at Titchfield Haven yesterday was confirmed this morning, when it was rediscovered as a 1st winter bird. I just might have to go and have a look at it tomorrow morning if it is still around for a good year tick.

Jack Snipe jumps onto my year list.

Saturday 18th October

Mallard on the Little Deeps at dawn.

A dawn start over Thorney Island with John Goodall this morning, started the weekend nicely. The incredibly mild temperature has carried on into the weekend, but the threat of rain was always there this morning, however, fortunately, it didn’t materialise on our walk down the west side of Thorney Island. Scruff came along with us, as he sniffed every bush and post that came his way. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard of any interesting records of late on Thorney Island, so I was hoping we could turn up something unusual. The morning remained overcast with heavy cloud cover, which put paid to any decent photos.

Wigeon over the harbour.

The tide was up within Emsworth Harbour, but before we reached the sea wall, a look along the footpath revealed a showy Cetti’s Warbler in the brambles, but very little else. Climbing the sea wall, walking south, we checked the harbour for anything interesting and also within the fields to our left. Brent Geese are now here in force as skeins of Geese (including a flock of Canada Geese) were flying around the harbour and island. Wigeon were passing overhead in large flocks. We found a drake Wigeon sat in the reeds by the creek below us and although it was moving its head alright, maybe it had fallen foul of wildfowlers? While watching the Wigeon, a Water Vole swam across the creek, but quickly dived under the water and never seen again. The first I have ever seen here.

Curlew, Greenshank, Cormorants and a Great Black-backed Gull by the Great Deeps.

Out in the harbour, a flock of around 30+ Turnstone were jostling about trying to get comfortable on someone’s moored boat. Curlew, Redshank and Godwit were seen on the island in the distance and over the water, at least four Sandwich Tern were seen of which some came quite close to where we stood. A nice surprise was a winter plumaged adult Arctic Tern which flew past us, but too quick for a photo. Another surprise was a Jack Snipe which flew overhead and out over the harbour towards the islands. Its small size and bill ticked all the boxes for Jack Snipe, my first of the year, from the Common Snipe. A couple of Common Snipe were seen flying near the Great Deeps.

Not an awful lot on the Little Deeps, but the light was very poor here as the sun was now rising over the fields. A few Little Grebes could be seen along the reed fringes and a couple of Reed Buntings flew into the reedbed. Along the footpath, a large flock of Linnet were feeding on the thistle heads. A female Sparrowhawk, flying low over the fields to our left, then turned and headed straight towards the Linnets, but, although she landed briefly on the footpath, she was unsuccessful in grabbing one. Another Sparrowhawk, this time a male, was seen earlier soaring high over the harbour until flying off north.

Sandwich Tern fishing over Emsworth Harbour.

The Great Deeps held at least 6 Greenshank and a Curlew as well as a large flock of Cormorants. A Shag was feeding offshore within the harbour but no sign of any Golden Plover. Several Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flew over while we stood on the sea wall overlooking the Great Deeps. The walk back was rather quiet, although the calls of Bearded Tits were heard on the Little Deeps, but we failed to see any. Rain looked imminent as the wind was pushing the clouds in our direction, so we hurried our pace back towards the car.

A male Linnet feeding on the seeds by the sea wall.

When I got home, Geoff Farwell text me to say he was birding at Mount Down again, near Winchester. He had seen at least 220 Redwing by 10am and also 3 Ring Ouzels. Depending on the weather, John and I are meeting up this afternoon to explore Old Winchester Hill again.

Brent Geese flying over the island.

Purple Sandpipers back at Southsea Castle.

Friday 17th October 2014.

The Purple Sandpipers.

I took Scruff for a walk around Southsea Castle this morning, hoping to see the returning Purple Sandpipers down on the concrete embankment. I was in luck as I found two birds together running along the tideline in search of tasty molluscs and insects hiding amongst the seaweed. The overnight heavy rain had long departed, but the area was completely sodden, however, the temperature was a very balmy 19 degrees!

Rock Pipit.

I actually walked around the Castle in just a t-shirt as it was that mild! On the way to the Castle, I passed Canoe Lake and saw from the car as I drove past, the pair of Black Swans which have now taken up residence there. Parking up behind the Pyramids, I walked along the seafront to view the Sandpipers. The nearby beach held a flock of 7 Oystercatchers among the Herring Gulls, all busy searching the stones for molluscs; most coming into winter plumage.

