The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Pacific Time!

Two and a half weeks have passed since my last post, and there have been some humdingers of birding days in that time. Sorry about the length once again - must try and post more often.  Where do I start?

Well, I suppose I better relate details of the so far rather neglected patch birding adventures.  On the 16th I managed a wave of ticks which included a Red-necked Grebe and a distant Black-throated Diver in the harbour.  

I also spent the evening looking for Owls around the Verne, surprisingly hearing a Little, and seeing the hoped-for Barn (in complete darkness!).

This was also the day I discovered I was going to be whisked into the world of land management, as the main mind behind transforming a churchyard into a wildlife garden. Watch out for more developments in my next post.

On the morning of the 20th, I made the unexpected discovery of a pair of Wigeon in Portland Harbour - this was the last of the dabbling ducks to fall last year.  As a result of my less-than-enthusiastic patching so far, I'm currently 8 species behind on last year.

Later on that day, I headed back to Surrey, and I had a quick look at Tice's Meadow on the way, flushing 2 Yellowhammer from by the mound, seeing a Green Sandpiper on the stream, and a load of Fieldfare attempting to roost in the reedbed at dusk - an interesting observation.

That weekend, Amy Robjohns ( ) and I were hoping to do a bird race (along with Josie Hewitt) around the south of England (in which I was hoping to trash my personal previous day record of 85), but that sadly fell through. 

To make up for it, on the 25th myself and Amy embarked on quite a trek all round Sussex, seeking its best birds.

First of all, we went after one of Amy's bogey-birds, Grey Partridge, at The Burgh.  As in previous visits, they were calling as soon as we left the car!  The other highlights here were a Red Kite, and a small herd of Bewick's Swan on a very distant wet field in the valley below.

We moved quite a bit more to the East, and to the tiny village of Jevington, near Eastbourne.  On arrival, the superb Rough-legged Buzzard was immediately lording it over its winter territory, in great light.

I took the opportunity to put my new video camera through its paces.

After that triumph, we headed back west, this time to an old stomping ground of mine of Littlehampton (Well, I lived there for only 6 months). 

It took a bit of a wait, but eventually the 2nd-winter Kumlien's Gull soared into view, before quickly disappearing.  It gave us the runaround a bit, but we eventually saw it pretty well, though it never landed. Not easy to get any images in this case.

We moved to the north-west, and the heathland site of Iping Common.  I knew how difficult (mobile) our quarry could be, so imagine my surprise when I spotted the Great Grey Shrike as soon as we got to the spot it was supposed to be.
We ended the day at West Dean Woods, though despite a good view of the regular Little Owl pair, and some vocal Marsh Tit, the place was a tad disappointing, with no Hawfinch. With the luck we got from the rest of the day though, we really shouldn't complain! 4 out of 5 - a right result.
Yesterday, I joined the Next Gen Birders at Blashford Lakes.  We largely spent the time dipping Ferruginous Duck at Kingfisher Lake, dipping Great Grey Shrike at nearby Ibsley Common....

...dipping Great White Egret at Ivy Lake, and finally, dipping Ring-billed Gull in the gull roost from Goosander hide...

...On top of that, Joe Stockwell and myself had earlier dipped the Poole Harbour Smew in addition! Thinking about it, I suppose I'd used up all my luck the previous weekend! 

However, it was a testament to the company I was with that I enjoyed it enormously.  This is why I'm putting in a big effort to try and go on more of these such events. P.S. We did see the Long-tailed Duck ;-)

Yesterday, I embarked on a journey to Cornwall for a second attempt at the Pacific Diver in Mount's Bay, this time with Keith Pritchard ( ).  On the way, things were looking dodgy for a while...

...luckily this was a very localised happening, on Bodmin Moor.
Once there, we struggled in strong wind and sunlight.  But, we eventually got on a promising-looking bird in the middle of the bay.  We moved round to the Mount itself...

Part of this walk involved stepping onto the rather lunar-landscape adjacent...

From here, I spotted the bird again not far offshore.  The views obtained left us in no doubt. Such dark upperparts, and such a stubby little bill!  Impossible to get any sort of image in the hoolie sadly.

After that triumph, we moved onto nearby Falmouth, and to the tiny inlet of Bream Cove.  A nice spot...

...with interesting geology (this shot isn't on its side by the way)...

...though sadly, it was King Eider-less.

Nonetheless, it had been a successful and enjoyable day.

What next? Well, a bit of patch birding beckons (finally), and then it's off to Norfolk for the weekend with NGB! Going to be cracking I'm sure!

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