This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Demise of Radipole Lake

The RSPB reserve of Radipole Lake in Weymouth, in birding terms, is a, justifiably, famous place and has been a haven for water birds. Sadly, it's reputation in recent years is much diminished. There are various factors for this, for instance, the Weymouth relief road that took up a fair amount of the flood plain in the late 1980s. This subsequently caused the area to flood more frequently and also helped cause the silting up of the lake. In recent years, the lack of management of the reserve by the RSPB is tantamount to neglect and total incompetence. Open water areas have been left to diminish and the water flow through the reserve has both slowed and in places stopped altogether, causing various problems. Growth of bushes and scrub which dry out reedbeds, for which Radipole is a site of special scientific interest, have been left unchecked and allowed to flourish. A meadow that was once full of thousands of Southern Marsh Orchids has somehow been ruined by management by the RSPB, there are none that I'm aware of in that meadow now.

Future plans for the reserve, I am told, will not be birder friendly. How can this be? The nature reserve in smack bang in the middle of a town, with easy access for visitors by car or public transport. Surely, the RSPB's job is to inspire peoples interest into birds and wildlife in general. If you make a place where birds are reduced in numbers and also restrict the viewing capabilities of being able to enjoy such things, how on earth are you going to inspire people. By listening to experienced birders with a long term knowledge of the site, the RSPB could make this place great again, inspiring not only established birders like myself, but people wanting to get closer to nature. Sadly, due to their total arrogance, the RSPB are not interested in listening to people like myself. So, with much sadness, the future for Radipole Lake is bleak.

Gone are the counts of 500+ Teal, 100+ Shoveler, 600+ Pochard, 500+ Tufted Ducks and regular wintering Scaup. The RSPB website would have you believe that large numbers of Pochard winter at Radipole, but this is not the case anymore, with the maximum count of 18 in 2015. What does it still say to this day about star species on their website? See below.


Large numbers of pochards congregate on the water at Radipole during autumn and winter. They often spend the days asleep as they do most of their feeding at night.

Notice the lower case used in Pochards. 

With water levels kept high these days, gone are the big pre roosts of Black-headed and Common Gulls and gone are the variety of passage waders and counts of 100+ Snipe during the winter. It's even had an impact on the roosting of Yellow Wagtails in the autumn.

Scarce and rare water birds, that understandably generate excitement, have also declined in occurrence. It's certainly had a great track record, emphasis on the had. Shall we have a little look?

Green-winged Teals
Ring-necked Ducks
Ferruginous Ducks
Pied-billed Grebe
Sabine's Gulls
Laughing Gulls
Bonaparte's Gulls
Franklin's Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls (Maximum day count of 4)
Britain's first Caspian Gull, plus others since
White-winged Black Terns
Whiskered Terns
Caspian Terns
Gull-billed Tern
Black-winged Stilts
Kentish Plovers
Sociable Plover
Temminck's Stints
Red-necked Phalarope
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed Dowitchers
Pectoral Sandpipers
Wilson's Phalaropes
Terek Sandpiper
Glossy Ibises
Purple Herons
Little Bitterns
Night Herons
Squacco Herons
White and Black Storks
Spotted Crakes (Used to be annual)

Adult Ring-billed Gull, 1 of 9 species of gull, on the gravel island viewable from the visitor centre on 20th March 2004. The island today is impenetrably covered in vegetation and even a small sallow. 

See what mud from the visitor centre can do. Not only does it produce more birds for people to look at and get inspired, but can also turn up rarities, like this Citrine Wagtail on 1st September 2016, thus inspiring me. Alas, they kept water levels high all autumn and as a result, hardly any birds.

An abundance and variety of birds will inspire people and attract people to visit, ultimately helping to recruit RSPB members and also helping the local economy. Makes sense doesn't it?

And then there is Lodmoor. Sadly, a shadow of it's former self and again the product of neglect and certainly a lack of imagination by the RSPB.

Think the RSPB should have a long hard look at itself.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

My Highlights Of 2016 Part 2

Now to bore you with my July to December best bits.


Great Knot in Norfolk. A new bird for me.

Great White Egret in Somerset.

Little Bittern in Somerset.


Purple Gallinule in Suffolk. Potentially the first for Britain, and as such, a British tick for me.

Caspian Gull in Suffolk.

