Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Filthy year-listing: Dorset II (this time it's personal)

Perhaps not the shrewdest move in the world to leg it down to Dorset this weekend, hearing that those I'd left behind had done well with Red Kite, Stonechat and another fleeting glimpse of the Mandarin, but I had itchy feet.  Probably something to do with my boots and their ability to soak up water.

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!

No sign of the Spoonbill straight off, a few duck, a gull, and a heron.  Cetti's banging out a few calls loudly from the tangle of bushes, and a chiffy.  It got lighter and now I could pick up lurking snipe.

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".

As I tried to make a small gull into an Iceland one of the Spoonbills managed to fly into a lagoon nearby un-noticed. Happy days. The adult soon joined it as I rattled of a few dozen shots of them feeding, wing flapping and stuff. Finally one flew off east while the other went to another part of the reserve.  Job done and onwards.  Radipole next and another Dorset tick: Glossy Ibis.


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.


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