Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Big Weekend at Portland

Dan and I left home at some terrible hour to pick Sam and Robbie up from Wiltshire at 7am. After stopping for a quick cuppa we headed off to the Obs at Portland Bill. We stopped off in Weymouth for a Macdonalds and a look round RSPB Radipole. After seeing several singing Cetti's Warblers and a flyover Peregrine I picked up my first lifer of the weekend - Hooded Merganser. Despite being a bit of a controversial bird it was a brilliant bird to see:

Once we got to the Obs we went for the first seawatch of the weekend. Passage was very quiet but the resident Auks, Fulmars and Shags kept us entertained. I also picked up my second lifer of the weekend in the form of a Kittiwake. These were abundant around the Bill and we saw several over the 3 days.


(Fulmar, Razorbill and Shag)

Three of the Bill's Short-Eared Owls showed really well in the evening and provided a great way to end the birding for the day and start the drinking!

The weather on Saturday really wasn't great for seawatching and after starting at 6am with big hangovers (some worse than others) we called it a day around 9am and went to search the Bill for migrants. These were thin on the ground as well with the highlights being several Redstart and Wheatear. Nevertheless, we had a good time birding and soaking up the sun! We did manage to see the two resident Puffins, a lifer for Robbie and exciting birds to see.

(Linnets and Pied Wag)

(Redstart caught and ringed in the Obs garden)

A really sunny day meant perfect conditions for stalking Rock Pipits:

Whilst hunting for migrants in the paddocks we managed to get some nice views of Skylarks. Never realised how long their claws are!

Another unseasonably sunny day on Sunday meant that the Bill was a bit quiet on the migrant front. The situation got so desperate that we even resorted to photographing House Sparrows! However, news of another kind of Sparrow had come in the day before and that meant a twitch was in order. A White-Throated Sparrow at Old Winchester Hill in Hants was a mega and a lifer for all of us. After driving for 1hr 45mins we arrived at the reserve and we joined the rest of the twitchers pointing their scopes at a patch of bushes right next to the car park. After about an hour the bird finally showed. The only trouble was, I didn't see it! Dan, Robbie and Sam all got some kind of a view before it ducked back inot cover but somehow I missed it. After about 5mins of panicking I managed to get onto it making its way up to a vantage point and we all eventually got a lovely prolonged view off it. Such a nice looking bird and nice to be able to compare it to the White-Crowned Sparrow I'd seen at Cley last year.

On the way back we stopped off at Blashford Lakes where I picked up another lifer in the form of a Mealy Redpoll. As well as having fantastic views of woodland specialities at the feeders, we also the the huge Greenland Redpoll of the Rostrata race.

(Above: House Sparrow and WTSparrow)
(Song Thrush)

(Mealy Redpoll above and Greenland below)

Before dropping Sam and Robbie off, we stopped off again at RSPB Radipole. The highlight was totally unexpected great views of Bearded Tits. Dan picked up on their call before they showed brilliantly, feeding on reeds just 15ft away. Annoyingly, the auto-focus on the cam just couldn't deal with all the reeds so only Dan managed anything more than a blurry record shot! Nice views of Marsh Harrier added another tick to the weekend list.

After dropping Robbie off in S'oton, Dan and I did a bit off birding in the New Forest. After a bit of searching a Dartford Warbler popped up on some heather making it 231 for my life list!! Unfortunately, the battery on my cam had packed in so I didn't get any photos. We also had good views of Redstart (singing high in a tree), Crossbill, Tree Pipit and Curlew. A nice end to a great weekend!

(SEO near the lighthouse and Grey Heron)

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