BIRDING - PORTLAND AND WEYMOUTH
WEATHER: a dry start, strong breeze, rain later - temp 6-9C
A HAPPY NEW BIRDING YEAR TO YOU ALL
As usual, the January 1st weather was dismal, dull, windy and wet. It was attrocious after midday and we ended, as usual, by abandoning our effort to see 100 species, before it got dark
It all started so well, Guy Campbell drove across to my place at 6:45, he jumped into my car and before we set off we noted a Robin singing in the dark and a surprise.......a BLACKBIRD was also singing, I've never heard that before on January 1st, have you?
We drove straight to Portland, stopping once to listen for Tawny Owls, without success. We hadn't actual seen a single bird until two Carrion Crows flew over the road on Portland. Then just before we got to the Bill a Barn Owl flew from a fence post across the road in front of the car, I nearly hit it!!
The Obilisk at Portland Bill - it looks lovely and calm in the picture, but in reality it was very windy and cold.
the 'sheltered' east side of the Bill where we found a Black Redstart
It was still very dull as we walked form the Bill car park to the Obelisk for some sea watching, we added a couple of species there, Wood Pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Herring Gull. Our sea-watch was fairly brief but during our time there we saw about twenty species. All the usual auks, Gannets, Gulls, Common Scoter, Kittiwakes, Fulmar and a distant Great Skua.
record shot of a Raven
A walk along the east side of the Bill, where it was more sheltered from the south-westerly wind, produced a Black Redstart, Rock Pipit, Starlings and not much else. Back at the car park we added Raven and Jackdaw.
We searched the Obs Quarry for the resident Little Owl but it wasn't at home, we scanned the Top Fields looking for Short-eared Owls or even a Hen Harrier without luck. Linnets, Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Stonechat and a Oystercatcher was all we got.
Driving back along the east side of Portland we stopped briefly at Pennsylvania Castle for a quick look in the woodland there. Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinch, Dunnock and a Goldcrest were added there.
Next we drove off Portland to Portland Harbour, viewed from the Castle it was quite sheltered there. We picked out at least 6 Great Northern Divers, a couple fo them came really close to the shore. Other species included; Red-breatsed Merganser, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Shag and Guy picked up a Black-throated Diver, nice one.
one of six Great Northern Divers seen from Portland Castle
The tide was at its highest when we got to Ferrybridge, all we saw was Brent Geese, Mediteranean, Black-headed and Common Gulls and more Mergansers. a small flock of Skylarks dashed about with a handful of Meadow Pipits. Our fourth Kestrel of the day was seen hovering along the shore of the harbour.
Before we drove into Weymouth we took a diversion to the 'Bridging Camp' on the shore of the fleet about a mile from Ferrybridge. Recent reports of a pair of Cirl Buntings drew us in like a twitchers magnet! We found our first Wren, Rook and Great Crested Grebe near the fleet and after a fairly long walk we bumped into the buntings, they were with a pair of Stoenchats and showed well.
a Cirl Bunting seen along the Fleet
Scanning the fleet from our rasied position we added Mute Swan, Common Shleduck and Slavonian Grebe (at least three were in view intermitantly). We searched for Long-tailed Duck, but dipped on that one.
Back to the harbour, viewing from Weymouth sailing Club, Guy picked out another Slavonian Grebe and then a bit closer he found a Black-necked Grebe! The boy was on fire!! We both found another three Great Northern Divers and we saw two Goldcrest as we walked back to the car.
Radipole Lake was more or less flodded, very high water levels in the main lagoon. We found Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and Tufted Duck but not a Little Grebe. We added Lesser Black-backed Gull and a small warbler flew from the reeds, probably a Chiffchaff but we never got onto it. From the Tennis Courts car park along Radipole Lake Lane we found three Little Grebes, the only three birds in the middle of the pool.
We were struggling for numbers, I think we had just struck the 60 species mark and it was now 12:30. Rain was threatening, a few drops landed on my head as we got back to the car.
Lodmoor was next, but before we set off from the car we stopped to eat a sandwich and drink a warm cuppa coffee. During our lunch break we added Long-tailed Tit to the list. Entering the reserve from Weymouth Bay Avenue we bumped into quite a few species, three Bullfinches was nice to see, a couple of Song Thrushes were our first of the day, as was Great Spotted Woodpecker and more Long-tailed Tits appeared.
Lodmoor was crazy, stuffed full of birds, the sky was alive with hundreds of Lapwings, Golden Plover, Snipe, Gulls and Duck. A male Marsh Harrier was a good sighting as we approched the reedbeds. There must have a thousand birds in the sky, 600+ Golden Plover with all the other species. From the west track we found dozens of Snipe, a single Dunlin, a single Ruff and a single Avocet. We nearly walked past the sleeping Avocet as it sat close to a number of Black-headed Gulls.
Lapwings, Golden Plover, Snipe and Starlings in the sky above Lodmoor
More birds went onto the list, Coot, Moorhen, Cetti's Warbler (H), Gadwall, Great White Egret, Wigeon and others. It started rain quite heavily so we decided to move on. The rain stopped before we got to the car, Guy found another Bullfinch and some more Long-tailed Tits.
Dunlin and Lapwing at Lodmoor
Avocet - taken through wet lenses
Lapwing with Common Snipe and Eurasian Teal
The rain came down heavily as we drove to Dorchester, but it eased off as we approched Silverlake on the eastside of the town. It was very windy up there, we got out of the car after watching a few Pheasants. From the top of the main path we scanned the North Lake for a Green-winged Teal. The rain intensified, it was coming down like stair rods at 45 Degrees, into our faces as we looked for the Teal. We added Canada Goose but abandoned our search due to the rain.
We had seen 79 species, it was now approaching 3pm with no sign of a let-up in the rain, so we decided to call it day. It rained all the way back to Yeovil.
It wasn't a bad effort considering the weather conditions and we saw some nice species into the bargain, an enjoyable day!!