This blog post focuses less on the traineeship and more on what I’ve been doing in my own time, and as with most of my learning so far, the majority has been on birds and moths. First, there was a revisit back to this gorgeous gull – the Iceland Gull. It’s been spending a lot of time on the Fleet recently, though at the time of writing I haven’t seen it in the last couple of days. It was actually pretty chilled about my presence, I got quite close and took some lovely photos, if only it had been a sunny day!
Last weekend was a blustery one, which was difficult for those taking part in the beach clean! But the volunteers were determined and 20 bags of litter were collected which I am thrilled with. Unfortunately, it’s a never-ending battle with marine litter on Chesil Beach – a reflection of just how much rubbish we throw away. There’s going to be another beach clean at the end of April (Sunday 27th if you’re free) which will be a good opportunity to really hit out and get as much off the beach as possible.
A couple of days later saw me doing something that’s almost unthinkable for me – getting up for 4.30am! For my first ever twitch! Ok, I wasn’t travelling that far (just to the ‘mainland’) and it wasn’t a very rare bird (but locally rare!), and I wasn’t even going to see the bird (just to hear it!), but I’m counting it as a twitch! So what was I getting up this early for?! A booming bittern! And what an interesting sound it was! Rather like the noise of blowing across a bottle, it was a really odd noise for a bird to make! For the non-birders, I had to get up this early as the bittern actually stops booming just after dawn!
Ready for the dawn chorus
Despite the awful hour, it was a lovely time. Helpfully, a fellow naturalist, Sean Foote, was with me and he was able to point out the different bird calls and songs that I’d not learnt yet. I’ve got my chiffchaffs, blackbirds, great tits and coots down, but had never heard a Cetti’s warbler before! You can hear the dawn chorus at Sean’s blog.
Back to the daylight world and a day off! Well, it was a day off from work but not from enthusiasm! I headed up to the Portland Bird Observatory to eye up the moths they’ve been catching – Common Quaker, Early Grey, Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character.
Early Grey (centre) and x2 Hebrew Characters (bottom)
As well as to check up on the status of the spawn in the pond – now tadpoles! Though I believe they are toad tadpoles if I remember the shape of the spawn correctly (toad spawn is laid in lines rather than clumped together like frogspawn).
Toad tadpoles … I think (it’s been a while since I’ve done amphibians!)
I was also slightly cheeky and tagged along for the checking of the bird mist nets, i.e. large nets which birds fly into. These birds are then ringed and then their movements can be studied. Whilst the exciting period occurred earlier during the day, I still saw a new bird get caught (male House Sparrow) and the recatch of a Chiffchaff. Plus, there were the usual suspects flying around – goldfinches, greenfinches, stonechats and my first linnet!
The recaught Chiffchaff
Extra bonuses – a bumblebee and shieldbug caught in the mist nets! Obviously I set both of them free.
The fortnight ended splendidly with a Sandwich Tern on a buoy near Ferrybridge, having travelled all the way from Africa! This one wasn’t quite in its breeding plumage, but still a great sight.
Sandwich Tern, it wasn’t actually taking off, just having a stretch
Last but not least, I caught my first Dorset moth – a Bloxworth Snout (what a name!). Thought to be a hibernating adult, especially as it was found inside. A slightly blurry photo I’m afraid.
And just because I’ve been practicing my birds in flight photography, I’m going to include this photo as well.
Herring Gull in flight (guess at a 3rd winter but don’t have my notes to hand)