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WEATHER: a very cold start but a light breeze and all day sunshine. Temp 2-5C

Our best day so far as far as the weather was concerned with some excellent birding too! We started at the usual time 8am and decided to check the meadows adjacent to the farmhouse for any sign of the Glossy Ibis which failed to turn up once again. We did see plenty of Little & Cattle Egrets, Mute Swans and swarms of Starlings.

We then drove the short distance to Westhay Moor parking at the southern of London Drove, we saw Redwings and Fieldfares as we got out of the bus and a nice flock of Chaffinches. Not far into our walk we saw 3 Jays and a Raven flew over calling. At the first pools we came to we saw the common duck species such as Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall, we also saw Great Egret, Grey Heron, Canada Goose and Mute Swans.

sunrise from Westhay with Glastonbury Tor

At 30 Acre Lake we watched from the hide and found Pintail, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and our star bird the Goosander, two pairs were present. We then continued along the Drove stopping on a bridge to view the surrounding meadows hoping for a Kestrel sighting but we necer saw one. Mike Tayolr then called out an Otter sighting which was quite a distance away, but unmistakeable. A Marsh Harrier came over and dive bombed the Otter, extraordinary was that?

Goosander - female above

The group wanted to get closer views of the Otter and decided to walk to the next drove and maybe get a little nearer, in the meantime I walked back to the bus and drove it round to meet them. The Otter had gone by the time they got there but tey did get good views of a flock of about 50 Cattle Egrets.

a pair of Pintail Ducks

Before moving on to our next destination we stopped for a coffee near Westay and then we drove to Catcott Low, carefully checking the fields along the way for the Glossy Ibis. At Catcott we watched from the blinds beside the hide, as the hide was full of birders.

Catcott Low - a veiw from the hide

Hundreds of Wigeon were very close by with one or two Pintail, some Teal and Shoveler, but we saw nothing new at Catcott.

Great Egrets are now quite a common sight on the Levels

At 12 noon we were all packed and ready to transfer to Dorset for our 4 day tour, Mike Ambler was heading off home first thing in the morning so he drove his own car down. We collected three more participants in Stoford, Graham, Pam and Andrew jumped onto the bus and we continued along the route to Weymouth with planned stops around Dorchester.

Charminster Water Meadows were covered in birds we hoped to see Russian White-fronted Geese which had been seen everyday for a couple of weeks. We could not find them, they had gone AWOL. However the meadows looked great in the early afternoon sunlight and we enjoyed great views of Lapwings, Black-tailed Godwits, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallards, Grey Heron, Little Egrets and hundreds of gulls. We saw Black-headed, Mediterranean, Herring and Common Gulls as well as Cormorants and Canada Geese.

Linnets in the afternoon sunlight at Silverlake

After stopping in Dorcester to buy lunch at 2pm we drove around the town to visit Maiden Castle where a good number of species were to be looked for. Our main target bird was the LITTLE GULL, two of them had been seen in recents days, we found one after about five minutes of looking! Marvelous, this species is an excellent one for the list.

We drove down to the main car park and scanned the fields for other species, thousands of birds were out there including: Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls, Starlings, Rooks, Crows, Jackdaws and  Wood Pigeons.

Before long we had found a large flock of Linnets, we saw small parties of Skylarks a couple of Stonechats and one of our main targets, the Corn Bunting. Several of these were seen in a field of beet.

We left at 3pm and drove to the east side of Dorchester to the disused gravel pits at Silverlake and spent the last 1 ½ hours of daylight enjoying some great sightings.

To our great delight and surprise to found a small gropup of Russian White-fronted Geese (apparently there was 11 present but we saw only 3 of them), they were standing with Greylag and Canada Geese. In the water we found a single male Goldeneye, lots of Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler. Then 5 Egyptian Geese flew in and a little later a single RUDDY SHELDUCK flew over the water and landed out of sight.

record shot of the Green Woodpeckers

In the meantime we saw a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a couple of Green Woodpeckersa small flock of Linnets and a Nuthatch. There was no sight nor sound of a Woodlark or Goosander (3 goosander were reported from the eastern pool, but we had no time to walk there!).

a quick snapshot of the Ruddy Shelduck in flight, taken by Richard Pettett

sunset over the water at Silverlake

As we got back into the car we saw Great Tit, Robin, Redwing, Starling and Blackbird. Our final sighting of the day was a Kestrel, seen as we drove over the ridge between Dorchester and Weymouth, hooray!! At last we had seen a Kestrel the first of the trip for us!