Monday, 26 March 2018

Pennington Marsh - 23rd March

With a couple of hours to spare after dropping Tobias at school I had a wander around Pennington Marsh taking in Jetty, Butts, Fishtail and Keyhaven Lagoons. It was a bright spring like day but with a strong NW wind it was deceptively cold. Numbers of wader and wildfowl had shown a noticeable and decrease since my last visit with numbers of species such as Wigeon, Pintail and Black-tailed Godwit now into the low hundreds while I only saw 12 Pintail and no more than 50 Golden Plover. The Red-necked Grebe off the seawall is now entering summer plumage but there was no sign of the Slavonian Grebe that have wintered here. There were six Great-crested Grebe and ten Eider off shore but little else. On Jetty Lagoon there was a single Spotted Redshank still in winter plumage and two adult and a juvenile Spoonbill. As I walked along the seawall I flushed my first Wheatear of the season but only managed to obtain an arse-end view as it flew east and out of sight. At the point beside Butts Lagoon the semi-resident pair of Peregrine which seem to spend much time sitting on the shingle bar were harassing the waders. On the mudflats were around 150 Knot, 500 Dunlin and 75 Bar-tailed Godwit while a flock of around 200 Brent Goose fed in the saltmarsh on the rising tide. Keyhaven Lagoon was fairly devoid of birds but for around 40 Shelduck and two Avocet. Turning inland two Bearded Reedling were showing well in the reedbed in Butts Lagoon where they bred last year and two Chiffchaff sung from the old dump. Two Adder showed well on the south facing embankment adjacent to Butts Lagoon and there was a single crisp male along the Ancient Highway.

Bearded Reedling - Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

 Peregrine - Off Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

 Dunlin - Off Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

 Brent Goose - Off Butts Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Mistle Thrush - The Old Dump, Pennington Marsh

 Adder - Ancient Highway, Pennington Marsh

Spoonbill (adult left and juvenile) - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

 Spoonbill (juvenile) - Jetty Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Peregrine - Over Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Brent Goose - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Brent Goose - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Brent Goose, this is one of the few juveniles that I have seen this winter, they seemed to have had a poor breeding season in 2017 - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Coot - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Redshank - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Redshank - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Ross's Gull, Ferrybridge, Dorset - 6th March

On 21st February I was birding at Pennington Marsh when news broke, mid-morning, of an adult Ross's Gull that had been seen at Ferrybridge flying up the Fleet. I toyed with abandoning Pennington and driving straight to the bird but as the bird appeared to have disappeared I abstained. Later that afternoon the bird was relocated at Lodmoor RSPB and stunning photographs then emerged on the various social media outlets. I was well and truly gripped, I am a great fan of gulls and consider the smaller gulls (Ross's Gull, Little Gull and Sabine's Gull) as some of our most beautiful and enigmatic species. So, I checked my diary and with dismay realised I had no availability to go for this bird, a mere one hour 15 minutes from home, for at least a week due to work and family commitments. The bird lingered and my diary stayed packed until a slot, the 2nd March, became available in my diary. But, on 1st March the 'Beast from the East' struck a low pressure system, Storm Emma, that approached from the south and southern England was gripped by heavy snow and the roads were gridlocked so I had to cancel my plans - unsurprisingly the bird was not seen that day. I then reviewed my diary and the next slot that I could create was on the 6th March and so that was the plan.

I checked the weather and the bird news on the 5th and all was looking positive. The bird was rather unpredictable in occurrence moving between Ferrybridge, Radipole RSPB, Lodmoor RSPB and occasionally disappearing, presumably to sea for extended periods.  But I headed to bed early, set my alarm for 04:00 and was on the road by 05:00 arriving at Ferrybridge at 06:30. Setting up my scope by the Chesil Beach Cafe I scanned The Fleet but there were few gulls, but I picked up a small gull in flight and which I could see had a wedged shaped tail and broad white trailing edge to the secondaries and inner primaries - that was it, the Ross's Gull but it was distant and the bird soon headed inland, seemingly towards Radipole Lake RSPB. My views were brief, distant and quite unsatisfactory. It was then a waiting game, I scanned the gulls but there were only a handful of Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull. There were around 300 Brent Goose and I soon picked out a Pale-bellied Brent, waterbirds included a handful of Red-breasted Merganser, Great-crested Grebe and Little Grebe and waders included Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Redshank. By around 08:00 a few more Black-headed Gull arrived and a total of 13 lovely summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull showed well and were calling away. There was quite a traffic queue on the approach to Weymouth and as the Ross's Gull had been showing at Radipole RSPB during the late mornings I decided to hedge my bets and join the traffic to get to Radipole. It took around 30 minutes to get to the reserve car park and there were around 15 birders there so I joined the ranks and began to scan the island and lake in front of the visitor centre. There were a dozen or so Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and a few Common Gull but no sign of the Ross's Gull. I decided to stick it out for a couple of hours but other than 45 Snipe and good views of Tufted Duck giving their rather odd wheezing calls there was little to be seen.

