HAM WALL RSPB RESERVE - TRANSFER TO DORSET WITH VISITS TO - MAIDEN CASTLE DORCHESTER - SILVERLAKE - WEST KNIGHTON - RADIPOLE LAKE RSPB RESERVE
WEATHER: bright sunshine all day with some cloud later, no wind. Temp 7C
It was perfect weather for birding today, a lovely crisp winter's day with dead-still air, it was magical out in the marshes this morning. Today was our transfer day, a move from the Somerset Levels to the Dorset Coast at Weymouth. But first we had some birds to find at Ham Wall before we left.
We had all packed our luggage ready for the transfer later in the morning but at 8am we set off for Ham Wall in search of a few missing species. We relocated the Firecrest near the car park before walking along the main track to visit VP1 and VP2. A Stock Dove went onto the list for the first time but our search for Redpoll went unrewarded, we found a small flock of Siskins and lot of Goldfinches feeding in the Alder Trees but no Redpolls.
a view from the hump-backed bridge at Ham Wall
From VP2 we watched many Marsh Harriers in glorious sunshine, a beautifully marked male was stunning in the morning light. All the usual fare were out on show, Mike found a Water Rail but only Graham got to see before it dashed off. We finally had great views of a Cetti's Warbler as it sat out singing and we also had good views of Reed Bunting, Common Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker and several other species.
the view from VP2 this morning
The flooded reedbeds were unsuitable for Bittern, I wonder where they go when conditions are like this? We left the Reserve around 11am and made our way back to the Farmhouse.
Our journey down to Weymouth was uneventful, we stopped in Dorchester to buy lunch before driving to Maiden Castle to eat it. We had five target species to look for in the grass meadows around the Castle (Hill Fort), Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Linnet and Meadow Pipit.
Mike and Lorna spotted the first Yellowhammers on a fenceline and within a few minutes we found four out of five of our target species. A feeding flock of birds settled near the roadside and we quickly picked out Corn Buntings, Skylarks and Linnets. A brief view of a single Meadow Pipit was had by a couple of the group and this was verified later when we looked at our pictures, a meadow Pipit was present in several shots.
We scanned the area for Merlin and found only Buzzards, corvids and Gulls and after about an hour we moved on. We drove to Silverlake on the Eastern side of Dorchester near Crossways. There we searched for a Green-winged Teal amongst a horde of Eurasian Teal, we were looking into the sun, it was very difficult to see anything.
Yellowhammers and a Corn Bunting
Egyptian Goose is another candidate for the area but we dipped on that one two! In fact, apart from Great Crested Grebe, a flock of Canada Geese and all the common duck species we saw very little there. A small mixed flock of Winter Thrushes was all the passerines we found. We tried a couple more seasonal pools not far away but found only gulls and Rabbits.
We then visited a site in West Knighton where a fast flowing stream runs through a ribbon of riparian woodland, our target bird was the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker! Our access the woodland was denied by the absence of a bridge over the flooded stream, so we had to be contented with watching bird feeders in a garden close by.
Yesterday we drove quite a distance to look for three target birds in RSPB Swell Woods: Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Marsh Tit. Today we found all three of them again! In and around the stream and the feeders, we also saw Coal, Long-tailed, Blue and great Tits and lots of Chaffinches and Goldfinches. We found Great Spotted Woodpecker but there was no sight nor sound of the Lesser version.
Radipole Lake at dusk
Our final destination was the RSPB Radipole Lake Reserve in the centre of Weymouth, we all enjoyed a hot drink at the cafe before watching some birdies. We added two gulls to the list: Mediterranean and Common Gulls, we also saw our first Common Shelducks of the year and we enjoyed views of several duck species. Vanessa found another Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler called from deep in the bramble hedge.
For the last few years a sizeable Starling Roost had been noted in the reedbeds at Radipole Lake but today not a single Starling appeared! The weather was perfect, a beautiful sunset, calm wind and a stock-still reedbed! But no starlings arrived. We did note about 100+ Pied Wagtails gathering in the huge car park in preparation for their communal roost in the nearby trees.
We finshed the day just after 4:30pm. we had added a lot of new species to our list today and tomorrow many more will follow into the notebook.