This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Another Continental Coal Tit

Another Continental Coal Tit today.

This little cracker was in a garden at Easton.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Identification Of Continental Coal Tit

After yesterdays fucking waffle, thought I'd revert back to interesting stuff. Chris Patrick took some photos of British Coal Tits today and in this post, thought it would be good to compare images of the 2 forms.

Note the differences in the extent of the black bib that can be used as a guide when getting onto a particular individual Coal Tit.

British.  © Chris Patrick/RNBWS

Continental. Black of bib extends onto upper breast and is crisp/well demarcated. Note also, the more extensive breast side blotching. The black of the bib can sometimes bleed into and include the breast side blotches as part of the bib.

British© Chris Patrick/RNBWS

Continental. Note how the black of the bib splays out at bottom and reaches the shoulder.

British. Even though the black bib splays out at bottom on this bird, black doesn't quite reach shoulders. Note, how in this photo it is difficult to interpret upperpart colouration, so important to view such colouration in the best light possible. © Chris Patrick/RNBWS

Continental. Black of bib splays out at bottom and black reaches shoulder. This individual doesn't have a particularly big bib and is possibly a female. Note mantle/scapular colouration though and tiny crest.

British© Chris Patrick/RNBWS


Nape Patch differences.

British. Slightly narrower. Note the obvious olive toned mantle/scapulars, also shown in the wing and tail fringes. © Chris Patrick/RNBWS

Continental. Slightly wider. Note the blue grey mantle/scapulars, also shown in the wing and tail fringes.

Mantle/scapular colour and cheek patches.

British. Mantle/scapulars can have a grey look to it, but has an olive tone. Same colour in wing and tail fringes. Also, the lower rear of the cheek patches have a very very slight yellowish wash. The latter can only be detected at very close range in dull flat light and is probably lost through wear. © Chris Patrick/RNBWS

Continental. Mantle/scapulars steely blue grey, with no olive tone. Same colour in wing and tail fringes. Cheek patches purer white. 

Be aware how light can make judging mantle/scapular colour difficult at times, both in the field and especially from photographs. Differences in the Spring/Summer may be less obvious, but more research needed on this point.

Other more subtle features that may be seen are that Continentals look slightly bigger/bulkier and the steeper forehead, more raised crown, the latter producing a little crest when feathers raised, and more bull neck gives them a bigger headed look. Also, underparts may look less suffused with yellow buff on underparts, thus looking cleaner, but I suspect there is some overlap in this respect. 

Continental. The raised feathers on the crown shows a little crest. Note, how the blue grey can be seen on the outer fringes of the greater coverts on this bird.

Be aware how posture can affect some of the features noted here.

A word of caution on the bib size. I think that some, presumed male, British birds can overlap with, presumed female, Continental birds. Males, probably, generally have bigger bibs than females, but females can match males in bib size, so there is a degree of variation here. Like all these things, to come to a correct id, a combination of features must be used. Also helps if you're not fucking pink and green colour blind.

There is more to learn, for example, the possibility of vocal differences. Also, how numerous are Continental Coal Tits in Britain and their distribution? 

Has been great to learn more about these stunning little birds though.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Well, I Might As Well Show You Some Stuff

Ok, recently I said I wouldn't post photos for fear of looking like I'm gloating. Well, I had a grump on at the time, which is something that happens quite often, especially this year. Could be I'm slowly loosing my marbles. Anyways, have changed me mind and thought I would post photos on me blog at least. So, this post will be a bit of a catch up. The pics on this blog are to revel at birds beauty and to share exciting moments in time. Hope you enjoy.

So, for the last couple of weeks I've been on holiday and have been birding locally, with a day trip to Norfolk. I was going to go away for a few days when in Norfolk, but felt very homesick and had to come straight home. This felt very strange, indeed, it freaked me out.

But let's look at the beginning of October for a minute. The first weekend produced a Red-veined Darter and a Treecreeper in the Suckthumb Quarry area on Shit Rock.

Love the blue lower part of the eye on these things.

The wing detail showed this was just a Common.