At 10:40 news broke of the Ross's Gull back at Ferrybridge but, knowing that the bird was pretty mobile and often didn't stay at one spot for long, the assembled birders stayed put on the assumption that it would probably show at Radipole. At 11:30 news broke again that the bird was still at Ferrybridge and a mad dash through Weymouth ensued with all lights seemingly on red. It took around 25 minutes to get to Ferrybridge and on setting up my scope I soon picked up the Ross's Gull and put other birders onto it. Walking along the pavement adjacent to the A354 we edged nearer and obtained some fairly good views of this stunning little pink-tinged Arctic gull with its silvery primaries and distinctive neck-ring. The Ross's Gull was with a flock of Mediterranean Gull which must have numbered around 500 birds and far out numbered the Black-headed Gull. This was quite an amazing sight in itself. The Ross's Gull flew and headed over Chesil Beach to the sea showing its broad white trailing edge and diamond shaped tail but it soon returned and again settled with the Mediterranean Gull's . At around 13:00 the bird took flight and headed out to sea once more and I decided it was time to head for home having obtained good views of the target bird. My photos are not as good as others online but my views were all at a moderate distance. The bird has shown particularly well especially when it appears at Radipole where it occasionally sits in the car park - still I was very happy with my views and I headed home satisfied.

There have been 97 accepted British records of Ross's Gull to the end of 2016, with an additional 22 Irish records to the end of 2014. The prime counties being Shetland with 17 records followed by Yorkshire with 13 records. The peak month of occurrence is January with over 40 records and adults make up over 75% of all occurrences. I have previously seen two Ross's Gull in the UK, the first a superb pink adult at Blackstone Meadow on the Plym Estuary in January 2002 and the second a rather tatty looking 1st summer bird that summered at  Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, Exeter in 2014, see here. Britain is the only country in the world that I have seen this species but I would love to visit Barrow in October where a regular passage of thousands of birds occurs, see here.


Ross's Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Ross's Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Ross's Gull with Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Ross's Gull with Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Ross's Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Ross's Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Mediterranean Gull (2nd summer) - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

1st winter and adult Mediterranean Gull plus Shoveler and Avocet - Radipole RSPB, 
Weymouth, Dorset

Colour-ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull - Radipole RSPB, Weymouth, Dorset

Juvenile Herring Gull - Radipole RSPB, Weymouth, Dorset

Brent Goose with Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Brent Goose - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Brent Goose - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Dark-bellied Brent Goose - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Dark-bellied Brent Goose - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Monday, 5 March 2018

Pennington Marsh - 5th and 9th March

I visited Pennington Marsh on 5th and 9th March and on both days saw much the same. Its a pretty static time of year with winter birds steadily but barely noticeably declining and very few migrants appearing. The Lapwing are now in regular display and are busy making nesting scrapes on the marsh while Black-tailed Godwit are coming into plumage and are at varying stages of turning rusty. Up to eight Ruff were present on the marshes off Lower Pennington Lane and there remain good numbers of Wigeon, Pintail, Teal and Brent Goose as well as the usual waders. There were around 400 Golden Plover on Pennington Marsh on both days, an increase in previous numbers perhaps as a result of the recent cold weather movement. On 5th I counted 34 Bar-tailed Godwit off Butts Lagoon, a higher number than usual, all were still in winter plumage. On 5th a single Spoonbill flew high to the east.

Black-tailed Godwit with summer plumage beginning to appear on head, neck and scapulars - Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit with summer plumage beginning to appear on head, neck, wing coverts, tertials and scapulars - Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit with summer plumage beginning to appear on tertials - Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit with summer plumage beginning to appear on head, neck and scapulars - Pennington Marsh

Black-tailed Godwit with very little sign of moult to summer plumage - Pennington Marsh

Ruff - Pennington Marsh

Golden Plover - Pennington Marsh

Rock Pipit - Pennington Marsh

The Mute Swan were very feisty at the marsh today with marsh territorial aggression - Pennington Marsh


Sound recording of displaying Lapwing - Pennington Marsh


Sound recording of flight calls of Oystercatcher - Pennington Marsh


Sound recording of displaying Shoveler (eight males and three females) plus sound of the birds taking flight - Pennington Marsh


Sound recording of singing Siskin - Romsey


 Sound recording of alarm calling Blue Tit (following pass by Sparrowhawk) followed by song - Romsey