Sunday, 19 September 2021

Portland Bill - 17th September

I had another Dormouse survey near to Dorchester today and so opted to head to Portland for a couple of hours before hand. Compared to my last visit on the 15th it was dead with very few migrants present. I walked from the main car park up the West Cliffs, through the Top Fields and down to Culverwell and then spent sometime at the Observatory Quarry. The Wryneck was still in the observatory quarry but otherwise there was very little, I recorded not a single Chiffchaff and overhead passage was non-existent. My eBird checklist for the morning can be viewed here.

Sparrowhawk - Top Fields, Portland Bill

Kestrel - Top Fields, Portland Bill

Wryneck - Observatory Quarry, Portland Bill

Portland Bill - 15th September

Before a Dormouse survey near to Dorchester I popped to Portland Bill for a couple of hours birding. I parked in the main car park and birded the lighthouse, Pulpit Inn and Observatory area. The bushes were alive with Chiffchaff and with good numbers of Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat as well as Redstart, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail and a Hobby flew north. I spent some time at the Observatory Quarry where the Wryneck showed well eventually, it would disapear for long periods under the Brambles to feed.

My eBird checklist for the morning can be viewed here.

Wryneck - Observatory Quarry, Portland Bill

Wryneck - Observatory Quarry, Portland Bill

Little Owl - Observatory Quarry, Portland Bill

Northern Wheatear - Portland Bill

Chiffchaff - Bird Observatory, Portland Bill

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Pagham Harbour - 10th September

I headed to Pagham this morning for a Red-backed Shrike that had been present in the Halsey's Farm and North Wall area since 5th September. After school drop-off I arrived on site at 08:40 and parked at the end of Church Lane and walked out onto the seawall. I was midway along the wall when the heavens opened and I got soaked. In the fields to the north of the seawall Yellow Wagtail and Cattle Egret accompanied the grazing cows - the latter having bred locally this year. I reached the end of the seawall where the shrike has been frequenting but it was still raining and I was not especially hopeful of seeing the bird immediately. I 'pished' in the bushes and saw Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler and roving flocks of tit produced Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. Eventually the sun began to break and bird activity began to increase, I wandered away from the shrike viewing spot  to see if it could be seen from a different angle but soon, the three gathered birders began waving and it was evident that the shrike was back in its usual spot. I short but fast walk and I was watching the first winter Red-backed Shrike back in its favoured spot and showing well. It was evidently hunting dragonflies and it was not long before it caught a male Migrant Hawker which was quickly consumed. It was time to head back to the car. My eBird checklist for the morning can be seen here.

On my return back west to Romsey I stopped briefly at the paddocks at Northey on Hayling Island where Pied Flycatcher have been seen recently, this is supposedly one of the most reliable autumn sites for the species in Hampshire but I had no luck in a very quick look. My eBird checklist can be seen here.

First winter Red-backed Shrike - Pagham Harbour

First winter Red-backed Shrike - Pagham Harbour

Greenshank, this juvenile bird has a noticeably short bill which is evidently still growing - Pagham Harbour

Monday, 6 September 2021

Normandy Lagoon and Oxey Marsh - 4th September

After a few days of twitching I returned to my familiar birding habits this weekend and headed to Pennington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve on 4th, as a change to birding the Pennington area I opted for the Normandy and Oxey area. After dropping my son at Saturday school club I parked on Normandy Lane and spent the first couple of hours at Normandy Lagoon mainly scanning the gathered waders. The highlight here was a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper which showed well as it fed along the southern shore of the lagoon. Also here were good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover and eight Greenshank.


Curlew Sandpiper, the second image with annelid worm prey - Normandy Lagoon, Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes.

I then headed west along the seawall scanning the bushes in the hope for a Wryneck or Whinchat but with no luck. There has been a substantial influx of Wryneck into the UK during the recent easterly air flow and with the abundance of suitable habitat I was reasonably hopeful of finding one - obviously overly optimistic on this occasion. I stood at the point scanning the sea and bushes seeing little but there was a steady passage of Sand Martin and Swallow moving east along the coast and a Kingfisher showed well. My eBird checklist for the morning can be seen here.

Common Redshank - Normandy Lagoon, Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes.

Common Kingfisher - Normandy Lagoon, Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes.

