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WEATHER: wet and very windy for most the day. from 3pm sunshine and showers, still windy. Top temp 8C

The weather improved somewhat today and consequently we had better birding with some goodies thrown in the mix of sightings. I know this Trip is entitled the "Somerset and Dorset New Year Tour" but a slight deviation into Devon is allowed because I make the rules, ha!

We headed off to Seaton Wetlands is look for the long staying Isabelline Wheatear along with an Eastern Yellow Wagtail and anything else that came our way. We drove through heavy rainfall, it was still dull, wet and windy at 9am when arrived at the Wetlands.

The march out to Colyford Common produced very few sightings, it was high tide and most of the marsh was covered in water. A few Common Shelducks and a flock of Lapwing was the best of the bunch of sightings we had.

Colyford Common was also flooded, in fact it was only the boardwalk out to the hide that was visible for the most part. Three or four birders were on the boardwalk when we arrived and they were watching the ISABELLINE WHEATEAR. This bird looked forlorn, it wasn’t very active and I’m not surprised, it had nowhere to hunt for food it was all underwater.

Coltford Common boardwalk  - the only part not under water

A few Meadow Pipits were flying around and landing on the wires, as did Pied Wagtail and a couple of other Pipits. These pipits were different from the Meadow and were identified as a Rock Pipit and a Water Pipit. I tried to get photos of them but the light was very bad and wind didn’t help.

Rock Pipit (Scandinavian race? littoralis) left hand bird, Water Pipit righthand bird and Meadow pipit at the back.

We also saw two Greenshanks which were new for our list as well as a few Pheasants, our search for the Eastern Wagtail was unsuccessful, but we had seen the main target bird. On the way back to the car we heard a Song Thrush singing, our first of the year, but we could not locate it in the dense hedgerow of trees.


Following this successful start to the day we continued in the same vein at Lyme Regis, we parked at the main car near the Cobb and walked across the shingle beach towards the Cobb Lower Walkway. It was blowing a hooley from the south and waves were crashing against the Cobb wall and breaching the top. We found several Ruddy Turnstones on the beach but not our target bird the Purple Sandpiper.

dark sky over the beach and Cobb at Lyme Regis

On the lea-side of the Cobb the sheltered harbour was flooded, it was high tide, but it was turning. More Turnstones were on the walkway and in the sandy area that had just become exposed in the harbour. We also saw several Pied Wagtails and a few Rock Pipits. It was too dangerous to risk walking to the end of the walkway as waves were cascading over the seawall.

a deserted Cobb except one little Turnstone

A coffee stop was needed and was found on the sea front, we drank hot coffee and sheltered from a downpour of rain. As we walked back to the Cobb the rain eased off and wind dropped as if by magic, so we decided to walk onto the Cobb  to search for the sandpipers. On the far wall of the harbour we saw Common Ringed Plovers with more Turnstones and a couple of Great BB Gulls.

the rarest bird of our trip - Isabelline Wheatear on the boardwalk at Colyford Common

Near the end of the Cobb a stony beach area held a dozen Purple Sandpipers, they were literally right below us and didn’t budge as we approached. We filled our boots with digi-bin pictures, Pam was trying out her new phone adaptor on her binoculars too, getting some success.

digi-binned Purps

Before we left we heard some honking and looked up expecting to see some geese, instead we saw four Whooper Swans flying right over the top of us, a great sighting for us as we had missed this species in Somerset.

Next, we drove to the river Lim about ¼ mile up from the beach, we walked a short way before we located another target species, the Dipper. This particular individual posed nicely for our cameras and even came a little closer.

Dipper on the Lim

It rained hard again as we drove into Bridport to buy our lunch which we ate sitting on the sea-front at West Bay. We never got out of the bus because the rain and the wind told us not to! It was now 1pm we drove back to Weymouth and onto Portland because we thought that the strong wind may have blown something into Chesil Cove, we also wanted to search for a Black Redstart that was wintering there.

We met a local birder who told us exactly where the Black Redstart was favouring and that is exactly where we found it, thank you Charlie. We had good views of it before it flew off over some houses and out of sight. Three other birders mentioned that a Grey Phalarope had been seen in the Cove and so we walked back up the ramp to scan the sea from a sheltered spot in the ruins of a building.

record shots of the Grey Phalarope

Within minutes we found the bird which was sitting on the water fairly close to the shore, how exciting was that? We watched the bird for quite a while with two of us trying to photograph it. Other birds in Cove were Common Gull, Kittiwake, Black-headed, Mediterranean and Herring Gulls. A Little Gull had been seen earlier but it had moved on.

Gull kept harrassing the Phalarope and made it fly off

Our last few hours had been very successful, the sky cleared and we had some sunshine so we were inspired to return to the lookout point at Sandsfoot Castle to search once again for the Red-necked Grebe.

I wish we hadn’t bothered! We should stopped whilst we were on a high!  However, because the light had improved a great deal and we had been successful today we had high hopes.

At Sandsfoot Castle the cold wind in our backs was biting and strong which made keeping the scope still rather difficult and birding was uncomfortable. Sure, we found a few species, Eider Ducks, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Divers, Oystercatchers, Med Gulls by the score and a few Great crested Grebes, but not the RN Grebe. This bird does not want to be seen by me!!!

We left at four, it was still light but we were cold now and fed up after looking for that bloody grebe!