Garganey at Radipole Lake.

Yellow-legged Gull at Radipole Lake.


Citrine Wagtail at Radipole Lake. A self find and Dorset tick.

Woodchat Shrike on The Fleet.

Ortolan Bunting on The Fleet.


Siberian Accentor in Yorkshire. A new bird for me and one of the highlights of the year. This individual was part of the ornithological events of our time.

Shore Lark in Yorkshire.

Hen Harrier at Portland Bill.


Lapland Bunting on The Fleet.

Bewick's Swans at Radipole Lake.


Masked Wagtail in Pembrokeshire. A new taxa for me and my personal highlight of the year.

Cattle Egrets at Nottington.

In summary, I've not had the best of years, in fact, I've not enjoyed 2016 one bit. Birding in Dorset has been nothing short of fucking hard work. Only one site seems to be improving in quality and that is Lytchett Fields. I've witnessed the continued deterioration of the Weymouth reserves and The Fleet and Portland aren't much better.

I'd like to be more optimistic about the future, but it's difficult when you live in an area that's nothing short of shit. I, like others, have sat back and watched in envy the news of Shetland and the North Easts Autumn. Locally, it wouldn't have been half bad, if the fucking good stuff stuck around long enough. 

My luck this year was so shit, dipping on various things and not being offered lifts for stuff.

Here's hoping for a better 2017. I'd like to find more goodies. I'd like to get a new job, I'd like there to be a summer, I'd like to spend the end of September and the whole of October in the Spurn area or on Shetland and I want to feel healthier. I'd like to like living a little bit more than hating it.

So, let love be with you folks and goodbye, as this is my last post ever. I will still be putting shit on Twitter, but this blog has had its day.

       THE  END

Saturday, 17 December 2016

My Highlights of 2016 Part 1

The first part covers January to June.


Grey Phalarope on The Fleet.

Great Grey Shrike in Wareham Forest.


Scandinavian Herring Gull at Radipole Lake. A classic 1st-winter bird.

Ferruginous Duck in Hampshire.

Glossy Ibis in Devon.

Pallas's Warbler at Portesham.


Siberian Rubythroat in Holland. One of my favourite birds of the year.

Pine Bunting in Holland.

Green-winged Teal in Devon.


Siberian Chiffchaff at Radipole Lake.

Hoopoe on Portland.

Pied Flycatcher on Portland.

White-spotted Bluethroat on Portland.


Kentish Plover on The Fleet.

Red-footed Falcon in Wareham Forest.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Black-winged Stilt on Lodmoor.

Caspian Stonechat in Hampshire. A new taxa for me.

Great Spotted Cuckoo on Portland. A Dorset tick.

Dalmatian Pelican in Cornwall. Potentially, the first record for Britain and a lifer for me.

Honey Buzzards.


Red-backed Shrike at Radipole Lake.


Stone Curlew.

Montagu's Harrier.

Glossy Ibis and Great White Egret in Somerset.

Woodchat Shrike at Martinstown.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Masked Wagtail

Subspecies, form or species. Whatever, it doesn't matter, because Masked Wagtail is a stunning beast.

I was kind of hoping that it would be me who would find the British first, but that privilege fell to a guy in Pembrokeshire, who didn't know exactly what it was, but knew it looked odd. The rest is history, as they say.

Now, I know I've seen a couple of the ultimate Sibes this year, namely Siberian Rubythroat and Siberian Accentor, but Masked Wagtail was a taxon I'd always wanted to see and I wasn't to be disappointed. A complete stunner and for me, is bird of the year.

NOTE: Thanks to Luke Phillips for commenting on the age of this bird. This bird has replaced all it's median and greater coverts and tertials in the post breeding moult and contrasts with the worn primary coverts and rest of the flight feathers, thus this bird is not an adult as I first thought, but a 1st-winter bird. Still, I at least got the easy bit right, which is that this bird is a male. Luke has extensive experience of ringing Pied Wagtails, so his knowledge of ageing these things are greater than mine. Still, it is surprising just how much this bird looks like an adult at first sight and I'd wrongly assumed that the flight feathers on a young bird would be fresh at this time of year, so, lesson learned.

Being only the fourth record for North West Europe, this was a real mega.

I'm off now to find Britain's first Swinhoe's Wagtail. See, there is always a plan B.