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WEATHER: cloudy to start, sunny for most of the day but a very cold Northerly wind. temp 4C

Anything we did today was going to be an anticlimax compared to the brilliant day we had yestersday and that proved to be the case.

We set off from Weymouth at 8am and headed east to the Watercress beds at Crossways, we were hoping to see pipits, wagtails and perhaps a Green Sandpiper. Boy was it cold out there, we had a dull start, an overcast sky and that chilly wind from yesterday. We saw 20-30 Meadow Pipits, a single Grey Wagtail, a single Pied Wagtail some Jackdaws and few Wood Pigeons, it wasn't long before we were back on the bus heading for Wareham.

Our walk in Wareham pine forest produced very little, we hardly saw a bird other than Robin, Wren and Chaffinch. As we got back near the car park a single Redpoll flew into a Silver Birch Tree very close to us. Unfortunately it stayed for around 30 seconds and was gone, only the front few people saw it.

So we drove down to Hartland Moor on the way to Middlebere, we had a modicum of success there as we searched for Dartford Warbler. It took a while to get good views of one after having many very short glimpses. It was a pair of Stonechats that saved the day. We watched them for a while and, as expected, a lovely male Dartford Warbler was associating with them. It follwed them from bush to bush, perching out in the open a few times, thank goodness for that, a Darty in the bag,

Low Tide was due at 12:30pm so we planned our visit to arrive at Middlebere Hide around 2 hours before that. Well things didn't work out as planned and it was past 11am when we arrived. Along the approach track we saw very little, a few Fieldfares, lots of Blackbirds, Little Egrets and Gulls over the marsh and a few Sika Deer.

The tide was well and truly out when we reached the hide, most birds had been and gone but the exposed mudlafts were covered in mainly Teal and Wigeon. We also saw a few Grey Plover, Common Redshanks some distant Curlews, Common Shelduck, Brent Geese and large numbers of Dunlin. The star bird was a Spotted Redshank, it sat, fast asleep with its back to us!

the view of the mudflats from the hide at Middlebere

There was no sigin of any raptors, harriers or otherwise, a single Avocet flew in and landed very close to the hide, I can't explain that behaviour, a Common Snipe did likewise and a few Little Egrets (7) dotted the marsh area.  We left around 12:30 when most of the birds had disappeared, they were following the receding tide around the distant gassy bank where a few Sika Deer fed.

shown here is a Spotted Redshank just taking off with a bunch of Teal

For lunch we drove to the cafe at RSPB Arne, it was packed in there, but the service was quite quick and very efficient. The soup of the day was lovely and so was the hot coffee.

For our last birding of the day we walked to Shipstal Point, a 2 1/2 mile round trip, it was very cold in the exposed areas but we saw enough wildlife to make it worthwhile. Around the feeders in the car park and at the cafe we saw Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Chaffinch, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Robin and Goldfinch. Both Siskin and Great Spotted Woodpecker were later seen by Lorna, as she stayed behind and opted out of the long walk.

the single Avocet that landed near the hide at Middlebere

A Firecrest appeared in a Holly bush as we set off for the walk and we saw Goldcrest during the walk! From various view points along the Shipstal Shoreline we had much better views of the feeding waders, we saw Oystercatchers, Grey Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Redsank, lots of Avocet and Lapwings, all were much closer now.

A single, very distant Eurasian Spoonbill was feeding along the shoreline, we were lucky to see it because within a minute or two it flew off and was lost to sight. We had no luck with White-tailed Eagle, Marsh or Hen Harrier, Merlin or Buzzard. In fact we did not see a single of prey so far today!

Sika Deer

We had close encounters with another Goldcrest, a single Coal Tit and on the walk back we bumped into a flock of Long-tailed Tits with an accompanying Eurasian Treecreeper. Back at the car park we rejoined Lorna and we watched yet another Treecreeper with more Long-tailed Tits.

It was now 4pm, the final light beams of sunlight we breaking through the gathering clouds, the cold increased as the sunlight deminished, it was time to go.

One final twist in today's tale happened as we crossed Hartland Moor on the journey home. We noticed a small gathering of birders and pulled over to ask what they were doing. It was a stake-out for a Harrier Roost and they were waiting for Hen Harriers to arrive, so we all jumped off the bus and got very cold once again. We spent twenty minutes waiting, and suddenly, a shout went out "its coming". 

the view of Poole Harbour from Shipstal Point

Very distantly (perhaps a mile away) we could see a male Hen Harrier making its way towards us, we were told thay it usually roosted not far from where we were standing! However, that was not the case today. It stayed in view for a minute before dropping into the heather a long way off, most of my group were not happy with that kind of sighting but you could see clearly that it was a male Hen Harrier, it went onto the trip list and my year list!!

We were back at the Guest House by 5pm and by 6:30pm we were sitting down in the warm, Turk's Head Pub, tucking into a delicious Sunday Roast with a pint of Doombar!!