Thursday, 22 March 2012
As I sat in the hotel bar reviewing the day and getting outside a bottle of Cabernet something, my pager informed me that faffing around at Ferrybridge had cost me an Iceland Gull at Radipole, again. Bugger, one of my target birds missed.
Sunday up and down Radipole as it was getting light. Nothing much out of the ordinary as I went round the buddleia loop, but on the way back Lodmoor's 2 Spoonbill flew in a wide arc over the town and disappeared to the south. Disappointingly I also found the drake Hooded Merganser.
First bus to Southwell and a hike up to the bill. A lone Peregrine kept me company for a while and surprisingly there were no Wheatear, at least till I came down the last slope by the car park. I set up my scope to the west of the lighthouse figuring things would be coming that way, and to avoid looking into the sun. Auks skitted backward and forward, a few scoter, Gannet and some Kittiwake. Hardly a feast, but enjoyable none the less. The few birders that were there soon upped and left and I moved further round the headland. A lone Fulmar was about the highlight, bar a few mipits coming in off the sea and a couple of, presumably, alba wagtails. An old hand came up to me and asked how things were going. He seemed informed and affable. He told me where to find a male Black Redstart by the huts and the best place to find a Little Owl. The Purple Sandpiper weren't where he suggested they might be, a Turnstone was. I met him again as I wandered across the sward in the direction of the obs. I found the Redstart, cracking bird, but the Little Owl was not at home, or probably was, ensconced in his hollow.
Ken (Palmer), as he introduced himself to me, apparently is a top a Dorset lister and certainly knew his stuff. He offered me a lift back down to Ferrybridge so we made our way to the obs to get his car. He checked the latest news from the obs while I had a look at the mist nets. A timely Firecrest had just trapped itself, about the best view I am ever going to have of one of these gems.
While we drove back north I said that going to Ferrybridge would probably encourage me to have another go at the Richard's. Ken offered to chum me down to the camp and have a look see.
Another birder was there in the corner of the field I had spent so much time in the day before. He like me had drawn a blank. Ken's suggestion was that the bird liked to feed on the steep grassy slopes just above the quay side. I dutifully looked. "There's a small pipit wandering about", I said, assuming it was a mipit. Our companion with the only scope gave it the once over. "That'll be it!" Sweet.
Now Ken wanted to go and check out the Hume's, since I had seen it yesterday it was my role to find it, else I would be walking back to town. No pressure then.
Luckily he didn't mean it.
The fleet was emptying and a flock of 10 Ringed Plover scurried across the mud. 2 adult meds and surprisingly the first Redshank, and only Redshank, I had seen all weekend.
So thanks to Ken and his hospitality and useful local gen, where had he been yesterday?
Now back on track I headed towards Christchurch on the train, the Spotted Sandpiper the potential, but highly unlikely target. Unlikely as the tide would be turning and I knew the marsh would be infested with dogs and walkers. On the plus side there might be a pair of Garganey in the channel.
Interesting place Stanpit Marsh, but I was right about the Sandpiper and failed to connect with the Garganey. Plenty of Med Gulls calling high in the clear blue sky and on the way back a Water Pipit rose from one of the ditches, calling as it disappeared. By now it was getting late and some serious injection of haste was going to be called for. A taxi! Even then I only just made it to Hordle, temporary residence of one Rose-coloured Starling. Having finally found the war memorial I felt slight out of place and incongruous. Luckily the Starling soon flew over my head and did a few standing on roof and in trees, and a bit of flying around before disappearing into a hole in a tree. Ten minutes later I would have missed it. Timing that is.
All in all a good weekend: 7 Dorset ticks, 6 year ticks, 2 lifers. Tick, tick, tick. Filthy year-listing: 121 to go!
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Left work early and got a train down to the seaside. A bottle full of wine later and I am down by the water's edge in Weymouth a place of childhood memories as the only sandy beach the length of the Jurassic coast. While it's inhabitants did their usual Friday night thing of getting well and truly rat-arsed, I was already. It was less congested down by the water and first tick would have been the wader that called by the quay if I'd known what the hell it was, and a goose!