On Sunday 5th I decided to head to Salterns Shore, near to Hillhead, Fareham where a White-winged Black Tern has been present for a couple of days feeding offshore with the large mixed tern flock. I have been fairly sceptical about a number of claims of this bird, although in no doubt the bird is present, I do think that there are a number of overly optimistic claims of this bird at distance. When news came through this AM of it still being present I headed off from home but on arriving at site there was some degree of scepticism about the validity of todays claim. Still, I spent around 1.5 hours scanning and year ticked Black Tern. The beach front was crowded in the 26c heat and I beat a hasty retreat as the standard of intellect in the questions from the public aimed at the gathered birders reached rock bottom; the inane yelling by dogwalkers haunted me as I drove back to the relative tranquility of Romsey. My eBird checklist for the morning can be seen here.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Blacktoft Sands RSPB - 31st August

The pull of the White-tailed Plover at Blacktoft Sands RSPB (see here) proved too much and after a family orientated Bank Holiday weekend I was off. Leaving home at 04:15 I made good progress on the quiet roads and by 07:55 was pulling into the car park at the reserve. I walked straight to the Xerox Hide where the White-tailed Plover was immediately on show. I watched the bird for a couple of hours with around 50 odd other birders coming and going from the hide. I headed for home at 10:00 and was back by 14:15 pleased with a successful twitch.

Present at Blacktoft RSPB since 26th August and on occasions showing very well but at times going missing behind reed covered islands. It, or another bird, was seen at Stodmarsh NNR in Kent on 2nd June (see here) but only remained a short while before being chased off by the local breeding Lapwing. Today, as has often been the case, the bird was showing well from the Xerox Hide (it has been seen from other hides on the reserve) where it fed amongst the local waders mainly on floating mats of vegetation (possibly Tassleweed (Rupia) Sp.) rather than on the open areas of mud. However, it didn't look entirely at home in the muddy lagoon and its legs and bill were often coated with wet mud. This is an adult bird and as a result its plumage is rather scruffy and worn. My eBird list for the morning can be seen here.

Assuming this is the same bird as in Stodmarsh this would be the 7th British record and the first since 2010 with previous records being:

  • 2010 - Seaforth (Lancashire) 27th-28th May, then Rainham Marshes (London) 7th July then Slimbridge (Gloucestershire) 9th-10th July, and then Dungeness (Kent) 11th to 21st July.
  • 2007 - Caerlaverock (Dumfriesshire & Galloway), 6th - 8th June, then Leighton Moss (Lancashire), 10th - 17th June.
  • 1984 - Near Telford (Shropshire), 24th-25th May.
  • 1984 - Cleadon (County Durham), 21st May.
  • 1979 - Chesil Beach (Dorset) 3rd July.
  • 1975 - Packington Gravel Pits (Warwickshire) 12th-18th July.


Monday, 23 August 2021

Treleaver Farm, Coverack - 23rd August

While returning from the pelagic on 22nd August the remarkable news of a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin on the Lizard Peninsula just west of Coverack broke. I was heading off from Scilly on 23rd and so I decided that if it was still present we would make the diversion to see the bird during our return drive from Lands End airport to Romsey.

On 23rd we landed at Land's End at 12:30 and after a quick stop to buy some lunch, following positive news, we were at Treleaver Farm near to Coverack for 14:30. The bird showed quickly and very well down to around 7m and content with our views we were back on the road by 15:45. My eBird list for the site can be seen here and my blogpost of the 2020 bird here.

This is a remarkable record as while there was another at Stiffkey in October 2020 the previous mainland record was from Prawle Point in August 1980 and so, after a gap of 40 years, birds have occurred in consecutive years - I have been fortunate enough to have seen both birds. I have provided a summary of previous UK records on my eBird checklist here and a blogpost here.


Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - 10th-23rd August

From the 10th August I had a family holiday planned in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Seawatching at Pendeen on 14th, 16th and 17th produced up to 17 Balearic Shearwater, 14 Sooty Shearwater and four Roseate Tern. For Pendeen seawatches see here, here and here.

On Scilly the land birding was extremely slow with the only bird of any note being a Lesser Yellowlegs on Tresco on 21st. On 22nd I was out on a Scilly Pelagic on the Sapphire hoping for Wilson's Storm-Petrel which had been seen on 20 back-to-back trips before the 22nd but today it was not to be. The highlights of the trip which went north-east to the Seven Stones area were a stunning adult Sabine's Gull flying close to the boat, two juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, at least 20 European Storm-Petrel, five Balearic Shearwater and 16 Sooty Shearwater. My eBird checklist for the trip can be viewed here.

Sabine's Gull - Scilly Pelagic's, Seven Stones Area

Sabine's Gull - Scilly Pelagic's, Seven Stones Area

Yellow-legged Gull - Scilly Pelagic's, Seven Stones Area

Sooty Shearwater - Scilly Pelagic's, Seven Stones Area

Balearic Shearwater - Scilly Pelagic's, Seven Stones Area

Manx Shearwater - Scilly Pelagic's, Seven Stones Area