Back to Shit Rock next day and Barrel Jellyfish drifting south off the Bill was quite a sight.

This one was particularly stunning.

In the afternoon, found a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Portland Castle area.

Not a surprise to bump into one of these, considering how many there has been in the country.

The following weekend was very quiet, or should I say shit.

Male Southern Hawker at Middlebere was the only thing I lifted my camera for during this dismal weekend.

Then my holiday started. I paid an old patch of mine a visit first, Littlesea on The Fleet. Well, it was dead, the only compensation being a returning Black Brant in Lynch Cove.

In case you're struggling, it's the one in the middle.

Next day, a bash round Shit Rock didn't produce much, other than a Ring Ouzel, Dartford Warbler and 5 Crossbills.

Male Ring Ouzel.

Then it was off to Norfolk. The object of my desire was a bogey bird for me. I wasn't to be disappointed.

The stunning Olive-backed Pipit at Muckleburgh Hill.

One of the best birds I've ever seen. Such a gorgeous and characterful pipit.

This was the start of a truly unremarkable day. Next on the agenda, the first of 2 Isabelline Shrikes. I later saw another at Holkham.

This one was at Beeston Regis.
Wells Wood was next stop, where I saw a trio of goodies.

Highlight here was a Red-flanked Bluetail. I saw another at Holkham at the end of the day.
Just down the path was this...

...delightful Pallas's Warbler. In the same area, saw the Hume's Warbler too, which thankfully was rather vocal. Also heard a Yellow-browed Warbler in Wells Wood. Didn't have time to look for the Blyth's Reed Warbler 'cause of the fucking car park ticket.

Olive-backed Pipit (lifer for me), 2 Isabelline Shrikes, 2 Red-flanked Bluetails, Pallas's and Hume's Warblers in one day, and I got fucking homesick. Weird!!!

Got home and after that, everything since has been an anticlimax. 3 more Yellow-browed Warblers found, with singles heard only at Easton and Abbotsbury Swannery and an elusive bird seen at Moonfleet.

Pishing does work sometimes.

Now, why couldn't the Yellow-browed at Moonfleet show as well as this Chiffchaff did at Osmington Mills.

Other October staples this week have included the Merlin above, plus more Ring Ouzels, Firecrests and great numbers of Goldcrests, the later, the best showing for years.

And, why oh why, is every Wheatear I clap my eyes on just a Northern. Would dearly love to find that rare one.

Certainly, the highlight so far this week has been the Continental Coal Tits (see the posts below).

Today, I succumbed to twitching another Pallas's Warbler. This one was on Shit Rock.

Little stunners!!!

Shit me, that was a rambling crock of shite wasn't it? Well, hope you enjoyed all that, you sad fuckers, and if you didn't, well, tough buggery, you miserable c...., ah, ah now Brett, behave yourself.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

More Continental Coal Tit

Saw both Continental and British Coal Tits today. The former at Portland Castle and the latter at both Wyke Regis church yard and Osmington Mills. A couple more pics of Continental below.

Note how the bib splays out at the bottom towards the shoulders and how it's extent on the upper breast.

This bird was very vocal and soon flew off to the south.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Continental Coal Tits

Really pleased to finally connect with Continental Coal Tits this autumn. The 2 at Portland Castle were the first ones I've seen in 19 years. And always good to self find one too.

The first one I saw was this rather bedraggled individual. Note colour of back and slight crest.

Wow, that looks meaty. If you like Garden Spiders, I do apologize.

The other individual was much better looking.

Note the blue grey back and clean looking flanks. Nape patch is also more extensive than British birds and, along with the cheeks, tend to look whiter.

Even without seeing the upperpart colouration, this can be identified as a Continental. Note the extensive black throat that extends onto upper breast, the blackish blotches on breast sides and the clean looking underparts.

Note the little crest and how the black of the throat meets the shoulder and upper breast and blackish breast side blotch.

Little stunners and rare. Not even annual in Dorset. This is a good autumn for them, so get out there and look for them. And, if you find one, take your time and enjoy it.