The guy at the hotel said it would be fine tomorrow. At 06:00 it was anything but. First stop Lodmoor and its Spoonbill and on the way a bit of seawatching. As I walked the natural camber of the parade meant I was inexorably drawn to the puddles as I concentrated on the few Great crested Grebe that were not becoming interesting divers. Feet well and truly sodden by the time I got to the shelter. It rained, then stopped, then rained, and drizzled, then had a rest before raining some more. Arse!
At the far side of the reserve white blobs became target no.1 Spoonbill, scything their spoons through the shallow water.
Before I took this lark up "seriously" Spoonbill had been one of those birds I thought I'd see only on the continent. To paraphrase my Observer's book of birds the chances of your seeing one were "not bloody likely".
Back on the beach I had a quick scan of the bay, it appeared empty bar a few loafing gull at the back of a small fishing vessel. The grebes had moved to the east to avoid the dog walkers, that it seemed was that. Then I picked up the first diver, too distant to tell if it were Great Northern or Black-throated as the slight swell hid it more often than not. As it moved slowly, fishing, to the east it was joined by 2 others, all still in winter plumage, which didn't help. Not for the first time I wished for a bit more oomph from the Swarovski. The jiz suggested GN, so I put the news out in the hope that someone would come along and prove me wrong. It appears I wasn't. I needed Black-throated.
Radipole. Who wouldn't want this on your doorstep, a great place. No Iceland Gulls mixing with the locals at the car park or in front of the centre and no cup of coffee as the building was in the throws of expansion and very much closed. I had been hoping to catch up with Luke Williams, the information officer and all-round good bloke, for some local gen, the visiting birders not being much help. I sauntered down to the northern hide, on the way catching some great views of Cetti's and a chiffy with some ugly growth at the base of its bill.
The Ibis were still in residence but keeping well hidden behind a small island. After about 10 minutes they dutifully put their heads up and did a bit of flying around and feeding stuff. Too far for anything but record shots, but some likable feathery in flight images - I think.
Job done it was time to say good bye to my boots. I sallied into the shopping centre and found a reasonably priced pair of make-dos at TKMax. Slightly larger than my usual shoe size, I figured the swollen nature of my wet socks would more and make up the fit. Then a bus to Ferrybridge. It had been the plan to spend Saturday night trialling the new improved Ferrybridge Inn, a reasonably priced offer of £30 B&B and close proximity to the bridging camp and the little bastards that had eluded me last time. Namely the Hume's and the Richards.
Unfortunately my cunning plan fell apart somewhat as they were full. While I am here I might as well give the pair a go, I thought. Nothing ventured and all that. Boots changed I made for the camp. Happily some Wheatears soon showed themselves along the path. They make me happy. Some stonehcats and enough Red-breasted Merganser to fill yer boots with, and with my new size 12s I could have probably snuck a couple in each with comfort.
The female Black Redstart was still at the camp, but the Richards defied me yet again. I'll get you on the way back!
Last time the fleet had been teaming with Med Gull, now noticeably absent. It's got to be said I wasn't feeling too confident about the Hume's. It had been seen the day before, and when I reached the holiday camp I met a disconsolate birder on the point of giving up. Had a brief chat with him, apparently he reads Jonathan's articles in Birdwatch and follows the London Wiki, whatdayaknow! No sign of the Hume's then?
He went off to look for the Richards while I considered another hobby. Greenfinches were doing annoyingly fair impressions of Chiffchaff, but to make sure I tracked them down leaving me on the south side of the small scrubby plantation just above the holiday chalets - the self-same thicket that a certain Lee GR Evans had scarily erupted from a month or so back.
I made my way back up the hill. The Humes called from the depths of a bush. It called again and this time I caught sight of the small bird as it slowly picked its way through the ivy and twiggy stuff. Blimey it was tooo similar to Yellow-brow for my inexperience to discern. But then I got a a fairly good view of the wings as it moved through a small bare patch of shrub. Not for the first time I regretted not going for the Lowestoft bird of the autumn, but I am getting used to crappy views of small warblers. Another call and it was gone. I gave it another couple of sweeps, but then my pager told me that the guy I had been speaking to earlier had scored with the pipit. Decision made.
I gave it an hour or so, but the pipit preferred anonymity. That knocked any euphoria gained from the leaf warbler - a job half done. It was unlikely I'd be back here anytime soon for another go so I made do with the now 2 female Black Redstart and a very obliging Dunnock. Too late for the bill I needed a rethink, some sleep and another bottle of wine.