The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Bury n' Bonaparte's

I need to start giving more regular updates, as the onset of spring has caused an upsurge in interesting sightings in the last fortnight.
The patch has been much more productive, with a nice early White Wagtail at Reap Lane on the 3rd the first of the true migrants.  Lesser Black-backed Gull are a migrant too, of course (though are not usually renowned for their diagonal stance!). 

On the 4th, I joined the guys from the Obs in an away-day to look for Goshawk in east Dorset.  We failed on that score, but got a consolation of a surprise ringtail Hen Harrier moving through.

Plenty of plants are coming into flower now, such as this Field Penny-cress.

I've begun seawatching again for the spring, and I can't say how much I've missed it! On the 5th I'd seen very little for the duration of the watch, till a immature Velvet Scoter zoomed by just offshore! Just the sort of situation seawatching can create (ages of nothing, until a moment of magic). 

The next day, wildfowl continued to feature, with a pair of Teal offshore, plus a flock of Greylag Goose flying along The Fleet - the 1st patch bird I didn't see last year.

The weather was now rather settled. The resident Raven and Peregrine were taking advantage and starting their breeding process with display and prospecting nest-sites.

The 7th was the only morning for 8 or so in a row that I had to work.  A Bonaparte's Gull therefore chose the worst time from my point of view to arrive at Ferrybridge.  I might have found it myself!  Nonetheless, I should be grateful for seeing it at all, during a 5 min visit from work.

There was also a Scandinavian Rock Pipit to look at here. A striking bird!

I led a bird walk that afternoon at Ferrybridge too.  Nothing of great note was spotted (plus, the Bony's failed to show in that time to really add a bit of spice).  Everyone seemed to enjoy it though, which was the main thing.

The next day, I headed up to Tice's Meadow (nothing of note) and Staines Reservoirs, on route to Suffolk.  'The Res' was looking extraordinary, as the north basin had been drained.

 Despite this, the only quality bird I saw on the reservoir itself was a nice Water Pipit, showing well.

But, as I arrived, I was lucky to spot a Wheatear on the adjacent King George VI Res - my earliest ever, and the first to be seen in Surrey (apart from an early morning unconfirmed report from Staines Res).

Incredibly, there was also a Black Redstart in the same area - a true Staines scarcity/mega.

I went up to Suffolk to see my family who had just moved there - to Bury St Edmunds to be precise. A walk round the nearby farmland in the evening produced a stack of Yellowhammer, and a brief Barn Owl which appeared to come out of one of these extraordinary old Oaks.

The next day, we walked into town, but even this provided some wildlife interest.  A singing Blackcap was a surprise, as was a little row of aviaries containing the likes of Zebra Finch, a curious Reeve's Pheasant....

...and even a Golden Pheasant.

The place was full of (natural) history. Some sort of Suffolk pronunciation!?

In the afternoon, I visited the fantastic Lackford Lakes, just up the road.

All the birds showed well, such as Goldeneye...

...and a single Goosander, looking a bit odd amongst the other more regular species.

Plenty to see here.

The best encounter of the visit was with a Muntjac which was right in front of one of the hides.

The main reason for my visit was for the Gull-roost.  It turned out to be one of the best I've seen, largely because the ones I've seen in the south have been either too distant, or with poor variety. 

There had been a Caspian Gull seen recently, and I was initially interested in this bird all by itself on a different lake, till I realised it was a Great Black-backed Gull, that is (no others had been seen up to that point, so it threw me)!

 Then, I spotted this 2nd-winter bird, whose head-shape in particular made it stand out amongst the Herring.  I realise it's distant, but I'd appreciate any comments.

The next day, we explored the remarkable feature of Orford Ness.  Whilst here, I heard the 'filililip' call of a Lapland Bunting, though I failed to locate it.

Orford village itself was interesting, and we bumped into a load of other birders, who, evidently, were there to photograph Short-eared Owl.  It didn't take long to see one myself (and show it to my delighted mum! I hope that counts as a mother's day gift! :-).

Shingle Street was the well-named last location, but there was little here except stunning views.

Back at Portland, a few more patch-ticks have been achieved in recent days, including Sanderling at Ferrybridge ...

...and a load of quality at Barleycrates Lane, including early Sand Martin, Fieldfare, and a fantastic Woodcock which struggled to circumnavigate a fence, meaning I could enjoy great views!

With 8 patch ticks in 4 days, what more could occur? I'm looking forward to the next mild spell!

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