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WEATHER: another very cold but dry day. We had cloud later with some snow. Max Temp 3C

It was another very chilly day but everyone had winter-clothing and kept warm. Our first excursion was to a site along the Fleet just west of the Army Bridging Camp in Chickerill. It was a ten minute walk to the site where a pair of CIRL BUNTINGS had set up their winter residence. 

The 'Fleet', a continuous body of tidal water, some 8 miles long, running from Portland Harbour to Abbotsbury

When we arrived at the correct location we saw nothing but a single Stonechat but after five minutes of waiting a male Cirl Bunting put in an appearance, wow! What stunning little bunting! The female also appeared and we expected them to fly down onto the path and start to feed, but instead, they took off and flew up very high and were lost to sight heading east over the Bridging Camp!! We were lucky to get good views of them before they left.

male Cirl Bunting

Scanning the brackish water of the fleet we saw a number of species: Brent Geese, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Shelduck, Redshank, Curlew, Mediterranean Gull, Great Crested and Slavonian Grebes (2), Great Northern Diver (2), Mute Swan, Wigeon, Teal and a few Mallards.

It was 8:45 when we got back to the bus, we set off towards Abbotsbury to our next site. I heard on the grapevine that a site near Portesham held up to six Short-eared Owls and as we were passing there today it would have been rude not to pop in and have a look.

It was a bit of a climb up some grassy slopes but we did manage to see a couple of the Owls. The first one flushed from a grassy bank and flew off and the second one was a distant view only. We also found a few Cattle Egrets and Vanessa called out a Red Kite as we were returning to the bus.

A forty minute drive found us at Seaton on the east bank of the river Axe. There we saw the five most common gull species, also Redshank, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and not much else. We drove into Seaton to buy lunch and then visited the sea-front to scan the bay. A string of Black Ducks sat out in the water, I assumed Common Scoter but on scoping them they turned out to be Wigeon!!

a view from near Portesham of Abbotsbury with St. Catherines Chapel on the hill

A visit to the wetlands centre and the hide overlooking Black Hole Lagoon produced very little, indeed the place was almost devoid of birds. We saw 4 Shelduck and one Curlew!! There was more birds on the feeders along the fottpath than in the frozen lagoon.

Lyme Regis was next, we were on the hunt for Dippers along the River Lim. We searched the last 1/2 mile of the river thoroughly, we found Grey Wagtail and lots of common garden birds including a Goldcrest, but we never had sniff of a Dipper. We marched up and down the river, scanning from Bridges and rasied banks but we never saw one. 

Next, we drove to the sea-front in the centre of Lyme Regis to visit the 'Cob', a sea-defence wall and breakwater which shelters the cute little Harbour. Along the harbour footpath we saw many Ruddy Turnstones running around feeding and coming very close to us, they are little adorable characters. A couple of Pied Wagtails and Rock Pipits were also seen.

Ruddy Turnstones running around at our feet,

At the end of the Cob a rocky breakwater extends out into Lyme Bay and that is where a winter population of Purple Sandpipers reside. We found only two on the rocks and a third one on the sea wall behind us. It ws quite windy out there and the water was choppy so we didn't expect the sandpipers to be sitting out sun-bathing.

the breakwater at the end of the Cob

On the way back we found a single Purple Sandpiper feeding alongside a bunch of Ruddy Turnstones, it came very close to us, too close for digi-scoping. We watched it for 10 minutes or so before it flew off.

two shots of the Purple Sandpiper on the breakwater

It was now approaching 3pm so we decided to head back with the intention of stopping at the Short-eared Owl site again. By the time we got there it was snowing lightly and the light was grim. We disturbed an Owl as soon as we got there and it flew off over a ridge. A few minutes later we saw two Short-eared Owls off to our left, they we fighting one another, I presume it was a territorial battle. One landed on top of a bush, but it was very distant. 

We all got cold and the light was fading so we walked back to the bus and headed back to base to end our last full day. Tomrrow the trip ends but we have time for one last excursion after breakfast.