October 2021

Sunday 31st brought some ferocious weather after some heavy rain had saturated the ground even further overnight. At one point a gust of 87 mph was recorded at Portland and not surprisingly Med. Gulls were again numerous, with 103 on the winter wheat just before midday. Georgie the Cat has decided that enough is enough and has refused to go out, preferring to watch T20 cricket instead.

Saturday 30th. We awoke to the sight of saturated fields following another night of heavy downpours, but set off for Bath v Wasps with Tom and Henry in some very pleasant sunshine. As we were preparing to leave a Goldcrest was calling in the garden hedge – # 74 for our garden list. As for the rugby, Bath lost again but the display was much better than the dreadful display against Newcastle. When they had the ball they did look as if they might be capable of creating something, confirmed by two tries and a couple of near-misses in a 17-27 defeat.

Tuesday 26th. Although moth numbers are declining steadily and only seven were attracted by the trap this morning they included two new for the year (and thus for the garden) in Feathered Thorn and Yellow-line Quaker. It’s off to Bournemouth Hospital tomorrow for what I hope will be a final check on my eye so I drove to Lidl at Portland to charge the car (and buy a cheese twist for Karen). It might be a 10-mile drive but it is handy for Portland Harbour and Ferrybridge, which is only a 15 minute walk away. The tide was high, but a small gull roost developed, containing 43 Mediterranean Gulls and a very tardy Common Tern. Back at Coryates, 11 Med. Gulls were on the winter wheat opposite. Gina got out of bed just before 5pm.

Feathered Thorn

Sunday 24th. A warmer Friday night brought a distinct improvement to our trapping efforts and our first ever Grey Shoulder-knot in a total of 17 moths. Well satisfied, we drove to Bridport to visit an art shop as Karen has decided to embark upon a new career in painting with acrylics. Being market day it was pretty much packed and our attempts to have lunch in the Greyhound, a crowded Wetherspoons pub, met with failure, so off we went to Abbotsbury where we called in at the Swan and enjoyed lunch in an altogether less frantic atmosphere. Sue, Angus and Alan came round for drinks and nibbles in the afternoon to complete a very enjoyable day.

However, just two moths were in trap this morning after a rather optimistic attempt on a breezy night and the forecast for the remainder of the much looks fairly ominous, with wind and/or rain predicted for just about every night.

Grey Shoulder-knot

Friday 22nd. A series of wet and windy nights has meant no trapping for three nights but despite being the coldest since May (5.1°C) last night turned up our 240th macro species of the year – a November Moth. Mind you, there was only one other – a Beaded Chestnut. We’ve set the wheels in motion for a home charger for our car but in the meantime have been taking it to Lidl on Portland, which gives us a chance to wander towards Portland Harbour or The Fleet at Ferrybridge. This afternoon we close the former option and ended up in the grounds of Portland Castle. As far as charging costs go, we’re paying about 6p a mile when charging it at a public point, compared to 12p a mile for unleaded. When we are in possession of a home charger our cost will reduce by a fifth if we charge overnight. Hooray!

Portland Castle

Tuesday 19th. Although last night was warm it was also windy with spells of rain, so no trapping. Currently the rest of the month doesn’t look too clever, so 2021 might prove to be a season truncated at both ends. I suppose one positive aspect of periods of inclement weather is the increase in Mediterranean Gulls locally: at least 63 were on the recently sown field just after midday.

Monday 18th. Ahead of a change to more unsettled weather, last night was the poorest since the last week of May, with just 13 moths in the trap. Half an hour outside the cottage was fairly quiet, though a splendid male Stonechat was hovering over the hedgerow opposite and a male Peregrine made off down the valley carrying what looked like a Blackbird. Rain set in around 11 and lasted for much of the afternoon.

Saturday 16th Following a couple of very quiet nights this morning’s haul was a significant improvement, with our first Oak Rustic and late examples of Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing and Spectacle. The rest of the day was spent with Carol and Richard, two of our friends from Sandwich, and jolly enjoyable it was, concluding with a very nice meal in the Brewer’s Arms in Martinstown.

Oak Rustic

Friday 15th. Before the tractor arrived to sow winter wheat the Pied Wagtail flock increased to 120, with several parties flying off westward and by midday almost all had departed. Three hours outside the cottage was quite rewarding, with 8 Long-tailed Tits, 4 Jays, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Siskins and a Grey Wagtail the highlights, while 270 Starlings was a good deal more than have been evident so far this month. The moth trap was rubbish again.

Thursday 14th. With just 17 moths, outnumbered by caddis flies, last night was the quietest since early June. Birding from outside the cottage has been fairly quiet in the clear, calm conditions of the last week, but at least 88 Pied Wagtails were associated with the former stubble field that was ploughed yesterday and a Grey Wagtail flew over. By late afternoon there were 105 Pied Wagtails and 7 Buzzards on the field that was still being prepared for the forthcoming crop of winter wheat and while watching them a Merlin flew over, much to the dislike of the Starling flock that had gathered.

Wednesday 13th Mallow was new for the year in the moth trap last night, becoming the 250th macro species we have trapped here and on the farm on previous visits. Gary was finishing the ploughing that Martin started yesterday afternoon and was still going when we turned in! The result was much to the liking of Pied Wagtails, at least 36 of which were tiddling about on the field, making occasional flurries on to our roof and adjacent fields, telephone lines and trees.

