The Portland Naturalist

The Portland Naturalist

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Surfer Dudes

Believe it or not, I have actually put in a bit of effort on patch in the last two and a half weeks, despite weather that included this.

Even though it was followed by this.

I've managed to find just two year ticks for the patch in this time, with a Knot over Ferrybridge one morning, and a male Common Scoter in the harbour.

There have been a few other interesting sightings on Portland, that have included summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe, a flock of 8 Pintail past the Bill, lots of Rook in-off the sea on one morning, a Firecrest at the Hump, a Pale-bellied Brent Goose (plus this pale-flanked dark-bellied or intergrade, which quite possibly explains an odd report of a Black Brant)...

 ....the Black Redstart at Portland Castle, and the Black Guillemot still there too.  I challenge you not to giggle at the bird playing hide and seek with a Herring Gull here!

As always of course, Red-breasted Merganser are present, but I've been able to admire them more than ever with their antics, as they are showing well at Portland Castle at the moment.

As for excursions, on the 15th I teamed up with Keith Kerr ( )  and Alex Berryman ( ) on a quest into Devon.
We arrived at Broadsands, south of Paignton, to a scene of a totally deserted feeding area, which is usually covered in seeds, and brimming with birds.  Luckily though, it didn't take long for us to work out that, unknown to me, the feeding area had been moved. 
We were soon watching at least 22 Cirl Bunting feeding, and squabbling, at close-range.
We next moved onto Dawlish Warren. A fabulous site I'd not visited before. 
While we waited by the hide, a Dartford Warbler (my first in 2 years) was a surprise find in the Gorse, and a young birder brought our attention to an adult Gull out on a sand-bar that he thought might be a Caspian.  I can certainly see where he was coming from, as its upright-stance was very distinctive and Caspian-like. Unfortunately it was just too distant (and in heat-haze) to confirm.
After what seemed like an age, I eventually got onto our target for this visit, the adult Bonaparte's Gull, which flew past us from the left, before heading round the point and out of view. At least we saw it!
Our last 2 stops were at the reported haunts of some Penduline Tits, but unfortunately, both Exminster Marshes...
...and the rather strange Dart's Farm were devoid of all Bulrush-splitting action. 
All in all however, it had been an enjoyable day. Thanks for the company chaps!

My latest trip was yesterday with the Next Gen Birders, into Hampshire.
I rushed through work, and headed to Acres Down in the New Forest, where the guys had already seen Goshawk (and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at another site, earlier).  I wasn't here for long, but just before we left, I was able to just catch a distant Goshawk, luckily.  A fly-over Woodlark and 2 Crossbill were bonuses.
We decided to make the twitch to Gosport, and the unremarkable-looking Stokes Bay.  It was looking rather more glamorous this afternoon though, as it had a stonking male Surf Scoter in the middle of it!  It took a while for me to see it, as a report that it had flown off west sent me off in the wrong direction initially!
We all saw it remarkably well in the end, with 2 Common Scoter.
Afterwards, we headed to Walpole Park, where Waldo the long-staying Ring-billed Gull had been reported in the morning.  We were defeated in the game of 'Where's Waldo' on this occasion, sadly!
We rushed back to the main area of our attention, the New Forest, and to Eyeworth Pond near Fritham.  I'd not been there before, and it was a gem of a site.  Full of 'plastic fantastics' it may be...

...but it also had a flurry of Marsh Tit-action, and a brief Firecrest. A male Wood Duck was nice to see too!
We ended the day at a freezing Black Gutter Bottom, where we failed to see any Harriers.  A male Merlin saved the day, as did another (distant) Goshawk, which I initially called as a Harrier (a good example of seeing what your mind wants to/was expecting)!  Remarkably, even though it was blowing a gale, heavily overcast, and nearly dark, it was doing its incredible 'roller-coaster' display routine!
Another top day, and great to see Olly, Amy S, Abi, Harry, and Amy R again, plus to meet Tiffany, Emma, and Tash. 
So, it's now March, and meteorologically-speaking, spring. Horray!!!  Can't wait to see that first Wheatear.

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