Two of the seven Oystercatchers present on the beach.

An obliging Rock Pipit showed well in the brief sunshine, walking on the concrete embankment and was seen again even closer on the way back to the car. Overhead, a flock of 6 Linnets flew out over the Solent, heading towards the Isle of Wight. I was hoping to find a Grey Phalarope bobbing on the sea among the Black-headed Gulls, but no diamonds there. A couple have been on Pulborough Brooks recently. I wonder if they are still there?

Purple Sandpiper busy searching for food.

I read that another Yellow-browed Warbler was seen in Southampton today and another at Titchfield Haven. I’d better go and check the Cemy sometime today, if I can get all my paperwork done!

Rock Pipit.

This morning’s moths within the moth box included singles of Feathered Ranunculus, Angle Shades, Vine’s Rustic, Common Marbled Carpet and 5 Light-brown Apple Moth, despite the heavy overnight rain.

The pair of Black Swans on Canoe Lake. Photo by Mike Wearing.

Brent Geese over the Cemy.

Wednesday 15th October 2014.

Chiffchaff.

This morning kicked off not the way I had hoped for. Something was screeching in the neighbours garden which I can only assume was a young Fox. The din was loud enough for me to get out of bed and look out the window, but it was too dark to see what it was. So, having been rudely awaken I then couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I got up and done some paperwork.

Female/ 1st winter Blackbird.

After breakfast, I took Scruff for a walk around Highland Road Cemetery and seeing there has been a lot of interesting birds in the UK (Raddes Warblers, Richards Pipits, Red-breasted Flycatchers etc), then surely something interesting will be lurking about my local patch. In fact, though not a rarity, I did have a ‘patch tick’, when I discovered a couple of Brent Geese flying over. I quickly took a couple of record shots and although they are quite often commuting between both Langstone and Portsmouth Harbours, I have yet to see one over the Cemy. That puts me on 67 species of UK birds I have recorded in or over the Cemy.

My first Brent Geese over the Cemy.

Thankfully, there was a lot of activity in and over the Cemy this morning. With large numbers of Ring Ouzels being reported (500+ at Dungeness yesterday!) I checked every Blackbird in the trees and on the ground. Sorry to say, all were Blackbirds, though mostly 1st winter birds. The only other Thrush species was a Song Thrush, which was seen briefly in the north east corner. Robins were singing or ‘ticking’ in various areas of the Cemy as was a scolding Wren.

Young Blackbird.

Only one Chiffchaff was seen this morning, which was busy searching for insects in the Horse Chestnuts in the centre of the Cemy. I wonder if a Yellow-browed Warbler will turn up again like this time last year. A pair of Goldcrests showed well in one of the newer Pines along the footpath on the east side and Jays numbered at least four birds this morning. Overhead, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch flew over and there was a good stream of Meadow Pipits flying through, as well as a single Pied Wagtail. A pair of Skylarks flying south was a surprise, as I quickly took a record shot of them passing over.

One of the two Skylarks passing overhead.

There is always a chance of something unusual turning up, but nothing rare around the Cemy yet. It is a good time for Fungi to be showing; especially after all the rain we have had and a lot more to come apparently. But I could find none around this morning apart from the old clump of Honey Fungus in an old stump.

When I got home, I made a cup of coffee and sat outside in the garden with Scruff. Overhead, several mixed flocks of Swallows and House Martins flew east. Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Meadow Pipit all flew over in small numbers and the resident Grey Wagtail in put in a brief appearance flying over the rooftops eastbound. The moth box, this morning, held 6 moths, which included a Feathered Ranunculus, Lunar Underwing, Bright-line Brown-eye and 3 Light-brown Apple Moths.

Redwings over Southampton this morning.

Tuesday 14th October 2014.

Snow Bunting on the Scillies. Photo by Mike Wearing.

As Autumn is progressing fast towards Winter, the last of our summer visitors are now departing for warmer a warmer climate and our winter visitors are now making themselves known. Though I have not been birding over the last few days due to work commitments, I have been keeping an eye out for anything interesting. Also, both Mike Wearing and John Goodall have kindly sent me some photos from their respective holidays: Mike was in the Scillies, while John had a nice 10 days in Crete.

Greenshank on the Scillies. Photo by Mike Wearing.