Tuesday 12th When you pick something out of the moth trap and have no idea what you are looking at, it’s clear that something interesting is afoot. Numbers halved again on a chilly night with the breeze in the north, so where the Brindled Ochre that was sitting in the trap actually came from is anybody’s guess: it is a scarce and mainly coastal species in Dorset and, needless to say, the first we have ever recorded. There was only one record in the county in 2019 and just five last year.

Brindled Ochre

Monday 11th Despite a rather chilly night that saw numbers reduce accordingly, on inspecting the trap in the half light a magnificent Clifden Nonpareil was staring back at me! It might not be the show stopper it once was but it’s still a superb creature. We also recorded Dark Spectacle (new for the year), along with Pale Mottled Willow, 7 Delicates and another Radford’s (we had four on Saturday night).

Clifden Nonpareil

Saturday 9th. Well, our plans to visit Brownsea Island turned out rather more successfully than on the previous occasion. First, though, our morning began with our first ever Figure of Eight in the moth trap and a party of 17 Canada Geese heading east down the valley to bring us another garden species.

Figure of Eight

We left home with young Ben next door just after 8.30 and took the 1030 ferry to Brownsea. After unloading the trippers on board we were free to check out the DWT reserve, where the lagoon held 20 Spoonbills, 90-odd Avocets, probably 200 Black-tailed Godwits and around 15 Greenshanks. The wooded parts of the island were largely peaceful in some lovely October sunshine and during our visit we saw four Red Squirrels scurrying about after grounded nuts, I guess, while the trees held Nuthatch, Siskin, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and several Chiffchaffs and 3 Dartford Warblers and a Stonechat were on the open heathland. There was also a hornet at the woodland edge. We returned on the 1400 ferry and got back home just after 1530, very satisfied with a thoroughly good day.

Brownsea Island

Thursday 7th. Greeted by fog at dawn it took some time for light levels to reach those required for inspecting the contents of the moth trap, which contained our first Beaded Chestnut of the autumn. Two hours birding was productive in terms of new species for the garden (Mistle Thrush and Great Black-backed Gull), but movement was predictably subdued, the best being 23 Pied Wagtails and 43 Linnets, while a Green Woodpecker noisily announced itself, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap were fiddling about and a Golden Plover called somewhere overhead in the murk.

Wednesday 6th. Two hours birding from the cottage was again subtly different to the previous few. Gone were Meadow Pipits from the stubble, Blackbirds and Chaffinches were much reduced, but finches were more prominent, including 20 Linnets and 10 Goldfinches, House Martins (142) and Swallows (81) were moving strongly and 17 Jays and 22 Skylarks flew west. The concrete base for our new porch is ready for Gina the Cat to walk on and here she is – our bright and shiny new car.

Monday 4th.

No moths again (and for the next two nights by the look of it) but it is becoming clear that the valley here is a good spot to observe migrant birds, with another good result from an hour and a half of birding from the cottage. This is the peak time for Meadow Pipit movement in Dorset and 340 flew W from the stubble fields in the valley, with 16 Swallows and 12 Pied Wagtails heading in the same direction. A party of 6 Jays flew up the valley, a Golden Plover flew over, heading south, and a Sparrowhawk was mixing it with the local corvids. Installation of our porch started with Lee the builder preparing the ground for the concrete base, in the process of which he discovered that the drainage to the septic tank was blocked, which might explain a thing or two. Call in Martin, Gary and Steve and by mid-afternoon they appeared to have fixed the problem. The good news is that I found some petrol at Tesco in Dorchester, so I can return the hire car with a clear conscience, ready to collection our new one tomorrow morning.

Sunday 3rd.

Well, the moth trap didn’t turn up anything unexpected, but two hours standing outside in the garden certainly did. 50 Meadow Pipits were in the stubble, augmented by 24 that flew W along with a Siskin, a Grey Wagtail, 14 Pied Wagtails, 23 Swallows, 27 Med. Gulls and a real surprise in the shape of 2 Great White Egrets that flew up the valley and more or less over the garden, presumably from Lodmoor. To round off a really interesting couple of days of garden birding a male Stonechat appeared on the fence, bring our garden list to 62 species, from only 55 three days ago.

Saturday 2nd

Fearful of the forecast of impending rain and with the wind audible outside I was up at 3.20 getting the moth trap in. As it turned out it wasn’t until 9 that the bad weather arrived and we had time to examine the contents of the trap that held a splendid mix of autumnal moths that included species new for the year in Feathered Ranunculus, Barred Sallow and Green-brindled Crescent.

Feathered Ranunculus

The remainder of the day was wet, very wet. Persistent rain fell until dusk, but with it came an extraordinary gathering of at least 460 Mediterranean Gulls was in the stubble opposite, though there seemed to be a significant amount of coming and going and a lot more may have been involved,

Friday 1st. Strong overnight wind meant no moths last night but although it remained overcast the breeze had fallen away to SW 3-4. Having to wait for a phone call from Moorfields about my eye I decided to spend some time outside the cottage and in an hour and a half from 0900 recorded a real October selection of birds. Westward movement consisted of 41 Meadow Pipits, 24 Swallows and a party of 14 Jays that filtered along the hedgerow and across the garden, while 7 Skylarks flew in from the north and dropped on to the stubble. A Reed Bunting flew into the hedgerow along the lane, 3 Greenfinches perched briefly on the phone wires and 80 Woodpigeons and 3 Med. Gulls flew along the seaward ridge. Significantly, the Jays, Greenfinches and Reed Bunting were all new species for the garden. Prior to looking at our forthcoming new car we detoured to the West Fleet at Abbotsbury Swannery, where Pochard, Shoveler and Kingfisher were all new species for Dorset.

West Fleet at Abbotsbury Swannery

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