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WEATHER: a fantastic clear and still morning, temp around 10C. Cloudy later and a chilly breeze

My annual first-day-of-the-year birding dash turned out to be more of a 'plod' than a dash, I had succeeded in listing 100 species on this day in the past but these days 80 species is a good shout, so I set that as my target.

I left home at 6:50am, a Robin was singing in the car park and it showed very close to a street light, No. 1 in the bag.

1. European Robin

Not another bird was seen all the way to Wareham Forest where it was still fairly dark at 7:40 when I arrived. It was birdless for the first 20 minutes, although I did hear Song Thrush, Robin and a Chaffinch 'pinking'. But soon I slowly began to list a number of species that actually showed:

2. Mallard - flushed from a stream                                                                                                                                                  3. Common Pheasant                                                                                                                                                                       4. Song Thrush

I walked along a track where mature pine and silver birch trees were mixed with some oaks, they dominated the landscape, I scoped more thrushes after hearing and finding a Mistle Thrush                                                                

5. Mistle Thrush                                                                                                                                                                                6. Redwing                                                                                                                                                                                         7. Fieldfare

A few other species began to wake up and they put in an appearance, but generally the going was slow.        

8. Carrion Crow       9. Common Kestrel        10. Eurasian Magpie      11.  Wood Pigeon

I left the wooded area for a while and wandered onto a section of the heathland, it took another 20 minutes to locate my target species.   12. Dartford Warbler   I saw 5 of them in one small area. On the way back to the car park I spent some time scanning a row of Alder Trees which lined a flooded stream. A few more species turned up:

13. Great Spotted Woodpecker         14  Chaffinch          15.   Blue Tit       16. Blackbird

17. Herring Gull  (fly-over)                 18.  Jackdaw           19. Cormorant (fly-over)

20. Grey Heron                                    21. Goldfinch            22. Common Starling (on the grass with more Fieldfares and Redwings)                                           23. Green Woodpecker (flushed from the grassy area)

I spent a productive time near the stream looking from a small bridge near the car park, there a flock of feeding birds held:

24.  Great Tit                   25. Goldcrest          26.  Marsh Tit        27. Nuthatch       

From the bridge I also saw     28. Grey Wagtail           29. Wren           30.  Dunnock

 I stopped at two other locations in Wareham Forest for brief scans but failed to find anything new, it was 11am when I left. I headed back towards Dorchester and stopped at some watercress beds near Bere Regis, they produced very little but I did add 3 species from the car:

31.  Common Buzzard             32. Feral Pigeon                     33. Pied Wagtail

My next stop was at Maiden Castle on the outskirts of Dorchester, I was hoping to find a huge flock of Golden Plover with Lapwings but niether species was present. One field held hundreds of gulls of five different species, four of which were new for the list:

34.  Black-headed Gull       35. Mediterranean Gull (200+)        36.  Great Black-backed Gull     37. Common Gull 

38. Linnet        

It was almost 12 noon when I arrived at Radipole Lake and new species came thick and fast, one special duck was also present but it took me a long time to find it.

39. Lesser Black-backed Gull      40. Mute Swan    41. Canada Goose   42. Gadwall   43.  Tufted Duck   44. Teal

45. Common Pochard                   46. Common Shelduck        47. Little Grebe    48. Coot   49. Moorhen 

 The star of the show was the      50.  RING NECKED DUCK    it showed very well once it ws located. 


I drove round to Lodmoor for a fleeting visit, in fact, I scoped the reserve from the elevated car park ner the Beach Road. I had six target birds and found four of them:

51. Common Snipe         52. Black-tailed Godwit        53. Marsh Harrier    54. Shoveler      (Little Egret and Wigeon were missing)

I also added two very common species which were, so far, unseen today:     55. House Sparrow          56. Collared Dove   

My next stop was Portland Harbour, I viewed the harbour from the Weymouth Sailing Club. It was busy with walkers and yatchs so not many birds were out there.

57.  Great Crested Grebes         58.  Black-necked Grebes (13)      59.  Black-throated Diver      60. Shag

A quick drive round to Ferrybridge produced just I new sighting:        61. Red-breasted Merganser

It was now 2pm, it had clouded over and I had about 2 hours of daylight left. I looked at the harbour from Portlnd Castle and added zilch to the list.

I drove onto Portland and parked in Southwell where I took a very muddy footpath across the top fields, I noted a couple of new species in the fields:

62. Meadow Pipit            63.  Skylark

Once I walked down to the coastal path and followed the shoreline I added several sea-birds to the list:

634  Oystercatcher      65.  Rock Pipit    66. Gannet    67. Guillemot    68.  Razorbill   69. Kittiwake


I arrived at Portland Bill Lighthouse at 3pm which left just enough time to walk back up to the top fields and look for owls just as it was getting dark.

Portland Bill Lighthouse

I notched two more species on the way to the 'owl fields':

70.  Common Stonechat          71.   Raven

At the top fields I waited about 10 minutes before two beautiful owls appeared and began to quarter the fields

72.  Short-eared Owl   

a record shot of a distant Short-eared Owl

73. Lapwing (seen at Lodmoor but missed off the list earlier)

I left Portland and drove home in the dark, it had been a fabulous first day of the year even though my list was a little short of my target of 80 species. I told you it was now a 'plod' rather than a dash!!