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WEATHER;  a clear sky to start, cloudy later, dry all day with a cold westerly wind. Top temp 9C

This was the first day of two days guiding with David and Sallie Jones. We have met several times in the past and enjoyed some great days in the field. I collected them from their holiday rental cottage in Chickerell at 8am. David dumped a list of species in my lap and said "find those and we will be happy".

Their list wasn't too long and many were possible during the two days we have together, the first bird we went for was the RICHARDS PIPIT which was not far from where they were staying in Chickerell.

Med Gulls on the weed-bank in Portland Harbour

It was a little on the chilly side with a brisk breeze coming over Chesil Bank onto East Fleet. We saw Pied Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Magpie and a pair of Ravens as we walked down a track to view a horse paddock where the Pipit had been favouring.

The position of the rising sun did not help so we moved down to the southern fenceline of the paddock, this was an area called the 'dog walker's field'. After setting up our scopes we scanned the paddock for 20 minutes or so. The Pipit wasn't in sight, we did see a flock of twenty Magpies, two pairs of Stonechats, more Pied Wagtails, Little Egrets and small numbers of Meadow Pipits. We all managed to avoid getting dog poo on our tripod legs, but I managed to step into some as we left the field, doh!!

We left the area and planned to return if the Pipit was sighted by other birders. Next, we stopped at Sandsfoot Castle on the northern shore of Portland Harbour, once again we were looking into the sun but we managed to see some birds. Immediately below us on some floating weeds we saw a group of Med Gulls, some Black-headed Gulls and four Eider Ducks (3f + 1m). We also lots of Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebes and three Common Scoter. Cormorants, Shags, Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls made up the rest of our sightings.

three female Eider Ducks with a juv Herring Gull

At Newton's Cove situated just outside the harbour walls next to Weymouth we searched for a Black Redstart which I had seen a couple of days ago. It was David once again who found the bird, it was some distance away but it flew towards and landed very close, how convenient! We had great views of this superb male specimen, what a corker! We also saw Rock Pipit and Turnstones along the shore of the Cove.

the Black Redstart taken by Sallie Jones

A Water Pipit had been showing very well for the last couple of days, it was seen at Bowleaze Cove on the east side of Weymouth, so we drove across town to the cove. It didn't take too long to find the bird, it was the only bird on the beach except for a Pied Wagtail. David got onto it first and we had tremendous views for 30 minutes or so.

my two best shots of the Water Pipit

A quick stop at Radipole Lake for coffee and toilet use produced views of all the usual suspects including a couple of Common Snipe. We then drove across to Portland making a stop at Portland Castle to view the southern part of the Harbour. 

Many Cormorants and Shags sat on bank of rocks and many Red-breatsed Mergansers fed in the harbour. We then spotted the large grey-coloured dorsal fin of a Bottle-nosed Dolphin, it appeared several times but the no other part of the animal was seen. We sat in the sunshine and ate our picnic lunch before moving on.

For the next hour we spent time at Portland Bill, we sheltered from the cold wind behind the Trinity House Obilisk and scanned the ocean. Many Guillemots and a few Razorbills dashed by in small groups, we also saw Gannets and the odd Fulmar, Kittiwake Common Scoter (4). A few Rock Pipits appeared on the rocks below us but we could not find any Purple Sandpipers.

a single Purple Sandpiper

From other positions around the Bill we found both Razorbills and Guillemots sitting on the water, we had better views of Kittiwake and Fulmar. On the rocks belwo the Lobster Pot Cafe we found a single Purple Sandpiper and taking a few pictures we walked back to the car.

The woodland in 'ravine' at the side of Pennsylvania castle usually holkds a few birds, including Firecrest, so we made an effort to look for one. It was sheltered down in the ravine and was quite busy with birds. Lots of Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Blue and Great Tits were visiting a garden feeder and Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Wrens flitted about in the bushes. We never saw a Firecrest but we did hear one! 

As the afternoon progessed we made two more attempts to find grebes and divers in Portland Harbour. From Billy Winters car park on the west sdie of the shore we scoped. This time we had some success, finding two Slavonian Grebes and a single Black-necked Grebe.

Newtons Cove looking towards the Nothe Fort

Encouraged by our findings we drove round to Sandsfoot Castle for a second visit, we were hoping to get much better views of the grebes. It wsn't before before we realised that everyting was tsill a long way off, we eventually found four Black-necked Grebes together, but they were distant.

We gave up at that point, it was after 4pm and light was fading. David and Sallie bought some fish and chips and we drove round to their rental cottage to eat them. It had been a fairly good day with some success, I was disappointed not to have shown them the Richards Pipit which would have been a lifer for them.