I was working on the Isle of Wight all day yesterday and although it was raining virtually all day, I did take note of a few interesting sightings. A Brent Goose was seen flying northbound over the Solent from the Car Ferry at 8.30am, to kick off my visit to the island. While making my way through Newport, a Raven flew over the road; a species here that has increased in numbers considerably over the years. My first appointment was in Shorwell, over on the south side of the island, and from here, a Grey Wagtail was searching for food on the roof of my clients house. A Mediterranean Gull also flew over with Black-headed Gulls.

White-speck on the Scillies. Photo by Mike Wearing.

Over the weekend, some chap recorded a nice variety of birds from Culver Down, which included a couple of Ring Ouzels. I had a few hours to kill before my 6pm appointment in Brading, so I took a drive up the hill to view from the car park. The rain was drizzle at first, but still too wet to go venturing around the brambles, so I watched from the car. From here, a male Kestrel was perched on a bramble, while a Chiffchaff was heard calling deep within cover. A flock of Swallows passed through, while a single bird rounded the brambles very low to the ground in search for any insects.

Praying Mantis species in Crete. Photo by John Goodall.

The rain then came down a lot heavier, which put paid to anymore birding from here. I read on Isle of Wight Birders Facebook page that someone had a Yellow-browed Warbler in their garden briefly. Today, another birder from the Isle of Wight found 2 to 3 Ring Ouzels, 11 Stonechats and around 20 House Martin at Culver Down this morning! Bloody typical.

Convolvulus Hawk-moth on Crete. Photo by John Goodall.

Today, I went to visit my son in hospital and I noticed my first large flocks of Redwing flying over Southampton. Flocks of 19 and 15 were seen, although this was dwarfed by the 552 over Timsbury this morning!

Woodlark over Old Winchester Hill.

Sunday 12th October 2014.

Foggy start on Old Winchester Hill.

I arranged to pick up John Goodall at 8am this morning for a walk around Old Winchester Hill this morning. By 8.30am, we reached the car park to a very foggy Hill. The fog did lift eventually, but I suppose the clear overnight conditions and what with all the rain we have overnight, had created the dense fog. Earlier this morning, a check on the moth box revealed just two moths – a Common Marbled Carpet and a Feathered Ranunculus.

One of five Coal Tits in the fog!

It certain felt very Autumnal as the temperatures never really climbed above say 12 degrees. Though a little windy on the south side of the Fort, the rest of the area remained very still though overcast. My feet were soaked after half an hour due to the wet grass (must get some waterproof trainers!), but there were plenty of birds to keep both John and I entertained. I took Scruff along with me and always stayed in front of us as we made our way slowly through the early morning fog.

Spiders webs littered the place on the hill.

This is a good time for Ring Ouzels and seeing that Geoff Farwell had a couple at Cheesefoot Head yesterday, we kept our eyes peeled. We might have had a possible Ring Ouzel, but all I caught was a dark thrush with silvery coloured wings darting into the bushes beside the main road and to never show again. From here, at least 5 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes were seen and on the opposite side of the footpath, at least 5 Coal Tits, 2 Great Tits, 2 Long-tailed Tits, Wren and a couple of Chiffchaffs were darting about in the bushes. A pair of Bullfinches flew over but soon disappeared into cover. Best of all, was a Woodlark flying low through the fog; its distinctive shape and call quickly telling it apart from the many Skylarks that flew over.

Marsh Tit.

The fog had lifted by the footpath leading to the Fort, but not an awful lot was seen here. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks flew over in sizable flocks as did a flock of Linnets heading high over the fields. As we neared the footpath, a flock of four Bullfinches flew over. Another couple of Chiffchaffs were seen and also a pair of Marsh Tits. Old Winchester Hill used to be a good reliable site for Marsh Tit, but I have found it hard to find them here now. So, seeing these two birds really put a smile on my face.

Meadow Pipit on top of the Fort.

The walk around the Fort kicked off nicely with a couple of Goldcrests showing well in a small bush. The fields near the farm held good numbers of Corvids and Gulls, but the southern slope failed to pick up a Ring Ouzel. A couple of Mistle Thrushes were present and a large flock of Goldfinches, but nothing more exciting than that, I’m afraid.

Pair of Yellowhammers joined by a Greenfinch.

The walk back produced the same birds but we did see our first Yellowhammers of the morning; kicking off with a single bird flying over then a pair showing very well on brambles by the main footpath. The only raptors seen today was a male Kestrel in the valley below and a Common Buzzard along the main road on the way here.  All in all, a nice walk, despite wet feet!

Male Yellowhammer.